Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Sunday, December 31, 2006

end of year reflections 

On this gray rainy last day of 2006, I stop to reflect globally and personally on the year before it passes into the annals of history.

Globally it has not been a good year. Wars and threats of wars. Violent actions and reactions overshadowing attempts to resolve conflicts through dialogue. Leaders who use their power to settle longheld grudges and unresolved personal issues. Advisors with agendas having nothing to do with the common good. Genocide, both named and unnamed. Executions being presented as justice.

Not a good year for peace between nations, mutual respect between peoples, equal sharing of resources, and responsible caretaking of our earth, waters, air and species. May we do better in 2007.

Personally it has been a year of learnings.

What comes most strongly to mind was my 18-day solitary vigil in Washington, DC. As you may recall, I stood with my sign, "Israel out of Lebanon!!!" by myself in front of the White House and the Senate and House Office Buildings in solidarity with Rabih, Sulaima, their five children and all the innocent people in Lebanon. During those 18 days in July and August, I experienced an "immersion course" in nonviolent dialogue through countless discussions with people who disagreed strongly with my views, including many Israelis. The nonviolent dialogue fundamentals that I learned are: 1) respect for our different views; 2) understanding that each person's views are natural outgrowths of their unique life experiences; 3) recognizing that we can always find a common place to meet; and 4) accepting that dialogue means listening to, not necessarily changing, someone else's views.

I also think of my estrangement with my older sister Carolyn and how I am learning to let go of my expectations and accept the situation for what it is. The reality that blood relations can love one another even when they have trouble communicating.

And finally, my new explorations into the world of photography and how that is opening my eyes to what is around me and filling me with satisfaction when my lens captures the truth of that reality. For it is truth I am after, a least the truth as I see it.

So what changes am I planning for the new year?

In keeping with my learning how to accept things as they are without putting unnecessary expectations on myself, I will no longer be keeping my daily Photographic Peace Quotes Calendar. Today's entry will be my 365th daily entry and that is enough. As I've been saying for weeks, words are no longer my preferred medum--image is what interests me now.

In keeping with that, I will be joining the "photo a day" web community. I believe that taking one new photo a day will stretch my creative intuition and technical skills beyond the comfort zone into which I have already settled. I'll try to post that new photo here on my blog each day, with or without comments.

Yes, I plan to continue keeping this blog.

And you? How did 2006 seem to you, and what are your intentions for 2007?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

America's shame 

The death by hanging of Saddam Hussein is a fitting end to one of the most shameful years in American history. Don't be fooled by the media spin. Iraq didn't try, sentence and execute Mr. Hussein. Oh no, the whole thing was orchestrated down to his final breath by the Bush White House. I wonder if George W will sleep better tonight, knowing the man who shamed his father has finally paid for it with his life.

I am sickened by the whole thing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Riverbend is alive 

For weeks and weeks I have been checking Riverbend's blog--Baghdad Burning--every day. Every time I go there I hope for an update, some indication that this brave truth-teller is still alive. Until today her most recent entry had been posted on November 5. About two weeks ago I emailed her asking if she could please just post a sentence so we'd know she was OK. But the silence continued.

I know I am not alone in my worry over Rivebend, her brother E., her parents, extended family and neighbors. There are millions of us across the globe who have either read her blog or her book. Her life has touched more people than any of us can imagine.

So when I checked today at 5:30 p.m., there it was--a newly posted entry for Friday, December 29, 2006! Riverbend is alive.

I want to copy/paste her entry here in its entireity. Please listen closely to her voice. THIS is the truth of what my country is doing to the people and country of Iraq. I can no longer say this is Bush's war/occupation; no, we are all responsible for what is being done in our name. I don't know how we can live with that knowledge and just go on with our lives as if nothing is happening.

from Baghdad Burning
Friday, December 29, 2006

End of Another Year...

You know your country is in trouble when:

1. The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.

2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.

3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.

4. The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation

5. An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.

6. Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.

7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.

8. Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.

9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.

A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions.

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killingsā€¦ Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

That is, of course, why Talbani doesn't want to sign his death penalty- not because the mob man suddenly grew a conscience, but because he doesn't want to be the one who does the hanging- he won't be able to travel far away enough if he does that.

