Thursday, August 30, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Birds as Symbols

I only caught snippets of Michael Savage last night (8/29), but his discussion (or rather, rant, as usual) about the Senator Craig affair had somehow wandered to the bird calling in the background of the Senator's "I am not gay" press conference. Yes, it was a Red-winged Blackbird (its "cong-er-ee" call), as a caller or two told him; but Savage's immediate reaction was so typically Western, and by the way, so typically traditional-lit-crit: he asked, "What does the blackbird symbolize in literature?!" Yikes! The very subject, really, of my book-manuscript-at-the-press. I couldn't handle the ideational pain and fled to sports talk radio.

I suppose that at least one caller fed Savage the standard freshman-in-college answer—"the blackbird stands for death"—and that our good Doctor applied it "cleverly" to the Senator's doomed career. But again, how symptomatic of mainstream anthropocentric culture to see other species as "all about us," as if God had put other species here to remind humans of our own mortality. (Geez, was there ever a real, honest-to-goodness snake in the Garden of Eden?) There was a real, individual Red-winged Blackbird calling there, with as much "reason" and worth to do so as the human fellow frantically trying to save his political ass. A deconstructive reversal of foreground & background might be instructive here: "What's that stupid primate sputtering about while Mr. Blackbird sings his wonderful tune?"

Finally, the old "death" equation hardly works with the red-wing, anyway. The "black birds" traditionally demonized in Western folklore are the crow and raven, not even loosely related to the red-wing. Closer, ornithologically, are Wallace Steven's grackles, sometimes read by critics as symbols of death (though symbols of sheer mundanity, of "reality" itself, works better for me in the context of Stevens' corpus). In contrast, though—if I HAVE to talk "symbolism"—the red-wing has always suggested to me the jouissance of the new spring, a powerfully ebullient paean to (and epitome of) nature's general rejuvenation. But as a poem I wrote as a much younger fellow reminds me, even this is sheer homocentric projection:

        AFTER LORCA   (c. 1986; rev. 1992)

the red-winged blackbird
sings, but not to call his pied-brown mate
or a cattail congerie--
he sings to be singing: he sings

the red-winged blackbird
sings, but not for the ever-returning spring,
or other springs, gone by--
he sings to be singing: he sings

the red-winged blackbird
sings, not to recall in us some preter-
natural nature of things:
he sings

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Subduing the Universe

A biblical scholar speaking on the Michael Savage last night (8/28, though apparently it was a "best of" rerun): "God created man to subdue the universe." I'd comment on this powerful notion in some detail, but right now I'm busy planning the subjugation (and ecological rapine) of a 3rd-world island-nation in the South Pacific. . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

* RADIO RANT: The Savage Within

Michael Savage admonished godless liberals last night (8/27) for not understanding something about good Christian conservatives, shouting, half-apoplectically, "Why do you think people worship God? To control the animal within!" A pretty scary (self-)admission, and a pretty poor reason to believe in a deity.

Ergo—some Quots. of the Day:

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained. . . .
    --William Blake

Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws.

The will to overcome an emotion is ultimately only the will of another, or of several other, emotions.

Monday, August 20, 2007

* "DEEP Ecology"

I'm sure all of you got tired of listening to that glib sleazeball capitalist, Utah mine-owner Bob Murray, on the cable news. What an asshole. I guessed immediately that this was Mr. $$ doing a cover-up operation, despite all his cant about his company's great concern for the trapped miners' families, etc. Worst of all—let's blame it on "Mother Nature," Bob says; besides some purported originary "quake" (refuted by real seismologists), it's them damned "NATURAL" movements in the earth, them damned seismic "bumps" that won't let us progress upon our savior mission. Did you ever think—duh, you KNOW you knew, you bastard!—that all that ground activity is BECAUSE of your (questionable) mining practices? I don't even wanna witness all the tracks-covering you'll be performing in the next week or so: think I'll bury myself in my schoolwork.


(The following effusion was inspired in part by my awareness that I seemed to be "rushing" out blog posts now, knowing that I wouldn't be able to expend nearly as much effort when school started.)

I imagine that damned near EVERYONE who has grown up in a Western nine-month school system has internalized the same seasonal-emotional clock: the clock that says, with the end of summer, something painful comes. Whether your particular school starts in mid/late August or after Labor Day, it's that same archetypal turn towards the "Fall of Man," both a darkening of the seasons and an imprisonment of the soul: i.e., SCHOOL.

And it also really doesn't matter that much if you're a student or teacher, young or old. ALL know that two-weeks-to-go shudder, that beginning-of-the-end-of-pleasure "I-have-to-do-something-now-before-it's-over!" As a child, I knew it, even though I also knew that, as a poor kid whose only love was books, it wasn't that great a loss. As a young man without a job, though, I especially felt it, perhaps, since watching Jerry Lewis & his marathon without having found a real job YET meant true failure, according to the natural order/timeframe of things. (That is, without a job, I should by all rights be in school now, in some fashion or another, doing something!) As a middle-aged curmudgeon with a teaching job, yes, there's the pressure of syllabi and handouts and trying to concentrate the mind beyond the ephemeralia of blogs & "radio rants"—and yet my classes actually do deal with many of the issues that I'm so po'd about in these blog entries.

