Monthly Archives: July 2011

Ann Marie Buerkle and the Telephone Town Hall

Thursday night one of Ann Marie Buerkle’s people called me and asked me to hold the line for a telephone town meeting. I don’t know if you have ever participated or listened to one of these but usually the assistant makes a list of questions and names and then the Congressperson calls on people to ask his/her question. Until your name is called (which it may never be) you hang on the phone and listen to questions and answers.
This town meeting was a bit different because all of the people hanging on to the phones were people who sent advice about the debt ceiling and the various debt deals by email or fax to Ms. Buerkle’s office. I find this a very frustrating town meeting format because the Congressperson always has the last word. There is no rebuttal.
So as each person took her/his turn and gave the reasons why they did not want any of the solutions being offered at this time, as each person made very persuasive arguments about jobs, tax codes, budget cuts, and raising taxes or ending subsidies, Ms. Buerkle always got to speak last. Each time she reiterated her credo that government regulations are the reason we don’t have jobs, that Obama has never suggested a plan (which I believe we know is not true because a deal was almost reached) and that the mean Democrats won’t vote for cut, cap and balance or for John Boehner’s plan. It was very hard to sit and listen to her criticize the President and the Senate and paint the House of Representatives as full of saints. I hung up after 45 minutes and before I had my turn because I could see how this was going. No matter what I said Ms. Buerkle would just use her turn as a time to repeat the Republican Party line, which I have heard quite enough of, thank you please. I’m not a talker anyway, I’m a writer.
What I would like to say to Representative Buerkle is that she was elected by people who thought they were fed up with the status quo. They would have elected whoever was not already in power. Some of us, a lot of us did not sign up for Ann Marie Buerkle’s America. America belongs to all of us. Now that Ms. Buerkle is in office she is supposed to listen to her constituents, not browbeat (however politely) her constituents. She has to represent us all. I do not have faith that she knows enough economics to find her way out of our current financial situation. She better be awfully sure she is absolutely right if she is just going to push through her agenda. That’s not the way America works and she knows it. That’s why there are checks and balances, that’s why compromise keeps America on a more or less even keel. I still want Congress and the President to raise the debt ceiling now, with no conditions whatsoever. Then we can deal with all the rest of this.

Hydrofracking: One More Time

How could hydrofracking not be an environmental nightmare? Just read about the process. That can’t be good for our poor little Earth. In the few places where the shale has already been “fracked” the results have been negative – not only in terms of the environment, but in terms of the actual benefits to be derived from the business. Apparently, the usual wily ways of the energy business are much in evidence here. There are tricky leases which end up not being as good for the landowners as they sounded initially. The jobs that are touted do not always go to local people; the industry imports their personnel. The gas that is retrieved does not always stay in the local area; it is shipped elsewhere, sometimes to foreign locations. Landowners have lawyers but still have not been able to foresee all of the tricky nuances of these “oily” businessmen.
A fairly large number of us, even some of the once starry-eyed landowners keep saying NO to this, but the energy industry is steamrolling ahead. It is a little like a rape – in this case a rape of the land- and as always, in the case of rape, NO still means NO.
They are offering us a response period during which the DEC will collect our feedback about this issue. They have not said that our feedback will change anything in any way. We need something definitive. We need a referendum on this. If the majority of NYS residents feel that the gas is more important than our water (even though the gas may not stay in NYS) then I will accept (with sadness) that to hydrofrack is the will of the voters.
(OK- hydrofrack may not be a verb.)

