Friday, July 27, 2007

Cows in my Yard

One of my neighbor's cows pushed through our fence and was running loose in my pasture yesterday night. The fence bent out like a funnel or an old-fashioned fish trap. The cow got through but couldn't get back. Meanwhile the rest of herd was trying to decide whether to come on through and join the party on my property.

Staring into the eyes of this beast at close range I realised just how big cows are. And how small I am. A scared cow is a scary thing. The cow was running around getting frantic and I was afraid cows and people might get hurt.

With a lot of team work from the wife and kids, my daughter's boyfriend, and the neighbors who own the cows we managed to open up the fence (literally by taking it apart), and we herded the frightened cow through the gap so she could join her herd. Then we had to rebuild the fence and get things back to normal. I guess good fences do make good neighbors.


Kind of made me think about the Bush Administration. They have been pushing through the fences and doing things they shouldn't. If a group of concerned citizens can get together, I think we can herd this administration back to their side of the fence. Then we need the Congress to repair the lines between Executive Power and Congressional Power and Judicial Power. When each herd operates inside its Constitutional fences things just work better. But we have really let these old bulls push the old fences down. If we are going to be good neighbors, we need to fix those fences. The Bush Administration looks big and intimidating, but citizens working together can put them back in their assigned place.
Credits: Original Painting by Jay Larsen

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

John Edwards: spell that H-I-L-L-A-R-Y

Has anyone else noticed how the mainstream media fauns over Hillary Clinton?

Right Wing and Left Wing pundits all agree, Hillary is the Democratic Candidate of choice.

But whose choice? They aren't leaving that up to the citizens. They are proclaiming Hillary the only good choice in the Democratic field. Even when they talk about other candidates, oh yeah there are other candidates, they still subtly and not-so-subtly remind us that Hillary is who we should be looking at.

The New York Times did a focus piece on John Edwards and filled half the accompanying photo with HILLARY.

Why would the mainstream media want Hillary as the Democratic candidate?

That is an easy one. The mainstream media is all Corporate Media. And the Corporate majority shareholders want Hillary. She is a proven corporate agent, while some of the other Democratic candidates are not clearly in corporate pockets. Edwards made his law career suing big corporations and Obama is new and as yet unpurchased. So if a Democrat is going to win, it needs to be Hillary with her clear corporate allegiances.

On the Republican side? The corporate world is not too worried. Ron Paul doesn't have a chance, and all the other candidates are known corporate players. So any Republican but Paul is a corporate win.

Hillary vs. Any Republican is a Corporate wet dream. Too bad the American voter has been so sidelined by the process. The Parties prepick our top two choices for us and we just get to rubber stamp one or the other. That is not a real choice.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Table Top Standing Stones

I've been painting miniatures lately. Not that these photos do them justice, but I was trying to capture my latest project.

The Guardians of the Balance: Ferris the lynx, Trixy, Anna, Molina, and Braun (from left to right). A brave group of adventurers making a stand against evil within an ancient circle of stones.
The circle of standing stones I carved from styrofoam and mounted on an old CD before painting and adding moss and sand for effect.
They look pretty heroic for being only 2 inches high!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Rumi, that wild Dervish,
Reminds me to take heed,
“Value the water more
and the vessel less.”

He says it with plain ease.

Not knowing what to think
Confused and dizzy for a time
I begin to list
The vessels in my life:

Coffee mugs and beer glasses
The well dug in my backyard
Urns, vases, jugs and buckets
Vessels all, I'm sure
But Rumi means something more
Perhaps vessels less apparent
Like notes holding a musical score
Some books carry untold riches
Others volumes could be hauling dung
Bibles, Korans and Sutras uncounted
Each cradles its share of the load
My wife
My heart
My children’s eyes
Each holds a sweet drop or two
Our houses
Our churches
Our schools and offices
Perhaps even me and you
Vessels all
Some worthy of respect
Some obviously not so much
Vessels tainted
Vessels cracked
Some vessels pure and whole

But what is this water
Which can be contained
In vessels of such various kind?

