Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dr. Gates stand - is it really black and white?

Colin Powell is the latest bigwig to opine on the Henry Louis Gates v. Cambridge Police Dept. I have the deepest respect for Colin Powell as I do for Dr. Gates. Powell, after all, went against “his” administration to resign over the war. Is there a bigger act of defiance?

Powell commented that he didn’t agree with Dr. Gates actions over yelling at the Cambridge Police in a recent CNN article:

In the article, Colin Powell shares having been racially profiled again and again - he, one of the most respected men in the nation. He questioned Dr. Gates wisdom over making it an issue. My thoughts immediately were, if one of the respected men in the nation suffered being racially profiled numerous times, why isn’t this a huge, enormous issue? Why isn’t he applauding Dr. Gates for bringing this issue to the forefront?

Colin Powell talks about picking the right time for your battles. When is it the right time? Dr. Gates was tired after his long, long, LONG trip back from China. But was it really the China trip – or a life time of the little injustices building up? Did it hit at the right time that he wasn’t going to back down? He was fed up, sick and tired. It reminds me of Rosa Parks saying, that day, she was tired and she didn’t feel like sitting on back of the bus. What if she gave in that day? Played by the rules set for her? Am I stretching it too far by using that analogy or are they part of the same....

In my own life, I try to play nice, but little things stew. Girls are taught to play nice and get along with others. You don’t want to be seen as a nasty bitch – but then again, I’m making this about me. But why not? Is this just a black and white issue or is it a story we all can relate to in our own unique way? Introducing the Gates issue on Countdown with Keith Olberman, Lawrence O’Donnell recounted his own interaction and arrest with the police – a similar situation to Dr. Gates. He mouthed off. Doesn’t that go against our 2nd amendment rights – being arrested for saying what you want to, especially on your own property? Christopher Hitchens of Slate magazine outlines that point here:

When we can’t question authority, here, in the U.S. who are we becoming? An Irish émigré told me that growing up in Ireland, he looked to America and its ideals but America now has to get off its duff and stand up for its original ideals of freedom and democracy. I couldn’t deny what he saying. Freedom isn’t a campaign slogan or something to take for granted while it’s being whittled away for someone else’s gain (i.e. Homeland Security, Patriot Act, etc., etc. and anytime you couldn't say what you truly felt for fear of retribution either by your boss, co-worker or even a loved one). It’s your right to be. And sometimes seeming unreasonable, is the only reasonable way to maintain that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Watch a Mole San Francisco

Others play whack a mole but in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, a group of us waited patiently for a mole to come out of his hole to snap his picture....
I squealed when I first saw him which sent him scurrying down to his hole. I then apologized to my fellow watchers. He was just so cute though! He did come out a few minutes later and chewed on his grass while we kept a safe distance. They don't make coats out of these beautiful creatures anymore do they?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Just Never Know What'll Take Sometimes

I’ve been told I have a green thumb. For some plants yes – others, well, they’ve gone to their grave, but not until I’ve exhausted all possibilities for keeping them alive. I love my plants, but sometimes, I have to concede, some weren’t meant to last with me.

I learn a lot watching my plants grow. I’m no expert in plant soils, fertilizers, or even watering. I take them being alive as a bit of a miracle. It’s up to nature or their nature and if I can read them right and give them what they need. I can fuss over some but the plants I work best with I leave alone to do their thing.

I get a few hand me downs – and I usually don’t say no to more green friends. I try to control my urge to buy more and when I do, try to select ones I imagine to have the best success with.

Last June, to spruce up my patio for my birthday party, I bought 4 plants – one fuchsia, two drought resistant plants (the wisest choice for living in parched California) and the last, a hydrangea. The fuchsia I bought for the hummingbirds. The drought plants had wonderful flowers and had the best chance, I thought, for survival in the hot heat. The hydrangea, I considered, was a bit of a vanity plant. I love their beautiful flowers and they always remind me of grand Victorian mansions that they seem, in front of, inevitably planted. I always wanted one but didn’t know anything about them except that their flower petal colors change depending on the acidity of the soil. Would they even work growing in a pot? My desire won over practicality – sort of. My reasoning was that I wanted to buy a bouquet of flowers but wouldn’t a live plant be more practical….

We had a heat wave. The fuchsia tanked. No matter how much shade I tried, the fuchsia couldn’t rebound. The drought plants flourished. The hydrangea lost all its flowers. With leaves still on the plant, I considered that it wasn’t really dead.

A week later I saw a woman complaining to a clerk at Trader Joes about her hydrangea dying. I thought of mine. Was it really the plant, the store, or the owner?

