Tag Archives: current events

April 15, 2013

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the smoke clears

 

but not the echoes of screams

or the sight of broken glass on the

crimson pavement

 

for those who were free to run

can run no more

 

and those who were free to breathe

can breathe no more

 

once-familiar faces

are now

unrecognizable

under scarlet masks

 

the wails of people

and of sirens

crack through the smoke and rubble

calling

 

crying

 

demanding

 

saying someone’s gotta pay for this

 

but a still small voice

replies

 

I did

 

 

 Image

 

 

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Fable

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Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, there was a farm. This farm had animals from all over the land, raised without cages and not much in the way of fences. The chickens scratched in the cow pastures, and the horses enjoyed mudding every bit as much as the pigs. Every animal was free to do as its nature dictated, and all the barnyard creatures coexisted in peaceful harmony. All of the animals were happy, from the lowliest field mice that lived in the barn walls to the mule in his cushy stall.

All of the animals, that is, except for Bernard, the rooster.

Bernard had always felt he was somehow different from his fellow chickens. He grew up watching the peacocks graze in the lawn and felt a strange yearning to be one of them, complete with the colorful feathers and piercing call. He wasn’t content to be a rooster anymore.

After weeks of fretting, he finally worked up the courage to tell his parents.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, sweating slightly under his feathers. “I want to be a peacock.”

He was met with blank, disbelieving stares. He took a deep breath and continued. “My whole life I’ve felt that I was not intended to be a rooster. I know that I was born to have a comb and strut and crow at dawn. But deep down, I believe myself to be a peacock.”

At first his parents resisted. They tried to talk him out of it—they thought he was deluded. When he threatened to run away from home, they relented and came to terms with their son, the peacock.

News of Bernard’s switch began to circulate around the barnyard. The peacocks were insulted; the donkeys guffawed at the very idea; the hens were distressed because there was one less rooster available; the goats protested; the sheepdog thought Bernard must be barking mad; the cat shook her head; the bull was seeing red.  

But Bernard was undeterred. He had convinced himself that he was a peacock. He dyed his feathers purple and blue and green with some leftover paint in the back of the barn. He tried to imitate the peacocks’ cry and tried to model their elegant strut. He flirted outrageously with the girl peacocks, but considering he looked more like a poorly done Mardi-Gras float than a genuine peacock, he had little success.  

He even hurt himself at times, trying to make himself look more and more like a peacock. Once he accidentally swallowed paint, and almost made himself sick after cutting off his comb himself with a rusty nail. The pins that held his fake long tail feathers in were especially painful and gave him awful sores. But he was bound and determined that he was a peacock, despite the laws of nature that told him otherwise.

Slowly, however, Bernard’s abnormal behavior gained acceptance among his fellow animals. More and more chickens decided that they wanted to become peacocks instead. A small group of hens hosted support groups for chickens in transition, or, as they soon came to be known, “cheacocks.” There were Cheacock rallies, Cheacock parades, and a swiftly growing Cheacock population. Soon the entire barnyard had accepted the presence and activities of the chickens pretending to be something they weren’t.

Animals from neighboring farms got wind of the goings on at the free-range farm. They all thought the idea was preposterous. Dogs from the neighboring farms came at night and terrorized the henhouse where the Cheacocks stayed. Pigs from another farm came and painted hateful things on the sides of the Cheacock henhouse. But for all the abuse the Cheacocks received, the more and more support they got from the animals on the free-range farm.

The mule was the unofficial leader of the animals on the free-range farm. Being by far the cleverest of the animals, as well as the most charismatic, he stepped into the head honcho position with ease. After the henhouse-painting incident, he went around from field to pen to stall, asking different animals their stance on the Cheacock issue.

Every animal he spoke to was willing to support a chicken if he decided that he was something that he wasn’t.

Every animal, that is, except the cow.

The milk cow was not much of a public figure. She kept to herself, chewed her cud, talked freely with anyone who visited her in her stall or in the pasture, and was known for her generosity of spirit. She was the honored mother of many bright and respectable calves, and the farmer always regarded her milk as the finest he had ever sold.

The mule sauntered up to her stall in the barn, smiling benignly down at the cow which knelt in the straw.  

“I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent goings-on at our farm, Clotilda,” said the mule. “Those poor, poor Cheacocks. All the persecution they receive.”

Clotilda nodded slowly, smiling a little sadly up at the mule.

“We’re holding a rally in their honor tomorrow at noon. I’m sure we can expect you to show up to support the Cheacocks?” Again, he smiled, his white teeth glistening.

