Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Happy New Year!
(translator's note: the word for word literal translation is "celebrate with the gun." in the apache land that means new year's eve. we, as a culture, were always baffled by the impositions and artificial boundries that a calendar represented. there is a whole crowd of the latest doomsday cultists that are all worked up about the 3,000 year cycle of the mayan calendar and the hopi long count synchronizing on sept 12, 2012. what they fail to realize is the same failures of understanding applied to every other calendar based disaster meme. calendars are merely tools that humans have overlaid upon the inevitable and unstoppable workings of the unimaginably immense universe. we do this to bring things to a smaller, less complex level that can be comprehended by the likes of us. it's like when the first whites called our snake dance a "rain dance." it isn't that at all. we have no illusions that the rains come at our bidding, or won't come if we fail in our ceremonial duties. it always amused us when the missionaries would enlist our complicity in rituals like trans-substantiation, we knew better. although there were many apache who decided that since the white society was strong enough to inflict such total defeats upon us that, therefore, it must follow that the gods they worship must be stronger. there are some delightful mashups of belief that have occured from that. think of the complications that might ensue when the sacramental wine is exchanged for cactus nubbins...
i've digressed far enough.)
happy new year to you all. my very best wishes to all of you.
our little community here is something wonderful and dear to me. thank you for that.
This was originally left this morning as a comment for my friends at Ranger Against War (a must read for some very interesting and informative comment threads).
It applies here, so I cut'n'pasted.
12 and change hours to go with this current year. Good Fucking Bye is about all I gots to say about that. 20 days, and we get to see George W. Bush leave and Barack Hussein Obama assume the duties as President of the United States of America. (I still love to type that, it rolls off of my fingers with joy).
Hope might be the only thing left in the box.
Hope is enough ya'll. Hope is enough.
The Minstrel Boy 11:42 AM
Biggest Stories of 2008?
New Years Eve plans?
Biggest Stories of the upcoming 2009?
Maggie still needs subscriptions please. We'll get back to full posts soon.
(I've been not feeling great, so not been posting.)
What do you think the best GNB stories were? (Our list will go up soon.)
Open Thread. Have fun.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Zbigniew Brings the DamDam Down On Morning Joe.
Joe Scarborough was a for shit Congressman, now he's a for shit pundit. Dude's not only fucking stupid, he's proud of that shit.
I, for one, am sick and fucking tired of these agressively ignorant sons of bitches.
Less than thirty days to go. I'm hanging on, trying not to snap on people and shit.
Inaguration is around the corner yo.
Courtesy of Driftglass: Corrupt Governor Update (sorry, but I've lost count)
Thing is, the Constitution says that the House and the Senate both have final say on the seating of their membership, but, so far, according to the Supreme Court, in the case of Adam Clayton Powell, in an 8 to 1 vote, the Supremes doowopped that if the process and rule of law was followed in the selection, the member deserves to be seated.
The spineless Harry Reid will wring his hands, whine and piss and moan, and then, like a good little "leader" ultimately cave. My prediction, Burris will be seated.
The Minstrel Boy 10:49 AM
(1937 KoolAid ad)
They Lie, Oh They Lie
When fire sweeps through an abandoned building that's been used as a crack house and a meth lab, it's a given that the vermin infesting its interior walls will go up in flames, unable to escape.
But if they know the end is coming -- if, say, they have around 20 days to pack their bags, delete their emails, and trade in their roachy exoskeletons for Men's Wearhouse suits -- what might they be doing instead of the jobs they never really performed anyhow?
Well, let's begin by reviewing the ground rules of the current generation of lying liars and the lies which limn their libidos and line their lucre-filled lairs:
(1) Ends justify means.
(2) Make yourself believe the lies you're telling.
(3) Grandiose, for lack of a better term, is good.
(4) Demonstrate integrity by admitting the things you cannot deny anyhow, but claim other apparent realities are "not as bad as it looks".
(5) Stick together, even when you hate each other.
Thus, in the past week, we have the Condi and Laura show, where Dubya's wifemeets are trotting around declaiming that "history" will prove he was not the soulless destroyer of America who shredded the Constitution with his Crawford chainsaw and used the remnants to fuse gasoline-filled bottle bombs lobbed into the Middle East. They are stamping their Prada-shod feet in unison and declaring the press to be bullies.
It's almost entertaining, like the opening segment of a 50's sitcom:
Where Condi adores a minuet
To watch ballet with Soviets
Laura wants to hide inside
With ciggies and her Pearl Drop Vibe
What a wild duet
Still they're Dubya's
They're shackled to Dubya, with no doubt
Choosing to back a loser
Keeps them from coming out
The second act in the Save Junior's Legacy (oh, and our careers, of course) campaign appears to have been unveiled yesterday, with strategic "candid" admissions by former Bush fecal ingestion appurtenances Matthew Dowd and Dan Bartlett that Bush "broke his bond with the public" in his handling of Katrina and was never trusted after that.
Gee, ya think?
These two, and others, were interviewed by Vanity Fair for an oral history of the White House in its February issue, which hits newsstands tomorrow. An AP article on the forthcoming "revelations" also quotes Lawrence Wilkerson as comparing Bush's foreign affairs expertise to that of Sarah Palin, implying he was manipulated from the outset by Cheney. And, in another shocker, David Kuo says leaders of the Religious Right were held in contempt by cynical high-level Bushies, who viewed them as "pains in the butt" which had to be accommodated but did not share their beliefs.
In other news, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Folks, this is not the story we are going to settle for, is it? We want the goods, the whole nine yards. We want hearings and handcuffs and moist towelettes afterward to clean their slime from the doorknobs. They're giving us sops, and the next thing coming out of their mouths will be -- guess what?
I'm reminded of the song "Beware, Young Ladies", whose lyrics were taken from an 1847 poem by Longfellow and set to music with sly humor by Blind Alfred Reed in the 1930s. In the 1970s, lesbian-feminist singer/songwriter Alix Dobkin resurrected the song, again with humor, and it became something we political dykes sang with each other about the dishonesty of not only "bold and free" young men but the patriarchal system as a whole:
"They put their hands up to their hearts
They sigh, Oh they sigh,
They say they love no one but you
They lie, Oh they lie"
I say we should caulk every escape hatch, give a whole new generation of young prosecutors some hands-on training, restore America's reputation with live international broadcast of the Bush War Crimes Tribunal, and make use of our poker skills by watching for the tell which means someone in this administration is lying: Their lips are moving.
(Postcard from Stella Marrs)
Lesbian/Gay Videos of 2008
Jennifer Vanasco, editor-in-chief at 365Gay.com, has compiled her list of the "8 top gay (sic) videos of 2008", stating "This year, gay videos were viral." I'm not going re-embed them all these (we've already covered some of them in GNB posts), but I will list them below with links.
1. Prop 8: The Musical! [covered by me here in Civil Rights, Baby: Complacent No More.]
2. MSBNC talk show host Keith Olbermann devoted his "special comment" on November 11, 2008 to the issue of lesbian/gay marriage, asking those who voted for Proposition 8 and similar measures, "Why does this matter to you? What is it to you?".
3. When Sally Kern, Oklahoma State Legislator, thought she was speaking off mic and compared lesbians/gays to terrorists, The Victory Fund responded.
4. Talk show hosts -- Ellen Degeneres takes on John McCain
and Jon Stewart takes on Mike Huckabee
with bonus round Ellen Degeneres discusses Sarah Palin's stand on marriage.
5. In a PSA for ThinkB4YouSpeak, Wanda Sykes jumps on the hateful jeer of "That's so gay". [Note: This was before she came out at an anti-Prop (h)8 rally.]
6. Rachel Maddow discusses the "black vote for Prop (h)8" in California. [Note: I posted about this in No Racism: African-Americans Are Not Who Funded and Passed Prop (h)8.]
7. During the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President-elect Joe Biden said that lesbian/gay marriage rights are enshrined in the Constitution. And, as a bonus
SNL/Tina Fey re-enact the debate as only they can.
8. On BloggingHeadsTV, law professors Jack Balkin and Ann Althouse debate whether heterosexuals should lose marriage rights, too.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Assclowns of the Week #74!
Go give him a little love folks. There's great stuff going on! There's more...
