Singing like a caged bird

Friday, November 26, 2004

News From Ukraine


T. in Kiev emailed the following on Friday Nov. 26:

"today I was on our main square, where all people now. It was so exciting! People are extremely polite, helpful to each other. Many people bring food, warm clothes; ask what they can bring more.
I have never seen anything like this in my life before.
I do hope they will come to peaceful conclusion. "


From Neeka's BackLog comes a great account that I must label as "Truth is Deafening":

"On Channel 1 (UT-1), the main state channel, 237 journalists are on strike now. Today, during the 11 am newscast with live translation into the Sign Language, the translator, Natalya Dmytruk, did not translate what the host was saying about the election results, but said (in Sign Language) the following (quote via Ukrainska Pravda):

"The results from the Central Election Commission have been falsified. Do not believe them. Our President is Yushchenko. I am very disgusted that I was forced to translate the lies until now. I'm not going to do it anymore. I'm not sure if I'll see you again."

The program Dmytruk was translating into Sign Language for is the only news program in Ukraine adapted for people with hearing impairments. The audience is about 100,000 people. Dmytruk has now joined her 237 striking colleagues."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


At the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of November -- that's tomorrow, November 18th, the new batch, err vintage, of Beaujolais Nouveau will be served to oenophiles all over the world. I like wine a lot and have developed a nice appreciation of a good wine. But some cognoscenti seem to take it a bit too far. A couple of things sort of make me uncomfortable about all the hoopla.

First, there is "winespeak". Now I know people like to describe the complexities of their palate, but often this is taken just too far.

Here.... for example, is a write up which isn't too outrageous:

" The wines are supple and very pleasant, characterized by a good balance between degree and acidity. The attack is good. The tannins are rounded. Besides its lovely sparkling ruby robe, Beaujolais Nouveau this year is fruity, redolent of fresh red fruit like strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry, to which there is sometimes the addition of violet and peony fragrances. A lip-smacking, pleasure provoking wine."

But please can anyone explain to me what an attack is? Isn't tannin used to make shoe leather? What house of fashion designs robes for wines? When I was a kid we drank a sugary swill that was "fruity, redolent of fresh red fruit like strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry" we called it red bug juice, but the grocery sold it as Kool-aid.

Nowhere....Not A Drop To Drink

Secondly, I have a problem with pricing. I can see paying a modest amount for a fine wine for a special occasion. But there is a point where I begin to feel edgy and thoughts of the millions of kids who do not have decent clean water to drink encroach on my enjoyment of the wine. And of course there are the infamous urban legends around "Two Buck Chuck".

Hey, deception in advertising and global trade can let us sip, imbibe, quaff or guzzle and without pangs of guilt. So stop by Trader Joes, stock up and put a few drops of your saving into an organization such as WaterAid or Global Water or UNESCO-IHE .

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Every Once in a while you stumble onto a scene that strikes you as one of those moments which delineate a season change. Today's lunchtime walk at the Empire State Plaza was one of those moments. Just ten days ago I was spending a balmy Halloween evening on a sidewalk cafe in South Beach. For sure, the latitude change contributed to the stark change, but the moment caught my attention nonetheless!

The wind was brisk and had a cold bite to it. I had my winter hat and gloves on since the pets' water vessels were all iced over this morning. The wind rattled the few brown and brittle leaves left in the plaza maple trees. The same wind that bit and rattled, formed into little dancing, swirling dervishes of fallen leaves on the cobble stone drives.

Beyond the empty reflecting pools and not yet open ice rink, the season of winter was proclaimed as I glanced up at the Offical New York State Christmas tree. It was naked of its ornaments and I thought rather regal in its natural state. A bit shorter than I remember from past years, perhaps another marker of acid rain or just being an adult child? Also, not sure how I feel about this...but the erecting workers were a prison work release crew. Wonder if it makes them feel good to be putting up a Christmas tree...or does it remind them of family at home for the holidays. Maybe it brings back bad memories of Christmas' past.

