Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thanks on Thursday: Voting Early at the Library

This year I actually did not vote at the library even though I work there.

Funny story

My good friend and I decided to work on our ballots together. That's one thing I'm grateful for about voting choice I can fill out my ballot while talking it over with someone else. We had a mix-up about where we were going to meet. I thought I was going to her house, she thought she was going to mine. By chance I had the use of the car, and I arrived at her house only to have her housemate tell me she was going to a friend's house, "Onji?" Oh, that's me. Enji to some. I called her, she came back to her home.

So she breezes in and flops on the floor in front of the coffee table, her keys and pack on the floor beside us. I've started to look at the voter's guide, and she opens a ballot. I'm talking about the ballot measures, and I realize she's been marking candidates on my ballot. Oops. Not only that, she already signed the envelope. After some teasing about committing a Class C Felony (no not really) and her housemate breezing by and saying that happened to him too and the ballot was accepted, we moved on. We had one different choice in local candidates, so she marked my choice on her ballot. Just to be sure my ballot wouldn't be rejected, with one crossed out signature, and my own above it, the next day I turned it in at the elections office. I just needed to black out her signature more thoroughly with a sharpie, and sign again in the white space on the envelope for good measure, just to be sure I hadn't scrunched my letters. I do know someone whose ballot was rejected because her signature didn't match well enough.

I turned in my and my sweetie's ballots on the 20th. I was hoping to avoid the cascade of campaign ads by turning it in early. I think it stopped most, but I'm still getting one or two oversize postcards a day.

Voting Ease

So I didn't vote at the library. Nevertheless I am grateful for voting at the library, and I am proud that I have a tiny part in supporting the cogs of democracy.

My coworkers and I have noticed that even though our signs are just shy of blinking neon, a noticeable number of people still ask where they can drop their ballots. (Circulation checkout is just to the left of the area in the photo above.) We suspect it is because people want some kind of recognition they are voting. One person today asked my coworker (his friend) to bless his ballot, and when I feigned umbrage, me too. We joked there should be a bell that dings, or bubbles or confetti released.

While a certain amount of the solemnity of the voting ritual is lost, the ease of being able to vote at the library, or by mail, or at a number of ballot drop-off sites certainly makes the process more democratic. As of today, 42% of the possible votes in my county are already in. Actually, that is slightly down from this time in 2004. Turnout is about a day behind. Get crackin' Oregon voters! The decisions are easy this time. Just vote yes on Measures 54-57, and no on the rest of the state measures. If you're not voting for Obama, may I suggest a good therapist?

Back to the gratitude of this post. I am grateful I can vote. I am grateful I can be reasonably sure my vote will count, and there is a paper trail that can foil tampering. I am grateful that having so many options makes it easier for all Oregonians to vote, not just the ones who have the luxury to take time off work, and the time to stand in line at a polling place on Tuesday. I am grateful to witness the sincere urgency and pride many people have in placing their ballots in the box.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Movies seen

8 of 10 stars. I decided to watch this again so I'm ready for Hellboy II. I like a good comic-book movie. I was surprised to see a lot of elements in a new show I'm watching, Sanctuary (6 of 10 stars). Secret underground lair populated with monsters, some of whom solve mysteries involving other monsters. Besides Hellboy, another male protagonist is a young man with curly brown hair and glasses, a scientist type connected to a military investigation unit. He looks very similar to the corresponding guy in Sanctuary. I imagine Sanctuary will eventually have a save-the-world-from-evil scenario at some point, but so far it lacks the charm of other secret underground investigation lairs. (Special Unit 2: 8 stars; Buffy: 10 stars)

10 of 10 stars. This is just about a perfect movie. I've seen two other musicals created from the songs of a band (Mamma Mia!, Movin' Out). This one leaves them in the dust, though to be fair I shouldn't compare a movie to theater productions.

The love story incorporates many of the iconic images that came out of the 60s, so in a way, it is a fable of history. While that's been done enough, (eww...Forrest Gump) in this case the homage works brilliantly. The Beatles songs are familiar yet refreshingly new to fit the characters, and simpler musical arrangements. Joe Cocker, Bono, and Eddie Izzard could steal the show, but their appearances only enhance the depth of the story.

Familiar musical forms of moving stage parts and dance choreography get enhanced treatment only possible with a movie. For instance, the young men drafted into war are stripped and sent along a surreal assembly-line for their health exams. Compartmentalized boxes and boxy soldiers isolate them and push them along in a truly amazing dance scene that expresses outwardly the inner feelings of coercion and alienation that must happen in such a scene.

5 of 10 stars. This was a musical that did not need to be remade. John Water's Hairspray did all that needed to be done with this. I was rather offended that John Travolta filled Divine's role, and with how that role was changed. Divine was not at all girly hee-hee and self-flagellating in her fatness, the way Travolta played her. This new Hairspray made it all about a chubby girl defying the role society would put her in, whereas the brilliance of John Waters' creation is that what she dreamed was treated as normal, and it was only one narcissistic girl and her mother who saw her as unworthy. John Waters' Hairspray was a revolution, this one was too self-conscious and shallow...the movie and the characters. Completely missing were the scenes where Tracy and Penny ironed their hair after meeting the Beatniks, and thus this movie completely misses the point.

10 of 10 stars. Another nearly perfect movie.

A man takes a wife in the traditional way in India. They move to New York, where it is lonely for her. They build a life, have children, and their child Gogol's story begins. His father names him after Gogol, but the full reason doesn't get revealed to Gogol until he is much older. One of my favorite directors, Mira Nair only gets finer as she gets older. It was a perfect melding of
Hollywood and Bollywood (much less Bollywood). It intends to and does pull the heartstrings.

I've heard from those who've read the book that it was disjointed and not as good. Without knowing the book, I though the movie completely fulfilled its intent.

