31 July 2007

Otterwise It's History

This coming Thursday my son and grandson will be taking off on one of our family traditions. Every vacation must include something that makes History fun. Anyone who has ever lived through an unimaginative history class knows how swiftly the eyelids can start to descend while the brain shifts into numb. Unfortunately, this may color their outlook forever on the subject. To combat this, all the children in our family get to do "History". We usually throw in someplace with rollar coasters for the sake of temptation, but it is almost always the "doing" places they end up enjoying most.

On this trip David will take a boat under the Golden Gate, drive through a wild animal park, pet dolphins and mix tide pools & fish with roller coaster on the trip to the beach. The history highlight will be panning for gold and climbing in caverns in one of the best child oriented places you can go Sutter's Mill and the Marshall Gold Discovery Site and California Caverns.

If you are planning a trip to California, Sacramento is a good central hub to head for Monterey to the southwest, San Franciso to the northwest, Gold Country, east and inland. Gold country is particularly interesting if you are tired of the usual tourist traps. The area features a State Park, Historical Sites, Ghost Towns, mining locations, cave hiking and climbing and the still operational oldest courthouse in the state. Of course if you miss the exit, you'll end up in Tahoe which isn't bad either.

30 July 2007

Choices and Changes

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

At some point we have all probably read this Robert Frost poem: A simple story of choices that change a life, with the somewhat bittersweet line of "Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back." When anyone looks back on their life, they often can point to times when they had to make a choice that sent their lives in one direction while the other possible avenue became an opportunity missed.

Some of these events where a divergence occurred are looked on with a wistful countenance and "I wish I hadn't missed out on that" while others can make you laugh, "Boy did I miss a bullet with that one". Sometimes there is longing over times we said goodbye never to see that person again and yet with memory, missing that person becomes as real as the instant the loss or choice took place.

One of the greatest times of decision in our nation's history was the Civil War that meant state against state, brother against brother, the separation from loved ones, and the lives that came to an end. War is one thing we all wish we could miss, but it is still with us today.

One of the most beautiful examples of decisions that led to longing for someone deeply missed appears in Ken Burns' "Civil War" and the letter of Sullivan Ballou to his beloved Sarah. Once you have heard this letter, or the beautiful song "Ashokan Farewell" that was played for the series, you can't help but think of the power of choices and the people or chances missed.

27 July 2007

When You're Ready

One of the best reviews I have read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can be read here. Fair warning, while it doesn't tell everything, there are a few spoilers in the article. This site will also give you a chance to roam around one of my favorite book stores. If you don't know about Powells, do prowl around.

When you are ready to chat about Harry, let me know what you think of the book. Without saying why, I read it from beginning to end without stopping and I loved it for a whole lot of reasons.

25 July 2007

A Touch of Genius

Tomorrow I get to go into the tube that hums LOUDLY, better known as having an MRI. Before anyone worries, it's nothing major just a follow up ... but I thought I would just check out the official description as follows (Isn't Wikipedia Grand?):

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), formerly referred to as magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and, in scientific circles, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) or NMR zeugmatography imaging, is a non invasive method used to render images of the inside of an object. It is primarily used in medical imaging to demonstrate pathological or other physiological alterations of living tissues. The scanners used in medicine have a typical magnetic field strength of 0.3 to 3 teslas. Construction costs approximately $1 million per tesla, and maintenance an additional several hundred thousand dollars per year.

What I noticed immediately was that this rather useful tube has a construction cost of $1 million per tesla, followed by a spark of recognition "Goodness are scientists still learning from ol' Niki's notebooks?" Last year was the 150th birthday of Nikola Tesla Most people only recognize the name if they have heard of the "Tesla Coil" and watched hair stand on end while touching one in science class. Then there are all those early Frankenstein films that just wouldn't have been as effective without all that bottled lightening and everyone was truly amazed with the "Eye of Sauron" in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Because of inadequate financing, Tesla was never able to bring all of his ideas and creations to fruition, but fortunately for us, he did leave behind detailed notebooks, and we may be finding treasures there for a long time into the future. So let the sparks fly while scientists keep making magic happen with all the ideas that fell from Tesla's brain.

