Friday, June 30, 2006

There's a bar in San Francisco called the 21st Amendment, after the repeal of Prohibition. I'm happy--a business named after part of the Constitution.

It made me think about what a Constitution bar would be like--sort of like a sports bar only a gathering place for people to get together and drink and watch the latest events in constitutional law.

If there was a contested controversial Constitutional amendment, like the Equal Right Amendment (for women) or a gay marriage ban that got somewhere, and it got down to the place where one more state legislature passing it would make it law, you could have sports-like coverage to watch in the Constitution bar.

"Now, like the the statehouse in Burlington Vermont, coverage of the twenty-something amendment--will they or won't they?"

The constitution bar concept does seem to have limits. Stuff doesn't happen every week or even every month. Though I suppose you could have a cop-ride-along show totally focussed on constitutional rights in that context.

Human on the street interviews about things that might involve the constitution is a possibility.

When big stuff happened, I could certainly get into going down to the old constitution bar and cheering and booing the screen. To prevent fisticuff, you might need liberal and conservative constitution bars. With sports bars, things work out because people usually root for the town team, but opinions on the constitution, what's good and what's bad, aren't as regional as sports allegiance. And are more serious, so people might not sit next to people rooting the other way in the best good humor.

--I found out about the 21st Amendment bar from the guide to neighborhoods in San Francisco and San Mateo that the Examiner put out today. It's good. I'm learning stuff. It's easy to read. It seems to be going mostly straight to trash, recycling or the gutter, which is understandable given the Examiner's uneven quality control, but I like it. Easy, informative, and there. If I ever read the part about, for example, Redwood City, I'll really be learning.
Allen Ginsberg wrote a book "Howl and Other Poems." One of the other poems is called "Song" and includes this: "The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction, the weight that we bear is love."

It's handy to have that in my consciousness because it pops up at odd times, somtimes at obvious moments for it, and sometimes when I'd rather not think about love but about something else, like me being right and other people being wrong. Thank you, Mr. Ginsberg.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I would like to shield you and surround you with softness in a place where you feel safe to think.

I'm being like the kid in "Goodbye, Columbus" by Philip Roth who visits the public library again and again to look at a book of reproductions of paintings done by Paul Gauguin in Tahiti.

I'm being like that kid about a book I found at the library called "A Studio of Her Own: Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940." I keep looking and looking at the book even more focused than the kid. He's looking at lots of paintings. I'm basically looking at one.

Looking at the Gauguin book clears makes the kid happy, but "Goodbye, Columbus" doesn't get into why that might be.

One possible reason is that it's the early nineteen fifties in the US. The kid is black. Media images of people who aren't white are really rare. So he goes and gets some to put in his head. Then he goes and gets them again. Also, of course, there are many women with fully visible breasts, interesting to all mammals, and especially interesting to a kid running toward puberty.

The "Studio of HerOwn" book includes "Woman in a Fur Hat," a picture of this woman who looks smart. She looks like she thinks. She looks like she routinely thinks about things in general. She looks like she thinks about what she wants to think about in her own style of thinking.

I keep looking at her. I look at her one day and another day. That's not enough. I've got to look at her again.

To play fair I must mention that she has brown hair and brown eyes. She is non-light. I am light. She is a non-blonde, and she, I blush to admit, is my type.

I can intellectually understand that women who are light and also look smart are, in theory, attractive. (How do you spell Gwenyth Partrow?) But for me to feel attraction, blonde isn't it. Blonde is what I saw in the mirror for a long time (naturally) until my body decided it was time for light brown. Blonde I've seen.

But it isn't mainly the non-blonde thing. That just takes me out of boredom. It's that she looks smart. That wakes me up and makes me want to look again.

I look at her, and she looks smart. I'm hungry for a public image of a woman who looks like she thinks.

"Woman in a Fur Hat" is 1915 picture by Gretchen Rogers who lived to 1937.

Gretchen Rogers didn't paint for many years in the last part of her life. This book doesn't know why. I don't like that she stopped painting.

Images of smart women. Images of smart women. I mean, they are there, those images, but not very there. It's like we've had to fight so hard to somewhat reduce the cultural space in which women are being visibly, sexually demeaned--we have reduced that space in some way;in some ways it's increased--that it would be too wild to think of more women who look like us including being brilliant.

There are more images of women who don't look like idiots. That's good. There are images of women in public who look like they think about things other than whiter and bright clothes.

There are not that many images of women who look like they are free range thinkers, that they think all the time about what they want to think about. It's progress that more public images of women don't look out and out stupid. But that's different than public images of women who look like they think like they breathe, like they love. That thinking and breathing and loving are all daily together. How can I breathe and love on a planet where things happen like happenon this planet? Let me think. Let me think for a lifetime and may I'll get a tenth of a clue, which would be a huge step forward.

One time I was utopianly thinking about a women's multiversity which would be designed for various women's various ways of learning. One of the realities would be these women would have spent years before coming to the school feeling completely safe to be who they were.

I now realize I would also want them continually by all kinds of images of all kinds of all kinds of humans, many of them women, being smart. Being smart physically, artly, lots of ways. Doing stuff smartly. Just sitting there thinking, like that's something everyone can do--and see how great it makes their eyes look?

Images of women who are habitual thinkers do not abound, so I keep looking at"Women in a Fur Hat."

You don't have to be me to like "Woman in a Fur Hat" by Gretchen Rogers. It is in color on the cover of "A Studio of Her Own." It's reproduced in black and white inside the book to open a chapter. It's reproduced in a color plate. All good as far as I'm concerned.

It's online--search terms Woman in a Fur Hat Gretchen Rogers.

Gretchen Rogers' subtle gradations don't transfer so very well in the internet reproductions I've seen compared to the book. Maybe somedayI'll see it where it lives, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, one of the great art museums in the world and I've never been there. I know from the book that that museum owns it. I don't know that it's one display at any given moment--have to check that.

The painting won a silver medal at the 1915 world's fair type event that San Francisco had to show it was back from the earthquake of 1906. That means when it was new the painting visited this very city to lend it skillful lesbian blessing to our future efforts.

What is the relationship between the unnamed woman in the portrait and the painter? The book doesn't say.

They are equals.

They know each other. Think a together. Have perhaps talked and talked. That's what I see in the painting.

The woman in the paintinglooks thoughtful even unto the point of being cautious.

She's wearing opposite amount of clothes than the women in Gauguin's Tahiti pictures--lots. Only her face shows skin. (Works for me, as a face woman.) The Tahiti women people are wearing small pieces of thin cloth, appropriate to the climate of Tahiti. The Boston woman is wearing a winter coat appropriate to the climate of Boston. A interesting choice for an indoor sitting, though. Cold studio? Cold world?

I think between the painter and the sitter are charged air molecules. They may be considering what to do about them. Or they might be way past that phase, and the sitter knows the wisdom of th the saying "Love and a cough can't be hid," but she's trying and somewhat succeeding.

The winter coat shields her. The winter coat surrounds her with softness.

Because the woman with the fur hat is in a winter coat she can be and is surrounded by softness. Hat with lots of fur above her face, fur collar around and below her face, fur muff at the bottom of the picture where her hands are hidden.

