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A Return to the People: Relfections on 9/11

(ATLANTA - 11 September 2011) Taking stock of ourselves is dirty work. But on a day like today, the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, it’s the best job we can undertake.

The attacks were ghastly and altering, changing our country’s composition down to its DNA. But what we did in response trumps even those dastardly deeds: we gave ourselves over to the very “evil” that attacked us in the first place.

“Pride” (Provincetown, Mass.), by Will Pollock

Please allow a bit of a parallel: If electing Kennedy allowed us to successfully avert nuclear war during the Cuban Missing Crisis, then how would a President Gore have handled the country before, during and after this assault? How would we have been led as a country in response to 9/11? Would we have sunk trillions of dollars in nation-building in Iraq, or perhaps used it as a rally cry to show attackers that we can survive and thrive, even in the aftermath of death and misery? “A lot of other people behaved badly” after that day, as Paul Krugman put it today. “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.”

Recent events show that we have been on a sad, downward spiral ever since the attacks. Our financial system has collapsed and is still limping; profiteers have bounced back with an assault on commonsense regulation; our previous administration is so demonized elsewhere that they
risk arrest if they travel abroad; we tortured people in custody and are still protecting those responsible today; and, most recently, we’ve seen a culture emerge where folks who hate government are the very ones making policy. What’s our response?

Tweet from @GStuedler

I say, enough. Let’s remember today in a factual way, without embellishment or agendas. Let’s return our country to the very compassionate, understanding, engaged folks who make this country great: the people. Let’s elect representatives who reflect that value system, not those who want, need and manipulate for profitability or glory. When a politician fails us, as Bush and his team did - and still do, thumbing their noses at truth and fact - we only have ourselves to blame. And that includes the voters who didn’t punch the ballot for the offending party. We are all complicit if we are all Americans.

But if it’s about all of us, it’s still cannot be “us vs. them.” Peace and ambassadorship have been reframed, inexplicably, as weak and useless when juxtaposed against our lionized, “
boot in the ass” politicians. I say, loudly, no more. No matter whom you vote for, make sure it doesn’t reflect the mistakes we made when slammed with the calamity on this day 10 years ago.

Tweet from DaveyWavey

Today, I take pride in my country, and want to go forward with a people-first agenda. Where we come first, and yet all the while knowing that we are still the global leader that can think outside ourselves, and never take the world around us for granted. Superior actions, not superiority.

After this day of remembrance, returning this country to the people is the best step forward over the next decade.

# # #

UPDATE: Jack Lessenberry imagines a fictitious United States response with Al Gore as president. Money quote: “Yet it would be nice if, a century from now, we remembered it as a sad milestone that started the process of greater understanding.”


Covenant Presbyterian: Champions Of Progress, Heroes Of Us

(ATLANTA - 8 June 2011) :: Before February 2010, I had little knowledge of the Presbyterian way of worship. I was basically *this side of atheist, with a generous, inquisitive spirituality but a combative, skeptical streak that usually kept me away from churches altogether.

Along came Jason. We met early last year on Compatible Partners, and since then, we’ve transitioned well into a couple; he’s helped awaken me to the generosity and kindness that can dwell in the halls and sanctuaries of our nation’s churches.

Covenant Presbyterian in Augusta, Ga., is an able example of that compassion. Jason, the church’s Director of Music and Organist for the past eight years, is active in the community as a singer, concertmaster, performer - and, at first, I found the idea of coming together with him daunting given how successful and established he was in his town.

I also wondered: “How could this church understand our relationship? How would they accept me, me with him, us together?”

I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. For it was the church’s people - Diane and Joe, Kaye, Jennifer, Pastor Rob, Karla, Beverly, and so many others - who welcomed me and folded us in as part of the family, giving us time and space for our relationship to blossom into what it is today. They allowed for and supported a reimaging of who Jason is as a partnered person, giving him a chance to realize his dream of finding an able boyfriend. I will always be deeply grateful for the gracious and open treatment they afforded us.

While Jason and I were enjoying Covenant’s people and environs - including its stunning, sultry-sound sanctuary (pictured) - change was afoot at Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s national level. The question: whether or not to ordain openly gay men and women. Very often change is accompanied by lots of chaos, dissent and frustration - which was ever-present in the regional discussions on the topic.

‘You’re going to be late for lunch today’
Pastor Rob Watkins, leader of Covenant’s congregation, was party to these meetings - and had a lot to say one Sunday after suffering through some of those meetings with people of strident, divergent opinions.

Following that meeting, Pastor Rob delivered a rousing sermon on his frustration with the Presbyterian Church’s position and posturing on the subject of ordination. Some excerpts from the sermon:

“You can walk down the street and find churches that are ripping each other to shreds, because they have taken on the power of God, and decided who is right and who is wrong. I get annoyed when I go to Presbytery meetings. And I confess I am a terrible Presbyterian. Why? Because I can’t help but get annoyed. Who are we to speak for God? God gave us the work to do. You preach. You teach. And you engage in love. You engage in compassion. Anything else is extraneous. Anything else. What does that mean? That means that yesterday’s Presbyterian meeting for about five minutes, we were engaged in the work of God. The rest of the time we were wasting our time and wasting the time of every human being who was sitting there, because we were engaged in speaking for God. We had no right to do that. None. Zero.

God is in the midst of the chaos that roils all around us all of the time. God firmly plants himself in the corner of anyone who has need of him. In other words, the power of God is eternally present behind compassion. Remember that the apostle John wrote, “God is love,” but he wasn’t simply thinking of a Hallmark card. He was thinking in real, human terms. God is love, ironically, which means you find him in the presence of human love.

I apologize for anything I have said that makes you feel like I am not ready to be your pastor anymore. That was one thing I heard at the Presbytery meeting, that just about made me stand on my head … if we are so scared that someone is going to walk out the back door because we are going to act in compassion, then we are not who we ought to be. If they can’t handle compassion and they want to leave, bye. Because that’s who we are. That’s what we are. That’s how we are. We say it so glibly, “God so loved the world, that God gave his only son, and whoever believes it may not perish and have eternal life,” but then turn right around and smack somebody in the face. How can we do that?

Look at the spectrum that is sitting here in this room. Look at the spectrum that gathered here on Thursday for a funeral. Look at the spectrum that gathers as soon as you set foot outside these doors. Look at the spectrum that is gathered at McDonald’s after church. Look at the spectrum that is driving past you on the wall. Look at the colors that God paints with. Look at the shades that God paints with. And it’s all art, all of it. Who are we to divide ourselves up? It’s as if the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre looks over at the Monets and says, “You’re garbage.”

You don’t do that. They are masterpieces, all of them. And you know what? I would argue that Leonardo de Vinci would look at Eden’s first scribble with a crayon and say, “That’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life.” Why? Because Leonardo knew, knew what it was to have God’s creative will coursing through his bones. And when he sees a child pick up a Crayon and draw, he sees affirmation of that creative will.

Yes, you are going to be late for lunch today. Wait with me. You need to be late for lunch today. Because we are not celebrating the gift of a child with a Crayon, we are dividing each other up.Do I mean right here, specifically in this congregation? God I hope not. But I know all you have to do is step foot outside the door, and you are right in the midst of it. You are right in the midst of it.

I had my eyes opened 18 years ago to what love really means. I was working with a couple, one of whom was dying and it was a horrible death. It was a horrible, horrible death. And the spouse was there every day. Told their job, ‘I can’t come. I won’t come. I have to be here.’ And every day they started the day with a bath, because the dying could not wash themselves. And so with tenderness and mercy and care, the other bathed their spouse every morning. As things got worse, the dying couldn’t even lift a fork to feed themselves. So spouse stayed there and fed them every meal. Made sure they got every drop of water that they needed. You would think that they would have sat and cried all day long and wept, and been in misery and just been awful all day long, but they weren’t. They laughed. They smiled. Their love only deepened as they cared for each other. The one who was dying said, ‘Take my credit card. Go max it out. I am not going to be here to pay the bill. (laughter)

“‘Go buy whatever you want. I have worked hard to get a $20,000 credit limit. Go max it.’ John and Rocky taught me about love. Yeah. That’s right. Two men. In a committed, loving relationship that the State of North Carolina, could not, would not and did not recognize as marriage. They were more married than half of the heterosexual people I worked with in that church. Would you have cared as John cared for Rocky, as he died? That’s the question to ask yourself and I hope that you can say, Yes. And who then are we to say to John and Rocky your love isn’t real? Your love is a lie. Your love is sinful. When I saw as a pastor who had real struggles and real issues, that is what Christ requires, was right there… to bathe a dying body every single morning. To feed a dying man every single meal. To make sure that there was water to drink every single time he was thirsty. To make him laugh when it hurt to breathe… who are we to say that isn’t real? That isn’t right? Have you ever been face to face with love so powerful? And that’s the problem. We won’t go face to face. We won’t meet face to face. We will keep it out there in the spacious unknown where we can talk in philosophical terms without putting human beings before us. I am begging you, put human beings before you, before you say anything.

