January 21, 2008 archive

A Dream of Trees

A Dream of Trees by Mary Oliver

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,

A quiet house, some green and modest acres

A little way from every troubing town,

A little way from factories, schools, laments.

I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,

With only streams and birds for company,

To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.

And then it came to me, that so was death,

A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.

But let it go. Homesick for moderation,

Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.

If any find solution, let him tell it.

Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation

Where, as the times implore our true involvement,

The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.

Who ever made music of a mild day?

What I Said At The TIme

I started writing a journal when I was 13 years old.  I still have that raggedy old spiral notebook.

Here’s what I said about Viet Nam.  Please don’t hate me for my prodigy-like brilliance:

I wonder when World War III will be.  I’m almost sure there’ll be one, because of all the fighting going on in Viet Nam.  You see, it all started because we didn’t want South Viet Nam to become Communist (a form of government where the government owns and controls everything) so we fought the Communists so that Viet Nam would be a democracy (an individualistic government, where it is run by the people, for the people).

Well so far, all that has happened is a lot of killing!  Also, Presidential elections are coming up in 1968 (November).  I sure hope Johnson isn’t re-elected.  I’m rooting for Bobby Kennedy or McCarthy!  (Even though I can’t vote, I’m only 13 years old!)

I wish that wars wouldn’t “be.”  We have such a short time to live, why does it have to be spent in fighting?


Four at Four

  1. Obama, Clinton, and EdwardsThe New York Times reports Dr. King honored by Democratic presidential candidates. “The three rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination stood together on the steps of the state capitol here on Monday in a brief display of political unity as they remembered the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With a bitter chill in the air, the candidates addressed a crowd that overflowed onto a sprawling downtown plaza, vowing to complete the unfinished business of the slain civil rights leader… As the candidates spoke, a Confederate flag whipped into the stiff wind, a poignant reminder of South Carolina’s historic racial divide that still hangs over politics here.” The Democrats are in S.C. for tonight’s Congressional Black Caucus debate on CNN at 8 p.m. Eastern.

  2. AFP reports scientists have found evidence of a Massive volcano that exploded under Antarctic icesheet. “A powerful volcano erupted under the icesheet of West Antarctica around 2,000 years ago and it might still be active today, a finding that prompts questions about ice loss from the white continent… The explosive event — rated “severe” to “cataclysmic” on an international scale of volcanic force — punched a massive breach in the icesheet and spat out a plume some 12,000 metres (eight miles) into the sky”. The British scientists calculated the blast happened around 207 B.C, give or take 240 years, which is roughly during the lifetime of Alexander the Great. While volcanic heat may be the cause of some Antarctic ice melt, the scientists state warming ocean water is the primary factor.

  3. The Guardian reports on the Drive to save weird and endangered amphibians. “British scientists have launched an ambitious conservation project to protect some of the weirdest and slimiest creatures on the planet from extinction. The Zoological Society of London’s Edge project has identified 100 species of amphibians that have the fewest living relatives, making them evolutionary rarities and precious examples of Earth’s biodiversity… Climate change, habitat loss and outbreaks of disease have taken their toll on amphibians around the world. Half of all amphibian species are in decline, while a third are threatened with extinction.” 2008 is the Year of the Frog.

  4. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Local architects offer visions of SF in 2108. If the winning proposal of IwamotoScott Architecture vision of San Francisco’s future should come to pass, the city will “be a place where forests of towers grow algae as well as house people, and where geothermal steam baths sprout atop Twin Peaks.” The firm “said a city that produces its own energy – such as the hydrogen that would be generated by vast vertical fields of algae – and moves most travel underground shouldn’t be all that far-fetched.”

    “We were thinking of the city as an evolutionary beast,” said [Lisa] Iwamoto, a design lecturer at UC Berkeley as well as the operator, with [Craig] Scott, her husband, of a four-person firm based in the couple’s Mission District loft. “You create certain conditions, and that allows other things to happen.”

Tech Talk – Uploading your first web page!

So you’ve made your first web page based on the last tutorial and now you want to know how to change it and upload it.  The most important thing to remember when working with web sites, web hosts and servers is that everything is based on files and folders just like your computer.  On most hosts you’ll be allowed to access the folder “www” or “public-html” in your account.  This is where you’ll be doing 99% of your work.  Inside that folder you can create unlimited new folders for various parts of your website.

Editing Your Page

You already know the basics of HTML if you are posting on blogs.  You know how to create links and most know how to add images.  How the page looks now, however, is up to you.  There are a number of free web design programs but I think it is important that you know how to do coding by hand.  This way you’ll be able to locate and fix mistakes later on.