The Summer of the Young Women

This has been the summer of the young women. First we have the Casey Anthony trial about which most of us don’t even know quite what to say. I believe Casey Anthony probably was guilty. The details, as we learned them, pointed to a crime as opposed to an accident and seemed to incriminate Ms. Anthony. There were also all the lies she told, lies that were quite good at diverting attention from herself and that sent authorities off looking for connections that didn’t exist. Some thought had to go into saying that there was a nanny involved and in using the name of an actual, although difficult to locate nanny. But we all listened to the trial, or at least parts of it and it was a bit long on theories and short on actual evidence. So in this case we feel that we let a guilty woman go free and we are (understatement) less than happy about it.
Second, we have Amanda Knox over there in Italy fighting for her innocence and fighting to be freed from prison. Amanda Knox appears to be a young woman who, although possibly involved in exactly the type of sexual attraction that you never want your daughter to experience, probably did not commit the murder of which she is accused. She seems remarkably poised for someone who has spent such a long time in prison during years that should have been some of the pleasantest ones of her life. I hope things go well for her, because the evidence in her case is apparently almost as nonexistent as the evidence in the Casey Anthony case, but she is in a foreign country with a different justice system so we cannot be quite sure about what will happen. 
Third, we have Amy Winehouse, a young woman who only committed crimes against herself. I did not hear a lot of her music before her death but everywhere on TV they have been talking a lot about what a talent she had and what a wonderful command of a number of music genres. I, of course, heard the “Rehab” song and, although it was  probably not her best song, and was not sung when she was clean and sober, still showed a strong voice and a unique style. It is always sad to lose someone young and we cannot help but think about what pleasure her creative mind and voice could have given us over the years if she had not died. What a waste and a sorrow.

Raise the Debt Ceiling, Decide Which America We Will Be Later!

These debt wheeling and dealings are so painful to watch because they tend to back up a political message we have heard quite a bit lately that American government is dysfunctional and is unraveling.  Without our democratic government there is no America. The land will still be here, there may be other governments, but they will never be the America we are so proud of.  All of the history we cherish, our revolutionary roots, our bravery in the face of an overbearing “mother country”, all of the creative efforts of our forefathers to devise a government that would foster equality and stand the test of time disappears.
It seems that we will let it all go because our affluence is in jeopardy. Affluence is like that; it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. So money is scarce right now and we are at each others’ throats. The divide is real. Some American’s really feel that we will have to let go of our entitlement programs. They feel America is poor because our government is too big and no one wants to do business here anymore. While it is true that American workers have been priced out of the market, we would never be able to exist with the wages being offered in places like China and India. How low can we go? I don’t know but I know we can’t go that low. Workers wages will eventually climb as third world nations become major consumers and want to increase their own affluence. No matter how small we make our government, I don’t think we can win back these businesses right now. However, it is extremely painful to watch the high levels of unemployment or to experience the fear of life without a stable income. It is painful to see once productive people falling into poverty; it is especially hurtful to see this happening to children. We look around for new jobs, but they are just not being generated at the rate that is necessary to help our economy right now.
So we sit, Americans, in two divided camps. There are those who believe that we must reduce spending and debt, but that this is hardly the right time to cut the safety net that keeps Americans who are caught in this global shift safe from freefall. This is not the time to worry about small government. So many issues about that:  how small should our government get; does small mean getting rid of all entitlements, having everything left up to the marketplace and private corporations? Does small mean getting rid of all regulation of business? Be real. All Americans will never agree with that and right now it will not solve the problems of our economy because for American workers to be able to compete in the current global marketplace the American economy would have to dial itself back to the 1930’s (the Great Depression) (which may be happening anyway).
Which brings us back to the American political divide and the debt dealings; the Democrats and the Republicans are not fighting about the budget. They are fighting about America. Which America will we be? Will we be the America of the New Deal, which includes a government that serves all Americans (and sometimes does overstep it’s bounds) or a government that stays aloof from the doings of the masses and keeps it’s mitts off of business and doesn’t mind what business has to do to the American people as long as America looks prosperous among the nations of the world.
We cannot let this divide kill America. Raise the debt ceiling please. It has nothing to do with solving our current American crisis of ideology. These internal ideological wars have been going on for quite some time and we can’t make these decisions in time to prevent default. This is not just about the budget and spending. It is about two opposing views of what America will be like in the near future. We need people to spin out a view of what America will be like if we follow one path or if we take the other. We could take a middle path, but Republicans do not seem to want that. They have a view of a new or reconditioned America. Instead of blasting the opposition they need to tell us what America will look like if we go with their ideology. We have to imagine an America without Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security. We have to imagine an America where the private marketplace will offer products to take care of the needs of the people who fall out of fortune and where competition will make the prices of these products affordable. We have to imagine an America where corporations are relatively free to do business as they please and deal with workers as they please. I just cannot feel that this is an America I would like to live in. What would happen to the ideals of our revolutionary forefathers if we went with this vision of America?
I can certainly see why compromise would be our best bet. It would give us a bit of each ideology and would perhaps result in a stronger America. Raise the debt ceiling please, not in  steps, raise it now and raise it enough to get us through 2012. Then we will have time to continue to make up our minds about which America we want instead of being forced to make a precipitate decision because someone has us in a pincher play.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – Book

