Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nature of the Kiss ...

In recent days, I have asked: "What's in a name?" And "What's in a voice?" Well, how about: "What's in a kiss?" ... Isn't the latter the next step in a logical progression, maybe? ... Okay, just go with it ; )

I remember viewing this iconic photo for the first time within the pages of a big 12" x 18" Time Life Book of "World's Most Memorable Images" (or something like that? I can't quite remember the exact title).  I was about eight years old at the time, visiting with my Great Aunt and Uncle at their summer lake house, in Wisconsin.  My Uncle was a dentist and he and his wife loved lots of cool things: among them books and travel.  Visiting them, for me, was the gateway to a whole new world of adventures. The obvious adventure of the fabulous outdoors (swimming, canoeing, chasing frogs, fish and snakes, bonfires, hikes in the woods looking for deer ... wondering if you'd encounter a bear) aside, My Aunt and Uncle also had a truly remarkable collection of books. They had your typical reading books, but they also owned many "picture books" filled with page after page of fabulous photographs and famous paintings. Their collection of books, travel trinkets, travel photos and the most amazing handheld picture viewer of 'famous places around the world' often transported me to far away, strange and foreign lands.

This classic photo of a returning sailor from war --a hero-- locked in the passionate embrace of kiss with his "sweetheart" was forever etched in my mind that hot summer evening, so long ago, the day of my first viewing. I remember sighing and thinking, silently, to myself at that moment:  "This must be what Love is."  Little did I realize at the time that the two people in the photo were complete strangers. You see, it seems an enthusiastic sailor, elated to finally be safely back home from the war, just grabbed the first gal he spotted walking down the street and planted a big, wet kiss on her (interesting photo facts, scroll down beyond #1 to +1). Kind of romantic, in a "Gone With the Wind" sort of way, right? Well, my thoughts on what Love is and isn't have evolved substantially since my first viewing of this iconic photo, but let's keep the focus on the subject of this photo and the discussion at hand: The Kiss

Awhile back, some writing friends challenged me to write three very different writes on the subject of "a kiss." I am happy to report, that after much initial struggle, I was able to rise to the challenge. Pondering this subject matter for my writes naturally conjured up this iconic image of "A Kiss" in my mind.  So I went on-line and found a copy of this photo and used it as my inspiration for this write. The evolution of my thoughts on the subject of "the kiss" resulted in the poem at the end of this post. This poem is the first of the three writes. It is a more playful take on "what's in a kiss." This poem was kind of the ice-breaker that paved the way for the other two more passionate and personal writes. Not sure that I will share the latter two here with you … but for now, here follows my playful write on "what's in a kiss."

I suppose that the obvious closing question would be: "Do you remember your first kiss?" … But, personally, I think that first kisses are highly over-anticipated and overrated. To my way of thinking subsequent kisses are often more memorable, not to mention enjoyable, but perhaps that is just me. With three daughters rapidly approaching the potential age for first kisses, I am confident that I shall soon have some firsthand, unbiased --*****-- input on the subject. Although, it may still be awhile before I get this input as my younger two daughters still shout "Ewwwhhhh!!?!!" when they see two people kiss in the movies or on TV -- sigh of relief from me ; ) Kids grow up so quickly, anyway nowadays, don't they? I'm all for letting them enjoy being young, innocent and free for as long as they can be.

@Copyrighted Image: Allied Eisen. Getty.

"Nature of the Kiss"

I can be many things:  Innocent, sweet,
Subtle and simultaneously alluring.
How about intense and passionate ...
Emotions deep within you stirring?
I can be entirely spontaneous
Or  conversely premeditated.
More often than not, though,
I'm just a random mix
Betwixt the latter calibrated.
But perhaps I am at my best
When I'm anticipated?
From gestures of grandeur,
Spanning the gamut to insipidity:
I am bestowed in a wonder of ways
And for a number of worthy reasons,
At times, even chancing purely
Upon the gentle breeze of serendipity.
I garner labels ranging from Notoriety
To hands-down outright Impropriety.
Sometimes I am bestowed in
Dubiety, Spontaneity and/or Anxiety ...
And even, from time to time,
God forbid, in Inebriety.
I can be dry, wet, cold, hot or steamy,
But don't you just love it when I'm dreamy?
In lust, friendship, kinship, hope or greeting: 
There are endless reasons for lips meeting.
Lips imparting treasured bliss, 
In form of most endearing kiss.
Placed upon forehead, neck, cheek or hand  ...
But when lips meet lips, man oh man ain't it grand?

@Copyrighted & Published Poem, 2011.  All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.

Song: "A Kiss to Build a Dream On", By Louis Armstrong  

Louis Armstrong, old 'Satchmo', another unique and fabulous voice : )

3/27/2012 Good news. Seems revisiting some of my old writes helped to break the rust free. I've found my words and I am writing again. It feels good to be back. With any luck, I will be able to ride this wave through to the completion of novel of #2.  Peace & Love  ~M

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Blog Blows with the Wind?