Open up your “myfirstpage.html” page which you stored on your desktop last time.  Right click or double click anywhere on the page to and select “View Source” or “View Page Source”.  You will see the coding you cut and pasted last time.

Now let’s personalize it:  

MLK and Ghandi Today, Can Non-Violence and People Power Work?

In the 20th Century two groups of oppressed people were led to greater freedom by two different men in two different places. The circumstances, other than shared oppression, were wholly different. But but both movements were successful, to a large and undeniable extent. Will this method of change work today?

Yes it will.

But only if the People choose to make it work. And only if the People learn not just the lessons and the methods of non-violent change….but also learn the lessons of how that changed was stopped.

If the method of non-violent change was so successful, why are we not practicing it now in large numbers to fight the current battle of Justice vs. Oppression?

What is lacking is not the method, but someone to lead the movement.

Without the charismatic presence of Ghandi and MLK, neither movement would have succeeded. The People rallied around them and bought into nonviolence because of their personal examples and their personal sacrifices. But Ghandi took on the whole British Empire. And King took on a whole culture. And won.  

CA Suburbs…no candidate is getting traction

This is going to be stepping way out of my self-imposed hiatus. BTW we should all try it since it has been good for my perspective on the primaries.

During the past two weeks of not posting much (20 comments a week down from 80+) I’ve lurked and read the blogs here and elsewhere. I’ve gotten out and had dinner with my neighbors and friends. One of the most interesting things of the past two weeks has been discussions on the upcoming primary election. The results have been staggering…to a political junkie that hangs out in the blogsophere.

Disclaimer: These are my observations based on a limited group of co-workers, neighbors, and friends. I live in Marin County, CA and we voted 67% John Kerry in 2004. Don’t get in a hissy fit if you disagree!

Tired of Talking About Racism?

On some positions a coward has asked the question is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. – Martin Luther King Jr., November 1967

A few days ago, coincidentally on Martin Luther King Jr.’s real birthday, I was at a gathering of middling size where I only knew two people. While I sipped my club soda and nearly nodded off listening to someone buzz on and on about football, a conversation cluster within eavesdropping distance took up the subject of reservation casinos. I live in California and four Indian gaming referenda will appear on the ballot February 5, so a discussion of the topic was not a surprise. I’ve always had an (apparently inborn) ability to tune into conversations across a room while blocking out those in front of me, and my interest was piqued because whoever was explaining the gaming proposals seemed to know quite a bit about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to these measures being put before the voters. Then I heard it. Somebody said, “It’s the redskins’ revenge.”

For the first time, I looked over that way, and all five people in the group were gently laughing or smiling or nodding assent.

I don’t think he meant it maliciously. Quite possibly he even thought he was being supportive. It’s doubtful he would have said “nigger” or “wetback” or “chink,” since there were African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos in the room. But no obvious Indians. Because I don’t wear feathers, mocassins or a loincloth and can pass for white, he apparently felt unconstrained in making what I’m sure he thought was a harmless little joke. Maybe even a pro-Indian joke. I could have walked over and explained how infuriating what he had said was, how hurtful it was that everybody seemed to have enjoyed what he said. But it gets so bloody tiring dealing with the reactions. Not just the accusations of “political correctness,” the rolled eyes or the  “Aren’t you being too sensitive?” charges, inevitably delivered with a smile. But also the downward glances, the stammering, or even the apologies that so often greet an objection: “Oh, I’m sorry. I know that you  … uh… Native Americans object to that.”

As if it’s okay to deploy a slur when no member of the slurred ethnicity is around to be insulted? As if racism only matters to people of color? As if every one of us is not harmed to the core by such talk about any ethnicity and should object to it?

This incident – I can recount a dozen others I’ve witnessed in the 21st Century – made me ponder a great deal the theme I’ve heard so much of recently, on-line and off, that race and racism have been transcended in America. That we no longer need to talk about these matters because, well, because talking about them only engenders bad feelings about something that is fixed except in a few backward locales by people who will be dead soon anyway. That, 45 years after the summer day Reverend King made that soaring speech on the Washington Mall, his dream is wholly achieved.

Nobody can deny that tremendous progress has been made. Progress that is a testament both to the message of universal legal equality in the nation’s founding document and two centuries of fierce and costly struggle by people of color and their white allies to transform that message into reality. A testament to people’s willingness to change themselves, to surrender their prejudices and fears, to recognize injustice and do something about it, even to give up their lives if that’s what it takes. That progress cannot be sneered at. It reflects an America and Americans of all colors at their best.