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, is a little gem. It is like an exquisite foreign film or a little jewel of a painting. It is weak on story, strong on character, intellect, and philosophy.

We have Madame Renee Michel, a concierge at what we would call an exclusive apartment building,  but  which in Paris is called an hotel particuleur.  (There are accents marks scattered all over these French words, but I don’t know how to type them in Word). Renee is 54 years old and has been hiding out for 27 years. She committed no crime. She is hiding her intelligence and her personality because she feels they are at odds with her “position” in life, which is probably true.
Our other focus is Paloma Rosen, 12 years old, going on 13, also very intelligent. She finds the lives of those around her stilted, boring, and meaningless. She plans to commit suicide when she is 13. Since she loves all things Japanese, like manga (comic books) and haiku, she contemplates seppuku, but decides it is too messy and starts hoarding pills from her mother’s collection.
There are eight apartments in this building occupied by rich families, but we have difficulty telling them apart except for a few standouts like Olympe Saint-Nice who wants to be a veterinarian and the wonderful Manuela Lopes, a cleaning lady and a master baker, who has been Renee’s only friend.
A tenant dies, one of Renee’s least favorite, an arrogant, snooty food critic.
His place is taken by someone who changes the order of things. All of the hidden, unappreciated people (like Renee, Paloma and Manuela) become the ones the new owner finds most intriguing. This Japanese (yes, Japanese) gentleman sees right past the normal hierarchy and pulls the lovely wallflowers out of hiding. Ironic — and satisfying.
Is there more to life than the plodding ingestion of tasks, duty, social obligations and cultural rules? That is the point of this story.
When I read the ending I involuntarily called the author the “b-word”. But, upon calmer reflection, I guess the book couldn’t end any other way (although I can think of a much more hopeful ending, I don’t think it would have fulfilled the author’s idea of “the camellia on the moss” or the value of life’s beautiful transformative moments.)
Read the book, it’s the only way you’ll see who you agree with. If you don’t like little foreign film masterpieces, the book might not be your “cup of tea”.
And, if you think I have covered everything, you will find that I have barely scratched the surface. There is so much more.

More Anthropological/Archeological Fiction

Search Amazon.com for tony hillerman
Search Amazon.com for kathleen o’neal gear and w. michael gear

The Clan of the Cave Bear was written by Jean Auel in 1980. Her final chapter, The Land of Painted Caves came out this year. So these books were spread out over a 30 year period with a pretty big gap between the next to the last book and the last one. Have the times changed so much that these books have no appeal for younger readers? Are these the kind of hippy-dippy books that the children of the Age of Aquarius enjoyed but modern readers find out-dated? I don’t know the answer for sure but I suspect this type of anthropological/archeological fiction with or without the spiritual overtones still is popular with readers. So in the interests of those who continue to crave “enlightenment” here is a list of other authors and books which include cosmic considerations along with an anthropological focus.
James Michener, The Source, 1965 – Fiction stories illustrate the various levels of a Middle Eastern archeological dig.
Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear have written two series of Native American books between 1990 and now. One series is called The First North Americans; the second is called North America’s Forgotten Past. Titles include: People of the Wolf, People of the Fire, People of the Earth, People of the River, People of the Sea, People of the Lakes, People of the Lightning, People of the Silence, People of the Mists, People of the Masks, People of the Owl, People of the Raven, People of the Moon.  In the second series some of the book titles are:   People of the Weeping Eye, People of the Thunder, People of the Longhouse. These books often begin with a short description of an archeological dig.
Tony Hillerman is a Native American author of excellent mysteries which also sometimes have a connection to artifacts, legends or myths from Native American culture. These are listed in no particular order:  People of the Darkness, The Dark Wind (Jim Chee), The Blessing Way, Listening Woman, The First Eagle, Dance Hall of the Dead, The Shape Shifter, The Ghost Way, The Thief of Time, Coyote Waits, Skinwalker (Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee), Skeleton Man, The Wailing Wind, Hunting Badger, The Fallen Man, Sacred Clowns, The Sinister Pig, Talking God, Finding Moon, The Fly on the Wall.