As I said, you are going to be late for lunch. Bear with me. This is too important. Put human beings first. I wasn’t expecting it until I sat through a Presbytery meeting yesterday. We cannot keep ignoring that anything that happens in our world involves human beings. Those are real people. They live. They breathe. They see. They ache. They hurt. They cry. They laugh. They dream.”

Pastor Rob’s sermon did not go unheeded - and the news from the national organization was good. Last month marked a milestone for the Presbyterian church - from the article in The Huffington Post:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) passed a historic measure Tuesday evening allowing openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy.

The move reflects a monumental shift in the 2.8 million-member church, which, along with other mainline Protestant denominations, has had increasingly contentious debates and struggles over issues pertaining to gay and lesbian members and clergy. A majority of the church's regional bodies, or presbyteries, defeated a similar measure to allow gay clergy two years ago.

Because Pastor Rob, Covenant’s members, et. al., weren’t only championing Jason and me - they were championing
all of us. Spurring greater understanding, provoking thought, expressing non-violent dissent, and accepting the “all that is” in the universe with which I’m so fascinated. Theology, philosophy and social progress are not obscured by religion; in great measure, they are enhanced by it.

Embracing the unknown
Just as Joyce said to me recently: “God knows what’s right.” However you conceive Him or Her to be, that particular power has been proven to be working, and working well, for everyone - no exceptions - in the “spacious unknown.”

a clip from HRC that shows Bruce Reyes-Chow acknowledging the historic change:

Faced with an emotional summer of transition and new beginnings, Jason will be departing Covenant in August to move to Atlanta and start school. Although excited by our co-habitation, my heart is heavy that we will be visiting Covenant less in the future, having to say so long (but definitely not good-bye) to so many great, gifted people. We have the entire family at Covenant - as well as our friends and family - to thank for their unwavering support of us. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and, I would imagine, so will Jason.

So, Triscuit will finally have her Jason close by, for many puppy kisses. And from now on, when asked, I’ll always opt for the late lunch.

# # #


The Myth (And Fact) Of Fingerprints, Part II

(ATLANTA - original post date (
link here): 27 May 2008 | updated on 4 May 2011) :: In many ways, we *are the people around us.

We are an amalgam of personalities, legacies, love, hatred, ambivalence, random acts of all kinds - wearing a reflection of those energies on our skin. And yet we wake up some days thinking the entire world tilts on our axis; that everyone is against us, life is hopeless and the sky is permanently falling.

When faced with the choice of more love or worry, we very often choose the latter without so much as a thought. Why do we do that?

The challenge for us is to find where authentic love lies - about where it breathes, how we contribute to its collective, where it compounds itself and how, and when it's likely to happen again. When we turn the right stones, or seek the right fortune, there it will be. And that's for those of us lucky enough to have found the romantic type of love more than once, in more than one person; who are brave enough to risk the fool after getting the shaft and going great guns to find it again.

Truthfully, we're
all faced with many great challenges over the term of our lifetimes. Our resiliency during these periods often help shape the way we cherish ourselves, and equally important, each other.

Jimmy Roberts, sports reporter for NBC and commenting on Andre Agassi some time ago, shared this spontaneous, eloquent gem about a person's unspoken impact:

"An old friend of mine used to say that there are people in this lifetime who leave footprints. In other words, there are these people, and we all know them, who have an impact. They aren’t necessarily the best at what they do; they might not always behave the way we wish they might, but they make an impact on all of us."

This thought is true for everyone - not just those like Andre, whom we might put on a pedestal. Consider Chris "Crusty" Haddle's fight against
mucinous adenocarcinoma, which caused a dull ache he detected in his lower abdomen back in 2008 that felt like simple appendicitis, but turned out to be stage-two cancer that required radical surgery. He needed six months of chemotherapy and just had a second and less-disruptive surgery a few days ago.

Also consider Gene Rector, who was officially diagnosed with lymphoma, and who endured chemo *and radiation since it had spread to his spleen. He is cancer-free as of this writing.

So what or who is at work here? None of us can point to one thing. But the remaining residue - both in emotional and metaphysical terms - is that we should always know the fingerprints that our friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street, anyone, leave on us. They contribute to a better understanding of ourselves. They are the cherished gas in our engine, the great person we've yet to meet, the random waitress with whom you've just connected somehow - while on a road that would be much more boring and barren without them.

So, run to the windows, rush to the phone... tell your mother, your friend, even someone you're unsure about. Look in their eyes and tell them their impact. Crusty and Gene have both in their own ways changed me for the better, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Being good to each other, even when it might step on your own purpose or agenda, is tantamount to a peaceful coexistence. Think about it. If we use that mission in everything we do - from the politicians we choose down to the type of milk we buy - we'll see a spontaneously different world around us.

Because someday, someone will see your "footprints" in the sand, your fingerprints on something great, and admire the decisions you made.
- WP

# # #


Apple's 'It Gets Better' Video: Surviving The 'Darkest Moments'


'Cadence' Heads Up WP.com For April 2011

It’s proof that spring has sprung. It shows how beading water can be its own natural ballad. It’s grace after a wild storm.

“Cadence” (Zenyard II)

“Cadence” is the latest entry in my “Zenyard” series - showing natural images shot in my backyard here in Midtown Atlanta. Because beauty is very often just steps away - as long as we’re awake to see it. - WP


Express Gratitude, Even If The Words Don't Come

“Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.” -- Felix Frankfurter 

(Courtesy of A Flower a Day)

Life = Risk: Put Your Motivation In Perspective


'Freedom To Hate' Will Lose To Freedom To Love, Every Time

In celebration of National Coming Out day, “hate” is a four-letter word.

This past July, Mary Grabar - somehow, inexplicably, professor at Clayton State University and conservative speaker and author - wrote a piece for the AJC entitled, “Freedom to Hate in College Shrinks.” With apologies for the dated material, it seems appropriate given recent events. In her piece, she led her pedestrian swat of ironic prose with this gem: “I tell my college students to feel free to hate.”

In the piece she gets busy demonizing groups - the Anti-Defamation League, Gay & Lesbian Straight Education Network, among others - that fight for the rights of marginalized youth and espouse understanding in schools, including use of emotional intelligence, for the advancement of society. Grabar bemoans that her students’ rights to youthful, exuberant, unencumbered hate have been systematically denied. They are “enjoined from hating” the people and behavior around them, and are, in her mind, neutered from expressing their opinions by evil feeling circles:

“Their teachers act as “guides on the side” for their little groups in which they are forced to expose their feelings and discuss historical examples of ‘hate.’ Creepy ‘emotional intelligence’ consultants make them show all the other kids how they react when they get angry or sad. They are made sissies in front of everyone when a big bearded guy asks them, “What was it doing to your heart?”

Some of them are even graded in a new subject called “Social and Emotional Learning.”

But I declare to my students, “Now that you are legal adults you may hate whomever you please!”

They look at me like prisoners who have forgotten what freedom is like.”

What’s “creepy,” Ms. Grabar, is you. Not you, specifically - your ideas. Do you see what’s happening in this country as it pertains to unchecked hate? In the past two weeks, we’ve had no fewer than five suicides related to bullying of gay teens. Is this a form of the hate you want your students to freely express? Why not teach them the perils of hate along with responsible self expression - rather than couch it in some form of social martyrdom where folks are let out of a metaphorical prison that simply, absolutely, doesn’t exist?

We had the situation in New York City where
three men were allegedly sodomized, burned and whipped simply for being gay - at the hands of nine youth who, I think it’s fair to say, expressed their prejudice as free thought. We’ve had myriad other examples of hate run amok in this country - I, too, was bullied in school when I was a kid. It makes you feel small; like you want to die. Have you ever felt that, Ms. Grabar? I can tell you with 100% certainty, kids all around this country ARE feeling that. And your ideas put them in greater peril.

This weekend was Gay Pride in Atlanta. It’s one of the nation’s most festive celebrations of free expression and togetherness and non-hate you can find; this year brought a bit more poignancy because of recent events. I invite you to come visit and see for yourself what understanding an anti-hate looks like, and what good it can do.

