Friday, July 29, 2005

Old Man Tree

Old Man Tree
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Faith-based logic

I haven't done any Bush-bashing in several days. I'm overdue and so...

But first, a disclaimer: I'm just joking about Bush-bashing. George is just another passenger on this planet, just like me, just like you. We're all imperfect human beings with our own shortcomings.

What I'm trying to do when I'm criticizing Bush or his supporters is not, in fact criticize them. I'm trying to look at the logic and justice or lack thereof of our policies and practices. This following screed is not a criticism at all of Bush, the man. This is a critique of our logic.

There's a huge difference.

Now, on with the bashing!


I've spent much time in conversation with Bush supporters debating the Iraq War. Our conversations have been at times tumultuous, but in the end, rather reasonable with give and take and room for growth and better comprehension. I actually think I'm beginning to understand them – their concerns, fears and reasons for supporting Bush.

My conclusion?

They're nuts.

They don't mean what they say. Or rather, they do, but they don't really.

They will agree that torture is wrong – it's certainly wrong for Saddam's supporters to engage in it. However, if Gonzales tells Bush that it's really okay – after all, the Geneva Convention is quaint and out-dated and this is a post-9/11 world – then it is okay for Bush. He has his reasons. It's necessary to save lives. To protect the innocent. It's only murderers that are getting the ill-treatment and it's not really torture.

Yes, they tell me, of course it's wrong for others to do it and we should avoid it ourselves, but there are terrorists out there wanting to do us harm.

What they're saying is that the ends justifies the means for us. That's not an acceptable argument for others, but, well, this is us we're talking about.

The problem with this is that if Bush is willing to lie, torture, kill to accomplish a good end result, how do we know if we agree with that end result? What if, just for argument's sake, Bush was insane and he believed that if he blew up the world, that we'd all get to heaven that much sooner. That'd be a good thing, right?

And so Bush lies about WMDs or about torture or human rights abuses in order to move us towards what he considers a good end. Do we want this?

No, we don't. But, say his supporters, Bush isn't for blowing up the world, he's just trying to protect us.

Ahh, but how do we know that? Well, because he's told us.

Exactly! But he's also told us that the ends justifies the means, that it's okay to lie to accomplish a good end. How do we know he's not lying now?

Well...he's just not. He's a Christian!

How do we know?

He told us.

The man who thinks it's okay to lie to accomplish his desired ends has told you he's a Christian?

But he's sincere about it!

How do you know? Wait! Don't tell me, it's because he told us, right?

Not just that. He looks sincere. I just have a gut feeling.

So, you think that Bush is going to do the right thing so you'll trust that his lies and torture and deceptions and death are all going to work out based on your hunch?

Faith-based logic. It's a magical, marvelous, maddening thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Zoe Speaks

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

This last weekend was the 30th annual Kentucky Music Weekend, an event that my family has been attending for at least 15 years. KMW is an outdoor festival featuring musicians playing a mix of folk, bluegrass, celtic and all around great acoustic music. The setting is at the beautiful Iroquois Amphitheater in South Louisville and it is always a delight.

One of the newer acts that played is a Berea, Kentucky duo called Zoe Speaks that Donna and I just love. They're pictured above (sorry about the quality of the photos – it was getting dark). For more info on them:

One of the coolest treats at KMW is that Kentucky's own Jean Ritchie usually shows up to play and sing. Jean Ritchie has been a collector of Appalachian music and its Old World roots for nearly all her 80+ years. When she sings, she needlessly warns us that her voice doesn't always cooperate any more. “I can't guarantee that it'll be pretty,” she told us again Saturday night, “but it'll be authentic.”

Her warning notwithstanding, she sang, as always, with a bone-chilling glory. There is a clear beauty in an authentic voice that can't be compared to the most trained and perfect vocals.

And there with the crickets chirping and the bats swinging over our heads in the slight cool of a hot July day's end, she sang again:

My Lord, he said unto me
Do you like my garden so fair?
You may live in this garden if you'll keep the grasses green
And I'll return in the cool of the day .