As I read here now, I wonder sometimes if my blog here is a "Blessing" (per my last post)? Why do I bother to write and post here? Why do I force myself to share?

It's not that I really care if anyone else cares about what I write ... or if they like my photos, ART and poems. I could care less if anyone agrees with me on politics either ... agree to disagree is okay with me as long as lives are not at stake. Mostly, my blog is just my wanting to have a place to vent and to be heard ... even if the only recipients are ever me and the mysterious universe. In many ways, I think my Blog acts as a voice of reason that helps to keep me sane.

Sometimes when I look at my stats, I wonder where my images wind up? Most of my hits are for images ... although my writes on "contraception" have gotten a lot of hits too: 60+ just for the original post. Every now and again, the human side of me wishes someone would leave me a comment to thank me for the image they have borrowed or at least to leave a link to where my image was used for me to see. Then again, I stop and think: maybe one of my photos hangs on the wall in someone's home or office, graces the backdrop of their PC or other device and in doing so brings a much needed smile to someone's face. God Bless all who pass this way.

I've given up trying to figure out "following"? My blog seems to blow with the wind ... Every 12 hours, or so, I seem to be moved into a new neighborhood for reasons that I often fail to understand.  A few days back I was surrounded by lots of "Mommy" blogs, then I moved into the neighborhood with many "Catholic" and other religious type blogs ... Yesterday, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of dog-lovers. Is the universe trying to tell me its time to give a new puppy a home after the passing of my German Shepherd of 13+ years last spring?

A few of the blogs I have tried to follow have left for "Wordpress pages" ... though I can't see why?  I tried WordPress for my writing, at the urging of some writer friends, but I only posted one single poem ... before my patience gave out. I found the Wordpress format to be very constraining and the audience limited. Seems that if you want to do anything with your page you have to subscribe to an upgrade for a fee that is $30.00++ dollars per year. I really do have to give the Blogger Team a lot credit here;  they have awesome tools, unlimited space, lots of cool gadgets and free templates that are highly customizable. And the Blogger Team is very receptive to user inputs for new ideas.  Seems Blogger is always rolling out new improvements. You just can't beat the Blogger experience, in my humble opinion.  Thank you, Blogger Team!

Adsense$$ seems to work well for many who use it as a source of revenue generation.  For me, I have no desire to make money from my blog ... I would enable Adsense if I could have the money generated from ads donated directly to a charity, anonymously --leaving me out of the loop entirely-- but thus far I have not figured out a way to do this.

So even though I may disappear for short periods of time --when my "real life" becomes overwhelming-- I will keep Blogger in my life for the foreseeable future.  Besides, a very wise and talented man --and one of my all-time favorite artists-- once said "The Answer is Blowing in the Wind" (link explores meaning behind these words and the meaning of the song). Happy Blogging, ya'll : )

Song: "Blowing in the Wind", By Bob Dylan

4/2/2012  ... Well I haven't moved in a few days now.  My new location allows me to pray for those in perhaps the most dire of situations.  You don't like to stop and think that slavery of any sort still goes on in this day and age, but the harsh reality is that it does.  Perhaps awareness and many prayers will bring this ugly truth to light and put an end to it once and for all:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Counting Your Blessings ...

Just when I was beginning to think that mystery and magic were on hiatus ... I felt drawn to peek through the white sheers of the nearest windows. Initially in search of my mysterious moon, I was taken aback when to my surprise my eyes beheld a serenely sleeping world, nestled snuggly under a blanket of pristine and glistening white.  Snow had snuck in, ever so quietly upon us, and sprinkled his magic about ... bidding mystery and magic to arise once again from their slumber and come out to play.  Oddly enough, this cold snow warms my heart and brings a much needed smile to my face. =)

It is just before midnight. I may venture out into the night for a few nighttime photographs of our wonderful winter-wonderland.  Kids will get a kick out of this in the morning, I know. Wonder if schools will be let out for another snow day? Hopefully, this snow will stick around long enough for some sledding and snowball fights. Kind feels like Christmas all over again. : ) ... That Bing Crosby song from the movie "White Christmas", titled "Count Your Blessings" (duet with Rosemary Clooney) is going through my mind as I type right now ... "If your'e worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep ...  And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings."

... (3:30 a.m. my time)... Okay, I am back. It is late (as usual) and for a change, my eyelids are growing heavy --hopefully a sign that a few hours of restful sleep will come my way shortly.  As I was shooting some photo snaps, outside in amongst the newly fallen snow, I could hear the sound of melting snow ... drip, drip, dripping and running on down, in slow currents, to wind its way into the storm drains and away. Sadly, I suspect this snow won't be here for very long and I noticed there was no accumulation on the sun-warmed sidewalks and roads.  Thus, the kids will most likely have school tomorrow without interruption. Such is life  :(  Hopefully, they will at least get to see the snow? If they weren't sleeping so peacefully, I'd probably wake them up to see ... But good moms don't do stuff like that, right? Oh well ... I'm rambling. I do that when I start to get sleepy, but rambling is a good sign. It means my brain is finally starting to shut down.  So here are a few snow photos for you, as promised. Perhaps they will bring a small smile to your face?

