Climbing Trees

When I was a boy, I was scared of heights. I would get this swirling, heavy feeling in my stomach when up high, and I knew, just knew, that I was going to fall.

So I would force myself to climb trees. As high as I could, ignoring the fast beating of my heart, the dryness of my mouth, the shaking of my hands and arms. Climbing quickly so I wouldn’t think to much about what I was doing – but not climbing carelessly, however. I was focused on the branches, testing their weight, making sure each move was the right move . . . more than that, the necessary move. I would climb higher than I wanted. Each time I wanted to stop, I would force myself to go one more branch, just one more branch. Until I could really go no further without the branches bending with my weight.

Then I would stop. Try to calm my racing heart and force myself to look down at the ground so vision-swimmingly far away, so definitely-going-to-hurt if I made a mistake. I would feel the wind, the blue air that seemed sharper to my lungs as I gulped it down, still shaking, still facing down my anxiety and fear. Even if I never quite stopped being scared, I knew, high up in my trees, that I had beat the fear, that I had accomplished something. On some level, I think that looking down at this point was always easier because I had the knowledge that I had put myself this far up and, more importantly, I knew how to get back down to the ground.

The climb down was easy because I knew how to do it, each move on the way up had been etched into my mind because of the fear and concentration, so getting down was easy, almost automatic. By the time I was back on the ground, fear had turned to excitement, nervousness to a sense of achievement.

I feel, lately, that I am climbing a very very very high tree and can no longer see the ground. Nearly every day of living here in NYC, I am faced with an assault on my senses that, while not creating fear per se, effects my body in much the same way as the fear of heights did as a child. I feel this heavy, swirling motion in my stomach as the sound of trucks blare past my window in the morning–especially the ones with air breaks that make the most god-awful, ugly sounds as they slow down–or pressed body to body with strangers in the subway. I try not to shake when the scream of the subways splits into my head, past any attempt to iPod it out. I feel this constant anxiety eating away at me because of the sheer weight and presence of steel, concrete, and people in this city.

Because NYC isn’t a tree, and because my life doesn’t have the simple shape of a tree, I can’t seem to find a moment of grace, that moment when I had climbed as high as I could and knew that the next step was the easy part of climbing back down. Here, I feel like I just keep climbing and climbing. Without the ground, I no longer know how to get down, hell, I don’t even really know in what direction I’m moving–and my moves are now either too cautious or too hurried, leading to either unnecessary and tiring strain, or the possibility of slipping, or of pulling myself onto a branch that cannot hold my weight.

So I keep climbing up, palms slick with sweat, blood pounding in my head, heart racing, stomach churning, muscles quaking.

Wondering when I might reach the apex, find a moment to breath it all in (the air sharp and clear and electric in my lungs), and when I might hear the sounds of the breeze and of birds as they calm my too-fast heart. Wondering when I might look down, and see the ground again and know, just know that I can make it back safely.

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Electronic Surveillance

This is part of the bill that passed the House Intelligence Committe and is expected to go for a full vote soon. Basically it allows the Executive and Legislative branches to do an end-run around the Judicial, and gives the President power place American citizens under surveillance with no legal evidence to back him up, only “reasonable belief.” If LtL is only six degrees of seperation from Kevin Bacon–and he is assured through numerous sources that this is, indeed, the case–then couldn’t the argument be made that nearly anyone might present “a reasonable belief that such person is communicating with a terrorist organization or an affiliate of a terrorist organization that is reasonable believe to be responsible for the terrorist attack.” Given the interconnectedness of the world, what constitutes a “reasonable belief?” Especially when there is no need to involve the courts?


`Sec. 112. (a) In General- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, but subject to subsection (d), the President, acting through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without an order under this title to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed 45 days following a terrorist attack against the United States if the President submits a notification to each member of the congressional intelligence committees and a judge having jurisdiction under section 103 that–

`(1) the United States has been the subject of a terrorist attack; and

`(2) identifies the terrorist organizations or affiliates of terrorist
organizations believed to be responsible for the terrorist attack.