But still—yes: the body's, and society's, clock says it's the end of summer, a death, a finale, a funeral for the soul. But like that toothache I blogged about before—it's rather a delicious pain at this point in my life, an acknowledged product of the heavy fruits of consciousness. [Geez, I came off sounding older than I am. I hope.]

* RADIO RANT: "Let It Lie!"

The English-teacher schoolmarm in me has a whole list of future-blog bitches regarding English-language usage in the popular media. (One that has especially irked me on sports-talk radio is the ubiquitous dangling modifier, "Having said that.") But one old chestnut has especially struck my Queen's-English-obsessed heart these last few weeks. (I often point out the irony to my Anglo students, that the mixed-blood mutt that I am has HAD to obsess about, CARE about, "their" language, to be "good enough," more than they have.)

Well, the problem is the old "lie" versus "lay" deal. Whether it's Michael Savage or the ESPN-talk-guy-du-jour, it's inevitably, "So then I went to lay down [in bed, on the couch, etc.] . . . ." No, you went to lie down. You lay down, Michael Savage, that copy of Mein Kampf you've been reading so assiduously. [Low blow, admittedly, but he does worse to "my" side. And yes, I know that the past tense of lie is lay.]

Worse yet, these last few weeks, I've heard several examples of characters in sitcoms making the same error. (Characteristic: "I'm going to lay down now.") The writers might easily say, "Well, that's how everyday people talk. Most of us make the same mistake." Well, geez, you can't actually help the "State" (and the state of public education) by some proper modeling/brainwashing here?! A lot of "everyday" people also say "fucking" as a phatic interjection every 3rd or 4th word, but I don't hear that in your "realist" aesthetics. (If that was your rationale. Actually, I wonder if you know the proper usage, either.)

A final objection: Tom, this "rule" is obviously becoming defunct, out of ignorance + usage. Well, maybe. And I could admit defeat more magnanimously if only I hadn't spent my life learning such rules—and, as I said, sucking up to the Great White Ways because I was a bit less than white. (At least I NEVER made my students adhere to that stupid don't-end-your-sentence-with-a-proposition rule; I'm mean, that's so archaic—except in the most formal of rhetorical situations—that I don't have the words that express my disdain for. It.)

[Added 8/21/07:] Again, tonight, on CNN, a fellow speaking about the Utah mining disaster: ". . . leave the bodies where they lay."

* Tom's Garlic Toast

I mentioned in my last recipe that garlic was my "favorite vegetable." In fact, I used to munch on raw cloves, for the sheer rush. In contrast to that namby-pamby store-bought garlic toast (using garlic salt or powder?), here's an "in-your-face" version:
1. Prepare garlic by chopping several garlic cloves (I prefer pretty big pieces, 3-4 per clove).
2. Make 2 pieces of toast.
3. "Butter" toast.
4. Sprinkle chopped garlic over toast, so that each bite will hit a piece of garlic.
5. Do NOT make spaghetti, or whatever. This is a heavenly repast unto itself.

* Lima Bean (& Ham) Soup

I'm making my famous-only-to-me bean soup today, another one of those recipes that sound so boring, but taste so good, and remind me of my childhood, and of the days before Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage! ("Yeh, Hubert Horatio Humphrey is still alive, and the future looks bright, and progressive. Yeh. Good beans, too.")

I use a slow cooker now for this recipe, though like chili, it's hardly required, or even preferable.
* HALF-bag of dried beans, your choice (recipe originally designed for large lima beans, but baby limas, black beans, even that bag of 13 assorted beans—all fine)
* spices of choice: mine include (lemon) pepper, salt (substitute), (1/2) bay leaf, garlic powder, dry mustard powder, and Tabasco sauce . . . (Yes, I used to SMOKE—and so used/still use lots o' spices so I can taste the food. Also, having recently acquired a love for Asian Indian food, I even added some minced ginger this time.)
* veggies of choice: chopped carrots & celery are bourgeois de rigeur; good, too: several garlic cloves (my favorite vegetable), and (half?) a chopped onion
* [OPTIONAL:] ham product of choice—a hamhock (my traditional way, in the days sans money), or a ham part/steak w/ bone, or that precooked cubed ham, etc. (UNcooked is preferable, if you want those "traditional" fat droplets floatin' atop yr soup.)
* small can of tomato sauce

[Crock-pot cooking time: Low: 6-8 hours; High: 3-4 hours (?—I don't mind my beans & veggies al dente!)]
1. Prepare beans, either by overnight soaking or that "quick-prep" boiling method given on the back of most dry-bean packages (former method preferable).
2. Throw some water into the slow cooker. (Doesn't matter how much—you'll be adding more later.)
3. Add spices & beans.
4. Add "hard" vegetables (carrots, onions, etc.).
5. Add ham, if uncooked. If cooked, you can wait several hours (see #6).
(I like to stagger the steps above by a half-hour or so, just to take a break from the computer. Also, add water as needed at any stage.)
Several hours later/halfway through the process:
6. Add (cooked) ham. Add "soft" vegetables (probably only celery here).
(Half-)hour before serving:
7. Add tomato sauce. (Overcooking tomato sauce makes everything taste "burnt" or "turned," for some reason.)

