Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Toast, My Friends...

So many have touched my life

So many lives I have touched

Courtesy of the magic of this ethereal gathering place…

Friends, acquaintances, hit-and-runs…

 

I’m thinking of you all tonight

And wishing you

Smiles

Tears

Love

Growth

Connection

and above all

Peace

In this coming New Year.

 

Lisa :-]

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Into The Archives...

I’ve spent many hours the last several days, copying off my old AOL journal entries and saving them to "Word." If I could simply go through and "copy…paste…save…next" like a little assembly line, the job would be much less time-consuming. But, you know, you have to read them…the good ones, anyway. It has been an interesting and telling journey, this little reliving of my cyber life from genesis to present. My sojourn in Journal-land started out as a few little shots in the dark, then grew into a real give-and-take membership in a community. For a few months there, we really seemed to connect. And then, it all started to fade. Long before AOL triggered the Great Exodus with the silly ads, people were beginning to trickle, and then to stream, away from j-land. After awhile, hardly a week went by that didn’t see someone either pack up and leave amid great ballyhoo, or just disappear quietly, never to be heard from again. I’m looking at the names on the comments in my entries from a year ago, and saying, "Oh, yeah…whatever happened to her?" So odd, to have people with whom you shared nearly every day, just go "poof!"

That has been the aspect of this "community" that has been the most difficult for me. The fact that the "relationships" are so disposable. Is it strange to get attached to people you’ve never even met? I don’t know why it should be strange… I have poured out my soul here on the virtual pages of my journals. Why is it such a stretch to believe that people who read these things, and comment, and comment repeatedly, are not my friends? Or at least…something more than strangers? Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe there are rules to this game that I have never known.

Still, I know I’m not the only one who has been mystified by the mercurial dynamics of these journal relationships. Most of the people I’ve been closest to here, have expressed bewilderment at one time or another with the weird ebb and flow of energy in journal-land. I challenge even the most rhinoceros-hided among us not to feel at least a tiny pang of rejection when a frequent reader/commentor/"friend" ups and leaves with no forwarding address; or goes private and does not invite you to the party. And then, you’re left feeling a little sheepish when you DO feel slighted. You feel like, "After all, it’s not like I really ever knew that person…" It’s a strange roller-coaster ride, this online journal thing. I think a lot of people were realizing it wasn’t for them long before AOL threw its monkey wrench into the works.

Reading over all my old entries, I can see that blogging, for me, will be taking a different direction in the future. I feel like I need to start writing. Essays. Poetry. Political commentary. Good stuff. It’s time to take the next step. But I also know this: The heyday of AOL-j was a great ride, and I am going to miss it.

 

Monday, December 26, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

From my house to yours

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

hand raised in shield and salute
I’ve watched my retreating love
disappear southward
          his warmth a mockery
          his smile weak and distant
          the cold of his absence
          claims my world

each day sees a larger plot
of my heart in shadow and frost
as he grows smaller
          and now the rain
          has washed away
          the consoling memory
          of his wink and grin

someone tells me
he has turned
reconsidered his leaving…
          tomorrow and tomorrow
          will he be nearer?
          will his closeness thaw my heart?
          when will I know?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For The Children of Iraq

Years ago, Judy Collins wrote a song for the children of the beleaguered city of Sarajevo. On a television special she did a few years back, she told the story of the song, and how she had planned to include it on every album she recorded until the children of Sarajevo lived in peace once again. The tune, "Song for Sarajevo," is on her Christmas CD, "Come, Rejoice," recorded in 1994. So, I run into it once again every year when I pull out my long parade of holiday CD's. It is a haunting song; I cannot hear it or sing it without my eyes filling with tears. It speaks of the most tragic victims of our human penchant for blowing each other to smithereens when we disagree.

This year, I cannot help but think the name could be changed to "Song for Baghdad..."

