Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life of the Party

Pardon my silence.  I've been so busy over the past few weeks.  I have a new part time job writing for the Bella Sara website. and we've been trying to do a major update that launches today.  Please visit the site, learn more about the fantastic world of Bella Sara, and most important, buy cards.  

I also went to a Halloween party on Saturday.  The theme was Rock & Roll.  I went as the only rocker I'm qualified to impersonate: Meat Loaf.  Had a lot of fun singing Karaoke.  I learned through this experience that pop songs are very difficult to sing.  The recording artists make it seem easy--which is why they make the big bucks.  I suppose it helps when the song is arranged in your key.

Finally, politics:  I'm not embarrassed to admit that from time to time I watch Fox News.  And that usually means Bill O'Reilly.  (I also watch Keith Obermann's trenchant, sardonic critiques of Mr. O'R as well).  At any rate, I was watching the other day and something he said had stuck with me.  He had on one of his bimbos that he "converses" with--essentially they are there so that he can have a dialogue with himself.  She read a dictionary definition of "patriotism" that defined is as having love or allegiance to their country's "authority."  My heart sank.  (i.e.: I fell for it...)  I certainly don't love or pledge allegiance to our current president.  Could that mean I am truly not patriotic?

Hold your horses buster!  Authority in the United States is vested solely in the Constitution--not in any one man--not in any administration.  Yes, I can condemn, disparage, criticise, hold in contempt, and otherwise denigrate the President without being unpatriotic because I think he's vile and pursuing policies contrary to the values I think America stands for.  I am a patriot after all even by the Bimbo's definition!

One final thing--the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal on the Exxon matter.  That means there will be no resolution for another year.  Once this collection of corporatist, right wing idealogues gets hold of it, there'll be nothing left. 

One paralegal here opined that their easiest route would be to simply declare that Maritime law applies, and there are no punitive damages in Maritime law.  I think that will probablyhappen.  They wouldn't have agreed to hear the case if they didn't think that there was a possibility of reversal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comparisons are odorous

In Shakespeare's masterpiece Much Ado About Nothing, one of his characters, Dogberry, says to his sidekick Verges:  "Comparisons are odorous.  Palabras, neighbor Verges."  A little research reveals that the phrase is a malapropism: what Dogberry means to say is that comparisons are odious.  That phrase pops up in Cervantes, Donne, Marlow, and Sir John Fortescue; it was a common axiom, proverb, expression of the time.  Palabra means a word, or to talk, possibly related to the root of "palaver."  Dogberry seems to be cautioning Verges to "get to the point."  Shakespeare sui generis certainly knew the difference between odious, "something foul" with odorous "something that smells foul."  Odorous is a much more sensory, concrete evocation of foulness than the abstraction odious.

For Dogberry the line is a tossoff, a response to a nonsensical simile that Verges made in the previous line of dialogue.  But its implication runs deep.  And it is a phrase that means a great deal to me personally, ever since I played Verges in 1981.

One of the axioms heard in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is: Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides.  It makes a good deal of sense.  The axiom cautions against looking at someone else's success and comparing your own situation to that, and finding yourself lacking.

Success has not come easily for me.  In some ways I am successful, but in other ways I wish I were more successful.  Yesterday I received an e-mail from Pacific Northwest Writer's Association that our monthly talk would be given by Seattle author Jim Thayer.  Thayer has not only written and published 12 thrillers, he's also maintained a law practice, and runs an editing service.  Compared to him, I felt quite inadequate.  My fevered brain began bellowing at me.  And last night I had a very difficult night--a nightmare woke me up moaning with terror (Molly was quite upset) and other problems sleeping. 

I need to remember the wisdom I learned from my good friend and former sponsor Matt Hornyak: There's success at every level, and there's value in that, no matter what level you're on. 

Monday, October 15, 2007

Inept Democrats

A letter castigating Rush Limbaugh for calling troops who disagree with him about the War in Iraq "phony soldiers" has backfired on the senators who signed it.  Rush is auctioning the letter on E-bay with proceeds going to an education fund for children of Marines KIA.  (The fund has already dispersed $29 million in scholarships--this is significant).  Rush has turned the tables on the senators, showing them up as inept grandstanders, just exactly like the senators who signed onto the condemnation of MoveOn.org's Petreus/Betray Us ad.  The republicans seem to know instinctively how to seize upon a political opportunity and squeeze every millileter of juice out of it.  Democrats, attempting the very same strategy, stumble, bumble and issue incoherent, pathetic diatribes. 