8. Last, but most importantly: add approx. 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to that bowl o' beans you just ladled out: mmm, mmm! Serve with hard rolls or other bread of choice (spread w/ "oleo"?—as my mom used to call it), to dip into the soup.

Of course, these crock-pot recipes make a lot more than a person living alone can handle, in one meal, or even one day; for soups or stews like this one, I eat as much as I can (bad advice!), and then freeze the rest in individual microwaveable bowls (covered with aluminum foil), which I can slowly unthaw/reheat in the microwave on a rainy day.

[Added same day:] Oh! The ginger makes it entirely NEW. I added more. . . .

* Subliminal Appeals on Cable News?

Several of the main cable news channels are displaying a visual of Hurricane Dean as a marquee in one corner, as it tears through the Caribbean. But sometimes when I'm channel-surfing and not thinking (happens a lot), I suddenly come upon this visual and see at first—gasp—a BREAST. And the hurricane's eye is the NIPPLE. "I do not know what makes me see these things." (Hey, that was iambic pentameter. Cool.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Making Mirth w/ Myths

I was car-radio-surfing this Sunday morning, on the drive back to Lincoln from Verminville, when I happened upon a Christian talk-radio station. They were doing an apparently weekly feature for them, a review of the week's new movies, including one called Arctic Tale. The main reviewer fellow was surprisingly positive in general, given my assumption that this film is at least "sort of" a lefty/tree-hugger/eco-nut movie; but things heated up (pun intended) when the other radio personality detected a global warming agenda in the plot. Even here, the reviewer eased all good Christians' fears(?!) by asserting that this message is understated, not blatant. Well, until the ending-credit stuff, that is, where such bogus ideology becomes too overt for these good souls: a few quotes therefrom have both of them guffawing, chortling, snickering . . . at the sheer absurdity of believing in this myth that is global warming. . . . Thank the Good LORD that Christians don't believe in anything nearly as ridiculous.. . . ["Eat this dried-up, tasteless wafer. It's really the body of Jesus of Nazareth, who died circa 33 A.D. Besides that, he's still alive, even as you're munching on him right now." "The hell, yu' say!"]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Shakespeare Savaged

Michael Savage brought out his bag of literary learnèdness again last night (8/15/07), quoting—sort of—Shylock's famous speech beginning "Hath not a Jew eyes . . . ?" (MofV 3.1). But, sputtering on the quotation, he ended with the following edifying advice: "Read your Shakespeare, and you'll get the rest of that particular couplet." Couplet? It's a speech in prose, man; read your prosody handbook, and you'll get why "couplet" in no way applies here. A forgivable error, maybe, if you weren't such a poseur in pedantry. (I think that's called "illiteration"!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

* That's GAY[?!]

THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW [TBS; aired tonight (8/14/07)]:
[At a Parents-Teachers Conference:]
BILL: You didn't like to read Jane Austin as a teen[ager], did yu'?
TEACHER: Yes, I did.
BILL: Well, that's just GAY.

When I read the transcript above to my wife over the phone, expecting a surprise/outrage that mirrored my own, she said instead, "I'd need to know the full context." HUH? Would she have have had less of an ethical dilemma if Bill had said, "That's so Negro" (the teacher was black, BTW) or "You're such a fag"?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Carrot-&-Stick Ethics

A relatively new commercial on the radio seems innocuous enough: it's for, and asks one to be "civically active"—to vote, to volunteer, etc. But the "goodkarma" part of the URL is the sticking point for me. Why be civic-minded, ethical—ultimately, GOOD? Well, you'll be rewarded for it, for "stay[ing] on the universe's good side," as the web site tells us. Or punished for being "bad," apparently: "So play nice. You won't like the universe when it's angry." This is merely a New Age/Asian metaphysical version of good-old-fashioned Christian theology, which says to the unwashed masses: "Be good—SO you can get to Heaven. Don't be bad, or you'll earn eternal damnation." I'm against any such carrot-and-stick ethics because it is just a grander displacement of the child's early "ethical" development: be good, and Mommy will hug you! Be bad, and Dad'll beat your ass! This isn't being ethical at all; it's being a pawn of operant conditioning. (Thus Freud saw Western religion itself as part of an earlier, "childish" stage of human evolution.) At least from Kant on, philosophers have spoken of an ethics for its own sake as the real "Good," in contrast to behavior dependent upon an external set of reinforcers. In sum, how is volunteering at the homeless shelter—to guarantee some good karma for yourself—in any way ethical in a fundamental, intrinsic sense?

(An objection: "Maybe the 'karmic' discourse of this whole web site is just good-naturedly tongue-in-cheek, just tryin' to get people more positively involved." Well. Okay. . . . Or IS it okay, to "play" willy-nilly with such serious things as worldviews, as if they were mere Pepsi or Coke t-shirts to be donned and doffed at will in this postmodern era? I don't have a sense of humor in this realm. [Geez, I'm becoming a curmudgeon, as the Minnesota Twins continue their losing ways!])