I drove down a Midtown Atlanta street on Saturday and saw a religious protestor’s sign that read, “I now pronounce you Pervert & Pervert.” Perhaps one of the sign holders is a former student of yours, Ms. Grabar? Why should you condone such speech when you have the opportunity to persuade otherwise? Not control, not imprison, as you suggest -
persuade. That’s your job as a teacher. Do it.

# # #


How Do You Experience Your Loved Ones, Friends, Co-workers?

From the Royal Society for the Arts and ForaTV:

“We are soft-wired to experience another’s plight as if we were experiencing it ourselves.”

Fascinating piece from Jeremy Rifkin, “The Empathic Civilization” - an animated example of why I’m writing “EIQ: Everyman’s Guide to Developing Emotional Fortitude” Because, in many cases, we as men act against what we’re born, bred and conditioned to do, to be.

According to the piece, “...we are wired not for aggression, violence, self-interest or utilitarianism - but for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship.

“The first drive is to actually belong,” he says in the piece. We ought to “extend our identities to think of the human race as fellow sojourners. ...We need to rethink our institutions of society and lay the groundwork for an empathic civilization.”

Make time to watch this groundbreaking video,

The Power of Pillow Talk

Fluff up your communication and intimacy with this critical end-of-day practice.

In a painfully unscientific study on how my previous significant others have behaved before bed, let’s just say the setting has been far from communication-friendly: I’ve survived instant body twitching, waiting for hour-long primping, immediate freight-train snoring or the pungent whiff of heavy intoxication.

My current squeeze and I, though, have made a promise to toast the mystery-laden universe of sleepyland with pillow talk – known as quiet talking before bed, after sex, or both – a practice, say experts, that can bring lovebirds together and make a difference in how a day’s debriefing shapes your shut-eye.

Among those experts is
Dr. Scott Conkright, who has been providing psychotherapy services for more than 15 years and has served as president of Atlanta Group Psychotherapy Society. He says couples that have trouble dedicating time to communication at any time, let alone just before bed, should focus their communication on each other.

“How do you find time for each other that’s dedicated to the task of intimacy? Pillow talk is a great way to do that.” He says. “It’s about saying to each other, ‘The time now is not about watching TV; not about whether we should get the roof redone; or any of those sorts of things. I want to know what’s going on with you, what you’re feeling, what your week’s been like.’ You want to know let each other know what you’ve been thinking about.”

Conkright says men in particular – of all persuasions, gay or straight – tend to shy away from naming their feelings.

“Gay couples are not that much different than straight couples,” he says, adding that men are often the great offenders. “Most guys do not learn that the ritual of communication needs to be there. And for two guys in a relationship, they can both have busy careers and sometimes use it as an excuse for not connecting. Even the most sophisticated, highly educated guys who come into my practice have an incredibly small vocabulary for their emotional life. They have only a handful of words, and 90 percent of the time they’re not even sure if it feels good or bad unless it’s on the scale of really, really bad or really, really good.”

That very well may be changing, though, particularly if you look at where we’ve come in the past few generations. If we are in a shift in the way we discuss and dissect feelings and relationships (with
EquallyWed as a product of evolving attitudes) just look at the way “Pillow Talk,” the feature film starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day, was promoted as “the most sparkling sexcapade that ever winked at convention,” and, “it’s what goes on when the lights go off.”

By today’s standards – where Lindsay falls out of limos and
Britney flashes her hoo-hoo to the tabloids – it seems positively puritanical. The film was made in an era when a frank, literal interpretation of the concept of “Pillow Talk,” wasn’t viable; most of it takes place with both lead characters talking coyly, spinning the twisted cords of rotary-dial telephones. The movie also has become an odd precursor to Hudson’s revelation that he is gay, complete with him pretending to be gay while playing a skirt-chasing straight man while secretly leading a gay personal life.

You might need a scorecard for that one. If our society has moved leaps and bounds beyond “winking at convention” – which seems so “Little House on the Prairie” – our interpersonal customs, including pillow talk, should catch up. Conkright says all couples of all stripes should make best efforts to exclude distractions.

“Turn the damn Blackberry and TV off,” he says. “From say 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., there needs to be no electronic gear on – no iPhones or getting online.”

That’s certainly a tall order in my household, but one to which we can all aspire. A casual kiss, a TV shut-off, a pull of the shades, a sleeping-position adjustment, and… a debriefing from the day. Try out some of these practices and discover the softer side of communication.

For more: visit

'I've Been Thinkin' Bout Something' Other Than Music Judgment


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Padding The Ads: Brand Marketing With Touchscreen Allure

You’ve suffered through the hype, and you’ve probably browsed the Apple stores in search of one. And if you believe some of today’s TV commercials, iPad users will inherit the earth.

Sliding our finger across a touchscreen has fused technology with a singular emotional experience that is, even with all its success, still in its infancy. My friends and I have gone down an iPhone or iPad rabbit hole after buying these cool, obsessive products, completely transfixed by the UI (user interface). We fingerslide our way to new apps, new connections and a new way of computing and thinking.

But have you noticed that our relationship with touchscreens - the iPhone, iPad, Droid and others - have begun to infiltrate the way marketers are selling their products? To wit: ads that take the personal-device experience and mesh it with other products, as with this Land Rover 4 ad:

Not convinced? How about this snippet for Lawyers.com, in which an actor is enlightened with what looks to be a 7-year-old Dell laptop that can somehow expand and reduce its touchscreen images:

These ads are more than a fad. They are emblematic of a cultural shift away from the one-dimensional, boring, top-down, “this is what you want to buy” strategy to getting in the head of a hyper-active user who is in total control of their surroundings.

Know of any others ads? Comment here or
on the Facebook comment thread! I’ll update as all of you put in your ideas.


BONUS COVERAGE: "Cutting Across Racial Lines" in The Sunday Paper

(ATLANTA & SANDY SPRINGS, GA. :: 14 April 2010) Atlanta’s own Sunday Paper just published “Cutting Across Racial Lines” - a piece I wrote on two African-American barbers with vastly different perspectives on race.

So here is some bonus coverage of the piece: George Lollar (top picture, seated, right) with
Nadine’s Triple Crown in Virginia Highlands is one of the piece’s subjects, and he says he uses emotional-intelligence skills to connect with clients. “You gotta be sensitive to everyone,” he says. “I always allow my clients to lead and I follow. You’re supporting them by listening.”

Kedar Ras (pictured top, standing, left) experiences flummoxed caucasian men and women entering his Clubhouse Barbers in Sandy Springs, only to turn around and walk out. He says customers often seek and expect a similar peer group in a barber shop; when faced with something different, they will oftentimes turn around and walk out.

“One of our biggest sins is color,” Ras says. “If we cannot get past the color thing, that’s what’s gonna separate us forever. For the majority, the color barrier is still an issue. They say, ‘I can’t get past who you are because of what you look like to me.’

“I practiced getting over the fact that everybody don’t look like me,” he adds. “Even with my kids, I teach them not to see color. When you look at color you put yourself in a box or under a glass ceiling. Look past color. Get to see the person, who they are. Then make your judgment on whether or not you’re going to allow them into your inner circle. Because, to be honest, there are more enemies that look like me than there are that don’t.”

Special thanks to Nadine’s stylist Allison Eaton (pictured here, far right) and receptionist Kira Naillieux, with apologies for getting her name wrong in the article. Also, I’ll share some feedback from a Sunday Paper reader, an African American woman, who enjoyed the article:

“I read your article “Cutting Across Racial Lines” in the Sunday Paper. I am an AA woman and I can say that this is one facet of race/culture rarely talked about in open forums. Many still do not realize that churches and barbershops/salons are two institutions that still remain heavily self-segregated. I have been on the other side in which I have unknowingly walked into a “white salon” and had the stylists look at me with “surprise, paralysis and panic”. Seeing the picture of the Caucasian gentleman in the shop chair was definitely a sign of the changing times. Good story and great article!”

To read the full article, go directly to The Sunday Paper’s Web site. Once again, great thanks to Kirsten Palladino for the opportunity to tell this story.


Jason Mraz Gives A Damn. Do You?


From Careless 'Whisper' Into Triscuit... A Spunky, Capable, Playful Canine

(SARATOGA SPRINGS :: 31 March 2010) Let’s face it, massaging the bite out of Triscuit Pollock has been no small task - and it is, of course, a process with no end.

But as I continue to slowly coax her off of her Terrier-esque attack-mode pedestal, we have seen progress that has made my heart literally jump into my throat with joy. Because for the first time I saw a dog with deep behavioral and socializing issues actually look forward to horseplay with her new boyfriend,
Fenway Clemmey.

