Saturday, February 24, 2007

Frightening Power of the NRA

I think we have officially lost our minds. The stunning force of this onslaught in support of Americans' right to own and hunt with assault rifles is mind-boggling.

Even Time, Inc. (the corporate parent of the Outdoor Life magazine) is cowed by the National Rifle Association. Click on this link to read the story.

Gun remark kills outdoorsman's career -

Friday, February 23, 2007

Giant squid dazzles prey with fireworks �

Giant squid dazzles prey with fireworks � - Neurophilosophy Journal

You have to check out these little bits of video, recorded by Japanese researchers. It looks like animation but it is not. It is a giant squid, in action under the sea. Amazing.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.. his eyes are closed. ::: Albert Einstein :::

Thursday, February 22, 2007

DJ - R.I.P.

Dennis Johnson, the great NBA guard, passed today.

I've always loved this quote from him, about playing in big games:
“I hate to lose,” he once said. “I accept it when it comes, but I still hate it. That’s the way I am.”

Additionally, this afternoon, I was very surprised to see how the news of his death played out on the Internet. My homepage is, and there was a "Breaking News" headline reporting his death, without any details. I quickly clicked on and, neither of which anything except the headline. While I waited, I wondered how old DJ was, and decided to check Wikipedia. Amazingly, his bio there was already updated, including the date and likely cause of his death, attributed to Danny Ainge.

We are only beginning to understand the implications of this era of user choice and control, when basketball fans don't need to wait for the vertically integrated media conglomerates to report the news, because they can do it themselves. This is a very signifcant time in the development of media and how it is integrated into our lives.

Small Town Democracy & Freedom of the Press

I live in the Hudson Highlands, in a community that embodies the phrase "small town." There are many advantages to living in a place where everyone knows you and the sense of community is strong. There are disadvantages, too - particularly when it comes to local politics.

We have a new editor at the town newspaper, The Cornwall Local, and I have been watching with interest as she has been subjected to various intimidation tactics by the local pols. Finally, I wrote this letter to the editor, which is being published in tomorrow's edition.
To the Editor:

I was surprised to read that an elected official in the Town of Cornwall moved to decommission The Local as the official town newspaper, apparently in reaction to critical editorial coverage of the Town Board’s process in selecting a new police chief.

Editor Margaret Menge is doing a journalist’s job, reporting the facts on the front page and expressing her own viewpoint on the editorial page. Though our Board may not be happy with her questioning of their decision-making, it seems to me that the citizens of Cornwall have been well-served by her reporting of the process employed in picking a new chief.

President Bush has similar problems with the Washington Post and most likely views them with equal distaste, but he is wise enough not to forbid the paper access to his office. Our free press is a cornerstone of true democracy, as immortalized in 1789 by our Founding Fathers when they wrote and passed the Bill of Rights. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The ultimate statement on the freedom of the press comes from our founding rascal, Benjamin Franklin, who stirred up all sorts of controversy with his printing press in the early days of the Revolution. His famous editorial, “Apology for Printers,” stated: Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.

Franklin also wrote: Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech.

We should support The Cornwall Local, and urge our editor to do the most thorough and in-depth reporting that she can with the resources that she has. Then, finally, it is up to us as citizens to read, be informed, ask questions, form opinions, and ultimately, to vote. Then, and only then, are we fulfilling our obligations as citizens of this model (if messy) democracy.

Liz Nealon

Journey's End: Powerful WWI Drama Packs a Punch

Journey's End, the story of six British soldiers posted to the front line in WWI, opens tonight on Broadway. This revival was a hit in London's West End, and I have no doubt that it will perform similarly in New York.

