Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back to the Blue Ridge

Instant Replay:

We'll be in Asheville and the Pisgah Inn the next few days. Then, next week, we fly to Key West.
Look for updates.

from 2006:

Summertime (and the livin' is easy)

A trek to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains marked for us the beginning of summer.

Dar Rocks
Pisgah Inn

As an Epicurean, I enjoyed the local brew, the food, the art, and the nightlife of alternative Asheville. The city's progressive attitude and awareness was everywhere evident, from downtown religious dancers to the dancers of Scandals and other clubs. Starr and I toasted the latter with cosmos in real martini glasses-- our choice in a world of plastic.

We hiked along the trails of Pisgah also, a world removed from the daily bombardment of bad news: air pollution and smog days in Atlanta, faulty levees in New Orleans, U.S. Marine massacres of civilians-- women and babies included--in Iraq, the threat of nuclear warheads in Iran, whose leader denies the holocaust and assails Israel.

Sometimes it's best to regard the beauty of tiny wildflowers to remain sane.

wildflowers along the
Blue Ridge

Photo: Jameson
Happy Trails.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Mob Mania

Peyote, Yeats, psycho-analysis, depression: not the usual things one associates with the Mafia; but just a hint of the treasures buried in the Sopranos. As the series approaches it's conclusion, Yeats' widening Gyres and a center that cannot hold is a perfect image. "I get it!" Tony Soprano, high on button, yells as he watches the sun set over the Nevada desert. We are all getting it... and the gettin' s good.

Here's a nice glimpse from Salon:

"Sopranos" wrap-up: The blood-dimmed tide

Photo: HBO

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), Anthony Soprano Jr. (Robert Iler), and Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco)

Tony flails helplessly as things fall apart.

By Heather Havrilesky

May. 21, 2007 | The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"

David Chase's epic drama series "The Sopranos" has never skirted the depravity of its characters. But after enduring the last few episodes of this last chapter, we discover that we've been let off the hook for years: There was murder, yes, but there was also baked ziti in the fridge, and there were bad jokes and smart remarks and naked girls and ungrateful kids and temperamental mistresses. Sometimes Tony murdered people casually, the way other people mow the front lawn. Other times he killed close friends and family members and it plagued him and made him sick. But he always escaped death and prison. He maintained his sanity, and shook off the shadows of the past. At the end of the day, his family was safe and well fed. Even after his brush with death at the start of this season, he emerged feeling that every day was a gift.

These days, every day may be more of a curse than a gift. The things Tony has struggled to hold together are starting to fall apart: His authority in the mob hierarchy is openly threatened by Phil Leotardo, and there's no way out. His marriage is suddenly crumbling, his friends look more like strangers, and his naive innocence about himself is gone, thanks to the realization that even Christopher saw him as "some asshole bully."

And then there's his son, AJ. Just as the first season of the HBO show found Tony struggling with his mother, now Tony wonders if he's just as merciless and self-pitying a parent as she was. AJ has never believed in anything, really, aside from Blanca and her son. Now that they're gone, everything looks like bullshit to him, from the meat industry to foreign policy. "Do you realize we're gonna bomb Iran?" he asks Meadow.

"You need to learn to shut stuff out," she tells him. "Are you crazy?" he asks. Is she? Is AJ just a whiny, spoiled little brat? Or is Meadow's peace with the world based on denial, a skill she inherited from her mother?

AJ is walking a thin line between prophetic and pathetic. In his English class, they're reading those terrible lines from Yeats, repeatedly endlessly, yet the words never lose their sting, least of all today. AJ is right to be haunted, of course, and it's almost refreshing to see him taking something seriously for once in his frivolous, unexamined life. But when Meadow tells him to set some goals for himself and move out of their parents' house, he says, "Look, I'm ill, Meadow. All right, I'm on medication. I need mom's cooking. It could mess with my blood chemistry."

Even AJ is ready to blame those "purtrid fucking genes." He reminds his parents what his grandmother Livia said in the hospital before she died: "It's all a big nothing." Has he inherited a curse of chemistry, or just a bad habit of feeling sorry for himself?

