Saturday, August 07, 2010

Don't miss the gentle beauty of Lanterns for Peace Monday night in Tenney Park

Lanterns for Peace: Everyone Pitches In
Whenever we're in town we try to make this hauntingly beautiful, participatory event, which is pictured in this 2007 photo and commemorates the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan (and honoring all war victims). Monday night, August 9th, they'll float the lanterns out on the lagoon, and if you get there early they have materials so you can make your own. Bring your kids!

From the announcement in Isthmus:
Local peace groups are sponsoring an event to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 65 years ago. Lanterns for Peace will be held at the Tenney Park shelter in Madison on Monday, August 9th, at 7:00 pm. This is a family-friendly event with refreshments, crafts and live music. At dusk we will float decorated paper lanterns in the Tenney Park lagoon. Please join us to remember those who have died by the use of nuclear weapons and to reflect on the vision of a peaceful, nuclear weapons-free world. For more information contact Pam Kleiss at Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin, tel. 608/232-9945, or email
Lanterns for Peace is sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice, and the Madison Area Peace Coalition.

People sometimes miss Lanterns for Peace because they don't know the date, and it sneaks by unnoticed. Now that you know when it'staking place , you owe it to yourself to mark your calendar and check it out. You won't be sorry.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Twilight vision -- a white speck of mystery wrapped in an enigma

Twilight Vision: A White Speck as Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma
Sometimes a photograph has less to do with aesthetics than with solving a mystery.

We were walking at Tiedeman's Pond late in the day when I saw a white speck high in the shadowed woods all the way across, on the other side of the pond. I couldn't make out what it was, and didn't have any binoculars with me. Could it be a gull? Do they sit in trees? I didn't think so. Maybe it was a trash bag that had blown around and gotten snagged in the branches.

I started taking pictures with the D90. The 200mm lens wasn't much help on its own, but I could enlarge the image a lot on the LCD, until I was looking at just the very center of the frame. I felt like David Hemmings in "Blow Up", the photographer looking for the mystery hidden in his photos of trees, or a NASA Jet Propulsion Lab scientist trying to tease the last little bit of detail out of photos from an interplanetary probe.

The first few photos tended to confirm the trash bag hypothesis -- just a big white blob. Then I looked at the shutter speed and realized the "blobbiness" was mostly a result of camera shake. So I selected a higher shutter speed. Click, click, click... I kept enlarging, and suddenly I saw the unmistakable profile of big white bird, one that was shaped like a pretzel. That's because it was grooming, and its long white neck was bent completely around, and the beak buried in its feathers of its body. I kept shooting until I found an image with the head upright.

I think it's a Great Egret. It doesn't look much like one from this angle, but that's because its neck is tucked in and folded over, and it's facing away from the camera. Mystery solved, I think.

Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan making waves by preaching nonsense inside the DC Beltway

Paul Krugman comments on the latest deep thinker discovered by media types and pundits inside the Beltway. He explains how the process works.
One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Ryan has always been better at getting media attention than delivering policy ideas that make sense. According to Krugman, his “Roadmap for America’s Future” is no such thing. It's a smoke-and-mirrors structure that seems designed mainly to hide the fact he wants to cut taxes on the richest 5 percent of Americans in half, while raising them on everyone else -- all under the guise of deficit reduction. And, for good measure, replacing Medicare with a voucher plan in 2020 to allow the elderly to buy their own health insurance. Why would anyone take this stuff seriously?
It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense.

Hippity Hop

Hippity Hop
-- I'm invisible. You can't see me.
-- Yes, I can.
-- No, you can't. The leaves hide me.
-- No, they really don't.
-- What do you mean?
-- I can see you plain as day.
-- Really?
-- Really.
-- Oh. Well, then -- so long. Hippity hop.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

We've all come across this famous quote by Lord Acton. It's been more than a century since the words were penned, and history has been proving their truth over and over again all these years. But did you know what, specifically, Lord Acton was talking about? I didn't.

Neither did Isthmus publisher Vince O'Hern, but he decided to find out.
Reading Dinur's article and the contention between certain laity and the bishop reminded me of the old dictum "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Researching the origins of that quote led to the surprising discovery that it was penned by one Lord John Emerich Acton, a Catholic English nobleman writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton. The occasion was the proclamation of papal infallibility by Pope Pius IX in 1870. A prominent philosopher and religious publisher of the time, Lord Acton had something else significant to say that could be applicable to the present situation. "There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
O'Hern was commenting on Esty Dinur's must read article in Isthmus about the arch-conservative Bishop of the Madison Diocese, Taking on Bishop Morlino: Robert Morlino claims to represent the true church of Jesus Christ. Some local Catholics aren't buying it.