Anything You Can Do

Tuesday night while watching the CNN / You Tube debate, we got to see something unusual: A whole slew of men in their perfectly proper business suits on either side of one lady who looked as if she could star in "Pretty In Pink". Now there is a whole lot of buzz about the possibility of the first female president or the first black president or the even more astounding idea of a woman and a black man on the same ticket ... why this is groundbreaking, unique, unheard of ... at least not since 1872 when Victoria Woodhull ran with Frederick Douglas: An advocate of voting rights for women and a former slave. Hillary is only the 26th woman to run for the Presidency

What was more obvious is that in the last 218 years, every single one of the 42 people elected to the Presidency was a white male. Without declaring that I am "hot for Hill", or that "I Got a Crush on Obama", or even if I have made a choice among the remaining messrs Biden, Edwards, or Richardson, I do know that we still live in a very patriarchal society.

The United States is supposed to be the nation that promises equality and opportunity to all yet we still consider the elevation of women to high political office somehow an outre idea .. Is she feminine enough? Is she too feminine? What happens with hotline in the middle of a hot flash? Just to put everyone's mind to rest as to whether or not a woman can handle the job, here are just a few in the last two thousand years who have managed to perform.

Amalasuntha - 526 AD

Today's teenagers love to hear there really was a Queen of the Goths. Amalasuntha was Regent Queen of the Ostrogoths; her murder became the rationale for Justinian's invasion of Italy and defeat of the Goths.

Empress Suiko - 554 to 628 33rd Emporer of Japan

Although the legendary rulers of Japan, before written history, were said to be empresses, Suiko is the first empress in recorded history to rule Japan. During her reign, Buddhism was officially promoted, Chinese and Korean influence increased, and, according to tradition, a 17-article constitution was adopted.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor ruled Aquitaine in her own right, and occasionally served as regent for her husbands (first the King of France then the King of England) or sons (kings of England) were out of the country. Eleanor lived into her 80s and has been the subject of several books, plays, and movies.

Isabella, Queen of Castile and Aragon (Spain)

Isabella was queen of Castile in her own right and then Castile and Aragon jointly with her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon. She's famous for supporting Columbus' voyage; she's also credited for her part in expelling the Muslims from Spain, expelling the Jews, instituting the Inquisition in Spain, insisting that the Native Americans be treated as persons, and her patronage of arts and education.

Elizabeth I of England

England has always been well served by her Queens and Queen Elizabeth I of England is one of the most fascinating women of history. Elizabeth I was able to rule when her long-before predecessor, Matilda, had not been able to secure the throne. Was it her personality? Was it that the times had changed, following such personalities as Queen Isabella? “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.”

Catherine the Great

During her reign, Catherine modernized and westernized Russia, promoted education, and expanded Russia's borders.

Queen Victoria

Alexandrina Victoria - The longest reigning monarch in British history she was the only child of the fourth son of King George III, and when her uncle William IV died childless in 1837, she became Queen of Great Britain.

Tz'u-hsi (Reign 1861 - 1905)

The last Dowager Empress of China: however you spell her name, she was one of the most powerful women in the world in her own time -- or, perhaps, in all of history.
Empress Cixi. Pearl S. Buck wrote a wonderful historical novel Imperial Woman

That takes care of a few of the hereditary rulers however they came to power, but in addition, almost every other country in the world has had a woman elected as the head of government. Their performance has ranged from bad to wonderful. If for a second you think a woman can't do the job as well as a man, just remember Warren G. Harding who gambled away the White House China.

To Name A Few and a whole lot more on this link.

Indira Gandhi, India, Prime Minister
Golda Meir, Israel, Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain, Prime Minister
Maria da Lourdes Pintasilgo, Portugal, Prime Minister
Lidia Gueiler Tejada, Bolivia, Prime Minister
Vigdís Finnbogadóttír, Iceland, President
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway, Prime Minister .
Milka Planinc, Yugoslavia, Prime Minister
Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan, Prime Minister
Kazimiera Danuta Prunskiena, Lithuania, Prime Minister
Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua, Prime Minister
Mary McAleese, Ireland, President
Pamela Gordon, Bermuda, Premier
Jenny Shipley, New Zealand, Prime Minister
Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland, President
Helen Clark, New Zealand, Prime Minister
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Latvia, President
Tarja Kaarina Halonen, Finland, President

And just for fun: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

24 July 2007

The Little Woman

Tomorrow I will be doing a post on women in power.While waiting for that,here is the story of one woman who wasn't a success. That failure may have been as much the fault of the men who advised her working on her flaws to eventually cause her death by a cousin who was a rip roaring success because she defied many of the men who tried to give her advice.

