Friday, November 30, 2007

November (Sam Baker)

Another singer-songwriter that's appeared on my radar screen in the last year or so is Sam Baker - I read about him on the Todd Snider list (Todd fans also post about OKOM - Our Kind of Music), googled Sam's name, listened to a few song samples, read some reviews and was instantly hooked.

Upon further reading, I discovered his fascinating tale (I'm a sucker for stories too) - you can read the full scoop on Sam's website, as well as listen to a radio interview, featuring a few of his songs...

Feb. 9, 2006, 4:30PM

One moment transforms a life

Surviving tragedy makes Sam Baker's songs resonate

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Austin songwriter Sam Baker grew up in small-town Texas, a place filled with the kinds of stories that live and breathe in his elegantly spare lyrics: A rebellious daughter going home, skinny boys headed to war, a tumultuous marriage suddenly healed.

But in Peru in 1986, on a train to Machu Picchu, Baker lived through a terrifying moment that changed his own story. He was 32, a carpenter, world traveler and Big Bend rafting guide who was touring South America. His seatmates were three other tourists — a German couple and their son — all sitting in tight quarters, their knees nearly touching. Shining Path guerrillas had stowed a bomb in a luggage rack across from him. When a red backpack exploded directly above the woman, the family was killed. In all, eight died, including two Americans, and 40 were wounded.

Baker doesn't understand how he survived. His femoral artery and vein were both cut by shrapnel. "I should have bled out right there," he says. Baker wrote about it in the song Steel on his 2004 debut album, Mercy: "God have mercy / I believe my heart has failed / Smoke rises through a hole in the roof / The dead say fare thee well."

Hearing Baker perform his songs inspired John Wilson of Houston to launch a Web site store,, dedicated to promoting unsung Texas talent. Wilson, who is promoting Baker's Saturday show at Anderson Fair, says Steel particularly resonates with him when he listens between the lines. "The poetry of those songs is really stunning," Wilson says. "He could have turned out really bitter, but instead he turned it into art."

But before that could happen, Baker had to overcome the shock and injury that shook him to his soul. "For a long time, I had a core-level distrust of every moment," he says. "I think for a number of years ... every room I went into and every car I got into and out of, I subconsciously expected to blow up in a flash, and I would be in that other world. It was terrifying — and there were other parts of it that were remarkably calm."

After an eight-hour emergency surgery in Cuzo, Peru, he endured 17 reconstructive surgeries in Texas, most at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. The slow crawl back to self-sufficiency started with figuring out how to feed himself. "I couldn't walk, my left hand was really chopped up, I was deaf on one side and partially deaf on the other," he says. "I couldn't live a physical life." He had played guitar right-handed before the attack, but the damage forced him to play left-handed. "You wind up doing whatever you have to do," he says.

Baker began writing short stories in an effort to make some sense out of the chaos in his mind. He also re-evaluated his songwriting. "My prior songwriting was pretty boilerplate: 'I love you, you love me, you don't love me.' After (the incident) those songs didn't make as much sense to me. I was a better observer of other people and how they lived their lives."

Baker grew up in Itasca, southwest of Dallas. His mother played hymns on the organ at the Presbyterian church, and his father played recordings of blues legends Lightnin' Hopkins, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry. Other music he took in as a child included everything from the My Fair Lady soundtrack and Handel's Messiah to Johnny Cash classics.

"It all got kind of mixed up," he says. "I'll hear songs on the radio and be drawn not to the whole song but to a passage or a chord change or a shift in the emotional line of the song." Without doubt he's a songwriter, but he's not convinced he's a musician, despite Mercy's radio play in Europe and his touring schedule in the United States that has gradually begun to fill his calendar.

"I don't think you have to have really good hearing to make music," he says. "But I would never claim to really be a musician. I'm a writer, and the form I've taken is to combine words with melodies. I don't think anyone will ever confuse me with being a musician."

Baker's hearing deficiency can be tricky onstage. His voice, a gravelly twang, isn't always precise. Sometimes he has ringing in his ears. "But there are ways to overcome it doing the live stuff," he says. "I use a visual tuner on stage, and I try to play with a really good monitor, so the sound I get is undistorted. If it's a really quiet place, I can understand what I'm doing. I'm not sure if anyone else can."