Now is the cool of the day,
Now is the cool of the day
Oh, the Earth is the garden, the garden of the Lord
And he walks in the garden
In the cool of the day.

You can see Jean on the right in the picture below.

Kentucky Music Weekend Finale

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Sorry for the poor quality. Jean Ritchie can be seen towards the right, looking orangish.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Herbert and Georgie, part I

I'll take a little break from my usual angry screeding for a bit of personal history. A couple of stories of my mother's parents, Herbert and Georgie (as he called her). The Herbert I knew growing up was a rough-necked, poker­playing, cigarette-smoking gruffly lovable old fellow. I liked Herbert, but I was also just a little afraid of him. I was never quite sure if he was joking when he told me to “come over here or I’ll sock you in your snotty little nose.”

My mother, Mary, has a story of how her parents – Herbert and Georgia – met and although it is mostly a tall tale (he told the story to some soldiers riding on a train heading to Fort Knox), it's the only story I've got and I like it.

It appears that Herbert Basham and Georgia Roberts were fourth cousins (Herbert's grandparents were Obadiah Basham and Sara Roberts Basham). Herbert and Georgia may have met at family functions in Meade or Breckinridge County or later, as adults, in Louisville.

But Herbert told these soldiers that he met Georgia at a dance and she caught his fancy. So, he decided to visit her.

Herbert said that he took the train to the county in which she lived. Herbert then caught a cab and rode until the driver said that the road had run out. Undaunted, Herbert rented a donkey and started up the hillside towards her home.

Soon, however, the trail became narrower and narrower, until it was so overgrown with vines and trees that the donkey could go no further and so Herbert took to walking. Finally, he could see Georgia's home in the holler, but he saw no road or trail to get down to his new sweetheart.

It was then that he noticed a vine, worn until it was shiny, and he knew that he'd have to swing in on grapevine. So, not unlike Buster Crabbe's Tarzan, he swung in to Georgia's home in the hollers of Breckinridge County and announced his intention to take her to the big city.

Herbert insisted, to Georgia's embarrassment, that she'd have to wear shoes to get on the train and so he gave her (or so he told the soldiers) her first pair of shoes.

The veracity of that story notwithstanding, Herbert and Georgia Roberts Basham married on April 26, 1924, the day after Herbert's 23rd birthday (Georgia was 21). They were wed, as many young couples were, across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, to avoid the waiting period that was in place in Louisville.

Georgia said that she was feeling poorly that day, but they went on with their plans. And, as it turned out, Georgia and Herbert spent their Honeymoon night at General Hospital. Georgia's appendix had ruptured.

And so, more or less, they began their lives together.

Farm House

Farm House
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Herbert and Georgie, part II

Herbert Basham, my grandfather and Georgia's husband, was working as a switch foreman at L&N at the time of the oft-told tale of the Great Accident and had been at work that rainy March afternoon when he heard a crash down under the Fourth Street viaduct, where there the train passes over Fourth Street. As he and his co-workers looked down on the accident, they saw that some cab driver had managed to run right into the support post right in the center of the bridge and literally wrapped his cab around it.

They found out later that the cab driver had been high on drugs when the crash occurred and that he ran off after the crash and wasn't heard from again. There were three inches of cab sticking out on either side of the post.

"If anybody gets out of that alive, they'll be lucky," Herbert remembered saying. It wasn’t much after that when Herbert's son, Bobby, who worked as a call boy with L&N, had the terrible job of finding Herbert and letting him know that it was his wife, Georgia, that had been in that accident.

Georgia had been wedged into the cab and the emergency crew had to cut the vehicle away in order to get her out. Her left leg was badly shattered and she was transported to Baptist Hospital, where she remained from March until September.

My mother, Mary and her siblings, who were between the ages of sixteen and seven, suddenly found themselves responsible for the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and even paying the bills.