Sunday, December 28, 2008
(Phoebe Buffay singing "Smelly Cat")
Last night Jesse and I were in hysterics on the phone singing "Smelly Cat" a la Phoebe Buffay's music video. Jesse was especially good at imitating the sultry back-up singers repeating "smelly, smelly, smelly, smelly cat" while I wailed "It's not your faullllt!"
Today a good friend (with a long background as a management consultant) wrote me about Lisa Kudrow's latest body of work, which I'd not seen. She plays a "web therapist" named Fiona Wallace, and I'm happy to say this new character clearly proves Phoebe was not just a product of stellar writing. Here's the link to one episode, titled "Psycho Analysis", costarring the extraordinary Jane Lynch (whom I can never forget for her portrayal of the butch dog handler in Best In Show). Enjoy. Then go take a relaxed dump, for g*d's sakes, people.
Belgian Waffles With Strawberries. New Year's Day, 2006.
I can haz waffle?
Am hungry. Hungry hungry hungry.
May wake up Kyle and her girlfriends, head to the diner and eat EVERYTHING.
What's your food situation like, hmmmm?
DVDs? (Watching John McClain DIE HARDER. No one dies harder than John McClain.)
(The beautiful Blueberry Baby comes from a family blog in Kent, England.)
LIVE From the GNB Blueberry Pancake Desk...
Sunday fundraising: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, so mix and match.
$185 in SUBSCRIPTIONS to go.
As promised, here's a bit about how to write an effective fundraising letter.
Today I'm going to tell you two keys:
First, you need to ask people three times. At the top, in the middle, and again at the end.
Part of the ask is to give people a RANGE of amounts. People tend to pick towards the middle of the range. Even if you never receive a single donation from the top, those possibilities, they serve their purpose by pulling people towards your intended giving range.
Like this: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, so mix and match.
Second, the more specific you can tell people what the donation is for, the more you can personalize the ask, the better. Tell folks, look... this is for MAGGIE. It's for her food, rent, electricity and medicine.
Tomorrow... the key to ALL Fundraising as quoted from one of the most effective fundraisers I've ever known. *smiles*
At the end of the letter, make a final request..
All we still need is $185 in Subscriptions. Please, won't you SUBSCRIBE today?
$200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, or in any combination.
Only $185 in subscriptions to go and we're solid!!!
Thank you all. *hugs*
Saturday, December 27, 2008
RNC candidate Chip Saltsman's Christmas greeting to committee members includes a music CD with lyrics from a song called "Barack the Magic Negro," first played on Rush Limbaugh's popular radio show. Saltsman, a personal friend of conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, sent a 41-track CD along with a note to national committee members.
"I look forward to working together in the New Year," Saltsman wrote. "Please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the Rush Limbaugh Show." From THE HILL
That's right, nothing says "Happy Holidays" like music that promotes racism and hate radio! Here's to a great new year in 2009-- oh and don't forget our new president is BLACK-- did you know?
This is why I can get on the bi-partisan bandwagon.
Oh and Chip? really? What kind of name is that?
Crosspost from Fighting Liberals There's more...
RIAA Quits Suing World
In the best Holiday Present Ever, the RIAA announced they were no longer suing their customers.
Now they'll simply contact your ISP and try and have your Internet access turned off.
Because the RIAA still thinks YOU, your MOTHER, CHILDREN, your UNCLE RUPERT, SISTER GLORIA, and all your employees are fucking thieves.
Aren't you? You over there... Aren't you a fucking thief? Yes... you, with your hand on that DVD. What? You already OWN it. You're just making a COPY onto your daughter's iPOD? POLICE. POLICE, someone call the POLICE! FBI, DEA, US NAVY, we've CAUGHT ONE...
The only reason they're quitting suing is because a class action law suit against them was about to blow up in their face. It was going to cost them about a zillion trillion peta-ga-lots of dough. Even more than Wall Street just got with no strings attached from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, and that President-elect Obama thinks was a really good idea.
Now the RIAA is just going to get your ISP to shut down your Internet access, attempt to hack into your home account, have you download screwed up files and if they mess up your system, well, that's what you evil criminals like you deserve.
New business model that treats artists with respect, shares profits with artists without funny "studio accounting", and considers customers as people who want to pay an honest price for music, film and television to the artists they like....
Fuh-get-about-it. This is just same game, different inning.
The game is still to eliminate every possible means for you to make ANY legal copies of music you own, including backup copies, time-shifted copies, or copies you make to share with a friend. And if someone goes out of business, you're -- again -- going to be completely screwed as their DRM server dies, leaving you with no means of authorizing your collection. Regardless of the laws which should protect you.
Again, the point is not to protect you. You're a customer, thus by definition, a wanton lawbreaker and thief, either already, or potentially. The entire point is to protect the failed business model which already exists, thus screwing YOU, screwing the artist, and ultimately screwing the studios by locking them in tighter and tighter into what already has been proven to totally suck.
But congratulations. At least the RIAA isn't suing us any more.
And Happy New Year.
(The beautiful Blueberry Baby comes from a family blog in Kent, England.)
LIVE From the GNB Blueberry Pancake Desk...
We are two-thirds there. Hot diddly-damn.
And over Christmas and Boxing Day.
Your generosity of spirit astounds me. Y'all are AMAZING people.
Sunday and Monday I'll tell you the inside scoop of bigtime fundraising.
Today is Saturday: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, so mix and match.
Saturday for most blogs (for sure at GNB) is the lowest volume day.
Thus we'll be brief.
We only need $200 in SUBSCRIPTIONS. Our GNB core is handling $800. We know times are hard. People are losing jobs, being foreclosed, getting sick. The economy sucks. This is ugly.
Maggie lost her job two months ago. Last month she went hungry for five days.
We're asking you to subscribe even at five or ten dollars if that's the monthly amount you can commit. If ten people commit to $20, $10, or $5, whatever works in their life, that averages $100 monthly for Maggie.
Every subscription means food, rent, electricity and medicine for Maggie.
Every subscription matters to Maggie.
YOU, literally YOU make the difference. YOU are the difference in Maggie having food, water, a roof over her head, electricity, a telephone, and medicines she needs. YOU matter. Whatever amount, small or large, you can kick in EVERY month, even if it's only five bucks, that GENUINELY makes a fracking difference. It's not for someone you don't know; it's for Maggie.
Tomorrow and Monday as we push through this last third, I'll coach y'all on writing effective fundraising posts.
Today, please click and SUBSCRIBE to Maggie Jochild's Meta Watershed:
$200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, or in any combination.
Only $200 in subscriptions to go!
Friday, December 26, 2008
(Image by Driftglass.)
I keep remembering the early 1980s, when Reagan broke faith with the world by beginning to talk about a "winnable" nuclear war, and everyone who didn't have a bunker to retreat to realized we were at a heightened risk for destroying the planet. Sting responded with
In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria (...)
There is no historical precedent
To put the words in the mouth of the President
There's no such thing as a winnable war
It's a lie that we don't believe anymore
Mr. Reagan says we will protect you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too
How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too
String tried to sidestep some of the attacks he'd receive for writing this fuck you to Reagan by naming the song "Russians", but we all knew of course the Russians loved their children, as much as Reagan claimed to love his. That wasn't the point, really. The point was, Reagan is out of control and it's up to someone else to stop the insanity.
I believe "someone else" did stop the insanity then. I absolutely do not believe Reagan's actions or bluster or sleepwalking performance in any way created a safer world for us, any more than Dubya's criminal war has kept America from being attacked again.
I do believe one of the things which made a huge difference in that generation's approach to peace, in particular to the anti-nuke movement, was Deena Metzger. Deena is a writer and activist who first came to my knowledge with the poster she made of her mastectomy scar, her bare chest exposed with one side bearing massive jagged evidence of cancer interrupted, her arms outstretched in sheer joy for life. It was a radical act, that celebration of self-love, and it got all our attention.