                  

Blood in all the streets
Running like a flood
There's nowhere to hide, nowhere I can go
I reach out my hand
touching death itself
Just another holy day in Sarajevo

I can hear my heart
pounding like a clock
Hiding from the planes and from the bombing
Fire from the sky
burning down my life
There is no more love, no more longing

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Once I had a home
Once my life was good
Once my mother sang to me and held me
Then the fire came
falling from the sky
There is no one left who can protect me

War's a wicked bird that never comes to rest
Feeding on the dreams of all the children
War's an evil bird flying in the dark
Every holy promise has been broken

But when I close my eyes
I dream of peace
I dream of flowers on the hill
I dream I see my mother smiling
When I close my eyes I dream of peace

Can't you stop the war
Bring it to a close
You are tall and strong and I am just a child.
Can't we live in peace
Stop the flowing blood
Make a blessed world where I can be a child...

When you close your eyes
Do you dream of peace?
Do you dream of flowers on the hill?
Do you dream you see your mother smiling?
When you close your eyes do you dream of peace?

 

Song for Sarajevo (Revised 9/97)Words by Judy CollinsMusic by Judy Collins
Universal Music Corp. (ASCAP)/ The Wildflowers Company (ASCAP)
(Administered by Universal Music Corp.)

Photo by embedded freelance writer Michael Yon

Friday, December 9, 2005

Christmas Play

shed of their kleenex robes

ornaments smile

bow and curtsy

in their four-week spotlight

they dance little scenes

of seasons past

and memorize

this year's lines

for next year

and the next and the next

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The Last Word on The Subject

Yes, I will be leaving AOL. Mr. Boss’s Boss’s Boss, and the flying scooter, pushed me to the edge of the precipice. But TIME made me jump.

I am on dial-up. At first, because it was the only internet access available out here in the boonies. And then because the new technology (DSL, cable) was too expensive. And, eventually, because I was too lazy to deal with it, and slightly slower internet access didn’t bother me (though it drove my husband crazy…)

Unfortunately, with all the fancy animated ads, I can now walk around the block and have a cup of coffee waiting for internet pages to load. Mail, journals, news sites…I spend more time sitting twiddling my thumbs than actually experiencing the internet. And that is what tipped the scales. I called my local phone company, and found out that I could have "9x faster than dial-up" DSL for $24.95 a month. I pay $23.50 for AOL. Kind of a no-brainer, eh?

I’m not exiting AOL as a "Spit in your eye" gesture to the company. Why waste a perfectly good tantrum on a brick wall? It’s strictly a business decision, and I’m not ashamed of that. ;-)

So I’ve set up shop over at "blogspot." And a crazy-making two days it has been. You’ve probably heard others lament that blogspot is not nearly as user-friendly, or just plain easy, as AOL Journals. They are right on the money about that one. But I’m challenged now, by golly. And I’m gonna conquer it if it’s the last thing I do.

I posted a link to "Better Terms"—my new chapter—in my last entry. By the response I got, I have to believe people are just so tired of this whole exodus that they don’t want to deal with yet another exile. I understand. I was in that same place less than a week ago. But I think what follows, which is a slightly edited copy of my official "introductory" post at "Better Terms," is something I would like everyone here in J-land (who is interested) to read. And this is the last thing I’m going to say about the whole affair.

I plan to continue posting here until the deed (switching to DSL) is done, but from this entry forth, I promise only to post things of a more creative nature…pictures, poetry, essays. No more beating the "AOL Sucks" dead horse. AOL gave methe great gifts of "Coming to Terms" and "Brainsurfing" for these many months. And for that, I cannot help but be eternally grateful.

The Latest Chapter

“Better Terms.” The name itself signifies its connection to “Coming to Terms…” That place where I was literally reborn. Pulled out of the womb of my own head. Through a tiny keyhole, brought forth into a larger world. Waiting for me in that world was a family that welcomed me, nurtured me, encouraged me, admonished me. I was never an outgoing, exuberant child; didn’t throw my arms around every family member, close or distant, I came into contact with. I had my favorites, and I stuck with them. Maybe a little too closely for anyone’s ultimate comfort…

But now we have been graduated from that place. Not an event we foresaw or desired, but it happened nevertheless. Our “parents” redecorated our rooms, perhaps a trifle prematurely? to encourage us to get out there and try our wings… So, we flew. Though some of us had to get kicked several times before we finally fell out of the nest.

