Fear Unites Us

I lived in Berkeley for about twenty-five years.  I loved my neighborhood.  Gorgeous older Berkeley brown shingles one block away from a commercial area with top-notch restaurants, bakeries and cafes.  Years ago we organized and got from the large hospital near by, two pocket parks.  This is what we do in California, if you want to expand or develop, you have to give to the community you will impact something.  We had a block party from time to time and for a few years we did a fantastic holiday progressive dinner.

With the advent of modern communications, we created a yahoo group.  For years, the yahoo group served one and only purpose.  A noble purpose, reminding the various blocks of street cleaning days.  It was a better solution to knocking on doors in panic before Officer Lovely, yes Lovely, ticketed your car.  I moved away two years ago and now it seems like the neighborhood blog has become the vortex of panic, fear and hysteria.

  • Man walking down the street.
  • Meat found behind a bush.
  • Stolen cushions from front porch.  (We all had cushions, I had chairs stolen.  There was no posting on a blog filled with panic.) :

A thief came on to the porch  and stole the nice bench cushions which fitted my  park style bench. The cushions cost me $90.
The porch is at the corner of ________ and __________.  Now I am concerned that the thief may return for the  iron and wooden bench. Tues night is when can collectors are collecting  between ____________ and _________, before the Oakland trash pickup Wed morning. I often leave my porch light on at night, but the light was off when the cushions were stolen.

  • Mountain lions was the panic today.  Up in the hills, there are mountain lions.  “Carcasses were found” .  There have always been mountain lions on the Berkeley hills.

Of course this is not on tenth as bas as my friends neighborhood blog.  This neighborhood is younger, hipper.  They don’t just share fear and panic.  They seek advice.

“My toilet is plugged, what do I do”.

“I need swimming lessons for my kid, it has to be an Olympic size pool, with parking, reasonable, within five miles of downtown and fourteen miles of the house.

” Did you see that truck go down ______________?

” We should buy the nice little grocer a gift, let’s put the Yemeni flag on the bench in front of his store”.

Outrages abound:  “people walking dogs putting wrapped dog poop in their garbage cans”.

“Last night I was walking my dog and a cat jumped out from some bushes
and tried to attack my dog and when I got in the middle to get it away
– it went after me and scratched my ankle. It was dark so I don’t
really have a description of the cat. This is just a heads up.

Nice sentiment on the flag, but I think the guy does not want to be a target for anti-Arab sentiments.

I should not talk cause I chit-chat a great deal on the internet with friends and acquaintances.  I find it a great place to laugh and talk politics, I avoid fear and panic.  Some how, when one writes down their fears and panics, it gives everything such urgency and importance.  Some people enjoy terrorizing others with hysterical stories.  We all have a relative who is committed to giving you the bad news: sickness, death, unemployment, accident reports.

Then we have the bloggers who will warn us about predators, scammers, tricksters.  Some of them, are peddling fear, fear is a great industry of security products.  The more stories on fear, the more we demand for security from our local governments.  ” Look, we need this, it’s all over, the internet”.  Beyond normal panic circles, when you see bloggers who thrive on fear, do yourself a favor and follow their links.  In those links, you will find some interesting fear mongering that leads to whirling around the fear vortex.  When we enter the fear vortex, we stop thinking.  Well, actually we give up our thinking to the fear vortex grinders.

Remember last time, we went to war against the wrong country.


La Niña

La Niña is this year’s weather pattern from the Pacific.  Usually not much rain, so it gets colder in the mornings.  But for some reason, this Niña, brought a lot of rain.

A forgotten artichoke

Olive Tree filled with olives

I could have been useful and done something with the olives. The process is complex and it involves lye, I get scared of things like lye.  Next year.

Frosted Oregano


Frosted Parsley

The parsley is gorgeous this year.  I finally found the right bed.  I hate buying parsley.  Winter Greek and Arabic food, uses loads of parsley.

Bay Leaf and thyme

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  They all thrive in the winter California garden.


Garden gnome doing his work.

Unlike the gnome, I dropped the ball, no cabbages this year, but we did get some greens and broccoli.  The garlic is not planted yet, but I have time.  December was way too wet.

A Year Late: Avatar

I watch movies about a year after they come out.  Finally, I watched Avatar.  Yes, it was not 3-D just on my HD tv.  They said this was different from other action movies.  That it had meaning, there was a message for the downtrodden.  Frankly, it was the same tired message.  Only an American can save the others.  You see, Americans are bad and they try to kill the others, but an American, and only an American, will save them.