One of my favorite poets is Joseph Brodsky. In a tour de force bit of writing, he wrote 20 sonnets about one statue: That of Mary Queen of Scots. One of these seems to capture the problems in her life.

The number of your lovers, Mary, went
beyond the figure three, four, twenty, Twent
y-five. A crown, alas, gets dented, bent,
or lost between the sheets with some odd gent.
That's why a monarchy comes to an end
while a republic may be permanent
(see ancient pillars or a monument).
And your Scots barons neither couldn't, no can't
think otherwise. They wouldn't relent
in pressing their quite sordid argument --
that is, that they, your Scottish lords, can't see
What makes a throne so different from a cot?
O rara avis of your century!
To your compatriots you were a slut.

1567 : Mary Queen of Scots deposed

During her imprisonment at Lochleven Castle in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year-old son, later crowned King James VI of Scotland.

On February 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded for treason. Her son, King James VI of Scotland, calmly accepted his mother's execution, and upon Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603 he became king of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

23 July 2007


Watched the CNN / You Tube Debate. Stirred up several ideas about politics and gender and I need 24 hours to spit out something that makes sense. Come back Wednesday.

In the meantime for something to do on Tuesday. You might want to check out the following.

Blog Radio - The Mo Show

Gone With The Wind

Mo's done it again! He's come up with a word with a thousand different ways to go, so I will simply follow the first ideas that went tumbling across my brain. The first record I ever bought with my own money was Gogi Grant singing "The Wayward Wind". Until I looked it up, I didn't realize just how popular that song was in terms of immediate sales.

Then I thought of Ansel Adams capturing the power of wind with his photograph of the Jeffrey Pine.

Ansel Adams, Wind Shaped Jeffrey Pine

Next came a truly over the top soap opera of a motion picture with a great theme song: Written on the Wind which you really should rent simply because it is about as sexy as the 50s got and has a lot of truly good actors wildly emoting.

All this brought me to a silly parlor game some friends and I used to play. The host (Mo?) throws out a word and then the guests must produce the title of a book, play, song, or musical using the key word without repeating anyone ahead of them.

So here you go. The word is "Wind". In writing this article I have wiped out "The Wayward Wind", Wind Shaped Jeffrey Pine, "Written On The Wind", and the song that follows from "Paint Your Wagon" ... "They Call The Wind Mariah".

As you comment, leave behind a "Wind" reference that hasn't been mentioned by those ahead of you. There will be prizes.

20 July 2007


12 Hours One Book
It is wonderful.
Don't spoil the fun for yourself or others by skipping to the end.
Now I'm getting some sleep.

Harry Potter isn't everything -
but it's right up there with oxygen

(Slogan stolen from Mo at
It's A Blog Eat Blog World)

Once Upon A Hippie

While making my daily tour of favorite blogs yesterday morning, I came across Michelle Phillips piece about the the Monterey International Pop Festival

As much as I would like to say I was there as one of those young things dancing in their flowered frocks while something floated in the wind, I can't, but boy did I know it was happening. In 1967 I was half of "young executive couple with two children and house in suburbia". This was the surface picture.

Under the surface, I had gifted my then husband with a twelve string guitar. My brother in law with hair down to the waist of his long and lanky macrobiotic fed frame had stopped in for an extended stay and every day I went to work and every night we sang until the wee hours. In the morning I gathered the children to head out for day care while stepping over the bodies of still sleeping strangers. They came and went all summer, these young people who if still alive are now pushing or have navigated the bridge over 60.

Back then everything seemed so hopeful: There was an unnecessary war, protests in the street, a burgeoning civil rights movement, those peaceful flower people and some of the best music every written. Now we have another unnecessary war, no real protests since we don't have a draft, fear and locked houses behind locked gates, and an even greater gap between wealth and poverty. It may no longer be possible to bring back the hope, but we can do our best to live the dream.

Two songs that take me back to that place 40 years ago:

If You're Going To San Francisco

The anthem of the festival

On Susan's Floor

Wrong name, but they were definitely on my floor

19 July 2007

Lady Day

Most of us are familiar with the movie "Lady Sings The Blues" starring Diana Ross. It is a fairly good movie, but it has little to do with the real Billie Holiday other than the songs. On July 17, 1959 singer Billie Holiday died of cardiac failure at age 44. Despite her tragic life, she is considered one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.

Born Elinore Fagan she was the illegitimate daughter of guitar player Clarence Holiday. She grew up poor with her mother in Baltimore and by age 12, Holiday was working as a prostitute and singing in the back rooms of bars. She and her mother went to New York when she was 13 or 14, and they were both arrested for prostitution in 1929, when Holiday was 14.

Throughout her tumultuous childhood and teen years, Holiday continued singing. At a club in 1933, a recording executive heard her and persuaded her to start making recordings. Between 1935 and 1942 she made more than 100 records, including "Body and Soul," "Swing, Brother, Swing," and "Laughing at Life."

In 1956 Billie Holiday sat down with ghostwriter William Dufty and recounted the story of her life. At times to justify the telling of her tale she issues warnings about the dangers of drug use. Certain facts of Holiday’s account of her childhood remain contested but there is no contest over Holiday’s contribution to the jazz vocal tradition. Every discussion about music ends in an anecdote about one of the many sadists, racists, and opportunists that populate her story. She seldom connects the wretchedness of her early life and her later drug use. Between pleas for understanding for addicts she blames herself for not being strong enough to resist heroin. There is rage at the injustices she suffered, but these experiences may have been what made her music so revolutionary, and that in turn render her words so interesting. Ultimately the lesson we take away from her story is not the warnings against drugs, but that sometimes, against the odds, beauty grows where it receives the least bit of sun.

In 1937, she performed at the Apollo Theater. In 1937, she toured with Count Basie and with Artie Shaw in 1938. In 1939, she spent nine months singing regularly at a New York club called Cafe Society, where she became a star. Her emotionally wringing performance of "Strange Fruit," a song about a lynching, became legendary. She gravitated toward the poignant blues songs--"Lover Man," "I Cover the Waterfront," and "God Bless the Child" among them. Holiday was not overtly political but Strange Fruit was an early cry for Civil Rights and perhaps the most powerful protest song of the last century.

Strange Fruit

Good Morning Heartache

17 July 2007

Moaning Meme

Linda over at Are We There Yet has tagged me with "The Moaning Meme" that she received from Freelance Cynic. Normally, when it comes to tagging, I am like the man being being run out of town on a rail after being tarred and feathered: "If it weren't for the honor, I would rather walk!" But this one is different ... no turning our sunny faces to the world; no proud pictures of the wee ones; no counting our blessings or chortling over completed goals ... this one is for the Moaning Myrtle who resides within us all.

What is a moaning meme? To quote the Freelance Cynic -

"... a recent study has shown that the most effective form of human bonding is moaning and gossiping but our blogs, the social tools of the 21st century, are populated by memes listing our 'favourites,' or our 'blessings,' or our 'funniest' moments. In our efforts to be readable we have denied others the one thing that makes us interesting - our whining, moaning, complaining selves. And so I am pleased to present the first ever Moaning Meme! The meme that will teach us all a bit more about each other and ourselves."

List 4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and any other drug or alcohol laden anorexic with more money than brains who is fawned over by a media culture populated by the equally brainless newsbunnies currently cluttering the airwaves.

Speaking of the media, I've learned to live without real reporters who know their subject on TV, but please, please, please can't we dump every "news reader" who majored in hair tossing, hasn't bothered to read their script before going on air, and who doesn't have a clue how the words are pronounced much less what they mean.

TV executives who make you hunt for new shows over the whole week and at various times until they cancel it for "lack of interest". This happens to any fairly interesting show requiring an education beyond the third grade and the attention of people who don't giggle between words.

Mirrors in unexpected places. Now with some mental preparation, I have come to terms with my 33 year old brain catching a glimpse of my 63 year old body in reflective surfaces at home. Once you leave home they leap out at you when you turn a corner somewhere in the great outside world forcing you to leap out of the way of some totally unknown stranger until you realize that the stranger is yourself ... Smash those mirrors to smithereens and evict them from the world!

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:

These people might be part of a universal truth: Any one who gets into the Express Line at the grocery store with too many items, changes lanes suddenly in front of you without even the courtesy of a turn indicator, swears in public places as a form of emphasis not agony, or shoves in front of you for any service where there is a line ... in other words all the incredibly rude and inconsiderate slobs whose parents obviously forgot to cover "please", "thank you", "excuse me" and "after you".