You really have to hand it to Chase and the other writers: Each of these last episodes seems to pack more of a punch than the last. This last chapter started with a sigh that's built to a scream: Tony goes from reminiscing about the ducks at the lake, to suffocating Christopher, to pulling his son out of the pool, tied to a cement block. Every step of the way, whether he's dealing with Phil Leotardo or Carmela or AJ, Tony's not sure whether to fight or retreat. "What's wrong with you?!" he bellows at AJ by the edge of the pool, then softens and strokes the boy's hair. "All right... Are you all right? Come on, baby. Are you all right, baby? Are you all right?"

"He was always so happy. He was our happy little boy!" Carmela says, crying, and her agony makes Tony and Meadow crumble. "What did I do wrong?" Tony later asks, and we can name a few things, but is he right to blame himself?

But as always, just when we're tempted to feel for them, they turn on us: When Tony confesses that the whole thing has him depressed, Carmela turns brutal and won't hear another word. "He didn't get it from my family, that's all I'm going to say." What could be more heartless, after your son attempts suicide, than to blame it on your husband and his relentless self-pity -- or is it just in his genes? Even Carmela can't decide which it is -- she'd like to blame Tony for both.

Of course the fight ends with Carmela hurling the brand new watch Tony gave her at his face. "You are my life," is what Tony had inscribed on the watch, and still Carmela accepted it with a casual kiss on the cheek, hinting that she knew it was just a gesture of guilt. We've seen coldness between them before, but this is different. They have no patience with each other. Their world is falling to pieces, and they still can't help but eat each other alive. But that makes sense, since their marriage, like the watch, is a fragile lie.

The absurdity of therapy is also on display here, along with the best joke of the season, when Dr. Melfi and Tony discuss AJ's attempted suicide:

Melfi: It could've been a cry for help.

Tony: Aren't you listening? He did cry for help. He's lucky I came home and heard him.

Later, Melfi's therapist, Elliott, tells her of a study he read about how talk therapy actually enables sociopaths instead of treating them. Chase is showing his hand now more than ever.

But even as we can hate Tony for his weaknesses and his bad decisions, even as we lament his apparent lack of deep remorse over Christopher's death, he's still a complicated human being that plays on our sympathies, either when he strokes AJ's hair and cries or when he brings him a pizza the hospital. It's remarkable, really -- a character who feels this real, but who embodies so many conflicting impulses. But then, the best authors make us feel for characters who carry with them the best and the worst of human behavior.

And, of course, larger questions loom over these terrible scenes: Is depression a whiner's malady, a genetic legacy or a part of the human condition? Is Tony a sociopath enabled by anyone who'll listen to his whining, or is he an ugly reflection of our culture: lazy, self-indulgent, confused and morally adrift?

We can fold our arms and say, smugly, that Tony is finally going to pay for all of the evil he's wrought on the world, for all of the human beings he's thoughtlessly killed, for the asbestos floating up into the air, but the terrible truth is that we recognize ourselves in him, at least in some small way. We can hope that Tony pays for it all, but still cringe as we see his world slip out of his control. When Coco makes menacing remarks about Meadow, when Tony goes down and kicks the guy's head in himself, when Tony appeals to Phil "on a human level" and Phil laughs in his face and rejects his acts of contrition? Suddenly Tony doesn't seem to have any other choice but to fulfill his tragic destiny.

And what is Sil reading? "How to Clean Practically Anything." We have to wonder what Sil will be forced to clean up once that blood-dimmed tide rolls in.

How does it end? Tell us what you thought of Sunday night's episode, and what you think is in store for Tony and his family in the final two.

Watch It!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time to Say Goodbye

What a week. Tony Blair quits. Jolly, Bloody Good.

Wolfie, Paul Wolfowitz that is, resigns. And his girlfriend? Will she too call it Quits?

ith new revelations of Gonzo twisting the arm of a sick, bed-ridden John Ashcroft, he too appears to be on the way out. At least the Senate will deny him their confidence.