I've started to keep track of movies and some TV I've seen at IMDB. You can see my vote history here. I know I've already missed some...I started doing this so I could remember what I've seen (and read) and now I can't remember the movie I watched that put me in the same position as others did with The Namesake. I'd read the book, and couldn't separate my dissatisfaction with the movie's interpretation from my liking of the book. Can't remember what movie or what book now. If you want to know more about something I've seen, and why I voted the way I did, leave a message.

Here's how I try to decide my star rating:

  • 9-10: Loved it
  • 7-8: Really liked it
  • 5-6: Liked it
  • 3-4: It was OK
  • 1-2: Did not like it

Books Read

Inside All by Margaret H. Mason

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This would be a sweet bedtime snuggle for any child 0 to 4 years or thereabouts. This would be a great picture book for parents who want to nurture an understanding of our interconnectedness and every child's buddha nature. (No, it never mentions buddha nature, but that's what I took it to be, and so did the person who recommended it to me.)

It's simple and sweet, with soothing artwork.

Twilight (Twilight Series, Book 1) Twilight (Twilight, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer rating: 1 of 5 stars
There should be a shelf option besides "to-read," "reading," and "read," and that should be "could not finish." I created my own shelf.

I limped through the first chapter. I did not need to be told at least four times that the narrator doesn't like her own appearance; didn't need to be told at least four times that she doesn't like rain; didn't need to be told all the things she did as she did them.

Oh yes, good girl, bad boy...clearly she's going to obsess over him and not any of the other nice boys that told her in so many obvious ways that she's actually quite pretty. Clearly this is shaping up to the teen romance with fantasy skin, but without the sexiness I usually like that comes with those. I'd read religious moms like it because the protagonist sticks to her values and doesn't succumb to her passions. I thought maybe they didn't get the point of a vampire book. Now I wonder if it's a sanitized vampire book, but I don't care enough to read further.

Librarians are often looking for books for kids that read above their age level. I'm presuming this one could make the list for those reading below their age level.

Democracy in America (Penguin Classics) Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read selections this time around, as I did years ago.

de Tocqueville toured and studied America not long after the French Revolution. He was hoping to glean ideas for his own country. I think what he found couldn't necessarily apply. He says we had no democratic revolution, because we began democratically. This makes sense, as our Revolution was simply an effort to keep that independent flavor, rather than lose it to our parent country.

Among the many things he observes and analyzes, I was interested in his view of property inheritance and how that affects society. In the aristocratic countries, it traditionally went to the eldest male. Consequently, family formed a larger portion of a person's identity. You stick by family, you depend on family for your welfare, and when you're the head of the family, you have obligations.

Here in America, that was not the law. Instead, land is divided among children. Because the land is divided and lots become smaller, it is easier to sell and move on. There is consequently less ties to the land and to the family. While he did make a point of saying "Anglo-Americans" I thought this analysis could have gone a little further and address the room which people felt they had to move to. That may have been in a section I didn't read.

Many of his observations still hold true today, I believe.

For example:

In the proudest nations of the Old World works were published which faithfully portrayed the vices and absurdities of contemporaries....Moliere criticized the court in plays acted before the courtiers. But the power which dominates in the United States does not understand being mocked like that. The least reproach offends it, and the slightest sting of truth turns it fierce; and one must praise everything, from the turn of its phrases to its most robust virtues.
(Don't mock the president, Mr. Colbert. Wear your flag pin, Mr. Obama.)

The Book Thief The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It makes sense to me that Death would not want to get involved in the lives of humans. He must do his job, be dispassionate. He explains quite carefully how he finds distractions in the colors, distraction from the ones he leaves behind, the survivors. So why does he choose to tell a story of a girl in Nazi Germany, a book thief?

Death first sees her when her little brother dies. Her mother is leaving her in the care of others, foster parents. Since this is Nazi Germany, I immediately wondered what would become of her. The girl finds her way with these new parents, with her new school, and you learn she can't read. Her foster father begins to teach her, with her first stolen book, "The Grave Digger's Handbook." Perhaps the title is what caught the attention of Death. Is it her innocent spirit that gets his attention? Is it her knack to find color in the world?

Even while a war rages and Nazi political-correctedness hovers over the lives of Liesel and her friends and family like stink over garbage, kids still go to school, compete in games, and find amusements to relieve their boredom. They also have secrets.

The language of the book is beautiful and compelling, and the reader, Allan Corduner, does do it justice. Listening had its pluses and made the storytelling compelling...but it's not so easy to backtrack if you think you missed an important bit. Indeed there's at least one drawing in the book that I didn't see while listening. I look forward to reading the book as well, which I will do for my book group in April '09.

This was a Printz Award Challenge book. I listened to it quite a while ago but am quite behind with my book remembrances.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Electric Car

I finally did it...I finally made my way over to EcoMotion, the car dealership that brings us all electric cars. I have been interested in the Zap Car, but they look so small, I've wondered if I would fit. That daydream of an electric car has been intruding into my thoughts more and more lately, so I decided to see if those daydreams are were worth my time.

It's not very far from my home, this dealership, but it takes at least 2 buses to get there...thus the daydreams...for trips like that.

Well...I did fit in the sedan, but barely. I'd like to stretch my legs out just a tiny bit more. It would be possible to live with it, considering I wouldn't drive for long or far with one of these. The seat belt does not fit; if I wanted the car badly enough, I could get that fixed. Actually, the seat itself was not bad. Since these are bare-bones, seed-of-the-future cars, there's not much invested in cushy things. Often in nicer cars with bucket seats I am more uncomfortable. These reminded me of old truck seats...just some cloth over a flat spring-loaded seat.

The saleslady apologetically explained these are made in Asia, so they haven't been designed for Americans (and large people like you, she couldn't quite bring herself to say). She also explained that the nice thing about the Zap Cars, with their 3 wheels they get classified as a motorcycle, so they are allowed to go their full 45 mph. Other electric vehicles (basically souped-up golf carts) with 4 wheels are limited to 25 mph due to some arcane less-than-real-car laws, even though they have the capability to go 45 mph.

