In the well of understanding

In the well of understanding

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Celebration of Life and Dance

In darkness it is the flare of the drum

which pulses life, brighter than the flames

of fire ringed about: it is the seminal voice;

as the beating of wings it blazes outward,

inaugurating the call to unsteady limbs,

come one, come all – let joy commence

Brother leg speaks to Sister foot, rousing

and conjoining, bestirring to the beckoning,

never you mind the weariness of day

Cousin toe tells Uncle heel, throw off cares,

well worn worry has no claim when

Mother rhythm sounds her summons, breaks

the stillness into which we settle, to hibernate away

step lively now and mind that you attend

Father Vigor's invitation to the banquet,

hear the bustling reeds, the flourishing branches,

the kingly courting of the lion, the majestic rush

of wind born on the tongue of the parrot,

see the owl swoop, utter its aria as the prey

rings out a threnody, brief ecstasy of ending

a splash of sound declaring the opening

here we go, whispers Aunt thigh to Baby joint,

into the assemblage, gathering momentum

first the clapping of hands, followed closely

by the thumping of feet, enlivened heartbeat

chased at a rush by quickened blood, throbbing

animal cries mingled with human yearning

the frenzied abandon of Dance materializes

all succumb to the sensual appeal, love unfurls

lovers intertwine, mothers sway and fathers swagger

the village of the world worships as one, receiving

the blessing of vivacity, free of burden, remembering

that all is briskness and movement -

con brio, amore; con brio, il mio cuore

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bailout - The Economic Dilemma

The tumult of economic woes persists as Merrill Lynch just stays afloat by brokering a deal to sell themselves to Bank of America and Lehman Brothers flounders with a definitive flourish from Treasury that it will not sanction another unholy bailout marriage at the taxpayers expense. But this latter action creates the atmosphere of a moral dilemma. If Bear Stearns deserved a 29 million dollar sweetner to cuckold JP Morgan Chase, how does Paulson explain away why Lehman Brothers is not suitably worthy? After all the government has been interventionist barely a week past in securing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I suppose the shell game does wear thin as the collapses expand and the neatly erased demarcation between Wall Street, Treasury and the Federal Reserve appears more stark. Of course, the white elephant in the room is the greater ethical query: Why is it that government can find the political will to aid and underwrite the losses of corporations yet utilizes the language of wellfare when it comes to helping Citizens Joe and Jill maintain limb and liberty and stay in their place of residence? Someone should remind the mandarins of economic prowess that even in a card game an ace every now and then does not sustainable policy make. Crumbs from the table of the rich man did not keep Lazarus from death, and all his fine linen and purple garb did not secure the wealthy man the seat of heaven. The train is hellbound, folks; and more revelations will ensue. Watch carefully or you may think that sow's ear they are pulling out of the hat really is a rabbit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Movie Review: Tell No One, Secrets Live Under The Flesh

Brutality warps the pastoral lull of a romantic evening on an enclosed lake. Dr. Alex Beck (in the person of Francois Cluzet) is assaulted, knocked senseless and awakens to find that his beloved wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze) has been murdered by unknown assailants harboring inexplicable motives. After eight years, the morose pediatrician still cannot resolve the questions and a thin thread of guilt which gilds his every horizon; but a chance discovery at that same lake begins the unravelling of a skein which implicates him as a prime suspect and throws doubt that a convicted serial killer was responsible.

Frantically, Beck begins searching for clues as to what really happened and trying to push beyond the veil of darkness enshrouding his memory from that night. He speaks with his wife's parents at their annual gathering to memorialize her death, orders a copy of the autopsy and starts piecing elements of the crime together. He receives mysterious emails which show videos of his wife, possibly in the present. Meanwhile, the investigation is reopened and another violent murder concluded. Beck, accused in both cases and forewarned that the police are about to arrest him, makes a spirited escape and is pursued. The action here is realistic and gritty: the chase on foot by the police lacks the artificial quality found so frequently in films, and once can see from the exertions of Cluzet and several principals of the force how vividly shot this segment must have been.

What is most interesting and engaging about this movie is that all of the characters - Bruno, the street punk Beck turns to for aid, the enterprising defense lawyer, the ambitious DA, the varied personalities of the police, the father-in-law - are not overly pretentious and yet fulfill their roles without a hitch. We are not overstuffed with details concerning each and there is no attempt to resolve all the loose strands, as in life such resolution is often not in the offing. The plots and subplots feel real, feel as if each person is simply living their life in the style and manner consistent with where they are in terms of it.

Fortunately, this extends itself to the principals. Cluzet is nuanced and unstudied. Even as bits of truth wrapped in lies stitched with more truths surface, Beck's morality remains constant. Where it is evident that this morality could conflict his own interest and has in the past, he persists. He cannot be other than what he is and that is a huge draw for the viewer.

Unlike other movies of this genre, it brings in an [effective] use of flashbacks and is as much mystery, romance and despair as thriller. Equal measure is given to all parts, and relationship issues - Beck and Margot at the beginning, Beck's sister (Marina Hands) and her lover (Kristin Scott Thomas) in a heightened exchange, the two police detectives, defense attorney Nathalie Baye and the DA, Bruno and his compatriot - are given full vent, forming a verite which injects believability ubiquitously through the film.

At its denouement, we are left with a bygone memory which quietly whispers that though innocence has been corrupted, it is nonetheless not forgotten.

Quillsby Quip of The Day

Says Sable Quillsby, "This Presidential race is shaping up into a rather wonderful menagerie; we have a black sheep, an old goat, a rouged bulldog and a wizened bison's head: a veritable American Animal Farm. Certainly, the plantation remains in stable hands and on course. Napoleon did you say? Bah! We've got Obamination and McSame serving in execess of 30 billion."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Absurdity in Presidential Politics: Lipstick 101

Well, politics as usual are back in the forefront of the news. Republicans, in a continued attempt to pander for a gender-specific votes, have trenched into the latest nadir of the Presidential season. It is more than dishonest to take a comment obviously intended for one purpose - the pork-barrel repackaging of McCain's economic policies to be inline with the current Bush(whacked) Administration - and slanderously apply it as a red-herring insult to your bullish running mate. One would have to inquire of Maverick McCain how this squares with the carefully cultivated straight-talking image he constantly promulgates as a hallmark of his character; but the hot winds of duplicitous, arrant, self-involved righteousness might be too deafening to penetrate. We should not forget that Governor Palin compared herself in the grand debut to a bulldog wearing lipstick. So should we logically conclude that a self-styled anthropomorphic reference is of lesser injury than another? Especially as the alleged second case was not aimed at the mulish want-to-be VP. Or is the Republican faith so amorphous that things mean only what they mean when they decided in that instance the meaning?