And Jerry Falwell... gone.


Falwell Faldead. Tinky Winky say, UH OH!

In a year or two the horrifying Iraq war will be over. W. will be back in Texas. The national nightmare will be over. Our troops will say goodbye to Iraq.

Then, if we are fortunate, a leader will emerge to act responsibly and wisely, winning the world over to face the prospect of a nuclear Iran, a vast, polluted China, an over-heated Earth, and the mystery of the birds dead from virus and the missing bees.

With the world in the state Bush has left it, we may all be saying Goodbye.

For now, though, I say... Hello.

Hello, Asheville. Hello, Mt. Pisgah. Hello, Lee! Hello, Steve. Hello, John and Jane. Hello, Key West and Helloohhh-- Summertime.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Falwell Faldead. Tinky Winky say, UH OH!

DAR'S Obit. for Jerry F.

Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? Why, Jerry Falwell, of course.

Falwell's sudden death came as a surprise to many, but, honestly, at least 1 in 10 of us should have seen it coming and been singing the score. The signs were all there. I mean, just 2 weeks ago, Kansas was largely flattened by … twisters! And now Falwell. What else do you need to see, Munchkins emerging from the shrubbery to poke him with a stick?

And events are still unfolding according to script. Two weeks from today, a month-long celebration of Gay Pride in this country kicks off with the May 29 opening of Gay Days at Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom should have a little extra glitter this year without Falwell around to get all icky about cartoon characters he found a little too light in the brushstroke, like Tinky Winky, Spongebob, Bert and Ernie, and even those tap-dancing penguins.

The Gay Pride season culminates on the last Sunday in June, when we commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 29, 1969. In the wee hours of that morning, police raided the small Greenwich Village bar for a little run-of-the-mill gay harassment -- your typical round 'em up, rough 'em up, feel 'em up, and ship 'em off to jail reminder that the police are here to serve and protect … but not if you're queer. They were surprised to find a small but determined core of resisters. Many of them were drag queens, and many of them of color, and they had come together that night to discuss and grieve the tragic death just days before of troubled diva and gay icon Judy Garland.

It turned out to be a really bad time for the NYPD to pick a fight with the Friends of Dorothy. The resultant riot, the documented police brutality, and the subsequent worldwide publicity paved the way, yellow brick by yellow brick, to the rights that gay
Americans enjoy today and are fighting to gain in the future.

What a story! What timing! Yeah, it would have been a nice touch if a house had dropped from the sky on top of Falwell's head, but even the Lord doesn't work in ways that mysterious.

Much as we might wish otherwise, this ain't Oz, and that's not really a flying monkey living in the White House.

And Jerry Falwell was just a mean old man with a dysfunctional heart that defined him in life and led to his death. He was a shameless huckster who made himself rich by founding a group called the Moral Majority, which was neither, and by robbing from the faithful and the poor to feed his own lust for power.

Still, now that he's dead, there's less hate in the world, and maybe that will translate into fewer hate crimes. And I'd bet good money that the next rainbow you see will be rendered in eye-popping Technicolor.



The Nation On Falwell:

Agent of Intolerance

Max Blumenthal

Tinky Winky to Falwell: 'Bye-Bye'

"Televangelists no live forever?"

So, Goodbye Jerry F.

You were like a fart in the wind...


Sunday, May 13, 2007

All the Nudes, fit to print

Not since William Blake and Kahil Gibran made illustrations of countless naked humans ascending, descending, and swirling, has there been such a grand portrayal of human nudity. Spencer Tunick's (click) latest study of 20,000 bare souls in the heart of Mexico is a dream, a vision of humanity transcending the barriers and the rules that keep us apart and deny our common being. Tunick gives us pure spirit on a canvas of flesh.

Scroll down past the article for a slideshow from Cleveland.

Spencer Tunick Goes to Iceland

Spencer Tunick, NewcastleGateshead 4 (BALTIC Centre of
Contemporary Art) 2005.

