Shake the Dust

Sometimes beauty hides in the magic of a URL. The nearly indecipherable strings of letters and numbers that only make sense when fed into a machine.

Anis Mojgani performs Shake the Dust at HEAVY AND LIGHT

Sometimes beauty hides in the magic of a URL. The nearly indecipherable strings of letters and numbers that only make sense when fed into a machine. But the code and the sound and the light the machine spits back is pure beauty. Pure magic. Pure love.

And sometimes this gift is delivered with the simple chime of the arrival of a new text message. Cutting through haze and blur of just another day. Landing like a burning ember, glowing red hot, right in the crotch of our day causing us to jump and slap wildly, dancing, flailing.  Trying in vain to maintain the shroud of an ordinary day.

The spark sets us alight. And for a few minutes, as the flames consume us, feeding off the tinder we pull over ourselves to keep out the cold, we can see in the light a different world. A place flickering with hope. Shining with love. Radiant with life.

Shake the Dust came to me today. Sent unheralded, unannounced. A flaming cannonball shot over my wall. And my kingdom is ablaze.

May the fire spread to your heart. The amazing and incomparable Anis Mojgani.

I’m Voting Republican…

I’m voting Republican because the faster we run this country into the ground, the faster we can build it back up properly.

On second thought. Nah. That’s not even funny. Sticking a gun in my mouth isn’t going to get anything accomplished. But it is funny to watch this classic 2008 election video and sad how it has gotten worse…

Dinosaurs Among Us

Standing over the makings of a new compost pile,
hose in hand,
I was surprised to see a little head pop up.
Tiny nose, whiskers, beady eyes emerged
surprised by the unrequested bath (soaking really)
disturbed from its nest.
Out popped a mouse from the jumble of wood shavings,
pulled weeds, branches, leaves.
Apparently a home.
And then another. And another. And another. And another.
Like furry popcorn dashing out of the pile, wet and quivering
and in need of a new place to rest, to hide, to build a nest.

For want of a cat I turned, hose in hand, toward the house
and called,
“Come here dogs. Come get some treats! Animas. Piedra. Come!”
The black dog and the yellow dog looked up from their resting spots
in the shade of the porch, ears back, squinty eyes,
tails wagging in short, nervous sweeps.
Unmoving.
“Come on girls! I have some treats for you!”
They eyed me and the hose and my excited voice,
and turned and slunk up the back steps into the house
sure of a soaking.
“Animas! Piedra! Come! Treats! Damn dogs.”

“Useless dogs. Where am I going to find a cat?”
And soon. Two turned to ten turned to twenty with me standing over them
with my cold, drowning eviction notice drenching the neighborhood
turning them out on the town.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of our black australorp nearby.
“Here chick, chick, chick.”
She wandered toward me in her attentive, waddley way.
And noticed a mouse.
In feathery flash she was on the evictee, grabbed it in her beak,
smashed it to the ground a few times, stood up tall with the carcass dangling,
walked a few proud steps and swallowed it whole.
Just the tip of the tail sticking out of her mouth as the only reminder it had every existed
and then it was gone.

Goldie Hen Helps

In moments, the rest of the flock arrived,
heads low and stretched out in front of them, wings out to their sides with their powerful legs
driving them like a squadron of fighters on a strafing run.
And in a few seconds nine more mice became nothing more than tail tips between cruel beaks.
But the flood continued and so did the evacuees.
The hens were ready.
They hunted in teams. Some would pair up and push mice to one another.
Other battlefield tactics emerged.
I saw flanking formations, pressure lines, pincer movements.
Some would flush while others killed and when the killers consumed they flushed for the others.
One of the silver laced wyandottes was especially good at knocking off the mice
that tried to escape by climbing a piece of fence. I saw her do it at least three times
while her killing partner, Raggedy Anne a disheveled araucana, pounced on the fallen mice.

I lost track counting in those ten or fifteen minutes. More than fifty young mice,
damp victims of a soggy eviction were greeted by ten hens
without a survivor.
Like falling out of a boat into a shark feeding frenzy,
crawling out of your overturned jeep and being met by a pack of velociraptors
or getting kicked out of your home and running into a pack of loan collectors,
bankers and debt repayment officers.
There are dinosaurs among us. They didn’t die out.
We pluck them and grill them or fry them. We collect their eggs and eat them scrambled, over easy,
hard boiled or deviled.
Too bad bankers aren’t as useful or delicious.

Support Makes the Difference

The difference between the Apollo 13 space capsule and the technical marvels that we carry around in our pockets, wear on our wrists or strap to our bikes is often held up in amazement as a yardstick to measure how advanced we are, but the real difference between our modern gadgets and the tiny capsule we flung around the moon isn’t in the silicon. Its the people behind the technology that make the real difference. These technically marvelleous devices that are now almost commonplace in today’s 21st world offer a dizzying spectrum of features and possibilities, but often lack a critically important feature; support.

Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 500 Super Cycling Computer (when it works)

I recently purchased a new cycling computer from leading GPS maker, Garmin. The Edge 500 is a compact and stunningly svelt blue and grey device that packs a bewildering number of features into its two inch by two and a half inch, two ounce rectangle. It can track your timing, speed, distance and cadence like most cycling computers, but since it also has a GPS inside it also provides detailed information on position, elevation and progress on a course. The stream of data doesn’t stop there. This little super cycling computer also monitors heart rate, temperature and how many calories you are expending as you spin those wheels. With a relatively large display and three pages of information available, the computer can display all the above information at once as well as all the derivative data like average speed, climbing rate, max heart rate and even how much power you are exerting. All this information from a wonder of a device that attaches to the handlebars of your bike and can also sync with your computer for seemingly endless analysis and planning. We certainly live in the rocket age and the only shortcoming seems to be the human side of these devices.
Continue reading “Support Makes the Difference”

Staring into the Eyes of the Universe

The eyes of the man facing me opened wide, revealing a fathomless black depth ringed by his sparkling brown iris. The world around me was silent, as if the thirty men on the platform with me, the hundreds of spectators, and the carnival that filled the village of Tenganan had simply evaporated. I was alone suspended in the blackness. Time had taken a rest from its eternal and steady march forward, leaving me to drift free from the anchors of light and sound, suspended upon the delicate thread of now. With nowhere to go, nothing to see or hear, what had formerly been confined to “me” expanded to become “we”, reveling in the glory of connection. And then with the sensation of falling up from the bottom of an inky black well, I crashed back onto the bamboo and rattan platform. My glasses were knocked from my face and the music of the carnival, the murmurs and shouts of the spectators, and the breathing and heartbeats of the men around me flowed back into the world; and I found myself beneath a large man clothed only in a loincloth wielding a shield and a spiked weapon.

Double Ikat on a Little Girl
Double Ikat on a Little Girl

The eyes of the man facing me opened wide, revealing a fathomless black depth ringed by his sparkling brown iris. The world around me was silent, as if the thirty men on the platform with me, the hundreds of spectators, and the carnival that filled the village of Tenganan had simply evaporated. I was alone suspended in the blackness. Time had taken a rest from its eternal and steady march forward, leaving me to drift free from the anchors of light and sound, suspended upon the delicate thread of now. With nowhere to go, nothing to see or hear, what had formerly been confined to “me” expanded to become “we”, reveling in the glory of connection.

And then with the sensation of falling up from the bottom of an inky black well, I crashed back onto the bamboo and rattan platform. My glasses were knocked from my face and the music of the carnival, the murmurs and shouts of the spectators, and the breathing and heartbeats of the men around me flowed back into the world; and I found myself beneath a large man clothed only in a loincloth wielding a shield and a spiked weapon.

I had walked into the ancient and walled village of Tenganan on the eastern side of the island of Bali, Indonesia in 1996 wearing flip flops, shorts and a light shirt. On my back was a small daypack containing a water bottle, a Bali guidebook, a sarong, and the almost golden ceremonial sarong overwrap I had been drawn to purchase a few days earlier. At my side was my new friend, traveling companion and eventual girlfriend, Tracy.

Our heads were both filled with an excited energy fed by the stories we had heard and read in preparing to visit Bali. We shared a certain nervousness about what we were there to see. It was the second and most important day in the Usaba Sambah festival in this ancient, extraordinary village. A day when three ancient rituals all occur to ensure or celebrate the rebirth of the village for another year.
Continue reading “Staring into the Eyes of the Universe”

Two Wheels

The pure simplicity
And power
of travel over land
On two wheels

More trust placed
In an inch of rubber
Than years of friendship
Or love
Or blood

And seldom betrayed
Save an occassional flat
Easily repaired with three little tools
That fit in a pocket
Unlike friendship
Or love
Or blood

There are no tools
To fill a flat friendship
Patch love
Change out blood

So I sit astraddle
With beating heart
And pumping legs
On two wheels

Painting with Lights from the 18 Hours of Fruita Race

Through the icy blackness, riders circled Highline Lake in Western Colorado for the 18 Hours of Fruita mountain bike race. Starting at midnight, the racers in teams of four, two or solo road the seven mile course their headlamps blazing little tunnels of light burning a path through the night down the single track trail. With the slow lifting of the dark six hours later, the most visually compelling part of the race was over, but only the first third of their adventure was completed.

