Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Memory of Poet Jon Anderson

While Robert Minichiello was dying, I kept leaving messages at the University of Arizona in Tucson for his old friend, poet Jon Anderson, and only recently discovered that during the same time Jon was dying too. Jon sometimes stayed with us when he was in San Francisco, and I stayed with his first wife Nancy one night in Boston, and Jon and his second wife Linda also stayed with Robert and me in San Francisco, and I took them on their first acid trip, a long, amusing day.

Later he was here with his third wife Barbara and their son. His small son was very shy when pressed forward to meet me, and I said, "I know. It is tiresome having to meet strangers, isn't it?" So I was touched when we were all out to dinner and his son ducked under the big table and appeared at my knees and climbed into my lap.

I had lost contact with Jon, but assumed we would meet again as he, like Robert, was younger than I, and I assumed there was time enough for us to meet again, so it was a shock to learn from his first wife, Nancy (now Lagomarsino) that Jon had been dying simultaneously with Robert.

If you care to look at his obituary [], you will see that he was reading Tu Fu and Wang Wei decades before Paul Harmon introduced me to those antique Chinese poets.

One of my favorite memories of Jon was the story he told about being at a baseball game in Fenway Park, Boston, that was rather dull and so he began to chant, "Mayakovski! Mayakovski!" as if that Russian poet were a baseball player they should bring on the field to save the game, and it seemed a likely name for a baseball player. Soon half of the stadium was chanting, "Mayakovski! Mayakovski! Mayakovski!"

Friday, November 23, 2007


Fred Goldsmith, Gary Morgret, and I went on an excursion to photograph Oakland's Chapel of the Chimes (Julia Morgan, architect) and the Mountain View Cemetary and Columbarium in Oakland, and, coincident with the last entry on this blog, I saw again the ancient icon of the Pelican as symoblizing the Christian Messiah:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pelicans Real and Symbolic

Observing my photos of pelicans, Kim Yanoshik ( observed how they seem like pterodactyls still living among us, survivors of the age of dinosaurs, and I think we treasure them for that. It reminded me of a verse I wrote (an ongoing draft) that included an old myth about the pelican:


The leaves scissor my thoughts
and settle me down on the creek
that bubbles over the rocks
and makes the wilderness speak.

A slice of my life, I lie below
the purling stream and watch
the cloudy sky through
the rippled surface of a dream.

I sleep in the vein of time
and believe that the heart
of nature pours out life for
me – a child of the pelican,

once thought to drive its beak,
when it must, into its breast
to feed its young (so Christ,
by his blood, was to feed all
who hunger in our earthly nest).

-- James McColley Eilers, Copyright 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birds on Lake Merritt (Oakland Estuary)

More Birds....Paul Heidt once took me on a night walk around Lake Merritt, showing me how the Black Crowned Night Herons were stationed along the shore, watching the water, looking for something to eat. (Sadly, I once saw one of these wild night creatures standing around in the daylight outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken stand, but the birds stay away now as people seem to respect the PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BIRD sign.) With Oakland being the 4th most dangerous city in the country (and crime occurring in my neighborhood too and along my path, at night, from BART), I don't usually walk from BART after the sun sets, but recently I arrived home later than usual, and saw this Black Crowned Night Heron at its station:

Walking around Lake Merritt in the last month or two, I saw a wild scene of cormorants and pelicans in one crowd, gathering in one spot, then all flying off together to another spot, then again flying en masse to another part of the "lake." I am supposing that some edible sea creatures (sardines?) had made their way in from the ocean -- Lake Merritt not a lake, in fact, but a salt water estuary, with rising and falling tides (although none of the recent oil spill reached what I prefer to call "the Oakland estuary"):

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The American Dipper, also known as the Water-Ouzel, or Water Thrush (Cinclus Mexicanus, SW)

While in Yosemite beside the Merced River, naturalist Paul Harmon called my attention to a small bird in the water, and said it was John Muir's favorite bird. In Muir's THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA (1894), Chapter 13 is dedicated to the Water-Ouzel. [].

Here is an illustration of that bird from that chapter:

Paul Harmon has let me know that the bird is known now more by the name of The American Dipper. Here are four strictly amateur photos I took of the bird from some distance and with the bird in constant motion, starting with the Dipper dipping:

Of course, a much better photo is available on Wikipedia:

Friday, November 16, 2007

"At Gregg's Place" -- Thank you, Gregg Biggs

A revelation to me, Gregg Biggs has added the 8-minute video/slideshow I made after cat-sitting for him to his blog. I am surprised that this can be done -- and Gregg has such a large audience for his blog that I have already received a message from someone in Ohio. What fun! Thanks, Gregg.

