Copper Flower


Copper, La Paz, Bolivia

Copper, La Paz, Bolivia

The picture with this post is of a natural copper ore formation that is on display at the Smithsonian. I think that it looks like a flower and that it is beautiful.

Word came yesterday that our painter, formerly our plasterer, was ready to start work again tomorrow. This doesn’t give us much time to clean the walls, but we will do the best that we can. We did some cleaning of the walls and floors on Saturday, and moved a few pieces of furniture back into the effected rooms, but moving them back out won’t be that much work. Rob and his son are scheduled to finish the painting in only two days, which will put this episode quickly behind us, in plenty of time for Easter.

Dave will be coming home for Easter. Fresh from his skydiving adventures at Kitty Hawk. “What?” I hear you ask. Well it was news to us too. He posted pictures of himself safely landing on Facebook. I guess that he was on spring break. I seem to remember hearing him say that he was “thinking about” skydiving, but it didn’t seem all definite, when he said it. It kind of reminds me of his Central America trip. He had gotten an all-expenses paid package, but it did not include the optional zip-line, because the tour company had deemed that activity too dangerous and didn’t want to be held liable for any injuries. I had foolishly assumed that he wouldn’t be doing that either. Silly me. I saw the photos of that event later on Facebook also. It is a good thing that we are friends on Facebook with our son.

How about those Spartans? Going to the final four of the NCAA basketball tournament! While that win yesterday was sublime, it was tempered this morning at work. You see the guy who sits in the cube next to mine was a tad bit grumpy this morning. His team, Arizona, had been turned away by Wisconsin last weekend, for the second year in a row. He would have been grumpy for that reason alone, but with Michigan State winning that added only insult to injury. You see he is a rabid basketball fanatic, while I am only a fair weather basketball fan. He felt that he deserved to win, while I did not. Fortunately, the gods of college basketball didn’t see it that way. I feel that it is like our sons. You have to give them the space and freedom to be all that they can be. They will frequently surprise you, but also just as often amaze you. My sports teams are like this too. When they’re up, I’m up there with them, but when they are down, I’m not going to get down on them.

Molly’s Hammer


And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2:4

US Holocaust Museum

US Holocaust Museum

On September 9, 1980, the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip, and six others, the “Plowshares Eight”, began the Plowshares Movement under the premise of beating swords to ploughshares. They trespassed onto the General Electric nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, PA, where they damaged nuclear warhead nose cones and poured blood onto documents and files, as a protest against United States nuclear weapons policy. One of the other six was Molly Rush, a Pittsburgh housewife. “Molly’s Hammer” tells her story surrounding these events.

Saturday afternoon, Anne and I attended the third and final ‘Ignite!’ reading for this year. “Molly’s Hammer” is a play written by Tammy Ryan and is based upon the book, “The Hammer of Justice”, by Lianne Ellison Norman. The play was read by two actors; Nancy Bell read the part of Molly Rush and Dan McCarthy read the part of her husband, Bill Rush and every other character in the play. The play covers the time leading up to the action in King of Prussia, the event and the subsequent legal proceedings. I found the play to be very moving and it will cause me much personal soul-searching in the future.

Molly is a person driven to do what she believes is right, no matter the cost. McCarthy as Dan and all of her other relatives and friends try to talk her out of doing what she is planning, but she will not be dissuaded. After the action, the Plowshares Eight surrender peaceably and go to jail, awaiting trial, where they remain until just before trial, when they finally accept bond. At trial, Molly is looking at sentences of from thirty to sixty years if convicted. Still standing on principle, Molly refuses to adopt a defense that would offer a greater chance of acquittal. Instead, she chooses to put the military-industrial complex on trial, infuriating the judge (McCarthy) and leading to her conviction. In the end though, Bill, her husband, who has fought her every step of the way, stands with her and likewise turns his back to the judge. After ten years of appeals, while still out on bond, the government capitulates and resentenced the Plowshares Eight to probation and time served.

After the reading there is always a Q&A. Seth Gordon always asks two questions: “What do you remember most about the play?” and “What do you think that the play is about?” In the past, even though he says that there are no wrong answers, I have always seemed to have found one. Now I just sit on my hands now and wait for this part to be over and for the wine and cheese to be served. I would say that the most novel answer that I have ever heard in any of these Q&A sessions was one voiced by a mother for her teenage son, “What my son remembers most about the play is when his Uncle Dan said he was pregnant.” McCarthy was portraying Molly’s daughter at the time.

After the Q&A I got to speak with Ryan, the playwright, and for once I asked an intelligent question, “Why did you write this play?” She is also from Pittsburgh and was approached by the author, Norman, to write the play. She interviewed both Molly and Dan Rush, who are both still together and living in Pittsburgh. They are in their eighties now. Molly is still active in the movement, but has never gone to jail again.

By the Sea


Fatata te Miti (By the Sea), 1892, Paul Gauguin

Fatata te Miti (By the Sea), 1892, Paul Gauguin

A poster version of this painting by Paul Gauguin hangs on the wall, over the toilet in my in-law’s bathroom. Over the years, I have spent many a long contemplative moment looking at it, while standing at the toilet. It is positioned perfectly for the male of the species to study, while females, I would hazard a guess, only momentarily glance at it, before turning their backs to it. Although, they can still view it in the mirror over the sink. I was pleased to see the original last week at the National Gallery. Two of the three figures in it are obviously female, while the third one in the distance is to my mind of indeterminate sex. I like to think that it is a man, making the bathing portrayed more interesting.