Clotilda regarded him quietly, her face unreadable. After a long pause, she said, “No.”

The mule’s smile flicked off like a light bulb. “I beg your pardon?”

“You asked me if I wanted to join the rally tomorrow. My answer is ‘no.’”

The sheep in the neighboring pen let out a little gasp.

“Am I to understand, then, that you do not support the Cheacocks?” There was a dangerous edge to the mule’s voice.

“No,” replied Clotilda simply. She turned her face away, clearly wanting to end the conversation.

The mule looked ready to blow a blood vessel. “Are you saying, then, that you would trample on the rights of these chickens to pursue their desires to become peacocks?”

“I don’t think what they’re doing is wise, if that’s what you’re asking,” said the cow. “It goes against the laws of nature.”

“The ‘laws of nature?’ Clotilda, how can you allow such archaic thinking to affect your judgment of your fellow beasts?”

“A chicken is a chicken, my friend. And a peacock is a peacock. Nothing is going to change these animals into something other than what they were born to be. To think otherwise is simply foolishness.” She looked up steadily into the mule’s eyes, which were growing redder and redder as his anger reached the boiling point.

“Perhaps you would like to join those dogs, then, and terrorize innocent Cheacocks from their home,” he snarled, “Or maybe you would like to paint nasty words on the side of the henhouse like those pigs! Would that make you happy, Clotilda, to abuse someone different than you?”

“I would not do any of those things,” she said, her brow furrowed. “That would be unkind and unnecessary. All I have is an opinion. How does my opinion hurt anyone?”

“Clotilda,” growled the mule, “this farm was founded on the ideal of freedom. Free range, open fences, freedom to do as we please. Would you strip that right from your fellow beasts? Would you take their freedom away?”

“I am grateful for this freedom,” said Clotilda. “I am glad to live on a farm where one is free to make one’s own decisions and do what one believes is right.”

“Then I will ask you again, Clotilda,” the mule hissed through gritted teeth, “will you or will you not support the Cheacocks?”

“No,” she said. “No I will not.”

“You hateful beast!” screamed the mule. “You dare rise against the Cheacock’s freedom!”

“You speak of freedom,” said Clotilda quietly. “But it seems I am only free to say ‘yes,’ and not to say ‘no.’”

“I will ruin you for this!” spat the mule as he stormed from the barn.

And he tried. He succeeded, to some degree. Before long, no one would speak to the cow, calling her nasty names behind her back or even to her face. It made her sad. She knew her opinion would make her unpopular. But popularity had never been of much importance to her.

One day, as she rested in her stall, now plastered with rude messages in white paint, she had an unexpected visitor. Bernard, the former rooster, came cautiously to the opening of her stall.

“Good morning, Bernard,” said Clotilda.

“You’re not going to kick me out?” he said. He was clearly very nervous about this encounter.

“Why would I do that?”

“Or sit on my head or trample me with your hooves?” squeaked the colorful rooster, his feathers puffed out defensively. “They tell me that’s what hateful beasts like you will do to me…but I had to talk to you and see for myself.”

“How very brave of you,” said Clotilda gently. “Please, come in.”

Bernard came in cautiously, eyeing her closely, as if he were entering the den of a dragon and not the stall of a milk cow.

“You hate me.”

“I do not hate anyone,” said the cow.

“You disagree with me,” he retorted, as if that clinched the issue.

“The fact I don’t think what you’re doing is right doesn’t mean I hate you.”

“You don’t think I am a peacock.”

“I think you are a very colorful rooster,” said Clotilda. “But you are still very much a rooster. And you always will be.”

“I am a peacock. I know it in my soul.”

“You are free to believe that.”

“You don’t believe I am.”

“I am free to believe you aren’t, and to say so. At least for now.” She glanced over at the trough of water by the wall. “You must be thirsty, Bernard. Help yourself.”

“Why? So you can drown me in the water?” snapped Bernard.

“No, Bernard,” sighed Clotilda. “You are a beast, and all beasts must drink. You thirst as much as I do.”

Bernard looked at Clotilda, uncertain if she was worthy of his trust. But the colorful chicken finally decided to take a drink. The water was cool and clear and felt wonderful on his throat.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Any time,” said the cow.

Olympiac

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There is no T.V. at the Rambler household. I know that’s a radical statement; after all, just about every household in America has an idiot box in every room. But we have no cable, no dish, no Netflix streaming—we can’t even pick up public broadcasting with rabbit ears anymore, thanks to the permanent switch to digital. We have a television and a collection of over a hundred DVDs, but no T.V.

We don’t like the noise.

However, comma, every two years, we have to make an exception to the rule.

Mother and I are Olympiacs. Neither of us is particularly interested in sports—a B in P.E. has presently biased me against athletics—but the Olympics are special. The Olympics are not like other sports events. For us, the Olympics have always been about national pride, the stories behind each athlete, exploring the culture of the host country. It’s about cheering on America. It’s about watching gifted, dedicated people giving everything they’ve got for the sake of giving everything they’ve got.

Nothing makes me prouder than watching an Olympian mouth the words to the national anthem.

We like watching the “pretty” events, like gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized diving. Frankly, I just enjoy watching people do things that I, in a million years of training, could never do.

What bothers me is when the commentators go on and on about a minor mistake that a competitor made. Or getting their spandex in a wad over a competitor getting a silver medal instead of a gold. Come on, folks. Second at the Olympics is a stinkin’ huge deal. That means you can backflip, handspring, sprint, butterfly stroke, or dive better than 99 percent of the global population. Shucks, the metal color’s different. What a crying shame.

A medal doesn’t necessarily make one a champion.

But Mother and I sit in front of the screen, biting our nails, cheering loudly through every race and routine, astounded by the complexity and remarkable design of God’s human creations. The talent. The skill.

It’s worth getting cable for two weeks just to watch it.  

Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But…

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Hello, friends. No, this is not the World speaking, but Miss R. Rambler speaking in italics. Due to an extreme lack of sleep over the first three days of the week, I went to bed early and slept in late this morning in order to get seven hours of sleep. In other words, I used my blogging time to sleep. Forgive me, but it had to happen—it was either that or collapse from exhaustion and end up taking a nap in my lunchtime salad. So in order to avoid snorting ranch dressing, I gave up today’s official article writing time last night.

Today’s article comes courtesy of my father, Papa Rambler, a frustrated debater and essayist who has a knack for explaining things that otherwise would make no sense. He’s my hero and one of my biggest fans—which works out pretty well, considering I’m one of his.

He left this beautiful explanation of SOPA/PIPA in the comments to yesterday’s post, just like I hoped he would. After I read his reply, I immediately blacked out my site (even though I know I said I probably wouldn’t), because suddenly I found myself wanting to rally around the cause for free speech. For those of you who were wondering what all the fuss was about yesterday, I hope that this explanation will make this clearer:

Tyranny reigns within the heart of everyone, desiring to squelch others’ liberties in order to acquire yet more power, prestige, position, and privilege. Often this tyranny is couched in subtle and disingenuous terms in order to disarm those who might otherwise resist such flagrant arrogations and usurpations.

The mouthpieces for the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry, among the most prominent of those supporting the currently proposed SOPA and PIPA bills, are masterful at such appeals. Consider, for example, the following:

“More than 2.2 million hard-working, middle-class people in all 50 states depend on the entertainment industry for their jobs and many millions more work in other industries that rely on intellectual property,” Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement. “For all these workers and their families, online content and counterfeiting by these foreign sites mean declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits.”

Oh, what a champion of the Little Guy! What a big heart! What compassion!

What a fraud.

That number–2.2 million–represents approximately 7/10 of 1% of total U.S. population–hardly a significant number. So these besotted power-brokers in the entertainment industry want to use the power of the federal government to shut down broad swaths of the internet–a medium they despise, if the truth be told–on the pretense that they are suffering loss by copyright violation.

Seen another way, the one percent (see above) wants the federal government to punish the 99%. Hmmmm.

Additionally, the supposed sympathy of the Lords of the Entertainment industry smacks of hypocrisy. They have for decades assailed any and all technology that threatens their money stream, from videocassette recorders to compact disk burners. They simply cannot keep up with technology–that is the beauty of freedom. Innovation thrives in the lives and minds of a free people. But those who relish a static world that never challenges their status quo hate such innovations. Whip makers and carriage builders did not welcome the automobile with open arms!

The intent of both SOPA and PIPA, like so many other supposedly high-minded bits of legislation, is to provide the government yet one more tool to stifle individual liberty and to increase the scope of its leviathan-like reach into every facet of the public’s life. Tyrants despise liberty. They want control. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that control. Our founders established a constitutional order designed to exalt the individual and individual liberties (inalienable rights), clearly delineated in the Bill of Rights, and intended to keep the wretched heart of tyrants locked behind the supreme law of the land with its separation of powers and limitations by checks placed by the several states.