Day of the Dead at the LGBT Center

The Day of the Dead altar at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender [and Intersex] Center...

...celebrated Gwen Araujo, one of many transexuals murdered in the U.S...

...and yet transgender citizens were excluded from the new Hate Crimes bill.

Friday, November 09, 2007

THAT Time Approaches...

...when windows are possessed by fantasies...

...a time of color and sparkle...

...a return to childhood imagination....

...and the kindly old spirit of the season....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In Yosemite

I have processed a few of the photos I took at Yosemite. As usual, my trip there was due to the generosity of friend Paul Harmon. It is good to travel in nature with a businessman whose academic career was as a naturalist:

In the Ahwanhee Hotel:

...looking up at one of the chandeliers... of the stained glass windows in the great hall...

....Lamplight and sunshine....

Some of the more customary views....

On the last morning, Paul found a pleasant spot in the park, by the Merced River:

Values for the Next President

I have submitted the following to the San Francisco Chronicle's OPEN FORUM. Working Assets, under its new name, Credo, has established a website ( where people may submit a video on the values they wish the next president to espouse. Friend Martha Hubert and I will probably appear there soon after being videotaped in the Credo offices, but I also wrote the following – too long to recite in a one-minute video:

(1) While you are identified as the chief representative of a nation, please remain aware that the global egoism of nation-states is at the root of most international problems. Please think beyond the contemporary gridlock of national motives, and always try to lead the people along with you to the broader mindsets needed for a new world.

(2) Watching the hearings that ended with Bush being given a blank check to invade Iraq, many of us did not need access to government intelligence to know that Bush and his cohort were lying. Someone does not qualify to be our leader if they do not have what the average American has – an internal bullshit detector. Such a lack of common sense and intuition would disqualify them as a leader. On the other hand, if at the time of such a vote, you would vote out of political expediency, indifferent to the years of death, torture, and horror to follow such a decision, that too would indicate that you do not follow the basic human values we need in a president.

(3) Post the word “COMPASSION” on your desk, followed by the words, “the kind that you must go on learning every day” in order not to confuse the word with its dead and hypocritical use, as in the phrase, “compassionate conservatism.” Apply compassion to everything you say and do, and you should be on the right ethical track. Universal health care should be one result.

(4) Stephen Covey in his 7 HABITS OF THE EFFECTIVE PERSON points out that democracy in its most simplistic form is the complete victory of the majority and the complete defeat of the minority; that is, it is never the Win-Win solution, and thus leads to bullying by the winners, and angry reaction by the losers, and the kind of strangling deadlock we often have in Washington, D.C. Where others may butt heads, the president needs to encourage the Win-Win resolution. Only a leader above the fray can help bring about new solutions, such as some form of ranked voting, as those intent on being the all-controlling winner or who feel angry and excluded from power will sabotage such a change. It is good to keep in mind, too, that predominantly male legislatures thrive on competition more than solutions.

(5) The president must unite. The greatest division, and our most grievous illness, is racism, followed by intolerance toward other minorities, and the country cannot be united and wholesome until such illness is cured. But strong divisions in our attitudes also reflect geographical divisions: Coastal cities are exposed to a wider variety of influences, leading to more tolerant and progressive attitudes, while those who live in the hinterlands are apt to resent urban-controlled media and become reactionary. You will, I hope, realize that it is imperative to bridge those differences in our own country in some real way. For example,

(6) Many of our youth are in danger in one way or another. Make a time of national services available (where military service, never required, would be just one option among a multitude of ways youth could learn crafts, social skills, etc.) To help heal regional divisions, and the simple blind ignorance of one American about another American, youths from large cities, coastal and inland, could exchange places with youths from small towns and farms in Middle America to help create a new citizen with a nation-wide consciousness.

(7) Presently we are not controlled by values as much as by the mercantile interests of giant corporations, and our democracy is distorted by that bias. The commercialization of every aspect of human has happened gradually over time, and so most people are not aware that it is an immense and insidious problem, although they suffer the consequences. I hope you will begin to deal with it, although anyone trying to rein in capitalism will automatically be labeled as one of those “devils” – a socialist or a communist.

(8) If you are elected, you are not Dennis Kucinich. Work toward creating a national society where Dennis Kucinich (someone who is strong and intelligent, but is a different kind of male – sweet, open, loving, and peaceful ) might be elected president.

(9) A good way to stay on even keel might be to promote a thought like this: “Let us love, or at least respect, our differences, but treasure most what we hold in common.”

27 October 2007 Peace Demonstration

Thom Burnham, beneficiary of Martha's great talent for creating picket signs...

Martha Hubert, Code Pink jailbird, general activist, depressed about the state of the world but doing something about it....

The peaceful celebrate...