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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

Testing NEW Template Today

I've been working on a new blog template design for a while (meaning I had to learn HTML, CSS and Klingon). I think most browsers should be able to view this correctly (possible exception being Netscape). Most of you are viewing this through IE 6, Firefox 1 and Safari 1 which I hope works. Those using IE 5 might have some weird text flow. Let me know if your having trouble viewing content. So, welcome... and have a fruit roll-up!

It's Memorial Day

From today's The Writer's Almanac:
It's Memorial Day, the day on which we honor those who died serving their country. The first Memorial Day was observed on this day in 1868 in Arlington National Cemetery, where members of both the Union and the Confederate armies were buried.

From today's The New York Times comes a very touching op-ed piece, "Over There" by Kevin C. Jones:

On this Memorial Day, more than two years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are still fighting and dying. Their deaths have become a staple of the evening news, a permanent column on the front page. Most of the time, we don't even notice anymore. Until death touches someone we know, or someone we used to be.

On the morning of Jan. 26, while I rush my daughters through their bowls of cereal, brush their hair and get them ready for school, I learn that a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter has crashed in western Iraq, killing 31 men. Twenty-six of them are part of my old unit: Company C, First Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.

Later, at work, I struggle to explain how surreal it is to learn that marines from the infantry company I served with in the Persian Gulf war have been killed in this one. I sit at my desk, processing insurance claims, surrounded by gray cubicle walls instead of sandbags and dirt, behind a computer instead of a machine gun, thinking about the business card from the recruiter tucked in my wallet.
continue reading "Over There"

Seems all too fitting to commemorate this memorial on today as well.

Also from today's The Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 2002, in New York City, that a wordless ceremony... marked the end of the recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero where the World Trade towers had fallen in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

The cleanup had started as people began to look for survivors in the wreckage, a huge pile, 150 feet high, covering 17 acres. Only 18 survivors were ever found; only one was actually dug out of the rubble, Genelle Guzman, who'd been in a stairwell on the 13th floor of the north tower when it collapsed. She just stopped to adjust her shoe when it got dark, there was a great roaring sound, and when it stopped, she was pinned to the ground... She was the last person found alive.

The ceremony on this day in 2002 took place at 10:29 in the morning, the time at which the second tower collapsed. A bell was struck 20 times—the ceremony for a fallen firefighter. 343 firefighters died on September 11. 2,823 people were killed in all.

Black-masked Visitor

Last night as I sat in front of the computer designing a direct mail brochure, I spotted an animal climbing atop the waddle fence in the backyard. I leaned back to get a better view through the east window and thought, at first, it was one of the neighborhood cats. But I couldn't remember a gray cat. There's the black and white cat. The tabby and the calico. All these cats are feral and not at all approachable. Only when I saw the ringed tail did I realize it was a raccoon.

I watched with excitement as this masked critter made it's way along the handmade waddle fence, down the stone steps and right up to the back door. The raccoon than headed toward the creek to the south of my cottage. The whole family watched in amazement.

I suspect the raccoon came back for a second helping of my wife’s pasta. Earlier this week my wife attributed a ripped trash bag to a local feline. I wanted to treat the raccoon to some bread and carrot, but I thought it might be better not to encourage the animal to expect a handout.

Geography of Spirituality

Listening to "What It's Like" by Everlast on the internet radio station Radio Wazee

Wondering how geography relates to spirituality. Been trying to wrap my mind around the idea of how some geographic places attract creative souls while other locations stifle the creative energy. Maybe it's purely psychological.

Still disturbed about the news of a local woman who killed her eight-year old son by leaving him in her car for 16 hours while she worked. I can't imagine the desperation she must feel. She claimed she didn't have childcare on the weekends and had no place else for him to go. This tragedy rocks me to my core, as I know several people in similar situations concerning childcare.

I remember a Sunday morning several months ago when a knock at the front door woke me. It was one of the neighbor boys (an eight-years old). He was cold and bawling. I couldn't quite understand what was wrong. Feed the stomach and it will loosen the tongue, I thought. After offering some breakfast (I think my wife made pancakes), he related that his mother was working and his older sister had left and locked the house. He had no place to go, but our home. There may be more to his story (as there always is) but I don't know the missing chapters.

