May 12, 1937 - June 22, 2008
Always do whatever's next.
At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.
Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period oftime.
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.
Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established.
Electricity is really just organized lightning.
Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.
Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.
Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
"I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?
I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.
I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away.
I think it would be interesting if old people got anti-Alzheimer's disease where they slowly began to recover other people's lost memories.
I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven't tried that for a while. Maybe this time it'll work.
I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me - they're cramming for their final exam.
I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.
I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it.
I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.
I'm not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose... it'll be much harder to detect.
If God had intended us not to masturbate he would've made our arms shorter.
If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
If we could just find out who's in charge, we could kill him.
If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten.
In comic strips, the person on the right always speaks first.
Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.
Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.
May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.
Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.
Not only do I not know what's going on, I wouldn't know what to do about it if I did.
One can never know for sure what a deserted area looks like.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.
People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think.
Religion is just mind control.
Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.
Standing ovations have become far too commonplace. What we need are ovations where the audience members all punch and kick one another.
The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.
The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept.
The status quo sucks.
The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire,but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.
There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.
Weather forecast for tonight: dark.
Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?
What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?
When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?
When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I'm sure it made the work seem that much more urgent.
When you step on the brakes your life is in your foot's hands.
When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat.
You know an odd feeling? Sitting on the toilet eating a chocolate candy bar.
You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans.
I love this country. I wouldnt live any other place at any other time in history. BUT! BUT! Say what you want about America-Land of the Freee, Home of the Brave--we've got some dumb-ass motherfuckers floatin' around this country. Dumb ass motherfuckers.
SONG: Mischief and Control by Vonda Shepard
BOOK: Napalm & Silly Putty by George Carlin
POEM: Balance by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)
I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.
I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.
As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.
I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labryinth,
I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.
QUOTE: "Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs." ~ Christopher Morley
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
My Aunt Marie (my mother's sister) has been in the hospital since Sunday morning - my mom, brother and sister have been by her side around the clock, taking turns spending the night. Marie has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure - her doctors believe she also suffered a stroke... and now pneumonia has set in.
She hasn't eaten in four days - although they have been giving her morphine to ease the pain, she is still agitated and frustrated... because she isn't able to communicate nor to understand what is going on. They are moving her to a hospice center this afternoon - I will be flying up first thing Saturday morning to widen the circle of family...
Marie is my mother's sister, two years older (turning 80 this September) - I love hearing the stories of her early life, how glamorous and carefree she was, all the photos showing a shapely, mischievous woman with red lips and an ever-present cigarette. Her dating life was legendary and she finally settled down with B, older and previously married with two daughters - she gave birth to a son soon after and, at the age of 37, had a debilitating stroke, which paralyzed the entire right side of her body. My mom flew up to Minnesota to be with Marie and to help take care of Brad, her child, who was almost 2 - it quickly became obvious that extensive physical and speech therapy would be necessary... so mom brought Brad home to live with us (I was 10 at the time).
Marie moved to New York to live with my grandmother... and my parents legally adopted Brad 4 years later - I was thrilled to have a younger brother (as I still am, even now that he has grown into adulthood). He didn't think it a bit unusual to have two moms, one in the house and one long-distance. Marie would visit us, as well as send Brad cards for special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, graduations... including from the Marine Corps) - her speech remained halting and her motor skills shaky, but we loved the game of figuring out what she was trying to say as she sounded out each syllable, and she would beam with pleasure when her efforts and our powers of deduction would come together for a successful sentence (whew!).
When my Nana died, Marie moved to a nursing home in Atlanta, where my mom inherited the role of caregiver - my brother and sister would visit, and I would occasionally call and send cards and flowers, but the bulk of assistance fell to mom, who faithfully stopped in a few times a week, phoned every day, and kept Marie in tissues (Puffs!), her favorite headbands and flannel nightgowns. Mom ran interference with the nurses and took Marie to her doctor and dentist appointments - even when Marie would go through episodes of paranoia and dementia, Mom was a constant of calm and support.