Now that is a question
Worth the pondering
An ocean of depth
Well worth the drowning

More and Less
Such a river in Rumi's mind

Words assembled by me, Jay Larsen.
Collage by Me of various water vessels piled on top of a painting of a river painted by Me.
Rumi was a poet of incredible passion. He wrote his stuff all by himself. I had nothing to do with it.
You reading this, again, has nothing to do with Me.
Take some responsibility.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Just thought I would throw my 10 cents into the ring. That's right, 10 cents not 2 cents, because it appears that I have thought about this more than most people.

There has been some increased talk lately about Impeaching the President and the Vice President. First off, the list of impeachable offenses is fairly long: fraud, warrant less wiretapping, obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress, disregarding the Freedom of Information Act, torture, secret prisons, illegal invasions and occupations, voter fraud, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Don't make me defend the entire list, it is the administration that should be defending themselves.

What concerns me are the arguments I have been hearing about why we shouldn't Impeach:

1. They haven't done anything wrong. What planet do you live on? Oh, let me guess: Planet Fox.

2. We are at War with Terrorists that want to kill us. The "war on terror" is a recipe for perpetual war. You can't wage war against a tactic. It would be like waging war on double-entry accounting. Terrorists are criminals and we have perfectly good laws and procedures for going after criminals. And most importantly, what does terrorism have to do with our Constitution? Nothing. We must be who we need to be. We can not let terrorists dictate our actions.

3. Let's just elect the next President and hope he/she does better. This administration has gotten away with some pretty bold and illegal things. Do you want the next president who may belong to your least favorite political party to claim all the powers this administration has claimed? I don't.

4. It would be divisive and cause a Constitutional crisis! No. An Imperial President and Vice President is the Constitutional crisis--Impeachment is the cure. Impeachment proceedings are part of our U.S. Constitution.

5. Wanting to send the President to jail is just political revenge. If the President and/or the Vice President got impeached, there is almost no chance that they would go to jail. Impeachment and removal from office is all about restoring the office of the President into the hands of individuals who will uphold the Constitution. George and Dick, if removed from office, would go back to their plush private homes on their ranches. They would live happily ever after on the war profits from the private corporations they have enriched with their illegal policies. Nobody is likely to go to jail.

In short, the President and the Vice President have admitted committing illegal actions and deserve Impeachment and removal from office if they are found guilty.

The Congress has not initiated Impeachment in the face of clear evidence, and if they do not they will be in dereliction of their Constitutionally mandated responsibilities. If Congress does not begin Impeachment proceedings soon, the public should remove them from office.

The media has failed to keep the population clearly informed. And Congress may have failed to provide for a Free Press, as outlined in the Constitution, by allowing the vast majority of the media to be owned by only a handful of powerful corporations (most with ties to the Defense Department).

But finally, the public has failed to defend the U.S. Constitution. To many of us do not know the Constitution. Most of us do not communicate our wishes to our elected representatives. And we have allowed unconstitutional entities, namely corporations and political parties, to make themselves more important to the political process than those actors specifically named in the Constitution: The Congress, The President, The Vice President, The Judiciary, and the largest group, The People.

This is our Constitution. It allows mechanisms for us to throw the bums out of Washington when they cease to take their oaths seriously. We can remove our president without having to build a rebel army and storm the capital. We do not have to resort to violent and bloody revolution in America. But only if we insist that our representatives uphold the Constitution. Only if we insist that the Constitution is more important that business or political or personal affiliation.

We The People are the first and final defenders of the Constitution. And we cannot allow any group to twist, tear, and destroy our system of laws. We must Impeach. Now while we still can. Otherwise we may leave only the prospects of bloody revolution or imperial subjugation to our children.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Feel Good, Iraqi Occupation Remix (MC Rove, GW & Dick-Cnote)

Nick Anderson at the Houston Chronicle has produced an interesting video.
I love the original song by Gorillaz, and Nick's humor unfortunately rings true.

Cry Havoc and Release the Badgers of War

OK, this post is just silly.

