Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Is The Heartbeat?

The Vice President of the United States of America, as I understand it, is always no more than a heartbeat away from becoming President. That kind of means, it seems to me, that whoever is in that position should be prepared to become at a moment's notice the leader of the free world, the commander in chief of the most powerful nation on earth. I'm thinking that in order to take charge of all that and more the Vice President needs to have had more experience than bringing cookies to the hockey games, attending PTA meetings, and saving a town of six thousand seventy dollars by doing something or other.
Come on. Wait a minute.
Do we really want Annie Oakley to become our President? Do we want a person who denies science and women's rights? Do we want a trigger happy moose hunter who feels no sorrow when gunning down animals because 'they had good lives'? Does having had a good life up until the moment of violent death justify the violence? Oh, yeah, sure. They are just animals. So why not take the polar bears off of the endangered species list? Better yet, why not just shoot them all and then we won't have to worry about the fact that they are drowning in oceans where they used to live on the ice?
And isn't this inexplicable choice for the Republican Vice Presidential nominee just a little insulting to advisers who might have known better -- had they been consulted -- than to choose a running mate met only a couple of times by the nominee for President?
Listen, Americans. This woman is no replacement for Hillary Clinton.
Listen, Americans. That this bizarre choice happened is terrifying.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hit The Road, FEMA

Biloxi, Mississippi -- Six months post Katrina

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency today announced mandatory evacuations in Hancock and Harrison counties beginning tomorrow morning at eight for all residents still living in FEMA trailers after their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This mandatory evacuation is in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Gustav. Mississippi National Guard soldiers are going door-to-door warning people of tomorrow's evacuation. Someone in authority, it seems, has figured out that in addition to not being safe under any circumstances, the FEMA trailers will definitely not withstand a hurricane of significant size.

For some FEMA trailer residents this mandatory evacuation probably comes as good news. It gets them out of those potentially lethal trailers and their toxic, deadly gases. And then comes the horrific reality that they will either have to return to them because that's all they have or they will once again become homeless after the anticipated ravaging of Gustav. Either way the residents of the Gulf Coast continue living at the mercy of FEMA and this country's unbelievable lack of response to its own.

Gustav's Great Timing

Biloxi, Mississippi, six months post Katrina


Hurricane Gustav couldn't have better timing -- heading toward the Gulf Coast during an election year is good enough but during the Republican convention just about makes it perfect. What an opportunity for the current administration to spring into action with before the event readiness. Emergency response folks are already heading toward New Orleans. The RNC may even be delayed just to show how respectful and ready those Republicans can be.

Meanwhile back in Mississippi, Katrina's rampage still haunts lives devastated by the winds and the waters and the complete lack of government response.

Once again New Orleans - missed by Katrina but flooded by the failure of its own bulwarks -- is getting the bulk of media attention.

But what about the woman in Biloxi who, because she couldn't swim, tied herself to a utility pole and then watched with horror as a child was swept away in the flood waters. Will the FEMA trailer in which she still lives protect her from Gustav?

With the daily shrinking of the national attention span, let's put little post-its on our refrigerators reminding us that the Gulf Coast has not yet recovered from Katrina. Too bad that disaster didn't rip into the heart of Mississippi when the Republicans needed to prove their worth.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On The Shoulders Of Giants

So who are these giants on whose shoulders we stand? They are all around us. The never headlined never spotlighted ordinary folk who speak out against injustice, who dare to say 'no more', who remember that ethics is more than just a word.
Those are the everyday giants.
Those are the broad shoulders on which we stand with the hope that we, too, will one day be giants with shoulders broad enough to inspire and support.
We're not born with broad shoulders.
We acquire that status by deciding to face storms head on and by choosing to dare and to risk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just Keep Coming Back