Oops! Now they will be saying that I called her a bull and a mule. Oh, well. Let the absurdity continue. There are a few bestiary allusions I could draw on for all the candidates but I will beg off from maligning the nobility of animals.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Questionable - A Poem

There is always
a question as to
whether I exist:
am I dreaming
this nightmare reality?
do I recognize
this brutish form?
Or am I character
in a post-modern novel?
a fiction of film?
perhaps, I am
the lingering thought
of a lost culture,
an alien seed
planted firmly in
unfamiliar soil;
sometimes I wake
in the dark hours,
wandering and wondering,
whittling away
this unfashioned clay,
trying to conceive
who and what I might be
But only the question
seems to have substance,
and so I relax
into the relapse
of the benumbed mind,
sliding tight the lid
on the crucible
of my uncertain awareness,
and drift into fantasy,
vowing to make myself
whatever I choose to be

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Obama 2008: Vainglory is thy name

Running for high office in our republic (I really choke on the word democracy as we are a republic with democratic values as opposed to a pure democratic society) has always meant men (and women) who seek the laurels of public service (yea,right! neither for the public nor of service) usually have passed their egos at GO on the way to the super ego at Park Place. There is generally a certain arrogance belying even the grandest fashion charades of self-involved humility. Not for nothing is Pomp and Circumstance hauled out and trumpeted at any significant [political] event.

In the unfolding of the Democratic Convention last week, we were treated to the latest brand of solipsistic indulgence. Obama, touting the banner of Change Incarnate, proceeded to select a consummate Washington insider as his Vice Presidential champion. Never mind that those leaders who are fresh in the political realm and inline with his bandied about mantra of hope and renewal (Webb, Kaine and Sebelius among others) were passed over for a milquetoast who barely made a splash in his own bid for the Presidency during the primaries; nor even the glacial cum ice-water drift of his campaign towards more centrist views. His choice confounds the imagination as it is nowhere grounded in reality.

If one were going to select someone who is familiar with internecine labryinths of the national politics, why not choose the woman who nearly matched you in every contest up through the run-up to the convention? Besides the stunning 18 million voters who attached themselves to her camp, Hillary Clinton can deliver purple-robed states which can swing in either direction amidst the political gales churning throughout the country. Of course, if you are focused on winning that would be the smart, if not necessarily easy on a personal level. Once again ego and emptiness trump common sense and competency.

Sure you might have to swallow your gorge and deal with fiery debates within your administration but you would be handed the silver chalice on a velvet pillow. If change were the chief momentum behind Obama's movement, it would be evident that obtaining the gold is worth the sacrifice. Instead we detect the distinct whiff of hubris cloaking inexperienced brinksmanship.

Does anyone have a handkerchief that I can borrow to avoid the stench?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moment of Reflection - Opposition

To curse the darkness is to reject the light,
to deny the pain is to shun the pleasure,
to refuse the moment of silence is to avoid speaking wisdom,
to ignore blindness is to vacate sight,
for we live in the defined and the undefined,
each touching the other and imparting meaning

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Commentary on the nature of the Divine

Divinity is the sum total of all things. Religions celebrate an aspect, and sometimes a multiplicity of representations but the Divine surpasses all and encompasses all.

It is neither male nor female but both inextricably bound. Even where the feminine has been stripped from faiths some unspoken, innate yearning trickles in the cracks and resurrects it; for yang cannot exist without yin. Thus, Christianity ennobles both Marys, mother and whore, and Judaism is abutted by the Shekinah. The Sufis have their Layla, the feminine night which manifests the Divine Reality without borders, to accompany the questing Majnun, he not of the normal mind. They are made whole as One and together are the Divine. Allah, the One of Islam, is equally referred to as Huwa (He) and Hiya (She).

When we see others as separate from Self is the moment we step away from seeing the Divine and outside the boundaries of Truth. To recoil from another is to recoil from yourself. Embrace the world and embrace yourself: because you are a reflection of the Divine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Movie Review: Brideshead Revisited, Neither a Bride nor Quite Ahead

Make sure to have your tweed garments at the ready as you enter the upper crust world of Brideshead Revisited. It is exactly this entry point that the young protagonist emerges into that milieu, bemused and bewildered. Certainly, Charles Ryder (played ostensibly by Matthew Goode) has ambitions which become a bit more naked as the film unfolds; but that appears to be the single, one note emotion the character displays throughout. Ryder, even in the passionate atmosphere of Venice on holiday, spectacularly is incapable of emoting beyond the representations of class status and social standing. It is not so much that he rails against them; rather, it is the fruitless quest to become cozy within these grand halls of cultured esteem which eludes his meager efforts. The very scantiness of his attempts towards respectability ("I am an artist studying history") are consistently waylaid by his at the beck-and-call nature ("I have friend who is gravely injured.") He cannot quite carry the air of being above it all ("I am an atheist") and quite like a lapdog is ever yapping at the heels of English propriety, even when formally he has been elided from the august personages and sent packing with his tail tucked between his legs. Ryder is a dim-witted escape artist barely competent to avoid the trap of his quondam existence and clearly uncertain as to where he would like stage his next attraction. The consummate realization of ambition lacking drive: he is drawn to Brideshead as a holy grail which will offer him deliverance from the mundane, never recognizing that the mediocrity lies internally and will frustrate his every attempt.

Hayley Atwell as Julia Flyte dovetails nicely with Ryder in that she too is a sterile soul casting airs of superior mien to obfuscate from the viewer the lost little girl who can't live without the restrictions imposed. That she is a coward is revealed early on and grows in fevered pitch as the story accelerates through time. Her anger in Venice, her listless marriage to an American and her flouncing reentry into Ryder's life years later all are paper-thin matryoshkas, concealing the rags belied by the princess-image evocation.

Emma Thompson's impeccable Lady Marchmain is the embodiment of Catholic hauteur, matronly control and sheer domineering bitchiness sveltely encased in white gloves. Edward Ryder, Charles' father (played by Patrick Malahide), is totally devoid of feeling for his son but ardent in his devotion to other pursuits. Ben Whishaw, Lord Sebastian Flyte, is one of the more nuanced, if minor, characters. He oscillates between the carefree sprightliness of gay romanticism, guilt-ridden Catholic child and hopeless addict of alcohol but does so believably. Another gem of a performance steeped with feeling, albeit her moments on screen are few, is handed down by Greta Scacchi as Cara, the Italian mistress of Mr, Marchmain, the estranged husband of Lady Marchmain. It is a tell that the supposedly flatter personalities are by far richly rounder than the principals. Though their elliptical orbit is circumscribed, these lesser beings paint more vibrantly on the canvas that one almost forgets about Charles and Julia. The real love and loss is Sebastian's and his development and saga frame a more interesting tale beside that of the haphazard jerks of Ryder's world. And the one glimmer of expectation at the offset is the ambiguous dance between Lord Flyte and Ryder which hints that Charles might be capable of a relationship with a man.

