Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One February

No one is coming, Mother.

It is a long way up the hill to visit her. I don't know how many times I have made the trip in my mind.

She is lying on her bed. She is yellow. The TV is too loud on the other side of the curtain. Too loud for such an important time. She leaves the room when we aren't looking.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Lies and spies

Bush runs a rogue government. We all know they leaked the identity of a legitimate US undercover agent (Valerie Plame) in order to clear the way for their illigitmate war. As their only defense, they admit that they are spying on Americans but we can be certain that they are lying about the scope of their spy operations. So where does the power of this cloak and dagger power grab end? Bush is just the current face on a hydra headed cabal that runs this country from the backroom so how far does this thing go? Who are they? What else are they planning? We know they already have secret, torture camps. They can "disappear" people at will. They recognize no moral or ethical limit. There's a new and disturbing peak at what they have in store for us in the article below. Gralla condences a longer article on the subject that appeared in this Washington Post article. Check it out. We cannot afford to be ignorant or naieve any longer. This madness has to stop.

Feds Want A Wiretap Backdoor In All Net Hardware and Software
by Preston Gralla

Think the federal government is too intrusive? You ain't seen nothing yet.
An FCC mandate will require that all hardware and software have a wiretap
backdoor that allows the government to tap into all your communications.
The mandate expands the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), and requires that every piece of hardware and software sold include the backdoor. The rule isn't yet final, but once it is, all vendors will have 18 months to comply. And in fact, says Brad Templeton, chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), some router makers already include such a backdoor. So your hardware may be vulnerable. There are several problems with this rule. First is the obvious massive intrusion into all of our privacy. Second, says Templeton, is the way that the rule will stifle innovation. According to the Washington Post, he claims that the rule will "require that people get permission to innovate" would create "regulatory barriers to entry." He adds "The FBI gets veto on new companies." The final problem is that if all hardware and software has a backdoor, it's an open invitation to hackers. So we may be faced with a double-whammy: The feds and hackers working their way into our systems. The EFF, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the COMPTEL association of communications service providers, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to try and stop the FCC. Here's hoping they win.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy New Year

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog. Why not go give your dog a hug and a treat?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Starting over

A couple of people called afterwhat I posted the other day. They are good friends and I appreciate that they took the time to check in and see what's up. Not to back pedal but I want to make clear that all is well. I was just pealing away another layer of scar tissue.

I wrestle with things. Who doesn't? I just happen to write about it and, for reasons I have not ever quite understood, need a witness, a reader, a stranger or a friend. In some sense it hardly matters. It's a way of bringing to light what the world is better suited to hold.

Today was terrific. LP and I went cross country skiing. It didn't start out so great though. We got to the parking lot then realized we had to drive back home to pick up some forgotten equipment. That was a spoiler, briefly, then we applied the little mental trick of starting the day over. Funny how a simple reframing like that works. The day turned out much better the second time around. For one thing, the weather had greatly improved by the time we got back to the trail head and we ended up doing a 13 mile loop under a sunny, blue sky. I didn't get many photos though. I have a new camera and am not comfortable with it yet. I'll get to it, if not before, then certainly when the pain of pixel withdrawal becomes greater than my reluctance to tackle this new piece of equipment...ie...soon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


To whom it may concern.

I betrayed you. It was never my intention but that does not change the past. Lives overlap. You entered mine at its darkest point. I had pathetically little to give. I was already dead. What good could I be to you? I have embarassed you; deprived and misunderstood you but the dead do love, even in their blind fierce way, and I always have...and always will...love you. But an apology is nothing without an amend. The past is what it is but I will do whatever I can to rectify my mistakes. I am eternally sorry. Soco said I was cursed. Sometimes, even now, I think her explaination was best.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The BEAST: America's Best FIend

There's not room for them all but this "50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005" list hits some of the main ones. I didn't read all the entries and I didn't recognize or agree with every pick but I did get a laugh or two and I'm glad to see some of these people are getting the recognition they so richly deserve. Check it out. The BEAST: America's Best FIend

Sunday, January 22, 2006

No change in sight

As with every other opportunity to challenge and force change upon the utterly corrupt Republican majority, the Democrats will certainly flub the latest easy lob, the lobbyist Jack-Abram-Off scandal. And why, you might ask yourself. Are not the Democrats all that stand between us and the cannibal mob infesting our Government? Aren't they the last voice of reason, clarity, and hope for We, the People? Surely, they will rescue the Constitution, even now as it disappears into Presidential shredder. If you are still clinging to any shred of that old fantasy, you are as deluded as the Republican who still believes that her party stands for a smaller Federal government, a balanced budget, or state's rights.

