Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Poem

I started this poem yesterday and completed it today, so it's raw and fresh, practically still bleeding. It was inspired by a mere glimpse I had of the Lexington Cemetery as I was driving to work yesterday morning. It was sunny and there was a light foggy mist in the air, and I glanced over at the cemetery as I passed it, and the image I saw inspired the poem.

cemetery at dawn

willows lean over mossy graves
like midwives tending children.
their long, downy tendrils brush the ground
with a gentle mother’s stroke.

dawn light diffused through early morning mist
rains gold across the landscape,
and dew shimmers like crystal,
clinging to the blades of grass like perspiration.

a stone fence, lichen-covered and crumbling,
follows the undulating countryside,
rising and falling with the terrain,
shielding the prickly hedge that runs along beside it.

swallows and wrens flit from tree to tree
and the cry of a mockingbird warbles
through the still morning air.

robins and bob whites pick for food along the ground
while a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds
dance and dart among the daffodils.

outside, the world awakens,
dead people walking,
but beauty lives in a cemetery at dawn.

Daily Update

Weight: 215

Currently Reading (fiction): That’s right, you guessed it. Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. I’ve gotten into Part II of the book, where the real "love stories" really start, and the pace is much better. This just isn’t the kind of book you can breeze through.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller. This is a Christian spirituality book, written by a guy who is, I believe, very accurately described by one critic as "Anne Lamott with testosterone." He’s a very liberal, progressive-minded Christian, writing a sort of personal spiritual odyssey book about his struggles with traditional, fundamentalist Christianity, attempting to reframe a Christian lifestyle for a post-modern world. Already in the second chapter he’s talked negatively about the false piety of the Republican party, described a Bush protest he attended and took part in, and spoken negatively about fundamentalism. However, the unusual thing is that he seems to have a typically evangelical image of God, Jesus, and the devil. Despite painting himself as a liberal Democrat and a progressive Christian, he has a paragraph where he refers to God as being "a person" and describes God with human attributes, he uses capitalized masculine pronouns to refer to God, he talks about Jesus as though he is alive and well and dictating things in people’s lives, and he speaks of the devil as though he is a real being, living down in hell, directing all the bad things and evil that go on in our personal lives. So it seems that despite his progressive, liberal leanings, he still clings to evangelical images of God, Jesus, and Satan.

Currently Listening To: Heaven, Warrant (off of Monster Ballads, YES!!)

Rush Lyric of the Day: We will call you Cygnus, God of Balance you shall be.

Guns n’ Roses Lyric of the Day: Found a head and an arm in the garbage can, don’t know why I’m here.

Food Update: Binge ate at about 12:30 last night. I had only had a couple of cheese sandwiches for lunch, then only rice and beans for dinner. So I guess I hadn’t had enough calories or something because around midnight, I got extremely hungry with the munchies. I ended up eating another meal’s worth of food. Not necessarily unhealthy food, but then again nothing is healthy at 12:30 in the morning, right before bed.

School Update: I’m leaning more and more toward radiology technology for furthering my education, as opposed to graduate school in Creative Writing or History. Melanie and I have been discussing my dedication to teaching, and the more I think about it, the more I think that I don’t really want to teach. I want to write. I don’t want to be the professor discovering and tutoring future writers, I want to be the writer. I don’t want to do the discovering, I want to be the one discovered. And I really don’t feel that dedicating two years of my life to graduate school in Creative Writing is necessarily going to help me get published any more than if I just keep writing on my own and submitting my work. So maybe it was fortuitous that I didn’t get accepted to graduate school for this fall. If I study to do radiology tech, I can make very, very good money, have a very high-demand degree, and flexibility of hours such that I can still have plenty of time to write. It would also allow me to keep from being chained to a desk and do something that would be interesting and unpredictable. Working in a hospital setting would also help me to fulfill my urge to help people. Melanie talked to one of the local tech colleges and they have a very good program that qualifies you to go directly into hospital work after getting your degree (as opposed to the limited medical radiography degree that only qualifies you to work in doctor’s offices, etc), and it’s in the hospitals where you can really make the money. The program is 33 months, but would only be 27 for me since I have a degree already. It’s quite expensive, though. That’s the only snag. I’ll end spending almost as much for this 2 year degree as I did for my undergraduate from Georgetown!! Obviously I’ll have to get school loans again, but if I can get out in 2 years and be making 35 or 40 dollars an hour, I’ll be able to afford to pay the loans off. And you can take classes in the daytime, evening, or weekends, so it’s very flexible.

Well, if you’ve stuck with me this far, you are truly dedicated to the cause of my blog. So thank you. You also need to get a life.

Today in History, June 28:

767 – Death of Pope Paul I, who actually had the balls to call himself Pope Paul I. Wouldn't that be akin to calling yourself Pope Jesus I, or something? "Hi, I'm Pope God the First. Bless you, my child."

1243 – Birth of Emperor Go-Fukakusa of Japan. [Note: I wish to be referred to from here forward as Scott Go-Fukakusa. Thank you.]

1476 – Birth of Pope Paul IV, who was openly and stringently anti-Semitic, decreeing that Jews were "unworthy of Christian love" and creating the first Jewish Ghetto in Rome, where Jews were required to live, required to where distinctive clothes, and locked into their homes at night. Those ghettos would remain in existence until the middle of the 19th century.

1491 – Birth of Henry VIII, second son of Henry VII. His older brother Arthur, heir to the throne, died at age 18, and thus Henry became the Prince of Wales. Interesting to consider how British history would have differed had Arthur (who was named after the hero of Arthurian legend) ruled during the 1500’s instead of Henry VIII.

1577 – Birth of Peter Paul Rubens, Belgian painter and creater of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, who was later arrested for jacking off in a porno movie house. Oh wait...maybe that was a different Paul Rubens.

1703 – Birth of John Wesley, founder of Methodism.

1776 – Thomas Hinkey, one of George Washington’s bodyguards, is hanged for plotting to kidnap Washington.

1838 – Queen Victoria’s coronation ceremony is held in London. She wants to have a rave and do a little crystal meth afterwards, but Albert says no. He never did want to have any fun.

1914 – Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, precipitating the start of World War I.

1914 – About the same time Franz and Sophia are swallowing lead in Sarajevo, Anna Irene Lyle is passing through the birth canal and entering life halfway across the world, somewhere in rural western Kentucky.

