Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Silence isn't an option

Between empty roads and traffic jams, mobile phone masts and high cranes scratching the gray water leaden clouds, which would fill the always perilously empty water tanks of the small desert town for a full year, my life unfolds. Glad to read here in my local newspaper that the march on Washington was a success, enough people (according to CNN several ten thousands), enough names. I honor amongst others Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Rhea Perlman, Tim Robbins. The latter appealing to his fellow citizens 'to impeach this President before he rules the country from a bunker'. The march was organized by the alliance For Peace and Justice. Codepink, Cindy Sheehan and all peace loving people were there in person or supported the march virtually with actions online or sponsoring someone to go to Washington. People came by train, bus, plane, carpooling... My friend Kelly went; read her report:
My name is Kellie and I live in the beautiful state of Arizona.
I am an American citizen.
I am also member of a global community of peoples who believe that war and killing should never be an answer to our struggles.
I need to find a forum in which my voice can be heard; I am sending this in hopes of an editorial piece or article in your publication.
This last Saturday I was one of 100's of thousands who showed up on the National Mall in Washington DC to protest the war, say NO to a surge. And there was another overwhelming show of support at this massive gathering, and everyone is acting like it is some kind of big secret, and that is for the impeachment of this president.
When I flew out of DC that evening I was shocked to tears in the airport when CNN gave the march a short spot in their programming, and showed a small group of people that were on the stage. No film or pictures were shown of a large mall (146 aces) packed to overflowing with all walks of peoples, gathered for one common denominator, to end this ill fated war NOW!
The coverage of the event did not get much better. It was given little airtime.
It is fair to say that a large portion of Americans gets their news from the telly. There are the major networks like ABC,CBS,NBC,FOX,CNN,C-Span and the severely under-funded PBS. And they sat for the most part silent on this very important public event.
I could not help but think later looking at the silly magazines in the airport with celebrity gossip splashed on the covers, that the government really had managed to dumb the American people down. Hardly seems an accident that education in this country is not on the priority list, nor is healthcare or the environment I might add.
They have been brainwashing us with sensational headlines of celebrity romances and other sorted affairs, and stuffing us with chocolate, ice cream and a steady diet of greasy fast food.
Yep it worked all right, we are full and sedated, clueless of what it is our government is actually doing. We are afraid to say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. The direction he is taking us is putting us in harms way like never before.
Bush and his cronies are so caught up in their failing war of domination and power that they can't even take care of our own people.
I know that I am not the only one who would like to know how our brothers and sisters in the gulf coast region are doing since Katrina, are they getting the help they deserve to rebuild their shattered lives. I might add that it was the spirit of the American public, her people, that stepped up to the plate after this disaster and made sure that people got basic human needs met, our government was bumbling about like idiots.
And the world community steadily loses its respect for us, and losing hope for that which we stand for, Democracy.
Well I for one have had enough, I want to be heard, and I want to hear what my fellow brothers and sisters are saying as well. I want to see coverage of all the marches that occurred on Saturday in this country, and the world for that matter.
There were substantial gatherings not only in DC, but also throughout the country.
Why was this news not as newsworthy as the death of Barbaro.
We are going to have to admit to ourselves that we have let big, greedy, corrupt government run the show unchecked too long.

We got ourselves into this mess, and we can and will get ourselves out of it.
In order to do that, we need to have the media we were meant to have in a democratic society. Democracy cannot exist without an informed public.

"Within our large and dispersed liberal democratic society, the media is supposed to play an important communications role: facilitating public discourse, informing the public, representing the public and acting as a watchdog of the power structures that effect public's well being" – Jason Diceman

So in other words, stop trying to dumb me down. Sure I am amused by celebrity gossip, but lets get real here, we are in a war that we should never have gotten into in the first place. The Truth is that our government lied to us. To those of you still hanging on to hopes that it was not a lie, that there were weapons of mass destruction, the Truth is already out in the open, the men who told the lies don't even had the decency to admit the stupidity of their actions, and apologize for the unjustified and tragic waste of human lives. Ours, and Theirs.

Okay I got off track there, back to the whole reason I am writing this, it is to ask for the help of the American people in assuring that we are getting fair and truthful media in a time when we need it more than ever.

Flying home from DC, hopes renewed, and reminded that I was not alone in my quest for peaceful solutions, disappointed in the media's lack of attention, I took solace in knowing that on Monday morning I could turn on LinkTV or FSTV and catch Democracy Now and Amy Goodman and see some actual coverage of the most important thing that happened in my country last weekend.

I want to ask the American people to join me in demanding that the Giant megamedia conglomerates carry alternative media, and that they stop dumbing us down with superficial news and that they start reporting to us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
At this point folks, newspapers and alternative media are our best choices if we are going to choose to be informed and take back our democracy from big greedy government and corporations. Please Never Stop Learning.
I will not fall for their scare tactics again, and I refuse to remain silent.
And most importantly we are not Alone, We in fact are Many.

Kellie R Russell

Thanks, all of you. You can still join.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Sleepless as always when traveling the free will/choosin's an illusion quest kept nagging. What if the universe is a kind of obstacle course. We have a limited free will range, personal freedom checked by the patterns of life, the pattern of stardust and the pluriverses. Kind of like a rock on a track in the snow.

Friday, January 26, 2007

On the move

Give or take a few days, and I'll be back online. To all road scholars, happy roads, good arrivals till the next move. Two hours and eighteen minutes and the road, happy rails picture still wasn't loaded...