Maliki's government couldn't contain their glee. They announced the ratification of the execution order before the actual court did. A few nights ago, some American news program interviewed Maliki's bureau chief, Basim Al-Hassani who was speaking in accented American English about the upcoming execution like it was a carnival he'd be attending. He sat, looking sleazy and not a little bit ridiculous, his dialogue interspersed with 'gonna', 'gotta' and 'wanna'... Which happens, I suppose, when the only people you mix with are American soldiers.

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?

- posted by river at 1 p.m.

more photos from Sunday 

Here's the last of three new galleries of photos from my Christmas Eve visit to the zoo. It's called Detroit Zoo 2. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

words and images 

I understand that some of my regular readers are missing my written entries. I am honored that you feel that way. I expect I would feel the same if I were in your place. And yet I can't force it. Words are simply not my preferred way of communicating these days. Image is everything. To me anyway. For now.

And there is yet another gallery of new photos to view, if you'd like. It's called "Butterfly Garden (Detroit Zoo)" and is comprised of photos I took on Christmas Eve. But there ARE words. I've written an introduction describing some of what I saw on that wonderful day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

gorillas for Christmas 

All I had to do was go to the Detroit Zoo and spend the day taking photographs to beat the holday blues! That was how I spent Sunday, Christmas Eve. And then today I worked with some of those photos and put up a new gallery on It's called Body Language (gorillas).

I hope these 36 photos give even a hint of the magic I experienced with three female gorillas yesterday. They stayed close to the viewing station for such a long time that I felt we got to know one another. Many times one or the other seemed to be looking directly into my eyes. For much of the time, I was the only person there.

Gorillas are such sentient beings! They hold the wisdom of ages in their eyes. I have trouble putting it into words, so I hope my photos will do a better job. If you decide to check it out, I recommend your looking at them via slideshow. The link is in the upper righthand corner of the window.

What does it say about me that I'd rather spend Christmas Day with gorillas--actually photos of gorillas--than with people? Maybe those readers who had to go to their family's house for Christmas like the sound of that! Oh, my dear friends, I have "been there, done that" and I don't miss a minute of it!

First it was my birth family's super-traditional Christmases.

Everything was pre-ordained, starting with our family's Christmas Eve celebration the night before the Big Day. One of us kids would recite "The Night Before Christmas," then Mommy would read "The Littlest Angel." We'd all troop down to the basement so we could sing Christmas carols to my sister Carolyn's and later Emily's accompaniment on our always-out-of-tune stand-up piano. Then we'd come back upstairs to the living room where Daddy would read from the bible about the birth of Christ.

Christmas Eve was programmed enough, but our family traditions really went into high gear on Christmas Day.

It would start with the early-morning opening of the unwrapped Santa-gifts, including our hand-embroidered Christmas stockings stuffed full of presents and hanging in front of the fireplace, a la "The Night Before Christmas." Then we'd go off to Christmas morning Mass at St. James. Back home we'd eat Mom's homecooked breakfast of creamed chipped beef on toast. Next it was time to open the wrapped gifts that were piled up under the Christmas tree. Daddy would give out EACH of these presents one-by-one to its recipient. Everyone would watch (and comment) while that one gift was opened, and only then would Dad give the next gift to the next person. This went on for HOURS...or so it seemed. The pressure to exclaim enthusiastically enough over each gift and to thank its giver (over and over) is probably why I REALLY dislike public giftgiving today.

After all this hoopla, Mommy would go into the kitchen and slave away the rest of the afternoon making a sumptuous Christmas dinner that was always the same--turkey, Pepperidge Farm stuffing, rice and gravy, canned cranberry sauce, cheese onions, green beans, homemade rolls, with mincemeat pie and ambrosia for dessert. We'd eat it at the dining room table that was set with our fine china, silver and crystal. The centerpiece was one of Mom's handmade pine Christmas trees.

You may think I'm describing our childhood Christmases. I am. But I'm also describing our adult Christmases!