The BBC is reporting that:
British forces have denied rumours that they released a plague of ferocious badgers into the Iraqi city of Basra.
Word spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic…
The rumours spread because the animals had appeared near the British base at Basra airport.
UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.”

Yet local housewife Suad Hassan claims to have seen the beasts, saying “It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey.”

Which raises the question: Where has Vice President Dick Cheney been lately?

Cheney has always been a bit ferocious. And I know for a fact that badgers have very thick skin and they have the amazing ability to turn completely around within their own skin, reversing their position so as to attack creatures who thought they had just grabbed a hold of the beast. And I know Cheney is famous for turning and counter attacking any foe who thinks he has found a point of weakness in his thick-skinned defense.

So could the fearsome beast who has been prowling the halls of Washington DC and other undisclosed locations, be the same beast that is terrorizing the citizens of Basra? Could Ferocious Dick be the fabled Animal Human Hybrid the President tried to warn us about in his State of the Union Speech in 2006? Could these animals be cloned versions of Cheney that are being secretly deployed as part of the Surge? Tired of slow progress and hungry for the promised candy and flowers Cheney expected to receive freely from the grateful Iraqi population, has the Vice President hybridized himself with compatible animal DNA to create an army of super soldiers? Will the Badger Soldiers be supplied with armored versions of Mr. Toad’s road car? What kind of Wild Ride is Mr. Cheney taking us on? Are hybrid rat and mole soldiers next? Or is this all just Wind in the Willows? Will the British as well as the Pentagon categorically deny these charges as well? Is this just a shameless plug for the Thunder Echo song, Cry Havoc?

Tune in next week, same batty time, same batty blog to find out.
Credits: News story by the BBC.
News Photo of Dick Cheney, otherwise known as Mr. Lovable by his hunting buddies.
Badger/Cheney Hybrid Illustration constructed by TEE Biolabs of Arlington based on eyewitness testimony from Basra.
Clearly frightened and hysterical citizens of Basra courtesy of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is brought to the world courtesy of Vice President Dick Cheney and his Neoconservative buddies (who like to call Dick Mr. Deep Pockets for some reason).
Sarcasm and childish humor supplied by Me, Jay Larsen.
Morbid curiosity sufficient to have read this entire blog entry to this point, entirely your fault.
Love Ya.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Sing to me most famous bard
Warble your cleft notes
Canticles chillingly chanted
Echoing now from vacated pews
Your audience gone to play cards

Fling me villain down a wishing well
Cut by the first stone
Depressed and drowned
In ink thicker than bone
They don’t encourage games in hell

King me, king me you great buffoon
Weave your diagonal fiction
White and warped
Between disregarded pawns
Black rooks stand silent as tombs

Mocked and teased by castigating crows
I buried treasure beneath a winter moon

Cheated too often by gregarious crows
You abandoned chess too soon
Credits: Word and Image Fragments artistically (I hope) composed and pasted digitally together by Me (Jay Larsen).
Oldest know chess piece by the Romans.
Paper crow target by Airhog.
Ramito the Jibaro courtesy of Flor "Ramito" Morales Ramos, "El Cantor de la Montaña", RIP.
The word "Bard" Origin: 1400–50; late ME < Celt; cf. Ir, ScotGael bard, Welsh bardd, Breton barz < IE *gwrs-do-s singer, akin to Albanian grisha (I) invited (to a wedding).
Other words sources are unknown to me at this time.
Internet courtesy of Al Gore.
Your span of attention supplied by human intelligence and other PBS viewers like you.
Thank you.