REYKJAVIK.- I8 presents Spencer Tunick, on view through
June 23.
Spencer Tunick comes to Iceland straight from Mexico city where
he conducted one of his biggest installations to date. Spencer will be
exhibiting large group photos and also pictures of individuals from
his stay in Iceland last year.

Spencer Tunick was born in 1967 and currently lives in New York.
He has been documenting the live nude figure in public since 1992
and has created installations around the world in spectacular locations
including Belgium, Australia, Canada, USA and Brazil, gathering thousands
of people at one time. His temporary site-specific installations in the past
have been commissioned by the Vienna Kunsthalle (1999), Institut Cultura, Barcelona (2003), XXV Biennial de Sao Paulo, Brazil (2002); The Saatchi
Gallery 2003); MOCA Cleveland (2004) and BALTIC, Newcastle Gateshead,
UK; UNAM Mexico City (2007), among others.

Creating temporary site-specific landscapes involving many nude figures arranged in public places, Tunick’s installations follow on the tradition of
land art. Working directly in the landscape, the artist uses the nude body
as raw material to intervene and transform a chosen site, documenting
the installations with photography and video which he then exhibits in a
gallery context.

Tunick’s work, poetic and challenging, questions the relationship between
art and urban space. To settle the installations, a large number of bodies
are undressed, set all together, until they form a new common shape. They
take place in an environment as a new material, drawing a totally abstract
form, out of all sexual connotation and sometimes nearly close to mineral. Referring to land art, Tunick’s work also underlines the difficulties one can
find to exhibit everlasting or ephemeral art into public space.

The poetic whole resulting from individual bodies arranged in a sculptural
way in an urban setting, challenges traditionally held views on nudity and
privacy as well as social and political issues surrounding art in the public

On first sight Tunick’s work generates a strong feeling of abolishment
of any social, cultural, racial, economical and political difference. By
mixing all backgrounds and origins of the bodies Tunick enhances the
moment of the work, making it unique and collective. Showing bodies
that no longer hide their sexuality raise the questions of how our
ontemporary society can question nudity, and how it receives it from
nowadays medias : Tunick’s work isn’t about pornography nor

It is universal, out of all the contemporary disguises. Close to ecosophy
it makes men closer to the essential in a relative modesty. The
spontaneous way in which the participants take place in this collective
« here and now » event can be seen as a way back to a certain number
of values or questions such as ethic and its place in our postmodern life.

Making the artist work with a given environment, enhancing our vision on
nudity and intimacy, raising a reflexion on the way art can create a link
between things and human being, social or cultural, here are some of the questions that emerge from Spencer Tunick’s work. Out of any aesthetic
and pictorial sensation, or on confrontation of mankind toward Nature
and social points, out of the gesture of creation and the artist’s role
(being out of the group and its representation), Tunick’s work essentially questions our relationship to the world.

And from Mexico City:

Finalmente, Tunick retrató a 20 mil personas desnudas

Spencer Tunick El Zocalo Mexico

Slide show: Naked Cleveland

Take it all off:


Saturday, May 12, 2007

God is Death

God is Death

Now that I've given the Dalai Lama his due, praised Buddhism, generally, and shown how much I am a Pantheist, let me express how much empathy I have with educated atheists.
Bill Maher (click), my HBO hero, repeatedly lampoons religious fervor, pointing out the madness of the passion for insane religious doctrine. How can anyone believe today that there is a God who cares whether or not we eat shrimp!

So, on that note, I want to share three delightful reviews:

1. In God, Distrust



How Religion Poisons Everything.

By Christopher Hitchens.

2. Better living without God?

Religion is a dangerously irrational mirage, says Dawkins

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The God Delusion

3. Manufacturing belief

The origin of religion is in our heads, explains developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert. First we figured out how to make tools, then created a supernatural being.

By Steve Paulson

May. 15, 2007 | In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," Alice tells the White Queen that she cannot believe in impossible things. But the Queen says Alice simply hasn't had enough practice. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." That human penchant for belief -- or perhaps gullibility -- is what inspired biologist Lewis Wolpert to write a book about the evolutionary origins of belief called "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast."

