Riders on the Storm

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is Manhattan right now—just a mile or so from where I live. We still have power and will be going to bed soon—draining day of waiting, watching TV, not able to settle on anything useful to do. Not like I have a rowboat and can go rescue people.

Power flickering.

If I didn’t live on the 12th floor, I’d go out, if only a few feet out. Winds are fierce.

Sandy to City: Drop Dead

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Your Intrepid Blogger

Turned on the TV to the always enjoyable experience of hearing Mayor Bloomberg summarizing his remarks in Spanish. He sounds like the bored smart kid proving to the teacher that he knows this shit cold and could care less.

I missed the press conference because we went out for a last walk before the storm hits. It was windy and rainy, the rain increasing over 20 minutes until we returned. Lots of people were out, runners and dogs. Now they’re saying winds may reach 100mph. A guy in the elevator wants to go over to the river. Good luck, guy.

I just heard 70 trees down across NYC already…construction site in Williamsburg collapsing…Apparently Bloomberg said, “Spend the afternoon indoors reading a good book.” TV weatherman says eat pasta, watch TV. Choices, choices.

Just heard this on Twitter. Asked what he was most afraid of about the storm, Bloomberg said, “New Yorkers…they never do what they told.” Gov. Christie just tells people they’re stupid and selfish and won’t be rescued.

The cats aren’t afraid yet.

UPDATE: 3:40 pm They’re getting a little nervous….

An Octave Above Thunder

… reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience.

–T. S. Eliot,
“What the Thunder Said”


She began as we huddled, six of us,
in the cellar, raising her voice above
those towering syllables…

Never mind she cried when storm candles
flickered, glass shattered upstairs.
Reciting as if on horseback,
she whipped the meter,

trampling rhyme, reining in the reins
of the air with her left hand as she
stood, the washing machine behind her
stunned on its haunches, not spinning.

She spun the lines around each other,
her gaze fixed. I knew she’d silenced
a cacophony of distractions in her head,
to summon what she owned, rote-bright:

Of man’s first disobedience,
and the fruit…
of the flower in a crannied wall
and one clear call…

for the child who’d risen before school assemblies:
eerie Dakota rumble that rolled yet never brought
rain breaking over the podium. Her voice rose,
an octave above thunder:

When I consider how my light is spent–
I thought of her light, poured willy-nilly.
in this dark world and wide: half-blind, blind,
a widening distraction Getting and spending
we lay waste our powers…Different poem, a trick!

Her eyes singled me out as the wind slowed.
Then, reflective, I’d rather be / a Pagan
sucked in a creed outworn / than a dullard
with nothing by heart.

It was midsummer, Minnesota. In the sky,
the Blind Poet blew sideways, his cape spilling
rain. They also serve! she sang, hailing

as I stopped hearing her. I did not want to
stand and wait. I loathed nothing so much
as the forbearance now in her voice,
insisting that Beauty was at hand,

but not credible. I considered
how we twisted into ourselves to live.
When the storm stopped, I sat still,

Here were the words of the Blind Poet–
crumpled like wash for the line, to be
dried, pressed flat. Upstairs, someone called
my name. What sense would it ever

make to them, the unread world, the getters and spenders,
if they could not hear what I heard,
not feel what I felt
nothing ruined poetry, a voice revived it,

Carol Muske

Does Anybody Know Where the Flashlight Is?

October 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

So here she comes, The Storm Queen, ready to wreak havoc and yank us brutally closer to the day when insurance companies decide to fold their tents, leave chaos behind, and switch their money into a calm, safe field like book publishing. How about insuring books? Take out a policy to protect you against bad reviews, no reviews, your editor dropping dead or the publicity person on the payroll of your secret enemy.

I took a walk around the park, observing the autumn leaves before they were ripped away (the fallen ones already skittering), the cool, gray agitated air, the lines in the grocery stores. I bought bottled Stumptown coffee, an array of chocolate bars, almond butter for Charles, apples and unripe bananas, and came home to fritter my life away on the Internet.

Fritter. The staid cousin of Twitter and skitter. No relations to Mittens.

Wouldn’t an apple fritter be good right now? I was planning to bake an apple cake before the power goes out, but it’s seeming less and less likely that that will happen. Cod Ed has announced it may preemptively cut power in lower Manhatttan. That’s south of where I am, but always, my best beloveds, the darkness cometh.

