Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Execution Of Troy Davis


            I suspect there are people out there who would oppose the Death Penalty in any case, and those are the people I consider the most consistent. This isn’t to say they are right or wrong, but at least they don’t have the hairs to split the rest of us seem to enjoy taking an axe to in our spare time. There are those who would not oppose it as much were it only meted out justly and equally, which it is not, and those people have solid constitutional ground to stand upon.  The odds of a poor black man being put to death are many times greater than that of a wealthy white man. It is a racially biased, class considered, gender centered, and arbitrary form of punishment which by its very nature is unusual if not cruel. This is the case against the Death Penalty and it is neither morally bereft, nor is it philosophically anemic.
            Yet the use of execution is not necessarily punishment.  The word punishment implies that through aversion therapy some behavior will be modified, in theory, and therefore we as a society have a right to impose it upon those who break the law. No one has yet to learn anything from being executed but at the same time, no one who has ever been executed has ever broken the law again either. Those who are executed have their behavior modified to the extreme and no one can deny the efficiency of execution when it comes to reducing recidivism. Theodore Bundy will never kill again. Gary Ridgeway still has that capacity as does Charles Manson. Execution would still serve the greater good in the two latter cases as well as it has the former.
            But in all things human there is the problem of politics. The recent execution of Troy Davis was, in my opinion, was one purely of a political nature. No one, not the Governor, not the Board of Paroles and Pardons, not the Georgia Supreme Court and not even the SCOTUS would dare show mercy to a condemned cop killer this close to an election year. No one, not one person running for office endorsed anything but death. In a case where nearly the entire argument for conviction was based on testimony from witnesses nearly all recanted. This isn’t uncommon in such cases because it’s a popular thing for former witnesses to recant, whether it be real or not, there is no way to trust someone’s testimony who admits to lying. That said, if the testimony cannot be trusted at all from those who recanted then the only weight that can be given is to those whose story has not changed. There were witnesses who did not recant, and for reasons that escape me, the testimony of those people was not taken into consideration by those pressing for the life of Troy Davis.
            This is a case where there was no murder weapon found. This is a case where the accused steadfastly maintained his innocence. Yet this is also a case where the accused, Troy Davis, was linked to an earlier shooting and the ballistics in the murder case matched those in the earlier shooting case. Davis was not, as some maintain, a victim of an overzealous police force out to pin the murder on the first person they found walking down the street. Troy Davis was no stranger to trouble with the law, and no stranger to violence.
            So which way does the pressure lie? Is Troy Davis guilty of first degree murder of a law enforcement officer or simply a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time, scheduled to die far too close to an election year for there to be any hope that he’ll see justice? Barring a confession from the man Davis claimed killed the officer, we may never know and we might not know then. The real question is why was Troy Davis executed and if who he was, what he was, and who he killed part of the equation.
            Are those who kill law enforcement officers any worse than those who kill housewives or school teachers? If Troy Davis would have killed a meter reader would be have been executed? Again, in an election year there is no one holding office who is going to show any sort of clemency to a condemned cop killer. Davis had the ill fortune for his appeal process to grind to a halt in a partisan battle for every single vote. For my part, if we are going to send men and women into harm’s way in uniform, be it law enforcement or battle, we ought to take special measures to protect them. In this case, I would have to say who the victim was mattered very much indeed.
            In the end, execution is still here and Troy Davis is dead. I think he was guilty and I think that in any other year he gets a new trial or his sentence commuted. I think it unwise for the government to execute someone with this much doubt hanging over the outcome. In all things human, politics will rear its very ugly head and the execution of Troy Davis may push the death penalty to a new low as far as those who believe it ought to be applied in some cases. The high ground is still being held by those who think it ought to be abolished in every case. But those who believe there is a place for it still hold the better part of power. These are the people who know that in an election years, putting a poor black man to death for killing a police officer is a good strategic move. The fact that they are right, and granting Troy Davis any sort of mercy at all would have been political suicide says much more about us than the execution of Troy Davis says about him.