My two sisters and I, our spouses and children, continued to celebrate EVERY Christmas Day together at our parents' house in Falls Church, Virginia until the mid-1970s. It didn't matter how far away you lived either: you were expected to be there. So for Ed and me, that meant either a 1000-mile drive--500 miles each way--through the always-blizzarding conditions in the Pennsylvania hills, or having to fly into Washington, DC's unbelievably crowded National Airport. Actually, I let Ed off the hook after about 6 years or so of this madness, so then I'd go by myself. From the mid-70s until my Mom went into Assisted Living in 1998, most of us still tried to get "home" for Christmas whenever we could.

When Ed and I started staying in the Detroit area for Christmas, we walked into another set of expectations.

This was after Ed's brother had divorced and remarried. Our Christmas Day routine would be: 1) I'd either go to midnight or morning Mass down at Old St. Mary's in Greektown; 2) Then Ed and I would drive over to Ed's parents' house in Highland Park (10 miles away) where we'd exchange our Christmas gifts with them; 3) We'd get back in the car and drive his parents out to the home of Ed's brother and his second wife (another 15 miles), where John's children would be celebrating Christmas with their Dad. There would be more giftgiving and a groaning table of appetizers and sweets; 4) Then we'd drive the few miles over to our sister-in-law Sally's. This was the kids' home so they felt much more comfortable, as did we all. There would be more giftgiving and a huge sit-down Christmas dinner; 5) After helping to clean up after dinner, we'd drive Ed's folks back to their home; and 6) Finally get back to our house sometime around 8-9 p.m.

After hearing all this, are you surprised that I ADORED spending time today with pictures of gorillas instead of "celebrating" Christmas with family???

May we all have the holidays we would like the best!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

holiday blues 

I know I say the same thing every year but that's because it's true. I do not like the holiday season. Christmas has no religious meaning for me, and I don't like stores or shopping--I know! I know! I'm unAmerican--so the giftgiving aspect doesn't interest me either. The one thing I do like about this time of year is sending and receiving cards from old friends.

Most years Ed and I use my art to decorate our card, and this year we chose one of my butterfly photos for the front. We had no problem agreeing on our one-word printed message inside--that word being PEACE.

Holidays always bring up unresolved family issues, so this year's estrangement from my older sister is feeling especially raw. I also find myself missing my mother.

After a lifetime of complex relations between us, her last four years were pure delight. All her rough edges had worn off and she was unconditionally loving to everyone around her. For me it was the first time I felt totally seen and heard by her, and that was extremely healing. Empowering too. Just weeks before she died, I remember making a "No War!" sign on her bed to use in the huge October 26, 2002 anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC. She told me she was so proud of what I was doing. She's always with me.

Now, just because the holidays aren't my thing, that doesn't mean I don't wish you all the best! May your holiday celebrations be filled with love and peace. And may 2007 bring peace to our wounded world. May we never give up our efforts to see that justice and truth replace oppression and lies. May we always believe that peace is possible...and work to make it so.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

new gallery of photos 

I've just put up yet another new gallery of photos on It's called Black & White and has 32 of the photos I worked with today (Friday).

Friday, December 22, 2006

moving to a new level 

I spent the day preparing photos for submission to magazines like The Sun. That meant choosing which ones might be of interest, cropping them to 4x5 so I could have 8x10 prints made, converting them from color to black & white (easy with PhotoShop), uploading them to my Kodak gallery online, and ordering the prints.

Part of the process was checking out The Sun's issue archives to see what kind of photos they seem to use. I was surprised to find that my obsession with having my photos perfectly in focus is not particularly helpful. In fact, many of the photos I saw in past issues of The Sun were deliberately blurry. Obviously mood was more important than focus.

This kind of exploration is what helps me hone my craft. As a blogger, I've generally been more of a photo-journalist than a fine art photographer, but now I want to start pushing the edges of my comfort zone. I want to go places with photography that I haven't gone before. Just like my journey from being a landscape and flower watercolor painter in the 1970s to becoming a multimedia, iconoclastic visual artist in the 1980s. You start with what you know, get familiar with your craft and then find your own way of seeing and expressing the world around you and the world within.