Let me back up. A few weeks prior to our trip to Saratoga to plan our
Skidmore Reunion Art Exhibition, Charley sent me a packet filled with all of Triscuit’s paperwork - including her original adoption notes. Her given name was “Whisper” and the adoption-card comments read as follows:

“Whisper is a playful, curious pup who gets along well with people but DOES NOT play well with other dogs.”

And we’ve seen that play out on the streets on midtown quite a bit, actually, much to my chagrin.

With that, my expectations throughout her training have been relatively low, marked by fits and starts of progress. Our recent trip to Saratoga was preceded by intensive collar training and even a one-on-one session. All that work, though, paid off in spades as I witnessed Triscuit actually sort out her protective, Napoleonic nature by actually not getting angry and allowing Fenway to be himself - all the while asserting herself as Queen Bee.

The lesson? Never give up. If you approach any project with love and intention, you’re upping your chances for a great result. She may have left her “Whisper” days behind, but she can still talk softly when the need arises.

Check Your Attitude At The ER Door. Thanks.

Following is a review I did on Yelp - one that turned into an accidental rant on healthcare. What I wondered is what was going on for this woman to take her opinions out in the open, in a healthcare environment, where people are in emotional need? Makes no sense.

“Dispassionate, curt, thoughtless and sloppy. Our visit here, from beginning to end (including an obnoxious, mealy-mouthed teabagger-rant from a staff nurse just before surgery) was an utter failure.

Before I highlight the nuts and bolts of this experience, I should say I wasn't the actual patron, but rather, an ardent supporter of a pal going under the knife for umbilical-hernia surgery.

In my important role, I wanted to be strong for the person going in to have this general-anesthesia procedure. It was no small event, despite being downplayed by the surgeon in the consult beforehand.

The universe continued to work its mysterious ways, too, because the House of Representatives passed healthcare reform the day before our visit to Doctors Hospital. President Obama was due to sign the bill the following day. We were sandwiched in between those two events.

So... Rule No. 1 of the "first do no harm" mantra: keep your GD political views of this legislation in the nurse's break room. Seriously. As we awaited the actual start of the surgery behind a keeping-room curtain, we had the misfortune of listening to an attending nurse verbally regurgitate Glenn Beck's talking points, at great length, about how healthcare reform is going to cause "armageddon" and that it was "rammed down people's throats" without consultation from all sides.

Aside from that point being utter fucking crap, I just simply do NOT want to be distracted from anything other than support for the person I'm with. Period. You, ma'am, are deeply and profoundly inappropriate in your expression of your views - thrown around the hospital common area as if everyone (other nurses, doctors, patients, family, et. al.) agreed with you, or even had the faintest desire to listen.

Well, let me break it to you in this public arena: we don't all agree with you. but that SO isn't the point: Keep your GD eyes on your charts and your patients and your schedule and your medicines and shut the hell up about politics. Do you want to change the way the system works? Then do THAT instead of trying to heal people. Period. Co-opting your workplace to espouse political views - ones that directly offend and undermine your place of business - is the height of irresponsibility. And it caused me and my friend a lot of consternation before an important procedure.

My suggestion to hospital admin staff is to take this Yelp review (which, btw, will be provided to them) to your next nurses meeting and let them know that festering, vitriolic healthcare diatribes should be left in Congress and have no home in ANY workplace, but especially a hospital.

Now, about the actual day. We waited 3.5 hours from admission to surgery wheel-in; the doctor skipped over us in his initial rounds; despite having my contact number, no call was made when surgery was completed; when I returned I got attitude from the receptionist who promptly implied that I was MIA when she called me in the waiting room even though she knew I needed to stop home before returning to the hospital; our discharge care was nonexistent and our instructions looked like they had come from a third-rate, Wichita doc-in-the-box.

Before this experience, I was center-left on healthcare reform. Listening to this nurse, though, catapulted me into a rabid, Air America socialist firebrand lefty who will, if any future visits call for it, stay the hell away from the OR at Doctors Hospital.”

# # #

The Kindness Of Strangers, Friends And The Pharmacist

(ATLANTA :: 15 November 2009) I’m really not one to pray. At least, not very often. And when I do, my prayers usually come in the form of silent intention, meditation or other such low-toned thoughts that help shape how I’d hope the world around me might look.

I took ill on Thursday - and I don’t mean a sniffles, 24-hour-thing sick. I mean, it was the start of something awful... flu, possibly swine flu, and then it blew up on me this weekend - to the point that I called my doctor today, after hours, to see what to do.

I was amazed to find that he agreed to see me on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the office, saving me from four hours (or more) of ER waiting. So, we re-diagnosed everything and I went on my way. I was so grateful I
Yelped about it.

That kind visit was after Kim came to the house and brought me fruit, and before the pharmacist at CVS, Ashley, took my order and filled it quickly - being just as friendly and nice and she could be. The previous pharmacist, Jamie, was noticeably absent after having her first child - and I found out that she had relocated closer to home in Buckhead.

So my point being: prayers are sometimes answered without them ever being spoken. And it’s in those moments that we see the greatness of people around us.

Photo: “
Answered.” by WP

Growing Older In Love... And Growing Out Of Pop Music

As new host of the New York Philharmonic’s weekly, nationally syndicated broadcast on WQXR radio, Alec Baldwin laments the current state of pop music with a nod to EI. Here’s an excerpt from the New York magazine piece:

“In his dressing room, where the radio is tuned to WQXR “all day long,” Baldwin makes no apologies for his anti–Top 40 feelings. It’s part of his growing up. “Popular music has an emotional-intelligence quotient that’s geared much toward younger people,” he explains. “It’s all about”—he flattens his voice to a disaffected teen monotone—“‘You left me. Why did you leave me? I still love you. I tried so hard to stop loving you.’ And it’s like, well, I relate to that, I just don’t want to think about that. When you’re younger, you want to wallow in it. When you get older, you still love the person, and wonder why they don’t love you. You just have other things to do.” Baldwin had a relentlessly troubled relationship to his now-ex-wife, Kim Basinger, of course. It hit the news when a most unfatherly voice mail he left for Ireland somehow came out.”

I’m still very much a fan of quality pop - especially when it paints a picture or a story that actually means something.

Is That A Sword In Your Pocket Or Are You Just (un)Happy To See Me?

Ambivalence - Although it walks and talks like a passive action, the result is vastly different.

“Ambivalence is one of the sharpest, deadliest weapons one can wield against a loved one.”


Crisis Of Mattering: I See (Spiritually) Dead People

(30 August 2009 - ATLANTA, GA) :: In my quest to get my book published and out in the national conversation, I have been reminded of a conceptual thread critical to my task: convincing men of all stripes that “mattering” is more important than almost anything we wrestle with.

I don’t mean the consensus view of mattering, mind you - “that issue matters to me” - I mean the way we feel, belong and love each other. And, more importantly, ourselves. (The latter informs the former.) I’ve recently seen the underbelly of mattering - bearing witness to a deeply flawed, emotional ghost of someone as opposed to his real, truer, higher self - and seeing that pointed lack motivated me to sort some of it out with this post.

Too often, I see people who simply forget that we have but one chance in this lifetime to “make it right” - and love, above all, should never be wrapped in (or cursed by) a shroud of ambivalence. Don’t seek the kindness of strangers when you yourself are a stranger to kindness. Walk with people, not through them. Carry your heart with the same grace you’d want it received.

Why? T.S. Elliott got it right:

"To be of importance to others is to be alive.”

In other words, who and what we are to each other - our inner and outer mattering - is tantamount to a peaceful coexistence. To understand. To connect. To stay. To evolve. Love is not a currency we spend or earn, it is a means and method through which we appreciate, know, realize.

So I sit at my desk knowing I’m an imperfect being living in an imperfect world, doing my part to make it a few clicks better every day. If we wake up to the truth of how we matter each day, joy will rise with us, and we’ll stop seeing ghosts.

Photo: “mattering,” France, August 2009, a spontaneous, unmanaged and unstaged split-screen composition featuring a happy Stuey in a window reflection.


How Will You Spend Your 'Dash'?

This poem by Linda Ellis - recited recently by Angela Harmon at Spiritual Living Center - makes a shit load of sense.

How will you spend your dash?

Recent life events have made me even more certain that the “dash” is precious and we should treat ourselves, and each other, as carefully and as kindly as we can.

We get one shot at this. Make it resonante.

The Dash Poem, by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

# # #

Treasuring People In Life Is Not Just 'Black or White'

(5 July 2009 - AUGUSTA, GA) Beneath the veils, white gloves and baby dangling, an artist moved through our pop-culture consciousness with a singular adeptness. As the long-version video shows, “Back or White” beautifully summarizes his conflict with and love of life... where he wanted to reject conventional perceptions but also show a longing for acceptance.