News Mash Up: Crime & Punishment

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A quarter-million dollar fine that Lewis “Scooter” Libby paid Thursday was the most substantial element remaining from his conviction in March on federal charges that included perjury and obstruction of justice.
President Bush on Monday commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence, and in light of that, the trial judge says he does not know whether Libby must still serve supervised probation. In addition, Libby had been ordered to serve 400 hours of community service, not yet specified, and the status of that also is unclear.
Bush declined to set aside the $250,000 fine imposed by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who had been adamant that Libby serve time for lying to investigators looking into the possible leak of classified material dating back to 2003.
A court document filed Thursday shows Libby obtained a cashier’s check Monday, the same day as Bush’s decision to keep him out of prison. The check, drawn on a bank near Libby’s home in McLean, Va., includes the quarter-million dollar fine and the court’s special assessment of $400.
The court’s receipt is dated Thursday, and includes a photocopy of the check filed in the public record of the case.
Walton has asked Libby’s defense team and prosecutors to file documents by July 9 with their positions on how he should handle the probation matter. In his order, he wrote that the clemency law Bush used in commuting Libby’s sentence does not address how to establish post-confinement probation for someone who hasn’t been behind bars.
– CNN Producer Paul Courson
BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- China executed a former drug and food safety chief on Tuesday for corruption in an unusually swift sentence which will serve as a warning amid a series of health scandals that have stained the "made in China" brand.
The Supreme People's Court approved the death sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, who was convicted of taking bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) from eight companies and dereliction of duty, Xinhua news agency said.
His execution marked the first time China has imposed a death sentence on an official of his rank since 2000.
"Zheng Xiaoyu's grave irresponsibility in pharmaceutical safety inspection and failure to conscientiously carry out his duties seriously damaged the interests of the state and people," Xinhua cited the high court as stating.
"The social impact has been utterly malign," the court said, adding that Zheng's confession and handing over of bribes were not enough to justify mercy. A spokeswoman for the State Food and Drug Administration, said the case had brought only shame to the watchdog. "This kind of serious case of law breaking by a small minority of corrupt elements, as far as the entire system is concerned, really made us feel ashamed," she said.
"But these cases revealed several problems, and I think we need to seriously reflect on what lessons we can draw."
Zheng, head of administration from 1998 to 2005, was sentenced on May 29 and his appeal was heard last month.
Under rules introduced at the start of this year, the supreme court also reviews and can quash death sentences, a power previously in the hands of provincial-level high courts. But this time the supreme court spent little time endorsing the execution.
The unusually harsh sentence and its prompt enforcement reflect the pressure on Beijing from domestic and international alarm about consumer safety after a series of breaches and deaths involving toxins in food, medicines and other products.
Yan admitted China faced a huge safety problem.
"As a developing country, China's food and drug supervision work began late and its foundations are weak. Therefore, the food and drug safety situation is not something we can be optimistic about," she said.
"We must ensure that those who have power fulfil their duties and responsibilities, and if anyone abuses their power they will be punished," Yan added. "Officials in key departments will change posts on a rotating basis."


Two cases of corrupt government officials lying to the public, profiting from backroom deals, and covering up their activities. Apparently as many as 20 people died from bad antibiotics approved by Zheng. How many people have died in Iraq as a result of the lies the Bush Administration told us and that Mr. Libby tried to cover up? A lot more than 20.
Should Zheng have been executed for his miss use of public office? Probably not. But should Libby be rewarded with a Get Out of Jail Free card and a fine? You tell me.

Credit: News Photos of Zheng being sentenced, Libby's fine, and Libby celebrating his freedom with his wife. Corporal Punishment courtesy of the Chinese Government. Mafia tactics to avoid justice courtesy of the Bush Administration. Sense of grim irony by Me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Post Worth Reposting

I have reposted an article on Common Deams by Paul Bucheit, a professor at Chicago City Colleges and the founder of You should also check out the 75 References at the end of his article, citing sources for all of his claims. How many newspaper articles have you read lately that cite even 2 or 3 sources? Paul's article packs a powerful punch. I wish our newspapers and TV News were as compelling.


Published on Monday, July 9, 2007 by
Mainstream Media Where Are You?
by Paul Buchheit

A group of teachers in Chicago recently started an initiative to inform college and high school students about critical global issues. The initiative deals with young people who have a wide range of academic skills, who are generally hard-working and eager to find a suitable career, and whose savvy about modern culture makes up for their lack of life experience. But they know almost nothing about their country’s relationship with the world. They know there’s a war going on, they’ve heard about genocide in Africa, they suspect that Iran is a threat to the United States. But ask them to provide some details and they return a blank stare.