All photos created during the hours of midnight and six AM at the 2010 18 Hours of Fruita Mountain Bike Race by Dave Grossman.

Bars for BP

As oil continues to gush out of the wellhead more than five thousand feet below the location where the Deepwater Horizon floating drilling platform exploded April 20th, the nation is working fervently to deal with the worst oil spill in US history. There are still many unknowns about the disaster, but some important details are being revealed; BP and Transocean Ltd. drastically underestimated the risk and consequences of an oil spill on the rig, BP chose profits over safety and did not install any remotely operated shut-off switch in case of disaster, the regulatory agency responsible for oversight failed in its job and BP has a history of breaking the law by failing to file and maintain crucial safety and engineering documents. The result is that eleven workers lost their lives, four were seriously injured and the Gulf of Mexico is now experiencing a devastating disaster that will impact the region for decades if not permanently.
Although BP and its partner Transocean Ltd. were drilling offshore of one of the richest marine fisheries on the continent and the source of employment for much of the residents of the Southern US, the oil companies did not see the risk of an oil spill to be of much consequence. In a report to the Minerals Management Service that oversees offshore drilling BP stated, “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” This despite multiple spills and fires specifically on the Deepwater Horizon. The Coast Guard had issued citations for those spills eighteen times in the short nine years the Deepwater Horizon was in operation and the drilling rig was involved in a 2008 incident where it almost sank. Clearly BP was irresponsibly cavalier about the operation of the Deepwater Horizon and the risk of a spill.
The consequences of this spill are made much greater because the complexity of the drilling location and the fact that BP chose not to install a remotely operated shutoff valve called a backup blowout preventer. The deadman switch system BP has stated had installed on the wellhead did not function properly. Without a backup system, the wellhead is spewing oil into the Gulf at an estimated rate of between 1,000 and 100,000,000 gallons of oil a day. Although backup blowout preventers are required by most countries that allow offshore oil drilling, was not installed on the Deepwater Horizon to keep costs down and profits high.
Backup blowout preventers are not required by the US because the the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is weak and has been systematically corrupted by the oil industry it is supposed to oversee. A 2008 investigation of the MMS Denver offices revealed the oil industry was in bed with the agency, literally. The report details drug fueled sex parties with extravagant gifts and tickets to sporting events and travel. Federal employees were improperly paid by oil companies and awarded themselves government contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A 2006 investigation revealed that companies like BP that drill in the Gulf of Mexico negotiated leases that allow them to avoid paying billions of dollars in royalty payments and prevented the Interior Department from auditing them. The oversight of the oil and gas industry has been corrupted through industry efforts in the same way the mining industry has weakened their regulatory agencies. The results are the same; dead workers.
But in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there is also a massive oil spill to contend with. According to a recent former BP employee and whistleblower, the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion isn’t the only BP deep water drilling operation that has significant issues. According to the whistleblower and the early results of the resulting investigations is a pattern of misconduct and illegal activity. If substantiated, the evidence will show BP has failed to maintain safety and engineering documents that are intended to provide a document trail for the proper construction, maintenance and operation of the BP Atlantis, the Deepwater Horizon’s sister rig. The result brings into question the construction of the well as well as the operation of the well and may have something to do with the explosion, sinking and oil spill we are now facing.
From one disaster I propose we look back to another disaster to structure our response. Although there are many important lessons to be learned from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that still impacts Alaska, the disaster I am referring to is the January 21st, 2010 decision by the US Supreme court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This landmark ruling greatly expanding the definition and scope of corporate personhood effectively blurring the line between flesh and blood people and corporate entities. Since the Supreme Court has so narrowed the difference between a corporal person and a corporate person, I propose that our legal response should likewise be narrowed. If the difference between a person and a corporation is almost indiscernible, the corporate headquarters of BP, its refineries and its service stations across the country should be arrested and jailed for the deaths of the eleven workers and for the ongoing oil disaster.
The privilege of being a person in the United States comes with the responsibility of consequence when people break the law. When Major Nidal Malik Hasan was identified as the accused perpetrator in the 2009 shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood Army Base, he was taken into custody where he remains awaiting trial. I see no reason to treat BP and its corporate business operations differently. Obviously the process of putting a service station, much less the hundreds of refineries and administrative building that make up corporate BP, behind bars in our already overcapacity prison system would be impossible. But why we can’t bring the bars to BP? In response to the disaster that is impacting the lives of the residents of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the lives of the families of those slain on the Deepwater Horizon, citizens should demand that their local District Attorneys arrest and take into custody the person responsible; corporate BP.
Deepwater Horizon on Fire
Deepwater Horizon on Fire

As oil continues to gush out of the wellhead more than five thousand feet below the location where the Deepwater Horizon floating drilling platform exploded April 20th, the nation is working fervently to deal with the worst oil spill in US history. There are still many unknowns about the disaster, but some important details are being revealed; BP and Transocean Ltd. drastically underestimated the risk and consequences of an oil spill on the rig, BP chose profits over safety and did not install any remotely operated shut-off switch in case of disaster, the regulatory agency responsible for oversight failed in its job and BP has a history of breaking the law by failing to file and maintain crucial safety and engineering documents. The result is that eleven workers lost their lives, four were seriously injured and the Gulf of Mexico is now experiencing a devastating disaster that will impact the region for decades if not permanently.

