Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guerrilla gardeners

Anyone with an engineering degree can put up a bridge that will carry traffic. Any run-of-the-mill architect can erect a building that will keep out the rain.

It is when these skills combine with beauty that humanity is truly uplifted -- when we are bequeathed a Golden Gate Bridge or a Parthenon.

Too much of our modern, so-called public space is dreary, boring, even downright ugly -- and soul-killing. And that's just the hardscape, not the often pathetic attempts to bring in some greenery.

An international movement seeks to change that in a surprising way. They call themselves guerrilla gardeners.

In essence, these folks sneak onto neglected public property by dark of night and plant things. Not cannabis but sunflowers, native plants, etc.

Now, being a gardener myself, I was skeptical at first. Anyone with functioning fingers can drop seeds on the ground and run away. To actually produce a garden requires a few return trips. Watering and weeding soon become necessary.

But I visited and was happily surprised. The man who runs the website does slip back to tend his urban oasises. Even rakes leaves. And sometimes visits by day. I don't know if all his followers are so devoted. Still, more power to them.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I had today off from work, so I ... worked.

Cut down the dying asparagus stalks in the garden to deter asparagus beetles in the spring. Cut back the grape vines to deter the black rot that claims too much of the fruit every summer. Spread shredded leaves over the garden soil for mulch. Rubbed down the garden tool handles with linseed oil. And plunged my fingers into the cold soil to dig up the last of the carrots, which tonight became a spicy carrot bread for dessert.

Satisfaction. I love working outside.

Story of a little dog

My local paper carried this story, which originated in Florida. It has to be one of the most beautifully written articles that I have read in a long time.

World's ugliest dog title pays pooch's medical bills

Owner found special connection with scrawny, one-eyed, three-legged friend
Lane DeGregory, St. Petersburg Times

Published: Thursday, November 13, 2008
GULFPORT, Fla. - She wrapped the World's Ugliest Dog in a blue baby blanket and carried him outside. But even in the sun, Gus couldn't stop shivering.

"Hey, little guy," she said softly. "You want to go for a ride?"

Gus looked up at her and blinked his one bulbous eye. His three paws were curled, claw-like, into his bony body.

Gus, the one-eyed, three-legged Chinese crested who won the title of the world's ugliest dog in June, died this week after a fight with cancer.

In June, when he was crowned in California, he became an instant celebrity. He growled at Howard Stern, appeared on The Today Show and Fox & Friends. Everyone agreed he couldn't look worse.

Since then, Gus had lost five pounds -- half his body weight. The cancer that claimed his back leg had twisted his spine. The $1,600 he won in the contest helped pay for chemo. But it didn't cure him. A few days ago, the vet said Gus only had a few days.

So this past Saturday, Jeanenne Teed booked a room on Treasure Island, one last getaway for her dog who loves road trips.

"There you are," she said, lowering Gus onto a pillow on the passenger seat. "Let's go to the beach."

She found him eight years ago, just after her divorce. Someone told her about this hairless, bug-eyed creature being kept in a cage in a dark garage.

With the help of a rescue team, Teed saved the Chinese crested puppy.

"He was the most hideous thing I had ever seen."

She told her son and daughter, who were in elementary school, that she was going to find the dog a good home. But that night, he curled against her on her ex-husband's side of the bed.

"My mom had this crazy bond with Gus," said Janey Teed, 16. "We'd had other dogs before, but she'd never been like that.

"It was like, Gus needed her more."

After a cat scratched out his left eye, after cancer ate his leg, Gus became even more docile. And hideous.

When Teed saw the World's Ugliest Dog contest on TV last year, she patted Gus and said, "They got nothing on you."

She flew him to California in June. By September, he was too weak to walk. Chemo cost $5,000, so Teed, a certified public accountant, put down his prize money -- plus her mortgage for October.

"He's part of the family."

She carried Gus into the motel, still shivering. She built a bed of blankets on the sofa and tucked him in.

"Remember?" she asked. "This is where we came to celebrate, when you won."

Gus opened his eye, then closed it. The effort seemed to exhaust him.

A few days earlier, he had stopped eating. A day ago, he stopped drinking.

Teed had to pour a few drops into the cap of a water bottle and hold it near his tongue.

She knew he needed her, now more than ever. But how do you know when it's time?

He slept fitfully Sunday night. By Monday morning, he was hiccupping, trying to catch his breath. She stroked the soft plume of fur on his forehead.

"Hey, little guy," she said softly. "You want to go for a ride?"