Because I have the feelings of someone like me living now about fur (the time for fur as clothing has passed) it took me a while to get fur as nature, as her soft and gently uncontrolled nature, fur as her gentleness.

The book says that the painter was into controlled gradations of color, not sharp contrasts, which is mostly true in this painting. Lots of brown and yellow. Lots of brown that seems warm in the reproduction in the book. In pixels the brown jumps from one tone to another and seems a bit glum.

Mostly gradations of subtle color, but on the hat, up there with her mind, in the upper right corner of the picture, a cloth red rose. Big. Open at the center. The opening isn't facing the painter or viewer. It's a bit off to the side.

She could move her head that thinks just a little, and the opening would be facing the painter and the viewer. That might be part of what she's thinking about. She is in the background of what she thinking about, thinking about everything. She's that kind. I look at her again.***

The strongest colors in the picture in tone are the red of the rose atop her head and the white of the collar encircling, Edwardian clothes style, her neck. Is there anything you'd like to say about your passion? So many women have been silenced by the sneer factor, by the death in childbirth factor, by the too exhausted to finish a thought factor.

People can say flowers in a painting are about one opening of a woman. I think flowers can be about all the openings to a women, and there are many, physical and more. Different among different people. If you can learn to be as soft and old and new as a flower, you can learn to be with the softness of a particular woman, of this particular world.

The world is hard. It's mostly rock. Life looks soft to me.

If we learn how to be with softness without harming it, our life is better. We help the life we live in.

Between the bright white throat that could speak and the bright red rose is the shaded thinking face considering what to be open to. Honor those thoughts.

The fur thing is reminder that sometimes people have tried to possess the softness and thoughts that women possess by paralyzing or killing place the softness and thoughts come from.

Be safe in an art making place with somebody you like and don't be all the way open if you don't want to be. Know your passion, your openness and use it as you will, exactly.

Shakespeare called plays comedies if nobody died. Sometimes the endings of the comedies not only were lacking in corpses but also felt like the couple who ended up together might have good times for a long time. Other comedies of Shakespeare it feels like the couples at the end have been consigned to author-approved, legally wed hell.

The comedies that feel good at the end are called by some Shakespeare fans the golden comedies. One of the most pleasant golden comedies is called "As You Like It." Rosalind gets what she wants, who she wants, what and who she wants look workable. The rebels against the ruler who have been having fun hanging out in the woods in an Italian summer (the setting is England, the weather Italian) get what they want before winter comes. Things look good all around.

Women and others have to hassle so much just to exist, it's hard to think about what "as you like it" would be like. It wouldn't just be, I think, the right partner but the right world.

I want women to think deep and broad about what their "as you like" it would be. Some of us have more space to move than women have had in thousands of years. We can make more different space for ourselves and others.

To think about how whole worlds could be different, you need space to think inside this world as it exists. Sometimes women have been so kept out of how the whole world is set up that they settle for little worlds of home and romance and intensify them. This can be hard on the other people involved because it demands too much of them.

To think of how this world might be different there needs to be a lot of space. Space to be open to one's whole self, to be open to many possibilities. We can give each other that space.

A room of one's own, Virginia Woolf's phrase, is for writing. A studio of one's own, the title of the Erica Hirshler book I keep staring out, is for painting.

Many arts and sciences are missing. We don't know what their room would be called. We need room to find what is in us, unnoticed, long absent, longed for by many without them knowing it. We need a room that has no purpose except for finding out what they missing purposes are.

We need to be open to changing the whole world with one thought distinctly our own. The thought itself makes different things possible. How grand to have company to do that work in.

Thinking about being open. Where would that be safe, and with whom?

--What I know about "The Women in the Fur Hat" and its painter, Gretchen Rogers, starting with their very existence, I learned from Erica E. Hirshler's book "A Studio of Her Own: Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940." Lots of good stuff, like a portrait of the writer May Sarton in her thirties by Polly Thayer. (Sarton looks like she thinks and is a non-blonde.) It's the kind of book that stays in print for a while and that larger libraries have.
". . . But I feel happy, but I feel scared, you know?"

--passing sidewalk talk
The book "To End War: A New Approach to International Conflict" by Robert Woito has a chapter called "Non-State Actors." That includes international non-government organizations, international corporations, and individuals.

The phrase "non-state actors" reminds me of a course I audited at Ohio State in the Jewish Studies department that was taught by a visiting professor from Israel named Frisel, life will be good if I can remember or find his full name.

He was as a person in day to day life a conservative Israeli, thinking his government should be tough and tougher.

He was also a historian. One time in class he flipped into historian mode and said something like this. Nationalism is probably a very transient phenomenon. Taking nations so very seriously is probably something that will be seen in the future as something like a passing fad. Jew in founding Israel may have gotten into this fad very late and in the future that may not be seen, by Jews, as a great idea.

This is very different than the way he usually talked about the country Israel, its importance, and how it should act. But who among us can put all our forms of intelligence together in one tidy package. Usually super tidiness intellectually means you leave out fairly big chunks of intelligence.

The course I audited from him was about something like "Intellectual Currents in Jewish Thought in Europe in the Late 19th century." The big question dealt with was "Can Jews survive in Europe?"

The way historians play their game we were not allowed to talk in that class about the Nazi death camps because the people we were reading didn't know about them.

(I pause and say from a whole other way of looking at things, some of the people we were reading clearly did, in effect know about them, because the camps were a predictable, if your were intensely pessimistic phenomenon, or because something that huge, some people can feel it coming, and see it. This is not a way of looking at things permitted in this, or any, graduate history class.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lots of same gender hand holding at the Pride gathering and parade. That's part of the point.

Also more same gender hand holding in San Francisco in the week after Pride Sunday, I think because people are on vacation, and that's part of the point.

Adults in the USA don't hold hands a lot, and that's true of all San Franciscans of all sexual persuasions on the normal weekday. It's different to see two women spring onto the F line from the Castro in the morning commute holding hands as they pay their fare and holding hands all the way downtown.

That may be how people outside San Francisco picture the city (different people puttinga positive or negative sign by the imagined mass hand holding) but it isn't what happens.) Except right after Pride. I think some locals are enboldened and made less uptight and American by Pride. Being of the same gender is not the only reason to not hold hands. There's also US ideas about individualism and not being soft and now it's time to work.

I think most of the workaday hand holders I see are tourists making their imagined utopia more real than it usually is.

Monday, June 26, 2006

On Pride day, gay is quite okay day, I was walking down the long 17th Street hill from below Twin Peaks behind a couple of gay guys and their four or five year old son. One of the guys was a natural efficient type--we are walking down the hill, therefore let us do so with dispatch and focus. The other guy seemed warmer and noticed what was up with the child more, noticed that his hat was slipping off for example.

The kid was having fun adoring them both. Holding hands with the efficient one, holding hands with the more kid-centered one, holding hands with both. Looking up happily a lot. After the parent who noticed his hat was slipping adjusted it, the kid adjusted it more. He made sure both parents truly noticed how great the hat now looked.

Downtown, as the Pride parade proceeded on its inspirational interminable way, I noticed a couple of children, 7 or 8 ish, standing on the wall above the BART steps watching the parade with their mother next to them.

After a while, she said to them, do you want to watch this or do you want to go shopping? She seemed utterly fine either choice.

I deduced that she wasn't gay or particularly gay connected and that they had come to downtown San Francisco to shop. The kids noticed the parade and wanted to watch. She let them, and was willing to let them for as long as they wanted.

When she asked and I heard, they chose shopping.

The Pride parade could sound to children much more interesting than it looks to them because of the almost continuous enthusiastic cheering. "I support you. I support you too. And you."

The cheers go on and on, in lateral support that sometimes has to substitute for the support of family.

So lots of sincere cheering would sound interesting to children, but a lot of the Pride parade consists of regular people in regular clothes walking down the street in groups. Not intrinsucally fascinating to the young. The parade has, as is famous, lots of costuming, but it has more people who are just looking every day, here, and thereby saying who they are and that who they are is quite okay with them. Depending on the individual's story, there can be much bravery in being there, or bravery in what it took to get there, but visually, what a lot of the parade lots like is people walking.

Last year on Pride morning a guy at Church and Market asked me how to get from there to his church on public transportation. He usually drove.

I didn't know the answer to his question, but since he was talking to me he had to tell me how proud and happy he was to be marching with his church, to be walking down the street in regular clothes with others from his church.

He had to tell me this because he was burst with it, bursting with happiness.

This man is a natural born Christian. It's in his DNA. That whole way of looking at things is the way of looking at things he was born to have. Except for the hating gay people part.

He had to leave the religion that was him, in many ways, because the way he was raised that religion said his body was very, very wrong.

Eventually he found a particular Episcopal church and particular priest at that church, a woman, who welcomed him home. Profound happiness ensued. He was beaming with it at the corner of Church and Market, being where he wanting to be more than he had been able to be in his life. Till he found this church, he hadn't been able to have his two most loving parts exist at the same time and place.

I didn't see his church's delegation at the long, long parade, but I remeber for everyone, the brave queen and guy walking in casual Friday dress, there is a story, often one filled with guts and with people making room for each other to be who they are.

I cheer the guy and the priest. I support you in supporting all whom you support.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Moby Dick" is a fun book for the first 100 pages, before Ahab enters the scene.

The narrator and Queequeg are young and in love and lust and enjoying enjoying the port town with each other.

The narrator starts the book saying "Call me Ishmael" which doesn't mean that's his name, even inside the reality of the book, but it's the only name we have.

Ishmael at the very start of the book is very done with New York City, with cities and too many people, too many rules, not enough straight forward physical activity.

So he goes north to Nantucket to catch a ship to work on, something he's done before.

He gets to the inn where guys share rooms and beds to help to innkeeper make more money and accomadate everyone. He gets to the inn at night and wakes up in the morning next to Queequeg, with Queequeg's arm thrown around him

Works for him.

It means what common sense says it means, and I needed to read a book at a Different Light gay bookstore, to have my common sense kick in on that one.

They are different in that Queequeg is much more highly skilled--he has profit center skill. He's a harpooner. Ishmael has enough skill to be a sailor like a lot of other guys.

They are different in that Queequeg is Polynesian and Ishmael is USA white guy. He thinks he's being liberal about Queequeg because he's less racist than lots of guys would be. Actually he's condescending. He never thinks of the possibility that Queequeg might be condescending toward him in his own way, and racist.

This might or might not have equalled out in some way in the physical relationship, but since the book doesn't talk about the physical relationship we don't know. (Well, it talks about the fact that Ishmael wakes up being held by Queequeg, but that's all it says about physicality--a lot for the 19th century.)

But condescension and differences aside, and included, they like each other a lot. The vibe is "to be in good old Nantucket with good old you--what could be better?"

But they openly enjoyable dig up other until they get jobs on a whaler with Ahab as captain. Ahab is going to war against a particular whale, and both men hired disappear as individuals for the rest of the book. I really miss them.

The book as a whole is about a destructive lunatics bad mood and how it plays out. God knows destructive bad moods play a book part in human affairs, but so does, "You are so cute." It's an important vibe and one of the things that keeps us from totally doing in each other and all forms of life.

It would be tricky to do a whole big long book about a love story when you can't say it's a love story. So Melville didn't. Before going on the ship, Ishmael knows and tells in the first person things he would reasonably know. After getting on the ship, the narrator, who is supposed to still be Ishmael, gets inside the minds of the first, second, and third mate and such things that wouldn't be given to him as a lowly seaman. The narrator is barely an individual on the scene--only the loony captain and his confused top officers are ongoing individuals.

But I want to know if the fact that Queequeg was more important and board and was paid more money because he was a harpoonist affected the Queequeg/Ishmael relationship. The omniscient narrator who is supposed to be Ishmael but doesn't feel like him anymore establishes clearly that the majority of the crew is non-white--Pacific Islanders, Africans, Asians, a whole world crew. Ahab and the 3 mates of middle management are white.

How does that play out?

For one thing, that means this book is about white people leading non-white people to certain doom in the service of one particular white lunatic. But it's like Ishmael and Melville don't notice that that's what it's about. And everyone dies but Ishmael, which means Queequeg dies. I dissent from that same old thing. The non-white person dies. The gay couple is broken up by the death of one.

I want Ishmael and Queequeg to choose a different ship, come back eventually with a bunch of dough (much more for Queequog) and have some more fun. "You are so cute"--it matters as much as vicious lunacy. More, or we'd all already be dead or the whole human process would have been over before we got our turn at the I hate you/I relish choice.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Dutch movie "A Question of Silence" is realistic. It feels like here. I'm sure there are many differences between Netherlands and US culture, but this movie feels like the same office buildings, streets, chairs, rush, stores--all that.

The one unrealistic thing comes at the start of the movie and the director makes it work, which is good, since it's what the movie is about.

Three women are shopping at their lunch in a so-so clothes store in a so-so tiny mall. They don't know each other. They have each had a difficult morning in terms of respect. The office worker woman, the highest of the three in society, was at a meeting where she said an idea and no one heard it or responded. Then two minutes later a guy said that idea and every one (every guy) said it was a great idea.

The hard working heart of gold waitress at a diner had heard the guy's, the regulars talking about current events and had said her opinion. They did a group sneer saying she was too dumb to know. These guys themselves were not covered with marks of genius. She was really hurt because she knew, she saw them every day. Hurt and angry.

The housewife, Christine, was snarled at by her husband who had no idea how to talk to her. She didn't speak. She doesn't speak for the whole movie. Profound depression, I would say. The movie doesn't say.

So these three women, who didn't know each other, because they wouldn't, are in the small clothes store, the only customers, and the man who manages it who is the only other person there insults one of them.

They make the store furniture into weapons and kill him. They beat him to death with stainless steel store stuff. This is believible inside the movie. It is not vividlly portrayed, thank God.

The public defender, lawyer who is a woman, gets a call about them and we have the four women the movie is about.

Why did they do it, everyone wonders, or seems to wonder. We saw the bad mornings at the beginning of the movie, the women never talk about them, and Karen, the housewife, never talks.

The public defender, very likable smart strong professional woman, talks to them all (or tries to in the case of Christine) and doesn't get much of anywhere.

Her husband, the public defender's husband, a good guy, manages to keep saying the wrong thing. God knows what the right thing to say would be but he's got a gift for saying the wrong thing.

When the lawyer and the office worker of ignored idea meet it's intense. They are the two women of the four most like each other.