During the 1980s, Deena traveled around speaking about the imminent threat of nuclear holocaust represented by the leaders then in our government -- many of whom repeated their roles in Dubya's regime. She gave us grim details of what nuclear winter would actually do, but then, like the rebbe I think of her as being, she offered a way out of despair: She urged us to grieve. Right then, standing or sitting in crowded rooms listening to her, she asked us to let our feelings out, release them with one another and to g*d if we believed in g*d. And we did, weeping, wailing, begging for help, hanging onto one another. She explained that our unexpressed grief and terror stood in the way of intelligent, effective action against the threat we faced. Old ways of doing things would not work. We had to find new ways, and we had to hack through the thickets of old betrayal, fear, and doubt to discover that path.
I believe it worked. Enough people found clarity to make a difference then, to guide action and maintain our direction in progressive circles. It's easy to look on the ascendancy of the Right as a failure of the Left, but it's more complicated than an either-or description. Reagan offered enough people an easy out that his influence is still among us, even on the Left. He wasn't only a bad wizard, he was a very bad man who launched the unraveling of American decency and responsibility.
We're now at another crossroads. In 24 days, Bush will walk out of an Oval Office he has trashed beyond description. I honestly cannot imagine the mindset of someone who wants to take on the job of being primarily in charge of scrubbing away Dubya feces from hallowed walls. I've thought about it a lot. I've been a community organizer and activist my entire adult life, and I do share Obama's frustration with how hard it is, how slow the road, the ethical dilemmas and corruption and lack of stability one encounters in that life. And, in my 30s, I engaged in magical thinking, imagining myself Queen of the Universe and coming up with What I Would Do to change things with a wave of my hand. I even petitioned for the job with friends, offering ready solutions to some of their personal problems if they would only vote for me. They took it as a joke, and it was. Mostly.
A number of events came along to push me in the direction of giving up wanting control, and in my case, it's been an extremely good thing. I'd rather work cooperatively than run the show, most of the time. I don't think I have all the answers, and I know I'm not healed enough to always recognize the truth when it bites me on the ass. I know what works for me, today, and that's enough. Tomorrow I may grow into a different approach, and that's as I want it to be.
So, that's one profound psychological difference between me and Obama. Another is that I never pursued upward mobility and if I had, it might not have worked for me. Contrary to the myth, it doesn't work for most people. Think Hoop Dreams, how many gifted young black basketball players never make it into the NBA. It's not a good ambition to hold out to them, unless you want to keep them locked into despair and self-doubt. Hero worship of the few who "make it" is deliberately promulgated by corporate consumer overlords to keep us from pursuing more rational means of bettering our lives.
Here we are now, having elected a President who talked to us constantly of hope and change, without ever having a definitive discussion about how change will be defined. It obviously doesn't mean the same thing to all of us. For instance, I don't consider the replacement of Joshua Bolten with Rahm Emmanual to be Change of a definitive sort. Indeed, Obama's choices for those who will lead with him are as Clintonesque as if, well, a Clinton had been making them. But I knew he'd do that all along, I knew the difference between him and The Other was hysteria created by an emotional reaction from several factors (CDS, untreated disappointment, dislike of powerful women who don't do the Girl Thang, etc.) and exploited by his campaign because, well, why not exploit it? It's what politicians do.
He wasn't my first or second choice. Neither was a Clinton. I'm a radical, I wanted at least a bona fide liberal in the position. I know he's going to disappoint, too, as much as Bubba did, and I'll take it to therapy if it starts keeping me from thinking clearly as an activist. My job is to think and listen, not to use my colleagues as unpaid counselors.
Even so, even as I expected him to do most of the things he's done, I admit I was thrown by the Rick Warren choice for inaugural prayer. I've said before, it's a clear mistake, a painful mistake. As one friend of mine commented, "It's obvious whoever is helping Obama think about such things, there are no gays or lesbians in that inner circle." Indeed. But it goes beyond that, because I'm hearing distress from all manner of progressives, not just lesbians and gays. It will do no good whatsoever, and it means for many of us (pretty much everyone I've asked) that the inauguration ceremony will have this nasty bit in the middle, a taint we can't ignore.
I believe it actually hinders the efforts of responsible Christians to restore balance to our culture, to separate church from state and pursue ideology not bent on conversion and dominance. I know many Christians who are those kinds of moral people, and Rick Warren is not who they want speaking for their faith. He's a huckster, as all evangelicals are. You don't rise in that field unless you (a) believe you have a g*d-given right to forcibly convert others and (b) lying is all right in the service of bringing souls to Jesus. Warren panders not just to queer-hating but woman-hating, class exploitation, child abuse, apocalyptic nihilism, and white supremacy. Within a few years, he will be brought down by some seamy scandal (probably related to gay sex) and his brief validation on an international stage will be revealed for the sick joke it is.
In the meantime, however, he and his ilk operate from the developmental level of five-year-olds and talking about "tolerance" has no real meaning to them. If your five-year-old throws a screaming fit because she wants more cookies, you can sit her down and have a long talk with her about nutritional balance, but if you then give her one more cookie for participating, she will take away from that the lesson "if I throw a fit, I can get more cookies". Somebody has to be the grown-up with these people. They are not a majority, they are not even that powerful, it's all a house of cards. I want a President who will move in the other direction, away from giving them more room in our public discourse. I'm sick of turning on TV and seeing a preacher talking, aren't you? And, as pedophiles exist with arrested development, evangelicals (whom I'm sure have a vastly higher percentage of pedophiles in their ranks than any group of queers) believe if you don't fight them loudly and assertively, you are secretly liking and wanting what they do to you. They serve Jesus instead of sexual gratification but that difference is irrelevant here.
Thus, I'm confronted with a massive blind spot in the vision of our President-elect. I already knew he had little to no comprehension of how to include lesbian/gay rights into a big picture of human rights, and that this extends to being unable to surround himself with adequate numbers of powerful women. (Uneasiness with queers psychologically goes hand in hand with difficulty seeing women as human beings identical to men.)
As disturbing, I'm seeing some of the enchantment fall away from his former most ardent fans. I know I'll be in the paradoxical position of defending him from his prior rabid supporters, those folks who always shouted me down as a Hillary supporter because I never hated her guts, as the next few years unfold. I'll do it because it is my responsibility to speak out against emotion-based attacks on the leaders of my party. As it becomes clear he's just a right-of-center politician who has lived in academic and beltway insularity as much as anyone else, and as he uses ego to back his pragmatism instead of relying on a larger vision, the Right will whip up froth against him into the same sort of condemnation they've successfully sewn onto Clinton heels like Wendy trying to give Peter back his shadow.
In the meantime, I intend to keep grieving the larger damage done, the death being distributed worldwide in our name, the loss of species and islands and schools and oxygen-making forests. Buddha once said the only rational response to the world's illusion as we live it is grief. I'm a poet, I'm adept with the catharsis of elegy. On the other side is release, and an intellect less burdened with remembering betrayal. You have the remainder of this holiday: Go outside and give up your lamentation to whatever you believe listens to you best, even if it's the other half of your miraculous brain.
(Montreux Pop Festival, 1985 -- Sting performing "Love Is The Seventh Wave")
Gifts to return. (Doesn't anyone know who I am?)
Gifts to cherish. (Perfect. My _____ knows me so well!)
Today my biggest problem is ________.
SUBSCRIBE TO MAGGIE:
$200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, or some combination.
Still got a ways to go. Subscriptions are what is needed please.
Weather? Snow all over the ground here.
I risk getting stuck driving out my driveway. Bleah.
Time to motor. OPEN THREAD. Have fun....
Thursday, December 25, 2008
There are certain online videos I return to over and over for the pleasure it gives me to view them. On this holiday, I'm listing my top eleven below, for you to either escape from family togetherness or to share with your loved ones. However, the last two (titled in red) are probably not safe for children.
"Little Roaches" sung by Doug Skinner at Midnight Ukelele Disco (this song will not leave your head) -- Note: I only have the URL for this, there is no video to embed. But go watch, you won't be sorry.
Water Animation Set to "We Will Rock You" (sung by children)
Where The Hell is Matt Harding?
World's Costliest Commercial (Honda ad which required 606 takes to get right)
Pinky The Cat, available for adoption (screaming begins at 55 seconds)
Pink Sings "Dear Mr. President"
Bouncing Balls in San Francisco, Sony Bravia Commercial (song is "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzales)
OK Go perform treadmill dance to "Here It Goes Again"
500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art (music is Bach's Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 performed by Yo-Yo Ma)
SNL Digital Short: D**k in a Box (not safe for children)
AIDS Awareness Commercial from 2006 (animation aired in Europe, not safe for children)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I sang this as a boy. This section is a small part of a 40-50 minute work for 8 part vocal, four solo voices, and orchestra.
