12 The Flatland Chronicles

January 02, 2008

"Good-by, Old Year, You Oaf"--Nine Resolutions I resolve NOT to Make

Pinkpetals2 Ogden Nash, whose poems were cherished by me as an adolescent (when they were already comparatively aged) wrote:

Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?

  • "Good-by, Old Year, You Oaf or Why Don't They Pay the Bonus?" in The Primrose Path (1935)My parents had a complete set of books by Nash---already quite old by my time--- and I used to read them and laugh and laugh.  I wish I could find it reprinted somewhere on the internet, but I cannot.  (Screw the law of copyright----if people could read Nash's poems and see how funny and weird they were, the poems would have a whole new lease on life. As it is, people are likely to forget all about them.)   

Of course, he was writing in a period when the times were really bad, not to be compared to now, no matter how we may argue that we live in the worst of all possible worlds.  Still, this quote expresses what I essentially feel and the reason why I need champagne to see me through the New Year if I am to attain---as I did---a semblance of celebratory joy. 

But I am done making resolutions.  And here is a list of all the resolutions I am not going to make.

Continue reading ""Good-by, Old Year, You Oaf"--Nine Resolutions I resolve NOT to Make" »

December 30, 2007

Pop Culture Revelations: Another One of Those Songs

Peach_2_3 I love Pearl Jam.  But it is a weird love that involves a complete inability to listen to most of their music without weeping, so I don't listen to them unless I'm prepared and fortified or else am free to cry.  I love Pearl Jam.  But it is a weird love that involves a complete inability to listen to most of their music without weeping, so I don't listen to them unless I'm prepared and fortified or else am free to cry.  And if you knew me, this would surprise you.  I'm not the sentimental type except secretly, in the same way as everyone else who takes a detached, ironic view of life. 

It's partly because Eddie Vedder has that sort of voice and the songs are those sorts of songs.  The lyrics to the songs Eddie Vedder writes are deep or at least give that impression (like poetry by Dylan Thomas, say). There's also that aspect of Vedder's singing that involves sometimes seriously mangling the lyrics, no doubt intentionally---which would matter more if I understood the lyrics.  There again, maybe I don't want to understand them.  Their meaning for me is---and remains---private.

Continue reading "Pop Culture Revelations: Another One of Those Songs" »

December 27, 2007

Pop Culture Revelations: "Son of a Gun"

Ever since I heard this song---after many, many years---on "British Spongebob" (right; just see the post...), I can't get it out of my head.  You know how some songs evoke all sorts of ideas and images that you can't explain and that seem to belong to someone else (or some other lifetime)?  This is one of those for me.  And it isn't the words, but the tune.

I wish I could snag whatever image tries to drift up to the surface when I hear it, but so far, no luck.  Pop culture revelations indeed....

December 26, 2007

Gearing Up for the New Year: A Resolution to Learn How to Do Joy? (Also: Blogcombing "Open Grove" Again, Some More)

Star_2 In one of my favorite novels  (synopsis) by my favorite novelist, Ursula K. LeGuin, one of the characters----a generous and therefore a wealthy man---has a run of the sort of undeserved bad luck that makes nonsense of the notion that the universe is in any way rational.  The other characters, like Job's comforters, then turn on him because the very sight of him makes him uncomfortable.  They also conclude that perhaps he brought his bad luck on himself by being immoderately generous and kind.  How then, does one live well? he asks them.  "If I knew that I'd know everything,' one of them replies.

Continue reading "Gearing Up for the New Year: A Resolution to Learn How to Do Joy? (Also: Blogcombing "Open Grove" Again, Some More)" »

December 22, 2007

Bad News/Good News

Rainbowstone After celebrating John's successful surgery, we woke up this morning to the news he was back in surgery.  I won't go into detail.  Suffice it to say he pulled through, but---said my mother-in-law---he's not out of the woods yet.  This is when it helps to be religious, even religious in an unconventional way.  Praying at least gives you something to do, even if you assume that God----such as you imagine him, or her, or it----already knows what he/she/it is doing and doesn't actually need your input or need to be told what you'd like. 

I'm not being cynical.  I am prepared to try to accept whatever happens (and to help Nick do that).

December 21, 2007

A Personal Note

Rosycrosscrosssmallm_2 The operation went extremely well but also took 4 1/2 HOURS.  Because my father-in-law is English, and because of the NHS, one 84 year old man who happened to live near Oxford had access to one of his country's best renal surgeons (maybe even the best).  And also because of the NHS, he didn't have to choose between having a cancerous organ removed and bankrupting his wife.

December 14, 2007

Random Link O' the Day: Valhalla, I am Coming!

Metallicribbonsxl Today's random glimpse of awesomeness:  VikingKittens.com.

They are your OVERLORDS!

December 13, 2007

Journal for 13 December 2007---Christmas is Back. Sigh.

YellowjadeI'm grateful for the time off and all; it's just that I wish there was going to be more of it. 

We've had some bad news from a family member---and are just waiting to see how bad. 

Continue reading "Journal for 13 December 2007---Christmas is Back. Sigh. " »

June 23, 2007

You Can't Go Home Again or Step in the Same River Twice.

Violetonviolet I'm back from visiting my mother in South Carolina.   It wasn't the trip I expected by any means.  We were expecting two weeks of family visiting and mild diversion, but when I arrived there (three weeks ago now), she had come down with a case of strep throat.  Strep throat doesn't sound so bad until you have it, my friends.  I remember this myself.

Continue reading "You Can't Go Home Again or Step in the Same River Twice. " »

May 16, 2007

Tag--8 Random Facts About Me.

Fabric2l I was tagged on Friday by Beckadoodles.   I am quite daunted by the part that involves tagging someone else, but I will do my best with the random facts.

Continue reading "Tag--8 Random Facts About Me. " »

May 14, 2007

Random Link of the Day for 13 May 2007. "A Stifled, Drowsy Unimpassioned Grief": The Paintings of Edward Hopper.

Diamonds12   I've been neglecting this blog lately because I've been so caught up in other things.

Today's link is something really good: a slideshow from Slate Magazine of the paintings of Edward Hopper called "The Secret World of Edward Hopper."  I fell in love with Hopper in college.  I even wrote a poem about the poem called "Morning Sun"  Sadly, the picture isn't included in the slideshow, but at least you'll see when you look at Sun in an Empty Room that few could paint sunlight like Hopper.  Later on, when I started making photographs, I used to try for similar effects. 

Continue reading "Random Link of the Day for 13 May 2007. "A Stifled, Drowsy Unimpassioned Grief": The Paintings of Edward Hopper. " »

May 07, 2007

Random Link of the Day for 7 May 2007. Tornado Footage Posted on YouTube.

AMAZING TORNADO FOOTAGE ON YOUTUBE---by Reed Timmer of Stormchasers Net Team.   I've seen tornadoes in the distance when I lived in North Carolina, but never like this.   It looks so strangely purposeful and it's amazing to watch it pick up and fling aside trees while things immediately outside its range seem barely affected. To read about it, go here.

April 28, 2007

Random Link[s] O' the Day. About Jack Donaghy.

Stonecircled2412Think of what we stand to lose if NBC releases him from his contract!

From YouTube:

Why Alec Baldwin Won the Golden Globe.
Jack Donaghy's Words of Wisdom.
Baldwin and Colin O'Brien.

Continue reading "Random Link[s] O' the Day. About Jack Donaghy. " »

April 27, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 27 April 2007. Swiftian Literary Criticism ("I Have Not Actually Read this Book But...")

TraylightsThough Mr. J. Swift  modestly concedes that his book reviews "have been quoted throughout the blogosphere"[links in original], I say you can't link to a good thing too often.   

Alas, Amazon didn't appreciate the unique merits of the Swiftian review style. 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day for 27 April 2007. Swiftian Literary Criticism ("I Have Not Actually Read this Book But...") " »

April 24, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 24 April 2007. What It's Like: Prosopagnosia (Inability to Recognize Faces).

ReflectantxlThis site is about one woman's experience with the neurological disability called prosopagnosia, an ability of the brain to recognize faces. 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day for 24 April 2007. What It's Like: Prosopagnosia (Inability to Recognize Faces). " »

April 20, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 20 April 2007. "The Chickens of Peace."

After this, I really WILL stop with the moral lessons derived from animal behavior.  But I cannot resist posting this.  Two chickens break up a fight between two rabbits and then stand guard to keep the rabbits from joining battle again. 

"Nonsense," said Nick when I told him about it. "Chickens can't think.  And why would they care?"

Then he watched this video.  My favorite part is the rabbits staring at each other across the yard after the chickens decide they've calmed down enough to be left to their own devices, all "Um....."

April 17, 2007

Cats on Tuesday. Flat Cat's Blogless Existence.

Tuesdaycat2 You are not going to believe this, right?  After I helped her write her stupid blog for two Tuesdays in a row the lady says I can't have a blog of my own!  She says I have to share with her.  It is unfair, she just wants to exploit me when she can't think of anything else to write!

Continue reading "Cats on Tuesday. Flat Cat's Blogless Existence. " »

April 15, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 15 April 2007. Documentary: "Becoming Human." (Paleoanthropology).

RumcovecallingAt this site---Becoming Human---there is a fantastic interactive documentary narrated by paleoanthropologist Don Johanson on the evolution of humans and human culture. 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day for 15 April 2007. Documentary: "Becoming Human." (Paleoanthropology)." »

April 09, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 9 April 2007. The Seven Deadly Sins (and Seven Cardinal Virtues).


You know, what this country really needs is more kinds of sin.  Lust is so overdone, don't you think?  We need more things to feel guilty about.

Consider:  Do you feel as guilty as you should?  Do you lie around in bed some days feeling sorry for yourself?  Did you bite the head off the kid's easter rabbit or OD on jelly beans?  Do you over-use your credit cards or have a bumper sticker on your car saying "PROUD PARENT OF AN HONOR-ROLL STUDENT"?

You, my friend, are in a state of SIN.  Deadly sin.

Seven deadlies, and we are all heir to all of them!  I found this amusing website when I was writing a little essay on sloth at The marginal Christian's Handbook.  I was interested to learn that the old word for "sloth"---"accidie"---incorporated behaviors that today we'd classify as depression.  It sounds sort of harsh, but after years and years of counseling chronically depressed and miserable people, I can see why people who are concerned with sin would see it that way.  If only those people felt a little guilty or apprehensive about letting their lives get away from them, they might have very different lives.

I am starting to see the sociological value of the Deadlies.  It would be a different world for many people if they felt as guilty about eating too many Reese's peanut butter cups or Hostess Ho Ho's as they do about their extra- and premarital rompings; or if they thought buying too many consumer goods was as bad----or  worse----than too much sex.  Consider:  no diabetes and no massive credit card debt....Or, okay, diabetes and credit card debt (it's not as if believing sex to be sinful ever stopped people from doing it anyway), but maybe balanced off by, I don't know, an equal compulsion to feed the poor or to provide for them. 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day for 9 April 2007. The Seven Deadly Sins (and Seven Cardinal Virtues). " »

April 06, 2007

Random Link O' the Day: "And the Winner is----!" I Judge (Unofficially) the Eggs of America.


  Yesterday, I discovered that the President and First Lady (since 1994, or what I think of as "The Golden Age," each year select the winner of the state egg competition.

The artists themselves choose the Egg of America, it seems.  Bah. 

Below are my 10 finalists for "The 2007 Egg of America."  The criteria were:  artistic elegance, attractive color scheme, and creative exploitation of well-known cliches.  (They're easter eggs, not contenders for a MoMA award). 

5th Runner-Up:  South Dakota
.  I was sad that it didn't have a picture on it of Al Swearingen but at least there was a painting of Wild Bill Hickock, lookin' mighty---mighty----like Keith Carradine.