It was a good project for me after two days of being laid up with a nasty virus. I'm feeling much better now but I'm going to take it easy for awhile.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

another new photo gallery 

Yesterday I put up one more photo gallery on This one is called my macro lens2 and at present has photos of flowers. There are only 20 photos thus far but I'll be addng to it. Come visit!

We CAN make a difference! 

Here is an email I received today from CodePink. Thanks to all who took the time to let your will be known.

December 21, 2006

Dear Patricia,

Many thanks to those of you who took action this week to contact Senator Harry Reid about his remarks that he would support sending more troops to Iraq. His office was flooded with calls and emails on Tuesday! Below is a statement Senator Reid posted yesterday, saying that he does NOT support an escalation of the conflict and wants to bring out troops home. Let's be clear: He only backed down because of the pressure he felt from the grassroots. Let's see this as an important victory, and a lesson that we must be on constant alert to push this new Congress to end the war.

Good job!
Your friends at CODEPINK

Statement by Senator Harry Reid, December 19, 2006

Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad. My position on Iraq is simple:

1. I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)

2. The President must understand that there can only be a political solution in Iraq, and he must end our nation's open-ended military commitment to that country.

3. These priorities need to be coupled with a renewed diplomatic effort and regional strategy.

I do not support an escalation of the conflict. I support finding a way to bring our troops home and would look at any plan that gave a roadmap to this goal.

It's been two weeks since the Iraq Study Group released its plan to change the course and bring our troops home. Since then, the President has been on a fact finding tour of his own administration -- apparently ignoring the facts presented by those in the military who know best. The President needs to put forth a plan as soon as possible, one that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war.

P.S. Don't forget to check out our plans for the mass mobilization in Washington D.C. on January 27th. Find out more about our upcoming actions and how to join us here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

new photo gallery 

I actually woke up today in time to scoot down to the lake to see and photograph the sunrise! If you're a regular reader, you know how unusual that is. My first sunrise in years! There had also been a heavy frost last night, so I got double my money's worth.

The photo gallery I just put up is called Frosty Morning Sunrise and has 36 photos. I hope you enjoy it.

They just don't get it! 

Well, that was a quick honeymoon: it didn't even last until the wedding! The Democrats that we busted our butts getting elected to a majority in both the House and the Senate are already falling down on the job, and they haven't even been sworn in yet.

Did I miss something? Didn't we give them a mandate to get our troops the heck out of Iraq? Haven't election analysts reported that the #1 issue for voters on November 7th was Iraq? Aren't the most recent polls saying only 11% of Americans support Bush & Co. latest "strategy" of increasing American troops in Iraq by up to 30,000 of our young men and women?

So on Sunday, Senator Harry Reid, the incoming Senate Majority Leader said that if the ground generals want an increase in troops for 2-3 months, he'd support it.

Whatever is that man thinking??? And who the hell does he think he is to ignore the American people, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group proposals, and the accumulated wisdom of experienced military and intelligence analysts!

Let me speak slowly and in simple words so Mr. Reid can get it:

"You send more of our young men and women into Iraq, especially into Baghdad like the Bubble Boy in the White House intends, and you do not 'win' this war. No sir, you just kill more of our young American soldiers and innocent, elderly, disabled, ill and poor Iraqi men, women and children."

CodePink sent out a group email today regarding Senator Reid's incredible statement. Here is a copy of their message. Please let him and your own Senators know exactly what you think of this stupid, dangerous, disastrous idea:

December 19, 2006

Dear Patricia,

With the November elections, the voters gave a clear mandate for the new Democratic Congress to end the war in Iraq. We hoped our newly elected officials would listen to the people, but they're already backsliding. We were appalled to hear Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, on Sunday's ABC show "This Week," say he would support a "short-term" increase of U.S. troops in Iraq. AN INCREASE IN TROOPS? What is Harry thinking? The voters didn't put his party in power to escalate this war, but the end it!

Harry's website may be named, but now it's time for us to give him hell for buckling so quickly to Bush's war machine.

Please take a moment out of your busy holiday schedule to call, email or FAX Harry Reid and tell him this just isn't acceptable.