Baker is accompanied on the album by singers Joy Lynn White and Jessi Colter, among others.
And Mercy continues to reverberate, its effects spreading slowly but surely like the ripples made by a penny dropped almost silently into a wishing well. In the past year, word-of-mouth buzz, online raves and sheer serendipity have led him to perform beyond his usual range of Austin-area roadhouses. He'll be playing at Gruene Hall on Feb. 23, South by Southwest in Austin in March and the Woody Guthrie Festival in Oklahoma in July.

Wilson says it's anyone's guess what happens next. "There are some songwriters that resonate with you and no one in the world cares, and there are some that resonate with you and everyone in the world cares. Whether he becomes a great performer or a great songwriter talent like Townes [Van Zandt] or Guy Clark, I don't know. That's up to the public to decide."

When Baker became truly dedicated to songwriting in 2000 he began to edit his work relentlessly, throwing out everything he could. It could be an excruciatingly slow process. "There's got to be enough of a frame to hold something, but it doesn't have to have a lot of extra stuff," he says.

Most of his lyrics start with someone who has crossed his path. From there though, almost anything can happen. "Sometimes I take a deep breath and let them go the way they need to go," he says. The material for a second album has been written. Now Baker is struggling to make it a cohesive narrative. "Story's a very important thing," Baker says. "I'm a sucker for stories."

SONG: November by Sam Baker

BOOK: In November by Cynthia Rylant (Author), Jill Kastner (Illustrator)

POEM: Praise Song by Barbara Crooker

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

QUOTE: "No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds - November!" ~ Thomas Hood

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Melt with You (Modern English)

The following is one of those e-mails that pops up sporadically in my inbox, because friends are aware of my love for language - I have no clue how old this list is, but I've always thought it hilarious... and I'm adding it to my blog today so I'll always know where to find it when I need a conversation chortle... a slang snicker... a terminology tee-hee... a word whoop... :-)

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologisms, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease.

9. Karmageddon (n): Its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an *sshole.

POEM: At Burt Lake by Tom Andrews

To disappear into the right words
and to be their meanings. . .

October dusk.
Pink scraps of clouds, a plum-colored sky.
The sycamore tree spills a few leaves.
The cold focuses like a lens. . .

Now night falls, its hair
caught in the lake's eye.

Such clarity of things. Already
I've said too much. . .

language must happen to you
the way this black pane of water,
chipped and blistered with stars,
happens to me.

QUOTE: "The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself." ~ Derek Walcott

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sex and Consequences (Lisa McCormick)

So... it's about time we talked about sex - however, the information below might not be what you were expecting/anticipating (I'm planning to call the advertisers tomorrow to let my voice be heard... :-)

Ever wonder why anyone watches FOX? Well, film director Robert Greenwald has a new theory: FOX uses sex to sell right-wing news.

In a YouTube video called "Fox Attacks Decency," Greenwald reveals how nearly every major FOX "news" show uses gratuitous sexual images in its reporting.1 These images are used in segments that are supposedly hard news—and, hypocritically, are used over and over again in commentaries that criticize others for using these images!

BEST WESTERN PLANTATION-SAWGRASS and other businesses in Florida are some of FOX's local cable advertisers. They probably have no idea what FOX is putting on TV—we should let them know. Can you call BEST WESTERN PLANTATION-SAWGRASS and other local advertisers in Florida? Politely urge them to stop subsidizing FOX's hypocritical use of sex to sell their right-wing news?

Click here to view the video and local advertisers on Brave New Films' website (We should warn you: many clips in this video are sexually explicit). To the right of the video, under "Call FOX advertisers near you" click on "More local advertisers." Then, type your ZIP code.

Greenwald's previous online videos exposed FOX's attacks on minorities, Democratic politicians, the environment, bloggers, and others.2 Many people know that FOX is a Republican mouthpiece, but now we know that FOX hypocritically uses sex to sell its right-wing agenda.
FOX routinely trumpets that they espouse conservative family values, yet their exploitative and gratuitous use of sexual images show their hypocrisy.

After "Fox Attacks Decency" was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, Brave New Films put a second version online—a parody sex video that used much of the same footage that actually aired on FOX. YouTube immediately restricted it to adults, and the news aggregator Digg banned it completely before reversing themselves.3

Many local advertisers buy bulk cable ads, not knowing what content their ads are adjoining. But they have the ability to tell the cable company, "I don't want my ads on FOX," and some advertisers who received phone calls have already promised to do that. Your call today can help hold FOX accountable.