Well, if I had the kind of money that I could drop 15 grand and have it paid off in a half a year, I'd buy it. I guess that's how much that car would be worth to me--something I could pay in full in 6 to 9 months. More than that, I can live without it. As it is my transportation cost to me = zero. That's a sweet deal. Ah well, I got that out of my system.

Thanks on Thursday

I love my adopted city.

One of the things I am grateful for is how easy it is to be green. We have curbside recycling, which got even easier this summer. We've had an urban growth boundary for around 30 years, which has encouraged inner city development, denser living, and multi-purpose buildings. Farms are close by. We are number 1 in many sustainability indicators, look here. You can see from the chart that one of the downsides of avoiding urban sprawl is that there's less affordable housing. I have to say, though, that part of the charm of Portland is that people find ways to make it work not only through housemate situations, but through intentional communities. I just found out a co-worker of mine is part of a group developing one right in the city...building separately-owned condos around shared space...and they will do things like share meals and child care. I think we'll only see more of that creative kind of thinking in years to come.

What really sparked this post of thankfulness is my own employer. I am so grateful I work for such a forward-thinking county. The latest evidence is the eco-roof on top of the Central Library. (For those who don't know, I first started working for the library almost 15 years ago at the Central Library. There was scaffolding around the walls to protect us in case the walls came tumbling down. Three months after my hire date, we moved the books et. al. and the building was gutted, made safe, and beautifully renovated.) During that renovation a partial 5th floor was added for meeting rooms and I've seen that plain grey roof quite a few times. That landscape photo above looks out on the roof and the city view from up there. I wish the view were always open to the public, especially now we have the eco-roof.

Public tours are available, sign up here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thanks on Thursday

The cooler fall, sometimes rainy season has arrived. Now I have to remember to wear a jacket (and wear it home from work...sometimes I forget when the late afternoon is warmer). I have to remember to carry my little umbrella...always.

Multimedia message

So this is just a quick note to say how grateful I am for my umbrella that folds up so small. I hardly notice it in my backpack, and it also fits in my jacket pocket. In my quest over the years for the right umbrella, I've found others as small, but they've broken easily during those windy winter rains, turning inside-out. When you don't drive, and carry all your needs for the day on your back and in your pockets, these little things mean a lot.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lisa Mann makes the news

My friend Lisa Mann has come out with a second album. While I'm not one to hawk the local paper, otherwise known as the War-egonian, it does earn some points for featuring her among 4 local blues musicians. It also earns points for going multimedia, something I think papers need to do to survive.

So you can listen to the podcast featuring Lisa among others right here on the Oregonian's website.

Lisa's 2 CDs are available on CDBaby.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Iliad: Books 23-24

Today's the day, going to the discussion. The professor has a page on The Iliad here. In the tradition of my alma mater, I prefer not to read introductions or outside materials beforehand. It's between my brain and the book.

Our professor is Walter Englert. I was curious about what his students would have to say. I take it with a grain of salt.

Book 23: Funeral Games for Patroclus

And when sleep seized him, loosenlng the cares of his heart, being shed in sweetness round about him — for sore weary were his glorious limbs with speeding after Hector unto windy Ilios— [65] then there came to him the spirit of hapless Patroclus, in all things like his very self, in stature and fair eyes and in voice, and in like raiment was he clad withal; and he stood above Achilles' head and spake to him, saying:“Thou sleepest, and hast forgotten me, Achilles. [70] Not in my life wast thou unmindful of me, but now in my death! Bury me with all speed, that I pass within the gates of Hades.
I know he killed person after person who lined up for the privilege, but his efforts hardly compare Ajax, Diomedes, or even Hector, do they? He prophecies Achilles' have several others in the story:
Aye, and thou thyself also, Achilles like to the gods, art doomed to be brought low beneath the wall of the waelthy Trojans. And another thing will I speak, and charge thee, if so be thou wilt hearken. Lay not my bones apart from thine, Achilles, but let them lie together, even as we were reared in your house, [85]
While Achilles would have the dogs eat Hector, but they won't. "Aphrodite daugher of Zeus beat off the packs, day and night, anointing Hector's body with Achilles could not rip the prince's skin as he dragged him back and forth." (Fagles 215)

There's no doubt Patroclus was Achilles' closest companion.
Blaze, Agamemnon's mare, and his own stallion Brightfoot,
Anchises' son Echepolus gave Agamemnon Blaze,
A gift that bought him off from the king's armies. (Fagles 340)
Old as the hills...the rich buying their way out of wars and death. The poor fighting whether they want to or not.

The Games
What a way to have a funeral...honorable and celebratory.
  • Chariot races: Antilochus is the crazy driver. Diomedes wins with a little help from Athena. Menelaus sour at Antilochus, who gives the man his prize, and Mennie gives it back, kiss kiss.
  • Fist fight: Instant knockout. Epeus overf Euryalus
  • Wrestling: Ajax vs Odysseus; Brawn vs Brain; Achilles calls it a tie
  • Foot race: Athena trips Ajax with and into a pile of shit. Odysseus wins. Antilochus last, gets the consolation prize.
  • Full battle gear lance fight: Ajax vs Diomedes. Diomedes wins; friends feared for Ajax.
  • Throwing iron: Polypoetes beats out Ajax, Epeus, Leonteus
  • Archery: Did they pray to the Archer Apollo. No? Teucer, master archer, you lose. Yes? Meriones, you win, piercing the dove in flight.
  • Spear throwing: no contest...Achilles gives it to Agamemnon, 2nd prize to Meriones. Aggie gives the ummm prize to his herald Talthybius.
Book 24: Achilles and Priam

Achilles' treatment for insomnia from grief? Drag Hector's body around.