* RADIO RANT: Women's Rights vs. Animal Rights?

Paul Zeise, a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has created a new round of controversy in the Michael Vick saga by uttering the following on a Pittsburg talk show: "It's really a sad day in this country when . . . Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman [rather than running a vicious dog-fighting racket] . . . . Had he done that, he probably would have been suspended for [only] four games [rather than a year] and he'd be back on the field." To me, the meat of this new controversy is that several national sports commentators have come to Zeise's defense (e.g., John Fricke), via at least the implication that the current atmosphere of "political correctness" has led to a privileging of wild animals over our own women.

On one important level, these people are right, of course: Kobe Bryant and the legion of athletes charged with rape and spousal abuse have been getting mere hand-slaps from their leagues & teams, as the patriarchal game of wink-wink continues. They should be getting much more severe penalties. However, this issue is really independent of the Michael Vick episode; and the stance above, in its ostensible attempt to be anti-sexist, reveals once again an utter anthropocentrism: i.e., a human (woman) is more important than another animal. I, for one, believe that being instrumental in the violent deaths of many individuals of another species is a greater crime than the sexual abuse of any single member of our one species (whatever the gender). There, I've said it. Zeise, Fricke, et al. are wrong; it is hardly a "sad day," but a positive evolution in the general consciousness, in my mind. What is sad is that this debate seems to force one to pick & choose between women's rights and animal rights. But again, they're separate issues.

Of course I'm completely wrong in the "separate issue" thing, but this twist of an admission takes the argument to entirely different level. A major tenet of ecofeminism is that what the patriarchy does to women and "animals" (and to Natives and the environment) comes from the same source, an imperialist White male need to identify and ostracize an Other, including a propensity to commit violence against "her"—to maintain at last a master/slave, Self/Other, civilization/nature hierarchal binary, to reassure the Self of its superior status. What is truly surprising, then, is that these commentators are speaking of the two crimes as if they were fundamentally different things!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

* SPAM: Writing Software

Spam is especially delicious when its very message belies the offer, as in a writing-aid company that can't spell (or punctuate):

"Writing a business email? Feeling short on words? WhiteSmoke writing software takes your writing from simple to sophisticated. [. . .]

To no lnger be included in mailings about this send an email to support@whitesmoke. com

Wish to no longer get mail, rmove here"

Thursday, August 9, 2007

* HSN: "Sheer Cover with Leeza Gibbons"

I channel-surf too much. I jut saw a before and after pair of pictures, of a woman's eyes, and I thought the "before" looked so much more alive and attractive. What are these cosmetic people thinking? I recall French feminist Hélène's Cixous's assertion that make-up is a way that women "kill" themselves ("ghastly" appearance-wise), under the pressure of a gynocidal patriarchy. But her comment only became real to me now, listening to this discourse that seems from another planet.

For instance: oh, this product gives one those much-cherished "pouty" lips, which "we all" want. All women do?! And what, exactly, are you all pouting about, besides the fact that capitalism has rendered you visual OBJECTS stuck with a bogus aesthetics? (More words I'm hearing right now: "concealer"; "cover up"; "spots"; "punch-up"; "larger pores"; "eraser." It's as if one were ashamed of being a corporeal being, a real animal.)

* Twins Surge?

As usual, the Minnesota Twins are making some noise in the second half of the season—despite Johan Santana's complaint about no major moves before the trading deadline. Unfortunately, they have two (pretty) good teams in the division to catch now (or several more teams in the wild-card race), and I don't think they have the pitching this year to make up for an inconsistent offense. But it is good see Joe Mauer's bat back; and Justin Morneau is simply a monster. But it'll boil down to timely hitting from the Jason Bartletts and Nick Puntos of the world, finally. (Remember who got the game-winning hit in the extra-inning Game 7 of the 1991 World Series? A relative nobody named Gene Larkin.)

But it was the 1987 World series champions that I most loved: with Puckett, Hrbek, Gaetti, Brunansky, and Viola. I wrote a song for/about them a few years later (country/folk chords & rhythm):

Big Kent Hrbek, well, he's our man--
We jut call him Hrby--
And Kirby Puckett's loved by the fans--
We just call him Kirby--
And Garry Gaetti, let's give him a hand--
We just call him the "G(ee-ee)-Man"--
The Twins'll take the Series with just these three:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G."

They're Minnesota's blessed trinity:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G"--
For other teams this trio spells tragedy:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G"--
Over the shoulder or over the wall--
With a glove or a bat, they can do it all--
We could challenge the division with just these three:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G."

At the start of ev'ry season, they're in first place:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G"--
They'll spoil it for someone when they're out of the race:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G."--
Over the shoulder or over the wall--
Can't believe what they can do to that baseball--
The Twins could play the spoiler with just these three:
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G."--
Hrby, Kirby, and the "G."-- [repeat & fade]

(The song's lyrical progression is based on the old baseball anecdote about beloved Chicago Cub, Ernie Banks: at the beginning of each season, he'd always say, "We're gonna win the pennant!"; midway through the season, he'd say, "We'll finish in the upper half of the league!"; and finally, when the Cubs were mired as usual in the cellar towards season's end: "We're gonna spoil it for somebody!")