We are gearing up for a memorial for this man, this legend - no matter what your opinion of him, our world will be a lot less interesting without him.

And herein lies my point: We can’t wait for death to appreciate life. In his last 10 or so years, he was a lightening rod for lawsuits (some of them deserved), criticism and many, many aspersions. Much of his life drama played out publicly... and much if not all was self-created.

But amidst all of this, here’s the question: Why is everyone always a saint after they die? He wasn’t a saint, he didn’t walk on water. He was human... and a very talented one at that. We should work harder to celebrate life while we have it - instead of waiting to deliver a eulogy and wishing we had just one more moment in the waking world.

# # #

On Censorship And Porn Consumption: An Essential F%$#^ing Survival Guide To Utah


For All The Partners & Families... Existing And Still To Come


Demystifying The Male Construct... Steve Harvey Style


Emotionally Attached To A Tree? Rubbish.

That’s the best part - the tree didn’t
become rubbish.

But I was still heartbroken when I realized the huge oak in front of the house was dead beyond repair - so much so that I
shot photos and video of it being taken down. Like an obsessive fan watching the final swan song of a storied opera diva, I snapped probably 300 pictures of the thing singing its way down.

As if losing the tree wasn’t enough, a gaggle of honeybees had set up shop within the dead tree itself - causing the initial tear-down crew to retreat because two of the guys were allergic to bee stings (as in stretcher-and-hospital allergic). ((insert tough-guy joke here))

I immediately phoned the city and promptly received a call back from Ken Gillette, from Atlanta’s Office of Parks, who shared my worry about killing the bees. “I trap and release wasps in my own home,” he told me wistfully.

In the midst of the bee conundrum I was reminded of the Buddhist principals of not being attached to materials objects, which is a principle I think is healthy - although I tweak it a bit to add reverence to everyday things we interact with. This tree fits (fit, past tense) that bill perfectly, and she will be missed.

The urgency of the removal meant there wasn’t time to call a bee specialist because the tree was a hazard to the neighborhood. Ken had a legal obligation to remove the tree. I snapped neighbor Jim inspecting the remnants of the hive. Sad, particularly with the mysterious problem we still have with this particular species.

So out it, and they, came. But not before I
captured the whole thing, from beginning to end, with many types of cameras.

As the sawdust filled my nostrils my heart sank. Another tree will rise in its place, but still - the end of an era.

# # #


A Writing Journey Often Besieged By Destination Anxiety

(BOSTON/ATLANTA :: 22 March 2009) Writing’s rocky road would be a hell of a lot easier to traverse if I had a clock to punch, regular hours to keep and a clearly defined path to the golden years.

It’d be boring as all hell, but at least I could fall back on the structure of it all.

But that’s not what I’m up to. At least not in this lifetime. As I’ve told many of my readers/friends/family members/stalking victims in the past - and to borrow a baseball metaphor - I’ve been slapping sharp singles to the outfield, with a few gappers, when what I really want is to blast a home run. Not just one that clears the fence, mind you... the type of bellowing bomb that shatters the windshield of the champagne-colored Town & Country in the baseball park’s parking lot. (Soccer mom, sorry... you deserve it for driving that bulbous mobile living room.)

This forthcoming homer, the first of many solid ideas, is my book on emotional intelligence for men, and it’s more than just to prove to myself that, Yes I can... it’s about the impact I know I can have, and to make the “cliched difference” in people’s lives that, let’s face it, won’t be a cliche if it actually sticks to the wall. When I download my idea from the ether and morph it into turnable pages, digestible prose and impeccably sourced, supported theory (the latter, hi, is for sure the slippery eel in an otherwise viewable zoo), I’ll be able to look back on my 9-to-5 days and chuckle. “When,” not “if.” When.

So on I trudge. I recently had the pleasure of meeting and listening to
Dennis Palumbo, psychotherapist to Hollywood’s writing royalty (as well as “paupers,” I guess you could say, staying with the metaphor) as their impassioned cheerleader; he’s a comfy suede recliner in a sea of Ikea chairs. He has the gusto, insight and inspiration that we writers, often impatiently, seek within ourselves, and which he delivers with an accessible, impish demeanor that perfectly embodies our erstwhile pursuit.

I shook his hand after his session at the
Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism, an event I have promised to myself I’ll attend every year. I’ve also had the pleasure of starting his book, “Writing from the Inside Out,” which might as well be titled, “Living from the Inside Out,” as we writers are always sharing some glimpse of ourselves in the words we craft. Even the most mundane local news story contains a thread of who we are, or more accurately, how our identity shapes our stories.

I write the latter thought knowing the pitfalls (more like rancid catcalls) of bias in journalism; that all media has a left-leaning perspective... yadda yadda. But we tell our best stories when entrusted with the duty, the call, that our own experiences are to merely propel the truth upward rather than somehow manufacture a truth we seek to propel. Conflating liberalism with fairness and sound judgment is an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. Don’t go there.

So... back to the ballgame. I’m digging in at the plate, doing my practice swings... winking to Brandon in the stands, wiggling like Chuck Knoblach with one foot out of the batter’s box, staring down the opposition like Don Mattingly, waiting for the closer to bring the heat. It’s a balmy afternoon. The sun is beating down on the brim of my cap, illuminating a preview in my heart and mind of the next morning’s sports report highlighting the results:

“Veteran player does the purposeful home-run trot around the bases after the big swing goes yard.”

# # #


'Still I'll Rise': Truth Abounds When Expressing Your True Colors

The movement toward peace and understanding is upon us. After the beating in Midtown and many other current events showing an acute need for healing, this is a beautiful and most-appropriate anthem.

There is a new conversation happening out there now. George and Ellen got into the act last fall:


Strength In Numbers: Help Tip The Scales For A Better Future

(BOSTON :: 14 March 2009) - A tipping point is fast approaching.

Great change is always preceded by intense turmoil, and I believe we are at just the beginning of a vast reinvention of our global society. With the book proposal done (the book speaks directly to the “change factor” that we, ourselves, control) and the book-agent search officially on, I thought this Web site popped up at just the right time.

Take a look at
Worldwide Tipping Point, and how you can send energy to this cause. Quoting the site:

“Thomas Paine wrote during the time of the American Revolution, ‘we have it in our power to begin the world over again,’ and that is exactly what people living on this planet right here, right now have the opportunity to do!”

The Web site founder:

Log on and help tip the scales today. More to follow on this topic... Thanks to Brenda for passing it along.


'The World Is Barren Enough' Without A Chance At Love

And then, some much-needed comic relief:


'The Year Is 2016..." A Simple Experiment (And Exercise) In Hope

Courtesy of Gini today... A positive vision appears below that keys in to our future selves and what we could help create tomorrow on Election Day.

But before I get to the good stuff:

When I went to "The Google" on the InterWebs to find
the actual link to the Buddhist meditation post, I found some unusual prognostications. For your amusement, here is a sampling of my Google search followed by comments:

"The Year is 2016..."

- "...President Jeb Bush is
running for a third term as U.S. President."
Yeah, not so much. We've had enough Bush for 8 years.

- "...Ivan
has been employed at a large Danish abattoir for 26 years."
No idea what this means. But I like it better than the previous result.

- "...and mankind has been annihilated, hunted to extinction by a century's worth of alien attacks."
Nah, Palin should probably be in retirement by then. Oops! Just a video game teaser.

- "...The workplace has evolved into the '
dynamic and wise workplace.' This has demanded that business and information professionals manage information from a myriad of sources in a myriad of formats, and consolidate it into a tapestry of intelligence."
Dig it. A "tapestry" of anything has GOT to be good.

- "...and the United States has
elected its first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb."
Hmmm... maybe someday. Remember how close Lieberman was to VP? Oy.

- "...and the world is changing, perhaps permanently, for the worst. In the rapidly moving city of New York,
the problem blossoms and threatens to unfold."
Seriously? I know NYC is full of wingnuts, but really...

Now that we have all of that disintegrated negativity out of the way, here's the true vision to hold. Thanks again to Gini for passing this along:

The Vision: Seeing Obama in Office

The year is 2016. We glance at the television one morning and see Obama having another of his many press conferences. He has now been in office for almost 8 years. It hasn't been perfect, but things are completely different than when he took office in January of 2009. It is almost hard to remember how lost we were in the country at that time and how the world community had lost its faith in the United States.

Now... the sense of promise and pride that has always defined the vision of America has been restored, deepened, and expanded, and we live in a world marked by collaboration, partnership, and respect--largely due to the extraordinary leadership of perhaps our greatest President.

You notice that his hair has whitened a bit and that he still has that winning smile and that take-charge/positive energy that he had when he was campaigning way back in 2008.