Although BP and its partner Transocean Ltd. were drilling offshore of one of the richest marine fisheries on the continent and the source of employment for much of the residents of the Southern US, the oil companies did not see the risk of an oil spill to be of much consequence. In a report to the Minerals Management Service that oversees offshore drilling BP stated, “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” This despite multiple spills and fires specifically on the Deepwater Horizon. The Coast Guard had issued citations for those spills eighteen times in the short nine years the Deepwater Horizon was in operation and the drilling rig was involved in a 2008 incident where it almost sank. Clearly BP was irresponsibly cavalier about the operation of the Deepwater Horizon and the risk of a spill.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The consequences of this spill are made much greater because the complexity of the drilling location and the fact that BP chose not to install a remotely operated shutoff valve called a backup blowout preventer. The deadman switch system BP has stated had installed on the wellhead did not function properly. Without a backup system, the wellhead is spewing oil into the Gulf at an estimated rate of between 5,000 and 1,100,000 gallons of oil a day. Although backup blowout preventers are required by most countries that allow offshore oil drilling, was not installed on the Deepwater Horizon to keep costs down and profits high.

Backup blowout preventers are not required by the US because the the Minerals Management Service is weak and has been systematically corrupted by the oil industry it is supposed to oversee. A 2008 investigation of the Minerals Management Service Denver offices revealed the oil industry was in bed with the agency, literally. The report details drug fueled sex parties with extravagant gifts and tickets to sporting events and travel. Federal employees were improperly paid by oil companies and awarded themselves government contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A 2006 investigation revealed that companies like BP that drill in the Gulf of Mexico negotiated leases that allow them to avoid paying billions of dollars in royalty payments and prevented the Interior Department from auditing them. The oversight of the oil and gas industry has been corrupted through industry efforts in the same way the mining industry has weakened their regulatory agencies. The results are the same; dead workers.

BP has Blood and Oil on its hands
BP has Blood and Oil on its hands

But in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there is also a massive oil spill to contend with. According to a recent former BP employee and whistleblower, the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion isn’t the only BP deep water drilling operation that has significant issues. According to the whistleblower and the early results of the resulting investigations is a pattern of misconduct and illegal activity. If substantiated, the evidence will show BP has failed to maintain safety and engineering documents that are intended to provide a document trail for the proper construction, maintenance and operation of the BP Atlantis, the Deepwater Horizon’s sister rig. The result brings into question the construction of the well as well as the operation of the well and may have something to do with the explosion, sinking and oil spill we are now facing.

From one disaster I propose we look back to another disaster to structure our response. Although there are many important lessons to be learned from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that still impacts Alaska, the disaster I am referring to is the January 21st, 2010 decision by the US Supreme court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This landmark ruling greatly expanding the definition and scope of corporate personhood effectively blurring the line between flesh and blood people and corporate entities. Since the Supreme Court has so narrowed the difference between a corporal person and a corporate person, I propose that our legal response should likewise be narrowed. If the difference between a person and a corporation is almost indiscernible, the corporate headquarters of BP, its refineries and its service stations across the country should be arrested and jailed for the deaths of the eleven workers and for the ongoing oil disaster.

The Corporate Flag
The Corporate Flag

The privilege of being a person in the United States comes with the responsibility of consequence when people break the law. When Major Nidal Malik Hasan was identified as the accused perpetrator and the sole person in the 2009 shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood Army Base, he was taken into custody where he remains awaiting trial. I see no reason to treat BP and its corporate business operations differently. Obviously the process of putting a service station, much less the hundreds of refineries and administrative building that make up the corporate person of BP behind bars in our already overtaxed prison system would be impossible. But why we can’t bring the bars to BP? I am sure that bars can easily be affixed to the doors and windows of the buildings of BP rendering them incarcerated. In response to the disaster that is impacting the lives of the residents of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the lives of the families of those slain on the Deepwater Horizon, citizens should demand that their local District Attorneys arrest and take into custody the person responsible; corporate BP.