Sunday, December 31, 2006

December Irises

December Irises at Zoe Berkowski's house in Mill Valley

A small statue in the home of ornithologist and Alcatraz ranger, Christian Hellwig, at a time when he is seeking the parrot in Brazil that feeds its young with clay

Written 28 December 2006, in Christian Hellwig's house, where Brad Mitchell was housesitting:


Why do I make life seem like a trap?
I am the maker of that labyrinth.
This thing I consider my life's trail is,
in fact, the plan and pattern of my labyrinth.
If I could see it now instead of when
completed by my death, would I be glad
for that knowledge, that prescience?
And if I know I am in a labyrinth

of my own making, and that I am still making,
is there any sense in trying to make
my way out of that labyrinth? Instead
of the seeking that is creating my labyrinth,
if I just sit down and stop looking
for the way out, I WILL BE OUT.

- James McColley Eilers, copyright 2006

Zooming a view of San Francisco from Mill Valley:

Pretending that, as I say good-bye to 2006, San Francisco will have a brilliant yellow sky...

Friday, December 29, 2006

"The War at Home" -- Letter to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle

In their edition of 28 December 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle published a letter I sent to the editor -- to my surprise, without cutting it. They gave it a heading, "The War at Home":

"Why are our politicians so silent about the war going on in Oakland and Richmond?

"I know that Oakland is trying to find and train more police. We all know that the solutions are greater economic opportunity to end poverty and racism; more youth programs; more adequate education; etc., etc. But, while waiting for those long-term solutions, our elected officials seem willing to accept what is happening for lack of those solutions.

"There is an immediate need that must be addressed, and you politicians were elected to address them, but you are not doing that. Why? Give us an answer to that "Why?" Why are you silent? Step up and take responsibility, or get out of public office. Personally, I think the National Guard needs to occupy Oakland and Richmond until you get around to instituting the long-term solutions. Why are you silent? Why don't you do something? I am refraining from spewing the stream of epithets that I would like to let loose on you all!"

After the letter above was published, one man called, wanting to know if I was related to a John Eilers whom he had known in Northern California. A 68-year-old Greek-American man called from Petaluma. He had been in the United States for 30 years, and wished he knew English well enough to be able to convey his ideas because it concerned him so much that in a country so rich there should be such neglect of human life. His message was broken by tears. What is needed, he said -- but could not get anyone to understand him -- had nothing to do with politicians, but a notion like Hilary Clinton's IT TAKES A VILLAGE (not only community, I assume, but small units of recognition in which each person feels he is known and cared for and respected). He asked me to read page 76 of a book entitled THE DREAM AND THE NIGHTMARE.

The latest person who saught out my phone number to comment on the letter said, "I was surprised to see that someone had written what I have been feeling for a long time." She, a woman from Alameda, in spite of physical disabilities, intends to haunt the office of Ronald Dellums, when he takes over as mayor of Oakland, to talk to him about the matter.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Tor Archer Sculptures, Columbus Avenue Wigs

On Saturday, 16 December 2006, after doing tai chi on the Embarcadero and having breakfast at the Crossroads Cafe, Martha Hubert, Kathryn Hetzner, Gary Denmark, and I went to a gallery in North Beach to see the sculptures of Gary's friend, Tor Archer...

...and the strange vision of a Columbus Avenue Wig Shop...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Re The Immigration Issue

Something to see in regard to the tragedy of the immigration issue, about the raids on Swift -- scenes in BABEL echo this video. Too bad we have no wise leaders to resolve it:

Another little verse published

The latest issue of HAIGHT ASHBURY LITERARY JOURNAL includes what I suppose would be called an "occasional poem," written for Laura Atkinson's 50th birthday. It is ironic that it is published now that she is 75! I have sent it to her with apologies for being 25 years late.


After forty (and I assume, fifty)
a swimmer against the sea of gravity,
a sail against the wind of time,
a child on a skateboard,
jubilation follows hymn,
and a new spirit-monkey climbs
about in the bones' old jungle-gym.