It is understandable that today’s youth, with so many entertainment options and electronic distractions, and with the pursuit of good times high on their list of priorities, can’t be sufficiently aware of world issues. But they do read newspaper headlines and occasionally watch the news. They simply don’t get enough information from these sources. If they hear at all about controversial issues, the information is oversimplified, incomplete, and often one-sided.

They need to know that the U.S. is responsible for almost half of the world’s total military expenditures, that nearly half of the arms sales to developing countries (in 2005) came from the United States, and that 20 of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms sales in the developing world were declared undemocratic or human rights abusers by the U.S. State Department’s own Human Rights Report.

They need to know that the U.S. attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments from the end of WW2 to the turn of the century, many of them populist and democratic movements that were battling oppressive regimes.

They need to know that the U.S. went to war with Iraq in 2003 because of erroneous claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had ties to Al Qaeda.
They need to know that studies by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the FBI, the State Dept., and all four branches of the armed forces, revealed that the occupation of Iraq has contributed to an increase in the overall terrorist threat. And that studies by the University of Chicago, the Hoover Digest, the Cato Institute, Iraq Body Count, and the 2005 Human Security Report support these findings.

They need to know that the U.S. opposed United Nations votes on the right to food, the rights of women, the rights of children, and the right to freedom of people forcibly deprived of that right. That the U.S. opposed the banning of landmines. That the UN has accused the U.S. of repeatedly violating the World Convention against Torture, and that the UN voted the U.S. off the U.N. Human Rights Commission in 2001. And that at the end of 2006, 80% of the UN’s unpaid dues were owed by the United States.

They need to know that only eight corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Viacom (formerly CBS), General Electric, Yahoo, Google, and MSN — now control most of the U.S. media, and that some of them have close connections to companies making weaponry for the U.S. military.

They need to know that while 3,000 Americans died in the horrible terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, every DAY of the year 30,000 children die of hunger and preventable diseases around the world. That the United Nations Human Development Report 2005 concluded that “The gap between the average citizen in the richest and in the poorest countries is wide and getting wider.” That the World Bank’s World Development Report 2006 stated that inequality in the U.S. is the worst in the developed world. That corporate income has risen much faster than workers’ wages, while the corporate tax rate has dropped dramatically over the past 50 years.

They need to know that U.S. foreign aid, based on percentage of income, is one of the lowest in the developed world. That most of our aid goes to relatively wealthy Israel and another ally, Egypt. That 70% of U.S. aid is ‘tied,’ which means that the recipient must use it to purchase U.S. goods and services. That even our impressive level of private aid is mostly confined to donations within the U.S., and in the form of remittances (money sent back to the home countries of people working in the United States).

They need to know that “free trade” is often skewed in favor of wealthy countries. That we give more economic aid to our own multinational companies than foreign aid to poor countries. That U.S. tariffs on countries like Viet Nam and Bangladesh are 10 times higher than on European Union countries. That according to Christian Aid, trade liberalization in the past 20 years has cost sub-Saharan Africa more than $272 billion, a staggering sum that could have erased all its debts while paying for vaccination and school for every child. That the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the New Economics Foundation, and the United Nations Report on the World Social Situation 2005 all reported that free trade has not helped the world’s poor.

Is it unpatriotic to criticize the behavior of one’s own country? It depends on the meaning of patriotism. Socrates angered people by challenging them in public and exposing their ignorance. But he felt he was acting as a patriot by encouraging thoughtfulness over blind acceptance and celebration of government policies. In words attributed to him, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Like Socrates, Henry David Thoreau believed that citizens should tolerate nothing less from their government than the highest standards of behavior. He said, “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.” Martin Luther King talked about moving “beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience.”

But how do we know what’s true and what isn’t? Opinions derived from any one source may be inaccurate, or biased, or simply wrong. Our students in the Global Initiative are taught to research the issues, to seek multiple sources if there is any question about the truth. It can be hard work. Their job would be a lot easier if the newspapers and TV news shows would take on the big issues and make a realistic effort to provide balanced coverage.