The neighborhood is not what you'd expect for a white-collar professional. A few months after we had moved into the "hood," our next-door neighbor (a young woman in her mid twenties) asked my wife if she would drive her to a job interview. My wife willingly said yes until she learned that this woman was interviewing for a waitress job at a strip club. My wife told our neighbor that she wouldn't because she believed our neighbor deserved a better job than waiting tables at a strip club. When my wife called me at the office to tell me that story, I cringed. Why did I move my family to such a place? Over and over I wrestle with that question. The answer, I believe, is that we were divinely placed there for that one afternoon and that one Sunday morning.

I watched my three-year old son run around the backyard under the blossoming tulip poplars earlier this week. He kicked a yellow ball to and fro wearing his cowboy boots. I don't think he understands how geography and spirituality connect--if they do at all. But I know he looks forward to the visits from the same boy who visited our home that one Sunday morning.

Branding for Barbarians

I couldn't resist. I found an old stack of Conan comic books buried in my library of assorted things and thought how appropriate barbarians are to marketing. So, I... um... re-wrote a panel relating a branding principle. Enjoy!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Aped with apologies to the artists and writers of Conan.

Update Coming

Next week I'll attempt to upload a new HTML template for this site. I know, I know, all five of you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see the new and improved 1000 Black Lines blog. Okay, so maybe it won't be new and improved, but it will have a new look with new artwork.

Sick and Tired and Bummed

I can't believe I turned down two opportunities to read my poems. There was a Chapel Hill, NC gig Friday night that I turned down and a Baltimore/DC area gig next weekend (which I also turned down). Idiot, I keep telling myself in the best Napoleon Dynamite voice I can manage. As providence would have it, I came home Friday night fighting some virus or something. So I would have had to call and cancel due to sickness. I'd love to be at the Baltimore/DC area poetry gig but I spent the gas money on medication for the whole family. I guess it could be worse. I read recently that Karl Marx fed his family with potatoes and bread. I guess I'm doing quite a bit better than that. Still can't help feeling bummed.

Sorry I haven't updated this site regularly

Been doing a lot of reading and thinking and trying to complete three essays which are late but hopefully the editorial deities will forgive me.

Been thinking a lot about blogging and writing and working and family and faith and frustrations.

Been considering goals and reconsidering motivations behind those goals.

Been cutting the oak tree into smaller pieces (yes, the same oak that went down during hurrican Ivan last September). And, yes, it was a very large tree.

Been breaking lawn equipment (first the weed whacker, then the lawn mower). Maybe I should return the borrowed chainsaw before I brake that too.

Been learning how to design in HTML and learning a new operating system which means I can now read some of your blogs that I haven't previously been able to read.

Been thinking it's about time to update the look of this blog site and thinking it's pretty cool all five of you visit so often and wishing I had something really wise to say and remembering my brother-in-law saying that the older we get the wider we get and realizing he is wiser than wider.

Been writing new poems and rewriting old poems and missing writers group and writing essays and listening to published authors read their prose and listening to unpublished authors read their progress and signing up for a poetry writing class and writing emails to people who live too far away but keep telling me they'll visit and listening to Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey and looking at my black wing-tips that have decided the shoe will divorce the sole and wondering if this is what it's going to be like ten years from now.

RE: Evangelical Pornography - part 3

continued from part 2

A month ago I read the essay "Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography" by Kenneth R. Morefield. He provided a challenging review and analysis of the Left Behind novels.

Because the world of Left Behind is one in which legitimate human authority has been taken away, it offers to new or marginal Christians a path to instant leadership without the hard work of discipleship or transformation. There is a condescension in the attitude.... towards both the world and.... towards politically or socially moderate Christians. The Christian who does not evangelize to the point of offense is “ashamed” or “a coward.”
--from "Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography" by Kenneth R. Morefield.

So often, the American evangelicals and fundamentalists bastardize the arts for the sake "witnessing." I don't know how many times I have been asked the question "Why don't you paint Jesus paintings?" by well meaning church members. Or worse, "Why can't you paint like Thomas Kinkade?" When I invite church people to my poetry readings, inevitably the question surfaces "How come you don't talk about your faith in your poems?" This makes me feel cowardly, even un-Christianly. Rage wells up inside of me and I want to punch these narrow-minded evangelicals and fundamentalists around their collective heads shouting "Didn't Christ speak in parables? Why are you so afraid of metaphors?"

Being reared under the teaching that good things come to those who are willing to work hard and be patient, I lapse back into the moral superiority mode thinking most Christians aren't intelligent enough to appreciate abstract images or metaphorical lyrics. It's easy. It's wrong.

