Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Song

This by John Muir from "Life Prayers," on a lovely, slightly damp Easter Morning. 

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
the dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

In medieval times, paper being expensively next to non-existent, the great holy books were written on more permanent velum and gloriously illuminated by monks.  One of the best of these works is the magnificent "Book of Kells." And, since paper was virtually non-existent, the good monks would often make personal secular comments in the margins of the great books, often snippets of poems, droll observations about the follies and naughty doings of their fellow scribes.  If you track down a CD by Samuel Barber, "Hermit Songs" you'll hear many of these snippets/poems set to music, including a lovely poem to Pangur, a scribe-monk's beloved white cat.

This poem is by Seamus Heaney from "Opened Ground; Selected Poems 1966-1996" 

The Scribes  

I never warmed to them.
If they were excellent they were petulant
and jaggy as the holly tree
they rendered down for ink.
And if I never belonged among them,
they could never deny me my place.

In the hush of the scriptorium
a black pearl kept gathering in them
like the old dry glut inside their quills.
In the margin of texts of praise
they scratched and clawed.
They snarled if the day was dark
or too much chalk had made the vellum bland
or too little left it oily.

Under the rumps of lettering
they herded myopic angers.
Resentment seeded in the uncurling
fernheads of their capitals.

Now and again I started up
miles away and saw in my absence
the sloped cursive of each back and felt them
perfect themselves against me page by page.

Let them remember this not inconsiderable
contribution to their jealous art. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Dream Come True?

My computer keyboard's "e" key finally got permanently stuck.  Kinda hard to type anything without an "e." so I headed down to Staples to get a new keyboard and there, mirable visu! was the keyboard of my dreams:

I live in a house of sand and dust and dog hair.  It is a Sisyphean task to keep clean, 24/7 dusting and vacuuming and washing is futile since an hour after dusting, there's a new layer.  So, there I was in Staples looking at keyboards when suddenly, there it was; a new type of keyboard -- A WASHABLE keyboard, with the keys floating above a flat board like little square plastic mushrooms on fat little pillars. It's a Logitech and -- if it indeed works as planned -- when it becomes filled to the brim with dust, sand and dog hairs, I can  just unplug it, slip the little protective cap on the USB port, run it under warm water with a little spritz of dish-washing liquid, let it drain and dry and I'll be good to go.

No more running through cans of compressed air or poking around with a brush and pin to fish dog hair out of the crevices like I had to constantly do on the old style keyboards.  With this one, there are no crevices. The pillars keep the keys floating above the dust and hair so a quick blow sends them all scattering off the flat surface.

Woo-hoo.  Now, let's hope the washable part works also, though it's so flat and crevice-free it doesn't look like it would actually need washing, just a quick wipe with a damp microfiber cloth.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Awww, I Told You So

Ah, seems like such a short time ago.  I was writing a Can(n)on about the Newtown shooting -- 20 children dead and everyone clamoring for "gun control," and "get the weapons of war off our streets," and such like, and I said, very clearly, that nothing much would be done except for some cosmetic tinkering with additional registration rules, since Americans love their guns more than they do their children.

And, Lo, it cometh to pass.  Senator Harry Reid stripped out the assault weapons  portion from Senator Feinstein's gun bill before taking it forward for a vote.  Reason?  He doesn't think a single Republican and a number of Democrats, fearful of losing their next election in a gun-loving district, will vote to reduce those "weapons of war" on our streets.

The New York Post carried a front page with photos of the dead children and the words, "Shame on US."  Shame?  Not a bit of it.  Not this gun-sick, gun-addicted country.  So, we wait for the next mass shooting.  After all, we've now got a target to go for -- 20 kids.  That's a record and in this country, we love challenges.  So load and lock, America. The game is on. 