Call: 202-224-2158 -- Democratic Leadership Office in DC
(If that doesn't work call his scheduler: 202-224-7003)

Email: (chief of staff)
Fax: 202-224-7327 -- DC Office

You can use the sample letter below or write your own. Let Harry Reid know that he must honor the peace sentiment of the American people and bring our troops home!

Wishing you (and the world) a peaceful holiday season,
Andrea, Dana, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jodie, Laura, Liz, Medea, Nancy, Patricia, Rae, Samantha, and Sonia

P.S. Harry Reid's actions make our plans to mobilize in Washington D.C. on January 27th even more pressing. Find out more about our upcoming actions and how to join us here.


Dear Senator Reid,

The November 7 election was a voter mandate for peace, not for escalating the war in Iraq. Your recent remarks supporting the sending of more troops in an ill-conceived effort to "pacify Baghdad" is an affront to the voters who put your party in power.

We passionately oppose such an ill-conceived escalation that will only lead to more dead and wounded American soldiers, and more dead and wounded Iraqis. It will not lead to peace, but only intensify the cycle of violence and inflame anti-American sentiments throughout the region.

After the historic November 7 election, this is no time for caving into the Bush war agenda. It's a time for honoring the peace sentiment of the American people. We call on you to oppose any escalation of US troops and firmly demand a timetable for bringing our troops home.


Your name

Monday, December 18, 2006

friends & sisters 

In the photo I am wearing my art teacher/friend Susan's wonderful holiday gifts--a handknitted scarf and hat. Purple, of course!

Today was my last day at school before the holiday vacation starts on Thursday. Because New Year's Day is on a Monday--my usual day to volunteer--I won't see the kids again for three weeks. I always miss them during the holidays. There's nothing like being around children!

Yesterday I was with my women's community for the first time in ages. For me it was like coming home to sisters whom I love and who love me. Since my older sister and I have become estranged, being with these dear women felt more precious than ever.

I haven't written about the problems between my older sister and me. I want to be respectful of her privacy, as well as my own, so I won't go into details. In a nutshell, our paths have been diverging for years. And now we are in such different places that it's hard to find common ground. We still communicate by email but that's about it. For now, anyway. I have no idea what the future will bring, but I'm trying to live it with a zen-like spirit of detachment. We're each staying true to ourselves while being respectful towards the other, and I think that's as much as can be expected.

I'm sure our experience of diverging paths is shared by many, especially siblings like us who have lived apart for good number of decades. Carolyn and I have not lived in the same part of the country in over 40 years. That's a long time. A lot of life choices are made between the ages of 24 and 64, not to mention having different life experiences. Our world views, politics and religious beliefs are pretty much at opposite ends of the continuum. And, of course, both of us are carrying baggage from the past.

When I look at it objectively, it's amazing that we've done as well as we have all these years. I think Mom had a lot to do with that. As long as she was alive, Mom was what we had in common. But since her death in 2002, our relationship has kind of lost its moorings.

As I say, who knows what the future will bring. Maybe this is just a stage of growth for both of us. And maybe not. As the cliche says, time will tell.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

friends, photos & reality 

My friends Phil and Scotty have been in town this weekend. Well, Phil was here all week. His father became very ill a week ago Thursday and Phil and his four siblings came home to be with him. They were all with him before he died last Monday morning. Today was Papa Leo's funeral mass with a lunch following in the church hall. All the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there.

This is a marvelous family whom I've known for years. I attended Phil's niece Beth's wedding in 1997, his mother's funeral in 1999, and now his dad's funeral today. My connection with the family is deep. In 1997 Phil asked me to attend Beth's wedding in his place, and that set in motion a long overdue reconciliation between Phil and his father. So when I go to family occasions like today's funeral and experience the incredible closeness that exists between Phil and his family, I get a bit choked up. And then seeing how loved and accepted Scott, Phil's partner of 18 years, is by the entire family only adds to my feelings of gratitude.

I took some photos of Phil and Scott on Thursday night when they joined Ed and me for dinner. And then today I took photos of Phil's adorable great nieces and nephews playing with the mechanical Santa and Elf in the church hall during lunch. You can see all these photos on my People gallery on They're on pages 4 & 5.