The only reason the Dems even appear to be less corrupt than the Republicans is for lack of opportunity. They have been on the B list for corporate favors but they too are ever on their knees, mouths open, ready for a little deep throat. Now that the Republicans have to "look good" for awhile, I'm sure the "loyal Democrat" dance cards are beginning to fill up because nothing has changed and, with a Senate and House full of neutered lap dancers, nothing will.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Life at the end of a chain

I'm not the world's number one country music fan but
Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn
bring a tear to my eye with this video.
All too often
helpless animals die at the end of a chain.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Something to tide you over

I'll be in Reno most of the day tomorrow and when I do have any time, I'll be working on my podcast so here's a rain check and a few photos to amuse you until I have a little time to do more.

The good news is that the lovely Delicata seems to be doing better. She came out and gobbled up a bunch of the honey smeared orange. That must have been quite a treat.

Okay, on with the show, up close and personal I give you, compliments of the Eye of Science ....





Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Tonight is the 27th anniversary of my mother's death.
That day I memorized the high, broken white clouds
glaring from the ice blue sky above her window.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Recipes for a winter's day

Lots of action at the Bird Park today. It's been snowing and the birds are hitting the feeders hard. Even the pigeons are mining the snow for bits of fallen sunflower seeds. I put peanuts out a while ago and a group of magpies instantly appeared and carried them off. There was a one I'd never seen before, a fellow who's left leg is a stump ending just where the foot would be. He's plump though and did alright at the suet cage. I've seen magpies raid other magpie stashes as soon as they fly off but, until this morning, never saw one come back and dig a peanut out of an old hiding place. That caused a stir. He got chased like Little Jack Horner with a plum on his nose. The sun is out now and everyone is gone for the moment. But they'll be back. Oh yes. They'll be back.

I buy suet for the birds and always feel bad about it. I'm vegetarian and hate supporting the meat industry, but it's hard entirely avoiding its byproducts. I've stopped using leather bags but I still wear leather shoes. And I buy dog and cat treats although I stick to the fish flavors. I eat fish myself so what can I say? But buying those little packages of slaughterhouse suet really bothers me; each one chuck full of murrrrrder. I wince whenever I plop one into the basket.

However, I just found a recipe for vegetarian suet credited to ornithologist John Terres. I read that birds love it and it's cheaper than commercial blocks. Wonderful. I'm always looking for ways to be cruelty free.

: Birds have tiny, little throats and have been know to choke to death on peanut butter. While Marvel Meal is a safe recipe, especially designed for them, it's always a good idea when feeding it to make water available as well. ALSO NEVER GIVE BIRDS SALTED FOOD. IT'S VERY BAD FOR THEM.

Marvel Meal

Mix together:
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or plain  but USE ONLY UNSALTED PEANUT BUTTER.)
1 cup vegetable shortening (cruelty free)
4 cups cornmeal (yellow is higher in vitamin A)
1 cup white flour
It makes a soft dough that you can put in a suet log or basket.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

~ by ornithologist John Terres

Marvel Meal has the full blessing of Louie, Guardian of the Bird Park.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Big names, bad poets

Billy Collins was US Poet Laureate from 2001–2003. He was replaced by Ted Kooser, a retired insurance executive. Both men are oozing academic credentials, adoring fans and accolades from all the right institutions. They are also bad poets. Their poems are safe like the dead organisms that inoculate and make people immune to the living ones. Naturally, its easy to take pot shots at famous people. It's a lazyman's sport, like fishing a stocked lake. And it's sad in a blowsy way to criticize the successful. After all, do they not set the bar? Have they not risen above us all percisely because they are more worthy? But the husk also floats to the surface and all too often famous poets poison the art. A few years ago Drunken Boat published a wonderful critique of Billy Collins. Paul Stephens wrote it. I just read it today; a forward from BeatBaby, aka Mr. Lee. I'm posting an excerpt from it here. Perhaps it will help to inspire some someone to risk entering the cold fire.

An Apology for Poetry, or, Why Bother With Billy Collins?

Billy Collins is to good poetry what Kenny G is to Charlie Parker; what sunset paintings at the mall are to Jackson Pollock; what Rod McKuen is to Walt Whitman; what Tori Spelling is to Lana Turner; what the burkha is to lingerie; what the Backstreet Boys are to the Beatles; what George W. Bush is to the art of extemporaneous speech; what Osama bin Laden is to women’s liberation; what Dan Quayle is to spelling; Billy Collins is to poetry what the New Age/Mysticism section in the bookstore is to the Philosophy section, assuming that those two sections haven’t been conflated yet down at your local Barnes and Noble.

I could go on with list. But I don’t mean to suggest that Collins is kitsch, for though Collins may sometimes make gestures toward kitsch, he is very much working in a quasi-high culture mode, even if he occasionally tries to hide the fact. Many of his poems are supposedly witty responses to earlier famous poems (e.g. a poem titled "Dancing Towards Bethlehem"). Collins may not be a very learned poet, but he is not kitsch; Collins is much less interesting than kitsch–he is strictly banal, he wants us to know how uncomfortably banal poetry is, and he does a very good job of making us not want to read poetry any more. The banality of the title of his new Selected Poems, Sailing Alone Around the Room, pretty much says it all. The problem is that with his newfound prestige Collins is no longer sailing by himself."