Country Song

 When I was young, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and unicorns were plentiful, "country" music was pretty plain, twangy and rootsy as hell.  Bill Monroe and Hank Williams were just getting barely traction with a wider audience, but most of country music was generally considered to be some kind of low-class, hayseed stuff relegated to low-power radio stations in the Bible belt.  But somewhere in there rock and roll started drifting into the Appalachians and when I next looked up, Old Timey country had turned into "country/western" and it had changed from a whiny simplicity (mah dawg died, mah wife ran off with another man, ah'm waiting ta go ta Jesus) into something far more frisky and upbeat and downright witty.

Since our local KYNS station turned into a Faux Noise wannabe, I started listening more to our several Country stations and one thing I began to notice is how unstereotypical and revelatory country lyrics are. I mean, to a latte-sipping liberal progressive like me, I always assumed gender roles in "country" were pretty rigid: big, tough, macho guys and helpless, sweet, little gals, (and of course, dead hound dawgs and a pickup  that won't run.)

Surprisingly, that's not the story that comes out of the songs. Instead, the guys are helpless, sweet, soft and in thrall to their women, without which they'd be nothing but an abject failure, a loser puddle outside the local bar. And you should hear the tender, sweet songs they sing about the love they feel for their little daughters. The word "sentimental" doesn't even begin to cover that tender sweetness.

As for the women, Holy Shit.  They are the macho, rawhide tough, fully self-sufficient, whip-cracking adults riding herd over their errant child-men and willing to go to war if betrayed.  Prime sample: "I'm a Tornado," sung full-throat by a whirlwind Medea in cowboy boots, a vengeful Dorothy whose man has done her wrong and she's baaaaack as a force-10, squared, who's gonna lift up his house, turn it around and bury it deep in the earth . . . with him in it. Yikes!

It's all funny, rich stuff.  And happy feet music, to boot.

On Trial

Is it just me or does anyone else feel that the world would be a better place if the whole murderous "family" that battered Dystiny Myers, should all be wiped off the face of the earth?  Mommy Dearest eating her own children alive and consuming everything around her, Medea in an orange jump suit. Perfect example of what scociopaths and meth can do to people.

And in a surprise move, one of the killers, Cody Lane Miller, who plead out to a 39 year sentence, changed his plea and asked for life in prison, no possibility of parole, because he said he feels he doesn't deserve forgiveness with plea-deal lighter sentence.  If that's a genuine attempt at penance, at least one soul here has a chance at redemption. But what a waste.   

Monday, March 18, 2013

All in the Family

Calhoun's Cannons for March 18, 2013

I think Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow may have just solved our gridlocked Congress. On a recent "Real Time," Bill asked the panel why it was that conservative Republicans seem incapable of recognizing the existence of anyone unless they are part of their own family.  The case in point was Republican Senator Rob Portman.  Portman was a sponsor of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and for years was a staunchly anti-gay marriage.

Then his 21 year-old son came to him and said, "Uh, Dad, I have something to tell you," and suddenly Portman is declaring that his strongly held "family values" now requires him to support gay marriage so that gay people (like his son) can "have the joy and stability of marriage that [he] had for over 26 years, that I want all of my children to have, including our son." 

At that, Rachel Maddow wryly noted that it was too bad Portman (and other conservatives) didn't have a poor son or one who just lost his job and had no medical insurance. The audience laughed, but there it was; the solution to our gridlocked Congress.

Oh, yes, I know you're probably thinking that Portman's conversion was nothing more than typical hypocrisy or political expediency now that he senses that's he's on the wrong side of history on this issue.  But I suspect it's much more troubling than that.  I suspect Maher's question is closer to the mark: something is lacking in Portman's world view and/or psyche.

For some reason, certain types of people truly are incapable of extrapolating past their own noses or the noses of their immediate family and extending an issue out to include other people. For example, Portman, in discussing this issue, noted that he had gay friends, even while sponsoring DOMA and supporting the anti-gay-marriage Republican platform that called for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage in all states.

