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Showing posts from 2007

De regalo

You've probably seen one of the Free Hugs videos. I saw one from Mexico last week, and once again found myself richer for a language lesson. The Spanish phrase for Free Hug is Abrazo de regalo. De regalo. It means as a gift. There is no reference to cost or no-cost. It is a gift.

It set me thinking, in this season marked by giving--this season often turned into buying in order to give--how so often our lives fall into patterns of sales. Sell and succeed. Buy and own. If we buy enough services and "stuff" from each other, we will all be successful, so the current culture says, acts, advises.

But what if? What if we just gave? Let's say I need shoes and you need a coat. What if I give you a coat that I have that I don't need and you give me a pair of shoes? What if I need an understanding ear, and you need someone to pick up soup for you at the store because you have a cold and shouldn't be out in the weather? What if you listen to me and my dilemma for an hour, …

How much more can they take?

Just in from the European Journalism Center Newsletter:
Iran: Use of the word women ‘banned from state TV’The word 'women' must now be replaced on Iranian state television by 'family', reformist Norouz news agency reports. In programmes broadcast throughout the International Day for the Elimination of Violenceagainst women last Sunday, Iranian state TV used the word family instead. In recent weeks, Iran's Centre for the Participation of Women changed its name to the Centre for Family Matters. At the time of former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, the centre was set up within the president's office. Khatami was president of Iran from 1997 to 2005. (AKI News)It's not enough to make women cover their faces and bodies. Not enough to forbid them to drive cars or study or work. No, more must be done. Let's do away with the very word, Woman. And, people living in the Western world need not be smug or self-righteous at this bit of news from Iran. W…

'Scatalogue Time: How to Stop the Flood

I used to look forward to finding a catalogue or two in my mailbox in days of yore. It afforded me a few relaxed minutes of window-shopping or idea-cropping at the end of the day. Ah, those were the days.

Now, I receive 60 to 80 catalogues in the mail every week. Many merchants send duplicate catalogues within a two- to three-week timespan, while others have my name on duplicate lists that, for some reason, they do not purge. If your mailbox is overflowing with unwanted catalogues, there is HOPE. Go to Catalog Choice, where you can opt out of receiving any of the catalogues on their list. This is a free service, and kudos go to the participating merchants.

It takes very little time, and the site is easy to use. Save a tree! Or a small forest! Help businesses save on postage! Keep your mailbox clear for old-fashioned love letters, post cards from San Luis Potosí, and fan mail from your grandmother! We have a choice.

Where are we headed, America?

A friend from across the pond just sent me a link to a video on YouTube by Chaser Non-Stop News Network in Australia, a program akin to the Daily Show in the US. The "reporter" is Julian Morrow. Even given the probability (a great one at that) that there were people who answered Morrow intelligently and were edited from the program, there is still too much stupidity on display here for any of us to ignore. In the world we live in today, being stupid is not funny, it's dangerous. And, as an American, I find the sheer embarrassment of this willful ignorance painful. I have been unable to make the link work in my blog, but if you go to youtube and put cnnn in the search box, go to number 5, Are Americans Stupid?

The answers people give to Morrow's questions are unthinkable. "What is the religion of Israel?" "Catholicism." "What is a country whose name starts with U?" "Yugoslavia. Utah." "What country should the US invade next?…

Finding Special

I recently traveled 'cross the pond to visit friends in Europe. While planning the trip, I had a good time just thinking about the "special" places I would find "far away," and my journey in no way disappointed me in this regard. But neither do you have to travel far to find Special. And the closer you are to home territory, the more that which is Special may take you by surprise.

I was passing through Brownwood, Texas, last summer. As I strolled through its downtown district, I could see a rain storm coming, and having yet to stop for lunch, I ducked into an inviting storefront with a happy-colored, giant ice cream cone sculpture at its door.

I had just entered the land of the Turtle, the kingdom of slow food, which, until a few years ago we did not think of as slow food, but as good food. Brownwood's Turtle Restaurant offers food that could qualify for five stars at a price that we two-star income earners can afford. The meals are both natural and elegant,…

Recommended Reading

Should I ever go to "the desert island," these books
will be in my bag.

