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Rumilluminations August 2009
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Sat, August 01 2009 - 2:36 pm

August 31, 2009                              Valparaiso, IN

News, news!

It turns out that Valparaiso is also having a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, September 2nd in support of a bill providing for a public health care option!

Yay!  No trip all the way to Highlands!  Instead I'm walking over to the County Courthouse in downtown Valparaiso at 7 o'clock Wednesday evening.  For me, a candlelight vigil is - eternally - also a vigil for peace.

Well, this is the last day of August.  School has begun, and the fall crispness in the air has intensified.

I even saw a maple tree the other day with a respectable display of red leaves.  The plunge into Fall (ha, ha - or is it the fall into the plunge into Winter?) has begun.

The candles at the vigil Wednesday night will help keep us warm!

August 30, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

After my hissy-fit yesterday about this being a woman-hating country, I'm all calmed down and sanctimonious today because it is Sunday.

Ha, ha!

Fat chance!

I do admit I get a little excessive sometimes.  Well, it is just for dramatic effect.

No, today will be public announcement day.  Please consider attending a candlelight vigil in support of legislation for a public health care option near the SE intersection of Highway 6 (Ridge Road in Highland, IN) and Highway 41 Wednesday evening at 6 p.m.

Tea will not be served, bagged or otherwise!

(Ha, ha, we are trying to summon up more numbers than the Tea-baggers, who I am told had a demonstration recently themselves.  Now, remind me:  what is it they stand for?  Everybody's right to go un-insured, except those over 65?  Isn't that contrary to equality under the law?  After all, the Civil Rights Act was supposed to protect us from discrimination on the basis of age!)

If your orange public health care option T-shirt is as big as mine, you can wear it over your Fall jacket!

See you there!

P.S.  These vigils are happening all over the country.  Maybe it isn't too late to attend one near you! 

August 29, 2009                         Valparaiso, IN

Don't tell me this is not a woman-hating country.

Not when a man sentenced to 50 years for kidnapping and multiple rape gets out in TEN YEARS!

This man Garrido who imprisoned a woman in his backyard for 18 years (no, pardon me, for the first seven years or so, she was legally a child) could and should have been in prison for the entire time of her abduction and the years he held her and their children prisoner.

The idea that there are so many men walking around free that have raped women here and/or while in military service abroad makes my blood run cold.

I guess there is not much Quaker influence left in me.  I wish there were a species of giant owl that just loves rapists, whom they can identify by their particular peculiar rotten smell!

Or maybe kids could identify them.  After all, the neighborhood kids called him "creepy Phil!" 

August 28, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

This evening, walking to do an errand for a friend, my partner and I saw a bird kind of fluttering and stumbling low to the ground.  What was that? we wondered.  It looked a little unusual somehow.

The bird decided to land on a wooden swing about a foot off the ground and we could see it was a little owl!

He looked at us and we looked at him.  We could see the two big round areas surrounding his eyes, and very little neck.

Definitely a small owl - what a treat!

I have never seen an owl in my neighborhood before!

When I tried to edge closer to see in what little light there was, he flew up into a low branch, where we got to observe him from a different angle.  In the gray light I saw a white spot or two on the shoulder of his wing.  He seemed to be almost as interested in us as we were in him!  (Maybe it was my strange, cooing call!)

And then, all of a sudden, we saw another little shape silhoutted against the dimming sky - and another!

In all, we could see three of these mini-owls, which we think were young saw-whet owls.  (I estimated them at nine inches, and saw-whets are seven or eight inches, according to my bird-books.)

They didn't make a sound, just flew silently.

We looked for them on our return trip but we didn't see them;  they must have been making their rounds.

August 27, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

When does a right become a wrong?

I have the right in the U.S. to bare arms, but if I bare my arms on the coldest day of winter, that might be wrong, if only stupidly wrong.

We have the right to gather, but that doesn't mean we gather for no reason, just because we have the right.  Does it?  There again, it might not be morally wrong, but it would be bankrupt of meaning.  Even gathered starlings who seem to be yelling their heads off and pooping all over everything have a reason to meet, I bet.

