Category Archives: Outrage

Morally outraged

I thought of this tune this evening while I was changing the chickens’ litter.

The girls are still a bit too young to go outside, but they’re old enough to make a big, stinky mess of their cage every day, and they’ve outgrown the box I’d been using to contain them while I changed their litter.

Because I didn’t want “chickens in the trees” (or, in this case, climbing on the computer keyboard and leaving droppings all over the carpet), I put the dogs outside and then sort of borrowed Scout’s crate to use as a temporary holding facility while I took the cage apart and dumped the litter out of the bottom tray.

As I was bringing the tray back inside, the dogs decided they’d had enough of being in the yard and came dashing back inside with me.

Scout, of course, made a beeline for my office, where she discovered her crate on the floor, full of chickens.

To say that she was morally outraged at the presence of the squatters would be an understatement.

Watching her frenzied reaction to the situation as I chased her out of the office so I could transfer the chickens safely back to their cage, I suddenly started humming, “There are chickens in my crate … there are chickens in my crate …” to the tune of this little ditty from Sesame Street.

YouTube is wonderful for many, many reasons. Chief among them is the way it allows me to extract bits of childhood memories from the dark recesses of my thought and relive them instantly. For instance, I used to sit in front of the TV every day, hoping and praying that Sesame Street would include the cartoon about a pinball that bops around a machine while the Pointer Sisters sing a counting song in the background. You can imagine my delight when my sister sent me a link to a YouTube clip of that cartoon a couple of weeks ago, apropos of nothing. It was like Christmas and my birthday, all rolled up in one!

Anyway, I am pleased to report that there are no chickens in the trees here in Red Fork. They are safely ensconced in their own cage, and Scout is curled up in her now chicken-free crate, relaxing on the hand towel I gave her as a peace offering. She will probably get bored and take her frustrations out on the towel in a little while, but for now, peace has been restored, and everybody is happy.

Time to dash out for some ice cream before I dive into the huge stack of projects in front of me this evening. I need to clean the kitchen and bathroom, run the vacuum, write an Indie Tulsa review, lay out a newsletter, build a half-dozen ads, and get back to work on the Trip Guide. So of course what I am doing instead is watching YouTube videos and heading out for ice cream. But I am operating on the theory that the ice cream will serve as jet fuel to get me moving — rapidly — in the right direction. The only question is whether I’ll go down the block and get a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from QuikTrip or waste half the evening driving across town for a double dip of MaggieMoo’s with plenty of chocolate chips and sprinkles mixed in….


How I became a hippie

After stumbling across a YouTube clip today that shows a video I remember watching as a child, I realized I’d never fully explained to my readers how it was that someone my age could have turned into a hopeless bleeding-heart hippie.

If I remember correctly, it was a seven-step process, recounted here and accompanied by helpful visual aids:

1. After consuming organic baby food made from vegetables Mom and Dad grew in their garden, I was exposed to repeated viewings of Iron Eyes Cody’s tears:

2. At age 3, I received a Greenpeace mailer with a sweet little face like this one on it. I perused it after I got bored with the Mother Earth News article I was reading over Mom’s shoulder. Mom offered to match my donations to keep somebody from clubbing the little guy in the head and stealing his fur. Between us, I think we ponied up about eight bucks. (Twenty-seven years later, I watched March of the Penguins and discovered that the fuzzy baby seal I’d helped rescue probably grew up to be a scary, bloodthirsty carnivore with big teeth … but never mind.)

3. MTV spent my entire fifth-grade year using this video to remind me that there were starving children in Ethiopia:

4. Two years later, combining the starving-children-in-Africa theme with the fragile-environment theme, Mom suggested that my best friend and I do our seventh-grade science-fair project on desertification. We won a superior, then followed it up the next year with a project on the greenhouse effect, for which we took home another superior, largely because we did not have to compete with Al Gore.

5. Also in junior high, I launched my first serious protest against injustice by circulating a petition demanding that the school offer a girls’ track team (we were offered softball, which I wasn’t any good at, while the boys got to run track), then defiantly showing up at tryouts and outrunning several boys who had ridiculed my protest. No luck forcing the district to give me a spot on the team, but the warm, fuzzy feeling of making a couple of my detractors eat my dust stayed with me for a long time.

6. Two years later, I began a four-year quest to overthrow the homecoming queen on the grounds that our school’s homecoming tradition was inherently sexist due to the absence of a comparable beauty/popularity contest for the boys. My efforts resulted in a task force being appointed to review our school’s homecoming practices. Their conclusions led to a dramatic reduction in the size of the homecoming court.