The New York Times recently published a review of Collins's latest book, 'The Trouble With Poetry'. Their articles get archived quickly so I'm including it here in its entirety. It's also worth a read.

Charming Billy
a review by DAVID ORR / published in the NYT January 8, 2006

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out

that I wrote this instead of you

is how the first poem begins
in the new book by Billy Collins
called "The Trouble with Poetry."

It is a typical Collins beginning -
a good-natured wave
across the echoing gulf that stretches

between writer and reader,
as if to suggest
the poem itself exists

in that uncertain, cloud-strewn gap,
and we, as readers,
are very nearly poets ourselves,

even if we are unlikely
to receive recognition as such
in the form of a generous grant

from the Guggenheim Foundation,
which is not to say
we would turn one down, mind you.

Anyway, it is a tribute
to the former Poet Laureate
that he is able to make us believe,

despite our anxious response to poetry,
that we are participating
in each Billy Collins poem,

and that the humorous touches -
like calling a book of poetry
"The Trouble With Poetry" -

are a kind of knowing salute,
one writer to another.
It is a technical achievement

all too easy to underestimate,
and it involves a special sensitivity
to the nature of reading, of hearing,

which is perhaps the reason
so many Billy Collins poems
are about the process of poetry,

as when, in his poem "Workshop,"
he makes the poem itself
a history of its own unfolding,

a strategy that appears again here
in slightly altered form
as the opening to "The Introduction":

I don't think this next poem
needs any introduction -
it's best to let the work speak for itself,

a suave parody
of the nervous preambles
one hears at so many poetry readings,

and exactly the kind of beginning
that allows us to chuckle gently
as a convention is tweaked,

almost as we chuckle gently
in anticipation when we realize
that the book review we've been reading

is about to turn the corner,
and begin placing a writer's shortcomings
alongside his virtues,

by observing, for instance,
that Billy Collins too often relies
on the same blandly ironic tone

and the same conversational free verse,
loosely organized in tercets
or the occasional quatrain
when an extra line jogs onto the page,

or that his poems often begin well
and then spiral down
into unsurprising images

like exhausted birds
unable to stand for anything
beyond the simple fact of exhaustion,

or that, most important,
he is often humorous
without actually being funny,

a difference that depends largely
on a writer's willingness
to let his violent, comic sensibility

turn its knives on the reader,
on the poem,
and on poetry itself,

which may seem like an odd complaint,
given Collins's reputation
for teasing our stuffy poetic traditions.

But the teasing this writer does
is harmless, really, and contrary
to what some critics have suggested,

the problem with his work
is not that it is disrespectful,
but that it is not disrespectful enough;

it never cracks wise
to the teacher's face,
but meekly returns to its desk,

lending itself with disappointing ease
to the stale imagery
of teachers, desks and wisecracking.

In the end, what we need
from a poet with Collins's talent
is not a good-natured wave

from writer to reader,
or a literary joke, or a mild chuckle;
what we need is to be drawn

high into the poem's cloud-filled air
and allowed to fall
on rocks real enough to hurt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Year end report

"Pride cometh before a fall"

I'm not into the Christian's bible but this particular quote often whispers in the vast inner darkness of my mind. Good thing. I tend to take it, myself, too seriously. However, the beginning of the new year is supposed to be a time of review, house cleaning and renewal so here is my abbreviated Ashabot year end financial report. This is the sum total I made writing poetry in 2005.

$10 from ByLine Magazine for one poem, Writing Instructions. Can't get too puffed up about ten bucks so I'm probably safe posting about it here. Now support the arts. Go buy a copy of ByLine Magazine.

As for 2006, a guy from alt.zines recently emailed me and asked if I was interested in doing a monthly podcast on his site. As you might guess he has a progressive point of view, but what I talk about is up to me. Delicious. I don't have to be asked twice to give my opinion. I don't have to be asked at all so, naturally, I said yes. My last project partner said I was difficult to work with but the problem was mutual as far as I am concerned. Anyway, it's not like I'm being asked to submit a fucking resume here. We're playing it by ear. I've been curious about podcasting for a while now so at least I get to try my hand at it. Anyway, I don't even have a decent microphone yet so I don't want to say any more right now. It's easy to talk all the energy away.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Black holes, winter sun and dogs

My son and his wife left early this morning after an all too brief visit. I always get depressed after from one of my darlings leaves. This afternoon I sat outside and consoled myself by writing some dark words. After my guts were exposed, I let the sun work me over for a while. It was so hot and so bright I was nearly delerious but it did the trick. I'm out of the gloom (almost) and back in the moment (pretty much).