4th Runner Up:  Ohio.  It's a beautiful, delicately colorful little painting that looks nothing at all like what I remember of Cleveland.  Okay, it's a young man in a straw boater, rowing a girl on a river at sunset.  There are mountains in the background.  Love the design, love the colors, love the nostalgia, which reminds me of every Booth Tarkington novel  I ever devoured as a teenager (my parents had a collection).  You look at it and you wish it were true.


3rd Runner Up 1:  Florida.  And it's NOT because I'm a Floridian;  it's an actual little three dimensional scene, featuring a flamingo, an egret, palm trees, and a swirling sky.  I took away valuable points because it doesn't look like an egg, so much, but props to the artist for a charming craftsy little Florida vignette.

3rd Runner Up 2:  Georgia.  Yes, I know it looks like something my grandmother would have kept in her curio cabinet.  But this golden egg with a magnolia blossom in it is the golden egg of my dreams, the egg hunt prize I never won, and who is doing this, you or me?  I love it.

4th Runner Up:  Utah.  A beautiful painting of the desert under the moon.  Gorgeous brick reds and brick-roses under an indigo sky. 

AND THE WINNER IS.....OREGON!!!!, whose representative egg somehow managed to capture a heavenly scene of  a lake, mountains, and clouds in heavenly blues.  Also, Florida, it looks like an egg.

But wait!  There are more hypothetical awards to be awarded! 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day: "And the Winner is----!" I Judge (Unofficially) the Eggs of America. " »

Knut! Knut! Knut!


  "You're looking at that bear again, aren't you?" Nick said. He could tell because of all the squealing.  I've said it before:  men look at porn; women look at cute.  (In case you've been living under a rock:  Rejected by his mother at birth, he was hand-reared by his keeper, who sang Elvis songs to him.

If Knut (pronounced "Kuh-Nute") brings attention to global warming issues, how can this be bad? 

Knut photographs:  Toddlingkissing his humanblissing out; showing his bear clawsshowing them some more; falling into his bowlwith his daddy

Links to Knut videos (many accompanied by bonus singing in German that reminded me nostalgically of Father Ted's and Dougal's entry in the Eurovision song-writing competition, "My Lovely Horse").  "The
Cute Knut." Knut plays; speaks in German. Knut on CNN. Toddler Knut.  "Knut is Gut."

"Did you know that polar bears are the most dangerous of all land mammals?" Nick said, after watching dispassionately as Knut had his tummy tickled at YouTube.   First off, Nick, many scientists evidently consider them to be marine mammals.   Second of all, this article from a credible source says:  "Polar bears are viewed as potentially dangerous to humans. Contact between humans and bears is rare due to the large home range of individual bears and the sparse human population throughout their distribution. Two deaths resulting from polar bear encounters have been reported."  This article, on avoiding bear attacks, makes it clear to me that grizzly bears are much more dangerous (besides being land mammals).  So, you know, I don't think so. 

Anyway, as I said:  If this cuddly bundle of soft white fur and scary teeth makes people more aware of what we all lose as a result of global warming, I'm willing for his foster daddy to take that risk.   (Kidding!)  Global warming needed an image for the kind of people who can't get their heads around the thought of a worldwide disaster or believe it could apply to them.  One of life's great mysteries is the truth of the saying, "When you are ready for the teacher, the teacher will appear."  So it is with young Knut. 

April 04, 2007

Iterations Meme. The Books of My Life.

Header_04This week's iterations meme is generally on the subject of books.  Here are the questions presented by Laughing Muse, the comptroller of all things iterated. 

Some possible questions, to kickstart the thinking process:

* Do you read more for business (research, training) or pleasure  (relaxation, leisure time)?
* How did your love of books begin?
* What was the first book you remember reading?
* What’s your favorite book (or genre, or author) and why?
* Share some quotes, paragraphs, or facts from your favorite book(s).

...or anything else bookish.

1.  My work requires constant reading.  I do not exactly enjoy it.  It's work.  Mark Twain said (I'm going to paraphrase, being too lazy to look it up) that work consists of what a body is obligated to do, and play consists of what a body is not obligated to do.  The reading I do for work makes demands on my attention that recreational reading does not. 

2.  I read for recreation whenever I can find the time, but I am extremely picky, and seldom stumble across contemporary novelists whose work I really enjoy.    For a different meme, I made a list of women writers whose work has changed my life.   My most recent discovery (not so recent now) was A.S.  Byatt, the English author who wrote Possession, The GameAngels and Insects, The Virgin in the Garden, The Little Black Book of Stories, The Matisse Stories , and others.  Her books are beautiful.  I read them and then I go off and think about them.  Then I read them again.  She's definitely in the top five.  The others are Ursula K.  LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, and Anne Tyler.   I can't put them in order.  Which one  I want to (re)read depends on my mood.   For example, I read Anne Tyler when I feel in need of comfort and reassurance.  The others are anything but.   

3.  My favorite male author is Kingsley Amis (which no, I am not going to explain or justify except by these two words:  Lucky Jim) and my favorite non-Amis work by a man is Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, which took the piss right out of The Da Vinci Code long before it was ever written or----I imagine---ever thought of.  I recently discovered English writer Mil Millington, and have ordered his first novel.  Based on his website (linked in the sidebar) I have high hopes of him. 

Continue reading "Iterations Meme. The Books of My Life. " »

April 01, 2007

The Kathy Sierra Incident and the Standard of Discourse on the Internet. A Simple Solution.

Aubergine32 The shit-storm over Kathy Sierra has got everyone up in arms, including me.  Reported in Salon by Lynn Harris, the story is in some ways a routine little tale of some little cur crossing a line that gets crossed so often on the internet that we've all reached the point where our first reaction is that victims such as Sierra should (to use Harris's term and Harris's link) "cowboy up."  I admit that this was my first reaction.  And that is exactly why I am so angry now.

In fact, the more I reflect on it, the angrier I get.  A prominent female blogger receives death threats, victimized----for no particular reason---by one or more of the little internet bullies who hide behind their anonymity for the purpose of inflicting humiliation and pain.   My anger isn't over the Sierra incident except as one example of the extent to which we've all allowed ourselves to become inured to and to treat as routine behavior that no civilized person should be expected to view as tolerable. 

What happened to Sierra is explained here here by Sierra herself and in more detail by Joan Walsh at Salon.     And apparently there is backlash on the "free speech" rights of others , as if the right to express one's political and religious views without fear of government reprisals gives blanket protection to the vicious slurs, threats, and libels of internet bullies operating behind the shield of their anonymity.  .

Of course, anyone who's spent any amount of time on the net encounters this sort of person at some point.  According to Andrew Keen of ZDnet, the techie universe is particularly rife with them (Really?). 

[quote begins from Zd.net, Andrew Keen, "Tim O'Reilly's Code of [Mis]conduct"]

[T]he problem is that the blogosphere has been colonized by a type of technophile male whose dialectic method is insult rather than polite argument. And this rotten culture of anonymity has spawned a contemporary Internet of social deviants, loonies, perverts and get-a-lifers (not to mention weird Second Lifers). The consequence is digital miasma — what Timothy Garton-Ash called the "cyberswamp...."

(quote ends; link is in the original)

Continue reading "The Kathy Sierra Incident and the Standard of Discourse on the Internet. A Simple Solution. " »

March 29, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 29 March 2007. A Compendium of British Slang. (Just the slang one needs to know.)

LinesoleastresistdamoxIf you, like me, relish the delights on offer through BBC America, you may need a little assistance with your British slang.  The Brits are a very verbal people and very inventive when it comes to slang.

I have had the good fortune to be personally coached in British slang by my estuary expert, Mr. Rumcove.

Others are not so fortunate.  If  you loved  The Office (UK) , Life on Mars, Vincent, Ramsay in all his incarnations, and a whole host of other UK delights, but wished you could understand more than every third word, you need to check out this site. The Best of British---the American's Guide to Speaking British.

March 28, 2007

Iterations--my Wednesday Meme. 12 photographs from the nature coast.

Header_04 This is today's list of 12 iterations from the meme portal, "Iterations." 

My link of the day gave me the idea for today's iterations:  more photographs of gorgeous North Florida.  Here are 12 links to favorites from my own collection.

  1. Palms, rock, water:  the nature coast near Fort Island Gulf Beach.
  2. The Citrus County Wetlands near Fort Island Gulf Beach (on the nature coast):  two fishermen (father and son).
  3. My own version of a Cedar Key sunset (showing the most famous of Cedar Key's restaurants, the Captain's Table).
  4. The water walk at Keaton Beach, Florida.
  5. A western Florida canal.
  6. One of the keys off Cedar Key.
  7. A cedar key fisherman---late afternoon, c. 1998.
  8. A little Floridian with a green bucket.
  9. A cedar  key restaurant bird.
  10. Cedar Key at twilight.
  11. The Cedar Key waterfront (c. 2000).
  12. Fisherman in a boat on the beautiful ('way down upon a)  Suwannee River.

Random Link[s] O' the Day for 28 March 2007. Wondrous Place, Wondrous Stories: the Florida Nature Coast. (But Keep it to Yourself, All Right?)

Colorpattern223alm I know what most people picture when they picture Florida, all right?  It looks like Disney World and the whole sprawling mess that is the Kissimmee area (lovely old town where I used to live, now completely destroyed); it looks like Orlando; it looks like Miami; it looks like Daytona.  All fine places in their way, with much to see and do, but all places where nature is now caged up in the few spots where it's allowed to break out.

But Florida is a huge state, my friends.  And up here on the northern end of the Peninsula---though we wouldn't want you to know it---we have all the nature anyone could ever want, and more.  Which is why I am linking today to these glorious photographs from Florida's nature coast.  And they just barely scratch the surface, but will give you an idea.

These are all from the same website.    To lure you to the northwest (nature) coast, they present these beautiful scenes from Cedar Key, my favorite town of towns.  In addition, here are some gorgeous nature coast landscapes (birds included).  Finally, there is this glorious west coast sunsetHere's another.


March 26, 2007

A Call from Mr. Rumcove!

Pearls233zl_2 If you're wondering why this blog consists of nothing but my (admit it) fascinating links to other sites, it's the same reason it always was:  I can't blog about my life because right now, I don't have one.  I keep this commitment to myself by posting something every day here (and I've been posting a lot of political stuff), but honestly, what could I write?  "Went to work.  Came home.  Worked.  Posted to blog.  Bed."  That's the sum and substance of it at the moment.

And I admit that it is a little overwhelming---and also pretty depressing.  Even knowing I'm due soon for another break doesn't help much. 

But today was a little different, as I received a lengthy call from my good friend 

The thing is, Rumcove is really my most intimate friend, and it's strange that this is so, because we met on the internet and have only met in person a few times.   I concluded a long time ago that when people are face to face a lot of things get in the way of proper communication----all the nonverbal cues that are so easy to misread; your personal response to their physical presence, all that. 

Though I'd quite like to see him, of course.  It's just funny that all my closest friends are people I never see:  Rumcove himself, Frances, Larry, Robert.  I don't necessarily even talk to them much; but there's a connection that persists.  I don't understand why it is----it doesn't seem to work that way for most people....

Okay, well, I've got other things to do; but since this was a sort of red-letter day, I wanted to make a record of it.

March 16, 2007

The Secret (or "Secret"): Peter Birkenhead at Salon speaks about Oprah; Salon readers share their secrets about "The Secret;" and I speculate about optimism, pessimism, and why Jesus failed as a "prosperity teacher."

Sta5545rxl  WHAT IS THIS SECRET OF WHICH WE HEAR SUCH STRANGE REPORTS? I didn't have the foggiest idea when I first heard about the mysterious "Secret"  that it was something entirely mainstream and pedestrian (which it really is).  I stumbled on some sort of link to it when stumbling through "Stumbleupon" and didn't click on it because I assumed it was some sort of commercial self-improvement/spirituality site or, alternatively, some sort of End-of-Days apocalyptic thing.  It didn't look appealing. 

Eventually, of course, I found out that The Secret  is mainstream enough even for Oprah. 

DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER.  Now, I think Oprah is a good person( after all, Oprah---generous to a fault--- wants all of us to have just as many luxury consumer goods as she does).  I think Peter Birkenhead's article at Salon.com is much too hard on her (Salon.com, Peter Birkenhead--"Oprah's Ugly Secret").  After all, however much she may promote it (because she wants all of us to have luxury consumer goods), it isn't actually her secret.

Every couple of generations someone pops up to tell you that God and the Universe want you to have it all.  This is nothing new, this secret, though the argument that God (the Judeo-Christian God) wants you to be wealthy and successful probably hasn't been touted this baldly since the age of Sinclair Lewis and Babbit.

Continue reading "The Secret (or "Secret"): Peter Birkenhead at Salon speaks about Oprah; Salon readers share their secrets about "The Secret;" and I speculate about optimism, pessimism, and why Jesus failed as a "prosperity teacher."" »

March 14, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 14 March 2007. Little Madeleines Everywhere.

Flowerplanet2b <<<BACK TO INTRODUCTION.

I've decided not to be hard on myself about not writing in this journal every day, particularly when I've been as diligent as I have this week in updating my other blogs (particularly "Just Eat the Damn Peach). During this eye in the hurricane that is my work just now, I've published four missing recaps of "The Office" and begun a series of reviews of favorite ghost stories.   Furthermore, I've posted a number of additions to my Digital Art Gallery (all of which include related commentary). 

The thing about blogging is that if you let it take over your life, you don't have anything to blog about.  Or so I keep telling myself.  Frankly, it might be true if I were---say---under 40, but once you've lived a certain number of years, you probably don't need to venture far out of your door to find things to write about.  For me, the problem is usually the opposite one of deciding which ONE thing I want to write about.  I've lived long enough to have accumulated plenty of interests/sources of outrage. 

Sometimes the challenge is finding a way to decide which bit of archived experience to dust off and plug into.   If I let myself just start writing, I'm often amazed at what emerges.   For example, I posted a piece of artwork the other day that reminded me of a poem that reminded me of a person from my past who caused me a lot of pain back in my younger days.  In the course of discussing my snippet of digital art,

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 14 March 2007. Little Madeleines Everywhere. " »

February 22, 2007

A promise to myself postponed (i.e., why I'm not blogging).

Fomalhautxl_1I'm feeling too ill, frankly.  Too ill and too busy.  Just for the record---so later when I look back I'll remember why---I left work in the middle of the afternoon, which I never, never, never do.  I sat up for awhile and posted some random artwork in the Digital Art Gallery, because it's something instead of nothing, and doesn't take much thought or energy. 

I have lots I'd like to be writing about, but it's going to have to wait, I'm afraid. 

February 07, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 7 January 2007. "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me."

ExplodingframexlOr, in English, "the fear of death confounds me." 

Not my own death, but the prospect of the death of any of the people I depend on and don't feel I can do without. I've written about this fear in general terms  in my anxiety blog, "The Disquieting Damozel," but of course there are specific fears as well. 

Lately, my mother---who is getting on in years, as she points out----has not been faring well.  As she's been in rather poor health off and on for the last several years, I suppose I've developed at some level the notion that no matter what happens, she will always recover.  She has diabetes and all that goes with it; and though she sounds just the same when I talk to her on the phone as ever, her health problems scare me.  So I try very hard not to think about it.

I have a very close relationship with my mom, which actually dates back to my twenties rather than to my adolescence.  I am not going to enumerate all the ways and times she was there for me back then, but suffice it to say that she was my rock.  I had a rough time during the years between 20 and 43.  My mom had a rough time when my dad died.  We have been talking every other day or so on the phone since I don't know when, though I rarely see her in consequence of the distance and other factors.

During the last year, she has regaled me with tales of the slow deterioration of her various friends.  The horrific details----leg amputed!  Blind!  Bone cancer!  Brain cancer!  Alzheimer's!---don't faze her at all; she came to terms with the idea of her own death years and years ago, when she had her first stroke.  No---before that, when my dad died.  She doesn't get sad when her friends die the way I would be if my friends die;  getting sad about another person's death is partly a function of how long you expect to have to go on without them.  My mom, while perfectly happy, has let go of any expectation of more life.  "Every day is a gift," she says.

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 7 January 2007. "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me."" »

February 04, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 4 February 2007. Polar Bear Games.

Greenlightsxl_1<<Back to Introduction.

POLAR BEAR GAMES.   Nobel-prize nominee Rush Limbaugh assures us that the stranded polar bears you see here are just playing "like your cat...goes to its litter box....Just like your pit bull attacks and kills the neighbor's baby horse, whatever, I mean these things happen.  It's called nature."

Yes, he's still toting around that big ol' can of piss around.   I thought he was all fed up with that?

MORE DISLLUSIONING NEWS ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT US "BLEAK HOUSE" AND "THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL."  At the Huffington Post, Robert F. Kennedy Junior comments on the role of ExxonMobil in enabling Dittoheads and their ilk to go on believing that massive melting is just what glaciers and icecaps do for fun. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 4 February 2007. Polar Bear Games. " »

February 02, 2007

Lessons Learned from Bravo's "Top Chef" and the Passion of Marcel.

Augustusxl<<Back to introduction.

REALITY (OR WHAT PASSES FOR IT) UNSCRIPTED.  In the past four years, Nick has become a devoted watcher of certain so-called "unscripted" :reality shows.  It's still sort of hard for me to process.  No one could have been more against the whole concept of reality TV than Nick. 

I initially got him involved with them.  I really liked The Amazing Race back in its earliest seasons; and I persuaded him to watch with me.  I was bored with the show before the season where they did the racing families that never left the country, but I watched it, sort of. 

After that, I was done---and I don't care how many Emmys the show wins; it's the same basic thing every season, and it no longer matters to me whether the rappelling happens off a building in Sydney or a sheer rock cliff in wherever.  I don't feel interested anymore.  Over Christmas, he bought the board game and he and Emma spent hours playing it.  Not me.  I'm done. 

.   I really had a hard time getting him to watch Project Runway with me.  I don't know any more about fashion than he does, but I adore watching people who know what they're doing do things.  I doubt I'd have branched out, but he enjoyed the competition so much that we started watching Top Chef as well.  And now we're on to Top Design.

I'd been particularly impressed with Project Runway, possibly because I so loved Tim Gunn, the contestants' mentor, but also because it was so interesting to see people being challenged to apply their skills to a variety of challenges. As I said, watching competent people actually do the exact thing they're good---or, let us say, variations on that thing, such as making a cocktail dress out of live plants---  is really inspiring. 

If Bravo had asked me, I'd have assured them that I don't get bored watching the less random tasks so long as there are slight variations.  Watching people design clothing out of grocery store items was entertaining, but slightly less so than watching them design clothes out of real materials.  I'd rather see designers be designers.  Somebody who is really good at putting clothes together might be at a loss to come up with a really good way to fashion, say, an attractive sundress, using only grocery store products (though I must admit, the best of them somehow seem to come through).

Continue reading "Lessons Learned from Bravo's "Top Chef" and the Passion of Marcel." »

February 01, 2007

Nobel Nominees Gore and Limbaugh; Climate Change---One Think Tank's Quest for a Balanced Look; Al Franken

<<Back to Introduction.


According to Mother Jones:  " Getting nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is notoriously easy (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and uh, George W. Bush have all been nominated), but still, pretty neat."

If they give it to him....awesome. 

....AND SO HAS RUSH LIMBAUGH.  As if to prove the preceding point, Think Progress says:  "The right-wing Landmark Legal Foundation has nominated Limbaugh for the Nobel Peace Prize, for his “tireless efforts to promote liberty, equality and opportunity for all mankind, regardless of race, creed, economic stratum or national origin.”"

Gore, on the other hand, was nominated by two Norwegian members of Parliament.   Will that give him an unfair advantage? 

A THINK TANK FIGHTS BACK.  For today, courtesy of Digg.com, this photograph of lightning hitting a lake.   It almost doesn't look real.  I thought it was appropriate to include here, since thanks to new and strange climate variations, we had a thunderstorm here a couple of hours ago.  With thunder!  And lightning!  In early February!

No climate change, you say? 

The American Enterprise Institute would like for you to give a hearing to the other side.   According to The Guardian,  American Enterprise Institute (described in the article as a think tank which is funded by ExxonMobil) has offered scientists and economists $10,000 each to undermine the recent authoritative report on climate change. They are paying for articles which undermine the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change

[quote begins from The Guardian International, "Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Change Study]

The UN report  [IPCC]  was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

[quote ends from article]

Sadly, purchased studies have only limited credibility with all but the truly touchingly credulous.  Any attorney who has ever used an expert witness will confirm what I am saying.  For example:  suppose you were on a jury and had to assess whether a particular chemical used in manufacturing causes a particular form of cancer.  Who are you going to believe, independent scientists or the ones funded by the chemical manufacturer?

Continue reading "Nobel Nominees Gore and Limbaugh; Climate Change---One Think Tank's Quest for a Balanced Look; Al Franken " »

January 30, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 30 January 2007. Gary Kamiya at Salon.com, "The Readers Strike Back." Humble Advice from a Reader to Writers Who Surf Too Much.

Multistripedxl<<<back to Introduction.

WRITERS WHO SURF TOO MUCH. There's an excellent piece at Salon today on the effect on writers of readers' new access to blogs, discussion forums, and other means of sounding off publicly. 

The article at Salon, "The Readers Strike Back" by Gary Kamiya, focuses on the effect on writers of having more access to readers' thoughts on their work than any writer at any other period in human history could ever have dreamed possible.  Kamiya points out that this is good and bad:  the upside is that some of the feedback is complimentary or constructive; and that there may be value for some writers in knowing that people are talking about their work and responding to it.

[quote begins from Salon, "The Readers Strike Back" by Gary Kamiya]

For a writer, this huge, suddenly vocal audience has some significant advantages. For one thing, it serves as an enormous fact-checker. If you make a mistake in a piece, some eagle-eyed reader will let you know, often within minutes. But a far more important effect of the reader revolution is that it has forced writers to immediately deal with substantive arguments and critique. Like most writers who publish a lot online, I've written pieces that a letter writer has sliced up so surgically, with such superior logic and style, that I began searching furtively for a "do over" button on my computer. And the sheer quantity of even less sophisticated arguments, like water poured onto a leaky roof, reveal a piece's weak points. Many writers have told me about extraordinary e-mail exchanges with readers that sometimes develop into ongoing relationships.

At its best, then, the active audience sharpens thinking and advances the discussion. Even when not at its best, it gives a valuable sense of the range of perspectives that are out there -- at least in the possibly skewed demographic of those who write letters online.

And, of course, for a writer there is the guilty narcissistic pleasure, which can become an addiction, of wallowing in what other people have to say about you.....

[quote ends (link in original)]

Needless to say, writers and journalists don't enjoy reading the critical commentary as much as praise; as who would?  But as this article suggests, it's not the readers who are critical that get them down as much as the ones who are rude, cruel, insane or all three.  As he says, a writer who actually pays attention to what is being said about him or her needs a really thick skin. 

I can imagine it must be a bit of a jolt to go on the internet and find yourself being mocked or abused by dozens of people.  I can't speak to that; I've never googled my (actual) name and I never, ever will.  I don't know whether I'd find anything, but whatever I found----praise or loathing---I'd be likely to take too seriously.   My advice to thin-skinned writers would be:  "Don't go on the internet and don't give out an email address."  (My advice to people who are tougher, as you'll see, is different). 

Nobody who doesn't WANT to read what others are saying has to read it.  If you let the random opinions of a few readers who don't have anything better to do than spew venom at you affect your writing or cause you to "pull your punches," then you probably shouldn't be a writer.  And if you end up actually modifying your own work to avoid criticism, you don't deserve to be.  And---because there's always another writer coming along pretty soon---you probably won't be for long.