The entire play takes place in a candlelit bunker as the young officers talk about rugby, cricket, and other trivial matters, staving off fear and dread as they await a major assault by the Germans, who are in their own trenches only 70 yards away. The cast is outstanding, with a particularly fine performance by Tony Award-winning actor Boyd Gaines in the role of Lieutenant Osborne. The ensemble also features the handsome young actor Hugh Dancy (tipped as the “next Orlando Bloom”) as the alcoholic, deeply conflicted, ultimately tragic Captain Stanhope. I entered the theater expecting to see a sad story about the war's terrible toll in human lives, and it was certainly that. There was no perfunctory, empty Broadway standing ovation at the conclusion of this performance. The audience remained seated, first offering hesitant, then resolute, weeping applause as the actor/soldiers stood at attention in front of a wall of names of the British war dead.

Journey's End was first produced in London in 1928, just ten years after the end of the war. The current director's notes describe the difficulty that the unknown writer, R.C. Sherriff (who went on to write classics like Goodbye, Mr. Chips), had in getting the play produced. Similar to our own feelings about 9/11, the British public felt that the subject was still too raw and painful to address in the theater. This was understandable, given that Britain had endured 700,000 deaths with another three million injured. The play was first presented simply as a staged reading in London, featuring an unknown young actor named Laurence Olivier in the leading role. Current director David Grindley writes that "despite a tremendous reaction by press and public alike," it was an uphill battle to get a commercial producer to mount a full production. Journey’s End finally opened on January 21, 1929 to poor advance ticket sales, gradually building an audience by word of mouth. By the end of the year, there were fourteen productions in English, including one on Broadway, and seventeen more in translation around Europe. The play, rather than exacerbating the pain of the post-WWI era, proved to be a cathartic experience.

Director Grindley, who also directed the 2004 London revival, has done a wonderful job with Journey’s End, which makes a powerful statement about loyalty, duty, and personal sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds.

Journey’s End is playing at the Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street, New York, NY. Running time 2 hours and 35 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. May be inappropriate for children 12 and under.

Rebecca Darlington opens in Chelsea

Agora Gallery - Rebecca Darlington
Don't miss this exhibit opening on Feb 22 - the first time painter Rebecca Darlington is showing in NYC. I own three of her paintings (as well as the pair of high heels featured in one of the paintings in this exhibition!), and am a big fan of her work.

(From the Press Release): Sunny afternoons and barefoot splashes in the water; the sescenes of simple pleasures are a reflection of Rebecca Darlington's love of the good life. Her paintings display joyful color and brushwork, but are further compelling because of the romantic subtext, often focusing on youthful wonder and sublime comforts.

Darlington's paintings will be on display from February 20 to March 13 at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, Chelsea, New York. Opening hours: 11am-6pm. The opening reception takes place tonight from 6-8 PM.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Singing Renaissance Music this summer

I am so tickled - I received my acceptance today into the Tallis Scholars Summer School, being held at Seattle University in late July. Tallis Scholars Summer Schools, Renaissance choral music

The Tallis Singers are one of the premiere recording groups focused on Renaissance music, and I am so looking forward to training with their members, working with other singers on Palestrina (featured at this summer's workshop), and being conducted by artistic director Peter Phillips. Honestly, I can't think of a vacation that sounds like more fun than singing eight hours a day! Very exciting.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Gospel according to Julia

Today in church the Gospel was Luke 9.28-37, the famous story in which Peter and the disciples go with Jesus up on the mountain to pray. They look up from their prayers and see Christ talking to the prophets Moses & Elijah. Peter, frightened but trying to be helpful, says "Lord, shall I prepare three tents, one for each of you?" Suddenly, the sky splits open and the voice of God speaks to them from a cloud.

I always smile to myself when I hear this dramatic story, because of what happened when I read it aloud with my daughter Jules when she was little. Trying to be as expressive as possible, I boomed in a voice that I hoped sounded like God coming from the heavens: "This is my Son. My Chosen One. Listen to Him." Without missing a beat, Jules quipped "Would you like me to make that FOUR tents?"

She makes me smile, every day.