My father is a minister. I learned early to take the beatings--both figuratively and literally. Oh, I fought gallantly in grade school, pummeled in middle school and internalized anger in high school. Why won't Dad fight? Flying fists are a liability to conflict/resolution was my conclusion.

Pornography often reveals a deep-seated anger or hostility in the heart of the consumer which, combined with his feelings of powerlessness, creates a need to manipulate, punish, and humiliate the perceived sources of that treatment.
--from "Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography" by Kenneth R. Morefield.

To be humiliated or manipulated doesn't always come from enemies--sometimes it comes from friends. I remember several years ago, I participated in a small Bible study group, which reached out to abused women, and/or women recovering from drug addiction. One of the women was missing for a week or so. The group home, where she was supposed to live, informed the Bible study group where she usually goes when she returns to the crack lifestyle. The issue was brought up at one of the meetings. Immediately, the men in the group decided it was morally right to go to that hotel in the crack neighborhood and retrieve a fallen sister.

I refused to go along with that and endured the what-a-coward glances as the men piled into two cars on their mission from God. I felt ashamed and angry at being considered less than masculine. Sure, guy wants to be John Wayne or Bruce Willis when it comes to rescuing a woman in dire circumstance. But if this woman desired to return to a destructive lifestyle then that was her choice--her path. This woman knew the members of this Bible study group for over a year. She knew we loved her and still she rejected our love and help.

It's easy to judge these men as a testosterone driven mob. That would be the morally superior thing to do, right? Please understand that these men were equally led to go as I was to stay. But men are not allowed to me men in America. Men are supposed to break things, shoot people or grunt at danger. Men are not supposed to build bridges and wait for a vagrant sister to return. Even if she returns to the crack house seventy more times--maintain the bridge of hope.

In Left Behind... the objects that are portrayed seem to be represented in such a way as to gratify the consumers rather than challenge them.
--from "Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography" by Kenneth R. Morefield.

When I began reading "Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography" I was seeking righteous judgment upon the Left Behind books, but what I found was a challenge to deal with unresolved anger and pride. There in lies the truth of a good piece of literature--the call to nobler, humbler life.

One thing that sparked a question that I didn't think was properly addressed in Morefield's piece was this: Why are fundamentalists so angry?

Here in the buckle of the Bible belt, an angry fundamentalist is creating a stir. Pastor Chan Chandler, of the East Waynesville Baptist Church, expelled members of his congregation for either being a Democrat or voting for Sen. John Kerry. "Pastor Chan Chandler had told the congregation before last year's presidential election that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said Lorene Sutton, who said she and her husband were voted out of the church this week." The East Waynesville Baptist Church's treasurer said "He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out. He's real negative all the time."

Maybe fundamentalists lack a proper understanding of grace and peace. Maybe I'm too moderate to understand how Pastor Chandler could come to that decision. It makes sense that a Baptist minister would present what the Bible teaches in regards to life and lifestyle issues--even explaining the nature of sin and its results. But to force-feed his congregation political dogma represents faulty rhetoric (not to mention poor logic) and usurps the individual church member's freedom to make his or her own choice.

Herein presents the pornographic nature of the Left Behind fantasies. Imagine Pastor Chandler persecuted for his political/religious stand is taken away in "the rapture" while those nine un-repentant Democrats in his congregation have to endure "the tribulation." The Pastor, once powerless in the midst of a media frenzy, now punishes those "left behind" vicariously through a made-to-order LaHaye/Jenkins novel. Then repeat the act (like a dirty porn movie) by reading the next novel. This almost makes Hugh Hefner's pornographic empire appealing--if not completely honest in its airbrushed depravity.

Birthday: Charles Simic

Again, from today's The Writer's Almanac:
"It's the birthday of the poet Charles Simic, born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1938). He came to this country as a child. He grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. He went to work as a proofreader at the Chicago Sun Times, then went into the U.S. Army.

"He published his first book of poems What the Grass Says in 1967. It was Charles Simic, who said, 'Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them. We are always at the beginning, eternal apprentices.' "

Little White World - CD design

Just finished the audio CD design for Little White World: A Traveling Bonfires Songbook, Volume 1. This project is a compilation of a lot of indie artists including: David Cipriani, Lionz, The Foolish, Vanessa Boyd and others.