You remember back to how concerned you were about whether or not he would win in 2008 and you feel deeply contented that he has been safely in office for such a long time.

He and Congress have done remarkable and historic work to address and create new economic opportunities, bring into existence the whole world of green collar jobs and a whole new energy matrix for our country and the world. Fossil fuels are no longer dominating our lives and our economic system and the new and clean energy industry has been born and is viably and reliably serving and meeting our needs.

We have completely redefined national security, and halted global warming, health care is available to all for the first time ever, quality education is back at the center of our national agenda, and our schools and teachers are producing results we have always dreamed of for the next generation of leaders. Terrorism is part of history and is no longer a threat. We care for and collaborate with other nations and where people are desperate and in need, they no longer need to resort to desperate tactics because the world community is organized to hold them and help them find their place and their contribution.

In many other areas, what was previous unthinkable is now the reality of
our time. We have challenges, yes, and we also have the courage and the
resolve and the confidence in ourselves and our world to meet them. We are awake, clear, and our leadership and our nation is inspired, has integrity is trustworthy and trusted.

When you stop and think about the magnitude of the transformation, you feeldeep gratitude for the past eight years and how things have unfolded.

See it...
Feel it...
Breathe it....
Pass it on.

THE CHALLENGE: Take 30 seconds right now. Close your eyes
and imagine exactly what our country will feel like with President
Obama. Imagine how good it will feel. Imagine whatever it is about
him that you desire. Imagine the pride. Imagine the diplomacy.
Imagine the peace. Imagine the wind mills and the clean cars.
Imagine the citizen groups. Imagine the earth being healed and
revitalized. Imagine being very proud of your country and its
leader. Imagine whatever it is that draws you to support Obama.
Imagine what your life will look like.

Stop worrying and start visualizing.
30 seconds. Do it several times a day. We can shift and change
the vibration of this country with positive visions just like this.
It's only 30 seconds.

Why Obama, Pt. III: 'Transformational Figure' Will End Us Vs. Them

(ATLANTA :: 3 Nov. 2008) This race is not just about race.

Underlying threads of an "Us vs. Them" mentality have been poisoning our politics, our daily lives actually, for decades. In the words of Colin Powell, we need a "transformational figure" to dismantle and permanently dissolve that ideology:

Barack Obama is just that person to bring about dramatic change in our country. Yes, he's only one person and yes, he's just a politician... with the same shortcomings as any of us.

But as I told my relatives out West, it's not just about what he represents - it's about whom he'd surround himself with; the potential pool of those sharp, astute policy wonks - people who can problem solve and not wag fingers (that is, when they're not sitting on their hands). That made the difference for me. We need expert leadership in as many positions in government as possible, and now here's our chance.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative writer and pundit, someone I watch intently, has been blogging about why Obama is the best choice. Thanks to Musty for passing along his post about an essay in the Times of London, talking about how Obama is the sensible salve for "profound national demoralization."

This is not about party affiliation or loyalty for me - this is about who presents the better solutions for our social (Supreme Court), economic (broken credit markets) and other woes.

I've already voted Obama and
Jim Martin to defeat Saxby Chambliss, and will be volunteering tomorrow on Election Day. I will bring my camera along with me and record anything of interest.

As I said before... can you imagine intellectual curiosity in the White House again?

We're one more day away from restoring it.

# # #

A Safe Nation Is NOT The OK Corral

(ATLANTA :: 13 October 2008) Do we really want to continue with the "Boot In The Ass" politics of the past? Do we *actually* want W's policies to live on past their 20 January 2009 dying day? Take a look at this clip, and then some comment excerpts following:

All the below comments, included without editing, come from the blog Macsmind. I normally don't give air time to festering wingnuts, but I want you to see and read firsthand how people have reacted to this video (courtesy of Anita sharing on Facebook):

Warden writes: "If Obama is elected you will no longer be living in a free nation."

Phipps writes: "Obama would have us show up for the gun fight at the OK corral with bare hands to negotiate! In his own words, Obama has declared this country open territory for every nut job in the world to do as they please."

Smith writes: "He IS someone to fear, and we Americans are the sheep going to slaughter if we don’t stop him."

Barber writes: "What every conservative christian in America should be doing is praying for God to have mercy on America one more time. If Obama gets this important possition, we have no hope in the values our fore-Fathers built this fine nation on."

Anonymous writes: "O’bama is a Muslim !! Anyone that will sit there and tell you that he will disarm our America definitely isn’t an American.We weren’t disarmed when our New York City exploded..We weren’t disarmed when our ships took on dynamite..Concerned,Very much so if we are lead by a Muslim.You “white” O’Bama nuts are only voting for this man because you hate george Bush so very much! He and his wife Hates White folks!!! The Blacks,what can I say more?They’re voting for him Because he is black..I don’t like the way GB has run our country either but I’m be damned if I’ll give a Muslim my vote!!!"

Assuming that many of these posters were transformed by 9/11, as we all were, fear is the guiding principle of their opposition to Obama. Fear of being left unprotected; that if we aren't always on offense we are pussies, wimps, losers, un-Christian and un-American. Fear of the great unknown.

That is a steaming pile of horse shit.

We've tried George Bush's America, his OK Corral, his anti-compassionate conservatism, and it hasn't worked. Time for something new.

But I'll go a step further: don't wave a loaded gun in my face and tell me your a peacekeeper. Fear makes everyone a gun-toting trailblazer - when you think you're protecting yourself from the angry mob in your neighborhood or if you're in the armed services. Guns, missile defenses, threats of war and phony posturing are all tools of a disintegrated masculine tirade, and it's all a bunch of crap.

If you believe radical Islam is out to get you, you should equally be fearful of radical Christianity, or radical anything. The McCain campaign has tried to instill fear in the American electorate by insinuations and wonderings aloud:

There are "leaders" who bait and switch because they don't have the chops, and there are leaders who... LEAD. There is sensible protection that doesn't inflame our friends, and then there is aggression for the sake of being a badass. We have failed on that point, and many others, over the past seven years.

If we continually operate from a place of fear, we will never, repeat NEVER, advance or learn from what happened on 9/11, as referenced in the above comments.

So, here the final thought: no more chest thumping, no more brow beating, no more "this town ain't big enough...", no more my dick is bigger than yours.

Peace will lead to prosperity and understanding. Sensible protectionism and normalized military mobilization is our best chance for freedom and world leadership.

Think about it. Leave the boots at home.

# # #

Why Obama, Pt. II: Consider What Your Future Self Wants Now

(ATLANTA :: 5 October 2008)

Step out of the shadows.

That's the message from
Deepak Chopra, writing a piece called "Obama and The Palin Effect," for the HuffPost. Chopra argues that Sarah Palin represents the shadow self, tantalizing and luring us into embracing fear and suspicions rather than engaging our more integrated, enlightened and higher self.

"She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses," he writes. "In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of 'the other.' For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them."

Chopra's piece is a masterstroke in sensible reality creation and understanding where, either subliminally or directly, one can attempt to darken an otherwise bright and optimistic horizon. To turn the fear on its ear, think instead of "the other" as possibly "the one" for which we could be looking.

You are not subverting yourself to believe in a single agent of change. In fact, it's the very leadership we need in the face of the three "Es": energy, the environment and our pummeled economy, to name a few.

So, because I believe so strongly in
Barack Obama as a catalyst for change in this country, I ask you to stop and look forward:

...It's Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. It's mid morning and you're into your third cup of coffee. One full month after our general election has passed; we are gearing up for the holiday season - but also, the next administration is conducting transition plans for January 20, 2009. These plans include choosing people for cabinet positions; setting critical policy direction and decisions; and ramping up other important political machinations that will shape our future.

On this day, would you prefer to be anticipating a McCain-Palin administration to take over, with much of the same philosophies and strategies and shortcomings of our current administration? Or, while in the transition, would you prefer to be anticipating a more dramatic change, with confidence that, no matter how scary the unknown may actually be, that by our own action and decisions, our country is going to fundamentally shift to a new tone, direction and priority system?

If you envision yourself on that day, awaiting the transition... which scenario fits with our collective needs as a country?

Barack Obama LogoAnd in the broadest of terms: would you prefer to install the oldest president ever chosen, an outwardly bitter and angry person, who chose a profoundly unqualified running mate; or would you want instead to be a witness to history - led by a clearly more integrated, connected, reasoned, decent human being, the first African American ever elected?

Does that last idea bring up a pang of fear or a feeling of pride?

If you answer "both," you're not alone. No change comes without preceding chaos, and Palin is sure tryin' hard to instill that in us - with a shameful accusation that Obama is "
paling around with terrorists." Seriously?

