Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The reality of war is death and suffering

It's easy to push the reality of war to the back of our minds when it's reduced down to series of short blurbs running along the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen.

Car bomb explodes in Baghdad...six killed...two Italian soldiers injured by roadside bomb near Fallujah...Paris Hilton to be charged with misdemeanor DUI...

It's not so easy when we see photos of the carnage that is war. The destroyed lives, destroyed bodies, destroyed families - staring at us point blank.

Sipping on a Starbucks latte, we wonder why anyone wouldn't think we're doing a great thing for the Iraqi people. Trying to live on the war-torn streets of Baghdad, maybe they wonder why we're doing these things to them.

The Pulitzer prize winning series of photos from the war that remains nearly invisible to us here in the U.S. are eye opening and heart breaking. Anyone not moved by the images is perhaps beyond hope - beyond humanity.

War is terrible. It's not noble. It's not holy. It's not justified. It's a failure of humanity and mankind. Every time we wage it we've failed. War is never a success and it's never truly won.

As we argue and justify our actions in Iraq in the comfort of our own homes, with Desperate Housewives in the background, maybe we should stop and realize - actually realize - that there are desperate people living through hell. And no matter what our motivations, no matter our justifications and reasons, they are suffering in part because of us.

That's the reality of war.

There's blood and guts and bodies being shredded in Iraq today and yesterday and tomorrow. People are dying every single day. Some of them are American soldiers, or Italian, or British, but most of them are simply Iraqi. All of them are - or were - human beings...people we've failed.

We should all look hard at the images of this war. Look hard at them and then look hard at ourselves. And ask ourselves how we would face the parents of a dead child, or the children whose parents are nothing but pieces of broken flesh and what would we say to them.

What could we possibly say to them?

That's the reality of war and we should all face it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I've been abducted by French pop music...send help

Okay...this might be a bit hard to follow, but that's just how my mind works.

Roughly speaking, it goes something like this... Start at iTunes, follow a link to a German music review podcast, hear some Charlotte Gainsbourg songs, realize she's the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg (which is awesome), go back to iTunes to find the album (it's not there), look up Serge Gainsbourg on wikipedia, read his bio, follow a link to a clip of Gainsbourg telling a young Whitney Houston 'I want to f*ck you' on a French television talk show, chuckle a bit about the irony of the previous scene, go back to wikipedia, follow a link to France Gall, read a bit about her career, follow yet another link and find this awesome bit of 60s goodness.

But it's not all about being cute, blonde, young and French. France Gall was certainly all of those things. She was top of the pop pile after bursting onto the French scene in the mid 1960s. Although she had already had a couple of hits before it, the song that put her on top was the little ditty above - 'Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son' - which was written by Serge Gainsbourg. She won a Eurovision award for it and found herself in the limelight as a teenager.

Gall had another hit with a Gainsbourg song about a girl who loved suckers. You can imagine the double entendre going on there. She didn't catch it until it was pointed out to her sometime later, much to her embarrassment.

She went on to do much more work over the years - becoming a French icon along the way - but the work that was most important had little to do with music and much to do with humanity.

Gall was a great advocate for the people of Africa, raising funds and awareness of the plight of starving millions. She was instrumental in the original Feed the World concert and several other large scale charity works.

People who extend themselves beyond the expectations of others are truly inspiring and those who extend themselves to help others in need are even more so.

Beautiful, French and blonde? You bet, but Gall's real beauty comes from caring about others. That's a beauty worth having.

I blame iTunes for causing me to waste a couple of hours. If they had only had Charlotte Gainsbourg's '5:55', I would have just downloaded it from there instead of getting sidetracked in the quicksand of French pop music.

But then again I wouldn't have found all the fun stuff I did...and I wouldn't have been reminded how much of a difference one person can make if only they care enough.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We'll get back to you after the elections...

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration has been pushing hard for legislation allowing the use of torture. Most Republicans on the Hill are on board - McCain being a notable exception, which makes sense as a victim of such torture himself. The President really wants this - both to get around recent Supreme Court rulings and also to protect those who have been illegally committing these acts.

That's not even the point of this post...although a call to your Representative and Senators wouldn't be a bad idea. Okay, scratch that...would be a great idea. Do it today.

Anyway, the real point is actually just an observation.

