Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

Everything I think to write seems trite while there is so much suffering in Asia. Suffering doesn't even seem to be a good word. So I'll leave it at that.
Peace and love

Tsunami's God's punishment -- No way

I read this story in the local paper: “Some say tsunami is reprisal for sins.”
Then I read Chicago Tribune columnist Steven Chapman’s take: “Moments like this mock that humans should live in harmony with nature. When did nature ever live in harmony with us.”
I would offer a different take. If humans were living in harmony with nature then nature would be kind to us. We continue to upend our environment. To even care about the environment is to be labeled a “hippie” or a “lefty.”
Expanding on my thoughts from yesterday, I’m throwing out a pseudo scientific explanation, using the ecosystem as a model – everything is interdependent on everything else and when that is off balance, there are consequences.
I don’t think God punished all those people. Many were children and children are too young to be evil. If God or the creator were to punish, then surely God would take aim at murders and such. Punishing is something that humans do, not what God does, at least in my book.
I don’t have any explanation for what happened.
But I look at it as an opportunity to more fully participate in the world, whether it be learning more geography, or reading a book about another culture or learning another language, even traveling to another country, if that’s financially possible. I think Americans, especially, have a tendency to think this is the best country in the world; why go anywhere else or learn about another culture? That thought is reflected in our educational system, where social studies is a missed opportunity to learn about other cultures, and foreign languages aren’t even offered until high school. I think the single thing that America could do to understand its new place in the world would be to revamp social studies. I know it sounds simplistic but essentially, we're taught we're the best.
I look at it as an opportunity to become a better empathizer. What would I do in that situation? Would I save my own life or save others without regard for mine? Would I be brave or fearful? How can I better serve the world?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Another chance?

I know this is stretching the imagination but what if the disaster is the world's way (or God or whatever you believe) of bringing people together, of saying: This is another chance to get it right. Sept. 11 brought the world together but it was short lived. The event drove a wedge between America and the rest of the world. America went on the defense instead of grasping its new place in the world. Now this, another chance for the world to come together, to notice that the world is a small place, to see the greatness of other countries -- the Thai helping the tourists, for example -- and that humans are so fragile and Mother Nature can do more to us than we could ever do to ourselves.

Sophie's choice

I know there are a lot of stories coming out of the tsunami disaster but, for me, the story about the mom who had to choose between two children is too much for me and I can't bear to listen to that story. For me, I don't believe I would've been able to choose and perhaps we'd all die. But who knows what happens in your mind in that situation.

On the stingy bandwagon

I think the newspaper editorialists are pushing the "stingy" American issue and need to find something else to criticize. I'm no fan of the Bush Administration (I voted for Kerry and was disappointed when he lost) but I believe when Bush says he's a man of God, he means it. We at least know that's true. He's certainly not going to be stingy. The media is always quick to point fingers but they don't really know anything first hand. Sure, journalists can talk to people and even go to the scene but they're really just bystanders. The people who are doing the work are trying to figure things out. The relief effort is unprecedented. Not everything that's said behind the scenes makes its way to the press. When the press doesn't have information, it seems it's always spun in a negative manner. I think the U.S. will be generous and if it isn't I know the people will be.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

John Frusciante

I have to admire this man's taste in music. I may even check out his other picks. Rob, who writes in the Dec. issue of the Rolling Stone, chose two of John Frusciante's albums in his top 10 for the year. Woo Hoo!
1. David Berkeley, After the Wrecking Ships (Ten Good): The Atlanta-based troubadour's second album explodes with ripe vignettes, historically based and timelessly rendered with shades of Nick Drake and David Ackles.
2. Patty Griffin, Impossible Dream (ATO): Griffin sounds stressed, frustrated, remorseful, spent yet beautifully poised throughout this mournful and hopeful song cycle of acoustic guitar and piano ballads.
3. Mark Lanegan, Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet): Former Screaming Trees leader and modern-day Northwestern blues singer turns on the electricity and duets with PJ Harvey.
4. Ataxia, Automatic Writing (Record Collection): This is what you get when you lock the Chili Peppers' John Frusciante in a room after a night of listening to Nineties German Krautrock.
5. Tom Waits, Real Gone (Epitaph): This is what you get when you lock Tom Waits in a room with no piano. Dirty sounds made darker by habit.
6. Jens Lekman, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (Secretly Canadian): One minute he's the new Magnetic Fields, the next he's Tim Buckley. Behind the mimic and wiseguy rest sublime melodies.
7. John Frusciante, Shadows Collide With People (Warner Bros.): As a solo act, Frusciante can do anything, and he's determined to do just that as he dances from genre to genre.
8. Iron and Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop): Quiet, reflective songs that at first whisper past then gently nag your conscience with the subtle hooks in place.
9. Anders Parker, Tell It to the Dust (Baryon): Is it country with hints of psychedelia or psychedelia with hints of country? Parker drops the Varnaline name and stands proudly alone.
10. Tom McRae, Just Like Blood (Nettwerk): Winner of the now annual Nick Drake award in England, McRae makes an album too lush for its own good. No need to hide, mate.
Reissue: Various Artists, Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the 80s Underground (Rhino): Music from the decade that happened by innuendo and rumor. Four CDs that tell a very different story than radio and MTV.