Thursday, January 25, 2007


On the verge of packing and taking leave, there is always a double time sensation. The speeding away of the last five weeks when there was just time; the rush of the last repairs and jobs after this weird weather winter; yet also the long, slow, exhausting travel day ahead and the realities of the other place striking one with a vengeance in the form of piles of mail, unpaid bills. Yet the travel hasn’t happened yet, so there is slowness to it all. Saying goodbye is always tinged with a touch of melancholy, since when one returns nothing is ever the same as when one left. So off we go into all our different possible futures. Some have said that these ‘migrations’ are my destiny. A friend is convinced and trying to find out if he is right, that ‘Choosin's an illusion”, seen the amount of parameters that influence the outcome. Options, clearly laid out choices and ambivalence are in their lack of direction, maybe the determining factor to know whether destiny in all its forms or free will is the ultimate actor in our actions. Ambivalence can come from many different 'reasons': lack of information, doubt about the quality of the information on which to base a decision, conflicting values, (the classical false premise is the opposition between environmental values versus so called progress or jobs), long term rewards or instant gratification... Dependency, fear... More and more I 'know' some things are right or not, and also more and more I am totally bewildered by the convoluted aspects of other issues. So a grasp of the problem by a mind (or what other part of us that fulfills this function) that isn't big, strong, straight enough to hold it all probably is a very prevalent occurrence, limiting our free will. Obeying hunches gut feelings, intuition (in my case not God telling me what to do, that is reserved for Presidents) is part of the unknowns we have not yet unraveled and seen the indefinable amount of unknowns, we might not unravel it in all of our possible futures. We might be wired to learn from our experiences and gene pool. The special on Oprah's Roots on PBS and after that the Magic Flute, where Papageno doesn’t seem to have freewill to be different from the simpatico puts he is, addresses these issues. The history of the universe(s) might just predestine us to try to survive and help survive humanity. The strange thing is that we are supposed to be and act in the now... Yet in acting we determine one or other path ahead. Thus by being, existing, we - to say the least - limit our choices. According to neuroscience we time travel when we do nothing, being in the past and future. I like the fact that we can influence, rewire our brain and I am wondering what the mind is. I have learned more to accept what is. Thus avoiding useless fuss; don’t sweat the small stuff. Now that is a far step from writing in a poetry book as motto a phrase by Albert Camus: Il sufferiait que l'impossible soit. It would suffice if the impossible were. That has been kind of a drive to dream and not to 'accept'. It has been a basis for resistance to what is unacceptable. Of course, at least for a while I wont know whether all this is by choice or destiny. So, seen I still believe in at least partial free will I choose for the travel, the anticipation and the regrets for what one leaves. Thus Tumbleweed gets unstuck and blown away.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wake up

In the car, the local C & W station switched to talk and the host was Rush Limbaugh. My first impulse was to put on Mozart for meditation because that man’s attitude undermines my zen. Astonished by his hail and brimstone rants, his rude authoritarian stance, and all the negativity, bordering hatred to anyone differing just a smidgen with him, I do finally shut his screaming down and I wonder why people expose themselves to this and similar hollering. Do people like to be bullied? Do they embrace these bizarre points of view because then they have ammunition to condemn all people who hold different opinions, without having to think, just imitating the other bully? If so, then they are displaying several characteristics of authoritarian personalities. This doesn’t mean they are all Nazi/Fascist racists, yet the extreme form of such a personality would lead to that. It seems that R.L.’s listeners want strong, straight opinions with no nuance. Options, ambivalence, careful analysis, exploring alternatives seem to disconcert them and thus these personality types become easy victims of the neo-con new-speak. They would believe that slapping, spanking a child is ok if screaming doesn’t help. Regular talk, intelligent conversation, laying out options seems a waste of time if you think that you convince the other by putting fear in them, yell or ‘correct’ the child into submission. This is a fundamentally anti-intellectual stance, very prominent in this country. After all they choose John Wayne’s ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’ attitude as a national icon. I do believe that confidence building, learning to trust the other, negotiating and striving for a win/win situation is the better approach, because each has his/her own responsibility and choices to make. The compassionate conservatives like the concept of tough love and translate the concept of responsibility in laying down the rules and then if you don’t make it, well they told you what to do and obviously you failed to heed their advice and thus don’t deserve any of their compassion… Neil Postman was a great educator. Let’s look at his example. He suggested that one of the first things we need to teach a child or grown up is how to use their ‘shit detector’, wondering does that make sense what I hear or read? Questioning all authority should be encouraged, because in our society authority is based on power, force and intimidation and not on the recognition of what is right or wrong. Some people may say that religion tells them right from wrong: the 10 commandments, the rules of the Torah of the Koran, the mythologies and cosmogonies. In ways that is true, yet the copyright of right and wrong is not owned by any religion. We need to think in what we do of the seventh generation, preserve the earth with all that lives in it, so that our civilization doesn’t over consume and die of obesity or suffocate in its own waste. And if we are not sure how to do this, well as Rumi wrote in the 13th century we’ll have to

Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.

Until we know. We are all related. So let’s all wake up, think and drink from our own well and be fearless and authentic.

Monday, January 22, 2007

In Memoriam H.D.

At the eve of Hrant Drink funeral I wish to give him respect and space to be heard by posting the last article of Hrant Dink, Turkish-Armenian writer. The appeared on his newspaper Agos the day he was assassinated. www.agos.tr..For his family and his friends at WIPC.

In the beginning I was not concerned about the investigation initiated by Şişli Public Prosecutor under the pretext "insulting Turkish identity".
This was not for the first time. I was familiar with a similar case from Urfa. I was being prosecuted since three years because of my statement at a conference in Urfa in 2002 where I said that "I was not Turk but an Armenian and a citizen of Turkey" and there was again the accusation of "insulting Turkish identity". I was completely unaware of the trials, I was not interested at all. Some of my lawyer friends from Urfa were dealing with the case in my absence.
I was completely indifferent too when I gave my interrogation to Public Prosecutor in Şişli. In the end I was trusting to my article and my good will. If Public Prosecutor evaluated the whole of the series of my articles and not this single sentence, which alone did not make any sense at all, then he would easily understand that I had not an intention of "insulting Turkish identity" and this comedy would end, I thought.
I was completely sure that after the interrogation I would be not be sued at all.