So clearly he had to have known that his bill would exclude them from ever experiencing the "joy and stability of marriage," but that gave him no pause.  He was incapable of understanding how granting the "joy and stability" of legal marriage to himself while denying it to his gay friends was a flawed and intellectually dishonest proposition. And so he never asked one of the basic questions: As an American citizen, granted equal protection and rights under law, in what way am I sufficiently different and more deserving than my gay friends so that I can honestly justify my denying them what I reserve for myself? 

The answer, of course, is, he couldn't. And having a gay son only made his political/moral stance even more untenable. But Maher's question remains: Why was Portman unable to ask that broader question while he was writing DOMA?
That basic inability to move beyond the Kingdom of Me and Mine, would certainly account for Congressman Paul Ryan's appallingly draconian New, Unimproved Budget, for example.  Now that's a dream budget if you're a rich white guy living in the realm of ME, but a disaster if you're poor, brown and female, for example.

And so Rachel Maddow rhetorically said, Wouldn't it be wonderful if Republicans also suddenly had a poor son or a jobless son.  Maybe then those problems would be addressed as well. 

Indeed.  Think of what would happen to lawmakers incapable of operating outside the borders of "immediate family" if every conservative legislator suddenly had a daughter who's just lost her job and her health insurance and has just been diagnosed with breast cancer; a son whose disability checks have been cut short, a son-in-law illegally brought to this country as a child who's about to be deported, leaving his pregnant wife and their two kids alone and jobless; a mother whose pension was decimated by the Wall Street banksters who's living on Social Security and Medicare and now her benefits are being Paul Ryanized and she's about to be turned out into the street.

Now imagine a Congress filled with Congressfolk smugly secure in their insular, ideologically pure Kingdoms of Me and Mine, that is breached by family members coming to them to say, "Uh, Dads, Moms, we need to talk."  And suddenly, problems that were originally "out there" are now all in the family.  And being all in the family, they would now be worthy of attention and a "change of heart."

Just what America needs now -- A Portman-ized Congress filled with changes of hearts, gridlock over, problems solved, and the country moving forward once again as a family -- a bigger family, a more varied family, yes, but still . . . a family.     

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

While walking the dogs past the large stand of eucalyptus trees a few streets over, I heard him again:  rat-t-tat-tat.  A woodpecker.  Haven't heard that sound for a few years when the birds showed up to pound away at the half cut--down pine tree in the front of my house.  Do any woodpeckers live here full time or did he just breeze in on his way to somewhere?

This posem is by Wistawa Szymborska, from her book, "Poems New and Collected."

Returning Birds

This spring the birds came back again too early.
Rejoice, O reason; instinct can err, too.
It gathers wool, it dozes off -- and down they fall
into the snow, into a foolish fate, a death
that doesn't suit their well-wrought throats and splendid claws,
their honest cartilage and consientious webbing,
the heart's sensible sluice, the entrails' maze,
the nave of ribs, the vertebrae in stunning enfilades,
feathers deserving their own wing in any crafts museum,
the Benedictine patience of the beak.

This is not a dirge -- no, it's only indignation.
An angel made of earthbound protein,
a living kite with glands straight from the Song of Songs,
singular in air, without number in the hand,
its tissues tied into a common knot
of place and time, as in an Aristotelian drama
unfolding to the wings' applause,
falls down and lies beside a stone,
which in its own archaic, simpleminded way
sees life as a chain of failed attempts.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Waits

Pathetic.  That’s what it is, pathetic.  I mean, look:

Garden trimmed back, ugly 002

Hours of pruning, whacking, trimming and there it is.  Ugly on a stick.  Look again:

Garden trimmed back, ugly 003

Rhubarb’s asleep, tomatoes gone, the scraggy, leafless bush-type thingee against the fence is soon to get a severe haircut, making the place even more bare.  All of it made worse since this is the picture in my head.  There it was, just a few short months ago in all its glory:

Garden, yellow chair, Zuri, Archie, flowers, May 2010 003 

Including the resurrected mallow plant.

