Learning to fly… or not

Last Thursday evening, when I walked down my street from the bus stop (I’m such a tree-hugger), I spied a foreign object in our driveway. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so from afar I thought it was a sweater. (Why I might think a sweater would be in our driveway on a 95-degree day is a topic for another day. Don’t question my logic!) But upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a baby hawk… deceased. It damn near broke my heart.

There’s a hawk nest in one of our neighbor’s trees, and we’ve been hearing hawks screeching non-stop over the past few weeks, and watching them go from tree to tree. Once I even spotted the baby’s head peeking out from the nest, which was so cool. I’m guessing this little lad (or lass) was from that nest.

I called Raptor, Inc., a local non-profit dedicated to the preservation of birds of prey through rehabilitation, education and preservation, because I wanted to know two things:

  1. What should I do with the body? Answer: dispose of it via the trash or burial… the only thing you can’t do is keep it/taxidermy.
  2. Why did this happen? Answer: Fledglings are still “getting their wings” – they tend to be rather unsteady fliers, so they’re prone to running into things. Also, there’s “failure to thrive” – if the parents aren’t still helping them get food once they leave the nest, they could be malnourished. And our current heat wave certainly doesn’t help matters. The woman from Raptor Inc. said they’ve been getting a lot of reports of dead baby hawks during this fledging season.

fledge  v. Old English *-flycge (Kentish -flecge),an adjective meaning “having the feathers, fit to fly,” 

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a hawk soaring majestically over the highest trees, I’m jealous. “You lucky son of a gun, you get to fly! And you don’t even have to flap your wings much… you just float on the air!” This was a not-so-subtle reminder that life can be a struggle, even for the most majestic creatures.

On Saturday, I saw two adult hawks on the same branch of a neighbor’s tree. I felt like they were trying to tell me that things will be OK. One hawk may be gone, but the species will survive.

 

Bridging the digital divide

The excerpt above is from the introduction to The Moth, a book of 50 stories from The Moth storytelling organization, which includes a radio hour on 400+ stations around the country.

The book came out in 2013, but those lines are even more relevant (and incriminating) five years later. We’ve all done it, to varying degrees. Sending a text instead of making a call. Trading a birthday lunch for a Facebook “like.” Netflix binging instead of getting together with friends over the weekend.

Often our noses are so buried in our phones that we don’t even look up anymore… at the trees, the sky, or our friend sitting across the table from us.

Do your friends a favor: meet with them, face-to-face, and leave the phones out of sight and out of mind. And just listen.

And now for fans of 80s tunes and/or videos that feature copious amounts of rouge on both male and female performers, here’s Missing Persons with their 1982 semi-hit, “Words”:

 

The Mother and Child Separation

Normally, I don’t like to mix posting and politics, but the latest immigration tactics (nay, antics) of our Demander-in-Chief have taken this beyond a political issue. It’s a human rights issue.

“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

— Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.

I’m equal parts angered and saddened. I have “zero tolerance” for this b.s.

As per usual, the fantastic Hitting The Trifecta blog has found the perfect way to express (in a much more eloquent way than I could) exactly what I’m feeling. Author Rickey Dobbs has a way of breaking down complex issues in an engaging, typically satirical way. This most recent blog post absolutely nails it on separating kids from their parents. Please read the entire thing. But if you can’t, this wrap up should bring it home nicely:

If WE are going to do this (yes, “we” are doing this, my co-owners of this representative democratic republic), we’ll need to gather the niños into places where we can keep track of thousands of them all at once. To that end, we’ll be concentrating all of them into some outpost, or maybe a camp.

Gosh, no, it’s not a concentration camp or anything like that! How offensive! *clutches pearls, then realizes I accidentally wore my pearls to work.

But understand: those kids just hoofed it across the harsh Mexican terrain, risking their very lives seeking freedom from unimaginable violence. So, it’s safe to say they’re a scrappy bunch! Because of that reality, we’ll have uniformed men with guns to make sure the kids don’t scale the ten-foot fences that surround their cages.

Word will – and already has – spread to the next incoming “waves” of immigrants that there’s a really shitty patch of territory between the Rio Grande and the Canadian border. If you’re a “got-damn furrner” and you get caught in that 1800-mile expanse, abandon all hope all ye who enter. Oh, and abandon your dreams…especially those “American” ones.

But oddly enough, fully knowing the inhospitable environs that await, they keep coming. They risk losing their children for a tiny chance at giving the kids a better life than is possible at home.

