Sunday, October 05, 2008

No Joy in Mudville


In the twilight of summer
on buttered bread
and the sand
which is stuck
between toes
in ears
and clumsily washed hands
strikes suddenly
in the middle of that soft sticky bite
boulder against molar
silent ringing
a radio switched off


Slide open that door
and greeted by must
reaching up
to jumbled pieces in a box buckling
I am the shoe
the worn brown loafer
step right in
and walk all over


Head hung low
brittle leaves crackling
skipping stones
when the sun is setting
time to lumber in
raising shoulders to ears
the wind blows cold
2% milk


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Open Letters

Dear Blogosphere,

Will you shield me from harm in this menacing electronic ether? In Illinois we have a Blagosphere that, so far, has protected the governor from being indicted.

Dear Pundits,

Please keep your distance. You sound like a slur or a rash I do not want to have.

Dear Comedy,

Why are you so hilarious? Have you guys seen comedy? It's sooooo funny.

Dear Politics,

You are local. I am proud that you made it to the national stage. Please don't let it get to your head.

Dear Whiffle Ball,

Old friend, the sad thing is, you are probably a registered trademark.

Dear Rumble in the Bronx,

You can't fool me. I see your Canadian mountain range.

Dear "Zazz Bash" Attendee,

Please enjoy the enclosed coupons that offer valuable discounts to select local businesses. Your "Zazz Bash '94" T-shirt is also enclosed. We guessed you were an XL. Please don't be offended. Hey, are you crying? Stop crying! Go in the bathroom and wash those tears away! Who's going to want to date a 37-year-old cry baby? C'mon, I think there's some lip balm in here somewhere. Donated by Walgreens. Peppermint flavored so you don't even need to brush you teeth! Your general mouth area will be gently masked by a waxy layer of mint-like freshness. Believe me, you're going to do so much smooching, you'll want a second stick of lip balm. Luckily, there's probably a coupon for it in here somewhere... When you arrive, please proceed to the check-point to pick up your ID-badge. You also will be assigned your security clearance level at this time. APPROACHING ZAZZ HIMSELF IS NOT PERMITTED WITHOUT SECURITY CLEARANCE ALPHA. We assure you that there will be enough alcohol on hand to make you feel more comfortable and less awkward as you mingle with the other singles, then more and more awkward and less comfortable as the night progresses until you collapse into a ball of drunken loneliness at the end of the evening. Enjoy Zazz Bash '94! You just have to get through one case of the Mondays, hop over Hump Day and slide on over to Zazz Bash on Saturday night. Remember, your success is Zazz's success. DO NOT FAIL HIM. See you Saturday!

Dear David Foster Wallace,

Way to kill yourself, genius.

Dear Journalistic Credibility,

Way to kill yourself, genius.

Dear Brutus, Romeo, Juliet, Guest Star on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and Socrates,

Way to kill yourselves, geniuses.

Dear Ceasar,

I bet you never thought that people would render salad dressing unto you.

Dear Superhero,

Is it really better to allow, through your inaction, your enemy to be impaled on a spike as he is hurtled from an out-of-control speeding train than to murder him with your own bare hands?

Dear Ubiquitous Observer,

None of the kids will play with me at school. Can you teach me how to conform to their wills so that I lose my identity?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Seventeen-year-old returning home

Amelia S., mentioned in the previous post, is returning home!

Check out Catholic Peace Fellowship for the whole story.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Seventeen and forced to bootcamp

As people like Cindy Sheehan can attest, military recruiters across the country may coerce and deceive young people and their families to meet recruitment goals for our increasingly stretched military. In the depressed Michiana region, the Indiana National Guard regularly threatens arrest to young disadvantaged people who have changed their minds after signing up to make a little extra cash and get themselves out of poverty. Sometimes the Indiana Guard will show up in the middle of the night to take these young people from their homes.

Amelia S. is one of these young people. Seventeen years old, she lives with her grandmother in East Chicago, IN. She participated in drills at the South Bend Armory, but decided she wanted to stay in school and go on to college. Recently, a doctor diagnosed her with clinical depression, which according to Army Regulation 40-501 2-27.d, is a disqualifying medical condition. She notified her superior officers of her diagnosis and intent to withdraw from her training. But that didn't stop Sgt. Ramiro of Hammond, IN, who picked Amelia up in the early hours of Tuesday, June 3 and brought her to Camp Atterbury, outside of Indianapolis.

The local news media (including the Chicago media) have not covered this story, perhaps seeing it as just a poor African-American girl with the unremarkable problems of a poor African-American girl in a poor town in Northwest Indiana. Amelia's town, East Chicago, just this week lost another manufacturing plant and nearly 450 jobs. Ironically, most of the jobs lost were union, and Union Tank Car Co. will now produce its products with non-union labor at facilities in Texas and Louisiana.

Maybe the local media thinks in a town like East Chicago, it would be silly for a girl in Amelia's situation to turn down the opportunity for a military career.

But Amelia has decided she wants out. She wants to finish high school, and thanks to the Indiana National Guard, she may flunk out of her junior year.

Amelia's story is just one of many that is not being told about our "all-volunteer armed forces."

You can read more about Amelia's story here:

Sources: Catholic Peace Fellowship, Chicago Tribune

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Troubling Rise of "Dollar Menu-naires"

McDonald's chief: Menu calorie rules are 'flawed'

McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner took a jab Sunday at regulatory efforts to force calorie counts onto restaurant menus, and told those gathered at a restaurant industry trade show that they are facing a "perfect storm" of challenges...

With growing regulatory mandates, a slack economy, soaring commodity costs and increasing labor-related issues, "it's a perfect storm," Skinner said. "I don't have to tell you that times are tough."

So Jim Skinner doesn't "have to tell you that times are tough"? Boo-Hoo! I haven't experienced such ill-advised belly-aching since I had the new number 8 meal—with two apple pies (only $1!)—for dessert.

Something tells me that in these rough economic times, we may have more "Dollar Menu-naires" than ever. Poor folks buy food at McDonald's and other fast food joints because it's cheap and quick. And they can't afford to make good food consumption decisions, even if they have the tools and the education to know how to make those good decisions.

Our public schools and harsh socio-economic conditions have failed to prepare the poor to succeed. I would be interested to take a poll of McDonald's customers in a poor community to see how many of them know what trans fat means, what saturated fat is, what fiber is, etc. I'd also like to see how many of them have a bank account, know how auto loans work, know how to balance a household budget, and know how to save or invest for the future. I'd like to know how many people reading this post even know. Did you learn those things in school? I sure didn't. Luckily I had wise family members and friends to get me started understanding such things.

How many poor neighborhoods even have easy access to cheap fresh produce? And how many poor people have had a stable enough home environment to even learn how to prepare healthy foods?

We are very lucky in this country that on average, U.S. households spend 12.8% of their income on food accoding to the most recent data ("Consumer Expenditures in 2005," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Page 4), which means we have some of the cheapest and most abundant food in the world. But we have a woeful record when it comes to lifting up our less fortunate neighbors and giving them a shot at the good lives some of us have. More than 10% of American households suffer from low or very low food security ("Household Food Security in the United States, 2006 / ERR-49," Economic Research Service/USDA, Page 4).

It's not all McDonald's fault. It's not all the poor's fault. It's not all the government's fault.

I get sick when the proud individualism of our citizens turns into a callousness that borders on outright hostility to the poor. Whether you believe it's the government or the "evil" corporations or the churches or the secular-humanist nonprofit organizations or the poor themselves that should be responsible for helping the poor is irrelevant. We need comprehensive solutions to help our struggling brothers and sisters.

Most of all we need to have a heart.

As Dan Gibbons, executive director of the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, recently said in an AP story, "The bottom line is, a mother trying to feed her kids is not really picky about what she puts in their bellies. She just wants them full."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Don't need no more lies

Won't need no shadow man
Runnin' the government
Won't need no stinkin' war!

There is new powerful anti-war music from Neil Young streaming now at, a new album called Living With War.

You should listen.

It is angry. It is truth-telling. It is very very good.

He recorded and wrote this new album in just a few weeks. Wrote some songs and recorded them that very day.

This is powerful art, very much in the moment. Raw and fresh, and not in the Subway sandwich kind of fresh. We're talking organic peppers pulled right from the dirt.

This is not some bogus dude at a peace rally who can't play the guitar. Nor is it Paul-McCartney-Ewok-Victory-Song-Garbage.

Neil Young just produced a protest album like Kirk Hinrich's long three-pointer at the end of the Bulls-Heat game this afternoon. With a minute left, Hinrich lofted a three from way behind the line that deflated the Heat. The dependably superlative-happy Bill Walton said Hinrich is now well on his way to superstar status. Whether that's true or not, Hinrich and the Bulls made their opponents look like idiots toady. Which is exactly what Neil Young has done.

And right now, it sucks to be the other guys.

(Also, check out the Living With War blog.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wash your stinkin' hands

The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago has seen an outbreak of Norovirus in 11 area hospitals and nursing homes. For those who don't know, Noroviruses are nasty bugs that cause "severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting." You might have heard them called "stomach flu." Fun stuff.

The best way to stop Norovirus is to wash your hands. But not even healthcare personnel do so more than half the time:

In most surveys of handwashing adherence, in various patient-care settings, personnel have practiced appropriate hand hygiene in only 25% to 50% of opportunities.

(Weinstein, 2001)

Now why don't these people wash their hands? It's time consuming: "Up to 90 minutes per work shift if performed as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)" (Ibid).

But that shouldn't stop the rest of us. Washing your hands for about 30 seconds (try singing "Happy Birthday to You" in your head) with soap and warm water after using the restroom or handling food can halt the spread of some nasty major diseases.

Our neighbors in Toronto got the message after a major SARS outbreak. In August 2003, 95% of men and 97% of women at Toronto International Airport washed their hands after using the restroom. (American Society for Microbiology, 2003)

The compliance at O'Hare Airport for the same time period? Only 62% of men and 85% of women (Ibid). Gross. Seriously, that's totally gross, guys.

That means 38% of guys at O'Hare are walking around with dirty hands.

Think about it: That is a serious breach of Homeland Security against biological agents.

And also yucky.