[Actually, I think I’ve always mistakenly thought that Grandmother was born the same day that Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, but I think she was actually born on the 26th, not the 28th. Mom can confirm this. Still, it makes for a good story, don’t you think?]

1919 – The Treaty of Versailles is signed, ending World War I on the 5th anniversary of its start.

1919 – The Treaty of Versailles, Kentucky is signed, ending the feud between Billy Joe Busby and Jim Bob Dumfart, which started when the former accidentally hit the latter in the ass with a dart at the Dew Drop Inn.

1938 – A 450 ton meteorite lands in an empty field in Pennsylvania. Why can't a 450 ton meteorite land on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2006?

1997 – Mike Tyson gets hungry during a title fight and bites off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 218

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. Seems like I’ve been reading this forever, doesn’t it? I’m only 150 pages into it, too. Haven’t had much reading time in the last week.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Nothing.

Currently Listening To: Joel, who sits next to me, has something filtering from his speakers, but I’m not sure what it is.

Rush Lyric of the Day: I’ve got idols and icons, unspoken holy vows.

Guns n’ Roses Lyric of the Day: Back off, back off bitch. It’s time to burn, burn the witch.

Sparrows Down Update: I cut the grass at Sparrows Down yesterday, then fertilized the lawn and watered it in. An hour later, it summarily began to rain. One way to ensure rainfall is to water the grass. No kidding, I think it’s rained exactly 3 times in the last 10 or 12 days, and I’ve also watered the grass 3 times in the last 10 or 12 days, and the days I’ve watered have been the days it later rained. Amazing.

Ankle-Biters Update: Sidney is still doing really well in terms of feeding and being generally calm and laid back. She’s gaining weight at a much quicker pace than Hailey did. Hailey has been remarkably bad for the last 6 weeks, and we have decided to sell her to Arab traders.

Food Update: Irish Breakfast tea today, and that’s it so far.

Today in History, June 23:

June 23rd is the traditional celebration date for Midsummer’s Eve, as Midsummer is traditionally celebrated on June 24th. However, the variance in our modern calendar, and the actual rotation of the earth around the sun, have since moved Midsummer (i.e. the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year) to June 21st. Traditionalists still maintain the 24th as Midsummer, however.

47 BCE – Birth of Caesarian, son of Cleopatra and (so she claimed) Julius Caesar. He would be killed at age 17, in 30 BCE, by Octavian, in an attempt to ensure Octavian’s hold on the reigns of power in Rome.

79 CE – Death of Vespasian, Roman Emperor who brought stability back to the government after the Year of Four Emperors in 69 CE, and who founded the Flavian dynasty, which produced Titus and Domitian.

1314 – [WEIRD COINCIDENCE COMING] The Battle of Bannockburn begins, between Edward II of England and Robert the Bruce of Scotland. In an email to my parents and sister not 15 minutes ago, we were talking about how our uncle’s last name is Bruce, and debating whether or not he is of Scottish descent.

1611 – Henry Hudson, his son, and 7 crew members are set adrift in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by a mutinous crew. Hudson and all those aboard presumably drowned and were never heard from again.

1757 – At the Battle of Plassey, near Calcutta, India, a British army of only 3,000 defeats an Indian army of over 50,000, proving that white people are smarter and more highly evolved than people of color.

1758 – At the Battle of Krefeld during the 7 Years’ War, the British army defeats the French, proving that English speakers are smarter and more highly evolved than French speakers.

1810 – John Jacob Astor forms the Pacific Fur Company. In 1912, at the astounding age of 149, he would die aboard the Titanic. Or, maybe that was his great-grandson.

1812 – Napoleon begins his offensive against Russia, which would fail horribly, proving that France sucks. (Note, this is merely a humorous commentary on French culture, not a suggestion that I support the anti-French sentiment associated with the Dumbshit Administration and its adherents.)

1865 – The last significant rebel army is surrendered at Ft. Towson, Oklahoma. Which was a good thing, since the war had ended fucking 2 months earlier. Also, this proved that people from the North are smarter and more highly evolved than "people" from the south.

1894 – Birth of Edward VIII, who would later give up the English throne in order to marry some divorced hobag from America.

1940 – Birth of Stuart Sutcliffe, the so-called "Fifth Beatle," the man who most likely named the band, and the original bassist for the Beatles. He left the band before they gained success, and then died unexpectedly in 1962, never to know the fame he missed out on.

1972 – Richard Nixon and his chief-of-staff, H.R. Haldeman, have a discussion about using the CIA to thwart the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate burglary. The discussion is recorded.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Daily Update, Special Summer Solstice Edition

Weight: 220

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. This book is slow going because it’s such a difficult read. Like all Lawrence novels, much of the dialogue is written in cumbersome cockney dialect.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Nothing at the moment. I finished Traveling Music and have not yet started a new non-fiction book.

Currently Listening To: Texas Women, Hank Williams Jr.

Rush Lyric of the Day: Suddenly you were gone from all the lives you’d left your mark upon.

Guns n’ Roses Lyric of the Day: You wanna antagonize me? Antagonize me, mother fucker. Get in the ring, mother fucker. And I'll kick your bitchy little ass, punk.

GnR Update: I’m in the middle of one of my Guns n’ Roses phases. I’ll go several years without listening to their albums, and then I’ll suddenly "rediscover" the glory of a GnR album, and start listening again. I listed to Use Your Illusion I last night for the first time in probably 10 years.

Food Update: I’ve not been doing very well for the last few days, but today I’m having green tea (Bigelow green tea with lemon – very good) and oatmeal with flaxseed and granola. Yesterday I had vegetable soup and Cheez-its for lunch, and popcorn and Cheez-its for dinner. Not terribly healthy, but at least I didn’t overload on calories yesterday.

Today in History, June 21:

1305 – Death of Good King Wenceslaus.

1377 – Death of Edward III.

1527 – Death of Machiavelli.

1774 – Birth of Daniel D. Tompkins, governor of New York and vice-president under James Monroe, and subject of Kris Kringle’s trivia knowledge as displayed in Miracle On 34th Street.