`(b) Subsequent Certifications- Subject to subsection (d), at the end of the 45-day period described in subsection (a), and every 45 days thereafter, the President may submit a subsequent certification to each member of the congressional intelligence committees and a judge having jurisdiction under section 103 that the circumstances of the terrorist attack for which the President submitted a certification under subsection (a) require the President to continue the authorization of electronic surveillance under this section for an additional 45 days. The President shall be authorized to conduct electronic surveillance under this section for an additional 45 days after each such subsequent certification.

`(c) Electronic Surveillance of Individuals- The President, or an official designated by the President to authorize electronic surveillance, may only conduct electronic surveillance of a person under this subsection when the President or such official determines that–

`(1) there is a reasonable belief that such person is communicating with a terrorist organization or an affiliate of a terrorist organization that is reasonably believed to be responsible for the terrorist attack; and

`(2) the information obtained from the electronic surveillance may be foreign intelligence information.

`(d) Minimization Procedures- The President may not authorize electronic surveillance under this section until the Attorney General approves minimization procedures for electronic surveillance conducted under this section.

`(e) United States Persons- Notwithstanding subsection (b), the President may not authorize electronic surveillance of a United States person under this section without an order under this title for a period of more than 90 days unless the President, acting through the Attorney General, submits a certification to each member of the congressional intelligence committees that–

`(1) the continued electronic surveillance of the United States person is vital to the national security of the United States;

`(2) describes the circumstances that have prevented the Attorney General from obtaining an order under this title for continued surveillance;

`(3) describes the reasons for believing the United States person is affiliated with or in communication with a terrorist organization or affiliate of a terrorist organization that is reasonably believed to be responsible for the terrorist attack; and

`(4) describes the foreign intelligence information derived from the electronic surveillance conducted under this section.

`(f) Use of Information- Information obtained pursuant to electronic surveillance under this subsection may be used to obtain an order authorizing subsequent electronic surveillance under this title.

`(g) Reports- Not later than 14 days after the date on which the President submits a certification under subsection (a), and every 30 days thereafter until the President ceases to authorize electronic surveillance under subsection (a) or (b), the President shall submit to each member of the congressional intelligence committees a report on the electronic surveillance conducted under this section, including–

`(1) a description of each target of electronic surveillance under this section; and

`(2) the basis for believing that each target is in communication with a terrorist organization or an affiliate of a terrorist organization.

`(h) Congressional Intelligence Committees Defined- In this section, the term `congressional intelligence committees’ means the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.’; and

Sunday Sessions – A Long Time Ago (Pt. 2)

I changed the strings on my guitar, played a bit and felt really rusty, so I am going to upload a few of my older songs rather than something recorded today. Next week will see the return of newly recorded material – and maybe, I’m not promising, but maybe some newly composed material as well.

For your delectation and delight:

Ocean – Cliff – Push


Una and the Red Knight

Comments, as always, are more than welcome.

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The Path to Propaganda: ABC & Scholastic Press

Sunday and Monday, ABC is airing a “docudrama” about the events leading up to 9/11.

The movie is far more “drama” than “docu,” yet is being presented as factual. For more information see the following links:

“Top Bush Counterterrorism Official: ABC‚??s Path to 9/11 Is ‚??Shameful,‚?? ‚??Straight Out of Disney and Fantasyland‚??”

“Richard Clarke Blasts Key Scene In ABC‚??s 9/11 Docudrama”

Path to 9/11 Writer Admits Controversial Scene Was ‚??Improvised,‚?? ‚??Accidents Occur‚??

Even Newsweek points out a number of scenes that are fiction, but played as fact.

For a conservative review of the movie–and to see just how insidious playing loose with the facts can be–check out Govindini Murty’s “ABC’s ‘The Path to 9/11′”

Even more disturbing is that Scholastic Publishers are distributing to schools a guidebook based on a movie with a troubling, at the least, relationship with the facts.