Hair and stuff

I can't change the world but I can change my hair color!

This is what I awoke to on Yahoo News when I turned on my computer:
. Aid arrives as tsunami death toll hits 76,700
. Bush criticizes U.N. comment on 'stingy' aid
. Companies search for staff lost in disaster
. Insurgent ambush of Iraqi police kills 29
. Wis. hunter slaying suspect pleads not guilty
. US Airways asks employees to work for free
. Pod of 20 whales beached on Australia coast
. 'Law & Order' star Jerry Orbach dies at 69
Geez, can the news get any worse.
The US Airways story struck me. The company asked its workers to volunteer this New Year's weekend to avoid what happened Christmas weekend. They've got some nerve. I hope the workers don't volunteer. I know it will be a pain in the butt for some of the passengers but imagine your company asking you to work free. I don't think I've ever heard of such a thing. Wait... I suppose I have. The Christmas weekend fiasco ultimately is not the workers' fault, even if they did call for a sickout. If a business has that much trouble with its workers, then the blame can be placed squarely on the management.
The workers have already given up so much because the airlines can't figure out how to make money. I don't get that. Perhaps they should try lowering their prices and I'm sure they'd be swamped with business. For some reason, volume doesn't work for the airline industry. They also could try to spiff up the service, which pretty much stinks. I try to fly Southwest whenever possible. That airline is one of the few if not the only one that's actually profitable. I don't know how well JetBlue is doing but they are pretty good, too.

I didn't watch Jerry Orbach on Law and Order but he was great as the dad in "Dirty Dancing." Cheesy movie but always good.

Here's a few links to some of the interesting stories of the day:
Boy reunited with dad after tsunami
Time and coconuts running out
India says it has enough aid
a personal account of surviving the tusnami

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cut Jan Egeland some slack

How does the song go? "It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya. It pours. Man, it pours." We are getting poured on. The effects of the tsunamis?

Other than donating, (the Red Cross is fast and easy), here are some ideas and other info from blogs on top of the disaster in Asia:;;
This photo brings it home but be warned it's heartbreaking:
There also was a good story in the New York Times today, which featured a some of the links above and noted the ability of blogs to be able to capture real moments by real people.

Everyone needs to back off of Jan Egeland, the United Nations relief coordinator for the disaster in Asia. He's dealing with one of the greatest disasters ever. Of course he's going to be angry, especially if the money isn't coming in fast enough.

Is it more important to be right?

Well, the death toll in the countries affected by the Tsunamis has risen to 23,000 plus. That's a whole lot of people, a whole lot of devastation. It's unimaginable. The fact that 23,000 lives can be ended so quickly further proves the ridiculousness of war. No matter what we do to ourselves, Mother Nature can do us one better.

During a hike this morning, a friend and I tossed this around: Why is religion a constant source of contention for the planet, when it's supposed to be a beautiful thing. Most religions teach tolerance and kindness and if we all abided by our respective religous teachings, we'd do all right. But too many religions want to be right and the faithful spend too much time trying to convince others to do what they believe is right. Is it more important to be right?
The things that people do for God are some of the worst things you can do. The "enemy" in Iraq, the so-called "insurgents" are fighting in the name of God. So too is the United States. So how can either be right? What if we all believed that God was within us as opposed to someone we worshipped? Would we behave differently? Is there an ultimate right and wrong? Ultimately, does it matter if you're right or wrong? Or is it how you treat people in the process of being right or wrong? What if you treated people well but were wrong? Or, conversely, what if you treated others poorly but were right? How can two sides, each having unbending beliefs, ever find common ground?

OK, we talked about other stuff, too ..... skateboarding, skateboarding injuries and my friend's new toy, an indoboard, which she says is a great workout but not a lot of cardio. Who needs cardio :-)

Sunday, December 26, 2004


This is incredible: The world's most powerful earthquake triggered tidal waves that have killed 12,300 or more people. Mother Nature swoops in and takes life just like that.
A story in the Washington Post, gives a first-person account. It struck without warning with clear blue skies.
The AP gives some context on the history of tidal waves (tsunami).

