Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Spirits Are Willing

Our Ghosts

As the glaciers melt, and the arms of World War II pilots rise out of the ice as if on Judgment Day, spirits are eager for this Halloween. The ghost of Nixon stalks the cold rooms of the White House. We can hear the clinking of ice in his whiskies. He wakes the current inhabitant at strange hours.
So many ghosts this year are new to it. The Tsunami, the hurricanes, the earthquake in Pakistan have undone so many. The war has undone so many. The ghosts of millions of birds take flight. They swarm about us crying flu like a hitchcock film.
My ghosts are many too. From Russian Hill in San Francisco, From the marshes of Moon River in Savannah, From the recesses of "Death's Dateless Night," they beckon me.

It is a time to wear masks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blowing in the Wind


Time to get out the blowers and whip those leaves away. Right? Oh yea, you never put the blowers away, did you? The weekly whip up just goes on as ususal. Only for a few weeks you actually blow leaves, rather than dirt, dust, animal feces, bacteria, pollen, and what is known now in Air- challenged Atlanta as particulate pollution.

Yes, It's October and soap box time for Jameson. But don't take my word for it; read the well- documented

Facts about Blowers

This documented study for Sacramento (far less polluted than Atlanta) points out how Blowers

1) damage our hearing with their noise.

2) add significantly to air pollution-- each blower polluting more than 17 cars and then some.

3) Damage gardens with tornado force wind that blows away topsoil, seeds, and kills plants.

4) are slower in clearing leaves than grandma with a rake (this was a study!)

The list goes on.

My favorite article on dirt blasters is this one:


Leaf-Blower Terrorism

They attack in the early morning or during dinner. A man, often wearing ear protectors, descends upon the neighborhood. Strapped to his back is the latest weapon in the arsenal of technological terror. The device triggers an ear-shattering whine that slices through the soft underbelly of neighborhood domesticity.

The intruder reves up the pitch, generating a 75-plus decibel sound storm. Senior citizens tremble in fear, pets urinate beneath the bed and grown men curse. No one is safe from leaf-blower terrorism.

Hyperbole, you say? Webster's defines terrorism as "the use of force to demoralize and to intimidate." According to the Environmental Protection Agency, today's leaf blower is loud enough to cause hearing loss, high blood pressure and numerous other afflictions in those repeatedly exposed to its savage voice. Palo Alto, whose well written noise ordinance prohibits leaf blowers, is faced with the terrifying prospect of actually having to enforce the law!

The leaf blower's alleged productivity must be scrutinized in relation to the real costs involved, of which the most exacting is a noise so terrible as to negate any possible benefits of the machine.

Leaf blowers exist because they create an illusion of usefulness. The leaf blower is a metaphor for power. To suffer a leaf blower attack is to submit to raw power, to face the frightening arrogance of the possible, to fall prey to technical irrationality.

Leaf blowers exist because their existence is technically possible and ours is a society unable to resist the temptations of Dr. Frankenstein and the boys back in the lab.

Why does the Palo Alto City Council tremble at the prospect of demilitarizing the army of marauding gardeners whose weapons make noise terrorism the city's number one problem? Why do we even listen to attorneys brazenly demanding "rights" for leaf-blower operators, promulgating a charade of "reasonable compromise" and advocating "accommodation of competing interests" in an attempt to portray the leaf blower as bona fide and legitimate?

Our reluctance to acknowledge that leaf blowers are a barbarous grotesquerie has little to do with the sanctity of private enterprise but reflects our compulsive obsession with giving the other fellow his due. Examples of this misguided magnanimity are only too plentiful. Take ghetto blasters. Simply another way of listening to radio. It's just too bad for those wimps who can't abide amplified sound on the sidewalks. Dirt bikes? A legitimate form of recreation, though destroying the environment only marginally less than recreational bulldozing. With such precedents, should we be surprised that the leaf blower has been accorded the respect, the deference and the legitimacy it does not deserve?

Must we acknowledge every viewpoint as if all were equally valid, no matter how destructive? Must we really take the absurd seriously? Genghis Khan? Why merely an agrarian reformer. The leaf blower? Yet another convenience. And so it goes...

Such a diminished capacity to tell the good guys from the bad is a result of our apparent inability to recognize our real self-interest.

Will our common values be those that evoke our historic respect for the rights and privacy of others or must we legitimize every creation of our fertile imagination that parades in the trappings of progress and technology, regardless of the consequences?

Some may call my concern trivial and unimportant, yet according legitimacy to the leaf blower is a measurement, yes, - of evil. The leaf blower's legacy of callousness and spiritual impoverishment contributes to those more obvious evils that only too late do we realize have antecedents among the seemingly innocent and harmless fashions of the moment. Shouldn't we know better by now?

John Miller is a public relations consultant in Palo Alto.

Interesting coincidence of names-- but he's not a relation, as far as I know.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Attacking Pittsbugh

As I took this photo of Rex menacing gay Philip Johnson's glass cathedral and plaza in downtown Pittsbugh, a security guard ran up to me and told me NOT to photograph, especially the building tops (guess he never heard of the web). Since 911, he began, we are aware of terrorists.

"You're not serious?"
I asked.

The guard bristled, 'deed they were. He moved his hand to his gun.

I smiled and moved on, as he watched me head back cross the Allegheny to the safety of the Andy Warhol Factory. Tourists. Terrorists. Those words are pretty similar, you have to admit.

Here we are in the land that used to be free. Each day the Texan appoints more evangelicals from Texas to take away those freedoms we've been taking for granted.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Halls of Justice, indictments are arriving at last. No more delay for Delay. Time to frisk Frist. Scooter is scooting, and Rove will have to rove on over to the Grand Jury for some serious questioning. Bush is looking bushed himself. 2006. 2008. Hope?
As Tammy rains on Atlanta, as John Roberts assails Oregon for letting people die in peace, as I lose my train of thought to Fleetwood Mac and plans for trips to Kalani and Stockholm, the atomic clock ticks on.