Jefferson rightly understood this principal when he wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

While I am not yet ready to join the madding crowd marching in the streets, I enjoin all fellow citizens not to fall prey to the subtle arguments being offered by supporters of these two bills. The bills are not necessary (we have laws that allow the pursuit and prosecution of copyright violators); they are not prudent (they cede too much power to too few persons); and they are not in the best interest of individual liberty. While I rarely join in with groups I don’t know, when Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Tumblr (the micro blogger site) and a host of other heavy-hitters in the information world howl in protest on the basis of fundamental liberties, I have to stand and heed–for with Patrick Henry, I too prefer liberty to life. As one of these folks wrote, “If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry’s profits, I hope you’ll join us,” (Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing).

In any free society, it is far preferable that a million guilty persons walk free than that one innocent one should be incarcerated. SOPA and PIPA turn that principle on its head by creating a framework to act at the behest of a few well-connected persons to the detriment of the broader society.

These bills must not become law.

 

Listen to the Silence

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Our culture is confoundedly loud. And I’m not talking about people shouting at each other or laughing at each other or even whispering in each other’s ears. Instead we have the tapping sound of keystrokes, the buzz of phones on silent mode, and the click of computer mice. Not only is there the physical noise of people communicating with their gadgets, there’s the hum of a hundred silent conversations buzzing on Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, emails, and text messages. It’s as if the world has forgotten what true silence is.

Everywhere I go, I see someone on a phone. Every store and coffee shop has music blaring. Even in the library, the traditional epicenter of thoughtful silence, the computers hum and click and beep like living things. And people flock to those computers, neglecting the thousands of volumes of silent knowledge that surrounds them on every shelf.

If someone wants to study, he keeps music going. If he’s reading, he has his phone in his pocket and replies to every empty text. If he’s driving, the news is blaring. At work, he has ten different windows up for each task, Grooveshark in the background and the news and weather streaming to his desktop. At home, while the family’s eating dinner, the TV’s on a coughing up a storm of worthless information. There is no escape.

And we wonder why there’s a whole generation of children with the attention spans of gnats.

Yes, we love our gadgets. We love to be connected. We love being distracted by the noise that pulses through every facet of our lives. We hate to think that at any given second we might be missing out on something grand.

But really, what good does always being connected do for us?

I remember when I and my high school graduating class all went up to a camp in the mountains for a week. Phones were verboten, internet was a no-go—everyone’s umbilical cords were cut. For the first time in a long time, a gaggle of high school students looked up from their phones and saw each other for the first time. Cliques split, walls shattered, new friendships formed—I hung out for hours with people I’d known my whole life but had never spent time with. I’ve never known such incredible unity. Unity that might not had happened if we’d kept our phones on.

And I know that there’s an element of this quasi-rant that’s hypocritical. I mean, aren’t I sitting here, tapping away, broadcasting my thoughts to the world?

Yes, I am. But I hope and pray that my communication is meaningful, that it won’t be worthless noise.

And today, I would like to deliver a challenge to those who read my offerings:

Turn it off. Shut it down. Pull the plug.

Listen to the silence.

 

 

 

Tenth Year

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There is nothing risible about today. So I won’t even try.

I was nine when it happened. When our teacher told our violin class, the first thing that came to mind was my dad, who was on a business trip. The first thing I asked my mom when I got home from school was “Mommy, is Daddy in New York?”

They told me the Trade Center had been bombed. Hundreds had died. I saw pictures in the paper and on the covers of magazines in grocery stores. But I never saw footage until a few years ago in high school. My heart broke so hard I heard the crack.

When I was small I felt that my country was invincible. Now I and the rest of my countrymen are not so sure.

But in this time of uncertainty, I know that there is One Who is certain. He who holds the storm and keeps us in the eye of the hurricane. Who tastes tragedy and weeps with us. Who looks at injustice and says “I will repay.” Who at the end of all things will wipe the tears of His children away forever. Who died so that we wouldn’t have to. Who takes all evil and crushes it under His heel.

Do you know Him? Are you one of His own?

Towers may crumble. Nations may fall. Mountains may erupt. But He will never falter, and He will certainly never fail.

He is the Tower no force can demolish.

Trust in Him.

One Month

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As of yesterday, I have been blogging for one month. I have managed to put up a post every day—some have been long, some have been only a sentence, but there has been at least one chunk of new material broadcast every day.

During that one month, I have discussed diets, fashion, cats, knitting, and man-eating plants. I have been to North Carolina and Rivendell, respectively, and gave you all juicy details about my excursions with my hilarious family. I have delivered both gut-wrenching puns and thought-provoking (at least I hope they were) essays on life. I’ve rambled excessively about Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings. And I have written at least one post that acknowledges my faithful readership, and I would like to do so again today.

