Monday, May 30, 2011

On Hallowed Ground: A Memorial Day look at Cemeteries

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. Service Members who died while in the military service.[1] First enacted by formerly enslaved African-Americans [2] to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War – it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season, and Labor Day its end.
Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the Civil War, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. (Wikipedia - Memorial Day)

This is a day of pilgrimage in big cities and small villages all across the country.  Cemeteries will be filled with people cleaning headstones, placing flowers, connecting and remembering.  I see cemeteries not as sad and depressing depositories of the dead, but as vibrant places alive with personalities, infused with memories, steeped in unique beauty. 

I see them as outdoor galleries of fine art and folk art, ripe for photographing, which I do every chance I get, but always with the sense that I am treading on hallowed ground.

In honor of fallen soldiers, of friends and family no longer with us, of people whose lives we know only from symbols on a headstone, I offer these today:

The General - Gettysburg

The Copse of Trees - Gettysburg

Unitarian Church graveyard - Charleston, SC
A brother and sister sculpted in a glass casket - Conway, SC

"Here lies the body of Catherina Spano born 17 May 1853 died Oct 29 1900"  """"  Apalachicola, FL Cemetery

Old Cliff Mine Cemetery, Keweenaw Peninsula, MI

Myrtle carpets the ground at Old Cliff Mine Cemetery, Keweenaw Peninsula, MI

Decorated grave at Old Mission Cemetery, Brimley, MI

Old Mission Indian Cemetery, Hessel, MI

Memorials for sailors gone down with the Edmund Fitzgerald -- Whitefish Point, MI

When the time comes, I'll be buried in a plot in a small township cemetery in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. My parents and members of my mother's family are already buried there. Anything goes in that cemetery -- one of the reasons my husband and I chose it. People have installed benches and arbors and rocking chairs, turning their family plots into symbols and extensions of the lives that went before. Children's toys are scattered, as if the child has left them only momentarily.  Pictures, beads, notes and Lake Superior beach stone cairns decorate the sites.

It's the kind of place you would want to stop by and visit.

It'll suit me just fine.

(Please note: All photos are mine.  Please ask permission before using.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: On Oprah, Elizabeth Warren, Hitler's Dogs, and Assorted Boobs

 After months of building up to this, on Wednesday Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her still-huge audience and ended her daytime show. I watched a re-run of her final show last night.  I got through the whole thing and I have to say, it was as dreadful as I hoped it wouldn't be.  Oprah is big, I get that, but a whole hour of watching Oprah congratulating Oprah on her huge success (after a whole week of everyone else congratulating Oprah on her huge success) -- well, it made it much easier to say ho-hum.  (It's not like Oprah is leaving for good to take up knitting or to finally marry Stedman.  She has her OWN network, for God's sake.  She's Oprah.  You really think she's going to stay behind the scenes? She's Oprah.)

Oprah giving benediction for last time

I confess I watched Oprah religiously when her show first began.  I can't remember now what was so compelling that I would actually buy a little 5-inch counter-top TV so I could watch while I was cooking dinner, but she lost me for good one day when she announced there was no way she could sleep under sheets that weren't Egyptian cotton with at least a 400 thread count. 

So this week I've been stewing less about losing Oprah and more about this story I read in the NYT: 
Jobless Discrimination?  When Firms Won't Even Consider Hiring Anyone Unemployed
When Sony Ericsson needed new workers after it relocated its U.S. headquarters to Atlanta last year, its recruiters told one particular group of applicants not to bother. "No unemployed candidates will be considered at all," one online job listing said.

The cell-phone giant later said the listing, which produced a media uproar, had been a mistake. But other companies continue to refuse to even consider the unemployed for jobs — a harsh catch-22 at a time when long-term joblessness is at its highest level in decades.
Read more:,8599,2073520,00.html#ixzz1NYPCcNZj

But I did get a good laugh out of the blow-back after Rep. Patrick McHenry tried to make the country believe Elizabeth Warren is a liarElizabeth Warren, for God's sake!  OUR Elizabeth Warren -- mighty and adorable watchdog and head honcho of a consumer protection agency that might actually get around to protecting consumers someday.

