Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emin and Adnan In Prison

So the verdict is in.
Emin and Adnan are officially hooligans.
At a loss here on what to say.
Supposedly social media had a role in putting them behind bars, a role in getting the word out on the street about the injustice but was unable to change the minds of the corrupt Azerbaijan legal system.
Dont mess with Ilham.
I dont mean to be flippant about this. These guys are going through some serious life changing heart breaking times right now. My thoughts are with their families and them.
Here is a link to an article that details more as I'm left with little to say:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poetic Social Mission

Last week Cirque Du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte traveled into space in order to bring attention to environmental issues. He was just one part of a huge international performance. You can watch the entire show here: This event is a beautiful example of the power of collaboration on a global level. And there was a clown in space. Whaaaaat?!?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Glenn Beck. My hero. Ahem

So, now, in some strange way....this guy...I have some weird fascination with him. I think its the clown in me. You can see it in his eyes. He's like a little six year old that just slapped the dog and everyone around is laughing. He's realized that people want to watch his train wreck show because it is in essence a train wreck. He's like a big dumb six year old. Sigggghhhhh.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just clownin around!

Went to the National Equality March yesterday downtown DC. Whattablast! So many people. Such great reactions to the clowning.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hero and Still a Babe

This is pretty great.
It's also interesting to note that she's in better shape than atleast one of those porkers out there drowning in the water.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Webb: U.S. Central Command Commits to Independent Investigation into the Battle of Wanat


For Immediate Release:
Contact: Jessica Smith-202-228-5185
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Webb: U.S. Central Command Commits to Independent
Investigation into the Battle of Wanat
Senator called for examination of actions taken at
each level of the chain of command

Washington, DC - Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) announced today that the U.S. Central Command will investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the combat action that occurred July 13, 2008, at Wanat Village in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province. On July 9, 2009, Senator Webb called for an investigation into the engagement which resulted in a 75 percent casualty rate for the 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (CJTF-101).

According to the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus has appointed Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, to lead the investigation which “will address issues that have arisen since the completion of an earlier Army investigation and also address circumstances beyond the tactical level.”

Senator Webb responded: “Nearly three months ago, I wrote to the Department of Defense inspector general to request an independent examination of the actions taken at each level of the chain of command during the Battle of Wanat. This battle resulted in the deaths of nine soldiers and the wounding of an additional 27. Allegations of negligence at senior levels in the chain of command were brought to my attention. It is important that they be addressed.

“For these reasons, a more thorough and independent investigation is necessary to establish the facts, resolve any question of command accountability, and determine if there are lessons for future operations in Afghanistan. We owe the families of those killed and wounded nothing less.”

A copy of Senator Webb’s July 9, 2009, letter to the Department of Defense inspector general may be found at

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Moroccan Ride

I've been busy catching up. I did want to share a few stories from Morocco.
Maybe I'll just share my favorite. Its called: "The little effeminate performance artist that rightfully stole $12 from me."
This was at the Djeema Al Fna, the crazy cirque square in Marrakesh where you can find snake charmers, monkeys, bands, palm readers, henna ladies, fresh squeezed OJ, snails. Oh. What a place. This was our last stop in Morocoo and we stopped by a large crowd of people where a thin little man with dark leathery skin was popping his hips from left to right as the crowd cheered. Apparently dancing like a woman when you're a man is a freak show in Marrakesh. Up there with snakes and monkeys.
Anyways, I loved it. A little Moroccan man nearly nude dancing around. I was watching him smiling and he sidled up to me asking for money. The crowd turned and starred. Being a rich American who had just returned from the ATM all I had was 100 dirhams. He said, "I have change" (in English.) So I fished around in my pocket and dug out 100. Little did I know when I handed him the bill a) I'd never see it again b) I was the main attraction fo the night. Step right up, ladies and gentleman! Come see the stupid American who thinks she's getting her change back.
After the crowd broke out into applause, the little dancing man ran around in delight and I realized I was never seeing my "change," we all settled down for him to crawl under my legs and take a few pictures. That was one of the last exciting adventures in Morocco. Come to think of it, every other exciting adventure story also has a getting wripped off theme. Like the time we got a great deal on a hotel recommended in the Lonely Planet and the employees broke into our room and stole our camera. Or what about the time we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of the goats that live in trees only to realize the shepherd was hand placing the goats in the trees himself. The stories go on and on, just like the hills of the Sahara. Glad to be home. Had quite the trip.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

All in good fun

Just spent the past few weeks in Morocco on vacation. Ill write more with some pictures later. It was a wild time. I'm crazy busy at work trying to catch up but I loved this so much I had to post it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Jason --Even the Seattle Times Says You're a Hero

take ten minutes to read this if you want.
Army missteps left troops in Afghanistan open to deadly attack, study reveals
its a good article.
i love how it paints jason as the hero.
i guess in a lot of ways he was.
one part explains how "insurgents" dragged his body from the area
but a lot of the soldiers that were there said they're pretty sure he jumped out all rambo style.

i had a dream about him last night. we were under siege in a house and we jumped in a car to get away. and then it repeated and we had control over it and we were doing different things but different outcomes were happening. we had the power to learn from the past but once we made a new decision it changed the course of events and our power was then useless.

my mom, dad, sister, aunt and uncle and jason all jumped in a car to escape. he just seemed so chill about the whole thing like he was just silently watching all of us smiling and enjoying the ride. woke up to this article in my inbox.
CBS called my mom, they want to fly her out to DC to do a special news bit with her.

so many emotions here.
thanks for listening.
times like these i don't know what to do with this stuff.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vive El Burro!

This is for Emin and Adnan who are currently in jail in Azerbaijan for getting beat up. That's right. First they practiced their freedom of speech, then they got beat up for it. Then they got arrested for getting beat up.
Bu Azerbaycandir. (That's Azerbaijan for ya.)

Here's the story:
Emin and Adnan. They're two activists from Azerbaijan that were arrested a few weeks back and there is a big activist push going on online. One feature is a website that posts support videos with people saying, "we support you guys, az gov't let 'em go."
That's what we did up there.

For more details, here is an article about the guys that Global Voices Online superstar blogger Onnik Krikorian wrote.

Oh and best of all:
Here's the video that got them arrested, hence Justin's ironic comment, "Vive El Burro."

More Evidence of a Corrupt Military Operation

The Battle of Wanat was evidence of a larger major counterinsurgence failure...not sure how to feel about that. Angry. Sad. Confused. Definitely not suprised. Foreign Policy Magazine's recent report pffers some sober details:

I flew out to Seattle to spend some time with family on July 13th. It sucked. I loved seeing everyone but it was really freaking intensely painful. So depressing it reverberated out into my life for the past few weeks. I am torn now between two paths where I want to honor Jason's courage and bravery and let sleeping dogs lie and the other path of wanting to hold people accountable for their dumb decisions. The thought that these guys shouldn't have died is...such a hard one to deal with. Because reality argues otherwise. Reality argues that they should have died, because they are dead. So arguing with that creates a massive hell storm in my life. However reality does not prove that I should not be investigating and raising a fuss about what happened. Reality does not dictate if the senior military officials who made these STUPID decision should continue to make more stupid decisions. And if I can do anything to change the course of the future and make sure these stupid decisions don't happen again, then I should probably call Senator Webb's office today. In the meantime, how do I go on with the confusion between respecting reality and working to influence the outcome of the future. A strange mix.