Peace & Lots of Love,

Nighttime Snow Photography (by streetlights):  Just for FUN ...

@Copyrighted Photo, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

"Stop and Stare ..."

[Feel free to use this single image above if you would like.]

"Snow's Silent Whisper"
@Copyrighted Photo, 2012. All Rights Reserved. 

"Snow Fairies at Play"

[Feel free to use this single image above if you would like.]

Nite ya'll ...XoXo... My pillow is calling ; )

P.S.  I found a music video that I actually like.  It goes with the "Stop and Stare" photograph up above.  I love the acoustic guitar.  This is a truly beautiful rendition of this popular song. Enjoy!

Song: "Stop and Stare", Performed on Acoustic Guitar By Adam Pluse

Makes you stop and think doesn't it?  And if doesn't:  maybe it should:   "I've become what I can't be?"  ... and  "Fair ain't what you really need."  That's some pretty heavy stuff ... But how many of us ever take a moment to slow the pace of this rat race long enough to take a good hard look at ourselves, where we're at and what we've become?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Voices Carry ...

Ever heard the famous line from Shakespeare's play …

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

~Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)]

My mind wonders next to the thought: “What’s in a voice?”

The artistic side of me --and perhaps a bit of the scientist, the observer, as well-- is very visual, I will admit. Seems I’m always on the lookout for patterns … shapes, colors, numbers … eagerly searching for discontinuities, as often nearby the mysterious lies in wait longing to be found. The latter being said, however, I’ve always loved voices. I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s my love of books and my penchant for making written worlds breathe to life within my vivid imagination? I have as much fun assigning a voice to a character in one of my reads as I do building the physical attributes of a character into an animated being.

On movie night’s, I often drive my friends and family crazy when I hear a voice that I know, but just can’t quite place said voice with the name of an actor or actress. I’ll spend the whole movie recalling clips from previous movies in my mind … playing them over and over until I’ve identified the unknown voice. Yes, I seem to have a memory catalog of voices for actresses, actors, and other famous people –even lesser known parts, I will remember a voice and then hear it in a subsequent movie—even though at times, I would be hard-pressed to identify the same actor by face. Is that odd? Given that actors are constantly changing roles and physical attributes, I suppose identifying these actors by voice --which remains relatively constant— makes sense, right? I wonder, does everyone use this method of voice cataloging as a means of identifying people?

Movie I watched tonight, "Three Musketeers" ...
Voices would carry here, no?

Then there are other worldly experiences I have had … departed spirits … that ‘speak’ with voice. So I suppose that I come naturally --or supernaturally, as the case may be ; )-- by my pre-disposition for a fascination with voices. I wonder, does one’s voice say more, or at least as much, about a person as their physical appearance? Are voice cues in speech more telling than visual mannerisms to a certain segment of the population like me?

… I stop and think here for a moment, how many times I have had conversations with someone on the phone only to meet them later, in person, to find that they look absolutely nothing like the way I had pictured them in my mind --physical attributes like, hair, height, weight, ethnicity, etc.— an image that I had conjured up based purely upon the hearing of their voice during the short duration of a single, or few, phone call(s). Or the reverse happens, that is to say that I will see a photo of someone before I ever have the opportunity to speak with them on the phone or to meet in person, Skype, etc.… Especially, with all of the on-line interactions in our world today (e.g., Facebook). Often times, you will see a photo of someone long before you ever actually hear their voice, with Facebook and the like. So naturally, in the latter instance, one begins to formulate what voice might go with a friend’s photograph/profile picture, right … or is that just me? Surprisingly, I have found that often my voice imaginings are very close to the real-life voice of the actual person in these cases of visual photograph coupled with longer term written interactions -- as opposed to a non-visual, short term phone call(s) and guessing at what the physical attributes of a person may be based solely upon hearing their voice.  The scientist in me would love to know if other people find that they too can get pretty close to target for guessing at the voice to pair with the case of a visual image, with only written interactions. Who knows, this could be a whole new science, eh? ; )

Porthos, Athos, D’Artagnan , Aramis
"Three Musketeers"
(A great movie by the way ... Image Source)

Are you wondering, then, what prompted my pondering of this topic? Well, I just happened to come across another fabulous voice in a movie this evening … The voice of Athos (Matthew MacFadyen), in the new “Musketeer” movie. MacFadyen's voice is just mesmerizing to me … I could get lost in his voice. Whose voices would you classify as “fabulous”?