Thanks for all you do.

–Adam Green and the Civic Action team Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

"'Fox News Porn' Content Banned," AOL news blog, November 17, 2007

More articles on Digg banning "Fox News Porn"

SONG: Sex and Consequences by Lisa McCormick

BOOK: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman

POEM: Sex by Michael Ryan

After the earth finally touches the sun,
and the long explosion stops suddenly
like a heart run down,
the world might seem white and quiet
to something that watches it in the sky at night,
so something might feel small,
and feel nearly human pain.

But it won't happen again:
the long nights wasted alone, what's done
in doorways in the dark by the young,
and what could have been for some.
Think of all the lovers and the friends!
Who does not gather his portion of them
to himself. at least in his mind?

Sex eased through everyone,
even when slipping into death
as into a beloved's skin,
and prying out again to find
the body slumped, muscles slack.
and bones begun their turn to dust.
Then no one minds when one lover
holds another, like an unloaded sack.

But the truth enters at the end of life.
It enters like oxygen into every cell
and the madness it feeds there in some
is only a lucid metaphor
for something long burned to nothing,
like a star.

How do you get under your desire?
How do you peel away each desire
like ponderous clothes, one at a time,
until what's underneath is known?
We knew genitals as small things
and we were ashamed they led us around,
even if the hill where we'd lie down
was the same hill the universe unfolded upon
all night, as we watched the stars,
when for once our breathing seemed to blend.

Each time, from that sweet pressure
of hands, or the great relief of the mouth,
a person can be led out of himself
Isn't it lonely in the body?
The myth says we ooze about as spirits
until there's a body made to take us,
and only flesh is created by sex.
That's why we enter sex so relentlessly,
toward the pleasure that comes
when we push down far enough
to nudge the spirit rising to release,
and the pleasure is pleasure of pure spirit,
for a moment all together again.
So sex returns us to beginning, and we moan.

Pure sex becomes specific and concrete
in a caress of breast or slope of waist:
it flies through itself like light, it sails
on nothing like a wing, when someone's there
to be touched, when there's nothing wrong.

So the actual is touched in sex,
like a breast through cloth: the actual
rising plump and real, the mind
darting about it like a tongue.
This is where I wanted to be all along:
up in the world, in touch with myself. . .

Sex, invisible priestess of a good God,
I think without you I might just spin off.
I know there's no keeping you close,
as you flick by underneath a sentence
on a train, or transform the last thought
of an old nun, or withdraw for one moment alone.
Who tells you what to do or ties you down!

I'd give up the rest to suck your dark lips.
I'd give up the rest to fix you exact
in the universe, at the wildest edge
where there's no such thing as shape.

What a shame I am, if reaching the right person
in a dim room, sex holds itself apart
from us like an angel in an afterlife,
and, with the ideas no one has even dreamed,
it wails its odd music for pure mind.

After there's nothing,
after the big blow-up of the whole shebang,
what voice from what throat
will tell me who I am? Each throat
on which I would have quietly set my lips
will be ripped like a cheap sleeve
or blown apart like the stopped-up
barrel of a gun. What was inside them
all the time I wanted always
to rest my mouth upon?

I thought most everything
stuck dartlike in the half-dome of my brain,
and hung there like fake stars in a planetarium.
It's true that things there changed into names,
that even the people I loved were a bunch of signs,
so I felt most often alone.
This is a way to stay alive and nothing to bemoan.
We know the first time we extend an arm:
the body reaches so far for so long.
We grow and love to grow, then stop, then lie down.

I wanted to bear inside me this tender outcome.
I wanted to know if it made sex happen:
does it show up surely in touch and talk?
does it leak from the mind, as heat from the skin?
I wanted my touching intelligent, like a beautiful song.

QUOTE: "Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love." ~ Butch Hancock

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sleeeeeeeping... (Billy Jonas)

Not sure why I'm continuing the Thanksgiving thread, other than the fact December/Christmas is right around the corner - maybe I'm still very much aware of the yin/yang of gratitude vs. consumerism, although we attempt to walk the line of giving and receiving love and appreciation without going into debt/stressing ourselves out (but that's a whole other post).