When Georgia got home in September (Herbert had told the doctors that the family really needed her there with the kids starting back to school and the doctors released her earlier than planned), she was in a body cast and unable to do much.

The family pulled together and continued to take care of things as best as they could. Georgia was confined to bed, so Herbert set her up on the back porch of their south Louisville home (where they had only lived for a little over a year) with a tray for eating and doing what work she could.

For instance, Bobby liked biscuits and when he wanted to have some baked, Georgia would tell him the ingredients and have him get them out and do the mixing as she supervised the work.

In all my years of visiting Granny (Georgia), I never once heard her complain about the wreck or its aftermath (she always walked with a limp afterwards, her left leg being shorter than her right). It didn't seem to be, still doesn't seem to be, in most of my family's nature to complain.

The mostly unspoken ethic with which I've been raised is this: Life is what it is.

You do well or you face setbacks. You're healthy or you're not. You live or you die. It's all just the nature of things and there's nothing inherently wrong with any of it. The important thing is facing whatever life presents you in as gracious and noble a manner as possible.

Wise words that have obviously a ways to go before they sink in to my poor skull.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Thanks, JK

Happy Harry Potter Day!

After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

- Albus Dumbledore

Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas.

- Mad-Eye Moody

Welcome! Welcome to the new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!

- Albus Dumbledore

But why's she got to go to the library?
Because that's what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.

- Harry and Ron, making sense of Hermione

Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

- Albus Dumbledore

Shh! Listen! Someone's coming! I think, I think it might be us!

- Hermione, to Harry

Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh, Harry - yer a wizard.

- Hagrid [my favorite - Dan]

Are all your family wizards?

Er - yes, I think so. I think Mum's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never talk about him.

- Harry asking Ron about his family

Never, try an' get a straight answer out of a centaur. Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin' closer'n the moon.

- Hagrid

I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.

- Harry


Cool Tree
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

On cursing

I had a bike wreck of sorts this morning. I'm fine, nary a scratch.

But, boy did my blood boil!

I was on my way to work, turning left using my left turn signal like a good cyclist should. There were cars at the stop signs on either side of the street I was turning towards. I looked at them and saw that they saw me. But the white car on the right side of the street slowly pulled out nonetheless, into the intersection and towards me.

Again, I saw that she saw me but slowed down some anyway, not sure what she was doing. She kept coming forward until I finally over-braked, lost control and fell down.

And then, from the street, I yelled, oh, did I yell. I cursed at this person in the white car, who did finally stop. Then I stood up after issuing my especially harsh curse to see that it was a tiny girl, maybe 18 years old, sitting behind the wheel with a fearful, “are you okay-I'm sorry” look upon her face.

I wanted to be furious, there have been several bad bike-car collisions in Louisville lately. One death. Serious life and death situations.

But I found myself feeling sheepish instead. I grunted an apology for cursing at this poor overwhelmed child and waved her on while I picked up my bicycle.

You know, I didn't used to cuss. When I was a child, I was raised to believe that it was just wrong. Any curse word. God did not want me to do it and I wouldn't have thought of it. Would have been embarrassed just to try to say one out loud.

Then, probably in my thirties, I came to realize they're just words, albeit pretty impolite ones. The bible holds no ban on “bad” words. Still, I didn't employ them myself.

I think it all changed with the Bush administration (you knew I had to fit him back in to a post sooner or later). So much behavior of the past few years has just plain deserved a good cursin' and, God help me, I have.

But never around a child and certainly never at a child.

And so, to some young person out there who I'll never have the opportunity to address, I'd nonetheless like to say, I'm sorry.

But be careful out there.


Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Of Mayflies and Men

I saw what must have been the last mayfly today and thought, “How sad.”

[Graphic scientific note, in case you didn't know: The mayfly (Ephemeroptera – ephemera, for short-lived) hatches, has sex and dies generally all within one day.]

Our mayfly swarms came earlier last month. I haven't seen any around for a couple of weeks. This fella (gal?) must've been a late-bloomer.