The office worker stands in front of the lawyer and close to her and runs her hands around the lawyers body, starting at the top of her head from about three inches away, slowly. Intense.

This makes so much sense to me and I don't know why. Some kind of who are you thing. It feels like it takes a very long time.

When I saw it happen, I felt like there are many ways we could be with each other that we've missed because of not having enough time, being under too much pressure, no having enough privacy. Whatever this outline-the-aura long gesture was, if the lawyer's husband had been around he would have stopped it with a snort.

And it doesn't lead to anything but thoughts of another world inside a world very much like this one.

The lawyer is under a lot of pressure. The case is getting a lot of press. Everyone she knows tells her what to think about it. Two of her clients aren't helpful in talking to her, and one of them doesn't talk to her or anyone. Her husband, a simple, unlikable guy, can't remember when last she spoke.

The case does not end in the movie. The movie ends while the case is going on and somebody says something to the public defender on the courthouse steps, and she laughs.

That laugh is something else. Not summarizable and very real, sort of like the no-touch touch of the lawyer and her conventionally smartest client.

In the comic strip "Sylvia" by Nicole Hollander, Harry the bartender one time says to Sylvia, "You're always complaining about men. Have you ever thought about what the world would be without me?"

Sylvia says, "Yes, lots of fat, happy women and no crime."

There's something about thinking about that line in the context of this movie because the waitress, that's how she presents herself, as an overweight happy jolly laughing woman. Doesn't like being sneered at though.

We miss the things people don't say because they're sneered at. We miss the gesture we don't think of making because we don't have enough time with each other. There's a lot missing and in its straightforward and strange way this movie puts some of it back.
Something is amiss, or possibly awry, but it's okay because something's afoot to fix it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I saw that if we got by without a US-USSR nuclear war, we'd face huge environmental problems. I knew that would be the prize.

I didn't forsee what life experience of human nature could have told me. If there is one super-power, that super-power will act like a bully. I am living in the belly of the beast unleashed.
Sometimes I indicate that God isn't giving enough. Then God gives a lot in a large, awkwardly-shaped package. If I accept it, I don't look like the other kids.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The young mammal in the form of a toddler was jumping up and down on the sidewalk and grinning because he saw another young mammal in the form of a puppy moving his way.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"A Man for All Seasons" is the kind of movie where, when the main character has an argument with his daughter's boyfriend, it's about due process.

Okay, there really isn't a kind of movie like that. There's only "A Man for All Seasons."

It's about a man's love affair with the law.

There isn't any other love affair that takes up much space, which may be why the movie's continuing existence is low-key, in spite of many fine, popular, popcorn-like qualities--great renaissance costumes, amazing old English big buildings looking great inside and out, the river Thames looking thoughtful by a dusk and gorgeously sparking at midday, and an Oscar-winning performance by Paul Scofield as Thomas More, and the whole thing won the best picture Oscar for 1967.

Although there is no romance given screen time, in a way, all the action is around a romance--around the fact that Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn. The movie really doesn't get into that.

Anne Boleyn is a brief non-speaking role played by Vanessa Redgrave. We see her dancing by, looking drunk on alcohol, love and power. But she has nothing to do with the action of the movie.

Why the king wants what he wants isn't really the focus. The focus is the kinds of things that happens when someone with much power wants more power because he wants what he wants.

What it's about is one of those times when the head of state decides he wants what he wants and that all the laws and government workers are there to get it for him.

So smart government workers scurry to bend the law and make it all work for the big boss.

But what do wise government workers do?

That's what Thomas More tries to figure, and as things get creepier and creepier and more and different kinds of pressure are brought to get the king what he wants, people keep saying to a worried More, "But Thomas, this isn't Spain. This is England."

Or not. Things can change when people with power really want them to.

Joseph Stalin's philosophy of dealing with dissent was, "No man, no problem." Always a temptation for those at the top. It's good to have lots of structures in place to curb that impulse, as Thomas More explains to his future son-in-law, Will Roper, when they are arguing about Richard Rich.

Richard Rich, like everyone in the movie a historical figure, is in desperate need of money and is sniffing around Thomas More's household and servants in a way that makes it looks like he's spying. As all the rules change and who's in power below the king changes, many seek information on many. Thomas More is at this point powerful as Chancellor of England.

It's reasonable to suppose that Rich is picking up money by picking up and passing along information about More, who somepeople would like to replace in his job. Will Roper, the daughter's boyfriend, is the person in the play most like me--he's idealistic and has no direct power. That has its temptations. Like you can fantasize a pure (in your own terms) world, which can be a nasty fantasy.

As Richard Rich leaves the house, Will Roper says to More, Chancellor of England, "Arrest him."

More says, "For what?" Roper says, "He's dangerous." More says, "There's no law against that."

Roper says, "There is! God's law."

More says, "Then God can arrest him."

Alice, More's wife, says, "While you talk, he is gone."

More says, "And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law."

Roper: "So now you'd give the Devil the benefit of law."

More: "What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"

Roper: "I'd cut down every law in England to do that."

More: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you--where would you hide, the laws all being flat. This country's planted thick with laws, from coast to coast--man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down--and you're just the man to do it--d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then. Yes, I'd give the Devil the benefit of law for my own safety's sake."

When I remember "A Man for All Seasons" I remember most that speech and how great the river Thames looked. Love of the river, love of the law exquisitely portrayed.

--Robert Bolt wrote "A Man for All Seasons," both the stage play and the movie. These quotes are actually from the play and are very similar to the movie.

"A Man for All Seasons" won 1967 Oscars for Best Picture, Paul Scofield got Best Actor, Robert Bolt got Best Adapted Screenplay--adapting his own play, Joan Bridge got Best Color Costume Design, and Fred Zinneman got Best Director. Wendy Hiller and Robert Shaw were nominated for supporting roles as Alice More and Henry VIII.

Robert Bolt wrote "Dr. Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia" both heavy and big fun to look at. What a beautiful world in which sometimes heavy things happen. The world of people rebelling in the snow or people riding on camels feels further away than people who are, after all, bureaucrats sharpening their knives. "A Man for All Seasons" happens in Bolt's own country, a smaller place than Arabia or Russia, and it looks great, which is a comfort, because in a certain way, it's scary movie. "This isn't Spain. This is England." Am I doing my part?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Around here, so much is built for speed, both mechanisms and personalities, that maybe when something happens slowly, good old God is intervening to help out.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A different garden grows around me if I'm still.

If I live my life like I'm living on a freeway, my life assumes freeway-like qualities--hardness, sameness, and the inability to see that different people are different.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

When I see a probably Moslem women wearing a scarf, I am supposed to think everything but "This woman really knows how to put on a scarf."

I can tell how much TV people watch by how nasty they are about Moslems.

I wish head scarves would come back for women in general, so that I could walk down the streets of San Francisco wearing jeans, a sweater and a head scarf and I wouldn't stand out. A square of pseudo silk tied under my neck would help me keep warm.

I march to a different thermostat and feel chilly when others don't.

Covering the top of my head helps a lot, seems like it's as good as one or two layers over the whole body, in this mild climate I live in.

Yeah, I wear hats, especially in the winter. I lose hats. It seems like a thin head scarf would be easier to stuff into a pocket and not lose.

