Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddamian Rhapsody

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Saddamian Rhapsody
(To be sung to the tune of "Bohemian Rhapsody," with apologies to Freddie Mercury)
Copyright 2006 - 2007 The Token Hippie

Is this the New Iraq
Is this just fantasy
Condemned by infidels
No escape from judiciary
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see-
I’m just a despot, I get no sympathy
And now it’s easy come, easy go
They‘re hanging me, this blows
But even though this blows, doesn’t really matter to me
To me

Allah, I killed some Kurds
Rained down gas upon their heads
Ethnic cleansing, they were dead.
Allah, my fun had just begun
When Bush came in and drove me away
Sunnis, oooooo
Hear my battle cry
I won’t be back tomorrow but
Let violence carry on, carry on as if my death didn’t matter

Too late, my time has come
But I’m not gonna whine
Like I did in court that time
Goodbye everybody - I’ll just hang here
And leave you all behind to face the troops
Allah, oooo (anyway the sand blows)
It’s my time to die
I sometimes wish I’d never invaded Kuwait at all-

I see a hooded silhouetto of a man
Oh Shiite, Oh Shiite. I’m sure he’s not Baath party
Oh and now they’re videotaping, this is irritating to me…
Gallow-dayo, gallow-day,
Gallow-dayo, gallow-dayo
Gallowdayo, oh no.
I was once a poor boy nobody loved me.
He was a poor boy from a poor family.
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
I’m the rightful leader here --will they let me go--
(Iraqi government) We’re in control. We will not let you go
(Bush) We’re in - I mean they’re in control. They won’t let you go.
(Kurds) Whoever’s in control will not let you let him go
Will not let you go-let me go
Will not let you go let me go
Be that way, be that way don’t let me go
Cause Allah akbar, there's virgins set aside for me, for me, for me!!

So you think you can hang me and make it all right
So you think you can hang me and end this big fight
No way, no fucking way
It won’t change a thing, won’t change thing over here

It won’t really matter
Anyone can see
Killing me won’t matter, this will end up as World War III.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A poem that came to me

Copyright 2006 The Token Hippie

We stand facing one another, two warriors glaring
across the kitchen table battlefield.
Your barb has found its mark and I steady myself
with fingers gripping pitted pine surface

My calculated retort is the arrow in my bow,
poison-tipped and designed to harm.
I prepare to release for maximum effect,
feeling tension on a tongue eager to let fly.

And then, nothing. I drop my gaze
in a universal sign of surrender and look past you -
past your set jaw, past your squared shoulder
to where children play, unaware, outside.

How did this happen? How did I lose my taste for battle?
I think it is because as the child of warriors
I remember well watching them exchange fire
until, becoming impervious to arrows,
they switched to stones - the only thing
that could bruise battle-scarred facades.

They lobbed so many that the pile became a wall between them.
At night they retreated from the fight and mulled it over;
in separate camps, separate beds they plotted how
to better bludgeon those tender marks next time around.

We are not there yet. We can still feel the arrows. There is hope.
Raising my hand I unconsciously put it to my breast,
feeling for the wound. I look down,
half-expecting to see scarlet stains on white fingertips.

And then you are there, your regret
a reassuring mantle around my shoulders,
your desperate hug a tight tourniquet
that stops the flow of pain.

Let’s be done with war, we say,
for the sake of the alliance
for the sake of the prince and the princess
for the sake of love

The kiss that seals the treaty is so much sweeter
to the mouth than bitter words
and so much stronger

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Selective compassion

Yesterday I posted a picture of Joe the hawk preening in his aviary. In the post I attributed his good mood to Joe's having just killed a rat, and noted that while I had taken photos of his eating it I would not be posting them.

Erik, one of my most thought-provoking and cherished readers, took me to task for my decision. Why, he wanted to know, was it OK to post all those up-close photos of Octavia the spider dining on grasshoppers but withhold photos of Joe eating a rat?