Do not give in to fear. Chopra writes:

"Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted?"

I believe the latter.

So... your future self is sitting in the presidential transition, on that fateful Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, with the hope that we step out of the shadows as a powerful statement against the sad, manipulative pandering of both the Bush administration and what the McCain-Palin ticket has thus far stood for.

Neither party is perfect. But this year we have a clear choice. Step out of the shadows and embrace progress.

# # #

(graphic courtesy of geeksugar; chopra picture: intent.com)

Update: McCain gestures to Obama during debate last night (7 Oct. 2008) and says "that one," intending to be ironically and heroically dismissive and yet ending up looking like an ignoramus.


Why Obama, Pt. I: Block Religious Freaks From A Full Takeover

(ATLANTA :: 29 September 2008) - Take a break from the financial disaster we are in for a moment. I learned a scary thing today - one of many that we can't lose sight of when we go to the voting booth.

We are in the midst of an attempted religious hijacking of American politics from pulpits across the country.

We don't need more examples of this than McCain's choice of Palin; she's fired up the conservative base of the party. But
here's a clear one in case you do. Many people have expressed concern about her freakishly conservative religious views that could be a "heartbeat away" from the presidency.

Are we open to that idea? Absolutely NOT.

A group of pastors are going to intentionally violate tax law and endorse McCain - the same candidate who called Jerry Fallwell an "agent of intolerance" and then a few years later embraced him and spoke at his school. (The self-proclaimed "Maverick" is a shape-shifting neo-con cypher that is a shadow of the shadow he used to be back in 2000.)

Still more dangerous is the Alliance Defense Fund (link intentionally omitted), a group that is poised to defend these pastors in court as they attempt to shape the campaign from the pulpit.

So, let me understand: you're going to break the law and then ask us to foot the bill when you are taken to court? This is not civil disobedience - you are BREAKING THE LAW. Equally bad is that you're pushing your religious beliefs in the public sector and our Constitution says it's wrong.

Let your parishioners make up their own minds and stay out of the process. Your job as spiritual adviser and advocate does not make the podium on which you speak a political bully pulpit.

Allow this trail of religion to inject itself and you'll see Roe v. Wade blown up... and our Supreme Court will start looking more like an Evangelical revival than a respected judicial body.

We can see how well we do when we see ourselves as the
chosen ones. Vote Obama and quite literally block this delusional world view from infecting our political system.

(Image courtesy of DailyKos)

# # #


Remaking The 'World As It Should Be': Obama For President

Barack Obama Logo(ATLANTA :: 14 September 2008) - The nomination of Sarah "Caribou Barbie" Palin was the straw.

I had actually been leaning toward Obama for some time now, even through the primaries. And I'll always go to the polls and vote... but not publicly on my blog say anything about a particular candidate, or endorse - to at least maintain a modicum of integrity and neutrality as a journalist.

Two words: fuck that.

My political reporting for the MSM pretty much began and ended with
marketwatch.com, anyway.

From this point forward, you'll see and hear many posts on wp.com about why Obama is the better choice than
McCain-Spears, and why we need to bring light to the fundamental (pun intended) differences between our choices this year.

It's this sound byte that got me:


Just as I've done with this post, don't devolve your vote or sell it short as de facto "buying into" or "endorsing" a person as a phenomenon. Rather, see it as an opportunity to appoint someone to a lofty, unthinkable position in which we will drive him to be the best he can be - without ever letting up, no matter what your political persuasions are.

The side of the people should be the side of the president, and the reverse is true. For too long it has been precisely the opposite.


We live in a country that has been hijacked by corporations, fringe groups and crusaders; we are promised election reform, and always vow to change it, yet it never happens; our economy is in the crapper due DIRECTLY to perverted, GOP-led ostrich financial principals; we are on the cusp of some of the most important Supreme Court nominations of our time, perhaps ever; we have states that are teetering as full-on toss-ups with every single vote mattering; and we have been overrun by liars and their surrogates who try to convince us that Iraq a) had something to do with 9/11 and b) that our fight there somehow threatens Americans' daily lives.

That's right, I said liars. In this sick, warped world where up is down, day is night and blue is red.

Palin is George W. Bush in a miniskirt, and you should be scared. Be VERY afraid that this person, regardless of gender, has the ear of a potential president.

Watch my blog for a three-part series on why Obama is the better choice than McCain, and I've added a link to his Web site at the top of my blog. It'll be there until Nov. 5.

Meantime, get educated, be as active as you can and tell your friends. If you haven't already, of course, which I'm sure you have. Talk with your friends and family and make sure your decision is the best it can be.

As I was finishing this post, "
The Man Who Waited" came up on TV as an animated short. An amazing parallel. If you have not seen it, do it as soon as you can. The film is a stirring existential interpretation of the consequences of waiting for the truth.

As always, peace...


Here's My 'Postsecret': Byron Has Definitely Fallen Hard

I was doing my green duty riding Marta to the airport the other day and stumbled across this note... it was initially hidden from my view, but when a passenger got up I spotted it.

There was a nice gal seated to the left of the note, across from me, who thought I was nuts taking this picture -- but I wanted to capture it. All the Marta riders around me cocked their heads to figure out what I was doing.

In the spirit of "Postsecret," a collection of secrets from anonymous sources (thanks to Wayne and Ed for showing it to me), I've helped give Byron one last chance to reach the girl of his dreams.

This made riding Marta that day totally worth it.

I also gave the gal who tolerated me shooting this picture my info, so I hope she gets back. If so, give me a shout! Thanks to her for putting up with me.

So... Here is an example of honest and spontaneous affection that seems to have not found its recipient... So I'm putting this out there to keep his hopes alive.

# # #

Update: I did hear from my gal pal on Marta! Thanks to Marina for dropping me a line. See the comments section for more.

Knowing Thyself: 'The More We Take The Less We Become'

"I try to bring more than I can handle; I bring it to the table, I bring what I am able."

I keep forgetting what an amazing talent
Sarah McLachlan is. She makes music worth listening to.

There's obviously a parallel between "World on Fire" and our commitment to the planet... where you can do your part, your little part, that affects the greater good. It's about challenging ourselves for tough decisions, and not to shy away from something that appears complex on its face, but that can and will be tremendously rewarding in the end.

I admire people who can so eloquently tell that story and inspire us to walk the earth with greater respect -- of people and of nature.

That's not tree-hugger sensibility, it's humanity. Easy.


The Curse Of 'Imaginary Problems' - And How To Fix It

Thanks to Medill alum Robert Kazel for posting about this, a quote from the late Leo Buscaglia, who was an author and professor at USC. Kazel sent this out to us after a hot exchange between a bitchy alum wanting to curtail certain forms of speech on the Medill listserv.

We are our own worst enemies sometimes, and each other's, too; so instead of short, hurtful bursts of attitude -- be real and settle differences. Work to make things right.

"Don't be afraid of disagreements and arguments," Buscaglia said. "The only people who don't argue are people who don't care or are dead. In fact, don't have short arguments. Make certain they are thoroughly over and done with."

As in... live a conscious life. Don't leave unfinished, self-serving actions out there with the idea that they *might* shape or advance your agenda.

If we don't act from a place of love, all the time, we are just taking up space.


The Myth (And Fact) Of Fingerprints

(ATLANTA - original date: 27 May 2008 | updated on 4 May 2011) :: In many ways, we *are the people around us.

We are an amalgam of personalities, legacies, love, hatred, ambivalence, random acts of all kinds - and yet we wake up some days thinking the entire world tilts on our axis; that everyone is against us and the sky is falling. And if you look just a little bit closer, you’ll see that’s a bunch of hooey.

Why does it matter? In the end, come judgment day - if you subscribe to such an idea - aren’t we all just gonna be part of the earth, anyway? I mean, why am I yammering on about people, the friends and family, new and old, unseen and known, who've taken the time to read, to listen, to love? Does my train of thought actually have a caboose?

Maybe. This is about knowing where love lies... about where it breathes, how we contribute to its collective, where it compounds itself and how, and when it's likely to happen again. When we turn the right stones, or seek the right fortune, there it will be. And that's for those of us lucky enough to have found love more than once, in more than one person; who are brave enough to risk the fool after getting the shaft and going great guns to find it again.

Truthfully, we're all faced with many great challenges over the term of our lifetimes. Our resiliency during these periods often help shape the way we cherish ourselves, and equally important, each other.

Jimmy Roberts, sports reporter for NBC and commenting on Andre Agassi some time ago, shared this spontaneous, eloquent gem about a person's unspoken impact:

"An old friend of mine used to say that there are people in this lifetime who leave footprints. In other words, there are these people, and we all know them, who have an impact. They aren’t necessarily the best at what they do; they might not always behave the way we wish they might, but they make an impact on all of us."