I know it is not official winter yet...but now it feels like it....and the ground is now frozen each morning.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

South Beach All Hallow's Eve

While in Florida as an Election Protection volunteer, I was fortunate enough to spend Halloween night on Lincoln Road in South Beach, Miami. This is definitely THE place to be for trick or treating as a spectator sport. Watched the parading costumes from a sidewalk cafe with some great new friends. Only disappointment was all the photo-ops I missed.

Transylanian Waiter, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

Indio Princess, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

Witches of the East, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

Feathered Ghoul, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Scenes From An American Election....

As I flew out of upstate New York, I was filled with misgivings and fear of a Bush election victory and a messy election vote count. I was trying to be hopeful and upbeat, but I felt that it would be a very close election.

I arrived in Broward County, Florida the Saturday before the election. I was immediately uplifted when I got to the Election Protection headquarters. The place was filled with volunteers and buzzing like a hive of worker bees. For the next three days I was canvassing voters, erecting election protection posters, handing out voter bill of rights leaflets in an area of grinding poverty (within a few miles of the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show with their million dollar yachts). Each time I passed a voting place, the long lines of voters participating in early voting encouraged me. They were waiting in line for 3 and 4 hours each day in the broiling sun, 89 humid degrees, with some days 8-hour waits to vote. At a days end press conference my spirits were raised even more when 23 volunteers from the organization Pax Christi were introduced….they were international observers from 14 foreign countries.
I was even more uplifted when all the volunteers gathered for our training on Election Day duties. Originally planned for 400 volunteers, there were 700 of us…from New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, California, and even as far away as Hawaii and London, England. On election eve I had become less fearful, more hopeful and definitely infected with enthusiasm.

I was up at the crack of dawn on Election Day. Stopped for coffee and doughnuts to share with the other 6 of my election protection team.

6c Volunteer Team, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

We were stationed at precinct 6c in Pompano.

Precinct Sign, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

I was at the polling place at 6:30….there were already 100+ people waiting in line. The polls opened at precisely 7:02. The line actually grew for the first few hours of voting. There were only a few snafus with the voting. People were excited and friendly. There were other poll watchers from the AFL-CIO, from the Kerry-Edwards team, from the NAACP, 3 of the Pax Christi people were there for part of the day. The voting went off without any major problems.

International Observers, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

A Minor Incident....

There was one incident that was really blown all out of proportion. While the portable touchscreen was being brought out to a disabled person in their auto (nice solution for accessibility problems, worked real well all day) a Republican poll monitor reached into the car and snatched a palm card from the voter and ripped it up. Not a very proper thing to do. The contention was that the voter was in the 50-foot zone where such palm cards are not to be distributed. The result was a good punch to the stomach of the Republican poll worker. Also, not a very proper thing to do. Soon the Sheriff Deputy was on the scene. Despite his best efforts and the efforts of the Kerry-Edwards attorney to defuse the situation, the parties of the first part and the parties of the second part wouldn't let this go.

Kerry's Able Lawyer, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

It soon degenerated into a comic skit…good enough for SNL or The Daily Show.

Before long, the Deputy Sheriff, who I dubbed Officer Obie ala Alice's Restaurant fame, was taking notes, calling for back-up, and trying to keep this from blowing up even further. He was very calming and actually did a great job…but I was chuckling all the while thinking of how Arlo would have told the story. (Please indulge me by humming along and hearing Arlo picking his guitar and his run on sentence talking folk song style to get the full effect of this piece) The best part was when the poll workers were attempting to measure out the 50-foot neutral zone with an inadequate measuring tape. Officer O-bie got out the o-fficial, cop approved, auto accident incident reporting, 500 foot measuring tape to determine the e-xact distance in all directions that campaigners and all their official, partisan, biased, propagandizing and usually totally ineffective campaign literature were banned, barred, contraband and highly illegal.

Official Tape Measure, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

He duly marked the distance with an orange cone and gave a stern warning that this was the official no propaganda zone. Officer Obie then proceeded to get the facts, "just the facts ma'am", from all points of view, left to right, attorneys for both sides and carefully scribed them in his official Police memo pad.

