Monday, May 30, 2005

Final Chicago thoughts

As I have not seen a newspaper or watched much news while relaxing in the windy city, my readers have been forced to endure my Chicago postings of late. Here are my final thoughts on my visit to Chi-Town - two last words.

First, I was proofed before being served a beer! I love it!! I should remind you that I am a balding forty-one year old. Ok, so it is the law here. Can we pretend?

Second, I am just in from meeting the illustrious Mrs. Shakes and her husband, er, Mr. Shakes. I must say they are both engaging, witty and fun to be with, and were the perfect cap to a wonderful trip. Very cool to have made your official acquaintances, Shakes duo!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wrigley Field

How cool a place is Wrigley Field?! The Cubbies won 5 - 1 behind a solid pitching effort from Glendon Rusch and homers from Derek Lee (two) and Aramis Ramirez. We walked all around the exterior and interior, sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch and saw Ron Santo in the back parking lot. I loved it!

Now for some down time before dinner.


You have to love this town. Downtown is refreshing clean and the people are so friendly here. Lincoln Park is worth walking through and today is the Cubbies. Weather looks fine. We ate at "The Red Fish" last night. Good salmon and they give you bead necklaces. Too funny!

If you want to hear the best jazz around, check out "The Green Mill." We saw Orbert Davis and his band last night. Ahhh .... you simply get lost in the sounds.

I determined that I am allergic to the blue train line. So dirty that my allergies were ripped apart. Thankfully, the red line appears cleaner.

Back to normal posting in a couple of days.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Poem: Further From Heaven

Further From Heaven

Self-righteous, radical with Republican wrath
Preaching, beseeching, consumed by their path

Masking an image that’s compounded in fear
Lost in believing and forgotten what’s dear
Speak with hypocrisy;
I’d say forketh tongue
Imposing their morals on the world their among
Morals, ha, simply, they seem to more lack
Sadly, in living only know white or black

Where they’re mistaken is in God that’s been twisted
All about Jesus, though his love they’ve resisted
How can one worship at some heavenly alter
Yet in calls for acceptance, they repeatedly falter

Inflicting an ethic that is base isolation
What they don’t understand gains assured desecration
Where science speaks clearly, their blinders obstruct
Cattle are leery from the times they’ve been fucked
(Shout out to Neal Horsley!)

Condemn what was born as an evil devise
Mindlessly fearful in all this implies
Cheat and they steal, and abusively given
This is the road onto which they have striven

Where is the charity?
For whom do they pray?
Any sensing of virtue is their lifetime away

Copyright SGW 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Chicago, Chicago, you're my kinda' town ...

... Well, I hope so anyway. I have never been outside O'Hare Airport, so this Memorial Day weekend adventure that I am starting Thursday evening will be something new. Hopefully, the weather will allow me to get there in a timely fashion and also to enjoy my long weekend in the Windy City. Saturday is critical, as we have Cubs' tickets. Everything else will just be educated winging it.

Although, I am also still hopeful to meet up with a friend while there. Friend, are we meeting?

The other friend I am traveling with usually brings his laptop, so hopefully I will be able to post on Poetic Leanings. I have some stuff lined up to put out there for you, including some poetry.

Either way, check out some of the blogs I link to along the right side of my main page. They are all worth the read. However, I would bet I will be able to post over the weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2005


I recently completed the biography, "Che, A Revolutionary Life" by Jon Lee Anderson, which is widely acknowledged as the definitive work on Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I had put off reading it for years, but finally settled down to learn who this man was, inspired by having seen "The Motorcycle Diaries," the superb re-telling of one of Guevara's early traveling adventures.

I do not intend to spend a great deal of time dissecting the book and the life Che Guevara lived. It is incumbent upon interested parties to sit down and read the book themselves for detailed analysis. However, I do believe some thoughts are in order.

Ernesto Guevara, in his younger years, exhibited a high level of intelligence, boundless energy despite a severe asthma afflication and strong abilities to succeed in the medical or research fields. He also seemed to hold a genuine interest in the lower classes of South and Central America. From his youth forward he also displayed uncompromising idealism and a stubbornness that he always knew the best way to do things.

These last traits led Guevara to become "Che," the revolutionary, communist/socialist, who was led down the path of social change via violent conflict. That he was an interesting and complex figure is beyond dispute. The mythology that grew around his persona, built by the Castro propaganda machine, his loyal followers, and strangely, many young people today in America is in part based on accomplishment, but also partially blamed on a misunderstanding of the evidence of his life.

Guevara's idealism and certainty in his choices led to a rigidity of belief. His determination became a relentless, cruelty. His desire to free "the people" from the grasp of imperialism brought about nothing more then misguided economic policies and oppressive leadership for anyone who deviated from the Castro/Guevara system.