The gods tell Pram to take a ransom, and Achilles to accept. This happens. Hermes escorts Priam in disguise. Achilles gives Priam 10 days for mourning. For once everything goes as promised. Well. I should note Cassandra on the hill. I seem to recall some legend about her warnings and no one listening. This is all we get here:
She screamed and her scream rang out through all Troy:
"Come, look down, you men of Troy, you Trojan women!
Behold Hector now--if you ever once rejoiced
to see him striding home, home alive from battle!
He was the greatest joy of Troy and all our people!" (Fagles 830)

Hector was dear to Patroclus with Briseis, he looked out for her and smoothed her time among distrustful family (~900)

The Iliad: Books 18-22

Book 18: The Shield of Achilles

[35] Then terribly did Achilles groan aloud, and his queenly mother heard him as she sat in the depths of the sea beside the old man her father. Thereat she uttered a shrill cry, and the goddesses thronged about her, even all the daughters of Nereus that were in the deep of the sea.
Thetis grieves for her son's grief. Her mother's love sees no flaw:
Ah, woe is me unhappy, woe is me that bare to my sorrow the best of men, [55] for after I had borne a son peerless and stalwart, pre-eminent among warriors...
Thetis goes to Hephaestus for armor for her son. Meanwhile Hera urges Achilles to defend and retrieve the dead Patroclus, via Iris the messenger. Iris add her usual colorful embellishment.
Up with you--
no more lying low! Writhe with shame at the thought
Patroclus may be sport for the dogs of Troy! (Fagles 210)
Thetis is welcomed warmly by the Immortal Smith Hephaestus. The shield he forges is amazing, depicting "two noble cities." It is as though he is forging the history and the fate of the warring sides. It all comes down to this, the armor and the man behind the god-made armor. It's as though the metal is alive and you can hear and smell the depicted scenes.
[520] But when they were come to the place where it seemed good unto them to set their ambush, in a river-bed where was a watering-place for all herds alike, there they sate them down, clothed about with flaming bronze....

Therein he set also a vineyard heavily laden with clusters, a vineyard fair and wrought of gold; ...And maidens and youths in childish glee were bearing the honey-sweet fruit in wicker baskets. And in their midst a boy made pleasant music with a clear-toned lyre, [570] and thereto sang sweetly the Linos-song1 with his delicate voice; and his fellows beating the earth in unison therewith followed on with bounding feet mid dance and shoutings.
And he forged the Ocean River's mighty power girdling round the outmost rim of the welded indestructible shield (Fagles 709)
Book 19: The Champion Arms for Battle

Achilles is eager to make war, now that his buddy is killed. He worries the body will rot before he can avenge Patroclus. Thetis assures him she'll keep the body fresh, fresher even. Oh, and now he sees that his petulant withdrawal is only better
for Hector and Hector's Trojans.
Not for the Argives. For years to come, I think,
they will remember the feud that flared between us both.
Enough. Let bygones by bygones. Done is done. (74)
This is Thetis' perfect son. At least he accepts some blame, unlike Agamemnon.
Often the armies brought this matter up against me--
they would revile me in public. But I am not to blame!
Zeus and Fate and the Fury stalking through the night,
they are the ones who drove that savage madness in my heart... (102) we say the devil made me do it. It wasn't me! I couldn't help it!

Now, Achilles would go to war at once, despite the fact that everyone else has been making war all along and needs to eat. So self-involved. "You talk of food? I have no taste for food--" (253)

Finally, we meet Briseis, an interesting passage.
And so Briseis returned, like golden Aphrodite,
but when she saw Patroclus lying torn by the bronze
she flung herself on his body, gave a piercing cry...
But you, Patroclus, you would not let me weep,
not when the swift Achilles cut my husband down,
not when he plundered the lordly Mynes' city--
not even weep! No, again and again you vowed
you'd make me godlike Achilles' lawful, wedded wife...
you were always kind. (356)
Patroclus is the noblest one of all I think. He is the glue that holds people together. He waited on Achilles, like a wife himself. He appeased the connection between Briseis and Achilles. It almost seems as though Achilles convinced himself of feelings for Briseis only due to Patroclus. Later, Achilles mourns for Patroclus as for a wife. Hmmm.

Achilles: I am in a distant land, fighting Trojans,
and all for that blood-chilling Helen! (387)

The horse speaks.
Then from beneath the yoke spake to him the horse Xanthus [Roan Beauty], of the swift-glancing feet; [405] on a sudden he bowed his head, and all his mane streamed from beneath the yoke-pad beside the yoke, and touched the ground; and the goddess, white-armed Hera, gave him speech:1 “Aye verily, yet for this time will we save thee, mighty Achilles, albeit the day of doom is nigh thee, nor shall we be the cause thereof, [410] but a mighty god and overpowering Fate. For it was not through sloth or slackness of ours that the Trojans availed to strip the harness from the shoulders of Patroclus, but one, far the best of gods, even he that fair-haired Leto bare, slew him amid the foremost fighters and gave glory to Hector.
Book 20: Olympian Gods in Arms

Aeneas tells his story. Zeus -> Dardanus -> King Erichthonius
and he was the richest man in all the world--
three thousand mares he owned, grazing the marshes,
brood-mares in their prime, proud of their leaping foals,
And the North Wind, lusting once for the herd at pasture,
taking on the build of a black stallion, mounted several
and swelling under his force they bore him twelve colts (261)
->Tros ->Assaracus -> Capys ->Anchises -> Aeneus
->Tros -> Ganymede...snatched away by the gods
->Tros -> Ilus -> Laomedon -> Priam ->Hector

After his pre-battle speech, Aeneus' lance simply pings off the god-forged shield. He dodges Achilles' spear (320), eventually Poseidon intervenes, sends Aeneus back. This isn't about Aeneus.