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

* Noodles Marco Polo; Halfbreed Suppers

Popular demand has clamored for my "Noodles Marco Polo," referred to in the previous post. ("Right"!) Well, they're pretty much plain, "buttered" noodles: I love egg noodles/pasta, but I don't care much for either the tomato-y or cheese-creamy sauces most people put on them.

—1/2-pan of water, w/ tablespoon of oil: bring to boil.
—Add 1/2 package of pasta of choice (= approx. 2 servings/platefuls). (I prefer the thick, "dumpling"-size egg noodles; but fettucini, etc.—they're are all good.) Cook approx. 5 minutes, or to al dente state. (There's nothing worse than mushy pasta. Plus, they'll be cooked a bit more later.)
—Drain noodles in a colander. Turn heat to low. To the still-hot pan, add approx. 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine or olive oil. (The last is my new preference.) Add a pinch of basil, some garlic powder (and/or chopped garlic clove, if ambitious). Add now-drained noodles. Stir vigorously. Add as much grated Parmesan cheese as desired. Stir again. Salt and pepper to taste. (I use "No Salt," i.e., potassium chloride, which I now prefer to sodium chloride for purely irrational reasons.)

Wow—I actually have this as dinner/supper several times a month: no meat! (And no animal products at all, if you don't use butter. [Oops—correction: the EGG noodles, of course.])

(Oh, yeh: I suppose you should leave the "salt & pepper to taste" to other people, if you're lucky enough to live with someone else. I keep forgetting that possibility. And, oh, you might want to double the recipe, you lucky one.)

P.S.: "dinner" or 'supper"? We poor halfbreeds in SoDak had three meals: breakfast (totally optional), lunch, and supper. "Dinner" was that place your better-off relative took you out to every few years. But now, where I work, these people speak of "dinner" as an everyday occurrence. In fact, I've been to a good dozen or so every year these last few years. But I keep wondering, keep asking myself: "Aren't you guilty, Tom, for having dinner so often?"!

* Crock-Pot Recipe: Chicken & Dumplings

Yum; my new invention is up there with my bean soup and my chili and my "Noodles Marco Polo":

1 can of chicken broth (as much water as I added later, TWO cans might be better)
2-3 cloves of garlic
2-3 carrots (6-8 baby ~), chopped
Spices of yr choice (basil, bay leaf, celery powder, garlic powder, etc.)

(Hours) LATER:
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2 chicken breasts (bought mine already "oven-roasted"; if not, add w/ 1st set of ingredients)

LAST (hour):
1 bag of frozen dumplings (or other egg-noodle product of yr choice)

"ENJOY." (=4-5 servings; double ingredients for "family"-sized meal; hey, I LIVE ALONE!—which is probably no surprise to many of you. . . .)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

* BIG AFTERNOON (& Lost in the Wilderness)

Yesterday (8/6/07) I did a "Big Afternoon," in which the birder records as many species as she/he can in that time period (noon to dusk [or to midnight, for the hardy]). These are much more difficult than "Big Mornings": the two hours after sunrise are the climax of the day, bird-activity-wise, with the last hour or so before dusk usually a distant second, in my experience. By noon, the songfests & feasting are done, and the doldrum-heat of the afternoon is lethargic "kick-back" time for many species. Another contrast: on a Big Morning, I am also excited & invigorated at daybreak, along with the birds; with a Big Afternoon, I'm pretty tired & spent by that last daylight hour when the birds are once again quite active.

So I did pretty well, I suppose, to get 50 species, a record for me. Since I've rarely done Big Afternoons, for the reasons stated above, the record was easy to break. Plus, early August—after many species are done nesting and before they start migrating—might be one of the worst times for such a venture, next to the dead of winter. Worse yet, yesterday, there was a downpour from before noon until about 1:15, and so the enterprise began as a semi-fiasco (for me, not nature; and would end with another one).

But I was rewarded, when it stopped raining, by having driven to a new spot for me, Schramm Park SRA, a state park between Lincoln & Omaha, just south of I-80. (But, characteristically, I took the back roads there, in hopes of more birds.) The highlight was a new species, the Least Tern: there was a pair of them, both diving in one of the ponds at the park entrance, making seemingly kamikaze splashes into the water, for small fish. These are small birds, after all, and ergo their name, "Least." Kinda sad, really, for a bird: some birds are GREAT (e.g., the Great Crested Flycatcher), but some are LESSER (e.g., the Lesser Yellowlegs) than "great," and some are last and LEAST! Well, at least there were two of them: "one good tern deserves another," I always say. (Bad birder-nerd humor.)