***There are teenagers and people in their twenties who are natural creators of actual fashion worn by actual humans. They walk on the same sidewalks as Moslem women who aren't into fashion creation. I want the fashion creators to notice the great scarves of the Moslem women in a way that causes them to produce head scarves for other women for now. This might also make less of a gap between Moslem and non-Moslem women.

I want scarves to evolve in the present, fit in the present, and have some choices with lots less fabric that what Moslem women wear but some of the soft thoughtful feelings. Then I want to wear one of those scarves, be warmer in the rainy season, and lose my warmth head gear less.

Clothes--everyone starts their day choosing to do something or other with cloth and their bodies. Then that's the clothes for that day. When a category of clothes is hot, like Moslem women's headscarves the presumption is sold that every wearer means the very same thing by the wearing. So unlikely. In politics, 60% of the people agreeing on a choice is an amazing landslide. People do what look like the same things for different reasons and for different kinds of reasons.

The vibe of anti-women wearing Moslem headscarves reminds me a lot of the vibe against women wearing pants to work and school when that started. Danger, danger, the end of the world is nigh. When a woman decides what to put on in the morning, the authorities must be there in spirit to keep her from going wrong, taking power, having bad thoughts.

A clothes magazine about what humans actually wear and why would be wild, unheard of, educational.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jim Fadiman wrote that if you don't listen to your body when it whispers, it speaks. If you don't listen to it when it speaks, it shouts.

He was talking about health and illness. The body also wants more than not illness.

When I was getting on the F streetcar in downtown San Francisco this morning, two twenty-something women got on ahead of me--mild-mannered people from the middle of the country. The location implied they had just left the Hyatt Regency and were off to see the city.

They asked the driver if this car would take them to Fisherman's Wharf. He said no, they had to catch the F car going the other way, on the other side of the street.

As they got off, one of them walked directly into me, hard. It didn't feel hostile. Considering where I was standing, off to the side to get out of there way, it seemed deliberate, and I thought, "Huh?" It felt like she wasn't there for it.

She didn't knock me over because I'm taller than her and maybe because I've been reading George Leonard's book "The Way of Akido," where he talks about focusing on your center, two or three inches below your belly button.

I didn't fall over. She apologized profusely, like the mild-mannered person she appeared to be.

As the two women walked away, I looked at them more closely. They didn't look like people who currently thought of themselves as lesbians.

They did look like larval lesbians. They looked like people who might eventually think of themselves as lesbians, or who might try to skip that whole part of life and take out the change in heartiness and accidental aggression

Maybe she had done what she partly came to San Francisco to do--make contact with a lesbian. Things go more smoothly if the conscious mind is in on making the to-do list.

I used to drop stuff a lot. Now I drop stuff less. I know more who I am, and I'm usually holding what I want to hold.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We can't call it football here because we have this other thing called football. I wonder if in the universe there is a very popular low-scoring thing called love but we can't call it love here because we have this other thing called love.
The other day I walked out of the main library and was suffused with beauty.

A woman was singing something from an opera in front of City Hall. I couldn't see her because it was too far away and there was stuff in between, but hearing was like I was in the third row and she was on stage.

On stage singing about life is difficult but worth it, love is very difficult and very worth it. I didn't understand the words and didn't wonder about them. Just stood there, staring at what I couldn't see and could feel. I wasn't the only one.

Then she stopped singing and spoke, "Thank you, thank you. I hope I see you September 24 at Herbst Theatre."

Her speaking voice was different. Her singing voice was the wisdom of the ages about human relationships plus profound beauty plus skill. Her speaking voice was the friendly young receptionist. "May I help you?" with the implied promise of presenting herself with no depth at work, no demands, no questioning of what work is all about.

Not everyone is going to have a gorgeous voice. Everyone has another voice beyond, "May I help you?" and "Yes, do this for me."

There is more room now for women to have a voice beyond "May I facilitate the way things are?" Everyone knows more than that. There is now a bit more room for different kinds of people to know more out loud.

But many people still don't have much room. We must keep taking more room for our voices, more room than it seems like is offered. We must listen to other people's voices, especially when they are hard to here. Gotta change the world.

The very cool thing about beauty, like that voice, is it changes the world in the moment just by being. Those of us who can't create beauty like that need to change the world in the ways we can, the ways that are built into us, the ways are bodies will release if we let them, practice, learn.

--(I thought I could find out who was singing by going to the Herbst Theatre home page and checking the schedule, but they don't give out the schedule that far ahead.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

The three high school students on the bus reminded me of the title of the Italian movie "We All Loved Each Other So Much." So much affection, and they were too old to punch each other on the upper arm or fall together in a heap like puppies, so there was much teasing.

They communicating by three modes that I was capable of noticing. The three of them talked and laughed. They sent each other instant messages on their cell phones and read them. The two women did non-verbal shrugs and smiles and occasional key words to each other that the man didn't get. It seemed like it didn't bother him because he knew that if it was about him, it was positive.

In the movie "We All Loved Each Other So Much," the characters had met as young idealists working for a better world and friending and coupling and having joy. Time passed, and some of them did things that others of them saw as selling out.

They didn't all love each other anymore, but some did.

High school friendships don't always last. Three is an unstable number when there is inner and out pressure for going off in twos. These three were beautifully connected in the moment.

Once a friend of mine talked about walking through the empty streets of a suburb in the evening, and seeing every living room window lit by the blue light of television, "and that was the community."

That was there. That was then.

The blue-grey screens of their cell phones helped these people be a community, but the screens didn't run them. They didn't have to wait for commercials to do their relationships.

Whatever happens to them next, it will be theirs, not "as seen on TV."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Get Smart" was a totally silly, over-the-top half hour sitcom about a spies that had no relationship to any way spies might be in reality.

"Get Smart" was a slightly exaggerated spoof of how many executive offices operated before the women's movement made it possible for women to get jobs with power instead of just being secretaries.

Maxwell Smart, the lead character, was really really stupid. (Note name. This show wasn't given to subtle jokes.)

Agent 99, his assistant, was really really smart, and gorgeous. Smart wasn't particularly good-looking. He had a number too--he was Agent 86, but she only had a number, no name. (Lesbians note her name. At some times and places, lesbians have chosen to be called professionally by names that don't indicate gender, like the name Agent 99 doesn't. What was the first well-known and for decades the only well-known lesbian novel was written by Radclyffe Hall--not only not a woman's name, but a good name for a stately mansion. In private life, she preferred to be called John, as lesbians of her generation and class (upper) tended to want to go by guys names.)

Smart would bumble through most of the half-hour not understanding what was going on or what his orders were because he couldn't understand much of anything.

Toward the end of the show, Agent 99, Barbara Feldon, would get this light mischievious smile and lean in and whisper to him (sexy, and all the sexy energy they had, except for her ever-present looks) a couple of sentences about what to do.

He would do as she suggested, succeed in the mission, and get the credit.

It worked for everyone. It worked for him, because why wouldn't. It worked for her because she was a flat character in a comedy who smiled lightly, often and well.

When women absolutely couldn't be executives, when they had to be secretaries, and when many qualities of white guy could easily be an executive because a lot of the world had be bombed out of having complex industries, and the rest of it hadn't advanced to the point of having complex industries, some executives were really stupid and there secretaries were really smart, and saved them again and again.