It's about Hector vs. Achilles. Apollo gives Hector an advantage.
But Apollo snatched up Hector full easily, as a god may, and shrouded him in thick mist. [445] Thrice then did swift-footed, goodly Achilles heap upon him with spear of bronze, and thrice he smote the thick mist. (Fagles 503)
After a fourth such godly feint, Achilles decides to move on to others, for now.

It's as though they line up for the privilege of getting killed by Achilles.

First he stabbed Dryops. Then Demuchus, then sons of Bias--Laogonus, Dardanus--, then Tros (who crawls begging such thing), next Mulius, next Echeclus, next Deucalion, then Rhigmus, then his driver Areithous.
[490] As through the deep glens of a parched mountainside rageth wondrous-blazing fire, and the deep forest burneth, and the wind as it driveth it on whirleth the flame everywhither, even so raged he everywhither with his spear, like some god, ever pressing hard upon them that he slew; and the black earth ran with blood. (Fagles 559)
Book 21: Achilles Fights the River
(and the gods fight each other)

So Achilles kills and kills and kills. The river god is getting clogged.
"Stop, Achilles!...
...if Zeus allows you to kill off all the Trojans,
drive them out of my depths at least, I ask you,
out on the plain and do your butchery there.
All my lovely rapids are crammed with corpses now,
no channel in sight to sweep my currents out to sacred sea--
I'm choked with corpses and still you slaughter more,
you blot out more! Leave me alone, have done--
captain of armies, I am filled with horror!" (Fagles 250)
Scamander of the river sends killer waves after Achilles. Finally Achilles calls for help from the gods. Poseidon and Athena tell him not to fear. Athena gives advice:
But once you've ripped away Prince Hector's life,
back to the ships you go! We give you glory--
seize it in your hands! (Fagles 336)
Scamander/Xanthus River continues to fight Achilles. Hera sends Hephaestus to battle Xanthus. (389) The river boils with fire. Zeus laughs at all the gods fighting. (443) Ares vs. Athena. Rock beats War. Aphrodite helps Ares. Aphrodite vs. Athena. Poseidon challenges Apollo. Apollo declines to fight. Artemis taunts Apollo. Artemis vs. Hera. Hera boxes her ears. Hermes assures Leto, no fighting, indeed Leto could claim a win.

The Trojans get behind the gates. Apollo sends Prince Agenor to keep Achilles out, but uses his swirls of mist to whisk Agenor away and take his place.

Book 22: The Death of Hector

Once the Trojans were in the gates, "Apollo turned to taunt Achilles. ...You can't kill me--" (15)
Priam would have Hector come inside. His mother would have Hector come inside. Briefly Hector considers bargaining with Achilles. (132) Faced with Achilles, Hector runs and runs and runs. I think, to be fair, Hector has been doing a heck of a lot more fighting than Achilles. Three times they run around the city perimeter.

Athena fights dirty. She bade Achilles wait.
And Athena left him there, caught up with Hector at once,
and taking the build and vibrant voice of Deiphobus
stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him, winging orders:
"Dear brother, how brutally swift Achilles hunts you--
coursing you round the city of Priam in all his lethal speed!
Come, let us stand our ground together--beat him back." (275)
Hector tries to bargain. "Achilles, I will give your body back to your loyal comrades. Swear you'll do the same." (307) After the way he fought over the body of Patroclus? I don't think so.

Achilles throws his spear, Hector ducks, Achilles misses.
--but Athena snatched it up
and passed it back to Achilles
and Hector the gallant captain never saw her. (327)
Now that's just not fair. Hector throws his spear.
and it struck Achilles' shield--a dead-center hit--
but off and away it glanced and Hector seethed,
his hurtling spear, his whole arm's power poured
in a wasted shot. He stood there, cast down...
he had no spear in reserve. So Hector shouted out
to Deiphobus bearing his white shield--with a ringing shout
he called for a heavy lance--
but the man was nowhere near him,
vanished-- (349)
Significant moment. The spear hits the dead center of the shield. The shield contains the whole of the conflict in its making. This would be the heart of the conflict, this moment. It all led up to this. Hector vs. Achilles. Ultimately the gods give Achilles the advantage in that shield.

As Hector wears Achilles' armor, Achilles knows his weak point, the throat. Dying, windpipe intact, Hector begs his body not be given to the dogs. Achilles, no sympathy. "The dogs and birds will rend you--blood and bone."(417) But Hector has the last word:
But now beware, or my curse will draw god's wrath
upon your head, that day when Paris and lord Apollo--
for all your fighting heart--destroy you at the Scaean Gates! (424)
Achilles drags Hectors body. (470) The spectacle goes on and on, but Andromache doesn't know yet. At her loom, heating a bath for Hector, she hears, and drops her shuttle. (517)
"...though we have such stores of clothing laid up in the halls,
fine things, a joy to the eye, the wrok of women's hands.
Now, by god, I'll burn them all, blazing to the skies!
No use to you now, they'll never shroud your body--
but they will be your glory
burned by the Trojan men and women in your honor!"

Her voice rang out in tears and the women wailed in answer. (606)
The men have destroyed each other. The women will destroy their handiwork in their grief.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Health Equity Dialogs

I went to the Report Back sessions resulting from the community dialogs regarding the series Unnatural Causes. Not only was it a report back, we got to vote (15 dots) on those items for action that came out of the dialogs. (I never did end up writing about the final one, but the information was mostly covered in the preceding posts anyway.) The county chair was there. He did raise his hand when they asked "Who saw any of the showings of Unnatural Causes? He said a few words…that he strongly supports the project, that he respected this piece especially (reporting back and getting feedback), and that he saw this as fulfilling a promise. There are two more report back sessions scheduled. (October 11, 28)

They wanted us to know the library has it.