But that's not the thing that really interested me about this note. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 30 January 2007. Gary Kamiya at Salon.com, "The Readers Strike Back." Humble Advice from a Reader to Writers Who Surf Too Much. " »

January 27, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 27 January 2007. Reality Bites: Jon Stewart on Cheney; Cheney on Blitzer, Huffington on McCain.

Starsbuttonedxl_1<<<Back to Introduction.

I finished the recap of "The Office" for "Just Eat the Damn Peach" and I (finally) published a note I'd put together on Steve Irwin (in this blog).  I don't want to break my promise to myself about keeping a daily journal here, but honestly, I am too busy at the moment to have a life.

JON STEWART:  HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BLITZER/CHENEY INTERVIEW. Here's the best thing I found on the net today, courtesy of the Newsletter that Salon.com sends out to Premium Subscribers like me ($35 a year and a lot of goodies I never have the chance to make use of, though I'm always intending to).  Check out this link to see Jon Stewart take the piss out of Cheney's interview with Wolf Blitzer.  Sorry---I mean:  to see him review some of the highlights.

I said Stewart's was the best, but I was forgetting this (also linked from Salon) of Cheney getting riled at a question from Wolf Blitzer.  It was posted a few days back.  It's amusing too, in a horrifying way.

Later in the week, I may do a blogsearch to see what other people are saying about this (ordinary bloggers like me, I mean).  There was plenty of shrieking at The Huff Post by A and B-listers, that's for sure.  I don't have time to dig up the links, but if you want to know what leading progressives are saying, check it out here.

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 27 January 2007. Reality Bites: Jon Stewart on Cheney; Cheney on Blitzer, Huffington on McCain. " »

January 26, 2007

Blogcombing: Great Sorrow/Great Joy: Steve Irwin's Last Shout & Some Notable Tributes from Bloggers.


<<Yet another clipart tribute to Steve Irwin.

With Steve Irwin's documentary just out, and with his death far enough in the past to allow me to really process how I feel, I decided the time was ripe for me to live up to my intention to write, not a fitting tribute, but the best tribute I could: one with links to other and more authoritative sites than mine. 

First, here's Newsweek's article about the completion of Irwin's final film, The Final Hunt, by Devin Gordon.

[quote begins from Newsweek article]
During the 90-minute "Ocean's Deadliest," which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 21, on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, the only direct reference to Irwin's passing comes at the film's end: a still photo of him smiling and giving two thumbs up. "This film isn't about his death," says Stainton, who produced it. "It's about the animals we set out to film."... Irwin ends up as a kind of supporting player—an irrepressible scene stealer who comes and goes without explanation, though of course we all know what the explanation is....

Yet the film, in tone, is also a marked change of pace for the Australian naturalist. "Ocean's Deadliest" is a science-first adventure, a plea for ocean conservation—and a poignant rebuke to those who had dismissed Irwin as a clownish circus act. "There was a purpose to each of the expeditions in the film," says Cousteau. "It wasn't just, 'Hey, let's go look at these animals.' You're seeing brand-new research. And Steve was in absolute heaven about that."...

Finishing "Ocean's Deadliest," then, became essential. And almost unbearable. Cousteau was on Irwin's boat, Croc One, when the accident occurred, and was one of the last people to see him alive.... Now Stainton was asking him to get back on the same boat, and go back to the same reef where Irwin died, just hours after it happened. "A million things went through my mind, but in a split second my answer was yes," says Cousteau. "Like John said, I was the only person who could finish [the film] in a cohesive fashion. I had a responsibility."

[quote ends]

I plan to see it, but I haven't yet.  I'm not ready for it. 

Despite the skepticism of people like  Bill Maher (another hero of mine about whom I may never feel quite the same), it is possible to grieve over the loss of someone you don't know and would never have met who nevertheless helped light up the world for you.   Steve Irwin was  a person who affected my understanding of reality and way of seeing the world directly, definitively, and with absolutely finality.  I'm glad that I lived during his lifetime.  He was one of the people who showed us all how a truly joyous and passionate human life can be an example, a guide, and an inspiration.

Right: this sounds a bit soppy, even to me.  But it also has the feel of a visceral truth, for me and for a number of people.

Continue reading "Blogcombing: Great Sorrow/Great Joy: Steve Irwin's Last Shout & Some Notable Tributes from Bloggers." »

January 25, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 25 January 2007. Death, dying, and the Schiavo Case.

Apathxl_1It was one of those days that goes by too fast because there is so damn much to do.  The best bit was making contact with one of my young friends I hadn't seen in some time.

The evening consisted of working in between intervals of falling asleep, thanks to the fell work of the antihistamine I am still having to take.  Another cost of living in Paradise---thanks, Jeb!---is having to cope with the allergies you eventually develop.  Nick, hardy Briton that he is, has so far proved resistant; I hope he ends up being the exception which proves the rule.

Speaking of Jeb Bush, that line about hurricanes just being the price of living in paradise---and Florida is still that, my friends, for eight or nine months a year at least---made me like him a little bit, or like him a little better than I did before he said it.  He was governor here for eight years, and made a lot of decisions I don't agree with, but in general  I'd have to concede that he wasn't as bad as I expected. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 25 January 2007. Death, dying, and the Schiavo Case. " »

January 23, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 23 January 2007. State of the President.

Iridescentxb_1Earlier today, I briefly commented on Sydney Blumenthal's Salon article about the President, in which Blumenthal characterizes Bush's attitude toward the whole sorry Iraq debacle as one of indifference to public opinion. 

I explained---this is all in my politics blog, VERSUS/REVERSUS---that I think that Bush is driven by something that most of us in these self-reflective, self-analytical, self-doubting times really can't understand:  the conviction that he is a righteous man determined to do the right thing even when the right thing appears wrong to the majority of the people whom he represents and to the majority of their representatives.

I'm sure he identifies in his own thoughts with Churchill during the wilderness years and the prophet without honor in his own country (which, Bible readers will recall, was Jesus's description of his own plight when he tried to preach to the people in Nazareth). 

His speech tonight made this clear:  it's not that he doesn't care what you and I and Jim Baker and George Bush Sr. and the majority of the British public think, or doesn't realize that we have serious reservations about his plans to "surge" (or, rather, to have a lot of young people do it for him).  It isn't a question of his not caring or not understanding.

It's a matter of his knowing we're wrong.  And how does he know?  God tells him so, or Cheney does.  Or it's something he knows viscerally through some other means.  Who the hell knows?  Not me.  I can't understand it.  In a way, you can't help taking your hat off to someone who experiences this level of certainty.  Where does it come from?  How is it done?  How can one man, with no particular level of personal expertise, feel SO DAMN SURE he knows better than anyone else how to conduct a war? 

And I ask myself this:  suppose, just suppose, he's right?  I'm a liberal, you see---not a progressive, but a humble liberal---and I've never been as certain of anything in my life as, say, George Bush.  Even though in my opinion he is wrong, I'm aware that my opinion IS just an opinion.  It's based on the opinions---more or less expert---of certain people I respect (sometimes grudgingly) and trust (ditto). 

Anyway, as to his notion of the State of the Union, here's the full text.if you couldn't sit through it.

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 23 January 2007. State of the President. " »

January 22, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 22 January 2007. Improve your attractiveness instantly by 30 to 60%. (No stamped, self-addressed envelope or painful exercise required)


Today I saw one of my young friends I haven't seen in months.  We've been in touch by phone from time to time, but he's working in another city now. 

It was lovely to see him again, particularly since---after a very painful break-up with a woman he'd been with for years---he had with him a lovely new girlfriend.  As he's the kindest young person I've ever known, we were so happy that he had found a person who seems equally kind.  (Plus she loves cats, so I know she's a superior human being). Not liking cats is his only serious fault, but it appears that he is in the process of learning.

A number of people agree that this particular young man is one of the most attractive people they've ever known.  "He just has a sort of aura about him," one person remarked to me.  "He's an incredibly likeable person," said another.

It's his radiant easygoing kindness that distinguishes him from other equally bright and good looking young people and makes people enjoy being in his company.  He doesn't really recognize this quality in himself and I doubt he would acknowledge it if he did.  In his case, it's not something he cultivated, but just a part of who he is.  Nobody taught him; it's evidently genetic.   In his case, in other words, it was a gift, like being born with perfect pitch or precognition or an IQ of 190 or the ability to see infrared light.

But the quality that makes him stand out from other young people who are perhaps equally gifted in other respects is different from other gifts that come to people by sheer good luck: it's something that everyone can achieve.  Those who succeed automatically invest themselves with a grace or magnetism that works like a tractor beam to draw into their orbits not just "people" but  good people and often superior ones.  Superior people who are drawn into friendship with someone who is truly kind will want to help that person for the sheer pleasure of it.  People who have a lot to offer like to give it to someone who seems to deserve it. 

Why aren't there more self-help books written about the transformative power of kindness?   Why don't the fashion and business and health magazines include long articles about it or explain all the many ways it can enhance your life.

I suppose that in comparison with more glittering characteristics, it seems a bit beige to most people.

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 22 January 2007. Improve your attractiveness instantly by 30 to 60%. (No stamped, self-addressed envelope or painful exercise required) " »

January 19, 2007

Random Link O' the Day: The Mean Girls Report.


The future mothers of the next generation are a promising lot, it seems. 

[quote begins from MSNBC, 'Mean Girls' Trend Points to Deeper Problem:  Psychologists, Educators, Disturbed by lack of Adult Guidance for Teens by Alex Johnson and Chris Jansen]

Even the officer leading the police investigation admits that the video of three New York girls beating up a classmate — widely available for a time on MySpace.com — is hard to take.

“Every time I watch it — the second time you watch it, the third time — it’s not any easier than the first time,” Suffolk County Lt. Robert Edwards said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Jansing. “It’s pretty traumatic and kind of graphic.”

But you need to watch it. Psychologists and educators say it points to a disturbing trend that is being left unchecked by parents and school officials: the eagerness of American girls to seek approbation by flaunting increasingly outrageous behavior...

“The gender gap in serious violence is declining,” said a study by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado.

“If recent trends continue, female delinquents will occupy even more of the time and attention of researchers, policymakers, service providers, court officials, law enforcement agencies, and communities,” it added.

Federal statistics tend to bear out that assessment. From 1992 to 2003, the most recent year for which complete figures are available in the Justice Department’s Uniform Crime Report, the number of girls who were arrested on all charges increased by 6.4 percent, compared with a decline among boys of 16.4 percent. Most striking were the figures for assault: In that 11-year period, arrests of girls nationwide rose 41 percent, as opposed to a 4.3 percent rise among boys....

[quote begins]

Should girls be less violent than boys?  Yes, they should.  Boys have the testosterone excuse, and millenia of evolution to explain their tendency to resort to cavemen tactics, but these girls are presumably just nasty little pieces of work whose parents didn't bother to bring them up to behave with grace and intelligence, and especially grace, in the face of opposition and frustration. 

It's impossible not to feel sorry for the little twerps---obviously their parents either haven't bothered to teach them anything about reality or are as emotionally stunted as the monsters they are rearing--- but it's also impossible not to feel disgusted by them.

Should we be extremely worried about this?  Yes, we should be extremely worried.  These horrible little creatures will presumably sooner or later pass their anger management issues and propensity to violence to further generations. 

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day: The Mean Girls Report. " »

January 17, 2007

In honor of Berenger Sauniere and the "Mystery" of Rennes-le-Chateau, I "prove" Nick's Descent from the Merovingian Kings (and possibly from the "Bloodline" of Jesus).

Ceramics1greenmosaicxlWho? you may be asking.  If you are, you clearly didn't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, or its far more popular offshoot, The Da Vinci Code, with sufficient care.  Berenger Sauniere, the central figure in a a complicated web of speculation and obsession, had a fatal heart attack on this day.  It's therefore natural---right?---that I should be thinking about Nick's possible royal lineage.  The connections are all there, if you just look for them.