Turning the Mind into an Ally
by Sakyong Mipham Rimpoche

No Death, No Fear
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Image by Thich Nhat Hanh, Available at

AP: Anonymous Photographer

Who dunnit?
The image was magnetic to my eye. If Whistler were here, he would wish that he had painted this photograph of Princes Harry and William after the Service of Thanksgiving for Princess Diana. The black background, with the princes' black jackets seeming to just barely emerge from it, was certainly worthy of Whistler or Sargent. It set off their facial coloring in a spectacular way. The picture was also special because it was candid; these were two faces in thought, not in picture. It was an AP photo--meaning Associated Press. I tried finding the image on the AP site . . . It's probably there somewhere for purchase, but I wasn't up to working my way through the maze. I don't understand why AP or perhaps my hometown newspaper would not include a photo credit. Whoever took this photo produced a work of art. So, whoever you are, wherever you are, Anonymous Photographer: well-done, very well-done indeed.

Azúca' pa' ti

A friend of mine gave me this CD some time ago, and I listened to it for the first time this afternoon. What a treat! I highly recommend it. It's also interesting to see what other people say about it in the reviews on

Try Care.

When I first heard about the I35W bridge collapse, my heart was in my throat. But my mind was in familiar territory, asking (yet again) why this disaster? Within hours, reports revealed that problems with the bridge had been noted as far back as 1990. There are many places where you can read the particulars about the engineering and "structural deficiency" details. These particulars are more than news, however. They are also indicators that the US is well on its way to fitting the profile of a "third-world" country.

When I think of "third-world" countries (a term I don't like, but will use here because of its widespread usage), I think of: substandard infrastructure; uneven health care; wide gaps in living conditions between rich and poor. I also think of crippled governments whose legislators do not act in the interests of the citizens they represent; heads of state who make unilateral and arbitrary decisions and/or ignore their country's constit…

Heart's Bridge to Minnesota

The collapse of the I35W bridge in Minnesota leaves us speechless. Four seconds is all it took. CNN has played the traffic surveillance video of the collapse a lot in the past few days. They have also shown us informative and dramatic footage. Yet, there is something about still photography that takes us inside this event in a subtle, powerful--and poignant--way that moving pictures cannot. Perhaps only still photography can convey a sense of the "eerie and total silence" that victims and eyewitnesses experienced immediately after the bridge's plunge into the Mississippi, breaking, twisting, and falling in on itself and its passengers.

The photo above was taken by Tim Davis of Consolidated Photos in Minnesota. You can see the rest of his still photos here at

I recommend that a) you look at them, because they are good photos and truly put you on the scene, and that b) you spend some time with them, contemplative time. Slow down. Think about how fragile…

Time Warner Gone Postal

Here is an article from Meg Weaver's excellent Wooden Horse Magazine'sNewsletter. Yet another indication that day by day, Americans cease to live in a country, but rather inside one big business.
Dear readers,

Publisher Time Warner has a secret weapon - the US post office.

Wanting to squeeze even more profits from their magazines, Time Warner called in the bean counters and must have told them to look at the postal rates. How could Time Warner avoid the 2007 11.7% postal increase that had been announced in 2006? The bean counters went to work.

In February 2007, the Postal Regulatory Commission rejected the proposal from the US Postal Service and accepted a fee increase strategy based on a complex proposal submitted guessed it, Time Warner.

The USPS then allowed just eight business days for formal responses to the 758-page proposal. On March 19, the fee increase was a fact - to go into effect July 15.

The publishers groaned and tried despe…

Beware the Wolves in Government Clothing

This just in from the National Resources Defense Council. Please read, please participate, and for more information on the wonderful work that NRDC does, click here.

The Bush Administration has just issued a disastrous "License to Kill" plan that could trigger the extermination of half the gray wolves in Wyoming and Idaho, starting as early as October -- unless we stop it now.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on this cruel proposal only until August 6. Please register your opposition right now by clicking here.

Our best hope for blocking this "open fire" order is to generate a tidal wave of public outrage and please sign your Citizen Comment immediately.

The Bush Administration wants to treat wolves like vermin, instead of an endangered species that has staged a welcome and dramatic comeback from the brink of extinction. In preparation for these mass killings, the government has already purchased planes and helicopters capa…

A Country or a Country Club?

Sometimes I wonder if by living in the USA, I am living in a country or a country club. Scooter scoots free--not that he was the real criminal in the case, anyway. And government duties go--not only to high or low bidders--but to buddies. Billions of dollars are changing hands. It's not the money that's maddening, but the fact that while money is being made, lives are being lost, and our country is turning into a business. Ever spent a year in a corporation's cubicle? Did it feel like peace, liberty, and justice for all? Hardly.