Social justice is not achieved by people who take 'no' for an answer. Social justice is achieved by people who just keep coming back for more.
For example --
They've been together for more than twenty years. They are raising two children. The children are happy. One parent goes to work while the other stays home with the children both under the age of eight. They recently rescued a dog dumped in a city park. They own a home and make regular mortgage payments. They pay their taxes. They volunteer for several charitable causes. They belong to a synagogue and fulfill their financial obligation to that institution. Their children receive a religious education and have a religious identification. They belong to the PTA and know how to bake cookies and slice oranges for AYSO soccer games. They even -- really -- have a white picket fence around their front yard.
And they are both women living in San Francisco County and San Francisco City.
Twenty years ago they celebrated their lifelong commitment to each other in front of their congregation with their rabbi officiating.
When the mayor of San Francisco declared same sex marriages legal in that city and county they got married. When those marriages were declared null and void they carried on with their lives. When the California State Supreme Court declared same sex marriages legal they got married again. They hope to never have to do this getting married thing again. They hope Proposition 8 is defeated in November. But, if this marriage, too, is declared null and void, they will continue paying their bills and raising their children and walking their dog because those are activities and responsibilities separate from who they are and who they love.
And they will just keep coming back for more until they have achieved their social justice. And when they achieve their social justice so will everyone else.
And that is the 'more' for which we should all keep coming back.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Leaps of Faith

I'd like to invest some money but the financial world is in such chaos these days. I'd like to change jobs but employment seems so uncertain these days. I'd like to buy a new car but who knows what the price of oil will be this time next year. I'd like to follow my dreams but, well, you know.
And so I sit waiting for certainty and safety.
It appears that I have little faith in taking leaps of faith -- leaps into uncertainty with the only safety net a feeble assumption that things will be okay.
And then I realize that every moment of every day I leap hundreds of times with nothing save faith to sustain me.
Really.
How do I know whether or not the guy in the diner up the street who cooks my egg sandwich has hepatitis and hasn't washed his hands once in the past month? I don't. And yet I thoroughly enjoy my egg sandwich.
Leap.
How about that woman heading toward me? Will she stay in her lane or will she slam into the front of my car? What is the level of her driving skill or her sobriety or her focus? I have no idea and yet I maintain my forward motion hoping for the best.
Leap.
Do I really know that next week I will still have a job? Lots of people next week will not have jobs. And still I remain confident of my ability to pay my bills.
Leap.
So far my heart has maintained its regular and amazing rhythm. I'm counting on it to continue doing so for decades to come.
Leap.
We do the best we can with what we have.
Wait a second. Now I get it!
My days are filled with courageous leaps of faith.
Just like your days are filled with similar heroic acts.
We all live on the precipice and we all -- not because we are religious but because we are alive -- are heroes.
And when we realize and absorb the magnitude of our daily and heroic leaps of faith, perhaps life will become less intimidating and our worlds bigger places.
An everyday hero. That's what I am. That's what you are, too.
Keep leaping.

Supertanker Safety

This video helps us understand the safety of supertankers.



Random Thoughts About Supertankers:
Not too many years ago the Exxon Valdez supertanker went aground and spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
The average length of today's four largest supertankers is close to 1,500 feet. Their cargo capacity is 3,166,353 barrels each. Every year over two billion barrels of oil are transported in supertankers.
Crude oil contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which lasts for years in sediment and marine environment.
The supertanker hull is either single hulled or double hulled. One would assume that since double hulled supertankers have more space between the oil and the water they are safer.
After the Exxon Valdez disaster the United States passed an 'Oil Pollution Act' which stated that all tankers entering US waters have to be double hulled by 2015.
Doubtless this news is extremely comforting to the sea otters and birds who died for the sake of oil.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

All Relationships End In Separation

All of this talk about Proposition 8 and life long commitments and vows and such has reminded me of an essential aspect of relationships.
They all end in separation.
That reality can be a real kicker when first considered. Down the road, though, the emotional and mental turmoil initially created by that statement calms and we begin to see things differently.
All relationships really do end in separation.
Whether the relationship is with our careers which we love, our jobs which we hate, our friends, our homes, our spouses, our favorite television programs doesn't matter. They all end in separation.
What a liberating bit of information. What an urgent reality.
I love you. I will one day lose you not because you will leave me or I will leave you necessarily but because one of us will one day die before the other. Every moment with you must, then, be treasured.
I hate this job but I like the benefits or I like the commute or I like my colleagues. And then one day the company closes or I retire or I get so sick from the stress of doing something I hate that I can't work anyway and that relationship is over.
Just like that.
When we finally 'get it' that all relationships end in separation we treasure and we sever depending on circumstances.
'Getting it' allows us to love and live fearlessly knowing that the worst that can happen eventually will. Accepting that urges us to love passionately and cherish constantly. It also frees us to -- if we must -- walk away responsibly and respectfully and with liberated dignity because we 'get it' that life is a one way ticket to perhaps a never ending circle.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