Friday, February 16, 2007


A yard full of wild turkeys (15, to be exact, plus some assorted deer). This is the view outside my window as I sit here writing, post-winter storm.

posted from my mobile phone

Iraqis on the Run: What the World can Do

As I have written here previously, I visited a preschool in the East Amman neighborhood in which Iraqi refugees are housed. Jordanian resources are strained to the limit, housing prices have gone through the roof, and since Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan, there is no end in sight to this situation. The U.N. estimates that there are 2 million refugees in the region, with at least that number displaced inside Iraq, as well.

This editorial from the Christian Science Monitor suggests that the U.S. and the U.K. bear responsibility for helping to address the refugee dilemma. We have a long way to go. Since the war begain, a grand total of 466 Iraqis have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees (State Department report at a Senate Hearing in January). In 2007, the U.S. plans to allow 7000. In the meantime, there are many U.S. citizens of Iraqi descent who are desperately trying to get their family members to a safe place where they can work, put their children in school, recommence normal living as responsible citizens. We need a policy around this, and we need it now.

Iraqis on the run: what the world can do |

Challenges to Palestinian Unity

The following piece is written by my colleague Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and the Director of the Institute of
Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. It is a particularly insightful overview of all the challenges facing the Palestinian particular, his explanation of how and why the indomitable spirit of Palestinian unity that we so long admired has broken into self-directed violence and despair.

by Daoud Kuttab
Copyright 2007: Project Syndicate

The reconciliation between the leaders of the two major Palestinian
groups, Hamas and Fatah, that has just been negotiated in Saudi
Arabia is being hailed as a major political breakthrough.

But the national unity government created as a result of this
agreement faces many daunting challenges. The agreement needs to be
followed by an effort to end the economic and administrative siege
of Palestine, as well as serious peace talks with Israel aimed at
ending the 39-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At
home, the new government needs to pay its civil servants, restore
law and order, and end the chaos that has become the norm in the
Palestinian territories.

The internal fighting in Palestine began in part as a result of the
political impasse caused after Israel and the international
community imposed an economic embargo on the Palestinian Authority. This economic siege, zealously enforced even by Arab and Islamic banks, followed the new Hamas-led government's refusal to accept the demand by the "quartet" - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - that it recognise Israel, accept all previous agreements with Israel, and renounce terrorism.

Palestinians complained that the international community acted
unjustly, simply because they were unhappy with the result of a free
and fair election in the Palestinian territories, which Hamas won
overwhelmingly. The government created after the January 2006
elections has been unable to pay civil servants because of the
international banking blockade and the refusal of Israel to transfer
millions of tax dollars collected on behalf of the Palestinian

After months without pay, the government, headed by Hamas' Ismael
Haniyeh, was confronted with a serious challenge in September, when
civil servants went on strike, demanding to be paid. The differences
between the Fatah-led presidency of Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas'
Islamist government spilled into the streets. Threats by Abbas to
hold elections to resolve the deadlock seemed to add oil to the fire.

With unemployment rising, income dropping to record low levels, and
internal tensions escalating, fighting between supporters of Hamas
and Fatah began. Attempts to reconcile the parties began in Gaza,
before moving to Cairo, Damascus, and finally Mecca under the
supervision of Saudi King Abdullah, whose country has been a
financial backer of the Palestinians for decades.

One of the first challenges for the new government will be to
convince the international community that it respects previous
Palestinian agreements. This includes the mutual recognition agreed
by the PLO and Israel, as well as the Oslo Accords. By announcing
the acceptance of previous agreements and supporting the Arab peace
initiative, the new government should be able to bring economic
normalcy to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Money, however, is not the only need. The cease-fire understanding
between Palestinian factions and Israel will need to be honoured
through the commitment of both sides and a parallel political
process. The international community, especially the US, is giving
verbal support to launching serious Palestinian-Israeli talks, and
the Mecca Agreement paves the way for Abbas to negotiate an end to
the occupation. This will test the resolve of Israel and the
international community to achieve tangible progress on restarting

But the newly established national unity government faces yet
another daunting challenge. If resumption of political violence and
property destruction is to be avoided, a new internal security
policy will be needed. The numerous militias, groups, gangs and
individuals who own and use weapons must be controlled. The new
unity government must insist on the creation of a single, united
armed force.