And in addition to all this, my little nephew Isaac Jason Martindale is the joy of our lives. Here's video of him from earlier this month that I made:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Down the aisle dance video

Oh. Ugh. So sweet. It made me cry!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Something to Write About

I wrote to my Senator today.
I also wrote to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General.
If some good came out of Jason dying with eight other boys, its that the collective unit of people grieving together is larger than most. And that's really the extent of the good that came out of Jason dying with eight other boys that I care to think about.
One of the boys Jonathan Brostrom's father Dave Brostrom is an ex military man and also a very sharp engaged man. He is the one who called for the review of the events that led to the July 13th attack and is continuing to pressure the military to learn from their mistakes. So far, not much has happened in terms of policy changes surrounding the way those boys were basically thrown into a lion's den.

The line between blame and action is a thin one and all of the surviving family members who choose to get involved skate this line as well as the line between healing the wounds and rehashing them so that they come gushing open and overwhelming our lives. It is good that this is happening only now. It has been nearly one year and I am able to process this in a somewhat rational way. If it had been any earlier, I don't know that I would have been able to.
I've written to Senator Webb and the DOD IG.
I've based both emails off the following letter that Dave Brostrom crafted with such care.

My hope by the end of the week is to create a NING site and invite all the family members to join it and share their contribution to the actions taking place around raising awareness for the mishandling of this day.

More to come later.
I'm feeling the self righteous preaching rising up in my throat, so I better stop here.

Here's Dave Brostrom's wonderful letter. And above is a picture of his son Jonathan Brostrom who was killed that morning alongside Jason.

I can only hope that Jason agrees with it and that I'm not working against his memory but rather supporting it.

Senator Webb,
The Army has submitted their investigation on Wanat to the DoD IG-no
word yet on the results. I requested the DoD IG sequester the Historical
Study that is being pursued by the Army's Fort Leavenworth Combat
Studies Institute which I feel has uncovered some significant facts not
included in the original 15-6 investigation. I met with CSI in March
2009; and discussed the ongoing study with historians there at that time
and subsequently.
After discussions with CSI it is my opinion that there was a serious
senior leadership failure by the Battalion, Brigade, Assistant Division
and Division Commanders that directly contributed to the deaths of the 9
US soldiers and the 27 wounded of 2nd Platoon Chosen Company 2/503rd ABN
Battalion. Below are short comments as to why:
LACK OF LEADERSHIP OVERSIGHT - Wanat was part of the larger Battalion
mission called "Operation Rock Move". This operation had multiple
complex missions that required the direct oversight of the Battalion,
Brigade and Division Commanders. Occupation of Wanat and construction of
a large Combat Outpost was a critical mission task. At no time during
the occupation before the actual fighting started at Wanat did the
leadership from the Battalion, Brigade or Division visit Wanat to assess
the situation on the ground. My opinion is that the senior leadership at
all levels became overwhelmed and overcommitted leading to a severe
sense of complacency toward the mission in Wanat.
LACK OF RISK MANAGEMENT - Operation Rock Move was briefed by the
Battalion and Brigade Commander to the Assistant Division Commander
during a time when the entire 173rd was conducting a very complex
Replacement and Transfer of Authority to a Brigade from Fort Riley
Kansas. A RIP/TOA demands the focused attention of the entire NCO and
Officer Leadership at all levels of command. There is no indication that
the Division or Brigade took additional measures to reduce the risk to
the troops on the ground and help focus the Battalion and Brigade
Leadership on Operation Rock Move versus the Transfer of Authority.
Sworn statements from the Battalion Commander indicate that the only
risk reduction measure taken was to assign the Chosen Company Commander
to oversee the occupation and construction of the COP at Wanat. The
Company Commander did not show up on site at Wanat until late in the
afternoon on the 12th of July-hours before the attack.
IGNORING INTELLIGENCE - Statements gathered by CSI indicate that the
Battalion, Brigade and Division senior leadership were briefed on the
heavy concentration of enemy insurgent fighters (in the hundreds) in and
around the village of Wanat days before the attack began. Statements
taken by CSI from intelligence officers who were assigned to the 2/503rd
Battalion S-2 indicate that their warnings and intelligence estimates
were ignored by the senior leadership.
and heavy engineer support key to the construction of the combat outpost
at Wanat never arrived. This defensive material and heavy engineer
support if available at the time of the occupation would have saved many
lives by adding additional force protection. This lack of engineer
support caused the soldiers of 2nd Platoon to improvise and cut in half
HESCO's filling them by hand in order to provide some minimal force
protection in case of attack. Soldiers were also forced to focus more on
building a defensive perimeter rather than on critical security tasks
that could have provided early warning to the insurgent attack. The
defensive material and heavy engineer status should have been a
Commanders Critical Information Requirement that would have prompted
immediate senior leadership involvement. This lack of support was
reported by the 2nd Platoon but never acted upon by senior leadership to
mitigate an increasing risk to the mission.
LACK OF FOOD AND WATER - Soldier statements in the 15-6 and corroborated
by CSI indicate that the 2nd Platoon had to stop and minimize work
details on the defensive perimeter due to lack of water and food. While
eventually resupplied the lack of support from the Battalion HQ caused a
delay in force protection that contributed to the KIA and WIA on the
13th of July.
LACK OF ISR - Predator Support that was vital to validating intelligence
estimates and indentifying insurgent forces in close proximity to US
Forces was not available. The CJTF provided conflicting reasons to the
Congressional Inquiries why this support was not available .The initial
report from the CJTF said that the Predator was unavailable on the night
of the 13th of July due to weather. Another report said that the
Predator support was unavailable due to other higher priority missions.
The Brigade Commander stated that Predator support was never available
despite his requests. Statements provided to CSI indicate that the
Predator was pulled from supporting Wanat two days into the occupation
by the Assistant Division Commander of the CJTF due to lack of
intelligence indicating a imminent danger to US Forces. Further
investigation by CSI indicates that ISR assets were withdrawn on 12 July
but were available to the 173rd from 8 July to 12 July. CSI verified
that ISR assets were not available during the night of 12-13 July when
the ACM insurgents moved into their assault positions. The decision to
pull he Predator from the 173rd was adamantly protested by the Battalion
and Brigade staff officers. Despite a growing enemy threat and now lack
of overhead support there was no additional risk mitigation action taken
by the senior leadership at any level of command.
LACK OF RESPONSIVE ATTACK AVIATION - In response to Congressional
Inquiries the Apache Attack Helicopter support was reported by the CJTF
to have arrived at the Battle of Wanat at the normal and expected
response times. Evidence uncovered by CSI indicates that the generation
of Apaches was delayed by approximately 15 minutes and delayed again in
route. If the attack assets had arrived even 15 minutes earlier could
have saved lives. No attempt was made by the senior leadership to reduce
this response time due to the other critical elements of Operation Rock
Move increasing the risk of the mission (lack of heavy engineer,
defensive material and Predator). When the Congressional Inquiry asked
why the Apache's were not used to fly in and around Wanat at critical
times when the enemy normally attacks- the CJTF response was that it was
too risky to fly an attack helo in this type of profile. CSI interviews
with the Apache Bn Commander who was in support of Wanat on the 13th of
July stated that the Apache's were frequently used in deterrence
missions but in the Wanat case TF Bayonet (173rd Inf Bde) never
requested this type of support. The attack on the 2nd Platoon clearly
highlighted the fact that attack aviation resources were extremely
limited. There was no mention of this critical shortage of attack
aviation assets in the 15-6 investigation.
interviewed to include senior NCO's of 2nd Platoon stated their
apprehension in conducting the mission to Wanat so close to redeployment
back to Italy. Preparation time for this complex mission was lacking.
One alarming deficiency was that there was no rehearsal supervised by
the Bn Cdr that would have identified and synchronized critical
resources required for the mission.
Division leadership purposely misled news media and family members by
publically stating that the mission of 2nd Platoon at Wanat was not to
construct a Combat Outpost. The 2nd Platoon mission was merely to
establish a routine Vehicle Patrol Base at Wanat to engage with the
local population in accordance with COIN Doctrine-no intent to construct
a full up Combat Outpost. To this day the Public Affairs Office of the
CJTF 101st publically profess that the occupation of Wanat by the 2nd
Platoon was just a Vehicle Patrol Base nothing more. Official engineer
documents, mission statements, troop task organization (heavy engineer
support) and statements from soldiers obtained from CSI clearly show
that the 2nd Platoon Chosen Company 503rd was ordered to Wanat with the
specific task to construct Combat Outpost Kahler at Wanat. Sworn
statements by the Company and Battalion Commander in the 15-6 verify the
mission was to construct a Combat Outpost. The Battalion Commander also
emphasized the significance of establishing a COP at Wanat as key to the
successful COIN strategy for the region. After 10 months of negotiating
with Wanat Village Elders and suffering the decimation of an entire US
Infantry Platoon the decision was made by the CJTF to never return to
Wanat as punishment to the local Afghan people.
received no cultural, tactical or environmental training specific to
Afghanistan. The Brigade's training was focused on Iraq. Immediately
after completing their deployment train-up for Iraq the Brigade was
informed that they were to deploy to Afghanistan. A few of the officers
and NCO's had previous deployments to Afghanistan. However the majority
of soldiers, officers and NCO's who were going to engage with the Afghan
people on a daily basis were put at a distinct disadvantage.
shows that the attack on the 2nd Platoon Chosen Company at Wanat could
have been heavily influenced by a US Army Attack Helicopter that had
engaged innocent civilians in the vicinity of COP Bella on the 4th of
July. Killed in the helicopter attack were numerous doctors, nurses and
children who were trying to evacuate Bella during a time when the 173rd
was also evacuating and closing COP Bella. The Closing of COP Bella was
one of the complex missions of Operation Rock Move. What is
disconcerting is that in the 15-6 out brief the 173rd Bde and 2/503rd
Inf Bn boost that they expended more ammunition, fired more artillery,
dropped more bombs and had more soldiers submitted for medals of valor
than any other unit ever deployed to Afghanistan. In the 15-6 out brief
there was no mention of number of villages won over by US Forces, number
of MEDCAPS, DENCAPS and other humanitarian support to the people of
Afghanistan. Findings by CSI indicate that the 173rd lost all of the
progress that the 10th Mtn had accomplished due to their heavy reliance
on Kinetic Diplomacy. My son also verified this on his return home in
May of 2008 stating that most engagements with the local population
resulted in a kinetic response with frequent bombing of villages causing
extensive collateral damage. My son also said that because of the
collateral damage to innocent civilians he was told by village elders at
COP Bella that there would be numerous revenge attacks on US Forces and
that his platoon once relocated to Wanat would be followed and attacked.