Update from the Red Cross, where you can also donate. Turns out that the quake was the largest to hit the planet since 1964.

John Frusciante's music makes me happy

After two hours of listening to John Frusciante's music with headphones, I realize I don't just love his music, I'm in love with his music. Seems I've heard that line before.
My love affair with John's music began about three years ago. His music speaks to me so much that I want to roll it up and put it in my heart or inject it or whatever.
John, by the way, is the guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But as a solo artist, he's done something rather incredible for a musician these days. This year, he's released six albums. That's SIX. S-I-X. Imagine your favorite musician/band releasing six records. He's releasing the next one called "Curtains" in January.
The CDs all are unique, different styles. On some, he collaborated with other artists such as bass player Joe Lally of Fugazi and Josh Klinghoffer. John's done several albums with Josh, who is an amazing musician himself. He plays just about every instrument and has a soft feminine voice, which complements John's voice. Josh has been the drummer on P.J. Harvey's tour. P.J. (Polly Jean) has been widely promoted this year. I have yet to listen to her CD.
But back to the music. With headphones on, it's like mediation, getting lost in the music. Each time I listen I hear -- even feel -- something new. His music is layered and textured. His best instrument is his voice, which he uses in a variety of ways. He growls, grumbles, whispers, screams and serenades. His lyrics are provocative and he sings the words in an interesting way that I'm still trying to grasp.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Somber Christmas

Remember on this Christmas that 1,471 soldiers who were fighting in Iraq are dead and an estimated 14,880 Iraqi citizens.
This is the count from CNN: "There have been 1,471 coalition troop deaths, 1,321 Americans, 75 Britons, seven Bulgarians, one Dane, two Dutch, two Estonians, one Hungarian, 19 Italians, one Latvian, 16 Poles, one Salvadoran, three Slovaks, 11 Spaniards, two Thai and nine Ukrainians in the war in Iraq as of December 24, 2004."

Read a story in the LA Times about how the soldiers are doing today

On his show last night, CNN's Larry King featured four religious leaders and Deepak Chopra, author and the founder of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine.
Funny, none of the religious guys (and they were all guys) could agree on what the Bible says. The Bible is interpreted in so many different ways.
Deepak seemed to transcend the debate: “Spirituality is a domain of awareness,” he said. “There is no argument about fact in which nobody can corroborate.”

In other words, no matter what you believe, just be kind to your fellow human being darn it!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Peace and love

In the spirit of retooling Christmas (read yesterday's post) and the whole holiday season, I wish you peace.
Here is how you say peace in several different languages:
Shalom - Hebrew
Wetaskiwin - Cree
Maluhia - Hawaiian
Heiwa - Japanese

There was an essay recently in the New York Times titled "The Strongest Force? Any Parent Can Tell You."
What do you think it is?
I happen to agree with the author, Dennis Overbye, but I didn't like the way he made the point because I don't think he made a strong enough case talking about squirrel love and all. That's beside the point, though. The point is LOVE is the strongest force in the universe. So why don't we use more of that energy?
The premier issue of Scientific American Mind magazine has a great story -- The Samaratin Paradox. In a seemingly survival-of-the-fittest world, where everyone is trying to get theirs first, why are people still kind? That's the question the story raises. The story poses interesting theories. But I think it goes back to LOVE being the strongest force.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Retooling Christmas

I think it's odd that soldiers are dying days before Christmas, supposedly fighting for our freedom, and Americans are rushing around fighting for parking spots.

This year I finally did it. I retooled Christmas. This is how: By donating gifts only to those who need them, rather than buying gifts for people who already have enough things. I only spent what I could afford and it felt good.
On the topic of gifts, did anyone see Oprah's show today? Oh my gosh, she donated $40 million to Alicia Keys' charity. Holy cows! Hurray for Oprah, whose Angel Network charity is one of the best out there because all the money goes to the charity. Oprah pays for the administrative costs out of her own pocket.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Walter Arvinger

recently received clemency from the Gov. of Maryland for a crime he apparently didn't commit. He was 19 when he went to jail. Now he's 55. What's intriguing about Walter is he says he's not bitter.
A group of University of Maryland Law School students, led by their professor, took his case pro bono and put school time to good use. Congratulations to them for turning school into a practical application. Congratulations to the professor for having the mind to do something meaningful. I don't remember having any professors nearly as remarkable. The students probably learned more than some people learn in a lifetime. Read and listen here. As for Arvinger, what an amazing human being.