In August, I set to move to Wine Country in Northern California. One of the drought plants became riddled with black bugs I couldn’t get rid of. I made the heartbreaking decision to toss the plant. I didn’t want to risk taking foreign bugs to a new location. I packed the flowerless hydrangea into my car with my numerous other plants. (I actually drove twice back and forth to move all my plants. Did I mention I love my plants?).

At my new place I had all the free soil and pots I could want thanks to my new landlords. I repotted the hydrangea and the drought plant. Winter came. I didn’t realize how cold the Wine Country gets. It got down to 20 degrees. The cold and the rain took a toll on many of my plants. My hydrangea looked barely alive. The stems browned. Most of the leaves had gone. I pondered tossing it but the better part of me told me to wait and see.

Spring came. Most of my plants rebounded. My drought plant bloomed when I first replanted it; it then completely dried up. I had tucked the hydrangea in a corner near the gate. I hadn’t paid that much attention to it until one day I noticed all new leaves on it. They continued to grow. I noticed some leaves browning so I moved it out of the afternoon sun to where it would get morning sun.

This past June, to my surprise, the hydrangea started to sprout flowers. Now it’s in full bloom. Had I tossed it out when it looked dead, I never would have these blooming flowers now. I took that as a great lesson. You never know what will take hold. Last year I would have bet on the drought plant. Then again, I set to live in Mendocino and ended up in Sonoma. You don’t know always know what’s going to pay off in the end. The only true proof is to pay attention to what’s about to flower.

Ya just never know what will take sometimes - it's always best to have an open mind :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Twitterings of Twitter

I get it. Twitter has become my new addiction. I didn’t quite get it at first. Just signing up seemed confusing. Once past that, I stared at the starting question Twitter asks, “what are you doing?” Hmm, I paused. The truly literal answer would be, "writing on Twitter". And if that was always the answer, I would get stuck in that loop forever – like a bad Abbott and Costello bit. So, I went a step beyond that and entered into the restrictive text box, "trying to figure out Twitter". I noticed, reading others first twitters that they too had a similar response. A lot of us had to grapple with what exactly this medium was (is) and what the point was – if there was (is) a point.

I spent the first month or so trying to figure it out. What do I say? How often? I followed a few friends but decided on no celebrities. My friends posts ranged from saying the somewhat literal answer to “what are you doing” like, “eating a burrito” to a PR friend’s posts ranging from Hollywood to PR about Twitter. All of a sudden, people, I didn't know, started following me. What to do? Do I have to follow back? I looked at one. His tweets seemed to be mostly social, to his immediate friends, of where he was right then (like what bar he was going to). I didn’t feel I needed to know that. Then I got the followers showcasing their “photos” – ok, wannabe porn stars. So, I blocked them. I blocked a few others on the reason I didn’t feel a connection to them; I wonder now if that was such a good idea. Is it wise to be selective and snobby on Twitter? I’m still learning the etiquette.

This week I decided to take the plunge to build who I’m following and vice-versa. I searched under “green” and “zen”. I added a few groups and people I connected to in that category. What happened? They followed me back. Then I had a few more people follow and I followed them back – after reading their profiles. This phenomenon is amazing to me. In a matter of days, I tripled the amount of people following me. (Ok, it’s now 21) but still, where else can you see such immediate results. I posted a tweet about violins and now I have a Latvian, heavymetal violinist following me. Who knew? (After sharing this with a friend, he told me he tweeted about watching Veronica Mars and now he has the Veronica Mars fan club following him. I tried that but do not as of yet have them as followers).

I get it now. I get why people love it and find it fun, informative, silly, deep, helpful, etc. I get tweets on green news, zen sayings, projects made from recycled products, to fun quips from friends. How you use it depends on you: who you want to follow and in turn, who you want to follow you. Some people want to share news, some to plug products, others to feel connected to a specific community. For me, it’s about connecting to and creating community and finding like-minded people the world over. It’s truly the expression of the Universal. There’s a place for everyone to tell us “what they’re doing”. I love it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Politics of Pretty

For silly blog Sunday.....

Never would I have guessed that the good-looking Barrista was an English major. Surfer, possibly. Frat boy, yes. But then I overheard his consternation over the way these kids today are using language, or lack thereof. Since it’s one of my pet peeves (see words matter post) I honed into the conversation. He told me about his little sister and how annoyed he was in her high handed usage of the word “like.” “Oh yeah,” I said, staring into his eyes. I probably should have told him I used to use like, more than I drank water or even breathed air before I graduated Laguna Beach High School. Then, on purpose, I eradicated it from my vocabulary so that no one would think I was an idiot when I moved to Northern California to go to college. (I still use like on occasion but I’m more guilty of using um or you know as space fillers). I would tell him there’s hope but I gathered post high school, his sister is still speaking without thinking – i.e. using catch phrases everyone else does. I told him my biggest peeve phrase, “you know riiiiiiiiiight”. He shuttered as he poured my decaf. Sorry I said. We talked a bit and then he chose to close the conversation about telling me about the afternoon discount. Was he paranoid that my cougar “ness” was flirting with him? That I would ruin his cool? Why – because he’s good looking? I did the unthinkable as he gave me the receipt. I thanked him with, “oh nice!” I shirked off.