Oh well, perhaps you've enjoyed the ramblings of my late night, sleep-deprived mind.  Nite ya'll and Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the Luck of the Irish Bless you this day and throughout the upcoming week ahead.  God Bless =)

Song:  "Voices Carry", By Till Tuesday ... Aimee Mann

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blue Destiny ...

No words or images have returned, but I finally found it in me to play with some beads.  Started work on some new pieces I am calling "Blue Destiny" ... ethereal, dreamy ... hazy blues seem to be my favorite color to work with these days.  I am trying to learn some new wire bending and molding techniques that have a spiraled cage looking sort of effect. Linking these cages together you can make longer chains and create some really original looking pieces. This new technique tries my patience a bit, but I will persevere.  Think I might need a few new tools to make the task a bit simpler? Making jewelry seems to be a good focus and distraction for me --especially when I am up, unable to sleep, until all hours of the morning-- plus it gives me a small sense of accomplishment and is a healthy outlet for my creativity.

"Blue Destiny" Close-up Detail
@Isabelle Black Smith, 2012. 

Signed "Blue Destiny"
@Isabelle Black Smith, 2012.

These earring just did NOT want to be photographed.
But it was fun to play with light and reflections here. : )
Think that pinkish-orange in the light source is my reflection.

I wonder, do you BELIEVE in destiny?  

To me, Destiny is just another set of lines .. a box to jump out of ... Perhaps Destiny is more of a sort of a set of near infinite possibilities --some more heavily weighted than others-- from which we consciously or subconsciously choose by our thoughts and actions.

One of my favorite artists and paintings.
"Destiny", By John William Waterhouse

Interesting ... Seems Waterhouse associates Destiny with Blue as well.

Anyone know a good song for Blue and Destiny?  How about this one:  "Desert Rose", By Sting.

In our deserts we dream of rain ... hope and endless possibilities... our thirst drives us to seek out and drink from the cup of destiny as we long for the magic of fulfillment, our own rose of the desert ... and when, and if, we are so fortunate as to find this elusive treasure: is what we find merely a figment of our imagination? Little more than a taunting mirage conjured up by our own personal desert?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Republican Voters are Doing Their Homework and ...

Making up Their OWN minds in this Republican Primary. You gotta love it: Voters coloring outside the lines.  =)

My own personal feelings on a big issue of late aside ... One can always pray.  So I did.  I prayed for the best man to lead this country to do well in these 2 southern primaries, at this pivotal point in the primary process ...  And Rick Santorum won in both Alabama and Mississippi.

Fox News Video:  "Rick Santorum:  We Did it Again!"

I must say, the American people are doing their homework  and voting their own minds this election cycle. That truly gives me hope for our nation. Voters aren't content to let the media, RNC establishment and the polls make their decisions for them and that truly renews my faith in the American electorate.  God Bless America, Rick Santorum, his family and staff.  Keep the momentum going!

Read More Here ...
Rick Santorum's Plan for His First 100 Days in Office

If Rick Santorum can get a handle on his social positions and use his voting record to his advantage to demonstrate that he clearly understands the difference between holding a personal belief (e.g., religious) and making policy ... If he can reassure voters that if elected he will respect "the will of the people" ... Then Rick Santorum will indeed be THE BEST candidate to secure the Republican Nomination heading in to the general election against President Obama. ... And Santorum needs to get this dialogue going NOW.

There is a distinct and important difference between being a "true conservative" and being a "staunch (intolerant) conservative."  While the latter may appeal to the right-wing of the conservative base in this Republican Primary:  it won't fly in the general election.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Contraception: A Possible Win-Win Strategy for Republicans?

Happy Women's Day 2012!

"Change your perspective: change your life."
...And in this case maybe someone else's too.
Copyrighted Photo, 2011.  All Rights Reserved: Isabelle Black Smith.

Perhaps, in honor of International Women's Day you will take a few minutes to read the following and just for a moment consider another perspective?

As you can probably tell by now: this contraception issue is an extremely important issue to me. The issue hits close to home for me for many, many reasons. I can still vividly recall being a struggling college student having to pay full price for birth control pills (I did need pills for hormone regulation, but I was also married in college and trying to complete a degree in Electrical Engineering) because my HMO did not offer coverage for contraception at the time. As I was married, working my way through school to pay for my college, I did not qualify for the "FREE" birth control pills [ not that I wanted or expected anything for FREE ... affordable would have been nice though. $60.00 a month was hard to swing. Insurance coverage would have brought the cost down to around $10.00 - $15.00 ]. I also saw firsthand, in the workforce, after graduating the need to have some degree of control over my husband's and my ability to plan our family so that I could remain somewhat competitive with my male counterparts in the engineering profession. We now have three young daughters who will one day soon venture out into the world to fend for themselves. This issue will undeniably impact them on down the line.