Racism nonetheless remains a chronic influence in our lives. Yet many white people say they don’t want to talk about race. They say they’re sick of talking about it. That stuff is all in the past, they say, and wonder aloud why we can’t talk about something else. I think what most are really saying is that they don’t want to listen to talk about race.  

Revisiting the Mountaintop

I am an activist for my people.  I perform my activism with my words, which is the tool I have at hand.  Sometimes I am repetitive.  I am a teacher.  Some lessons are hard.  That’s a clue to the fact that they are important.  Important lessons need to be taught, time and again, using different words, approaching the issue from different points of view.  That’s what I do.  Some of you claim that I do it “ad nauseam”.

Many of you know me as the transsexual woman (or whatever you call me…I’m sure that it is not favorable in many instances).  Some of you know me as a poet.  Some of you see the teacher in me.  Or the glbt activist and PFLAG parent.  I am all of these.  I am a human being.

I was born in a place and time.  I have absorbed the life lessons presented to me since then.  I am still learning.

I’ve tried to pass on what I have learned.  I continue to make that effort, in whatever new venues are available, wherever I can find an opened eye or ear.

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

“Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring-when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children-black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics-will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

–I Have a Dream

–August 28, 1963

Dr. King’s Greatest Speech


I don’t think it’s the “I have a dream”  speech, either in its Washington, DC, or earlier Detroit versions.  I think Dr. King’s greatest speech was given on April 4, 1967, to a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.  It’s “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”  Exactly, a year later, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered in Memphis.

Dr. King’s holiday is a day when I hope we can pause for a moment to remember Dr. King, to read this timeless speech of four decades ago, and to recommit ourselves to the struggle for peace and justice.  And most important, I hope we can find ways to re-dedicate ourselves to action for peace and justice.

It’s also important to remember on this holiday not the sanitized, uncontroversial, bland version of Dr. King that the traditional media now commemorate.  The version who gave the “I have a dream speech” and did nothing else of importance.  To the contrary, it’s extremely important to remember the Dr. King who was wiretapped and surveilled by the FBI and state governments, and who was constantly attacked in the media as a Communist and an outside agitator and a revolutionary.  And the Dr. King who was despite his courage in actual physical danger, along with his wife and children, for every waking minute of every one of his days.  And the Dr. King who was threatened quite publicly with lynching and bombing and shooting so regularly by racists, white supremacists and reactionaries of every stripe. And the Dr. King about whom so many Americans expressed their outspoken hatred and contempt even in polite company, at the dinner table, and in their houses of worship.

Join me at the Riverside Church.  

Notes from “Over The Hill”: Part One?

Yep. I’m “Over The Hill.”

And happy as hell about it.

I think it’s hilarious (now, that is!) to walk the Birthday aisles full of black banners and black balloons with screaming white letters shouting  “Over the Hill”, as if that’s as close to hell as one can GET while still on earth. On my 50th birthday, my staff literally FILLED my office with black balloons!

But think about it: we spend all our time and energy for decades, laboring to climb our hills and mountains. We all know time marches on, so did we really think there was some hilltop or mountain top we’d finally reach, * and then get to STAY THERE FOREVER? And would we’d even WANT to stay there forever?  We’re creatures of great curiosity. We like to keep moving to see what’s next. Even mountain tops get boring.


Transforming the Human Race

We can look back with a little space between us and the Twentieth Century now. And looking back, we can see that in the bloodiest century in human history…in a time period marked and defined by epic struggles of good versus evil, there are two men who stand head and shoulders above the rest, two real, undeniable and unsullied heroes. Now heroes are tricky, they are after all only human beings, just like the rest of us, and often have feet of clay. But the Twentieth brought us two undeniable heroes. Two men whose greatness, looking back, was not even in the acts that they did, though those were considerable. Whose impact reaches far, far beyond the number of people that they helped and affected, though those are innumerable. Two heroes whose lives have changed not just the course of history, though they undeniably did. The greatness of these two men, in many ways student and teacher, does not lie in just their actions, but in their world changing idea. An idea so radical to the previous history of the human race that I unreservedly hold them up as not just heroes of the Twentieth Century, but as two men who have changed undeniably for the better, and hopefully forever, all of humankind. For they have in a way, changed the very definition of good and evil.

Today we celebrate the birth of one of those men. And the idea that bound them together.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must

love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate

begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we

shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”


Pony Party: Eek!

Hi all,

Eek! You know it’s Monday when the Pickle has procrastinated. Sorry it’s late! And lame. Perhaps my lamest effort yet. Is that even possible?

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