He had taken her places she'd never dreamed of going, got her on talk shows and YouTube. All the way to the vet, she kept telling him, "I'm right here."

She held him as he left her. He watched her for what seemed like forever.

When he shuddered, she tugged the blue blanket over his bald head.

On his tiny grave in her backyard, she planted a Butterfly bush with golden flowers.

"Something beautiful," she said, "to grow out of all that ugly."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hot Bird

Today is Thanksgiving for U.S. Americans, a day in which our merchants either to try to sell us stuff at ungodly hours or a day which they conspicuously ignore in order to promote the big holiday beyond.

We also roast turkeys on this day, unless we are members of certain anti-meat groups.

But my thoughts this morning are upon a different sort of hot bird.

I speak of the phoenix.

Like the dragon, the lore of this mythical monster seems to permeate almost every human culture.

For the longest time, I have had a brassy coin that I thought was from China, and upon whose obverse I assumed was a depiction of Tiananmen Square. I searched and searched and only this month have I discovered, ignorant American that I am, that it is no more Chinese in origin than a Looney is legal tender in Mazatlan.

This is actually a ten yen coin, depicting the Phoenix Hall of the Byodoin Temple in Kyoto, Japan, a building that dates to 998 A.D.

I don't know what Japanese word is translated as phoenix, or even how closely that approximates to the western concept of the beast, a bird reborn in fire and ash.

Not just the pagans but the Early Christian Church father Clement speaks of the phoenix, as a symbol of resurrection, in his letter to the Corinthians. (Don't confuse this with the canonical letter by Paul!)

"...from the neighborhood, that is, of Arabia. There is a bird which is called a phoenix. It is the only one of its kind and lives five hundred years. When the time for its departure and death draws near, it makes a burial nest for itself from frankincense, myrrh and other spices, and when the time is up, it gets into it and dies. From its decaying flesh a worm is produced, which is nourished by the secretions of the dead creature and grows wings ... [flying to the Egyptian city of] of Heliopolis, it lights at the altar of the sun."

The Christian "heretics," the Gnostics, also mention this flammable fowl. I found a reference today in the Nag Hammadi text, "On the Origin of the World."

"And the worm that has been born out of the phoenix is a human being as well. It is written concerning it concerning it, 'The just man will blossom like the phoenix.'"

The Gnostic writer cites the Septuagint (Greek) version of Psalms 91: 13 for this reference, but he seems to have taken some liberties. Our King James version reads:

"Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet."

The Septuagint has "basiliskou" from the Hebrew pethen, for adder. No flying phoenix, just a bad-tempered snake. Perhaps some later monk scrubbed out the mythological term -- although the dragon escaped his scrutiny.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog tidying up

Gazing around at this little place I tenderly call Isis, I realize that some corners have grown dusty.

It takes me about a month to go through my entire blog roll, because I like to post comments that are more than mere superficiality, and go beyond the top post, on the blogsites of my friends. These days, some of those friends have moved their original sites and I have to jump through a few hoops to visit them -- that needs to be cleaned up.

This also explains why I don't comment more frequently on some of my favorite blogs.

I realize that I have a few good friends who I have not yet added to the rolls, and need to do so.

With great sorrow, too, I realize that other friends have closed down their blogs or haven't updated them for many, many months, or have not visited here in so long that I realize that we have just drifted apart. Those names will come off the blog roll -- but I will add them back in an instant if they ever visit here again.

I guess everyone has to do that now and then.

I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
An' I've made up my mind
I ain't wasting no more time
But, here I go again
Here I go again

Tho' I keep searching for an answer
I never seem to find what I'm looking for
Oh Lord, I pray
You give me strength to carry on
Cos I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams

--- Whitesnake

The song opens with Big Synthesizer swelling up mighty like church hymns used to do, instantly tying it to the 1980s, when pants were parachute and hair and music was big.

But for me, every time that I hear that song, I am carried back to the dawn of my teenage years, bittersweet years in between the helplessness of childhood and the burden of being an adult.

And I think about my friend, L. How for some teenage reason we loved this song by Whitesnake and we would sing it at the top of our lungs as late at night we traversed the dark concrete wasteland of the old flightline between the two halves of the Air Force base where we lived.

We were silly and too young to care.

L. died far, far too young.

But I hear this song and I think of him. Always will.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where do I fit in?

It is only within the last few months, or even weeks, that I have come to realize where I stand politically.

I am a Libertarian.