7. Using money earned while babysitting the Oestmann kids, I purchased a copy of 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth during the 1990 Earth Day celebration, began dreaming of Trombe walls and graywater tanks, and the transformation was complete.

I should probably see if I can find Jamie a video of that Keep America Beautiful ad and a plush harp seal for his birthday….


The real reason

I hadn’t heard this song in a while. I’d forgotten how beautiful and how sad it is.

‘Scuse my tinfoil hat, but I find it not at all coincidental that corporate radio stopped playing “Travelin’ Soldier” as soon as the war started.

Natalie Maines might have given them an excuse, but I think it’s naive to pretend that this song’s sweet, heart-wrenching message — which evokes, without a trace of political bias, the actual human cost of war — didn’t factor strongly into the efforts to silence the band in the early days of the Iraq war.

Music is a powerful tool for effecting change. And the Chicks’ opponents know it.


Free the sprinkles!

I wanted to get silver dragees — referred to in munchkin parlance as “BBs” — to put on our cookies, but I couldn’t find any. This article explains why.

As any 6-year-old can tell you, sprinkles are a whole food group unto themselves … and silver dragees are, like, the Kobe beef of sprinkles. The best classroom birthday party EVER was the one we had in first grade, when Mike Gourley turned 7 and his mom made us a batch of cupcakes that were completely covered in silver dragees. The boys all filled their mouths with them and then used them to impersonate Kalashnikovs, but I ate all of mine, holding them in my mouth and savoring the moment when the metallic coating gave way to the pure, unadulterated sugar in the center.

A whole generation of kids in California is missing out on that simple joy, just because one overzealous lawyer decided to spoil everybody’s fun.

I bet he isn’t worried about children’s safety at all. I bet he’s just bitter because the bully who sat behind him in third grade tortured him by spitting dragees down his neck at every class party, and he didn’t have the nerve to turn around and nail the kid with a faceful of saliva-coated silver-and-sugar birdshot. He probably ended up being the class nerd, and he’s never gotten over it, so he’s decided to exact vengeance on the guys who kicked sand in his face by ruining everybody else’s fun.

Nice work, Poindexter. Next year, why don’t you see if you can convince the court to ban the Easter bunny? I hear he hasn’t had his tularemia shots. And he’s hiding those eggs at temperatures well above accepted standards for food safety. Better get on the ball and make sure you protect those hapless children.

I feel as though I should organize some sort of underground free-the-sprinkles movement to smuggle as many silver dragees as possible into California. I find myself daydreaming an army of dragee mules out there, all slipping across the border, all armed with official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range-model air rifles with compasses in the stock and these things which tell time, filled with sugary ammo — bold guerrilla room mothers and 6-year-old dragee freedom fighters, all wearing hand-stenciled FREE THE SPRINKLES T-shirts, and all staring coolly at the bored bureaucrats manning the agricultural checkpoints: “No, ma’am. No fruit in this car,” never letting on that in a secret compartment under the backseat are stashed thousands upon thousands of the dreaded cupcake sprinkles. No fruit here — only fodder for frivolous lawsuits by spoilsport lawyers who got picked on one too many times in the third grade.

Take THAT, Black Bart!

And people can’t figure out why I live in Oklahoma instead of California. Criminy.


Why indie is important

I finally got around to watching Independent America this evening. It’s the third documentary I’ve watched in the past week, and it’s the third time I’ve been motivated to DO something.

In the film, married couple Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes — both successful broadcast journalists — set out on a 13,000-mile, 55-day road trip to find out what’s behind the recent backlash against big-box stores. Taking only secondary roads and spending money only at mom-and-pop businesses, they travel cross-country, interviewing everybody from a professional Wal-Mart shill to a couple of kids who organized a campaign to try to keep Hollywood Video from putting their local mom-and-pop video store out of business.

While Wal-Mart’s P.R. flack makes a valiant attempt to spin the story in her company’s favor, her efforts ring hollow in the face of outrages such as the company’s expensive push for a referendum on a Flagstaff ordinance that would have been detrimental to Wal-Mart’s growth in that city (the campaign — which ultimately succeeded — included a tasteless ad comparing city leaders to Nazis and claiming the proposed ordinance was anti-American) and Wal-Mart’s chilling effect on city leaders in Yelm, Wash., who banned the words “Wal-Mart” and “big box” from regular meetings, effectively silencing protesters who spoke out against a proposed Wal-Mart. City leaders cited fear of litigation as the motivating factor behind their decision to revoke citizens’ First Amendment rights during public meetings. (Apparently Wal-Mart only supports your freedom when it’s good for business.)