This particular Monteverdi Magnificat (he wrote more than one) is THE most beautiful piece of long-form choral music I have sung. I cherish every precious memory of our rehearsals, our major performances in the Music Center, and the performances before smaller (500 person) groups.
The Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus (I was in the Touring Group 72-73) performed the Monteverdi in joint concert with the Tucson Symphony, special guests St. Philips in the Hills Mens Chorus (the Monteverdi) and the Tucson Opera Chorus (the Orff) in front of thousands of people several nights in a row (full houses and standing ovations every night) in the Tucson Music Center. The Monteverdi was the opening number for the first half. We did Carl Orff's Carmina Burana for the second half.
I was already turning bad by this point. (I was thirteen with a stunning first alto choral voice.) We spent 90 days on the road that winter/spring, performing in four countries and 30-35 states, including the U.S. Capital, Queen Elizabeth Hall, plus recording and filming specials for both CBS and the BBC.
We returned from Touring May 18. My voice changed literally the same day. It had been breaking for days. My birthday was two days later, and that was that. I graduated from the Choir a month later and was done. I went bad within weeks as my only remaining social control was gone (other than church, which really only existed as a place to get laid.) I didn't start to get better for years, after I was already in the Army.
The Monteverdi is one of the pieces of music which stuck with me all the way through the ugly years, through the Army, and remains with me decades later. This performance isn't near the best section, but it's such an obscure work of Monteverdi that I can't find a performance any place.
I have a full score (choral version only, plus rehearsal piano) on the bookshelf not five feet from my bed. Sometimes I take it down and sing the first alto part. Baritone. Or second tenor. Whatever strikes my fancy.
- What MUSIC do you love so deeply it calls to you across the years?
- What instrument are you musically?
- Which composer clearly was inspired by the Gods?
- What is your favorite hymn or church music ever?
- And as always, weather, food, family?
- It's Christmas Eve... what are you doing?
- How is Santa doing?
- Your favorite gifts?
From the otherwise odious film, "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." The wrighter (sic) Grizzard of the original piece and much of the book from the stage show actually sued the film producers to take away the title. He suggested that they call the film "Smokey and the Bandit go to a Whorehouse."
Anyway, Dolly Parton is a sometime employer, and constant friend and no small shakes as a philosopher. Once, before a show I saw her in her dressing room, standing before a long counter that was lined with platinum wigs. She picked the biggest one, huge in all its southern hairspray and laquered glory, plopped it on her head and turned with a wicked grin to say:
"The bigger the hair, the smaller the hips."
"Dolly darlin' you are not only beautiful, you are wise."
She wrote one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy.
The Minstrel Boy 4:50 AM
(The beautiful Blueberry Baby comes from a family blog in Kent, England.)
LIVE From the GNB Blueberry Pancake Desk...
Half way plus five bucks. Wa-hoo! Y'all are SO GREAT.
Two days, and we are rocking. You people BLOW ME AWAY.
Today is Christmas Eve: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, so mix and match.
We have $295 in subscriptions to go.
It is monthly subscriptions which make the difference.
Today is Christmas Eve. Last minute shopping. What a perfect Christmas gift to SUBSCRIBE to help take care of a real person's rent, food, electricity, and medicine.
In your heart, there's an amount which says Christmas:
$200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, or some combination.
In only two days, we're halfway there. How far can we go today?
Again, we're asking for SUBSCRIPTIONS, monthly commitments to help take care of Maggie Jochild who was laid off two months ago.
Maggie's blog is Meta Watershed. If you've not yet read Ginny Bates, you're missing a treat. Highly recommended.
Please subscribe generously: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, or in any combination.
Thank you so much for your caring and support. We love and appreciate you.
Happy Christmas Eve.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Weekly Address from the President-elect - December 17, 2008
It's the SCIENCE TEAM rollout.
Once again, he shoots, he scores.
These selections are all about competence.
Rock and fracking roll.
P.S. Check out the President-elect in high-resolution video. SUPER intense.
Change.gov - The Office of the President-elect
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
Science Team Rollout Radio Address
Friday, December 17, 2008
Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have announced some of the leaders who will advise us as we seek to meet America's twenty-first century challenges, from strengthening our security, to rebuilding our economy, to preserving our planet for our children and grandchildren. Today, I am pleased to announce members of my science and technology team whose work will be critical to these efforts.
Whether it's the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create twenty-first century jobs -- today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology.
Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives. But history tells us that they cannot do it alone. From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.
Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources -- it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient -- especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States -- and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.
Dr. John Holdren has agreed to serve as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. John is a professor and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, as well as President and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center. A physicist renowned for his work on climate and energy, he's received numerous honors and awards for his contributions and has been one of the most passionate and persistent voices of our time about the growing threat of climate change. I look forward to his wise counsel in the years ahead.
John will also serve as a Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- or PCAST -- as will Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander. Together, they will work to remake PCAST into a vigorous external advisory council that will shape my thinking on the scientific aspects of my policy priorities.
Dr. Varmus is no stranger to this work. He is not just a path-breaking scientist, having won a Nobel Prize for his research on the causes of cancer -- he also served as Director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton Administration. I am grateful he has answered the call to serve once again.
Dr. Eric Lander is the Founding Director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard and was one of the driving forces behind mapping the human genome -- one of the greatest scientific achievements in history. I know he will be a powerful voice in my Administration as we seek to find the causes and cures of our most devastating diseases.
Finally, Dr. Jane Lubchenco has accepted my nomination as the Administrator of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is devoted to conserving our marine and coastal resources and monitoring our weather. An internationally known environmental scientist and ecologist and former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jane has advised the President and Congress on scientific matters, and I am confident she will provide passionate and dedicated leadership at NOAA.
Working with these leaders, we will seek to draw on the power of science to both meet our challenges across the globe and revitalize our economy here at home. And I'll be speaking more after the New Year about how my Administration will engage leaders in the technology community and harness technology and innovation to create jobs, enhance America's competitiveness and advance our national priorities.
I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity.
What do you think about the President-elect's commitment to science?
What about the President-elect's science team so far?
What still needs to happen? There's more...
LIVE From the GNB Blueberry Pancake Desk...
Yesterday was GREAT. Way to go and thank you!!!
On Day One of the Maggie Jo fundraising, we got one-quarter there.
Y'all subscribed major: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, mix and match.
Today's a new day, bright and shiny.
We have $450 in subscriptions to go (not counting the $800 monthly GNB core.)
This covers Maggie's rent, food, electricity, medicine, phone. Her essentials.
There's no car payment. Maggie can't leave her apartment. Disabled.
I'm often asked during fundraising drives, what amount is the right amount to give. My answer is always the same. For every person there's one right number, a perfect number. You know what it is.
- It's not so big it hurts.
- It's not so little it's meaningless.
- It's right there... Sometimes it stings a little.
When you give your number, life gets very perfect. Because you're telling the truth about how you see the world financially.
Please subscribe your monthly number: $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, mix and match.
In the days to come as we take care of Maggie, I'll talk with you more about the Art of Fundraising. How it works, how to raise funds for the organizations and people about which you care. How to help people find their number.
We're one-quarter of the way there. Let's see what we can do today.
What we're asking for is SUBSCRIPTIONS, monthly committments to help take care of Maggie Jochild who is without work. Her blog is at Meta Watershed, along with her beautiful novel Ginny Bates.
Again, $200, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, mix and match.
The holidays are a time for giving. Please subscribe generously.
Love to everyone. *smiles* There's more...
(House on Merritt Avenue, painting by Xavier Viramontes)
Daddy was accomplished at practical jokes, we all agreed, unless you were the on the receiving end. And even then, we usually appreciated the humor. He came from a long line of jokesters, who didn't mind spending hours hand-crafting an item necessary to the gag. He had a general rule against destroying property or causing physical harm to another person, which were good guidelines to have.