In order to end lawlessness, the Palestinian security leadership
will need to lift the protection given to armed individuals who have
been using their weapons with impunity to injure, kill, and destroy
property. Indeed, law and order must be the top priority of the
unity government, owing to the need to restore the Palestinian
public's confidence in Palestinian leaders from all factions.

The past year has been one of the most difficult years in modern
Palestinian history. For years, the world envied the Palestinian
people's strong social fibre, as they held together despite the
occupation. With a strong sense of national identity, Palestinians
boasted that they had a clear unifying purpose: ending the Israeli
occupation and establishing an independent and democratic state.

But the recent months of infighting have left a deep wound among
Palestinians. If that wound is to heal, much effort must be exerted
to restore a functioning economy, strengthen internal security, and
improve Palestinians' relations with their neighbours and the
international community.

Daoud Kuttab

Legacy Media - Doth Protest Too Much? The demise of old media is greatly exaggerated - Feb. 14, 2007

At the Kidscreen Media Conference last week, a number of colleagues and I were discussing the hyper-critical coverage of children's media in the traditional print press. One executive suggested that print writers are threatened by digital media, and bring that bias to their coverage.

It reminded me of a quote that I've always loved from David Lee Roth, back when he was the lead singer of Van Halen. Roth said: Do you know why music critics write glowing reviews about Elvis Costello? Because music critics LOOK like Elvis Costello.

The person I read on the topic of digital/social media is Mary Hodder, founder of She is a big thinker.
Mary Hodder: Napsterization

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Language Log: The barrage against "Barack"

Language Log: The barrage against "Barack"

Mandaean Emergency in Iraq

Mandaean Emergency in Iraq

Time to begin 'adapting' to climate change?

Time to begin 'adapting' to climate change? |
"The reality is that we should be adaptin and tackling carbon-dioxide emissions at the same time," notes Roger Pielke Jr., a science-policy specialist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Combatants for Peace Wrestle with Tragedy in the West Bank

Despite loss of his child, Palestinian ex-fighter remains dedicated to peace | "Abir's death has been very difficult for Aramin's family. 'It's extremely difficult for our other children,' Aramin says, 'especially at night. And for my wife, too. But I am helping them to go on in every way I can. I can't change my mind about peace. I believe in this process, to protect all the children, on both sides of the fence.'"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Winter Storm

Fresh snow standing deep

on the phone wire. If you call me,

speak softly.

Poem from BRAIDED CREEK, A Conversation in Poetry
by Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winter Storm Rising

Finally, we're getting some snow.....followed by what is predicted to be a significant ice storm. Up here on the north face of Storm King Mountain, that means we're likely to lose power for quite some time. So when I got home this afternoon, I knew that I needed to get a lot of firewood into the house in case the electricity goes out (the temperatures have been well below freezing, and no furnace).

I began loading my wheelbarrow with firewood, pushing it from the barn to the house, and carrying the wood inside by the armload. I smiled to myself as I began my routine, which is always the same when it is time to stock up on firewood. I imagine myself as Laura Ingalls in "The Little House on the Prairie" (I loved her books when I was growing up). In that story, Ma and Pa had gone into town, leaving Laura at home with her blind sister Mary and baby sister Carrie. An unexpected blizzard blew in across the prairie, which Laura knew was trouble. If Ma and Pa had already left town, they would probably freeze to death out on the prairie. As frightened as she was, Laura knew it was imperative to get a big stock of firewood into the cabin before it was buried in snow, or she and her sisters would face a similar fate.

She bundled up, ran outside, and started carrying the firewood, determined to do what Pa would have done if he had been there. Hours later, as the parents returned safely through the storm, they found that Laura had carried the ENTIRE woodpile into the house!