On my way home I stopped by to visit my friend Pat Kolon in her new apartment. She is SO happy there! In all the years I've known Pat, I have never seen her lighter and brighter than she is now. It was so obviously an excellent decision for her to move out of Day House and into her own place.

After our visit, I drove around her Core City neighborhood taking photos. They are now up on my Detroit Neighborhoods photo gallery. You can find them on pages 2 & 3. I must admit I focused on what to me were the most interesting-looking houses. Her immediate neighborhood has a good number of newly-built townhouses, but I pretty much ignored them. It's the old, rather rundown places that caught my eye. So I can't say my photos give an accurate view of Pat's neighborhood.

That's what's interesting about being a photographer--you can create the world you want by picking and choosing what to photograph. So don't be fooled and think that just because you see a photo of something, it's the only reality. No, that photograph is simply the photographer's reality!

Friday, December 15, 2006

a question for the (s)ages 

In the middle of the night this question came to mind regarding the minor parking accident I'd had yesterday.

What is

The hundreds
I will pay to
repair her
car or that
I hit her
car and not

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Detroit's Eastern Market 

I've just finished putting up a new gallery of photos on These 40 photos were taken last Saturday during my Travel Photography class field trip at Detroit's Eastern Market. Not surprisingly, the name of the gallery is Detroit's Eastern Market.

And here it is after 2 a.m. again. It sure is a good thing I don't have a 9-5!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

photography as an obsession 

After spending three hours yesterday morning taking photos with my Travel Photography class at Detroit's Eastern Market, I came home and took more photos of the flowers I'd bought the day before. Then this morning I was at the Detroit Zoo when it opened at 10 a.m. so I could try out my new macro lens in the Butterfly House. After two and a half hours there, I spent three more hours taking photos of other animals around the zoo.

Are you getting terribly bored hearing about my latest obsession? I'm afraid that every time I try to describe in words what I'm doing, I sound like some gushing adolescent. But what can I say? Words are obviously not where it's at for me these days. And the construction of that sentence proves it!

If you want to see what I've been up to, all I can do is send you to my gallery of photos on I've put up my new butterfly photos on my new macro lens gallery and will be adding the new animal photos to my Detroit Zoo gallery within the next few days. I also plan to create a Detroit Eastern Market gallery as soon as I can find the time.

I can't get enough of this!

the elephant in the room 

I was gratified to see that at least the Los Angeles Times "gets it." Check out this article that appeared in Friday's edition:

It's Still About Oil in Iraq
By Antonia Juhasz

The Los Angeles Times
Friday 08 December 2006

A centerpiece of the Iraq Study Group's report is its advocacy for securing foreign companies' long-term access to Iraqi oil fields.

While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever- pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq. Read more...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

my new macro lens 

I know I've got to go to bed, but I had to put up a new gallery of photos first. I am SO EXCITED I doubt if I'll be able to sleep. On Thursday I bought a new lens and today (Friday) I used it for the first time. I LOVE IT!!! It is a Macro lens (Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM) which is primarily for close-ups. I went right out and bought fresh flowers and the new gallery of photos shows what happened next. The URL is

Now I have GOT to go to bed. It's 12:30 a.m. and I need to be down at the Eastern Market at 9 a.m. for a photography class field trip. No, I can't get enough of this!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Study Group recommendations 

I listened to Democracy Now! today to hear a roundtable discussion of the Iraq Study Group recommendations. I was glad I did because I learned about a recommendation that has received no attention whatsoever. This letter I just wrote to the New York Times addresses that subject:

To the editors:

In your coverage of the Iraq Study Group's long-awaited report, I see no mention of their recommendation that Iraq's oil industry be privatized and opened to international companies.

Since James Baker III and a number of the ISG members are closely connected to the very oil companies that would stand to benefit if that recommendation were implemented, doesn't this constitute a conflict of interest?

How unfortunate that this blue ribbon bipartisan committee allowed themselves to be used as a cat's paw for the U.S. oil industry. Was it really all about oil after all?