The others are always helpless and dim.  The Americans, who ruined their world, will send a guy, who takes on their form, but with American gusto, and this American hybrid of the other will save them.  Women, of the others, will of course fall for the sexual prowess and charm of the American, and look down on their men.  The alpha male of the others, usually pales to the machismo of the super American male sex machine.  Gee, do you think American males have a super sized ego?

It’s this conflicted notion Americans have, we want to be the boss of the world, but don’t hate us, cause we are really nice, sexy and at heart, we are like you.  American exceptionalism has a caveat, that we don’t dare talk about: “We will kick your butt, own you, but you must like us”.

Avatar, is just another fantasy of a limp Hollywood era.  An era that can only produce massive war scenes, with that American super hero smirk and high-five.  The obligatory revenge scene, killing the bad guy, over and over and over again.  The imagery is that of the mechanistic dinosaur with a smattering of a feminine jelly fish to make us see a softer universe.

Fantasy is fine, when limited to say the age of fourteen, but when the culture dives into the phantasmic imagery that is numbing and limits human interaction to a primitive good vs. bad narrative, we end up with a society where most people cannot discern complexity, cannot abide by complexity and it’s ambivalence.  Human society and interaction is complex, yet our popular culture, our stories, our common threads, reduce it to a clear cut good vs. bad scenario.  In the end, we are only practiced at such childish understanding of the world.

Of course, we throw in some women in the mix.  We don’t want the little girls to be left out of this simplistic world view.  They can shoot guns, kill, and fight, why not.

It is basically unbearable to watch a Hollywood movies these days.  It’s predictable, simplistic and audience focused to oblivion.  Somewhere along the way, even James Bond became a mechanical fighting machine capable of super stunt powers.  We used to malign television, yet television now is the only place where we can find some complexity in our popular culture.

Imagine a movie about real occupations, say in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.  No, wait, the good bad guy duality is not that simplistic.  Hollywood would have to challenge the audience and the audience would have to get out of the infantilism of the phantasmic.  So, don’t you all worry your pretty heads, complexity is overrated.

Levantine and Greek Christmas Sounds

Christmas is truly dominated by western European and American sounds.  Yet, Christmas is celebrated in countries that do not have the western European musical roots.

First is an Arabic Nativity hymn, sung by a reader in Canada.  It’s long, but where you think the sounds are foreign and from another religion, you realize that he is singing probably the way they sang around the time of the real Nativity.  I am not a religious person by nature, nor one of those that say: ” Keep Christmas pure”, but I find this voice evocative of the three magi, following the star.  This is one side of my family.

“Erourem, erourem…”

I don’t know what it means.  Although it’s not the most famous of Greek Christmas songs, it is my favorite.  It makes me happy and want to dance the syrtos.

This is the typical Greek carol, sang door to door with a triangle.  This particular version is a group of young musicians on Ermou, the big retail street in Athens.  They are singing in the style of a famous Greek singer Kazantzidis.

The poor Europeans tried to Europeanize us, but alas, we are what we are and we do have some great sounds.

Blue Xmas, (To Whom It May Concern), Best Anti Christmas Rant

Miles Davis composed the perfect anti Christmas rant back in 1962.  Perfect for all those who, what shall I say, don’t quite get into the Christmas groove.  For those who want to toss the whole thing out the window.  I don’t like the commercialization, but a few years ago, I took my Christmas off the commercial grid.  Oh, I say it was about ten years now.  Have not looked back.  I just don’t buy gifts for anyone but my children.

Enjoy one of my favorite Christmas songs, the one that upsets guests in more ways than one.  Cannot embed, so here is the link

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
you see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
and plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It’s a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy
Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Bitter gall…….Fal-de-ral

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it bleed

I have read quite a few anti Christmas rants and none compare to this version.  So, unless you can top it with music and lyrics, I suggest you join us December do-gooders with grins.

* Bob Dorough,  was one of the many contributing vocalists and writers for Schoolhouse Rock.

The video has scenes from Athens, I just love the mash- up that is the internet.

Two Christmas Carols

You will never hear these carols playing in the mall, or in the elevator.  Tony Bennet, Dolly Pardon and I am sure that Pat Boone nor the Chipmunks,  never sang a version of either one.  Who sang the Christmas Tree Carol and Soalin?  Well, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, my ex-husband and many other folk singers. Both songs capture two qualities of Christmas:  the rather unspoken bothersome aspect of the Immaculate Conception, and the true reason for giving, it’s winter and people are going hungry (not the magi).   One deals with the rather untold bothersome aspect of the Immaculate Conception, the other is about giving.   Sorry, no reindeer in either one.