Paul Buchheit is a professor with the Chicago City Colleges, co-founder of Global Initiative Chicago, and the founder of He has contributed to commondreams, counterpunch, and countercurrents.Email:

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Note to The Reader

All the characters in my stories are based on real people and other peoples’ fictional characters. I have stolen them all and mutilated them in my own sadistic ways. All the places in my stories are based on real places and other peoples’ fictional places. None of the events in my stories are original inventions; they are all based on real events and on other peoples’ stories. None of the ideas expressed in my stories are original ideas; the ideas are all collected from other people. Any mishandling or mangling of the ideas, people, places or events is purely my doing. I only take credit for the particular and peculiar configuration of these stolen elements. This admission of artistic thievery may not be common, mainly because lawyers write the disclaimers at the front of books, but I think most artists will secretly agree with me. As a writer and artist I will beg, borrow and steal anything and everything I need to tell my story.

You should not read my stories (or blog entries) if you are looking for flashes of creative originality. I do believe in creative originality, but I have found them to be brief, unpredictable and extremely rare. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a few of those lightning flashes of originality, personally and in others. The light from those rare events is blinding and indescribable. For a brief timeless moment the boundaries of who we are as individuals and as a species cracks and expands and through those cracks comes a dangerous and elemental light that illuminates what was previously in shadow and causes us to flinch away while at the same time we hunger for more. The lightning proves for one radiant moment that the limitations of who we are is only the boundary of our previous unfolding and that luminous glimpse reveals an infinite space that we may one day hope to grow into.

My stories are not original. Lightning cannot be captured by words or concepts. If I am lucky I can feel the rumble of the thunder and cast back a few weak echoes tangled up in the limited glue that is language and image. What gets captured is never the actual “thing.” Defining anything limits that thing; it puts boundaries around it that do not exist in the real world. But these limited perspectives, these stick figures and thin outlines have to be enough. Hopefully my thunder echoes are enough to orient your inner ear and eye toward the thunder available to you in your journey of unfolding. And I sincerely hope that you will not flinch too much or run away when the lighting cracks the boundaries of your life and your concepts.

One of the greats of jazz, I think it was Dizzy Gillespie, once said something very interesting. I am not going to go to the trouble of looking up this saying and confirming that it was actually Dizzy, for me the idea is more important than the source. The fact that the idea has stuck with me and become part of my inner collection seems much more relevant than the mundane facts of who said what on what day to whom. And I guess that reveals something about how I work, how I collect ideas and images, how I tumble them around in my head until some of them pop out shiny and beautiful even as their origins are lost to the hazy fog of memory. Any way, the saying that might have been Dizzy’s placed in quotation marks that do not imply precise citation in any way: “Don’t go into jazz unless you just cannot imagine living life without making music every day. Only do it because you will not be you if you do not. Don’t go into music expecting to make a living, or to be appreciated. People will not appreciate what you are doing and the industry does a horrible job of supporting musicians. The life of a musician is too hard. If you can avoid it, stay away. But if you can’t imagine your life without music, then good luck to you. You are on your own.”

I have heard similar statements from writers, politicians, painters, clergymen, architects, dancers, from almost every profession and definitely from every type of artist. Don’t create art, don’t go into this job, expecting it to support you and your ego’s needs for attention. There are much easier ways to make a living. Only do this thing if you cannot avoid doing it. But if you are going to do it, give it everything you can and magical things might happen.

So I tell stories. I can’t help it. I speak them. I sing them. I draw and paint them. I write them down. I even think stories to myself in my head when no one else is listening. I admit to secret wishful stories where I am a famous and respected author or artist. But when I am being as honest with myself as I can be, I know that my compulsion to tell stories does not place any obligation on other human beings. As much as I look over my shoulder while writing or drawing, hoping to see a receptive face, I realize that you do not have to read my words or look at my squiggles. Yet here I am, typing, putting words together trying to capture echoes in a thin net of grammar and syntax. If you are reading I must confess a secret desire for a reaction of some kind: let me know if you love it or hate it. Apathy is the hardest silence to endure as an artist. But know that I know this: my act of creative collage, my collection of semi random bits of the universe displayed in words and images, puts you under no obligation whatsoever. None.

