Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Poets and presidents...

Jack Hirschman was named poet laureate of San Francisco today. This is a very good thing! Many San Fransicans already considered him the city's natural poet laureate. A long time social activist and critic of the status quo, Hirschman's poetry is both provocative and prophetic.

Meanwhile, President Bush castigates critics of his "war" and claims "the American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible" when they see it. Mind you, half the American people think we should have never gotten involved in Iraq and even more think Bush botched our involvement there.

So, at long last, maybe the president ought to listen to the poet:


How many sons and daughters
of all the hundreds of men and women in Congress
are fighting in Iraq? Two.

Well, it's a volunteer army
and the men and women in Congress, what with
deals and private investments,
are pretty much all of them millionaires. Youknowomsayin.

Their kids don't have to take
a military wash because they're dirtied up
with racist slurs, riddled with fear of jail,
hounded by poverty, like the 20 percent
of African-Americans in the armed forces
(African-Americans represent only 12
percent of the population),
or the heavy percent of Latinos
and poor whites as well, taking orders,
doing a job on a country half of whose people
are children 15 years old and younger.

And I'm supposed to feel patriotic
and embrace this push for planetary domination
on the part of that junta of deaths-heads
that daily floats its moral abominations
on the channels of our despair?

Nuclear fear's brought God back form the dead,
and Holy Wars look each other in their lies,
while children here and children there
are ravaged to the roots of their still possibly
innocent smiles.

In their little heads, in their doorways and beds,
they wish they may, they wish they might
bury you, you killer squirt,
for all the children that you've hurt,
and they'll throw happy dirt on your corpse,
Mr. President. Youknowomsayin!

Jack Hirshman
30 October 2004

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Old friends...

Old friends are the best friends, and Friday we had a chance to spend an afternoon with two of my oldest academic friends. Carroll Pursell and Angela Woollacott are up from Australia for their annual Christmas stay with family, and joining us for lunch was Bruce Sinclair, who actually has been Carroll's closest friend since undergrad days at Berkeley in the late 1950s. Angela's celebrating the release of her new book, Gender and Empire, to which we all drank a toast.

Carroll was my mentor at U.C. Santa Barbara during the 1970s, launched me on my first big book project, a history of energy production and consumption in California, and gave me many other opportunities over the years.

I met Bruce in 1977, at my first annual conference of the Society for the History of Technology, held at the Smithsonian Institution. Bruce is a sailor, too, and with his wife Gail (another academic friend, with whom I went to graduate school), sails a Bristol 35.5 in Maine during the summer and fall, and sails a Gary Mull 30' sloop (one of four built) on San Francisco Bay during the winter and spring.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year's moments...

Over Christmas, we spent a glorious week sailing the U.S. Virgin Islands - St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. Our last two evenings in Great Lameshur Bay on the south side of St. John, provided stunning sunsets, and we're already looking forward to another trip to sail through the British Virgin Islands. Trip log.

We returned late on the 29th, just in time to spend New Year's Eve at our Encinal Yacht Club and the next day dropped by the Aeolian Yacht Club and then back to the Encinal as part of the "round-the-island" cruise. Although there was a break in the stormy weather, most people still took the "land cruise route" to the Aeolian, the Ballena Bay Yacht Club, and back to the Encinal.

Mike Chambreau and his crew on Impetuous were the one sailboat amongst the Encinal cruisers to go all the way around.

Bloody Mary's and Gin Fizzzes were the answer to most folks hangovers from the night before, as testified to by Deborah and our friends David and Susan Sherrill, and lots of "round-the-island" land-cruisers dropped by the Encinal for clam chowder, chili, and dogs.

During the day, however, we received the news that one of our most gentle and giving members, Dick Crosson, had died in an accidental fall in his home the night before. In a quiet, thoughtful moment, Mark Brunelle's image spoke aloud the sadness mingled in all our hearts with the traditional hope that New Year's Day brings.