Why do these pretty people alarm me so and thwart me from my usual wittiness? It was like I like was in high school or something. Is it really that easy to digress? Or did I not like get over high school or something?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Getting someplace

My zen equalibrium is most disturbed driving, particularly when I'm trying to get to work. I try in most cases to calm down, and go with the flow; but when pressed for time, I admit if I'm behind you and you aren't going the speedlimit, I'm calling you all sorts of things I wouldn't say to your face. I'm probably flipping you off although when I do that, I don't put up my finger in fullview. My innate politeness won't allow that. You probably noticed I'm mumbling to myself, unless you'd mistake that for singing.... yeah, I'm singing, something like grr$#$@!@!!! But seriously, the speedlimit isn't a suggestion. If it says 50, it really isn't ok to go 35. Why am I in such a rush? Well, I've timed leaving my place to the last second I have until I have to drag my butt into the car and give my time to someone else. I get especially annoyed when my time is wasted by some bozo who's driving 35 in the 45 zone, slowing me down so I can't get to a place I don't really want to go in the first place. You'd think I'd be grateful to that person, delaying my time.... But I'm not. Because it's my time and I'd rather waste my time at the job on the internet... but I digress.

My bitchy driving habits, particularly when pmsing, don't make me proud. I really had to calm down when I moved back to the Bay Area after living in amped up L.A. When I can, and I have the time, I love to drive to Napa on the Old Sonoma Road. I don't know the actual speedlimit on this road. The only trace of the speedlimit is around the bends. It takes a lot for me to go fast in the area because the bucolic scenery is full of vineyards, rolling hills, cows, resevoirs. I try to drive a decent speed though because as I stated above, I don't want to be the person I can't stand, the one who drives below the speedlimit screwing others up. Yet equally annoying is the person riding your butt, even though you're going the limit, if not more. That happened to me the other day - an annoying monster truck bore down on me. I looked at the speedometer. It read 55. How wasn't that fast enough? Yet the guy crossed the double lines and passed me. "Ass!" I mumbled. Granted, I was pmsing, but his action totally pissed me off. Why? Why did I care? If the dude wanted to race, who was I to stop him? Yet I was offended. This where I had to ask myself why his action offended me so much. Was he judging me for not going fast enough for him? Was he calling me an ass as I passed? Possibly.... Why, because I call "slowpokes" asses? I often have to stop myself and ask, why is this such a big deal? Was his action really that rude - and even more importantly, why is the 5 seconds of this interaction that important? Or is it the 5 seconds actually important?

Inevitably, this interaction will play out again with someone else. It has in the past. A guy with a van tailed me and I decided to pull over. The van told me that he was a family man and I created a scenario that he was late picking up his kids. Why did I give that guy a break but not monster truck guy? Car judgment. I'll admit it. I'm much nicer if a Prius cuts me off than say, an SUV - it's true. I have a lot of work to do in order to reach a better place with my car bias. And to be ok when someone wants to pass me. What do I care what they're doing and where they are going and how? It's a mystery I've yet to solve.... Fortunately, I found a great resource on Twitter today. They're called Zen Driver giving all sorts of helpful tips to offset road rage - and to give everyone "a brake". After all, it's how you enjoy the drive, not how fast you get there? Wonder if the Buddha would have just let someone else drive while he meditated... hmmmm.... something to think about on my drive home....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Solar Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just saw this recipe today, so I don't know if the cookies are "out of this world".... (I can't help solar puns or any for that matter) But I'm excited that such a perfect combo of two of my favorite things exists: green living and chocolate chip cookies!

I haven't tried it yet but if it continues to be 100 degrees out in my Sonoma hood, I may try it this week if I don' venture to the beach first!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael, you had me at Thriller

It was close to two weeks ago, sitting at my computer at work where I saw the news crawl, “Michael Jackson is dead”. I did what I normally wouldn’t do at work, or anywhere else. I did, what I consider to be, a tasteless action. I clicked onto the TMZ website. I hate that site with its dirt slinging malicious slant but at that moment, it held words that I didn’t want to believe but needed to see – Michael Jackson had died. I read TMZ’s report, which relayed that Michael was taken to the hospital after getting a call that he wasn’t breathing. I still didn’t truly believe it. After all, I was reading TMZ – ready to spread whatever they could get their hands on, true or false. I waited until I saw it confirmed on MSNBC. Then I sat there somewhat stunned and close to tears. I was alone in my little section. I wanted to bolt out of my chair and run to the nearest person saying, “Did you hear the news?” But I thought, they would think it’s ridiculous. I wondered if they would find it strange that I was close to tears over the loss of this person. My work buddy returned and I asked her, did you hear? She had. She actually heard a few people joking about it and scoffed, internally. She summed up the experience beautifully. “No matter what you thought of the man, a human being has died!,” she said steamily. (That isn’t verbatim but I hope I caught the essence).