Graduations…rites of passage. We sally forth with the best intentions of keeping in touch with our “bosom-buddies;” our soul-mates. The special circle of friends whose love and support seem as essential to our lives as breathing. But after a season or two of new directions, new people, different dreams…those bonds dry up and crumble away. It happens in the “real world.” Why should the virtual world be any different? What does it take to create a truly life-long bond? Hard enough to find in the realm of flesh and blood. Maybe impossible in the ether. For me, anyway. Come so late to this world, perhaps I crave something that it cannot give. But I can’t seem to stop looking…

So, “Better Terms” is the next step. How will it differ from “Coming to Terms…?” I don’t know. I’m fresh off the bus there. Haven’t even decided which way to walk yet. The only decision I have made is that it will not be “Coming to Terms…” I will not carry the baggage of every moment of my previous virtual life with me on the next leg of the journey. I will keep the words, of course. Mostof my posts started life as “Word” documents, copied and pasted into my journal, so I don’t face the horrendous job of downloading and saving them. I already have them. “Coming to Terms” is the story of a finite time and place, and will be “put to bed” with my other journals—like the story of my sister’s final illness and death, and the journal I kept when Dad left us, and the explosion of our family that followed. Life’s lessons on paper. Saved…for what? I don’t know. Just to let someone know I was here, when I am no longer?

Ultimately, I don’t know if this new chapter will be short, long, the beginning, middle, or end. I have no idea where it is going, or where I am going. I hope for a next next chapter…a place where my writing will really come into its own. Ideally, that would make “Better Terms” a very short transition point. Then again, writing in a larger, harsher, more anonymous world may just discourage me to the point of stuffing me back inside my own head, never to be publicly heard from again. That, too, would make “Better Terms” a short chapter…a swan song. Whatever direction it takes me, it doesn’t feel like somewhere I’m going to be for a long time.

Then again, I just got there. I may find something totally unexpected, something that keeps me there, thriving and growing, for a long time. (Historically, that has not been how my life has unfolded; but, what the hell, there’s always a first time…) I thought I had found that something special at “Coming to Terms….” But it ended. And not because I was done with it.

Que sera sera. The world will have its way. What’s the use, in the end, of making plans at all?

Sunday, December 4, 2005

AOL Sticks Their Foot In It...


...and wipes it all over Journal-Land.


Two years and some months ago, several of us loyal (and, as it turns out, endangered) long-time AOL users set up shop in a new community offered by the service: AOL Journals. Unfortunately, as we were developing our journals and our community, AOL itself was transforming. With dependency upon the dues of subscribers no longer keeping it competitive in the 21st century ISP marketplace (read: it was no longer raking in obscene amounts of money), AOL shifted its focus to selling advertising space to bulk up its anemic coffers. And went at it with a vengeance. Each successive version of AOL—7.0, 8.0, 9.0—while purporting to include more and better features for subscribers (tell it Julia!) has been, in reality, primarily a vehicle for squeezing more advertising into every corner of the AOL experience: on news pages, into email, on message boards, in chat rooms.


Had we j-landers thought about it, we probably could have predicted that it was only a matter of time before the advertising plague spread to our little corner of AOL. But we were so comfy in our creative cocoon, we weren’t really paying all that much attention to the encroaching fungus. And AOL chose to allow us to remain blissfully ignorant, focused as we were on our own artistic endeavors. Until, seventeen days ago, they splattered the ad spores across the width and breadth of Journal Land. Forget about asking for our input, or—even further beyond the scope of believability—our permission. In the profit-driven corporate mind, we didn’t even rate a warning. It was just, one morning, bam! there they were. The ad banners, PLUS the horrendous technical hiccup that accompanied them.


We all know what happened next. The anger. The outcry. The Exodus. The shell-shock of those who remained.