Wal-Mart isn’t the only villain in the film, but it comes across as one of the more egregious symptoms of a parasitic corporate mentality that seems to be infecting communities and killing its hosts all over the country.

Ultimately, though, Hosein and Hughes remind us that if we don’t like what big chains are doing to our communities, there’s a simple solution: Don’t fund them. Think about what you’re buying, where you’re buying it, and who’s going to benefit from your purchase. Take some responsibility for your purchases, and figure out what you’re underwriting when you shop.

It’s a simple solution, but it’s one a lot of people won’t take, because it’s easier to sit around wringing their hands and grumbling about how somebody should do something.

I value my freedom far too much to place control of what I see, hear, eat, drink, and enjoy in the hands of a few monopolistic corporations.

To that end, I am working up a new project, which I will unveil in the next couple of days. Stay tuned….


Do you hear the people sing?

We went to the Circle Cinema tonight to watch an indie documentary called Shut Up and Sing, about the way a handful of thoughtless reactionaries manipulated country radio (which was all too willing to be manipulated) in an attempt to torpedo the Dixie Chicks’ career after Natalie Maines made a comment that 72 percent of the American population apparently agrees with today.

The Circle is great. It’s an old movie theater that’s undergoing restoration. It has a gorgeous neon marquee out front and an artsy, countercultural vibe that reminds me of U. City’s wonderful Tivoli. It’s a great centerpiece for the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, which is undergoing a revitalization effort kind of like the one they’re hoping to pull off here in Red Fork.

Regardless of your opinion of the war in Iraq, the current occupant of the White House, or the Dixie Chicks themselves, the film we watched tonight is alarming for one very important reason:

It demonstrates the enormous power of corporate America to control our access to information.

A handful of executives control the music that is played on the radio. In the film, the station owners claim their decision not to air the Chicks’ music was simply financial — they were supposedly being inundated with phone calls from angry listeners threatening to boycott the station if they played the band’s songs — but if you’ll recall, at the time, many of those stations’ DJs went to great lengths to trash the Chicks on-air, and some even went so far as to organize parties at which fans were encouraged to bring their Dixie Chicks CDs to be destroyed, either by burning or (in one notorious example) being backed over with a tractor.

Think about that a minute: Radio stations organized CD-crushing parties. That’s like a library hosting a book burning. The stations claimed they were simply responding to public demand. Nice try, but I don’t buy it. Quietly taking the Chicks off the playlist would have been a response to public demand. Holding a party at which guests were invited to participate in the most offensive form of censorship known to humanity is not responding to public demand. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator in a tasteless attempt to milk free publicity out of another’s misfortune. And I won’t even bother to comment on the subtext involved in taking a tool of the hardworking, resourceful American farmer and using it as the centerpiece of a tasteless display of ignorance and hate, except to note that the phrase “beating plowshares into swords” comes to mind.

In an odd coincidence, I came home from work this evening to find Ron watching a DVD called Independent America. It’s a documentary about a couple who spent 55 days on the road, visiting mom-and-pop businesses and researching the impact of corporations on the American culture and economy. I watched a few minutes of the film with Ron. What I saw was sobering and left me grateful for my experiment of a year ago — in which I spent an entire month shunning big-box stores (and didn’t miss them much) — and eager to turn it from an experiment to a permanent lifestyle choice.

I intend to watch the entire film in the next couple of days and will probably have a full review when I finish.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here listening to KDHX online and enjoying fond memories of afternoons spent in my neon instructor’s shop, listening to Fred Friction’s show above the purr of the blower and the occasional shrieks of the bombarder.

I think maybe I’ll send them a donation in honor of Ron’s birthday in a couple of months.



As you may recall, I discovered in July that someone had plagiarized a book I wrote. It really hacked me off, and I had to figure out how to handle the situation without letting pride or anger or a vengeful attitude clutter up my response.

I took some steps in that direction, but for reasons too numerous to list, I never got around to following up on it after my initial contact with the guy (who was completely unwilling to own up to his mistake).

In the meantime, I developed some really annoying allergy-type symptoms that threatened to make me miserable for the entire season. They hung on for weeks and weeks. It was maddening.

I called a practitioner and asked her to help me with the allergy problem. She didn’t know about the plagiarism situation, and it had never occurred to me that there might be a connection between the two … until this morning, when, between sneezes, it suddenly came to me to check eBay and see if the guy was still selling his book on there.