My work buddy and I talked about his music and his impact. I told her, I didn’t know a moment of my life without Michael Jackson. I grew up with him. I remember watching him on TV as a kid and my mother remarking, “He has rubberbands as legs.” I remember him as being talented and a wonderkid. There was no one like him.

As a young teenager I saw a picture of him as the “adult” Michael and remembered thinking how cute he was. So I clipped out his picture and added to all the others I was into like Harrison Ford and Adam Ant. I remember rushing home to be there for the exact moment that MTV played the world premiere of Thriller. I was awed. And I tried to do the moves. I moonwalked. Not as badly as you would think. I didn’t wear the glove – I was a preppy after all. But like most people I knew, I owned Thriller. Mind you, in that, that was quite extraordinary. Although I wore conservative, preppy clothes, I did it because I didn’t want to follow trends. I wanted to be my own person. I didn’t want to listen to the music everyone else did. I didn’t buy Thriller because it was the thing to buy (it took me YEARS before I bought a Madonna album). I bought it because I truly loved the music – and I listened to that album way past its trendiness.

I didn’t follow much of Michael’s music later on. Not because I didn’t like it but because my focus changed. I had become heavily involved in anti-war activist work and I wasn’t tapped into anything mainstream, including music (and by that time, Michael was mainstream). I remember though, during that time, being at Moma’s Royal Café in Oakland, and Michael’s, Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough blared through the restaurant. My friend and I started grooving at the table. Then our food came. Our server dropped off our dishes and did a turn right to the beat. We clapped and continued to dance. This isn’t the typical way white suburbanites act while having brunch but such was the impact of Michael’s music. We had to “get down” because his music was so upbeat.

After that, the dark years of Michael being accused and ridiculed descended upon us. I had doubts whether the accusations were true but I did feel differently about the icon I grew up with. Then maybe because the later years were so hard, I wanted to reconnect with Michael’s “old” music (the time prior to all the ugliness) so I bought Off The Wall. It had been years since I heard Rock With You. Then it seemed like I heard the old hits everywhere. I went to Peets on Piedmont and the cashier was rocking out to She’s Got Me Working Day and Night (mind you, probably an art student with his piercings and died red, half -shaved hair). At a friend’s party I talked to a bassist about the greatness of Off The Wall and the genius of the rhythm section. Despite all the negative press of the later years, however, or whatever you thought of the person, his music touched people.

For me, Off the Wall got me through the trying time of finishing school. Having an almost choking writing block, whenever I felt paralyzed by the work, I would put on Off the Wall and danced – especially to the line, “Do what you want to do. They’re ain’t no rules, it’s up to you.” I held onto that line like a mantra because it’s true, it is up to all of us to do what we want, regardless of what people say about us.

I heard the spirit of Off the Wall over and over again during Michael Jackson’s memorial service. Reverend Al Sharpton, for me, said it best. Michael got knocked down and he got up – over and over again. Because he had passion and because he had love. Love for music. Love for the world.

My work buddy had said she felt for his children because Michael was so greatly in debt. “What debt?” I thought. What could HE possibly owe the world – a person who has given so much? The outpouring of love from around the world shows just that; that people felt they owed so much to him, his voice, his compassion, his talent and his music. I heard an interesting tidbit on the news. With the recent sales of Michael’s music, if it continues at this rate, his debt will be paid off in a week. It’s hard to hear Michael spoken about in monetary terms but such is the world we live in now. Hearing those statistics didn’t surprise me – but I thought of it in much more positive terms. I thought in a way, his fans, his friends were repaying him for all that he brought. It reminded me of the scene in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life where all of George Bailey’s financial problems were solved when friends and neighbors all rallied around to repay him for all that he gave. In fact, the whole memorial service reminded of It’s a Wonderful Life – when you got past the negatives the media tended to portray and heard the incredible stories about this person you realized the immense impact he had the world over. He truly did have a wonderful life. He got to do what he wanted to do – no matter what other people said about him.
He lived Off the Wall.

I don't think of him in the negative shadows the lawsuits cast. I'm beyond that. His music, spirit and soul transcends space and time. I’m forever grateful to him for helping raise the vibrational level of the planet to a higher place where love can ring through. May it keep on ringin'........