June 15, 2008

Anyone who has read a word I've written these past 30-plus years had better be firmly planted if he or she plans on reading any further.

Let me just get it out there. The Barack Obama phenomenon has persuaded me that Americans may be catching on. The nation's Great Black Hope and the national Democratic Party, dare I say it out loud, have given me some hope.

I've not felt this way since the June 1968 morning I sat in my 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible before school waiting on my girlfriend to emerge from her apartment. It was there, in the Kingston Square parking lot on Indianapolis' east side, that I heard on the radio that Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

Coming less than five years after John Kennedy's and two months after Martin Luther King's murders, it was hard to put too much hope into any one individual after that. It didn't seem like the good died young, as the song Abraham, Martin and John said. They died, regardless of their ages.

February 3, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS - Indian spiritual leader and humanitarian Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi visited Indianapolis from Jan. 17-21 and made several public appearances, culminating with a presentation on Jan. 21 at a commemoration of the birth of Martin Luther King.

This writer attended two of these events, hearing her speak Jan. 18 at a program of mediation at Indianapolis's Unity Church and again on Jan. 20, when she spoke before the congregation at the service of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

At both events, she was introduced by Ebeneezer's pastor, Rev. Tom Brown, an African American versed in both Eastern and Western religious traditions, who linked both these traditions of spirituality together as complements.

January 13, 2008

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, fascism is:

1. a system of government practiced by Benito Mussolini in Italy between 1922 and 1943 that was characterized by dictatorship, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of opposition, and extreme nationalism, and 2. ... any movement, tendency, or ideology that favors dictatorial government, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of all opposition, and extreme nationalism

Lately, I have heard the word "fascism" enter into American dialogue. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to see how 2008 America stacks up, in admittedly my own view. I certainly use the word with caution since a mere mention inflames any discussion of politics or philosophy.

December 16, 2007

One of the most remarkable things about the T.C. Steele Historic Site, in the T.C. Steele state park, are the trees. That is, when one considers that the remarkable thing about Steele’s landscape paintings, made at the same site, is the utter lack of trees in them.

From his home, high atop his ridge, Steele had a clear view of his 2,000 acres, and then some. And from there, a century ago, Steele painted landscape after landscape of Indiana big-sky country where, from knob to holler, topography was king.

For the first wave of white settlers had cut down every tree they saw. Whether to make room for agricultural fields, to supply lumber to build their shelters or to burn for warmth, it made little difference. All fell before the axe and the saw. Within two centuries of our arriving, this country’s landscape had been transformed from an endless canopy of trees and into a rolling sea of dirt.

August 29, 2007

Kevin Ryan is a big, intense, man with a soft voice. I sometimes had a hard time hearing him, over the Trojan Horse's raucous lunch crowd, but I never had any trouble understanding what he was saying.

He was saying: "The fix is in."

Ryan came to Bloomington (where he now lives) by way of South Bend. There he had managed the water quality and testing at Environmental and Health Laboratories (EHL), a subsidiary of product safety and testing leviathan Underwriters' Laboratories (UL).

According to Ryan, shortly after the events of 9/11, UL's CEO Loring Knoblauch paid a visit to EHL. And, during that visit, he reminded EHL employees that UL had tested and certified the steel used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers.

(That's a contention that UL now denies. The laboratory disclaims that it was ever involved in fire testing the steel used in the construction of the towers.)

June 20, 2007

On Saturday, June 16, 10 Bloomington local foods organizations and businesses opened their doors to the community to promote sustainable practices and policies.

Businesses as diverse as orchards, wineries, organic gardens and greenhouses participated in the afternoon Local Foods Tour, the inaugural sustainability tour sponsored by the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability (BCOS).

"There's a lot of interest in eating healthy, and local foods supports that interest," said Keith Clay, BCOS member and a professor of biology at IU.

September 26, 2004

As if we hadn't already redefined national hypocrisy for the rest of the world, our Commission of International Freedom has given Bush license to take the moral high ground with Saudi Arabia because of "severe" internal issues with religious freedom, as well as "its propagation and export of an ideology of religious hate and intolerance throughout the world."

I don't necessarily disagree with that designation. I just think that the American pot is calling the Islamic kettle black. Hasn't Bush done more so far than any president in recent memory to legislate his religious beliefs into law? And didn't one of his hand-picked hunks, Lt. General Boykin, recently make comments denigrating Muslims as idol worshippers, while promoting American Christianity as the one true religion? I really don't know how anyone from Bush's camp can take communion without choking on it.

I was on the wrong end of religious intolerance last week, when an acquaintance showed up at the church where I sing two services every Sunday. He usually attends a different church, but had to settle for our services because he had some car trouble. "I'm pleasantly surprised to see you here," he said.

August 22, 2004

Ok, it's official: this is one stubborn vampire. Every six months I hear someone pull out the "Bloomington is anti-business" vampire and, every six months, I think I do a pretty good job of driving a stake through it. But the SOB keeps coming back and I just can't figure out why. It's a wooden stake, right? That is what I'm using and I am getting frustrated.

The bastard bit me twice in the neck last week. The first time was when my lovely wife showed me a candidates' questionnaire from the Chamber of Commerce, a questionnaire that included their now obligatory question: "Does Monroe County foster a business-friendly environment?" (there is only one correct answer to that). And then I got bit a second time, and bit more deeply, reading the online weblog of an Indiana House candidate who said: "Bloomington [is] as anti-business as any place I've ever lived." Ouch.

June 13, 2004

I spent most of this week at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. By far the biggest lesson that I took away was that government can, and sometimes does, produce great architecture and places worth caring about, learning from, and defending.

Great architecture is the product of great institutions, public and private. I thought much of institutions and what they tell us about ourselves as I traveled through our nation's ancient industrial cradle and as I traveled through the rust belts of upstate New York and down the Hudson River. Like an astronomer looking into a telescope and making observations millions of light-years into the past, I saw out the car windows into our country's past.

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