Monday, March 30, 2009

Now I See


I spend a lot of time chasing grace. I find the physical manifestation of grace, grace of the body, comes far more easily to me than its less tangible partner, grace of the soul. To have a graceful soul requires the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness to the benefit of others. It requires an uncommon generosity that often lies just outside my grasp. I am becoming increasingly convinced that our current modern way of life discourages, if not renders completely hopeless, the exercise of grace in our day to day lives. Until, that is, I'm proven wrong, most often in the small and simple gestures of good and common people. This week I am acutely aware of the grace in those around me, and the largeness of their souls. And I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something Called Weather Forecasting


Last month, the Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, in a sad and pathetic attempt to find something tangibly wrong with the stimulus package lambasted congressional democrats for trying to fund “something called volcano monitoring,”. Yesterday, Mt. Redoubt, near the Kenai Penisula in Alaska did a beautiful job of explaining to the poor fool exactly what volcano monitoring is and why it's needed. Even in its remote location the eruption of Redoubt, anticipated, tracked, and foretold by the geologists at the Alaska volcano observatory, has disrupted domestic and international air traffic, both rerouting and canceling flights. Had the prevailing wind direction been different, significant amounts of ash may have disrupted the communities on the peninsula, and if it were closer to a larger population center, the threat of serious damage and loss of life from mud flows would be real. Jindal's attitude is even more distressing when taken in the context of the presumed support that he and everyone else in his state has for continued funding for the National Weather Service. Even with the economy the way it is, we can't actually afford to be ignorant or knee-jerk in our allocation of funds, because, well, shit still happens.
photograph courtesy of the USGS, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist

The art of self portraiture has a long and varied history. It's practice is well documented primarily as a technical tool and lesser form of realism from early Chinese history before it was revitalized by the likes of Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo. Samuel Fosso, the Cameroon-born photographer, takes it a step further. Fosso creates portraits of other, often famous, people from the context of his own self portrait. To put it another way, he takes pictures of other people by taking pictures of himself. He presents himself as Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, Angela Davis. It's uncanny. A beautiful manipulation. His art takes on renewed potency when viewed in light of the current socioeconomic situation. A lot of people, by choice or not, are scrutinizing themselves and looking for a way to be reinvented as someone altogether new. Fosso's work presents us with a tangible representation of this metamorphosis and begs the question, who might you become?
New York Times

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Friday Night Fish Fry


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Bonneville Power Administration and several other federal and state agencies announced last week that they will resume "Sea Lion removal" along the Columbia River this week. To be clear, "Sea Lion removal" is not the transportation of Sea Lions to alternative habitats without dwindling sources of food or radioactive water, its just killing Sea Lions, either with a rifle if you're a good shot, or by lethal injection (if you're not). Why, you might ask, are we killing Sea Lions? The official story is because they have migrated upriver in search of food, depleting the increasingly fragile salmon population. But really, its not how much salmon they eat, it's that they won't pay $10 a pound for it. So you see, the Sea Lions have to go.

Don't get me wrong, the decreasing salmon population is distressing, both for the salmon and as an indication of the overall health of our waterways. After constructing 25 dams on the Columbia and an additional 250 more throughout the watershed, the wild salmon population has dropped from 10 million to 300,000. The last thing the salmon should have to deal with on their long and treacherous life journey is a natural predator. Besides, this policy clearly reflects an acknowledgment of the impacts of human consumption and energy generation on natural systems while restoring balance between species and promoting biodiversity.