Saturday, May 13, 2006

Into the light

It was too dark sitting in the living room on my comfy chaise; all the sunshine is here in the bedroom and the sunroom, but I will have to park myself on the desk chair and pound out another 400 pages later this weekend and I'm not anxious to begin. Instead, I want to sit here with the sunlight streaming over my left shoulder and breathe in the heavenly scent of fresh air and growing things (the living room still smells a bit like smoky burnt things).

As always on weekends, I have a lot to do, including putting together the club newsletter. I don't know why past editors had trouble finding enough articles, photos, etc. to fill the newsletter; I'm already developing a backlog. Of course, I'm not shy about asking people to write articles and I haven't had to do much of that. There will, however, be some arm twisting with the Evil One to get him busy writing the article about his new hiking poles/antenna and how that all came out. I told him he had until the 25th and I'll remind him again next week before I give him his birthday cheesecake from the secret recipe. Yes, it's blackmail, but a little blackmail is like a little jealousy now and again -- subtle spice to be employed with a deftly knowing and delicate hand. One of the past editors of the club newsletter is also writing me an article, one he promised me from last month, and I have to remind him. I think he's avoiding me now because he doesn't have it done yet (probably not even started) and is going to now claim he forgot we were talking about setting a date for lunch. He won't get away that easily. :cue evil laugh:

I received a phone call out of the blue last night, MJ again. He called me from the laundromat while doing his laundry. I told him he had just lowered my estimation of him and destroyed all my fantasies about semi-famous music stars. He said, "Then I probably shouldn't tell you about movie stars." I already know that one: movie stars put their pants on one leg at a time. That hit me almost as hard as the truth about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, but I didn't expect his feet would prove to be just as dirty and made of clay. :sob: I'm hurt and disillusioned.

Anyway, we spent another enjoyable hour chatting, laughing, teasing each other and telling jokes, as well as the usual chit chat of getting to know someone better. He told me this great story about a monkey but I'm going to save it and write it up in flash fiction style. The punch line is really hilarious, especially delivered dead pan the way he does it with a slight bass growl in his voice. I'm still chuckling about that one. He said he was going to write it up, but would let me have it, and I told him it wouldn't be the same story or the same presentation, so he should write it up, too, from his point of view and we could compare stories. He also mentioned that music is all he knows right after he told me my living room must be fairly room when he heard the echo of me walking through it. I told him he was right and about the ripples, hills and valleys in the floor (and on the walls) in this old Victorian house. He definitely has a good ear, but that's all he's good for -- or so he says.

MJ also told me he is going to be in town in June longer than expected, another four days. He ticked off his plans ending, I thought, with visiting his sister in Denver. Then he paused.

"Would you like to spend some time together?" he asked.

"Sure, I'd like that."

"So would I."

I seem to remember inviting him to see my little corner of the world and offered to fix him dinner. He's on the road most of the time and I'm certain he doesn't get a home cooked meal very often, which is probably why he's visiting his sister, and I like to cook. Too bad I don't have room for a table and chairs -- yet. I guess we'll have to camp out in front of the TV and use the coffee table instead. Maybe I can get the painting, stenciling and accessorizing done by June when he's in town and have some big pillows to artfully toss on the floor to use as seats around the coffee table. That could be fun.

I found out lots about MJ last night. I already knew he had an interesting, almost pagan, take on religion and life, but I didn't know he was a Netflix user and liked my favorite movie -- Laura directed by Otto Preminger. He loves the theme song but thinks it is irritating after a while (they do play it softly in the background throughout the movie, swelling for climactic or pivotal scenes). I like the music well enough and it is memorable, but for me the attraction is the way the movie plays out, the characters and the fact that Laura is seen only in flashback until about the middle of the movie because she's supposed to be dead. Laura returns in the middle of the night to find Mark, the detective solving her murder, asleep, mildly drunk and sitting in a chair beneath her portrait in the living room, having fallen in love with what he thinks is a ghost. If you haven't seen it yet, rent it or check it out from the library, but get it. It's the perfect introduction to B grade film noir.