The Cuba model that led to the success of Fidel Castro's movement was more a product of perfect circumstances and a lot of luck rather then a formula for guerrilla activity. Guevara stubbornly held to the model though, leading to massive failures in the Congo and Bolivia, the latter resulting in his eventual capture and execution.

Still, Guevara's ability to overcome his asthma and become the leader he was has to be viewed as nothing short of amazing. His courage is beyond rapproach. That his men followed him without question is true, too, although many of them had their loyalty returned by Guevara's volatile temper and unwavering discipline. Those who let him down, heard about it. Disagreeing with him would lead to punishment, banishment or death. The only two people Guevara remained completely loyal and respectful to were Fidel Castro and his second wife, Aleida.

Ernesto Guevara genuinely cared about the peasants. He honestly was troubled by their plight and there are countless documentations of his acts of generosity toward the common man, although more often in his traveling youth. Later on, he lost his way wrapped blindly within a radical and unalterable belief system.

In closing, the fact remains that he was a major player in bringing about a new Cuba with Fidel Castro. Sadly, that Cuba became a den of repression that went beyond the cruel Batista regime. Forty years later, Castro still holds power on the island and the people of Cuba live in poverty under strict state control. In large measure, that is Guevara's legacy, along with the image of a man of unimpeachable toughness and leadership qualities who ran wildly off the road of idealism to be consumed by a violent rage.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Star Wars - Episode Three

Ok, I feel the need to add my two cents to the Star Wars commentaries floating around the blogosphere of late. Lucky for me, I have a blog! What do you know, a forum to say whatever I want!

I saw the movie today, and while I would say the first hour was horrible, it then went into hyperdrive, came together and got the job done.

The first half of the movie was disjointed, seriously flawed, filled with childish dialogue and was the equivalent of a bad, B movie. Some of the lines were so cheesy, I felt the need to take a lactaid pill. Things just happened and I found myself yawning at the simplistic rescues and battles. Count Dooku was dispatched with no drama. General Grevious was a pointless character that lost me. R2-D2 did have some classically, funny moments.

Then Anakin begins to turn and the story finds itself. His conflict is heartfelt. The irony of his turning to the darkside being the cause of what he feared most to happen, was clever in its development. The political lines that everyone has referred to were, for me, poignant nonetheless, and DID reflect modern events whether intentional or not. Democracy does fall apart behind false patriotism and cheers.

The routing of the Jedi was well done, although Mace Windu's fall was a bit disorganized. Finally, the dual battles between Yoda and the Emperor and Obi-Wan and Anakin were high drama with all the glorious power built from the nearly thirty years of their ultimate anticipation. Also, tell me you were not among the crowd who laughed aloud as Yoda shoes aside the guards right before his battle begins. Equally, tell me you were not in awe as Anakin becomes the Darth Vader we all know as he takes that first breath. Brilliant!!

All the pieces find their place as the story winds down and we are led to the place we began back all those years ago. Aspects of the recent movies, from Jar Jar Binks to terrible Anakin acting throughout, were at times hard to bare. However, the homestretch made it all worthwhile.

May the force be with you.

Assassination Vacation

Having caught Sarah Vowell on "The Daily Show" a number of times, it is quite apparent that she is witty and intelligent, willing to dig beneath the surface of something in order to find the more interesting core and kinda' cute, too. For some reason, I have been remiss in reading her works, but have started "Assassination Vacation."

The book, in its early stages, is hysterically clever. I love the scene in the bed and breakfast over brunch. Anyway, one quote immediately jumped out:

"... discussing the current president. That's what I like to call him, 'the current president.' I find it difficult to say or type his name, George W. Bush. I like to call him 'the current president' because it's a hopeful phrase, implying that his administration is only temporary."

Let's hope the temporary part holds up, Sarah. Given the abuse to the Constitution so far, I have my doubts.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Guardian Angel

I have posted from time to time about my involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the worldwide mentoring program. I see a young boy once a week and spend time with him. We do "whatever." Activities have included going to the movies, reading, walks on the beach or in a park, bowling, going for ice cream, surfing the net, having a catch, watching a ballgame, going to a museum, and simply talking.

We refer to the kids as "Littles," and the volunteers as "Bigs." My Little's mom died of cancer a few months ago. He was bottling up a lot of stuff about how he felt and was acting with hostility towards other family members.

One day, we were sitting around having a snack and he asked me to teach him how to write poetry. I gave him some subtle suggestions, but mostly got out of the way and encouraged him to give it a whirl on his own. When I saw how much he enjoyed writing his first poem, I suggested that he might try writing something about what he was feeling over his mother's death.