Take Care,
Mike

Those Who Forget The Vick Are Condemned to Repeat Him


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.-- George Santayana
I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who was a reformed child molester, a reformed politician or a reformed dog fighter. Only one of those groups has the unmitigated and total lack of shame as to be seen in public but politicians are like that. As it turns out, Mike Vick is like that too, and he’s getting more shameless every day.
            A few years back Mike Vick, and then he was known as Ron Mexico and was sued by a woman because he gave her herpes, was one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. Fresh off a great but ultimately disappointing season, the Atlanta Falcons ponied up a bundle of cash, hired a new head coach, and awaited the magical season that was sure to follow. There was some grumblings, of course, because Vick had a habit of fumbling as he ran, and he threw interceptions when hurried. There were rumors of chronic marijuana use and the people Vick began to surround himself with looked like the class reunion of a federal prison.
           
            Of course, Vick was busted for dog fighting, the new coach went on to hog calling, and the Atlanta Falcons were out money and coach, and the butt of a very bad joke.

            Last year Vick played well but in a playoff game against the Packers, Vick was confused, lost, and at times, just like Mike Vick. He once lost a game to Tampa Bay 28-0 because they figured out what everyone else is now beginning to see; if you make Vick think you can make Vick blink.  Michael Vick isn’t a quarterback who runs well, no, he’s a running back that throws poorly most of the time. When out in the open field Vick runs with the ball in his hand like it has a handle and more often than not he loses the ball. Last week against Atlanta he zigged when he should have zagged and a 360 pound defensive lineman lumbered down the field with the ball while Vick could only watch. Before the game was done, Mike Vick limped off the field once again, and just like the Mike Vick of old, interacted with the fans in a show of pure unadulterated lack of class.
            I didn’t watch the game. Not one play, not one second, not one snap and not for a moment. Watching a game and hoping someone loses is still giving the advertisers my time. But mostly I didn’t watch because I was afraid Mike Vick would get injured, and he did, and I was afraid I would feel some sense of pleasure that he was hurt. I was afraid that in his agony, and the end of his career, I would find some joy. I was afraid by watching him get hurt I would wind up being more like Vick than his victims.
            Vick isn’t a young man and getting hit hard is a young man’s game. At 31, he has four maybe five seasons left before age catches up with him in a big way. If this head injury proves to be serious then he’s out for this year and we all know having time off is a bad thing for a man who has too much money and nothing to do but kill dogs and smoke pot. Yet Vick is expected to play today and I doubt very much if he can appreciate the irony of a wounded man being sent into a very violent sport for the amusement of the fans. He will be less mobile, less agile, less able to escape the people sent to do him harm and even if by some chance he walks off the field at the end of the game I suspect more damage to his body will occur. There is a good chance, in desperation or bad judgment, Vick will zig when he should zag, and the neck injury will become a monster. A man with no social skills, a bad neck, a criminal record, a pot habit and poor judgment is going to burn through that money he just got just like he did last time, and this time there will be no coming back.

 I can wait Mike Vick out. I can give up football until he’s gone. There just aren’t that many men playing football stupid enough to get into dog fighting and after what Vick has been through there will be fewer still. The sport of football has survived much worse monsters than Vick, sadly, and perhaps one day the industry will see alleged humans like Vick as the social lepers they are.

I’m not sure I can outlast that, however, because it looks to be a very long time coming.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, September 16, 2011


If a woman athlete who had contracted the AIDS virus admitted that she had been with one hundred or two hundred men, they'd call her a slut, and the corporations would drop her like a lead balloon.--- Martina Navratilova
On the outpouring of sympathy for, and near-idolization of, basketball star Magic Johnson after he revealed that he had contracted the AIDS virus after years of extreme heterosexual promiscuity. Retiring from basketball as a result, he won sports commentary assignments and retained his endorsement contracts. Navratilova was surprised at the outraged public reaction to her comment, which was published first in the New York Post. She mused: "I could have said that President Bush is a cross-dresser, and I wouldn't have gotten this much response" A few years earlier, Navratilova had been criticized and dropped by sponsors after admitting that she was a lesbian.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Tiny Garden