The last time I did a post like this one, my highest number of hits on one day was 92. Since then, that number has jumped to 131. I’ve gone from 10 bemused subscribers to 16. Average hits per day is now a comfortable 49. Total hits: as of right now, 1,573. Apparently all of you loyal readers have friends, and you’ve been referring me. Oodles of thanks to you delightful people! What’s a blog if no one reads it?

I must unfortunately be the bearer of bad tidings. As of tonight, I will have completely moved into a dorm at Undisclosed University. Classes start in about four days. My life is about to get very busy. I’m sorry my dears, but this blog will no longer be a priority.

Now, I’m not abandoning The Risible Rambler. I am a Creative Writing major who is currently not taking a single solitary class in her major, much to my chagrin—this blog will become an outlet for unused creative energy. But the posts will be less frequent, and the will definitely be shorter. The day may come when I will have trouble writing something funny. Priorities change when a girl has deadlines to meet and classes to go to. But I will do my very best. I

Did I Miss Something?

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My supervisor trotted excitedly into the circulation area. “Did you feel that?” she asked, flush-faced and bright-eyed.

“Feel what?” I was heaving textbooks onto a re-shelving cart and stopped, holding the math books like a stack of pizza boxes.

“The earthquake. I was in tech services and we felt the whole wing rattle. Didn’t you feel it out here?”

Yes, dear readers, the earthquake that rattled the east coast yesterday rattled Anytown as well, and more than a few of Anytown’s residents. For the rest of the afternoon I had people asking me if I had felt the tremors.

Truth is, I didn’t. Sorry folks. No shakin’. Nadda.

It’s the story of my life, really. It seems like every time something monumental happens, I’m checked out. And I’m not just talking about world scene type stuff. I’m talking about break-ups, birthdays, weddings, major surgeries, deaths, inside jokes.

Especially break-ups. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked a girl how things are going with What’s-his-name only to have her burst into tears and sob her way through a detailed explanation of her relationship’s untimely demise. It’s embarrassing.

And inside jokes! I’ll be having a conversation with two friends and they’ll suddenly burst out laughing—when I ask for an explanation, all I get is a giggled “you had to have been there.” Thanks guys.

Recently I was talking to my mom about a mutual friend. She was chatting along about this girl when she suddenly used her name in conjunction with some guy’s. “…and she and John went and did such and such…”. “Wait. Who?” “John,” she said. “John who?” “Her husband John.” “She’s married!?” “Four years now.” Huh. Good to know.

Deaths are even worse. I went over to a good friend’s house, and noticed the absence of her dog. I ask where the dog is and she tells me with pain in her eyes, “We had her put down two months ago.” Stink it. If people would just tell me these things I wouldn’t come across as insensitive all the time.

Of course, with a history like that, it’s only natural that I should miss a whole blessed earthquake. Go figure.

(This post is dedicated to menolly42, who was disappointed that since I didn’t feel the earthquake it wouldn’t make today’s post. Thank you, menolly42, for giving me such a fabulous idea.)

Dumpy is the New Hip

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Click for source

Click image for source.

This just in: conservative skirts are the new hot item for fall.

No, I’m not a fashionista. Anyone who knows anything about me can tell you that I don’t care two cents for anything that the runways regurgitate. My wardrobe consists of flowy, loose fitting tiered skirts and brightly-colored tops and almost all of my shoes are sensible flats. I refuse to get my ears pierced—if God wanted holes in the lobes He would have put them there—and I keep my nails at their natural brownish-pink. I have no idea what my skin type is and if anyone mentions makeup I break out in hives. So, no, I don’t follow fashion. But according to the Wall Street Journal, it seems that fashion is following me.

I never read the WSJ, but my dad does, and yesterday one of the articles caught my eye. According to the article, skirts whose hemlines fall between the knee and the ankle are suddenly the next big thing.

This surprised me. My whole life I’ve been told by my fashion-conscious friends that mid-length is the dumpiest thing you could wear shy of a hand-me-down Mumu. Emphasizes how wide your calves are, etc. Overall, it’s always been considered a blah, noncommittal length. But now mid-length skirts are making their noncommittal way to the headlines.

Why? Because, apparently, that length is ideal for early fall. Not so long that you suffocate, but not so short that you’ll freeze. Also, they leave a lot to the imagination (neat concept, ladies), so they have an attractive, mysterious—and I quote—“allure.”

Brilliant. I’ve known this for years. Half of my skirts are that length. I am so ahead of my time.