  Elizabeth Warren was shocked, as someone who tries super hard not to lie would be, but she wasn't nearly as shocked as McHenry when thousands of angry Elizabethans bombarded his Facebook page to set him straight.  (Now there's a movement to get her to run for elected office.  I really hope she doesn't. She needs to stay right where she is, at least until the other side makes good their promise to kill the agency right out from under her.)

So did you hear about Hitler's army of talking dogs?

In his new book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, Cardiff University historian Jan Bondeson mines obscure German periodicals to reveal the Nazis' failed attempt to breed an army of educated dogs that could read, write and talk. "In the 1920s, Germany had numerous 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication," he writes. "When the Nazi party took over, one might have thought they would be building concentration camps to lock these fanatics up, but instead they were actually very interested in their ideas."

Read more:

And this has nothing to do with anything, except it's darned funny:

A Chicago lawyer is being accused of sexism after requesting that a "large breasted woman" seated at the opposing counsel's table be moved as to not distract the jury.  (No it didn't get past me that the plaintiff is a dealership called "Exotic Motors".  Delicious!)

Cartoon of the week:

Copyright © 2011 Creators Syndicate

Friday, May 20, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: Judgment Day (oh, that), Birthers get Mugged, and Caruso Sings

The Rapture is coming tomorrow.  Tomorrow at 6 PM three percent of the citizens of the world will be swept up and deposited in what they hope will be God's loving arms.  The rest of us can look forward to five months of tribulations, until October 21, when a worldwide catastrophe will take place and we'll all be gone.

I'm pretty sure I won't be included in that three percent tomorrow.  In fact, I'm so sure I'll still be here, I bought two Powerball tickets.  The drawing is at 7 PM tomorrow night -- a full hour after the scheduled Rapture.  It's up to 92 million dollars so I'm thinking if I'm going to have to be living in tribulation for five months it would be nice if I could do it in style for a change. 

 It's one single source, one person -- a Christian broadcaster named Harold Camping -- who's causing all the commotion, and it might seem a little strange that we're even talking about this considering numerous past disappointments when predicted end times didn't happen (including Harold's own prediction in 1994), but Harold is sure he has it right this time.  (It's a bunch of numbers and you know how I am with numbers so go here to see how he came up with his proof positive.) 

So after a few admitted miscalculations, Harold  made his latest prediction, May 21,2011, as long ago as New Year's Day, 2010. and by God he's sticking with it.  (Click on that link for an even deeper in-depth look at his calculations.)

If you're still skeptical (after those numbers?) go here for what the bible has to say about it.  (Or at least what somebody is saying the bible says about it.)

I know I've spent a lot of time on this one item, but it is the end of the world, for chrissake. (Here are the Google Images pages for the May 21 billboards.  The Christian Science Monitor says there are 5000 of them all over the world.  Now tell me it's not a big deal!)

But there is some good news for those of us left behind.  The Center for Disease Control is all over the End Times, when the horrors will finally be unleashed.  They've prepared a Zombie Apocalypse Kit. (Yes, really.  Our CDC.)

Last week Esquire published a parody about World Net Daily's publishing arm having to pull the book, Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, authored by Jerome Corsi (co-author of "Unfit for Command", a book full of untruths about then-presidential candidate John Kerry and the swift boat incident), because, well, there's the birth certificate.

Seemed like a reasonable thing to do -- pull a book that's pretty much been proven to be a pack of lies from start to finish -- but this is the Right Wing World, and WND publisher Joseph Farah not only stands by his book, he's threatening to sue Esquire!

This from a piece in a Talking Points Memo:

Farah also said he no longer believes the title of Corsi's book, Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, is unfortunate because he's "100 percent certain" that the long form birth certificate released by Obama a few weeks ago is a "fraudulent, bogus document."
"We feel like Woodward and Bernstein in the early days of Watergate when nobody was reporting the story, and finally the New York Times came along," Farah said.
He said the issue over Obama's eligibility has never been limited to whether he was born in Hawaii, it's been over whether he is a "natural born citizen," which Farah contends he is not because his father wasn't an American citizen.

Right.  I loved David Neiwert's take on it over at Crooks and Liars, too.  It's here.