IGNORING THE REAL ISSUES -The 15-6 investigation findings and
recommendations were purposely written to cover up the majority of the
above major deficiencies. Most of these deficiencies were identified in
soldier testimony but omitted by the chain of command . Other issues
thought obvious were never included in the report. Both the Assistant
Division Commander and Division Commander CJTF signed the 15-6 agreeing
to its contents and findings.
v/r Dave Brostrom

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MP3 Experiment

What do you get when you mix social media organization with some serious creativity with New Yorkers?
Oh, this is awesome!!!
Improv Everywhere is a sharp bunch.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Are you afraid of clowns and WHY?

Put that question up on my Facebook and G-Chat status and these were the replies:

Response #1
friend: I'm sorry, but yes, they do and I think it's because of the "stereotypical" smile painted on that is so exaggerated it is creepy.
but you do not scare me :)
me: Thanks for answering!
i know i dont!
friend: lol oh and of course "IT didn't help although that wasn't the start
me: right

Response #2
friend: john wayne gacy is a reason that clowns are scary to some people
me: and you?
friend: Im not scared of clowns, never said I was just feel like I get why some people are
me: cause they'll kill you? =)
friend: because you're hiding something
me: hmmm
friend: Insane Clown Posse gives that same feeling
and pop culture doesnt help - more images of IT than of genuine sweet funny clowns
me: right...

Response #3
I wouldn't say they SCARE me but they are a little bit intimidating. In the same way that I think mascots, Seafair pirates, mimes, and people in big animal costumes are intimidating. For some reason, it's just a little unsettling. Maybe it's because they're masked to some extent. Fear of the unpredictable and the unknown.

Sometimes I love it though. So, who knows.

Response #4
Yes and just because! lol ;)

Response #5
Yes. Just unsettling since they are a person hiding behind a mask or makeup. You can't see the person to know if you should run or smile.
I am better with mimes for some strange reason.

Then a friend sent me an article from the Stranger (a great Seattle paper)
The different kinds of people that there are
The article reviews differnt kinds of people who have different issues like fear of clowns. Generally a great article. Here's what they said about the clown thing:

People Who Claim to Be Afraid of Clowns

These people (and they are numerous) are attempting to cultivate a cute quirk, but they are really just aping a cute quirk cultivated by thousands of cute-quirk-cultivators before them in a giant, gross, boring feedback loop. Yes, clowns can be mildly creepy. But come on. Among the many things that are scarier than clowns: fire, earthquakes, a guy with a knife, riding the bus, colon cancer, falling down the stairs (it could happen at any time!), rapists, people who just kind of look a little rapey and are standing too close to you in line at 7-Eleven, Marlo from The Wire, influenza, and scissors.

So. As I step out into the world and streets as a clown, I want to embrace this knowledge. It's important to remember out of the hundreds of friends on Facebook and G-Chat there were under ten responses. Nine saying yes and one no.
My intention stepping into this world of makeup and noses is NOT simply a "fun" way to entertain. It is also not with the intention to "scare." What it is...what it will be. I am still discovering that. I just know that I am compelled.

