Category Archives: National

Teens and the Elderly

Nature makes teens and the elderly mean. Otherwise, we would never let them go.

–a grandmother

Stealing Fire

“Ok, so you stole fire but you lack two things, justice and reverence. Without justice and reverence your stealing fire will be your undoing.”

–Zeus to Prometheus.

So Long, Pinetop

Pinetop Perkins, one of the last original Delta bluesmen, is dead at 97. So long, Pinetop. I was fortunate enough to see you perform before you left. You showed me and the world the gut bucket joy and low down sexual drive that makes the blues a universal art form. You didn’t clean up the blues, but left them in their raw, electric, visceral glory.

Young Men and Danger

Another big wave surfer, Sion Miloski, is drowned at Mavericks. He left two young children. Someone, maybe them, wrote “we love you Daddy” in the sand at the beach where they found his body. One could say, how self-centered and foolish to surf 60 foot waves, especially with little kids at home. However, moralizing is a poor container for what will not be contained. There is a fierce and terrible beauty when young men tempt fate. They would agree with you if you called them fools.

Emerson on language

Language is fossil poetry.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Einstein on Play

Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.

–Albert Einstein

Emerson on Endings

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
–Ralph WaldoEmerson US essayist & poet (1803 – 1882)

Journal Entry 2-6-11

I met man who was a dentist for the Lakota Sioux tribe near Cheyenne. He was white and mostly took the job because the government forgave his college loans after five years. He said the Lakota treated him well and told him their word for white man was ‘wasicu’ which literally means ‘steals the fat.’ Fat stores life and energy and the white man was someone who ‘stole the fat out of the land.’

My wife is part Chippewa Indian. Though she has much closer tribal ties than many who romanticize the native Americans and claim tenuous kindred connections, she has mostly set it aside. I suspect she represents many of the descendants of alliances between the natives and the ‘fat takers.’ In her parent’s time it was not cool to be a ‘half breed,’ so they adopted the life and ways of the white man. It worked well for her family economically, but at some personal cost, I suspect.

Now that much of the fat is gone from the land, I wonder how long we can all live on the gristle. Judging from the homeless and hungry people showing up on the streets of my neighborhood, and the angry riots in Egypt where food prices are soaring, I think we may see a lot more anger over ‘fat taking’ before this chapter in man’s history is written.

Journal entry 12-27-10

Close the language door and open the love window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.


The Job of the Poet

“The job of the poet is not to wait until the cry gathers in the throat.”

–Archibald MacLeish

Printers Ink is the Greatest Explosive

If you think there is a new dark age coming —
you’re right.
But go to the City Lights bookstore anyway.
Ferlinghetti is still alive,
you can see
what a real bookstore looks like,
hear strange and wonderful singing
from below in the alley,
listen to people whisper as if in church,
sit in the poet’s chair
and feel
all is not

Daniel Ellsberg And Obama’s War

“Cast your whole ballot, not just a slip of paper, but your whole influence.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Seeing Daniel Ellsberg speak is like grabbing hold of a high-tension power line that runs through recent American history. I had the honor of meeting him at a screening of a new documentary about his life, “The Most Dangerous Man in America” last night in Portland. He spoke after the film about his role in ending the war in Vietnam and wars we are in now, opening with this lovely quote from Thoreau about citizen involvement in government.

Though initially an Obama supporter, he said he was troubled that Obama has “continued the coup that the executive branch of government has made since 2001 with it’s illegal imprisonment, illegal wiretapping and illegal wars.” Ellsberg believes Obama’s biggest mistake has been to make Afghanistan his war and that he has no intention of stopping the escalation of the war in Afghanistan at 100,000 troups. “I think Obama was threatened by the generals in the Pentagon the same way LBJ was. They told LBJ they would resign, go public and call him ‘weak’ as a president. Imagine that — threatening someone with weakness causes wars,” said Ellsberg. “I predict we will have 200,00 troups there in four years and the war will end up costing us two trillion dollars unless we stop it. The soviets killed one million Afghans. How many will we kill before we are through? Afghan society is organized to repel invaders. That is what they do.” He did say that like Kennedy, Obama is young and may have a change of heart and confront his generals they way Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis.

Ellsberg spoke of the hubris caused by secrecy. He recalled counseling a colleague who entered the inner circle of the Nixon administration telling him, “you will get access to information that is two or three levels above top secret –stuff only an handful of people know. Your first reaction will be giddiness. Then you will feel stupid that you did not know these things. Then you will stop listening to experts on any topic because you believe you know more than they do.”

He asked the audience where the personal courage will come from to stop the war. “I don’t see people risking imprisonment or their careers today like they did then. Colin Powell came back from Vietnam, rose to Secretary of Defense and helped lie us into the Iraq war. He could have stopped it.” Ellsberg said the only way to stop the Afghan war is to cut the funding in congress. “Your former senator, Wayne Morse, told me if he had access to the Pentagon Papers during the Gulf of Tonkin incident the resolution would not have gotten out of committee and there would have been no war.”

I asked Ellsberg afterwards about people using civil disobedience and not paying their taxes. “My friends have done it but they garnish your wages and take your house. It would take a half a million people doing it to make a difference. That would have an impact.”

Today’s Quote

“It would seem that nothing good could be accomplished without some vice to aid in it.”

Henry David Thoreau

Today’s Modern Words From A Dying Language

The Nixyaawi  language is spoken by fewer than sixty tribal elders, mostly on the Umatilla indian reservation, in northeastern Oregon. Here are a few of the more recent words in this ancient language:

Sapa’ayayaswit – “tool to cause stupidity” — television

Taymusiya – “tattle tale” – cell phone, because it’s always ringing and you can never hide from it.

Happy Birthday William Stafford

“Everyone is a conscientious objector to something. Are there things you wouldn’t do?”

–William Stafford (poet, conscientious objector 1941-45)

Words From A Dying Language

Fifty to ninety percent of languages are expected to go extinct in this century, according to the Rosetta Stone project. Sahaptin is spoken by the elders of Yakima, Warm Springs and Umatilla Indian tribes of Oregon in the USA.

Here are a few of the beautiful, sibilant sounding words in the Sahaptin language:

s h a c k   –   i l í i t i l i i t     ( h u t ,   s h a n t y ) .

s h a d e   –   c h á w i i s h k ‘ i s h i t     ( s c r e e n ) .

s h a d o w   –   l a w i i s h k i s h i t