So take it our leave it. Your life is your own. You can collect your shiny bits in any way you see fit. My stories are here because of me. They don’t have to mean anything to you. But still, I secretly hope that you will see the sparkle of light caught in their clumsy presentation and that the echoes of the thunder will cause you to gaze at the horizon and hope for a glimpse of the lightning.

Still with me? My apologies. Go and unfold your life as well as you are able. I wish you well.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What Do We Know About Life?

I just watched scientist E.O. Wilson on Bill Moyer’s TV Show ( Wilson has been instrumental in starting the Encyclopedia of Life Project ( and is one of the world’s experts on ants and biodiversity. Wilson said during the show that scientists only know about 10% of existing species on Earth. 10%!!! We think we know so much, but really we know so little. And not just about biology; we know so little about so many important things: human psychology, cosmology, physics, chemistry, sociology, ecology, etc. etc... When you read or talk to the “experts” in each of these fields, they all admit that while we have learned a lot, what we know is a tiny fraction of what there is to know.

We know a lot as humans. I am greatly impressed with the things we humans have managed to learn and figure out. But I believe we are at a precocious and dangerous stage of human development: we are like the clever 8-year-old who can take Grandfather’s radio apart, be does not know how to put it back together again. We can burn ants with our magnifying glass, but we don’t know how ants communicate or organize themselves. We can throw rocks and damn up the creek behind our house, but we don’t know what diverting the water will do to local fish, amphibians, and such.

We are so proud of what we do know (or think we know) that we are making huge changes to the environment that we live in. And we don’t know what effect it is having on us and the other creatures that live on this planet. And we don’t know how to put the environment back together again. All our agricultural and industrial technology can quite easily be seen as being a result of humans knowing how to take nature apart. Creating a wheat field is really taking apart a forest or a grass land, taking that ecosystem apart and allowing only one organism to grow where there used to be thousands. Our great industrial accomplishments are really the result of our skills at taking things apart. We break the geology of an area and release oil. We break the oil into parts and use the gasoline, diesel, and plastics that result. We break the oil and break the oil until it becomes free carbon, which then rushes to bond with oxygen and form carbon dioxide. Then we wonder why it is hotter this summer than it was when we were younger.

Most 8-year-olds eventually grow out of their stage of taking everything apart and leaving them broken. Most kids grow up and want to start building things: relationships, families, children of their own, careers, communities. But as a species, I really do believe we are stuck in a stage of development that, while necessary, we need to grow out of quickly. The evidence of our destructive curiosity are all around us: raw sewage, garbage dumps, plastic trash that lasts forever, clear-cut forests, disappearing species, dirty air and water. We need to admit that our great human knowledge and technology is mostly of the simple and deconstructive/destructive type.

We need to put more concentration and effort into developing knowledge and understanding that will at a minimum allow us to understand how to keep things working and hopefully allow us to begin to understand how to put things together. And I am not talking about our puny projects so far. I am talking about maintaining and building ecosystems and environments for life, human and other, to grow and flourish in. I think we have the seeds of this kind of intelligence. And if we can imagine it, if we can tease out the facts and the patterns that support life, we can grow as individuals and as a species. Hopefully we can do this quickly enough to halt the destruction we have already done, before we lose too many species, before we lose all the life giving components of our planet that we know so little about.

I think a little humility is called for. Oh, and Grandpa, I’m sorry about your radio.
Credit: That is a photo of E.O. Wilson from Bill Moyer's Journal, and a collage by Me called Individual Collective.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Interdependence Day

We strive to be
Strong Americans
Fully boot-strapped

A quick look around
Reveals ignored connections
There is a rainforest in my coffee
Cotton farmers in my pants
Geeks and nerds in my blog
Pharaoh’s gold in my ring
Stars in my romance

We find our selves
Strongly connected
Reliant on others
Human, animal and mineral

So welcome to the matrix
The web that supports us all
A million unnamed strangers
Make sure we can live our lives
Without knowing your name
Or mine

Thank you, everybody
I hope you all have a
Happy Interdependence Day

Credits: The sculpture is called Paradox, by Micael Bergt (

The photo was taken by me: it is my daughter Chani's hand on a cottonwood tree in Arizona.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In 1918 President Wilson changed the name of Mukuntuweap National Monument to Zion National Park. Zion has some of the most incredible desert rocks I have ever seen. Enjoy a handful of photos from a day in the park.