The Christmas Tree Carol

The story of the carol, according to Wikipedia,(by the way did you make a contribution for this year yet) is from the apocryphal gospels.  You see, there was a whole side of the baby and child Jesus that was rather suppressed.  It was a playful and a rather pesky side that really upset those in authority.  Imagine being the Christ child with all these powers, of course you got to use them from time to time.  The adopted gospels, the ones we know of, exclude the passages that portrayed Christ as a pesky child.

This is an English carol from the 1400’s, usually played on Corpus Christi, the feast celebrating the eucharist.  As Joseph and Mary were going to Bethlehem for the census, they walked through a cherry orchard, now this is the point where the whole Christmas in December would fall apart, cherries blossom in the spring, early spring.  So, it could be that the tree was a palm tree with dates, there are gorgeous dates in the Holy Lands.

The song is thought to be a combination of three different carols and is based on the Gospel of Pseudo Mathew, Chapter 20.

First, I think the melody is magical.  Particularly when sung by a man accompanied by a guitar.  My ex-husband I still think had the best rendition.  He would sing it always at Christmas before we had children and after we had children.  But, the Chad Mitchell Trio version is second best.   Here is a simple version, sung by a group of nuns.  I prefer the amateur versions.  Sting, Judy Collins and Joan Baez have versions, but I don’t quite like them as much as the simple version of the a capella voices.

Here are the lyrics:

54A.1	JOSEPH was an old man,
	and an old man was he,
	When he wedded Mary,
	in the land of Galilee.
54A.2	Joseph and Mary walked
	through an orchard good,
	Where was cherries and berries,
	so red as any blood.
54A.3	Joseph and Mary walked
	through an orchard green,
	Where was berries and cherries,
	as thick as might be seen.
54A.4	O then bespoke Mary,
	so meek and so mild:
	‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
	for I am with child.’
54A.5	O then bespoke Joseph,
	with words most unkind:
	‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
	that brought thee with child.’
54A.6	O then bespoke the babe,
	within his mother’s womb:
	‘Bow down then the tallest tree,
	for my mother to have some.’
54A.7	Then bowed down the highest tree
	unto his mother’s hand;
	Then she cried, See, Joseph,
	I have cherries at command.
54A.8	O then bespake Joseph:
	‘I have done Mary wrong;
	But cheer up, my dearest,
	and be not cast down.’
54A.9	Then Mary plucked a cherry,
	as red as the blood,
	Then Mary went home
	with her heavy load.
54A.10	Then Mary took her babe,
	and sat him on her knee,
	Saying, My dear son, tell me
	what this world will be.
54A.11	‘O I shall be as dead, mother,
	as the stones in the wall;
	O the stones in the streets, mother,
	shall mourn for me all.
54A.12	‘Upon Easter-day, mother,
	my uprising shall be;
	O the sun and the moon, mother,
	shall both rise with me.’

Joseph, was rather peeved at Mary, something we do not encounter in other stories of Christmas.  He tells her, “heh, let the father of the baby get you the cherries”.  Then baby Jesus, in the womb, orders the tree to bow down.  I find this fascinating.  First, the humanity of Joseph, then the Mary getting her side protected by the super powers of the baby.  Take that Joseph.  I am sure there was lots of talk and chatter.  After all, Joseph, the song tells us, was an old man, and Mary was young.


I think originally Soalin was for All Souls day, sort of a trick or treating song.    A traditional song, arranged  to Paul Stookey, of Peter Paul and Mary.   I particularly love the chorus. It could also be from the Celtic tradition of making cakes for the dead for the new year.  This song captures the idea of sharing your food in winter time.  Those who had cellars to keep foods, would be beseeched via song to share a bit of the treasures from the spring and summer.

Hey ho, nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none

Yet shall we be merry, hey ho, nobody home.

Hey ho, nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none

Yet shall we be merry, hey ho, nobody home.

Hey ho, nobody home.


Soul, a soul, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.

An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,

any good thing to make us all merry,

One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.

God bless the master of this house, and the mistress also

And all the little children that round your table grow.

The cattle in your stable and the dog by your front door

And all that dwell within your gates

we wish you ten times more.

Chorus (1x)

Go down into the cellar and see what you can find

If the barrels are not empty we hope you will be kind.

We hope you will be kind with your apple and strawber’

For we’ll come no more a ‘soulin’ till this time next year.

Chorus (1x)

The streets are very dirty,

my shoes are very thin.

