"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Monday, January 29, 2007

Who's afraid?

In view of the delisting of wolves in three states with more to come I have to plug a book I read a few years ago, Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez. The author highlights very interesting, and tragic, parallels between how white people have historically treated wolves and how they treat(ed) native people. Maybe it's not really all that surprising a parallel. But the book is fascinating in its description not only of biology and the pack social structure, but in human mythologization for good or evil. After reading it I was ready to go up to Alaska with a rocket launcher and fire a warning shot or two past the propellers of the airborne wolf "hunters." Even out the playing field a bit. I can understand the rancher's need to protect property (though it sounds like many cases of predation were historically misattributed to wolves on a regular basis, actually feral dogs have been a worse problem at times). If you'd left the wolves an adequate supply of their normal prey they wouldn't have gone after your dumb old sheep anyway. Why can't we all just get along. It is grotesque and tiresome, this game of sending a whole group of somethings or someones to the brink of obliteration and then spending enormous effort and energy trying to save them again. I want to play something else. At least the good thing about the current administration is that in this game I don't think it would bother with the saving part because it's too hard; if it came to it, we'd just get to stop at the obliteration. Good thing the writing is on the wall for the administration along with anything it may have helped obliterate.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

As time goes by

I received an 11"x6" postcard this week inviting me to "finish at home" what I "started at BYU!" by obtaining a Bachelor of General Studies with an emphasis in one several areas: American Studies, English and American Literature, Family Life, History, Management, Psychology, or Writing. The postcard has a detour / road sign theme (continued at the website) and the caption at the top of the card reads "Whatever Detours in Life Have Come Your Way, You Can Still Finish Your BYU Degree."

Rather a bold, all-encompassing statement. If I didn't already have a couple degrees from other universities (one school's degree is another school's detour, perhaps), it would be tempting to spend $30 to find out whether this is false advertising.

However, as Greg Kinnear's character stated in "Little Miss Sunshine," sarcasm is the refuge of losers, so I won't trip down that particular path right now. Certainly there are a number of people for whom this postcard will point out a feasible method of finishing their undergraduate degree, and it's a worthwhile thing to have. Last week I attended a conference on the issues faced by working poor families. One of the speakers pointed out that sadly one of the leading causes of poverty is motherhood. Therefore it especially behooves mothers to seize any economic advantage they possibly can, and judging from the images on the postcard and the website, the mom contingent is the prime target audience.

I am just puzzled though, unless this is some brand new continuing ed program and they dug way down into the files to promote it, why is BYU inviting me back at this particular time? I would have been (theoretically) eligible for the program almost ten years ago. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...er, I mean, God never closes a door without somewhere opening a window...my grandma would have called that "working for the power company" but maybe it is meant to demonstrate the importance of good ventilation. I digress. Back in the day at the Y the closest thing we had to a gin joint was a coffee shop in Orem. We'll always have Orem. I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful work of satirical semi-fiction. No sarcasm though, that's for losers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

for my NFL-sized head

The Schutt DNA appears to be a good model for protecting what C would call my "tender goo." Been searchin' the "internets" for a metallic silver size XL which, they advise, requires the XL size DNA facemask (has to be maroon). I found one ebay store that claims to offer the requisite size and colors but I tell you what, XL is harder to come by than you'd think considering the sport's association with human solar eclipse-type guys. I guess the pros / collegiates have their secret suppliers. And no joke, I really do need an XL helmet despite the less substantial rest of me. I wrapped the measuring tape around my forehead and it came out 23.5." The lower end of XL, yes, but a tad too big for a large unless I were to slather my head with petroleum jelly which I would prefer not to do. I can adjust the pads inside the helmet to make sure the fit is good.

But back to the subject of suppliers, it turns out that right here in Butte County, CA is one of the nation's premier suppliers of certified reconditioned football helmets of all the major manufacturers. On Thursday when I'm passing through Gridley on the way to Sacramento I may pay them a visit, I think I may be able to save some $$ over the ebay outfit in Wisconsin, try before I buy, and maybe even show up to Saturday practice with a helmet. The first drill will involve trying to stand up and walk while wearing helmet without being toppled over by its massive girth. We aren't tackling just yet but coach wants us to start practicing the not toppling over bit.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

the horror

I added the movie "S21--The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine" to our Netflix queue a long time ago because I was looking for films about the recent history of Southeast Asia. It finally made its way through the list having been bumped back numerous times by other DVDs that were more appealing. However, I'm glad I left it in the queue. It was so different from anything you see on the "history" channel or even good quality PBS documentaries we've seen, such as Ken Burns produces, and this is why: the film features a survivor of the S21 prison camp, Vann Nath, interviewing his former guards. Vann Nath survived because he was a painter and the men in charge liked the way he painted Pol Pot. Remarkably Vann Nath is able to ask the guards why and how they could have done what they did.