You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” And no one tries to cross the border, via asylum or otherwise, knowing they’ll likely lose their children, unless the alternative is uniformly worse.

 Of course, our government doesn’t have to take your kids if they catch you. We don’t have to make your arduous, desperate life worse than it already is. We do it because we’re America in 2018. There’s a rabid, deplorable electoral base that needs red meat, and you’re wearing red meat underoos. We’re a nation of uneducated playground bullies who elect even bigger uneducated playground bullies, and we always punch down.

And sorry, José. You are both geographically and socioeconomically down.

All of this is to make it clear as day, brought to you by white resentment, economic insecurity, and rich guys who profit from both:

The America of which you’re dreaming is just lighting and camera tricks. It’s not available for you, scapegoats. It’s barely available for us. We are simply making the age-old American reality abundantly clear: you and your family are, perpetually, one generation too late.

 Lo siento, amigos.

So true, so sadly true. The link above in the Hitting the Trifecta blog post is to a wonderful poem that you simply must read. Now! Here are the final lines:

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

 

The feedback loop de loop

After my last blog post about poetry, I got a nice note (OK, it was a text, same difference in 2018) from my friend Jacqui. (She’s one of the “unholy trinity”… i.e. the first three people that I trusted enough to send a link to my blog, back when I was young not as old and scared of judgment and worried about being “not good enough.” Now I know that I’m not good enough and don’t care!)

Here’s Jacqui’s three-part text:

Thanks for the kind words and profound thoughts, Jacqui. That’s a great quote you shared. Whether you like our current president or can’t stand him (clearly there’s no middle ground), by any objective measure, the language he uses is the harshest, ugliest stuff we’ve ever seen out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, by a country mile. And that should scare all of us. We can respond in kind, or we can respond by being kinder to our fellow human beings in our words and our actions. The latter path will be more effective in effecting a change.

Moving right along…

A couple of months ago, I posted about Cincinnati artist Mark DeJong and his “Swing House” art project. Now that project (and Cincinnati in general) are getting some national love – check out this New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt:

And here’s the author’s video from her Instagram post:

It’s nice to see Mark getting national recognition for his amazing work. And if you’re keeping score at home, dubbatrubba.com gave you the scoop two months sooner than the New York Times. That’s kind of a big deal…

 

 

 

 

Roses are red, violets are blue…

… I went to a poetry reading, and you should too!

(Don’t worry, the poets I saw were much better than that.)

Yes, I went to a poetry reading last night (along with about 50 other folks!), and heard words from eight talented folks from the Cincinnati area. Just words, nothing more. It was nothing less than transcendent.

The poets included:

  • Bucky Ignatius, a “semi-reformed hippie” who did mostly short poems (he has a book called Fifty Under Fifty featuring poems that are 50 words or fewer) that were typically humorous, but also profound.
  • Pauletta Hansel, former Poet Laureate for Cincinnati, sharing deeply moving poems about her mother’s battle with dementia.
  • Michael Henson, a poet and fiction writer (and Poet Laureate for Mt. Washington, my neighborhood), bringing tales of Appalachia (and numbers) to life.
  • Desirae Hosley from WordPlay Cincy, whose spoken word piece about body image was a show-stopper.
  • Manuel Iris, a school teacher and the current Cincinnati Poet Laureate, sharing deeply moving words about living between two worlds (Mexico and the U.S.) and struggling to define “home.”

The program was called Rhyme & Wine. It was hosted by Water Tower Fine Wines, the local wine shop in my neighborhood.

The Mount Washington Community Council has funded this event for the past four years. Some will consider that a waste of neighborhood funds, frittering away dollars on something so ephemeral. But we need more poetry and less punditry in our lives.

Analog moments in the Digital Age? Very much so! Anachronistic? No way! Words matter. Now more than ever.

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
This poem doesn’t rhyme
Who cares, it’s free verse!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Fred Rogers is having a moment, nearly two decades after his show signed off.

Tom Hanks is set to play him in a movie. A documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor opened in select cities yesterday. Maxwell King has written a book that is due out soon called The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This article from The Atlantic website pulls from that book, and demonstrates the care that Fred took in scrutinizing every word that he and his fellow cast members ever spoke on the show, to make sure it was right on target for his target audience of preschoolers.

The writers even coined the term “Freddish” to describe the language. Here’s a great example from the article about how a simple line could morph:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Tons of folks have parodied Fred Rogers, most famously Christopher Guest (with Bill Murray as the bass player) and Eddie Murphy (see below for videos). But the original Fred was a wonderful, caring teacher to generations of kids… and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music matters

This is old news (not “fake news”) but well worth covering here. Back in April, KEXP-FM in Seattle received a bequest from an anonymous donor… to the tune of $10 million.