High Summer

It is indeed high summer and we barely believed in the depths of an extremely snowy winter that we would ever get here. After a soggy spring we have arrived at looks beautiful, burns the soles of your feet territory. We are not experiencing the heat that they are enduring in the Southern US (we hope you get relief soon).

We predictably get only one week in the 90’s each year (two at most) and this is that week. Our lawns are baking, our flowers are looking a bit crisp around the edges, our steering wheels are untouchable, and our thoughts turn to water; water so cool, so a gift from the cosmos, so refreshing, whether droplets splashing through sunlight or in a pool rippling and coolly blue. When it’s 90 degrees and above, even though the outdoors looks so beautiful, I don’t spend time outside. I move from air conditioned place to air conditioned place. I feel a bit guilty about it but 70 degrees is my ideal temperature.
 If I had someone to play with in the day time I might spend one day in and out of a beach chair that sits in the water. Sometimes at family gatherings we get out a kiddy pool and we soak our feet and chat. A nap is always nice. Shopping is a good activity for a 90 degree day as long as retailers leave their AC turned up. The movies are a great place to chill on a hot day. Eating a leisurely lunch or dinner at a super-cooled restaurant that makes you feel like you need a margarita is a decadent way to enjoy a hot day. Some of these pastimes require money, some don’t require much. Some require companions, a few can be done solo.
In a way I feel almost the same cabin fever on these super hot midsummer days as I do in the worst weeks of deep winter but without the snow and the boots, the coats, the scarves and hats and gloves. And I remind myself that I need to get over it – summer is too short for hibernating. But I don’t want heat stroke either.
Summer things I love:
  • Fireflies
  • Watermelon
  • New mown grass
  • Iced tea
  • Fireworks
  • Green
  • Hedges
  • Yellow
  • Dappled sun
  • Dappled shade
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Garden vegetables
  • Picnic tables
  • Flower gardens
  • Leafy trees
  • Sweet corn
  • Glow of lanterns on summer lawns
  • Glass of wine
  • Walk around the block after the heat of the day
  • A convertible
  • Flip flops
  • Cooler of beer
  • Blue
  • A dock
  • A boat ride
  • Adirondack chairs
  • A lakeshore
  • Adirondack chairs on a lakeshore
  • Loons
  • Sunsets
  • Dinner on a patio
  • Moons
  • Stars
  • Jet trails
  • Add your own here

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel – Book

Search Amazon.com for earth’s children series by jean auel

Jean Auel began the Earth’s Children Series with the ground-breaking book, The Clan of the Cave Bear. She combined archeological and anthropological findings with fiction to write her epic saga of a prehistoric woman and all of the people she encounters on her journey through the lands of our ancestors and of her journey through her own life.
Ayla is a heroic woman who is orphaned at the age of five when her parents are killed as a result of an earthquake. A group of the “Clan” (Neanderthals, we assume), adopts her even though she is from the “Others” (the group that becomes modern man). Ayla is tested time and again and the tests she endures and passes make her very strong and intelligent. She is a symbolic figure, of course, as much as she seems real. She is there as each new skill is added to the bag of tricks that help these early humans survive and thrive. It strains our credulity to believe that she is the prime mover in each of these extraordinary events, but because she is also symbolic, some of us refuse to let this affect our enjoyment of what may not qualify as great literature, but is really an absorbing (although very long) saga.
Ayla leaves the “Clan” and lives alone until she meets an equally iconic male, Jondalar. After this they venture out together, and teach us wonderful lessons about the lives of early people in Europe, while treating us to their romantic, although not always perfect, relationship with each other, and their interactions with their horses, with their wolf, with the tribes they meet – the tribes that become part of their extended family – and eventually their bond with their daughter, Jonayla.
In this book, The Land of Painted Caves, the final book in the series, Ayla and Jondalar and Jonayla and Whinny and Racer and Gray and Wolf all live in the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonaii, where Jondalar was born. Although a bit long-winded and with a few too many repetitions of “The Mother’s Song” it is fine to be back in the Ninth Cave as Ayla completes her spiritual quest to become a Zelandoni or spiritual leader. With the “One Who is First” Ayla and her family tour the sites of painted caves which would be found today in the area of southern France. It is not an easy time for Ayla and she does lose something very precious and almost loses something equally precious. All in all this book makes a satisfying final chapter in the Earth’s Children Series.
The books in the Earth’s Children Series are:
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Valley of the Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
The Land of Painted Caves