[insert card -- front]

[insert card -- back]

[CD face]

[tray card]

To obtain copies, go to The Traveling Bonfires
or write:

The Traveling Bonfires
70 Woodfin Place, Suite 01
Asheville NC 28801
Tel # (828) 225 5994

Still Reading, Still Stalling

I'm stalling. I have a couple articles to write and I can't seem to finish them. So, I put down a number of books and magazines I've been reading and started to write. Hit a writer's block and started reading stuff online.

1) From Amy Loves Books: "He is not trying to pass. He has not asked for make-up work or recovery. As far as I can tell, he's just coming to hear the story"

2) From One Word: Ponderings about the color green, a personal essay (among other personal essays).

3) "This is puerile," Junkmail For Blankets writes. "But if you don't mind, and you could use a cheap laugh, read on."Looking for Betty Ham; Or, How to Find What You're Looking For: Four Easy Steps

4) From Karagraphy: Microphone Check, Micr-microphone Check

5) Love is the New Hate announces Emerging Writers' Festival. I'd like to attend... but it's in Melbourne... Australia.

6) "Worship is something that happens when humanity and divinity come together," writes Real Live Preacher. "So away with the idea that worship is meant to be produced by experts and performed by professionals... Children bring their own innocent dignity to worship..."

7) Seeking Clarity attempts to answerTaodesol's Questions.

8) From Seth Godin: "Nouns just sit there, inanimate lumps. Verbs are about wants and desires and wishes. Is your website a noun or a verb?"

9) From today's The Writer's Almanac:
"It's the birthday of Karl Marx, born in Trier, Prussia (1818).... Marx was an obsessive researcher, and never knew when to stop reading and start writing. He only became productive after he met Friedrich Engels, a socialist who was also wealthy—the heir to a textile business.... He believed that giant corporations would dominate the world's industries, that globalism in trade would make markets even more unstable.... Marx and Engels published their Communist Manifesto in 1848, and revolution did break out afterward in France, Italy, and Austria. Marx's newspaper was shut down. He had to flee the country. He moved to London, worked for years on his last book, Das Kapital. His family in poverty, Marx said, "I don't suppose anyone has ever written about 'money' when so short of the stuff." A spy from Prussia was keeping tabs on him and wrote, "Washing, grooming and changing his clothes are things he does rarely. He does not shave at all!" He fed his family on bread and potatoes, and when one of his children died, his wife had to borrow money from a neighbor to buy a coffin. When Marx died in 1883, only 11 persons came to his funeral."

10) From Design Observer: Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places, "There's long been an intimate link between independent record labels and fresh graphic design talent."

11) The New Pantagruel offers poetry by Jendi Reiter.

12) Killing The Buddha has two great pieces: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Evangelical and Naked in the House of God

Still stalling. Or maybe intimidated by the subject matter.

Been reading a lot lately... Safire wrote a good piece (as if he ever wrote poorly) in the The Times Magazine (blurbosphere) this weekend.

Read a review of Jorie Graham's recent collection of poems... and Kevin Young's collection of poems... and Dana Gioia's recent book. Read several poetry/lit mags (Tinhouse, Poetry (several issues), Main Street Rag, Small Spiral Notebook) over the past week/weekend. Trying to finish at least a dozen books I am currently reading (Steinbeck, Gibran, Piper, Dillard, Mullins and DeLillo). Don DeLillo's book The Body Artist is an excellent example of the postmodern novel.

Off to writers group tonight.

Susie Suh: From Coffee Shop to Mainstage

This is why I love coffee shops. You never know who will be the next voice to break onto the national music scene.

From Weekend Edition's reporter Liane Hansen, "Something New: Singer Susie Suh"

At 25, singer-songwriter Susie Suh has a recording contract with Sony's Epic label and a self-titled debut CD.
It's a typical story: She's a California-raised Korean-American girl who went to boarding school in New Hampshire and then to Brown. She was discovered by talent scouts while playing music in a coffee shop. And she auditioned for Sony Music executives playing Bob Dylan's guitar.
Well, maybe not so typical, after all.
Suh's lyrics are introspective. And though she shares a homonym with wailer Siouxsie Sioux of Banshees fame, her music is on the softer side.

Another reason I enjoy coffee shop singer/songwriters embodies my support of independant music/arts/literature. This brings me to a crossroads. When an artist like Susie Suh breaks onto the national scene is she still considered an independant voice?