Saturday, October 2, 2010


It's a vision, a horror, that I can't get out of my mind.

You Tube has videos of a 17-year-old girl being stoned to death in Iran. There are warnings before you click "start," that say the video is shocking.

It is shocking, but not very, very unbearably shocking.

Perhaps it would be more shocking if we saw the people who watched the stoning, the looks on their faces, the reaction of woman's family, the rocks -- someone picking up a rock and throwing it -- the look on his/her face. Maybe if we saw the family related to the man with whom the girl sinned -- if we saw their faces, their hands clenched or unclenched.

We just see a slender girl/woman -- no face -- no details. She appears to be sitting on the ground. Then, we see her stretched out on her side with an elbow bent -- we wonder if she's still alive. There's no movement. She's probably dying or dead.

What I saw left me empty, very, very tired.

Earlier this month, the Court in Tehran, Iran ruled that a 25-year-old woman, Maryam Ghorbanzadeh, convicted of adultery, must be executed despite her pregnancy.

Well ... there's good news -- her lawyer hopes to have the sentence 'commuted' to lashing.

At Tabriz prison, alongside Ghorbanzadeh, is Azhar Bakri, 19, who was also sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery. Bakri was jailed four years ago after her husband, whom she married at 14, accused her of having an extramarital affair.

Well ... there's good news -- she's still alive though according to various reports, she's suffered massive abuse by the guards.

For many months, the case of 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has made headlines. Convicted of adultery in 2006, sentenced to death by stoning, she may, reports say, be lashed instead. There were reports saying she already received 99 lashes. Then, more recently, there were reports denying that she has been lashed.

The Islamic Republic's embassy in London says Ashtiani will not be stoned. The stoning reports are "false news," says Iran's embassy in London, according to Amnesty International-Associated Press.

Good news -- Ashtiani's lawyer says there is a chance the sentence would be changed into death by hanging.

The International Committee Against Executions (run by Iranian ex-patriots), vehemently denounced the verdicts and called for the immediate rescinding of all similar death penalties. They claim Tehran has rescinded 13 death sentences against women.

Ashtiani's cause was taken up by prominent figures as varied as Sen. John Kerry, Lindsay Lohan, the Norwegian office of Foreign Affairs, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, and British foreign secretary William Hague, who called stoning a "medieval punishment" that, if carried out, would "disgust and appall the watching world."

Ashtiani's children, 17 and 22, have sent letters to other Iranian human-rights organizations and received more than 10,000 e-mails about the case.

Google --Google offers searches related to stoning video: beheading video; execution video; hanging video; flogging video; public stoning video.

Talk ... Headlines ... "Do something" committees ... Protests ...

Yes, we have to protest, send emails, find ways to stop it, argue, discuss -- in our civilized clothes discuss with Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his civilized clothes -- things nuclear, American tourists jailed as spies, and his "there was no holocaust" theories.

I am unable to think or feel anything but a huge weight -- that we live in the 21st century, and women are stoned to death -- that women, like some poor animals, not humans who stand side-by-side with men, are destroyed brutally, horribly in a way that gives some kind of pleasure to others -- that a woman is a disposable creature.

Friday, October 1, 2010


While writing a post for today about exercise, Emily got stuck.

The writing sounded too negative. Though exercise is a vital part of her daily routine, quite often she finds it boring, and a chore she postpones.

John jumped in, and reminded Emily how exercise saved her life after a car accident.

John Cullum's memories, John's questions, and Em's answers became a discussion -- and turned, unexpectedly, into this video blog on how to make boring exercise less boring.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I wonder how Cheney is doing, how his family is doing. Not because he's a favorite person of mine -- on the contrary. He and President George W. Bush changed America in ways that still reverberate, that still need to be fixed.

But he was our vice president for eight years, part of today's world, and not a person to ignore.

On September 2nd, Cheney's daughter, Liz, told Marie Stroughter, a host on African American Conservative radio, that her dad was doing a lot of physical therapy, hoping to go fishing real soon.

Now that the doctors have implanted a pump in Cheney's heart to compensate for increasing congestive heart failure, the 69-year-old former vice president is, according to his daughter, "Hard at work on his memoirs, putting his legacy with the George W. Bush administration into perspective."