I have a little pocket to put a penny in.

If you haven’t got a penny, a halve penny will do.

If you haven’t got a halve penny then God bless you.

Chorus (1x)

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace.

This holy tide of Christmas of beauty and of grace,

Oh tidings of comfort and joy.



Excuse me while I go back to my Burl Ives, Christmas collection.  He was a dastardly right winger, but he does have a great CD.

By the way, Christmasreviews.com, is the go to site for all your Christmas CD wishes.



Who are you calling anonymous?

Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese poet, drawed.

Image via Wikipedia

Nom de Blog,  is Nom de Plume , pen name, or pseudonym, updated.

A Nom de Blog is not anonymous.   Pseudonyms are not an internet invention, I do realize that we think we invented everything in the last ten years, but it’s simply not true.

Anonymous: has no name.  Anonymous has no identity.  Blaming anonymous for the ills of the internet, is a whole other issue.  Anonymous on the internet is a matter for a long discussion.  A blogger with a nom de blog is not anonymous.  A blogger with a body of work that spans a number of years using a pseudonym is less anonymous at times than a real name with undisclosed motives.  Not all bloggers want to migrate to the print medium, or to be professional writers.

Is the blogger’s voice authentic?   Or is this a voice that is constructed for various reasons, artistic or professional?  Is the voice simply you?   Small blogging communities give the delusion that you have encountered a group of “yous”.   A group of people expressing their voice in a communal fashion is the delusion.  In truth, there are many styles and motives for blogging and they each serve the blogger.

One of my favorite poets,  Fernando Pessoa , created heteronyms. Heteronyms are  entire different poets that he created, with unique histories and styles.   Pessoa puts the kabash to the notion of  a one true inner self.   This self, is always evolving, changing and challenging us.  The day you find that one complete being in you, is the day you are dead.  You are done.  Completed.  Finished.  It is rather a scary notion to imagine that we each have one complete person and we have to spend our life looking for that person.

Part of blogging, is the ability to put out the ever evolving you.  To have portions of the ever changing you as a public record.  Other than the published authors, we really never had a chance of putting thoughts in a semi fixed state as a record of our thinking.

Writers, use the tradition of writing as an artistic expression, they hone their craft and will get paid.   Publishers, commodified the writers product into a book, article, play, screen play , just some of the examples.    This product usually has a value and is protected by the rules of intangible property, copy rights.  So, basically in or about the nineteenth century, the rules of intangible property, music, words etc, were codified.  Yet, many of us act as if it these rules were always with us.

Of course we want to see artists get compensated for their work.  Of course we want them to make their living from their creative expression get a just compensation.  Yes writers get paid.  The fact that they get paid, does not give them some inherent virtue.  Neither does the fact that most people  “write” devalue the craft of writing.

A blogger like me,  is just the expression of my thoughts and ideas using writing.  My voice, with a nom de blog.   A nom de blog comes with character and personality.  Values and a voice.  It is not set of bits and bytes flowing with no direction in the ether.   There are no simple binaries, bloggers, or writers.  Actually, it is mass confusion just because “writing” is involved, that there is somehow some conspiracy to abscond with the writers craft and trade.  Writing is the tool, how you use it and what you do with it is not limited to one set of people.

Sorry, the surgeon analogy does not work.  No, we all cannot be surgeons and we should not be allowed to use the surgeons tools, but language and the use of language is a basic human quality that you cannot limit to a profession.

There is something about the printed word that seems permanent, fixed and finished.  Whereas the digital words of blogging, have an ephemeral quality.  They may be read in the future, they may even be never read by another human when they are written, the blog is just available to the click.   The luck of the click.  It’s like singing in the wind.  You take a risk.  A writers needs to capture and protect her words, a blogger is willing to express, project and live with the contradictions.

A book involves an industry.  People who figure out if there is a market for what you write.  People who invest in you.  People who trade in you and a whole set of rules that govern the use and ownership of these words.

Of course, there are mechanical aspects to writing and language, but we must realize that these mechanics come with a trunk full of norms that have served and have oppressed  human expression.

Accept that the medium is ever evolving and forcing the practices of the printed medium is a disservice. Writers will write.  Bloggers will blog.  Some writers we will like, same goes with bloggers.  Some want to make their living blogging, or writing, many will not.  Neither choice has an inherent higher value.


By Fernando Pessoa

The poet is an inventor.
He invents so completely
That he succeeds in inventing
That the pain he really feels is pain.