I was sure of myself

But to my surprise, the case came up in court.
Still I didn't lose my optimism. So I even told to lawyer Kerinçsiz who accused me during a live Tv program that "he should not be so eager that I would not be punished due to this case and that in case of punishment I would leave the country." I was sure of myself, I really did not have the will or intention to "insult the Turkish identity". Everyone reading the whole of the series of my articles would understand this.
And indeed, the committee of three academicians from Istanbul University who were appointed as experts submitted a report to the court revealing this understanding.
I had no reason to be concerned, in this or that stage of the case this mistake would be erased.
While remaining patient
But it wasn't erased.
The Public Prosecutor wanted to penalize me despite the positive report of the expert committee.
Then the judge gave me six months imprisonment.
When I first heard the verdict I found myself under the bitter pressure of my hope that I kept during all the months of trial. I was stupefied... I was hurt and the feeling of rebellion reached its climax.
"Let's wait the verdict, let them prove me not-guilty, then you will regret all that you talked and written about" I had told myself for months just to hold on.
During each hearing of the court there were statements published in the news and columns of the newspapers and broadcast in the TV-programs claiming that I said "Turkish blood is poisonous."
Each time I got more popular as an "enemy of the Turk".
At the corridors of the Law Courts fascists were attacking me with racist curses.
They were humiliating me with pancards. hundreds of threats via e-mail, phone calls an letters were pouring down and they were increasing day by day in number.
I was bearing all this and remaining patient with the expectation of verdict of not-guilty.
When the verdict was declared, the reality would be understood and all these people would be ashamed.

My only weapon is my sincerity

But now the verdict was there and all my hopes were lost.
From that time on, I was in the most embarrassing situation a man can experience.
The judge gave the decision in the name of "Turkish people" and legally registered that I had "insulted Turkish identity".
I could bear everything but not this.
In my view, to humiliate people who we live together on the basis of an ethnic or religious difference is called racism and this is something unforgivable.
Just under the influence of such a psychology, I told to the members of the press who were waiting for me at the door to check "whether I would leave the country or not" the following statement:
"I will consult my lawyers. I will go to the Court of Appeal for casation and if necessary I will also apply to European Court of Human Rights. If I am not acquitted at any stage, then I will leave my country. Because in my understanding a person sentenced to punishment with such an accusation does not have the right to live with other citizens whom he has humiliated."
As I said this all, I was emotional as always. My only weapon was my sincerity.

A bad joke

But the deep force determinant as it was to alienate me and to turn me to an open target found again a pretext to my statement and this time sued me stating that I was trying to effect the jurisdiction. This explanation was published and broadcast in all means of media but only the one in Agos drew their attention. This time responsibles of Agos and I began to be sued under the pretext of effecting the jurisdiction.
It should be a bad joke.
I am a defendant. Who else should have more right to affect the jurisdiction rather than a defendant?
But look at the comedy, that this time the defendant is once again sued as to affect the jurisdiction.
"In the name of Turkish State'
I have to admit that my confidence to the "justice system" and to the concept of "law" was shaken to a large extent.
It meant that the jurisdiction was not independent as many state officers and politicians dared to say.

Jurisdiction did not defend the rights of the citizen but the State.

In fact I was totally sure that even if it was said that the decision was taken in the name of the people, it was actually taken in the name of the State. My lawyers would apply to Court of Appeal but who could guarantee that deep forces would not be effective there again as determinant as they were to make me down? And were all the decisions of the Court of Appeal right indeed?
Was it not the same Court of Appeal having signed the unjust decisions confiscating the real estates of the Minority Foundations?
Despite the efforts of the Attorney General
We applied indeed but did it make sense at all?
The Attorney General of Court of Appeal, like the experts stated that there was no element of guilt and demanded my acquittal but the Court of Appeal found me guilty again.
To the extent I was sure of my article so was The Attorney General of Court of Appeal of his decision that he objected the verdict and brought the case to the General Council.
But the great force which was just there to make me down and which let its existence be felt at all stages of the case with methods unknown to me, was again behind the curtain. As a result at the General Council again by majority of votes, it was declared that I insulted Turkish identity.

Like a dove

It is obvious that those wishing to alienate me and make me weak and defenceless reached their goal. Right now they have brought about a significant circle of people who are not low in number and who regard me as someone "insulting Turkish identity" due to the dirty and wrong information.
The diary and memory of my computer is full of messages from citizens of this circle full of rage and threats.
(Let me note that I regarded one among them posted from Bursa as a close threat and submitted it to Public Prosecutor's office in Şişli but got no result.)
To what extent are these threats real and to what extent unreal? In fact it is impossible for me to know this.
What is the real threat and what is unbearable for me is the psychological torture of myself.
What I have always in my mind is the following question: "What do these people now think of me?"
Unfortunately I am more popular nowadays and feel the look of the people telling each other: "Look, isn't it that Armenian?"
And just as a reflection, I start to torture myself.
One side of this torture is curiosity, the other uneasiness.
One side is caution the other side is skittishness.
I am like a dove...
Like a dove I have my eyes everywhere, in front of me, at the back, on the left, on the right.
My head is as moving as the one of a dove... And fast enough to turn in an instance.

Just look at the price... This is the price.

What did Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gül say? What did Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek say?
"The issue of Article 301 should not be exaggerated. Is there someone found guilty and sent to prison?"
As if paying a price always means going to prison...
Just look at the price... This is the price... Do you know Ministers what a price it is to imprison someone to the skittishness of a dove? … Do you know it?...
Don't you look at the doves at all?...

The thing they call "life and death"

What I all experienced was not an easy process... Neither for me nor for my family.
There were times when I seriously thought about leaving the country.
Especially at moments when the threats focused the ones close to me...
At that point I always remained helpless.
What they call "life and death" should be such a thing actually. I could be the warrior of my own will but I had no right of exposing the life of near relations to danger. I could be my own hero but I had no right to reveal courage at the expense of another person let alone a kin.
Just at these helpless moments I found shelter around my family and children. I found the greatest support from them. They trusted me.
There would be together with me wherever I went.
They would come when I said "Let's go" and stay when I said "Let's stay."
To stay and resist
But if we go, where then?
To Armenia?
But to what extent could a person like me tolerate the injustice as intolerant as I am at this issue? Wouldn't I find myself in greater troubles there?
To go and live in European countries wasn't my style either.
I know myself. After three days abroad, I miss my country. What should I do there?
Ease makes me uneasy!
To leave "boiling hells" and go to "ready heavens" was against my understanding.
We were sort of people desiring to turn hell to heaven.
To stay and live in Turkey was our real wish and also a must of respect towards all of our known and unknown friends giving the struggle of democracy in Turkey and supporting us.
We would stay and resist.
However if someday we had to go, then we would go like in 1915... like our ancestors... Without knowing where to go.... Walking on the roads they had walked.... Feeling their pain and agony...
With such a reproach we would leave our country. And we would not go to the place of our heart but where our feet went. To whatever place it was.