Any politician who uses the phrase "The Fact of the Matter Is:" They must know by now that all of us now know that these six words always precede a lie of humongous proportions that they are trying to shove down our unwilling throats ... so off they go to room 101 never to be heard again.

And while I'm on politicians and others with truly dirty habits: 24 hour news has made it possible to recognize a talking point within a half hour of the first time it is used much less the 1000th time it is repeated. If you must use talking points because you haven't had an original thought since being elected, do try to rephrase it if only to prevent TV screens from being shattered by flying objects.

2 things you find yourself moaning about:

Crowds - any crowds - I hate crowds! It is a tribute to my love of musical theater that I am willing to get into a crowd of a thousand or so human beings three or four times a year.

The disappearance of piano bars. This may sound strange after listing the first one, but I love pleasant singing voices, people who can play the piano, great jazz or standards music and an ambience that lends itself to quiet conversation rather than concert venues, multiple screens, performers the size of tootsie rolls, and thousands of shrieking fans.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

While I genuinely like most people in small doses, I am a hermit at heart and belong in a backwoods cabin with a stack of books big enough to give the Library of Congress a run for its money and the screaming volume of a babbling brook.

I now get to tag some other folks who might just have a hidden cynical side that has never been exposed to the blogging world and who will probably list me as that person being given the heave-ho into room 101.

Ran at Mental Floss
Corey at The Mitchell Blog
Vanilla Birdies at Tick Tock Goes The Clock
Rock Chick at Life In Rantastic
Enigma4ever at Watergate Summer

Now go have fun, folks, be yourselves, and as Simon says "remember, cynical is sexy"!

Here come the rules! Here come the rules! Here come the rules!

Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it's all about!

Be as honest as possible. This is about letting people get to know the real you! Try not to insult anyone - unintentionallly.

Post these rules at the end of every meme!

13 July 2007

It Pays To Know Where You're Going

The Oregon Trail

Awhile back I posted a little quiz. Linda of Are We There Yet was the only one who took up the challenge and was therefor declared the winner of the Grand Prize: A blog article on any subject of her choice. You will have to ask her why she decided on "The Donner Party" since I am assuming this is of historical interest since she seems to be too sweet a lady to have many cannibals hanging from the family tree.

Do Not! Repeat Do Not! enter "The Donner Party" into Google as a search item. What will turn up is a result of 2,010,000 individual articles. So what is a different enough tack to take to justify number 2,010,001? What made this one group of people among the thousands traversing the Oregon Trail more important than any other group? The answer is a simple one, they really weren't very different and not particularly important except as many travelers have found to their sorrow, they were taken in by a shyster and got lost.

  • 1801 - Thomas Jefferson becomes President

  • 1804 - Lewis and Clark Expedition begins. More than a year later on November 7, 1805 they reached the mouth of the Columbia River. In September of 1806 they returned to St. Louis to let the President and everyone else know where it was and they brought back the maps so that anyone who wanted to could get to Oregon.

  • 1843 - The beginning of the great migration. While some people other than Indians had settled in Oregon prior to this date, they were principally mountain men or explorers from other nations (France, England, Russia). This year started the flow across the American West that then reached it's crescendo following the discovery of gold in 1849.
  • April 1846 - George and Jacob Donner, and James Reed along with their families and drivers for the nine wagons left St. Louis. In May of 1846 they join a larger wagon train, which is led by Colonel William Henry Russell.
  • June 1846 - At Fort Laramie, Wyoming, Russell and his group decide to use mules for faster travel and depart to hurry ahead on the Oregon Trail, while the Donner group increases in size by joining up with other slower wagon trains and becomes the Boggs Company.
And this is the point where the know it all who didn't enters the picture. Just beyond Fort Laramie they met up with Wales Bonney Carrying a letter from Lansford Hastings suggesting that the wagon train could save time by taking a newly discovered shortcut named, you guessed it, "The Hastings Cutoff". Although they were warned by experienced travelers not to risk the uncertain shortcut, the Donner Party broke off from the Boggs Company in hopes of saving 300 miles on the route to Oregon. For the exact timeline and events, you can read The Donner Party.