And the capper, the laffer (Got this first from GottaLaff over at Political Carnival)  is that the Obama 2012 campaign is making the most of it by selling "Made in the USA" tees and mugs as fundraisers.  Barack Obama's picture is on the front and his newly-released official birth certificate is printed on the back. (And how much you wanna bet they'll make more money off of this than World Net Daily will off of that totally irrelevant book of whoppers.)

Remember the ad campaign song, "Coke, the Real Thing?".  Oh yeah, the great new group, "The Other 98 %" , did a parody called "Koch, the Evil Thing".  Inspired!  Watch and compare them both here (courtesy of GottaLaff at Political Carnival.)

Moment of Sublime:  The Library of Congress has created a National Jukebox of historic sound recordings, including more than 10,000 from Victor recorded between 1901 and 1925:

Here is Enrico Caruso singing "Vesti la Guibba":

And Fanny Brice singing "Second-Hand Rose":

There are also voice recordings, including this from William Howard Taft (Yes, that Republican) on the rights of labor:

Cartoon of the week:

See you tomorrow.  Unless you're one of them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Country is Breaking my Heart

Nearly every morning lately I wake up feeling as though my heart is ripping out of my chest.  My loves are still my loves, my health is okay, and it looks like there's a chance my measly but adequate bank account may outlive me, so for a while there the cause of these major palpitations was a bit of a mystery.

I'm slow sometimes, I admit, but I've had my suspicions.  Now it's official:  it's my country that is breaking my heart. My country has nearly lost her mind.  She falls for any smooth-talking con man who promises eternal prosperity but who's actually reveling in finding new ways to rob her blind.   For quite a few decades there, I thought she was big enough and bold enough, with a heart strong enough (and a memory long enough) to see past the big bucks and slick facades and recognize the same old deviltry that has plagued her so often before. But it's no use pretending. She has lost her sizzle and maybe even her will to live.  She's giving up.

What a blow to those of us who've been desperately trying to think of ways to stop this madness.  (And what madness to think we actually could.)  We've hammered, we've hollered, we've cajoled, we've used humor when nothing was funny.  We've marched, we've sung, we've preached, we've even tried voting.  Nothing has worked.

Now a number of sovereign states have moved in for the kill and it's likely they'll be the ones big enough to put the final nails in the coffin.  Even the states you would think should know better* have been seduced  into voting against their own best interests by the big money power-mongers.  One by one, they're giving control over to "small-government" campaigners who, once in office, are enjoying the hell out of yanking off the wool they've pulled over so many eyes.  (*Read my own besieged Michigan, expected to be the first of the 50 states to turn wholly and officially private.)

Much time and energy is spent citing articles and providing links to some brilliant arguments against what's been happening to our country. (Joseph Stiglitz has a chilling rundown of the takeover in the May Vanity Fair.) But frankly, words -- even brilliant words-- can't save an entire nation.  Words can anger us and encourage us and enlighten us, but being aware is a far cry from being in charge.  Ask any prisoner or slave.

Stiglitz writes in Vanity Fair:   "Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business."

Even 180 years ago it was wishful thinking on de Tocqueville's part. We've always had the self-interest groups among us and they've rarely been in danger of properly understanding.  They've always dreamed of taking over and running things their way. They've always tried to pretend that the "Democracy" tag doesn't exist.  But we've always had clearer heads prevailing, knocking them sideways before their power and greed got completely out of hand.  Up until now.  Now it appears their ruthless tenacity has finally paid off. 

We know who they are.  They operate out in the open without fear of incarceration or retribution or even of losing the least little bit of their fortunes. They can't lose.  Their big money is safely kept far from these shores and there's nothing we can say or do that will hurt their feelings or make them think any less of themselves.  These are the people bent on forcing our country to her knees in order to line their own pockets and feel the power.  These are the people Jim Hightower describes in his must-read column:

Funded and orchestrated by such hard-core, anti-laborite billionaires like the Kochs, DeVoses, Bradleys, Scaifes, Coorses, and Waltons, the right wing has declared open season on public employees. But don't think that the assault by corporate extremists stops there. Using the GOP and the tea partiers as their political foot soldiers -- they intend to dismantle the public sphere, crush all unions, downsize the entire middle class, and banish egalitarianism as an American ideal. Ready or not, our nation has devolved into a new and nasty civil war, with moneyed elites now charging into legislatures and courts to separate their good fortunes from the working class and to establish themselves as a de facto plutocracy.