I have never been awed by the famous, near famous or infamous but it is fascinating to find out that someone like MJ is so down to earth and likeable and shares some of my likes and dislikes like a real average person on the street. And now that I know he does his own laundry at a laundromat ... well, the mystery is gone.

When I talked to my mother last night she said she has never known anyone who could converse so easily and comfortably with anyone -- saint or sinner, bum or celebrity -- the way I do. She said even as a child I was absolutely fearless and people came up to see me and talk to me all the time. She and my father were terrified someone would snatch me or, worse, that I would amiably and eagerly go away with them because I didn't understand the concept of a stranger.

I remember the first time some friends took me to Poor Richard's, a bookstore cum restaurant cum outdoor cafe. We sat outside to eat and talked and watched the people stroll by. One old guy, ragged and run down around the edges, walked by with his dog. He looked homeless with his sagging backpack that had seen better decades, grizzled beard and ball cap shrouded strings of wispy curling iron grey hair. He stopped and chatted with someone and eventually came nearer. I spoke to him about his talking, complimenting him on the dog's looks and obedience and we chatted for a few minutes. From what he said, I gathered he was local and probably living on his social security, hence the not well heeled look of him, but he was friendly and obviously loved his dog and quite garrulous. My friends watched but didn't partake in the conversation. When he left one of my friends said she was surprised at me talking to him like that, "He could have been anybody." He was anybody; he was everyman and he had an interesting story to tell that I remember more than a year later.

People are fascinating repositories of ideas and history better than most books filled with facts and slanted gossip and political spin. Everyone is a little bit different and some so different as to be a shock to societal expectations, but they are all like amazing books of fantasy, reality and flights of surrealism. When I look at Dali's paintings, like the one with clocks melting over hard angular surfaces, I am reminded of the diversity and surprise of people all around me, changing, growing, melting into the background or lying on the surface of life caught in emotional or situational stasis, like the neon orange haired girl who pushes her baby's stroller to the park and back every day, rain or shine. Some days her hair is Easter Egg basket pink and some days a brilliant electric blue, but she always comes back to the glow in the dark neon orange. I wonder what her baby thinks when s/he sees people with brown, blonde, red, black or gray/silver hair without the rings in lip, eyebrow and nose and if s/he wonders what those aliens are stopping and talking to mother.

I look forward to learning more about the MJ behind the gold records and touring dates just as much as I look forward to learning about all the people who touch or cross my path in the course of the passing seasons.

Friday, May 12, 2006


There was an explosion in my living room. And the nasty smoky smell from the fire on Saturday is gone; so is the smell of too much sage burned to cover the smell of smoke that refused to drift out the windows. In sort, this room should probably be declared a disaster area and be rescued by government funding.

My HP printer is on the floor next to the chaise. Since I use the laptop in the living room from the comfort of the chaise or sofa (with my feet up of course) that was the logical place to put it when I downloaded the drivers and software. Halfway through the download, as I read the instructions, I realized I needed the printer here so I could finish the setup and synching, hence the printer on the floor in here instead of in the bedroom near the French doors where it usually resides out of the way.

There are books scattered all over the sofa from my trip to the library the other day. I had several books on hold and brought them all here. Since I needed the canvas bag they were in to do the grocery shopping yesterday, and being in a rush, I placed the books on the sofa (it's near the door) and practically ran out of here into the sunshine and fresh air. The circulars from the mail and a clothing catalog balance the book spreadage on the other side of the sofa. Somehow or other my sage smudge stick ended up on the floor in front of the sofa. Last, but not least, there are wires snaking across the floor from the outlet across the room to the laptop, printer and space heater. A couple big padded envelopes rest near my socks at the foot of the chaise where I dropped them after opening a gift for the Evil One (he'll get that on Tuesday) and a hand rest, mouse pad, ruler and calculator thingie the office sent to celebrate Medical Transcriptionists Week. Still haven't figured out if I'm going to use it. I'll at least try it out before I toss it in a box in the closet or hang it on the wall for a display of art and function gone wrong.