There were 60 screenings, and over 600 people participated. It was often suggested that they continue to do these showings and dialogs. They wanted to increase visibility of the need to work on this issue of equity in health, and these did so. Another of their goals is to advance policy solutions to address health inequities. The report on this will probably be released in December. Oregon is restructuring how Oregonians get health care, and the work of the Health Equity Initiative has had an influence.

I was hoping the summary of the feedback would be on the website, but it doesn't seem to be there.

One of the things they promised they would do is make it as easy as possible for community groups to give showings of the series. I wonder if that could mean that if a community group wanted to use a library meeting room to host showings and dialogs, if this group could use equipment not otherwise available to public groups, such as a DVD projector.

Eastbank Farmers Market

Eastbank Farmers Market

There were many many items we voted on, and it was difficult to vote. Some of my favorites:

  • Fund micro-enterprise and entrepreneurial training that could be linked to empowerment and health promotion with various populations.
  • Give companies tax credits for having employees volunteer which would help offset costs of events such as Potlucks in the Park, a program serving meals to the homeless
  • County programs should establish benchmarks for building community
  • Use public service announcements to raise awareness; use public media campaigns
  • Improve social fabric, safety, and civic engagement of neighborhoods through creative design of affordable housing and co-location of services; building design that encourages community cohesion
  • Ban the marketing and sale of junk food in schools
  • Create incentives to increase access to health food in underserved areas; provide incentives for grocers in low-income neighborhoods to have affordable, healthy food
  • Create more "one-stop shopping" service centers that include County services
  • Work with local farmers to get food to the underserved (I paraphrase)

The Iliad: Books 14-17

Book 14: Hera Outflanks Zeus

(To save time typing I'm using quotes from the Murray translation online, though it's not the one I'm reading. I notice the Fagles version has more wonder it's taking so long to read.)

Clever duplicitous Hera comes up with a plan to give her guys a break from all Zeus' meddling. First, a visit to Aphrodite:

Then with crafty thought spake to her queenly Hera:“Give me now love and desire, wherewith thou art wont to subdue all immortals and mortal men. [200] For I am faring to visit the limits of the all-nurturing earth, and Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung, and mother Tethys, even them that lovingly nursed and cherished me in their halls, when they had taken me from Rhea...
Then, to Sleep, who is reluctant to cross Zeus, but caves quickly for a bribe:
“Come now, swear to me by the inviolable water of Styx, and with one hand lay thou hold of the bounteous earth, and with the other of the shimmering sea, that one and all they may be witnesses betwixt us twain, even the gods that are below with Cronos, [275] that verily thou wilt give me one of the youthful Graces, even Pasithea, that myself I long for all my days.”
You see where this is going...(315)

So Poseidon comes out of his sneaky depths and leads the Argives.

There seems to be a lot of missing of targets going on, but still they get glory because somebody dies.

Book 15: The Achaean Armies at Bay

Zeus is mad, of course. Hera lies, of course.
“Hereto now be Earth my witness and the broad Heaven above, and the down-flowing water of Styx, which is the greatest and most dread oath for the blessed gods, and thine own sacred head, and the couch of us twain, couch of our wedded love, [40] whereby I verily would never forswear myself —not by my will doth Poseidon, the Shaker of Earth, work harm to the Trojans and Hector, and give succour to their foes.
Achilles' bud Patroclus can't stand it anymore. He's got to join the fight, too many are dying. Last chapter, Ajax misses. This chapter, Hector misses Ajax, but kills another.

I keep picturing Vin Diesel, but with wild curly dreaded hair, as Hector.
But Hector all afire,
blazing head to foot, charged at their main force,
bursting down as a wave bursts down on a veering ship,
down from under the clouds it batters, bred by gale-winds--
showers of foam overwhelm the hull, blot it all from sight. (725 Fagles)
Others though, scattered quickly. I just think the poor guys were drafted. Why should they risk their lives for Aggie and Menelaus?

Book 16: Patroclus Fights and Dies

Patroclus begs to battle, and Achilles relents...even gives his friend his armor. But he says don't go all the way to Troy! Of course that is just what Patroclus does. And you know, the book title gives it away...
Three times Patroclus charged the jut of the high wall,
three times Apollo batter the man and hurled him back,
the god's immortal hands beating down on the gleaming shield. (823)
Then Euphorbus, "just learning the arts of war" (941) gets a lucky shot and wounds Patroclus.

Then you know who brings him down. Of course it has to be Hector.
And to him even in his death spake glorious Hector: “Patroclus, wherefore dost thou prophesy for me sheer destruction? [860] Who knows but that Achilles, the son of fair-tressed Thetis, may first be smitten by my spear, and lose his life?” So saying, he drew forth the spear of bronze from the wound, setting his foot upon the dead, and thrust him backward from the spear.
Fagles says "brazen spear" and for the first time I noticed that phallic stuff. No doubt it's been there all along, but this one really brought it home.

Book 17: Menelaus' Finest Hour

More battles over Patroclus' body. The Trojans want the coup, the Achaeans want the respect and honor. Euphorbus exaggerates his accomplishment, taunting Menelaus. Of course when he tries for Mene, "full center, not battering through--the brazen point bent back in the tough armor."(49) (Not such a tough phallus there.)

Did Thetis manipulate Achilles, or did she truly not know that Patroclus would die? If said previously, I don't remember.
Achilles never dreamed Patroclus would storm all Troy
without him, not even with him. No, time and again
his mother Thetis told him this was not to be,
she told him alone, in secret...
always bringing word of might Zeus's plans,
but not this time. (476)
Achilles' horses wept for their lost driver. (493) Immortal horses grieve.

Pallas Athena gives Menelaus his finest hour.
And the first one she roused was Atreus' son...
Hold on, full force--spur all our men to battle."(636)
...With such raw daring she filled his dark heart
and he bestrode Patroclus, flung a gleaming spear..
and there was a Trojan...(653)
Dark heart. Hmmm. Wonder what that means.

The battle still isn't over; they haven't quite got the body back to the ships yet.