November Here We Come

The best indication that Proposition 8 will be defeated came today under the unlikely banner of Hallmark Cards. Come January Hallmark will begin to distribute cards celebrating and acknowledging same sex marriages. Marriages, mind you. Not sit in the back of the bus domestic partnerships or commitment ceremonies which sound more like involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations than joyous life unions and not even any of the other whatever shall we call these things to make sure 'they' stay in their place phrases. No. Not Hallmark. Cards celebrating same sex marriages is what they are coming out with in January. The designers have already created one card with rainbow hearts and another with matching tuxedos. My. My. My.
Surely no one would dare to challenge the mainstream appropriateness, celebrate the occasion icon called Hallmark Cards.
On the other hand, the votes aren't even cast yet. Keep on your toes and be on guard for complacency and over confidence lest we take a sharp turn back toward hatred and fear.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unhealthy Competition

"Obama and McCain in a statistical tie". So read this morning's Los Angeles Times headline. Do I need to see this before I've even had my coffee? Then I read the article. Turns out that it means that those polled were divided on which candidate would be better on certain issues. The article also mentioned that, among those polled, if they were to vote today, 45% would vote for Obama and 43% for McCain. Now, I was terrible at math in school, but I'm fairly sure that 45 is a higher number than 43. Lastly, when you read the fine print at the bottom of the pretty charts, you find that this was a random telephone sampling of 1,375 adults around the country. So the Times' solemn proclamation of the dead heat between the candidates is based on the opinions of enough people to populate a condo complex or a very small town.

The print media in this country are having a rough time and I know they need to sell papers, but I wish they would stop trying to generate excitement by turning the presidential election into an Olympic event. No less than the future of the United States is at stake, and they call it "the race for the White House". Get serious, would you?

The Rights You Protect May Be Your Own -- Someday

The other day I was talking to a person who truly believes to be well informed about major political issues. This person willingly and proudly identifies as liberal. However, when I brought the subject around to Proposition 8 being frighteningly and really on the November California ballot, this well informed and liberal person said, "What's that?"
Proposition 8 seeks to over throw the recent California Supreme Court's decision to legalize same sex marriages.
A 'yes' on Prop. 8 is a vote to overturn the Supreme Court's decision and once again ban same sex marriage.
A 'no' vote on Prop. 8 supports the Supreme Court's decision and will maintain the right of same sex couples to marry.
The foundation of Proposition 8 is hatred and fear. Once unleashed, hatred and fear know few boundaries.

Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) spent eight years in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps and wrote about the danger of silence in the face of injustice.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


Ignorance about urgent political issues cannot be an excuse for silence. We must speak out on behalf of the oppressed and on behalf of those at risk for becoming oppressed -- again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Take Time To Learn About Your Brain



This is one of the most amazing presentations imaginable. Devote half an hour to this video and then thank the folks at ted.com for their generosity.

Share your reactions with us. Let us know what you 'think'.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Church and The State Need To Stay Apart

I was deeply troubled -- no, I was horrified -- when I heard Barack Obama declare during his interview with Rick Warren that Jesus is his savior and redeemer. I am not interested in learning the identity of his savior and redeemer. I don't care and neither should anyone else. That the presumed democratic candidate for president should participate in any type of 'I Can Praise The Lord Better Than You' circus is appalling. Clearly the thin line pretending to separate state and church is rapidly eroding.
The person who has benefited most from Saturday night's show and tell all event is the guy who made the thing happen. Perhaps the real presidential candidate is Rick Warren who just hours ago told Larry King that believing in God is essential for anyone desiring to be President of this country. Now, granted, he did not say that accepting Jesus as savior and redeemer is also essential but I worry that expectation is in there somewhere.
I have nothing against Jesus nor do I have anything against those who accept him as savior and redeemer. However, Jesus is not running for president. No religious icon is running for president. Religion, though, is beginning to run our presidential elections. And that is terrifying.
When I cast my ballot for the president of the country, I will vote for the person I believe to be ethical and honest and brave. I will vote for the person I believe cares passionately about hunger and homelessness and justice. I will vote for the person who consults and considers. I will vote for the person who can harness the wind for fuel, who can guarantee health care for all, and who will dare to resist the lure of greed. I will vote for the person who will best represent me.
I will not vote for the person with the best savior and redeemer.

wow.