Oh, and about the fire in the kitchen last weekend. It was a miscalculation on timing. I put a very big yam in the microwave since I waited until the last minute to fix dinner and the entree was nearly done, figured it would take 15 minutes, set the timer and sat down to eat the entree. Something tickled my nose and I looked toward the kitchen where a cloud of smoke rolled slowly toward the doorway. FIRE! Or at least SMOKE! I went into the kitchen and saw my yam in flames in the microwave. Two steps and I was at the microwave, yanked open the door and was slammed in the face by the smoke, smell and a little blast of flame, speared the burning charcoal lump that had been my dinner and dumped it unceremoniously onto the clean counter top. There was nothing edible in the blackened char and I gingerly scooped it into a microwave dinner tray handily nearby and dumped it in the trash.

As I sluiced the worst of the smoke and gunge off the glass turntable the smoke alarm in the bedroom sounded its klaxon warning, so I rushed off to beat the air in front of the alarm with an old T-shirt until it stopped, then started up again as soon as I walked in the living room, went back to beat it some more, back to the living room, back to beating the smoke alarm until I decided to disengage the contacts on the battery for a little peace. After all, no one was in danger of dying in a fire, having been put out a while ago. You'd think having all the windows open and the vent over the stove running would have dispersed some of the smoke, but the wind blew the smoke back inside and since the stove hood vent isn't connected to the outside the smoke just kept circulating into the vent blowers and back out into the room.

I finally managed to clean up the worst of the smoke from the inside of the microwave and off the glass turntable, put another big yam inside and punched in 7 minutes this time and went back to eating my lukewarm entree while smoke swirled around my head and past my watering eyes.

The phone rang and the landlady offered to deliver a fruit tart. I met her at the door and she asked if I had burned something as the smoke swirling menacingly out the door and into the hall. "Yes, my yam. Left it in the microwave too long," I said, smiling. "Oh," she replied and handed me a plate of fruit tart with what looked suspiciously like thick plastic jutting out over the end of the triangular point of cake and between the strawberries and other unrecognizable fruit. "Gelatin?" I asked, pointing to the plastic. "Yes," she said as she turned and walked down the stairs.

Dessert to go with my dinner. Nice. The plastic tasted of almonds beneath the spreading glop of whipped cream (fresh made and not from a spray canister) and was easily digested, just as the microwave timer dinged for my now baked yam that wasn't quite done, but I opted not to hazard another few minutes lest this last yam in the cupboard turn black and go up like a Yule bonfire.

I clearly deserve government funding for the disaster, although the only thing damaged was my pride. I washed the smoke out of my freshly washed that morning hair because I found it impossible to sleep with the reek right under my nose. And I guess I'll have to break down, break out the recycled plastic bags and scoop up the litter on the couch, find some place for the books, pick up the mailing detritus and hose down the tables and vacuum the floor. Who knew living in an apartment could be so much work. It was so much easier living in a hotel, and they changed the sheets every day and laundered the towels and linens, too. Oh for the simple life of restaurants, housekeepers and the road. Still, the management didn't care for me repainting their walls and bringing in my own furniture and art work, so it's an even trade.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Says who?

I was reading literalgirl's journal when I came across this It never occurred to me that the Boy Scout Law would not encompass Wiccans in their reverence for God. Wiccans believe in the God and the Goddess and nowhere could I find mention that God strictly meant the Christian God. I guess that lets out the followers of Islam or any other ethnic group that worships and reverences a different God.

I found no specific listing for Jehovah, Yahweh, or any of the other names by which the Hebrew/Christian god was listed, and certainly no mention of Jesus.

The boys have joined the Spiral Scouts, a Wiccan-based scouting program.

I have always known that the commandment to Love Thy Neighbor as you love yourself is about as reverently followed as any of the other commandments in "God's" law. Allowing scouts of differing faiths into the Boy Scouts isn't going to change or harm the organization, but it will promote tolerance and teach young boys, and girls (Girl Scouts), that reverence is not exclusive to the Christian God. Maybe we will finally be able to raise a tolerant generation not so bent on hate and exclusion.