It was a fair question, and the answer I gave him reveals something about compassion - or inequality of it - as exercised by many people, myself included. "Grasshoppers," I wrote, "are generally far less bloody fare than rats, and it's been my experience that public sympathy runs higher for small furry creatures than it does for scaly, six-legged ones."

When I wrote that, it hit me. It does seem that we humans base our compassion for other creatures - and even our fellow humans - not on their worth, but on how we feel about them. But why? Below is a picture of Joe with his rat:

No, it's not a pretty sight. Not at all. But I didn't shed a tear or even flinch when I tossed the rat into the aviary. This is particularly ironic given that last week, after live-trapping a house mouse I spent several minutes marveling at its enchanting button eyes and trembling whiskers before taking it in the back field and gently setting it free.

So what's the difference between the mouse I set free and the rat I threw to the hawk? I refused to look at the rat; I shut off the part of myself that would let me feel anything. I distanced myself. With the mouse, I allowed myself the "luxury" of being sympathetic.

Is that cruel? Is it hypocritical? If it is we're all guilty. How many of us had steak for dinner this week? Or picked up a burger in the drive-through. Before that meat was on the grocery store shelf or formed into a patty, this was how it looked:

Before that, of course, the animal had to be killed. Erik and I debated a bit over which fate was worse - that of the rat or the cow. I told him I felt sorrier for the cow, since the rat is dead before it knows the hawk hit him. I believe anticipation of death is worth than death itself, or at least must be the most painful part of the process. But the above picture doesn't upset me as much as the following one, for I feel less for the dead cow than I do for the terrified cow heading down the chute to its death:

But still, we distance ourselves from that reality. The slaughter of animals is necessary to feed humanity, people say. But then, throw this into the equation:

In Korea, where dog meat is a popular dish, this picture sparks no more sympathy than the picture of the slaughtered cows do to the average U.S. citizen. That's because to Americans, the idea of slaughtering dogs for food is a travesty. Why? Because dog's are Man's Best Friend. Again, our compassion for the dog has little to do with the dog itself, but rather how we feel about dogs.

If you're looking for me to wrap this all up with some wise and pithy conclusion, I'll just have disappoint you. I really have no answers, only more questions today on how I am able to dispense my sympathy for other living things in such a haphazard way.

Knowing that I'm not alone in this brings me no comfort. In fact, knowing how we humans are able to turn our compassion on and off like light switches gives me some insight to what is wrong with the world in general. I mean, in some way it's necessary; if I felt sorry for the rat I couldn't feed the hawk. But still....

For once I'm at a loss and not sure where to go with this. So please, jump in. I'd love to know what you think.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A review of that fucking cowboy movie

I know many of you will think I've been under a rock since I have just gotten around to seeing Brokeback Mountain. After all, critics heralded as the Best Thing Ever when it came out and the Academy agreed by honoring it with no less than five Oscars - including a Best Director's nod for Ang Lee.

So excuse me when I say that by doing so the Academy reamed Brokeback competitors harder than Heath Ledger reamed Jake Gyllenhall during their first sex scene in the pup tent.

Before I launch into my review, let me issue a disclaimer. I have no problem with gays. I have no problem with gay relationships. If you are gay, and want to marry another gay person I will come and dance - gaily- at your wedding. I have no problems with gay sex. Go right ahead and Toss That Salad. Give 'em the ol' Thirsty Altar Boy. Back that ass up. Ride 'em Cowboy. Whatever.

I don't even have a problem with gays being depicted in movies or on television. David from Six Feet Under is one of my all-time favorite small screen characters. I root for him, pardon the pun, even in reruns on Bravo. I don't have a problem with the honest depictions of gays or of the discrimination they face.

What I do have a problem with is giving an Academy Award to a director who turned a good story into a heavy-handed propoganda piece that assumes the audience is too dim to pick up on the characters' angst without being helped along by excessive imagery.