1854 – Irish seaman Charles Davis Lucas earns the first ever Victoria Cross, during the Crimean War. A live shell landed on the deck of his ship, and while everyone else threw themselves flat to the deck, Lucas ran over, picked up the shell, and hurled it into the water, where it exploded without causing any serious damage or injuries.

1887 – Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee is celebrated, marking 50 years of the old bitch on the throne.

1939 – Lou Gherig’s retirement is announced due to his diagnosis with a disease that, strangely enough, shared his name.

1940 – France surrenders to Germany.

1942 – A Japanese submarine shells Fort Stevens, in Oregon.

1947 – A sailor in Washington State, Harol Dahl, claims to see six UFO’s, and makes the first known claim of a visit by one of the "Men in Black," a secret government official who threatens his family with harm if he tells his tale.

1952 – Death of Wilfred "Wop" May, Canadian aviation pioneer, and the would-be 81st victim of Manfred von Richthofen. Richthofen was chasing the rookie May across Australian-held territory when he was struck by a bullet most likely fired by a rifleman on the ground.

1982 – John Hinckley is found not guilty by reason of abundant necessity in the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan.

1982 – Birth of Prince William, future King William V.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cincinnatireds!! Cincinnatireds!!


A GREAT GAME

I attended my second Reds game of the year on Friday, June 16th. The Reds played the reigning world champion Chicago White Sox, and got summarily beaten down, losing 12 to 4.

Despite the hometown team losing, it was a very enjoyable game, as I was able to watch from the 4th row right behind the Reds’ dugout. It was my Father’s Day gift to myself, and cost me 60 dollars.

GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN

I arrived in northern Kentucky about 6:40, parking on a little neighborhood street that runs along the Ohio River and dead-ends right before the Roebling Bridge. By parking there, I parked for free, had no serious game traffic to contend with, and had easy access to get across the river and to the park. The Roebling Bridge – a Victorian monstrosity built in 1865 by the same architect who built the Brooklyn Bridge – has a walking path outside the roadway, and deposits you about a block from the stadium.

It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and warm but not uncomfortable, a cool breeze blowing in off the river. A perfect evening for baseball.

Walking along the Roebling Bridge, I felt the vibration of the walkway under my feet every time a car zoomed past. The walkway is outside the superstructure of the bridge, but is basically shielded from the traffic only by the struts and wires of the superstructure. So you feel drawn to walking on the outside of the walkway, to get as far away from the cars as possible. However, the fence along the walkway is only about 4 feet high, and the drop to the water is a good 100 feet. So you don’t feel comfortable too close to the fence either. You end up attempting to stay right in the middle, until such a time as you come up on slow-pokes waddling along and have to pass them.

THE SEATS

I got into the stadium about 7 minutes before game time. Finding my section (131, Row I, Seat 9), I started down the steps toward the field. Since I was in Row I, I was expecting to be in the 9th row. However, as I continued down the steps, it became apparent that Row I was much closer than that. Turns out, there are no Rows A-E in that section, because the dugout is in the spot where those rows would be. So Row I is the 4th row. I was seated directly behind the camera pit, which sits at the end of the dugout. I could see what was on the camera’s screen throughout the game. First base was directly in front of me.


Needless to say, the view was excellent, and each time the Reds came into the dugout after the inning, I got a very close-up view of them. It’s amazing to see them so close and see how BIG some of them are. Adam Dunn seems to just dwarf Ken Griffey Jr., and Griffey is no small guy!

THE GAME

At 7:10, the Reds take the field. Brandon Claussen, who I had seen just a week earlier pitch a decent game against the Cubs but still get the loss, is on the mound again for the Reds.

Scott Podsednik leads the game off for the White Sox, flying out to center. Not bad, first batter down.

The next batter singles to center, and Griffey bobbles the ball, allowing the runner to advance to second. Grrrr. Frustration, but things are still in order. No reason to panic.

Next batter walks.

Then the next batter walks again.

Suddenly the bases are loaded and there’s only one out. The fans are beginning to get restless. No one wants to see the bases loaded in the first inning.

Joe Crede steps up to the plate. Claussen pitches him a fastball, which he watches for strike one. Claussen then hurls the second pitch. Crede swings and promptly deposits the ball into the left field stands, about 15 rows high.


Grand slam.

It’s now 4-0, there’s still only 1 out, and only 5 batters have come to the plate!

It can’t be every day that you see a grand slam with the 5th batter of a game. That’s only one batter away from the quickest grand slam possible. Makes you wonder if the 4th batter of any game has ever hit a grand slam. I’ve attempted to look such a statistic up on the Internet, but with no luck.

THE FUN BEGINS

After Crede’s grand slam, the crowd was getting quite upset. In one of the funnier moments of the night, an old man, about 65, sitting in the next aisle, began screaming at the top of his lungs, complaining and hurling insults at the White Sox. He yelled for Claussen to give the next batter as brush-back pitch. His voice was strained to the point of being screechy and gravelly. As Claussen prepared to pitch to the next batter, the old man screamed, “Put it in his ear! PUT IT. IN. HIS EAR!!!!!”

In the bottom of the first, the Reds put some runs of their own on the board, with Rich Aurilia hitting a three-run homer, making it 4-3. Unfortunately, the White Sox kept on scoring but the Reds didn’t. It was 10-3 by the 4th inning, and ultimately ended 12-4.

THE CHEERLEADER

About the 7th inning, another man began calling out. He was roughly 45 or 50, and sitting behind me and by himself. I don’t know if he had moved down from a higher spot, and that’s why it took so long for his antics to start, or if it just took 7 innings of beer, but either way, he seemed to have dubbed himself the Official Cincinnati Reds Cheerleader. Standing up, he would begin chanting, “Cincinnati Reds! Cincinnati Reds!” enunciating each syllable crisply and distinctly, and very fast. “Cincinnatireds! Cincinnatireds!” Then he started into the familiar, Let’s Go Reh-ehds, clap clap, clap-clap-clap. Let’s go Reh-ehds, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. A few fans would follow him, but most just sort of laughed and stared. He called out to the White Sox first base coach, who actually turned and glared at him for a few seconds, and informed the coach that he was standing in Beautiful Cincinnati Ohio, Home of the Cincinnatireds.