Almost TGIF

This has been a bad week. Weird news from home, friends having difficulties, my best friend acting odd and I haven't been able to buckle down and focus on work. I feel like I want to be anywhere but sitting at the computer with doctors plugged into my ears and typing their reports. I don't know what's wrong with me. I haven't had a week like this for a very long time.

I am, however, geared up on the writing and am in search mode tracking down publishers and redoing my submission package to fit each publisher's guidelines. For some reason Gail just popped into my head, Gail who doesn't know and has never read a guideline in her life and who regularly makes $20K+ every year with her stories, despite not following a single guideline, other than producing a story. I just want to write. I'm up for a grant for my project to preserve history in the form of providing materials, tape recorders, whatever is necessary to record histories from a generation of people fast disappearing to the predation of time and age. I'm in the final ten and it means $50K for two years of work. Thing is, it also means more time, a commodity that is fast disappearing from my schedule and my life. My plate is getting fuller by the day.

The other day I was looking for a painting or some kind of picture to illustrate a piece on envy and I came across this, which led me to Kendra's studio and to an email inquiring about pricing. The painting is mounted and framed with a black metal frame and only $100 and will look fabulous on my newly painted bare walls, which means more pages and more work at that desk I am beginning to loathe this week. Surprisingly, Kendra lives in Golden, Colorado and that is on my way to Estes Park where I'll spend a lovely week in June with friends and at the Hamcon doing VE sessions and manning the club table when I'm not looking around to see what kind of electronics and radios I can fit in my budget.

Did I mention I made it into the final phase of Google's Da Vinci Code Quest? Now all I have to do is figured out how to open the cryptex, decipher the four puzzles and do it before the other 9,999 people so I can win this. All I need, if I win, are three people who want to see New York City, Paris, Rome and London on an all expense paid trip.

Now I know what's wrong. I passed through spring fever and right into the vacation itch. I need to get out of here and onto the road for parts known and unknown for a week of no work, no hassles, no bills (I'm sure they'll wait until I get home), sunshine, hikes in new places and spending time with friends I have and have not met yet. I won't be able to play and have fun though if I don't buckle down and focus on work. So, without further ado...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yes, it's me again.

I'm feeling posty this morning, energized actually.

There are a few pink blossoms left on the tree next door, but otherwise it has that ragged and spent look of the end of spring, like a harbinger of hotter days and summertime. You wouldn't know it to look outside though. It snowed this morning. Great white fluffy celestial clumps pelting down all over the street like the heavens throwing loosely packed snowballs. The trees, road, sidewalks, rooftops, everything covered in soft mounds of snow beneath a gray sky. When I got up at 11 last night I thought it was snowing because the streets looked oddly pale and white under the yellow light of the street lamps. The sky was pale like a clear night with a full moon hovering close to the earth. But the moon wasn't visible through the heavy clouds. Now the snow is mostly gone, except in shadowed areas under the eaves of houses and in the corners. In little over an hour the sun has chased the snow into the ground and back to the sky to weight down the clouds again in nature's recycling plan.

Across the road and here and there along the street lilacs poke defiantly at the sky with bluish-purple blossom fingers and bare trees are bursting with feathered fronds and new green leaves. Neighborhood cats chase the squirrels back into the trees and the all-you-can-eat gutter buffet next door is open for business and filling with birds and squirrels.

I feel like the neighborhood coming out from under its temporary cover of snow under the warming rays of the sun. To that end I called The Gazette and asked about how they handle freelancing. Pam gave me the names and numbers of some of the editors, specifically the editor of Arts & Entertainment, because I have an idea for a profile of Michael Johnson to help promote Jimbo's Grand Opening, where MJ will be playing, and I have been up since two this morning writing. I admit I'm reluctant to get to work on the job that allows me to pay to live in this wonderful little corner of Old Colorado City and help keep Mountain Mama's in business, but I have to pay for my avocation somehow, at least until I'm finished with the new book and it ends up on the NYT best sellers' list.