Impromptu Iraq War Memorial, Lafayette, California

David Rust sent me the following account of how he and his wife Debbie visited the display that has aroused debate where it is located in Lafayette -- Someone setting up crosses on a hillside to represent service people killed in Iraq. David mentions that since they visited, someone has tarred over the sign on the site. At the same time a local Iraqi veteran has asked why people in the U.S. don't want to know about the deaths. From David on 21 December 2006 who also sent the photograph:

"Debbie and I stopped off at the Lafayette Iraq war memorial on Sunday on the way back from our weekend in Yuba City. I didn't know what to expect, but seeing the hillside covered in rough-painted, hand-made crosses, I was very moved. It’s a place of quiet, honor, and respect. Each cross symbolizes a soldier who died in George Bush's War On Terrorism. The cross also represents a family and community torn apart by the loss of this son or daughter, friend, and member of the whole.

"There were two men at the site: one was unloading a huge stack of unpainted crosses from the back of his truck; another was painting crosses laid out in the grass. I asked the painter why some of the crosses on the hill had not been painted. He said he didn't know anything about the site and was just helping out. As I watched him, the act of painting a cross took on a physical meaning—white paint imbuing purity and serenity to a violent death—we honor that death.

While we were there, people drove up in their cars, stopped, got out to look, and took pictures. Some left small memorial tokens; others walked up the hill to stand in the midst of the crosses. There's a different feeling up close than looking at the entire field of crosses from across the street. The memorial doesn't have anywhere near 2,937 (and counting) crosses.

"I can understand why some people in this relatively conservative community are very emotional about the memorial. It’s visible: from the freeway, from the BART platform, from the community. It says: “This many American soldiers have died in Iraq—so far.” It was disturbing to hear yesterday that someone painted over the sign with black tar. I may go back this weekend to lend a hand, and paint a cross."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush and e.e. cummings


Free societies do not export terror. That is why we are waging war on terror. Nothing will shake my will. I see the anguish in people’s eyes about our youngsters in harm’s way. I understand why people, seeing thousands – I mean, hundreds – of innocent people killed, wonder if we are winning. All these questions are attempts to shake my will – tricks to get me to show my cards.But no-one can force me to negotiate with myself. You know, it’s not all bombs. Life is getting better there. Many small businesses are starting up there. It could be that way here. With social security money borrowed and spent, we need profits from government-established personal savings accounts – a new ownership society: If you own something, your country is better off; you would have a stake in the future, and we would have a stake in you. When it comes to world peace, I’m realistic: We will have to kill a lot of people to achieve it. Don’t think you can make me negotiate with myself about any of this.

e.e. cummings:
“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ‘tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gory
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Whatever your take on the winter holiday season, a trimmed tree can be magic. Here, with my California Snowflakes, is a pretty e.e. cummings verse about the "Christmas tree":

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

the spangles
that sleep all year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel! Noel!"

And some more "California Snowflakes," multiplying into wrapping a wrapped present......time to unwrap 2007....Do you feel hope about what will be in it? I hope it will be a pleasant surprise. Deny Browne provided this: "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." - Lin Yutang

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Images and Observations

My Pumpkin Cornbread and a Full Moon Behind a Palm

I suppose everyone knows about the delusionary Christian movement begun by novelists Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, drawing on the Rorschach-like text of the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Their believers expect to experience “the Rapture, when Jesus has taken his people to heaven and left non-believers behind to face the Antichrist.” I suppose their chief persuasive weapon is that any who do not swallow their myth are said to be “Left Behind” – tapping into anyone’s neurotic side, and their fear of abandonment, loss, and separation. I fear for a country where so many are taken in by the simple-minded ideas of such charlatans, especially given the preposterous influence the Christian Right has on U.S. politics. I need something positive to neutralize the terrible boredom and annoyance caused by just hearing about this bullshit. Therefore, I want to encourage others to join me in affirming our happiness at being Left Behind by such people, escaping the company of a bunch of tedious nuts. We lucky Left-Behinders need to send our message to those on their way to “the Rapture”: Go ahead, don’t wait too long, get on out of here, please, and thank you. I don’t know what the Antichrist is, but if you hate it, it must be something I would like immensely. Is there any way we can help you achieve the Rapture? Let us help. I know that there is a good film called “The Rapture,” starring Mimi Rogers that you might like. I don’t exactly like a term like “Antichrist,” even though I know it would be fun to scare you by telling you that I believe in that bogeyman. But I think I would prefer to say, “Go ahead without me. I prefer to be Left Behind with Friends.” I heard on the news tonight that, just in time for me, there is some website called The Blasphemy Challenge, run by The Rational Response Squad. I go there now… Ooo, what wonderful people there are here… the_rational_response_squad_radio_show/3503 - 34k –