There was a very close play at first base about this time, and the umpire called the play in favor of the White Sox. This was the third or fourth close call that had gone against the Reds by this same umpire. The Official Reds Cheerleader stood up and began heckling the umpire with a string of abuse that could only be described as an art form. There was no profanity in the tirade; instead it was just classic baseball heckling, like a throwback to the 1930’s. I don’t remember word for word everything he said, but one particular line stood out among the others, and I transcribed it on my phone’s notepad for posterity: Hey Blue! You must be in bad need of some good eyeglasses cuz’ you haven’t made a call all night, ya cotton candy eater!!

JUST FEEDIN' THE FISH

All in all, it was a good experience. I was amused, as I have been in the past, at how much baseball players are like royalty and the fans are like the rabble begging at their feet. After every inning, the Reds players would trot off the field and enter the dugout right in the vicinity where I was sitting. Whoever had made the last out would either toss the ball into the stands, or throw it to the Reds’ first base coach, Billy Hatcher, who would then throw it into the stands. So when the end of the inning became imminent, the fish would begin schooling at the end of the aisleway right above the dugout, squirming and pushing and holding up their fins. They’d wave their gloves and call out for the ball. When the ball was thrown, they would jump and dive and fight over it like it was a diamond. And the players, particularly Billy Hatcher, seemed so completely disinterested. He'd toss the ball up there out of habit, like throwing crumbs to fish, and wouldn’t even watch to see who caught it. Toss and turn away, with never an expression on the face. Just feedin’ the fish.

IF IT'S FREE, I WANT IT!!

Likewise, in between innings, staffers dressed in outrageous and silly costumes would run along the tops of the dugouts, shooting cheap cotton T-shirts into the crowd out of high-powered air guns. If you’ve been to a baseball game anywhere, you’ve probably seen this sort of thing. People stand up and cheer and scream and wave their arms, and then dive and jump and fight and kick and punch and murder each other to get that shirt once it comes near them. You’d think these idiots in grass skirts and coconut bras were shooting wads of cash out of their air guns. It always makes me want to get on the stadium’s microphone and say, “What are you people doing? It’s a 3-dollar T-shirt that you’ll probably end up using to paint or mow the grass in, and you’re jumping around and yelling to get one, as if they’re made of gold!” If it’s free, and only a few people get it, then it doesn’t matter WHAT it is...people will kill to have it. I think that’s a curious commentary on our culture.

THE BODY OF FANS

The crowd at any sporting event is amusing, and it’s interesting how each team’s body of fans seems to develop a personality of its own. If there was any one thing that marred my experience at this game, it was the fans. On the way home, I was thinking about my various experiences at ballparks over the years, and I have come to decide (based purely on my own experiences – which I acknowledge may not be the same as everyone) that Reds fans don’t have much class.

At Friday’s game, there were a number of people who were making general asses of themselves. There is the aforementioned Official Cincinnati Reds Cheerleader, but he’s not even really who I’m talking about. He was entertaining, and a certain amount of friendly heckling, particularly at the umpires, is as much a part of baseball tradition as the home run. But most of the heckling I heard was just unclassy and rude.

For instance, there was a group of guys sitting in front of me, dressed more for an evening of clubbing in Cancun than for a baseball game – Abercrombie clothes, Sunset Beach tans, steroid-inflated biceps with the tribal tattoo, clothes and accessories arranged in very specific and intentional ways, arrogant and cocky attitudes. They reminded me of the sort of people you’d see on MTV’s Spring Break telecasts. They continually heckled the White Sox first base coach, Harold Baines. Baines is a former major leaguer himself and had a solid career with the White Sox, one which may eventually get him into the Hall of Fame. I actually saw him as a player at a White Sox/Angels game in 1987 at Comisky Park in Chicago. These MTV Spring Break wannabe’s heckled Baines all night, patronizing him by calling him by his first name, making fun of him when he held the base runners’ shin guards, patronizing his own playing ability with various comments, etc. They got several other groups of people sitting in the vicinity heckling Baines too. They also heckled the Cincinnati first baseman (presumably their OWN team’s player), after he failed to scoop a throw in the dirt, which led to a run. They were basically just rude and showed no class all night long. Their shenanigans didn’t end until (thankfully) they left in the 7th inning (presumably to go hit the clubs downtown).

There were a bunch of kids sitting around me who were apparently there without adults. Or, the adults were sitting elsewhere, and the kids had come down to the good seats. Either way, they were totally un-supervised, and were generally rude and pushy. They didn’t bother to move their stuff when I tried to get out of the row to go get food, and when I knocked over one of their bottles of Mountain Dew (which had the cap on, thus not causing a spill), one of the kids huffed and puffed and acted offended. Late in the game, a bunch of people came and sat down in the seats that had been vacated by early leavers, and they just marched right in and sat down, taking up 7 seats next to me, right up to the seat where I was sitting. The lady who was leading them plopped down next to me with her enormous handbag, and proceeded to sit sideways, facing the people she was with, so that I had the flank of this not-so-small woman practically blocking my view. I finally had to move down a seat to give myself some space.

In past years, I have had similar experiences with fans at Reds games. In 1990, at a Reds/Pirates playoff game, the Pirates won. As we were walking out, I remember seeing a man, who was obviously drunk, yelling and screaming obscenities and decrying the Reds for losing. In a game in 2003 or so, a group of friends and I went to see a Reds/Cardinals game. One of the people with us was a big Cardinals fan. The Cardinals led most of the game, until Barry Larkin hit a pinch-hit, walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 9th to win the game in dramatic fashion. As we were walking out, someone heckled my friend (who was wearing a Cardinals hat) and attempted to knock the hat off his head. I remember at the time my friend saying something to the effect of, “I’ve never had something like that happen to me,” but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.

Furthermore, I’ve noticed over the years that Reds fans routinely boo their own team. I can understand booing your team after a particularly bad inning, or a series of errors. But Cincinnati routinely boos their own team, and even boos individual players. I’ve seen two games this season, and the Reds fans have booed their own team in both games, despite the fact that Cincinnati is having its best season in years, and was in first place as short a time as a week ago. In Friday’s game, Brandon Claussen did not pitch well, and gave up 8 runs in the first three innings before being taken out. As he came off the field, the crowd booed him. That is a terribly unclassy thing to do, in my opinion. It’s not like he was trying to give up 8 runs. He’s out there working hard, doing the best he can do. You don’t boo your own team, particularly not like that, singling out a player while he takes his walk of shame off the field.