I'm not afraid of the silence any more.

Once more with feeling

When the Evil One told me about some guy walking across the country I said it had been done before -- 40 years ago -- and I had read the books. Cruising around this morning I found Steve's story, followed the link and read some of his journal. What really surprised me wasn't that he was walking across America to find himself, get healthier and lose some of his 400+-pound bulk, but this:

Getting to New York is not a matter of success or failure to me, instead it is a certainty. I have no doubt at all about my ability to get there. What is in question is whether it is necessary. I feel that this journey has been a great success for me personally because I accepted the challenge, walked out of my security, and faced down my insecurities to get to where I am today. Happy in my own skin.

I will make it to New York because it is important for more than just myself to do so. Unless I decide to stop at the New York state border, seven miles short of Times Square, and then just go home having failed to reach my goal. Either way I still win because I will be a happier and healthier person because of the experience. Incredibly, so will all of you, because everyone who encourages a person to face down their fears and freely walk into the firestorm of their own personal demons, has helped more than just that person. They have helped all of us, because there is one more happier person in the world.

What you do by building up instead of tearing down does more for our future generations than most people have ever imagined that they would do.

He wrote that in September 2005.

I'll shut up now.

A little show...

...and tell.

I received this from a friend in Israel. If you haven't been to Israel and have never seen this beautiful country, now 58 years from the date it was made a Jewish state, check it out. Amazing what 58 years of love, dedication and hope can do.

That is all. Disperse.

Retiring shy

I was discussing retirement by email with someone yesterday and although they have worked for 30 years and squirreling money away in deferred comp as well as their state pension plan, she said she was afraid to retire. I wanted to know what there was to be afraid of. She said finances.

Let's see. She is about to move into a house that will cost about one-fourth of what she currently pays with about the same square footage and her retirement and deferred comp, sort of a 401K, should net her a tidy sum. I doubt she'll quit working her part time jobs. But I don't see the problem. After all, isn't retirement why everyone is working?

She said she goes back and forth. She will retire. She won't retire. She will. She won't. I told her that no choice is still a choice. She didn't know what I meant, so I explained it. Not making a choice about whether or not to retire is still making a choice, a choice to keep working and not retire because. No choice = staying right where you are, doing what you are doing. "Oh," she said.

All of this started me thinking about retirement and what it means. Retirement is like going to heaven in a way. People who believe in heaven feel like they're working for that time when they can kick back and relax and rest from their labors here on earth, maybe go fishing, or sit on a cloud and play some celestial instrument, visit with departed family and friends, or sit around praising whatever deity they believe in. It has always seemed a nebulous sort of existence to me, rather undefined and uncertain. Maybe that's how people think of retirement.

My father retired and all he could think about was going back to work. My mother filled shelves, boxes and cabinets with material, thread, yarn and crafting supplies, saying she intended to spend her retirement sewing and crocheting. She doesn't work but she doesn't sew either. She does, however, crochet sometimes while she watches endless hours of television. Lately, she has started working in the yard, something she didn't do before she retired. That was my father's domain. Most of the people I have met or know who retired are still working, some because they need the money and some because they need to feel usefully employed. Makes you wonder what they think about retirement now.

In the days before people went to offices to work and instead worked the land they didn't really think about retiring. They probably figured they'd keel over in the field while plowing or harvesting or somewhere on the farm during the endless chores, or they'd die in their sleep.

I don't plan to retire, per se. I would love to quit punching a time clock or being at some company's mercy for the rest of my days, but I always planned to spend the rest of my life writing. I don't get tired of writing and I can write just about anywhere. Maybe the thought of retirement is about a goal, a light at the end of the tunnel, an end point attached to something you don't want to spend the rest of your life doing. People who enjoy what they do don't want to have to stop, but companies have this rule about moving over for someone younger. Maybe it's time to redefine retirement.

Retirement is supposed to be a time to relax and enjoy yourself, do all the things you put off until some far away tomorrow, a time to start living. If, however, instead of retirement we transition into doing something we want to do, something we enjoy, something we can pick up and leave off whenever we get the urge to take a trip or a few days off to enjoy life, and we actually live in the meantime, then we don't need to see retirement as THE END. Retirement could be a beginning, THE beginning.