So most certainly human beings don't meet for absolutely no reason at all - just because "it is our right."

When do two "rights" make a wrong?

When the right to bear firearms intersects the right to public assembly, that's when.

It is stupid inconsiderate unnecessary behavior, therefore it's not right, it's wrong!

August 26, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

In an ABC TV program about entitlements many years ago John Stossel claimed that the money we put into social security only funds about three years of our benefits.

I accepted that at face value at the time.

Now I'm beginning to wonder.  Was that a simple translation dollar to dollar?

Or did it take into account inflation, minimum wage equivalencies, and the interest all that money I put in earned for the social securities fun (fund - ha, ha, Freudian slip - I am planning on having fun with some of my social security money!)

Well, I just started drawing my social security, and the money I am getting is mine - all mine! - by any calculation.

And who knows?  Maybe by the time three years have passed I'll be a financially successful writer who refuses to take social security because I don't need it!

Ha!  I can dream!

August 25, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Of all the unreasonable requests I have ever heard, it is the request that someone ask me to do a chore "with joy."

This hasn't happened in a long time, in so many words.  Years ago people asked me to do stuff "with joy" that I thought they were lucky to find someone do at all.

For the last few years, though, I have been living under my mother's roof, and I'm getting transported back to those days, almost on a daily basis.

Mom doesn't ask me to do stuff "with joy."  She wants me to do something "if I want to."

Well, I want to do someone else's bidding just about as much as I want to do it "with joy."

Anything I do with joy is usually something I do with self-motivation.  I do a lot of stuff because it needs to be done.  I don't enter emotionally into the experience with joy or sorrow.  I just do it.

What is this fake spirituality that these people want from me?

If they think it is required that an activity be done "with joy," why don't they do it themselves?

August 24, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

I'm in the kitchen trying to read a book, and the new bird, a zebra finch, is singing.

If you can call it a song.  The sound is identical to that made by a baby's squeeze toy.

I have to admit it's an amusing sound.  Truly the makers must have heard a zebra finch and thought, "That's it!  That's exactly what we want!"

Or maybe they wanted little kids to be able to call little birds and have them come.  In Australia, anyway.

It seems to me that would quadruple the entertainment value of a squeeze toy!

My partner got the zebra finch a few weeks after one of his strawberry finches died, he believes of old age.

The only trouble is, now the larger zebra finch hangs out with the two society finches, which are also bigger than poor little strawberry.

What a social climber!

Somehow I envision another strawberry finch and a new bird cage in our future.

Too bad we don't have a toddler with a squeeze toy and a playroom where we could banish the zebra finch! 

August 23, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Just walked through our dining room and got a glimpse of the TV show my mom was watching in the next room.

It looked like someone was working with cocoa - a whole screenful of it!  Yum, yum!

I paused and the next second I could see that people were hacking through chocolate-colored soil - in Africa, she said.

Hmmm... it might be nice to live in a hot place with chocolate-colored soil.

In flood-season, I could imagine myself a marshmallow in hot chocolate.

I could make clay sculptures of dark chocolate candy bars.

I eat dark chocolate every day.  I am not suffering a Lenten or fat-free diet chocolate deprivation.

Why should I see cocoa in a pile of dirt?

Then again, why should I start fantasizing about my morning cup of coffee the night before? 

August 22, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN


Two busy days in a row and I am silenced!

(Was a gun "silencer" meant as a pun?

It silences the gun and the gun silences the victim?  No, that wouldn't be a double meaning.)

It makes me think that if I'm too busy I can't think!

Is this how those in power (governmental, corporate, religious, spousal - whatever) keep us under control?

Too busy to think, too busy to think!

Gotta get the shopping done food on the table the lawn mowed the family entertained the cleaning  ...

That is the way my life was for years.  Politics was well-nigh nonexistent.

Well, not any more.  Except for some strange reason, the last couple of days.  Am I still capable of rational thought?

I'm not sure.

Nobody's fault, just the way it goes sometimes...


August 20, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Do you go down to the basement when there is a tornado warning?

