07 June 2012

If we listened to our intellect, 
we'd never have a love affair. We'd 
never have a friendship. We'd never 
go into business, because we'd be 
cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've 
got to jump off cliffs all the time and 
build your wings on the way down.
   - Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
August 22, 1920 – June 6, 2012

(includes story collections, novels, verse, plays)
1947 – Dark Carnival
1950 – The Martian Chronicles
1951 – The Illustrated Man
1953 – The Golden Apples of the Sun, Fahrenheit 451
1955 – Switch on the Night, The October Country
1957 – Dandelion Wine
1959 – A Medicine for Melancholy (UK title, The Day it Rained Forever)
1962 – Something Wicked This Way Comes; “R” is for Rocket
1963 – The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics
1964 – The Machineries of Joy
1965 – The Vintage Bradbury
1966 – Twice 22; “S” is for Space
1969 – I Sing the Body Electric!
1972 – The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays; The Halloween Tree
1973 – When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
1975 – Pillar of Fire and Other Plays
1976 – Long After Midnight
1977 – Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns
1978 – The Mummies of Guanajuato
1979 – This Attic Where the Meadow Greens
1980 – The Last Circus & The Electrocution; The Stories of Ray Bradbury
1981 – The Ghosts of Forever; The Haunted Computer and the Android Pope
1982 – The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury; The Love Affair
1983 – Dinosaur Tales
1984 – A Memory of Murder; Death is a Lonely Business
1987 – Death Has Lost its Charm for Me; Ray Bradbury; Fever Dream
1988 – The Toynbee Convector
1989 – The Climate of Palettes; Zen in the Art of Writing
1990 – A Graveyard for Lunatics
1991 – Ray Bradbury on Stage; Yestermorrow
1992 – Green Shadows, White Whale
1996 – Quicker than the Eye
1997 – Driving Blind; With Cat for Comforter; Dogs Think That Every Day is Christmas
1998 – Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines
2001 – A Chapbook for Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis and Ministers; From the Dust Returned
2002 – One More for the Road
2003 – Bradbury Stories
2004 – Let’s All Kill Constance; The Cat’s Pajamas
2005 – Bradbury Speaks
2006 – The Homecoming; Farewell Summer
2007 – Now and Forever

When Bradbury turned 80 years old in 2000, he said, "The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you'll come along."

I went along, Ray, and I have to say, it was a glorious, thrilling ride from beginning to end. You taught me a lot about life, and a lot about writing.

Excuse me. I’m going to have a glass of dandelion wine in Ray’s memory.

05 June 2012

“None so blind as those that will not see."
   - Matthew Henry, Presbyterian minister and writer

The war against women in the United States can’t continue without a few casualties. 

Among them, Jay Townsend, former spokesperson for Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY), who just this past week unleashed a nationwide firestorm of criticism when he wrote a Facebook comment that suggested an act of terrorism be perpetrated on female Democratic senators. A lot has been written about Mr. Townsend’s comment since he penned it, with thousands of people weighing in on what actions might be necessary as a result. On the Huffington Post, though, commenter “mtomasic” did a good job of laying out the timeline in response to the story:
1. Saturday, June 26 - "hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector."
2. Friday, June 1 - "Townsend issued the apology two days after Hayworth's campaign put out a statement calling the uproar over the comments a 'manufactured controversy.'
3. Sunday, June 3 - "I posted a stupid, thoughtless, and insensitive comment on a facebook page. It was stupid because my words were easily misconstrued; thoughtless because my choice of words obscured a point I was trying to make, and insensitive because some have interpreted the comment as advocating a violent act."
4. Monday, June 4 - "A statement from Hayworth's campaign was posted online. "Jay Townsend has offered, and I have accepted, his resignation from his position with my campaign," it read. "Now let’s return to talking about issues that really matter to families: job creation, spending restraint and economic development."
In summary, "hurl acid at female, Democratic Senators" is a manufactured controversy, that was stupid, thoughtless and insensitive, but didn't cost him his job, nor was it serious until ten days later - now let's return to the issues - stupid, thoughtless, insensitive female, Democratic Senators.

There are a few things that bother me about this whole “manufactured controversy.” 