(1) On Dec 14, 2006, at 8:17 PM, Marcia Ackerman wrote: Joyful to find another one. I already have started talking to some friends about how, since we are part of the left-behinds, that we’ll be taking over Plumas County and we need to start planning and prepping for the Annual Solar Cook-off, the High Sierra Music Festival, and figuring out how to start cleaning up the mess that was left behind (for the left-behinds?). I’ve never planned this far in advance before. About 6 mos ago I received an email from a (former) friend from a Christian group that raises money to send Jews to Israel, purportedly to make the Jews happy. I decided that the mission of this group was not to make Jews happy, but to send Jews to Israel which helps set up things for rapture. Marcia
(2) Paradise might be a great place, but NOT with those people in it. Just the same, I really wonder what makes them think that any decent, self-respecting god would want them. That should be obvious, and unless those fanatics are downright stupid (even stupider than Bush), they must know it too. So that leaves me wondering: who are they really worshiping? A devil, perhaps. And it would have to be a pretty degenerate devil. Daniel

Could a saintly man be elected president? In 2003, Dennis Kucinich spoke a couple blocks away from where I live, on the steps of the local library, an appearance announced by this poster:

Autumn as Winter Solstice approaches...

Good follow-up to BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN -- Patricia Nell Warren's article, "Real Cowboys, Real Rodeos":

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Upcoming Publication of a Sonnet

The Gay and Lesbian Review in Boston will publish the following sonnet in its upcoming issue where the theme is Aging. In my one-act play Turning, one character asked another character to read this poem, giving as its title, “Reinforcement of Stereotype #112” – that is, the stereotype of the “‘lonely and isolated old gay guy.” I suppose that every human – regardless of whether he or she is burdened with the adjective “homosexual” or “heterosexual” – has this moment, or an extended period, of suddenly feeling old. After the character Rick read the verse, the other character, Murray, reminded him that if you get past that moment, what follows is what Bob Dylan says in the line, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” I don't know if the editors of the G&LR will add the “Stereotype #112” line as a subtitle to the title, but I suggested “Turning” as a title:


You are forced into icy corsets of virtue
by the crafty generosities of younger friends;
they grant you the pure and the true –
out of the way of their quick ends.
Best to keep apart then, their old crag,
a fixed and-baked clay face above the puddle,
and keep a fairy’s secret garden; be hag
o’ the wood to them in love’s young muddle.
But, no, we’re tossed in the daily stream,
old laundry, singles in basement apartments,
on Friday nights one pink box of cream
pastry held by a string. Do all in the trolley sense
that this is the end of man-love’s dream?
Winter sunset; melting Napoleon; no pretense.

Of interest to no-one but me, I suppose, was the way the verse was written. One struggles with a form like the sonnet, and sometimes the result is creaky and forced, but, in this case, while listening to Purcell’s opera King Arthur, 45 to 90 minutes, the sonnet came out, phrase by phrase, and I don’t think I changed a word. What I cannot remember is where my mind was in between those emerging phrases; perhaps I just waited in a dream state, like a setting hen waiting for the next egg to emerge!

Maxine Hong Kingston spoke first....

…at the 8 December 2006 gathering and march in support of G.I. Rights and G.I. Resistance to the War in Iraq. She was not comfortable with being characterized as an "activist," feeling that..

...a good citizen is not only in what you do, but in what you know about what governs our world and whether those hard-won accords and rights are being obeyed or betrayed.

I am supposing that San Francisco would be a place that ignores prosecution of those resisting an illegal war (I suppose their board of supervisors have already made that the policy of San Francisco) so that they were free to appear at this meeting and the demonstration to follow.