The tribulations faced on this shortcut that was neither shorter nor easier made them late entering the Sierra. Once more the shyster enters the scene with a note stuck on a bush saying to send one person ahead to meet him and he would return to guide them. Once more, Hastings doesn't keep his word but points out another possible route through the mountains that they follow reaching the base of the summit on Halloween just as it was starting to snow.

They had come 2,500 miles in seven months to lose their race with the weather by one day, only 150 miles from their destination of Sutter's Fort (what is now Sacramento) in California.

Over the next four months, the remaining men, women, and children huddled together in cabins, make shift lean-tos, and tents. The cattle had all been killed and eaten by mid-December; one man had died of malnutrition. The people began to eat bark, twigs, and boiled hides. One group made it through to Sacramento though half of them died in the effort.

There were several rescue attempts though these were as dangerous for the rescuers as for the few people they were able to get out. In addition, they could only transport small amounts of provisions to leave with those still stranded. George Donner and his wife died at the camp, along with his brother Jacob and Jacob's wife, and most of the Donner children. James Reed, reached Sutter's fort. Reed's family survived. Other families included those of Patrick Breen (all of whom survived), William Eddy, Franklin Graves, and others many of whom died. In total, of the 87 men, women and children in the Donner party, 46 survived, 41 died.

The last survivor was brought out in April. He and others were accused of cannibalism, and even murder. The surviving members had different viewpoints, so the picture of what happened is not clear. The news spread east with gory tales of men and women dining on human flesh. To this day it has not been confirmed that cannibalism had taken place, though there are mentions in diaries. Recent archaeological excavations have failed to turn up any human bones with teeth marks although there are many of rabbits, dog and small rodents, so if there was cannibalism of already deceased, to this date no physical evidence has been found.

Looking down from Summit, you can get a clear view of Donner Pass and Donner Lake named after the fated party. It is not hard to imagine how rough this terrain would be in the depths of winter. The Sierra is beautiful but it can also be deadly. Recently a man, his wife and their baby were in the Sierra. They got lost taking an unfamiliar road that was shut down and not plowed in winter. The man tried to hike out. His wife and baby were rescued by searchers over a week after being stranded but he froze to death in the effort to seek help.

Thousands upon thousands of people made the arduous trip from the civilized east to the danger and hope of the west. During the six months of the trip on either the Santa Fe or Oregon Trails, they married, had children, and persevered in the face of horrendous obstacles. Many died of illness, injury, or violence. One song more than any other probably captures both the wistfulness and hope that took them forward. Almost everyone knows it, but seldom think what it meant to start the journey across the wide Missouri.

12 July 2007

Lady Among The Flowers

It is purely a coincidence that two first ladies appear next to each other on this blog. Yesterday, I posted "Ithaca" with a note that it was the poem read at Jaqueline Kennedy's funeral. Yesterday we received the news that Lady Bird Johnson had reached the end of her earthly road. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has published a lovely remembrance of her life in praise of all the beauty she left behind that is well worth reading.

Each of these women graced the White House with their own style, and each left behind their mark on the history of the country. In the hurly burly of politics and elections, we often forget those in the shadow of the candidate or office holder. The family is often the best indication of the person we are electing to serve. Those family members while not elected will serve as well and you will be seeing a lot of them. So take a close look at the family and ask if you want to spend a lot of time in their company when you make your choice.

11 July 2007

Finding Ithaca

It seems to me that the news readers of CNN and MSNBC are doing their best to sell the American public a whole load of manure with the be afraid, be very afraid messages based on Chertoff's gut. Why anyone would waste even one second being disturbed by "it might happen" is beyond me. The following is a much better way to live. It was read at the funeral of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis as a tribute to the way she conducted her life.


by Constatine Cavafy

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

09 July 2007

Face The Music

This is a taking the easy way out while I work on something else. As it happens I love dancing and dancers, so click the little buttons and find many of the different kinds of dance.

"By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or on the beached margent of the sea
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind."
(Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream)

Tap Battle - Lord of the Dance

Dirty Dancing Finale - Patrick Swayze

The Babbit and The Bromide (Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire)

Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson

Kennedy Center Honors for Baryshnikov

Seven Sisters

There are seven colleges/universities on the east coast of the United States that were originally founded in the 19th century for women only, though two of them are now co-educational. Their mission was to educate women to the same degree as men. These private colleges and universities continue to provide an outstanding education to women, and the list of their famous graduates is a long one.