Patricia Lay-Dorsey

That being said, there is much to praise in the ISG proposals. For one thing, they said it like it is, ie., that there is a "grave and deteriorating" crisis in Iraq.

And they made it clear that the Bush administration has routinely underreported the day-to-day violence in Iraq in an attempt to gloss over the failures of their "stay the course" strategy. In an article published in the McClatchy newspapers Jonathan Landay wrote: "The ISG report said that U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence on one day in July. 'Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light more than 1,100 acts of violence,' it said."

But I'm deeply disappointed in their failure to call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, or even to give a definite timetable for withdrawal. Yes, they recommend withdrawing combat troops not needed for "force protection" by the first quarter of 2008, but they weaken that recommendation by adding the phrase "depending on conditions."

Letting the misery continue and escalate for sixteen more months while thousands more American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives will be lost, is a crime against humanity. It is common knowledge that our continued presence in Iraq fuels the fires of the conflict; it does nothing to curtail the bloodshed. If we leave, the 1,300 al-Qaeda fighters will leave. They have no issue with the Iraqis; it is the Americans they are fighting. Yes, there will be a civil war, but what is going on there now? I say it's worse than a civil war; it is pure anarchy. The total breakdown of a civilization that was functional before we attacked in March 2003.

I also take issue with all the hype about how important this blue ribbon bipartisan group's recommendations should be to the president.

What about OUR recommendations? Did we not make ourselves clear on November 7th? Do we have NO say in how our young people's lives are being lost to further politicians' fantasies of "democratizing" the Middle East? Are even the senators and representatives we voted into office listening to us now?

Incoming Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been quoted as saying the subject of withholding funds for Mr. Bush's war on Iraq is "off the table." Since holding the purse strings is Congress's only sure way to influence a change in Bush's war policy, their refusal to allow a public discussion of the subject is irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. Tell the families of the young men and women being killed in that unneccessary war that their loved ones' lives are not worth standing up to an imperial president and his grandiose advisors. See how they feel about that.

You know I'm already getting tired of this "off the table" talk, especially from Pelosi, and these folks haven't even been sworn in yet. She's also taken the subject of impeachment "off the table."

Just who does she think she is? The Emily Post of the House, a "make nice" leader who doesn't want to bring up distasteful subjects, especially those that might show the splits in her party's thinking? She'd better open up her already tight-fisted grip on how her fellow Democrats uphold their oath of office. We sure don't need another Congress that refuses to address the important issues. We voted the Republicans OUT for that...and we can vote the Democrats out in 2008 for the same thing if need be. Checks & balances, that's what we need and expect from the 110th Congress.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

three to go... 

With the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a month ago and U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, yesterday, two of the five core members of the "U.S. Bully Boys" are gone. Only three to go: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove.

Wouldn't it be grand to have leaders who collaborated with their national and international peers instead of pushing them around? And what would it be like if our country took its proper place as one among many rather than always needing to be at the top of the pack?

Can you remember how it felt to have our country respected and appreciated by the world community, not to mention being proud of it yourself?

We can't give up. Things change. But, as Mahatma Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Annie Leibovitz & Thornetta Davis 

Two magnificent artists; both of whom I experienced yesterday (Saturday) here in Detroit. First, Annie Leibovitz...

Just when I'm enthralled with photography what should come to town but Annie Leibovitz's portraits of musicians called "American Music." I spent hours yesterday in this exquisitely mounted exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was so rich that I couldn't take it all in at one time. I viewed the first half, then went down to the DIA cafe for supper, and returned an hour later.

By then the museum was filled with families enjoying Detroit's annual Noel Night where 34 museums, colleges and libraries in the Cultural Center put on festive concerts, exhibits, serve cookies & hot chocolate, and generally find ways to appeal to aduts and children of all ages. What that meant for me was that I had the Annie Leibovitz exhibit pretty much to myself. Heaven!

I learned so much from this exhibit, and it wasn't just the photos that were my teachers--it was Annie herself. The portable audio presentation that accompanied each photo was Annie's voice describing the circumstances under which she took the photo. She also spoke of each artist in ways that made it clear she knows as much about music and musicians as about photography.