In the meantime, I recently came across this poem, which segued perfectly into the Billy Jonas song... and decided to playfully throw in a dose of tryptophan - sweet dreams!

POEM: Sleeping by Daniel Sisco

Whether you think it's trampy or not,
when we are not awake,
we really are ALL sleeping together.
Sawing logs, snoozing,
getting a little shuteye,
some sacktime,
heading to slumberland,
doing the blanket drill,
the bunk habit,
having a siesta fiesta,
a pajama party
or just getting forty winks
and a good night's rest

We're all setting alarms, reading a bit,
warming our feet and spooning in,
stealing the covers, hogging all the pillows or
taking up the whole bed, grass mat,
hammock or our bit of dry earth.
Whether the satin sheets, fur or flannels
are on the futon, floor or igloo ice
whether we are naked, nightgowned
or wearing what we wore all day.
We have been doing this a long time together, alot.

Terrorists and tyrants,
the embargoed, enemies and occupying forces
within a few blocks of each other
lay down everyday
not only their weapons but their bodies,
anger and ideologies.
They give up. They surrender,
not to overwhelming odds or power
but to being... tired.
They know they can't win against it.
Something much bigger says
"I don't want to hear another peep out of you.
Now tuck each other in and go to sleep!"

QUOTE: "Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, the death of each day's life, sore labour's bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast."~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Monday, November 26, 2007

Food (Deirdre Flint)

I am a better-than-decent cook (when I make the time/energy) and a bit-above-average dresser (when I have the desire/inclination) - that being said, I am *fascinated* by culinary and fashion shows/articles (go figure, eh?). Loved the following - hope you do too!


If you dared to host a Thanksgiving dinner at your house [Thursday], your fridge is probably chock-full of leftovers: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes – though in most houses, the pumpkin pie is already long gone. You've got a couple of options here: You could just force the whole family to eat turkey sandwiches for the next few days – or you could find a few great recipes, and cook up some entirely new delicious dishes with all your leftover odds and ends.

Well, whether you've got a fridge full of leftovers to get creative with, or you're simply looking for some new inspiration in the kitchen, there are plenty of places to find help. Sure, you could flip through your trusty old copy of The Joy of Cooking and stick with some of your mother's favorite standbys – but if you want something a little bit fresher and more exciting, the Internet is the place to look. Here are a few of our favorite food sites.

As far as food-related websites go, this one is the holy grail. A haven for all things delicious, you'll find the complete archived recipes for two of America's greatest food magazines, Gourmet and Bon Appetit, all of which are free and searchable by name or ingredient. The site also hosts a variety of articles and guides to what to serve for all occasions, from Ramadan to Rosh Hashanah, along with travel guides spotlighting fantastic restaurants in cities all across the globe. In the video section, you'll find how-tos for making pastry cream and croquembouches, user-submitted cooking videos, chef profiles, and more. We could go on and on, but you may as well just visit the site yourself. Just a warning: It may make you very, very hungry.

If Epicurious has too much of a Martha Stewart vibe for your liking, then check out CHOW, a fun and irreverent food site geared more towards people who'd rather host a cocktail party with a few plates of homemade snacks and a bowl of chili than attempt all the fuss of serving up a five-course dinner. On CHOW, you'll find a great selection of original recipes that don't require a Cordon Bleu education, tons of stories on topics ranging from a guide to New York City speakeasies to tips on making gourmet dishes in a college dorm (hint: The George Foreman Grill is your best friend here), and plenty of other great advice, commentary, and videos. CHOW is also home to the infamous Chowhound bulletin board, where food fanatics from all over the world come together to talk meals and debate where to find the best Dim Sum in Northampton or the greatest Japanese curry in San Francisco. If you're headed to a new destination and need to find some good eats, just search the archives: You're bound to find tons of gems, courtesy of these wise gourmands.

This site is exactly what it sounds like: Lots and lots of recipes, clearly organized into groups like "Thanksgiving recipes," "Low-carb recipes," and "Vegetarian recipes." Here, you'll find all sorts of unique and delicious dishes, including the classic Albondigas Soup from Mexico, Basque Lamb Stew, and the author's father's recipe for Stuffed Bell Peppers. The site's author, Elise Bauer, hand-picks each recipe, and has created many of them herself. Others are family classics. All are delicious.

Here are a few more great food blogs:

Chocolate & Zucchini: A fresh take on food by a young Parisian woman, full of deliciously innovative recipes and tantalizing stories.