First, since when does an opthalmologist (Hayworth’s actual profession when she’s not busy being a Tea Party tool), stand for talk about an act that usually blinds its victims? You’d think that with her education and training in the field, she’d have been outraged even by the mere suggestion of “hurling acid” at anyone, knowing what the outcome could be, wouldn’t you?

Second, why wasn’t Jay Townsend immediately arrested by federal officers after the offending comment came to light? According to Cornell’s Law School, statute 18 USC 115 prohibits anyone from threatening an elected official with physical harm over a political disagreement. The statute reads: “Whoever— … (B) threatens to assault, kidnap, or murder, a United States official, a United States judge, a Federal law enforcement officer, or an official whose killing would be a crime under such section, with intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with such official, judge, or law enforcement officer while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with intent to retaliate against such official, judge, or law enforcement officer on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished…” Can it get any clearer? Last I knew, female Democratic senators were United States officials.

Third, who actually believes that Townsend’s apology is genuine? When apologies get made, they typically don’t make excuses. The purpose of an apology is to exhibit contrition and remorse -- as in, say, “I’m sorry for what I did, and I beg your forgiveness.” Instead, Townsend serves up a tasty mash of, “I was stupid (because you’re not smart enough to understand what I wrote); "I was thoughtless" (because I’m not smart enough to stay focused on what I was trying to say instead of grand-standing); "I was insensitive" (because some of you are too literal-minded).”

Worse, he never actually manages to cough up an apology to the female Democratic senators, in whose faces said putative acid would be hurled.

And fourth, does it bother anyone besides me that Hayworth didn’t fire Townsend’s sorry behind the minute she read those offending, hateful words of his? In fact, Townsend remained on the payroll for ten, TEN, days after this came to light. In the end, Hayworth didn’t fire him, either – he resigned, and she accepted his resignation.

Hayworth has now asked her constituents and critics to set the matter aside, and “get back to the business” of paying attention to what’s important. Forgive me, but at this point, I don’t thing there is anything more important than clearing the halls of Congress of every person who exhibits traits of misogyny or endorses hate crimes.

It's up to us, the mothers, daughters, sisters and friends of the women in this nation, to spread the word – and vote them out. These people are not the “lesser” evil, believe me.

Excuse me. I have to take a hard look with clear, unburned eyes at all the people who are likely to show up on November’s ballot. I hope you will, too.


04 June 2012

No person in the world ever lost 
anything by being nice to me.
    - Lillie Langtry

What has happened to good manners? Yesterday, I responded with a private email to an online advertisement that offered a free item. I expressed my desire to take ownership, and asked for the address of where I might pick it up. I began with, "I read your post. May I please...," made my request, and ended with, "Thank you."

The free item in question was nice, so I've no doubt other people inquired after it, too. This morning, I checked my email for a reply. Nothing. I went to the website, and sure enough, the posting was deleted by the owner. Although I missed the item, what I miss even more is the courtesy of a simple "It's been claimed" in response to my inquiry.

I'm not sure when we stopped feeling it necessary to follow the most basic rules of social conduct. Make eye contact and acknowledge people you pass on the street. Don't interrupt or ignore people when they are talking to you. Offer your seat to a person who is not as robust or healthy as you are. Hold doors open for people who have their arms full. Say "please" and "thank you." Address elders as "Sir" and "Ma'am." Reply in kind to notes and letters that others send to you. Respect others, and maintain personal decorum. Extend courtesy and kindness at every opportunity. Obey the Golden Rule.

I remember the lessons. I remember that on each occasion when I failed to measure up, people who cared about me gave me reminders about where I'd fallen short -- some more stern than others -- and cautions that poor manners and disregard of others wouldn't get me very far in life. Peace in a community is based always in a willingness to conform to the norms of the society, especially when the norms reflect harmony and graciousness.

It's as if we've decided that we don't need to be nice to one another. We don't need to be polite. We don't need to be friendly or welcoming. We have the right to do just as we please, irrespective of anyone else's expectations or needs. When people reach out to us, we dismiss them, out of hand.

Excuse me. I need to send out a pile of personal thank you notes to people whose courtesy toward me has been greatly appreciated.