Sunday, April 29, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This is an old one by William Wordsworth, but worth a repeat on a beautiful spring morning. 

I wandered lonely as a cloud
   That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, --
    A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
    and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I, at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
    Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay
    In such a jocund company;
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to be had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie,
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Jeeze, I go away for a few days and when I come back, Blogger up and changed the format of their blogs so now it's totally sucky (or I should say, suckier than usual) and doesn't work worth beans. Why do relatively smart people keep trying to "fix" things in order to make them worse? Sigh.

I went to Fresno to visit my sister and help paint her kitchen, and while there we took a break to head down the road to a little town called Exeter.  It's about an hour south-east of Fresno, heading towards Sequoia National park.  Amazingly, even through the smoggy haze, we could see the snow capped Sierras, something that used to be a normal sight years ago.

      Exeter was founded in the late 1880s as a center for orange and grape growing and for years it sorta just chugged along, a dusty little old town of 10,000 souls with downtown streets with head-in parking.  A sweet, friendly little place of small businesses, including this wonderful old-timey hardware store with a great selection of nuts and bolts and high-end cookware.

Then, according to my informant in the old fashioned ice cream parlor, a building in the middle of town burned down and the lot sat empty for some time. Without really being planned, the vacant lot sort of turned into a public park, a public gathering place.

And somebody -- the Chamber of Commerce, the Women's Club, Kiwanis, and other civic clubs-- found out about a town up in Oregon that turned itself around by filling the town with murals.  So in 1996,  on the side of the building next to the de facto public park, there appeared the first mural.

"Orange Harvest," by Colleen Mitchen-Veyna and Morgan McCall (1996)

And then, before you knew it, more money was raised, more murals appeared.  Soon, businesses revived, restaurants and coffee shops appeared along with antique stores, unique clothing stores, an old timey ice cream parlor, and the visitors arrived to gawk and admire and wander about.  And spend money.  Perfect example of how art can bring life back to a dusty town. 

"Mineral King; In Our Back Yard" by Jana Botkin. (2009)

To date, there's 26 murals scattered throughout the downtown area, all within strolling distance.  The centrally located Chamber/Visitor's center has a self-guide, full color map featuring all the murals. The subject matter of the murals varies from scenes of Exeter's history to celebrating the natural beauty of the area. And more murals are surely on their way. 
"Timber Trail," by Martin Weekly (2001)   

If you're in the area, do yourself a favor and stop by to see the little town that figured out that surrounding yourself with beauty brings not only joy but civic pride.  And money.  And as too many cities watch as their civic centers rot away, here's a community that discovered the power of the paintbrush.  

"Exeter Centennial 1911-2011," by Steven Ball.  Commemorates Exeter's 100th anniversary, depicts Pine St. Circa 1911.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Ruth Stone from her book, "What Love Comes To; New & Selected Poems"

From Where We Are 

Embedded in the navel
of the belly of our goddess,
we are deeper in
and closer to her viscera.
That is why,
in the gurgles of her vast digestion,
we are shaken with thought waves
in her fiery pores, in the gluons
that flicker
in her infinite intestines,
pouring out of her
the eternal roar.
Our galaxies blink in the
skin of her navel
as we perceive her ecstatic curvature.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Fool and His Gun

Calhoun’s Cannons for April 13, 2012

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.
                                    William Faulkner