Tonight, Michigan State faces Oklahoma in the NCAA basketball tournament. State has done better than predicted this year, making it to the sweet-sixteen, but then no one should bet against Tom Izzo or his Spartans, IMHO. If MSU should somehow find itself still alive at the end of this weekend, then it will be heading to Indianapolis for the final four. Yesterday there, the Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a so-called “defense of religion” act, which was enacted shortly after the state’s “defense of marriage” act was overturned. The timing of these events is not coincidental. Defense of religion acts are designed to allow people to discriminate against other people, either because the voices in their heads tell them to, or they just hate gay people. Not even Arizona’s Jan Brewer was stupid enough to do that. Calls for boycotting the state were swift in coming, leaving the NCAA in an embarrassing position, especially since it is headquartered in Indianapolis. While the NCAA has made only cautious statements about studying the situation, others have been bolder. I am pleased with the response from GEN CON, the largest fantasy gaming convention around. They lobbied against the law’s passage, but being locked into a five-year contract, walking away was not an option. Instead, they have reached out to more positive elements from Indy, all the while looking elsewhere for the future. Witches and fairies need to lookout for their own kind.

The plasterer finished his work today, on time and under budget. We are pleased with his workmanship too. So pleased that we contracted with him to do also do the painting. Originally, we had planned to do that work, but this will be much faster and easier. Plus the results should also be better.

The Full Catastrophe


Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I’m a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe. – Zorba

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

As part of this year’s ‘Ignite!’ season, we went to hear a reading of the new play, “The Full Catastrophe”, by Mark Weller. Adapted from the David Carkeet novel of the same title, this is a tragicomic story of the verbally disturbed Wilsons, Dan and Beth, of Saint Louis, MO (Ladue actually) and their troubled marriage. In order to save their marriage, they hire linguist Jeremy Cook to act as a live-in marriage counselor. Cook has only recently lost his longtime gig of studying preschooler’s speech patterns and has just snagged this new job with the mysterious Pillow Agency. Roy Pillow the strange founder of the Pillow Agency, author of the Pillow Manual and creator of the Pillow Method has as his main dialog contribution the line, “The Horror. The Horror.” He repeats this line throughout the play, all Kurtz-like, as from Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.

This is Jeremy’s first case. To say that Jeremy is a little off-kilter himself is a bit of an understatement. He comes to the subject of interpersonal relationships with the same understanding that a visiting space alien on his first trip to earth might have. Still, he is able to diagnose the problem with this linguistically troubled marriage right off the bat as “complementary schismogenesis” or the mutual creation of division, but once diagnosed he seems at a total lost at how to cure its woes.

Part of Jeremy’s problem is his own tortured history with love. Years ago, he let his one true love, Paula, walk out of his life and has come to regret it ever since. Tension in the Wilson household comes to a head when news arrives that the summer camp that Dan and Beth had planned on housing their son, Robbie in, has suddenly closed. They had planned on spending their summer together, jetting off to Italy, renewing their lost passion for each other and saving their marriage. Beth is heard yelling at and accusing Dan, “The summer is ruined! The summer is ruined!”

Not knowing how to relate to, let alone counsel Dan and Beth, Jeremy’s big moment comes when he helps the kid do a homework assignment that is requiring him to write a sentence ending in a preposition. The linguist tells him to imagine a little boy who is upstairs in his room waiting for his father to come read him a story. He goes to the top of the stairs and waits. He hears his father coming, but when he sees the book his father has chosen, he’s disappointed. So he says to his father, “What are you bringing that book that I don’t want to be read to from out of up for?”

Urban Renewal – Before and After


We haven’t just been vacationing in our nation’s capital. Both before and after our trip, we have been preparing to redo half the main floor, more specifically the front hall, living and dining rooms. All these rooms have textured plaster walls, arched ceiling to wall transitions and arched entryways, in addition to stain glass windows and other neat architectural detail. Together, these rooms represent the showy side of the house. They were newly painted, when we bought the house. We’ve lived in this house for over thirty-years, raised two boys in it and all the while have never painted them. I think that it is about time now. The first step was to empty them of all the stuff that had accumulated in them over the years. We got most of it out before we left for DC, leaving only essential pieces of furniture or like the two couches, those pieces too large to move. We finished removing the rest this morning. The plasterer showed up and seemed impressed with all the work that we had done. He originally bid the job at his hourly rate. I think that he expected to have to work around all of the stuff that was in these rooms when he last saw them. He had allocated three days to repair all of the cracks, finishing this Friday. Looking at the progress that he made today, I bet that he ends up finishing early and then it is on to painting.

Happy Birthday Chris!


Popular Photography Cover

Popular Photography Cover

As previously described, my brother Chris had his photo on the cover of the January issue of Popular Photography, as part of their annual photo contest . If you remember, the magazine actually prints two covers, one for the newsstands and the other for subscribers. His cover photo appeared on the subscriber’s issue. At the time, Chris had asked me to put a call out to see if anyone I knew had a subscription to this magazine, with the hope that I could beg, borrow or steal a copy. My search turned up empty, but Chris was able to get an issue for himself, by subscribing. That was in early December. Come Christmas, and what do I find under the tree for me? A gift from Joanie, she bought a copy of the magazine on e-Bay. I would have never thought of doing that. I counted and his picture shows up not once, not twice, but five times in the magazine. There is the cover photograph, of course and the photo is also printed in the contest article, without all of the writing, where it is featured as the Landscape/Nature winner. It is also included in a mosaic of select contest winners that appears first in the table of contents and then again on the contest article’s title page. The fifth time that it appears is in a review of an Epson printer. It is the sample output. The editors must have really loved his picture!