Orangette: If you're a fan of Nigella Lawson or M.F.K. Fisher's writings about food, you'll love this beautifully-written blog about life, love, and cooking, full of delectable prose and recipes.

101 Cookbooks: One of the best-looking blogs around, 101 Cookbooks is full of luscious images by professional photographer Heidi Swanson, along with a huge collection of fantastic, mainly vegetarian recipes, both created and discovered.

Original story by Kathryn Hawkins

BOOK: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Poems About Food and Drink by Peter Washington (Editor)

POEM: A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked
down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking
at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon
fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at
night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?
What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you,
and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy
tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and
feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade
to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo-
biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America
did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a
smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of

QUOTE: "Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~ Voltaire

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Give Yourself to Love (Kate Wolf)

From yesterday's poem featuring Grace:

"But Love and Grace took Glory by the hand,
And built a braver palace than before."

So... today: Love...

SONG: Give Yourself to Love by Kate Wolf

BOOK: Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

POEM: The Nearness That Is All by Samuel Hazo

Love's what Shakespeare never
said by saying, "You have
bereft me of all words, lady."
Love is the man who siphoned
phlegm from his ill wife's throat
three times a day for seven

Love's what the Arabs
mean when they bless those
with children: "May God keep them
for you."
Or why a mother
whispers to her suckling, "May you
bury me."

Love's how the ten-year
widow speaks of her buried
husband in the present tense.
Love lets the man with one leg
and seven children envy no man
living and none dead.

leaves no one alone but, oh,
lonely, lonelier, loneliest
at midnight in another country.
Love is jealousy's mother
and father.

Love's how death
creates a different nearness
but kills nothing.
makes lovers rise from each
loving wanting more.
says impossibility's possible

Love saddens glad
days for no bad reason.
Love gladdens sad days
for no good reason.
mocks equivalence.
Love is.

QUOTE: "Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that." ~ Michael Leunig

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Grace (Ralston Bowles)

Grace: so many definitions, so little time - I'd venture to say we know it when we feel it... :-)

Love built a stately house, where Fortune came,
And spinning fancies, she was heard to say
That her fine cobwebs did support the frame,
Whereas they were supported by the same;
But Wisdom quickly swept them all away.

Then Pleasure came, who, liking not the fashion,
Began to make balconies, terraces,
Till she had weakened all by alteration;
But reverend laws, and many a proclomation
Reforméd all at length with menaces.

Then entered Sin, and with that sycamore
Whose leaves first sheltered man from drought and dew,
Working and winding slily evermore,
The inward walls and summers cleft and tore;
But Grace shored these, and cut that as it grew.

Then Sin combined with death in a firm band,
To raze the building to the very floor;
Which they effected,--none could them withstand;
But Love and Grace took Glory by the hand,
And built a braver palace than before.

QUOTE: "God, why do I storm heaven for answers that are already in my heart? Every grace I need has already been given me. Oh, lead me to the Beyond within." ~ Macrina Wieherkehr

Friday, November 23, 2007

Alice's Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie)

The Lumpy Sue Acoustic Musicfest is a free concert in North Miami's Greynolds Park the day after Thanksgiving. It provides a relaxed and mellow alternative to the frenzy of Christmas commercialism. However, if money is burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy raffle tickets to support Habitat for Humanity. Prizes are generally gift certificates from local merchants (restaurants, music stores, baskets, coffee houses, even vacations, that sort of thing).

The LSAM had its origin in 1992 when a small group of locals decided that the Miami area was in need of a family-oriented acoustic folk music festival. Recalling that Greynolds Park in North Miami Beach in the 1960's was a haven for folk music groupies, the locals decided that that would be their venue. The date for the event would be a tradition… Friday, the day after thanksgiving, in honor of Alice's Restaurant. This founding group remains today as the executive committee of LSAM, and the planning committee has expanded over the years.

All the talent appears gratis in respect for our second addition... Habitat for Humanity. There is a raffle and prizes are supplied by restaurants and many other local merchants with 100% of the proceeds going to Habitat. In our 12-year relationship with Habitat we have helped over 500 families obtain affordable housing.

The festival has developed into everything the founders hoped for: great music performed by respected artists, a family gathering, in a beautiful environment, creating a traditional event to attract a substantial audience-about 2000 of the mellowest people you want to meet and spend a day with.