After a few days of feeling utterly lost and uprooted, I came to a curious peace with the whole affair. The ad invasion was a completely impersonal, corporate decision, made by the powers that be at AOL. The concept of seeking subscribers’ input was so far off their radar screen that it was nigh unto extra-terrestrial. The course of action had been determined by the financial "need" of the company. There were no subscribers to consider. There was only the bottom line. I understood that; and, for some perverse reason, I was okay with it. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t about me, or journal land, or AOL members as a whole. It was about making money. Just like everything else in the world. Rather than feeling betrayal, outrage, or disgust, I experienced a great swelling of loyalty. The kind of loyalty a tick feels for its host. As long as I was getting what I wanted, I could put up with the crap. Do whatever you think you need to, you idiots. I’m staying in spite of you..


As time passed, the shock and hurt waned. The dust came filtering back down to earth; people left, people stayed, people (like me) came crawling out of their foxholes waving white flags. True to character, AOL stayed mum. Not a word did we hear to signify that they heard the outcry, witnessed the exodus, gave a flying fig whether we were out here or not. Curiously, that was somehow comforting to me. It made me feel like my assessment of the situation was right on the money (pun intended…)


Apparently, the noise we made was more than just a tiny squeak easily stifled by the giant paw of dollar signs. Obviously, enough of a stink had been generated that it leaked outside the confines of AOL and into the world at large. Just in time to plunge a knife into the barely healed wound, AOL decides that maybe they are taking a public-relations hit with this whole affair. Too dismally tardy to have any positive effect, AOL authorizes some senior vice-president twice-removed to break the corporate silence and post a communiqué to us peons on an "editor’s" journal.


And what a post it is! It starts out with a really endearing salutation ("Folks:" Not, "To Our Valued Members" or "Hello Friends" or even "Dear Folks." Just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?) It immediately makes it clear that this communication is anything but an apology ("I'm not here to report that we're changing our strategy on the ads. The ads are staying for the foreseeable future. Advertising is an important part of how we make money, and we're not ashamed of that.") Goes on to explain that the community experience is still being enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of happy AOLers, in spite of the outcry by the disaffected few ("Some of you are convinced that the addition of ads destroys that experience. I am less certain of that. I can't reconcile it with the fact that we have wonderful, passionate communities thriving in ad-supported pages…" ) If that’s true, why come down off your mountaintop and speak to the lowly peasants at all?


The post continues to pretty much say don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out if you have chosen to leave. ("Some of you have moved on because of this and that's understandable too. We're sorry this change has affected the way you feel about us." Reads a little like a pink slip, doesn’t it?) Then presumes to state that those of us who have stayed have done so out of loyalty to AOL. ("You are important to this community and to us, and we appreciate the understanding and support that you've shown.") Yeah, we understand it’s all about the money. But our decisions to stay stem from a variety of personal reasons, not for the purpose of offering even one splintered toothpick to support YOU.


Having lamely breezed through the inconvenient task of the non-apology, Mr. Vice-President What’s-his-name takes the opportunity to pimp all the great new features they’re working on, for which we have supposedly been clamoring. Enhanced buddy lists? Partner Ping? What??? Not one remaining member of AOL j-land could read of impending new features without a cold dread settling upon them. Mr. "Boss’s Boss’s Boss’s" post was significantly silent about the technical disaster surrounding the last round of "improvements." Hmmmm… S’posing you just get the spell-check to work? Or the alerts? Or fix it so that I can copy and paste my entries out of my word processing program without having to go back and correct all the punctuation that posts as garbled code? Which I wouldn’t have to do in the first place, if I hadn’t early on realized that one could spend hours composing an entry in the "Add Entry" space, only to have it disappear into the ozone at the click of the "Save" button...


Let’s face it, my remaining Journal-land stalwarts. We have been dissed. Again. Just when we were beginning to wade through the debris and start rebuilding, this idiot comes along to remind us just exactly how much we don’t mean to AOL, and how out of touch AOL is with the journal community; in fact, that AOL has no concept at all of the definition of the word "community." To AOL, the community is just a bunch of houses they erected…to slap billboards on.