Well, the magazine for which I've been trekking to Ontario Mills the last week and a half finally arrived today. It was one thing to know about it, but it was quite another to actually see it on a magazine rack in a Virgin Megastore with The Nephew's face on a cover which has been graced by Queen and Led Zeppelin. In its thirty years of publication, Kerrang! has never put a new band on its cover till now. The Nephew is second from the right on the cover photo. Handsome fellow. Seeing it reminded me of the first time I met him. He was born a year after I moved to California, so although I became acquainted with his older sister and brother when they were just hours old, this one was eight months old before I got back East to meet him. As soon as I arrived, his mom took the older ones, ages four and five, off to somewhere they needed to go and I was left alone with the little one. It was the summer I was learning to sing Kol Nidre, the signature prayer of the Yom Kippur evening service, and it's not an easy melody. I would practice a phrase, and the baby would warble along with me. Hey, maybe he got his musical talent from me. Anyway, sorry to focus so much on The Gaslight Anthem, but we're all really proud of them. Have you listened to them yet?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We're With The Band -- The Gaslight Anthem



Previous posts have mentioned this band and the fact that the nephew is the drummer. Not only is the drummer a wonderful person, so are the other members of the band.
Music has such power to pull us back from the edge.
We hope you enjoy these people and their music as much as we do.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who Are We, Anyway?

Will this avalanche, this deluge, this inundation of paradigm shifts never stop? How much of this can we take?
Now we learn that Julia Child was a spy! I'm still reeling from the discovery that she was born in Pasadena instead of in some country kitchen in Europe. Just when I regain minimal equilibrium over that, my world is once again tossed into turmoil with today's revelation.
On what, I'm forced to ask, did she spy?
Picture Julia sneaking into the kitchens of communists and other threats to world peace and human survival and peeking at their spice racks. What reports would she deliver at great risk to her own safety into the hands of her superiors?
She worked overseas doing the spy thing for the Office of Strategic Services and there she met Paul Child who she later married. Come to find out, he was also a spy. Perhaps times were simpler back then and becoming a spy was similar to joining the secretary pool at the Automobile Association or climbing the career ladder at Sears Roebuck.
Oh, but wait a second. This Julia Child spy thing isn't new news. The New York Times, in her obituary, mentioned that she was a spy.
Now I get it.
Years ago public discovery of Billie Jean King's sexual orientation rocked the world of professional tennis. Up until then the world apparently had never considered the notion that lesbians could play tennis. Her career pretty much ended when her closet door was kicked off its hinges. During that time I wondered why her peers -- all of the professional women tennis players who became rich and famous because of her skill and personality and courage -- didn't simply say, "I'm one too."
Surely if that had happened at least some careers would have survived the public and press self righteous scrutiny. But professional tennis put a gag order on itself and Billie Jean King left the courts.
So today we learned that a whole bunch of people were spies who we thought were baseball players and judges and writers and, yes, secretaries. That leaves us wondering who else might have been or might still be a spy until ultimately it becomes too convoluted to matter. And with the passage of time no one cares anyway.
Except that between the discovery and the acceptance lives are destroyed and hearts are broken.
Unless, of course, you become a celebrity chef.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Best Friends Doesn't Mean Forever