There is also a funny interview with C H in New York Mag:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Hitchens.



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Hello Dalai

A message of love, compassion

The Dalai Lama, spiritual mentor to millions of Buddhists, greets a crowd Sunday at Millennium Park.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)


Dalai Lama in Chicago


May 7, 2007

The Dalai Lama said he hasn't attained enlightenment. He's only in the beginning stages.

During Sunday's stopover in Chicago, he also criticized China's aggression toward Tibet. He then said President Bush was "very nice" but denounced U.S. violence around the world.

The message was potent but the delivery casual. Dressed in maroon-and-gold robes, the 71-year-old monk wore a headset and sat cross-legged in a cushioned chair to address audiences in Millennium Park.

No strutting across the stage. No high-pitched preacher's crescendo. No script.

Instead, the man Tibetans believe to be the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion rubbed his head and joked about baldness.

"I am informal," he said, and giggled.

He smiled and giggled a lot throughout his talks, attended by a limited number of ticket holders.

The morning session, in Harris Theater, seated 1,500. The afternoon session in Pritzker Pavilion allowed 11,400 attendees.

The Dalai Lama said he welcomed the curious, but he shot down any notion that he is special or has mystical powers.

"That's absolute nonsense," he said.

He spoke in English but sometimes relied on an interpreter to clarify his message.

'A timely cure'
The Dalai Lama emphasized inner peace, cultivating contentment and nonviolent responses to conflict.

"Love and compassion are the foundation," he said.

His fourth visit to the city was sponsored by the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago, which hopes to build a cultural center soon.

"His message offers a timely cure for the maladies of our time" said the alliance's Sherab Gyatso, noting that 300 Tibetans live in the area.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. In October, he'll receive the Congressional Gold Medal, America's highest civilian honor. Past recipients include Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II.

"It is fine company for a man of his greatness," said Sen. Richard Durbin, who along with Maggie Daley briefly addressed the afternoon crowd.

'Not true practitioners'
The event drew a range of dignitaries as well as corporate and private sponsors. About 200 security guards, under U.S. State Department control, were on hand because the Dalai Lama is the secular head of Tibet as well as a spiritual leader.

All attendees passed through security gates. Chicago Police said the crowd was peaceful and no arrests were made.

The Dalai Lama extolled the virtues of all religions. He said people shouldn't change their faith but practice what they know. The goal of all religions is basically the same path, he said.

"When people change their faiths, their minds become confused later," he said. "Better to keep one's tradition."

He was critical of self-centered and materialistic religious leaders.

"Some ... acquire a lot of things," he said. "These are not true practitioners."

One of the biggest obstacles to inner peace is that people can't just be still, he said. They listen to iPods or watch TV because "they need constant external stimulation."

At airports, he said, they shout and become angry at delays. He uses the time to think. "That's good," he said. "That's useful."

At the end of the afternoon, the Dalai Lama was asked how to best respond to terrorism.

"Talk," and listen, he said.

He later said terrorism done in the name of religion is the worst kind.

Read Tricycle:


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kara Walker

An A student in the two of my philosophy classes she chose to take at the Atlanta College of Art: Aesthetics and Ideas in Film, Kara wrote a paper and made a presentation on Peter Greenaway. She became a friend and was the best dancer at the Winter Solstice party Dar, Bill Curtis, and I hosted on North Avenue in 1991. She's had art shows all over the world from the Museum of Modern Art to the 2002 São Paulo Biennial to the current show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis: Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love.

Now Time Magazine ranks her #21 among the 100 most influential people in the art and entertainment world:

Wednesday, May. 02, 2007

21 of 100

Kara Walker
Michele Asselin / Corbis Outline
Kara Walker

Kara Walker

Artists are vigilant. But it's not the vigilance of surveillance. They don't dictate what is worn, thought, spoken and dreamed. Instead, theirs is a vigilance fueled by a heady mix of doubt, disbelief and hope. Few have managed to capture the collision between past and present, between histories and horror stories, between sexuality and shame, between skin and meat, as powerfully and provocatively as Kara Walker, 37.