The movie is a beautiful set of scenes but lacks cohesive ties between the moments of action sufficient to convince that it is a whole and complete product. Waugh's quips and gift for dialog add flair but the directors, in paring away her ample time-line, simultaneously blur the edges of the story. There is no bride in waiting: more like A Rose for Ms. Emily dramatized on the steps of the Old Empire, drawing on the scraps of the miniseries popularized by Jeremy Irons but adding nothing new to the pot and possibly subtracting meaningful human interaction for the prettiness of effect.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cooking: Innovation with bananas

Ok. It is Sunday afternoon and you get a call from a friend accepting your earlier offer of a home-cooked dinner and a night out at the movies afterwards. You were prepared for the main aspects of the meal but have given no thought to dessert, not even an iota of a minuscule molecule of a thought. This is a rather new acquaintance and you don't run the risk of disappointing. Panic is a natural avenue but a hopeless journey indubitably.

You hunt about and happen on two bananas, the remains of your protein shake fruit menagerie for the week. Your mind spins; you dive inward, searching for taste profiles which may be your salvation. There is no quick recipe you can pluck from the past. However, you are resourceful and have a good palate. So it is time to invent; Desperation really is the mother of innovation.

From the cabinet you take honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. From the liquor cache, Meyer's Dark Rum and Smirnoff's Vanilla Twist Vodka present themselves. You slice the bananas in perfect halves, place in a shallow baking dish, and retrieve organic cane sugar from the top of the refrigerator. Mixing one tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, you sprinkle this over the banana halves. In a saucepan 1/2 cup of honey, 1/8 cup of rum and 1/16 cup of vanilla vodka are combined and heated. Taking a bit of sweet butter and slicing it into cubes, these are arranged on the halves. When the sauce in the pan begins to slightly boil, it is poured over the halves and baked in the oven at 350 F for 13 minutes, until they are golden brown.

And they are divine! An excellent complement to the dark chocolate brownies with which your guest surprises you. Now you wish you had just a few more overly ripe bananas to soak in that auric nectar.

Quillsby's Quip of the Day

Says Sable Quillsby, "Americans face a great dilemma in the next election. The choice is between two pretenders with the principal difference between them not being age or race; but the unmitigated zeal of one investing himself with the divine right of maverick claimants to act as benevolent dictators while the other is angling constantly for the priestly investiture of that most pernicious faith - Popularity - to rebuff the appearance of there being no there there. Donald Duck might be a more credible candidate for the American reality but I suppose these two are perfect specimens of the American dream!."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Response and Compliment to Baudelaire

In his Correspondences, Baudelaire gives nature an intelligence and empathy that embraces all of creation. Man is shown as part of this grand opus but moves through it unaware of his intermingling and engagement with the whole, on an unremitting and constant rhythm. The metaphysical power of Baudelaire's words imbues the reader with a sense of being in a magical arbor, where time is slowed and one may observe as if from the shadows. And perhaps man still lives in those shadows. I respond with my "modern" perspective and turn the view on its head to see what else may be plumbed from the depths:


Amidst the arms of gloaming stillness,
Suckling sweet dew from vestigial remains
Sight, sound and sensuality mingle,
A carousing trinity, dimly perceived

In their bright license, by the shadow-Man

Where once a shade was indistinct,
Indiscernible from twilight and radiance,
Caliginous robes, now, betray presence
Dressed without virile perspicuity,
Raiment devoid of colors, tang and coolness

Like thread through cloth, Shadow infuses
and is infused by the fabric-land, sea, air
Lives in the eclipse, and is noted by the stars,
Travels aromatic paths unhindered, oblivious
of the eleemosynary blessing of kindred souls

Green as the rind of melons, the arbor encloses
Inumbrates the shade, wrapping and overhanging
Its lively borders with the citrus balm of oranges,
Trilling dulcet fragrances, sighing scents
And feathery perfumes, bathing itself in
The redolent memories of shadow-children
who came before and breathed in unison
With the celestial and the ordinary

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cooking: Simple pleasure with Aglio e Olio

Continuing in the iconoclastic mood from the weekend, I abandoned protein shakes for the day. For breakfast a fruit parfait with granola eased the tension of Monday morning at the office, and a bagel with smoked salmon, tomato and capers satiated the stomach and the soul. A bran muffin with currants and golden raisins for a snack insured the minuscule affair of lunch, a turkey-ham sandwich with grain mustard on a bed of vegetables, would maintain a postprandial fullness. So naturally the question became what to do for dinner?

It is a facile precis to enumerate the variegated types of protein shakes one may craft as a substitute for that end of day meal. Determining on the fly what to create for a dinner, which is healthy and does not result in break-neck haste to descend on the grocery like a starved lion, can be more of an interesting challenge. After stopping at the tailor's to drop the latest bunch of pants requiring alteration due to my shrinking waistline (hooray!), I took stock of what lay in the pantry. Wholegrain pasta from the Italian town of Gragnano, golden garlic from Gilroy (alliteration, nice!), garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil from Napa (the gods take Rachel Ray), organic dried basil, parsley and fresh thyme (Bless local farmers) were the key elements which garnered my attention. In the freezer I recalled that I had some mozzarella left over from the lasagne I had made for friends. Edison must have been working overtime as the light bulb started to flash: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

Literally, spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. Humble, timeless fare whose preparation is mostly in the boiling of the pasta. A rather spoony coziness invaded my kitchen and I decide to chronicle this event with photos. The first of which is the top shot of this post.

