The Torture Song

April 23, 2009

Read the words. Listen to the words. Watch them sung. Then ask yourself what have — or did — we become? Ask why nearly every major news organization can’t bring itself to equate waterboarding with “torture” when, in fact, the United States executed World War II enemies for the same practice?

Maybe Jonathan Mann’s song, whose lyrics are drawn from one of the infamous torture memos, will finally awake the nation. And justice will be done.

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Purple prose in aisle 5

April 21, 2009

I can find just about anything at my neighborhood Safeway grocery. That was my reaction while perusing its modest books section for the first time. Romance novels pack the shelves, though some titles hawk a niche form of lust.

Romance novels apparently have sub-genres, including what I cynically classify as the rich-dominating-studs-knock-me-up category. Take these titles that caught my perverse eye: Read More


Back in the day

April 20, 2009

Reading about this descent into sexting hell reminds of simpler times. Never thought I’d get nostalgic for mooning, the worst offense involving nakedness from my school days.

One of my younger brothers was suspended for a week from junior high for flashing his bare butt at a girl during phys ed class. He claimed she had mouthed off. My mother, a secretary at the school, was mortified. Long after the transgression she kept carrying on about the “shame of it all.”

If there had been YouTube and cell phones with video cameras, I no doubt could watch the event all these decades later, along with the rest of the world. Then again some things are better consigned to imagination.


Making Trouble

April 19, 2009

Cracked Window celebrated its one-year anniversary today without fanfare. That’s because I stayed away from the keyboard and enjoyed the outdoors on a beautiful spring day in Portland. It was my first nothing-but-shorts-and-tee-shirt day of 2009.

Random projects, including installing two trellises on the fence two years after I bought them, were too much to resist. My little boy delighted in helping me squeeze the trigger on the power drill and marking holes for screws. Little things go a long way.

I invited Atticus to join me by asking if he “wanted to make some trouble,” an innocent enough expression. But he repeated it throughout the day, at one point telling his grandmother: “Daddy and me made some trouble today.”

And after 294 blog  posts, that’s what I plan to do more of on Cracked Window.


Moved and Alive

April 17, 2009

In February on a rare sunny day, I helped friends dig up and move a Japanese laceleaf maple from their backyard to their front. No chance the tree was going to survive the unavoidable mugging at our hands. Read More

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Explosions of Memory

April 14, 2009

Never has apocalypse looked so beautiful. That was my first thought today upon seeing four photographs from a 1970 French nuclear test. Then I thought of my childhood and pilot friend, whose Army adventures included flying helicopters to a radiated and cratered South Pacific atoll to help repair what an atomic bomb had wrought.

Then came the flash of another high school classmate whose house in the 1960s had the only fully functioning backyard bomb shelter I ever saw. It was also the site of romantic encounters — none mine. Read More


Harmonies and Howls

April 13, 2009

Last night during a concert of earnest and ethereal harmonies, I struggled to keep another sound at bay.

Pressed against the stage at the Crystal Ballroom, five feet from Fleet Foxes‘ lead singer Robin Pecknold and bathed in his melodic voice, I occasionally heard in my head not him but the quavering wail of a toothless derelict. Read More


Obama and Torture

April 10, 2009

A sometimes irrationally exuberant supporter of Barack Obama, I’m puzzled and dismayed at his administration’s failure to address the torture scandal. Repudiating torture isn’t enough. Finding the truth and punishing lawbreakers are only way to right terrible wrongs.

The most lucid assessment of the administration’s failure comes via the always-trenchant Scott Horton. He accuses the CIA and Justice Department of engaging in a de facto cover-up of Bush administration illegalities and warns of the consequences: Read More


Lunch Delight

April 10, 2009

My intrepid correspondent (wife), a food cart gourmand, spotted this menu item in downtown Portland AFTER ordering the yakisoba. Or so she claims.



Memory-Making Music

April 8, 2009

When I say “album,” some young people look as if I’ve uttered a foreign word. Thus this headline touting the top 25 theme or concept albums caught my eye.

Cohesiveness in these works is lost in today’s random-shuffle world. My favorite (not that I’ve heard them all) is Sufjan StevensIllinoise. His “John Wayne Gacey, Jr.” makes me want to weep.

And surely someone has compiled another list of albums, albums forever linked to an experience, enshrining them in memory’s Hall of Fame. Read More

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Not Keeping It Clean

April 5, 2009

I won’t chide myself anymore for my swearing, which in my fifties has become more profane and repetitive when I’m alone and less frequent when around others.

That’s because an article in a scientific journal describes profanity as ubiquitous and a “natural part of speech development.” Guess I’m off the hook. Read More


I’ve entered a different world. Not the present one that’s changed so much, seemingly overnight. No, it’s one of many that famed science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick created.

Although others have long extolled him to me, I haven’t ventured into Dick’s genre for years. (I’m not counting science- fiction movies, including some based on his work, notably Blade Runner.)

Troubled times may explain the sudden appeal of Dick’s often prescient tales. Reading The Man in the High Castle, in which Germanyt and Japan have won World War II and subdivided the United States, is a haunting escape. It’s also Dick’s chilling reminder that the real world ahead could turn out far different than we expect.


A Neighbor Again

April 2, 2009

Growing up on a lake in Florida in the 1960s, I got to know the family next door. It took awhile, maybe because a vacant lot studded with orange trees separated our houses. Three generations under the same roof, they mainly spoke Italian, making them exotic curiosities. Read More