I saw my first Green Heron of the day at these ponds, too, and several later: I've grown fond of this particular species, which I never saw in SoDak—so small and, uh, skulking, I guess, compared to the Great Blue Heron. (I meant something more positive in connotation than skulking—and something less generic, more assertive, than secretive or furtive.) [(Same day, later add:) Maybe the word is just "sneaky"!?] Later, at a slough in Pioneers Park (Lincoln), I scanned the water—nothing . . . no, wait! There was a Green Heron there, frozen in place & time, its head and neck posed just above the horizontal, its eyes indicative of a mind bent on a fish-fetish monomania of a mission—all beyond the bounds of my human patience. (If I had a heron's patience, my life wouldn't be a collection of unfinished stories, essays, songs, web pages, and other projects grandly conceived but only half-executed.)

Across the highway was the Platte River itself: "I've heared talk o' this here Platte River"—and Nebraskans have good reason to boast of its avifauna. I watched a Bald Eagle fly overhead, the first I'd seen in several years. It was an adult, with the full white head. It was probably only 30 or 40 yards away, and I was struck again at how large this bird is, compared to its hawk-raptor relatives—though the Turkey Vulture is nearly as big. I also thought I saw a Piping Plover when I first arrived at the riverbank, on the closest sandbar, but it immediately ran to the other side of the bar, beyond my vision. But this may have been wishful thinking on my part since, Least Tern just recorded, this bird is now #1 on my species-to-get-for-my-Life-List. (And it still remains so—I didn't see it well enough to count it, especially as the first sighting of a new species.)

Farther down the river is the Platte River State Park, where I recorded a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a species I've become much better acquainted with since moving to Nebraska. The song is curious—not a "coo-coo" at all, really: rather a repeated skoht—deep-pitched, gutteral, even fowl-like.

The afternoon's other highlights, in terms of variety of birds, were the two best birding venues in Lincoln, Pioneers Park and Wilderness Park. But in the latter place, a second fiasco occurred. Somewhere between marveling at the song of an Indigo Bunting and ogling a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ogling me back, I got "turned around," direction-wise. Note that Wilderness Park is aptly named, a deep-wooded area several miles long, intersected by a few roads a mile apart. Well, I finally came to the bridge/road where my car was parked—it seemed like it had been a longer trail than usual—but wait: my car wasn't there, and it was actually a different bridge, and a different road. Damn: it was in the mid-90's, Missouri-humid, and I hadn't brought anything to drink, and I couldn't figure out/remember if this road was a mile north or a mile south of the road where my car was, and I began to panic, and I wondered how far it was (these are the boonies/outskirts of Lincoln) to a Mini-Mart phone to call a cab or something—and then I heard a Black-capped Chickadee—ah!—and wrote it down. I finally flagged down a biker who told me that I was on Old Cheney Rd, that my street—W Pioneers Blvd—was a mile north . . . I found a bottle of water in the car that I'd kept in there for months. It was hotter than hell, but still tasted good. In spite of "losing" an hour (approx. 6:00-7:00 pm), I still had the time and motivation to hit some dirt roads and WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas) northwest of Lincoln for a few more species. . . .

"Oh, Tom Gannon? Yeh, the irony: he died birdwatchin' down at Wilderness Park. Roasted to death, poor man. But at least he broke his Big Afternoon record that day, I hear."

= = = =

P.S.: Oh, yeh, I saw a Eurasian Collared-Dove in Elmwood, Nebraska. (Just caught a flash-glimpse, but the white under-tail feathers were distinctive.) I'm familiar with this bird, which has begun showing up in Rapid City (SoDak) the last few years, and I actually wonder why I haven't seen them in Lincoln yet.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Imaginary Worlds Made More So

Michael Savage flashed his erudition once again last night (8/3/07), imparting an anecdote in which he felt like being in [Jonathan Swift's] Brobdignag. As usual, when making such learned literary allusions, he immediately said something to the effect that his audience probably had no clue regarding the reference. Well, I MUST admit to feeling a bit befuddled, because he actually called Gulliver's imaginary land "Brobingdang"—at least twice. Oh, strange imaginary world, a place to which Gulliver himself never ventured.

* RADIO RANT: Taut Tautologies

Glenn Beck made a brilliant contribution to the history of philosophy yesterday afternoon (8/3/07) by making the following statements: "Stupid people are stupid people; lazy people are lazy people." I'd try to explain how these assertions are much deeper, much more illuminating, than the fact that "4 = 4"—but I'm too stupid and lazy to bother.

Friday, August 3, 2007

* John & Martha IX

* A Dream Deferred: Aunt Bea!

On my GREAT INDIAN pages, I have some incredible Andy of Mayberry dialogue demonstrating the Anglo ideology regarding the Native American, circa 1960. Yep, the discourse presents the Indians as living a healthier, closer-to-the-earth lifestyle, but at the same time—the Indians are "devils." Curiously and/or symptomatically, this last statement (specifically: the "Shawnee—they're devils") has been expunged from the most recent TV version of this sitcom episode—that is, the one I just saw tonight. But I'd already transcribed the "devil" line from the original version on VHS, and so I wonder—uh—why are they erasing such "history"?