So, corny as it may sound, I imagine that I am Laura and the carrying of the heavy wood goes by like it is nothing. All set here, and hunkered down against the storm!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Changing the world one kindness at a time....

The caption under the photo reads: "Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well. The girl received treatment at the U.S. Military hospital in Balad but cries and moans often. According to nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair."

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Airforce website.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl - The Lost Ad

This was my favorite commercial pitch - would have loved to have seen it produced.

wonderful pitch

Super Bowl Ads

I vote for the series of ads from Careerbuilders, with the office workers battling in the forest, adorned with binders, clips and other office supplies. They moment when one of them yelled "Hey, he's the delivery guy - he doesn't even work here!" made me laugh out loud. Absurd in the best possible way.
Careerbuilders (It's a Jungle Out There!)

And, in spite of myself, I liked Kevin Federline's commercial for Nationwide. It worked.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sweet Sixteen in Rural America

Last night, as I drove to rural Greenwood Lake, New York, I worried that Jules and her friends would be disappointed at their first Sweet Sixteen party. They were all wearing semi-formal dresses, impossibly high heels, and had awaited the night with great anticipation. As I dropped them off at the local American Legion Hall, I could see through the windows that the decor consisted of blue and white crepe paper, helium balloons, and an old-fashioned disco ball. Please, I implored silently, don't let them walk in and be dismayed.

My daughter and her friends are turning 16 this year, and of course, they are avid viewers of MTV's reality show "My Super Sweet Sixteen." The show is a celebration of crass materialism and stunningly spoiled teenagers (one girl's father hired a helicopter for her grand entrance to her party). Event costs often run into six figures, rap stars like Diddy and Kanye West are booked as surprise guest performers, and in more than one episode, girls have been given hundred thousand dollar luxury sports cars that they are still too young to drive! This is hardly what Jules and her friends are going to experience tonight.

Four hours later, when I returned to pick them up, I could see that everyone was still dancing madly, their movements frozen in time by flashing strobe lights. I slipped inside to watch, and stood near a table in the back. There was a huge card which all the kids had signed, flanked by two framed, 8 x 10 photographs of the birthday girl. One was her school portrait - a fresh-faced, hopeful teenager. The other was a sports photograph with her in full catcher's gear, crouching fiercely behind home plate. Now THAT, I thought to myself is a celebration message!

Gut check on the way home in the car. Not a hint of disappointment; a good time was had by all. There is still hope left for this culture!

Iraq War Spurs Massive Migration [Washington Post 2/4/07]

The Washington Post today is reporting that more than 2 million refugees have fled Iraq since the start of the war.
WP: Iraq war spurs massive migration - Highlights -

I visited a preschool for Iraqi refugee children when I was in Amman in November. It was run by ICMC (the International Catholic Migration Commission), under their Extremely Vulnerable Iraqi Project. There has been an influx of Iraqi refugees into Amman since the start of the war, and although Jordan is providing refuge, they are a tiny country without the infrastructure to support this kind of immigration. Parents do not have working papers, and children are technically not allowed to go to school (although many schools let them in anyway). This school was run by a British woman who was absolutely passionate about the work. We sat and played for about an hour with a group of young children and their mothers, to whom ICMC is providing humanitarian assistance and preschool education. I connected with a little guy who was playing with Playdough (or the local equivalent). He was incredibly anal - I showed him a few molds and how to draw little faces in the soft dough with a pointed stick. He started making multiple versions of everything we tried, lining them up precisely, like little soldiers! Adorable.

We didn't share a language, but we connected, nonetheless.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Boston: The Big Hoax

I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little tired of hearing about the big freakout in Boston over the Cartoon Network promotion (the boxes were planted all over NYC, too - we didn't bat an eyelash).

I keep thinking of the lyrics from Eminem's masterpiece, WHITE AMERICA.

All I hear is, lyrics, lyrics, constant controversy,
sponsors working 'round the clock, to
try to stop my concerts early,
Surely hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem, only in Boston,
After it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom