Sunday, November 30, 2008

NPR Journalists Nearly Killed in Baghdad Assassination Plot


The Thorn Birds

I was watching Thornbirds over the weekend. Lifetime broadcasted the 1983 mini-series I suppose because of the release of Australia over the holiday weekend.

I loved the drama when it came out. I was 17, and my sisters and I came to know the romantic story by heart. I had practically memorized dialogue.

I started to watch on television, then I realized I owned the DVDs and didn't have to sit through the commercials. And there was the documentary I'd been made aware of by IMDB, done in 2003 with Rachel Ward (who still looks gorgeous), Bryan Brown and Richard Chamberlain (who admitted in a memoir the pain of hiding his homosexuality for decades).

Well, then after more internet clicking around I came across this terrific, rather scathing, review of the book in the British paper, The Guardian, by Germaine Greer, called Old Flames. Great thought provoking words, though!

"Old Flames" indeed. And that melody. I stayed until 1:30 last night watching part one. What a performance by Barbara Stanwyck. And I loved the plot.

Those British Men, hmmmmm......

I've always had an affinity for British men, but this was not among the reasons why.  I love British history and the BBC.   Not much of a jump then to appreciate the wit and intelligence and strength of British men.  And they come up with all these interesting euphemisms for sex and hooking up - snogging, rogering, bagging off, making the beast with two backs (that later is from Othello).   

Why do I think this headline funny?   It seems somehow counter-intuitive to learn that Britain is the most promiscuous of industrialized nations.  They can talk and write about it fine (sorry Updike) but to in fact be described as such beggars belief.   (Brits awarded that prize to Updike, figures)
BRITISH men and women are now the most promiscuous of any big western industrial nation, researchers have found. In an international index measuring one-night stands, total numbers of partners and attitudes to casual sex, Britain comes out ahead of Australia, the US, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. 
The researches chalk it up mostly to British women loosening up.  Hmmmm.   


Get a load of this play, Hillary: A Modern Greek Tragedy With a (Somewhat) Happy Ending At times like these I wish I lived there (another time is the day I get the brochure for ABT's spring season, which was yesterday).

Here's the hook:
Ms. Weiner focuses on Mrs. Clinton as both a heroic and a tragic figure. In this telling Hillary (Mia Barron), when she is still a girl dreaming of an adulthood in which a woman might pursue the presidency, pledges her devotion to Athena. Aphrodite, jealous, makes it her business to thwart Hillary, her principal weapon being the slick, charming Bill Clinton (Darren Pettie).
And this closes the deal:
Bill’s testimony before Kenneth W. Starr’s panel, complete with McDonald’s French fries, is a hilarious dismantling of Mr. Clinton’s real-life explanations.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On November 29th

Poetry expresses the inexpressible. So, In honor of the anniversary of my mother's death, two years ago today -

Ash Wednesday
T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking,

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but
spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Really? Hillary?

I've been very uneasy about Senator Clinton taking the post of Secretary of State. Any regular readers of this blog know from the beginning of my antipathy toward the Clinton

Todd Purnam's reporting in Vanity Fair, The Comeback Id, about Clinton's work since leaving the White House raises very serious questions and concerns. None of Clinton's perfidy and selling of access is not surprising (remember this is the guy that renting out the Lincoln bedroom). The idea of having that man any where near power makes it horrifying. I still expect some corrupt disaster to spill forth, after she is installed as Secretary of State.

And there is not much I disagree with that Christopher Hitchens writes here (though he is wrong about God). He notes its apt that Kissinger was so quick to endorse her - not because of his role in Nixon's administration but because his conflicts of interest prevented him from serving as a chair of the 9/11 Commission.
Both President and Sen. Clinton, while in office, made it obvious to foreign powers that they and their relatives were wide open to suggestions from lobbyists and middlemen.
And this:
In matters of foreign policy, it has been proved time and again, the Clintons are devoted to no interest other than their own.
Check it out fully - he has facts to back these assertions up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stephen Colbert's Christmas Special is Hillarious

Stephen Colbert's Christmas Special had be crying I was laughing so hard. Maybe you have to be old enough to remember the sort of Christmas specials he is mocking (I am). He announces the special guest by name - so hokey, so what Bing et. al. used to do!

But there other great mocking going on too. It was really funny and should become a classic up there with the Grinch, Charlie and Rudolph.

Here's one funny bit:

Unfortunately, the funniest song was sung by Fiest (whom I'd never heard of, but whatever) as an angel putting a prayer request on hold a la any customer service line. It was hilarious and brillant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What the Hoover/FDR Transition Can Teach Us

Dan Balz fascinates with this review of the history not just of FDR's New Deal but also of the transition between Hoover and Roosevelt (which was longer since at that time the new president didn't take office until March).

Roosevelt is remembered best for the flurry of action that marked his first 100 days in office, but what transpired between his election and inauguration was equally fateful. How the next president-elect interprets that history could have a profound effect on his entire presidency.