That is the party, which unfortunately wins very few major votes in America, that basically believes government should defend us from foreign enemies but otherwise get the %$$%^ out of the way.

That party differs from conservative Republicans in believing that government should not be in the marriage business. I've also become a convert to the reality that we are losing the war on drugs -- that our prisons are filled with drug offenders and our national parks are riddled with their secret gardens.

Prohibition didn't work for alcohol -- instead, it lined the pockets of Al Capone and other gangsters. So today we don't ban alcohol but we punish drunken driving and other genuine crimes that spring from irresponsible use of the product. So should we also do for the other drugs that people choose to use.

If people are stupid enough to ride motorcycles without helmets or drive without seatbelts, then let them suffer the natural consequences of their actions. But, some say, then society has to pay their medical bills. No. It. Doesn't. Not if society is free of socialist entanglements.

I still need to do more research but I think one area that I might still have differences is in protecting the helpless. I believe abortion is wrong and should not be legal except in certain cases. I believe that if the last population of endangered whatevers is on someone's property and he wants to clear the land for a parking lot, government should be able to intervene and protect it -- although the discussion should have begun long before that time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Albania Update

The Tirana Times reports that an $11 billion petroleum discovery has recently been made in northern Albania.

Properly developed, this resource could be a godsend for this little country which has endured so much over the years. But Albanians are very conscious of the corruption that threatens their fledgling democracy -- and petro-wealth and corruption are a terrible mix, as events have shown elsewhere in the world.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Contemplation of an obsession

I bought a couple more books today, on a range of subjects, provoking the usual protestations from my Sweetie.

When I came home and logged them into my collection, I discovered that since April of 2007, a little over a year ago, I have added exactly 100 books to my home treasure trove. That makes a total of 1,446.

Added is a pitiful word. How about crammed? Wedged? Sweetie won't allow them in the living room or the bedroom -- nowhere but in the approximately nine foot by ten foot room that I claim as my library.

Perhaps Sweetie's concerns are valid. Perhaps I am becoming one of those crazy people who get discovered by the health department unable to get out of their own front doors due to their obsessive collections.

I've long known that even if I quit work and never left my house again, and did nothing but read until my eyeballs dried up (and the bank foreclosed on us and tossed us into the street), still I would never be able to get through all of them.

Especially as my current selection, the Nag Hammadi (Gnostic) Library, keeps putting me to sleep.

Why read it if it is so boring, my Sweetie asks. She just doesn't understand. I can't comprehend the world today if I don't understand the Christianity that has so profoundly impacted it. I can't understand Christianity if I do not explore all of its currents, of which Gnosticism is one.

So I will push on through, hoping to eventually gain some comprehension.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A November moment

She was a lovely Lady of Asiatic extraction, sheltering Herself in an office doorway as I passed by.

She was enduring this chilly exile in order to enjoy a cigarette.

She drew in a "snap" inhale as I approached, a nearly lost art in the world of smoking. I smiled and bid Her a warm hello, which I hope made it very clear that at least one person on Planet Earth did not in the least mind a little secondhand smoke drifting his way, nor did I find the sight of Her infuriating, engaged in a still legal but proscribed activity such as is the enjoyment of tobacco these days. (There are certain states where new restrictions make it all too clear that beyond the protection of health, certain legislators do not even wish to see anyone smoking in public).

I slid into my car and examined my maps for directions back out of the city. I caught a final glimpse of Her carefully extinguishing Her cigarette in an ashtray several footsteps away -- proving that not all smokers are butt-flinging reprobates.

Austria has a president, too!

Getting to know the leaders of other nations:

From Wikipedia:

Heinz Fischer (born 9 October 1938) is the federal president of Austria. He took office on 8 July 2004.

Born in Graz, Styria, Fischer received a humanistic education, taking his "Matura" exams in 1956. He then studied law at the University of Vienna, earning a doctorate in 1961. Apart from being a politician, Fischer also pursued an academic career, and became a Professor of Political Science at the University of Innsbruck in 1993.

In January 2004 Fischer announced that he would run for President to succeed Thomas Klestil. He was elected on 25 April 2004 as the candidate of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPĂ–).

Fischer was sworn in on 8 July 2004 and took over the office from the presidents of the parliament, who had acted for the president following Klestil's death on 6 July. Since he was elected President, he has gained more and more favour and is today, according to many surveys, the most popular and trusted Austrian politician.

On being nominated for Federal President, Fischer himself said that he hated antagonising people and that he considered this quality an asset rather than anything else.