"Get Smart" was a thinly disguised fable popular right at the end of when that system seemed to work for everybody. Nobody ever asked where Agent 99 kept her bottle. No credit, stupid boss, slight smile--what was up with that?

"Get Smart" was on from 1965 to 1970, and so stopped right as feminism was starting. Agent 99 maybe wouldn't have to hit the bottle or wonder what was going to happen when she became less gorgeous. She might have gotten together with a group of women talking about the difference between what they could do with their talents and energies and what they were allowed to do and how they felt about that.

Support groups are and political action to improve your situation are a great alternative to treating a broken heart with booze or self-created zombieness.

Do you want to be a mommy or a nurse or a teacher? Do you want to be a mommy or a nurse or a teacher or a secretary? Do you want to be a mommy or a teacher or a secretary or a nurse or a drunk or a depressive?

I talked a woman in Sausalito who had worked at the shipyard that was wildly actively building troopships to take men to the Pacific War in World War II.

She had essentially been an engineer--without the title--figuring how to do things better, how to redesign things so they could put the ships together faster.

She loved it. It fit her mind in a way that made her very happy. She thought that after the war she could get training to be an engineer and do this thing she loved for good money.

No. The training was for guys, the jobs were for guys, no way. It took a whole other way of thinking and lots of angry women and a lot of lawsuits for that to change. The door slammed in her face.

Her face was the face, when I talked to her, of a very serious alcoholic, and maybe, if she'd had the work she was born to do she would have been an alcoholic anyway.

Maybe not.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sad. Be with. Sad. Be with. Be with the sadness.
The first time I was called for jury duty, I thought that meant I would serve on a jury, and had all kinds of unneeded emotions about that.

That was when I lived in Marin, and 4 out of 5 times I got called for jury duty in affluent not very crimish Marin, we, the people, the prospective jurors, just sat in the way-too-small jury waiting room for a morning, or a morning a part of an afternoon while the sides in a civil suit, faced with the prospect of independent and unpredictable judgement, settled. That was easy, not interesting. Not enough air in that room.

There's this other way I've done jury duty where you actually get in a courtroom and go through jury selection.

One time when I was going through jury selection, I was using some of it many pauses to read "Cancer Ward" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Alternately I was reading that book and listening to the jury selection process, hoping that the best outcome would happen and that the best outcome would involve me not being a jury.

I was surprised by "Cancer Ward" partly because it's fairly easy to read and partly because it is partly about due process. Reading that book during jury selection kept me from wishing the pure "Not me" wish. Due process is good--I can't just purely and simply wish to not be part of it.

I admired Solzhenitsyn for making his book a good read. He couldn't possibly have been published in the Soviet Union at the time he wrote the book, but he made it readable by Moscow subway riders anyway. He was mindful of the people, and keeping the reading moving, for them, and for me.

The cancer ward itself in the book, has eight people in it, some dirt poor, some in the middle, and one privileged government worker who can't believe he's here, in this ward with everyone else.

His wife immediately tries to bribe the doctors to get him a private room and better treatement, but as they explain, they don't do that. They give everyone good treatment and everyone is in wards.

He's in shock that he's in the ward with poor people, with not Russians, and out in the sticks, not in Moscow. He's used to going in the special life, getting the special goods.

This hospital has integrity and he's not used to dealing with institutions that have integrity. It's all the government in the Soviet Union in 1956. He works for the government; it's a government hospital, but they are doing working for the government differently than he does.

The cancer ward gives good treatment. Many people die anyway--it's cancer, it's 1956--but they are giving it their best shot. The equipment is old and needs to be coddled. The doctors are smart, well-trained and excellent. The doctors are all women except for cheif surgeon, and the doctors clearly presented as the best doctor is a woman.

The government official has a tumor on the side of his neck that is visible and visibly growing, almost day by day. He's scared. He doesn't know how to use his privilege to help himself, because he has no privilege here.

We spend more than a hundred pages with this guy and the other patients in the ward before we get what this guy does in his government job.

He locks people up. He locks people up for being subversive, anti-government, saying bad words, thinking bad thoughts. He makes the choice and they go to Siberia for 10 or twenty years.

The first time he did that was when he and his wife and a couple they had been friends with were sharing an apartment and the wives started not getting along.

So this guy made a false report that the other guy, the apartment mate who still thought they were friends, had said something anti-government and bad. He reported that he had said the treason flavor of the month thing, that he had said he supported a newly repressed way of thinking. Which he hadn't.

One reason the governement worker feels bad in addition to the tumor is that it is now much later and time for his old friend to get out of prison. He imagines him young and strong and coming after him. Solzhenisyn points out that he isn't accurately imagining what 15 years in Siberian prison will do to change of person.

After he did that to his friend, he did that to lots of people. Perhaps weaving a web of paper to make them look jailable, perhaps just making stuff up raw, off-the-cuff.

He did not go forth in a car and haul these people in. He decided; it got routinely approved by those above and people were off to Siberia for a long time. Others did the physical work of locking those he selected up. He was judge and jury, shuffling papers and his mood of the day at his desk.

There's a chapter in which Solzhenitsyn, who was locked up in this manner, describes what the guy did at his job and describes how his tumor keeps growing day by day. That chapter is called "Justice."

That's the problem in a nutshell--when justice is you make up that horrible things happen to them that did wrong, that isn't justice.

Rules and procedures that are tested and agreed on and trying to be fair are good. Getting lots of people involved is good, so it isn't one guy, one day, one piece of paper, and so much for your life.

I've never been invested at all in a district attorney before. I like Kamala Harris because she's seems competent, because she's a woman, because she's diverse (one Jamaican background parent, one South Asian parent, I think) and because I was extremely through with her predecesor. She was a delightful "no" vote.

So now I read stuff in the paper about whether the DA is doing a good job. I used to would have skipped that.

The news tends to imply that a good job for a DA would be that everyone arrested is charged and found guilty, or that everyone who is charged is found guilty.

I read in the Financial Times that in Russia today, in criminal trials, 99% of the verdicts are guilty. When I read that I didn't think, "They must have really excellent prosecutors over there." They don't have juries; they've changed from Soviet days, but not enough. Someone who started out there as a good prosecutor--why bother? Whatever the deal is for prosecutors, it sounds like it could be too close to the old days where someone, a prosecutor or someone else, decides whose guilty, and that's it.

One thing I learned from all those Marin cases where I showed up as a possible juror and they settled rather than face the likes of me was that the prescence of a possible jury focuses everyone's mind wonderfully. Whatever they thought of how great their case was before they were sitting in the same building with the people who would be the actual jurors in an actual trial of there case, suddenly they weren't so sure.

People who sit in an office and decide whose going to be locked up and only have to talk to very sympathetic co-workers about that never get that clarity.

They've convinced themselves that a person has done bad, and they don't have to think about how the case for this person having done bad would look to a bunch of people in general chosen randomly and sifted slightly through lawyer chess. The rush to settle I happened to be around in those civil cases made me think that the case can look really different looked at in that light.

Of course, in those cases, it's only money. When somebody might be locked up, settling is a different thing.

When somebody might get locked up, it is a good thing for one and all that the process be public, that lawyers face the jury, and that twelve strangers who'd mostly rather be elsewhere decide. Rather than one guy in a room with papers deciding, without anyone knowing how he decides, without consequences for him.