Wait another second here.
Still reeling from the Beijing and Edwards betrayals we find ourselves staring into the face of yet another 'what's going on here' situation.
Weren't George Bush and Vladimir Putin supposed to be best buddies?
Down on the ranch didn't they cut brush and ride in pick up trucks and spit and do all sorts of cowboy male bonding stuff?
Is this the same guy described by Bush after their first summit meeting in Slovenia as being a straightforward and trustworthy man? Didn't Putin tell the world that he regarded Bush as a real partner or 'pardner' depending on how long he stayed on that Texas acreage we all so admiringly call 'the ranch'? After that first summit meeting didn't George Bush actually say that he could look Vladimir Putin 'right in the eye and get a sense of his soul'? That's pretty remarkable, come to think of it. I wouldn't think there are too many people our president could ever look right in the eye. And yet several years ago he was able to look into Putin's eyes. Maybe that should have been our first clue about the direction this friendship would take.
Too bad no one warned the people in Georgia.
Or for that matter, too bad no one warned us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why We Keep Buying 'It'

Well, this isn't looking good.
The cute kid who sang during the Olympic's opening ceremonies wasn't singing at all. Come to find out the real kid with the amazing voice wasn't deemed cute enough for prime time television so a really cute kid with lip syncing skills was brought in and we bought it.
And come to find out the people actually attending the opening ceremonies saw a fireworks display described by one eye witness blogger as having been no better than any July Fourth Dodger fireworks display while the rest of the world saw on television a breathtaking fireworks display that never happened except in a bunch of computers. The eye witness blogger added that it was far too smoggy to see anything anyway. And we bought it.
And then we discover that Senator John Edwards isn't the guy he claimed to be and that sordid bit of history just seems to keep getting more and more sordid. Yeah he probably still does really care about poverty and health care but he's just not quite who we thought he was and yet we bought the original John Edwards.
What's the deal here? Are we a bunch of suckers? Are we really wet behind the ears? Did we truly just fall off the rhubarb truck?
Or is it that we keep looking for the best and the purest and even in the face of overwhelming evidence that exhibits A and B and C were not quite what we believed, our search will always continue.
The fact that we keep searching and believing says a lot about who we are -- the dreamers and the seekers always ready to greet the new day ready to believe again.
And so we will keep on buying 'it' because we believe that 'it' really does exist -- somewhere.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shopping American Style

Today I had to go to Ontario Mills.

Ontario Mills is the second largest shopping center in the United States. The largest one is in Minnesota. This one is big enough.

There are untold numbers of stores in Ontario Mills, divided into ten "neighborhoods". There is nothing neighborly about the place. It's just a shopping center times ten. The stores are big. The corridors are big. The parking lots are gargantuan. The last time I was there was on a Saturday evening, when my partner and I thought we'd go see a movie at the AMC theatre there. It was so horrifically crowded that we fled and had to revive ourselves with a couple of margaritas at the nearest El Torito. I swore I'd never return.

However, my younger nephew is a budding rock star. He and his band are featured on the cover of a magazine that is published in the UK. The magazine is virtually unavailable on the West Coast of the United States, except at Virgin Megastores.

There are only four Virgin Megastores in California. Guess where the one closest to where I live is located. Right.

Now, Ontario Mills was a less scary place in the middle of a Monday afternoon. The Virgin Megastore had the magazine, but only last week's issue. The band is on the cover of this week's issue. They don't know when it will be delivered. I have to keep checking. I will be going to Ontario Mills at lunch hour every day until it comes in. My whole family is counting on me to get as many copies as I can, and I can't let them down.

And if you want to check out the band, they are The Gaslight Anthem, and they really are terrific. Just don't go to the Virgin Megastore in Ontario Mills and buy the last copy of Kerrang!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Verb Or No Verb, Let's Get Going

The word 'derail', I just discovered, comes from the French word derailler which means to throw off the track. Apparently it has been in use since 1850 or thereabouts. It's a verb meaning 'to cause to run off the rails' or 'to obstruct the progress of' or 'to frustrate' or 'to upset the stability or composure of (insert your own word/s here).
I'm thinking this word had to wait for trains to become popular modes of transportation before we could speak of our frustration over having been run off of our rails to the point that we lost our composure and became frustrated because our progress was obstructed.
Once that gold spike was hammered into the rails somewhere in Utah and the transcontinental railroad was completed, we were finally able to give voice to our human predicament of becoming without rails.
The word 'derail' is a verb. When we are thrown off track, we are in action.
If we are in action at the time of our having been run or thrown off the rails, we can use that energy to get back on the rails and get going again.
And then we can create a new word and a new reality. Let's start with 'rerail' and work from there.
Let me know what you think.
And then, let's 'rerail' ourselves and get going again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Opinion on the XXIX Summer Olympics

