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Showing posts from August 14, 2011

Oldie, 7/25/09: Breaking Through Silences

I'm cursed with a long memory that allows me to revisit unpleasant moments from long ago and get upset about them all over again.

The encounters that are most likely to come back and haunt me are those in which I have allowed myself to be rendered mute. That would seem almost counter-intuitive. Certainly, there are plenty of episodes in which I shot my mouth off and caused problems for myself, but even in those cases, my words kept the conversation moving toward a resolution, for better or for worse.

It's the times where I said nothing and walked away because I couldn't sort it out in my head fast enough that leave me with that indelible aftertaste of frustration. What lingers is that feeling, if only I could have gotten the words out and made the other person understand me, it would have had a better outcome.

Oldie, 7/19/09: The other victims of the right-wing hate machine

This report from the Southern Poverty Law Center was the last thing I read before going to bed late last night, and it popped out at me first thing this morning.

One excerpt in particular struck me:

April 4, 2009
Three Pittsburgh police officers — Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly — are fatally shot and a fourth, Timothy McManaway, is wounded after responding to a domestic dispute at the home of Richard Andrew Poplawski, who had posted his racist and anti-Semitic views on white supremacist websites. In one post, Poplawski talks about wanting a white supremacist tattoo. He also reportedly tells a friend that America is controlled by a cabal of Jews, that U.S. troops may soon be directed against American citizens, and that he fears a ban on guns was coming. Poplawski later allegedly tells investigators that he fired extra bullets into the bodies of two of the officers "just to make sure they were dead" and says he "thought I got that one, too" when told t…

Oldie, 7/11/09: Swim Caps: A Short Story

In the bland little suburb where I grew up, the planners had seen fit to install Olympic-sized swimming pools every 20 blocks or so. As in many such places, they also saw fit to compose a broadsheet's worth of rules for proper conduct. None of them made any sense. One was "No suntan lotions or oils in the water." In today's sunscreen-obsessed culture, that one certainly wouldn't go over very well; I doubt it did even back in the mid-1960s. The lifeguards could be shits when they wanted to be, but most of the time, as long as they had other lifeguards to flirt with, they didn't much care what you did once you got past the Gatekeeper, who checked to see that your pool tag was current and listed in the master database, and that you had an actual swimsuit on (she made you strip off your outer clothing so she could check). She, too, was a shit, but she had no one to flirt with, you see.

One of the rules everyone remembers was (and I am quoting accurately here): &…

Oldie, 7/10/09: Dad

I can't possibly be the only one who engages in light fantasizing while listening to the NPR interview show Fresh Air. 
Drew Barrymore was on today (a rerun from April) and I found myself silently responding to some of Terry Gross's questions as though they were directed at me.

I think the best thing about Terry's interview style is the open-endedness of her questions. She invites the interviewee to ramble wherever their mind wishes to go, and that results in some thought-provoking answers.

In the course of my own mental wanderings, I sometimes answer a question and discover some interesting new things about myself.

Today, I found myself describing my father, and how my upbringing was influenced by his worldview.

Oldie, 6/9/09: Messy? Or messed up?

One of my little fascinations is people who live lives of out-of-control clutter. Yes, I will gawk at Oprah's show (on the rare occasion I'm home to watch it), when her featured guest is someone whose home is subdivided into "rooms" made of stacked newspapers going back to the Kennedy Administration.

I guess this interest has its roots in my own youth. My dad was one of those people who were terrified of throwing something away. As he got closer to retirement, this propensity got much worse. He decided he had to start recycling, but didn't know how to go about it. His solution was to keep all the trash in the garage until he could get around to separating out the aluminum cans. It's a good measure of how tuned in I was at that age, that I never thought to volunteer for this job. Instead, Mom and I rolled our eyes at each other and shook our heads, watching the bags of refuse pile up ... until we started seeing mice and badgered Dad into just letting Sanitatio…

Oldie, 6/6/09: You can't pigeonhole what's personal

I suspect I'm not alone in keeping a running list of potential book titles in my head. One of those, which perhaps one day I'll actually write and publish, is called It's Always Personal.There's no such thing as "wholly objective" politics or ideology. The convictions that often turn into far-reaching public policy come from the personal experiences of one individual, who perchance connects with others who share similar experiences. When these people and their common bond find themselves in "the right place at the right time," you can end up with new paths in history.