Soon we'll be able to read books from the Oxford University library online, as well as books from the libraries of Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and
the New York Public Library. Thanks to Google. Read it here.

OK. it's finally out. People also shop for themselves during the holidays, perhaps even more than for others. People get into a frenzy, they feel deserving and they feel like they're not going to get what they want anyway.
Read it here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Firefox rocks!

Firefox downloads have surpassed 10 million times since its November release, according to the Mozilla Foundation. For those who don't know, Firefox rocks! It's a browser like Internet Explorer but there are no popup ads. It's easy to download and easier to use. If you're used to IE, it will be a snap to use because it's intuitive. Read about it here.

How about the cover of the NYT? You'd think those people won the lottery. But no. They were delighted that another human being who likely killed his own wife and baby was going to die too! Celebration time! What's wrong with that picture?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Five People You Meet in Heaven

For anyone who hasn't read "Five People You Meet in Heaven," by Mitch Albom, read it!. I avoided it because I don't like to read the most popular books. But this one was worth it. So good, just the way I'd like to imagine heaven, if there is such a place. It's a quick read, too.

I believe the US has reached its peak of greatness. The reelection of George Bush was more than values over immoralists or Republicans over Democrats. It was a turning point. It was war over peace. It was a blow for the poorest, the creative, the most thoughtful in American society. More on this later.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer rocks! Who's that? He's the guy shaking up Wall Street, New York's attorney general. Now he is running for governor of new York. not only that but also he made the announcement over the Internet and has his very own blog. We need more Eliots. read it in his blog in the section "12-07-2004 I'm running for governor" here.

Who's surprised that the athletes are doping? does it matter? for all their discipline, athletes are just like the rest of us, fragile human beings aspiring to do better. read about the doping rules here:

Monday, December 06, 2004

Bob Dylan not all that

This from Bob Dylan's recent interview on 60 Minutes.

He said he was destined to write great songs but said he wasn't able to do it these days. When he could, he said he tapped into something "magical."
"a different kind of penetrating magic."

Dylan on destiny -- "you know something about yourself that no one else does"
Then he said you have to keep it to yourself.
Why did he change his name? Again, destiny. "Some people are born with wrong names, wrong parents."

He didn't see himself the voice of the 1960s. "You're just not that person everybody thinks you are."

People wanted to discuss organic farming and things popular with the Hippie crowd, but he said he didn't know anything about those topics.

He said he wrote intentionally bad music. He wanted to change people's image of him. I changed my image of him after I saw him once in concert and was sorely disappointed. He never looked at the audience and didn't relate. he kept his head down and didn't even acknowledge the opening band, whom I know adored Dylan and was grateful to be on the same bill.

Blowin' in the Wind is a pretty good song but I could take him or leave him. Perhaps children of the 1960s know better.

Dylan said he made a bargain with destiny. He seems very unhappy, depressed almost. some bargain. why bother if there's no joy.

I have a theory that all creativity comes from something bigger than one person. Being creative is tapping into a universal creativity, one that already exists. Some people can reach it. Some struggle. With that, it seems like Bob Dylan couldn't rectify the feeling of creating something that was his but at the same time wasn't.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Idiot box is still a man's world

This from a story today: "Men and women who've ever dealt with unemployment may have a heightened risk of dying early, particularly from suicide and injuries, a Swedish study suggests." well, duh. sometimes I can't believe they spend money studying such things.

Here is the country's state of health report:
let me tell you, it's not good. 40% of the population is on some kind of meds. I wonder what percent of that is the meds-addicted population.

From the NYT: "It's still a man's world on the idiot box." well, that's why it's called the idiot box. Columnist Maureen Dowd talks about how women weren't considered to replace anchor Tom Brokaw. Maybe women are just smarter than that. Maybe they have better things to do. It didn't seem like Katie Couric or any other woman was vying for the job. Perhaps women are more focused on life balance. just maybe.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Musician of the day!

John Frusciante. Here's lyrics from one of my faves:

You don't throw your life away
Going inside
You get to know who's watching you
And who besides you resides
In your body
Where you're slow
Where you go doesn't matter
Cuz there will come a time
When time goes out the window
And you'll learn to drive out of focus
I'm you and if anything unfolds
it's supposed to
You don't throw your time away sitting still
I'm in a chain of memories
It's my will
And I had to consult some figures of my past
And I know someone after me
Will go right back
I'm not telling a view
I've got this night to unglue
I moved this fight away
By doing things there's no reason to do