After breaking the(1 pound dry) pasta into manageable pieces and placing in a mixing bowl, I put water onto boil, adding in 2 teaspoons of garlic salt and a dime of the olive oil to it. (This is not just for effect - salt raises the temperature at which water will boil and thus aids in cooking more intensely). When the gurgle of water sounded, I dropped the pasta in and set about mincing the (6 cloves of) garlic. Eleven minutes later I judged it to be al dente and dumped the pasta into the colander. Rinsing out the pot, half a cup of olive oil was poured in and set back on the burner. Impatiently I waited for the oil to heat and sizzle. Garlic was up next, followed by (a tablespoon of) basil, (1/2 teaspoon) red pepper flakes, (1/4 teaspoon) garlic salt and a hint of cracked black pepper. Within minutes the sweet aroma of the garlic and spices permeated the kitchen and wafted out into the apartment, signaling the moment for the return of the pasta and, unlike Hamlet, I did not hesitate to act. Making sure that all the spaghetti was tossed in the oil-spice mixture everything cooked for another 5 minutes with yours truly adding more salt and pepper to taste. Dishing a sizable quantity into a bowl, I crowned it with a handful of mozzarella (some prefer parmigiano-reggiano) and parsley.

While all this had been going on I had decided I needed some vegetables as well. Oven was preheated to 350 F. I chopped an onion into round slices, and two vine-riped tomatoes as accompaniment. Seasoning them lightly with garlic salt, pepper, parsley, savory and rosemary, I stacked them in a shallow roasting pan, drizzled olive oil over them, topped the onion slices with minced garlic and the tomato slices with sprigs of thyme. During the boiling phase these were roasted with verve and further enhanced the delightful scents running rampant. I even took a photo of this so that you could imitate St. Patrick's Day without garments. LOL!

The culmination was in the dining. All I can say is if it sounds good, it was even better in the tasting. Guess you will just have to try it on your own to see.

Reflection on a moment - Morning

Over the weekend - an atypical one for me - I woke early as usual. But instead of the mad dash to the gym which has become my habitual rhythm, I lingered. Savoring the unrolling of morning hours and appreciating the vagaries of Bay Area weather, I let the enchantment drift over me. Fog shrouded all in sight for some time, and then the bright beacon of sun washed away the gray and filled the world with resplendence. I opened the windows in the living room and kitchen and was greeted by a myriad of sounds - birds trilling, insects buzzing and brisk breezes rattling my blinds. It was a quiet miracle, almost surreal in a way and reminiscent of Monet; the Muse whispered inspiration in my ears:


Whether hurriedly hectic,
consumed in a flurry,
or leisurely paced,
careful, caressing
it is the stage
upon which we enter,
initiate our performance,
and start inexorably
the act we call life

Whether a wobbly, tippling sun,
shaking off flushed excesses
spent in night-time revelry,
or a cloud-strewn, hazy sky,
bracing the trade winds
welcoming equatorial rain
it is the point of emergence
an unfolding of flowers
harbinger of cricket song
the metronome of day

Whether a kitten's plaintive mewl
for milk to break it's fast
or a baby's peevish whine
for mother's warmth and suckling
it is the rebirth of our hopes
proof that nothing is static
change ever-present and continuous
each experience a doorway

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Granola is not just for garanimals

My friends have been pestering me on a regular basis now about simple recipes which I make for myself in the ever evolving quest to transform from the thralldom of geekdom to the superhero status of star jock.

Seriously, the past year has seen me embrace weight lifting as an essential element of my workouts, and because of the expressed goal of fat loss and lean muscle acquisition, I have returned to preparing the majority of my own meals. I am often teased when I show up with protein shakes for caloric consumption, and one colleague at the office has even remarked upon it with emphasis, supplying the adjective ubiquitous. But joshing aside, I do still eat real food.

One the largest challenges when you eat out is that you have no idea how much oil, salt, sugar, ect are being added to anything you may be sampling. And diet is foundational to successful achievement of any program promoting lipolysis (i.e., fat burning). So I have been on a mission to revamp more traditional recipes, recasting them with altered ingredients which result in greater nutrient density while not compromising flavor or taste.

We will start simply with that perennial Berkeley favorite: Granola.


3 1/2 to 4 cups of oat groats or rolled oats
2 cups of nuts (generally I do a cup of one variety and a cup of another variety)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of allspice optional
1 cup of honey (preferably a hearty one like mesquite dessert)
a pinch of sea salt
2 cups of dried fruit (again mix it up here, use a diversity)
1 cup of dessicated coconut optional
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (specialty ones work well here, such as blood-orange; traditional recipes call for butter instead)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl toss the oats, nuts, spices and coconut. Using a pan combine honey and olive oil.Put on low heat until honey completely becomes more liquid-like, stirring constantly. Pour contents into the bowl of oats and make sure all the oat mixture gets coated. Place mixture in a big shallow baking pan (or several if you have smaller pans) and bake in the oven for about half an hour or until it turns golden brown and somewhat crispy. Mix in dried food thoroughly and voila! You have a finished product which should last a few day if stored properly (e.g., air-tight container).

Some additions which I enjoy are pumpkin seeds and crystallized ginger. This recipe is infinitely malleable. Feel free to improvise. I sometimes pair the granola with yogurt and a helping hand of fresh fruit for contrast. After all, taste is a matter of personal style. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How can one measure loss

My blog has been noticeably quiet in the last few days. This is not by accident or happenstance but rather it has direct relation to an ominous anniversary - July 17. Last year, as I was embarking on new discoveries of self, my father transitioned from this existence and returned to AllThat Is. One never knows what the loss of a parent can feel like until it occurs; words are inadequate to describe, summarize or even hint at the gaping tear in the fabric of your personal universe. So I have found myself alternating between the impassioned turbulence of resistant emotion and the resignation of muteness. Finally, the Muse touched my brow and expression began to rain forth:


The room is quiet now
silence speaks softly
filling void in space
lone remnant of the chorus
which just a while before
echoed through the house

The bed is empty now
sheets drawn, blankets removed
pillows carefully stacked
on the floor, to the side
headboard covered in black
unused but not dust-laden

The curtains are shuttered now
thin fingers of light grasping
shadow motes which reflect absence
of daylight, shrouding room
in a casement of darkness
a seal to lock away memory

It is hard to believe
Some days past, hours gone
a living soul inhabited
these desolate quarters,
breathed noisily in vacancy,
occupied this hollow of the world

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Night, an Ode

I kiss her velvet lips
tasting exiguous dew
from withering buds
preparing to slumber,
shuttering stamens
against ravages of wind

I lay on silky skin
feeling soft enclosures
as the veil is drawn,
and the sun winks out
of existence, revealing
tresses delicate to touch,
supple strands bearing
pearls of luminous strength

I hear the calls
of fowls in flight,
the lowing of cattle
in the fields,
and the scurrying feet
of mice just beginning
their nocturnal quest,
her lovesong of dominion
where she reigns without peer

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flawed Efficiency

Since the arrival of graphically-interfaced operating systems the promise has been timely capability to complete tasks and increased efficiency through the facile manipulation of "windowed" functionality. This is all well and good in most cases.