A man I interviewed several years ago had retired from some company, went back to school and got a law degree and was pleading a very important case in front of the Supreme Court and he was enjoying himself. I interviewed a woman in her nineties who still ran her family's funeral home and practiced law. I interviewed several people who worked in restaurants and security companies who loved their jobs. They said money was a factor, but mostly it was because they felt useful, like they had a purpose in life, a reason to get out of bed.

Most people need to feel useful, need to feel there is something to look forward to when they open their eyes in the morning. That doesn't mean they should keep working a job that affords them no satisfaction, no sense of accomplishment or pride. It's time we stopped thinking of retirement as an end and treat it as a beginning, a chance to venture into new territory, a time to learn a new skill or do what we've always dreamed of doing but put off because we had to earn a paycheck. Retirement could be the end of have to and the beginning of want to -- a time to enjoy life where ever and doing whatever we want.

I don't plan to retire from life, but I do plan to retire from working for someone else and working for myself as a writer. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy life until there is no more life left to enjoy. I'll either die with a pen in my hand or computer under my fingers, on my way to do research or interview someone, or I'll die in my sleep. That's my idea of retirement.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Falling stars

I'm up but hardly awake yet. I am smiling because of a message I received from my sister this morning. She wanted to know about falling stars. She saw one streaking across the sky last night, a burning arc of fire, and thought about where they come from, so she emailed and asked me about it.

It seems my family always comes to me for answers to their questions. My mother calls me a walking encyclopedia. When I lived back in Ohio I seldom saw any of them except at family dinners during the holidays, a command performance that I usually left early or failed to attend because I worked nights, 3-11. I felt like an encyclopedia or some other book, like the PDR or a big dictionary, left on the shelf to grow dusty and brittle with time until someone had a question they wanted answered. Down from the shelf, showering them with dust and bits of air borne debris that lodged between the fragile pages crumbling around the edges, to answer their questions and be placed dutifully back on the shelf until the next time. I had a function. I responded to queries with knowledge. I had little else they wanted, or so it seemed, except to Beanie. She took the time to visit me and her boys called me to help with homework or just to come over to watch a movie. We ate meals together. I read books to the boys with them perched in my lap or sitting beside me as they grew older and taller -- and heavier. Beanie and the boys came to my house to visit or talk or when the boys stayed with me during the summer and I played math games with them on the computer, games that rewarded them with fireworks, bells and whistles when they go the answers right. And the boys asked me questions, like: why does a star fall and does another star replace it when it falls?

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I thought he should teach math at one of the local colleges one or two nights a week? I didn't understand why he asked me, but I told him what I would tell anyone contemplating such a decision. "If you think it's something you would like to do and would be good at and it would make you happy, then you should." His question was like a falling star, a brief tracery of light in the darkness. I asked him why he asked me and he told me it was because he was making conversation.

I asked Beanie last night why she thought he asked me. She said it was because he wanted my opinion.

Those are obvious answers but provide little illumination, kind of like a falling star even on the blackest night when the moon is a silver sickle of reflected light.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Rambling nose

I belong to Tribe and am part of a few communities that have sparked my interest. Through one of the discussion threads I evidently sparked an interest from a young woman who recently moved from Finland to Pennsylvania. On her bio she states that she lives in the old way, eschewing mass produced goods and making her own, everything from mead to cloth to felt, etc. I do find it interesting that someone who says she lives in the ancient Viking traditions has electricity, a phone and a computer that lets her tell people about her life and livelihood. Of course, she could just nip off to the library and use their computer, but that seems to me at first glance to defeat the purpose of living in the ancient Viking traditions. I don't think the Vikings had computers or electricity or telephones, or broadband for that matter. Talk about bringing the best of the old to the rest of the world by the best of the new.