Marie has been the epitome of unconditional love, never a moment of blame/shame/guilt... and always an instant smile, a chipper voice and a stroking hand - she never worried when she didn't hear from us but radiated when she did. Spending time with her during our once-a-year Christmas visits was warming and all-too-short, whether at Mom's house or at the nursing home - she's always been such a *sport* and basked in any family interaction, no matter where, who or how many (or few).
It is distressing to know her body is now betraying her... and, for someone who's always been a fighter, it is very clear she is now making a conscious decision to allow the shutting down - I think she's really... just... tired. So... whether I'm in time to hold her hand and give her permission to let go... or whether I arrive after the fact to help with various arrangements, I feel the need to be there for Marie, who's always been there for me (as well as for my husband and children) - this world will be a different, sadder place when she has passed...
[Added 6/13/08: My aunt transitioned comfortably and gracefully in her sleep at 2:45 a.m., with my mom, brother and sister by her side - R.I.P. Ree Ree...]
SONG: Marie by Irving Berlin
BOOK (in this case, a short story): The Last Leaf by O. Henry
POEM: Sonnets to Orpheus, Part II, XIII by Rainer Maria Rilke
Be ahead of all leaving as though it were
behind you, like the winter as it parts,
for among winters is one so endlessly winter
only through overwintering can your heart
survive. Be dead forever in Eurydice -
rise singing, praising back to pure relation.
Be here among the vanished; near the tree
of death, be ringing glass that shatters even
as it rings. Know conditions of nonbeing,
the endless ground of your vibration down
in you: one day you'll be fully fulfilled.
And to full nature's store of speechless things,
of worn and everything that's dumb and muffled,
joyfully add yourself - and end the count.
QUOTE: "Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life." ~ Albert Einstein
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
SONG: Moving Mountains by Amilia K. Spicer (I can't seem to find the lyrics, but here's the mp3)
QUOTE: "How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make - leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone - we all dwell in a house of one room - the world with the firmament for its roof - and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track." ~ John Muir
Friday, June 6, 2008
Is Obama an enlightened being?
Spiritual wise ones say: This sure ain't no ordinary politician. You buying it?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, June 6, 2008
I find I'm having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I'm having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell's the big deal about Obama?
BOOK: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
POEM: Searching for the Dharma by Xu Yun
Thursday, June 5, 2008
[Tuesday] night Senator Obama locked up the nomination.
After years of DC insiders running the show, a progressive candidate who started in politics through community organizing, who unequivocally opposed the war in Iraq, who isn't afraid to stand up to the politics of fear, an African-American, became the Democratic nominee for president.
The great Barack Obama insurrection
Hillary was ready. Hillary was unstoppable. Hillary was, by all accounts, a lock. What the hell happened?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, May 30, 2008
Are you paying any sort of attention to this moment in time? Are you reading bits and hints about the transformation, the shift, the unusual and slightly surreal energy coursing through the nation? Are you tattooing this seminal period on the sacrum of your sociopolitical consciousness? Are you under 50? Then there's been nothing else like this in your lifetime. And there probably never will be again.
You gotta take it all in, you know? Because it was no time at all ago, less than a year, and Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination was pretty much a given, and even I was relatively thrilled and gung-ho for her candidacy, especially given how she was so ahead in the polls and so ahead in fund raising and so ahead in public opinion her imminent nomination felt much like a slam dunk, a forgone conclusion, a sure thing.
And therefore it was all something rather otherworldly for progressives, a bit unprecedented, a Democratic race to watch only for the sheer historic value and for the surprising quality of the other candidates involved, and not because there was any doubt as to the eventual outcome.
Just a bit beyond incredible, then, what has happened since, in such a short time, in this, one of the more fascinating turning points in American history.
It almost cannot be understated: Barack Obama's steady, astounding, almost inexplicable rise to the top to not only become the presumptive Democratic nominee but also to overtake one of the strongest, smartest, most well-funded, tenacious rival candidates in American history — and also to out-poll his deeply connected Republican opponent — is both remarkable and historic on a number of fronts.