The sad fact for America is that the democrat's ineptitude never rises (or lowers) to the incompetence of the republicans when the republicans are actually governing.  Why?  Arrogance.  Democrats are incoherent sometimes because they're always self-reflective.  They often change their minds.  When they do they're called flip-floppers.  Republicans have the luxury of total self-confidence, sure in the knowledge that they are completely, and totally correct in everything they do and think.  When is America going to get tired of this mind-set?  That's the only thing that will bring about the sea-change necessary to rescue our democracy from the hands of those who place ideology above the law.

Personally, I'm content with the shifting of poles between democrat and republican power.  From time to time we need a big bully in the white house in order to show the rest of the world that the U.S. is not to be trifled with.  But most of the time, I'm much happier with a democrat who builds bridges (rather than watches them fall down--as the residents of Minnesota know all too well George Bush has done).

Friday, October 5, 2007

Truck and Field

Not being much of a sports nut, I had not heard of Marion Jones prior to her recent much publicized admission to doping, after having denied the practice for years.  However, one look at her hulked out physique would have caused anybody to be suspicious. 

It will be interesting to see if the controversy goes away as fast as the Lance Armstrong doping rumors disappeared from the press

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Chopin's Prelude No. 15 is one of my all time favorite pieces of music.  Currently it's being used as background to a TV ad for Halo 3, and every time I hear it, it stirs my soul.  For the complete piece, visit here.  I also wrote a short story in which the music plays a strong part:



The Wehrmacht entered Krakow on September 6, 1939, when I was 17 years old.  My father, who had trained me from childhood on the instrument of my life, beat time contrapuntally to the tread of Panzers as they jingled through Rynek Glowny toward Wawel Castle, snapping the bricks with their weight.  We had known for five days they were coming.   The army of Poland had met the blitzkrieg mounted upon chargers, armed with sabres, discarding their lives like stalks of wheat falling before the mow.


That morning I had worked for three hours steadfastly on the first movement of Pathetique, which I still found difficult.  The score fell, rustling, as father rose and moved to the window to look down at the street. 


“Keep working,” he said when I paused.  My attention returned to the opalescent console of the Blüthner, product of Leipzig, the home of Bach and Goethe, Wagner’s birthplace.  Father opened the window to the early autumn air, and the tractor-like rumbling grew louder.  A whiff of smoke came in at the casement.  I continued with the opening of the sonata, but my heart would not inform my hands.  Yet, fatherdid not seem to notice my mistakes—or if he did—he did not comment. 


He returned rubbing his glasses with his kerchief.  “Halina,” he said, and laid his warm hand over mine.  “Let us put aside the Viennese composer.”


From the shelf he took our beloved slender volume of Chopin’s preludes.  “On this day let us hear the music of our countryman.  Turn to page 19.   Prelude 15 in D-flat major.”


He spoke as I played.  “Yes, daughter—you have his music in your soul.  It begins like a gentle spring rain—a soft downpour on flat green leaves, sustaining, revivifying.  Hear now, in the middle section, how the storm increases, now growing in malevolence, yet not merely a storm—but also a test—what may we men and women abide?  Yes, even in the midst of the tempest there is triumph, hear it!  Feel it!  And now the grief and loss—as, the storm subsides and the gentle rain falls again to nourish the ground.”


When I finished, he wiped the tears from my eyes with his kerchief.  “Halina—the pain will pass away and the darkness will lift, and the world will be well again.  Politics and war flame brightly but, in the end, they always burn themselves out.  Only art endures.”

Ten years later, while studying in Paris before the Fourth International Chopin Competition, I visited the maestro’s grave in Père-Lachaise.  His mausoleum, bestrewn with garlands and wreaths, bouquets of gladiolus and mums and votive candles that guttered in the light rain, invoked despondency as though he had been laid to rest only the previous day, rather than a century before.  On that drizzly April day in 1949, I remembered my father’s words.   For the hell had indeed passed—but not soon.  Laying a spray of lilies upon Chopin’s tomb, I mourned for my poor country.  I did not grieve for myself.  For I had suffered nothing—except insomniac nights in Krakow; sleepless, clutching my pillow, my stomach a pit of fear and dread and anguish, hearing, far away, shrieking train whistles fade away west.

It's been a Month!

It's been an entire month since my last entry.  My apologies to my regular readers if there are any left...

I just signed a contract to write for Hidden City Games, the company that develops and publishes Bella Sara.  Please visit the site.  Notice that it's aimed at girls between the ages of 6 and 12.  I'm excited by the opportunity, and I've learned more about horses in a week than I had in my whole life up til now.

I'll be writing for them for several months as a freelancer.  Hopefully I will be able to keep some association when I move to Iowa. 

I'm excited to see my friend Steve and his wife Sherry and daughter Leah when they come to Seattle two weeks from now.  Very excited.  Steve has been here before but it will be Sherry and Leah's first trip.  I love showing off my city, even though it won't be my city for very much longer.