[Sadly, sustaining popularity as a political leader is nearly impossible, as the once-popular U.S. President George Bush has learned, and which President Obama, too, will surely discover. Either Fischer has done nothing gutsy and controversial during his tenure, or he is an incredible leader.]

Fischer is a self-avowed agnostic. He has been married since 1968. The couple has two grown-up children. Fischer enjoys mountaineering and has been president of the Austrian Friends of Nature for many years.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Austria and Catholicism

"If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil."

Pope Benedict XVI pronounced those words during a visit to Mariazell, Austria, in 2007.

Austria, traditionally an island of Roman Catholicism in the Protestant German family of nations, is afflicted (?) with the same secular spirit these days as the rest of Europe.

Yet, the article notes, still some 40,000 faithful Austrians drove for hours and stood in the mud and rain to see Pope Benedict during that visit.


Finally to Austria

Imagine a nation that knew the legions of the ancient Roman army and, in fact, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius himself -- where he wrote his enduring "Meditations," and where he died.

Imagine a country, an entire country, that was once the property of one family.

This is Austria, sandwiched in Central Europe between Italy, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Taking shape in the Christian era as the eastern-land, hence Oster-reich, of Charlemagne's empire, Austria became the possession of the Hapsburg family in 1282, which lasted until the chaos of World War I.

Following the horrors of World War II, the new, democratic Austria is pledged to neutrality. So we don't hear much about it anymore.

What I need to do with what is left of November is to find at least one exemplary Austrian author and immerse myself in his or Her writings. I wish I knew more German, for I hate the filter of a translation.

Maybe I will learn some German this year -- I read Faust many years ago and it would be enjoyable to re-read it in the original tongue.

In the Days Before Seuss

Be ever so glad that you were not a child in 1700, when, among other miseries, the likes of James Janeway were the vanguard of children's literature. His "A Token for Children" contains this dismal bit of advisory doggerel for young sinners to contemplate:

"When by spectators I am told
What beauty doth adorn me
Or in a glass when I behold
How sweetly God did form me
Hath God such comeliness bestowed
And on me made to dwell,
What pity such a pretty maid
As I should go to Hell."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hooray for Europe

Hooray for the wise decision of the European Parliament last month to award the Sakharov Prize, its top human rights prize, to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia.

"We express strong dissatisfaction to the decision," hissed the tyrants that hold the Chinese nation hostage, through their lackey, Liu Jianchao.

Well, some of us don't give a damn about the tender feelings of tyrants. And for once, Europe stands with us.

According to the Associated Press, "Hu was initially an advocate for the rights of HIV/AIDs patients, [who] expanded his efforts after the government gave little ground and he began to see the country's problems as rooted in authorities' lack of respect for human rights."

Sure, China today is not the backward swamp it was under the late ungreat Mao. It has a steadily developing middle class. Perhaps that middle class is the nation's only hope for finally shaking off the shackles of moldy Marxism and taking its place among the free peoples of the world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Misdirected Energy

Concerning the measure that recently passed in California, imposing limitations ...

Stealing is bad.

Beating up people is bad.

Locking children in closets is bad.

Setting fire to occupied dwellings is bad.

The enemy is cruelty. The enemy is deception. The enemy is breach of promise.

A whole coalition of churches spent a lot of time and money attacking an imaginary enemy. Two consenting adults who want to be married are not the enemy. If you disagree, please help me to understand the reason why.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vere Childe -- Australia's gift to archaeology

For sheer adventure, Indiana Jones might outdo the late Vere Gordon Childe. But Indiana is Hollywood. Vere Childe was for real.

I’m supposed to be studying Austria this month but that doesn’t mean I can’t still learn a little more about places of past months and the people therein.

So I will muse momentarily on this man, who was born in Sydney, Australia in 1892 but did not stay put. He spent time in England, Greece, the Balkans, the Orkney Islands, Iraq, India and the U.S. Tragically and ironically, after all that, he died back in his homeland -- falling from a cliff in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

Mr. Childe is considered one of the twentieth century’s most important archaeologists … and one who brilliantly synthesized available knowledge of Old World history. He had a gift, a keen ability to discern and illuminate the main currents of prehistory, as shown in one of his best-known works, “The Dawn of European Civilization.”

Aussie, be proud!

Your name on the lips of others, your footsteps in forgotten sand

Have you ever typed your Blog name in a search engine?

Every now and then, I do that with mine, eastcoastdweller.