The Storm

Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!–
And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,–
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.

We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping–
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Theodore Roethke

Sandy baby

October 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Getting ready for the big one, what Philip Bump of Grist.org dubbed the Snor’eastercane. Sandy. I think she should be at least Sandra, if not Cassandra, warning us of what life will be like most of the time in the near future (try getting anyone in power to talk about that). I’m almost ready to vote for Jill Stein. There’s a big climate change demonstration planned for tomorrow, right before the transit system is shut down; maybe we’ll go. Probably not. We aren’t ready for the storm yet.There’s still laundry from Charles’ illness, food to buy. And I never wake up before noon. That’s why I can write blog entries at 3 am.

Charles told me 2 days ago that we had lots of flashlights—which I took to mean he’d brought some from Florida—but in fact we only have one crappy one and by the time I realized that, there were no more to be had, except six-packs of mini-lights: what you’d buy for a school-kids’ camping trip if you don’t expect trouble and want them to have souvenirs.

But one old, cheap flashlight, with extra batteries and candles, will do unless there really is a power loss for a week, which is hard to believe in NYC, center of the universe, but if you can’t believe that…well, you’ll be in for a shock as the Northeast USA takes the brunt of nasty weather over the next—what–hundred years? Thousand years? I haven’t researched the arctic-ice-melting-gulf-stream-big-storm connection as far as to get a sense of duration, only to know that I’m living in the sweet spot of the upcoming trainwreck. Though not quite the sweet spot of the Maldives or Bangladesh.

There’s a lot I want to think and write about how we all are viewing this; by all I mean those who believe in climate change and that it’s happening now and will get increasingly worse. There’s the science, which is full of uncertainties about timing, tipping points, mitigation, etc, and then there’s temperament—those apocalyptically minded and those who can’t help focusing on the positive. Having been both–I find it hard not to be both, since cold reason and depression pull me in one direction, and love and the wish for the world as it has beautifully been pull me in the other—I believe it’s impossible to find one scientist who isn’t being pulled in several emotional directions at once. The uncertainly is real and deep (we barely know our planet and its systems) but so is the human incapacity to cope. We’ll never really know what’s coming until it hits, and maybe not even then.

This is far beyond denial or the question of whether it’s better to give people hope or scare the pants off them. It’s about how we perceive the world and how we can’t help but perceive it in multiple ways simultaneously. If you’re me, that makes you confused and full of insecurity, assuming you’re cooking the books, even if they aren’t your books; others take sides and shut out the noise from their other half.

All I have to offer, if I take this investigation seriously, is a history of prolonged suspension in psychological indeterminacy. A way with words. An interest in science, a love of nature, a lack of young beings I am personally responsible for (other than the felines, who’ll be dead before the worst of it).

In order to do this well, I do have to step out into the world more. Ugh. I don’t fit. Never did, more so now. Type faster, Juris would say. Write better, I tell myself.

On that note, I read my poetry Wednesday at The Cornelia Street Café’s Perfect Sense series, curated by Alyssa Heyman. The reading was a one-year anniversary celebration for Red Glass Books, the chapbook series created by my dear friend and publisher, Janet Kaplan. The other readers were E.J. Antonio, Brian Clements, Patricia Spears Jones, Edwin Torres, & Janet Kaplan read the world of Kate Greenstreet. All terrific. It was a remarkable evening and not just because I felt like a real participant for the first time. Everyone was good; everyone was listened to.

I’ve always been phobic about public speaking. A sad tale: lots of lost opportunities, many weeks of sobbing before some inescapable event, reliving a panic I didn’t understand. But I’ve finally gotten over that. I attribute this largely to age but also to Janet. Having someone who understands exactly what that fear is like, has overcome it herself, and is actively and always rooting for me made a big difference.

My mother said today, when I was telling her about the pleasure of reading, and the compliments I received, “You’re an actor, I’ve always known that.” I was greatly surprised. I’ve always known it too—though I would say performer rather than actor—but as long as I was too scared to perform, there was no point talking about it. And it’s still iffy, because experiencing the rush and then the letdown afterward was difficult…I felt thrust back into the void…and all the familiar feelings, it’s too late, it’s too late, which have been plaguing me over the last year slammed me hard yesterday.