Ken Griffey Jr., after coming to the Reds and experiencing a lot of trouble with injuries, was blasted numerous times in the local press, and booed on more than one occasion. This is a future Hall of Famer, someone unanimously considered the best player of the 1990’s, and a native Cincinnatian who took far less money than he was worth to come play for his hometown team in 2000. And that’s the treatment he got from the fans. Just no class at all.

Everyone gets frustrated with the team sometimes, and sometimes it’s appropriate to boo the team when the team has a particularly bad play or inning. But you don’t boo your team every time they do something you don’t like, and you definitely don't boo individuals.

REDS FANS vs. ASTROS FANS

When I take all these experiences, and compare them to the experiences I’ve had seeing Astros games in Houston, it paints a bleak picture. I’ve seen some two dozen games in Houston – far less than I’ve seen in Cincinnati, but still enough, I think, to make a fair comparison. The fans in Houston are much more classy, much more supportive, and not nearly as obnoxious and rowdy. Of course any stadium at any time can have people who get drunk and make fools of themselves. But as a group, Houston fans are very supportive, very friendly, and provide a nice, pleasant environment to watch baseball in.

I’ve never, not even one time, heard the Houston crowd boo their team. Not even after Aramis Ramirez of the Pirates hit three home runs against the Astros in a 2002 game that I saw there. My experiences in the Astrodome and Minute Maid Park are simply polar opposite from my experiences in Riverfront Stadium and Great American Ballpark. As I said before, the body of fans seems to take on a personality of its own, and Cincinnati’s fans seem to basically have no class, while Houston’s fans seem, to me, to be very classy.

I realize part of this may be due to the fact that Houston has had a winning organization for the last 15 years, whereas the Reds have struggled to stay above .500. So I realize that frustration plays a part in how the fans act. But I don’t think that explains everything, because even in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when the Reds were good (they won the World Series in 1990), the fans still tended to be fickle and hard to please. Eric Davis, the Reds’ premier player back in those days, was constantly criticized in the local press, and booed on the field from time to time.

So it seems that nothing ever changes in Cincinnati.

Still, I'll keep going to the games, and suffering the rude fans, because it is baseball, and it is baseball's oldest franchise - the great, storied Cincinnatireds.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Rise and Fall of Luis Gonzalez

Luis Gonzalez is a former Astro, Cub, and Tiger who made a name for himself as an Arizona Diamondback. Because of a break-out season he had in 2001, there has been much speculation about him being one of the many major leaguers who used steriods and HGH (human growth hormone). Yesterday, after rumors of his steroid use were alluded to by his own team's owner, he called a press conference to deny the rumors of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. In light of that, I decided to actually delve into his career stats and see what the numbers say.

His first full season in the big leagues was 1991 at age 24. For the eight seasons between 1991 to 1998 he switched teams 5 different times, playing for a total of 3 different teams. He batted exactly .300 one season, but never came close to .300 in any other season during those years. His career batting average through 1998 was .268. He was somewhat of a base-stealing threat, stealing 20 in 1993 and 15 in 1994, and stealing 10 or more four different times. Through 1997, the most home runs he ever hit in a season was 15, which he had done twice, and in 1998 with the Tigers he hit his then career high 23. Between 1991 and 1998, his HR per at-bat ratio was about 1 in every 36 at-bats. He never had more than 79 RBI in any one season, and averaged 68 RBI per season during those years.

So by age 31, you have an 8-year veteran journeyman with consistent but highly unremarkable numbers, and his biggest statistical achievment was batting .300 in 1993. Typically a 6 or 7 batter in the line-up, he didn't even become an every day player until his 3rd full season in the majors.

Then, in 1999, he makes his 6th team change, moving to the 4th team of his career, signing with the Diamondbacks. That year, at age 32, he hits a career high 26 home runs, knocks in a career high 111 RBI (31 more than he'd ever knocked in before, and nearly double his career RBI average), and bats a career high .336 (36 points higher than his previous career high and nearly 70 points higher than his career average). His HR per at-bat ratio moves up a staggering 13 points to 1 in every 23 at-bats.

In 2000, he bats .311, and hits 31 home runs and 114 RBI, again setting new career highs in those two categories. He only steals 2 bases, by far a career low. His HR/At-bat ratio moves up to 1 in 19.

In 2001, he bats .325, hits 57 home runs, and knocks in 142 RBI. He only steals 1 base. His HR/At-bat ratio jets up to a McGwire-esque 1 in every 10 at-bats.

By 2005, he hits only 24 HR, the fewest he'd hit in any one season since joining the Diamondbacks (with the exception of his injury-plagued year in 2004, where he missed 50 games). He knocks in 79 RBI, and bats .271. Like his home run total, both are career lows with the Diamondbacks. His numbers suddenly look remarkably similar to his pre-Diamondbacks numbers.

This season, 2006, he is on pace to hit 13 HR and knock in 70 RBI. He is batting .265.

Since joining the Diamondbacks, he has never stolen 10 or more bases in a season, despite doing it 4 different times in his pre-Diamondbacks years.*

So what you have is an average, unremarkable journeyman player with average, unremarkable stats, a consistent player to fill a line-up spot, but destined to fade into oblivion by his mid-30's. Then, at age 32, when most players have passed their prime and are moving into the last seasons of their career, Gonzalez suddenly becomes a superstar. At age 34 he has his best season ever, and his mid-30's prove to be his most productive period, despite the fact that this is the period that most players see their careers winding down.

The numbers don't lie. This sort of career progression doesn't happen in nature. A player doesn't suddenly become an all-star, a franchise player, and a major league stand-out in his mid-30's, after a 10-year career as a journeyman with average, unremarkable stats. It just doesn't happen without something unnatural involved.

The numbers tell an obvious story. In 1998, McGwire and Sosa had put home run hitting at the top of everyone's radar, and steroids and HGH were all the rage. Upon arriving at the Diamondbacks for the 1999 season, Gonzalez, who was facing the certain prospect of his unremarkable career winding down within the next couple of seasons, got introduced to performance-enhancing drugs, and began using them. His stats immediately improved. By 2001, he hit his peak. By 2004, the word was out on steroids, mandatory testing started, and Gonzales had to stop. Maybe he'd already stopped by then. Either way, his body broke down once he was off the juice, and he ended up missing a third of the 2004 season with injury.