But when subtleties of behavior are not implied in the interface, not handled explicitly, or not communicated so that the user is aware that he or she must deal with them, we find ourselves on a slippery slope. The features of the operating system can become a hindrance to getting the job done.

Last week, I was setting up a server to use as a development environment. Because remote access to the server was a requirement I installed a copy of RealVNC on the newly-minted XP box. I configured the software to allow access to the IP addresses on the subnet our machines reside under. I then tried testing connecting with the VNC client from my laptop. It kept timing out without connecting. I rechecked the configuration; opened Windows XP Firewall settings and made sure that RealVNC application was listed in the Exceptions tab and pointing to the correct executable.

Retested connecting and still no cigar. I tried several more passes, becoming anxious that such a simple task was consuming so much of the day. I searched online to see if the error I was getting had been encountered and if a solution might be listed. I found some documentation mentioning that upgrades of RealVNC which did not import certain settings could be listening on the wrong port; but confirmed that in fact my installation's configuration had the correct port. I pulled out the heavy guns and went command line, invoking netstat to see what connections were at play. Finally after the day was halfway over, I realized that the XP Firewall might not be interpreting what port the application was intended to run on. My expectation, which I don't believe was farfetched, was that if I add something to the Exceptions tab, XP would use the configuration settings to direct access.

And that was the mistake. The Firewall actually requires that you explicitly make a separate port declaration in addition to the application one already in existence, and besides the naming label there is no specific tie between the two. Once I did that things went without a hitch. However, I found myself wondering what would possess anyone to design a firewall which did not require that pervious points be bounded with the application?

Something as inconsequential as a port number can have wide-ranging impact. That I had to scale the walls of XP, scouring for a foothold to achieve realization of a temporally significant assignment, does illustrate that how a user utilizes a tool is as important in design consideration as the physical elegance of the interface.

Now I am sure there are more hills to climb before I find the Valley of Hallowed Bliss, where interface and design dovetail and dance a sprightly flamenco in syncopated, coordinated steps. I just hope I have enough hooks to sustain me on the trek.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Am I Not A Semite Too?

While engaged in my usual reading of political and cultural goings-on this week, I came across an interesting article in The Nation. The subject of the article - "Warriors for Zion - in California" by an editor of the periodical, Jon Weiner - dealt with allegations by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) that the administration and faculty of the University of California at Irvine had failed to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic remarks and offensive acts. The piece goes a long way to disprove any concerted effort by any party to misuse, terrorize or subject to ritual condescension, collegians of Hebrew ancestry and, in turn, demonstrates the rather extremist position of ZOA, who ubiquitously indict any - Jews and Goyim alike - who do not pledge slavish devotion to the Israeli state and label them without reserve as "anti-Semitic". After I finished digesting the article, I could not help but ask myself do these people even know the meaning of the word? Are they aware of who the Semites are?

True, the term anti-Semitic was brought into being by uber-nationalist journalist and critic Wilhelm Marr in his polemic against Jews and their supposed degradation of German civilization. For Marr, all of the ills of German society could be laid at the door of ethnic distinction; Jews could never be assimilated as blood-in-the-bone Deutschlanders. And they were with celerity, in his opinion, laying waste to what had once been a noble and ancient kingdom. The problem was irreducible beyond the barrier of race.

If we fast forward to our age, the institutions of the Jewish state similarly have decreed that the plight of the Palestinians is circumscribed by ethnic and cultural derivation. Consider that Palestinians who are citizens of Israel are not allowed to rebuild areas or expand to the erstwhile habitations of their forebears; yet Jewish expansion is encouraged in these same places. How different is this than the pogroms which the Jews once languished in? Never mind mentioning the strife and ravages which are part and parcel of life in the West Bank.

There is a germ in all of this which is rarely voiced: Semitic refers to Arabic peoples as equanimously as it does to Jews. The eponymous nature of the word stems from the Greek variation of the name of a son of Noah - Shem. In Biblical tradition the Hebrews applied it to all of those nearby who approximated language and norms identifying them as having a common ancestry; and ethnographically it was linked with those groups belonging to a root family of languages (i.e., Afro-Asiatic, in this case).

So when we speak of Semitic peoples, we cannot escape being all-inclusive, and by logical extension anti-Semitism applies to vituperative commentary and acts towards Arabs as well. The Middle East is truly a conflict featuring family members, cousins, unable to see that beneath the veil of violence the blood of the other is just as precious and initiates from the same wellspring.

[As complexity is part of human evolution, certain groups - such as the Amorites and the Caananites - though not, according to Hebraic tradition at least, the children of Shem spoke languages which belong to the Semitic category. While the Lydians and the Elamites, marked as the seed of Shem also, used tongues not related to Semitic branch.]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bringing Rome to San Francisco

It was the name which caught my attention. Chiaroscuro. The art form from the Renaissance, which evokes Baglione's Sacred Love or Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin, made an early impression on my sensibilities. The interplay of shadow and light, the tension of opposites, attracting and repelling with the same magnitude, has a certain allure. Primarily, because we see in it that those things which lie at different ends of the spectrum are reflections of one another, each existing in the contrast of its counterpart. So I could hardly pass up the opportunity to partake of the fare of a ristorante bearing this name. I knew it would either be an audacious, robust meal of epic proportions or a colossal, bombastic failure dishing up sub-standard fare under the banner of underivative grand cuisine.

Fortune smiled. It was a sublime kiss from the steps of Rome which had been planted on the brow of the City of St. Francis. The decor is elegant, the ambiance sweetly mellow and the staff as inviting as any Italian mother welcoming you to her table. The flavors of the food are bright, lively and bold; sometimes starting with subtle hints which explode out into full notes of savory goodness.

While it is quintessentially, undeniably Roman, innovative additions express nouveau gustatory melanges which enliven the palate, and court the tongue to relish repeatedly the offerings. The calameretti affogati and the fritturina di pesci both offer calamari in two different (dare we say contrasting) styles, equally succulent. The bruschette is a sampling of diversity, each one served portraying its own theme. The pastas are ascending clefs rising to the stairwell of heavenly lightness and boundless taste; homemade bread leaves one hunkering after more. And the veal burger, nestled between two slices of focaccia, topped with brie, crisp leeks and celery, is divine. What is amazing is that this only a subset of what is daily proffered.

