St. Vincent

St.-Vincent-Bill-Murray

Bill Murray Bill Murray Bill Murray. One of the funniest and emotionally appealing films of the year. Bill Murray turns in an Oscar worthy performance as the curmudgeonly neighbor and Naomi Watts knocks it out of the park as the pregnant Russian hooker.

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Colorado Baker

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

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Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Right Commission. I thought these issues had already been decided but I guess I was wrong. The case centers on an anti-gay baker in Colorado who claims a First Amendment right to ignore state law and refuse service to same-sex couples. A key issue in Masterpiece is just how far the court’s conservative justices are willing to go in subverting civil rights law to protect the freedom to discriminate. Here is my opinion on the matter:

Restaurants are considered places of public accommodation. The primary purpose of a restaurant is to sell food to the general public, which necessarily requires them to follow equal protection laws. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. The laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as other people in similar conditions and circumstances. A violation would occur, for example, if a state prohibited an individual from entering into an employment contract because he or she was a member of a particular race. Furthermore there would be a violation if a restaurant owner refused service to a person because of their race.

 

These rights are spelled out in the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. Places of “public accommodation” include hotels, restaurants, theaters, banks, health clubs and stores. Nonprofit organizations such as churches are generally exempt from the law. The federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, so gays are not a protected group under the federal law. However, about 20 states, including New York and California, have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation. Colorado also happens to be one of those states.

Colorado law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation based on marital status or actual or perceived sexual orientation. According to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, “sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, homosexuality (lesbian or gay), bisexuality, and transgender status. Transgender status means a gender identity or gender expression that differs from societal expectations based on gender assigned at birth.

Therefore, the Colorado baker has clearly violated the civil rights of the gay couple and is violation of Colorado law. At issue before the Supreme Court is whether the baker’s right to free speech is being violated. Enter Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Gorsuch queried the Colorado Solicitor General Frederick Yager regarding the remedy imposed on Jack Phillips, the baker. His concern was that Phillips was to provide comprehensive training to his employees. Gorsuch viewed this as compelled speech which might possibly violate Phillips’ free speech. Yager responded by saying training is a common remedy in civil rights cases.

Gorsuch continued his questioning, “But this isn’t attending your training. The order was ordering him to provide training and presumably compelling him to speak, therefore, and to speak in a way that maybe offend his religion and certainly compel him to speak.”

This theory could seriously undermine civil rights law and have far reaching effects.

It is not unusual to have conflicts with respect to civil rights between parties. That’s why we have judges and trials to help sort these things out. My own view is that if you are in business to serve the public you must do so without discrimination. If you can’t or won’t, even for religious reasons, you have no right to be in business and you should close up shop and go home.

We are a secular country here in America with a clear separation of church and state. When you operate a commercial enterprise in the public sphere you must leave your religion at home if it causes you to discriminate against the public. When you are in business to serve the public you must serve all the public.

 

 

 

 

Leda and The Swan

A Poem by William Butler Yeats

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Statue of Leda and the Swan in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Analysis

In this poem, W. B. Yeats tell the story of Leda and the Swan from Greek Mythology. The rape of the girl Leda by the god Zeus, who has taken the form of a swan.

Leda felt a sudden blow with the wings of the swan still beating above her. Her thighs were caressed by the dark webs of the swan’s feet. The nape of her neck was caught in his bill. He held her helpless breast upon his breast. How, Yeats asks, can Leda’s terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory of the swan from between her thighs? And, how can her body help but feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders the broken wall, the burning roof, and tower, and Agamemnon dead. The speaker wonders whether Leda, caught up by the swan and mastered by the brute blood of the air assumed his knowledge as well as his power before the indifferent beak could let her drop.

The poem is about a moment in time which ended the mythological age and began the modern era with the fall of Troy. This poem is a sonnet which is a 14 line poem in iambic pentameter.  The structure is Petrarchan. The Rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFG, EFG.

According to Greek mythology, Zeus raped Leda who was married to King Tyndareus of Sparta. After the rape she slept with her husband. Subsequently she laid two eggs from which she hatched two set of twins: Helen and Pollux who were the children of Zeus and Castor and Clytemnestra who were the children of Tyndareus. This event, with the abduction of Helen, eventually brought about the Trojan War (the broken wall, the burning tower/ and Agamemnon dead). After the war, when King Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra had her husband killed. According to Yeats’ interpretation, the lasting impact of the war was that it brought an end to the mythological era and gave birth to modern history.

 

 

The Traveler

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Benn Bell, Nairobi, Kenya

“He did not think of himself as a tourist. He was a traveler. The difference was partly one of time. Whereas the tourist hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging to no more one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. It would be very difficult indeed to tell anyone, of the many places he lived, precisely where he felt most at home.

Another important difference between the tourist and the traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization as his own without question; not so with the traveler, who compares it with the others and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

-Paul Bowels, The Sheltering Sky

 

 

THANKSGIVING

wp-1488040842599.jpgI think it’s very nice to have a special day of thanksgiving, but I also know some people are hurting today. Let us cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. With a boundless heart let us cherish all living beings and radiate kindness all over the world. Let us turn a life of resentment into a life of gratitude and be thankful for every day we are alive. The true miracle is just to walk the earth.