The tomatoes and the peppers slipped away from me, slowly but surely, each producing less fruit and fewer leaves. I thought the peppers did much better than the tomatoes but I did get a very late jump on the tomatoes and they were attacked by horn worms. Still, I did manage to prove soil from the mulch pile was very viable. It is rich, black, and heavy dirt that teems with life. Leaves, logs, branches, paper, cardboard, and everything from my house that most people “throw away” that is biodegradable has been put in this pile for a few years now. This was my first time using it in a small farm. The results were quite impressive.
            A couple of months ago someone told me there were going to throw away four full sized sets of construction plans so I offered to take the plans for the mulch pile. These are massive sets of plans, each of them four feet by three feet, and about three inches thick with a couple of hundred sheets each. I put them in the pile intact just to let them weaken a bit before I tore them up, but then had an idea.
            I clipped the tomato plants down to the ground inside the barrow and then took a one of the sheets from the plans and peeled it away from the others. Usually quite sturdy, after a month in the mulch pile the paper had become less strong and unusually easy to tear. I lay one sheet down, and put the turnip seeds in neat rows on the paper, pressing them down until the paper began to rip a little, and then peeled off another sheet, and sandwiched the seeds between them. I put a thin layer of dark mulch on top of the paper and watered it all down. I like working without gloves when I garden. The feel of the mulched soil is something that I have to feel when I garden. There is a stick not quite decomposed enough, and there is an earthworm who made the trip in, and will live under the garden. Here is a piece of paper, from a recent entry, that I can still read some of the print, and here is thick black dirt, made from it all. I’ve turned trash into treasure and brought food from the earth doing it.
            I’m barefoot and wear nothing but a pair of shorts as I work. I want to feel the earth. I want to feel the sun on my back. I want to feel the coolness of the air. This is a reconnection with nature in a way that goes back from the earliest human pressing seeds into the ground and hoping for food. My feet get stung by fireants, and the rocks bruise me, but this is something I want to do. I want to feel the earth beneath my feet. I want to experience gardening with my toes. I want my hands to get dirty.  By the double handful I carry the mulch to the old oak stump and mix it with the soil that grew the pepper plants this Summer. I weed out the larger chunks in the soil, and then dig a hole in the mulch to bury them deep. They large pieces will soak up moisture and hold it deep. As cooler weather moves in, the decomposing vegetable matter will warm the roots of my plants. There are earthworms here and all manner of creatures too small to see. I’ve grown them all with what far too many people discard without thought. Here in my tiny garden, with my eyes on expanding in the Spring, lies the beginning of an form of independence that comes with growing my own food. If I can make this work on a small scale, and I have so far, then I can grow more, larger, and better.
            The spinach went into rows so I experiment with the carrots and sprinkle the seeds onto the thin paper and put another layer of paper on top. Much on it all, and then water, and then I am done with planting my tiny garden. The tomato vines and pepper plants hitch a ride in the wheel barrow back to the mulch pile from whence they came back in late May. I’ll cut them up and mix them in another day. The mutts dance around me, delirious with the cooler weather. The gardening does not interest them for they are not vegetarians but they do love freshly turned earth. Lucas leaps in the air beside me, reaching up with his nose towards mine, happily bouncing along with me as I push the wheel barrow back to the pile.
            Ten years ago, about this time of the morning, the world I knew disappeared in fire and in dust and smoke, and in hate. In the decade since, reason and understanding have mostly taken a backseat to politics, greed, rhetoric, and outright stupidity. Yet also, during the last decade, we have once again seen men and women don uniforms and go forth into horrible places and serve this country with honor. Why do they fight? Why do they go into the foreign lands to be killed in terrible ways and leave the ones they love behind to mourn them? In the long run, they serve because people like me can plant tiny gardens and live ordinary lives. They ensure the rest of us can sow, and harvest, and continue the way of life we have been given for over two hundred years. Evil, in whatever form it takes, cowers before men and women who serve freedom. It retreats in the face of those who would give their lives to protect the innocent. It hides in the dark places in the presence of those who would enter a burning building to save lives. It sinks to the low places whenever a man or a woman will put their life in danger in the name of law and order.
            I did not attend a memorial. I did not watch television or listen to any speeches. I put seed into the earth and planted food. I did so, and can do so, because I am free to do so. The men and women who we have put into the fertile earth we sow with honor, and we reap freedom for it. Despite the politics, the greed, the stupidity of the government and the evil perpetuated, we have not run out of heroes in these ten years. With that thought, I am grateful, and I sow my garden with thankful tears.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Debt: A Movie Review