Let's talk about the Merovingians, starting with one of the last of les rois feasant (the Lazy Kings):  Dagobert II, or St. Dagobert.  If you google St. Dagobert, you will encounter many websites I will assume were inspired by the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail even if they don't reference it directl,  all of which will be glad to tell you the significance of this Frankish king who became a saint, many faintly worrying in their faith in what this site calls "The Merovingian Mythos."

According to HBHG, the Merovingian kings (who believed they ruled by divine right) might have conceivably been children of Christ's bloodline, assuming (as they speculate) that he was married to Mary Magdalene. 

There's absolutely no reliable evidence for any of this, of course; but I am free, I suppose, to believe what I choose?  According to HBHG, the Franks claimed to be descended from a mystical sea creature.  The "logic" of the argument is as follows:  they claimed, or seem to have claimed, that they were kings by divine right; their defining mark was a red cross on the shoulder, and one symbol for Christ is a fish.  Ancient legends, such as the belief that Mary Magdalene ended up living in Gaul---a possibility that I'm perfectly willing to entertain---are synthesized with creative reading of the Gospels to make her the actual bride of Christ, who is identified as the scion of the line of David and therefore the true king of the Jews.   

Continue reading "In honor of Berenger Sauniere and the "Mystery" of Rennes-le-Chateau, I "prove" Nick's Descent from the Merovingian Kings (and possibly from the "Bloodline" of Jesus)." »

January 16, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 16 January 2007. A Bit About the Pythons and a Spot of Name-Dropping.

Cherubs23xlDuring the busy seasons of my year, I am often at my laptop for long, 15-20 hour slogs, sleeping as and when I can.  I fortunately have the ability to do this while sitting in a room where three cats are running around, fighting, yowling, and climbing up on the top of high cabinets they're afraid to jump down from and where my husband, Nick, is watching television.  I find that listening to the cats and the television with about one quarter of my attention helps to keep me on track and meets my basic human need for daily feline and human contact.

These prolonged stints at the computer are how I've obtained my extensive knowledge about court television (which Nick dearly loves) and about a mixture of other topics of no particular relevance to my own interests, but often productive of what we'll call "advances in general knowledge."  Nick's a history buff and also a film buff.

This combination sometimes means that we watch interminable films about World War II, such as The World at War.  I didn't enjoy it, but it was grimly and depressingly educational. 

Over the weekend, it was "Selling Hitler," the fairly riveting story of the fraudulent Hitler Diaries, an astonishing instance of intelligent people (including many, many hard-headed German businessmen) violating Sherlock Holmes' basic precept of not reaching their conclusions in advance of the facts. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 16 January 2007. A Bit About the Pythons and a Spot of Name-Dropping." »

January 15, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 15 January 2006. Finding a Long-Lost Mentor.

Buckle2l_1Actually, the title of this note overstates the case a bit;  I didn't exactly find her, but I did find an internet page at the prestigious Seven Sisters college where she is now teaching religion. 

I dropped her a line without too much hope that she'd remember me, but a little and for this reason:  I was the only student majoring in her field at the small college where we met.  In the same year, the administration decided that one student wasn't enough to justify the department, so my choice was either not to major in philosophy---which for some 19 year old reason I found completely unacceptable---or to go elsewhere. 

She helped me to transfer to the much larger university from which I graduated.  I know I was in touch with her for a bit afterward before losing track.  I still have the little chinese boxes she gave me for a wedding gift---they definitely outlasted that marriage.  And somewhere along the line she passed on to a higher (or at least far more prestigious) place. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 15 January 2006. Finding a Long-Lost Mentor. " »

January 14, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for 14 January 2006. Ann Lamott's Plan B & Oprah's Lesson on Charity.


PROGRESSING CHRISTIANITY. I've been reading Ann Lamott in fits and starts at Salon and in O Magazine for a long time.  She's one of the reasons (Martha Beck is another) I started buying O Magazine, which is unpleasantly thick with advertising matter and gives off the cloying scent of women's perfume, in between which is a certain amount of content of a high quality and of interest to women with more in their heads than the latest trend in $500 stiletto heels and breakthroughs in make-up or interest in the advice of "Dr. Phil." 

My friend Nelle mentioned Plan B:  Further Thoughts on Faith to me on more than one occasion when I was blathering on about the manner in which christianity (note small C) had been hijacked by pink-skinned people who vote Republican.  Each time, I made a mental note to get hold of a copy, and each time, promptly lost the note.  After all, the Master only appears when you are ready for him or her.  Last week, I was evidently ready for Plan B, which I read from cover to cover in a single sitting.

A mental health maven I admire has said that real change in a person's perception of life and reality (which are not of course the same) doesn't happen over time, but instantly, in a single flash.  This has certainly been my experience.  I also think you can't make it happen yourself;  you can lay the groundwork for it to happen and develop the habit of mind that will facilitate it, but it won't really "take" unless there's some sort of catalyst.  In short, I believe in "grace" and in intervention (divine and otherwise) as necessary components to any lasting change.  But I also believe you have to lay the groundwork.

So I choose to believe that I didn't remember to read Plan B till I'd (not consciously, but as the effect of other, prior changes) laid the groundwork for it.  Or, to use another metaphor, till I'd cleared the ground so it wouldn't fall into stony soil.  I'd read bits and pieces of her writing before, and I always felt a connection to it, but I didn't feel it take till last week.

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 14 January 2006. Ann Lamott's Plan B & Oprah's Lesson on Charity." »

January 13, 2007

The Flatland Chronicles for January 13, 2007. Thoughts on My First Husband's Birthday.


Happy Birthday to my first husband!  He's now...um, really old. 

As it happens, he wrote to me last week to say he'd stumbled over some things of mine and wondered if I still wanted them.  Synchronicity being what it is, I'd just been wondering the day before where some of them were.

Synchronicity being what it is, Nick just happened to order Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was one of the first dates I ever had with my ex.  It had already been knocking around a bit by then, and he could recite most of the scenes by heart.  It was my first ever Monty Python flick.  I didn't really get it the first time.

My first husband was a really good guy and much better looking than almost anyone I knew.  He was a bit of a math geek, I guess, but he was also an ACC diver and an amazing diver.  One day, as he was walking through an ice cream store called "Mayberry"---which for aught I know still exists up there in the beautiful hill town of Winston-Salem---he somehow executed a perfect flip and ended up landing on his feet. 

We married when I was 20 and he was 23.  Too young, in other words.  Neither one of us had the right training for adult life, let alone for a marital partnership. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for January 13, 2007. Thoughts on My First Husband's Birthday. " »

January 12, 2007

Support Your Local Starbucks. (No, Really, I'm Serious. Shut Up.)

Goldbubblesx_1 I know it’s infra dig to admit it, much less to feel it, not to mention a sign of being an enabler of corporate America and an enemy of my community and small business and local atmospere but I love Starbucks.  There.  I said it.   

I am not a discriminating consumer.  If someone offers a high quality product at a price that I can afford---or a low quality one that’s the best I can afford--- I am going to be sucked right in.  Living where I do, and being surrounded as I am by the really angry, activist sort of Democrat, I understand all the reasons why it’s wrong of me to enable the big corporations that are moving in to local neighborhoods and running all the local businesses right out.  And Starbucks apparently is guilty of being too good at what they do. 

I am sorry, but I don't have a problem with that. Part of it has to do with figuring out what most people want from a coffee shop and getting it right.  Part of it has to do with the facts that they set---and enforce---standards, and the very distance between employees and the standard-setters ensures that the standards are going to be designed to attract/accommodate customers (me) instead of the employees (them).  I know that sounds callous and arrogant, but the fact is, I don't have enough discretionary income to waste it at places where the standard of service is low and the attitudes of the service people irksome.

I wonder why people who complain about Starbucks and lead little campaigns to keep it out of their neighborhoods fail to notice how it is that it manages---despite high prices---to destroy the local coffee houses, even the ones who provide extra goodies like free internet access and so on.  Maybe the coffee places they patronize are better than Starbucks (though if so, why the agitation?)  In my town the alternatives are not better.

Yes, I know that once they have a monopoly in my community, they can theoretically do as they will with us.  I don't care about that either.  I'm not so stupid that if they do as predicted by my anti-corporate and community-minded friends and raise all the prices past my tolerance level I'll keep patronizing them.   There's a point at which the pleasure of spending a couple of hours at Starbucks will definitely be outweighed by the displeasure of paying too much for what they offer.  And if that happens, I'm not worried.  I can live without the sort of local places that Starbucks preempts or displaces.  If they were any good, or were as good as Starbucks, I'd be giving my money to them. 

Continue reading "Support Your Local Starbucks. (No, Really, I'm Serious. Shut Up.)" »

January 11, 2007

Flatland Chronicles for 01.11.2007: Resolutions for the New Year: Journaling for Real.

GlassymosaicxI said I was going to do it, and yet I did not.

I set up this system of interlinking blogs so I'd have an organized way of posting about things that interest me whenever I happen to be so inclined.  The main blog, "The Flatland Almanack" is a sort of overarching blog of my blogs.  I fully intended to use this as a daily journal.  I'm no Samuel Pepys, and perhaps the daily journal component---as opposed to the Quiddities and Reality Bites sections---won't be of interest to anyone but me, but it will be of interest to me, and that's the point of a journal.

My ability to write a really complete journal is of course seriously constrained by my determination not to discuss here or anywhere online my job or even to be too specific about what it is.  I love what I do and have no gripes or anything, but once you put your foot on that slippery  slope, it's just too easy to get carried away and write something that could be misconstrued or that inadvertently reveals information that shouldn't be introduced into the public domain. 

As my work is a huge part of my life and consumes an immense part of my attention and interest, my record of my days will at best be incomplete because a lot of the most absorbing and rewarding part of the daily round simply isn't open for discussion.

Continue reading "Flatland Chronicles for 01.11.2007: Resolutions for the New Year: Journaling for Real." »

November 22, 2006

The Flatland Chronicles for 22 November 2006. A brief, morose appearance by the Ghost of Thanksgivings Past. A list in honor of Thanksgiving Present.

GreenpurplexllFirst, please understand that this is a basically upbeat note.  Eventually it becomes upbeat.  It's coming from an upbeat place, but to get there I have to grapple with a lot of reflexive sadness.  But doesn't everyone? 

Thanksgiving has never been a good time for me.  Other people's spirits sag at Christmastime; mine plummet at Thanksgiving.

In my youth, Thanksgiving was a dreaded event.  I lived in a South Carolina milltown inhabited by my father's three brothers and my 10 cousins and EVERY FREAKING Thanksgiving meant a day spent at my uncle's house trying to keep the burgeoning depression at bay.  I didn't get on with anyone in the family and I know why now, but I didn't then.  I didn't get on with my parents, my brothers, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, or any of my cousins.  I didn't exactly dislike them; I just didn't understand them.  And vice-versa, of course. 

Those were hard times.  Even the worst days of my life during adulthood I never felt as completely helpless as I did as an adolescent growing up in South Carolina in the 1970's.  I felt trapped, helpless, defeated.  I would have liked to rebel, but I'd have been rebelling all on my own.  Thanksgiving seemed to combine all the elements that contributed to my misery:  the small town conventionalities, family expectations and assumptions (and all the ways I failed to meet them), the sense of being outcast without really understanding what I'd done to bring it about.

I am sure any number of adults look back on Thanksgivings past with much the same feelings.

And perhaps, like me, now that they can't go back anymore, they really wish they could. 

Continue reading "The Flatland Chronicles for 22 November 2006. A brief, morose appearance by the Ghost of Thanksgivings Past. A list in honor of Thanksgiving Present." »

November 08, 2006

Good news for the Dems, mainly.


I have the flu and can't sleep anyway--my ear hurts!---so I'm sitting up watching the elections. 

I have been cautiously optimistic about this election, but the emphasis would have been on "cautiously."  Needless to say, I'm glad to see that the Republicans' unchecked domination of the government has been well and truly undercut by the Democrats' gains. 