I called the Washington offices of every Wisconsin Rep. and Senator and asked for their stand on the proposed White House legislation. Every Republican office told me that they couldn't comment on it but would send out a letter which would probably take four to six weeks. Weird...that's November isn't it? Every Democratic office directed me their website which had their position clearly spelled out.

Message received...

Democrats don't condone the use of torture and don't believe in shielding torturers.

Republicans refuse to say what their stand is, even they will be voting to pass laws condoning the use torture and to shield those who commit torture. They will, however, send you a letter justifying their stand after the November elections.

Or, to be blunt...

Democrats don't condone the use of torture. Republicans do and they're not even brave enough to admit it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

They're closing down the hangouts...

You know how some songs just do things to you? One of my favorite songs is "When the Coast is Clear" by Jimmy Buffett. It just captures the end of summer for me.

It really hit me when I lived in Oregon, since the town of Bend had a large tourist crowd. As summer ended, people left and things settled back down into a more thoughtful groove. A town like that makes you appreciate the friendships you have, when you have them.

People are constantly passing through our lives, but we often don't stop to think how soon they'll be gone. Everyone will be gone someday, we just don't like to think about it. Tourist towns speed up the process - the coming and going, the passing of people into and out of our lives.

How many cherished friends have moved on or moved away? Too many. At least, that's how it feels. Friends, enemies, many people have passed through my life it's hard to even remember them all.

Anyway, as summer ends, you'll almost always find me listening to Jimmy Buffett with a coffee in one hand and a fistful of memories in the other. It's when I come down to talk to me...when the coast is clear.

This little video is dedicated to all the people who have blessed my little life and moved on and those who have blessed my little life and stayed.


What are you voting on?

Hope it's not a Diebold voting machine. There have been numerous accusations that Diebold machines are too easy to tamper with and that the tampering can be undetectable. To make it worse, the machines are fully electronic meaning that there's no backup paper trail.

Well, the latest chapter is some Princeton folks proving how easy it is to tamper with the machines, load malicious code and steal an election.

Me...I'm calling the county here today. It will only take a few minutes and it's sort of my civic duty to stand up for fair elections. Anything less is unpatriotic...and remember, we're at war.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thangka you very much...

Cup of bad coffee in hand, I walked down the gray, wood steps. Above, the sky was blue and the sun beamed down in warm rays. Not a bad day.

Expecting to find a stack of soon to be recycled crap in the box, I was a bit surprised to see the tell-tale orange card left by mail carriers around America. The small cards either tell a tale of woe, or one of excitement and anticipation. Sign for the registered letter favored by lawyers and bill collectors, or sorry we couldn't leave the package but you can pick it up at the post office. No telling till you look.

A moment of apprehension held my hand back - a moment to wonder what I had screwed up this time.

A moment of apprehension followed by an outward breath of air.

This was for a package. A package with an origin of China. The travelling soul in me mentally took flight at that simple word in the corner box of the card. China. So far away. Far away, and yet as close as my mailbox. Well, maybe not my mailbox exactly, but the post office isn't that far off when you think in terms of half the globe.

Up the steps I went. Up and changed. Changed into a clean tee shirt. It was the least I could do. When the world arrives from the other side of the planet, the least you can do is greet it in a clean tee shirt.

Into the Jeep and downtown. Down to the post office.

Of course it wasn't there. The carrier was still out and the package was with her. Try again at quarter to five if you want. I want.

Into the Jeep again. Killing time. Starbucks for overpriced coffee and a glimpse of the cute, new girl. Trying to stretch time. Enough time passed, so back downtown I go.

There you go sir. China? Wow China. Tibet actually, but now's not the time for a debate on international borders. The large tube is in my hands. Tibet to my hands in just over a week, what do I care if it says China?

Home again, and with wonder I pull a rolled image from a the large tube. I release more than a hundred years as I unroll the Thangka. Barely more than a week to arrive. More than a hundred years in a monastery. An afternoon of suspense. Mailbox, post office, Starbucks, rinse and repeat. What is time anyway?

Such is the power of a painting. Some pigment bound to cloth. Shapes, colors, nothing and everything. Another world rolled up and held in a tube.

Yeah, not a bad day.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nearly went on a rant...

I was going to comment on yet another Bush lie in the spotlight, but that just seemed a bit too tedious.

Which lie were you going to mention Shawn?

Me...oh...just the latest one - you know the 'we don't have any secret torture facilities in Europe or anywhere else' one.

Um yeah, that one.

Perhaps you don't remember that ruckous. It was several months ago and all.