The Debt has all it needs to be a really great film and it has more help than it needs when it comes to casting. Helen Mirren rarely disappoints and she doesn’t this time either. Young Jessica Chastain slips into her role like a glove and she’s backed perfectly by Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington. Jesper Christensen plays a Hannibal Lector like villain to perfection. The story flashes back and forward with ease and grace.
            The story itself, however, sucks.
I like Nazi hunter films but let’s face it; 1945 was sixty-six years ago. There aren’t very many Nazis left, and even fewer worth mentioning anymore. To create a work of fiction that cloaks a setting around the concept of Nazi hunters risks at this day and age of ether irrelevancy or anachronism.  Yet it is totally doable, if done right, but it isn’t. The film has a cast. The film has a perfect setting. The film has great acting. The film has action if not too much violence. The film is done very well except the story really sucks.
            The main plot is what does the story in, for the nuanced subplots weave perfectly in with the characters. There is chemistry with these people and they make it look easy. The costumes, the dreary old Berlin, the cold war tension, the whole damn thing is just so good you want to find the writer and ask one simple question, “Why does this story suck?”
            A very simple question of being honest is wrapped around a very dangerous covert operation where deception is the difference between life and death. It’s naive, terribly naive, to think for a moment that anyone hunting Nazis ought to tell the truth about what they have done and why. Were I involved in something like that I could give a damn less about the truth when it comes to slaying monsters. The truth ought to be held in high regard, do not misunderstand me at all here. But when dealing with some of the most evil human beings who ever breathed air, a simple lie is the least of wrongs.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Ali Baba Dream and Elaine and Scott


The Ali Baba Dream, as it was known in a small circle of former friends, convinced me that even though people were not responsible for what they dreamed they were shunned by those they repeated the dream to, even if those people harangued the dreamer into relating the dream. I have a filter now and the filter screens out a lot of sexual energy that I am almost certain occurs in the dreams of people who remember, or who do not remember, what their subconscious is dreaming up for them, no pun intended.
Decades ago I started making an effort to remember and on occasion write down my dreams and as a result I remember them vividly, and sometimes too much so. There is this deep and well meaning suspicion in my mind that I’m in some way sabotaging the purpose of dreams by remembering them, by making them a part of the waking life they were not intended to be. I suspect I make things worse by examining even the small ones for some intention. Considering the number of people who swear they remember nothing about their dreams and in this population there seems to be an overwhelming amount of normality, the conclusion that remembering dreams feeds the fire, or the fire feeds remembering the dreams, is a solid one. If you haven’t a clue as to what I just said, move along, please, this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I tell you.

Still with me? That’s a good thing, or not, depending on why you’re still reading this. But think about the consequences of allowing someone to communicate with you who you may or may not know very well. You mind is a lot like that sometimes. Do you really know what that last dream meant? A friend of mine kept having sex dreams involving her female roommate and both were, ostensibly, straight. She had the same dream four or five times and was appalled each time. Of course this was an odd situation because throughout her life she had nearly always had a best friend who was much better looking than she was. The sidekick to the hot woman having sex dreams about women… go figure.
That’s just surface tension when it gets down to it, and all know it. The mistake, I think, is to try to rationalize sleeping brain activity in the same manner that you rationalize thought when you’re driving a car. If you pull into a strip joint on your way home, yes, there are some implications to your actions that are totally unavoidable. Clearly, you have some issue with expectations versus reality, but that’s beside the point. If you dream about strippers then that’s a totally different situation entirely, and regardless of where you stand on pole dancing, your dreams rarely reflect your honest opinion on pasties. Well, I do in fact suspect that your dreams do indeed reflect how you feel about something things, like spiders, snakes, falling, fire, bears, and when it comes to sex, if you’re dreaming about someone you know and love, it may be exactly what it seems to be. But which is which and when?