These battles seem to go on forever.

Thanks on Thur...I mean Saturday

I'm so busy trying to finish The Iliad that I missed this...and it's only the second week of my intention.

It goes without saying that I am grateful for Buddhism coming to America, and for my Zen Center. One of the reasons I'm so behind on my reading is that I finished the last paper I intended to... on Dogen. And this week I am grateful for Dogen. You have to read Dogen with a combination of intellectual curiosity, and the willingness to suspend all you think you know.

The crux of the matter that makes me so grateful to Dogen is this:
"It is difficult to investigate this life of ours or to thoroughly comprehend it. Is it life, or is it not life? Is it old age, or is it not old age? In accordance with different viewpoints, they are not at all identical, and the viewpoints themselves differ according to the individual's environment and abilities. If you want to understand such things, be determined and diligent in your practice. You should understand that life and death in their true form exist only within your own practice, and that your diligent practice does not exist within life and death." (Cook p 181)

and perhaps it is the crux of my paper. I don't know, perhaps I just blathered on. My other papers, my teacher liked. This one, different teacher, different material, I don't know.

Writing that paper, I opened to the understanding that it is continuous practice which sustains my life.

What is continuous practice, you ask? I have a workplace friend who is from Peru and a conservative Catholic. He told me he'd been doing a particular spiritual practice while he was working; he didn't think I'd understand. I understood perfectly.

It is possible to keep your mind focused throughout the day on a particular spiritual practice. It is also possible to have this spiritual hum just always be there at the base of your being. These are kind of pointing to continuous practice.

But what that last line means in the above quote is that it's not something that you do, it's something that does you. It is the emptiness (shunyata) through which all changes are possible, and everything changes. Let's not confuse this with God, though, mkay?

My favorite at this moment in time from Dogen's Gyoji:
This present moment of continuous practice should be engraved on your hearts as something to be greatly prized. Do not think that this silence is useless and empty. (Cook p. 186) Ceaseless practice is the one monastery that we enter, the one monastery that we emerge from, the one monastery that is the path left by flying birds, and the one monastery that is the whole universe. (Nearman pdf p 411)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Iliad: Books 8-13

Another St. John's alumn shares the information that the Fagles translation I'm reading is "rather free," while the more recent version by Rodney Merrill is more accurate. (Which is what we said about Fitzgerald and Lattimore in the 80s.) He said the most accurate version is the revised loeb, and the original loeb (I'm presuming not quite as accurate) can be found here. He even gave me an interlinear translation (my two years of Greek are long vanished from my brain) here.

(woo, now I can link to the book...though not the same translation I'm reading.)

Book 8: The Tide of Battle Turns
I think football coaches must read this as a training manual:

And King Agamemnon, thrilled at the sight of Teucer
whipping arrows off his bow, reaping the Trojan ranks,
strode up and sang his praises: "Teucer, lovely soldier,
Telamon's son, pride of the armies--now you're shooting!" (321)
Athena now thinks Zeus hates her, doesn't think much of his response to Thetis, but knows she'll be daddy's girl again.
...He fulfills the plans of Thetis
who cupped his chin in her hand and kissed his knees,
begging Zeus to exalt Achilles scourge of cities.
But the day will come when Father, well I know, calls me his darling gray-eyed girl again. (427)
Zeus sends Iris with a message for Hera and Athena, who delivers the message nearly verbatim. She just tacks some choice name-calling at the end.
Here is Father's threat--he will fulfill it too:
he'll maim your racers for you,
...he'll hurl you from your chariots, smash your car,
...and not once in the course of ten slow wheeling years
will you heal the wounds his lightning bolt rips open!
you insolent brazen bitch--you really dare
to shake that monstrous spear in Father's face?" (487)
Book 9: The Embassy to Achilles

Aggie would have them turn around and scuttle home.
The swaggering Diomedes has a few choice words.
Spare me your anger. My courage--
mine was the first you mocked among the Argives,
branding me a coward, a poor soldier. Yes, well,
they know all about that, the Argives young and old.
But you--the son of Cronus with Cronus' twisting ways
gave you gifts by halves: with that royal scepter
the Father gave you honor beyond all other men alive
but he never gave you courage, the greatest power of all. (45)
I remember that, Aggie rallying the troops to greater fervor by telling them what pussies they were. See what that gets him? Interesting insight,"gifts by halves."

Nestor scolds Agamemnon for seizing Achilles' gift of honor, and counsels setting it right. Aggie confesses, blaming his own rage. (143) I dunno about that, I seem to recall he felt he should have booty as he was king, even though it meant taking someone else's. It didn't seem to be about anger. Aggie attempts to appear gracious, offering loads of riches, girls, and even Briseis, the point of contention. Yet he still thinks he's justified in feeling aggrieved:
All this--
I would extend to him if he will end his anger.
Let him submit to me! Only the god of death
is so relentless, Death submits to no one--
so mortals hate him most of all the gods.
Let him bow down to me! I am the greater king,
I am the elder-born, I claim--the greater man. (193)
Achilles won't be bought, or fooled again:
He cheated me, did me damage, wrong! But never again,
he'll never rob me blind with his twisting words again! (459)
Book 10: Marauding Through the Night

They keep saying Hector is Zeus' favorite. So it appears to them. Nestor may have a clue:
Oh I think he'll have his troubles to shoulder,
plenty of them too, if Achilles ever turns away
from the heartbreaking anger deep inside him. (125)
Nestor has the ideas. Why not infiltrate the enemy camp, find out what they're doing?
Diomedes is the guy, and he gets to pick his guy, who of course is Odysseus. You always want the wily one....err...tactician...for your stealth projects.