Elephant Walk

On Safari in Africa

On this spot in 1989 Kenya burned 12 tons of ivory worth over three million in U.S. dollars.

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Nairobi National Park

According to then president Moi, “To stop the poacher the trader must be stopped and to stop the trader the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory.”

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The tusks that were burned represents more than 2000 elephants  shot and killed over a four year period.

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Hotel Serena, Nairobi, Kenya

Modern Man

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T. S. Elliot said that copulation and death is what it’s all about. Camus said all that can be said of modern man is that he read the newspapers and he fornicated. Now that we no longer have newspapers what can we say? Man surfs the net and he….

Well you get the idea…

WINGED SERAPHS I HAVE KNOWN

Reverend Billy Bob Weatherspoon

Winged Seraphs

 

Hello friends! Rev. Billy Bob Weatherspoon here for the Space Chapel of Life….

Ya know…just how many times have ya wondered how many angels could dance on the top of a Bic Butane Lighter?

Have ya ever wondered where ya could find a Guardian Angel when ya really needed one?

And what about Charlie’s Angels?

….The answers to these and many more important questions may be found in my latest book:

WINGED SERAPHS I HAVE KNOWN

This book is available in both the hard and soft editions. Also available is the Leather bound edition which comes suspended from a chain.

So ya don’t forget, send NOW to:

SPACE CHAPEL OF LIFE

BOX 666

ANAHIEM, CALIFORNIA

8.96 RECORDS

9.96 TAPES

 

Garvin Gate Blues Festival

Photo Essay

The Garvin Gate Blues Festival is held the second weekend in October in historic Old Louisville. It’s a two day festival featuring performers both national and local that celebrates blues music. This event attracts both a multiracial and a multi-generational crowd.  It has a 29 year history and is still going strong.

Featured here is the band Tweed Funk hailing from Milwaukee.

Bikers, Booze, and Blues

Garvin Gate Neighborhood

Pet Friendly

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Tweed Funk

Smokey Holman

Andrew Spada

Eric Madunic

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Dave Schoepke

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A Face in the Crowd

 

Mystery

 

What mystery lies beneath the mist enshrouded tombs?

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The dead die hard,  they are born astride a grave

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A stranger’s shadow finds its way across the yard by dead reckoning

He meets a deadend

He is deadbeat meat for worms

That’s a sensible cadaver

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There never was such a season for mandrakes.

Shall we linger here until perdition caches up to us?

The Cemetery is a cockpit for comic panic

Sob heavy world, sob heavy.

 

 

The God of Small Things

A Book Review

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The God of Small Things is a novel written by Indian activist and writer Arundhati Roy. She has been on my radar for many years now, ever since I started watching her on panel shows on TV. I was impressed by her brilliance as a speaker and thinker on issues that I care deeply about such as inequality, social justice, and the environment. And I have always been fascinated by the Indian subcontinent.

When I learned she had written a novel I went out and purchased it right away. Sad to say it sat on my bookshelves for a few years before I got around to reading it. I am one of those “too many books, too little time” people.

What prompted me to go ahead and read the novel was the fact that 17 yeas after the publication of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy wrote and published another novel, her second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.  I was very excited abut this and went out and purchased it also. I am now in the middle of that wonderful book. But, I get ahead of myself.

In the intervening 17 years between novels Miss Roy has written several other books. Works of nonfiction that reflect her other intellectual pursuits and human rights activism. These books include: Capitalism, A Ghost Story; Walking With the Comrades; Kashmir, The Case for Freedom; and Listening to the Grass Hoppers: Field Notes on Democracy.  She was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 1997 for Literature.

The God of Small Things is by far the best book I have read all year and I have only praise for it. Miss Roy is a master stylist and her prose reads like poetry. Her book is full of vivid imagery, symbolism, and metaphors. It is constructed like a sublime piece of architecture with each piece fitting into place like a jig saw puzzle.

The book is a bit of a challenge to read as it does not flow in a straight linear progression. Rather, it jumps around in time in flash backs and flash forwards. But stick with it, it is well worth the ride.

The novel is a story of an Indian family writ large on a grand scale. Some have compared Roy to Faulkner, but I think she comes closer to Gabriel Garcia Marqeuz. There is forbidden love, family drama, political unrest, and magical realism.

Estha and Rahel are seven year old fraternal twins, boy and girl, growing up in a small southern Indian town. They live with their mother Ammu and the rest of their extended family. Their uncle Chacko runs the family pickle factory. One fateful day their cousin Sophie Mol from England is invited to spend the Christmas holidays with them. Tragedy ensues and Sophie Mol is drowned in a boating accident.

In telling the story, Roy incorporates other larger issues taking place in India at the time, such as issues of cast, class, and political unrest.

There are many memorable passages in the novel, but this one in particular stands out:

“D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”

This was said to seven year old Rahel when she apparently said something carelessly which hurt her mother, which is something seven-year olds sometimes do. When Ammu said this to Rahel, “…a cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goose bumps on her careless heart. A little less her Ammu loved her.” This passage haunted me for the rest of the novel and it haunts me still.

This is a novel of life, love, fear, death, pain, and loss. It is wonderfully written and I highly recommend.