But it’s not just about the pleasure of being on stage. I also had the satisfaction of communicating my work better than the page alone can. My poems about the breakup with Philip are angry/painful, but also funny. My friends and family saw the anger and pain; my sister remarked, after reading my chapbook, “I’d like to grind him to a fine powder.” She’s got a way with words too, doesn’t she? I keep thinking about that image; my very capable sister carrying out that rather gruesome task, which I have no doubt she could do if necessary.

But the humor was what I was most interested in. It’s always darkest just before the joke, in my experience. And strangers laughed and wanted more! Anger’s great, they said. Go for it! Do I have more? Oh, yeah. The sad sweet stuff I’ll save for some lyricist to put to music.

But enough about me. I just discovered this poet. She’s fucking brilliant.

Poetry Anonymous

You are mistaken if the language furthers your sense of devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about their language than for you (you, the real person you).

Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with a confusing abandon,
its flailing in its substance however deceptive this might be.

It will point out your own directionlessness,
you will be harmed.

You cannot mediate it with caress.

Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like,
they have more meaning than others?
They are the protectors of a sense of feeling, mere protectors— earnest?
No. They are protectors of the flawed, filling zones of bereft.
The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.

What about the lawyer who loves the law?
Aren’t they the same, a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language
to a sense-making?

A kind of cognitive patternization.

Ultimately, both undertake the hijack of language,
they won’t love you the way
you are; it’s in this inability to love—
unless you embody the poem—
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.

Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance,
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular.

You must entice with otherness.
You must catch the poem as a muse does.
You must muse and muse and muse.

All the thralldom of poetic encounters that stand in for sexual ones,
all the ways we terrorize with sense-making,

allowing it to stand in for intimacy.

For it to stand in and suggest that all other kinds of feelings
and declarations must yield to it.

It will move you if you ask for permission
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet’s head,
wrapping your arms around them
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come
and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.

Prageeta Sharma

Obama-Romney: Abridged Transcript

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

ROMNEY: Mr. President, we were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it’s nice to maybe funny this time, not on purpose. We’ll see what happens. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda.

OBAMA: I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map.

ROMNEY: My strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture. It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy. But next door, of course, we have Egypt.

OBAMA: A few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said the social policies of the 1950s. You said we should have gone into Iraq. Not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing.

ROMNEY: The things I said–they don’t happen to be accurate. But — but the rising tide of tumult and — and confusion. And — and attacking me. Take advantage of the opportunity, and stem the tide of this violence. I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed—

ROMNEY: Oh you didn’t? You didn’t want a status of…
OBAMA: What I would not have had done was..
ROMNEY: I’m sorry, you actually — there was a — there was an effort on the part of the president (CROSSTALK)
OBAMA: Governor…
ROMNEY: …that your posture. That was my posture as well. You thought…
OBAMA: Governor?
ROMNEY: … I thought, but you know what? The answer was we got…
ROMNEY: … through whatsoever.
OBAMA: This was just a few weeks ago
ROMNEY: …I’m sorry that’s a…
OBAMA: You — you…
ROMNEY: …that’s a — I indicated…
OBAMA: …major speech.
ROMNEY: …I indicated that you failed to put in place a status…
OBAMA: Governor?
ROMNEY: … at the end of the conflict that existed.
OBAMA: Governor — here — here’s — here’s one thing…
OBAMA: I’ve learned as Commander in Chief.
SCHIEFFER: Let him answer…

OBAMA: You’ve got to be clear about where you stand and what you mean. We are taking advantage of the opportunities of the Middle East. We do have to make sure that we’re protecting women, coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this. Assad’s days are numbered. But what we can’t do is to simply suggest that.

ROMNEY: Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. We don’t want to have military involvement there. And so the right course for us, is working through our partners and with our own resources, to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a — in a form of — if not government, a form of — of — of council. And then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.

OBAMA: We organized the Friends of Syria. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown. That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to show.

ROMNEY: This isn’t — this isn’t going to be necessary.

SCHIEFFER: Egypt. Mubarak. Regrets?

OBAMA: America has to stand with democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago. These countries can’t develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need.

SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I felt that — I wish we’d have had a better vision of the future. I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the president’s term and even further back than that, that we’d have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have worked more with our friend and with other friends in the region such that it didn’t explode in the way that it did. our purpose is to make sure the world is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives.

OBAMA: America remains the one indispensable nation. That’s the kind of leadership that we need to show. We’ve developed oil and natural gas. Governor Romney has praised Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment. We are going to maintain leadership.

ROMNEY: I’ve got a policy for the future. Twelve million new jobs. The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the economy of China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us. Two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses.

OBAMA: Governor, when you were in Massachusetts, small businesses development ranked about 48th, I think out of 50 states in Massachusetts, because the policies that you are promoting actually don’t help small businesses. I want to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math.

SCHIEFFER: Let me get back to foreign policy.
SCHIEFFER: Can I just get back…
ROMNEY: Well — well, I need to speak a moment…
ROMNEY: … if you’ll let me, Bob, just about education…
ROMNEY: … because I’m — I’m so proud of the state that I had the chance to be governor of.
We have every two years tests that look at how well our kids are doing. Fourth graders and eighth graders are tested in English and math. While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50 states in English, and then also in math. And our eighth graders number one in English and also in math. First time one state had been number one in all four measures.
OBAMA: Ten years earlier…
ROMNEY: And that was — that was — that was what allowed us to become the number one state in the nation.
OBAMA: But that was 10 years before you took office.
ROMNEY: The first — the first — the first — and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They’re still number one today.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
ROMNEY: And the principles that we put in place, we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to — to be able compete, but also if they graduated the quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition- free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.
OBAMA: That happened before you came into office.

ROMNEY: The good news is (inaudible). I’d be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. Some programs that we are doing to keep, like Medicaid, which is a program for the poor and we give it to the states to run. As a governor, I thought please, give me this program. But the military — let’s get back to the military, though.

SCHIEFFER: That’s what I’m trying…
OBAMA: He should have answered the first question.
ROMNEY: I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets. I was on the world of business for 25 years. If you didn’t balance your budget, you went out of business. I went into the Olympics that was out of balance, and we got it on balance, and made a success there. I had the chance to be governor of a state. Four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the budget. The president hasn’t balanced a budget yet. I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
ROMNEY: I’m going to be able to balance the budget.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, you say you want a bigger military. You want a bigger Navy. Where are you going to get the money?

ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947. We’ve changed for the first time since FDR — since FDR we had the — we’ve always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we’re changing to one conflict.

OBAMA: We also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

And, you know, we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work.

But to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.

ROMNEY: It’s absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran. This nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America.

OBAMA: You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you’d do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that — that would make a difference. The clock is ticking.

ROMNEY And then the president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.
Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well.

OBMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true.

ROMNEY: You went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations.

OBAMA: I went to Yad Beshef, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil.

SCHIEFFER: What if — what if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said, “Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran.”
What do you –

ROMNEY: Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature. The president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the tension…

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: … the damage in his — in his own party.

OBAMA: You know, after we killed bin Laden I was at ground zero for a memorial and talked to a young women who was four years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying “Peyton, I love you and I will always watch over you.” And for the next decade, she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, “You know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.”

ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And I don’t mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the –.

OBAMA: I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is Let’s change those certifications. The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population. It was higher when I came into office.

SCHIEFFER: Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?

ROMNEY: It’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point. Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now. And I — I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We — we had to go into Pakistan. We had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do. And — and that upset them.

OBAMA: In Egypt we stood on the side of democracy. In Libya we stood on the side of the people. In respect to China, we had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires — cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it.

ROMNEY: China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods. We like free enterprise.

OBAMA: And, you know, that’s — you’re right. I mean that’s how our free market works. But if we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.

ROMNEY: Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. And fortunately–

OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said…
OBAMA: Governor Romney, you did not…
ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed…
OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide government help.
ROMNEY: I said that we would provide guarantees, and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy and come out of bankruptcy. The idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry, of course not. Of course not.
OBAMA: Let’s check the record.
ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness…
OBAMA: Let — let — let’s…
ROMNEY: I have never said I would liquidate…
OBAM: …at the record.
ROMNEY: …I would liquidate the industry.
OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.

ROMNEY: We in this country can — can compete successfully with anyone in the world, and we’re going to. But investing in companies? Absolutely not.