And so, there we were inspecting the Ohio together, alone.

I noticed a mockingbird with her bouncing tail looking for lunch, no doubt making the mayfly nervous.

Or not. What does he care? He's there by himself, totally lacking in purpose.

The rain that has finally come has made the riverfront blessedly cool for a mid-July day. A mob of mallards lazily enjoying the sunless and damp day coasted downstream. A kingfisher makes a magnificent dive-by for lunch, swooping up out of the water empty-mouthed, so far as I could tell.

It was as I walked on down the riverfront that I saw her, glory hallelujah! A second mayfly.

And hope springs eternal in the small little hearts of all God's critters.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

The undoing of a watershed

Louisville was settled in 1778 at the confluence of the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek. It was settled there because of the Falls of the Ohio and because Beargrass Creek was a convenient stopping place just east of the treacherous Falls.

In the years since, we've dammed (damned?) the river so that it is more navigable and “safe.” We've moved Beargrass Creek away from the very center of downtown to a point a little east of downtown and more “convenient.” We have also encased a good portion of Beargrass in a concrete channel and turned it into a sewer, also for safety and convenience.

Or, to borrow a line from John Prine's song, Paradise:

They dug for their coal [straightened the creeks, dammed the rivers, etc],

'til the land was forsaken,

then they wrote it all down as the progress of man...

That progress will be the death of us, yet.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Beargrass Creek - caged

Beargrass Creek - caged
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

Beargrass is a stream that runs right through the heart of Louisville, KY. It is part of the reason that Louisville was settled. We promptly turned it into a sewer...

Beargrass Creek - CSO warning

Beargrass Creek - CSO warning
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

CSO stands for Combined Sewer Overflow. It means that when we have a good deal of rainfall, the sewage flows into the stream. Great.

Beargrass Creek Wynde

Beargrass Creek Wynde
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.

There's talk of one day righting the wrongs we've done to our streams and restoring it to a more natural condition. One day...

Friday, July 1, 2005

Find comfort where we may

I went to the river today, as I often do, to bury my sorrows. I work just a block away from the Ohio River and it is a source of comfort for me to take respite along her banks when I can.

I was stirred to grief the first thing this morning because I read that CAFTA had passed in the Senate. It remains to be seen whether or not it will pass in the House, but it troubles me that it's made it this far.

For those familiar with Kentucky, it will go without saying that all of my “representatives” support CAFTA.

In case you're not familiar with it, CAFTA is the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a sister to NAFTA, which we made with Mexico and Canada thanks to an idiotic Clinton (equal opportunity criticism here).

While the notion of Free Trade might seem a good thing on the surface, in fact these free trade agreements have been written by and for corporations. So, inasmuch as you think “What's good for Ford is good for America,” FTAs are a good thing.

If, on the other hand, you think we ought to have protections for the environment, for workers, and for local and national sovreignty, FTAs are a source of great concern because they break down protections. Free Trade Agreements have induced what has been called a “race to the bottom.” That is, whichever country is willing and able to offer the lowest pay to workers with the fewest environmental protections get rewarded with industries.

But, I didn't sit down to vent about so-called free trade, I sat to write about the river. Although much abused by us, the Ohio has been rolling her way to the Mississippi and on to the ocean for a mighty long time.

There is something compelling in her presence when I'm there. Her lapping waters slowly bounce up against the shore near my feet and then carry on. The warmth of this new July day seems measured and mollified by the Ohio, here at her shore.

Needing to go on to work, I stood and tried to leave behind my concerns in her gentle rolling waters below. Before I left, I noticed a mallard flying across my path, swooping inches above the water, on and on and on down the river 'til she eventually laid her body down, embraced by the Ohio. I feel the embrace, as well, and it is good.

Take me to the River

That's my final prayer

Take me to the River

And lay my body there

I want to lie in the Ohi-O my

So take me to the river when I die.

ohio sunset

ohio sunset
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.