One of those scheduled to speak was Specialist Suzanne Swift, “facing a redeployment to Iraq while serving under the command of the same individuals that allowed her to be raped and sexually harassed when absent without leave rather than subject herself to the horrors she experienced during her first tour of duty.” A friend spoke in her place: Suzanne, facing court martial in early January, had finally given into pressure and had just given herself up to the military. (So many of those who have gone AWOL have been turned in by their own families.)
The many resisters present, from the war in Vietnam and from the current war, made it clear with their shouts and applause that they continue to support Ms. Swift.

I guess I will not be silly or resentful about the GI movement against the war in Iraq receiving more attention with the first officer’s resistance instead of when marine Stephen Funk became the first to step forward as a resister. But...“On June 22, 2006, Lt. Ehren Watada became the first U.S. commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the unlawful Iraq war and occupation. He now faces court martial on February 5, and, if convicted, could face six years in jail.”
Lt. Watada’s father, Bob Watada, and his stepmother, Rose, had flown in from Hawaii for this gathering. Mr. Watada reported that the number of military personnel absent without leave has risen to 8,000. The highest percentage of Americans killed from a particular state or territory has been Puerto Ricans – but they are not counted in the statistics presented to the public, or are soldiers serving from other places outside mainland U.S.A.

It is a fact that Ehren Watada, if you see or hear him speak, is simply a wonderful human being, of a shining integrity, and, incidentally, very handsome, and his stepmother Rose, speaking of her pride in his action and of his other virtues, teared up and could not speak for a moment.
After resisting orders that would have resulted in his shooting a small boy in Iraq, and refusing to commit other illegal acts (“I never pulled my trigger after that”), Darrell Anderson was overwhelmed psychologically. He found refuge with some others who are AWOL in a little colony of resisters in Toronto, Canada. He has found the strength for this sojourn into the U.S.A. His mother joined him, and she also spoke.

Darrell’s mother is a fighter who supports her son and all other resisters. At some point she recounted some of the harassment they have endured.

A petition was circulated in their state, urging that authorities go to Canada, capture Darrell, and bring him back so that he could be executed as example of “a coward.”

Because he had barely escaped being caught the night before, resister Kyle Snyder spoke to the group by phone that was amplified for the crowd. Holding the phone to the mike, was a mainstay, always, in local events of the Veterans Against the War, Michael Wong, a resister during the Vietnam War. Mr. Wong told an amusing story about returning from Canada to the U.S. to turn himself in, but having to wait a couple hours as the F.B.I. could find no evidence of his existence.

Even after the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, the effect of the war will continue for years, and one of the resisters – I think it was Darrell Anderson – said that he did not want to see the same results for the Iraq veterans as those from the American War in Vietnam – at least a third of the current homeless on the streets being veterans of that war.

We gathered by the bus of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (I gather the group’s central office is in Atlanta, and the bus comes and goes from Atlanta), for more speeches and rap indictments of Bush and the war by veterans and young men from Oakland.

U.S. Marine Stephen Funk, the first to publicly resist service in the war in Iraq, was delightfully and frankly a gay man. He has served a six-month sentence and was given a dishonorable discharge—but they won’t give him the actual document so he is out of the service, yet kept in a strange state of limbo.

He thanked all supporters of G.I. resistance: “Without all of you, it would not have been six months, it would have been Guantanamo.”

Kyle Snyder, whom we had heard by phone, decided that he could not stay away, and he showed up by the bus.

As with the American War in Vietnam, the extent of G.I. resistance, and the struggles and troubles they endure, is not known to the general public. I thought I knew about those activities when I was opposing the war in Vietnam, but my knowledge fell far short of the truth, and I hope everyone will get a chance to learn, as I did, from “Sir No Sir,” available on NetFlix (“Filmmaker and activist David Zeiger's documentary chronicles the largely forgotten anti-war activities of American GIs and other members of the military during the Vietnam era. Powerful and surprising, this look back at a little-investigated chapter of history weaves together the stories of veterans who participated in the opposition movement, an effort that, by the early 1970s, found widespread support from civilians and troops alike.”)

The next general demonstrations against the war across the U.S. are scheduled for January 27 – See you there. After all, when Episcopalian bishops are getting arrested for lying down in front of the Federal Building (aren’t they usually on vacations in Europe?), isn’t it time for an all-out mass objection to this horribly stupid mistake?