Joan Baez wrote, "Action is an antidote to despair." I add, "You need information to know how and when to act." (something our newly elected dems are not doing just real well--acting, that is.) Jim Hightower is doing a fabulous job of getting information out that is ordinarily very hard for the public to access. You can subscribe to his detailed newsletter The Hightower Lowdown for just $10, or you can check out the website he…

Start Hugging

The sirens should have sounded. The wind was straight-line and coming in at 94 miles an hour at 3 a.m. No rain. No thunder. Just that sound. That sound that people on the plains know means a tornado is possible, if not imminent. That supernatural train-like roaring moan.
But the sirens did not sound. The first mechanical sound after the storm was that of chainsaws, so many of them going at one time, that all one had to do was walk outside and be overtaken by the noise.
As silent as the sirens, the trees took the hard edge of the destructive wind. Some lost limbs. Some were split in half, top to bottom. Others were toppled, roots and all. One tree had a 9-foot spread of roots, now lifted up to the air.

Trees. Those great beings that cannot run. That give us shade, shelter, fruits, color, memories and places to climb and swing. They're hurting now. They can't go inside from storms.

Time to go hug these trees, the survivors, the wounded, the lost.
Afraid someone will call you a tree h…

The Mightiest Army: In Need

Last night on BBC World News, a reporter called the US Army "the mightiest in the world."

Just before the newscast, I had gone through the mail for the day. I had received yet another request to donate money to US military, this time to soldiers in Iraq. At least three times a week, my mail contains a solicitation to donate funds to US military personnel and/or related veterans groups. Some letters request donations to paralyzed or disabled veterans. One makes requests especially for seriously burned veterans. The requests to donate money specifically to support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasing. I am 1000 percent behind supporting our military, in peace or in war. I have no problem making donations or encouraging others to do so.

But one question haunts me. Why is it that the "mightiest army in the world" needs charity? How is it possible for our government to so mistreat the very men and women on whom we depend to be the first and last line of def…

Local Color(s)

The Texas wildflowers are wonderful this year, thanks to the
extra rain. To see flower photos, visit Texas Highways.
For a different kind of local color, I present the following photos
from travels along Texas highways and byways.

Ant Street Auction House / Brenham
Flamenquera a la venta

Shop Window / Hico
A donkey for sale--and fresh fudge.
Mmm . . . .??

Main Street / Hico
Where "Cowboy Rumba" and other classics are piped
through loud speakers all day.

Display Window / Hico
"Cat's meow" home accessory, just $317.

Sugar Moon Antiques / Hico
These two made-in-Mexico musketeers came home with me.

Artist's Studio / Brenham
Gets the prize for local color on this trip.

Images, copyright 2007 Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.

A Mother's Honor

I happened to drive through Crawford, Texas, this weekend. As I drove through (unbeknownst to me), Cindy Sheehan was shutting down Camp Casey to announce later that she was ready to retire from her public battle for peace.

In our local paper today, columnist Judith McGinnis devoted her column to Sheehan. The title was "Not for Nothing." I hope Sheehan will see this article somehow, and take the title to heart. Indeed, her efforts were "not for nothing." What guts she displayed in the wake of her grief. She was, on occassion, accused of being shrill. Ever heard a roadside bomb? Ever heard a man full of shrapnel cry out when hit? It was not inappropriate for Sheehan to fight shrill with shrill. Bury your child. Live through that, and tell me you have no right to be shrill.

As she closed down Camp Casey, Sheehan told the press: "(My son) Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the ne…

Overdue Review

For some months, I have been intending to post a brief review of poet Bart Edelman's book, The Alphabet of Love, published by Red Hen Press. The book was published in 1999. It was new to me, however, in 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Edelman's poetry moves lightly, lines flowing quickly into each other, touching depths without getting mired in same. There is humor here, too, seen most clearly perhaps in the opening poem for which the collection is named:

"A adores B,
But B is enamored of C,
C suffers terribly
From a protracted divorce with D
And won't get involved with anyone now;
However, C thinks E is fun
To help break the weekend monotony.
E seems mixed up
And fell for F
Last month at a dance ranch . . . . "

And on it goes all the way to Z and a classic "If only . . . . " that brings the poem full circle.

Edelman's technique is admirable. His lines are honed. He handles rhyme and rhythm with subtlety and skill. No prose masquerading as poetry her…

Listen to What They Do

It's a catch phrase in Neurolinguistic Programming. "Don't listen to what someone says. Listen to what they do."

The American majority is clearly against continuing the war in Iraq and clearly for removing our troops as efficiently, safely, and quickly as possible. Do we "support our troops?" Yes! That's why we want them out of an unjustified conflict-turned-civil-war and back on home turf, where they are also needed. And where their families need them. Millions of us communicate this firm desire of the American people every day to someone in our government. And, then we have to listen to what they do. And do not do.