Liz said: “He’s doing really well. He is back at home here in Virginia and he’s hoping to get back to what we really consider home, which is Wyoming, as soon as he can. His left-ventricular assist device is essentially a pump that helps his heart function, helps his heart to pump more effectively. And that’s working wonderfully. He’s doing a lot of physical therapy. He was in the hospital for about five weeks. So when you’re in the hospital for that long, it does take time to recover and come back. So that’s what he’s focused on very much now.”

Liz, an attorney who's had held key roles in the State Department under President Bush, explained further: “We’re looking forward to having the book come out, and also to having him get back to Wyoming. I think what he’d really like to do is get back on a drift boat on the Snake River and do some fishing. Hopefully that’ll come soon.”

Will Dick Cheney, once again, be giving comments to the media and offering advice to the White House about terrorism, war, and taxes? Or will lawyer Liz find ways of representing and promoting her father's ideas, as well as her own?

I have to say I HOPE NOT. The media grabbed onto anything they said, the more negative the better, and by repetition and news alerts, made Dick and Liz Cheney's remarks important, when they were NOT.

Yes, there's a part of me that revengefully hopes that book will never get written.

I can't help thinking that Cheney chatter/opinion helped to make Palin chatter/opinion muddier, messier, and therefore have some value. And Liz is a clever, ambitious politician -- she'll come up with new anti-Obama attacks and wedge herself into Republican no-saying, negative politics.

All I can do is hum the "September song."
...Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game ...

Oh dear ... I have to say it.

I find myself waiting for bad news about the Cheneys, both of them fading, fading away.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


On August 5th, in the San Jose copper and gold mine in Chile, as 33 men were working, the roof of the mine collapsed.

They were trapped 2, 230 feet underground. There were headlines around the world about the disaster, more doomful headlines every day that I read but didn't want to read.

I couldn't help wondering how 33 men could possibly survive the timeless days and nights in the dark -- their batteries would fade -- it was undoubtedly dark. Did they talk, pray, weep -- how did they deal with hunger and fear and thoughts of death -- how did they manage to sleep?

We have learned that the miners ate just every two days -- two spoonfuls of canned fish, a half cup of milk, half of a cracker and a little canned peach, trying to stretch their 48-hour food supply into rations to last perhaps 20 days.

Even when contact was made with them, it seemed to me (from the news reports, and articles I didn't want to read but read), almost hopeless.

Well, Chilean officials, NASA officials, psychiatrists, doctors, nutritionists are now supervising a huge rescue effort. After seven attempts, the over-sized drill brought in by a convoy of workers, helpers, experts, had to be replaced by a smaller drill. The mine with a fallen roof was dangerously unstable.

Right now, two smaller drills have made two bore holes that are sending food, equipment and supplies to the miners. They can communicate limitedly with their families and rescue workers.

The main space for the 33 miners is 800 square-feet -- too small, too poorly ventilated, for all the men to sleep there, so they sleep in nearby tunnels. There is no toilet so they use a tunnel that's also further away. The men have been told it could be two months, three -- they might be there until l Christmas.

We've been told they may be trapped underground longer than any other miners in history. I would think they are aware of that.

A third drill will begin boring a third hole soon. What the 33 miners need to survive is fit into grapefruit-sized canisters known as plomos ("doves") that are winched up and down the bored hole, twenty-four hours a day . Each canister is 3.19 inches wide.

Here's what the canisters deliver to the 33 miners: A daily 2000 calorie diet-- half is energy-packed nutrition shakes, half is foods like bread, ham and kiwis; five liters of bottled water per miner per day; vitamin D supplements, 250 times the usual daily dose to combat the lack of sunlight; they've received aluminum poles and canvas, to assemble 33 cots; toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, and toiletries; waterproof shoes and lightweight clothing with copper fibers to resist bacteria and fungi; an iPod with speakers, not headphones, to encourage communal listening; head lamp batteries and other lighting equipment.

One of the miners happens to have medical training so he's got syringes for tetanus, diphtheria influenza and pneumonia vaccinations; the miners also have a camera and phone line, a fiber optic line to show sports on a 50 inch picture on the cave wall; also books, playing- cards, dominoes, and 33 mini bibles.