So I don't want to serve on a jury. So what? I can never make any effort to escape it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

"The Commisar Vanishes" by David King is about people that Joseph Stalin tried to eliminate from the historical record and often did eliminate from being alive.

The author David King persistently collected Soviet books for decades. In this book you see the picture of the group of revolutionaries or the group of government officials the first time it appeared. Then you see later and later appearances, with fewer and fewer people in them.

A photo of a gathering of 20 revultionaries, of whom 13 were killed by the revolutionary government. A photo of Stalin and three other men looking like equals, that ended up being a picture of just Stalin.

This doesn't come through in the reproductions but King says the retouches are often done just a bit crudely, so the ghost of an image in left. King doesn't know if this is lack of skill on the part of a particular retoucher, Stalin and the rulers sending a message, or the retouches protesting.

Some of the eliminations are retouchings. Like a class picture of a group of honored workers who were graduates of a special program. Four of them are just blatantly cut out of the picture.

How does history feel? This book actual gives some of the feeling of murder. Looking at the first version of the photos and turning the pages and watching the same photo have fewer and fewer people--those disappearances feel, just leafing through the book, like murder, like daring to cut someone down.

It's good that it feels that bad to look at the book.

This is the kind of book libraries have.
The slouch is about anger. Anger that I can't get to my power, partly because of the way I am, and partly because of the way the world is. So I imply I don't care, make myself pseudo smaller, and slouch.

But not always. Sometimes I stand and am someting like as big as I am.
If you find a a piece of chalk, use it making hearts upon the sidewalk.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Are we there yet?

The San Francisco Public Library has an excellent book--good words--lots of pictures, called "The Peopling of London."

It isn't about the total peopling of London but the peopling of London by people who are there and have been for a long time but haven't been written into the history of London in the past, the Arabs, the Italians, etc. Many instances of saying these folks first came to London in X year, and it's lots earlier than the badly trained mind would think.

That's the book that's great to make now. Then that sinks into the marrow of some peoples bones and someone can write about the peopling of London in toto, where the folks who used to be the usual suspect, the Celts and Romans, for example, are there no more and no less than those who used to be underseen--like the Caribbean black people. Romans and blacks equally there in history, and both the result of empires.

Then we can all be smarter and have feelings that don't have to fight through so much inaccuracy. Those that used to be mislabeled and inaccurately treated as top dogs won't be stretched so thin and so cranky from trying to be too large. Those that were under won't have to scrunch down and watch out for the blow or try to pass as being something other than themselves or not being present at all.

Then we can be truly smart and also truly start to party.
Hands can design automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Hands can use automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Hands can touch tenderly.
The thing about Vita Sackville-West is that she looked Italian.

Which isn't at all odd since her grandmother was Italian.

When Virginia Woolf wrote her celebration of Vita Sackville-West, "Orlando," the Italian part is gone, all though I suspect the Italian part might have been part of the strong pull--something different.

Virginia Woolf's daily life had the variety to be expected of the daily life of someone who was a writer in not great health. Dull-looking. Vita Sackvile-West was also a writer, among other thing, and did lots of other things. She was and is a famous gardener. That is probably what she was remember for most, because English gardeners are so intense, and still can visit the garden designed and created from nothing by Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"The Search for Ancient Rome" by Claude Moatti--just the title reminds me again of how wrong I am.

I think ancient Rome is real. People lived there and said things and built buildings and that was all real.

That isn't the way it is. What's real now is the bits and pieces and ruins we have left of ancient Rome, the manuscripts and inscriptions. That material is what is real now in the present.

We don't know how they lived and talked etc. way back then. People look at the remaining columns and words and make up what it was like then moment to moment. When they write down their guesses, that seems real to me, but it's not. It's made up according to current conventions of making up stuff about the past. The conventions will change; the stories will change. The rocks don't talk, and that's real. We keep searching for the past and never find it.


I woman I know told me when she does things that women have done for a long time such as wiping dishes or taking care of growing plants, sometimes there's a shift and she feel the long line of women before her. They are doing that action with her, and she is doing it with them.


When you try to communicate to others the experience of being directly connected to the past, you tend to get all gluey and stuck in your own time. Stuck in your own limitations. I really liked the book "Clan of the Cave Bear" about people way back in time in Europe. I felt like some of the words about connecting with the bear spirit might be something like what that was like.

Plus a woman made important discoveries. That was fun, and me wanting and liking that was a function of being alive when I'm alive.

Also a function of the time of writing was the way, as the series went on from "Clan of the Cave Bear" it became more and more like "Good-looking blonde people are better than everyone else." Really gave me the creeps and I stopped reading the series. I'm afraid to read the first one again, because I'll probably see the problem there too, and I want to preserve the moments in gave me of what animal-human religious connection might have been way back when.

The idea that good-looking by current standards blond people are better than everybody else and thought of everything that mattered is inaccurate. Speaking as a pale person who people sometimes ask if me or my ancestors came from Scandanavia, I'm here to say pale people are a late development in humans.

The first people and for a long time the long people were black, and they invented a lot. That's why a book like "Clan of the Cave Bear" makes a big choice when it chooses to be set in Europe.

*** It chooses to skip the first centuries, millenia of an all-black human race and rush to where it can be believably all about white people--darker white people, who are stupid, and lighter white people who are smart, charming and good-looking by the standards of 1950's USA white suburbia.

I feel like Jean Auel, in her first book at least, "Clan of the Cave Bear" was partly getting information about the different way people in the distance past lived and thought in some acros the years, mytical way. The way she packaged was partly horribly limited by the images of goodness in her youth.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I can't believe it. Reliable sources indicate that Al Gore got a personality tranplant while we weren't looking.

Or a personality uncovering, rather. Presumably he was always in there somewhere.

These movie reviewers who review famous, talented, good-looking people in settings that cost millions of dollars are saying that "An Inconvenient Truth" which is basically a filmed lecture by Al Gore with great graphics, is a wonderful movie because Al is engaging and human and relaxed and funny.

And saying something very important well. That global warming is well along, and we need to do something to stop it or our goose is cooked and us with it.

The first line of the SF Chronicle review of June 2, 2006 is "If things are even half as bad as Al Gore says they are, 'An Inconvenient Truth' is the most important movie anyone will make this year. The film's significance as a wake-up call about global warming overshadows all its other virtues. Yes, it handles complicated material in a clear and intersting way. Yes, it renders cinematic what might have seemed like a static lecture, and yes, Al Gore is funny and engaging in way way you've never seen him be. But beyond that, the movies brings a feeling of history: Virtually everyone who sees this movie will be galvanized to do something about global
warming--and everyone should see this movie."

That's Mick LaSalle writing, and every review I've read so far essentially says the same thing. Terrific movie, massively important message, and you won't believe how interesting and human Al Gore is.

Democracy is best served is people say as well as they can what they really know in the public arena. It's good that Al Gore adventures brought him to the point of doing that. What I remember of the 2000 campaign before the ballots were cast was that Bush said he wouldn't engage in nation builing and Gore said he keep Social Security funds in a lock box. I sure didn't hear much,if anything, about global warming--and the reviews say Gore started giving the lecture this movies is based on in 1989, or 11 years before he ran for president and didn't take office.