The Democrats have shown an amazing talent for sheer cowardice (again). Under threat of veto, they have folded and watered down the bill for not funding the continuation of the war. A veto will not destroy their precious chances of being elected again. Their not standing up to the veto will. What in God's name happened to the American…

Plum Out of Purple!

I needed two purple pillows and set out to find them one afternoon. But they were not to be found. In fact, purple itself was not to be found. Wal-Mart--no. Target--no. Bed Bath and Beyond--no. Linens and Things--no. Ashley Furniture Home Store--no. Big Lots: At last! They had one. One purple pillow. The staff at BBB told me that they have requests for purple items all the time, but this major Big Box retailer has not carried anything purple in three years. Office Depot no longer has purple notebooks, either, though they do have purple file folders.

Good grief, Charlie Brown! Who decided that you and I could not purchase purple any more? So, a few colors are more "in" some years than others. Fine. But making a great, rich, rewarding color like purple disappear?

Who decided to take purple away from us, and when, and why?

Texas Our Texas

When I saw this fantastic photo by Elizabeth Hawley, it brought back lots of Texas memories. The photo is iconic, its composition and color both startling and strong: a classic Texas view. And so, I am inspired to return to childhood days and include a fragment of that state song we were all required to learn:

Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! so wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.

God bless you, Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.

I imagine my fellow grown-up-here Texans also remember our teachers explaining to us that the lyrics used to say "Largest and grandest." However, once Alaska joined the EEUU, Texas was no longer the largest, simply boldest and grandest. Subtlety. Just what Texas is known for. Some of us like all the largeness here, though. It provides us a place to live behind, quietly. And…

The Warrior Poet

National Poetry Month comes to an end today. While others may have begun National Poetry Month with great fanfare, I would like to end it with same--my fan fare for a great poet, teacher, and friend, James Hoggard.

James Hoggard is the author of sixteen books, including six collections of translations, three of them of collections of poems by Oscar Hahn (b. 1938, Chile). The winner of numerous awards, including an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and the Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Literary Translation, he has published six collections of poems, as well as two collections of stories, a novel, and a volume of nonfiction. He is the Perkins-Prothro Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. His work has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Partisan Review, Translation Quarterly, and numerous other journals and anthologies.

That's one official bio, but it leaves out the factor of context, or …

Speaking Up for Gun Control: The Easy Way

Walking through a housewares shop today, I saw a blender called "Magic Bullet." In the wake of the many articles published after the Virginia Tech killings, I've been paying more attention to our everyday speech. Gun references abound.

"Hit me with your best shot. Fire away." Have a double-shot of Starbucks expresso. Go to a photography shoot. Is your old car shot? Drink Coors, the Silver Bullet, or buy a Silver Bullet Comic Book. Buy a Bullet Skateboard, or update your computer with Bulletproof Software. Perhaps, you're gunning for your next promotion; you've discovered a sure-fire way to succeed. Or, your economic state may force you to live in a "shotgun shack." We place design "bullets" at the end of articles or use bullet-point lists in our MS Word or WordPerfect documents. When it's time to do something important, we say, it's time to "bite the bullet."

Take our everyday expressions a step further, and we go i…

Every Day is Earth Day: Musings

On a practical note, I believe that if everyone had to dispose of their own trash in their own back yard, we would long ago have made recycling routine, stopped purchasing unnecessary packaging, and sworn off plastic bags. Imagine your back yard if, for the last five to 10 years, all your and your family's trash were deposited there. We never see the mountainous trash dump, and so, we never "know what we do."

On a poetic note, Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem Binsey Poplars calls us to recognize--and feel--what we do and do not do, to and with the earth. What will the "after-comers" (our children and grandchildren) see and know of our natural world? Is the landmark documentary Planet Earthonly that--a documentary meant to preserve the memory of our world? Some have said it is. It can also be a celebration of our natural world that inspires us to care for it and all upon and within it. We need only feel for Mother Earth what Hopkins felt for these beautiful …

The Poet's Part

The service at Virginia Tech today was brought to conclusion by poet Nikki Giovanni, a Virginia Tech alum. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

“We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning. We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy. We are Virginia Tech. The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave a…

Blood in the Mind, Part 2

Now we know. The gunman was mentally ill. His creative writing teacher had notified all the authorities that she could. But, according to law, no one could take "action" until Cho Seung-Hui had threatened to harm someone. Not likely from a young man who did not even say hello when greeted by his classmates or neighbors. In fact, Cho Seung-Hui never said anything at all to his own college roommate. Remember dorm rooms? Those cubicles with bunk beds or some other arrangement that maximizes limited space? Can you imagine being in close quarters like that and never saying a word to the person with whom you shared them? He had not verbally threatened anyone, although his creative writing was full of violence and threatening content. But he had set fire to his dorm room earlier. Is that not considered threatening behavior?