             On that dark rainy night, The Neighborhood Watchman didn’t watch.  He didn’t have to. He had a gun, you see, and when you have a gun you don’t have to just watch.  Especially when you live in a shoot-at-will, stand your ground state.  So just watching wasn’t part of the dramatic script unreeling in his head.  He could be Shane and save the neighborhood from a suspicious black kid in a hoodie. The police dispatcher told him not to get out of the car.  To wait and watch until the real police could arrive.  But a man with a gun does not wait.  He doesn’t have to.
            On that dark rainy night, The Kid was walking back from the store to his Dad’s place, which was located in a townhouse community that felt it had a need for a formal Neighborhood Watch program.  The Kid was walking while black, after dark, in a “gated” community, in a shoot-at will state and had unthinkingly compounded his peril by wearing a hoodie.  Worse, he was armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.  In America, that can be a lethal combination.  The Kid noticed the Watchman following him.  He called his girlfriend.  He was worried.  He told her he thought he was being stalked, followed, and threatened by the man with the gun. Was he frightened?  Surely, he was frightened. Then something bad happened.
            And for weeks, the authorities did nothing. Why should they?  They had a Watchman armed with a gun in a shoot-at-will state and a dead black kid in a hoodie.  Case closed.       
                        And from those events, amplified by the hungry media, there soon rose the sounds of an old American anthem played on the black and white keys of a country that has never come to terms with its dark history. And buried deep in that anthem is the call and response hymn of the terrified white slaveholder, outnumbered by his living property, always hearing the muffled footfalls in the kudzu vine the jungle music of Nat Turner and his sharpened cane knives coming to the big mansion in the night.  
            It’s found in the ubiquitous racial dog-whistle music, the theme song of an unreconstructed  south, north, east and west, the unacknowledged original sin whose stain permeates everything even though no one dares speak its name.  The fear is America’s crazy Uncle locked up in the attic whose mad song can always be heard beneath the blare of the God Bless America ooompah band. Or slyly amped up enough to be heard while still remaining ingenuously deniable by unscrupulous political demagogues feeding the dark beast to get their votes. Or ratings.  Or the whispered reasoning behind shoot-at-will, stand your ground laws:  A chicken in every pot, a gun or two or five in every home, because America is a place filled with dark shadows and who knows what is lurking in that kudzu?
            A black kid in a hoodie, for one.
            And so the song continues.  We elected a black man as our president for the first time and pretended we were living in a post-racial world.  But with Obama’s election, gun sales skyrocketed, because, well, you know.  Unspoken, but sizzling on the internet was the belief that Nat “Obama” Turner is coming to the big house to get your guns.  And your women. It was subconscious dog whistle music happily manipulated by the unholy alliance of the NRA and ALEC, and it fueled the spread of shoot-at-will laws into twenty-two states, all urgently needed because there is no problem, no sick, irrational fear in the American heart that cannot be solved or soothed with more guns.    
            And soon the ugly spirit of the Know-Nothings that has always infested the American psyche became a lively talk-radio back beat.  Rush Limbaugh called the President a “thug” (Yes, Harvard is known for graduating thugs and gangstas.), while candidate Gingrich declared that he was the “food stamp president,” wink-nudge (Ah, the eternal Welfare Queens in their Cadillacs.  That one never gets old.), and Tea Partiers waved a poster of Obama with a huge Afro and a bone through his nose, Har-har-har. 
             And now America has another O.J. Simpson moment, a 24/7 televised trial, an over the top media-fest that will let us pretend that we’re having a national dialogue about race.  But it will be another phony conversation.  It always is.  The self-inflicted wound our Founding Fathers brought down on this nation has never been healed or cleansed.  It festers still.  One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War and Jim Crow, fifty years after the civil rights marches, black parents are still giving their sons “The Talk.”  It is a speech that Emmet Till would have understood perfectly: If you’re a young white man, copping attitude will get you an eye-roll.  If you’re black, it may get you a bullet.  Be careful of what you wear, how you walk, how you stand.  Guard the expression on your face.  Don’t run, be respectful, say Yes sir, No sir, Yassir, Yassir. 
             That’s the Black American Anthem, playing still on the black keys.  It’s a song you need to understand if you want to survive if you’re black in a world of Watchman who don’t watch, a country of shoot to kill laws written by scared, ginned-up, armed-to-the-teeth citizens who perceive their world as a terrifying place filled with kudzu and the clink of the cane knives in the dark.
            And all it takes to start the music is one damned fool.
            And his gun.             

Monday, April 09, 2012

Koch Brothers Exposed

       If you ever wondered just who and how your government is being sold out to (besides the highest bidder) go to for a gander at ALEC, the American legislative Exchange Council.  That's the organization that brings your average corporate lobbyist together with his employee (legislative aides) so they can write the laws that will ensure special favor to your average corporate lobbyist's boss, Corporate America.  (Average, run-of-the-mill citizens need not apply.)
     Then plant to attend the screening of "Koch Brothers Exposed," Saturday, April 14th, 7 pm at the Information Press Office, 3435 Sacramento Dr. Suite A in San Luis Obispo.  (RSVP 545-7916
      The documentary film is by director Robert Greenwald ("Wall-Mart; The High Cost of Low Price," "Outfoxed," and "Afghanistan.") and examines the "billionaire brothers and the vast network of organizations that undermine the interests of the 99%. . ." 
     If you haven't heard of the Koch Brothers, or ALEC, it's time you learned.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Morning

And fair Persephone strode forth from the dark to paint the world with glory once more. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

What's for Dinner?