At first the 33 miners were dirty, and unshaved, now all are shaved and dressed in matching red football jerseys, autographed and contributed by Chile's winning team.

How did they fit jersey's into canisters? And an iPod? Water-proof man-sized shoes? Are we getting an accurate description about this stuff? I don't know ...

I know it must tense down there. the Youngest miner is 19 --how is he handling it? Mario, 62, the oldest, has set up a makeshift chapel; a work schedule (clearing rubble that's produced by the drills); a rule -- no one can eat till all 33 have received their food. Are there rebellions -- what happens when one of the miners is upset, angry, depressed, or the men argue with each other?

The men asked for cigarettes and wine -- no cigarettes, because of the ventilation problem. When they were told no wine, they rebelled by rejecting peaches. The NASA advisers related this to the small mutinies during Apollo 7, when the crew got colds and argued with flight controllers.

Marta Flores, a Red Cross worker at the makeshift camp (called Camp Hope), where relatives wait for news of their loved ones, said "We had a big bust up in the canteen tent when a wife came across a woman who claimed to be her husband's lover – we had to step in and pull them apart before things got physical." At stake are welfare packages issued to the families of the trapped miners as well as future compensation claims that could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

The men will be raised in a cage a little bit wider than their bodies. Riding to the surface could take 2 hours. It will take three days till all the men are out.

How will the last man feel when he's there alone?

I wonder, if we'll ever know how these men have managed to keep going through long, long empty days. And what about the sleep areas and bathroom area that are in nearby out-of-the-way tunnels? What about sex -- how are 33 men handling that, and the iffy future? They'll suffer post traumatic stress disorders ... will they go back to work in the mines, and if not, what will happen to them.

Will we be seeing interviews -- miners who've had 15 minutes of fame, IN HELL?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


What can we do about Styrofoam cups?

Starbucks has worked on finding a re-usable cup. McDonald's talks about making a new cup that keeps coffee hot and wouldn't cost the store too much money, that's recyclable and compostable, (Styrofoam cups are not).

There's already a guy with a nickname -- "Joey Cups." He, with a team of twelve, have been searching for a Styrofoam cup for Dunkin Donuts.

It's a big deal, money-wise, and as well as cultural, with the amount of coffee that's bought and drunk every day. Current guesstimate: Starbucks services approximately 3 billion customers per year -- it boils down to 462 customers a day or 29 beverages per hour.

Right now, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Tim Hortons are working together to find a way to recycle beverage containers, and make it a financially smart move.

In Canada, the equivalent of McDonald's is Hortons, a chain started by Tim Horton, a famous Canadian hockey player who died in a car crash in the mid-seventies. His business partner expanded Hortons into a multi-million-dollar international franchise -- 3,040 stores in Canada, 587 in the United States, and franchise deals in the UK and Dublin, Ireland.

Statistics: Roughly 20 million trees and 12 billion gallons of water are needed to manufacture the 58 billion paper cups that end up in the trash every year. (I can't picture a million or a billion cups, gallons, trees, or dollars, but to me, the numbers are shocking.)

Furthermore, most communities can't recycle coffee containers. You have to separate the exterior of the cup from the wax-like inner lining that keeps coffee from leaking out of the cup, and they don't have the equipment.

Also, the US Food and Drug Administration restricts how much recycled fiber can be used in products that come in contact with food.

There isn't a solution yet. Someone came up with the idea for a "Karma Cup" — not a cup, just, the idea that customers could be rewarded with a free cup of coffee after bringing in their own mug, after a certain number of times. Or perhaps the 10th customer arriving with a re-usable cup could be rewarded. But how to keep track hasn't been solved.

Starbucks has featured re-usable mugs, but not very successfully. These mugs are involved in less than 2% of its sales. The fact is, most consumers walk out of the stores with their cups of coffee, and coffee cups can't end up in a landfill.

There's progress. The rivals stores are working together with inventors, trying to create the best "green" cup and sell owners of paper-mills on making shipping boxes out of recycled coffee cups, figuring out ways they can collaborate -- for an example -- getting recyclers a large volume of green cups from all their stores. It makes good business sense.