Suppose whatever popped into your head came out of your mouth. If just one person lacked a social filter then they would be considered insane but if everyone was like this then what do you suppose would happen? Either people would get used to hearing, “Yes, by dog! That dress
makes your bottom look like the back of a bus draped in cloth!”  or they would learn to stop asking.  But we all know a woman asking if a dress makes her look fat isn’t asking about the dress or her weight but some sort of reassurance the person being asked likes the way she
looks in the dress or in general.  If you’re watching a movie with a woman on your sofa and you suggest wine, and she accepts, both of you knows alcohol lowers inhibition.  Now here’s an interesting question; how many of you ( those who are still with me , that is) how often is
kissing discussed before it happens?  The  wine kicks in, a bathroom break is need, the DVD player is paused, she goes to the bathroom, the man in question pours more wine, has an inner debate as if the time is right, gets nervous, she returns, and  they kiss.  She might go into
the bathroom wonder when he’s going to make that first move, how further he might push it, how far she’ll allow considering she would really like to stick around for breakfast, but doesn’t want him to think she’s easy. All of this might be discussed quite easily but when it gets right down to it, to quote Sarah McLaughlin, we are fumbling towards ecstasy.  So the man and woman on the sofa kiss, kiss some more, she gently refuses his advances, he retreats to a safe point but she playfully accepts his banter and the evening ends with both parties wishing for more but with her going home before she’s gets too intoxicated. They meet again and things get serious yet it’s the third date when the clothes fly away like migratory fowl heeding some inner
call at the right season. We couch our desires of other people’s actions in different ways as to express a desire for a certain behavior without expressing those desires outright. In a sense, our
ritualistic behavior has become nearly subconscious in nature. We cannot hope to understand our dreams and what our minds do when we are asleep when we barely recognize what we are saying and doing when we are awake.
            All of what you’ve read so far comes from an American, and a Southerner, and a man. I am also left handed, love canines, and dislike country music. What I have written is tainted, or enhanced, by who I am and what I am. You may disagree with me, agree with me, think
I’m the next Plato or suspect I’ve been smoking meth, but my opinion and your opinion on my opinion, has very little to do with what is true and what isn’t, or what is factual and what isn’t, but rather emotional responses to one another. The fictional man and woman on the sofa stealing glances at one another until their eyes meet and they move closer to one another or hold hands, are becoming intimate in a way that you and I are sharing at this very moment. And just like
those two, either you are liking what you’re seeing, or you’re wondering when the hell I’ll finally shut up. Either way, it’s a form of communication and if you’ll think about everything I have written so far, you’ll understand you and I are using this medium as a form of communication that is not totally unlike how we communicate with ourselves when we dream. Emotion, imagery, and at times, some disjointed and disconnected seemingly random brain energy that may or may not have some meaning, yes, all of it is here!
            So Elaine and Scott, the man and woman who were drinking wine on the sofa wake up in the morning to discover they are lovers. A thousand different control knobs are waiting to be turned. Did they use some sort of birth control? Is there a beautiful sunrise? Is either hungover? Are there any potentially embarrassing marks on her neck? Did Scott snore loudly? Or was the night everything they both hoped and yearned for in every way? Will they awake with an afterglow that warms them both for the rest of their lives? Will the neighbors, who are goodly distance away, be talking about that night for a while? Alas! This is not a dream, yet it is fiction, and the story of Elaine and Scott comes to an end, now. Do you have in your mind some pleasant ending for them, replete with golden sunsets and grandchildren, or did you lose it with the snoring thing? Everything you feel for them is in fact a daydream, and I wonder how much control we have there as well.
            Take Care,
               Mike 