Do you look left - right - left when you cross a street?

Do you have fire alarms?

Do you look down a one-way street in the opposite direction before you cross it, just in case someone is driving the wrong way?

Do you think any of those precautions are silly?

I'm all for going into the basement when there is a tornado warning - but I've got to make it a little more comfy down there before anyone else in the house will be willing to go!

Oh, hell.  They probably won't go even if it is more comfortable.

How will I feel if the house gets carried away by the high winds and I am the only one left?

At the very least, insufficiently persuasive!

August 19, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Just read about a woman getting kicked out of an Olive Garden Restaurant because she breast-fed her baby there with what they considered inadequate cover-up.  She was making other customers "uneasy."

I tell you what would make me "uneasy":  someone carrying a deadly weapon on his waist or leg.  I wonder if the same manager would allow people packing guns or wearing knives in leg sheaths inside his restaurant.

How can anyone feel threatened by the sight of a woman suckling her child?  People go to museums of art and see such images all the time.

That's kind of amusing, isn't it?  How did our society get so removed from what is natural and right that a woman being a good mom makes people uneasy?

Making toplessness "indecent" exposure is silly anyway.  At least female breasts have a function that precedes and is apart from sex, unlike the male nipple.

We women are still getting silly sanctions because of men's unfortunate hang-ups with the female body.

Sometimes people's "uneasiness" shouldn't be accommodated.

This is one of those times.

Ha, ha.  The constitution preserves our freedom to bear arms, but not to bare breasts.  Ooo, scary!

Bam, bam.  You're dead!

August 18, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Too bad the public option for health insurance isn't just Medicare expanded.

People can see their parents and grandparents being taken care of under Medicare.

The structure of the program is already set up.  Seems to me that it would be relatively cheap to expand it to include anyone without insurance.

Let the people who are rolling in plenty pay for it.  Why not?  How could it possibly bring them to the same level of wealth as those of us who would use it?

Watch me cry for the person who can't afford a yacht because his taxes have gone up!

Not a tear!  You know why?  Because he doesn't exist!

August 17, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

I dreamed last night that I was going fast in a car.  I told the driver to turn left to go to the Inner State and he went straight toward the Interstate so fast the car was about ready to tip over backwards!  Some rarin' stallion!

We missed the turnoff to the Inner State.  In my dream I said, "Now it's too late."

When I woke up I was thinking that the dream was about my health - the state of my internal organs.

Upon further musing, I thought maybe the Inner State was a spiritual consideration.

Why not both?  Why tend to one and neglect the other?  (Financial difficulties could be one answer to that question!)

I learned the other day that even if a good health insurance bill passes, it will be too late for me.  By the time it is implemented in 2013, I will be eligible for Medicare.  With any luck I will live to qualify for that program.

Even if I will no longer need it,  I still support a public care option.  I don't mind if I have to pay taxes out of my social security income to help finance it.  It is very important, and not nearly so expensive as war!

(Oh, and a note to that selfish guy Armey who is suing the government to not be on Medicare.  What a wonderful way to spend taxpayers' money!  Making the government (us) pay to defend itself against a stupid lawsuit like yours!)

August 16, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

Alternative ways to spend a Sunday morning:

Ride on a bike on a hillside!

Say "Howdy" to a rowdy bawdy in a crowdy!

Hop into a copse and copulate!

Drink an extra cuppa on a brinka sumthin!

Smell the petals from the pedals!

Dream streakin' on a sunbeam!

Let the fishes do the dishes!

August 15, 2009                          Valparaiso, IN

What are you doing?

Heh, heh, where did your mind go when you read that?

Today after we got home from the gym, some teenagers skateboarded and biked by.

One of them was saying what sounded like: snigger "keep (or kick?) the niggers out of Valpo!" snigger.

I don't know if he was saying it on his own account or if he was laughing at some others who were trying to do it.

He was one of two kids on a bike.  Judging by that, I thought the former.

What was I doing?  What was he doing?

I came inside and saw a magazine article about Michael Jackson having been injected with drugs to dull his sexual desires during the time he was having sleepovers at Neverland.