What makes this particular juxtaposition of ancient ways and new is the latest Doctor Who episode I just watched, "The Girl in the Fireplace". I have to admit that I am beginning to see charm in David Tennant, the latest incarnation of the Doctor. At this rate, I may end up liking him quite a lot. The real charm, however, isn't in whoever is playing The Doctor this time around, although that is a big plus, but the writing. The current team of writers on the show have taken bits of old episodes and crafted a new and visually stunning body of work that is going to be hard to beat anywhere else. I do so enjoy Stephen Moffat's writing as he combines intelligence, style and an attention to the details that is quite wonderful, and is so readily apparent in the latest of The Doctor's trips into time and space.

To give the exquisite and intelligent Madame De Pompadour a sensibility about time and space and the wonders of the universe is not quite as far fetched as it may seem. She was truly a marvel of her age, a true priestess of the goddess, who was queen in all but name, and worthy of the title and the fame. She was and remains a model of intellect and beauty that would still capture any man's heart and soul were he flesh and blood, and that includes time lords.

There is a lot of interesting and titillating writing coming out of the UK these days that makes me wonder what is in the water or the food or the air that fosters the likes of J. K. Rowling and Stephen Moffat. On the lighter side, a came across a little of the wizarding world while trawling among the muggles and found quite a bit of titillation that explains a thorny Rose's interest in Severus Snape. She must have known ahead of time that he was carrying a substantial wand. I'm certain it's just photo shopped, but it's very, VERY well done.

I like this new sensibility that blends the old and the new, preserving the best of both and creating a new harmonious symbiosis that changes the ideas of what is and isn't worthwhile. It may seem that Harry Potter and Doctor Who have little in common, but look again. The ancient beliefs and practices of the wizarding world, which in a way legitimizes alchemy, which gave rise to science and medicine, and placing it all in the midst of a blind modern world is quite allegorical in its views. In some ways, we in our technologically fueled reality devalue the work of the ancients, believing we have reached the height and power of man's intellect in our mechanical technology, while all around us, though we seem not to have eyes to see, there exists another world fueled by the strength and discipline of the mind, a world of magic and wizardry where the boundaries are only hampered by imagination. In many ways, technology is the externalization and mechanization of imagination that may well stunt the growth of the mind and diminish its power and reach, but with characters like Harry Potter and Doctor Who it is possible to see the correlation and maybe even reach a point where the two become one in a special and lasting symbiosis that will propel us through time and allow us to see that there is really nothing new, just the original truths and realities in different packaging.

It is time to take a new look at the old world and see what we have been taught to disregard with unseeing eyes and narrow minds.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Nosy neighbors

Reading through my Friends list yesterday, I topped, as always, at 's and read yet another food related post. I love her take on food and, having recently read both of her New Orleans-based books, Liquor and Prime, was shocked to see Whole Foods has jumped on the PETA bandwagon. I decided to check things out.

Basically, Whole Foods told one of their suppliers, Grimaud Farms, they either had to stop selling their ducks to Sonoma Foie Gras or Whole Foods would stop buying ducks from them. PETA strikes again. They seem determined to police the food industry as well as the fur, medical and every other industry where animals are involved, even to the point of destroying equipment and anything else, including people, that get in their way.

I wanted to know how foie gras was really produced so I checked it out. One such farm producing foie gras (in France of course) is a model of how things are run. It is a sizable operation, but by no means the kind of corporate conveyor belt operation that currently -- and nominally -- passes as a farm in the U.S. where veal, chicken, pork, beef, etc. are grown and produced. After all, it's all about the money. By that I mean it is all about THEIR money and not saving money for consumers, which would be us.

My curiosity took me a lot further than just the foie gras issue and onto the track of waste in England where corporate farms throw away literally tons of good edible food because it's isn't cosmetically pleasing enough. The peppers are too red when they should be yellow or the green-yellow peppers don't have the right blend of both colors, and on and on and on. I have seen films where piles of fruit and vegetables are dumped to rot, thus creating breeding grounds for rodents, insects and disease, just because they weren't good looking enough or had outer leaves that were wilting or damaged, and this despite the fact that the food wasn't destined for grocery produce shelves but to be used in cooked foods that will be canned, frozen or freeze dried, as if the way the food looks makes any difference. However, we all know it's about how something looks and not how nutritious, edible or useful it is that counts.