If AOL thinks they’ve stopped the bleeding, or possibly repaired one sliver of damage with this insulting communication, they are wrong. In fact, they’ve delivered a stinging slap to those of us who have stayed. I don’t know who comes up with your community relations strategy, AOL, but take my advice: Either get a new spin-doctor, or go back to being the impersonal financial juggernaut. Those of us who are still kicking around were much more comfortable with the "You ignore us, and we’ll ignore you" policy. Now, we’ll have to go somewhere else to be left alone.

Friday, December 2, 2005

They say Christmas is for children...

Personally, I think it's for cats...

Now, I invite you to visit my friend Carol's journal to learn about her feline philosophy:

Life's Lessons As Taught By Cats

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Please Read

I suspect my previous entry is going to be one of those that gets few comments. Or none. Readers will receive the alert, click on the link. When they discover what it is that awaits them, they'll sigh, "Nothing good here; just a political post." And lightning quick mouse-clicking will take them back into cyber-space in pursuit of juicier game.

I understand. And 75% of the time, I'm right there with you. We're constantly bombarded by the hype that emanates from every media orifice. It's ugly. It's depressing. It's contentious. And most of the time, we can't make head nor tails of it. The political rhetoric in America has risen to such a fever pitch, that to expose yourself to it for any protracted period of time is to risk serious brain damage. Little real information can be found in the screaming, sniping, and name-calling in which our leaders are now engaged, and that our media have deemed constitute all the news we need or want to hear.

To those of us who still feel an obligation to know what's going on, the horrendous noise serves as an effective deterrent to sticking around long enough to dig deeper. I turn on the television or the radio, and within less than three minutes, I'm either hollering back at it, turning it off, or throwing it out a window. Print media are somewhat less offensive. I find that my brain's natural "loud/soft" mechanism sets the emotional volume at a level I can bear for long enough to read an article or two. Still, our city newspaper reads more like "People" magazine every day; magazines are so full of ads that it's almost impossible to find the articles, much less follow all the threads interwoven around and between pimpings for little purple pills.

Besides, reading is work. Unlike audio or video, you need to set your whole mind to reading an article. You can't have it playing in the background while you accomplish five or six other things on your "to do" list. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually could absorb the information we need to understand our complex world that way? Would we tune in if we could? The powers that be in American media apparently think not.

No, we will not be offered the opportunity to be educated in spite of ourselves. Like anything else that is worthwhile, the good information, the whole stories, the truths hidden under the lies, can only be had with the investment of some kind of effort. You gotta want it; and you gotta go looking for it. And let me tell you, folks, we direly need to want it.

When we cruise up to the cashier at WalMart and dole out our $1.88 for the "Support our Troops" magnet for the bumper of our SUV, we have to know what that means. ALL that it means. When the President stands in front of his carefully chosen military audiences and talks about our troops returning victorious when we can "safely" hand Iraq back to the Iraqis, we have to have some idea of the likelihood of that happening. And what the Iraqis will probably do with their country once they have it back. When the commander-in-chief of a military responsible for the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, stands before the world and declares, "We do not torture," we have to be able snap to attention and cry, "Foul!" When it's time to go to the voting booth, we need to make informed decisions between "Pull out now," "Stay the course," or something in between.

We need to know whether our prayer should be "God bless America," or "God forgive America."

 

Digging For The Dirt

Go here:

UP IN THE AIR

Where is the Iraq war headed next?

Read this article. From start to finish. It does get a little dry... I had to start over in a couple of places where the technical jargon got a little overwhelming. Then ask yourself this question: Why do we get no inkling of any of this stuff from the visual media that bombard us with "news" 24 hours a day?

I got this link from a Tankwoman post at The Blue Voice. While you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to read her latest post--The War Crime We Elected. I've known since the start of the war that we are not getting anywhere close to the whole story about this conflict piped into our living rooms. In fact, we're not getting ANY of the story. But it's so easy to accept the insulation from unfolding history that is the pap that the Bush Administration spoon-feeds us. My morning's reading splashed the cold water of reality in my face.

The information is out there, folks. But you have to dig for it. Go. Read. Then come back and tell me what you think.