Frightened and Free

I hope that we are never obliged to experience such abandonment. We have enough hope and reasons not to live such a thing.
Now I am applying to European Court of Human Rights.
I don't know how many years this case will take.
What I know and what relieves me to some extent is the fact that at least I will continue to live in Turkey until this case comes to an end.
When a positive verdict is declared I will surely be happier and then this will mean that I will never have to leave my country.
Probably the year 2007 will be a more difficult year for me.
Trials will continue, new cases will came up in court. Who knows which kind of injustice I will encounter.
But while this all will happen, I will regard the following fact as my guarantee.
Yes, I can feel myself as restless as a dove but I know that in this country people do not touch and disturb the doves.
The doves continue their lives in the middle of the cities.
Yes indeed a bit frightened but at the same time free.(HD/EÜ)


In Paris, on February first, a new report on Climate Change written by the United Nations experts in Climatology will be presented. L’Alliance pour la Planète (a collective of over 80 organisations in defense of the environment) has launched a call to action. In Belgium, parliamentary elections are planned in May, in France Presidential Elections are upcoming. Doing something that makes politicians stop and think and realize the importance of environmental issues to the citizens is critical at this time. The planned action is friendly to the earth and could be effective if the media report the event well: between 7.55 pm and 8 pm everybody is asked to switch off all lights for five minutes, giving the planet five minutes of rest and ourselves five minutes of serenity, meditation, down time. We are all aware of the dangers to wildlife, the melting of icebergs, rising sea levels with the loss of small island states, droughts and even Antarctica warming up. We have seen and suffered the strange weather patterns in the USA, freak hurricanes and gales in Europe this winter. Loss of lives, not only human life but animals and plants too, loss of fruit and vegetables, making it harder for the poor part of the population to buy healthy food, loss in infrastructure are just a few examples of the consequences of our irresponsible squandering of the earth’s resources. So let’s all join in and embrace darkness.

The dark curtain drawn
there is but night
No sign or token
no linchpin
no stirring
no gray sight of dawn

but cosmic wind
the sea and the lighthouse

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I love this bar

A toast to water, to the simple fact of a faucet! In this bare boned town of essentials life becomes visible. The bar & the restaurant, country & western & karaoke, pool and dance, line dancing although nobody walks the line. The barman is big and cuddly, Irish, smart, usually generous with his drinks. She on the other hand--- Lets keep silent, let’s not hurt people, there are only two places in town. The situation reminds me of ‘Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf’. Well, I am, I am not, not really… We all see the deep-seated hurt, a soul shrouded, clouded in lack of self-acceptance. Her lesson, our lesson should be “Love they self” but don’t get haughty, highty mighty, for lack of self esteem, believing to be better than the rest in this godforsaken town.
It is like the President, yes , yes him again G.W.B. He is speaking up a storm about strong decisions, being the commander in chief, leaving no options open and thus masking his deep seated feeling of inadequacy, lack of security. So does she, using the same basic mechanism. The big guy jokes, has a good time, she scolds him, tells him what to do… They must have loved and understood each other and something must have gone wrong. She worries, I guess some has to.
The women, girls of uncertain age have fun, talk, smile, forget their sorrows. That is life in sunset town. And then it snows and all is invisible, covered, a clean slate to start fresh. All dance to their personal ‘Cocaine’, to 'Cherokee Nation’ and ‘Lets raise our glasses against evil forces, whiskey for my men, beer for my horses’ and forget the cold of the outside world, where people get killed for writing what they think. Yes, I love this bar.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hrant Dink murdered

Hrant Dink editor of the Armenian language newspaper Agos, is no longer. With horror we learn that the Armenian-Turkish writer and journalist has been shot dead today, January 19, 2007 near the office of Agos. Hrant Dink, 53, was a courageous and principled advocate for dialogue and understanding between the Armenian minority and the Turks. We all, fellow writers and members of PEN and the WIPC’s of PEN have expressed our shock at this terrible loss of a fine mind. He was known as an honorable, kind man with integrity in his soul.
He was the focus case for the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. There had been hearings against him in December 2006 and two more were scheduled: the first on charges of “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 for writing an article critical of the very law under which he was being tried, and was scheduled to continue on 22 March; the second case falls under Article 288 of the Penal Code for “attempting to influence a fair trial”. This last one is related to an article published in his newspaper in October 2005 commenting on an earlier conviction, also under Article 301, and was scheduled to continue on 18 April 2007.
Dink, whose campaign against the law making it a crime to insult the Turkish State, particularly as it relates to the killings of Armenians in the early years of the last century, has paid the highest price with his own life.
Jiri Grusa, International President of International PEN, the world association of writers, called the murder “a symptom of old hatreds that threaten the relationship of all Turkish people to the democratic values shared in Europe and the world.” International PEN calls upon the Turkish government to do all in its power to apprehend Dink’s killer and welcomes Prime Minister Erdogan’s pledged commitment that those who ordered the killing be brought to justice.
Hrant Dink was well known to PEN members throughout the world and had received many awards for his courage, including, most recently, the Oxfam/Novib award for Freedom of Expression in November 2006. He was an honorary member of the English, American, Belgian Dutch and Norwegian PEN Centers, and friend to many more PEN Centers and individual PEN members around the globe.
Freedom of thought, free speech are unalienable rights. As long as thought is fought with violence, as long as differences are met with bullets, as long as dialogue is silenced, we must mourn our travel companions on the road of words…