What was he doing?

I dunno.  It just seems like a good question to ask ourselves every once in a while.

What the hell am I doing?

August 14, 2009                           Valparaiso, IN

Honestly, Americans are coming off to me (watching the media) as big babies.

"I want my America back!"

Boo, hoo.

What do you think the United States is, a big satin-edged baby blanket?

The thing that kills me is that the people squalling most about big government are the people who act the most childishly.

Maybe they still have separation anxiety.

Don't worry, kiddies, the government ain't your mama or your daddy, either.

August 13, 2009                            Valparaiso, IN

Sometimes when I am at the library looking for a good movie I read the CD covers.

No more.

It is not so much that I am disappointed about the way the movie really comes off as opposed to how it is described.

It is more outrage at how badly the movie is represented in precis.

Did the person who wrote the blurb really watch the movies?

Now I know why I don't read book covers.

Why bother?

It only creates a conflict and distraction when I should be absorbing the work whole-mindedly.

Sometimes I think the people who write this stuff read comic books and Cliff Notes instead of the whole assigned work when they were in school!

August 12, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

Yes, let's talk about the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

If they were here, they wouldn't want to go back to the good old days. 

They would be so delighted and interested and impressed with all the inventions and equality we have (far more than they ever envisioned!) and how far we have come in being able to offer support and succor for the less economically functional among us that they would have to give themselves a big and mighty pat on the back for what they started!

You want to go back to what they envisioned?

Well, not only were blacks and women not considered capable of voting, but neither were white males if they did not own property (land, I guess.)

So, please stop calling for us to go back to what the Founding Fathers put in the Constitution.

Unless you want to go back to a time before universal suffrage, before doctors developed the practice of washing their hands before operating on you, and we women did not have the right to own property.

Please, please, go back to your homes and hit the books!

You are more ignorant than the Founding Fathers if you want to turn the clock back two hundred years!

August 11, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

When Sarah Palin said that to have a system in which you were judged worthy of health insurance by how useful you are to society would be "evil" I thought it was a very strange thing to have said.

Of course that is exactly the kind of system we have now.

Sure, there is no "death board" deciding whether or not you are worthy of living.  (Fat chance of getting even that much individual attention!)  But we do have a society in which, for most of us below the age of 65, health insurance is linked to employment.  If you are not employed (and have not been employed for at least six months) you most likely don't have health insurance.

Fifteen years ago I got catastrophic health insurance for myself for $40 dollars a month.  I didn't use any of it.  It was all, in the end, a donation to the insurance company which gave it to me.

Five years ago I couldn't get health insurance (probably the HMO variety) for $400 a month - ten times as much.

What the U.S. has is a grotesque Ayn Randian employment-based (hence inextricably linked to the idea of the financial value an individual has to society) system of health care.  If you don't get it through work, you have to buy it for yourself.  If you don't have money, you can't afford to.

That is why I was surprised to hear Keith Olbermann say on his show last night that such a system would be evil and the U.S. doesn't have it, will not have it and never would have it.

We do have it.

What I don't understand is how so many citizens of the U.S. can feel so darn secure in their own jobs and situation in life that they think they can afford not to care about the rest of us.

Next year, they might be the ones, who, having lost their jobs or discovered their coverage to be illusory, need public health care.

August 10, 2009                             Valparaiso, IN

It's been a strange summer.

It's been unusually cool.  Yay!

I have seen very few lightning bugs.  Boo!

I have seen relatively few Japanese Beetles.  Yay!

The phlox have been unbelievably tall, abundant.  Yay!

I have a partner in my everyday life.  Yay!

I have less time to myself.  Boo!

See a pattern here?

I do.

I don't know whether to say yay or boo!

August 9, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

When I was in college or shortly thereafter, I remember hearing that some directors (and play-writers) were in revolt against the feel-good happy-happy movies and theatre (probably part of a regular cycle of reaction, I suppose) that the people usually like.

Well, I've always been partial to happy endings myself.  But I went along with experiencing the tragedies, too.  After all, they are supposed to be "cathartic."