When we could get back to our grandparents' homes for Christmas, we all looked forward to Daddy making eggnog from scratch. He'd use two saucepans to gently cook the nog, one of which was laced with bourbon, a smaller pan for us kids. His parents were what they called Bible Baptists, who didn't hold with dancing or card playing of any kind, and who frowned on Christmas trees because they were idolatrous. (Another term for pagan.) They of course didn't drink, so Daddy would always lie about the alcohol content of his nog, swearing the strong taste was from all the spices he used. They were either naive enough to believe him or so avid to get drunk once a year, they readily tossed cups of his nog down the hatch.
Then, invariably, Grandmommy the non-stop quoter of scripture would suddenly begin telling dirty jokes -- so filthy that my raunchy mother would gasp and I often didn't understand the punchline. (Where was she hearing these, I wonder now?) My grandfather Renza would go out to the chicken coop and return with a bantam hen which he would hypnotize. After that, he do card tricks which revealed a sleight of hand the man should not have had. When I was a teenager, an older cousin let slip that Grandaddy had been a domino sharp during World War II. Ah, the revelations of eggnog time.
My other grandmother, Sook (nicknamed for how she called in the hogs as a girl), also did not drink but once she'd had her nog, she tended to get sleepy, not scatological. Daddy used other games with her, involving fake sticks of dynamite or pretend dog vomit. The best year was when she'd had the front sleeping porch walled in to create an extra bedroom, which meant it was now a comfortable place for us to hang out on December nights. The floor was still concrete, accommodating the do-no-damage part of Daddy's rule. As we sat around the gas heater, Sook dozed off in her rocker, her legs akimbo. She had severe "rheumatiz" and wrapped Sunbeam bread wrappers around her lower legs to keep down the swelling. She put her orange-colored stockings over these, so her legs bulged and crackled when she moved.
Daddy squirted a large pool of lighter fluid under Sook's chair, on the floor beneath her knees. He ran a fuse line of fluid from the pool back to the doorway, where we clustered together, watching with our hands clamped over our mouths to keep from laughing so loudly she'd wake up. As he struck a match to the end of the line, he called her name. She woke up to see flame shooting her direction and blowing up with a brief whoosh between her legs. She flipped over backwards in the rocker, yelling "Shit" as she went. Fortunately, she was not injured, and we had the delightful memory of having heard her swear -- the only time I heard so much as a "damn" pass through her lips.
My father laughed just as hard at the pranks we were able to pull on him. One time as he lay asleep, barefoot and snoring, on the couch, my mother painstakingly tied his big toe to the couch arm with kitchen twine. Then she yelled "Fire!" and he wound up on the tile floor, trussed like a calf, roaring with glee once we'd established his toe was not actually broken.
He was great at telling stories on long car trips as we moved from one back of the beyond to another. He knew doggerel, tall tales, and brain-stumping riddles. He's the one who taught me this verse whose words I had to go look up:
O the sexual life of the camel
Is stranger than anyone thinks
In a moment of passion untrammeled
He tried to bugger the Sphinx.
But the Sphinx's connubial orifice
Was clogged with the sands of the Nile
Which accounts for the hump on the camel
And the Sphinx's inscrutable smile.
When I was fifteen, that autumn a clueless science teacher decided to instruct our rural class in certain chemical processes by explaining how wine is fermented from grape juice, with a little hands-on demonstration. Immediately we all began brewing wine at home, deadly stuff that went as long as three weeks before we skimmed the scum off the top and drank it for a cheap high in that dry North Texas county. One Friday night I went out with the two boys who were my best friends, Dale and Virgil, hiding a half-gallon of Chateau d'Maggie under my coat as I left.
We drove around the dirt roads of that rural county, slugging back wine and listening to Steppenwolf as loud as it would go on the 8-track in Dale's Dodge Charger. Eventually we ran out of hooch but didn't think we were drunk enough, and we brainstormed as to which adult might let us beg a shot or two from them.
We settled on old Henry Overstreet, a septuagenarian who lived in a one-room fetid shack whose yard was decorated with empty pints. He could never afford to buy more than a pint at a time, but we scraped our money together, came up with two bucks, and decided he'd sell us a pint of his own if we sat and talked with him a while. Henry was very lonely, and it was the day before Christmas -- he'd want company.
Our plan worked, and even turned out to be fun because he had two soft little puppies to play with. The local funeral parlor was called Owens and Brumley, so he'd named the puppies Owens and Brumley. We passed them around with a bottle of extremely bad whiskey. By the time we left, I was virtually comatose.
At our trailer, Dale pushed me out the car door into the bitter December cold, hissing at me to clean up my act. His mother had grown up with my mother, her best friend all those years. Dale's grandfather Tobe had been lifelong friends with my grandfather Bill. In fact, Dale and I had an ancestor in common, and had come out to each other when we were both 13. He didn't want to get in bad with my parents by bringing me home drunk.
My bedroom was right inside the front door, so if I could make five or six words of conversation without slurring or falling down, I could escape to my room and sleep it off. When I came into our trailer, I looked toward my mother's chair, and realized I was in luck: She had already gone to bed. My father was waiting up for me but had, of course, gone to sleep on the couch in just his khakis -- no shirt or socks. All I had to do was say a brief hi and disappear into the safety of my own space.
But I was too gone to think things through. Daddy woke up and asked me groggily if I'd had fun. I walked very carefully toward him and stood between him and the coffee table, announcing we had gone to visit Henry Overstreet because it was Christmas and we were extending charity toward an old man. Daddy looked up at me doubtfully. I decided I had to cover my tracks better, and I began talking about the puppies. He laughed when I said their names, and I felt emboldened. I starting raving about how very, very cute they were, and I got so worked up about their cuteness, I began crying. Now he was staring at me in bewilderment. I gave a sob, and vomited the entire contents of my stomach onto his bare chest.
He was airborne instantly, swearing a blue streak and running headlong for the bathroom down the hall. I knew I'd blown it, then. I went into my bedroom, weeping, and collapsed in the "half bath" off my room, which was really only a toilet in a tiny cubicle. I hugged the commode as I alternated between puking and crying.
After ten minutes, Daddy returned, having showered and put on a shirt. He wet a washcloth and wiped my face, sitting down on the floor beside me. He asked me what I'd had to drink, and I told him. He said I was a fucking idiot. Then he told me stories about the crap he'd pulled as a teenager and young man in the Air Corps, wiping my face again after each vomiting jag.
As he tucked me into bed, he extracted a promise from me that I'd never again ride around drinking with my friends. "It's not the booze, it's the driving" he said. "You want something to drink, come here, I'll give it to you, you can hole up in your room and drink yourself stupid, but no driving around."
When I got up the next day, sick as a dog, he told my mother what I'd done. She went ballistic but he got her to laugh by describing in detail what it was like to see that vile stream of upchuck cascading down on his bare flesh. He told her we had a deal, me and him, and nodded at me to verify it. I swore my oath again. And I kept it. What's more, because I was sticking to my guns, Dale and Virgil were inhibited from drunk driving as well. In fact, a lot of the fun went out of getting high after that.
Merry Christmas, ya'll. If you drink, do it with old people and give 'em a good time, but don't drive yourself home afterward.
Monday, December 22, 2008
That's the M40A1
It was designed in Quantico for the Marine Corps and was the standard Scout/Sniper weapon. It is a superb weapon. Semi-automatic with a 5 round magazine capacity. Balanced and tooled to exacting tolerances it is a fine tool.
My first use of the M40A1 in combat came at Dong Ap Bai.
Musical Interlude! (look, this shit costs me to think about, much less write about, so bear the fuck with me yo)
Listen to Great Big Sea singing "General Taylor" while you read the rest of this.
When the mortars and rockets ceased after the first assault failed to carry our position, my buddy from boot camp and BUDS, Lynn Barnes (Barney), and I were on top of the command hootch. Barney had the "big eyes" (high power binoculars with an embedded range grid) and was helping me to spot targets.