He was.

I surfed eBay a little bit and learned that I could report his copyright violation in a way that wouldn’t get him in any real trouble but would let him know that I wasn’t buying his excuse. Basically, I could report him to eBay, and the eBay folks would cancel his auction and tell him to stop selling the book or risk being banned from the site forever.

It took me just a few minutes to file a claim with eBay. By the time I finished, I realized that I wasn’t sneezing or sniffling at all.

I don’t worry about physical causes for physical problems; I’ve found that invariably, physical symptoms are simply red flags alerting me to an underyling spiritual problem that needs to be corrected. Instead of dinking around with cold medicine to mask the symptoms, I’d rather cut to the chase and heal the spiritual problem itself.

In this instance, it occurred to me that we typically associate allergies with some kind of irritant — pollen, mold, smoke, pollution, whatever — so it stood to reason that an irritant in my thought (this situation with the plagiarist) would manifest itself with the physical symptoms of hay fever.

The instant I removed that irritant, my thought was healed, and the physical symptoms disappeared.

What a lovely healing … and what a lovely autumn.



A few weeks ago, I posted about a situation I was wrestling with in which I caught an individual plagiarizing some of my work.

It took three weeks, two e-mails, and a phone call, but I finally got hold of him this evening.

I kind of expected him to plead innocent, which he did, but then I figured when confronted with the indisputable facts, he would own up to his mistake and perhaps make some sort of lame excuse, like “I didn’t know it was copyrighted,” or “I must have gotten some of my notes mixed up in the final draft.”

Instead, he pulled a passive-aggressive routine that involved lying repeatedly and then playing stupid when I called bull on his prevarications.

I’ve never worked so hard to hold my tongue in my life, but by the grace of God, I managed to get through the entire conversation without dropping any f-bombs or making reference to any compost ingredients.

I kept my tone sweet as a Mason jar full of Mississippi iced tea, but I’m running out of options. If he’d just own up to his mistake, apologize for it, and say, “What do you think I should do to make it right?” I could offer him a way out that wouldn’t cost him anything or cause any hassles for either of us.

Instead, he insists on lying to me every chance he gets.

The thing is, I’m not mad at the guy. I feel sorry for him. I had sense enough to publish my book in very, very small lots so I wouldn’t lose my butt on it if it didn’t sell. He made the mistake of going through a publishing house and buying a whole bunch of books that are doomed to collect dust in his garage for all eternity, so he’s out a big chunk of money. If he’s smart, he’ll put the leftover copies in the basement during the next good rain, unplug the sump pump, and let his homeowner’s policy reimburse him for his printing costs.

But I can’t just let him off the hook. He did something dishonest, and he’s got to own up to it before I can offer him a way out.

I feel like the priest in The Exorcist, trying to coax that nasty-looking, trash-talking, pea-soup-spewing demon out of that innocent little girl. If the damned thing would just give up and come out of there, it would save us all a lot of drama. But instead, it seems to be so firmly entrenched that I’m afraid the process of prying it out is going to be the stuff horror movies are made of.


Royale with cheese

“But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.”
— Samuel L. Jackson
, Pulp Fiction

Man, I hate it when somebody else’s mistake creates a situation that tests my morals.

Without going into too much detail, I recently discovered that someone had plagiarized heavily from something I wrote several years ago.

A year ago, I would have eaten the culprit for breakfast. But — to borrow another line from Pulp Fiction — he “happened to pull this s*** while I’m in a transitional period,” so I can’t really bare my fangs here. I have to try to see past this guy’s actions to the real man — the honest, innocent child of God — underneath, and I have to find a way to address this erroneous behavior without tearing the man himself to shreds.

Between my dad and my practitioner (who both give awesome advice), I’ve come up with what I think is a reasonable solution. But it’s messier and more time-consuming than I really want to deal with, and it requires me to treat this guy with something like “tough love,” as the expression goes, which isn’t nearly as quick and easy as either mauling him to death or letting him off the hook entirely.

I hate it when people do things to provoke me — things so offensive and immoral that I physically recoil against them — and then I’m the one who has to grab a machete and go whacking through a whole jungle of anger and outrage and confusion just to find that high road I’m supposed to be taking. It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to deal with somebody else’s problem.

But I guess those problems wouldn’t come into my sphere of influence if I couldn’t handle them and didn’t have anything to learn from them. I don’t turn away hungry cats that show up on my doorstep, even if they duck away or hiss when I approach. So I guess I can’t really turn away people who are starving for higher thought, either, can I?