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The top of the pyramid

Winter water woes, which will go on for probably another two days, won’t be today’s subject, nor the leaks in friends houses, the broken waterline somewhere in the desert downhill from the tank the water people have been filling and thawing out… They are doing a great job with wicked wind-chill factors! And that is what I have been thinking about: work and the satisfaction of work. Most of us hold a job and - like a friend of mine phrases it - live in civil-servitude. I have friends who bide their time till retirement, trying not to loose their soul in the process; some still enjoy their job, but just need a bit more time off; while others at different ages check out of the system. Take Vicky, she is pursuing a dream, she wants to build houses in cob: a mixture of clay, sand and a bit of straw. She just resigned from a decent paying job with good benefits and trusts that she will find a way to do what she really would like to do and still make a living. Her grown up kids frowned at her when she went to help a lady in Tuscon who has experience in building cob houses. She came back all fired up, telling about the mixing, the heavy work, the glaze to keep the dried cob waterproof and sealed, all with natural, free materials. Now she just needs to learn how to build the foundation and she is all set. Diane started making jewelry at sixty and sells it in a small gallery/shop and online. Both good examples, or rather role models! Both are survivors and talented people. And I? With all the wind and weather I didn’t take to road too much, didn’t visit friends living at a distance but worked. I mean I did what my hearts tells me to: translating poetry and prose for love and beauty. It seems that for ages, till the French Revolution, artists, painters, musicians only worked when a piece of work had been commissioned by the local ruler or art patron. When Jacques-Louis David began to chronicle the French Revolution without anybody asking him to, a visitor to his ‘atelier’ queried him whom he was doing this work for. David’s answer was: ”For humanity” and his ‘The Death of Marat’ certainly has become a cultural icon. There didn’t use to be so called independent artists. Now, many among us try to find a good balance between money and freedom, or rather between freedom and poverty, trying to live full lives, developing our creativity, spiritually, trying to fulfill all of our needs as represented in Maslow’s Pyramid. And yes some of us want it all, reach for the moon and stars and want to lead a meaningful, playful, authentic life. That too is what blogging is about.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

War is not the answer

'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter' said Martin Luther King. I would like to give him more space here since his views are important in todays world. The following compillation is taken from DemocracyRising.US

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was mostly known for his work on civil rights in the United States. But, he was also concerned about poverty around the world and militarism where war becomes the primary instrument of foreign policy. On his birthday it is good to remember some of his words on these issues as we grapple with the Iraq War and the so-called “war on terror.”

Below are a series of quotations organized by Barry Kissin, an attorney, anti-war and social justice advocate from Frederick, MD.


1. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “person”-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered… The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually… A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.
2. We must honestly admit that capitalism has often left a gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few, and has encouraged small-hearted men to become cold and conscience less…The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cut throat competition and selfish ambition that inspire men to be more I-centered than thou-centered.
3. Look across the oceans and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries. This is not just.
4. In country after country we see white men building empires on the sweat and suffering of colored people…Here we see racism in its more sophisticated form: neo-colonialism.
5. The right-wing slogans on “government control” and “creeping socialism” are meaningless and adolescent…
All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.


1. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted …
2. The large power blocs talk passionately of pursuing peace while expanding defense budgets that already bulge, enlarging already awesome armies and devising ever more devastating weapons.
3. It is, after all, nation-states which make war, which have produced the weapons that threaten the survival of mankind and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character.
4. War is not the answer.
All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. When I see our country today intervening in what is basically a civil war, mutilating hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese children with napalm, burning villages and rice fields at random, painting the valleys of that small Asian country red with human blood, leaving broken bodies in countless ditches and sending home half-men, mutilated mentally and physically …I tremble for our world.
2. This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. We must concentrate not merely on the eradication of war but on the affirmation of peace.
2. One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.
3. So we must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war.
4. The United Nations is a gesture in the direction of nonviolence on a world scale. There, at least, states that oppose one another have sought to do so with words instead of with weapons.
5. Let us not join those who shout war and who through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations.
6. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole…
7. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This often misunderstood and misinterpreted concept has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.
8. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.
All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. When I speak of love, I am speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This is a Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality…
2. When men and governments work devotedly for the good of others, they achieve their own enrichment…

All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
2. We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.
3. Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war.
4. The stages of history are replete with the chants and choruses of the conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace.
5. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”
6. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
7. If modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.
All of the above quotations are from “The World House” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Circumstances are bizarre to ludicrous when you have to put as much of your delicate fresh food in the fridge as you can, because that is the warmest spot in the kitchen. Water in the dish pail in the sink in the kitchen froze solid and yet my heart is warm. It is MLK Day as it is referred to here, Martin Luther King day, since a few years an official paid holiday. Yes even in Arizona Dr King Junior is remembered with parades and fiestas and gathering of people singing We shall overcome, one day... It is an absolute necessity for us to overcome racism and to grant everybody her and his civil and human rights. By now research has proven that diversity is a plus in society. Companies with a diverse workforce do better. Diversity, even without communication, just the presence of others (race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, handicap) reminds us there may be other ways of looking at the world than our own. In knowing, learning how to do this, we don’t get stuck in a rut, we try to think outside the box and acknowledge that there are different life experiences. On NPR (National Public Radio, the American version of BBC World) during the morning edition, we could learn that a growing body of research suggests that diversity in the workplace not only helps companies stay in tune with their customers, but also adds to the diversity of ideas and attitudes. Columnist Shankar Vedantam deals with this subject in his column to be found under Human Behavior in the Washington Post.
It is a good day for us all to remember that Martin Luther King was non-violent, that he spoke out against the war in Vietnam and that in honoring his legacy we should all speak out against all war. Also we all should have a dream for bright, multicolored, multifaceted futures.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Back road thoughts