This will be my tenth year attending this amazing gathering - I always buy raffle tickets... sometimes winning something and, since 2001 when I started my house concerts and continuing to the present with our UU concert series, I've donated many pairs of tickets as well. It's all delightful, spending time with friends, snacking on food/drinking mimosas and listening to wonderful music on an always-perfect weather day - the piece de resistance for me is the very last act at sundown, when Romo, a local musician, performs the full-length version of Alice's Restaurant... and we all sing the chorus, with four-part harmony and feeling, of course!
Here's a YouTube video, with clips from the movie and Arlo performing "Alice" in the same Church 40 years later.

POEM: A Gardener's Thanksgiving by Reverend Max Coots

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:

For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are....

For generous friends with hearts as big as hubbards and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the other, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels Sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem Artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;

For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;

For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;

And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;

For all these we give thanks.

QUOTE: "Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year - and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God." ~ Ray Stannard Baker

Thursday, November 22, 2007

May the Light of Love (David Roth)

Happy Thanksgiving!... both lower case and capital - the turkey is in the oven, the rest of the food is bought and soon to be prepared, the house is clean and the dinner table is ready to be set. I look forward to continuing old traditions - we always kick off the holiday season with George Winston's December as the background music to our mid-day meal.

My husband and kids will help with peeling potatoes, snapping beans and grating cheese - there will be various football games going on before and after dinner... and we will take a walk in the neighborhood because we ate too much.

I will spend 73 minutes in the kitchen (the length of my traditional clean-up music, Joni Mitchell's Miles of Aisles CD) doing leftover storage, dishwasher loading and pots and pans scrubbing... and then sit down, alone, to enjoy a cup of coffee spiked with Kahlua and topped with whipped cream.

Friday has its own tradition too, as I make a sh*tpot (old Southern expression) of turkey soup, with spinach fettucine noodles, onions, lots of carrots and assorted herbs and spices - then we just have to turn the air conditioning colder to make it feel like soup weather!

Gratitude abounds - may we all appreciate what we have and help others get what they need...

SONG: May the Light of Love by David Roth

BOOK: A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles by M. J. Ryan (Editor)

POEM: A Blessing by John O'Donohue

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.

May the flame of anger free you from falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and may anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

QUOTE: "Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel." ~ Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve (Bob Franke)

On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day, Americans express gratitude for their good fortune. The American Thanksgiving tradition originated with the Pilgrims. As early as 1621, the Puritan colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts set aside a day of thanks for a bountiful harvest. On October 3, 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the 26th of that November the first national Thanksgiving Day under the Constitution.

On October 3, 1863, in the wake of victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln decided to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November national Thanksgiving Day. In 1941 Congress made it official.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1876, The American Intercollegiate Football Association held its first championship game. The sport resembled something of a cross between rugby and modern-day football, but the tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving Day developed with the evolution of the sport itself.

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was in 1924. In the 1920's many of Macy's department store employees were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the holiday with the type of festival they loved in Europe. The employees marched from 145 Street down to 34th Street dressed as clowns, sheiks, knights and cowboys. There were floats, professional bands and 25 live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was a success.

Large helium balloons first appeared in 1927 with Felix the Cat. It became tradition to release the balloons after the parade. The balloons would float for days and the lucky finder could claim a reward at Macy's. In 1933, a student pilot stalled her engine over Jamaica Bay trying to snag a cat balloon, and two tugboats in the East River tore apart a dachshund balloon. After a few more close calls, the practice of releasing the balloons came to an end.

SONG: Thanksgiving Eve by Bob Franke

BOOK: The Thanksgiving Ceremony: New Traditions for America's Family Feast by Edward Bleier

POEM: Thanksgiving by Lynn Ungar

I have been trying to read

the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.

The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it
over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.

Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
Across the gathering stillness
simply this: "For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful."

QUOTE: "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~ Thornton Wilder

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Uncle Dave's Grace (Lou and Peter Berryman)

A bit of levity for the upcoming holiday... :-)

POEM: A Turkey Speaks ~ Author Unknown

I have never understood
why anyone would
roast the turkey
and shuck the clams
and crisp the croutons
and shell the peas
and candy the sweets
and compote the cranberries
and bake the pies
and clear the table
and wash the dishes
and fall into bed
when they could sit back
and enjoy a hamburger.