Meanwhile, back at the fort, Hector has the same idea, but it is a neophyte who volunteers. No fair.
they sprang in pursuit
as a pair of rip-tooth hounds
bred for the hunt and flushing fawn or hare. (422)
No fair match at all. I so do not like Diomedes for killing him after getting the intel he wants. But, I suppose, all's fair etc. So the two heroes slaughter the Thracians left vulnerable by the would-be spy's information. They have more horses and gear now.

Book 11: Agamemnon's Day of Glory

Fighting fighting fighting yada yada yada. Zeus schemes to make Hector more glorious, sending Iris with strategy:
So long as he sees lord marshal Agamemnon storming
among the champions, mowing columns down in blood,
Hector must hold back, command the rest of his men
to fight the enemy, stand their headlong charge.
But soon as a spear or bowshot wounds the king
and Atrides mounts his chariot once again,
then I will hand Hector the power to kill and kill
till he cuts his way to the benched ships and the sun sinks
and the blessed darkness sweeps across the earth. (227)
So the bigger the hero that Achilles eventually kills, the greater Achilles' glory? I'm not sure I buy it. Achilles has been a whiny brat. I doubt that will be erased from my mind when he has his big moment.

Hardly more than a boy, Iphidamas is killed:
And there he dropped and slept the sleep of bronze,
poor soldier...far from his wedded wife, his new bride...
No joy had he known from her .... (282)
(That's just wrong.) His brother Coon would avenge his death. He has the honors of drawing Agamemnon's blood that brings Hector back into the fight, but Aggie promptly kills him too.

All the manly men despise Paris, but I like him. He likes the ladies, and I don't like the guys who have to get into the thick of a fight. He is an archer, and thus likes to do battle at a distance. He wings Diomedes. OK, he doesn't have to gloat though. "Now you're hit--no wasted shot, my winging arrow!" (447) Diomedes calls it a scratch, but then pulls it out and then "the raw pain went stabbing through his flesh. (470)

Later, Odysseus is wounded, which just seems to make him an angry bear, and kills the man. He too pulled out the offending spear and weakens himself. ~530 Vivid imagery of the Trojans as jackals surrounding wounded prey, and Ajax pouncing in like a lion, causing them to scatter in panic ~560.

Meanwhile, Achilles gloats at the wounded. He wants Aggie to beg.
" I think they will grovel at my knees,
our Achaen comrades begging for their lives. (720)
Nestor complains about the pettiness of Achilles and then goes on and on and on...and on about his past glories. It's about how many battles won, chariots won, etc. He says, "This Achilles--
he'll reap the rewards of that great courage of his alone, I tell you... (910)

He goes on some more, hoping at least Patroclus will join the battle. Patroclus is indeed moved to view the battle, and to clean Eurypylus' wound.

Book 12: The Trojans Storm the Rampart

Suddenly, we get great detail of this great trench and rampart the Achaens have built to protect their ships. Too wide and deep for chariots and horse to cross, with spikes at the other side, and a space too narrow next to the wall for chariots. Yet Hector would push through someway or somehow. His buddy Polydamas convinces him to leave the chariots and drivers behind.
So come, do as I say, and let us all unite.
Drivers, rein your horses hard by the trench--
the men themselves, armed for assault on foot,
we all follow Hector, all in a mass attack.
And the Argives? They cannot hold their line,
not if the ropes of death are knotted round their necks! (96)
Again Polydamas counsels caution, but this time Hector chooses otherwise:
All will end as the omen says, I do believe,
if the bird-sign really came to us, the Trojans,
just as our fighters tried to cross the trench.
That eagle flying high on the left across our front,
clutching this bloody serpent in both its talons,
still alive--but he let the monster drop at once,
before he could sweep it back to his own home...
he never fed his nestlings in the end.
Nor will we. (257)
Hector: You tell me to forget the plans of storming Zeus,
all he promised me when he nodded in assent? (273)
Can you pick and choose your omens? Indeed Hector breaks through. This would be quite the sight.
Hector hurled at the gates, full center, smashing the hinges left and right and the boulder tore through, ...and Hector burst through in glory, his face dark as the sudden rushing night but he blazed on in bronze and terrible fire broke from the gear that wrapped his body, two spears in his fists. (540)
Book 13: Battling for the Ships

Hoo. Poseidon gets involved. "...and filled their hearts with strength and striking force." (75)
Ajax feels the rush first. Imagine being hopped up with the forces of the sea and earthquakes. Hector has stormed the gate, yet Achilles still holds himself aloof. Hoo boy. Ajax beats Hector back. Hoo again. Poseidon is pissed off. His grandson (Imbrius? I need some charts.) is killed.

Idomeneus and Meriones compare fighting styles. I wonder if they are all talk?
Meriones: Though I never forget my courage I can tell you-- not I, there at the front where we win glory, there I take my stand whenever a pitched battle rears its head. (320)
Idomeneus: If we all formed up along the ships right now, our best men picked for an ambush-- that's where you really spot a fighter's mettle, where the brave and craven always show their stripes. (328)
Poseidon is crafty.
Both were gods of the same line, a single father, but Zeus was the elder-born and Zeus knew more. And so Poseidon shrank from defending allies out in the open--all in secret, always armed like a man the god kept urging armies on. Both gods knotted the rope of strife and leveling war, strangling both sides at once by stretching the mighty cable, never broken, never slipped, that snapped the knees of thousands. (419)
I guess Meriones was no braggart:
And back he shrank to his cohorts, dodging death but hounding him as he went Meriones speared him between the genitals and the navel--hideous wond, the worst the god of battles deals to wretched men. (658)
Again Polydamas has the plan...draw back...and Hector listens. They find Paris, and Hector assumes the worst.
"Paris, appalling Paris! Our prince of beauty-- mad for women, you lure them all to ruin! (889)
Paris retorts: At other times I might have shrunk from the fighting, true, but not today. Mother bore me--even me-- not to be a coward through and through. Think, since you fired our comrades' fury against the ships, from that hour we've held our ground right here, taking the Argives on, and nonstop, no rest. (902)