But most of all I'm pleased by what the Democrats are saying.  Every one who comes forward has emphasized their intention to reach out to the other side of the aisle and to push for bipartisan efforts to deal with our current terrifying crop of problems.  The word "moderate" gets used a lot.

But of course, that's not going to work if the Republicans immediately start gearing up to recover power in the NEXT election.  Hopefully they've got the message that the American public is sick of their partisan politics, but who knows?  We definitely need to build a better Congress.  I'm hoping that the emphasis on working together is sincere and that it can be done.  I would like to see the Congress all work together to put some restraints on the executive branch. 

You can't ignore the fact that the votes are still split fairly drastically along party lines. 

I'm concerned by some of the really nasty campaigns that the Republicans have been running---and the mind turns immediately to defeated Harold Ford, who I liked so much in Real Time with Bill Maher.  Harold Ford is amazing and whoever said he was a "rock star" candidate was right on the money.  It seems to me that most of the negative campaigning backfired this time. I certainly saw some ugly tactics used in some Florida campaigns. 

Florida was a bit of a disappointment, but then it always is.  I don't hate Charlie Crist.  It was sweet to see Katherine Harris concede hilariously early this evening.   I never doubted she would lose; but it was sweet, sweet vengeance that she suffered a really humiliating defeat against Bill Nelson.

Some of the happiness was certainly dimmed by the decision in several states to ban not only same sex marriage but ALSO civil unions.  That is disgusting, as was the defeat of legalizing medical marijuana.  Wait till the people who voted against legalizing it get cancer or glaucoma or have someone in their family get cancer or glaucoma. 

That's all I'm saying tonight. 

October 31, 2006

More F Word with Gordon Ramsay.

Stargreensilverl "It's not rude; it's food."  You know, if it were anyone else I wouldn't put up with a show like this for as long as it takes to change the channel; if nothing else, the Christmas turkeys would do it for me. 


I don't want Gordon Ramsay to be a celebrity chef and he promised somewhere or other that he wouldn't.  But of course he is; he just is.  Tonight's episode has Joan Collins talking in that special mincing accent so popular among glamorous British actresses from the Sixties; evidently at some point he threw her out of his restaurant for bringing a food critic there.  For God's sake, Ramsay. 

And his Scottish mum is there.  There's a strong physical resemblance, complimentary to both.

We get to watch him picking out his young trainees. Of one's signature dish he said,  "That looks like you've cut someone's dick off and wrapped it in a condom."  It did, too.  I wonder what it was?  I wouldn't touch food that looked like that.

Continue reading "More F Word with Gordon Ramsay." »

October 28, 2006

The Gainesville Murders & the Death of Danny Rollings.




I was living in Gainesville, Florida at the time those five students were brutally murdered. I was afraid.  Everyone was afraid.  No one knew how the killer or killers had managed to get in to the apartments of the victims---apartments where all of us had friends--and we knew that the killer or killers had managed to kill a very powerful young man, Manuel Toboada.  It wasn't only the girls who were afraid. 

We had two days of waking up to reports of grisly killings.  We were given just enough detail to know that the killer or killers had been systematic and brutal.  We didn't know when they would stop and we didn't know what to do to protect ourselves.  Parents didn't know how to protect their children.  The police wouldn't release details for fear of compromising their investigation.  It was a bad, sorrowful, and terrifying time.  A number of parents took their children out of school.

Nobody ordered pizza anymore or accepted gifts of flowers.  We wouldn't open our doors to sign for UPS packages; we insisted on having them left at the door.  Services involving the delivery of food or flowers were suddenly no longer in demand.  Nobody would risk opening the door to strangers.  People who shouldn't have owned guns bought them; a friend of mine said a guy who lived next door to her apartment fired a handgun by accident and the bullet came through her wall.  We were all afraid. 

That was 16 years ago, and I don't get back there very often, but if you drive along 34th Street in Gainesville, you'll see that the victims of these murders have not been forgotten.  Along that street, is a large and very long retaining wall that has traditionally been allocated for graffiti (a very good idea).  The wall is divided into panels and so the usual practice is for people who are painting it to paint over one of the existing panels.  Nothing lasts for very long there; paintings of comparative artistic merit---I remember last time I was there one particularly beautiful series of Celtic knots that some art students had painted across several panels---don't last any longer than the crudest graffiti. 

But there is one panel that for 15 years has remained solid, somber black: the panel dedicated to the victims of the Gainesville murders and specifically of killer Danny Rollings.  Their names are painted in white; and there is a bouquet of flowers affixed to the wall.  Once in all that time someone obliterated this humble but enduring memorial, but it was speedily restored.  A few years ago, the city planted palm trees along the central median of this same section of 34th Street, each dedicated to one of the murder victims. 

Continue reading "The Gainesville Murders & the Death of Danny Rollings." »

October 24, 2006

That time of year that thou may'st now in me behold.



So I am sick to death for the moment of politics. 

This is the most beautiful time of year in North Florida.  To be specific, the period between mid to late October and mid-May is the most beautiful time.  It's officially autumn, but it isn't like autumn anywhere else.  The trees are still green; even the ones that lose their leaves are only just beginning.  And the liveoak and the palm trees never do lose their leaves.  (North Florida, though most people don't realize it, is covered with trees). 

I don't know what makes the difference; maybe the dryer and crisper air and the absence of the heat haze.  The sky is such a clear blue.  It's such a beautiful time for walking.  Even though we don't get the autumn colors (or the falling leaves), we get the leaf mould scent and the woodsy autumn smells. 

Most of the photographs in Floridiana Gloriana, my Florida photoblog, were taken between October and the middle of May.  Afterwards, you lose that strange radiance and the beautiful light. 

I've no time at present to travel, but maybe I'll take a trip to Cedar Key.  it's only an hour and a half away, and it's a place where you can enjoy the genuine "Old Florida" atmosphere.  There are wonderful restaurants.   The cool weather makes me feel like exploring, like getting outside with my camera again. 

It also makes me sad.  I always dream at this time of year about the past.  And that always makes me sad.  I've reached the point in my life when I really CAN'T go  home again.  My mom's still around, thank God, but when I go home it just makes me realize how much the town has changed.

My aunt Julia died on Friday.  I still can't process it.  I haven't done a very good job of staying in touch with my 12 cousins, but I usually managed to see my aunts and uncles (my late father's brothers and their wives) when I visited at home.  Two Christmases ago Nick and I visited Lancaster and dropped by to see Aunt Julia and Uncle Son.  Some of the kids were home as well.  She looked really good.  She looked the same as she always did.  I feel very sad that I never got to see her again and that I wasn't able to leave here in time to get to the funeral.

When I think of Lancaster, I think now of people who aren't there anymore.  I think of the whole milltown culture, which is also gone and which I couldn't wait to get away from when I was growing up there.  The old cotton mill---once the largest cotton mill in the world under one roof----has been torn down; all the work has been outsourced to Brazil.  People in South Carolina are seriously suffering from unemployment.  My mom says that a lot of them are going back to farming.  Hard to see how they are going to manage that, now that my hometown (Lancaster, South Carolina) has basically become a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina.

It makes me miss my dad, an old-fashioned hometown booster and for many years the only optometrist ("eye doctor") in town.  He was heavily involved in the local Rotary and was an expert in local history.  He helped me write a paper on Sherman's March Through the Carolinas that won me an award from the local DAR.  There wasn't much left of the town after he tore through there, but the old courthouse---designed by the same architect, Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument---and until the eighties, the old jail survived. 

That jail was destroyed in a way I don't like to think of and the prisoners who were there died tragically with it.  It was a part of the town's culture I don't look back on with any pride, but which I nevertheless feel that I own.  You're sort of stuck with the place where you grew up.  You didn't choose it and it didn't choose you, but you're part of each other's history.

I wonder what he'd say about the town now.  At the town's Bicentenniel, he was instrumental in setting up the ceremonies and such.  When he died in 1988, it was standing room only.  Most of the people who live in the town now wouldn't ever have heard his name, but when I lived there, everyone knew Dr. Ben.   

It was just a small red clay milltown, but at least it had a character of its own.   All my autumn dreams take place in the town or in some version of it.  I dream about old houses that are long gone and that I always wanted to see inside; and I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time walking up and down Gillsbrook Road and across the old bridge.  In my childhood, there was a creek beside a cornfield and when the water rose the bridge would flood.  The mother of a childhood acquaintance who used to drive us to school tried to cross the bridge when it was flooded and was killed when she went over the edge.

When  I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get out of there.  Now that I'm grown up, I wish I could go back just once for a visit and have everyone be where I left them. 

Random Links O' the Day: Steven King Knows Scary, Gordon Ramsay Knows the F Word, and Robert J. is in the House.



I have zero time at present to blog---I'm still trying to find time to post my notes on the most recent Real Time with Bill Maher---but if you care about something, you make time. 

STEVEN KING KNOWS SCARY.  So first, this from Steven King (THE Steven King), (which I received because I've been on the mailing list for MoveOn.org since the Bill Clinton impeachment nonsense):

[quote from Steven King MoveOn.org correspondence begins]

If I know anything, I know scary. And giving this president and this out-of-control Congress two more years to screw up our future is downright terrifying. Thankfully, this national nightmare is one we can end with—literally—a wake up call.

My friends at MoveOn.org Political Action are organizing pre-Halloween phone parties this weekend, Oct. 28th & 29th. We'll be calling progressive voters in key districts who may not turn out unless they get a friendly reminder or two....

Please click the link below to R.S.V.P. for the nearest party, or to sign up to host your own:


If you're concerned about the future of this country, this is the time to get involved. The polls are telling us that this November is our best shot in over a decade to turn things around, and we've got to make the most of it.

You might wonder if these reminder calls to voters actually help. I did, too. It turns out MoveOn tested this whole Call for Change program on some early elections this year, and it produced the biggest increase in actual votes of any volunteer phone bank ever studied.

The failure in Iraq and the recent string of scandals have put a bunch of new districts into play. That means there are more voters to call than anyone planned, and every call we make at a party this weekend will reach a key voter who otherwise would have been missed.

[quote ends from Steven King note]

So if you DON'T belong to MoveOn.org, there it is.  Consider the word spread.

I will always cherish Steven King for writing The Jaunt and The Shining and certain of his early short stories achieve a restraint and originality that it would be impossible for me to overpraise.  Works of genius, some of these:  I don't care that he's produced a great deal of work that, um, aren't

It's nice he's stepping up for the progressives.  I'm told by progressive friends that I am not really of them, but in this I am with them. 

RainblowpaperweightlGORDON RAMSAY'S F WORD.  Speaking of people I admire, I just saw Gordon Ramsay:  The F Word, a show which offered many intriguing glances into the life and times of this particular personal hero of mine.  And whereas my admiration of Steven King is qualified, my admiration for Ramsay knows no bounds.  And I couldn't care less about cooking or food---I am precisely one of those women he talks about in the show who have chosen to desert their kitchens. 

For one thing, we got a glimpse of his lovely and doubtless long-suffering wife Tana and his adorable children.  I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have the G-man (sorry; I don't normally talk or write that way) as your old man.  Terrifying too, of course, though in the good and exciting way.  For example, he is making his kids raise a lot of holiday turkeys so they can learn "where food comes from" really.  The turkeys, which are very cute, were all named after chefs (Toby, Nigella, Ainsley, Delia are the ones I remember) and it was clear that the kids were getting as fond of them as I already am. 

Just for "fun", he took one of them into the kitchen and pretended to put it in the oven.  Kids:  AAAAUUUUUGH!    There was also a scene involving the cooking and eating of foie gras that I didn't really watch.  If I want "buttery" food, I can eat butter---never mind the "crispy" texture.  I love foie gras too but I try---I try---to abstain.  (Ramsay: "Some people think it's cruel.  I just think it's delicious.") 