So, on with the celebrations. January 29th is the Chinese New Year and 2006 is the Year of the Dog. If you were born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, or 2006 - you are a Dog. That's suppose to mean that you are honest and faithful to those you love. Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were born in the Year of the Dog. Now, I deeply respect Bill Clinton and no offense to the dogs of the world, but if these guys are Dogs it's with a small "d".

Sunday, January 1, 2006

New year's greeting

Happy New Year and Good Luck
~ from the staff at the Language Barrier~
Swami, Molly, Joe, Hank the Duck,
Louie-Guardian of the Bird Park,
Panda Dog and Uncle Monkey

Slow motion adventure

I love Ashland Oregon. I lived there a long time and still need to visit occasionally to spend time with old friends like Bob the Cat and get my Ashland fix. Where else can you count on seeing more than one PETA bumpersticker in a day or ever? Kindness and compassion are everday occurances in Ashland, not exceptions. But the good news is ...we're back in Nevada! It's a long time gone counting the two months we just spent in the Yucatan. Add the ten days we spent in rainy Oregon during Christmas and by Friday all we wanted was to be home by the end of the year. We are both so sick of the gray, the cold and the wet. Hurricanes and tropical storms chased us prematurely out of the Caribbean and an almost constant rain chased us out of the Rogue Valley. Usually it takes us less than six hours to get back. This time it took nearly eleven. To begin with, I-5 was closed just south of Ashland. Mud slide but not a trip ender. We decided to take Hwy. 66 instead. It goes east over the mountains to Klamath Falls and Lakeview, then south to Nevada. A bit longer but no big deal. At the end of the valley, just before the road begins its ascent, there is a small creek that feeds Immigrant Lake. It had risen into the trees but we crossed with no problem and began climbing up out of the valley. Cars were coming down the hill so we felt like geniuses. Briefly.

What we didn't count on was the strain very wet snow puts on trees. When we got to the Green Springs Inn at the summit we learned that the road ahead was closed. Trees, over-burdened by heavy snow, had fallen over the road, plus two vehicles had spun out of control and were also blocking the highway. With no snow plow or road crew in sight we turned around and headed back down. Our plan now was to get back across the creek and over to Hwy 140 as it goes in the same general direction.

Hwy 66 is a narrow band etched into very steep terrain. For the most part, there are no guard rails, no pull outs and turn-arounds are miles apart and the drop from the side of the road is chillingly steep. On our way down, cars were coming up. A good sign. The creek was still crossable. However, when we got to the bottom we were greeted by another surprise. Immigrant Creek had flooded the road carrying a snarl of logs and brush along in its muddy torrent. Someone told us that the road up top was now clear so … up we went … again. Our other option was to sit in the jeep and watch water gush down the hill on our right and rise up onto the road on our left.

A lot of cars were parked at the Inn but we were in no mood to wait. The jeep is the right vehicle for a situation like that but we'd burned a lot of time going nowhere and at some point we were going to run out of daylight. The trees had been cut away only enough to make a narrow passage and the open road wasn't much better. Of the few vehicles out, most were cars and they were fishtailing in slow motion or stuck on small inclines without chains. It was a mess. It's one thing speeding along at 70 mph with a belly full of Christmas cheer, the music and heat cranked up. It's another when you are suddenly forced out of that bubble. One guy was in the snow, no coat, no gloves, drenched, freezing, putting on chains after he got stuck. Bad idea. On this road, tow trucks and snow plows are not standing by and it's not Christmas. It's winter.

But no matter how well prepared you are there is always the unforeseeable. We got to Lakeview at twilight, by that point debating whether or not to stop for the night. Mr. Lee's argument was that we were now below the snow line and on a straight, desert highway. What could possibly go wrong? Sounded good. Once we had driven an hour into dark nowhere we found out. The headlights stopped working. He managed to coax them on, over and over, and I sat with the giant flashlight to ward off cars, just in case. Finally a big rig turned onto the road and we stayed behind that, using it as a shield until we got near Susanville.

Susanville is an armpit on a good day but I wanted to stop there for the night anyway and drive home in daylight but the possibility of being trapped over New Year's waiting for a garage and parts made Mr. Lee crazy. He wanted a coin toss but, by that time, the lights had worked for over an hour so I agreed to keep going. I wasn't in the mood to let a fucking coin decide anything. We got home by midnight. Delicata was snuggled into her hot hut. The lights, heat, water and internet worked. I call that good.

It's not New Orleans and it's not as bad as '97, but Carson City has declared a disaster and there is flooding from Reno to Gardnerville. In hindsight, I see that the whole way home the door was closing behind us but now, finally, the rain has let up so this morning, this first day of 2006, here's a toast to narrow misses, happy endings and a great new year. Remember to eat your black-eyed peas for good luck!