Now I have begun to wonder.  Do these unhappily evil characters purge us of our hostilities vicariously or just plant evil ideas into our unhappy little brains?

But that is not what I'm writing about today.

I've brought this up because if people can't tolerate unhappiness in movies, dramas, and novels unless it all comes right in the end, why do they create so much criminal misery in their own lives?

My partner and I have been watching a movie a day on DVD.  Some titles are not familiar to us, even though they have great actors in them and have won awards. 

Almost always, we discover, they have hard, difficult unhappy endings.  They may be high quality, but they are not cherished.  Have you ever even heard of Don't Bother to Knock starring Marilyn Monroe, or Ten Thousand Acres with Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer?

Cassandra's Dream (admittedly not the greatest movie, anyway, but it's one of Woody Allen's!) is considered a contemporary morality play with predictable undoings.

The comfort when you watch such misery and folly is, "It's only make-believe."

Why then, do so many people write their own unhappy endings?

Do we demand less from ourselves than we expect from the arts?


August 8, 2009                               Valparaiso, IN

Look at Conan O'Brien.  Then look at Wikipedia's picture of  Antonin Arnaud.  Pretty funny, huh?

Arnaud, who died in 1948, invented a concept he called the Theatre of Cruelty in his book, The Theatre and its Double.

My partner is the one who became aware of the physical similarity between Conan and Antonin, and generously jokes that there is no other similarity between the two, except perhaps once in a while in Conan's monologue!

Does Conan do a comic rendition of the idea Theatre of Cruelty? (Which, for Artaud, was not about sadism or cruelty.  If your curiosity is piqued, look the guy up!  I know nothing about him except he looks a lot like O'Brien.)

It might be fun to have a website that is all look-alike gallery.

I'm not talking impersonators, I'm just talking about random bizarre look-alikes.  A website like that could be lots of fun!

Eerie Similarities!


August 7, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

I don't get it.  Since when does being unhappy give you the right to kill, rape, and maim people?

A guy goes into school and opens fire instead of his books.

Another goes into a gym - where people go for their health! - and kills four (including himself) and injures several others.

Just yesterday afternoon a man drove down Highway 30 and hit seven cars and trucks, injuring several, before his own vehicle became immobilized by the accidents he caused.  Accidents - hmph - how does one have seven accidents?

When I was working at the Moellering Library at VU years ago, a mother of four was talking about her fourteen-year-old daughter.  They were hiking a Dunes trail and the fourteen-year-old complained the whole way.  The mom was laughing ruefully.

"Just because she's unhappy, everybody has to be unhappy!"

So that's what I have tried to remember when I find myself too miserable for others to be around.

I'm unhappy?  That's my problem!  I have to turn inward to search for answers.  What do I have to change within myself or in my life to turn it around?

I've been unhappy.  I've been desperately unhappy.  I've been about as full of despair as anyone could be.

I guarantee one thing.

Increasing the unhappiness of others will not make you happier.

Killing other people will not make you happy.

It might make you dead, but not happy!

Er... or not for long!

All it does is expose you for the selfish internally fourteen-year-old you really are.

August 6, 2009                                 Valparaiso, IN

I understand that religious people need to put their God first.

But why do so many millions feel the need to learn about nothing but their religion?

I remember reading once long ago about a female astrologer who deplored all the time young women wasted on sewing clothing for themselves and working on their appearances.

Well, amen to that, I guess, although I must confess to having been one of those frivolous creatures to whom a sewing machine was not a tool of the devil!

But what a waste, it seems to me, all the hours we spend on religious studies!  I'm not talking about the linguists who specialize in translating from original texts (oh, what an eye-opener that can be!) but all the folks who pore over the texts of their religions for hour after hour on a daily basis, looking for answers to their twentieth century problems that are not there!

We are not in heaven, after all.  We are here on earth.  Studying anything - almost anything! - will add to our knowledge and help us cope with what life has to throw at us.

We are always hearing about someone who didn't know about some basic danger or fact or responsibility that could have saved her life.