And there were many well-known and fabulous women strongly resisting his theory that they need to get back into the kitchen, one of whom was that lovely black-haired girl who was Hugh Grant's girl from Love Actually.  There was quite a charming innuendo-filled scene of the two of them together.  A man like that one is going to flirt.  I was married to one like that, and I know.  Wives of such men just take it for granted; it's all just for fun.  Ramsay's passion is food and cooking and all that goes with it.  That's the part that would be really taxing.   

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in the fullness of time, but I thought it worth while to chronicle it.  And I am, I am, I am going to do a better job keeping up with this journal.  I've been too focused lately on politics to the exclusion to all else, and it's definitely bringing me down.

Illuminationl HELLO, ROBERT!  This one is personal and goes out to my old friend Robert, in case he ever reads this.  It's been twenty years, but I'm glad you got in touch with me again.

October 11, 2006

Political reflux.


Some weeks are tougher than others.  Sometimes I just can't work up the will to work out what to say about the news of the day.  I'm really busy this week, and a lot is happening, so I'm grateful as always to Digg.com and The Huffington Post for aligning articles about the news of the minute, as it were.

So anyway, here are the things that I couldn't help noticing:

REPORTS OF THE IRAQUI BODY COUNT.  According to this report in The Wall Street Journal, about 600,000 Iraquis have died since the invasion. 

[quote begins from "Iraqi Death Toll  Exceeds 600,000, Study Estimates" by Neil King, Jr.]

A new study asserts that roughly 600,000 Iraqis have died from violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, a figure many times higher than any previous estimate.

The study, to be published Saturday in the British medical journal the Lancet, was conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by sending teams of Iraqi doctors across Iraq from May through July. The findings are sure to draw fire from skeptics and could color the debate over the war ahead of congressional elections next month.

The Defense Department until 2004 eschewed any effort to compute the number of Iraqi dead but this summer released a study putting the civilian casualty rate between May and August at 117 people a day. Other tabulations using different methodologies put the range of total civilian fatalities so far from about 50,000 to more than 150,000. President Bush in December said "30,000, more or less" had died in Iraq during the invasion and in the violence since.....

Hamit Dardagan, co-founder of Iraq Body Count, a London-based human-rights group, called the Lancet study's figures "pretty shockingly high." His group tabulates the civilian death toll based on media reports augmented by local hospital and morgue records. His group says it has accumulated reports of as many as 48,693 civilian deaths caused by the U.S. intervention....

Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Defense Department spokesman, said the Pentagon doesn't comment on reports that haven't been publicly released. Nonetheless, he said, "the coalition takes enormous precautions to prevent civilian deaths and injuries," adding that "the Iraqi ministry of health would be in a better position, with all of its records, to provide more accurate information on deaths in Iraq."

Since 2004, the Pentagon has collected data on civilian deaths in incidents where coalition forces were involved. According to its August civilian-casualty report, those figures show that the daily civilian death rate has increased nearly sixfold, to almost 120 this summer from about 20 in early 2004. The Lancet study cites the Pentagon's numbers to back its own findings, saying the mortality-rate increases in both tabulations closely parallel one another.

[quote ends here]

They're just saying, you know? 

These are horrible statistics, but I am not sure what they prove about the war.  Would the carnage lessen if we pull out of Iraq, or will it simply be directed toward different people?  Note that the cause of the deaths is "violence."  But violence inflicted by whom?  I didn't read it to say, as some of the progressive blogs are saying, that these deaths were caused by American troops.

I'd really like to hear more about the consequences of America getting out of Iraq for Iraqui civilians.  That's something I feel we are morally bound to consider.  Will they be better off or at least  no worse off? 


NORTH KOREA WEAPONS TESTING:  CAUSE AND EFFECT.  AS ALWAYS, IT'S CLINTON'S FAULT.  According to John McCain, the North Korea tests---like everything else that's happened since Bush took office, I suppose---is Bill Clinton's fault. 

[quote begins from AOL News article, "McCain criticizes Clinton North Korea policy"]

Republican Sen. John McCain on Tuesday accused former President Clinton, the husband of his potential 2008 White House rival, of failing to act in the 1990s to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

"I would remind Senator (Hillary) Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure," McCain said at a news conference after a campaign appearance for Republican Senate candidate Mike Bouchard....

Democrats have argued President Clinton presented his successor with a framework for dealing with North Korea and the Republican fumbled the opportunity. In October 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a groundbreaking visit to Pyongyang to explore a missile deal with Chairman Kim Jong Il. There was even talk of a visit by President Clinton.

The initial breakthrough occurred in October 1994 when U.S. negotiators persuaded North Korea to freeze its nuclear program, with onsite monitoring by U.N. inspectors. In exchange, the United States, with input from South Korea and Japan, promised major steps to ease North Korea's acute energy shortage.

These commitments were inherited by the Bush administration, which made clear almost from the outset that it believed the Clinton policy ignored key elements of North Korea's activities, especially the threat posed by the hundreds of thousands of troops on permanent duty along the Demilitarized Zone with South Korea.

Reports suggesting North Korea tested a nuclear device prompted a number of Democrats to criticize Bush, arguing that he focused on Iraq , a country without weapons of mass destruction, while ignoring legitimate threats from Pyongyang.

McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he backed tough U.N. sanctions against North Korea in response to the reported test. The measures, he said, should include a military embargo, financial and trade sanctions and the right to inspect all cargo in and out of North Korea.....

[quote ends (links in original)]

I suppose his point is that Clinton erred by trying to negotiate with North Korea?  What?  I can't tell from this why Clinton is to blame for what's happening now, given that the current Administration has had six years to take action.  What sort of action?  When?  I don't know.  It looks to me as if "making clear from the outset" that it didn't favor Clinton's policy hasn't done anything to make the situation better, but seriously, I just have no idea what McCain is saying; that is to say, I don't understand his "cause and effect" argument here.

Is it that Clinton gave them "millions in energy assistance" that they diverted to their military?  And if so, does the diversion to the military include funding for nuclear weapons construction?  And---given that they've been saying for years they are going to do exactly what they did----how come we weren't all over it before now?  (Okay, I do know the answer to that one).   

NORTH KOREA WEAPONS TESTING:  CAUSE AND EFFECT.  BILL O'REILLY EXPLAINS IT ALL.  Also, for some reason, Bill O'Reilly believes that the weapons testing NOW is an attempt by North Korea to influence the election against Bush.  Come again?  I thought that anything on the "national security" side of the argument was invariably a plus for the Republicans. Don't they sort of need this issue to distract the public from the Foley scandal and the revelations by Woodward and Powell and Spike Lee and the rest? 

[quote begins from "Media Matters for America,"  "O'Reilly:  Like Iran, "the reason North Korea is causing trouble is that it wants to influence the November election."]

From the October 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Now, the reason North Korea is causing trouble is that it wants to influence the November election. As we discussed last week, Iran's doing the same thing in Iraq -- ramping up the violence so Americans will turn against the Bush administration.

That is not a partisan statement. It is a fact. America's enemies are emboldened by the stalemate in Iraq and feel they can do anything they want to do. They also hate Mr. Bush and want to weaken him as much as possible.

[quote ends (emphasis in origina)]

It's not a partisan statement in the same sense in which Fox News is "fair and balanced."  But, you know, hating Bush doesn't exactly distinguish the governments of North Korea and Iran from the governments of other nations, including most of our allies. 

As an explanation for "bomb testing:  why now?", it seems a bit "post hoc ergo propter hoc."  But I guess it's the only alternative to the argument from the other side that they're doing it now because they know we're too mired in Iraq to do much to stop them.

Which is, I guess, why the North Korea nuclear testing issue might be seen as a good issue for the Dems.

KATHERINE HARRIS AGAIN.  At her website, Harris is claiming that she "beat" Bill Nelson based on the results of a straw poll.  In Lakeland, Florida.  At an affair called "Politics in the Park."

Take that, Bill Nelson!

I'm noting this development mainly because The Huffington Post did.  Speaking as a non-Lakeland dwelling Floridian, I don't see it as all that telling.  Lakeland ain't Florida.  Or that's what I keep telling myself.

October 03, 2006

The Flatland Chronicles for 2 October 2006.


I'm not doing a great job keeping up with this journal.  These last few weeks have been eventful in politics, what with the Mark Foley scandal, the Woodward book, the Powell revelation, and on and on.  I can't even keep up with any of that. 

In between and at odd times when I have time, I've concentrated on posting my enormous backlog of images in the blog art blog.  I just get some sort of strange satisfaction out of getting them set up in one place; I can't really explain it.

But this---the Amish school shooting--- is so sad and so shocking (on top of other similar events in the last few months) that I can't help taking note of it.  I deliberately linking to the bbc because I think it's important for Americans to step back and try to see these events through the eyes of people whose laws aren't affected by the gun lobby. 

When Rumcove visited here from Southend-on-Sea, he literally could not bring himself to walk into the aisle at Wal Mart (yes, we visited Wal-Mart; every Brit friend or family member who has visited here wants to see Wal-Mart) where they were selling guns.

Nick---who was for 12 years a special constable for the Metropolitan Police in London and who is much more conservative than Mr. Rumcove---had exactly the same reaction.  He won't enter that aisle.  Furthermore, both were bemused at laws that won't allow the sale of liquor at grocery stores, but WILL allow people to buy guns at America's megastore. 

It's hard not to feel responsible in some way for the incidents listed at the BBC article I linked.  If only I had the money these lobbyists do, perhaps I could buy enough influence to do something about it.

I don't want to hear any specious crap (though I will) about how the man wielding the gun, and not the gun, was responsible for the deaths of these children.  That is one of the most fatuous arguments ever to be swallowed whole by a sufficiently significant segment of the American public.  If the man had not had access to a gun, what do the gun lobbyists think would have occurred?  Do they seriously maintain that he could have succceeded in committing this crime using a knife or a tire iron?   If they do, they had better read the news report again.  The argument defies common sense and flies in the face of the way human beings behave.   

The gun lobby's response to every such crime is to get all up in the air about punishing criminals harder----which in the history of humankind has never served as much of a deterrent and which won't be of any use to the parents of the children who have died.  They do this to deflect attention from their own role in enabling this crime---and they definitely bear some responsibility, as do you and I and every voter in America.

I don't want to sound as cynical as I feel.  But it's hard to separate this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach from shame.   

September 27, 2006

STUDIO 60: The Animaniacs Did it First.

ribbonsblueL  So the terrifically brilliant and cutting edge idea of our crack team of comedy writers at Studio 60 is the same one that Spielberg's Animaniacs employed in, what was it, 1993?  With the EXACT SAME Gilbert and Sullivan Song, only theirs---in my opinion---was much funnier.  I somehow don't see the actual SNL audience of today responding to that sketch.  The audience from The West Wing, yes.  But if we're going to go for the pretentious demographic---of which I suppose I am a member----let's do it right.

"I am the very model of a modern major-general" wouldn't have been my pick for a parody because it seems to me that it's been parodied to death; for a satire show, try "As someday it may happen that a victim must be found" (the "I've Got a Little List" song from The Mikado) or---even better---"When I was a Lad" from HMS Pinafore.

Otherwise, the show was pretty good again, though the soapboxing by Sorkin is going to wear really thin if he goes on dropping the anvils on me.  (What was all that nonsense about the comedy writers being dressed "unprofessionally"?  Shouldn't they try to dress and think like the demographic at whom the networks always are aiming?  Are they really trying to get me to believe that a lot of suits should be writing comedy sketches for the demographic that real networks want to capture?)

Anyway, I intend to be a regular viewer; and Nick---big Sorkin fan, Nick---loves it.  And I've never eaten Jenny Craig, though I definitely have cats.  (Only three, though.)  Perry and Whitford are magic. 

Also: bite me, script-writing lovers of the media elite "experts"!  I may not know what they like, but I know what I do.

I may not be elite or an expert, but I can tell a hack from a hacksaw, so go easy ragging on the blogosphere.

I like the show; I hope it lasts.

Just a friendly reminder....

September 22, 2006

The Flatland Chronicles for 22 September 2006: Secretly awesome.