Monday, September 5, 2011

As Summer Dies


As if my pleas for mercy were heard, and finally answered, the triple digit heat ended with a whimper rather than a bang and a puff of dust. I had dug into bunker mentality and decided that I would go ahead and plan for another one hundred dollar electric bill, possibly much more, but I had to have some relief. Before I could sacrifice a chuck of a paycheck to the Electric Company, or a virgin ( yeah, I know, where would I find one) to the hellish heat of South Georgia, the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped, and the rains finally fell again. My windows and doors are open as I write this and it is nearly comfortable again.
            I knew it was supposed to rain today so yesterday I went out and turned the mulch pile. It was dry, dust dry, bone dry, and the pile lacked any moisture anywhere but deep inside. I have six full sized sets of construction plans mixed in with the leaves and house debris, as well as two old pairs of jeans, and some cardboard boxes. The only fireants I have are in the mulch pile and it would seem the drought can kill them too. Heat, drought, and the whole world begins to dry and die. What is left living is so weak fire consumes it as if it were doused with gasoline. But it had to end, as all things do, and when the rain moved in, and stayed this time, the relief was palpable.
            But this is still September and this is still South Georgia. Even though the pepper plants in the Tiny Stump Garden had stopped producing that doesn’t mean Summer is gone. This temporary break is just a tiny hiccup in the heat, and anyone who lives here knows we are very likely in for at least two more weeks of heat and some of it will be brutal. Yet the days of triple digit heat are gone, likely. The dying pepper plants tell me the light is fading. The leaves are falling. The world slips into cooler weather with Summer fighting like a dragon to hang on but once the grip is loosed then hope returns. Two or three days of cooler weather do not spell the end of the heat by any means but they do spell the end to the relentlessness of it. Mornings will begin to be cooler. Sundown means the dark of the night can be enjoyed. Gnats appear later in the day and stay not as long now. But mostly this means that we no longer live in an oven.
            I took the pepper plants down with their tiny and muted fruit still clinging to the stems. All Summer long I had picked many pints of peppers and so much fruit was bore I could hardly give it away fast enough. Now the stump is barren again, and I’ll plant something else in it, an autumn garden of sorts, and see how this works out. The tomatoes look like they still have some life in them but their time too is limited. I’ll plants carrots where the tomatoes were, and again we will have to see how it all comes to be.
            Last night the mutts and I listened to the rain fall and it lulled us all to sleep. It has been a very long time since a gentle rain fell for hours on end and I have missed the sound.  Very late the night, a hoot owl showed up near the house and blasted away with its call. The dogs woke up, as did I, but we all just listened. Another owl landed closer to the house and the two began trading hoot secrets that echoed deep into the woods. A third landed on the house, very close to the window and suddenly there was a three part harmony of hooting, yet the dogs and I lay still in the night and the echoes of owl song, unlike that of the small birds I do realize, made their way through the woods and back again to be turned outward again. I have never heard three so close together at night like this. I can only guess the rain was filling in the low places and chasing rodents above ground to be hunted. It was impossible to sleep for the noise but it was at the same time soothing. The dogs, for reasons that escape me right now, didn’t get up to challenge their feathered foes for territory.  Perhaps they too were too deep in the solace of the coolness of the night. Let those on the outside have their world for one night and allow us to rest at ease for the first time since May.
            Dawn brought more rain and the dogs were hesitant to go out. I walked in the rain with them, barefoot and nearly naked. I haven’t felt cool rain like this in South Georgia for months. The oppressive heat that beat down upon us just last week was a memory now. On asphalt, the heat gets soaked into the pavement and even last at night the palm of a person’s hand can feel heat, hot and venomous, leeching back into the air. There is no residual heat here, not in the air or in the trees and certainly not in the ground. Here the earth is wet and cool, and here the air is fresh and clean. Here is an alien land to the Summer, and we have slipped beyond the grasp of the heat for a couple of days and it is delicious.
            The long range forecast still show highs in the mid nineties in the next ten days but there is no sign of upper nineties and beyond. The morning lows are now in the upper sixties. That means we’re losing four to five degrees of heat in the afternoon and four to five degrees of heat in the morning as well. The sun gets up later and she goes to bed more soon. Just last week there was no end in sight and now, in the beginning of this week there is welcome sighs of relief.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mind The Dogs