Our task was clear, we were to identify any person who looked like they were in charge. We looked for brass, for whistles, for pistols, anything that would identify somebody as an officer or senior non-com. We looked for things like standing up in front of a group and waving an arm in the classic "follow me" gesture. While Barney worked the big eyes I was looking through my redfield 3-9X scope. Optics for shooters have gotten a lot better than they were in '67, so has stuff like recoil management and report noise. I must say that for the size and punch of the .308 it was a sweet action to fire. More of a nudge than a punch. There were other, bigger rifles, like the .475 Nitro Express which had a murderous recoil. Murderous to the point of I could only bring three rounds to a target before I began to flinch uncontrollably. The .308, I could fire all fucking day.
In this position, with this task, I was the definition of the calculating and impersonal shooter. I don't have any clear recall of any shots, or any individuals. You have to remember that this was my first big time toe to toe type of action. Everything I had been involved with up to this point had been LRRP patrols where we were trying to avoid contact and confrontation, or ambushes that developed and went by quickly. My adrenaline was up, my pulse was probably racing, I would hear Barney call out the range and clock position of my shot, swing on it, acquire the target and shoot, then I'd move to the next thing he called or the next thing that caught my eye. Barney wasn't calling hit or miss for me either. All I can say with any certainty is that by the time I changed out my fifth five round magazine I burnt the shit out of my hand on the barrel.
I don't know how many "kills" I racked up during that time, as a matter of fact I don't have a clear idea of how long I was up there.
What happened next was that through the scope of my rifle I saw a young officer, classmate from BUDS, and a friend go down. There were two NVA types standing over him. I shot them down. Then I shouted "Barney, Gary's down, gimme the shot gun, a 16 and your pistol, I'm going out there!"
The shotgun carried 8 rounds of 12 gauge magnums loaded with 00 buckshot (it was a standard Browning) in its magazine, plus there was one in the chamber. By the time I got to Gary it was empty so I tossed it and slung the 16 into play. The M16 was on single fire. A convention of the teams was that we seldom had our weapons (except for weapons like the BAR and the M60) on full auto. Too often we were out of sight lines with each other and hearing auto fire was a clue that probably the source wasn't one of us. Also, we knew by this time that the chances of our being resupplied were somewhere in the unforeseeable future. Making it to a foreseeable future meant conserving ammunition. I also never did the John Wayne hipshot kind of crap. I brought shit up to my shoulder and aimed with ruthless intent. Again, I don't have any clear recollection of body count or anything else. That wasn't what was important to me. I would guess that anybody I perceived as being between me and my friend was down and bleeding.
By the time I reached Gary the 16 was finished too, it was chucked. Using Barney's .45 Colt first, since it was tucked into my waistband and not in a holster I made it the rest of the way to my friend, I ignored his yelling at me for putting myself at risk to save him and scooped him up in a classic "fireman's carry" and lit a shuck for where our lines had been redrawn. I just fucking ran.
I jumped the berm and laid Gary down. I did the best I could with his injuries which were grave. I was trying to stem the bleeding from his legs and his right arm. I also had to stop and shoot some assholes which got to close to us from time to time. By this time though, Barney showed up with Master Chief Norr and a couple of Marine corpsmen. They took charge of Gary while Barney and Master Chief tried to get me to breathe and calm down and shit.
Master Chief Norr said "You are one ringtailed motherfucker aren't you Tonto?" I puked. He said "Don't worry, that's just nerves. I was on my way to pull you off that hootch when I saw you jump." He pointed to the smoking heap of rubble that had been our TOC. He said "Charlie didn't much care for the toll you were taking and I figured they'd be laying some shit on top of you."
This was an illustration of a correct and tactical use of a sniper in a combat action. While the assault was being made, identifying and eliminating those who appear to be in immediate command and control can absolutely disrupt unit cohesion and even the will to continue among the enemy.
In this case, indeed I was aloof and impersonal. Usually though, with the long rifle, the only way to get more personal is to use a knife.
The Minstrel Boy 3:19 PM
LIVE From the GNB Blueberry Pancake Desk...
Time to bring everyone inside.
Two months ago our Maggie hit some really hard times. She's disabled, as most of you know. Can't leave her apartment. Works via telecommuting.
In October her gig dried up. Her best friend paid Maggie's rent for October. Near the end of November she told me. She hadn't eaten in days. Rent was due shortly. The GNB staff took care of her food money, rent, and her monthly nut for November.
Now it's December, rent is due shortly, and her gig still hasn't kicked back in nor is that likely. So here's what we're doing.
Maggie's monthly nut is $1400, all in. Rent, food, electricity, medicine. Essentials.
The core of GNB can come up with $800/month. We're asking y'all, the readership, to come up with $600/month by subscribing to Maggie at whatever you can afford: $50, $20, $10, $5, mix and match to give more, whatever is the number that works for you.
These monthly subscriptions via PayPal (or your credit card) will let us keep Maggie afloat till she and we can find her a new gig. My guess is six months, more or less, but probably not less.
This won't be the only time this happens, I'm certain. Times are going to get tough over the next years and all of us will have to help each other.
I'm asking each of you right now to help us take care of our dear friend, Maggie Jochild. She's writing one of the most amazing novels I've ever read, "the great American lesbian novel" Ginny Bates. The second draft is being posted at Maggie's blog, Meta Watershed.
Maggie's health isn't good enough to survive in the shelters. It simply is not. So we're taking care of her. I say this not to shame anyone into giving, but to make crystal clear what is at stake. Maggie's one of my best friends and I love her dearly. Not to mention she writes so beautifully I often weep. She writes that way because she knows the heart's of people. She's lived in suffering and pain all her life. She understands.
How much should you donate monthly? Not so much it hurts. But enough that you know you're helping out, that you know you're making an actual difference in the life of a real person.
The core of GNB is donating a hundred, two hundred or more, each month. And we're happy to do so. Maggie's one of us and we have her back, come what may.
We just can't do it alone.
I know it's Christmas time, the holidays. It's a time for giving.
Please help take care of Maggie this holiday season and in to the future:
$50, $20, $10, $5, mix and match. If you want to donate $100 monthly, hit $50 twice, or to give $30, hit $20 and $10.
Over the last year and a half we've come to know each other well. Times are hard for everyone. If all you can give is $20, $10, or $5 a month, we'll understand.
Everyone -- please... Give what you can.
Love to all, and Happy Holidays.
(Maggie's mother, older brother, and father, circa 1949, Bowie, Texas bus station)
Home Is Where, When You Have To Go There...
I've been missing my father, wishing I could talk with him. He's been dead two years, and it's only in the last couple of months that I've begun missing him. Especially on Thanksgiving, and I expect it will hit me again on Christmas.
He wasn't always home for Thanksgiving with us. I'm not sure how many Christmases he missed, beyond the last one my mother was alive. Mostly he was not there for birthdays. Mama made them holidays without him. I never missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas with Mama, despite moving out to California, and I never missed them with my little brother Bill, either, until -- well, that's the story I mean to tell, here. Somehow.
Bill and I were three years apart in age. He was an accidental pregnancy, and honestly, it showed in how my parents treated him. Not overtly, but the difficulty his needs brought to our already strained family was evident to even him. Kids who grow up with that knowledge have a hard time, you can't convince me otherwise. I believe it played a (small) role in his early death. My wanting him was not enough: What he needed was to have been welcomed, in a way he was not, by my parents.
We're not supposed to admit these kinds of things about our families. Especially in working class families, where any admission of being fucked up is going to be used against us, proof that we deserve our poverty and hard life. They are all dead now, except for me, so I'm not betraying them. At least, not directly.
When Daddy washed out of the Army Air Corps right before the end of World War II, he drifted around for a while, then got a job doodlebugging. His boss told him it was not a fit occupation for a married man, because it paid little and meant moving every six weeks to three months. Daddy assured the guy he had no intention of getting married or having a family. Six weeks later he met Mama, and five weeks after that, they got married. Daddy didn't tell her about the reality of his chosen occupation. She figured it out slowly, on her own, by the time my oldest brother Glenn was born two years later.
But it was 1948, and folks didn't get divorced. And Daddy kept saying he'd get promoted, moved up into an office job, where we'd stay in one place. Join the middle class, or at least the illusion of middle class that office workers have. In the early 1980s, shortly before she died, Mama told me she'd figured out all the ways Daddy had kept himself stuck in the field work which was what he really loved. He wasn't comfortable around men in white shirts with soft hands. He didn't feel good enough to do labor that didn't involve getting sweaty and making loud jokes with other men. He was thrilled to have escaped the farm, and grunt seismology felt respectable enough for him.