Checkerboard Mesa is one of many petrified sand dunes.

A big beautiful place.

Everyday Saints

The Larsen’s had a family reunion at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch in Southern Utah. The “cabin” was a 1.5 million dollar house, but the backdrop of Zion National Park was gorgeous. My dad organized everything and all four of his kids were there, Me, Kathrine, Ronnie and Debbie. And all of our kids were there, Natasha, Terra, Siona, Chani and Sasha. Ronnie brought his significant other, Caryn. And the focus of much attention was Dad’s new fiancé, Carol, who was brave enough to brave all of us.

First off, I love my family. But it was not by accident that I moved a thousand miles away from them. The event drew us all together but if it had lasted one day longer it might have gotten ugly. It was nice to see everybody, but our family brings its own special brand of tension and there were a few flare ups.

The Ranch house was great. The resort had a fantastic pool. And there was a hot tub on the deck. The Utah desert was dry and hot.

Carol was nice. And Carol and Dad seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They are getting married in August, and I wish them all the best, and hope they make a happy couple. My brother doesn’t think the wedding is a good idea, and made his opinion abundantly clear.

It was strange having all of us together without Mom. This is the first time we have all been together since the funeral a year-and-a-half ago. I was curious going in to see if the dynamics would change without Mom. But things go on, pretty much the same. The rest of us are the same, we just miss Mom now.

I think I prefer my relatives in smaller portions, one or two of them at a time. All together we are not good for each other no matter how much we love each other. Don’t get me wrong, nothing tragic happened; no horrible scenes were acted out. We had as good a family reunion as you could expect from my family, and I am grateful for that. But in the end, I think we all disappoint each other in various ways. And I for one do not know how to overcome that.

It is good to be back home, and a thousand miles away, with my wife and children who are to me the best family in the world. Everyone in my extended family is welcome to come and visit us up here in the Great Northwest, one or two of you at a time, please. Or call us on the phone anytime. We love you and want to stay in touch. I just don't want to live in one big house.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fragile Wonderful Life

Returned from the Family Reunion (more about that later) with a head cold. The pressure in my head got worse, and worse, and worse. The doctor said ear infection and sinus infection. And my head agreed, but I was feeling bad all over. Doc sends me home with antibiotics. The pressure gets worse and then I start bleeding out of my ear and nose. Call the doctor; Doc says, Good your ear drum has burst to release the pressure. You will start getting better now. I roll around in a fetal position for several days. But I start to feel better. Today, my head still feels like it is stuck inside a bucket and there is a continuous ringing in my ear, not to mention the loss of hearing. But today I am feeling better. I can stand up without holding on to things for support and walk a straight line without weaving again.

It is strange when the doctor is glad that things have finally broken. But I guess that is what has to happen before humans can really get over things, really get better, really heal. I was sitting on my front porch in the sunshine watching the grass and dandelions making a mockery of my attempts at order in the garden and I realized that those wild spots, where the dandelions spray yellow against the silver gray of the wood shed, where the high grass surrounds the bird bath in a green and golden halo of movement and light, those wild spots are the most beautiful parts of the yard. It takes the attempt at order and the resurgent rebellion of life refusing to conform to my plans to make the most beautiful parts of my little life.

I will try to put my life back in order now. I will go back to work and see how the projects are going. I will balance the check book and make plans for me and my family. But hopefully I have been broken enough by my illness, broken enough by the unexpected, broken enough by the wildness of life to truly start to heal.

I feel better. There are dogs and children in the grass. And my ass has picked up splinters from the old wood that makes up my creaky old porch. This is a precious, fragile life I am living.