4X4 driving is a favorite pastime here in the desert. Yesterday it snowed, and today it is extremely cold: you could see my breath in the kitchen this morning and tonight the water pipes are frozen solid. In other words the day was clear and chilly ideal for some back road driving. Jay leads the convoy, there are six cars, all but one have a CB and channel 31 is used to stay out of the way of the truckers who use channel 30 here. They have kindly invited me for the day. Table Top Mountain is the center of the ride in a landscape that is still pristine. In the middle of a Joshua tree forest, there is not much to graze for the cattle and horses we see here and there near a water tank with windmills. The red barrel cactus, cholla, teddy bear cactus, beaver tail, shrub and bush I don’t recognize in their winter gray, creosote, a few pinion trees and everywhere you see the arms of the Joshua tree reaching for heaven fill this day. The vistas are grand Music Mountain, a part of the Grand Canyon and then gentle sheltered slopes basking in the chilly winter sun.
We come upon a kind of dirt road highway. It is for a new subdivision and development in the White Hills. Since Nevada is running out of space, Las Vegas and its surroundings is the fasted growing city in the USA, developers have decided that it would be a nice commute and are planning 100.000 people here, 40 to 50.000 homes. Nice roads, nice homes, low density sections with a house on ten acre lots, and high density sections… water features are planned and the developers guarantee a 100 year water supply. As you can imagine that is not as simple as it seems. Arizona is up in arms, they feel that The White Hills Development, is just a bedroom community for Las Vegas, and would only benefit Nevada and not Arizona. Arizona, (I thought the name was clear, it has arid in it!) has up to now successfully fought California and Nevada when they wanted to get some water. To date no water is allowed to go out of state and they consider that allowing these 100.000 newcomers to use the local aquifer is the same as exporting water to Nevada. The aquifer can indeed provide for one hundred years for 100.000 people, but there are already people using and depending upon this water…
Having seen the grand panorama’s and the gentle slopes, having felt the bouncing of the road, the occasional screech and ass dragging of the car in the hands of a most competent driver, I wonder about the meaning of progress. Does progress and economic growth, really have to go hand in hand? I don’t think so. Isn't it all about quality of life, the protection of wildlife and nature, and a better, simpler life for all. So one should not plan a 45 mile daily commute to Las Vegas for these 100.000 inhabitants. At the other end of the road the nearest city is about 70 mile away. This is an unsound plan. Think of all the CO2, the weather is freakish enough now as it is and everyone knows what it means to be high and dry in Arizona in summer: If you brush your teeth, you take some water in a glass and don't waste a drop by letting the faucet run...

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Looking for my voice in blogging and indeed discovering its addictive aspects, I keep wondering what I want for, from it. At the end of the day it gives me a possibility to share a few thoughts and clear my mind. This is not a personal diary. I have gone to great length to avoid that. Not that I am afraid of writing reality, or the censorship of friends or the corporate culture I work in when I position myself in the small world I am part of. No, it is for you I write. Sharing over the internet? Does that mean I cannot share enough in my real life? Or am I trying to make these words do more than that. I have avoided writing about people so that they would be recognized, knowing it is not right for me to position myself at the outside of a group and then write about it, taking the lifeblood out of the lives of others, used as examples, prototypes or specific roles trying to reach you. The advocacy is meant to make people think and maybe act, constituting a desperate gesture to change the disastrous course of events in global strategies, in the risks and dangers humanity faces. When I write stories, however, it is different. Then everyone knows that although based in the reality of general human experience, although maybe modeled after one or other person, it still is a story, written for effect and esthetic enjoyment, to warm up a frozen heart, to bring a smile or question to one’s eyes. And then I realize that although all I write in the blog is true, it is also meant to be interesting, surprising, and divers in its topics and style, a kind of artform of the journey along muddy roads, snowy mountains and dusty trails. Yes, it is escapism from closed doors, clockwork lives, shriveled hearts, dull minds. The escape route hopefully brings a life filled with curiosity and discovery and the wabi sabi of simple beauty; stacking words, one onto another, like one stone upon another without constructing enclosures or prisons, but in gentle forms build a safehaven for free thought, free speech and free feeling. Of course this is all an illusion. There are 18 intelligence and counterintelligence agencies in the USA, the President just signed a bill adding to it that he would have the right to open our mail… yet when you send an e-mail with your views about the war in Iraq you receive the following automated answer:

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your correspondence.
We appreciate hearing your views and welcome your suggestions.
The President is committed to continuing our economic progress,
defending our freedom, and upholding our Nation's deepest values.

Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House
cannot respond to every message. Please visit the White House
website for the most up-to-date information on Presidential
initiatives, current events, and topics of interest to you.
In order to better receive comments from the public, a new system
has been implemented. In the future please send your comments to

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Maybe all this is why I blog

Thursday, January 11, 2007

No surge

How do politicians, or their think-tanks come up with the distortion of words, a practice, which fills many linguists with wonder and/or disgust. The facts of life, as represented by words, are twisted beyond recognition. Amazing about this is how cleverly a hidden value is used, evoking certain positive sentiments in order to sell bad news. Do you remember the 'Clean Air Act' leading to more pollution? This technique is called ‘framing’ and is well explained by George Lakoff.
The latest example is ‘Surge’. In the Walmart special, 97 cent Webster Thesaurus heave, swell and grow are given as synonyms. The old ‘Webster’s New Illustrated Dictionary’ confirms some of my suspicions. The Presidential word smiths may have gotten it slightly wrong this time. Surge 1. A billow; a great roll of anything resembling a billow, as a surge of emotion, a surge of popular resentment. Right on: we say no to surge! 2. Is nautical in meaning: That part of a windlass barrel or a capstan upon which the rope surges. To rise high; to advance in volume. In a rather good translating dictionary a few relevant examples of the use of the concept of surge are quoted: Surge forward (like in pushing and jostling forward, an activity in which people get stampeded every so often), women surged around him, old feelings surged in him up, a surge of horror. That is it, the new plan for Iraq creates a surge of horror – hopefully bipartisan.


The most interesting chapter up to now in Ohran Pamuk’s book Istanbul is the one dealing with Hüzün, Turkisch for a specific kind of melancholy that pervades the city and marks its inhabitants. The grand era, the epic historic epoch of the country has been over for a while and the city’s grandeur is dilapidating, crumbling taking on the color of decay. The Haya Sofia looks like a old women with a worn body after a long hard life. Yet there is always the Bosphorus for Sunday outings, a clean air of sea that clears one’s mind. The city's old wooden houses are gray in summer and deep watersoaked black in winter. People live on the moods of their environment and the feeling is perceived and accepted as collective to the real Istanbulis. In Western literature melancholy, sadness, spleen, the French tristesse are portrayed as individual feelings. Sometimes so individual, that suffering from them turned a character into a hero. Other individuals, the readers of these novels or poems, embraced these heroes because they recognized that individual suffering, which was almost like a badge of honor. For a while now, I have been thinking and wandering through the desert and the dead end streets of this town nestled in the hills. All streets are deadend streets on both ends, except two streets that connect to some or other road on one end. Here too summer and winter carries its specific mood. Above 100° F, days on end in July or August, brings a languid fluidity to the body and soul. There is a dampening of the spirit, a low energy, that makes talking slower, thinking syrupy. Or if this goes on too long, tempers flare, the sharp light flattening everything, erasing nuances. Craziness comes to some, while others raise their shoulders, or if that is too much work, their eyebrows and stay in their stupor of tans, browns, dry dirt dustdevil days moistened by alcohol. Nothing happens, nothing gets done, the whole town lays paralyzed, in a coma, in a near death experience. In winter, the wind carries cold, bitterness. People refrain from talking, close up their yesterday’s too hot homes, look for wood, for warmth. Everything seems more monochrome, cactus, agaves and Joshua trees subdued by their muted green. The rust of centuries is the boldest statement of the season after the Christmas lights have been taken down. So peoples souls catch cold, close up, thinking closes down in perceived fatalistic futility. The mood is shared, it is tangible in it’s accepted discontent. And yet, we here have no word for this, unless it the ‘cattleguard blues’.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The bibliophile