The wine selection is no less impressive than the food. A number of excellent Italian varietals are available (I am partial to the honeyed Primitivo from Puglia). To be on even keel here in wine-soaked California, choice spirits from Sonoma and Napa have their place in the proverbial rack. Dessert wines are also of a high quality and not overly cloying in their bouquet.

Probably the most surprising revelation was the caliber of the desserts. Usually restaurants with great chefs only have incredible sweets if they have a dedicated pastry chef; but Chef Campitelli is sui generis, and manages to create an array that is eclectic and distinctive. His take on beignets is refreshingly creamy, and the strength of them lies in the custard with which they are infused. His mother's apple cake is hearty, his chocolate tort resplendent, and the mousse smooth as whipped butter.

If you don't have the serendipitous luck to visit Rome this season, you can still have an archetypal experience of what she has in the way of culinary fineness by habitually stopping over to break bread and toast at her emissary to the West Coast.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Journaling: Counting Myself

I am often at a loss when it comes to dealing with myself. Connecting with others, assuming responsibility for items in their lives and bridging gaps unasked is the mode that I have lived in for the bulk of my existence so far. For the past three years, I have been working, at least ostensibly, with a facilitator to assist me in seeing what I create repeatedly experientially, how (and why) I sustain it, and understanding what is requisite for change. This has been my, at times wavering, commitment to myself.

There have been pitfalls; ones I birthed to justify why things cannot change, to explain my depressions and my exaltations. Because we are powerful and the ultimate primogenitors of our experience, illusion and delusion are tools we employ to convince ourselves of the steadfastness of our convictions or that an altered scenery is a shift in where we have been standing prior.

For me, a character in Where Angels Fear To Tread solidifies a summary of perfection: The brother-in-law speaks of how he is always absent when things are occurring, how he lives outside of life itself. His is a tremulous reality and I am his empathic brother-in-arms. Nor is the satiric twist lost on me that I most identify with a fictional character lamenting a fictional non-existence. The French Surrealists would probably take consternation at the notion and yet eke out some mirth at the absurd, comedic quality of this conundrum.

Of late, my facilitator has been more pressing on evidentiary manifestation of my willingness to deal with self. Specifically, the fact that I have not furnished my apartment after being here over 6 months has become a focus of my capacity to give to myself. I gave a party at the end of last month, and there was no place for the attendees to sit. People enjoyed the food and the interaction but many were squatting on the floor. So the gauntlet was thrown down. Research furniture and set a plan in motion to get it situated.

Tonight, I came to a crossroads. I had my session and my facilitator, after reviewing the research, gave me until the end of this month to get the living room established. Panicked, I came home, checked credit cards and then calmed myself. I surfed the Net for awhile. Then I took action: I decided on a couch, two massive chairs, a coffee table with a marble top, a side table in the same mold, a rather artistically abstract rug, stylish modern floor lamp, two accenting pillows for the couch, a silver tealight holder, two vases, whimsical candle stands and two trunks handcrafted by Chinese artisans.

And it felt good. I have always had an aesthetic but I usually ply it in only the service of others. This time I was doing it for me and the more I looked the more enthused I became. A chore transformed into an act of self-caring and worth. I was counting myself as equal.

I still have to secure the flatscreen tv and entertainment center this weekend. However, the trepidation of too much change too fast has taken wing, and I am stepping into my own power. The simplest, mundane things sometimes have the greatest amount of magic, and reawaken the wizardry of one's imagination. Or as J.K. Rowling writes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, " It's a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Unequal Independence: Deletion from History

As we celebrate the intellectual birth of the United States this Independence weekend, the airwaves patriotically extract select portions of Thomas Jefferson's momentous document to reinvigorate national pride. Unfortunately, Americans are not great students of history. We are the culture of taglines and sound bites, easily swayed by summaries packed with expectations and select truths.

Most don't, for example, realize that Jefferson's original submission was heavily edited by revolutionary Congress; nor are they familiar with what was amended, added or extracted. Even a cursory read of what was produced and codified for public consumption is dichotomous - on one hand it is indeed a declaration but it rests much of its argument on the grievances of King George (III). One's declaration of self never requires justification because it has nothing, even remotely, to do with anyone else. However, this joint declarative and complaint directs us toward an unmitigated belief and fear that haunts the US to this day: that we can never be masters and mistresses of our own fate without intervening forces beyond our borders seeking to circumscribe our experience. (Indeed, Washington's farewell to the nation years later volubly demonstrates the continuation of this trepidation - "Beware foreign entanglements" - and drove US policy into the modern era).

The great irony of Jefferson's words become obvious when we learn that a paragraph condemning slavery was removed wholesale:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivatng and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.

The delegates from Georgia and South Carolina were the instrumental forces responsible for this deletion. Of course, the paradoxical aspect of this passage is that Jefferson is blaming the British for the importation and commercialization of slavery without acknowledging the implicit agreement of the colonists to participate. Though Jefferson's archives hint that this removal troubled him to the end of his life (which incidentally was 50 years later on July 4th), he himself never freed his slaves. Jefferson's character was inherently flawed in that his emotions and intellect pressed him toward liberty but his circumstances allowed him to choose to sustain this immoral turpitude. He similarly writes of the cruelty and misuse of Native Americans, pardoning it regrettably as the cost of modernity.

Naturally, women are ghosts and no mention is made of their rights in this venerable text. Can one help but wonder if this declaration meant anything more than the bitter invective of one interested party, who had accrued wealth stolen from new lands they had plundered and wrested from the aboriginal inhabitants, against another interested party staking the same claim?

It would seem that even before we coined the term sound bite, our Founding Fathers were practiced at the art of smooth recitations which explain away American self-interest under the guise of the importation and exportation of freedom.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Movie Review: Savage Grace, Detached Space

Thursday evening, on the eve before Independence Day, friends were either absent or otherwise engaged Roaming about online, I checked to see if anything interesting was playing in my area, and discovered an art-house (my favorite genre) film starring Julianne Moore running at the Albany Twin, minutes from my place. I quickly threw back on my work clothes, grabbed my briefcase and headed out.

This biopic ventures into the bizarre woods of a wealthy family. From the offset, one imagines that it will revolve around the son's homosexuality but that is only one subtext to the meandering rough road this irresolute clan wends its way across.