Walker's vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular "history." They create a profusion of backstories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of "color blindness." Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic affect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex. She raucously engages both the broad sweep of the big picture and the eloquence of the telling detail. She plays with stereotypes, turning them upside down, spread-eagle and inside out. She revels in cruelty and laughter. Platitudes sicken her. She is brave. Her silhouettes throw themselves against the wall and don't blink.

Kruger is an artist who works with pictures and words,28804,1595326_1595332_1616818,00.html

Keep dancing, Kara


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Here comes the Queen

Elizabeth II comes to Jamestown:

The Royal Consigliere

Though much of Elizabeth's role is symbolic, she also subtly wields a personal, but very real, power.

Royal Visit: Queen Elizabeth in America
Though much of Elizabeth's role is symbolic, she also subtly wields a personal, but very real, power.
By Julia Baird

May 7, 2007 issue - On Feb. 6, 1952, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was distraught when he heard King George VI had died. His secretary, John Colville, tried to console him by assuring him he would get on well with the new queen, Elizabeth II: "But all he could say was that he didn't know her, and that she was only a child." She was 25 at the time. A year later, a royal aide confided that Churchill was so fond of her he could "scarcely speak of her without tears coming into his eyes."

The rapport between Churchill and his queen was remarkable—she a serious young woman, known for her beauty, wit and love of dancing, he a great orator and war leader who delighted in schooling his monarch in the peculiar ways of British politics. Their meetings often lasted long past their customary half-hour appointment. When he notified her of his intention to resign in 1955, Churchill was told, through the queen's secretary, that "she would especially miss the weekly audiences which she had found so instructive and, if one can say so of State matters, so entertaining." Churchill enjoyed himself, too: Colville said by the time of his retirement, at 81, he was "madly in love" with her.

Now it is the queen who is 81, and due to step onto American soil this week for the fifth time. Her six-day tour will include a trip to Virginia to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, a visit to the Kentucky Derby and dinner at the White House with President George W. Bush—the 10th American president she has met as queen. While more will be curious about her since the success of the Oscar-winning film "The Queen," many Americans will see her simply as a polite woman who wears matching hats and coats, loves horses and waves to crowds with a curling hand. But over the half century of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has wielded more power—and guarded more secrets—than most of us have imagined. She is certainly a figurehead but has also appointed prime ministers (following the resignation of Churchill and later, Harold Macmillan), and overseen six archbishops as head of the Church of England (George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, told NEWSWEEK her vision for her role was priestly, "almost sacramental"). As British constitutional scholar Walter Bagehot noted, the monarch has the right to be consulted, to advise and to warn. In public, her political power is largely symbolic. In private, it is personal and mysterious. She may be the ultimate consigliere, deriving power in part because no one knows she possesses it.

At the coronation in 1953, a palace official told NEWSWEEK that Elizabeth II "loves being Queen. It's like champagne to her. The truth is that the Queen likes being boss." Since then, she has reigned alongside 10 British prime ministers. For more than five decades, she has counseled, cajoled and carefully listened to each of them in private weekly meetings. John Major, who was prime minister between 1992 and 1997, said the fact that no notes were taken and that there was a "total block" on discussions preserved the sanctity of the meetings: he spoke to the queen in a way he did to no one else. Harold Wilson, British P.M. between 1964 and 1970, felt the queen was the only one he could confide in without thinking a knife was being sharpened behind his back. According to royal historian Robert Lacey, Tony Blair initially viewed the meetings as "ancient etiquette," but quickly realized their importance: "He actually found that it was a wonderful opportunity to sit and talk to somebody who's very wise in the knowledge that it would not go any further." If he cannot see her in person, he phones her.