“It’s really a lot more complicated than people want to think," said Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact at Starbucks, who recently hosted a "cup" summit at MIT. “There really is no alternative but to get these people working together. And you just keep pushing until you get to the real solution.’’

Is solving the recyclable coffee cups problem a prelude to solving what to do with babies' diapers? Sure!
One smart thing we learn
to do about recycling can breed the next, and the next.
And hey, one of these days we'll have green-electricity running the laundry machines that wash our clothes in green water.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I read an article in Time Magazine about Mr. Unpopular, and polls, and it's gotten me angry.

Yep. Polls show that Obama is down. The man who was the "savior" is not the savior anymore. His Gallup Poll approval rating was 68%. Now it's hovering in the mid 40%

More poll-math proves that 1 in 4 Americans has changed his/her mind, and white independents under the age of 30 are primarily the ones who've changed.

The polls are telling us that in the November elections, Democrats are on the brink of a setback, the possible loss of Democratic control of both houses in the Congress.

Oh no!! Oh yes indeed! Polls show that the Republicans are on their way back into power.

(Whew -- as far as I am concerned, that is NOT good news!)

And everyday there's another poll -- we're getting more and more polls that show us, teach us, TELL us to pay more attention to the latest polls.


I think polls are media noise. Polls are another kind of Entertainment Tonight -- gossip about famous pretty people with skilled-guessers guessing will so-and-so divorce/sleep with/abuse so-and-so? Poll questionnaire promulgators just dig for dirt in a different way.

Media noise is a weapon in the war between humans and iPhones, Blackberries, Androids -- the marvelous, do-everything phones that keep you involved with their amazing technology night and day. Media moguls, who are vying to win and own "communication-land" -- every acre, every aspect of it -- are honing their polls to advise/tell/show audiences -- US -- what we are thinking, and what we ought to think.

Polls are questionnaires that PhD experts create to ask pollees (us in selected groups), to check yes or no/approve/disapprove/or don' t care -- about people and things -- candidates, food, medicine, politics, clothes, movies, music, and who's got talent, who or what's 's going to be the number one best.

The Mr. Unpopular article on polls shows approval ratings from last year, from this year, and results based on whites/ seniors/ women/independent voters -- their opinions. The resulting percentage numbers are not based on facts or knowledge. The numbers merely reveal the views of a large number of people in today's changing climate of opinion.

Oh yes, sure -- a poll tells you how your thoughts fit in with thoughts of others. But why does that matter? Why do you care? Should you care, or just think your own thoughts?

I did my own poll, discussing with three people who are pro-Obama, politically and philosophically on the same track as I'm on. All three said they couldn't help wondering if President Obama was doing the right thing.

I couldn't shout -- 'it's the damn polls, stupid media noise brain-washing you -- it's in our ears, and in our thoughts -- DOUBT.'

Shakespeare said:
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win ..."


Friends, Romans, countrymen, and Facebookers -- if this November becomes the midterm down time for Democrats, and Democrat's seats in Congress are lost, then the White House will hammer, push, chisel and find a way to move ahead, inch by, as this White House has been doing from day one.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

OUT OF TOWN (video)

John and I, in this video, chat about the ten days that he was in Los Angeles and Knoxville. I wrote a post about "My Guy" earlier this week -- but this is the two of us, reviewing some things about being apart, that we haven't had time to discuss.

In L.A, he was playing the Granddaddy in the TV sitcom, "The Middle." Since Thanksgiving is approaching, the producers were shooting the family celebration. Then, off JC flew to his hometown, Knoxville. The University of Tennessee gave him its Distinguished Alumni Award. After spending time with his relatives, John visited with some of his actor friends.

What I find extraordinary -- what I got JC to tell me was how he studied acting, rehearsed plays in a classroom, at the University -- plays which they performed at the Bijou, an old movie theater. The names of the plays in which he performed the leading role during his college days. are not in any John Cullum resume. Even if you haven't seen a lot of theater, you'll recognize most of these titles: "Our Town," "Golden Boy," "Front Page," "Three Men on a Horse," "Come Back Little Sheba," "Death of a Salesman," "The Heiress," "Petrified Forest," "Born Yesterday," "Detective Story."

What JC learned as a student actor -- what he did on the stage of the Bijou in Knoxville, is the basis for everything he's done as an actor ever since.