Julianne Moore dazzles the socialite world as Barbara Baekeland, warm in the vaunted graces yet chilling with her unnerving laughter. She is assuredly the most passionate of the characters in the film. (Though Hugh Dancy and Unax Ugalde shimmer in minor but significant roles). And saying that is saying quite a lot. The mood, the pacing, the shooting, all bequeath the viewer a sort of crystallized detachment; almost as if the characters are being glimpsed through a dull prism which light can only penetrate as listless rays of bright shadow. This detachment finds it ultimate expression in Tony (played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne), the couple's emotionally anemic son. His life's pursuit is the careful and careless construction of a broken bridge: he is quite literally "the steam" between his mother's "heat" and his father's "cold". In seeking to navigate the storms of their marriage, and the internecine battles during and after the divorce, Tony shows like a pale, weak watercolor, soon to be devoured by the raging sea. He embodies absolute disregard because he disregards his own needs. His sexuality is at best a limp worm, burrowing sightlessly; cavalierly destroying the link with the one spark of passion in his world - Ugalde's lovely, leather-clad wastrel character - in a meaningless tumble with Dancy's polished gallant.

The detachment becomes the subsuming force as the film crests, and follows the descending helix of the intensified but emotionally mute interwoven narratives. The father, Stephen Dillane as Brooks Baekeland, begins as a pompous drone, obviously aware that he is the lesser light. He basks in the accomplishments of his grandfather, eschewing his own father, and desperate to prove his mettle despite being an empty vessel. He is glacial, bristling and watery before the hauteur of his clever wife. He is born to money but she is heir apparent to the throne. And this chafes him to undying enmity towards her, planting seeds of bitterness which he will draw on to chasten her in his departure from formal family life. Even in such a state, his hatred is conducted in a sang-froid manner. Barbara reacts by retreating at first, reawakening her artistic impulses with Dancy's encouragement, and finally setting in place oedipal circumstances which can only lead to tragedy. As the decades crawl, her dress remains stylish and fashionable. Yet the clothing looses it warmth and elasticity as if reflecting the staleness encroaching on her life. She is calculating in public and neurotically needy in private. Tony shifts his energies toward his mother, writing unanswered missives to his father, and moving closer to a separation (a deterioration) between his emotional, mental and physical spheres. The culmination of his aloofness brings the film to conclusion and presages his final destructive acts.

In the midst of it all, one is not so much horrified as bewildered by the pluperfect disassociation of self and community which accompanies the happenings. There is an utter sense of removal which makes the lens appear to be telling a two-dimensional tale with three-dimensional cutouts. If detachment was the aim, it is achieved.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Development Wars: Misperceptions of Front-End Development

I am convinced that something went awry in programming (or maybe in programmers) at the genesis of the World Wide Web. Prior to the meteoric rise of the Net, developers understood with abundant clarity creating applications required software engineering principles be applied from the server through the client fully. But with the advent of the Web, the front-end became relegated to the domain of template-makers and snippets of code not organized in any specific methodology. It was a reduction which did not concentrate flavor, as in cooking, but compounded egregious loose habits, rendering front-end efforts a thin soup of muddled HTML, CSS and Javscript .

Proper separation of presentation and core business logic is a necessity for good software development. We all worship at the temple of the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern. However, there are nuances to the MVC faith. In the early years, one faction found favor and was embraced unstintingly - the Controller was wholly the purview of the server-side, and the View essentially became a slave, a thin client without any cognizance or idiomatic expression. Indeed, the state of affairs became so dire the back-end generated HTML and spat it back to the View for display. Here, the pattern was obviously blurred. Why should the back-end care about display? The Model exists to preserve state, and sufficient decoupling from appearance allows the Model to serve as a engine for many Views of the same data to be displayed contextually as per user/role requirement.

Besides, on the presentation side, logical flows which enhance user experience required some mechanism to enact a microcosmic MVC expression. Enter the XMLHTTP Request Object. The ability to make requests to the server without reloading all the scripts running in a page opened a host of potentialities and catapulted the front-end into the arena as a possible contender to share the Controller with the back-end. Further, these interactions on the front-end made it absolutely essential that there be an overall coding strategy adopted.

Javascript up to this point had been widely used to compose scriptlets dealing with form validation and some level of event handling; but its capability far outstripped these utilizations. Due to its open nature and flexibility, it is a powerful tool which can see the realization of true object-oriented code for extensibility. This necessitates creating wrappers and idioms for things like classes, object instantiation, inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation. Quintessentially, behaviors native to Java and C++ can be simulated by nurturing the construction of a framework to guide and gird developers from unsafe practices with Javascript.

The greatest challenge has been that whatever virus the back-end developers caught at the beginning precludes them from grasping that exactly what they construct on the server-side is infinitely possible on the client-side. Design patterns are solutions no matter which code they reside in and can be emulated without regard to programming language. Scripting languages should not be regarded dismissively because they are interpreted. Java, usually the principle argot to the back-end, is both compiled (to an intermediate format) and interpreted. So if one casts stones then one must be careful to not crack the house of glass in which one resides.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Journaling: Racism alive and thriving in San Francisco

It was set to be a regular evening out in the City with friends, commonplace yet a bit exotic as it was happening mid-week. Dinner at the Salt House was pleasant, if a bit hurried as we had tickets for a show. The four of us, three African-Americans and one African, alighted on the threshold of the New Conservatory Theater, and descended into the basement to be regaled by the fresh tragicomic play Men In Uniform. From the moment we walked in it was obvious that we were a bit of an oddity: the audience was overwhelmingly of the Caucasian persuasion. This, too, is commonplace in San Francisco and we really did not pay much attention, even as stares were passed like a collection plate through the small assembly. The show got underway and we laughed and balled uproariously. One of the principal players was coincidentally African-American which is of no special note except for what occurred afterward. As we emptied out of the theater, we ran into a friend from the East Bay, exchanged greetings, and two of us proceeded to the restroom. When I returned, one of our crew related an interesting interaction. Apparently, one of the two ladies who had sat above us during the performance approached them and inquired if they were waiting "to give their friend a hard time." Receiving blank stares, she continued and made it clear that they thought we were friends of the Black cast-member and were lingering to josh him. Let me state that I don't think this woman meant to be offensive; but the assumption that we had only been present due to what seemed to them an obvious prerequisite speaks to how prevalent the persistence of racial stereotypes remain. If this is happening in San Francisco, the soi-disant bastion of left wing politics, imagine what spooks exist in the hinterlands of America. This also seems to be to one of the most pernicious forms of racism. The white-hatted KKK are obvious and unsubtle in their hatred. The insidious nature of racism unbeknownst to itself, where someone is not even aware that they have this issue can easily garner a perch in institutions where the individual is authorized to hire, fire and dispense compensation.

It is never the evils which are most evident that hold the greatest threat: the silent serpent which slithers in a benighted haze, striking without knowledge, is far more destructive.