My country is breaking my heart.  What hurts the most is how easily she gave up.  I never thought I would see this once-proud nation lying in a rusted heap, bankrupt and riven and the laughingstock of the world.  I thought she was as much a fighter as the men and women who worked so long and so hard to keep her strong.  I never once thought she'd forget where she came from and let us down.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: Big News about Osama, Bad News for Trump, Wacky news from Bloomberg

Well, okay, I guess you've heard the big news of the week--the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden.  Most of us thought the whole operation was pretty impressive--the stealth helicopters, the brave Navy Seals, the efficient execution of the world's worst enemy--it was all good.  But for ex-presidential candidate Donald Trump it was the worst news possible after a really, really horrible weekend.  First, on Saturday night he arrived at the White House Correspondents Dinner thinking he was there as an honored guest of the Washington Post.  He wasn't even suspicious when he was booed in the lobby outside the banquet room. No, he told a reporter, the president wouldn't be mentioning his name.

Once inside and seated he looked around and was pleased to see how much closer to the podium he was than the people behind him.  He ignored the fact that there were people in front of him who were much closer as he observed with dismay that the cameras weren't in a position to be trained on him at all times. But then he perked up when the president did, in fact, mention his name!  And, as is so often the case with Trump, it all went down hill from there.  The president spent many minutes making fun of him, and when Obama sat down, some creep from SNL took over and gave it to him even worse.  The camera finally swung to Trump and caught his scowl, his pout, his utter inability to laugh at the worldview of himself.

On Sunday it was all anyone was talking about.  The embarrassing videos were replayed over and over again and the jokes just kept on coming.  But at least "Celebrity Apprentice" would be airing that night and Trump, in his own mind, saw a vindication in the expected huge numbers of watchers.  Ha!

But alas, it was not to be.  Shortly after 10 PM came an announcement from the White House that the president would be addressing the nation soon on matters of National Security.  Osama Bin Laden was dead.  Immediately the networks cut into regularly scheduled programming and went to their newsrooms.  "You're fired" would not be the highlight of this Sunday night.  Gaahhh!  (The comments on that linked site are hilarious.)

CNN hides video of Star Anchor Wolf Blitzer talking about having to apply his own makeup the night Obama announced bin Laden's death.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it myself.  It was at almost precisely 11:40 AM on Monday, May 2 on CNN Newsroom. Drew Griffin asked Wolf to comment on where he was when he heard the news that Obama was going to announce something big at 10:30 PM on Sunday night.  Wolf begins to sputter--apparently he was caught totally off guard by the question, as well as the announcement.  He launches into a play-by-play about getting dressed and rushing to the studio, where he finds--to his utter shock--that there are no makeup people there yet!   He looks around, and grabs the first powder puff he sees and. . .powders his own forehead before going in front of the camera.  (As icing on the cake for this Blitzer watcher, I'm watching in shuddery fascination as a gasping, wide-eyed Wolf pantomimes the patting of the puff on his brow.)

I've looked in vain for the video of this conversation, but it's probably to CNN's credit that they've relegated it to Nowhereland.  (If anybody happens to find it, my gratitude will know no bounds if you pass it along.)  The mystery of the ages is why Blitzer is still on television.  This bizarre exchange on the morning after Osama bin Laden's death deepens the mystery.  He either knows too many secrets or he's somebody's nephew.  Watching him one can drift off and forget that this is real and not SNL.  Who could parody Wolf Blitzer as well as he parodies himself?  As an interviewer he's worse than any sappy local newscaster in the deepest, dustiest hinterlands.  His idea of a brilliant question is either "What were you thinking, as. . .?" or "How horrible was it?"  As he might put it, "Dreadful".

 As if to prove that New York City is the center of all the entire universe, their Mayor Bloomberg has decided it's his job to decree that immigrants wanting to come to the U.S should only be allowed in if they promise to detour around NYC and head to Detroit.  (No, I mean it--this isn't a SNL skit or one of those crazy nightmares we Michiganders are so prone to sweat through.)