In the fall of 1932, the country was beginning to experience faint signs of recovery. But the election and the transition seemed to stop it in its tracks. Herbert Hoover lacked the standing to rally the country. Roosevelt wanted no part of his predecessor's legacy and stood apart. From November to March, when Roosevelt was finally sworn in, the country entered a period of drift and demoralization. By the time Roosevelt took office, he faced a full-blown crisis.

Whether things would have been different by Inauguration Day and beyond had Roosevelt cooperated with Hoover is not knowable. But Obama or McCain will be faced with a similar decision about how to approach the transition.


Our President Belongs in Jail

Nothing saddens or horrifies me more than the fact that the US has engaged in torture.

And now from the Washington Post, front page, CIA Tactics Endorsed in Secret Memos.


The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency's interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.

What will happen after the election?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Weekly Video Message

This is so very cool.   The first one.  I hope subsequent ones are a little looser. 

Sarah Palin "One Step Away From Stealing" from McCain Campaign

Wow - here's Evan Thomas and Katie Connolly speaking of how the information about Sarah Palin trickled out:

Conservatives Gear Up For Judicial Fights

I find this disheartening - a group of conservatives are already gearing up to object to Obama's judicial appointments.
Key groups have already amassed $1 million for the cause and plan a concerted fund-raising drive during Mr. Obama’s first months in office. The effort will focus on outreach to members of Congress as well as a public education campaign that is likely to include paid advertising and a grassroots component.

Wendy Long, counsel at the right-leaning Judicial Confirmation Network, distributed a memo this week to groups that plan to be active in the push in which she suggested that post-election polling showed that most Americans favor judicial restraint. And that’s where the conservatives see an opening. The memo also provided a glimpse of the pressure the coalition intends to place on lawmakers.
I am hopeful that Constitutional Law Professor/President-Elect Obama will be up to the job of nominating his nominees in a way that garners broad support. Read his book!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Abigail Adams' Birthday

Today is Abigail Adam's birthday.   The Writer's Almanac today provided some quotes:
"I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."
I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life.  Every object in beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gentely agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point.  Man was made for action and for bustle.
The first evoked our President-Elect.   The second really resonated and could feel more true after this week of immobility.  

Poetry in Honor of Veteran's Day

In honor of Veteran's Day today - November 11th - the anniversary of the end of World War I (1918), I post two of my favorite poets from that era - Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson, whom I came to know through Pat Barker's terrific triology - Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road

Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drowing-down of blinds.

Dreamers by Siegfried Sassoon

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.
I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and pictures shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train. 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cornel West Was Not Always an Obama Fan

Cornel West's appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher last night, and remarked on the campaign and on Obama.
Where the economics of greed, the culture of indifference and the politics of fear have been brought together in such a way that it hides and conceals the plight of poor people and working people. Look what they said about Martin Luther King, Jr. He was "communist." They'd probably say Jesus - Jesus loved the poor - "communist." Amos loved the poor. "Communist." So, in that sense, it's an exciting thing to behold. But, we're in a transitional moment. The real question is, can we generate a commitment to fairness and justice in the face of greed? Can we generate compassion in the face of indifference? And can we generate hope in the face of fear? And that's what Brother Barack is all about. – Cornel West

I found this intriguing because Prof. West was not always a fan of Obama's.   I recalled this piece from February 12th, 2008, which The New York Times printed Seeking Unity, Obama Feels Pull of Racial Divide  (note that this predates Obama's speech on race, which was in March)
Mr. Obama was sharply criticized by African-American academics, media celebrities and policy experts at a conference in Hampton, Va. Among the most often cited was Cornel West, the renowned Princeton scholar. He and others argued that Mr. Obama should speak forcefully about the legacy of racism in the nation and not cast the problems that disproportionately affect blacks as social ills shared by many Americans. “He’s got large numbers of white brothers and sisters who have fears and anxieties,” Dr. West said at the time. “He’s got to speak them in such a way that he holds us at arm’s length; enough to say he loves us, but not too close to scare them away.” 
Mr. Obama was so annoyed by the complaints, one aide recalled, that he asked staff members to invite more than 50 influential African-Americans, including some of his critics, to meet with him, hoping to win them over with the gale force of his charisma.
But his aides cautioned that such a large event would be sure to draw press attention. Instead, they suggested that Mr. Obama establish a smaller advisory council of prominent black figures. In a two-hour telephone call, he not only persuaded Dr. West to serve on the panel, but also convinced him that his rhetorical tightrope — reassuring whites without seeming to abandon blacks — was necessary.
Dr. West recalled the conversation, saying that if Mr. Obama focused on disparities caused by a history of white privilege, “he’d be pegged as a candidate who caters only to the needs of black folks.”
“His campaign is about all folks,” Dr. West said.