Since then, he has been the same old unremarkable player he was from 1991 to 1998.

I always liked Luis Gonzalez. As a Cubs and Astros fan in the 1990's, I was very familiar with him as a player. Despite being the 6 or 7 hitter and standing well in the shadow of his more talented teammates, he was always a fan favorite because he was a nice guy and very friendly, always smiling. He brought a lot to the team and certainly filled an important role. I remember being sad to see him leave the Astros for the last time in 1998 and join the Tigers. But I think his career is marred now. I would much rather have seen him retire in his mid-30's, and remember him as a local fan favorite who was an integral part of a lot of good Astros teams in the 1990's. Instead, now he's just another statistic in the very long Book of Baseball Cheaters.

*P.S....the stolen base stats are important because as Gonzalez began taking steroids and bulking up, he subsequently lost speed, which is evidenced by his decreasing ability to steal bases after he joined the Diamondbacks. Barry Bonds experienced a similar loss of speed on the base paths after he began bulking up in the late 1990's. People who take steroids inevitibly get stronger, but slower.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and the Sino-Japanese War

Someone on a message board recently made a comment about how the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified because of Pearl Harbor. This is an issue that I feel warrants a closer look, as misconceptions about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor are so widespread.

I was a twenty-something adult, with a degree in History from a highly academic college, before I ever uncovered the facts surrounding Japan’s attack of Pearl Harbor. I had never had a teacher or professor discuss the reasons why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Their motivations seemed to be an unimportant footnote to history. All I ever picked up from my myriad American History classes was that Japan had more or less attacked Pearl Harbor as an unprovoked aggressor, bent on dominating the Pacific Rim. And since the U.S. had a presence in Hawaii, Japan wanted them out. I’d wager to say that 99.9% of Americans probably believe this same thing. In fact, I’d wager that most Americans simply think the Japanese were the bad guys and bombed Pearl Harbor because they were evil and insidious. The inherent Japanese insidiousness is all the explanation most Americans probably need.

Interestingly enough, it was a show on the History Channel that first began answering some of the questions I had about why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and it spurred me to investigate some things on my own. What I discovered was surprising.

Starting as early as 1931, and in full swing by 1937, the Japanese and Chinese were involved in a war. In historical circles, this is called the Second Sino-Japanese War (the first taking place at the end of the 19th century). Japan was attempting to spread its influence beyond its tiny island nation, and they saw China and the Pacific Rim as their “stomping ground,” as it were. China was unstable and involved in a civil war with the Communists, and Japan saw their weakness as an opportunity to expand. If they could control east Asia and the Pacific, they could be the eastern world power, as the U.S. was the western world power.

The United States, however, had no interest in Japan controlling the Pacific and all of east Asia. After all, “this earth ain’t big enough for the two of us.” The U.S. didn’t want any other nation challenging it for “Biggest Bad Ass in the World.” (The post WWII Cold War with the USSR proved how much America was intent on establishing its sense of world dominance.)

So the United States began secretly aiding China in its war with Japan. Supplies, munitions, arms. Eventually equipment like airplanes and tanks. The United States also provided military training to Chinese troops. Eventually, the U.S. even began, secretly, to form a military unit made up of Americans. This was a flying squadron that was formed in 1940 and early 1941. In April of 1941 (eight months before Pearl Harbor), President Roosevelt signed a secret order allowing American servicemen to resign their spots in the American military so they could volunteer to fight in China. About 300 Americans went in secret to China, with passports indicating they were teachers, so they could begin training to fly against the Japanese. This squadron would eventually come to be known by a name you probably recognize....the Flying Tigers.

Japan began to get wind of America’s secret involvement with China. Needless to say, they weren’t pleased, and this only served to create a sense of antagonism between the U.S. and Japan. Japan insisted the U.S. stop aiding China. The U.S. refused. In fact, the U.S. instituted an embargo on steel and oil against Japan, crippling their military industry.

Of course, all these actions on the part of the U.S. ultimately led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. involved itself in the Sino-Japanese war by supporting China with equipment, training, and personnel, and when Japan found out about it, the U.S. was belligerent about it and instituted an embargo.

One would almost suspect that the U.S. was trying to pick a fight.

Well, it worked, of course. Japan, realizing that Pearl Harbor was the base of operations for America’s support of China, devised a sneak attack, and brought the U.S. into World War II. And based on America’s actions leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, one must question whether this is not exactly what the United States wanted. When you take into account the very strong arguments that many historians have famously made in recent years about how the U.S. may actually have known the Pearl Harbor attack was coming, and chose not to stop it, an interesting picture begins to form.

The U.S. fears Japan will become a major world power, controlling east Asia and the Pacific Rim and threatening U.S. interests. They want to stop Japan, but don’t want to be viewed as the aggressors. So they begin secretly aiding China, with the knowledge that Japan will eventually find out. When Japan does find out, the U.S. does not back away, but instead steps up their antagonistic actions by instituting a major industrial embargo. They provoke Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, and even have prior knowledge of the attack, but choose not to stop it, because they know it will give them a clear in-road to all out war with Japan.

Such a scenario greatly alters the picture many people have of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Since Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were justified, right? But if you take the scenario painted above into account, you have a country (Japan) that was intentionally provoked into attacking the United States, and the United States allowed the attack to happen so that it could have all out war with Japan. Then, when Japan proved to be a tougher and more persistent foe than America anticipated, the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on two of their cities and slaughtered a quarter of a million civilians!

God bless America, indeed.

Perhaps this is conspiracy theory, and it didn’t happen exactly that way. Well, perhaps. But there is no question that the attack on Pearl Harbor was not the unprovoked, out-of-thin-air attack by an evil regime bent on world domination, against a sweetly innocent, unsuspecting target, as the U.S. schools and history books and propaganda machines have taught for 65 years.

Daily Update

Daily Update

Weight: 350

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Traveling Music, Neil Peart.

Currently Listening To: The Speed of Love, Rush.

Rush Lyric of the Day: We’re on the train to Bangkok. Aboard the Thailand Express.