QUOTE(S): "Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence." ~ Erma Bombeck

"Coexistence: what the farmer does with the turkey - until Thanksgiving." ~ Mike Connolly

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Attitude of Gratitude (Jimmy Buffett)

Thanksgiving is almost upon us (zippity!) - it is my favorite holiday, for the sheer non-commerciality/no-agenda-ness of it. As much as I love Christmas, the retail industry has pushed it up so far as to completely overwhelm the month of November and all its lovely attributes and offerings - let's enjoy the present, the here-and-now, before we rush right through to the next holiday, month or celebration.

I always make the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes (one year I made wild rice instead and, to hear my family tell it, you would have thought I'd ordered them to take off their clothes at the dinner table and worship Satan!), green bean casserole (yes, with mushroom soup/onion rings), creamed onions (my mom's recipe), corn, squash casserole, baby carrots with dill, crescent rolls, a pumpkin pie, an apple pie, chocolate cake... and of course massive amounts of wine, red and white. Our friends Buck and Kathy are coming for dinner - they've been assigned the sweet potato casserole, a dish my husband loves but, since I don't, I never make it...

I adore bringing out the Thanksgiving tablecloth in shades of rust, forest green and brown, and the cloth napkins (with assorted napkin holders) that blend with the color scheme - my silk fall leaves in an earthenware pitcher, along with cinnamon candles in the fruit candle rings, will make a lovely holiday table. One of the best parts of this celebration to me is that before we actually lift our forks, we hold hands and, going around the table, everyone is encouraged to share what they are thankful for - as much as my family professes to be embarrassed by this tradition, they always come up with something wonderful to say, and it is a heartwarming and teary moment.

So... I got all of my laundry done today, will do my food shopping tomorrow and clean house on Wednesday - Thursday is reserved for cooking, eating and bonding (did I say I love Thanksgiving?... :-)

to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

QUOTE: "Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live." ~ Jackie Windspear

Sunday, November 18, 2007

For Everyman (Jackson Browne)

Nice day - went to a party and spent most of the evening in intimate conversation with an old friend a a few new ones. Just what I needed: lots of self-reflection amidst shared revelations... more questions than answers (as it should be) - it's so easy to forget how important true connection really is (else what's the point, right?... :-)

Your Horoscope for NOVEMBER 18, 2007

SUSAN, sometimes it seems impossible to express any feelings that do not come across as contrived, especially when you're seeking some artistic truth. You feel buried under such an unending cascade of pop cliches that sometimes it feels as though you'll drown. Does the Age of Communication herald the End of Creativity? You would find it easier to express authenticity if you reminded yourself just how individual you really are. Your friends can help...

BOOK: If... (Questions for the Game of Life) by James Saywell, Evelyn McFarlane

POEM: Questions In The Mind Of A Poet While She Washes Her Floors by Elena Georgiou

Will obedience leave me unknown to myself, stranded?

Is it enough for me to know where I'm from?

If I do more truth-telling will I be happier with what I say?

If I had three days to live would I still be sensible?

Is the break between my feelings and my memory
the reason I'm unable to sustain rage?

Am I a peninsula slowly turning into an island?

If I grew up gazing at the ocean would I think
life came in waves?

If I were a nomad would I measure time
by the length of a footstep?

If I can see a cup drop to the floor and shatter
why can't I see it gather itself back together?

If a surgeon cut out my mistakes
would the scar be under my heart?

How much time will I spend protecting myself
from what the people I love call love?

Would my desires feel different if I lived forever?

Will my desires destroy my politics?

Is taboo sex the ultimate aphrodisiac?

If I fall in love with the wrong person
How do I learn to un-in love myself?

Can I make my intuition into a divining rod?

Is music the closest I can get to God?

How many of these questions will remain
when I kneel to wash my floors again?

QUOTE: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our Lady of the Shooting Stars (Mary Gauthier)

A friend (thanks, FM) sent me the following - sounds like a good reason/excuse (as if I need one... :-) for a late-night/early-morning jacuzzi soak!

Next Saturday night/Sunday morning, November 17th, we may have a very rare event occurring in the night sky. The Leonid Meteor Shower will return, as it does each year, when the earth passes through the dust trail of the Comet Temel-Tuttle. However, this year it will be a meteor storm. When this happened in 1833, people thought it was the end of the world. You can count on 1000 per hour, but astronomers think the stars are right for a repeat of the 1966 event when at one point 40,000 meteors per hour lit up the night sky.