And so, I have done much reflecting and writing on this issue over the last two plus weeks. I am trying to keep things in perspective and not do anything rash --like strangle my seemingly dispassionate husband ; ).  I am kind of feeling like a voter without a party right now. I haven't yet decided how I will ultimately vote, but my firm commitment to my original candidate of choice is no longer firm, as he seems to have gone back on his original stance from the beginning of his campaign and is now pandering to conservatives on the religious right. And my overall enthusiasm for the Republican Party and this election in general --hope for meaningful change with respect to our economy and jobs, etc.-- now seems to have been completely and utterly annihilated. The big picture just seems foggy to me now with this timely reminder that women still aren't truly equals with men ... even in our technologically advanced modern-day society... because we can still be controlled at the most base and fundamental level. Well that's how I feel today; we shall see if time and perspective do anything to improve my outlook.

I will concede that there are BIG issues facing our nation right now that require BIG solutions and focused attention. I would also allow that now is perhaps not the best time to pursue this contraception mandate or the underlying issues behind the need for this legislation, BUT women have already waited half a century --birth control became available to the public in the 1960's-- for the right to pursue their own "life, liberty and happiness" without undue hindrance. And in my humble opinion: not being able to have affordable access to contraception medication and services --which inclusion in standard healthcare insurance would undeniably provide-- is undue hindrance. We've waited patiently for our individual states to address the issue of passing legislation that would require inclusion of contraception medications and services as legitimate medical conditions under standard healthcare insurance and: our 50 states (see specifics below [1]), for the most part, have failed to adequately address the issue. How much longer do we have wait?!?

And Let me be clear (If I say this enough, maybe it will eventually begin to sink in):

Women do not want or expect any "special entitlement" at "taxpayer expense."[2]   We just want contraception medications and services to be recognized as legitimate medical condidtions for coverage under standard healthcare insurance. This recongnition, by means of legislation --as has been done for other medical conditions-- would then provide access to affordable healthcare insurance coverage for contraception medications and services (e.g., tubal ligation and vasectomy) which would then bring the costs to women --and their families-- back into an affordable/cost effective arena (e.g., $100.00 month birth control pills would now be $15.00 month with an insurance co-pay paid by the employee).

I don't see why everyone assumes that if you are "pro-woman", by supporting contraception as a legitimate medical condition for healthcare insurance, that you are in some way now no longer "pro-family." The two are not mutually exclusive.  If you empower women you get healthier, happier women who can then in turn be less stressed, more productive, happier wives, mothers and employees. How is that not pro-family? As I always say, "two sides there are to every truth." But I guess, perhaps some societal truths are so deeply embedded within our culture that people have stopped thinking things through for themselves?

===>We're not asking for the sun, moon and stars here people?! Women are just asking that contraception medicatons and services finally --after half a century-- be included as standard in healthcare insurance. If you have a moral objection to contraception then by all means don't use it:  that is your choice and your constitutional right.  No one is forcing you to personally use contraception, but this moral objection to allowing for the coverage of contraception medication and services under standard healthcare insurance, across-the-board, is doing exactly the latter in reverse by imposing your personal beliefs on another ... and that is just plain wrong from both a constitutional as well as a spiritual perspective. Just as the government cannot require that religious institutions proper must provide access to contraception in their healthcare insurance ... individuals should not be able to apply to a "moral code" or "moral test" to challenge the legitimacy of certain medical conditions which they find morally offensive due to their own personal religious beliefs. That is why our Founding Fathers gave us the "Separation of Church and State" and it works BOTH ways. If we allow this "moral test" to stand now: what other challenges to medical conditions, based on this "moral test", will come next? Aids medications? <===

To me this is a golden opportunity for a Presidential candidate to step up to the plate and say:

"As coverage for contraception medications and services is a complex issue that needs further evaluation:  If I am elected President, I promise to assemble a commission of legislators to seriously investigate and assess all aspects of the feasibility and constitutionality of passing federal legislation to require inclusion of contraception medications and services as standard in healthcare insurance." [Bearing in mind, of course, that if a Republican is elected to the Office of President "Obama-care will be repealled ... consquently current hearings and findings would then become meaningless.  As contraception medications and services would no longer be mandated as standard in healthcare insurance --with the repeal of Obama-care-- new legislation would then be required to ensure this coverage.]

By doing the latter a candidate would: 1) take some of the "POWER" away from Democrats on this issue and stop feuling the incumbent's re-election campaign momentum; 2) regain support of Republican women who may have defected because of this issue, as well as extend an appeal to Independent and more moderate Democratic voters in the general election; 3) temporarily silence debate on the contraception issue; 4) thereby refocusing the campaign dialogue back onto to the bigger issues like the economy, jobs and a potentially nuclear Iran.

The ball is in your court presidential candidates; what will you do with it?  ... Might I suggest, dunk it and move on?

We'll see what the future holds, I guess .... Meantime, God Bless all women all around the globe this day. Let us be thankful for all that we are and all that we have been so blessed to accomplish for women in an effort to make this world a truly better place for everyone.  Since I;m not finding my words easily these days, here follows my closing wish from my 2011blog-post on the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day.  If you are interested in knowing the history behind this day you might want to visit my link from last year and read at the very end of the post.