In Brokeback Mountain, whenever the main characters Jack and Ennis are together, it's always against the backdrop of mountain splendor. Whether they were gazing at one another over the campfire or frolicking half-clothed through some grassy meadow, the setting is always perfect. Natural. Beautiful.

But at home, in their heterosexual marriages, the settings are much different. Ennis' home is depicted in drab shades of browns and grays. There he is forced to endure the domstic hell of constantly crying snot-nosed babies and mediocre sex with his mousy, sad-eyed wife. Jack's home, while a little brighter, is equally depressing in its own way. It's cold and sparse, with boxy, uncomfortable looking furniture. His wife is superficial and overmade, his in-laws uptight and overbearing. His kid is a non-character, barely a ghost.

Later, after Jack's death, when Ennis goes to visit his dead lover's parents even their house is depicted as ramshackle and drab and they are portrayed as sad, bitter hulls of heterosexual humanity.

The message of this imagery: Homosexuality is beautiful, natural, liberating. Heterosexuality is a drab, stifling artificial social construct.

The truth is, neither is better than the other. They're just different. I would have preferred to have watched the story of Jack and Ennis unfold without being bombarded with non-so-subtle visual cues the director thought necessary to stimulate the happy/sad responses in my brain. I didn't need them. The story could have told me all I needed to know if the director had only allowed it to.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Crafting Holidays

Given our discussion on holiday shopping, I'm wondering if any of you give handmade gifts for the holidays.

I suppose someone with four sewing machines and floor to ceiling shelves filled with fabric and a myriad assortment of crafting materials qualifies as a Crafting Geek. And this time of year I reach the Zenith of Crafting Geekiness.

My latest project are these little dolls made from pipe cleaners, embroidery floss and wool felt. (Just click the link to see them in Photobucket.) There was a fairy doll but Jessica, my 21-year-old daughter, fairynapped her. So now there's just Fiona the village girl, Minerva the wise woman, Rowan the herbalist and Brother Todd, the village priest. I'm partial to Rowan, with her little leaf-shaped apron. But for some reason almost everyone loves Brother Todd. I think it's the tiny cross hanging from his belt; I found it at a bead store and thought it would be perfect for him.

I thought it would be nice to make sets of these as holiday gifts. They're fun to make, although I do get a bit of a headache when embroidering or sewing beads onto those tiny outfits. Ultimately it's worth it, though. I'm considering giving them not to children, but to adults. Everyone could use a little whimsy in their lives.

My more complex holiday projects include these Christmas stockings I made. The crazy quilt one is made from vintage handkerchiefs. The snowy owl on the other stocking was fashioned after a drawing I did. I put little snowflake buttons all around him.

Of all the stuff I've bought folks for Christmas over the years, the one that I made myself about fifteen years ago was the one that was the most appreciated. It was for my mother. Money was really tight that year and I couldn't buy her anything. My mom is like a kid; she loves gifts so I felt terrible.

I had like five bucks so I went to the store and got a back of thirty Thank-You cards. Then I sat down and - picking out thirty of the best memories from my childhood - wrote her a note thanking her for each one. I thanked her for teaching me to draw my first bird when I was four. I thanked her for all the hours we spent horseback riding together. I thanked her for the incredible stories she told me and my sisters. I thanked her for the good feeling it gave me to come home from school and find the house warm, clean and smelling of homecooked meals. I tied the bundle of notes with a pretty ribbon and told her to open one note a day for the next month.

My mother never forgot that gift. And she told me recently that she still takes out those notes and reads them. That makes me so happy.

If you haven't done all your Christmas shopping yet or - if like some of us - you're emphasizing quality over quantity and expense, consider making something for your loved ones. Don't worry that it has to be perfect. I still cherish the hand-knitted scarf I received last year. It wasn't quite even on the ends but its imperfections are part of the charm and it will always be special because it represented the first knitting effort of the person who gave it to me. She knew I loved knitted things and took the time to give me something from both her heart and hands.

That's the perfect gift.