Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Today is the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Padmanabha
. May true good fortune be had by all the inhabitants of the Universe. . ."Every soul is related to every other soul."
If, in the course of your life, you come across true, essential goodness, my advice to you is that you snatch it up and try to slip it into your heart. It's often not easy---like bringing a bouquet of lotuses home to a vase, when you realize your only vase needs washing. I'm still washing, but ever so grateful to have seen the lotuses.
Yarrrr. It's International Talk Like a Pyrate Day. Light be running out like grog on a barnacl'd ship, so set to it, me harties! Arrrr!
I bin talking like a pyrate near three days now, and my pate be addled. With all the brethren of the coast yarrin an arrin', some landlubbers growl that we be a dark and evil tide, throwing good booty after that which be real and very, very bad. Ye olde costumed pyrate aside, sea-robbers are real, they're still around
, and and nice they ain't
. So whence all this arrrrdor?
Any time ye be aiming for fancy britches and sword play and corsets, all hornpiped to history-like, ye be ignorin' problems with luck and morrrality. God'fearrin' pyrates from the Golden Age might have been right cruel sea-dogs, but so were the better dressed and better lettered Red Coats, Conquistadors, East India Company Men, and assorted other fortune-hunters who chased 'em this way, and stole their tricks that way. Even fancy land-lubbin Knights dined by common folk slavin'. I be sounding like a cheap scurvy dog, but there's a bit of truth in me excuses--those legal sailors were as often not dragged to the seas 'gainst any liking, see that yarn by Cap'n Melville, Billy Budd
. One man's pirate or mutineer is anothers' freedom fighting slave, as be found in Benito Cereno
. If the established legal crown are just sponsors of pirates themselves, what's wrong with being a pirate for yourself? Live free and die fighting be an old and true part of the Code.
Talking like pyrate doesn't mean killing like one, and there be new means to live free and die fighting. Leave out the plank walking and the keelhauling, I'll take the stomping and the hornpiping and the free range of britches. If there be warriors for peace, there be pirates for right heartiness, and let a bit o' blinnnnnng and arrrrin' remind ye there be treasure in freedom.
From Unfogged: Pyrate Alphabet
via Lizardbreath. From Daphne: Pyrate Law
Yarrrr! Harr Harr, Yaar!
Tomorrow be talk like a pyrate day, and if ye be addlepated, scurvy dogs, I'll lend ye timbered visions to bring about the groggy voice. Avast and watch! Link from Michelle
. Apologies to PowerPoint Bilge Rats.
Of Blogs and Bridges
The blogosphere can, in fact, occasionally get stuff done, and the proof was on Saturday.
My friend Steven met me because he read my blog. He's also a journalist, and when he came home to the Bay Area, he asked me if I wanted to meet up. We hit it off, not only with each other, but with each other's friends, and now we work mere blocks away from each other and meet up for coffee and collegial griping. We possibly would have met eventually, since many of his classmates have worked with me, but instead of being passing acquaintances, we've become good friends.
Steven's girlfriend Katie works at a spunky, ambitious charter school in Oakland, KIPP Bridge College Prep School
. It has slowly been moving into an old building that previously belonged to Lowell Middle School, finally getting the whole building this school year. They didn't have any janitorial service until very recently, so the teachers had to clean the classrooms themselves--on top of a grueling work schedule. (KIPP schools have very long days, and teachers carry cell phones so their students can call them for help after school and on the weekends.) Steven felt bad that no one had time to wash the school's windows, which were covered in cobwebs, and that the library was unusable because it was overflowing with old textbooks and dust. The teachers have had a slow time clearing it out on top of all their other duties. Since I'm an East Bayer he asked me if I'd be interested in helping them do a little cleaning, and maybe my friends . . .?