"My wish for all women is that they find true peace and happiness. That they find validation in a world that so often takes them for granted and underestimates them. That they rise above oppression in all of its many guises to be all that they are capable of being. That they see other women as allies, friends ... That they stand up for one another and support one another. That God will protect them from violence , especially our young daughters. That women feel worthy of love and find validation for their spirit in some form ... even if it is just the whisper of hope and love carried upon the mystic winds of the mysterious universe."     

~Isabelle Black Smith 2011

P.S. My oldest ... perhaps a future politician ... says to me this evening as we are discussing issues in our nation and around the world  "You can't change human nature.  There will always be another Kony ready to step in and fill the void.  You have to fight the battles you can win."  Out of the mouths of babes? Pretty deep for a middle school student, wouldn't you agree? Pretty deep and perhaps a bit sad that at such a young age she's already beginning to assess the battles that can be won.  ... And I always keep the children in my daily thoughts and prayers -- most especially the invisible ones.

[  [1] Why is there a need for government to intercede and mandate coverage for contraception in healthcare coverage in the first place? Because the 50 states, for their part, have for the most part failed to establish and protect contraception medications and services as a universally covered legitimate medical expense in the first place. We have had birth control medications available in the United States since the 1960's --that's half of an entire century!-- and only 28 states have any sort of laws requiring that contraception medications and services be included in healthcare insurance coverage. In those states that do have coverage: compliance with the law is optional for "religious institutions" and the like --even as "secondary employers"-- with no requirement for these employers to offer an alternative avenue for coverage options to their employees/students. And contrary to the current conservative argument: contraception medications and services do indeed address legitimate medical conditions, whether conservatives happen to personally agree with how these services may be used in some instances or not (i.e., enabling sexual promiscuity vs. regulating hormones for medical conditions like ovarian cysts or for family planning for married couples ... yes, pregnancy IS a medical condition) .

[2] "taxpayer dollars" ...the accepted argument being that the cost for covered services is passed along to the public in the form of higher health insurance premiums, where carrying of health insurance is mandated by the Federal Government --“individual mandate”-- in “Obama-care.” Although, technically speaking, it is not ‘taxpayer dollars’, but rather money taken directly out of the insurance purchaser’s pocket. I think that the words “taxpayer dollars” are more of an attention-grabber, used for the express purpose of fueling emotions which often precludes logical thought processes. Furthermore, no-one is asking for anything to be “FREE”; women merely want access to affordable contraception medications and services, which healthcare coverage would undeniably provide. And if we are talking from a purely "cost" perspective here, I would venture that insurance companies would find little difficulty in producing a veritable mountain of data to demonstrate that the costs for contraception medications and services --specifically tubal ligation, hysterectomy and vasectomy-- are considerably lower than the associated costs for: 1) care during pregnancy, 2) delivery of a baby and 3) a new dependent to be added a healthcare policy after the delivery.]

To read more of my thoughts and reflections on this issue please see the following posts:

"Contraception Mandate: Fear is not an effective choice ..."

"Where have all the good men gone?"

"Follow-up: where have all the good men gone?"

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Angelina Jolie Writes & Directs a Compelling New Movie ...

"In the Land of Blood & Honey" ... a movie written and directed by Angeline Jolie and nominated for a Golden Globe award in the "Foreign Film" category. This movie attempts to present an intimate story of love and betrayal in the midst of the horrific Bosnian War (April 1992 - December 1995).

This movie was violent, as one would expect, but as movies go now-a-days --with all of the modern special effects-- it was tastefully done ... well, as tasteful as you can make the violence of war and ethnic cleansing. I often had tears in my eyes while watching ... this movie tugs on your heartstrings and takes you on an emotional ride. You truly become vested in the struggles --both internal as well as external-- of the main characters.

A well written script in this film held my attention ... even though at times reflecting upon the true horrors of war made me extremely nauseous (and I did have to fast forward through a few parts). Perhaps this film is not one to watch for the truly empathetic? The latter aside, this film addresses a topic that maybe many don't like to talk about in our modern day society: war and mans' capacity for inhumanity towards his fellow man.  I think people in our modern world feel connected, safe and thus have a false sense of empowerment and security, that in reality can come crashing down with just the flip of a switch at the hands of a few armed and misguided souls.

"In the Land of Blood of Honey" is a powerful drama that compels reflection upon the true nature of war and the toll that it takes on all parties involved. With her lead characters, Danijel (Goran Kostic)  and Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), Ms. Jolie skillfully leads the viewer on a journey to search within themselves for their own feelings on an unpleasant, but nonetheless clearly possible reality of our modern-day world. This film also raises awareness about the true atrocities committed during the Bosnian war, among them the lack of timely and meaningful response by outside nations.