CONFIRMED: Scholastic Still Promoting Path To 9/11

I urge everyone to speak out when facts are blatently distorted and falsified or when tragic events are used for political or economic gain. I will not watch this movie. And if Scholastic propagates disinformation to children in our schools, I will not knowingly purchase anything from their company. That includes the next Harry Potter book. If you do watch “The Path to 9/11,” I would urge you to make sure you double-check the recorded facts and not assume that this fictionalized account tells, in any shape or form, the truth.

More than that, can we–and I seriously include myself in this statement–find ways to stand up to the lies, mistreatements, brutalities, blatent disregards for the constitution that make up this administration? Bush just admitted to allowing gulags to be run for and by Americans. Gulags ferchrissake! Secret state prisons with no oversight or due process.

This is not America. We have somehow stumbled into a Kafka novel, and the longer we sit still and let our so-called leaders take us down this path of violence, political repression, lies, and terror, the ideals and freedoms that this country claims to stand for will become harder and harder to recognize.

What the Dragon Says?

It says LtL didn’t make it into the top 200. Oh well. Easy come, easy go. You can still read the script over on the Screenplays page and if you are interested in producing and/or directing it, please get in touch!

Fun with Bacteriophages

If you haven’t heard, the FDA has agreed with a petition by Intralytix, Inc. to spray luncheon meats with a combination of six viruses in order to “eat” the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium which causes about 2,500 illnesses each year and several hundred deaths.

From the AP Story on CNN:

The combination of six viruses is designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey, said John Vazzana, president and chief executive officer of manufacturer Intralytix Inc.

The special viruses, called bacteriophages, are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, the Food and Drug Administration said in declaring it safe to use on ready-to-eat meats prior to their packaging.

The viruses are the first to win FDA approval for use as a food additive, said Andrew Zajac, of the regulatory agency’s office of food additive safety.

The bacterium the viruses target can cause a serious infection called listeriosis, primarily in pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 500 die.

Luncheon meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria since once purchased they typically aren’t cooked or reheated, which can kill harmful bacteria like Listeria, Zajac said.

Michael R. Eades, MD nicely sums up the problems with this concept:

So, let me make sure I’ve got this straight. Because about 2500 hundred people (out of about 300 million) get sick each year–and not just 2500 random people, but specifically pregnant women, neonates and immunosuppressed people–we all have to live with our luncheon meat sprayed with a viral mixture? A mixture of viruses grown in the very bacteria that they are designed to kill, and with the potential, unless purified very carefully, to contain some of this bacteria. And, the powers that be are going to spray this stuff on and have no package labeling to tell us whether the product we’re buying has been sprayed or not.

Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to just warn pregnant women and immunosuppressed people to avoid packaged meats? Who am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, neonates. Now there is a real group to worry about. How many neonates do you suppose consume luncheon meats?

Can we really just let these types of things go on? I mean, seriously, how much revenue would the luncheon meat industry lose if they warned pregnant women and people with immunosuppresion issues to not eat such meats, or at least fry them the hell up first? (Bologna is always better fried!) This is about money people, this is not about saving 500 lives/year, this is not about watching out for pregnant women at risk, this is about someone, somewhere making money.

Tell your favorite deli that you are going to stop buying that turkey sandwich or a ham on rye unless you know that they aren’t using phaged food. The Europeans stood up to giant Agriculture businesses and said no to genetically altered food – all we have to do is stand up with our money and say “no virus on my hot dog, thank you!”

As Kristi Andersonnotes:

if we have to create a virus to kill off bacteria in our lunch meat, maybe we shouldn’t be eating lunch meat.

Yes, avoiding this will take effort on an individual basis. Yes, our lives may be inconvenienced by being forced out of habitual patterns of consumption, but a little effort and awareness and spreading the word and we can have our luncheon meats without viruses.

Or we can simply let them do just one more small thing that makes money for the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Because we all know that income is directly related to longevity and health, so what difference does it make?

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