But that's the obvious socio-political shtuff. This time I noticed something maybe more precious. It's when Andy comes in and sees Aunt Bea, who's having a great time hammering on the piano & singing, apparently hammered from alcohol for the first time in eons, and Andy says, with a curious look: "You haven't played that piano in years." OH!—now there's an eternal note of sadness for yu'. As a musician who's progressed from various you can't's, I know how hard it is to make the psychic evolutions, and still love to play. "But Aunt Bea! What social/familial forces made it an either/or for yu, Auntie? Why'd yu' have to give up your music?!"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

* God Is Red (and White and Red and . . .)

As a volunteer for NASCA (the Native American Spiritual & Culture Awareness group), at NSP (the Nebraska State Prison), I attended a fine get-together last TU night, of a buffalo-stew supper & speech-making. But I was troubled when another volunteer gave a talk himself, a wasicu who claimed to have had a vision of Leonard Crow Dog's father at age 6(?), and claimed that Leonard himself later told him that, yes, that was his father. He was embarrassingly apologetic (& understandably so) thruout his speech about how he wasn't trying to "over" on another people's religion, and that he still didn't "know much" about Lakota ceremonialism per se. And yet he went on to recount his own hanblecia (vision quest) from a few years ago, spoke cryptically of the heyoka, and generally put himself forward as an earnest initiate into Lakota "religion." (An awful word, at last, in this context.)

I'm still not sure what to think of the fellow. He may well be an earnest & wonderful & enlightened dude. But in my teaching of NatAmer lit, etc., I've come across so many Indian wanna-be's & "Plastic Indian Medicine Men" that my initial response HAD to be negative, or at least suspicious. . . . But then, what about MY motives for this negativity—jealousy? As someone w/ Indian blood whose "red-skinned" mother herself had been raised an "apple," both of us less "close" to Rez ceremonialism than this guy? As always, such issues transcend any simple binary of "Red" & "White."

Well, he ended with a fairly eloquent appeal to "us" Natives to be true to our traditional religious ways. But I suddenly wanted to ask him whether he had been true to his. Or wasn't that tradition (i.e., Christianity) good enough for him? Or why couldn't any Indian there that night have had a vision of, say, St. Francis, circa age 6, and have left his hopeless Hopi ways for good?!

* Ah, Cool: Sticky Blog Posts

Making my occasional foray through Blogger tips&tricks sites, I stumbled upon a hack for something I'd always wanted as a Blogger feature—a "sticky" blog post that you could keep at the top of your first blog page. The trick is to edit the desired post and select "Post Options" (bottom left): here, you can actually edit the post's date. (This possibility never occurred to me, Mr. Rule-Driven Propriety. Geez, it's like time travel.) You can simply set the year to next year, but that fouls up the display of the Blog Archive widget on the right, if you've chosen the standard "Hierachy" style. So for now I'm using instead the last day of the present month (and 11:59 pm), and will only have to change it with each new month. (Or: I'll get tired of the "sticky" itself even before that.)

* RADIO RANT: A Demagogue's Spleen

One of Michael Savage's current promo spots contains one of his characteristic diatribes against the "leftist" government+media establishment, against which he pits himself and all other Americans, apparently: "WE are the backbone of America!" I would limit the breadth of that populist "WE" a good deal, and modify the metaphor. No, Mr. Savage, you are rather the SPLEEN of the American body politic, and your toady-acolyte of an adoring audience, the BLACK BILE thereof. (A dangerous—but ultimately hackneyed—remark follows: I sometimes feel that I'm listening to some crank in Germany of the 1930's; seriously "bad—and scary—vibes, man.")

Savage's clever demagoguery was in full splendor last night (8/1/07), as he fed his masses suggestions that the Minneapolis bridge collapse was "perhaps" an act of Islamic terrorism. As he repeated a bald attempt at sarcasm—"but we CAN'T consider the possibility of terrorism because the government TELLS us it isn't"—his callers became more and more rabid in their speculations. "There's a huge Muslim population right in that area!"; "I've lived in Minnesota, and they're so liberal and P.C., they're a perfect target!" To all such (il)logic, Savage was cleverly "reluctant" to draw his own overt conclusions, repeating his sarcastic mantra above, but it was all too clear that he relished his rhetorical power over his slavering/salivating lackeys. (Historical analogy: screaming rhetorician finds scapegoat, and whips followers into a frenzy against said scapegoat.)

Another of Savage's populist slams last night was against "the old white-boy hegemony." For one thing, people who pronounce hegemony with a hard "g" shouldn't be using the word in public. Secondly, if Savage's own tired & predictable sexism, racism, and (lip service to) morality-driven conservatism isn't part of "the old white-boy hegemony," I don't know what is.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

* Of Computer Nerds & Birds

. . . a hobby fit only for little old ladies in tennis shoes.Another "nerd" tip from the desk—er, laptop—of TCG, for those of you who are both proud iPod owners and (sheepish?) birders.