As far as I am concerned, "information is power"... but with all of the information --and distractions-- available in today's technological world one has to be selective in choosing meaningful information from time to time. To my way of thinking, the movie "In the Land of Blood & Honey" falls into the category of meaningful information --as well as food for thought-- worth your time and effort to watch, process and digest.  Hopefully, Ms. Jolie's artistic take on a tragic war from the intimate perspective of love and betrayal will plant the seeds of thought that will be a future deterrent to any war of ethnic cleansing, such as the Bosnian tragedy, from ever happening again. Perhaps upon reflection after watching this film, the viewer will will awaken to the awareness that times may call in our very own lives where we must find the strength and courage to be the "lone voice of reason --if necessary-- in a world gone mad" and do our part to take a stand against evil in our midst.

After watching this movie, I will keep the people of this region --especially the up to 50,000 women who were repeatedly and violently assaulted during the 3 1/2 year conflict-- in my ongoing thoughts and prayers. May God, our Creator, lay a gentle hand of Peace and Hope upon these souls, filling any remaining fear and emptiness with His infinite and ever-sustaining Love.

"Throughout the war, as many as 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped, many while in captivity. In response, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia would eventually … become the first tribunal to prosecute rape as an independent crime against humanity."

Friday, March 02, 2012

Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

“Where have all the good men gone?”  … [ And why are all the good women silent? ]

To borrow a line of thought from an old, familiar song,"Where have all the flowers gone?" Sitting here today, the dark side of my nature wonders briefly ...for just a fleeting moment: if, in truth, there ever were any... But that thought all too quickly passes as my inner light gently whispers its never-fading hope that Peace and Love will prevail.  Thus, I shall do my very best to push aside the negative influences of my interactions with some men in my own personal life (the reasons for my dark nights and horrible nightmares) and try to be semi-diplomatic as I venture forth into the murky waters of the controversy of this day.

The word "hypocrisy" is ringing rather loudly in my ears as I try to compose my thoughts …

“Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” 
~La Rochefoucauld

Ah, Glorious Hypocrisy … The mantle of our American society in this day and age, especially, I would have to say.  Then again, thinking back to days long since gone by … before modern day birth control … images of brothels, whores, bastards and marital infidelity spring readily to mind so perhaps this hypocrisy is long-lived and deep rooted after all?

Why is it that whenever the subject of birth control comes onto the table the narrative goes straight to the sexual promiscuity of a woman who would want to use birth control in the first place? The fact that  women having access to birth control gives all the Viagra-addled men running around in our modern-day society an outlet for their drug-induced state aside … not all women who would use birth control desire this option as an enabler to be sexually promiscuous. Many women use birth control pills to regulate and balance hormones. A large percentage of women who choose to use birth control are married women who want to have a modicum of control over their reproductive health … women who want to have a say as to when they will have children, how many children they will have and the spacing of those children.  A woman being able to have a say in making these choices is empowered to have aspirations in addition to bearing and raising children. A woman who has a degree of control over her reproductive health can have a career, working outside the home if she so desires, and be able to compete on a more level playing field with her male counterparts.  A part of me wonders if this is the real threat to men like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and other religious conservatives who continually insist on bringing the narrative back to sexual promiscuity; they fear women who are empowered. Without birth control women can be kept in their ‘proper place’ and all that currently ails our misguided modern-day society would then be 'miraculously' healed? 

With the defeat of the “Blunt Amendment” in the U.S. Senate earlier in the week, the contraception mandate‘issue’ has evolved beyond being a “freedom of conscience (religious)” issue: now it’s a fiscal issue, right?  “We should all be up in arms that the government wants to use our 'taxpayer dollars' (*see below) to fund the sexual promiscuity of women!” shout the angry white men.  And I only say ‘white’ because as of yet, I’ve not heard any other men --or women for that matter-- shouting this rhetoric from their media pulpits.  Seriously? Do we really want to go there: the ‘moral test’ to determine valid medical conditions to be covered under universal healthcare insurance packages?

I find Bill O’Reilly’s argument in his on-air commentary this evening –“Talking-points Memo”-- that birth control and Viagra are not equivalent because, paraphrasing … “Viagra addresses a legitimate medical condition in a man and birth control does not do the same thing for a woman” … to be laughable, at best (albeit a shrill, mocking laugh).  Hormone imbalance is a medical condition, Mr. O’Reilly, and so is pregnancy.  It’s not apples and oranges as you dismissively suggested after all. And if, as you suggest, you don’t want “[your] my hard-earned tax dollars* used to fund [law student’s] sexual activities” or any woman’s sexual promiscuity, then why would you be okay with enabling and paying for  a man’s sexual promiscuity.  If a woman can abstain, so can a man, right? Why is a man’s need to engage in sex any more valid than a woman’s? You say you don’t want the government "in our bedrooms", Mr. O'Reilly, but to follow your line of reasoning we would need someone --dare I say, the dreaded government?-- to establish legitimate criteria for "enabling sexual activity" … that is to say, if you follow the argument that a man only wants to use Viagra so that he can have children verses using Viagra to support his extra-curricular activities.