I put out an email request. A couple of the usual suspects you know answered--Scotto and Emily Cooper and EChan--as well as another friend Emily. Let us say these were the friends I have in "real life." That's a pretty good gathering. But from blogospheric-friendland I also got replies from Robin of Snarkmarket
, and Salil, a fellow commenting Sepia Mutineer
. Again, like Steven--perhaps I would have met these guys anyway, but probably not. And their enthusiastic email replies were the tipping factor that made me think that yes, this was going to happen.
Several flurries of email later, we met up on Saturday afternoon. Steven brought three of his friends. We boxed shelves and shelves worth of old text books up, clearing space in the warehouse so that the library itself can be cleared out and made clean and organized so children can go look for knowledge and stories and have a nice place to do their work. There's a lot of work left, but I think we made a sizable dent. Windows were cleaned, both from the inside and outside. Salil and Steven's friend Joel were quite a sight, standing on the roof of a walkway, hosing off cobwebs and grime, uncomplaining about the fact that they were soaking themselves wet, despite the cold. The Emilies applied their eyes for detai
l and organizational
skills. EChan boxed up copies of the U.S. Constitution study guides. Robin and I rebonded over library memories like D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
. Steven's friends Sue and Ashanti brought bagels. Scotto kept everything safe
. (Not trivial with huge boxes of books--at one point he had to come and unpin me and EChan.) We worked pretty solidly for four or five hours with music and snacks. There's still a lot of work to be done, and I'm not sure if, when, or how it will get done. But I do think we helped. It's really wonderful to have friends who are willing to party with me like that.
The whole thing gave me a lot of food for thought on the whole subject of our public school system and the way our communities and our age group interact with that system. It'll be many years before I have school age children, and now I think I'm going to need all of them to do my bit for the school system. There's a lot to say and think about that, and I'll try to later. But for now I'm glad that we put aside the saying and thinking and did more of the doing. I was raised with the belief that unselfish hard work is life's greatest joy, and while I usually feel about as far away from that ideal as from the stars, every now and then I brush against it and feel its truth.
I want to emphasize how simple this was. All you need to do is have a friend who is a teacher at a school in need, a Saturday afternoon, and some other friends, and less coordination then you would put into a BBQ. Try it! It's a huge amount of fun.
Building 253 after the rains
My colleague Telstar Logistics, editor and flickr maestro extrordinaire, has been documenting the abandoned military bases of the Bay Area. I thought this photo was really lovely, even without considerations of context and history---the plate glass, the shimmering reflection, the colors and contrasts, the composition. Here's a black and white postcard of the same building in its engineering heydey
Why have terrorists not struck the US since 9-11?
In the current issue of Foreign Affairs
, Prof. John Mueller of Ohio State poses the obvious yet apparently subversive question is there still a terrorist threat?
He points out, quite reasonably, that despite how easy it would be to terrorize the US population with, say, a single sniper rifle
, we have not seen a single domestic terror attack since 9-11. His suggestion is that despite the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, al Qaeda is not the omnipresent danger that we've been led to believe -- that they are far less competent, coordinated, and threatening than Code Orange
would have us think.
This is an important question, and I wish somebody (i.e., the Democrats) would stand up and ask Bush why this is the case. Does the White House honestly believe that US efforts to seal the borders against terrorists and track down sleeper cells have been 100% effective? That despite the tons of illegal drugs entering this country every day, aQ has been prevented from sneaking in a suicide bomber or two to blow up a suburban shopping mall or a Starbucks? We've also heard the theory that aQ is "biding its time" for something Really Big. But it's hard to buy this as an explanation, since bide too long and you risk losing the attention, and the fear, of the American public.
I'm not convinced that Mueller is right, or that as a consequence of his arguments we should forget about the whole anti-terror campaign. Certainly we face threats, as was clear from the disruption of the UK airplane plot several weeks ago. But I do think we should ask why Americans should have their phone calls spied on and their library records secretly seized when the evidence for a clear and present domestic danger is thin indeed. Maybe the emperor has no clothes after all.