OBAMA: Governor?
ROMNEY: That’s the wrong way to go.
OBAMA: The fact of the matter is…
ROMNEY: I’m still speaking. So I want to make sure that we make — we make America more competitive.
OBAMA: Yeah.
ROMNEY: …the most attractive place in the world.
OBAMA: Governor?
ROMNEY: …because the private sector
OBAMA: I’m — I’m — I’m happy.
ROMNEY: …company…
OBAMA: …to respond to you…
ROMNEY: …if — if you’re…
OBAMA: …you’ve had the floor for a while.
ROMNEY: …get someone else’s.
OBAMA: The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to airbrush history
ROMNEY: You’re wrong…
OBAMA: …they would have gone through a…
ROMNEY: …you’re wrong.
OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.
ROMNEY: People can look it up, you’re right.
OBAMA: People will look it up.

OBAMA: But more importantly it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now. Education. We’ve now begun to make some real progress. We’ve got to go forward, not back.

ROMNEY: When you came to office 32 million people on food stamps. Today, 47 million people on food stamps. When you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt, now $16 trillion in debt. It hasn’t worked. You said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million jobs short of that. I’ve met some of those people. I’ve met them in Appleton, Wisconsin. I love teachers—


ROMNEY: But I love teachers.

SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers. Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements.

OBAMA: America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.

ROMNEY: I’d like to be the next president of the United States.


October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment


Now that I’ve bent your ear about climate change for a few posts, I’ll give you what you really want, dear readers: an update on the cats.

Lola is happy here now. She likes the clutter and the company. Her fur, which she used to chew off, is growing back, silky and silver-brown-black. Maybe she was allergic to Florida. Maybe she understands that in New York your dress matters more.

She goes where she pleases. She attacks Fitzroy and Mouchette a few times a day. This is not because she’s stressed; she likes to fight. Her eyes dance, joy sparks from her body. She’s like a kid on a Ferris wheel, and afterwards—if I’ve shooed her out of the bedroom because of Mouchette’s unearthly cries—she’ll look at us with a slight hunch to her shoulders acknowledging guilt, but within seconds relaxes and grooms herself meticulously, self-satisfaction evident in each line of her wiry body.

Fitzroy doesn’t mind her attacks. He just bats her away with a long, snowy paw, or looks at her as if she’s nuts (this is when she chooses to attack him in the kitty litter). If he’s feeling frisky, they’ll chase each other around for a while, the big-assed boy knocking over glasses (specs) and glasses (drink), spoons, books, jewelry, pill bottles, piles of unread mail, dental floss. They hang out together, not in that comfortable, let’s-sleep-all-the-time fur-pile that he used to make with Mouchette, but like teenagers hanging around the kitchen at night, wearing their latent rebellion on their whiskers.

Mouchette reacts to Lola’s attacks with far more distress, howling low in her throat to halt Lola’s progress into my room (the disputed territory), then retreating under the bed with banshee wails if Lola’s relentless in her advance over the threshold. If they actually connect—and I rarely see the moment when this happens—a flying ball of clawed fur will crash land just beyond my head (the headboard’s a cat highway), errant paws pricking my scalp and making me shout.

Even so, I don’t believe Mouchette’s position is undiluted I-hate-that-bitch. She perches on the edge of my dresser and peeks around the door for a half an hour at a time, watching Lola. We call it sentry duty but it’s also fascination. The feline females have been known to sleep a few feet from each other on my bed, or sit the same distance apart on the floor having a staring contest. Lola’s eyes are halfway between sage and emerald. Mouchette’s are the yellow-green of a pre-storm sea. You can tell they want to bond, or almost want to.

The real issue is that Lola thinks fighting is play and Mouchette doesn’t. My girl is nonviolent, except in moments of terror. She deals with Fitzroy’s attacks—made when he’s horny, angry at me and displacing it, or terminally bored—by ignoring him as long as possible, then getting rid of him efficiently. She seems to understand his motivations and not take it personally. I don’t think she understands Lola’s. Of course Fitzroy is easier to read. Lola comes out of nowhere like a kamikaze fighter and it’s very easy to mistake this as murderous intent. It may be, but I don’t think so. She’s too happy after a fight, even when she’s been routed. You know people like that. Lovable, perhaps, but a bitch to live with. Luckily for me, if not Mouchette, Lola’s not a human person.