If you go into the woods with dogs you are hunting. Well, they think you’re hunting, and there are some dogs who have that thing inside of them more acutely than other. Sam prowls anytime he puts one foot in front of another on the outside of the house. His instincts are sharp and true. Sam isn’t interested in sight seeing or just nosing around for the hell of it or playing with the other dogs. Sam is looking for prey animals, trespassers, interlopers, passer-byes, or anything else that might indicate the borders have been breached. Sam is a seventy pound fire ant.
            Bert never killed anything until Sam did. Of The Three he’s the most self aware and the least likely to socialize with human beings. Sam and Lucas hang out together but mostly Bert stays alone by himself in some corner or in front of his bowl. He’s not antisocial he just isn’t social. He’s also the first to hammer down with his voice if a human comes near the house and he doesn’t bark very much at anything else. Of The Three, I think Bert is much more likely to defend me if something happens, but Lucas is showing sure signs of picking up some personality traits from Bert. It was Bert who trained Sam and now Lucas is becoming the dog that Bert was in his prime.
            Lucas is the largest dog I have ever spent time with. He is lean and muscular and powerfully built. He’s the first dog I’ve owned I cannot lift easily. Lucas is fast, quick, and if anyone ever attacks me they better hope Lucas is in another area code or it’s going to get nasty. Puppy kisses, belly rubs and ear scrutches aside, when you are dealing with the better part of a hundred pounds of tame wolf you better be damn sure of the disposition. If you watch dogs hunt as a pack certain real and undeniable truths arrive quickly; if they ever decide to kill you then you will not stand a chance. Keeping large dogs, clearly, isn’t for everyone, but I would not live any other way and I never will again. If you wonder how a human being can trust an animal the size of a wolf and not worry then you have never rescued a stray. Unconditional love is their entire existence. You could not take that out of their nature anymore than you could teach them to fly. My bond with The Three is deeper than that of most families, and certainly deeper than that of the people who live in cities. They are more human than most people I know.
            We were discussing hunting, I believe before I got off on a tangent, but I suspect an understanding of canines is needed to understand how it affects the mind. I’m accustomed to watching the dogs when we’re alone because their perception is sharper and cleaner than my own. They are not plagued with distraction as my mind is, and they’ve taught me to mistrust my senses and to trust theirs. Dogs have poor vision but they can hear ten times better than we can and their sense of smell is unerring. Maxium: If the dogs do not sense it then it is not real. I live by this rule.
            Late one night I was walking in the woods with the dogs when giant creatures passed over the land like ethereal whales. They were a product of exhaustion, insomnia, bright moonlight and clouds, but I felt them as they passed over and through me. The dogs snuffled around in the woods, and never reacted but I felt the leviathans as they passed. It was a sensation much like I would think a desert dweller felt seeing a lake for the first time. I remember Bert looking up at me, sensing that I was experiencing something unusual, but his nose and ears do not lie. The world is, to the dogs, as it is, and they sleep better than we for it.
            This morning I took the trash can out to the edge of the road and it irks me every time I do. I get charged the same as everyone else and I make this trip about once every forty days. Yet even though I throw away very little that is edible, fire ants have been known to make their home in the trashcan, so this morning I got tagged by a few of them. On the way to work I could feel them crawling on my arms and on my legs. But once at work when I could clearly see there were no ants, no stings on my legs, and only one or two on my hands from my first encounter with them from the trash can. My thirty minute commute was filled with crawly sensations that were as imaginary as positive results from Washington DC.  At work, the same chemicals in my brain that filled my pants with ants also created shadows where there were none, and I thought I saw a small animal run under a parked truck. I walked over to where I thought it was, but there was nothing there. I saw the shadow clearly, I thought, but reality showed me something different.
            At some time in our distant past, we befriended the wolf. I cannot but believe we did so because we admired the pack hierarchy and social order of these animals. I suspect we learned much from them in this. I also suspect their ability to create lasting bonds with one another, cemented by unconditional and undying love was a trait we could not help but be in awe of. Their ears and noses, along with their voices would alert us at night, and their ability to go from a bed warmer to a savage attacker in an instant is security unavailable in any other form. Yet it is their unwavering grip on reality that I depend on the most. I wonder, way back in our past, if this trait, this soundness of mind of theirs, did not attract a species whose ability to imagine so much more than reality, was grounded firmly by the ears, noses, and the love of the canines.
           
Take Care,
Mike

The Georgia Bulldogs: The Decline of a University.


Georgia, despite its pedigree, is a reflection of the present and not the past. A team accustomed to winning more games than it loses, at worst, is now losing more games than it wins, at best. But these are not the best of times for Georgia, or Georgia fans, or Georgia players, or for that matter, anyone remotely connected to the team.
            There is an alcohol problem in Georgia. Their last Athletic Director, a man making a half a million dollars a year, was busted in “The Red Panties Incident” where when pulled over by the cops close to midnight, he was holding in his hands the red panties of the woman he was with, who was not his wife. She was sans undies and belligerent, angrily telling the cops, “Don’t you know who he is? You’re going to get fired for this!”  But that seems to be the attitude of the Georgia football program as a whole. Players get drunk, steal things, break things, get pulled over and arrested and it never seems to stop. Top recruits were busted last year after they were caught stealing from the lockers of players during a tour. What sort of young men are they recruiting? They same sort they seem to have as players, clearly.
            In the last few years Georgia has seemed to be as lost on the field of play as they are off the field was well. They’ve lost their last two season openers badly. They cannot beat the teams they have to beat to remain respectable. They lost to Florida, once again last season, after blowing many chances to win the game. They lost ugly to Arkansas. They lost a game to South Carolina that they didn’t seem to care if they won, lost, or played at all. They look like a team without direction or correction. Last night they were playing catch-up all night long and in the end, seem to settle for just staying close enough not to be totally embarrassed. It’s a team effort towards mediocrity in a forum where second best is little differ than dead last, which by the way, is where this program is headed very fast.
            The Georgia Bulldogs football program is in decline. Morally bereft, physically weak, leaderless and lost, they are a reflection of the school system in general and the football program in particular. There is something far worse in Athens Georgia than a drinking problem. There is something far worst then thuggery and theft. The whole of the school system is beset with apathy and a sense that being good a long time ago is something that is good enough now. In Georgia, the future was many years ago and we can all drink to that.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, September 2, 2011

2011: The Summer Of HELL!