Furthermore, on the issue of a ‘moral test’ to determine valid medical conditions to be covered under universal healthcare insurance packages: what about obesity? “Gluttony” is one of the “seven deadly sins", is it not? Under the ‘moral test’ line of reasoning, some would argue “why should tax-payer dollars (*see below) be used to pay for medical conditions that are the direct result of the bad choices made by individuals who indulge in overeating (e.g., type of diabetes caused by obesity,  resultant foot, leg, back problems, heart conditions).” There are likely a whole host of other medical conditions for which a similar argument could made. Can you see how the need to apply a ‘moral test’ in determining valid medical conditions is, in a truth, a rather weak argument at best and an extremely slippery slope in the long-run.

===>[* "taxpayer dollars" ...the accepted argument being that the cost for covered services is passed along to the public in the form of higher health insurance premiums, where carrying of health insurance is mandated by the Federal Government --“individual mandate”-- in “Obama-care.” Although, technically speaking, it is not ‘taxpayer dollars’, but rather money taken directly out of the insurance purchaser’s pocket. I think that the words “taxpayer dollars” are more of an attention-grabber, used for the express purpose of fueling emotions which often precludes logical thought processes. Furthermore, no-one is asking for anything to be “FREE”; women merely want access to affordable contraception medications and services, which healthcare coverage would undeniably provide. And if we are talking from a purely "cost" perspective here, I would venture that insurance companies would find little difficulty in producing a veritable mountain of data to demonstrate that the costs for contraception medications and services --specifically tubal ligation, hysterectomy and vasectomy-- are considerably lower than the associated costs for: 1) care during pregnancy, 2) delivery of a baby and 3) a new dependent to be added a healthcare policy after the delivery.]<===

I have to give the Democrats a lot of credit on this “contraception” issue … I have always felt that my interests as a U.S. citizen were best served by the Republican party. Even when my own personal issues were not adequately addressed by the Republican Party (hence, my referring to myself as an ‘Independent Republican’), I reasoned that the Republican Party was the greater-good for the country as a whole.  I even had a hand in converting my Democrat husband over to the Republican Party early on in our marriage.  My husband claimed, at the time of his conversion, that “The Democratic Party is not the party that it used to be any longer.” Sitting here today and watching the debate on this contraception issue unfold, I am beginning to wonder if  “The Republican Party is not the party it used to be any longer”? 

I just can’t rationalize the paradoxal stance of conservatives, so adamantly opposed to having the federal government infringe upon an individual’s or the Church's rights, having absolutely no problem turning right around and infringing upon the rights of women. Maybe, the times are once again changing? I have three daughters, who will one day soon venture out into the world to fend for themselves, and I have to think ahead and consider what will be in their best interests then as well as now. I know that contraception is just one 'issue', but individuals response to this issue speaks volumes about the attitude of larger groups within our country towards the roles that women should play in our society. Quite frankly, the conservative response to this issue is proving to be judgmental, intolerant --not to mention hypocritical-- frightfully condescending and dismissive to my way of thinking. This is a side to the Republican Party that I do not like and cannot find any truthful way to appreciate.  Perhaps, for the moment there are bigger issues facing our nation as a whole? Perhaps, I am wise enough to look beyond this "contraception issue" to the larger issues facing our nation for now, but I can honestly say that many other women, independents and moderates will not be willing to do the same.

My family and Republican friends will, of course argue, that I am "being used by the Democratic Party" by succumbing to this "hot-button" issue and that I should "rise above it" ... But how do you honestly rise above BEING A WOMAN? ... Aside from succumbing to suppression and denial by silently smiling and nodding congenially right along to the song of party & religious rhetoric?

As for Rush Limbaugh's radio comments on Wednesday: they are not worthy of my commenting here, as his remarks were not at all respectful to the law school student, Ms. Fluke --or women in general-- constructive to a meaningful discussion of topic at hand, or worthy of a news-focused, current events radio talk-show host commentator. The latter being said, Mr. Limbaugh's remark to the effect that taxpayer dollars should be used to fund video posting of the promiscuous sexual activities of women who receive "taxpayer funded birth control" ..."so we can all watch"?!? ... does begin to get at the heart of the true root of 'moral decay' in our society.

In closing, I am left wondering ... What does it truly mean to be a good woman?  Why are all the 'good women' --in the eyes of conservatives-- remaining silent (i.e., towing the party-line) on this contraception issue?  Am I willing to conform "for the greater good" in the short term? And if so, what will happen in the long term?

Alas, Timing is (once again) everything ... As tomorrow finds the State Caucuses upon us here in Seattle and surrounding cities throughout the State of Washington.

Follow-up:  On Where Have All the Good Men Gone?