They received the nickname of "The Seven Sisters" in the 1920s to link them in people's minds with the eight Ivy League men's colleges (now all coed). Although these highly regarded women's colleges were founded in the 19th century, it wasn't until 1978 that they all had women Presidents.

This nickname also had a classical reference to the Pleiads, the graceful and beautiful stars in the heavens.

The Legend:

One day the great hunter Orion saw the Pleiads as they walked through the countryside, and desired them. He pursued them for seven years, until Zeus answered their prayers for delivery and transformed them into doves, placing them among the stars. Later on, when Orion was killed, he was placed in the heavens behind the Pleiades, immortalizing the chase.

The Seven Sisters

Barnard College (New York, NY) - founded in 1889, adjacent to Columbia University. In 1983 Columbia began to accept women applicants, ending Barnard's exclusive right to enroll women undergrads.

Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA) - this nondenominational college counts actress Katharine Hepburn among its notable alumnae.

Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA) - founded in 1837, this was the first of the Seven Sister schools, and the first institution of higher education for women in the U.S.

Radcliffe College (Cambridge, MA) - emerged in 1893 as an institution adjacent to, yet separate from, Harvard University. In the 1970s, the two schools merged and women were officially granted Harvard degrees.

Smith College (Northampton, MA) - Australian educator and author Jill Ker Conway became Smith's first woman president in 1975.

Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY) - coeducational since 1969, its the first of the Seven Sisters to welcome both genders. In 1989, Rick Lazio was the first Vassar grad to be elected to Congress. However, he was defeated in a recent Senate race by a Wellesley grad (Hillary Clinton).

Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA) - Wellesley's presidents have all been women, many of them Wellesley alums. Hillary Rodham initially attracted national attention in 1969 when she became the first student to speak at commencement exercises for Wellesley.

Should you have a daughter approaching college, you might want to look into attendance at one of the seven sisters for a unique experience in education.

Wellesley College Tupelos In Performance

08 July 2007

Eviction Notice

"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."

by John Adams
Inscribed above the White House's central fireplace.


Leonard Bernstein wrote a failed musical. Alan J. Lerner wrote the lyrics for the musical that only had seven performances. By themselves many of the songs are beautiful and well worth performing if only because their message is so important. The musical was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

One song in particular stands out as both a blessing and warning. Perhaps the current resident will drop by and remember what his job should be and that the residence he is inhabiting belongs to the American people not to him. Perhaps the members of Congress will drop by and realize what they are supposed to do if he continues to injure this country and violate his lease agreement.


Take care of this house
keep it from harm
if bandits break in
sound the alarm.

Care for this house,
shine it by hand
keep it agleam
so it can be seen
all over the land

Be careful at night
check all the doors
if someone breaks in
the dream will be lost

Take care of this house
be always on call
for this house
is the home of us all

Live Earth




07 July 2007

Everybody Has Relatives

It seems that everyone famous has at least one relative who causes them anguish either public or private. Rudy Giuliani's children hate him and don't mind telling the press at the top of their lungs. Mike Huckabee's son likes to slaughter animals and we all got the news that Al Gore's son can make a Prius go 100 mph. Over the years the famous and successful have had brothers, sisters, parents, and wives who just happened to do something aggravating right when it was inconvenient to do so. It is almost as if families only have so much talent, success, or fame allotted to them. When that allotment gets spread around evenly all is well, but when one member gets the biggest share, the others just don't quite behave the way they should.

Lest the modern crowd of Carters, Hiltons, Clintons, Huckabees, and Gores think they are being persecuted, take a small lesson from history.

Orion is a field which grows richer & richer the more he manures it with each new top-dressing of religion or other guano.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Letter to W. D. Howells, 9/15/1879

Although 10 years his senior, Orion Clemens maintained a very close relationship with Sam throughout their lives. Born in Gainesboro, Tennessee, Orion was 15 when the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri. In 1849, Orion bought the Hannibal Journal newspaper, which he renamed the Hannibal Western Union. It was at this paper that Sam began his writing career, coming to work for his brother in 1851. Orion married Mollie Stotts in December 1854, and the couple moved to Keokuk, Iowa, where Orion started a printing company. About a month later, Sam and Henry Clemens came to work for Orion, but were forced to leave when the company became a financial flop. With his lack of success in the newspaper and printing businesses, a pattern of failure was emerging that would plague Orion during his lifetime.