It is not just British leaders who have unburdened themselves to the queen. Once, after she gave Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, a keen gardener, a tiny crystal chest of drawers containing seeds from Buckingham Palace, Yeltsin suddenly found himself "talking about the corruption and violence, not being able to trust anybody," and he was "pouring his heart out," said Lacey. Afterward Yeltsin said he had never spoken to someone so frankly before.

Margaret Thatcher is the only prime minister who had a sometimes uncomfortable relationship with the queen, partly due to the social consequences of her policies—particularly the mid-1980s miners' strike—and Thatcher's refusal to apply sanctions to South Africa's apartheid regime. In 1986, The Sunday Times published an article headed QUEEN DISMAYED BY UNCARING THATCHER. Their differences demonstrated that the queen does not just listen—she also expresses opinions. Charles Moore, who is writing a biography of Thatcher, attributes part of the discord to the fact that they were both powerful women who preferred the company of men: "And neither of them had any experience of dealing with another woman of that level of political importance."

Crucially, the queen tells no one of the things she hears—except the diary she keeps locked in her desk. Since she was a child, she has written in it daily. She once told a group of American students it was "far more truthful than anything you'll ever read in the newspapers," but has described her entries as short. Lacey claims a friend of his once asked her over dinner how much she writes each day: "She held up her hand and sort of stretched her thumb to her leading finger and held that up, about five or six inches of text."

Generations of historians have longed to get their hands on these diaries, but no one knows exactly what will happen to them when the queen dies. She may stipulate in her will what she wants done, but a palace spokesman said the diaries would probably be sent to the Royal Archives, released after 30 years, and available only to the royal (or authorized) biographer. Perhaps they will at last reveal the secrets of the queen who, as a young woman, loved power as much as champagne.

With Esther Bintliff in London and Kendall Hill in Australia


Take a bow,


Joke's on us

How many Bushies does it take to screw

a planet?








and Peter Pace

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy Lei Day : From Chicago and the ghost of D. H. Lawrence

Today is May Day,

Lei Day in Hawaii:

A day to be leied

Lei before
the Starr Buddha
photo by Jameson
(click to enlarge)

And, International Workers Day--

A Day of demonstrations:
A Socialist Day for workers of the world to take to the streets:,1,6794043.story?coll=chi-news-hed

Roots of May Day are in Chicago

By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter

May 1, 2007

Drop into a working-class bar or socialist meeting hall in Italy or France and say you're from Chicago, and rounds of drinks will likely come your way. "Chi-ca-go!" they'll say. "May Day."

Your hosts will be recalling something most Americans don't know: The first May Day parade stepped off down Chicago streets.

On May 1, 1886, 35,000 workers walked off their jobs, demanding the work day be reduced to eight hours from the 10 and even 12 hours then customary.

On that and subsequent days, marches were staged through the city's working-class neighborhoods by battalions of freight handlers, tailors' assistants, lumber shovers, glue workers and Bohemian sausage makers.

Echoes of those demonstrations reverberated widely, and May Day was adopted as labor's holiday around the world.

But not in Chicago, the city of its birth. Here, as in the rest of the country, prosperity robbed workers of a historical sense of their predecessors' struggles.

In other countries, though, the denouement of the story has not been forgotten. Shortly after that original May Day, a bomb went off at a union rally at the Haymarket Square, just west of the Loop, and eight police officers were killed in the explosion and ensuing chaos.

Local radical leaders were rounded up, tried and convicted of inciting the violence. Four were hanged.

Their gravesites in West Suburban Forest Home cemetery remain a pilgrimage site for old and young leftists from around the world.

Their final resting place is marked by an imposing sculpture depicting Justice laying a wreath on a fallen worker.

Its base is inscribed with the parting words of August Spies, one of those executed, to his executioners: "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."

Four decades later, the novelist D. H. Lawrence wrote about May Day in a Mexican village where the townspeople were laying their own monument to "The Martyrs of Chicago."

Just give me the English maypole
or the Valborgsmässoafton-- Walpurgis Night of Sweden.
Or Beltane:

Also known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, happens at the beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight.

May your maypole be merry.