Monday, December 31, 2007

4 McCullough Haikus for Benazir

Winter Tracks
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
This Time
In each visit here,
defined by worldly events,
Benazir Bhutto.

Wrath of the wind cuts,
another leader goes down.
Barren dirt and drifts.

A World Away
News from Pakistan,
events from a world away.
Knifing cold here too.

Drama in the light
Isolation as always
Wind, cold are given.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Technology's promise and reality

Storm Over Tower
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Laying in bed at the end of the day back in the late 60s, I was often restless as I considered the future and my life ahead. The space program was approaching its pinnacle as our country prepared for its first moon landing. From there, the possibilities seemed beyond my imagination. The future—in my mind, beyond the year 2000—seemed so cool and even though I knew I'd be in my 40s, I was excited and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

Here I am now in the year 2007 with a different kind of restlessness—the kind that doesn't keep me from going to sleep, but the kind that awakens me in the middle of the night. What makes me restless on this particular early morning at 4:00 a.m.—ideas, upcoming projects, caffeine, athletes foot?

Looking back on those restless nights as a kid, it's somewhat disappointing when comparing my ideas of what the future would be like and what it has actually become. Sure there are some things that are pretty slick and are the result of our advancing technology—the cell phone, personal computer and the internet come to mind. However, when I consider how all of these high-tech gadgets are used (or should I say "misused?), that kid's excitement for tomorrow is nowhere to be found. I suppose in my youthful mind I pictured us being a bit more responsible or meaningful in the employment of whatever new technologies that came into play. Had I considered cell phones, I would have seen such calls as legitimate or important rather than the multitude of unimaginative, distracting and dumbed-down calls that are made... "Whacha' doing? Where are you? I'm standing in the isle at Wal-Mart, which margarine should I buy?"

I'm reminded of Springsteen's latest song Radio Nowhere.

I was tryin' to find my way home
But all I heard was a drone
Bouncing off a satellite
Crushin' the last lone American night
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?

At 9-years-old and watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, I anticipated that by the time I was, say 47, trips to the moon would be common—even routine. As it turns out, it's still difficult to get there and back. And now that the momentum of the Apollo program has been lost to a program limited to earth orbit, returning to the moon will be like starting all over again.

Perhaps returning to the moon will be more challenging now, given all the new complications that are part of today's intricate technologies. If that turns out to be true, the second part of this saga might be just as exciting for today's 9-year-old kids as it was in the 60s.

For now, let's rename the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to 3001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe when 3001 finally comes around, Arthur C. Clarke's work will be a bit more accurate of our world then.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Boxing Day & White Rabbits

Murchinson Field
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
December 1 has arrived feeling more like December 22—the first day of winter. It's a Saturday and the girls are away for a swim meet in Worland leaving the cat and I to fend for ourselves.

At about 6:30 this morning, I hit my wife with "white rabbits"—an old English custom that grants you a month's worth of good luck if you are the first to say "white rabbits" on the first day of the month. That's three months running I've beat her to it.

Honestly, I'd never heard of "white rabbits" until I met my wife. She introduced it to me from her youth growing up in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

Depending on who you talk to, this silly superstition has been around for a long time—perhaps as far back as the 1400s and there appears to be a number of variations on this first-of-the-month ritual. In our household, we probably conform to the following definition from Wikipedia:

Traditions also extend to saying on the first of each month: “A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!” White rabbit is declared to be the “no returns” policy on the “pinch and the punch” the receiver felt. Origins of this saying is unknown. A small concession exists, for recipients of the "pinch and a punch," where white rabbit declaration (no returns) is not made. Recipients may in this case reply with "A flick and a kick for being so quick."

Later on I was musing about how there aren't many customs or celebrations that we (Americans) observe with a dominant English tradition behind them, and I'm not counting St. Patrick's Day either. If anything, our celebrations seem to be slanted toward ridding ourselves of our British connections even though English is the dominant (dare I say "national") language here in the U.S. We're so reluctant to have anything to do with the English that we don't even acknowledge something as wonderful as Boxing Day—typically December 26 (a holiday that would give us two days off work, maybe three if one doesn't have to work Christmas Eve). For those unfamiliar, Boxing Day is an English public holiday celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas Day. It appeared sometime in the 19th Century from a custom of giving tradespeople a Christmas box on this day.

Of course, we have our own dictionary of "American" English and our version of rugby has transformed into gridiron football while we devised a game called baseball from cricket.

Most of the other countries around the globe that were once tied to England
still remain somewhat "connected" as they recognize the Oxford Dictionary, Boxing Day and a few other selected English establishments. But here in America we have been so bent on being independent, unique, and doing things "our way" for all these years it's understandable how those outside of the United States see us as isolationist and arrogant—to name a few.

Perhaps we would do well in the global community if we were to adopt Boxing Day (and its original intentions) as an official holiday. Harmless as it seems, it could be just the PR stunt the doctor ordered to give our image a much needed boost throughout the world starting with the assortment of English-based nations.