Living without books seems impossible, reading and writing an addiction. Withdrawal symptoms manifest themselves when work, life and going ons keep from reflection. Beethoven for Book Lovers, Mozart for Meditation, a book like Istanbul, Memories of a city by Orhan Pamuk, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm blanket, a pencil to take notes that is a good life.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Mens sana in corpore sano, said the Romans: A healthy mind in a healthy body. I decided to work on that. Whenever I am in my desert retreat I walk more: at least half an hour a day, three four days a week a hike of about an hour and occasional guided hikes by the local Trail Association. Now the challenge has been upped. I am not a spring chicken, yet I want for the first time in my life to learn to run. I have been given a schedule to get to 15 minutes in 8 weeks. That to me is daunting. But I have seen one other person do it. The first priority is to learn to practice without getting injured. Shoes are needed. Have you ever looked at the array of running/walking shoes: some have inbuilt air pumps, others have fluids, the designs are kind of wild. I choose a conservative white, gray, orange high tech supporting, shock-absorbing shoe on sale. ☺ Believe me, they are comfortable yet weird looking. Before starting on one’s 15 minutes run/walk, one has to warm up, loosen the shoulders, the legs, do a kind of belly dance, and then you are off for the first run: 1 minute running, 2 minutes fast walking and this 5 times, followed by a cool down period and some stretching. This schedule you follow three times during the first week. Are you laughing at me? OK! I don’t mind. But let me tell you the third and fourth minute run was hard. Really. That is why I need to do this. The added challenge was that the dirt road I had chosen for my exploit seemed flat enough for fast walking, but having to run uphill – even just slightly - made the ordeal even harder and of course it didn't look pretty and some neighbors asked, ‘What where you doing running around?” “Are you alright?” “Where were you going?” To Rome, to Rome where the soundest thinking was done by fit gymnasts… I guess I am getting fitter in order to give a better spectacle when thrown to the lions.

Monday, January 8, 2007


A small town; some serious shit was pulled; the comment: ‘It must have been that drunken Indian.’ Friends split a meal and drink from the same ice tea, there are two straws, so why not, the joke is about one coke and six straws for Dutch people and they are not Dutch, so they can do that. ‘I thought he was a cranky old man, but once in a while his Irish charms shows.’ 'That is Mexican parking,' You drive like a cowboy'… All these sayings are prejudices that will reinforce the perception others have of that particular group, it reinforces stereotypes and stereotypes hurt souls and hearts. These offhand comments diminish a group's dignity and lower each individual's self esteem. It is hard to break the habit of stereotyping. I hear people speak of rag heads, money wise Jews, or dirty fagots, arrogant French, Bohemian artists and loud Americans… How does one stop these skewed perceptions of the world? How does one, when on a daily basis this kind of talk abounds, defend everybody’s human rights? By framing our perception of groups, inventing words like illegal aliens, undocumented aliens, calling Africa the dark continent where hope cannot live, by preferring one religion to another and certainly over secular humanism, our vision becomes blurred. The risk is that we forget it is not 'them' and 'us' but 'we' and that we don’t see, don’t remember that all people are born equal and have an unalienable right to dignity whatever color, sexual preference, religion or gender. Also all people deserve the same protection under the law. Some good advice:
Choose your friends by their character and your socks by their color. Choosing your socks by their character makes no sense and choosing your friends by their color is unthinkable.—Anonymous

Sunday, January 7, 2007


A friend decided one day no longer to partake in the dollar economy, to be non-violent and responsible and trying to leave as small a footprint as possible. He is a primitive skills teacher, lives not as a hermit, but as little as possible money based. He barters, teaches, gathers materials in dumps, even food; road kill hides are tanned and turned into clothing; old motorbike tires become sandals.
When a Hummer passes in the street, or one or another large gas-guzzler, I think of him and wonder what we all can do to live more responsible lives. Solutions people have chosen, can consist of advocacy in nature conservancy if it only where to protect or enlarge a local wilderness area where they like to hike with a group of like minded, leaving footprints in the sand of Pine Canyon, Antelope Canyon, clean up of trails, bake sales, you name it. Others insulate their house, use energy saving bulbs, drive small ecological more responsible cars or save up for a hybrid car. Some get rid of their car altogether and in a drastic move start using public transport and taxis…
We, in the industrialized countries need all to be aware of the size of our footprint. Taking care of one's shelter, food and clothing and not shopping in shopping malls, requires a lot of time, planning and thought. It is a full time job actually. If we do hold a job and are part of Babylon, we should at least be active citizens who will protect forests, defend wildlife, respect human rights, stop polluting or pay to clean up the C02 we produce, be non-violent and pacifists. We should also not disrupt the regional economies of developing countries and tell our governments what we want them to do for us, question authority and think independently and see to it that all decisions are taken at the lowest possible level. You decide for you, and from there up slowly in larger circles we'll be deciding together for the world.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Catch 22