Just the Facts, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

At one point 3 deputy sheriffs escorted the poll worker and the portable touchscreen ballot out to another disabled voter just in case some militant campaign worker might try to palm off another card on another unsuspecting voter. The Bush workers carefully eyed the situation from the other side of the 50-foot demilitarized zone. But Officer Obie (whatever his real name is) really was doing a very diplomatic job in what he must have thought of as a ludicrous situation.

This was unlike the 2000 election, which saw major incidents of people denied their right to vote and many people turned away as the polls closed. I left the polling place filled with optimism.

Sunsetting on 6c and Kerry, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

I later arrived at the Kerry-Edwards victory gathering some time after 9:00 pm. Things were looking up, as the news was filled with major turn-outs of voters which usually is good for the democrats. The pinnacle of my hopeful feelings was when Pennsylvania went to Kerry big time. But soon the reports were filled with more and more bad news. Florida fell to Bush and then the long agonizing wait for the Ohio vote began.

The depression was a steady slide down, down, down, Wednesday morning was bad. The Kerry concession speech and Bush victory speech just made it worse. I listened to them in the airport on my way back north to home. I still am reeling of the impact. Every time I think of the future it just is so dark and foreboding. I try to find a silver lining to this storm cloud…to fit with my rose colored glasses view of the world. I can only think of one…that the world is in such awful shape for the next 2 years and beyond…the problems would have been blamed on Kerry…. Now Bush and the Republican congress must shoulder the full responsibility. But this is of little consolation.

I am disheartened, depressed, fearful, disgusted, and shamed. The world must look at Americans as arrogant, idiotic, religious fanatics filled with avarice and fear and revenge.

I can console myself only slightly with the fact that I tried to do something about it …and that more people voted AGAINST a sitting President than at any time in our history.

But I still feel like shit!!!!!!

canteen singers III

A Final Reunion....

In 1943, the US Army created several Parachute Infantry Regiments. One of these was made famous by the book and HBO series entitled "A Band of Brothers". Another such unit was the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. This band of brothers trained together, and fought and suffered and died in Normandy, Holland, Belgium and Germany. For the past 30 years they have held an annual reunion. This past October, they held their "final" reunion as they are all in their 80's and 90's. I heard of this reunion while in Normandy for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Members of the 508th and their families were insistent that I must attend this final reunion. They knew I was seeking information about my dad's experiences during the war and they were sure I would meet some of his comrades who could tell me about those days that Dad hardly ever mentioned. See July 10 post

The four-day reunion was a wonderful experience. Emotions were at a high level throughout the events. Spouses, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren accompanied the veterans.

There were representatives of current paratroopers, and of the Mayors of Ste. Mere Eglise, and several other Norman villages. There were old photos and even some rare film footage that everyone was exchanging and sharing. But most of all there were memories…both good and bad. Thoughts of the veterans often drifted off to comrades that were left in European soil for eternity. These men were indeed the greatest of the greatest generation. One must read of the horror and bravery they witnessed and exhibited to truly understand their greatness. A good book to read is "Beyond Valor", the author, Patrick K. O'Donnell was also in attendance at the event.

There was a ceremony in which the Regimental Colors were retired, putting to rest the history of this famed unit. What these brave men endured should never be forgotten. And the horrors of war never forgotten, as to a man these who lived through it tell all who will listen that "war is hell". My dad always made sure that this was know to me, although he never gave any details as to what he had witnessed and endured.

One night was a dinner dance. The room was decked out like a 1940's "Canteen" complete with a 40's swing band and swing dancers from the University of Florida Dance club. Some of the old folks really got into the fun times and memories of those years. All I could keep thinking of was the fun my mom and dad must have been enjoying before Pearl Harbor. My Dad always liked Benny Goodman's music. I could just picture them out on the dance floor. It brought the tears and emotions right out. Especially since after the war, my Dad and mom hardly enjoyed such times again.

canteen singers III, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

Harry dancing on stage, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

canteen performers, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

40's swing dancers II, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

There were any friends made at this reunion, many stories told and heard, and some toasts of Calvados to comrades present and those who were not here but not forgotten.