A Man with the Music of All Seasons - J.M. Coetzee

There is music in writing. The greatest of writers capture it, wrestle and shape the form, and transmit it undiminished to our ears, bearing the full symphony of emotion which may be evoked.

Two seminal American novelist come immediately to mind; the blues, jazz-infused and soulful surging of James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison sings throughout their work, shifting and weaving within the unfolding stories and the lives of the characters who are the denizens of those worlds, which are all microcosms of our own. The sad refrains, the joyous abandon, the temerity and the trepidation cantillate on in the voice of others: the canorous oeuvres of Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, Achmat Dangor and Vikram Seth ply us with universal compositional mastery which partakes of the particular but never relinquishes the catholic quality of human understanding and expression.

And then one happens on the deft mandarins of the art. These wizards of air, water, earth and fire direct with subtle flourishes so delicate that they nearly escape the unrefined ear suffused with the cacophony of the witless and the unoriginal. One almost must strain to hear the dulcet tones they produce with rudimentary instruments, like wisps of the sea's orchestra emanating from shells which only hint at its power and majesty.

J.M. Coetzee is of this order of high mages. His work is lyrical from the initial, inculcating paragraph to the final trilling sigh of the remaining period. No matter the subject it rings of a classical gamelan, bridging the remnants of Western, African and Oriental cultures; banding together the disparate elements into a mettlesome chorus alternating between the susurrations of solitary reflection to the roaring onslaught of common brotherhood to the despondency of people blinded by personal rosaries they chant to themselves.

His novel Disgrace is so melodious that it is Shakespearean in lilt, gentle but persistent, compact but emotionally exhaustive. Its sheer capacity for reflection and similitude of an act performed by its protagonist with the correlation of equivalent acts of others from which this protagonist suffers, reaffirms that station in life is meaningless in the heady halls of human experience

Timeliness, or rather timelessness, flows from his art. In Waiting for the Barbarians, an early novel, Coetzee creates a tale of separation, distinction and counterdistinction. The necessary "other" which makes conquest a singular course with a singular mindset is shown to be simply the living fear of man, and the internal conflict of the magistrate pro-an-tagonist is the central harmony which flares to an ascending crescendo and reverberates throughout. The problem of offensive defense, like our topical, disastrous Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, is dealt with handily, and the beguiling euphonic harmony of his invocation is not lost even amidst the despair and misery empires bring to themselves with selfish expansion.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why Americans are "hopeful" about Obama, Part II

When the picture we have painted begins to show age, wear and signs of decrepitude, one of the likeliest trains of action is to create a new mural; and hope that the finest oils marketed may preclude deterioration in a nascent picturescape after we hang up our brushes. Unfortunately, frequently this "new" work is inscribed over the pre-existing one. Thus, subject to the flaws of the canvas: the small, not immediately perceptible, rents in structure and form. Reuse without reconstruction in foundational cases serves merely as extension with the appearance of differing modus operandi.

So if we draw ourselves to truth in the upcoming elections, the embracing of the wunderkind Obama is one such gambit. We are dismayed by the face we present to the world and to ourselves in all the current crises. We want to redraw the landscape, ritually cleansing the stains of dishonor and blood, renewing the commonweal; but our effort is made in the same frame, unchanged, from which the pain of the past arises. We are restructuring without restructuring. Ours is an age which nears the apex of the diametrical opposition between the written promise of its founding as a nation and the reality and veracity of how we have behaved historically and exercised our will. In a furor of this magnitude, what better champion than one who embodies simultaneously the fruitless antecedent legacy of disenfranchisement and the fruitful pregnant hope of sanitized race reconciliation.

Figureheads make fine statues; but they are metaphoric cyphers, representing without the capability of action. If we are aiming for change, the system must be dismantled completely. Only then can we begin the work which we crave that will be in alignment with the picture of ourselves as we are. The temple of our body is rotten, and must be razed. Like the phoenix, our death in fire can be our renewal in spirit.

One thing is certain: emblems, even those emblazoned in gold, tarnish with time and are subject to all the ravages of natural progression. Better it would be to leave off with representations and plainly be what we are and transform as we choose.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Living Versus Existence

I am the faceless man,
specter of countless lives,
keeper of that which
we choose not to see,
holder of memes passed
but not communicated,
lifeblood in the heart
of Memory's vascular cells,
plasma awash with vitality
of what has been, what is

I am the vagueness of twilight,
phantom light of day's cresting
and night's toiling labored afterbirth,
discarded over and again, reborn
in the exhalation of despair and desire,
in the recall before the recoil

I am the nameless pattern,
the winnowing spiral on which
one may rise precipitously
or fall precariously
fixed throughout with probability
but bowing reverentially to choice

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why Americans are "hopeful" about Obama, Part I

We speak often of our national obsessions, and in the tallying of these we just as often lie to ourselves regarding the root causes. The provenance of this almost manic desperation toward hope, as a most apt current exemplar of this inclination, rarely (if ever) is given vent. The truth of the matter is that because of the retrenchment of civil, social and economic rights (indeed human rights in toto) under the Bush administration Americans have been eddying at a rapid swirl into the mire of hopelessness. Now this is held up as a banner for causality without acknowledging that it is merely the symptomatic denouement of the real cause: our collective irresponsibility in ceding the wielding of OUR power to leaders so that we can bemoan the fact, in apparent contradiction, that we are powerless to change what is done to us and done abroad under the auspices of this country. In a statement, we are hopeless because we have chosen to engage hopelessness in all aspects of our existence; and from this frenzy springs the unfettered end-run around despair towards the illusory smoke of hope. The consequences of our own irresponsibility are not some exogenous visitation from hostile forces beyond our ken. They are in every nuance the direct result of a dis-ease within the body politic, the body economic, the body social and all other forms of our manifestation as a nation. Bush is not the problem but a byproduct of the chemical reaction of our careless lab work; and just as no man is wholly the Devil incarnate, neither can one man be the angelic personification of peaceful and prosperous harmony in a society composed of a multiplicity. The leaders we have vested energy in are but a mirror reflection of where we are as a culture, and the window of our own soul is bared and waiting for us to recall the truth of what we hold; or in the absence of recognition and a choice to shift to a different experience, we will continue to be witnesses to what we have allowed and very witting participants in the manufacturing of our on-going hopeful/hopeless assembly line.

Friday, June 27, 2008

On the cusp of Pride, in the wake of our right to marry: a haiku

Love's Labour

I have held him nights
While love laboured in my arms
Waiting to heal Life