This is what he said on "Meet the Press" via the AP: 

“Take a look at the big, old, industrial cities, Detroit, for example,” he said. “They’ve got a great mayor, Mayor (Dave) Bing, but the population has left. You’ve got to do something about that. And if I were the federal government, assuming you could wave a magic wand and pull everybody together, you pass a law letting immigrants come in as long as they agreed to go to Detroit and live there for five or ten years. Start businesses, take jobs, whatever.”
Detroit has seen its population fall from 1.8 million in the 1950 U.S. Census to 714,000 in 2010. The population dropped 26 percent in the last decade alone.

“You would populate Detroit overnight because half the world wants to come here,” Bloomberg said. “We still are the world’s greatest democracy. We still have hope that if you want to have a better life for yourself and your kids, this is where you want to come.”

Is that nuts, or what?  Where are these jobs that Bloomberg wants these people to take?  If they were in Detroit what makes him think Detroiters wouldn't be taking them?  Start businesses?  Couldn't Americans who are already here do that if it were that simple?  Nothing at all against immigrants--we've had a few in my family, too--but Bloomberg isn't talking about inviting them to Detroit.  He's talking about forcing them to settle here.  Making a law.  And he said it out loud.  On national television.  Does anybody else think that's weird?

Interesting, too,  that he wants to put immigrants on a fast train to Motown when his own state is losing two congressional seats after the last census count showed a significant drop in population in all but the area in and around New York City.  Has he looked outside lately?

Moment of Sublime:  This morning  at dagblog, William K. Wolfrum posted a link to a self-obituary by Derek Miller, a Canadian blogger who died Tuesday of colorectal cancer.  He asked his family to post his last blog, about his own death, on the day he died.

Here it is. I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

Photo:  Vancouver Sun
You might wonder why I chose this particular story for my Moment of Sublime, but when you read his last blog, you'll understand.  It is about as life-affirming as anything you're ever again going to read.  My heart goes out to his family, but how lucky they were to have him in their lives.  RIP, Derek Miller.

Cartoon of the Week:

A Mike Luckovich cartoon

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead. Twitter scooped Everyone.

It took me years to finally venture over to Twitter to see what all the fuss was about.  I was one of those who thought everything about it was silly, including and especially the name.  And what was with that 140 character limit?  Anything I wrote would be called a "Tweet".  Uugh.  No!

I don't remember what finally changed my mind, but now I follow over 1,000 people who, by retweeting what they've found, make up a humungous network passing along information I'm interested in.  Whenever something big is about to happen I rush to Twitter to see what's going on.

Last night I was watching TV and skimming Twitter at the same time, when around 10:15 someone tweeted that Obama would be making a "major security" announcement at 10:30 PM.  Long before any TV source was saying it, the buzz began on Twitter, thanks to Keith Urbahn, Rumsfeld's former chief-of-staff, who tweeted at 10:25 PM, "So I'm told by a reputable person that they've killed Osama Bin Laden.  Hot damn."  People who followed his tweets re-tweeted it to other people and they re-tweeted it to others and within seconds it came to me via a dozen re-tweets from people I follow.  We all knew it long before the networks and cable news channels were allowed to announce it.  They were scooped by Twitter, plain and simple.

 Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant right in Abbotabad, near the compound where Bin Laden was finally taken down, was live-tweeting earlier in the afternoon about helicopters hovering overhead, worrying that something big was about to happen.   (I didn't see it but read about it this morning. )

This isn't the first time we've been witness to events unfolding live as they happened, getting more info within minutes than we could get through conventional sources.   A woman in the middle east was live-tweeting as soldiers broke into their house and dragged her father out.  We learned later, sadly, that they had killed her father and her husband.

We heard about the shooting in Tucson on Twitter first.  People on the scene were tweeting through their I-Phones.

Such is the power of Twitter.  It still carries that unfortunate name but it's all grown up now.  Leave it to the standard sources for the in-depth reporting, but for instant news followed by source after source for more information, I'll head to Twitter first.  (This is, unless it's overloaded, which it is right now!)