I learned that a portrait photographer does well to visit a musician's home, or catch them backstage, in rehearsal or ANYPLACE except performing onstage. Only one of the photos was taken onstage and in the audio she admitted that she wished she'd taken photos of this man at home in his recliner rather than all gussied up doing his show. If the musicians were singing or playing their instruments in the photo, generally speaking they were doing so in an informal setting, often just for Annie and her crew.

I also learned that she isn't caught up with the latest super-realism craze where each pore and every hair on the head is in crisp focus. In fact, several of her photos were what photographers would call "soft." Now I'd been feeling bad lately that so many of my pictures of people were "soft," but Leibovitz taught me that capturing the essence of the person is the single most important goal of a portrait photographer.

I also noted her compositions, and in almost every case the subject was off to the side rather than smack in the middle. She also used a shallow depth of field so the background was blurred. All of which verified what Pat Gloria, my photography instructor, had recommended. She also wasn't scared of having her photos appear on the dark side. Again, it was the mood that was important.

Half of her photos were in color and half in black-and-white. Many of them were quite large. I wonder how she gets detail in such enlargements. I also wonder if she uses film and/or digital cameras. I need/want to do some research on Annie Leibovitz so I can better understand her ways of working.

After spending hours with Annie and the American Musicians, I joined an enthusiastic crowd in the Diego Rivera Court where Detroit's own R&B diva, Thornetta Davis, gave a great performance of holiday-inspired tunes. I set myself up front-row center so I could try out some of what I'd learned in Annie Leibovicz's exhibit. Of course I was going against her cardinal rule of not photographing musicians performing onstage, but it couldn't be helped. Besides it wasn't really "onstage"; it was more like a very large living room. As always in this music-loving city, it did have a real down-home family kind of feeling.

Here's a gallery of photos of Thornetta Davis and her band:

Brett Lucas on guitar & vocals:

Rick Beamon on drums:

Chuck Bartels on electric bass:

Phil Hale on piano:

And Thornetta Davis, lead vocalist:

Friday, December 01, 2006

vacation plans 

For weeks I've been considering where to go for a winter photography vacation. The Southwest was my initial choice, but as I sat with that idea, another took its place. And it is this plan that has captured my heart and soul. It has everything--great photographic opportunities, the probability of excellent weather, exploring new places yet a sense of familiarity in the travel plans themselves, affordability, accessibility and seeing people I love.

As of now, my plan is this:

On February 28 I will board the Chicago commuter train out of Dearborn, Michigan. In Chicago I will transfer to Amtrak's Southwest Chief, destination Los Angeles. I've taken this train as far as Flagstaff, Arizona, but have never gone the whole distance. But this time I will.

On March 2 I'll arrive at the grand old Los Angeles train station where I hope my sister Emily and her husband Gorsha will pick me up. I still need to check these plans with them, but I imagine it will work out fine.

Emily and Gorsha have recently bought a condominium in Burbank, California and Em says it's wheelchair accessible. I hope to stay two nights with them. Emily is only there on the weekends since she still teaches Monday through Thursday near Los Altos. On Sunday, March 4, I'll board the Pacific Surfliner train going south to San Diego.

My dear friends Scott and Phil live there and have been wanting me to visit for years. I talked to Scott today and he encouraged me to stay with them for two weeks. He wants me to be there over two weekends so Phil can join us on some excursions. Mexico for one, and Palm Springs and the desert for another.

I don't usually stay this long with friends or family, but somehow it works with Scott and Phil. I've stayed with them for two-week visits several times since we first met in 1993. They're like brothers to me. Without their help I couldn't have managed to migrate to San Francisco for six winters (1996-2002). They lived first in Oakland and then in San Francisco during those years and took me under their wings like family. My Eddie thinks they are saints and I think he's right.

As you can imagine, I am VERY excited with the way all this is working out. And I know I am unbelievably fortunate to be able to do things like this. But as a photographer, I promise to carry you along with me. You'll be as close to me as my camera, and nowadays, nothing--except Eddie--gets much closer than that!

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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