I also think its important to see that clowning is like many things in the world. There is great potential here. The ability to abuse and the ability to create love, change, entertainment, beauty, silliness,... When pressed, I'm sure all of the above friends could imagine a clown that did not scare them. Its like asking, "Do politics scare you?" Yes. And it holds great power.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Threat of the Clown

Wanted to get a great clown cartoon image for the previous post and so I, of course, googled "clown cartoon." Very telling endeavor to uncover the way the internet society views clowns. A few observations:

Out of the first 20 clowns displayed the breakdown is as follows
3 dunce clown cartoons,

4 sad clown cartoons,

5 neutral/happy clown cartoons

7 evil clown cartoons.

What the? Why so many evil clown images?
I have a friend who works at Clowns Without Borders and we got into a conversation about this the other day he said,
"When people tell me they hate clowns and I ask them why, I often find, its just a line. They're just saying that because that's the cool thing to say."
The next day I was talking to someone and they said, "I honestly hate clowns" and I said, "Oh yah, why's that?" And sure enough they said, "Oh, no not really. Actually I'm just saying that."

This image though is also very telling.

The fear of putting on the nose...The caption below says, "Sammy...For the last time...Its just a nose, not an demonic omen." If you follow through with this image, what happens? He puts on the clown nose, Krusty attacks. So often our society teaches us to grow up, stop "clowning" around. What are we really afraid of then? Being spontaneous. In many Eastern religions, the fool is the person who has let go of all worldly possessions and wanders with out attachment. Byron Katie often says something along the lines of, "What would your life be like if you lost everything that you believe is precious to you?" "Who are you then?" It's scary to imagine. I agree. And yet, there is a certain freedom to it as well.
Another noteworthy fact from my google search. It wasn't until the 39th image that a woman clown cartoon showed up. There was a fish clown before it even. And you can see below it was her womanly features that were the object of humor. Is that a horn honk or is she farting? The balloon even looks disgusted. Naively oblivious to her absurd state. Where does the clown reclaim its power? And where do we resign to be either clueless or a threat?

Clowning Around

You don't need a red nose to be a clown.
A few good pieces of advice from #25 is my favorite I think.

1. Leave the copy machine set to reduce 200%, extra dark, 17 inch paper,99 copies.
2. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.
3. Insist on keeping your car windshield wipers running in all weather conditions "to keep them tuned up."
4. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what you think."
5. Practice making fax and modem noises.
6. Highlight irrelevant information in scientific papers and "cc" them to your boss.
7. Make beeping noises when a large person backs up.
8. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy."
9. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears and grimacing.
10. Disassemble your pen and "accidentally" flip the ink cartridge across the room.
11. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.
12. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."
13. Staple pages in the middle of the page.
14. Honk and wave to strangers.
15. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complimentary mints at the cash register.
17. type only in lowercase.
18. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
19. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
20. Ask people what gender they are.
21. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
22. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
23. Sing along at the opera.
24. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
25. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions and then scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chris Bricker --Clown Activist

My friend Lexi who's a lobbyist for the Labor Union is going to this workshop this weekend: Conference on Creative Organizing. I was looking through the website and lo and behold yet another clown activist. Works with the AFL-CIO. Who would ever think the labor union would have their very own clown activist. Love it. Graduate of Barnum Circus School and plays the freaking saw.
So cool.

Clowning for Justice

Clown activism. Go to your County Board, dress like a clown and alert them to your issue.
There's a way to get them to remember you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is This Tomorrow? America Under Communism

A great comic book strip from the 1940s about the future of America if we follow communism. Cue scary organ music. Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eleven months since.

In the spirit of my blog theme: superheros, I'd like to post a recent article titled "Normal Humans Wouldn't Do That" posted on the blog Stars and Stripes about the day my brother Jason Bogar died (see link below.)

I'm not sure how accurate this article is. The boys that were with Jason on that day that I've talked with are reticent to share their stories. I guess they feel like by speaking about it, it cheapens it. I can understand that. Anyway, from the boys who didn't feel that way, this story is slowly coming out. Just as understanding as I feel for the silence of some of the guys, I'm equally thankful for the guys that have made the choice to talk.

Overall the article seems more or less up to par with what I know. I do have issue with this particular piece of information taken from the article,

"There was intelligence an attack would occur," according to an Army "15-6" report regarding the battle, "but this was to be expected for the Waygal District." Troops expected a "probing attack" of around 20 militants."

That is not at all accurate with what I heard from Jason's fellow soldiers. To my understanding, no one had any idea anything was coming and they were on a "recon" mission. From what I know, they weren't expecting 20 --let alone 200.

I feel like its disrespectful to say that they knew it was coming. If they did, don't you think they would have been more prepared? I do.

I miss Jason constantly. Fortunately, being just one month under a year since his death, the realization that he is gone has settled in. Over the past year every time I re-remembered that he died felt like a grenade going off under my feet only to look down and see it was a rock. The dull sinking feeling of: no, I wasn't dead. He was. I'm still here.

So, that doesn't happen as often anymore. It used to be that I would hear a song, eat something or have a thought and think to myself: this is the first time I've experienced this since Jason died. Those instances lessen with time, but they still occur.

Now his absence --it's just a normal part of the day. I wake up and just KNOW he's gone. I dream of him and know he's gone. Sometimes he's in my dream but visiting me as a spirit. Other times I have a dream I'm in real life with Carise, Mom, Dad, Dan but Jason isn't in that dream. I just KNOW he's gone.

Does it make it any less painful? You tell me.

Anyways, here's the story of the day he died told through a few soldier journalists piecing together what they can to find the truth: Normal Humans Wouldn't Do That

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Clowns Without Borders

I did a little gig with them at a fundraiser in DC a few months back. They recently sent a group to Sudan. I heard it went well and they're back.
This is a little clip about a troupe that went to Lesotho.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fair Use Remix Institutes: Girls and Beats

Thought this was a cool little mash up. Gives you something to think about. The way we view women. I like the way they link up the youth with the adults. The connections all made through images. Powerful.

What to do with this?

I ran across a blog called The Two Malcontents today. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by it. Since I lost Jason in the war, my heart has opened to the US military in a way it never had before. I have been able to find a connection between my work in peace activism and the US military. I recently wrote a paper about it and presented it at a Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Theater of the Oppressed conference called the Peacemaker's War where I urged activists to look to the people within the military not as the evil enemy but rather fellow allies who get just as confused as we do about effective ways of achieving peace. Coming across this site I guess is perfect timing as it allows me to flush out just how deep these sympathetic roots go. The About Us page explains: "The Two Malcontents" is a compilation of generational US military families who unequivocally support our troops…regardless of where they are deployed.

The site goes on to spout incredibly hateful words about "socialists" and paints the Obama administration as evil. I can see some similarities in theway many leftists talk about the Bush administration. In my personal life, I can find watching Jon Stewart's "Dick Uncut" recent show brings great joy in my life.

While I can empathize with my friends who criticize the Bush administration, the same rhetoric rings in my ears from both sides. I wonder. How effective is this? Jon Stewart, in my eyes, is a hero. He nails the irony and humor of the world daily. And I could see that many conservatives may find it incredibly offensive.

But what is the difference then between Jon Stewart's show and this blog? One thing is for sure: this blog is not funny. And I can't imagine anyone finds it funny. The people writing it are not intending for it to be funny but rather aggressive and critical. Another thing is that Jon Stewart is not attacking Dick Cheney's physical appearance but rather his actions.