But Mouchette does want a gal pal. And Lola’s like a socially awkward kid who craves friends but keeps losing them by behaving badly. Will the girls work it out? Will Charles and I work it out, smushed together like a peanut butter and pickle sandwich? Stay tuned.

Wild Gratitude

Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
In everyone of the splintered London streets,

And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s
With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
“And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,
And the gardeners for their private benevolence
And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

And how terrible it must have seemed
When even this small pleasure was denied him.
But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down
And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth
That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant
Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”
And for the first time understood what it meant.
Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
That I realized how gratefully he had watched
Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”
And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

And only then did I understand
It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
Who can teach us how to praise—purring
In their own language,
Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

–Edward Hirsch
audio clip found here

What’s worse, a nuclear-armed Iran or the oceans rising for the next 1,000 years?

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

North American at Risk

Lola cleans herself, using resources sparingly and wasting no time on politics.

I read recently that the predicted worsening of extreme weather is also predicted to hit North America much harder than anywhere else, due to geographic/climate patterns I am not competent to explain. I doubt many people know this. Not that I can speak for the Midwest farmers or people who have lost homes to flood or fire, but the media keeps repeating that the people who contributed the least to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will suffer most, and this makes people think it won’t be so bad here. Yes, it will be far worse for the poor in Asia and Africa when food prices rise; and storms are more damaging if you live in a shack or a mud hut and have no resources for rebuilding. I’m not disputing that. But it will be no picnic here. We’ll be getting droughts, hurricanes and fires, getting more than our share (or less than our share, depending on how you look at it). The insurance industry is getting antsy. They believe in climate change. How long before coverage gets too expensive, like health insurance?

And how long before economic decline kicks in with a vengeance? Higher food and insurance prices will lead to a lot of people becoming homeless, and a lot more not buying the “luxuries” that make the economy run, and that will hit everyone. It makes me angry that none of this was discussed in last night’s debate. All of the economic and national security questions raised are strongly affected by climate change, which is far more certain than whether Iran will build a nuclear bomb. The military knows this, Joe Biden knows it and Paul Ryan would know it if he visited the “reality community” once in a while. I am quite certain it will be very different in four years. But four years may be too late.

Our politicians are despicably cowardly and I include Obama in that. We all have hopes for his second term—assuming he gets one—and he may fulfill them, but I doubt it. He’ll continue on the track of tougher regulations and subsidies to renewable energy companies (good), but he won’t tell the country that we’re in a climate emergency. He won’t give the 74% of people who believe in global warming the information they need, convey the urgency, propose and explain actions that can be taken (are being taken) on the community as well as national level.

Can you imagine the difference that would make? Maybe he’d pay for it by having more trouble getting bills passed. He’d certainly get tons of shit and be called out on why he didn’t talk about this before the election. But it would well be worth it. If he addressed the public once a month, simply let people know what’s being done and can be done on the state and local level (a smartly composed task force coming up with more ideas wouldn’t hurt), highlighting successes and updating them on the latest science—if he did that, not telling people what they have to do but what they can do, then innovation, creativity and green jobs would bloom.

On that note, it was a bloomin’ beautiful day for the farmer’s market. We bought corn, green beans, zucchini as firm as an 18-year-old boy’s favorite body part (“What will you bring to this country as a man?” “Um, Martha, you want me to show you?”) and what I can only call an ebullience of apples: Macintosh, Macoun, Cortland, Empire. Pie today, pie tomorrow.

There’s a very sharp piece about the debate here

First Fire

Stripped in a flamedance, the bluff backing our houses
quivered in wet-black skin. A shawl of haze tugged tight
around the starkness. We could have choked on August.

Smoke thick in our throats, nearly naked as the earth,
we played bare feet over the heat caught in asphalt.
Could we, green girls, have prepared for this? Yesterday,

we played in sand-carpeted caves. The store we built
sold broken bits of ice plant, empty snail shells, leaves.
Our school’s walls were open sky. We reeled in wonder

from the hills, oblivious to the beckoning
crescendo and to our parent’s hushed communion.
When our bluff swayed into the undulation, we ran

into the still streets of our suburb, feet burning
against a fury that we did not know was change.

Camille Dungy

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