So we lived rootless, in trailers or crappy rent houses, except for the two times Daddy convinced Mama to let him take an overseas hitch, where the pay was good and Daddy got to push around brown people. Mama handled all the work of keeping us a family, not perfectly (not even close to that) but using every last bit of juice she had. I worshipped her, as did Bill. And she worshipped me back, flagrantly preferring me to my brothers.
My older brother Glenn was the only child for almost eight years before I was born. He was furious at my arrival, furious at my father's absence, furious at our inability to be anything more than working class in a good year. When I was four, he began coming after me. By the time I was nine, it was sexual as well as all the other ways he could think of to hurt me. He was 17 then, the local high school quarterback, massive and dangerous. Mama was too tired to see what was going on.
At least, that's the story.
I'm not going to tell you any details except this: I did what I could to keep him from going after Bill. I did whatever I had to. Because of this, Glenn said I wanted what he did to me. And Bill, as a toddler until the age of 8 when Glenn finally moved out of the house, was eaten up with guilt at my sacrifice for him -- even as he let me do make it for him. It was the only way we knew to stay alive.
(Bill and Maggie, summer of 1964, Houma, Louisiana, with chihuahua Chico)
I planned for me and Bill to have all our adult lives together, to grow old as brother and sister.
Mama had four heart attacks before she finally died of the fifth one, when I was 28 and she was 56. Once I got to college on scholarships, she and I collaborated and wrote a resume for Daddy (I checked out a book on how to do it from the university library). We got him a suit and I typed letters for him on my Olivetti portable seeking job interviews as a consultant in the seismology field. He was sullen and self-sabotaging, but eventually, in spite of his crap, he got hired on making four times more than he ever had. I was able to leave Texas knowing Mama was financially secure. The last six months of her life, they even bought a house.
The day we buried Mama, Daddy said to the three of us "I know you kids would rather it have been me that died than her." None of us said anything. I feel terrible about that now.
I was the only one in the family, I think, who was able to mourn Mama without conflict. She and I had talked over everything before she died. In 1980, she flat out asked me if Glenn had molested me -- a truth I had thought I'd never be able to tell her because of her precarious heart condition. I answered honestly, and she and I worked out the mess between us. She also asked me if I thought Glenn's three kids were at risk, and I said absolutely, of course they were -- the oldest already showed profound signs of damage. She decided she wasn't up to confronting Glenn, so she sent Daddy to do it instead. Five years after she died, I found out that Daddy had fucked it up in his predictable way. He asked Glenn about it, Glenn said I'd made up the whole thing because I'm a man-hating lesbian you know, and they had a beer together. Daddy came back and told Mama that Glenn had agreed to go into counseling, it would all be okay.
Less than a year after Mama died, Daddy married a woman fifteen years his junior, a divorcee with three kids who was trying to get her master's degree in dance theory. Glenn went into a rage, saying Daddy was dishonoring Mama's memory, and cut off all contact with Daddy. I thought it was very clear the two newlyweds were playing a game of mutual exploitation, but my Aunt Sarah, Mama's sister, gave me a stern talking to and said I had no right to judge my father's pursuit of happiness if it had no impact on me. I could see she was right. I made friends with my stepmother and talked Bill into doing the same. No skin off my back.
She of course left him as soon as the bust hit Texas and he fell behind on house payments. She'd gotten her Ph.D. by then, and married an insurance salesman six months later. Daddy couldn't believe she gave up on him. Some lessons come late. He sold away his pension and most of Mama's belongings before he finally lost the house, too. At 65, he had only Social Security and a broken down red van to his name.
He moved into a shitty apartment complex a few blocks away from Bill and got a job as a security guard, mostly because it gave him a chance to carry a gun. He had few people skills, had never built community or made friends. It was just me and Bill in his life. Bill was on his second marriage and, for the time being, clean and sober. My own partnership of six years fell apart brutally. I began driving up to Irving regularly to sleep on Daddy's couch and listen to him talk over his life.
We became friends. I don't have an excuse for the choices he made, but I really do understand them. Male conditioning, living as a child in the Depression on a 40-acre Oklahoma cotton farm, coming from Fundamentalists, and never breaking out of the bottom working class all left their mark on him. I had a 36 hour limit on the time I could stand to spend with him, but that meant a weekend where he wasn't alone, that was good enough for him.
The first Thanksgiving we had both been dumped, I told him I'd drive up after work on Wednesday and cook for us. Bill was going to spend the holiday with his wife's family, so it would be just me and Daddy. Traffic was a bear, so I didn't stop along the way and buy groceries as I had meant to. Still, there was a Whole Foods not too far from his house, I'd check in with him and then brave the crowds.
When I arrived, however, I discovered he had already done the shopping. He had a canned ham (not the good kind), a box of stuffing mix, canned peas, canned corn, canned cranberries, a loaf of white bread, and a store-bought apple pie with a crust like MDF. He was extremely proud of himself, thrilled at providing for us and please that I was going to "cook it all up" for him. I didn't have the heart to go buy real food. I searched through his pantry for things I could use to make it more palatable, finding zilch. Parkay, no spices except salt and pepper, no frozen fruit or veggies, no flour, not even canned soup except for one of chicken noodle.
So, I made what I could, pulled out the good plates and silverware instead of the paper stuff he used, cleared the table of six months of clutter, and we had a sit-down meal that was one of the worst I've ever put in my mouth, nutritionally speaking. But memorable in the glow on his face. We talked for hours, watched Lawrence Welk, and he went to bed happy.
I cleaned the kitchen, then, and scrubbed down the toilet. Daddy had never bothered to lift a lid or even bother to aim. When I was a teenager, I had seethed at this daily dose of male urine, and sometimes I deliberately left bloody kotex or tampons on the floor beside the toilet to make my point. But he left it to my mother to clean up. And now me, if I was going to use the same bathroom for the weekend.
He began looking for another wife fairly quickly, and went through the rude awakening of discovering that now he was truly broke, he had no chance at all with women younger than him. He began going to bingo night at senior centers, and eventually found a woman five years older who owned a house, had a small savings, and thought he was funny. They got married without him finding out she was a serious alcoholic. Violet was an amiable drunk, but she started on vodka first thing in the morning and kept at it all day. Her short-term memory was nonexistent. Still, she cooked and cleaned, they had a little house to watch TV in all day, and he promised he would never, under any circumstances, let her get put into a nursing home.
I made friends with Violet as well, and continued to come up for weekends. I was bothered, however, by that fact that conversations with my father vanished. For one thing, he hadn't told Violet I was a dyke and insisted I not tell her, as she was hardshell Baptist and barely knew homosexuality existed. For another, while he didn't drink with her, he spent all day talking on her level and his ability to construct even a simple sentence deteriorated. He acted like having to think about complex issues or delve into memory was an imposition. I let it go. I'd had a father only briefly, and only kinda sorta. I still got to see Bill when I visited, and at least my father wasn't about to be hungry.
Bill and I talked a lot about our childhoods. To be honest, I was usually the one who brought it up; he would rather have watched ESPN in peace. But he did share his memories and his interpretation of them. The memories matched, the interpretation didn't, and I found relief in both.
One memory Bill told over and over again concerned the Thanksgiving when he was 10 and, for some reason, Glenn had gone with us to eat with our grandparents in Oklahoma. Glenn was about to be married, to a woman from an upper middle class family bristling with doctors and lawyers, and after that he seldom had much to do with us. Which was fine with me, though it always pained my mother to have been abandoned for reasons of class. Anyhow, the day after Thanksgiving, Bill went into the kitchen and cut himself a slice of leftover pumpkin pie. Glenn had trailed after him, looking for somebody to torment. Bill put the plastic wrap neatly back over the pie and returned it to the refrigerator, an imperative in my grandmother's kitchen. When he turned back around, his piece of pie had vanished except for a small wedge of crust. Glenn was sitting in a nearby kitchen chair, smirking and chewing. Glenn had stolen food from us all our lives, a favorite putdown.