17 days of games of the 29th Olympiad began on 8/8/08 in Beijing, China - where few rule many. Beijing is also known as the city of kites since kites were first discovered there. China has a population of 1.4 billion. The games are being played in the Olympic Green (aka "Bird's Nest") Stadium which seats 91,000 at a construction cost of roughly $40 billion including housing for the athletes. Through struggle and triumph, the transformation appears as sharp as a razor's edge. French and English are the spoken language of the olympics. The opening ceremonies was spectacular and unlike any other. The Chinese played out their dynastic history and modern times. Under the stadium floor was an LED screen reaching 500 feet which greatly enhanced the fireworks, lighting and brilliantly synchronized drummers. There were 8 torch runners in the stadium for the final lighting of the cauldron - the final carrier - a 6 time gold medal winner - was hoisted to the upper reaches of the stadium and appeared to be running the approximate 5 miles of the stadium. (He was actually running in mid air.) After the Olympic flag was hoisted, I felt we were one with the world.
President and Mrs. Bush were in attendance at the parade of nations. Our athletes were attired in dark navy blue jackets, pants/skirts, white shirts/blouses and red, white and blue ties/neck scarves with white caps. I felt proud of our athletes and of my American heritage.
After the parade, the president of China spoke welcoming friends from far away and summoning the games to commence.
Fireworks, visual effects and lighting made a breathtaking finish. By far, the 29th Olympics ceremony far exceeded all superlatives.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Bridge Is Not For Sale

California isn't the only place in the country with massive financial problems. Of course, California is famous for not having a budget until after Labor Day. Today, a whole lot of offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles were closed as DMV workers protested Governor Schwarznegger's decision to cut DMV salaries to minimum wage. People trying to gain access to their area Department of Motor Vehicle branches were turned away and directed to other, more distant, branches where they had to wait for hours in long lines. Clearly those complaining people are new to California's Department of Motor Vehicles. If there was a DMV branch on every corner in California there would still be long lines and long waits. But none of that concerns me right now. My driver's license is good for several more years.
Here's what has me steamed.
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, is thinking about selling the Brooklyn Bridge as one method of addressing the financial woes of his turf -- Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan Island.
Granted, you gotta do what you gotta do. But he can't sell the Brooklyn Bridge. It doesn't belong to him. It doesn't even belong to New York City.
It belongs to me and I'm not selling.
I bought that bridge about fifteen years ago for an undisclosed sum but which, let me just say, was not insignificant. Now, I didn't get a deed for my purchase. I got a t-shirt with a picture of the bridge on it. The person who sold me the bridge assured me that, in the sale of bridges, t-shirts were the best way to prove ownership. That other deed stuff, she said, was just paper. Cotton lasts forever, she said.
So, Mayor Bloomberg, fix your city's financial problems some other way. I'm keeping my bridge.
And Arnold...I'm not buying the Department of Motor Vehicles as a way of helping you out. I saw the t-shirt. Fugettaboutit!

Offensive Olympics

It's time for the Olympic games again. Ugh.

Of course, I know that the world does not revolve around me, and that the USOC and the IOC cannot possibly be trying to offend my sensibilities on every possible front, but it does seem that way.

First there was Munich in 1972. Eleven Israeli athletes were killed in cold blood by the Black September terrorist group. This massacre took place in the Olympic Village itself. You would think that would cause them to suspend the games, or at least to honor those athletes at each subsequent Olympic Games, but nope. Let's just pretend it never happened, and let the games go on.

Then, there was the "Gay Olympics" controversy. Tom Waddell, a decathlete in the Mexico City Olympic Games of 1968, began a competition in 1982 that would feature gay and lesbian athletes. He called it the Gay Olympics, and the USOC didn't like that one bit. In the words of the Wikipedia article about Tom Waddell:

"Although previously the Rat Olympics, Police Olympics, Dog Olympics, and Special Olympics had all gone unchallenged, the USOC felt that the use of the name in a homosexual event would tarnish the reputation of their trademark. The injunction was eventually granted and hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise and signage had to be removed from the event in order to adhere with the court's decree. That setback, however, didn’t stop the games from being a success as over 1,600 athletes descended on the city to compete in the first ever newly named Gay Games. Waddell had made his dream come true and had given the opportunity for gay athletes from around the world to show that they can be a powerful force in sport."