And those who read what he writes
Really feel in the pain they have read,
Not the two which he felt,
But only the one they do not have.

And thus in the wheel ruts
There goes round and round, diverting Reason
That clockwork toy train
Which is called heart.

—F.E.G. Quintanilha (translation)



When A Friend Sends A Poem



From Boston, my friend sent me a poem,  she thought I might like it.  She did not know, that I needed it today.  I lost a dear friend and comrade in so many struggles.  His life ended, but his fight and his spirit will continue in all the work the rest of us will continue.

I wish you peace my friend.  You will always be in so many hearts, minds and souls in San Francisco.  .  Thank you.


As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Woods

by Walt Whitman

As toilsome I wander’d Virginia’s woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kick’d by my feet, (for ’twas autumn,)
I mark’d at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat, (easily all I could understand,)
The halt of a midday hour, when up! no time to lose–yet this sign left,
On a tablet scrawl’d and nail’d on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

Long, long I muse, then on my way go wandering,
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life,
Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or in the crowded street,
Comes before me the unknown soldier’s grave, come the inscription rude in Virginia’s woods.
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

Election Day: When things look bad for your side.

Wake up and make yourself a great cup of coffee.  Don’t read any stories on the election.  Don’t turn on the radio.  If you voted, fine you are done.  If you volunteered to get the vote out, good for you and get going.  If you voted absentee, if you did not mail it days ago, you have to hand deliver, it’s not postmarked by November 2 like taxes, it has to be delivered by poll closing time to the Registrar.

Superstition and Glimmers of Hope

Now, start with interpreting omens:  The Giants won the World Series, a rag-tag band of misfits.  You can take that two ways, that all the pundits were wrong, or that the rag-tag Tea Partiers will win.  No, I will take they beat the George Bush team and all the “baseball experts were wrong”.  So, I keep some glimmer of hope.

The Giants win also means good times for California, so I think that Fiorina, Whitman, Maldonado and all other Republicans will lose.

Passive diversion:

Start watching HGTV, Bridezillas and Real Housewife episodes back to back.  Or, if you are more cultured watch Golden Girls and Andy Griffith episodes all day and past the time of the election results.  For the really, really cultured ones, start watching the Wire, or some other elitist series you were meaning to watch.  This technique works really well, it’s mind numbing, you lose connection with the space-time continuum and you actually did not hurt yourself or anyone else.

If you are a high achieving, super-duper organized person, I recommend this tactic.  It will feel like a vacation.

Active Diversion:

Take on at least one thing you meant to do all year:  clean the shower grout and the cracks in the garage; prepare your garden for winter; get started on the taxes; organize all your print pictures; organize your digital pictures;  clean your closet, wash and iron all your bed linens; copy all the addresses and phone numbers to your computer; send thank you notes to people who gave you gifts; go to Amazon and review all the books you read or at the Application store, review the apps you bought; take out you winter clothes and freshen them.

Rules: It has to be something that does not involve shopping and that will make you feel good when it’s done.  So each time you think that the Corporatist Supremacists took over the country, you can say, but heck, I finally did that thing.  I tell you, it takes the edge away.    Just as you start clenching your jaw and your fists, the fact that you ticked off one thing from the list that is never done, will save the day.

I recommend this for slackers, you will feel so good, that it will make you walk on air.  You will have achieved two things, gone counter to your tendencies and actually, done something that even your super achieving friends have not even done.

Tomorrow, this all means war!

Halloween: A Table with all the Irrational Nonsense

Before you go around scaring yourself and your children, here is a great chart of all the “The Periodic Table Of Irrational Nonsense”.  To get the full interactive experience, go to the link, get a cup of coffee and prepare to snort coffee on your computer screen:

From Science Reason and Critical Thinking Blogspot

What is great about this chart, it gathers together all the “woo, woo” elements of the world and organizes them by blocks and easy to understand categories.  Each “element” has a symbol, a woo number and a name.  There are four blocks: Fruit Loop Block, Credulous block, delusion block and quack block.  Quack block is divided into “Traditional bollocks and New Age Bollocks”.

For example :  Rg is past life regression, “planting false memories into people’s brains for a bit of a laugh”

Not since National Lampoon‘s map of the world, have I had so much fun.  You may remember, Fjord Mustang, in Hawaii Komon-i-wanna-lay you, just some examples.  If Google Earth could only put that up again in an interactive form, I would be satisfied.

It’s often times ok to deride organized religion and give all the spiritual,  modern day quackery and anything from Asia a pass, I say, have a laugh on all of them particularly now that it’s Halloween time.