The Guardian Angel

There was a boy who had a real nice mom.
He loved her very much.
When he was a little boy, he got a lot of stuff.
That very nice mom also adopted him.
But when he was 12, he lost his very nice mom.
But he knows his very nice mom is his Guardian Angel now.

Copyright Protected 2005

My Little is also now enrolled in an art therapy class at my urging, and I am told his general attitude around family is much improved.

I am not writing all this to tell you how great a mentor I am. It is the program that is the star here that makes such a large difference in the lives of children in need. Many blogs raise money for themselves or to help defray the costs of blogging. That's fine. I never ask for anything from my readers (ok, I ask for comments, and most of you ignore me!) except that you consider donating to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Please donate. My Little says thank you.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Red Molly

The trio of Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Carolann Solebello are Red Molly. Red Molly is a gift to the ears and senses, as they bring together three angelic voices to form a harmonized, sweetness that is unmatched. These ladies weave sounds into simple arrangements that will grab your attention and leave you wishing they would play forever.

The threesome all can sing lead vocals, play a wide array of instruments, including Gardner's haunting dobro and joyful mandolin, and easily slide in and out of different musical genres that make it hard to fully classify them. Red Molly can bring pop, country, folk, and bluegrass to the table, but also a strong taste of the Appalachia-based sounds that many people will recall from the popular "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack.

All three women display their own talents individually, but as a unit are something special, and to hear them perform can only be described as time spent with heavenly sound. They feature a 4 song EP, with one flaw - it is not a 10 song CD!

MacAllister, Gardner and Solebello are down to earth, friendly sorts, who wear their love of song on their faces as they play. They mix easily with the crowds they perform for, and seem to be among friends in the grace and warmth they provide and receive. Abbie will even play dobro, or the funny looking, hanging, sort of guitar thing, along roadsides for curious passersby (you had to be there).

If you have the good fortune to live near a venue they are playing, check them out. If not, buy their EP. Please, please, please ladies come back and play here again soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Practical Press

No, this is not a post professing to view the mainstream media in a positive light. "HA" is what I say to that! However, I noticed that The Practical Press is a blog that links to Poetic Leanings. Being curious as to who these practically pressing people were, I went and looked, and lo and behold I found a little blogging community of creative peeps!

Hello creative peeps!

They describe themselves as "the place where bloggers come to be creative -- fiction, poetry, drama, screenplays, art, photos, literary reviews and discussion, we do it all." And they do it well, too. I noticed some familiar names in the contributors list, especially Mrs. Shakes, but also OldWhiteLady and Lab Kat, who have passed through Poetic Leanings before, and a few others who I have seen in the comments sections elsewhere. I suspect that one of them is responsible for making people aware of me, so ...

... be aware of them, too. Great writers abound and you should go check them out. I especially like "Bad Poetry Friday." How sarcastically, hip.

Poem: Trial For Error

This poem comes color-coordinated so as to point out what would be clear in an oral performance of this piece. There are four main characters.

1. The brown text is a background voice that repeats throughout the poem almost as a whisper;
2. The red text represents President Bush speaking and presenting his case in defense of himself;
3. The blue text represents the progressive voice of the nation as the prosecution in this trial;
4. The green text represents the jury and the reading of their verdict.

Trial For Error

Mr. President, present your case;
Ideologies that you embrace.

I’m fightin’ terruh,
And freedom’s spread.

We’re less secure;
Our soldiers, dead.

Bin Laden’s hiding.
Hussein’s been caught.

Bin Laden’s free.
Iraq was bought.

A threat’s been beaten;
Them nuke’s denied.

There was no threat,
And nukes? You lied!

I’ve cut your taxes
And ... and ...

...the rich empowered.
You’ve robbed the poor;
Corruption’s flowered.
Paid off cronies;
Succumbed to fear;
Divide the nation;
Destroyed what’s dear.

My core of values;
Faith is strong.

You’re moral-challenged;
Beliefs are wrong.

I won election.
My mandate’s rollin’.

A narrow margin;
The vote was stolen.

Your verdict’s rendered;
The sentence gained;
The lasting mark,
A country stained.

Copyright SGW 2005

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bright Eyes

I first became aware of Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes when they opened for Springsteen and REM at the Philly "Vote For Change" show last year. You could clearly hear how amazingly, talented Oberst was that night.

Listening to the 2005 release "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" over the last few weeks, it is hard to see how a better album will be put out this year. Buy it now!

One verse from "Landlocked Blues," which is my favorite song on the album, strikes a particular chord with me:

"But greed is a bottomless pit.
And our freedom's a joke we're just taking a piss.
And the whole world must watch the sad comic display,
If you're still free start running away."