Good fortune shined on Orion briefly when he was appointed secretary of the Nevada Territory by President Lincoln's attorney general in 1861. With the election of Nevada's first government as a state, Orion found himself out of a job. The stigma of failure continued to burden Orion.

After several years, Orion headed to New York, where he worked as a newspaper proofreader. By this time, Sam Clemens was becoming an established literary celebrity, and was earning enough money to regularly contribute to Orion and Mollie. In 1870, Sam got Orion a job with Elisha Bliss' American Publishing Co. as an editor, but he lasted in this position for only two years. The couple moved back once again to Keokuk, where Orion had a string of business failures, including raising chickens, practising law, and writing a novel. By this time, they were depending fully on Sam's contributions for their livlihood. In the early 1880s, Jane Clemens, Sam and Orion's mother, came to live with him in a house bought by Sam. Orion died in Keokuk in 1897.

Mark Twain seems to have truly loved his brother, and Orion seems to have been a genuinely good man who for what ever reason could never make his way in the world. So you have one genius known world wide and one brother who never amounted to much of anything other than being a brother. Perhaps that was enough for love to handle when fame couldn't.

06 July 2007

There Goes My Childhood

It was the summer of 1959 and I was in love for the first time. As these things go, my heart was in smithereens for the first time before the first day of the tenth grade. This first foray into romance had a soundtrack as only teenage passions can. "There Goes My Baby ... Movin' On Down the Line."

This morning almost a half century later, I woke to the news that Bill Pinkney, the last of the original Drifters, had passed away at the age of 81 (were they really 20 years older than me?).

So here's to Roy wherever you may be if you still are anywhere on earth. As first among a few heartwrenchers, you weren't bad. And here's to Bill who made wonderful music. You were part of the soundtrack of my life. May your move on down the line be a nice smooth transition to Paradise.

04 July 2007

Equal Justice Under The Law

May 5, 1997 - Terry Washington, a mentally retarded man of thirty-three with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. pled for clemency from Governor Bush. After a thirty-minute briefing by Gonzales, Bush checked "Deny"— just as he had denied twenty-nine other pleas for clemency in his first twenty-eight months as governor.

July 2, 2007 - President Bush commutes sentence of wealthy attorney to keep him from spilling the beans on a criminal White House.

Is it time for a revolution against our home grown King George?

It's our own darn fault. We knew he was a snake before we took him in.


The two pictures above represent our family's Independence Day traditions. On July 3, we attend a Tacoma Ranier evening baseball game.. It is almost always beautifully warm and the stadium is always full. The game is with our great rivals from Salt Lake City. Once the game is over, blankets are spread on the field and as the sun goes down, people bundle up a bit and the children snuggle in on laps for the fireworks that last for another hour.

On July 4, we have the yearly viewing of the musical 1776. At least once a year, every American should watch this musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The characters and the issues are vividly and frankly portrayed, and we see the founding fathers' faults as well as their virtues. The courage, the strategy, the dream of freedom, and even the tragic compromise on slavery are all there. If we didn't know how it all turned out, the suspense would be unbearable.

What makes this musical remarkable is that the actual speeches and letters of the founders are used as the source material for the script and songs. If you hadn't read the letters between Abigail and John, you might suspect that the movie was being a bit racy, but it's not. Those two really liked each other ... A LOT! Ben Franklin was racy all by himself. He gives "dirty old men" a good name. What is more important it doesn't dodge the hard topics ... the sacrifices made in war, the problem of slavery that couldn't be solved and still create a nation.

Those two issues are sung in "Mama Look Sharp" and "Molasses, To Rum To Slaves". Even after a quarter of century watching, these two songs still give me cold chills, because they are issues that we are still dealing with in our modern society: The sacrifice of the soldier to preserve our independence and the aftermath of slavery that still leaves a percentage of our population without the full blessings of liberty.

In this time of war, many of us are separated now by opposing viewpoints. What we all agree on is that this experiment in liberty has continued now for 231 years. To make it work we need to respect the opinions of others and their rights to express them. So go do whatever your family does on this birthday of America: Cook out, go to a game, visit a cemetery, play sports, have a big family meal - whatever are your traditions. While doing it, you might take a moment of two to read that Declaration of Independence for as good ol' Ben said, "If we don't hang together, we shall certainly hang separately".