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Father Mike Pfleger Rocks!

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Thanks to Hafidha, whose blog brought this amazing ten-minute argument to my attention! I haven’t heard such a powerful anti-racist statement in years. Those of you who are not in the USA may not understand the whole argument–and you don’t need to understand the whole argument. The core of what this priest says is simply obvious to anyone who looks closely at what passes for dissent in the USA: when a white person criticizes the U.S. government, it’s “criticism”; when a Black person criticizes the U.S. government, it’s “hate.” The hate-mongering Fox News interviewer is utterly out of his depth with this man, and it is a thrill to see how powerfully Father Pfleger re-frames the discussion in terms of poverty, class, race, and history, and away from the interviewer’s intention of fanning hatred, bigotry, and ignorance by means of kneejerk soft-headed opinion and out-of-context sound-bites .  Father Pfleger speaks with clarity, force, and sharp intelligence. Anyone who has not seen this video, please drop everything else in your life and watch it now. Or as soon as you possibly can.

Flickr Down, Blogs Up, Good News

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I’ve been diddling around on the computer all day while I could have been out marching for immigration in the streets of Portland. I feel vaguely guilty for sitting on my butt, but here I am anyway, and here’s what I’ve discovered. Flickr has changed the rules. Now if you want to store more than 200 pictures, you have to pay. If you want more than three “sets,” you have to pay. I was afraid that would happen. Until now I’ve been using the blog for words, with a link to Flickr for pictures. No more free ride there. Anybody know any reliable free sites for storing photographs? On the other hand, there’s Youtube, which I sometimes forget. But what a resource! Moonbeam McQueen’s blog for today is so hilarious I had to read it three times to take it all in–especially Dennis and Vageena. And check out the birdhouse. Genius on wheels. I want her to move to Portland. And I’ve just found two really delightful new blogs. One is by Jamie, who I met in Houston just before she moved to New York state to go “homesteading” (and if you are like me and you don’t know what that means, I’ll come back to it in a minute). The other is a delightful blog by a woman the age of my firstborn son who calls herself “Old Crone” (if she’s an old crone, what does that make me? a withered hag?). OC writes with energy and infectious delight. She posted the following ode to Aretha: [read on]

Activity to the south

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Something remarkable is going on in South America. This began as a travel blog, and while it has turned into Kendall’s Random Thoughts on Just About Everything, international politics is a field I generally avoid, because there are other people more fit to talk about that than I am. But the whole “Dirty War” happened in Argentina in the 70s, and I didn’t know a thing about it till a few years ago. I feel ashamed of the privilege and ignorance that allowed me to be a happy hippie girl in those years, to think of myself as a “leftist” because I participated in a few marches and a “revolutionary” because I licked some envelopes and sent out some fliers advocating peace and love–while I remained clueless about the systematic torture and elimination of thousands of people of my own generation that was going on in Argentina. My political activity in those years was wearing a T-shirt with a peace symbol on it. Now, perhaps because of blogs and the internet, I think many of us are aware of atrocities going on in Guantanamo, Iraq, Darfur, and Tibet (and in isolated towns in Texas), and I think each of us wonders rather lamely what we can do, which is a tiny bit better than having no awareness at all. But something very different, much more hopeful, is going on in South America. [read on]

Anyone for less stimulation?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I live in a culture of more.  More music, more cars (or in Portland, bicycles), more food of more kinds, more exercise, more sex, more multi-tasking, more electronics, more travels, more therapy, more personal growth, more “friends” (oh, those social networking sites!), more recycling, more news, more movies, more social action, more websites, more art, more appointments (crowded palm-pilot or Blackberry), more service to more people, more photographs, more phone calls…. But just this morning, as I was exchanging emails with Susan (more emails), it occurred to me that I may be hard-wired for less. Or to put it another way, maybe I need more solitude, more silence, more daydreaming, more walking alone in the forest, more reflecting, more gazing into the clouds. Reading. Writing. Maybe my attraction to Buddhism is really an attraction to sitting still, doing nothing, and not being perceived as lazy or inadequate for it. (Not that I am much bothered by other people’s perceptions. The problem is that I absorb those perceptions and judge–and limit–myself.) In fact, my need for more quiet may actually have something to do with these damn migraines I have been suffering from increasingly since I was in my twenties. Is it permissible to seek less stimulation in life? What a concept. [read on]

An Ode to Email

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Well, not a formal ode, but a big holler of gratitude. Sometimes I have to tear myself away from the beauties of the northwest to sit at the computer. And then what comes to me in the computer is so nourishing, stimulating, inspiring, hilarious, or provocative that I have to tear myself away from the computer to do anything else. There was a time when I was buried in academic administration and emails were a chore, a duty, and part of various silly intrigues (it’s amazing how people in the workplace will fight over trivial nonsense–and the less there is at stake, the more poisonous the language and the more devious the schemes). But that was then and this is now. Now emails are the main conduit for friendship in my life. Now I open the computer with a shiver of excitement and pleasure. [read on]