Molly sleeping 1 001

But now all is drear, depressing, messy, asleep, clipped, trimmed and waiting.  The sand is damp from the recent rain and full of long useless holes dug by the greyhounds who are reincarnated coal miners, always burrowing in search of a cool place to park their butts or a nice narrow, smelly hole to stick their snooters in for a sniff.  Don’t ask, I have no clue what they’re thinking.

But despite weather that’s lurching hot then cold, spring is on the way, the vernal equinox just around the corner.  In the front yard, in a large pot, the new baby Rogers Red grapevine has gotten the word, sending out its soft fuzzy leaves, searching for the sun.  It’s a small handful of hope, heading for the sky. The rest of the garden will follow.

Thank goodness. grapevine in pot 003

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

OZ The Small and Dull

Went to the the Bay Theatre to see the new Oz movie.  Oh, dear. Disney's pre-production flying monkeys should have spent more time scouring Hollywood for some better screen writers, which is odd since given the material, you'd think they'd have been in need of an editor to cut things out, not be in desperate need of putting stuff in to keep the audience from falling asleep on the yellow brick road while creeping along listening to hours of boring, gruel-thin, repetitive, banal dialogue.  Luckily, in the last 1/2 hour the director managed to pull together several clever elements so at least it ended with a bang, but on the whole I should have stayed in Kansas.

On the upside, having now had a 2-hour preview of Disneyland's new Oz ride, I won't have to go to Anaheim to see Disneyland's newest Oz ride. Been there, done that.  At the Bay Theatre.  With popcorn.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

Read a wonderful fragment in the Feb. 11 & 18th New Yorker, a review of an exhibit of surrealist drawings at the Morgan Library.  Peter Schjeldahl attributed to T.S. Eliot the comment that poetry is "a raid on the inarticulate," an extraordinarily apt observation.  Last week's poem had a delightful twist ending.  This poem has such an ending too, but this one is a good example why some poems should carry a warning label.  It's by Virginia Hamilton Adair and from "180 More," edited by Billy Collins.

Yea, Though I Walk

Stunted bush
beside the unpaved road
the shepherd often passes here
with his hundred sheep
their hooves churning the soft sand
the lambs bouncing as they follow along.

We walked under the palms
to see the shepherd lead
his traveling company
but they had gone by earlier
the dust had settled.

Under the stunted bush
a cool hollow in the sand
in it a lamb too lame to follow
a lamb with its feet wired together
lifted its little face.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Awww, Gaawwd

Ah, Supervisor Gibson.  He’s the gift that keeps on giving.  And in this case, the gift that keeps on costing the county. And keeps Tribune reporter, Bob Cuddy, fully employed. Case in point, a March  7 story, “Gibson’s email search daunting; Sifting through 5 years of files while ensuring privacy isn’t easy – or cheap.”

No, indeed, it isn’t cheap, but thanks to the Public Records Act, it’s gotta be done when former Los Osos CSD Director, Julie Tacker, decided she smelled a possible rat in the Gibson Canoodlegate and sent in a PRA for the emails.  And since she thinks there is a rat in the pile of paper but she doesn’t know where it’s lurking, so she requested the whole pile, which has to be sifted.

So there sits a county employee and a county attorney, rustle-rustle-rustle, a Rumplestiltskin-like pile of paper before them, spinning it all into redacted gold, line by line, page by page, 1,300 down and 14,000 more to go.

Ridiculous, you say? Well, if you think somebody’s the sort of character who breaks the rules with impunity, is up to no good, who sneaks around behaving badly, then when found out, games the system and basically indicates that he’s above the social norms of behavior, well, you might be inclined to think that this personage has likely been up to no good in other areas of his career not involving romance.  Like maybe this personage has been skating over the line and has gotten involved in other wrong doing or illegalities.