Food Update: Had a really healthy dinner last night, two homemade fruit smoothies with no sugar added, and a bowl of brown rice. Then I ruined it all by going out at 9:30 and getting two double cheeseburgers and a medium fry from McDonald’s.

Writing Update: I’ve been working on three short stories recently, one of which I plan on serializing on my blog. I also have written a number of poems recently, including about five last night, and I will begin posting them soon on my blog.

Baseball Update: I’m going to see the Reds/White Sox game on Friday. It’s interleague play, and of course the White Sox are the reigning world champs. I decided just to splurge a bit and treat myself, so I bought a 60 dollar ticket. 9th row, right behind the Reds dugout, by first base. I can’t wait. I’m going by myself, but that’s no big deal. I’ll probably take my camera.

Today in History, June 13:

1625 – Charles I marries Henrietta Maria de Bourbon.

1774 – Rhode Island becomes the first American colony to ban the importation of slaves.

1777 – General Lafayette arrives in Charleston, South Carolina to help train American soldiers.

1920 – The United States Postal Service decrees that children may not be sent via parcel post. (It took them that long to decide that??)

1934 – Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet for the first time. Mussolini later calls Hitler a “silly little monkey.” But he wasn’t joking a few years later when he was hanging upside down with a bullet in his skull!

1944 – Germany deploys its new V1 guided missile against London, the first time a guided missile is used in combat.

1966 – The Supreme Court rules on the Miranda v. Arizona case, ruling that police officers must read a person his or her rights before arresting them.

1892 – Birth of Basil Rathbone, who would later have a retirement home in Evansville named after him.


Daily Update, Special Anniversary Edition

Weight: 225

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. This is my third foray into the works of DH Lawrence (previously I’ve read a collection of 4 novellas of his, as well as Lady Chatterly’s Lover). I love the authentic, gritty look at England in the early 20th century that Lawrence captures in his writings.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Traveling Music, Neil Peart.

Currently Listening To: Nothing at the moment.

Rush Lyric of the Day: Invisible to telescopic eye. Infinity, the star that would not die.

Weekend Update: Saw the Reds play the Cubs Saturday on a drizzly, freezing-ass cold rainy night in Cincinnati. Our seats were literally at the very top row and I had a jacket on and was still cold (54 degrees game time temp). We could look through the grating behind us and see the city. The view across to Kentucky was nice too. And we could even almost see the field! Actually, the view is not that bad, even from way up there. The Cubs won, scoring all 4 of their runs on a grand slam by Dad’s newest favorite baseball player, Michael Barrett.

Food Update: No time for breakfast this morning. Ate beef for the first time in 10 or 15 days on Saturday when we had burgers at Byrdwell’s house. Beans and rice for dinner last night.

Today in History, June 12:

1924 – Birth of George H.W. Bush.

1930 – Birth of Jim Nabors (back home agaaaaain, in Indiaaaaaaana....)

1935 – Huey Long delivers the longest Senate speech on record, at 15.5 hours.

1939 – The baseball hall of fame is dedicated at Cooperstown, New York.

1942 – Anne Frank receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday.

1964 – Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison.

1967 – All bans on interracial marriages are deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

1970 – Byron Christmas loses his virginity. Sonja Christmas....doesn't.

1978 – David Berkowitz is sentenced to 365 years in prison for the Son of Sam killings.

1987 – Ronald McReagan utters his famous challenge to Gorbechev – “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall!”

1994 – An Unknown Assailant* murders Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

1997 – Interleague play begins for the first time in baseball history.

*OJ Simpson

Daily Update, June 9, 2006

Weight: 220

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Traveling Music, Neil Peart

Currently Listening To: Sing It Pretty Sue, Johnny Cash

Rush Lyric of the Day: Everybody got to deviate from the norm.

Food Update: No red meat since late Monday night. I’ve had turkey for lunch the last two days. Had some chips and a fruit smoothie for dinner last night. Strangely, I’m not that hungry today, despite not really having a valid dinner, and I also skipped breakfast because I didn’t have time this morning.

Weekend Update: Going to Louisville tomorrow to hang out with a friend. Originally it was to be me, Jeff, Reid, and Byrdwell, but both Jeff and Reid have had to back out for various reasons, so now it’s just me and Byrdwell. We are hanging out at Byrdwell’s house in Louisville, then heading up to Cincinnati for the Reds/Cubs game. Maddux is pitching tonight, so I’ll miss seeing him by 1 day. I’ll have to settle for Zambrano v. Claussen. Reds are in 1st place after their win last night....8th win in a row.

Today in History, June 9:

62 – Claudia Octavia, wife of Nero, is executed at Nero’s orders.

68 – Nero commits suicide to avoid the death penalty, which had been imposed upon him by the Senate after deposing him.

597 – Death of St. Columba, patron saint of Ireland. (This is another one of those weird coincidences I have occasionally while doing these Daily Updates. Earlier today, I was looking up the lyrics to the Cranberries’ song “Yeats’ Grave.” I failed to include the word “lyrics” on my search, so I ended up with a website detailing various grave locations in Ireland. Part of the information I read on the page was about a monument to St. Columba, who I had never heard of. Then, later, I’m doing my Daily Update, and I find out today is the anniversary of St. Columba’s death.)

1865 – Charles Dickens is traveling with his mistress on a train, and while crossing a bridge, the train derails and the first six cars go over, crashing into the river below. The only first class car that stayed on the track is the one Dickens was in.

1870 – Death of Charles Dickens by a stroke.

1935 – Bob Smith has his last drink of alcohol before founding Alcoholics Anonymous.

1954 – Joseph Welch famously derides Joseph McCarthy in the Senate by saying, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

1973 – Secretariat wins the Triple Crown, taking the Belmont by a record 31 lengths.


Daily Update, June 7, 2006

Weight: 220 (according to the doctor yesterday)

Currently Reading (fiction): Valhalla Rising, Clive Cussler. His last four or five books are getting steadily more outrageous, more formulaic, and more totally overdramatic. They have all basically had the same plot....twisted, evil, murderous corporate bigwig worth countless billions of dollars, bribing half of Washington into his back pocket, and working on a nefarious economic scheme to take over the world, and ultimately foiled by those pesky but loveable marine engineers from NUMA, Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, both of whom escape certain death at least a dozen times per book.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Traveling Music, Neil Peart. A must read for anyone who lived through the 50's and 60's music scene.