I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a meager park
Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like blind white birds
Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors
though the radio news says they are overhead
Leonid's brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read
the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire

And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me
You would not think I still knew these things:
I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss,
consider gloves or boots, and in the summer,
open windows, find beads to string with pearls
You would not think that I had survived
anything but the life you see me living now

In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air
She has been alone, she has known danger,
and so now she watches for it always
and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes.
But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly,
I begin to counsel bravery. Slowly, slowly,
I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning
toward the crackling shower of their sparks

These are the mysteries I could not approach when I was younger:
the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that split the sky
Walking down the paths of the cold park
I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything
So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me
the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads

For this is our reward: Come Armageddon, come fire or flood,
come love, not love, millennia of portents--
there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing
Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved

QUOTE: "It takes solitude under the stars for us to be reminded of our eternal origin and our far destiny.
" ~ Archibald Rutledge

Friday, November 16, 2007

One Drop (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

A friend sent me in the direction of the website below... right up my language-loving/activist alley - it is my solemn vow to do this, for at least 200 grains (20 words), each and every day...

FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site,

FreeRice has two goals:
Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide. Thank you.

FAQ here...

POEM: Hunger... why? by Georg E Mateos

A man with too many riches
will try to clench to dear life,
while a man with no possessions
will never be afraid to die.

Rich nations with bulging coffers
will turn to the poorer a blind eye,
Poor nations with very little will rush
to help and share the little they have.

Rivers of milk going to waste because
rich farmers don't reach top prices,
tons of meat thrown after been too long
in the shops and went out of date.

With nobody wanting to foot the bill
fermenting away are mountains of rice,
so, can anyone smarter than me explain,
how it is that in 2007 we still have hunger?

We can say it in many of the world's languages,
hunger, fome, hambre, sult, fame, hanga, or njaa
corroding away the belly of millions of poor people,
that because of it, wouldn't see tomorrow's sunrise.

QUOTE: "Society comprises two classes: those who have more food than appetite, and those who have more appetite than food." ~ Sébastien-Roch Nicholas de Chamfort

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Company of Friends (Danny Schmidt)

I've said before that Danny Schmidt has been one of my favorite songwriters for the last three years - something about his rough yet tender voice, his incisive guitar playing and his insightful lyrics have a lump-in-the-throat effect on me and, to borrow a word from what is now my new favorite DS song, I am smitten...

I am also blessed in that, by a stroke of good fortune and timing, I'll be hosting him in a house concert soon... a dream come true (pinch me!) - when it was determined Danny would be a performer for our upcoming South Florida Folk Festival, I wasted no time in calling and asking if he'd be interested in giving a concert in my living room, and he graciously accepted.

It was a delight to run my house concert series for four years, from January 2001 to December 2004 and, when I gave it up, the timing felt right... plus now I'm booking our UU concerts (into our third season now) - I've had a few one-offs since the "official" end, which prompts me to advertise Danny's appearance as the Third Annual Heart's Desire House Concerts Going Out of Business Sale... :-)

POEM: Credo by Andrew Zawacki

You say wind is only wind
& carries nothing nervous
in its teeth.
I do not believe it.
I have seen leaves desist
from moving
although the branches
move, & I
believe a cyclone has secrets
the weather is ignorant of.

I believe
in the violence of not knowing.
I've seen a river lose its course
& join itself again,
watched it court
a stream & coax the stream
into its current,
& I have seen
rivers, not unlike
you, that failed to find
their way back.

I believe the rapport
between water & sand, the advent
from mirror to face.

I believe in rain
to cover what mourns,
in hail that revives
& sleet that erodes, believe
whatever falls
is a figure of rain
& now I believe in torrents that take
everything down with them.
The sky calls it quits,
or so I believe,
when air, or earth, or air
has had enough.

I believe in disquiet,
the pressure it plies, believe a cloud
to govern the limits of night.
I say I,
but little is left to say it, much less
mean it--
& yet I do.

Let there be
no mistake:
I do not believe
things are reborn in fire.
They're consumed by fire
& the fire has a life of its own.

QUOTE: "What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it." ~ Ezra Pound