Trying to keep the car insured – in some of the states they will impound your car if caught without insurance – a drivers license must be current. Mine is near its expiration date. No sweat, up to the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Fill out a form, show your current license, sit and wait and study the variations of humanity, contemplate whether one’s worn body still has pickings enough to be an organ donor, do a perfunctory eye test. The number comes up, all goes well until they realize the file number on the current card is no social security number. There are explanations about inland security, post 9/11, the threat of terrorism, recent changes in policy: to get a drivers license you need that number, whatever other numbers you might be defined by. No singing the national anthem wont help. Thinking it over, ones best option seems to be the toll free number statewide of the social security service. One lady ‘manning’ the telephone suggested lying since they cannot give one a social security number unless you are working or intend to work in the country… Hmm. Let’s try a higher up person, lying not seeming a viable option. No, without working people can’t get a social security number anymore: inland security, too many people applying for a social security numbers. Makes undocumented aliens look legal and what would the minutemen say about that. Terrorists could slip through the maze. Without working, a citizen cannot get a social security number, thus no insurance? Well the intention to work might help… but only if an employer applies for you or vouches for your willingness to work. I have no intention at all to start gainful employment here. This here is my refuge, my getting away from society and hassle place, where – unfortunately - I do need a car. OK. Let’s try a different approach: the statewide Department of Motor Vehicles' toll free number. To the level one response person, the machine tells me, one should not divulge personal information, ask for a second level response person who has the authority to receive such information. Obvious in trying to explain the predicament I find myself in I have to divulge the sordid, salty details of my life and am transferred to an authorized person qualified to hear and handle them. So for the n’th time in two days my file gets pulled with the number they adamantly don’t want anymore and the lady says, oh but we are just extending the current drivers license for an other five years, so we will mail you a duplicate for four dollars with the extension on it. You should have it within seven days. Thank you, thank you. This gives me ample time to figure out how to solve the Catch 22 without having to apply as an April fool dancing on the first of April on the Wal-mart parking lot, a job they may not give me since there is no social security number. Maybe a small bar would employ me as a scullery maid… I keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, January 5, 2007


Yesterday was a busy, people, malls and gambling day. The names of the slot machines where: Lucky Lobster, Rich Girl, Poker Princess, Mega Money, Big Bucks, Wishing Well, Drunk Dragon…
If you stick your nose out of the door things will happen, says a friend. And thus on the road again I wonder whether it is Tumbleweed season. They roll over parking lots; tumble over the road where they get crushed to smithereens in head on collisions. It kind of hurts my feelings as I gaze sympathetically at the Tumbleweeds huddling together in valleys, momentarily safe. I am looking for a kind place, out of the wind, away from Drunk Dragons but with a cup of coffee and so stumble upon ‘The Temperance Saloon’ walking back in time, right into 1912. Old green walls, tin ceiling, nice old or homemade furniture, crisp and clean and the people waiting on you in period. If you like the old west style, you can walk around and discover the different adjacent rooms with riding skirts, vests, cotton shirts and blouses. Some of the items are still made by the same factories producing them more than 100 years ago. The underwear section is cute, bloomers that are almost pornographic, notwithstanding the yards of materials, having strategic openings so that skirts do not have to be lifted. Long Johns with flaps have nothing to do with undoing the buttons and then the flap falling down at the risk of being soiled in the process. That would be totally impractical; these open sideways so that the essential parts can stick out and everything is kept fresh… Did you ever contemplate these practicalities of pioneer life? Well here you can learn a lot. And the temperance? Yes this saloon is strictly no alcohol, no smoke, but with a lot charm. I guess I forgot to ask whether they have Wifi.
The old town with pawnshops, the salvation Army, a pretty old Hotel, two museums and some antique shops is fairly intact; still a place to walk, to sit in a park on warmer days, and to find deliverance from the Wal-mart cities which spring up all over the country; the new parts of towns too often build without rhyme or reason, without an eye for beauty. Cheap, practical, catering to big cars and greed that is their main characteristic and I wonder how can one create or find a sense of community in such places, how can one pursue a dream? Maybe here dreaming of the past is the only way forward into better futures.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Translating poetry is building bridges between languages, transferring Pain and Joy from one culture to another. Humor, irony, dead seriousness, geography, distance, time, and physical surroundings are all elements that have to be taken into account.
In large areas of the US, electricity travels through live wires strung over mountains, along highways, through deserts. A totally different situation - and thus the possibility of different story - exists where the cables are buried in the ground. “Electricity is just lightning pretending to be permanent,” says Simon a character in Sherman Alexie’s short story ‘Special Delivery’. Of course also in big cities there can be electricity cuts. Yet it feels different when on a cold winter night, listening to the New Years Concert transmission from Vienna on PBS while the storm rages outside, the music comes and goes, the image on TV is unclear, grey noise rules. Yet it is in the fading and stuttering of the music and the unclarity and uncertainty of the screen that I could feel the magic beauty of that impermanence of electricity. I take my precautions though, I keep the laptop charged… and read poetry by candlelight. So the physical experience gave me a chance to really understand Alexie's line. That all is part of translating poetry.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Black eyed peas

Black eyed peas with or without some ham, are a southern traditional dish in the USA on January first. One rolls in the new year at midnight with a sip of Champaign and mandatory, the first warm meal should be black eyed peas with cornbread. That is for luck and protection. Maybe the dish is basic enough, to rinse away the excesses of the night before.
Superstitions are part of one’s culture and often it involves food. Sometimes by acting in line with popular superstitions you make a statement. In certain parts of the world for instance one shouldn’t give objects like knives because ‘it cuts the friendship’. One way around this one is selling the knife for some loose change. Handkerchiefs are taboo as a gift, since they bring tears and the pin of a brooch will stick the receiver… thus those too need to be sold. Pearls should not be given unless a mother gives it to her daughter. One should never buy fire opals for oneself…. Black cats, spilling salt, walking under a ladder all foretell doom. There also exist sometimes rituals one can perform to ward of evil. In Italy ou could throw a bit of salt over your shoulder to undo the spilling of salt. Real and imagined threads surround us it seems, yet there is reason for optimism, there is hope. A large group of scientist has been asked "What are you optimistic about and why" for 2007. One answer was that superstition and religion would loose its importance, that people would become more scientific or rational… This might be a good thing and could indeed prevent a few wars. Yet when I walk with a friend and an obstacle comes between us, I’ll say or whisper, in the Gypsy way “bread and butter”, just to voice my intention that the friendship remains intact, using the superstition as a strange way to show I care. So I'll rename todays dish 'black eyed peace', after January the first is the international day of peace. Happy birthday to all the peace kids.