Some evil, terrorist enabling journalists found out that the U.S., or more specifically, the Bush administration - don't count me in on this crap - was flying people on secret flights to secret torture facilities in places like Eastern Europe. There was a big to do and Bush and the bootlickers around him first denied, then hem-hawed, then sort of admitted there was maybe a bit of rendering goin' on...all the while castigating the press for daring to reveal yet another illegal action of this 'we're above all laws' administration.

Trust us...

Um, except for the fact that them thar journalists were again right and Bush was running a bunch of secret beatin' camps around Eastern Europe. Don't blame me for spillin' the fell from the fucktard's own lips. Yup we was doin' all that, but trust me...we was fightin' us some terrorists.

Hey, dumbass! Yeah you, you goofey-eared fuck... Why are you such a pussy?

It's like a den of rats that can do nothing right and certainly can't stand the light of day.

What? The laws of the country that you're sending boys to die defending aren't good enough for you to follow?



I was gonna go off about that, but I decided it's not even worth it. Those who idolize George, Jr. will still idolize him and those who didn't like him before will just get mad again. Why stir up all that?

So, instead...I'm just going to comment on the new supercomputer that IBM is building. It's going to be the fastest one in the world and we're gonna own it...USA! USA! USA! Not that we don't already have the fastest, we do. We've got a bunch of the fastest ones.

What's cool about this one - besides being crazy fast - is that it's going to be based on off the shelf technology. The frickin heart of this beast is going to be a bunch of Play Station 3 chips.

Shut up! PS3 chips? Frickin' parts from a game? Get outta here...

I will not get out of here. It's all true and very cool.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Just wondering out loud...

Question... Why is it that conservatives always like to accuse liberals of some weird, blind loyalty to Clinton?

The reason I find this so odd is that in my day to day, I see a lot of people's homes. I have never seen a picture of Clinton up anywhere...not even in the homes of the craziest lefties in Wisconsin. Yet, I see a lot of cheesy pics of Bush, Jr. in the homes of conservatives.

Usually, there are corresponding art prints with a bible passage and a whiter than white Jesus or pretty angels hanging on the walls. Now that is what I call weird. White Jesus and George, Jr. - what an unusual pair. Or maybe not so unusual at all, who knows?

Saw another one today. It's the more popular George, Jr. pic with him in combat greens - military George, commander in chief George. It was in the usual spot for said picture - the kitchen. It always seems a bit shrinelike and today was no different.

In all fairness, I should admit that I have a picture of Ronald Reagan on my wall. It's him talking to the National Secretaries Association (or some such thing) and my Mom took the photo. He gave her his My Name Is badge that he signed his name on as well. She was president of the association at the time and arranged the talk. She dropped her camera she was so nervous. He kindly picked it up for her. She said he was very nice.

I also have Gerald Ford and Betty Ford's autographs framed on the wall. My Dad met them on a plane back when he was travelling a lot. They were very gracious. Guess that's one of the perks of first class. He got me Jimmy the Greek's autograph too, but that's not on the wall.

In other countries, people put up pictures of leaders too.

Tibetans still carry images of the Dalai Lama and prize them very highly, despite the Chinese banning them. But then, the Dalai Lama isn't just a political figure, but a religious one as well. Tibetans aren't praying to him, but rather hold him as a figure worthy of emulation and deep respect.

What old Soviet home would have been complete without a picture of Lenin or other Party leaders? That could have more likely been a case of covering your ass than veneration though. I could be wrong, but from what I've heard from Iron Curtain friends, that was usually the case.

Anyway, my friend Gregg gets worked up about pseudo hippy college kids and their love of the iconic Che Guevera poster. You know the one...everyone does. As I tell Gregg, at least it's a strong graphic image. No denying that Che looks good on a poster. What Gregg doesn't like is that these kids have no idea who Che really was. Like him or not, he was a killer. A revolutionary yes, but a killer too. Is that kind of person worthy of veneration? I think that's a valid question. Whatever the answer given, it will speak volumes about the person answering.

I'm not going to make the leap and compare Che lovers to Bush, Jr. lovers...I'm only setting it up so you make the jump yourself. Once there, ask the same question. Is this a man worthy of veneration? You already know how I feel about it.

And while you're thinking about it, ask yourself why it is that conservatives feel the need to cling to the image of Bush, Jr. and treat him with such veneration - the same sort of blind idolization that they like to accuse liberals of?