Don't depend on the schools to educate you.  School up through college is just ABCs, really.  Why obsess on one otherworldly subject which, unless you have a gift for the ministry, will not help you in the real world?

Ignorance is not bliss! 

August 5, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

Hmm... I'm thinking about F for failing.  And flailing and fleeing and falling flat.  (Is doling out flattery making a flatness of yourself?)

On the other hand, there's flying and floating and Heidi Flume!

Flesh and flow, flutter and frown.

February - ugh!

Friday - ah!

Fabulous ferocity and flimsy tomfoolery.

Frantic frivolity and fabulously fine fantasy!

August 4, 2009                                  Valparaiso, IN

I was reared in large part by Quaker values.  As an adult I went to Meeting for a dozen years or so.

Now I'm a lapsed Quaker, in a way.  (But at least I'm not a collapsed Quaker like Nixon!)

For years my taxes went for defense and offenses (sometimes covertly) that killed people - including the grown children of my fellow citizens.  It was called war, and for some reason everybody accepts it all too readily.  I hated paying those taxes.

Now we need health care.  We need to put some money into saving peoples' lives and helping them stay healthy.

And all too often the people who are whining about paying for other peoples' abortions are the ones who voted for wars that have killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions!

Spare me the hypocrisy.

(Not to mention the fact that the argument is specious anyway, because no one is saying health insurance money will pay for any abortions anyway, I'm told.)

Send your own grown sons to a stupid needless death, and forbid your fifteen-year-old daughter to terminate an unwanted pregnancy!

Spare me the hypocrisy.

August 3, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

We're always hearing about the haves and the have-nots.

The advantages of having a lot of stuff are apparent.  What is not so apparent, always, are the disadvantages:  the necessary care, the expense, the stress of possible loss.

When it comes to weight, the disadvantages of having too much are obvious!  But in a way an older overweight person is in a good position.  When I took my skinny little body to the doctor the other day and told her I still wanted to build muscle, she shook her head.  "Not at your age.  You need hormonal support to make muscle."

Of course, I immediately resolved to drink a little soy milk every day for estrogen, just in case that might help!   But that's not what I am talking about.

If you are older and overweight, sure you have too much fat.  But you also have more muscle to carry your bulk around.

You are one up on me!  All you have to do is curtail your fat and keep exercising, and voila!  You will have more muscle than I have even though I work out every other day.

Exercising has been a good thing, anyway.  I am stronger than when I started and life is easier (except for the part I spend in the gym!)

Oh, and when it comes to having or having not, I suggest the happiest choice:  Could have if I wanted to!

August 2, 2009                                    Valparaiso, IN

What makes people feel that they have the power to make their lives better?

When I had babies, I changed their diapers on the floor of public bathrooms.  (I would put down one of those thin blankets as a protection for the babe's cleanliness, but those floors were usually hard and cold!)

It didn't occur to me to invent a changing table to change them.

Was it that I had very little control over my environment when I was a child?

Was it that I had been told to count my lucky stars to have what I had?

Was it a feeling of futility about anyone else listening to me if I ever did have a good idea?

I have an active imagination.  Did I really not care that much about practical life?

Are women the ones who finally came up with that wonderful changing table idea?

Or was it, as I suspect, men?

When single fathers found that they were expected to grovel around the floor of a sometimes filthy bathroom to change their babies, I suspect they said, "Fuck this!" and proceeded to invent the convenient changing tables that are ubiquitous in public bathrooms today.

Tell me if I'm wrong!

August 1, 2009                                     Valparaiso, IN

I have been having a lot of difficult and trying and threatening dreams lately.

Some dream theorists say that your dream life balances out your waking life:  if one is good, the other is bad.

Well, my waking life is okay these days.  Quite nice really, for the most part.

I'm a little nervous because my dream life in the past often was more of a warning than a balancing act.  There was something I wasn't doing right, or there was some conflict (internal or otherwise!) that I wasn't addressing.

Should I be concerned, or just thankful that the more overtly unpleasant of my daily experiences take place in a smaller time zone?

What do you think?

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