Bill set aside anything he might want to say, pulled out the pie and cut himself another slice. Same thing happened, of course: When he turned back around, his piece was gone and Glenn was almost choking, trying to swallow it down and laugh at the same time. But Bill snapped. He doubled his little boy fist and socked Glenn in the face as hard as he could. Glenn's chair went over backward onto the kitchen floor.
The retaliation was severe, of course. Glenn dragged him, his mouth covered, out the garage and beat the shit out of him in places where the bruises wouldn't show. But that was the last time Glenn stole food from him. Bill's eyes would glint when he told that story.
When I was 26, Bill went to Glenn and told him if he ever came near me again, for any reason, Bill would kill him. By that time, Bill was an inch taller than Glenn and wider in the shoulders. Like all bullies, Glenn only picked on those weaker than himself. He stayed away from me. But long before that, I'd made it clear I'd kill him, too, if he bothered me. Still, I was deeply moved by Bill finally being able to defend me, returning the favor.
On holidays when I drove up, I usually did the cooking, sometimes with Bill's able assistance for the meats. I'm a good cook and I enjoyed it, and it was also a way to make sure the food was healthy. Plus, staying in the kitchen usually kept me away from trying to make conversation with Violet, who was in the habit of repeating the same remark every seven minutes or so all day long. I have a hard time with dementia, I'll admit it.
The second Thanksgiving after Daddy married Violet, I slept over at Bill's house that he and his wife had managed to buy with an FHA loan. The excuse was that I could get up early to start Christmas dinner. Instead, we sat up late playing Risk and watching a Princess Di special on TV.
The next morning, Daddy and Violet showed up around 10 a.m., which was late in the day for Daddy, who liked to rise at dawn. Violet was lit to the gills, and Daddy, for once, had decided to join her in her morning vodka and orange juice. He was tiddly, is how I would describe it. Bill was watching golf in the back room, and his wife was on her computer. Daddy and Violet pulled stools up to the kitchen bar and decided to hang out with me while I cooked.
I had planned an elaborate, 12-dish meal which all needed to come together at the same time, and I was already overheated and stressed. I'm not the sort to chat while I'm multitasking. But the drinkers, of course, were very chatty. The problem was that Violet was in repetition mode. Every seven minutes, the same conversational gambits were replayed. Her focus that day was on how I was making the green beans. I had bought fresh haricot vertes, leaving them whole except for snapping off the ends, and lightly braised them in butter, shoyu, and Chinese hot sauce, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Violet had clearly never seen anything like them before, and she kept asking (every seven minutes) why they looked the way they did, sitting in their bowl on the counter nearby.
Four times I explained the recipe to her. The fifth time, I snarled over my shoulder "The recipe is exactly the same as I told you the last goddamned time."
There was a wounded silence behind me. I glanced around. Violet was in profound shock, and Daddy looked belligerent. I said "Excuse me, I have to cool off" and I strode to the front door. It was about 15 degrees outside, but I didn't bother with a coat. I sat down on the front step and tried to slow my thudding heart.
After half a minute, I heard the door open and felt Bill ease himself down onto the step beside me. He lit a cigarette, took a big drag, tried to blow the smoke away from me, then lay his massive arm over my shoulders and said calmly "Well you fucked that one up."
We laughed our asses off. When I began shivering from the cold, I said "I don't know how to go back in there and face them."
Bill said "Ah, shit, she won't remember it by now. Daddy's the only one who's going to remember to be offended, and fuck him."
He was right. Violet had refilled her go cup and asked me brightly how come the green beans looked so different. I explained it to her patiently as I resumed mashing yams, and Bill, chuckling, returned to his golf tournament.
The next year, Bill's second wife had left him. He arrived at Daddy's house on Christmas morning with a bottle of Goldschlager, which he slammed down on the coffee table and said grimly "After every gift, we each take a shot." I declined, but they went after it and it was actually a hilarious day.
Two years after that, Violet died one October morning as they were getting up. Daddy had managed to keep his promise to her, allowing her to live at home until she passed. Daddy inherited the house and her savings. At Christmas, he mailed a check for $8000 to Glenn, asking to make up. Glenn's second marriage was failing, he'd been fired one too many times to find work easily, and he decided Daddy's offer was just what he needed. He called Daddy from the road in California, asking to come live with him. If he drove straight through, he could be there by late Christmas Day. Daddy was ecstatic.
He came into the guest room where I was sleeping and woke me up to tell me that Glenn would be there in a day, to celebrate Christmas with all of us. He said we were to all be nice to each other, for his sake, and in particular I was to not bring up in any way all the abuse Bill and I had suffered at Glenn's hands. We were to act as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
I stared at him in disbelief. I said "I can't possibly agree to that. I won't make a scene, but I'm not going to lie about what he did."
"Then you'll be the one making trouble. The rest of us want to be a complete family again" Daddy said.
I called Bill and we talked it over. In the end, Bill said he couldn't give up on Daddy, no matter what the conditions were. He was still trying to get the love and approval he'd never had as a boy. He said he didn't blame me if I couldn't hack it, we'd still see and talk with each other. I told Daddy I wasn't going to pretend, and he said I should go, then. I packed my bags and left at 8:00 on Christmas morning. Bill came over to see me off.
Glenn moved in permanently to Daddy's house. When I lost my mobility and my job, Bill came to visit me, including in the rehab hospital after my knee was replaced. Daddy never did. I called him every week, where I'd have to listen to how great Glenn was and the latest jokes he'd told Daddy, which I invariably had to interrupt because they were obscenely racist.
Bill's anger built slowly but perceptibly. He blew up increasingly easily when on the phone with me. He kept saying "I don't know how to do this without you here". I felt bad, and kept taking it to counseling, but kept coming up with the same answer: I'd give visiting a try as long as I could be honest. But Daddy kept saying that was out of the question.
A year later, Bill lost his job, I think because of anger issues. He had trouble finding a new one, and when he did, he failed his screening drug test. I didn't know that at the time; he told me he just didn't like the fuckers. It took him a month to land another interview. He managed to pass their drug test, I'm not sure how, because his friends and ex-wife later told me he was using cocaine regularly. By then, he was in default on his truck payment and had lost his insurance.
He had a heart attack, it now seems clear, while he was mowing his lawn. He went in to lie down and eventually called Daddy, saying his chest hurt. Daddy convinced him it was probably just from pulling the mower cord. When I talked with Daddy a day later and heard about it, I immediately called Bill and told him to go the ER. He said he didn't have insurance, and I said they had to treat him anyhow, if it was cardiac (and given our family history, it probably was) they could treat it and he could blow off the bills. He said the pain was getting better, he thought it really was a pulled muscle. I said I'd call him the next day to check on him. I then called his third wife at her job and told her to get him to the doctor.
He didn't get help. Instead, he went to Glenn and confessed his drug usage, saying he was scared it would show up in any medical test and he'd lose his new job. Glenn tore into him, calling him a loser for taking drugs, and said he didn't want to hear any more about it.
The next morning, Bill called in sick to work and told his wife he was exhausted, he just wanted to sleep all day. He lay down on the couch, a golf game on TV, as she left for her job. When she came home at 2:00 that afternoon, he was stiff and cold. The coroner said it was complete cardiac tamponade. The heart attack, whose pain had undoubtedly not only continued but increased, eventually tore open the pericardial lining around his heart and he bled out into his chest. I hope he was asleep when it happened, because my own doctor told me it was an agonizing way to die.
I went to Bill's funeral, driven by a friend. I did not speak to Glenn there. Daddy went home with Glenn, and the rest of the family had a wake at Bill's house. Bill's friends refused to speak to Glenn or shake his hand. It was the last time I saw Daddy.
A few months later, Glenn told Daddy about his last conversation with Bill and begged forgiveness. Daddy called me, suddenly realizing what he was living with. I stayed in touch with him, calling him and listening to him as best I could. He died one morning sitting in his recliner in front of the TV. Glenn found him. Four months later, Glenn died alone in the same house.
I'm not sorry for how I hung in there, and I'm not sorry for when I drew the line. I'm especially not sorry I made a choice different than Bill's. I'm alive, and he's not, and I believe the reason is that divergent choice we made.
I miss Bill every day. But it's odd to now, finally, be missing my father. I'm not sure what it means, except that we are all human and, given enough time, humanity is all we remember.