Bishop Morlino's appointment was part of the current Vatican's ongoing rollback of Vatican II and seems especially incongruous in a liberal city like Madison.
Within months of his arrival, Morlino wrote a column in the Catholic Herald ripping Madison as a community that has "a high comfort level with virtually no public morality."

Meanwhile, Morlino has raised questions about the soundness of his own moral compass by serving on and chairing the Board of Visitors of the Georgia-based Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas. The school, run by the U.S. Army, trains military officers from Latin America, many of whom have been implicated in human rights abuses, including the murder of nuns and priests.
It just goes to show what that absolute power thing can lead to.

Shirtless and marching to his own drummer on the UW-Madison campus

T and I were taking a walk along the lakeshore path of the UW-Madison campus last week. It was one of those impossibly hot, muggy days, relieved only by the whisper of a light, misty rain that was starting to fall. At first we weren't sure what we were seeing when we passed this young man, who just kept repeating these moves. But then we realized this was the UW Marching Band's practice field and that he was a drum major perfecting his moves.

There was something surreal about the way he was so totally immersed in his own world, oblivious to the pedestrians, runners and motor vehicles going by (as they were oblivious to him). The more we watched, the more impressed we were by his solitary focus and dedication. He stood in for all the performers and athletes everywhere whose effortless performances are the result of hours and hours and hours of dedicated practice. His concentration was contagious. Although he was wearing none of the usual drum major regalia, we could hear the booming of the bass drums, the blaring of the brass instruments, the rhythmic tempo of the march, and by the time he reached the other end of the field, we had imagined an entire stadium filled with tens of thousands of people. As he took his bow, the applause was thunderous. We hoped he heard it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho! (And the hell with everyone else.)

So Pleasant It Is to Have Money, Heigh Ho!
I saw a car with a vanity plate the other day spelling out "Phat Kat." This is my attempt at a sketch of the fantasy that ensued when I was reminded of the 19th century English poet, A. H. Clough, whose 1850 poem "Dipsychus" includes these lines.
I drive through the streets, and I care not a damn;
The people they stare, and they ask who I am;
And if I should chance to run over a cad,
I can pay for the damage if ever so bad.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.
We're once again becoming as sharply divided between rich and poor as they were during Victorian times, and it's getting worse. If you've got it, many people seem think, you might as well flaunt it -- they've got theirs, and other people really aren't their concern.

I didn't come across Clough's poem on my own. I first read these lines many years ago in The Quiet American, where Greene's protagonist and narrator Fowler reads them to the American, Pyle.
"That's a funny kind of poem," Pyle said with a note of disapproval.

"He was an adult poet of the nineteenth century. There weren't so many of them" I looked down into the street again. The trishaw driver had moved away.
Greene felt no need to identify the poet, probably because the reference would have been clear to an educated British reader of the time. As for Americans -- well, that was the point, wasn't it? But the lines stuck in my mind even when I didn't know who had writen them. Tracking down obscure references like this was difficult in the days before Google. If your edition of Bartlett's didn't have it, you were out of luck -- or in for a lot of work. Now, of course it's easy.

While search methods have changed, economic reality hasn't changed all that much. The fault lines have just become more visible. In good times, when the American pie is big enough for most everyone to get at least enough of a slice to keep hope alive, it's easy to forget who owns what and how much. Now we're being reminded all over again, with a callousness that's appalling.

Keep your eyes open -- or you might get run over.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Wingra Boats, again. The deep, fluid beauty of water can't really be contained or described, but sometimes a framing detail helps. Boats are perfect.

Monday, August 02, 2010

I've always loved this oasis in downtown Madison

I've Always Loved This Place: So Glad It's Not Going to Be Torn Down
I love this place -- a bookish oasis where you can spend hours without spending dollars, where there’s no admission charge, where books are free for the borrowing and you can roam as far as your dreams will take you without ever leaving your seat. It’s the Bernard Schwab Building, the downtown branch of the Madison Public Library.

The plans to build a new downtown library as part of a larger commercial development fell through, and Mayor Dave is now backing renovating and expanding the old central library. It's a solid structure that was designed for upward expansion when it opened in the mid-Sixties, and I always thought that was the best option. As the Mayor said in his announcement, "And because we'll use the existing superstructure of the building, we are essentially recycling it. The greenest building is the one you rebuild." Yes. Glad he came around.

We're lucky that Madison still has a commitment to a strong library system, at a time when many municipalities are drastically cutting back. We also have a tradition of community involvement and participation. A series of meetings have been scheduled for public input. What would you like to see in a new downtown library in the Internet age? What should its mission be, what needs should it serve? What would you like it to look like?