Currently Listening To: Floridays, Jimmy Buffett

Rush Lyric of the Day: I was only a kid, on a holy crusade, I placed no trust in a faith that was ready-made.

Food Update: Oatmeal with blueberries and flaxseed meal for breakfast, green tea, decaf earl grey, two turkey sandwiches for lunch (sans cheese since I was sick yesterday and the doc told me to lay off dairy for a few days), and some Triscuits.

6/6/06 Update: 666 was not good to me, as I was up half the night with "stomach issues" (if ya know what I mean), and had to miss work. On a positive note, Roger Clemens brought Lexington a lot of publicity by pitching 3 innings for the Lexington Legends as he prepares to pitch for the Astros again starting in late June. My friend Jeff was supposed to be at the game, but his wife ended up going into labor 3 weeks earlier, and they had their baby yesterday (meaning it was born on 6/6/06).

Today in History, June 7:

1099: The Siege of Jerusalem begins during the First Crusade.

1329: Death of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.

1494: Spain and Portugal sign a treaty effectively splitting the New World between them.

1654: Louis XIV is crowned King of France. He names his palace after a picturesque town in central Kentucky called Versailles (pronounced "Vur-sales").

1896: Birth of Douglas Campbell, the first American flying for an American unit to become and Ace in World War I.

1917: During World War I, allied troops detonate a series of trench mines underneath German trenches, killing 10,000 German soldiers.

1942: The Japanese invade and occupy Attu Island in Alaska's Aluetian island chain. They stayed for only a few days, with the commander stating, "Well I'll be goddamned! You mean to tell me we're on some remote, ice-covered island in Alaska? We thought this was Seattle!"

1982: Graceland is opened to the public. Elvis is forced to move to Las Vegas.

1998: In Texas, James Byrd, a black man, is dragged to death behind a pick-up truck by a group of white men. Governor George Bush calls Byrd's death a "warning to negro insurgents."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Man In Black


Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.




I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,



I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.




I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.






Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,




But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.



I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,






I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.



And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,

I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.



Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.




Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,


'Till things are brighter,
I'm the Man In Black.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Welcome to Amerika

The husband of one of my mother's employees was driving in Houston in his work truck the other day. He is Latino by ancestry, but was born and raised in the United States. The Immigration Department pulled him over and demanded to see his I.D. and social security card. When he produced it, they proceeded to hassle him over it and tell him it was faked.

Welcome to Germany, 1938.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Prayerful Misconceptions

Growing up, I remember being under the impression that in order for a prayer to "count" or to be "heard by God," one had to say "Amen" at the end of the prayer. I had no idea what this word meant, but I knew that it was necessary to close out your prayer. Indeed, no one in church, even to this day, prays without saying "Amen" at the end. I always understood the necessity of Amen having been commanded by Jesus in the Lord's Prayer.

This prayer is found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. In these chapters, Jesus is teaching his disciples about how to pray. He commands them first not to pray in public, or with flowery speech like the hypocrites do, but to pray in secret. He then goes on to say:

"When you pray, pray like this: Our father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

In Luke's version, that's where the prayer ends. But in Matthew's version, we find an additional statement at the end of the prayer..."For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen."

Curiously enough, I recently discovered, by the footnote in the biblical text, that this phrase is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew. Like so many other things in the Gospels, it was a later addition to the text. So that, coupled with the fact that the phrase doesn't appear at all in Luke's account, is a strong implication that it wasn't part of Jesus's original teaching. Thus, Jesus never taught his followers to give the now customary laudatory homily at the end of their prayers, nor to say "Amen."

This may not seem terribly important, and indeed it's probably not. But for someone who grew up with the concept that prayers literally weren't valid unless they had "Amen" at the end (a belief born entirely from Jesus's commandment on how to pray in the Lord's Prayer), this discovery really had an impact on me.

So much of what we take at face value regarding the bible isn't even historically reliable. We assume the bible is the inspired, unedited, infallible Word of God. We make this assumption because it serves our emotional needs. But what we want to be true is not always the same as what is true. The fact is, the bible has been edited, re-edited, transcribed, and re-transcribed a thousand times. Things have been added, taken away, and altered. Anyone who abides by a Christian philosophy that does not take these facts into account, is guilty of shallow faith at best, and willful idolatry at worst.

Monday, Monday

Everyone knows Mondays suck, and it's universally accepted (at least, among working stiffs) that Monday is the worst day of the week. I discovered, when I was happily unemployed for six months, that Mondays can actually be the best day of the week. When I wasn't working, there was nothing I liked better than rising early on Monday morning (particularly on Monday mornings like this one, where the sun is shining bright in a clear, June sky), getting showered, and then getting outside to water the garden, or retreating to the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. I think knowing that everyone else was enduring another miserable Monday was a large part of why I enjoyed Monday mornings so much. For a short few months, anyway, I was able to live like a rich person or a retired person, at least in terms of my daily routines. Would have been nice to have a yacht and an indoor pool to go with it, though.

In addition to more poems, I'm planning on doing a serialized short story on this site. I've already got a story started that I think will be a good one to serialize, so expect to see it posted in the near future. Once I get the first offering up, I'll probably post a new section about once a week.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A New Poem

natural awe

the world is green around me
and i hear the gentle whisper
of the wind in the leaves

it speaks to me –
telling me to
watch and listen

watch

listen

the cricket’s music
is a sort of
basso continuo
to the trilling birdsong
the hoot of the owl
and the scampering claws of the squirrel

an old railroad track winds through
the undulating countryside into the distance
veiled behind lush foliage growing
along the accompanying ditches

the setting sun is a
vast pregnant orange globe
on the purple horizon
golden light streaming through
tender leafy boughs

a great winged bird soars
high overhead
outstretched wings limned
against the pristine blue sky

the yellow-bellied woodpecker
performs a drum roll
for the purple martin alighting on a
nearby fence post
while barn swallows and field sparrows
dart and play among the trees

a mallard launches itself from the
surface of a small reed-fringed pond –
its wings beating fury into the air
as it skims the sprouts and stalks rising up
from the murky green water

all this i stand within –
woven into this tapestry of life

watching
listening

overcome not by the beauty of it
but by the fact that it exists at all

Serene Musings Books of the Year, 2005-2015