So you put in a PRA and the County starts sifting and runs up the bill, which in this case, may end up costing a few thousand dollars with a 50/50 chance it’s all a wild goose chase.  And Bob Cuddy writes another story and the Tribune sells a few more papers. And the Supervisors are left to roll their eyes again and lie quietly in the bed Mr. Gibson has made for them.

Speaking of Rodents

I never thought I’d live to see the day when I would praise Libertarian Wing-Nut, Congressman Rand Paul, but I’m here to praise him for his stunt: Filibustering for 13 hours on the floor of the Congress to demand the answer to a question he already had.  Silly, yes, but by gosh, he had the guts to filibuster the way it should be done – in public, his face and name all over his remarks, ‘splaining to any and all what his objections are about, what his point is, right there in the middle of Congress, in public, instead of using the silent, secret un-American shiv in a back room the way Senator McConnell does it.

So, good on Rand Paul.  Some of his blathering trivialized the whole drone-killing debate – Rest peacefully, Jane Fonda, you’re in no danger – but at least Paul dragged the beast out into the public eye where it needs to be.  I can only hope that the debate doesn’t get stuck in the “Let’s Kill Jane Fonda” nut-case mode that the media loves, but can seriously engage the public.  Drones are here to stay and whether we use them well or ill, whether they increase our freedoms or diminish them, depends on how we act now to control their use. And that discussion will have to be guided by adults and the rules of engagement will have to be debated by adults who understand that the real world lies somewhere between appallingly sociopathic  Dick Cheney’s “dark side,” and the sitting duck smile of Dr. Pangloss. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Buy A Brick

Piedras Blancas Light Station Association has started a new fundraiser, "The Lighthouse Path Brick Paver Project."  For $100 you can buy an engraved brick which will be used to line the path around the lighthouse with all proceeds going to support the restoration of Piedras Blancas Light Station (just north of San Simeon.) The bricks allow for three lines, each line can have up to 16 characters, and you can purchase multiple bricks.  Bricks can honor individuals, your entire family, or commemorate a special date (like an anniversary).  And after the pavers are laid, you can go visit your brick whenever you wish, knowing you're now a part of a very special place.

If you haven't been up there recently, you're missing something.  The lighthouse is all painted now, the surrounding grounds have been completely restored to native habitat which is spectacular and plans are underfoot to rebuild the lightkeepers original home.

Guided tours run Monday through Saturday day Starting June 15 through Aug 31st. Visitors meet in the parking lot of the old motel just past the lighthouse on Hwy 1 at 9:45 and caravan into the grounds.  The tours are 2 hours in length and include a 1/2 mile walk that included spectacular ocean views.

So, if you're looking for a special gift or a perfect gift for your whole family, give the brick-selling folks a call at 927-3719 (unfortunately, they don't have ordering information on their website yet) or drop them a note as ask for the brick order forms to be sent to you.  Their address is Piedras Blancas Light Station Association, PO Box 127, San Simeon, CA 93452.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This by Catherine Doty, from "180 More, Extraordinary Poems for Every Day," selected by Billy Collins. A good example of how poetry can give such unexpected pleasure.

Outside the Mainway Market

Every day, our mother says,
kids die on those goddamed things,
and she nods at the lone yellow horse
with the red vinyl bridle
and four black, shining hooves
like police hat brims.
Not only do we stop our five-part
begging, we walk wide around the beast,
though Mary brushes the coin box
with her sleeve.

Rigid in flight, the great horse's legs
flange out towards us.  Not one of us argues.
We hold onto our mother's coat, cross
several streets, touch the dog we always touch
when we walk home, fingering
his freckled snout.  Then we scream
and run in the yard while supper cooks,
and the sky shudders pale for some seconds
before it darkens, as if in that lavender moment,
three blocks away, a child drops
the reins and gasps as his shoes fly off,
and plumes of smoke rise
from the crown of his hand-knit hat.