Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful barn

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
Leave it to a Hoosier boy to appreciate the beauty of this barn. It's tucked away behind gates and a brick wall, just off busy 86th Street in Indianapolis. Thousands of cars pass by each day, and no one knows what beauty lurks behind the wall.

My friends Steven and Michael have lovingly restored this barn. They throw wonderful parties there in the summer. You never know what interesting person you'll meet in the hayloft. It's a testament to the kind of Indiana I grew up in; the kind of Indiana that's harder and harder to find.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Connecting dots

I forgot until I read an article on Salon that Ratzinger was instrumental in assuring Bush's reelection. To read some chilling stuff, go here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2005/04/21/tk/index.html

He was the one that told bishops not to give communion to political candidates who supported choice, and said those candidates and anyone who supported them should be excommunicated. Pretty strong stuff. Enough to make many on-the-fence Catholics fall in line with his thinking and increase the percentage of Catholic votes for Bush by five or six percent.

My Catholic background put me between a rock and a hard place when I tried to decide which was worse: access to abortion, or a war predicated on lies that killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Then there's that pesky issue of the death penalty, which the church also opposes. Oh, and what would Jesus do about all the children doomed to a life of poverty, deprived of medical care? In short, Rats doesn't know his theology from an inquisition; there are too many shades of gray.

You can only wonder about the backroom deals that went down after Rats threw his support behind Bush. Now we're really going backwards, full-tilt. We're entering neo-medieval times now, where you have serfs and lords. The church controls the government. They both control the serfs. Everything is neatly in place.

Salon pointed out that our government was founded—here in Philadelphia, I might boast—on the principles of separation of church and state. This new papal/presidential axis goes solidly against that grain. We're at a crossroads where American democracy could stand or fall.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I found myself listening to Rush Limbaugh (Air America wasn't available) when the announcement came of the choice of the new pope. A sense of dread infused me kind of like election night 2004 when the announcement came. Ratzinger. Rats!

Rush was all over himself congratulating the conservative movement for another triumph and bashing the liberal media for even bothering to speculate that there might have been another outcome. Yeah, like the last pope who had the courage to tell George Bush his war was wrong.

Yep, I can't deny it, Rush is right. The vise is tightening and those who would seek to control our every move and block off every escape route have us by the short 'n curlies. They've brought us war for lies, a bankrupt government, sound-byte education policies and bankruptcy reform designed by the credit card companies that can bump up your interest rate to 25%. You can't opt out because they own everything and you have to play along. I keep waiting for signs of the revolution, but they seem ever further away.

Catholics and these new evangelicals make strange bedfellows. Other conservative radio I listened to yesterday walked a fine line between Catholic-bashing and praise for a pope who looks like a Karl Rove wannabe. Ratzinger's last post was as head of the Vatican office that was still called the Inquisition until 1908, fer friggen sakes. I wonder what's on Benedict XVI's iPod? A lot of Wagner, I imagine.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

W's iPod

It never occurred to me that George Bush would be hip enough to even have an iPod, much less use one. Turns out he does.

One of his aides—I guess in an appeal to make him seem like a normal human being—released the contents of his playlist. Ohmigod.

From an article in the New York Times: "First, Mr. Bush's iPod is heavy on traditional country singers like George Jones, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He has selections by Van Morrison, whose "Brown Eyed Girl" is a Bush favorite, and by John Fogerty, most predictably "Centerfield," which was played at Texas Rangers games when Mr. Bush was an owner and is still played at ballparks all over America. ("Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today.") The Times expresses surprise that the president listens to musicians like Fogerty, who definitely "don't like him".

The London Times takes a somewhat more critical view of the playlist. Caitlin Moran notes, "The playlist does reveal a rather narrow range of babyboomer tunes. No black artists, no gay artists, no world music, only one woman, no genre less than 25 years old, and no Beatles."

No shit?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

New Jersey shock and awe

I wrote yesterday about the unappreciated beauty of New Jersey. Today I'm writing about the unappreciated (by Rumsfeld and his henchmen) service of its National Guard members in Iraq. It seems the state has rallied to do for its guardsmen what the national government should be doing.

Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer had a very disturbing front-page story detailing how the Pentagon still hasn't fully armored the humvees our soldiers are using to fight the Iraqi insurgents. It told how the Department of Defense has consistently lied about production, and how as recently as March soldiers are still digging around in dumpsters to find scrap metal to armor their vehicles. Only 7,378 of the 22,750 humvees in Iraq have top-of-the-line protection. (Maybe there's not enough money, because billionaires need more tax cuts.)

A column in today's Inquirer tells how New Jersey's acting governor Richard Codey launched his Governor's Body Armor Initiative in January. It's a plan whereby New Jersey cops donate their used bullet-proof vests so soldiers can weld them to the doors, floors and roofs of their humvees. Columnist Monica Yant Kinney opines, "This is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the land, after all. It tarnishes America's image to think that our elite military must rely on an Egg Harbor Township cop's hand-me-downs to stay alive."


Monday, April 11, 2005

The insouciance of Spring

We rode down to the Jersey Cape yesterday. When most people think of New Jersey, they conjure up images of smokestacks and toxic waste, the Sopranos and bad taste. But New Jersey isn't called the "Garden State" for nothing. It's also a place where they grow fabulous tomatoes, cranberries and blueberries. There are horse farms with rolling hills and stately barns. It's famous for its pine barrens—miles and miles of pine trees growing in sandy soil.

Highway 55 leads down to the Cape from Philadelphia. Like many of the highways in the nation's most heavily populated state, it's a splendid road, wide and smooth, and almost the entire way all you see is rural landscape. Trees and bushes are abundant in the wide, grassy median. The highway is so lovely, sometimes it reminds me of California.

Yesterday must have been the height of the forsythia season. I never saw so much yellow growing in one place. Everywhere I looked were these flowering harbingers of Spring. It got me to thinking about the lurid colors one sees in this season: the shocking pink redbuds, the acid lime-green of new leaves, everything set off by lacy white blossoms on flowering trees. The insouciance of it all!

These colors will all be gone soon, replaced by the monotonous greens of high summer. I'm enjoying them this year more than ever before. That's probably because I spent the winter in a grimy, red-brick city—and it was a winter that seemed like it would never end.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

This could make you cry

My friend Geoffrey Hiller in Portland--whom I've actually never met, but feel like I know, (virtually)--travels the world and documents what he sees with his digital camera. He sent me a link to his latest photo essay. I checked it out while I sat in a coffee shop in Philly's Headhouse Square, a chi-chi, yuppified neighborhood near where I live. I was stunned as I looked into the faces of his photos. You will be too. www.hillerphoto.com/africa

A summer of travel

Couldn't think of anything to write about, and it's been more than a week since my two readers have had any new content. So I thought I'd tell them about my upcoming business trips for the summer. I know, it's probably b-o-r-i-n-g.

In mid-June I'll be going to Chicago for the HOW Design Conference. Chicago is my favorite American city. Maybe it's because I "grew up" there. I spent most of my twenties in Lincoln Park, Rogers Park and Uptown. Damn, it was fun, playing music with my friends, learning about ethnic food when most of the rest of America didn't know the difference between sushi and tortellini. I sold my car and bicycled everywhere I went (except when it was snowing). I did social work for piss-poor wages, so I didn't get rich there, but I learned a lot about life.

July takes me first to New York for three days of the Flash Forward Conference, and then to Seattle for Web Design World. I haven't been to Seattle since my 1985 roadtrip in the Mustang convertible with Lola the dog. I remember a picture-perfect 80º day, glistening water in every direction I looked, and fish at the Pike Street Market. This time I'll be there for four days, and although confined to a hotel and conference center most of those days, I'm looking forward to seeing the city all over again.

I was going on earlier this month about how much I enjoyed hobnobbing with geeks in Austin, but now that I've spent the better part of this afternoon arranging these trips, I'm already starting to feel tired.