Instead of throwing away the outer leaves or selling the produce anyway, or donating the fruits and vegetables to orphanages, homeless shelters, nursing homes or a thousand other places where the food would be consumed, it is dumped and left to rot. I guess since fruits and vegetables are less cuddly and adorable than animals they don't deserve to be protected -- nor does the consumer. Talk about your nosy neighbors.

I have always believed nosy neighbors have their uses. They provide salacious gossip (although seldom accurate) about the people around them and they are a lot cheaper than alarm systems, and much more reliable, as they don't tend to go off in the middle of a thunderstorm, nor are they susceptible to the ravages of squirrels and other rodents gnawing on them. Nosy neighbors can also be a major pain who cause much more trouble than they are worth. For instance, PETA.

If PETA were so interested in the welfare of animals they would offer their services and time to over worked inspectors at airports, customs houses at ship yards, and border check points to make sure exotic and restricted animals are not being brought in. PETA would spend their time and money stopping cock and bull dog fights if they really cared about animals. PETA would stop throwing paint on people wearing mink, sable and other furs and get their long and celebrity conscious noses out of private business and use their clout to do some good with legislation and consciousness raising if they were honestly interested in the welfare of animals. But those things don't garner them sufficient press or influence and awe the public. PETA wants everyone to be vegetarian and treat food animals as pets but that poses an entirely different problem.

Although some people have Vietnamese pot bellied pigs as pets, how many people would want to own a cow or pig or buffalo or any number of food animals and keep them in the house or their suburban yard? I'm sure the nosy neighbors of the Homeowner's Association would have something to say about that -- and it wouldn't be good. By getting rid of all food animals, PETA would thereby be consigning several species of animals to extinction because they would no longer be needed, and I don't believe PETA cares or has even thought of the consequences of their actions, but it's probably better that food animals not be born and be allowed to become extinct rather than eating them, that way food animals wouldn't be mistreated. And then PETA would be out of a job and a job unless they could find another cause to attract attention and keep them in the news side-by-side with the celebrity of the month...which would leave what? Insects?

I do believe that food animals should be treated with respect but that means policing and regulating corporate farms whose only rule of thumb is the bottom line of profits. Humane treatment doesn't mean eradication of an industry or pogroms; that's like throwing the baby out with the bath water, and all that does is cause more harm and promote bad feelings. PETA has a right to speak their views; they do not have a right to shove their views and agenda down the throats of the public or anyone else. They do not have the right to damage property or interfere with anyone's livelihood. They also do not have the right to silence their opponents.

PETA controls the way we see things with regard to animals, choosing what they want the rest of the world to see in order to promote their agenda and shine the most favorable light on their actions. It has come to be called spin but it that is propaganda. PETA's tactics, like Nazi German's tactics to make their Final Solution palatable to the people, are dangerous, and their tactics have filtered down to Whole Foods and their ultimatum to Grimaud Farms: stop selling your ducks to a company we don't like and won't patronize or we will shut you out.

At this rate, stores will not allow someone to purchase food or sundries if they think that person might use the food or sundries to make a bomb or poison the rodents that are gnawing through their alarm system wiring.

"I'm sorry, madam/sir, but if you are going to take the food we allow you to purchase from us and eat
it yourself and not give any to your children, then you will have to purchase your food elsewhere."

"Sir/Madam, it has come to our attention that you take our organically grown food and mix it with food that is not organic. That is not acceptable. You must take your trade somewhere else."

"Madam/Sir, we hear that your son/daughter is working on a project for the school science fair and will be using the products purchased in our establishment to [fill in the blank]. You are hereby banned."

Think it couldn't happen? There are nosy neighbors all around you and they are more than willing to tell what they know to anyone and everyone. The second biggest nosy neighbor in the country is PETA, and if they have their way your thoughts will be held against you -- and there is no court of law or board of appeals.