Tom Waddell died of AIDS in 1987, and the USOC persecuted him with injunctions and demands for court costs till the day of his death with a mean-spiritedness way out of proportion to the violation. In 1988, VISAcard supported the USOC by donating a percentage of every purchase made with their card to that year's Olympics, and gay activists protested by cutting up their VISA cards and sending them back to the company. Tom Waddell's panel in the AIDS quilt spells out his name in cut-up VISA cards.

And now it's China, with all its human rights violations and persecutions of Falun Gong. The Olympics are very big business, but they don't have much to do with a spirit of understanding and cooperation. Let the games begin. But I won't be watching.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Change Happens

So does a lot of other stuff.
But change just keeps its vigil and when we least expect it, there it is. Or we plan for it and deal with the rough patches in between one comfort zone and the next. But change will keep its steady pace.
Just a heads up.
I used to fly a light airplane. A Luscobe 8A, to be exact. Once an army trainer, it was an old tail dragger. I had to climb up on top of it, unscrew the gas cap, and push a stick down into the tank to see how much fuel I had left. There was no internal fuel gauge. The plane had an altimeter, a compass, and an artifical horizon. It also had some sort of instrument with which to measure the engine's revolutions per minute. That was it. With no starter, the propeller had to be spun to get the engine going. At one point early on it had been probably a bright yellow. By the time I bought it for one thousand three hundred dollars the paint was chipped and faded.
Here's the thing about fixed wing aircraft.
They are inherently stable.
If there is enough room between the airplane and the ground the plane can fix just about anything the pilot does to it. Put it into a spin. The plane can fix it. Stall it. The plane can fix it.
Only one thing is needed for the plane to tend to whatever the pilot dishes out.
The pilot must relinquish the controls over to the plane.
Take our hands off of the controls and stop trying to force the plane to do our bidding. And if there's enough room between the plane and the ground, the plane will right itself and resume a steady position.
The challenge is to take our hands off of the controls.
Change will happen.
No matter how hard we try to stop it.
Life is all about change.
The trick is to let it happen.

Note To Self -- Don't Forget To Be Angry

The price of gas here in Southern California has, in some places, dropped to as low as four dollars and nine cents a gallon and in some places even lower. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and felt the world reclaim balance and justice. Compared to almost five dollars a gallon, these current prices seem pretty darn good.
But hold on a minute. Let's remember not too long ago when we were outraged by these same prices which now seem so much more bearable than those even more outrageous prices.
How easy it is to think we are well off just because things aren't as horrific as they used to be.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to stay angry if we want to remain agents of change.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Something To Remember

As a rabbi, I am sometimes honored and humbled by officiating at a funeral, as I did this week. I find that, even if I had known the person before their death, I usually find out something that I hadn't known before; something worth remembering. In this case, one of the speakers at the service was a young man who was a close friend of the deceased's son. He said that when he visited this woman's home, she would stand right before him, look him in the eye, and say, "You are terrific!" or, "You are great!" As he was speaking, I thought, "What a wonderful thing to be remembered for".

It reminded me of another service I had conducted, just a little less than a year ago. In that case, from the deceased's family, colleagues and slight acquaintances, I heard, over and over, the same thing. It was that, when he was talking to you, he always made you feel that you were the most important person in the world. At that time, too, I thought, "What a wonderful thing to be remembered for".

