Wednesday, June 25, 2008
That's right: The Blogger departs this evening on assignment to Jamaica, to a part of the island that is without internet (or electricity!), so this will be my last post until the middle of next week. Then, tune in for astonishing accounts -- with full-color photos! -- of the following events:
A VISIT FROM OUR DEAR FRIENDS JULIE AND ADRIAN!!!
AN IMPROMPTU FAMILY GET-TOGETHER, IN WHICH STILLMAN GETS TO MEET HIS TWIN COUSINS BORN JUST FOUR MONTHS BEFORE HIM!!!!
THE REMARKABLE RESULTS OF STILLMAN'S MOST RECENT CHECKUP!!!
A SURPRISE VISIT FROM GRANDMAMA FAY!!!
THE BLOGGER'S EXCURSIONS THROUGH THE REMOTEST PARTS OF JAMAICA!!!
And read all about the following:
OBAMA'S FUNDRAISING DECISION!!!!
THE OPEN ROAD: A LAMENT!!!!
THE ASTOUNDING RESULTS OF MY CALL FOR THE SWEETEST MUSIC!!!!
Also, don't miss these thrilling additions to Gesh's Globe:
A NEW FAMILY PHOTO, NOT TAKEN IN HOSPITAL!!!
Until then, dear readers, please be patient, please be responsible and thrifty and thorough, and please don't forget that this blog does exist and will one day reclaim its former magnificence.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I know this is something that I harp on all the time, but no, I'm still not over the infuriating and, frankly, traumatic events that led to war in Iraq. Those of us who were paying attention at the time knew we were being lied to, knew that war was inevitable, and watched as our country went collectively insane, blind to all reason.
I just finished reading a year-old transcript of a Bill Moyers program which ought to be required reading for anyone with lingering doubts about whether the establishment press failed us completely during the run-up to the war. It's a fairly succinct yet compelling re-examination of why it was eminently possible to get the story right, but why cowardice and an atmosphere of enforced patriotism caused the vast majority of the media to abandon their responsibility to ask questions. It is still rather sickening to revisit, especially since those members of the press elite who ought to have been discredited and run out of town on a rail are now receiving Medals of Freedom and getting plum gigs at top media outlets -- as experts on Middle East affairs, no less!
Little wonder that journalists are held in such base contempt by the public, or that the average American feels that the only path to wisdom lies in never believing anything one reads.
Would you scoff? Would you say that's not exactly sailing solo? Would you say that blowing into a couple of straws is hardly the same as doing all the work of cranking on windlasses, going forward to raise and lower sails, and so on?
There's a part of me that felt that way when I first read about her. But then I gave it a little more thought, read her web site, and reconsidered. As she lost more and more physical ability due to a degenerative disease, Hilary Lister fell in love with sailing. It got her outside in the sunshine and open air, in the spell of the eternal ocean. She began doing longer and longer jaunts. She decided to set goals for herself. One goal is this voyage around England.
No one came knocking on her door and said, "I've got a way to make you one of those famous handicapped people who sets some kind of crazy record. It'll be easy, really. We'll just prop you up and all you'll have to do is blow into these straws."
If the lady wants to sail around England, and this is the way it's to be done, then more power to her. If the world wants to cheer, so be it. If some of us can't help setting standards for her based on how life is for people with four working limbs instead of zero, that's our shortcoming, not hers.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
In a couple of weeks, I'm heading to a fascinating and inhospitable part of Jamaica called the Cockpit Country, on an assignment for Discovery Channel Magazine. My editor asked me to do the photography as well as the reporting, and I replied that I had pretty serious reservations about my abilities as a photographer. Nevertheless, I sent him a "portfolio" of my work to let him judge for himself, and I was quite surprised at his positive reaction to my pictures.
So in the spirit of celebration, and just to kind of share, you're welcome to view the -- ahem -- portfolio -- here. You can view it as a slideshow, kind of, by clicking on the first pic and then the Next Photo tab at the top.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Vanal and I continue to have adventures in the great outdoors. We tramped up to the top of the Glen Onoko hike on Saturday, in the sweltering heat. He scrambled like a little mountain goat, and is a great companion on such excursions. There's not much I won't let him do (unless it's extremely likely that he'll do himself in), and it was kind of funny to see passersby giving him warnings: "Careful, honey, those rocks are sharp"; "That's pretty steep for you, little guy. Why don't you come this way?" I'm a firm believer in letting kids sort these things out for themselves. If rocks are sharp on the bare feet, they'll feel that, right? And then next time make a decision about whether or not to tread upon such rocks?