I couldn’t think of a more deserving station. KEXP is, per their website, “a listener-powered, non-profit arts organization.” Their slogan is “Where the music matters” and they are true to their words. They play great music (emerging artists, indie bands… you know, all that “weird” music that I love) and have knowledgeable, personable DJs. Actual human beings selecting songs… what a novel concept in a world of robot radio! They host a ton of live in-studio performances too – you can watch the videos on their website or their YouTube channel.

The anonymous donor, known only as “Suzanne,” didn’t even live in the Seattle area, but she had family there. When she mentioned to her uncle that her favorite local radio station had gone off the air, he turned her on to KEXP (you can listen online) and she became an avid listener and donor.

“When I told my uncle that my favorite radio station had just gone off the air, he turned me on to KEXP,” she said. “Music is one of the best ways to unite people globally, and I love an organization which spreads that goodness.”  (Source: New York Times article)

She passed away in 2016, at a relatively young age, and KEXP was informed of the gift in early 2017.

Not many folks have $10 million to leave to a radio station. (I double-checked my couch cushions… no such luck.) But we can all support music. This quote from KEXP Executive Director Tom Mara really resonated with me:

“I think this is a good time for anybody to reflect on the role that music has in their lives, in that music makes lives better, and each of us, including myself, we need to support artists to a greater extent. We need to see their shows, we need to buy their music and we need to discover artists that need to be heard,” Mara said. “Music often plays a background role in our lives, and it does very well there…Let’s take this moment as a way to bring music into the forefront of our lives, too.”  (source: Seattle PI article.)

 

 

It’s Wear Orange weekend

There’s an old joke about folks in Tennessee wearing orange over the weekend because it’s a triple threat: they can wear it for hunting on Friday, to the Vols football game on Saturday, and for their prison work-release duties on Sunday.

But I’m not in Tennessee, I’m not a hunter, I’m not a Vols fan (Go Hogs!) and I’m not subject to court-ordered work (yet!). However, I’m still wearing orange today. Here’s why:

Learn more here: https://wearorange.org/

The other Memorial Day

Today would’ve been my dad’s 87th birthday. Hard to believe it’s been more than eight years since he passed away. He’s still with us in spirit.

Herb (yep, that’s his name) served in the military during the Korean War… and pretty much hated every minute of it. The “command and control” structure fit him like a hairshirt. (Gee, wonder where I get my rebel streak from…) Besides, his biggest battles were yet to come. Watching your wife succumb to leukemia. Moving your four kids to Arkansas. Struggling to get by. Fighting depression.

Not all heroes wear suits. Or fatigues. Sometimes they wear horn-rimmed glasses and polyester pants and thrift shop shirts. And they love their kids, and raise them the best that they can.

Happy Birthday, Pops.

23rd verse, same as the first

Another week, another school shooting. Yesterday it was Noblesville, Indiana, where a middle-schooler asked to leave the classroom and came back armed with two handguns and started shooting. Let’s read that sentence again, shall we? A middle-schoolerarmed with two handguns.

It’s the 23rd shooting on school grounds (including colleges/universities) in the 21st week of 2018.

26 children and 5 adults have died as a result, with dozens more injured, and hundreds more psychologically scarred. 31 lives lost in buildings set up for education, while during this same time period 13 members of the military have died in active combat zones. So in 2018, schools have been more dangerous than combat zones.

Don’t give me your “arm the teachers” argument. They have enough on their plates as it is.

Don’t give me your “cars kill more people than guns so we should ban cars” argument. Because we both know that getting a car involves:

  • Minimum age requirements
  • Mandatory training hours, written exam and road test prior to receiving a license
  • License subject to renewal on a regular basis
  • Mandatory registration
  • Mandatory insurance

Whereas getting a gun requires:

  • forking over some cash at a gun show.

If you want to institute the same requirements for gun ownership and operation as for car ownership and operation, I’m fully on board. And then we can discuss safety enhancements for the guns themselves, similar to the way the auto industry has added seat belts, anti-lock brakes, air bags and dozens of other features.  Heck, my daughter’s phone has a fingerprint lock… yet we can’t put that same technology in guns?

It may seem hopeless, especially when the NRA has hundreds of politicians in their deep back pockets. But don’t give up, because progress is being made, slowly, but surely. This series of tweets from the founder of Moms Demand Action proves that.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need more action.