Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Time Since 2008

We have a Christmas tree and other decorations at our house tonight. This hasn't happened here for three years, but today the kids and I started preparing for the holidays in a traditional sort of way.

Tonight, I am watching that holiday movie,"Love Actually."
I know longer remember who first suggested this to me as a film for this season; no doubt I discovered it by accident somewhere along the way.

Anyway, it works.

Happy holidays.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Conversing with Ghosts

When there's nobody there, sometimes there is. That's when the words start, when you learn what you want to say. Someone told me once to write a letter to a departed lover, telling her everything I wanted most to say, but never send it.

Blogging isn't really a form suitable for that, because you never know when your departed lover may show up virtually and read. So that's not a real option here.

Yet, in a way, posting to a personal blog can be a way to accomplish what the person who gave me that advice meant. She meant to get the feelings out, to not hold them in.

Even when your lover has vanished, presumably never to return, you may still have a lot to tell her -- that you need to tell her. These conversations can never happen for real, so they enter the realm of the imaginary.

You might call them the source of fiction.

You can use a similar technique to talk to many beyond ex-lovers, for instance with those who have died, or to friends who have inexplicably fallen away somewhere along the line.

Or, at the extreme, to talk to imaginary friends. Now, you either are completely crazy or you have truly entered the realm of fiction at its best.

I've been hungry for good fiction lately, but reading non-fiction -- great, long, detailed works of history or analysis, science, biography.

But it's fiction I yearn for, both to read and to write. Truth is (a funny phrase in this context), I've been working on my novel, but in fits and starts. Meanwhile, non-fiction is what dominates my days, as I continue to churn out voluminous works on various subjects just as I did back in the days when journalism was a paid profession, instead of an elaborate euphemism for being unemployed.

Itinerant writers, nomads of the word -- that is what journalists have become. They find piecework, they may trade their services for something they need in return, like a phone or a hat.

They might write for food.

Society is changing so rapidly that what we used to call journalism may no longer be fully capable of telling the story of that change. Especially since the story-tellers themselves have largely been disenfranchised, disintermediated.

Still, of course, there is fiction. The imaginary world where your words might still matter, even if those you most wish would hear them no longer, or more probably never even really did, exist.

After all, should someone turn out to not be the person you thought she was, the only logical conclusion is that you imagined her in the first place. You can be riding on a bus, traveling along the main street in your town, and glimpse someone who looks a lot like her walking along on the sidewalk.

Is it her? Could it be?

Does it matter? Of course not.

You turn away, to look at the other side of the street. No matter who that other woman was, she is not someone you know now...or ever knew at all. Just another candidate for a character in your novel, that's all.

Just a figment of your over-active imagination.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011


When you get right down to it, we, the people who inhabit this continent now, and who benefit from its riches, are nothing more than accidents of history. Our predecessors came here out of a variety of needs, escaping religious discrimination, drought, or other horrors, and when they arrived here, they found a safe haven.

In the meantime we all have benefited.

Today, as the richest people on earth, we face a truly moral dilemma. Is the accident of history that placed us here a God-given right?

I think not.

I think that who we truly are, and what we ought to do next, is better represented by looking at the world at large.

The world at large is still a very poor place. Over half of the people on this planet do not have cell phones, laptops, or even enough food to eat.

Yet we are all of the same substance. Rich or poor, we are all made of the same stuff. Who is rich or poor today is not a matter or merit but of history that none of us living had anything to do with, one way or the other.

Probably the better sides of all of us would like to even this out. How can we do that?

That is the main question facing us, morally, not all of these silly political divisions in America. It is not about Obama. It is not about Gingrich. To pretend the choice is socialism or corporate welfare is specious.

Much more is at stake. It's a much larger debate. I just wish that we could get that started.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

FDR's Speech When Japan Hit Pearl Harbor

I think to properly understand the complex relationship with the Americans and the Japanese in modern times, we have to revisit the President of the United State's speech after what happened 70 years ago tomorrow:

To the Congress of the United States:

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Christmas Lights

Rounding a corner, and driving down a narrow street in the Mission, I see a black plastic bag tumbling slowly. It assume the shape of a prehistoric bird about to lift off, as I pass.

Picking up kids for choir practice; an early-morning ritual. By noon, a return trip to pick up my youngest son, who stayed home sick with the flu.

Hours later, back again, for pickups of the other two, and dog-walking duties.

Then, tonight, after dinner and a few hours of TV, back again so they can sleep at their Mom's before another school day tomorrow.

Yesterday, on the bus going downtown, a black woman in the back is talking loudly to no one in particular. There's a certain narrative to her babble, one picked up on by a black man in the front, wearing raggedy clothes and a perpetual smile.

He understands her code. "Waitin' in line at the drug store. That be taking your ID, yep."

An Asian man got on and swiped his card but the sensor beeped three times, meaning it was invalid. "You gotta do that again, sir," said the bus driver. "It has to beep once."

He gets up, swipes the card again with the same result and sits down.

"Again," said the driver. The man appears to barely understand English, but he gets up again, tried again, with the same invalid result.

Then he sits down again, apparently not comprehending, or perhaps not caring to comprehend what the driver is telling him.

The driver shrugs and gives up.

My youngest son, now the principal dog-walker, is sad that one of the dogs has aged and no longer has the energy she had even just a few months back. She has trouble climbing the stairs to her house, taking one step at a time, ever more slowly.

He mourns her loss of energy, the sense of her life slipping away.

His sadness is a daily event, as the younger dog still has plenty of energy and wants to run freely while the older dog seeks only more and more chances to rest.

"They're pulling me in two different directions," he complains to me.

Life and death. The daily struggle facing us all. We're all somewhere along that spectrum, on the upswing or the down. It may be sad, in many ways, but it is also life's natural cycle.

Caring about animals can help a young person deal with far harder experiences yet to well as for as-yet unrealized joys

My granddaughter started crawling yesterday.

Driving back tonight, in the darkness, a yellow cat passed just before my car; he was never in danger, I was driving slowly.

The temperature is falling; it's winter.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Going Viral

As this weekend ends, this music video is approaching 20,000,000 views...Now You're Just Somebody That I Used To Know.

How do friends and lovers become strangers? The disconnecting process is one of the oddest facets of human culture.

People walk away from one another as if they believe they have a better future, once freed of the connection.

Thing is, it doesn't work that way.

Some of us may have a better future; all of us share the past.

And unless you have resolved your past, you will have no better future. This song reminds me of this eternal truth. It apparently appeals to many other people as well.