"Sheepish"? You see, when I was growing up, anyway, birdwatching was the height of nerdsville, pictured in the popular media as a hobby fit only for little old ladies in tennis shoes. I'd slink around the alleys and woods and sloughs with my 7x35 K-Mart binoculars, hoping that people thought that I was merely a peeping Tom, or some other human category less socially ostracized than that of—BIRDWATCHER. Things have changed at least a bit, apparently: I just read the other day that ""[o]ne of every four Americans is a birdwatcher" (Birding Nebraska 144), but that stat is pure hyperbole, unless one includes (as this source does) those who take a nature walk at least "once or twice a year." (We real birders know that such people lack the requisite requirement, which is a veritable MANIA that cannot be eased by the occasional "nature excursion.") . . . I've just invested in a cheap (of course) spotting scope and cheap but humongous tripod—for those "pesky" gulls and other waterfowl often visible only at an extreme distance. I set it up in my apartment, to practice with it, looking out my patio window at distant trees, the moon, etc. Well, now, I'm sheepish about being seen using it for a far different reason. Yes, the irony: in this day and age, I don't want anyone thinking I'm a peeping Tom! . . . I imagine it now, one police officer saying to the other: "Ah, the perv has cleverly strewn his apartment with bird books. An interesting but transparent ruse. Take him away."

To the iPod and the "nerd" tip, finally. Buy one or both of the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CD sets. (If you're in the Midwest/Great Plains like me, you'll want both the Eastern and Western sets.) Then transform them all to iTunes. (Or you can be selective, if jealous of hard-drive space: I omitted many birds that I'll never hear in the northern Great Plains—unless global warming gets on with it even more quickly.) Now, of course, sync your iPod with iTunes, and—voilà—you now have a great birding field-trip aid. If, like me, you hate waiting for hours after having heard a strange bird's song to check it out at home, via a recording or that paragraph-long description in a tome you'd never lug w/ you on the road, and your own faint memory and a bad transliteration that you scribbled down—wait no longer, dear friends! Simply whip out your iPod on the spot, find the two or three bird names/songs that your bird guide has suggested as most likely: [insert Christopher Walken imitation:] ah, that new species is yours, baby, and life is good!

If you want to match my compulsiveness—and don't we all?—you can also cut&paste a photo (readily found on the 'Net) of each species "into" its mp3 file as iTunes "album art." But, assuming that you have a bird guide per se, this is no doubt overkill. (But, ah, an iTunes/iPod digital BIRD GUIDE. I thought of it first! The standard bird-guide textual info can be put into the mp3 file's text fields, and the range map—also readily available on the 'Net—can be a second "album art." [Though I'm not sure the iPod handles multiple albumart yet.] You could even use specific mp3 text fields for personal info on date first seen, et al.)

Finally, and the final irony: I've never remembered to bring my iPod on my birding trips as of yet. As I've mentioned before, I hate the idea of a mini-stereo that I've got to attach or pocket somewhere; plus, I'd have to bring some "real" (bulky) headphones, since those earbud deals drive me to distraction. Hey, but I bet somebody else has thought of this idea, and has tried it and liked it. Or will try it. And maybe like it. I don't know. . . .

* The Tao of Toothaches

I'm finally getting over another 4-5 day period of toothgumtraumapain, and I'm still surprised how surprised I was at that "old" feeling, when I shouldn't have been. The feeling I refer to is how monomaniacally obsessed one becomes with one's own debilitating pain, to the exclusion of all else. Work, food, love—"F--- it all: I've got a tooth that's killing me!" . . . Quot. of the Day:

For there was never yet philosopher / That could endure the toothache patiently. . . .
And the mere philistine that I am endures it even less well.

And I don't think that I'm being especially masochistic in noting that such acute & enduring pain becomes a talisman of sorts, almost a blessing in its ability to concentrate the mind, to constantly remind you that you're alive, that {ugh} "life is pain"; to teach you that your holy list of Immediate-Things-To-Do is an utterly ridiculous thing, at last—a lesson that I'm forgetting again already! Indeed, it's not entirely unlike an unsolicited vision quest or a near-death experience: if only one could keep that "vision" more within the view of the glass-darkly lens of everyday consciousness. (NOT that I'm hoping for more dental trouble. Please, no. Please, no. Please, no.)

* Nicotine Dreams

As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog entry, the warnings for the nicotine patch include those damned "vivid dreams." If these occur—oh, no!—one must "consult" one's "physician." (Now there's a waste o' money.) With the patch on as I sleep (to misquote Wordsworth), "I am the dreamer—Nicotine, the dream." I haven't dreamt so well since I earnestly kept a dream journal, as a budding Freudian/Jungian in my undergraduate days. Dreams that seemingly last for hours on end; dreams that are seemingly as cogently plotted as a movie. (Okay, as coherent as a double feature of two movies by David Lynch, maybe.)

And Freud is right again, at least regarding wish-fulfillment. I'm dreaming once again—or more obviously, at least—about things I want to do, not about anxieties I have about waking life: 1) I'm playing guitar for long periods of time (and swear I can ALMOST remember new licks I've come up with in the dream); 2) I'm spending lots of time with my daughter, and with other family members whom I haven't seen in years (incl. my dear dead maternal grandma); 3) I'm even having quite—uh—Freudian dreams about old girlfriends, and, again, for LONG periods of time; 4) and finally, yes, I'm even smoking the occasional cigarette!

Don't pinch me. I'm dreaming.

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