But the thing is, no matter how you crunch the data and try to logically analyze all the components that made Obamapalooza happen, there appears to be something just beyond the logic, just outside the normal machinery, that makes you shake your head in amazement, and perhaps remember this forever.
On one level, I suppose it's not all that unusual. There have been plenty of scrappy, outta-nowhere, come-from-behind victories in political races before. There are plenty of tales of one candidate holding an overwhelming lead early on, only to have his lunch eaten by some brilliant, whippersnapper upstart. JFK charmed the hell out of the planet and revealed the deep sourness of once-omnipotent Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton, the handsome, populist Arkansas governor with minimal big-stage experience but loads of effortless charisma, came from seemingly nowhere to build a phenomenal following and stomp all over the doddering, baffled, how-much-is-a-gallon-of-milk Bush 41.
But with Obama, as with just about everything about his campaign, something feels different, more historic, deeper and more profound and even a bit more, how do you say, intimate. It is not politics as usual. It is not just another smart, deeply intelligent upstart senator making a surprising play for The Show.
You have to take note. Because Obama has accomplished his astonishing rise without the normal weaponry of American politics. As of yet, there have been almost no dirty tricks. He has not really attacked Hillary, has not "gone negative" or run a nasty smear campaign or swiftboated her; he has not employed, in short, any of the disgusting tactics Karl Rove's Republican party notoriously used against Al Gore and John Kerry so as to lie themselves into a brutal and failed chokehold of power.
Verily, plethoric are the pundits who've been trying to parse just why, exactly, Obama has been so much more effective, so much more far-reaching and cross-cultural than the once-unstoppable Clinton, not to mention McCain or anyone else. What is it about him, exactly? What is it that draws such a broad circle of endorsements, from Ted Kennedy to Andrew Sullivan, John Edwards to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich?
It's the networking, they say. Obama is the first "Facebook candidate." He's the first to successfully leverage all the modern tech, the viral marketing, YouTube, Web 2.0, lovely videos by celebrity rappers who are nearly moved to tears by the man's speeches. Yes, that must be it.
Or maybe it's his remarkable, idealistic team of aides, his hotshot fresh-faced speechwriters, his wondrous oratory skill. Is it the cool campaign posters? Is it the game-altering speeches on race in America? Or is it what the terrified right-wing hatemongers are calling "liberal guilt," the feeling that we on the whiny tree-hugging ultra-PC left feel so gosh-darn guilty about how blacks, Hawaiians and Harvard-trained lawyers have been treated, lo, these many millennia — even more so than the oppressive treatment of women — that Obama gets our vote out of sheer nervous remorse?
Problem is, those explanations feel insufficient and inadequate and, in the case of that last one, exceedingly stupid. Is there not something else going on? Is there more to it than just a battle between old school/new school styles of campaigning?
Maybe the answer lies elsewhere. Maybe you need to look to the dark side for a hint, for a bit of proof that there's more to this moment in history than mere shifting times. It comes in the form of that very ugly and violent rumor that gets whispered among skeptics and conspiracy theorists and joked about by cretins on Fox News, and even sighed by many otherwise happy, progressive idealists, those who've had their dreams shattered and hopes pummeled enough times that a form of sinister cynicism creeps in.
It is this: Some feel Obama will not survive. There are those who think something violent and lethal is bound to happen to him and not merely because he's black, but because he's too revolutionary, too much a force for harmony and peace, and the forces of darkness and oppression in America, be they troglodytic Southern racists or anarchist radicals or insular BushCo die-hards, simply cannot have that.
There is no need to invite that repulsive idea in for long. It is too dark, disquieting, pointless, not to mention how it feels like it could create some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy by mentioning it too damn much in the media. But it is worth noting for one curious aspect: It is a fear borne of a truly rare historic circumstance, the amazing idea that someone like Obama is, to put it bluntly, too good for this particular role, a bit too conscious and enlightened for what is a brutal and soul-numbing and potentially deadly political machine.
Then again, maybe, in a morose way, this is how we know transformative change is arriving, perhaps quicker than expected, but arriving nonetheless. We're already deeply scared of losing it. Really, how long's it been since we've felt anything like that?