Yesterday, we went down to the Lehigh River to take a dip. There are two or three whitewater-rafting concessions in town, and we picked a spot along the river where the rafters come down through. We waded out into the current and Vanal had fun jumping off the rocks, trying to swim upstream, and just generally splashing around. The raftloads of paying customers were pretty surprised to see us out there in what seemed to them to be the middle of a wilderness splashing around in a fast river. One guy floating past asked us if we needed rescue -- he seemed bent on rescuing someone and was a bit disappointed when we told him we were just having a swim. We also threw a line in the water, but returned home fishless for the third time.
Friday, June 6, 2008
His social boldness is nothing next to his physical daring. If there's some feat of derring-do he would be afraid to tackle, we haven't encountered it yet in our adventures. He rushes headlong into everything, injury be damned. His knees are battlefield maps, the front of his skull smooth and thick like a ballpeen hammer. When he gets hurt (approximately 17 times per day) he occasionally sniffles for a moment, but I've never seen it last more than a minute, and then he's racing around again.
When I was a kid, my brother and I used to build crude wooden boats out of old boards and float them down our brook. So last week Vanal and I built a couple boats and brought them up to the trout stream about a half mile from our house. He quite literally threw himself into it. He has a certain laugh that is genuine and irrepressible, so you know he's truly having fun. It comes from the back of his throat and it goes, "O-Ho!" I heard that a lot as he charged down the brook chasing his boat, splashing along, slipping off the rocks, banging himself up.
Our modest beginnings started a neighborhood boat-building craze that has only in the past few days tapered off. Vanal's social skills have been good for us here. We've been fairly isolated out here, just exchanging polite pleasantries with our neighbors, but now a whole tribe of local kids whoops around our yard each day, Vanal spends his afternoons playing across the street, and on two recent evenings, I loaded up a Jeepful of neighborhood boys to go up and test the boats we'd all built on our porch. Obviously this has meant getting to know their folks a bit better.
Last weekend we went fishing, and seeing Vanal experience it gave me more flashbacks to age 7. I spent a lot of time fishing with my brother and cousins when I was Vanal's age or a little bit older, and I loved it and hated it. Hated the way you'd look down at your reel to make an adjustment and by the time you looked up again, your line had gotten tangled around the end of your pole. Hated fishing for hours and not getting so much as a nibble. Hated all the untangling, and tying, and snagging and failure. But loved the overall activity, loved being out there and all the anticipation. Vanal and 7-year-old The Blogger are very much the same in that regard -- a bit too physical, a bit impulsive, a bit impatient (although he's quite a bit better than I was). So I had to feign outrage on the second fruitless day when he finally got sick of it and flung his pole. I probably would have done it halfway through the first day.
Other random notes:
- He's got this game, or toy, or fetish, or talisman, called "Bakugan," which is something to do with some cartoon or other, and which involves small plastic rosary-bead-sized objects which fold out into fighting creatures and which cost $5 a pop but are undoubtedly produced by children his age for 0.13 cents apiece somewhere in the world. There's also a magnetized card with numerals on it which apparently is to be used in conjunction with the collapsible bead-beast. I've finally convinced him that I am never, ever going to play this with him, since to the extent that there are rules, they are more esoteric than the U.S. tax code and only understood by 7-year-olds (who I suspect may be faking).
- One evening, 12-year-old neighbor Austin (who has a story for whatever subject is at hand, even if he has to come up with one impromptu) claimed that he had once really gotten into poison ivy and that he'd gotten it "in a very sensitive place." Vanal thought for a second and then, obviously pleased to have gotten the innuendo, exclaimed, "O-ho! I know exactly where you mean! I can see it right now!"
- He cheats at everything. When you teach him a game, he figures out the way to cheat just as soon as the basic rules settle into his brain. I taught him 20 Questions the other day in the car. When it was my turn to guess, I quickly figured out that he was thinking of a race car (Didn't take much, since race cars are his lifelong obsession). So I said, "Is it a car?" And he says, "Well, sort of. It's part car." I said, "Do you race with it?" He says, "Well, you can," as if we were talking about tractors or lawn mowers. Later I made him explain how a race car is only part car. "Well, you have to have a driver, don't you?"
- He was trying to explain something he'd seen on TV yesterday but was lacking a particular word to describe the genre. Said, "You know, it's on TV but it's not really a show." Took me a minute, but then I figured it out. He meant a reality show. Perfect.
- He counted the lines on my face the other day. Told me you could tell how old someone was by doing so, just the way you count rings on a tree. Apparently I'm 40.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Our rhododendrons have blossomed beautifully as predicted.