Pledging Allegiance to a Comedian

I’m sorry I just don’t get this. Some man named Grover Norquist who is the president of Americans for Tax Reform has strong-armed Republicans into signing a pledge that they will not raise taxes in any form, for any reason, I guess for as long as they both shall live. He uses threats that he will destroy their credibility with their base to keep them in line. Yikes!
So all except six Republicans have sworn allegiance to Mr. Norquist and apparently this pledge is more important to them than their pledge to govern. They can’t effectively govern because they now belong to and are tied up tight by a stand-up comic. Bizarre? I am stunned that this is legal. If we can make a law about what light bulbs we need to use, surely we can make a law which makes signing binding pledges at any time during a political career illegal.
I don’t know if the Republicans who signed this pledge realized that it would have so little wiggle room in it, or that their feet would be held to the fire quite so painfully.  This behavior seems so un-American. It sounds like a science fiction story someone made up. Obviously the influx of the Glenn Beck inspired and ultra-conservative Tea Partiers into Washington during the last election also has some bearing on why this pledge has become a Republican straight-jacket. And now, when our representatives (and I use the term loosely) need the most flexibility to deal with the American economy, they don’t have any. They have pledged allegiance to a comedian. Oh, we are in so much trouble.
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My House and the Lake

My house is in a village that is on a lake. The lake is about six blocks from my house. This area was at one time covered by glaciers which, when they retreated, left a number of long, relatively narrow lakes. Some of these lakes are named after the nations in the Iroquois Confederacy.

Once Europeans settled the area they found there were huge deposits of salt, so early industries mined salt. Other early settlers of this village made baskets to hold the salt. Eventually other sources for salt were found and the industry moved on.

On the opposite shore of the lake large deposits of limestone and soda ash led to the production of other household products that were useful at the time. Over time these processes resulted in toxic wastes which were pumped into the lake or stored along the shores gradually leaching into the lake. Our little lake became one of the most polluted lakes in the United States. It still looked pretty but you didn’t want to fall in or eat any fish from the lake. People said that if you did you would glow in the dark.
The industries that polluted the lake moved on, probably to China or India. For several decades the lake was the subject of study after study and then for several decades the findings of the studies were used to help clean the lake.

My village lake is still not suited for drinking or swimming. There are fish in the lake now and, although you can fish, you still are encouraged not to eat the fish. Water fowl, especially Canada Geese have begun to make the lake shore their home again. The other day on a walk I saw a Great Blue Heron standing in the lake.

Along the shores of the lake are trails for walkers and walkers with dogs and walkers with strollers and runners and roller skaters and bikers.
It is beautiful to walk along the trails by this still recovering lake. It’s good exercise, it soothes your spirit and it offers lovely water views all along the trails. There is a marina and there are often sailboats out on the lake. Lots of community events are held here including charity runs and walks, zumba sessions, tai chi, yoga. There is a playground for children and a park where dogs can run free (if they behave themselves.) There is even a small outdoor sports stadium. This lake is one of the reasons I wanted to buy this little house in this particular village.

Hopefully there are a few photos of my lake somewhere on this page. These are not as close up as I would like but I hate having to carry my camera along while I am walking for exercise. It gets heavy and is in the way. If I ever take a leisurely walk, I’ll try to remember to take my camera because this park is much more beautiful than these pictures.