Writing, Language, Ralph Fiennes

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

This email from Alberto Greenberg, who gave me permission to put it in the blog: “I WROTE MANY SHORT STORIES IN MY LIFE. AND ONE OR TWO LONGER ONES. I WROTE IN SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE. I WAS FILLING MANY NOTEBOOKS WITH THEM. BUT NEVER PUBLISHED. I FEEL HAPPY WHEN I WRITE AND THEN READ IT AGAIN. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. DIFFERENT FROM LIFE ITSELF!!!” We feel happy when we write and then read it again. I love that. It’s a little like gazing at our reflection, but it’s also about what Kripalu’s displaced guru once said: “The most important book you will ever read is the story of your own life.” Big emphasis in Asian cultures on “knowing yourself.” What’s written down, fictional though it may be, since each of us sees everything through individual lenses, is a little less ephemeral. The patterns are a bit clearer (even if distorted) when they’re on the paper, and it’s a chance, as Alberto says, to see sense in it. Different from life itself. M’e Mpho Nthunya once said of her book, “It’s my way to hold my whole life in my two hands.” I’ve been enjoying emails with Alberto, reading his blog, and (completely unrelated) watching Ralph Fiennes films. [read on]

Making commitments

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

OK, the newness has worn off. I live in Portland now. It’s time to clean the bathroom, do laundry, buy groceries, and get on with it. I did the new-girl-in-town thing, pushing past my native shyness to thrust myself into social situations (Chinese aerobics, the UU church, a writing workshop, a reading, a writer’s group, meetings with some splendid local women I found online, a kindly tax man, and a playful and worldly barber who cut my hair). I’ve met a fascinating array of people, some of whom may become real friends, given time and circumstance, so I feel I can now back off, quit pushing myself, and wait to see what comes. I’m a little more than halfway through the second volume of Proust, and because Proust’s angst-ridden introspection is so much like my own that when it doesn’t make me laugh it wears me out, I’ve also picked up Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. I rekindled my Netflix subscription and have a few good films to look at. But what do I want to commit to, other than my own writing and the self-indulgent pleasures of life beyond employment? Now that I have no excuse NOT to walk my talk, how do I want to contribute to the world in this place? That is the question. [read on]

Starting the blog again–from Portland

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

I’ve just moved to Portland, Oregon and am starting a whole new life as a full-time writer. I retired from college teaching in December, and so far, everything about the move is good, right, and wonderful. I left Houston Feb. 4, stopped in Arizona to visit my elder son, Chris Virden, and his family, and arrived in Portland Feb. 10. I’m not sure how much I will write in the blog, but I am in motion in a different way than I have been in the past–and a few of my friends have asked me to open the blog again, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see how it goes. Stephen Brody, who came into my life via the blog when he picked up on a tag to Sintra, the town where he lives, was a frequent commenter to the blog. I’ve invited him to write as often as he wants to. He is (I think he will agree) a little more cynical than I am, and (in my opinion) his views–even when, maybe especially when I don’t agree with them–add a little spice to the blog. I am not interested in being one of the world’s most popular bloggers, nor in making multiple entries per day. I am fascinated by Eleanor Roosevelt’s columns. I thought she published them once a week, which seemed reasonable to me; but then I learned she published them SIX days a week, which I think is a bit much. I will begin with a 3-page piece I wrote a few days ago to describe my trip to Portland and my first impressions. Here that is. [read on]

Embracing silence, closing the blog

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

This Labor Day weekend, as I’ve been recuperating physically from a double knock-out my body took when I started teaching again, I realize it’s time to close the blog. In fifteen months, this blog has covered more than I ever dreamed it could: first the pilgrimage through Portugal and Spain in the summer of 06, which I’m still incorporating: of all the travels in my long life, that was the most joyful and the most revealing. There, by a stretch of ocean that is unpolluted and clear, on bridges built by the Romans, among people who have no compelling incentive to work more than six hours a day, since they aren’t going to be able to “make ends meet” anyway: I found a spirit that accords with all I believe is RIGHT in the world. The Portuguese adore their children, beat their chests with emotion in public, cry, make noise, grow an excessive number of flowers and grapes, eat with gusto, dance till they drop, and hang out on their balconies sipping coffee or wine and smiling at the passing pageant. That trip was all the blog was meant to cover. [read on]

Kennedy/Obama and me, blogging

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

I’ve been sick with a vicious migraine the last four days. It crested yesterday afternoon, and it was all I could do to lie back in the recliner with Basho in my lap, fighting the nausea with an ice pack over one eye, taking drugs. I did watch (out of one eye, with the volume turned low and subtitles-for-the-hearing-impaired running) a movie that should have been terrific but failed (beware the link; it takes time and bandwidth to download): Bobby, directed by Emilio Estevez. With a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, and Harry Belafonte, how could it be bad? [read on]