The number of days we’ve spent under the unrelenting glare of triple digit heat this year is phenomenal. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this Summer Of Hell has pounded the earth and the people with heat, more heat, and then after we had heat it got really very truly and honestly hot. The lows hovered in the mid-seventies and the humidity never dropped. This wasn’t so much of a Summer as it was a siege. Half of the Okefenokee caught fire and the other half just turned to dust. The Suwannee River dried up to a trickle. From late May and now into September the high temperatures seek solace in a furnace and there isn’t anything to make us believe this won’t keep going until at least the middle of the month, infinity, and beyond. The heat has us in a grip like that of some Stygian serpent slowly squeezing every drop of energy and life from us, relenting in its crush of dank and heated breath. May, June, July, August and now September, and there is no relief in sight.
            Yet the world turns still, and Her travels around Sol dictate to us what light will do regardless of the heat. If light meant nothing we could grow crops in an oven but we can’t. The Equinox is but three weeks or so away, and already the plants are bowing to nature’s never ending cycle, ignoring temperature as is their wont. The autumn vines grow stronger as the trees began to lose their leaves to less light. The wild grape vines are thinning their leaves as are some trees. Grass isn’t growing as fast as it was just a month ago. All the watering and heat that kept my pepper plants lust cannot keep the loss of light from affecting them and now I can see the earth beneath them clearly again. Dawn is creeping out of Her bed just a little later in the morning and the sun sets just a bit more early. The blast furnace that is the Summer of 2011 has lost none of its heat at all and it seems to be worst this week than ever, but nevertheless, the earth turns, and the light grows less.
            To give you a bit of perspective on where we are right now, we have as much light right now as we did back in April. That’s just a little early for planting because the heat isn’t right, but also because winter darkness is not yet broken. Yet because of the heat, people do not realize where we are in the season. In the northern part of the country they can already feel some relief from this Summer Of Hell, even if we cannot. The highs in most of the nation are still way over the top but there they are, on the fringes of the land, the cooler temperatures stand on the sidelines, waiting for the darkness that is most surely coming. The heat wave is far from over for The South but our northern neighbors are now feeling the first fingers of coolness at night, and far in the distance is the sounds of sighs of relief.
            September is usually the worst month for hurricanes but even as the first of the month comes with a hurricane on the radar the end of the storm season slips into view. Katia comes rumbling but behind her the days tick off the calendar towards October when the waters will begin to cool, and the conditions that feed storms begin to dissipate. It takes a week to ten days for a hurricane to brew and grow dangerous so if Katia doesn’t harm us then we’ve got another week or so before another shows. Another week or ten days after that and the season will be nearly ended. Into the very teeth of the time when hurricanes come howling there is hope they will not this year. They, too, are running out of time, even as they reach the peak of their season. Those of us who watch hurricanes now see the light at the end of the funnel cloud.
            Optimism with a month left in intense hurricane season may be misplaced and seems delusional on day when the high will be, one again, one hundred degrees plus. But the heat got here in May, and it has not relented. If we survived a four month Summer that looks all the world to be a five month Summer, can we not look towards October with some degree of hope? Corn is being harvested, peanuts and cotton are becoming ready, and school has started again. Regardless of how hot for how long, September once it begins will be a shorter month each day that passes. The first two weeks of September always resemble August in every form, but the truth of the matter is the earth will turn, and the days are already getting shorter and shorter, even if we haven’t noticed it in the heat. Thirty days separate us from October and in those thirty days we might have two, three, or even four hurricanes, and a dozen days of triple digit heat. The pounding we’ve taken from the Summer of 2011 shows no sign of weakness. The humidity is high, the temperatures are worse, and no one is sleeping with their windows open. I’m worried about Bert, my eldest dog, being exposed to the furnace during the day when I am not home, and I’m worried about the fires that might break out anywhere and everywhere during such conditions. What we really need is a good soaking rain that last for three or four days, when the temperatures never get above seventy during the day and drop down in the fifties at night. As far away as that may seem, we are closer to the beginning of November right now than we are to the last of May, when all of this began. The Summer of 2011 shows no sign of weakening, or diminishing, or even so much as blinking, but the signs are there, if you know where to look.

Take Care,
Mike