Mostly, it dredges up my visits to my regular blogfriends. Sometimes it reminds me of blogs that, for whatever reason, I only visited once or twice, long ago, and I think about who I was then and wonder if I should rekindle the friendships.

But the strangest thing is to find your name, your blog, mentioned in places to which you have never been. It happens.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Continuing with the alien theme

Okay, so you have an incredibly advanced life-form, the vanguard of some civilization that has figured out how to cross the vastness of interstellar space, something that Earthlings still can only dream about.

Why is it that in so many shows -- from Cocoon to ALF to ET, that amazing creature, having reached Earth, becomes virtually helpless,hiding out, in constant danger from puny Earthlings with delusions of grandeur?

Monday, November 10, 2008

ALF remembered

I used to love this show.

I annoyed my Sweetie tonight by laughing through an entire episode on some rerun channel.

It feels good to laugh again.

Lime flavored Corn Nuts

Tonight I bring my official week of mourning to a close. My country has chosen the sad and discredited combination of socialism plus demagoguery that has NEVER worked anywhere in the world that it has been tried. And there ain't a %$# thing I can do about it. And for anyone out there who knows nothing about me, IT HAS NOTHING to do with race. I don't like redistribution of wealth whether it's foisted upon us by Ted Kennedy or Vladmir Lenin, Caucasians the both of them, or anybody else, anywhere.

I can't believe that everyone, including apparently Obama himself, missed the whole point with his kindergarten crayon analogy. If young Obama wants to give away his own crayons to some needy classmate, that is a wonderful thing and it is called being benevolent and is in total harmony with the capitalist ideal. But if his teacher confiscates some of his crayons by force and hands them out to other kids, that is socialism.

I voted but it did no good. So I will write about Corn Nuts instead. Lime-flavored Corn Nuts. I thought I would be open-minded and try them today. While I can still afford a snack every now and then, before my nation sinks into the shadow-world of socialism.

They did not taste very good. Some kinds of change are not a good thing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Isis in mourning

I have only occassionally ventured into politics on this blog. I can't help but do so tonight. It appears the American people have been swayed by a clever demagogue -- and that never ends well.

God help us.

And God help this conniver who has portrayed himself as some kind of great Messiah in order to win the job of president, in order to convert our great capitalist society into another dismal socialist experiment, doomed to fail or at least to see its growth sputter and die like an old lawnmower. History teaches, messiahs who can't keep their promises soon see their mobs of supporters change into a sea of human fury.

Isis is in deep mourning.

I close with the lyric from Nine Inch Nails which has been running through my head all evening:

"Bow down before the one you serve.
You're gonna get what you deserve."

My last question is, who the hell is he going to blame for all the evils in the world once the designated whipping boy George Bush is no longer around?

Isis is in mourning and it may be a while before I feel like writing again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Woman being beautiful

I was out on a lunchtime errand today and was taking a cellphone call from my car in a shopping center parking lot.

Noticed a vehicle going in slow circles, angling for a close-to-the-door spot. Nothing unusual about that.

Looked up a few seconds later and noticed the lovely red-headed Lady who had been driving the car was now parked in a disabled parking spot -- that's what She was looking for! -- and was unfolding a sort of chair apparatus.

Looked up again and saw that the apparatus was a portable wheelchair into which She carefully set a frail and ancient Woman.

And then They two disappeared into Macy's.

It is a beautiful thing and a necessary thing to care for our aged ones. And that includes not just trips to the doctor and the drugstore but also, every now and then, to Macy's.

People, especially older folks, need to feel that they are more than a biological depository for pills -- that they can still get out and shop for perfume or a pretty outfit like any other human being.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New month, new place

In a month's time, especially when one is as scatter-brained as I am, one cannot possibly come to know a country. Still, I feel as if I drew a little closer in October to the millions of people who call Australia home, and to their history.

Across the world now I go in this new month of November, to the land of Austria.

Gnostic studies

Among at least one Gnostic sect, all who had achieved gnosis (enlightenment), were considered to be equals, not only of each other but even of Christ, whose salvation work was not by blood but by His teaching.

There was no hierarchy in this sect; indeed, the positions of bishop, deacon, etc., were divided up by lot, which was interpreted as the will of God, and changed often. The sect even had the audacity to consider women as equals and to allow them to serve in these temporary positions.

This was, of course, all very offensive to the non-Gnostic Christian church, which was in that same era solidifying its hierarchal structure and for which the blood of Christ was the very heart of the faith.