Someday, we are all going to die, and, with any luck, there will be people to mourn us. Let's make sure we leave them something wonderful to remember.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Speaking of Change

Or, to put it another way, more rut stuff.
I must be in some in some kind of rut myself because I can't get the notion of ruts out of my mind. It's so easy to dig ourselves into them or fall into them and so incredibly difficult to climb out of them.
One reason for that difficulty is that getting out of the rut requires committment to change. Remember yesterday's Oregon Trial Ruts? Deep ruts don't require much thought or risk.
Change is all about risk.
And change is also all about understanding and tolerating liminal moments.
Those are the moments during which we cross over thresholds. Some of those thresholds are crossed almost on a daily basis and we don't think much about the risks involved.
Other thresholds seem to contain greater risk and so we think about them and sometimes conclude that the risk is too great.
Even our daily liminal moments can feel scary. For some of them we've created rituals. Think of the cultures with rituals for greeting the day and for ending the day. Ritualized life cycle events are methods of containing the fear of liminal moments -- of moments when we cross over a threshold.
Who knows what life on the other side of the threshold is like? And is it worth the risk of change.
Ruts help us stay in the paths of those who traveled before us.
We can choose to chart or own paths.
On the other hand, its okay to not make that choice.
However, sometimes when we find ourselves at the end of our wits, the only way we can step away from the edge to a safer place is to risk change.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How Deep Am I, Anyway?

Yesterday I spoke of getting back 'on track'.
A track helps to guide us. I like that image.
That track image, however, brings to mind another -- an opposite image.
Sometimes its hard for us to get back 'on track' because we are 'stuck in a rut'.
Some of the most famous ruts in this country were created by the wagons going west on the Oregon Trail.
The wheels of the heavily loaded wagons pulled by heavy draft animals and followed by those pioneers seeking adventure or a better life -- or following their souls' quests -- all traveled on the same trail between 1841 and 1869. Over and over again day after day and month after month those wagons and animals and people made their marks in the trail as they followed the exact path of those who had gone before them. Those marks became so deep and so firmly packed that the Oregon Trail Ruts can still be seen today. In some places those ruts are two feet deep and in other places they are an unbelievable six feet deep.
Over and over day after day month after month and year after year until finally those last settlers -- once they got on the trail -- may have felt like they had stepped onto a path from which there was no escape. On some days they probably felt safe. On others they might very well have felt trapped.
Being stuck in a rut can feel comforting in its predictability. Let's not be fooled, though. Ruts can limit vision and limited vision can conceal possibility.
In researching methods of 'getting back on track', I think I will first check out the depth of my ruts.
If I ask for ladders or long ropes, I'm sure you will understand.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Reclaiming The Writing Life

I write because if I don't my soul suffers.
If I go too long without writing, I fear my soul will die.
Because I had been pushing that particular envelope for some time, I decided to make a pretty powerful statement to the universe and move my soul to safer territory.
And so I made a deal with a friend. I would deliver the first draft of a novel of at least 250 pages and 70,000 words to him by August tenth. If I could not make said delivery, I would give him a considerable amount of money and the rights to the story. He assured me that he would do nothing pleasurable or worthwhile with the money. In fact, he intended to donate it to John McCain's political fund. He further assured me that he would turn my story idea into a cheap romance of the Harlequin variety.
All of this deal making took place in the middle of May.
I spent two weeks thinking about my situation and outlining my story. On June first I wrote the first word on the first page and every day, come trip to New York and loss of voice and turmoil at work and upper respiratory infection, I wrote. I made space in my life for myself. Those in my life who love and support me gladly made space in their lives for my soul's quest for safety.
I became my own priority.
Four days ago I wrote 'The End" on 75,000 words and 252 pages. Sure it's the first draft. Sure it's the rough draft. And sure, I did it.
It is so easy to lose track of who we are and of what sustains -- truly sustains -- us.
I got back on track.
So can you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Budget Cut That Makes Sense

Big doings in Sacramento. I have lived in California for twenty seven of the last thirty years and I don't recall a one where the state budget was completed by the deadline of June 30. And yet, every year there is a drama about it.

This year, Governor Schwarzenegger, who has an advantage over most of his predecessors when it comes to a good act, laid off 10,000 state workers and has ordered 200,000 others reduced to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour until the budget is passed. The state controller, John Chiang, who happens to be an elected Democrat, has refused to enact this order, claiming that it leaves the state liable to lawsuits that will cost far more than the money that will be saved by the pay cuts.

I have an idea. Why not leave the state employees alone, and cut the salaries of the members of the state legislature to $6.55 an hour? Throw in Schwarzenegger and Chiang, too. Let's see how fast the budget gets balanced then.