My little thesis gets a boost from this article in the New York Times, comparing Supreme Court aspirant Sonia Sotomayor with the sitting 18-year veteran Clarence Thomas. Two minority Catholics, not too far apart in age, whose worldviews are at distant poles.

So what's personal? Experience and temperament.

Oldie, 4/9/09: Locking KIDS up for life - it's just plain wrong.

I read this story on CNN.com a couple of days ago and have been waiting for a less-busy day to sit and cogitate on it -- I knew it would end up as a blog post.

I've watched our society become more and more punitive and unforgiving over the last 35 years or so. It's time we got down to what lies at the bottom of it.

Here's one bottom dweller:

Jennifer Jenkins, who co-founded the National Organization for Victims of Juvenile Lifers. The Illinois-based group has fought legislation in nine states that would remove sentences of life without parole.

It wasn't this quote that got me into Rant mode:
"Victims have the right not to be constantly revictimized," she said.

It was this one from another bottom-dweller,
Harriet Salerno, president of Crime Victims United of California, a group trying to block the passage of laws that would ease sentencing for juveniles.

She founded the victim's group after her daughter, a pre-medical student, was murdered at the University o…

Oldie, 3/30/09: Talking about Israel some more

Back on October 31 of last year, I reflected on my evolving mindset concerning the "other" side of my religious heritage, i.e. Judaism. The first item on my short list was Israel, and how, for many years, I had been convinced that it represented a more advanced moral standard and a higher plane of existence, as it were. More recently, having rejected religion outright, I was finally willing to take a cold, hard look at Judaism and decide whether or not it was worthy of rejection in the same way as Christianity.

I thought I had the issue all tucked in and put to bed with the lights out, but recently, a new angle (new to me, at least) on the subject has taken shape.

Oldie, 3/25/09: Villains

Today, in an idle moment (at work, where else?), I pondered the question of exactly how many people in my life I could legitimately call "the bad guys." People who had a profoundly negative impact on me ... where if it were possible to go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would be sure never to get involved with them again.

Oldie, 3/22/09: Bernie Madoff: Prisoner No. 419?*

A recent CNN piece describes the deluge of anguished and irate correspondence received by the prosecution before Bernard Madoff pled guilty.

Among the sad and at times profane accounts from the convicted swindler's victims, one ironic e-mail stood out:

Penned by an African scam artist whose name was withheld, the letter expressed an urgent need for an American intermediary willing to give up details of his bank account to the author so that he could move his funds from the Republic of Congo to Dubai.

The author promised a return of 10 percent of his alleged $350 million funds, and even offered a preemptive apology in case his proposal offended the readers' moral values.

The only request he made was that the intermediary provide him with "absolute assurance that the funds will be safe and you will not sit on [the money] when it is transferred to your account."
______________
*The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapte…

Oldie, 3/2/09: Attention Creationists: We're on to you.

An entertaining and insightful guide to recognizing a hidden religious agenda.

I especially like the following, having heard far too many of these during my years of being religiously educated via radio:
When you come across the terms "Darwinism" or "Darwinists", take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for "evolution" and "biologists", respectively. When evolution is described as a "blind, random, undirected process", be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. When cells are described as "astonishingly complex molecular machines", it is generally by breathless supporters of ID who take the metaphor literally and assume that such a "machine" requires an "engineer". If an author wishes for "academic freedom", it is usually ID code for "the acceptance of creationism".

Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religiou…

USA Today News Quiz, Week of 8/7/11