SONG: Barack Obama, Get Happy by Susan Werner
BOOK: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama
POEM: A Morning Offering by John O'Donohue
I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invite me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
QUOTE: "If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth." ~ Senator Barack Obama
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
From today's Writer's Almanac:
Ordinary workers had gathered along the nearby roads. They had been demonstrating in support of the students for weeks, and they crowded into the streets to block the advance of the tanks toward the square. Though the event would come to be called the Tianamen Square massacre, almost all the people killed were the ordinary people in the streets outside the square. Violence broke out around midnight on this day in 1989, with some people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops, and the troops responding with gunfire.
BOOK: The Tiananmen Papers by Liang Zhang, Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link, Orville Schell
POEM: Requiem (for victims of June Fourth) by Bei Dao (translated by Bonnie McDougall and Chen Maiping)
QUOTE: "The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution in spirit, the forces which had produced inequities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance, and fear." ~ Aung San Suu Kyi
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The saddest poem
is the poem which is not written
swallowed with knots
stalked by customs officials and bridges
the one which cannot be contemplated
not for anything ever.
Keep that poem.
She is surely the woman
who will give birth in pain.
QUOTE: "The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn." ~ David Russell
Monday, June 2, 2008
Still putting off talking about my mom's ill health - figured I'd concentrate on one of my many character flaws instead. Despite my keen awareness of, and my sincere efforts to change my time management habits, I am perpetually punctuality-challenged - shades of Joni's Just Like This Train, eh?... :-)
6 Tips for Arriving On Time
First you need to firmly embrace what on time means. On time is to say you're in position and ready to contribute on the appointed clock time. Meetings that begin at 9:30 have you in place and done chatting by 9:25-28. Think of your commitments as European trains that leave so precisely on time that you could set your clock by them. Picture a meeting starting without you giving you that pit in the stomach feeling of you standing on the platform while the train pulls away. In other words, missing the train and beginning of meetings is not negotiable. You have to be there when it starts.
Practice exit strategies so you leave previous meetings or events far enough in advance to get where you have to go next early. Exit strategies include telling your co-workers when you must leave at the beginning of the meeting so they work to that deadline at the end of the meeting. It includes the whole set of interruption interceptions covered elsewhere here. Exit strategies include respectful lines that allow you to leave such as, "Thanks for the update, I have another meeting in 10 minutes and it's 8 minutes away so I have got to wrap this up now and get on my way. I look forward to our next conversation."
Ignore your email when you're passing your desk between meetings. Chances are you will want to write a quick reply, leave a brief voicemail response, or note a reminder on your action list. This attention to the email master (you're the slave) is a frequent obstacle to people getting places on time.
Do not set your watch ahead. Some people put their watch 10 minutes ahead as a way to fool themselves to being on time. In reality you know that you have built the '10 minute cushion' into your watch time and you consistently accommodate that reality. There is the additional complication of knowing what your watch says compared to those in public places or your counterpart's. Get real – set your watch on the time your computer has.
Use alarms in your calendar. Whether you're a PC or MAC user your calendar has an alarm function. When you set a meeting, include an alarm reminding you to get on your way to the meeting on time. If you work on a campus where you might have to go to another building, calculate travel, parking, and walking time when you schedule the meeting, add 5 minutes, and have your alarm ring that far in advance. Maria works on a campus and sometime she walks to the next building, 4 minutes away. Other times she has to get in the car and drive over a busy highway and sit through 6 stoplights to get to another building. She must plan 10 minute departure for the close building and 20 minutes for the distant building. Doing the planning in advance to set the alarm ensures she is free to work right up to departure time and she does the calculation once.
For you who are usually latecomers, visualize the possible surprise and probable appreciative recognition you'll receive for arriving on time (or 5 minutes early).
POEM: Punctuality by Lewis Carroll
Man Naturally loves delay,
QUOTE: "Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can't buy more hours. Scientists can't invent new minutes. And you can't save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow." ~ Denis Waitely