How often has that happened on this earth? That the victim and the abusers sit down at a table and the victim is able to call them to account? It was amazing. As dissociated and shut down as the guards appeared to be, they were obviously ashamed. Yet the film told their story as well. One of the former guards was only 13 or 14 years old at the time, having been taken away from his village as a small child and indoctrinated.

What was even more amazing was to observe the difference between Vann Nath and the former guards and see who was obviously worse off twenty years after their experience.

The film has some graphic photographs and descriptions of what happened but it uses no special effects. The guards use pantomime to describe some of their routines at the prison which is now a genocide museum, and one almost feels that they are like ghosts haunting the place, emotionally / mentally / spiritually trapped there as the former prisoners were physically trapped.

The film is probably not for everyone but if you are up for watching it, I recommend reading the Wikipedia link first to get a little more background. I had never heard of this prison before seeing the film and it took me a little while to figure out that S21 referred to the prison itself, and that most of the prisoners there were actually supporters / members of the Khmer Rouge movement that turned on its own people. Usually we think of genocide being perpetrated by one group against another. Perhaps the events in Cambodia reveal the falsity and insanity of sorting humans into groups who have some reason to hate each other. Is it more, or less, an atrocity to systematically torture and murder your "own people" than to murder "other people?" Trick question! The Khmer Rouge regime can be credited, at least, with not externalizing all of its paranoia.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Here I go again--

meaning it looks like I'm about to jump in to something that, if I'm lucky, could result in serious injury to my ego. Hopefully not too much physical injury. At least I know a lot more about football than I knew about law (& law school) before I started THAT project, so I'm not signing up in a state of nearly complete ignorance about what it is I'll actually be doing.

Tryouts on Saturday involved a pretty easy warmup and some timed drills. My best 40-yd dash was 9.62 seconds. The fastest woman there ran it in under 7 seconds, but I was in the ballpark of the faster end of the group.

I did pretty well with the kicking considering only two previous kicking practices. The coaches offered some suggestions for increasing my punting distance--I was hitting the ball too high, I need to drop it lower or wait longer before I connect with it.

My standing jumps were pretty good. We were supposed to take three jumps in a row and then the coach measured the total distance traveled. My best of two attempts was 19'4". The record for the day was over 21 feet.

I caught on to the team cheer right away--"rage on three--1, 2, 3, RAGE!" At the end of the tryout the coaches gave us some of the fine print and reminded everyone that this is in fact full-contact TACKLE football (apparently one year somebody went through tryouts and even bought all her gear, then was utterly shocked when the first full-contact practice took place and quit in horror). Even though everybody gets to be on the team who wants to play, I was very impressed by the level of athleticism and skill I observed. There were a few veterans there as well as the new hopefuls. I seriously wondered if I'm really up for this challenge to my physical and mental toughness. But I think it will be good for me. The fastest running and farthest- jumping player trying out was there with her 3-year old son. No wonder she's so fast.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bows and flows of angel hair

I like the sound of this year. Has sort of a sleek James Bond thing going for it. I am thinking of some things I would like to do and / or change a bit this year, understanding that old habits probably don't die but are at least adjustable.

So, not necessarily in order of importance, I want to:

·Experience being on a football team
·Help C carry out her plans to make art and put it out into the world, dream up clever marketing strategies and help her make a website
·Get some cafe singing gigs
·Use the GarageBand software to record a demo CD
·Finish building my touring bike
·Go bike camping
·Get a puppy (and a trailer for the bike)
·Increase by a notch or two the level of order I impose on my personal and work spaces. Tap in to my inner fastidiousness.
·Visit family and friends more often
·Continue to write the disjointed bits of fiction that will someday reach critical mass and coalesce into the great overlooked literary novel of this (or some future) decade.
·Renew my commitment to budget and save a little $ aside each month
·Go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier (I write that knowing it will improve efficiency and well-being but I have some resistance to it. We'll see. Maybe if I start waking up earlier it will become self-enforcing.)

Only 364.5 days left to accomplish these things. Better get crackin.'