Calhoun’s Ca(n)nons for April 5, 2012

            Mmmmmm. Yummy ground up odd bits of boneless meat scrapings from cow carcasses thoroughly mashed up and treated with ammonium hydroxide.  Mmmm.
            What do you mean, Eeeeuuuu!  We’ve been eating the stuff for years.  It’s been added to hamburger meat and we’ve been chowing it down with gusto.  Until some wisenheimers, some goody-two-shoed Food Police types decided that people might like to know just what went into that all beef patty started calling it “pink slime” and hideous pictures of this gloopy stuff started show up on TV. 
            After which, Obese Nation America, which had been scarfing up this stuff  by the daily ton, recoiled with the horror reserved only for a pencil-thin Food Nazi Vegan who’s been handed a dead cat on a dinner  plate.  The beef industry panicked and invited politicians in for a photo op at the beef-scraping factory to prove how safe and good and yummy this all was.  And beef officials declared that if we just called this goo “finely textured lean beef” everything would be fine.
            But the greasy die had been cast.  Consumers ran their tongues out and went “Ack-Ack-Ackkk!”  Fast food restaurants took out big ads declaring that they always never used the stuff.  And the companies that ran “finely textured lean beef” factories in at least four states quietly closed their plants and laid off about 1,400 finely textured employees.
            And, best of all for the beef industry, Pink Slimegate quickly slid off the radar before people could start asking the kind of question they needed to ask, which is:  Should I even be eating this hamburger in the first place, with or without the slime?
            Because that question would lead directly to others, like: What went into the cow while it was jammed into a huge feed lot and stuffed with . . . what?  At one time we fed cows other ground up finely textured cows.  And sheep, until mad-cow disease supposedly stopped that practice.  But we are still stuffing our feed-lot cows with pesticide-loaded grain and antibiotics to ward off diseases which are exacerbated by jamming a grazing animal into crowded pens and stuffing it with corn and other fattening stuff that turns its naturally lean, grass-fed muscle into bad Omega-6 laced fat.  After which we hack it up and eat it.
            And then get all pissy when we find out that finely ground pink slime bits of more cows have been added back in?
            The same food freak-out is taking place with the troubling “high fructose corn syrup,” the ubiquitous sweetener that’s been dumped into nearly every food product you can possibly think of, including ones that shouldn’t have anything to do with the word “syrup.”  And now nutritionists and scientists are investigating the possibility that high fructose corn syrup is somehow processed differently by the liver than plain sugar, and that difference is helping to fuel the obesity epidemic that’s killing us.
            But do food manufacturers declare that they will get this awful stuff out of our food supply?  Naw.  Instead, they’re busy renaming it, like they think that calling it “Smiley-Face Sweet Field Sugar” will solve the problem.  To date, their efforts have been met with the angry buzz saws of proprietary food-name lawyers from the “real” cane/beet sugar industry.  Sorry, you Fructose Syrupies,but  the word “sugar” has already been taken.  Move along.    
            Well, what’s in a word, really?  Nothing when you live in Fake Nation.  In that world, words are just useful tools to fleece the marks.  Toss in our uniquely American desire to remain deluded, our extraordinary tolerance for being lied to and the rest just comes easy.  From Madison Avenue to K-Street to the sacred halls of Congress, it’s all one big game of rebranding -- PhonySpeak  in  pursuit of the big bucks, the votes, the power. 
            And woe betide the smartass who comes along to point out the obvious.  Take poor Elizabeth Warren.  This hideous, terrifying scold wanted credit card contracts to be written in clear, plain language, the charges and fees all spelled out in simple, easy to understand language.  My God, can you imagine?  She also wanted citizens to be given some modest consumer protections in the marketplace, on Wall Street, in the automobile showroom.  It was beyond horrible and the Republican corporate shills in Congress reacted accordingly to make sure she was sidelined, and they’ve been busy undoing even the modest protections that she managed to put in place over their half-dead bodies.
            Or take Sarah Palin and her Big Lie of “death panels.”  There were no “death panels.”  What had been proposed was that under the developing health reform plans, Medicare would pay for seniors to meet with their own doctor and/or geriatric end-of-life experts, so they could get accurate information in order to make their own choices for their own end-of-life care.  No panels, no hooded judges sentencing people to death.  Just patients consulting with their doctors in order to make sure their decisions on their own care would be put in place when the need arose. That’s all. 
            Yet, thanks to Palin’s lie and fake name, that service was removed and now seniors are left on their own, which too often results in terrible suffering that runs contrary to what the patient wanted for themselves and their families.  Real suffering in a real world, thanks to Palin’s dishonest wordsmithing.   
            Well, why not?  It’s just words. Here in Fleeced Nation, a lie is as good as the truth.  Especially if it makes you rich and famous and sends the bill for any damages to the sucker public.
            So, America, eat up!  Here’s your wonderful and delicious ammonia-treated finely textured lean beef pink slime high fructose corn syrup hamburger.  Not only is it tasty and delicious, it’s good for you.  That’s right.  It’s very, very good for you. Trust me.  Would I lie to you?  Of course not.    
            Open wide. Yum.      

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

From Inner Directions, an on-line journal, a poem by Stephen Levine

Elements of Grace
A Benediction for the Millennium

There is a grace approaching
that we shun as much as death,
it is the completion of our birth.

It is an insistent grace that draws us
to the edge and beckons us to surrender
safe territory and enter our enormity.

We know we must pass beyond knowing
and fear the shedding.

But we are pulled upward none-the-less
through forgotten ghosts
and unexpected angels
knowing it doesn't make sense
to make sense anymore.

This morning the universe danced before you
as you sang --it loves that song!

How odd it is to have this much love
and still not be free.

What terrible fate do we fear
more than losing this heart
shared with all that is?