When I started "The Flatland Chronicles," my plan was to make this my daily online journal, where I'd post my fascinating exploits and my daily reflections on life, the deliciousness/bitterness of it, and so forth.

But when I tried to do that, I realized that I might not be the journaling type.  I have a theory that there's a stage in life when you're willing to put yourself out there----and even to shout into the abyss like the people on the island in the Laurie Anderson song "Look at me!  Look at me!  Look at me! ME! ME!

The thing is, I've been through that stage and it was over and done with before the age of blogging.  I'd have been happy to share the joys and angsts with all and sundry when I was still in my thirties. 

Now it just feels like whining or----to use my English husband's word for it---whinging.  You know, like a perpetually creaking door.  "Whi-i-i-i-i-in-in-in-in-in-IN-IN-IN-INGE!"  It's a door; it's going to be opened and closed because that's the point of a door; all doors go through it because they were designed to be gone through.  Why be noisier than other doors? 

So maybe it's just a function of age.  Or perhaps of discretion.  I don't lose sight of the fact that in the fullness of time, someone I know may discover this blog, identify me, and "out" me.  Since I don't have the happy conviction I had in my thirties that hey, I can always find another job, other friends, another life.  I'd like to keep the job, the friends, and the life I have.  It no longer feels as though there is world enough or time enough for me to start over, or rather to do so if I have a choice about it.  And anyway I LIKE the job, the friends, and the life I have.  I really don't have any complaints.  Though I don't find it boring myself, I'm sure my life would seem dull to anyone who isn't yet settled.

Furthermore, the people I know wouldn't like for me to publicly share their stories. 

So what's there to write about, really?  I talk (discreetly) about my past mistakes and anxieties in "Love in the Time of the Internets" and "The Disquieting Damozel," but I don't have an infinite number of stories about them.  I write about religion and my spiritual experiences in "The Heretic's Handbook."  I write about my evolving political consciousness in "Versus/Reversus."  I share---very sporadically---my thoughts on entertainments and past-times in "Just Eat the Damn Peach."  In "Floridiana Gloriana" and "The Blog Art Blog," I share my photographs and digital artwork.  What's left after all that? 

That's what I intend to find out.  I don't have energy or time on a daily basis to deal with everything I think about politics, religion, and the rest of it.  I might have time to consider what's happening (or not happening) to me. 

I am partly inhibited by Nick.  There's a blog he occasionally reads that sets his teeth right on edge:  it's by a woman (not me) who really puts herself and her life out there:  beliefs, feelings, ongoing day to day experiences, and so forth.   It's---in the immortal phrase coined by the "Discover" Channel---"life unscripted."  But:  "Who cares about the "delicious earthy taste" of the mushrooms she had for dinner? " he will yell.  "Who wants to know what her ten favorite brands of make-up are or the ten reasons why she loves her hamster?"

Some people do; I do.  Or maybe we don't care about her exactly, but we appreciate the way she makes us aware of the smaller joys and irritations that life affords.  When she waxes ecstatic over some trivial aspect of her day or of her life, I start looking around to see what I have in my life that I could be similarly ecstatic over.  Or maybe not exactly ecstatic---I'm past the age when I can get excited about a new lip gloss or a "kicky" new skirt----but pleased with things, temporarily triumphant, on top---for the moment---of the world or my game or whatever.

Furthermore, the blogger in question shares with readers those vague longings and feelings of isolation and defeat that sometimes overtake us all.  She uses her blog to connect with her readers and herself.  Really, what more could anyone ask of a hobby? 

As for Nick, "Why do you read her blog if it annoys you?"  I asked.  "To remind me that people like this exist," he said.  "People who think that everything they do or think is of some vast, cosmic importance.  People who believe at some level that the universe is looking on in amazement as they go through life.  People who feel entitled to my attention because they think they are "awesome.""

But isn't life better if you feel that way?  I used to feel that way.  I stopped when I went through a long period of such repeated and prolonged misfortune that to carry on thinking that way I'd have had to conclude that my life was one of God's little jokes, like the life of Job,  and---at the time anyway---I was too exhausted to have much of a sense of humor. 

I think the journaling bloggers perform a sort of service.  They are making a record----presumably a permanent one---of life lived, in all its tedium and ingloriousness and with the occasional and often inexplicable highs thrown in.   

Don't we all feel that we are---secretly---rather awesome?  Don't we all have things we want to share, to put out there for the universe to process? 

I would like to have the sort of life that lends itself to that sort of candor.  To live life with passion and discernment and then to share what you experience:  that would certainly be a way of ensuring that you live it fully.

After all---to quote William S. Burroughs and Laurie Anderson---"Language is a virus."  What you put out there is transmitted to everyone and replicates itself among the general population.  The writers of the really high quality online journals make themselves part of the collective unconsciousness.  And really, what more can a writer ask?  (other than money or fame, I mean).

And how else would reality TV exist? 

September 14, 2006

Chronicles for 14 September 2006.

  WORK BEFORE PLEASURE; OR INDEED BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE. It's hard to see how for the foreseeable future I am going to get much blogging done.  My work is seasonal, but when it's on---as now---it's on.  And work comes first, before all else.  I didn't used to see things that way, but years ago, when I was married to my late husband Don, I had the experience of being in a household where one partner---not me, him---got laid off from work and tried for success to find another job for over a year.  If there's any way I can prevent it, that is never going to be me.  It was horrific, devastating, a personal earthquake that laid waste to my whole life.  Not because of what we lost in terms of material prosperity, but in terms of the sheer wear and tear of not knowing from one moment to the next how you'll meet all your obligations.  Not to mention the wear and tear of dealing with someone who has been "let go"---the desperation, the fury, the free floating perpetual anxiety, and finally, the drinking. 

I can remember a time in my life when I took a very cavalier approach to my work.  When you're young, you sort of believe in your ability to find more (and better) work, and you don't fully understand the consequences of not being able to do that because you're young, you still believe vaguely that somewhere out there is a solution for every problem, other than the actual unpleasant real world solutions.  You don't fear being without health insurance because you don't get sick and you aren't afraid of not being able to pay the rent because if you have to, you can always find a roommate.

I stayed youthful---or as my mother would frame it "immature"---in my outlook longer than any of my friends, but a time did arrive when I looked around at my real options and saw that I didn't actually have that many.   Or rather, I didn't have many that wouldn't involve far more difficulty and stress and risk than I was willing to undertake.  As two of my personal icons, Grinder and Bandler, have pointed out, for any given person there are---in actuality---a much larger range of choices than any given person is usually consciously willing to concede.  It all depends on the criteria you apply in determining what's feasible.

Continue reading "Chronicles for 14 September 2006." »

September 09, 2006

Chronicles for September 9, 2006.

werenotreallybadl_1 A DREAM OF SNAKES. I bought my first copy of People Magazine in, like, ten years yesterday because of the cover photo of Steve Irwin cuddling a baby crocodile.  I'm not exactly a herpetophile, but I do like reptiles, and the young of any animal species are usually pretty cute once they get past what I call (regardless of species) the "larval" stage.

And of course Steve Irwin was a very cute man.  He never showed any perceptible signs of aging and I always picture him smiling when I think of him.  I wanted that photo to put in the trunk where I keep things that my great-grandmother would have called "Keepsakes" but which I refer to as my "time capsule."  Steve Irwin's is one of the faces I don't want to forget.

Subsequently, on Real Time with Bill Maher, the New Rules included a rule that "you"---the press, I guess---can't call someone's death a freak accident if he dies from a stingray attack while swimming in stingray-infested waters.  A fair point, I guess.  Apparently---this is according to the People Magazine article---the ray that got Steve Irwin was almost seven feet across and the barb went directly into his heart.  He pulled it out himself and apparently bled to death, which I didn't know. 

I think that Steve Irwin would actually agree with this.  He consciously spent his life balancing on the rickety rim of peril. 

Continue reading "Chronicles for September 9, 2006." »

September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin. No.

Metallictigerbrooch I cannot believe that Steve Irwin is gone.  Nick just came downstairs and gave me the news.  But here it is right there in BBC Online:   Crocodile Hunter Irwin Killed.

I know he has had his detractors, but I love him---I'll love him till I die--- for the love he had for animals, especially reptiles.  He brought humor and joy into the wildlife documentary.  No one else has ever made learning about the world such a satisfying experience. 

According to the article, his death represents the first time anyone in Australia has been killed by a sting-ray.  I actually didn't realize they were so dangerous, but apparently he got the barb right in the chest.  I don't know; everything I write seems inane.  There are some lovely comments at the BBC website, but all I can think at this point is, No; no; no; wrong.

What is there to say, except how much I'll miss knowing he's in the world?  Which will be a less happy and less colorful world without him.  Oh, man.  Steve Irwin gone?   I have so few heroes; I can't afford this. 

I apologize for this being my first sincerely felt selfish reaction because I know he leaves behind a wife, two children, and other family members who loved him.  I am speaking here as a fellow member of the Family of Man, but of course the hearts of all Steve Irwin's admirers go out to his family.  Knowing the world mourns with them won't help them much with their grief, but it may help someday with their recovery.   

Farewell, Crocodile Hunter.  It has been a privilege to live in your time.  Travel easily and travel well. 

September 01, 2006

Chronicles for September 1 2006

Dancingstarl_2While still maintaining my predecessor blog, the Flatland Oracles, I had comments or letters from a number of people whose work, websites, or opinions I blogged about---perhaps at some point I'll drop some names, but not now---and still I forget this.  Though I definitely try to limit discussion of my private life and personal friends, blogging about the internet and issues discussed on the internet still feels curiously private to me.

A few weeks ago, when I was still doing my "Flatland Oracles" blog, I wrote a note about a young craftswoman who made a pair of sandals out of grocery bags.  I saw an amusing comment by the famous Manolo about her grocery bag sandals at Manolo's "Shoeblogs" site; his comment---let's say that he didn't care much for them---amused me, so I took a look at the link he provided.  The link took me to a Crafts site where the maker of the sandals was discussing how she had the idea to make them and how she'd gone about it.

I come from a place that is well-supplied with artists and objects made from macrame and....I rather like them.  I thought the grocery bag sandals looked rather like macrame and was impressed by the color (a lovely pale aubergine; what store has bags in that color, I wonder?)  My concern about the sandals had more to do with how they would feel if you tried to wear them.  But I didn't think they were any uglier than a lot of things I see people here in ultra-casual North Florida.  In fact, they were much nicer than the plastic sandals from CVS pharmacy that so many people wear.

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August 29, 2006

Chronicles for 29 August 2006

Chronicles for 29 August 2006.

Crystalsphere_1 Work is gearing up again;  I'm feeling both excited and regretful.  Blogging has proved to be a wonderful and absorbing hobby for me, and I'm rather sorry that I can't give it my full attention anymore.  At the same time:  I do love my work.  I am fortunate to work with people I greatly admire and respect and to do work I'm passionate about.  I'm sure once I get back into the swing of it, I'll feel less regret and more enthusiasm.

Speaking of passion for one's work, Nick found this article about chef Gordon Ramsay, whom I so much admire.  Funny how different people take away such different impressions from the same experience.  [Mind you, I don't approve of foie gras either, despite having rather liked it the only time I ever had it (before I knew how it was created); on the other hand, if in the process of protesting it, I disrupted someone's business, I would not feel hard done by if the owner emptied duck's feathers on my head---not, of course, that Ramsey actually ever did that....]

I give props to his "missus" (hee) for understanding that for some people, it's work first, last, and always.

[quote from article "Gordon's Just Desserts" begins]

Claridges won't be the only thing he'll be celebrating around the time of the opening. His wife Tana is expecting their fourth child, and if it came down to choosing between the birth of his baby and the opening of his restaurant, he doesn't hesitate with the answer.

"I've not made any of the three births yet so it'll look a bit bizarre it I managed to make it to this one..."

To me, this is the sign that this couple has their priorities straight.  There's more:

Continue reading "Chronicles for 29 August 2006" »