I deeply believe in democracy. Therefore I deeply believe in the jury system. And yet at any given jury duty stint, I deeply wish to not be selected for this jury here and now in front of me. To put those contradictions together, my rule on jury duty is to go as myself and be honest. Not try to tweak the system and say blah blah to get out, but just come as I am.

Not a bad idea for democracy in general, and yet when people are running for really powerful offices it's hard. Maybe in a way, Al Gore, the old version, was more honestthan some, in a way, because he was openly robotic. In a way, he wasn't good at presenting a synthetic self so we knew this surely couldn't be him as he was, after all, made of flesh and blood.

And now here he is being something much more recognizably human and saying we need to do something if this our planet is going to remain suportive of flesh and blood. Thanks, Al. I voted for you, and if I go to your movie, I guess I get to see more of who I voted and and get, productively scared and productively inspired.

Productive inspiration would be a good job for a politician, I hear FDR did it, but it seems really hard for politicians to do it now.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

7:15 on Saturday morning, walking by the guy with a sponge in his hand, I say, "You must be the first person in San Francisco to wash his car today."

He says, "After a week of work, I look forward to it. I look forward to doing something I know I can do. It's therapy."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Three women in the morning in the park are doing swordplay.

It's not fighting or fake fighting. They are not facing each other but doing more or less unison movements in a line.

The newly awakened sky glints on the silver swords as they move. The red tassles tied to the sword handles do their own jumpty pendulum dance. It's tai chi movements with swords.

The women have got grace. They've got talking about it and doing it over and over to make it better. They've got swords. The day begins.
Skimming the newspaper sloppily I became for a while an advocate of statues of women in public places. Statues of specific real women, not qualities, not the state of California in robes and a Greek helmet with a bear--though I do like that image often--but actual women.

When in 1997 a bench in Washington Square Park in North Beach was dedicated to Juana Briones, an important person in early San Francisco, Yerba Buena, I misread the item and though there was a statue of a woman in important and somewhat famous Washington Square Park in the city I lived in.

I walked around the city feeling different because of they're being a statue of a woman of stature in early history. I liked the feeling. It changed my posture a bit and therefore increased my stature.

So it's a bench. Not the same. No one knows what Juana Briones looked like but I'm here to tell you she didn't look like a white guy, a group well-presented in statues. She also didn't probably look like the kind of woman who is portrayed as personfying some quality. Around here such women are usually fiercely Northern European looking--Nordic. Juana Briones didn't look like that, it seems reasonable to assume, and having a statue of a woman with power and money who looked like Juana Briones might have looked would be a good thing.

After I got that Juana Briones was honored with a bench not a statue, I started thinking about statues of women and how few there are. How few of specific flesh and blood women who walked the earth.

When I started thinking about this I said to my friend Ray something like this: "It used to be there weren't statues of specific women because women were not involved in decisions about what would be in public spaces, because women didn't have money or control money, but now that that has changed a lot, still there are very few statues of actual women. Why don't women, now that they can, make statues of women?"

Ray said, "Because they've got better sense."

After thinking and researching, I have, alas, come to agree with him. It's not a cause I want to spend much time on.

** Maybe somebody else? I don't know. It wouldn't take that much to increase the number of statues of women--more are being made now but still very very few, relative to guy statues. But the energy and money used to make statues of women could be used for other things more directly useful.

Juana Briones owned property both in San Francisco, known as Yerba Buena and in what is now called the Peninsula. History interested women from the Peninsula initiated the Juana Briones bench in Washington Square Park, near where she lived.

She ran a business in this tiny town and was obviously very respected. The tiny quotes that remain about her, I shout at the people who said them and say, "Say more. Be more specific. Examples."

Juana Briones wasn't a doctor, but those who knew her said she was as good as a doctor, better than many doctors of the time. The plaque on the Juana Briones bench says she was a healer. One of the small quotes about her says she was "like Clara Barton."

And I say, "No, more, give examples." But they aren't there in the record.

Clara Barton was a Civil War nurse and a founder of professional nursing in the United States. She was thought about in the past more than she is right now, so "like Clara Barton" doesn't say what it used to would have said, like, "very skilled, brave, there when you needed her."

"The Red Badge of Courage" was written by Stephen Crane, about Civil War, which happened before he was born. All and sundry think it's an accurate account of the Civil War battle experience for a soldier. Stephen Crane probably listened well to old veterans in his New York town.

In "The Red Badge of Courage" account of battle, there isn't the least tiniest reference to or expectation of medical help. The wounded went to the rear and helped each other as they could, or didn't, and kept each other company as they died, or didn't.

In that context, Clara Barton being right there after a battle, and being skilled, stood out a lot, like Juana Briones being in this isolated rural town and being able to stop the bleeding and set the bone so you didn't die and could walk.

The way that people who knew her are inarticulate about her makes me think she might have been one of those people who is really good. I mean, lots of people are good, but then you have contact with someone who is really good, and it's hard to express what that quality is.

So would this good and practical woman think making a statue was a good and practical use of energy? I really don't know.

I truly was encouraged when I thought there was a statue of her in Washinton Square Park. One reason for that may have been that she was an essentially encouraging person. Having courage and creating it in others.

Juana Briones came to what was then Northern Mexico with her husband who was a soldier stationed at the Presidio. They had eight kids. She left him because he was mean.

There's a statue reason right there. Another is that after the Mexican War when the United States took a bunch of land including upper California, now known as California, from Mexico, she kept all her property. Some people lost there property in the nasty transition after the nasty war. Not her. Another reason for a statue.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Beauty can be very encouraging.

Waiting for the 14, or maybe the 49, the child being held by her father looked beautiful. That was partly because of her features, and mostly because she was being heard.

She was talking slowly, like someone who hasn't know how to talk all that long and who is really thinking about what she's saying, word by word. No one was rushing her. She had a lot of room to figure out what she was saying, whether what she was saying was what adults are trained to think of as important or was conventionally unimportant.

She stared into the middle distance in her father's arms and looked beautiful. I couldn't see her father's face, but I felt that he looked attentive, quiet, open, and gorgeous.

***He was making room for her, as much as she needed to speak and think. She was making room for him to know what mattered to her as it mattered.

Beauty can happen as people make room for each other. Also beauty can happen as things synch in other ways--what I see is just what I need to see, the sound goes to the foundation and makes it stronger.

Synching can be gorgeous because it makes it real that this whole thing can work kindly because it is, right now.

Beauty, the idea of beauty, can be used to make a false shortage. Real beauty of the deep match can happen an unlimited number of times. When people make and believe rules about beauty being a certain look, and that only, it creates a shortage that pushes everyone in the direction of being cranky.

Like the person who doesn't have that look is being invited to think of being a doomed loser. The person who does have that look is all the time meeting people who cannot experience the "beautiful" person's talents, life history, current wants and needs, nothing. Because people who have fallen for the narrow idea of beauty and see someone who seems to have it, that's all they can see, not an actual, and, as per usual, complex human.

Which makes fake narrow definition "Beauty" lonely making for one and all. Meanwhile, all the time, people places and things are synching and making room for each other in ways never dreamed of, making the world more spacious.

That can be very encouraging. It can give people the courage to actually be themselves and not try to fit some narrow rules. They feel better, help everybody else more. Encouraging