Monday, May 9, 2005

Tina Vero

One cannot claim an understanding of the soul and ideas of an artist after spending two hours in their presence, but in sitting through a Tina Vero performance a sense of a passionate musician and warm and gentle soul come clearly into focus. To watch and listen to Vero, is to spend time with a spirit of introspective and intimate musicianship.

With guitar playing hinting of Ani Difranco, and a soft, yet powerful voice reminiscent of Dar Williams and Jonatha Brooke, Tina Vero weaves stories of vivid imagery and complex musical arrangement. Together, these tools provide her with an ability to bring about a discussion of life's experiences in a way that is uniquely her own, yet familiar, too.

Vocally, Vero ranges from the intense to the quiet and reflective. When dedicating a song, "Dark Wheel," to her sick grandmother it is possible to gain a sense of her passion for living via a song of fears and lost/missed moments.

Vero presents herself on stage with a constant smile, almost as if saying, "I love doing this so much, hang out, dance with me, and enjoy the moment." She talks about life in all its dimensions, but does so with grace and affection, even when singing of sad times and places.

If you live in north/central New Jersey, check her out live. If not, buy her music and join her mailing list so as to be able to purchase her forthcoming CD. I hope she graces a stage near me again soon.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Coming to Terms with Mental Health Issues

I was disgusted with the obsession of the media over Jennifer Wilbanks' disappearance. The MSM covered it to death, as they do pretty much with every non-story. The case of Jennifer Wilbanks deserved no more than a passing reference or mention. However, here it is from a different perspective that is relevant.

Ms. Wilbanks has been ridiculed for having "cold feet." She has been the recipient of hostility and anger for having the audacity to not be dead.

Many decent and caring people took the time and energy to devote themselves to helping in the search for Ms. Wilbanks when it was believed she was kidnapped or dead. Anyone who did so deserves commendation.

However, weren't we taught that you commit an act of generosity because you believe in the action; not so as to illicit a certain response or to have a particular event take place in such and such a way? People who took the time to help in the search for Ms. Wilbanks should look proudly in the mirror at themselves for doing good deeds. They should not be angry for being "deceived."

More importantly, though, the story of Jennifer Wilbanks plays to a character flaw in American society. She has a mental health issue to deal with. There is no denying this fact, and even she admits as much in this statement.

We talk a good game in this country when it comes to mental illness. We say it deserves equality of consideration to physical conditions, yet do we mean it? We do not, if we have anger, abuse or derision to give Ms. Wilbanks. She has a illness, needs treatment and is now getting it.

The time has come to honestly engage mental health issues. People who take medication for depression or anxiety should not have to feel shame for doing so. Seeing a therapist should not come with a scarlet letter stitched onto our chest. Someone running away on the eve of their wedding does not deserve attacks when undoubtedly suffering from a mental illness of some sort.

The story of Jennifer Wilbanks never merited the national attention that it received. That is done, and a topic for a whole different time. Since it is out there, though, I hope we can re-evaluate how we view mental health issues. It's time to evolve as a society and give this the care and understanding it deserve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Ah, the life ...

My cat spent two hours sitting by the back window tonight watching a rabbit in the yard.

I want to be a cat.

An elephant poops and we have air conditioning?!


The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is considering using its own animal waste to provide energy for the zoo. In particular, given the amount of poo an elephant supplies, they will be the largest provider.

First instincts are to laugh about this, but the technology is available. It would reduce energy costs and disposal costs for animal waste, and perhaps make people re-think killing animals.

Imagine if we could reduce oil dependency and prevent animals from being slaughtered at the same time. Perhaps instead of hunting them, we could walk behind animals with large pooper scoopers. I know I am going to look at my cat's litter box in a whole new light now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Bennie and the Jets

For about thirty years, I have been singing along with Elton John and loving "Bennie and the Jets."

If you are like me, you can't understand half the damn words to the song. I mumble and fake it through as much as possible and then go "B-B-Benny and the Jets" in my best Elton John high voice.

Of course, you can make up words, too. I have gone with "She's got a gitchy goose, a mow ha seuss, you know I read it in a magazine." What that means, I have no friggin' idea!

Well, if you have ever gotten to the point where you just had to know the actual lyrics, you probably perused them on the internet as I just did and thought, "I understood the words better before I knew what they were!"

Here they are:

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
But they're so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they're blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who's right and who's wrong

Sunday, May 1, 2005

A Sunday wine tasting

As I head out momentarily for a wine tasting this afternoon, I am left with these thoughts:

"No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!" From "Sideways."

Actually, I prefer whites and especially Rieslings, so this line makes sense to me.