There needs to be a way to address the dangers caused by mental illness before physical threats are made, before fires burn out of control. The law …

The Blood in the Mind

The news is harder than ever to hear today.
32 dead, gunned down inside a classroom inside a building whose doors the gunman had chained shut. But these were not the first to die this morning on the Virginia Tech campus. The first were a man and a woman inside a dorm. At this moment, the (understandably) cryptic remarks from the Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief lead us to believe that the evidence indicates that there were two, not one, gunmen; and, that the two shootings were unrelated. Although we have yet to know the verified particulars on the classroom gunman, first impressions by witnesses indicate someone under age 21.

Already the media is tackling the gun control issue, as well they should. But there is another issue, one that does not get discussed nearly enough.

The issue is this: We do not pay enough attention to mental illness. We act as though it is abstract and fuzzy--until someone who is mentally ill harms or kills someone else. We write off abusive behavior, excuse ve…

National Poetry Month in the US

Does it matter?
More than ever.

It's National Poetry Month in the US. While poetry may not stop the war in Iraq or immediately put foods in the mouths of hungry children, at its best it stands as a clear counterpoint to the world's ills. Poetry moves, informs, enlightens, and reminds us of the upper reaches and sacred depths to which and through which humankind is capable of traveling. You can find a lot of poetic celebration at the American Academy of Poets website. And more to come soon on this blog. . . . .

Arabesques and Beautiful Lines

I stayed up late last night to email politicians who favor a bill that would greatly dificultar the voting process in the U.S. Those were necessary lines, but I couldn't call them beautiful . . . beautiful as an Arabesque pose held just right by a ballerina, beautiful as the lines formed by the algebraic patterns that result in Arabesques found in art and architecture. Most recently, I have found many a beautiful line in yet another form of Arabesque, the international literary journal, Arabesques Review, now in its second year of publication.

Founded and published by Amari Hamadene, Arabesques Review is both a print and online journal. You can access the journal online and can also order a copyof the print journal. I highly recommend ordering the print journal. It's an aesthetic pleasure: its back cover as beautiful as the front, highly readable type treatment, and a perfect size.

The latest issue's theme is "War and Poetry." The variety of contributions from…

Falta hacer unas preguntas importantes.

Hoy se debaten la "despenalización del aborto" en México. Pero existen unas preguntas importantísimas que, por lo menos en las noticias de esta mañana, no se hicieron. Hubo un debate en Canal 2 en Primero Noticias, bien hecho, pero también mal hecho. ¿Por qué mal hecho? Porque fueron dos hombres que realizaron el debate. Cada voz oficial citada esta mañana en estas noticias era voz de varón. La única citación en las noticias de una mujer con voz "oficial" fue la de una diputada que se quejó sobre la llegada a México de un representante oficial del "país" vaticano para registrar la desaprobación de esta "nación" sobre los trámites legislativos ocurriéndose en México. Tiene razón ella, esto es asunto de México y para los mexicanos y no hace falta que el Vaticano enviara representación gubernmental . . . . como si la iglesia católica no tuviera amplia representación en México.

Pregunta 1: ¿Por qué no fueron mujeres las personas que participar…

Take Time for Beauty

Just published: my piece on Art Appreciation for Private Clubs magazine, featuring art dealers Joyce Robins, Karan Ruhlen, Charlotte and Lorran Meares, and Bryan Roughton. Click here to read the article.

Follow these links to the great websites for these top-notch galleries. Each one is a real treat:

News by Number

3,205 American soldiers killed in Iraq

134 British soldiers killed in Iraq

24,042 American military seriously wounded in Iraq

54 American soldiers committed suicide between 03 and 05.

100,000+ Iraquis killed

2,000,000 Iraquis now live in Syria and Jordan as refugees.

2,000,000 Iraquis are homeless.

50% of all Iraquis have a family member who has been killed or wounded.

5,500 American soldiers have deserted while serving in Iraq.

22,000 American military have deserted since the beginning of the Iraq war.

95 Journalists killed in Iraq

543 Soliders killed in Afghanistan, representing 15 countries, including 373 US dead, 52 UK dead, and 20 Spanish dead.

$505 billion: US tax dollars spent and approved for spending on Iraq war.

3500 War protesters marched in Chicago last week.

44 War protesters arrested on Wall Street last week for "disturbing the peace."

27% Approval rating for President Bush in Newsweek's latest poll. The lowest approval rating for a president in the hi…