This thought is true for everyone - not just those like Andre, whom we might put on a pedestal. Consider Chris "Crusty" Haddle's fight against
mucinous adenocarcinoma, which caused a dull ache he detected in his lower abdomen that felt like simple appendicitis, but turned out to be stage-two cancer that required radical surgery. He'll need six months of chemotherapy to make sure nothing has spread.

Also consider Gene Rector, who was officially diagnosed today with lymphoma, and who will start with his doctor on a treatment course that will likely include chemo *and* radiation since it has spread to his spleen.

So what's or who is at work here? None of us can point to one thing. But the remaining residue - both in emotional and metaphysical terms - is that we should always know the fingerprints that our friends, family, neighbors, strangers on the street, anyone, leave on us. They contribute to your own. They are the cherished gas in our engine, the great person we've not yet met, the random person in public with whom you've just connected somehow... on a road that would be much more boring and barren without them.

So, run to the windows, rush to the phone... tell your mother, your friend, even someone you're unsure about. Tell them their impact. Crusty and Gene have both in their own ways changed me for the better, and for that I'll always be grateful.

Being good to each other, even when it might step on your own purpose or agenda, is tantamount to a peaceful coexistence. Think about it. If we use that mission in everything we do - from the politicians we choose down to the type of milk we buy - we'll see a spontaneously different world around us.

Because someday, somehow... someone will see your "footprints" in the sand, your fingerprints on something great, and admire the decisions you made.
- WP

# # #


'The World Offers Itself To Your Imagination'

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

- taken from "Dream Work" by Mary Oliver, published by Atlantic Monthly Press; photo courtesy of panhala.net.

'We Listened As His Soul Cracked': Abuses At Abu Ghraib

Just watched the documentary "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib." Very important watching, if you haven't seen it already.

The film shines a magnifying glass on our unfathomable disregard for human rights in Iraq. Even if you think you know what happened, see this movie and your mind will be changed.

Whatever you believe before, during or after we invaded Iraq, no one should be subjected to treatment like this. Take a look at the director clip here:

"We listened as his soul cracked" is a direct quote from one of the detainees, whose father was abused, tortured and left to die. His description of these actions and egregious disregard for human life will chill you to the bone.

Many officers involves in this scandal, even those on its periphery, were faced with a choicepoint -- either accept orders that seemingly came from (or were at least condoned by) the top, or speak out against them. Those who did the latter suffered great legal, personal and professional consequences.

Question: after viewing this movie, do you still think Germany was wrong in labeling and charging Rumsfeld as a war criminal? What about those responsible for hiring him?

With the election coming, make sure to keep this in mind -- that our government, at every level, failed us.

One last note: This film unfortunately connects the Iraq choice-conflict with 9/11... and the only reason this connection holds up is to create greater understanding about why our soldiers were driven to this level of aggression.

The saddest part is that the "God told me to do it" war actually ended up creating unbelievably difficult reality-creation choices for people who never should have been in the situation in the first place.

Let's own the abuses to prisoners as well as acknowledge those who stood up to it.

A College Professor Of, With And For The Human Spirit

Every once in a while we come across someone who presents life's tools as a beautiful map on how to use them to the best of our ability.

This latest incarnation is in the form of
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch has terminal cancer and recently gave a speech at that school will blow you away. It's amazing how, through humor, instruction is not only engaging -- but also profound and transformative.

In a culture that is fascinated by Britney's choreography, Lindsay's latest line or which Anna-Nicole ex-lover is sleeping with whom, THIS is what life is about for me. But, as we're reminded by Pausch, humor is one of the most expeditious pathways to healing.

GMA did a
piece on him this morning that knocked my socks off, and I found the YouTube link below. The video is nine minutes, and it's worth every minute. Enjoy. Happy


I Just Love That Gary Nurenberg.

His lead into a CNN piece this afternoon on the Powerball jackpot (now up to $300 million), was absolutely classic. On how everyone is clamoring for the cash:

"If we weren't a nation of dreamers, the lines wouldn't be this long."

I'd add a link to his CNN bio, but I couldn't find one on the
anchors & reporters page. Sad


Here's An Idea: Let's Give Pundits The Rest Of The Iraq War Off

I listen to and enjoy both sides of the ideological media spectrum, from George Will and Stanley Fish to someone as nutty (and super cool) as Arianna Huffington.

But it's with continuing admiration that I read Frank Rich's columns in the
New York Times, with this week's piece as no exception. "Patriots Who Love the Troops to Death" (available only to TimesSelect subscribers) is a sweeping statement about how the once-fervent supporters of the Iraq war are starting to turn -- even ones who confidently predicted we'd be showered with eternal gratitude as liberators.

"That’s disingenuous," Rich wrote about the prognosticators, particularly Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution. "For all their late-in-the-game criticisms of the administration’s incompetence, Mr. Pollack proselytized vociferously for the war before it started, including in an appearance with Oprah, and both men have helped prolong the quagmire with mistakenly optimistic sightings of progress since the days of 'Mission Accomplished.'

"You can find a compendium of their past wisdom in Glenn Greenwald’s Salon column. That think-tank pundits with this track record would try to pass themselves off as harsh war critics in 2007 shows how desperate they are to preserve their status as Beltway “experts” now that the political winds have shifted. Such blatant careerism would be less offensive if they didn’t do so on the backs of the additional American troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse."

Actually, Bill Maher has been
out in front on this issue for nearly a year now... that our country's crack-pot predictors are, well, dicks.

Rich also talks about the role of the media and others, including our beloved "experts" and political leaders, who have deep-seeded culpability in the way this war is playing out in the public consciousness.

I'm so mad that I go out into the world each day with venom spewing out my ears. I do what I can to manage it. The future, it would seem, is ours to create -- so let's make our own way and look for sensible solutions instead of putting our direction and judgment in the hands of people who don't deserve it.


'Welcome Home': Rev. Paul Beats Back 'Wave of Hate' At Atlanta Pride

By Will Pollock

(ATLANTA :: 24 June 2007) Amidst the angry shouts of hellfire and wished damnation from protestors at Piedmont Park yesterday,
one lone voice stood up at Atlanta Pride and declared, “Welcome Home.”

Rev. Paul Graetz, an eight-year pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church of Atlanta, was manning his church’s booth at the largest gay and lesbian Pride event in the southeast. He became fed up with signs that read, “JESUS THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE CONDEMNS YOU TO ETERNAL HELL,” and stormed out to the park's entrance to counterprotest.

“They’re lying to my parishioners,” Graetz said, holding his lone sign. “It’s just an unacceptable wave of hate as you approach the park. Georgia doesn’t tolerate hate. Hate speech is not free speech.”

The religious objectors’ words blared over a bullhorn as they manned numerous entrances to
Piedmont Park as well as the 10th and Piedmont intersection in Midtown. Rev. Graetz questioned their purpose.

“Why are they here? They’re adamant about their homophobia, their fear. Radical groups need someone to hate, yet the bible’s message is one of love. There’s no room for hate. God said he did not give us a spirit of fear. God’s love is here for all.”

For their part, Pridegoers proceeded past the protestors peacefully, with one woman entering at 14
th street calmly saying to a protestor, “Have a nice day, Sir.”

“I am having a great day,” the protestor retorted. “Y’all think about eternal life, it might be right around the corner.”

Despite their somewhat sordid welcome, thousands of visitors to Pride were undaunted and enjoyed the many vendors and other attractions at the event.

But for Rev. Graetz, the angry language is a stark reminder.

“This is really a symbol for the type of world gays and lesbians face,” he said. “We have to walk through hatred to get home, just like people have to walk through these people’s hate to get to Pride.

“So I’m welcoming people here in love,” he added. “The hate was just too overwhelming as you approached the park. Jesus would be saying, ‘Happy Pride!’”
(Additional reporting by Thom Anderson)


Artistic Expression Emits From The Most Unusual Sources...

...including a phone salesman in England. Remember: never second-guess yourself or feel inhibited to chase your dream.

Or, even in what you might deem small or insignificant, never censor your own creative energy -- no matter who you are or what you do. Case in point:

Phone Salesman Amazes Crowd - Watch more free videos

Quote 2 Remember: Garry Shandling on 'Real Time'

"You talk about War -- it's an old paradigm," Garry Shandling told Bill Maher last night during the "Real Time" panel discussion, referring to our "War on Terror" language. "This winning and losing thing is where we are behind in our consciousness. I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." (Photo courtesy of nndb.com.)