In one post, they take one picture of Michele Obama and under it say, "Ugly bow-legged big ass under-bight from hell anti-American Marxist manure Michelle Obama leaving Westminster Abbey"

Wow. What would motivate someone to be so hateful towards this woman? There are no facts about her as a human but rather an attack on her physical appearance. How dangerous to connect someone's looks with their political views. With women gaining more and more recognition politically, it is a tactic being used often. Take the recent attacks on John McCain's daughter Meghan McCain when she came out in support of gay marriage.

And then her rebuttal: (pardon the pun)

While I look to my fellow peacemaking community to find a common ground where the military can be seen as a partner in our work to achieve peace, I am equally losing my patience for hate rhetoric such as this.

Jon Stewart and the leftists can be a rough bunch. I know, I'm part of it. But regardless of what side you fall on, we must all be ever vigilant of the line that gets crossed between critical analysis and hate.

I am from a generational US military family. My little brother died not even a year ago fighting for what he believed in. I respect and honor his memory. And I support our troops. But I do not subscribe to the hate that comes from this blog. I just want to make that clear. For myself.

Amnesty International Nailed This One

Amnesty International's new fundraising campaign. FASCINATING. Skateboarders and human rights.Never wanted to spend $350 on a hoodie before...

March on the Pentagon. Attire: Clown.

The following article was written by Jeff Nall on April 2, 2009 on the blog Toward Freedom. I've re-posted it here. Please reference it here: Militarism Under Obama: A New Phase in the Antiwar Movement.

On Saturday, March 21, 2009 the anti-war movement held its first national mobilization against U.S. militarism since the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama. Marking the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war, about 10,000 people participated in the March on the Pentagon, organized by the ANSWER Coalition. While there were radical groups in attendance that viewed Obama as being little different from Bush, Obama supporters comprised a sizeable contingent of protesters.

Kate Walsh, unofficial leader of Students Against War in Des Moines wasn’t old enough to vote for Obama last year, but she did help get him elected. "I think I would have voted for him because I’d rather use my vote for a candidate who has a chance rather than voting for a third party," said Walsh who held a t-shirt and blanket stitched peace banner adorned with supportive signatures from Des Moines students. Whether Obama gets her first presidential election vote, however, will depend upon his Iraq and Afghanistan policies. "I’m really opposed to the Iraq war and I don’t believe that we should move troops to Afghanistan," said Walsh. "I want Obama to know that my generation isn’t with him if he’s going to continue the wars there."

Holding a sign reading "I am shocked and awed," veteran Harry Parks of North Carolina echoed Walsh’s position. "[I’m here] to remind the [Obama] administration that we still want the war to end," said Parks who served in the Army for 28 years including 30 months flying helicopters in Vietnam. "This is the most tragic blunder in American history—this past administration and its foray into the Middle East. I’m a retired military veteran and I believe that defending the country is essential, but what we’ve been doing is not defending the country. We’ve actually been occupying countries for the wrong reasons."

Parks said he voted for Obama and believes that he is best suited to rectify the foreign policy debacle Bush left behind. "I just don’t want (Obama) to lose site of the fact that we absolutely must get out of the Middle East and let those people determine what kind of government they want not the kind of government we’re trying to give them."

Micael Bogar of Washington DC may have been dressed as a clown but her impetus for attending the march was as solemn as it gets. Donning a red wig and nose, white face paint, blue dress, and red and white stockings, Bogar said that her younger brother Jason Bogar, a U.S. soldier, died in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. "These are his dog tags," she said lifting them from her neck to show. Holding a sign as colorful as her outfit, Micael Bogar said that losing her brother transformed her life and led her to realize "that fighting against war doesn’t work." "What does work for me is loving, and understanding the way of the world and reality. And letting everyone else catch up." Clowning, she said, is an important part of that creative process. "And peace is a very courageous act and it takes creativity to get there, to find peace in your life. So I’m demonstrating what my peace looks like."

Marking a new phase of the 21st century anti-war movement, protesters’ criticisms were not limited to Iraq but encompassed general U.S. military foreign policy. Activists condemned the U.S.’s role in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and its financial and political backing of Israel’s assault on Gaza and continued occupation of Palestinian territory. A relatively new but prevalent mantra was that U.S. military spending came at the expense of desperately needed funding for jobs, education and basic human needs

In addition to professionally crafted signs made by organizing groups, protesters brandished a plethora of handcrafted signs and banners reading: "Obama it’s your war now," "America is losing its soul in Gaza," "U.S. out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan NOW," "College not combat," "Hey Obama take a stand, U.S. out of Afghanistan" and "OK Democrats, now stop the war."

After rallying across the street from the Lincoln Memorial from about noon to 2pm protesters marched across the Memorial Bridge on their way to the Pentagon. Anti-war protesters were met with less than a dozen counter protesters who held up an effigy of Jane Fonda on a noose with a sign reading: "Jane Fonda, American Bitch Traitor." Others held signs reading "Che is dead get over it," "Al Qaeda Appeasers on Parade," "Peace thru strength," and "Anti-American Peaceniks think sedition is patriotic."

Along the march route protesters bellowed chants such as "Hey Obama, yes we can. Troops out of Afghanistan" and "Barack, Barack, Barack, Afghanistan's the same as Iraq." Protesters also called for broad ethnic unity chanting "Blacks, Latinos, Arab, Asian, and whites, no racist war no more, no more, defend our civil rights." Other chants addressed the economic situation: "Bail out the workers, not the war makers."

While much of the March on Pentagon, like most demonstrations, was well-rehearsed, there were a handful of occasions when truly organic outbursts of democratic will occurred. At one point, the march came to a halt as activists spontaneously formed a large dance circle and moved to what may have been the most popular chant of the demonstration: "Get up! Get down! There’s an anti-war movement in this town!"

This pause in the march, however, was used by a small group of activists to stage a protest within the March on the Pentagon. A small group of activists who questioned organizers’ commitment to opposing racism, flanked by a group of anarchists, created a blockade in the route, bottling up the protest. The group soon drew the ire of participants and ANSWER volunteers who diligently worked to funnel frustrated and confused marchers past the blockade. Further along the route one protester from the anarchist contingent threw a hammer into an apartment window. Some were displeased with such tactics.

Crescenzo Scipione, 17, of Rochester, New York said that the blockade of the route wasn’t constructive. "All it did was alienate anarchists, which is the last thing that the broader movement needs," said Scipione. "I hate it because it perpetuates, mainly among liberals and socialists this kind of baiting of anarchists. We need to stop doing shit like that."

March organizers dramatized the tragic consequences of U.S. military intervention around the world by creating about one-hundred cardboard coffins draped with flags representing the homeland of those killed. Coffins representing fallen American soldiers were also on hand.

Protesters carried the coffins along the route, through the Pentagon north parking lot into downtown Crystal City where they delivered them to defense contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and KBR amid an army of riot-gear clad police officers.

Though unreported by most media outlets the end of the march was marked by a tense standoff between protesters and Arlington County Police. In an attempt to prevent activists from placing the makeshift coffins on the proverbial doorstep of General Dynamics-KBR dozens of police officers created a virtual wall around the facility. A contingent of activists took direct action, however, charging toward the entrance from an unguarded side of the building. A brigade of officers responded by cutting off their path. Activists settled on leaving the coffins at officers’ feet. On the street, supportive marchers looked on.

While activists sought to deliver the coffins to General Dynamics-KBR activists gathered nearby erupting in spontaneous song. Codepink activists led marchers in singing "Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round" and "Solidarity Forever."

Excluding United for Peace and Justice’s half-a-million person protest in January 2007, the first Washington protest of the Obama administration was about one-tenth the size of ANSWER’s September 15, 2007 march. Asked how she felt about the considerably smaller turnout of protesters compared to the better attended marches in 2007, Rachelle van Wyck of St. Pete, Florida said that the numbers were less important than getting the message out. "It’s that people are still committed," said van Wyck who donned an "I can’t believe I’m still protesting this crap!" sticker. "That we still get the message out to this president that America is concerned about getting the troops home and that this needs to be a priority in his making policies. He needs to know that this is not what America wants and we have spoken. And we still say ‘bring the troops home.’"

In his March 27, 2009 article, "The Angry Left," published in the Atlantic, Will DiNovi writes that the anti-war movement’s most significant obstacle is the formation of a coherent message. "Though withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan was ostensibly the theme of the day, Saturday's featured speakers railed against causes as disparate as the embargo of Cuba, U.S. policy towards Sudan, and Israel's recent incursion into Gaza. As protesters made their way from the National Mall toward the Pentagon and a hub of defense contractors in Arlington, the march devolved into a vague condemnation of ‘the military industrial complex’ rather than a targeted attack on the president's foreign policy."

While DiNovi may bemoan the anti-war movement’s "vague condemnation of ‘the military industrial complex’" it is worth noting Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King contention that just such a comprehensive analysis was needed to achieve significant, lasting change and peace. Indeed, just ten days before his death King commented that the growth of the military industrial complex was the worst consequence of the Vietnam War. In a March 25, 1968 interview with Rabbi Everett Gendler Dr. King said: "One of the greatest tragedies of the war in Vietnam is that it has strengthened the military-industrial complex, and it must be made clear now that there are some programs that we can cut back on—the space program and certainly the war in Vietnam—and get on with this program of a war on poverty. Right now we don’t even have a skirmish against poverty, and we really need an all out, mobilized war that will make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life."

Jeff Nall is writer, peace activist, and speaker. His book, Perpetual Revolt: Essays on Peace & Justice and The Shared Values of Secular, Spiritual, and Religious Progressives (Howling Dog Press, 250 pages, $15.95), is available at his website: and Email sabletide(at)yahoo(dot)com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cumeezi Clown Troupe. A legend

Catching up on the history of clowning; the Cumeezi Clown Troupe ran around the streets of NYC in the 70's and 80's. There is a whole website dedicated to their past work. One shtick was campaigning. What a perfect way to create some DC political theater. Can you imagine what you could do with that nowadays? What kind of a campaign would a clown run? How could that be paralleled with current politics? So much there!!
Here is a link to their website:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Real Superhero Dude!

This kid is for real. What a doll. He dresses up like a superhero and hands out water and food to the homeless. Watch here

A Femme Clown Assemblage

Not Just For Shock Value
A New York based all female group of clowns. O for a muse of fire! O to live in New York and be in this clown troupe! O to create one in DC!

Look at these amazing ladies.

Thoughts from Kendall Cornell --the group's founder:

"In a traditionally male field, I have discovered the need for women clowns. Women’s clowning has a specific beauty. Only a woman can uncover the deep humor of women’s experience – and perhaps of certain life truths. For me, it has been necessary to go back to the ancient core principles of clowning to re-find a place for the women, so they are not merely an imitation of the male tradition, but instead they reveal (and create fun with) their own distinct terrain. For the audience, the experience may also be new territory. In order to laugh at a clown, we have to sense a certain mutuality, which means that both men and women in the audience will identify with the clown on stage. It can be a startling thing for both groups to recognize themselves in a woman on stage (and a sovereignly foolish one!). Clowning can cut through our differences to our universality, at the same time that it wakes us up to our unique selves."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Barnaby King, what a clown

I've been emailing a bit with a friend of a friend who has worked all over the States and in Colombia as a clown. Here's an interview with him. He seems like a great guy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

CIRCA - not your average clown troupe

Clowning has been on my mind and painted on my face lately. I'm fascinated by the intersection of peaceful demonstrations and clowning. Most recently I was introduced to a clowning troupe (mostly in the UK) called CIRCA, which stands for: Clandestine, Insurgent, Rebel, Army. They dress up as clowns and do all sorts of peaceful activism. It seems to me their tactics may skate the edge in terms of effective activism, but I really don't know too much about them. Could it be that European military and police have more of a sense of humor. I imagine if I went up to a cop at a protest or something and tried to talk in his megaphone, I wouldn't have the same success. Here is their link:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

National High Five Day

Who knew?
Its almost three pm and I still haven't high fived anyone yet. Yikes!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reality is always kind

A quote that I read from Byron Katie's A Thousand Names for Joy.
"If my daughter (or brother in my case) dies, I realize that there is no self to be affected. It's not about me. This is about her life, my child's life, and mind --the unceasing bodiless mind that is finally awake to itself, the mind that never existed as a her, and the her that can never die. In this, we are never separated. And that's just a beginning: it gets even kinder. I get to see what my child's children grow in to because she was not there to teach them differently. Whenever I lose something, I've been spared. Every loss has to be a gain, unless the loss is being judged by a confused mind. I come to see what fills that space in my kindness in my world cannot decrease, because something else enters the space that I held her in. Just when you think that life can't get any better, it has to. That's the law."

I watch and feel some fight in this story. I fight against, "whenever I lose something, I've been spared" I feel like saying that I've been spared from Jason is a very cruel story. And yet I can find where it's true. If he had come home from that battle and been crippled or felt regret or remorse and I had to watch his life crumble and he would just be miserable. I am spared from that. If he had come home and continued to live a wild reckless life where he drank and drove and crashed his car and got arrested and never got back into school and never lived the life that I had perfectly planned for him. I am spared. It feels very selfish to say that still.

I can also see where I have been spared in terms of the death of my ego. As I live day to day with out Jason in my life and I feel the pain and agony of missing him I notice this part of me that misses him, this ego is screaming and crying and dying. As the quote above says, "In the unceasing bodiless mind, we are never separated."
With Jason's death the distinction between my ego and the unceasing bodiless mind has become much more clear. The unceasing bodiless mind hears Jason, feels Jason in ways never before. And the ego feels him as completely and totally gone.
This is what I mean when I say to people that losing Jason has been both the worst and best thing that could ever happen to me. He has crossed over from the struggle between enlightenment and confusion into pure enlightenment and he has tied a rope to my heart to show me the difference.

When I feel the pain and loss of his death, I must with full integrity also explain that this is the pain and loss of my ego. A part of me is dying that should be dying, that allows me such a state of grace and freedom I can't begin to explain. A place where Jason is. So, yes, I have been spared.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh the Internet is such a trip

So, Here is a link to the top one hundred great viral things online

And here's one:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carousel of Time

O Joni Mitchell. You are such a pretty lady.

Here are my favorite lyrics from the song.

"And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We cant return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game"

It reminds me of my life lately. I notice the deep desire to feel happiness. And it only brings me back to sadness. Micael is such a wonderful Micael. I give myself exactly what I ask for. Happiness. And this happiness I want lives in the dichotomy of happy and sad. So I need to be sad too in order to be happy. I do it with out even noticing it. I give myself happiness and then I give myself sadness. I'm seeing now that I do it out of compassion, If I don't allow myself to be sad, I won't be able to feel the happiness that I desire.

Now, that I notice this....I can start to notice the difference between happiness and peace. Maybe this is yet another circle of peace and war. Maybe. But I guess my question is, is there anything outside the circles that we go round and round on? The Buddhists call it Samsara, the cyclical patterns of desire.

I can sit and notice. Ah, here is the happiness....and there is something else that's different and unwavering -joy-. Ah. Here is the saddness...and that same thing that existed within the happiness but was not the happiness the -joy, silence, peace- It's unnamable. The moment I name it, it becomes a part of the circle. It's God.

Thank you Joni for reminding me that these circles are exactly as you say. They are games.

I love to play them. I love to be happy. And with that comes sadness so I guess if I'm going to have full integrity, I can say, I also love to be sad.

With out further adieu: The Circle Game.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Jas

It's my little brother's birthday today. Been kinda...sigh....waiting for it for like three weeks. Good to finally be here. I'm having a big shindig tonight for him at my place. I was talking to my mom on the phone last night and saying that I had invited one of Jason's friends Ryan (who had been in Afghanistan with Jason when he died). I'm really excited that Ryan is coming and a little nervous that all my liberal friends might weird him out and then I actually said, "You know, Ryan is such a chill kid, it'll be fine. I'd be more worried if Jason were coming." Ha! I would too. If Jason were coming tonight I'd be like, "Hide the whiskey" =) Memories of him crashing parties of my mom's and my sisters. O. What a rascal. Truth is, I'd love to have him there tonight. Truth is...I am totally open to him being there tonight. I can't know that he won't be. In some amazing way.
Happy Birthday Jas. Hope you can make it to the party.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

They get an A for Effort....dur....

fail owned pwned pictures
So...its important to keep it in perspective. Usually I write about heros.
But today. Ahem. Not heros.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Byron Katie is a hero

This woman is my teacher. The best teacher I've ever had. Besides myself.
And everyone else in the world.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Loving the living and the dead. Loving it all.

What would my life look like if I loved the people in it with the same intensity as I love Jason?

That's been on my mind a lot lately.

The answer is not one that I think I've really allowed myself to dive into. Just the tip of the iceberg, my toe freezes up and I jump out.

The way I see it: now that Jason is gone, my stories about him and who he is and who he was to me and the world are all clearly glorified. He was a hero. He was a selfless loving darling boy. This is all true. I can find this all. And when I say all these things about my sister, who is living (thank god, bless her heart) I can also find them all to be true. Carise is my hero. She is a selfless loving darling girl. Yes. Easy.

Now, if I never got to talk to her again, that story would have no challenges. It would be a sealed deal. Just like with Jason. And then my desire to talk to her with increase ten fold because as time went on and the stories continue to be unchallenged, the stories gel and solidify in my brain. It's ironic and wonderful.

If Jason were alive right now and I were to call him on the phone. He would probably say a handful of things that would put the thought that he is selfless and loving up to the test.

Yesterday, however, instead of talking to Jason, I did in fact talk to Carise and was so happy to see her calling me and then she opened her mouth.


And as she talked, the stories in my head about how she was so selfless just went out the window. I was totally and completely at odds with it. I couldn't see it. She asked me how I was doing and then rolled right over the question and proceeded to talk a blue streak for five minutes about how she was. How could a selfless loving girl do that? So hard for me to see that.

Now, don't stop reading here and think that I'm saying I wish all my family was dead because it would be easier to love them, because that is very much not the case.

My relationship with Carise is a deep amazing channel of love that flows between us. My patience for her and love for her runs so deep that I can't even explain. She. Is. My. Sistah. Literally.

I am working to be a lover of reality and the reality is that my brother is dead and my sister is very much alive. And so I am given a gift from both of them. Jason dies and Carise lives. And can I find a place where it makes just as much sense to love her the same way I love him?

Of course, its not as easy. Jason doesn't talk to me explicitly anymore. He doesn't challenge any of my stories about what it means to be selfless and loving and a hero. He did the best he could when he was alive. And I guess I can even question that because actually, he is very much helping me right now to realize this. His name, his story, he is with me in this journey to discover this seamless compassion for all. Living and dead. He's like Sebastian in the Never Ending Story. Reading from afar with his apple in the attic.

So, Carise. My dear Carise. I look forward to the day that she can call me and talk a blue streak about her life and not ask me one single question and I can find undoubtedly where that is the most selfless thing she could ever ever do.

Family. What an amazing thing it is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jason Bogar, a superhero

Been thinking about that boy a lot lately. It would have been, or I guess still is, his 26th birthday coming up here in a few weeks. Deep sigh. Not sure where to go with that one. It definitely is still his birthday cause its the day he was born. His birth day. However there are some implications involved there that he is still alive and celebrating it. That to have a birthday one must be climbing up in the years and while that may also be argued that yes, Jason will be 26 this February 19th...that is not the case.

I miss my brother. I still hope that I'll get to see him on his birthday. I feel so much pain there.

He is in my heart. And my head and my dreams and all over my computer --his images and memories and the feelings and thoughts connected to them permeate my life. They soak into my core like a dark rum in a rich layered Tiramisu cake. He is undoubtedly there. Sometimes I feel shame that I don't think and love and miss my sister, dad and mom as deeply as I do Jason. I feel sick with love for Jason all the time.

If he ever felt like he wished I would love him more, he got that wish to come true. His death has somehow opened up this channel, river, dam of love that just bursts for him.


What would my like look like if I felt that way about the people living in my life?

I notice that the pain around his loss is usually a very superficial crust on a deep deep cavern of love. That when I scrape off the painful thought associated with the intense ravage of feeling that knocks me on my ass now and then, I find a GOLD MINE of love. Just endless, delicious love. So much thankfulness for our time together.

What kind of guy does what he did? A hero.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut. Personal Hero. Super Hero. Hero.

15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will

by Josh Modell, Kyle Ryan, Noel Murray, Scott Gordon, and Tasha Robinson April 24, 2007

1. "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

The actual advice here is technically a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's "good uncle" Alex, but Vonnegut was nice enough to pass it on at speeches and in A Man Without A Country. Though he was sometimes derided as too gloomy and cynical, Vonnegut's most resonant messages have always been hopeful in the face of almost-certain doom. And his best advice seems almost ridiculously simple: Give your own happiness a bit of brainspace.

2. "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

In Cat's Cradle, the narrator haplessly stumbles across the cynical, cultish figure Bokonon, who populates his religious writings with moronic, twee aphorisms. The great joke of Bokononism is that it forces meaning on what's essentially chaos, and Bokonon himself admits that his writings are lies. If the protagonist's trip to the island nation of San Lorenzo has any cosmic purpose, it's to catalyze a massive tragedy, but the experience makes him a devout Bokononist. It's a religion for people who believe religions are absurd, and an ideal one for Vonnegut-style humanists.

3. "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."

Another koan of sorts from Cat's Cradle and the Bokononist religion (which phrases many of its teachings as calypsos, as part of its absurdist bent), this piece of doggerel is simple and catchy, but it unpacks into a resonant, meaningful philosophy that reads as sympathetic to humanity, albeit from a removed, humoring, alien viewpoint. Man's just another animal, it implies, with his own peculiar instincts, and his own way of shutting them down. This is horrifically cynical when considered closely: If people deciding they understand the world is just another instinct, then enlightenment is little more than a pit-stop between insoluble questions, a necessary but ultimately meaningless way of taking a sanity break. At the same time, there's a kindness to Bokonon's belief that this is all inevitable and just part of being a person. Life is frustrating and full of pitfalls and dead ends, but everybody's gotta do it.

4. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he's planning for his neighbors' twins: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." It's an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it's playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what's most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don't get it leak through just a little.

5. "She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."

A couple of pages into Cat's Cradle, protagonist Jonah/John recalls being hired to design and build a doghouse for a lady in Newport, R.I., who "claimed to understand God and His Ways of Working perfectly." With such knowledge, "she could not understand why anyone should be puzzled about what had been or about what was going to be." When Jonah shows her the doghouse's blueprint, she says she can't read it. He suggests taking it to her minister to pass along to God, who, when he finds a minute, will explain it "in a way that even you can understand." She fires him. Jonah recalls her with a bemused fondness, ending the anecdote with this Bokonon quote. It's a typical Vonnegut zinger that perfectly summarizes the inherent flaw of religious fundamentalism: No one really knows God's ways.

6. "Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'"

In this response to his own question—"Why bother?"—in Timequake, his last novel, Vonnegut doesn't give a tired response about the urge to create; instead, he offers a pointed answer about how writing (and reading) make a lonesome world a little less so. The idea of connectedness—familial and otherwise—ran through much of his work, and it's nice to see that toward the end of his career, he hadn't lost the feeling that words can have an intimate, powerful impact.

7. "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too."

Though this quote comes from the World War II-centered Mother Night (published in 1961), its wisdom and ugly truth still ring. Vonnegut (who often said "The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected") was righteously skeptical about war, having famously survived the only one worth fighting in his lifetime. And it's never been more true: Left or right, Christian or Muslim, those convinced they're doing violence in service of a higher power and against an irretrievably inhuman enemy are the most dangerous creatures of all.

8. "Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her."

Vonnegut's excellent-but-underrated Slapstick (he himself graded it a "D") was inspired by his sister Alice, who died of cancer just days after her husband was killed in an accident. Vonnegut's assessment of Alice's character—both in this introduction and in her fictional stand-in, Eliza Mellon Swain—is glowing and remarkable, and in this quote from the book's introduction, he manages to swipe at a favorite enemy (organized religion) and quietly, humbly embrace someone he clearly still missed a lot.

9. "That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes."

The narrator delivering this line at the end of the first chapter of Deadeye Dick is alluding both to his father's befriending of Hitler and his own accidental murder of his neighbor, but like so many of these quotes, it resonates well beyond its context. The underlying philosophy of Vonnegut's work was always that existence is capricious and senseless, a difficult sentiment that he captured time and again with a bemused shake of the head. Indeed, the idea that life is just a series of small decisions that culminate into some sort of "destiny" is maddening, because you could easily ruin it all simply by making the wrong one. Ordering the fish, stepping onto a balcony, booking the wrong flight, getting married—a single misstep, and you're done for. At least when you're dead, you don't have to make any more damn choices. Wherever Vonnegut is, he's no doubt grateful for that.

10. "Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak."

Vonnegut touchstones like life on Tralfamadore and the absurd Bokononist religion don't help people escape the world so much as see it with clearer reason, which probably had a lot to do with Vonnegut's education as a chemist and anthropologist. So it's unsurprising that in a "self-interview" for The Paris Review, collected in his non-fiction anthology Palm Sunday, he said the literary world should really be looking for talent among scientists and doctors. Even when taking part in such a stultifying, masturbatory exercise for a prestigious journal, Vonnegut was perfectly readable, because he never forgot where his true audience was.

11. "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental."

In Vonnegut's final novel, 1997's Timequake, he interacts freely with Kilgore Trout and other fictional characters after the end of a "timequake," which forces humanity to re-enact an entire decade. (Trout winds up too worn out to exercise free will again.) Vonnegut writes his own fitting epigram for this fatalistic book: "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental," which sounds more funny than grim. Vonnegut surrounds his characters—especially Trout—with meaninglessness and hopelessness, and gives them little reason for existing in the first place, but within that, they find liberty and courage.

12. "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?"

Even when Vonnegut dared to propose a utopian scheme, it was a happily dysfunctional one. In Slapstick, Wilbur Swain wins the presidency with a scheme to eliminate loneliness by issuing people complicated middle names (he becomes Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain) which make them part of new extended families. He advises people to tell new relatives they hate, or members of other families asking for help: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?" Of course, this fails to prevent plagues, the breakdown of his government, and civil wars later in the story.

13. "So it goes."

Unlike many of these quotes, the repeated refrain from Vonnegut's classic Slaughterhouse-Five isn't notable for its unique wording so much as for how much emotion—and dismissal of emotion—it packs into three simple, world-weary words that simultaneously accept and dismiss everything. There's a reason this quote graced practically every elegy written for Vonnegut over the past two weeks (yes, including ours): It neatly encompasses a whole way of life. More crudely put: "Shit happens, and it's awful, but it's also okay. We deal with it because we have to."

14. "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'science fiction' ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."

Vonnegut was as trenchant when talking about his life as when talking about life in general, and this quote from an essay in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons is particularly apt; as he explains it, he wrote Player Piano while working for General Electric, "completely surrounded by machines and ideas for machines," which led him to put some ideas about machines on paper. Then it was published, "and I learned from the reviewers that I was a science-fiction writer." The entire essay is wry, hilarious, and biting, but this line stands out in particular as typifying the kind of snappishness that made Vonnegut's works so memorable.

15. "We must be careful about what we pretend to be."

In Mother Night, apolitical expatriate American playwright Howard W. Campbell, Jr. refashions himself as a Nazi propagandist in order to pass coded messages on to the U.S. generals and preserve his marriage to a German woman—their "nation of two," as he calls it. But in serving multiple masters, Campbell ends up ruining his life and becoming an unwitting inspiration to bigots. In his 1966 introduction to the paperback edition, Vonnegut underlines Mother Night's moral: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." That lesson springs to mind every time a comedian whose shtick relies on hoaxes and audience-baiting—or a political pundit who traffics in shock and hyperbole—gets hauled in front of the court of public opinion for pushing the act too far. Why can't people just say what they mean? It's a question Don Imus and Michael Richards—and maybe someday Ann Coulter—must ask themselves on their many sleepless nights.