A Silent Retreat

IMG_1941 (1)With Cloven Hooves

You have beautiful feet, he said.

In an instant, I wondered what other lies he told.

No one looking at my toes would utter such words.

You wouldn’t dare.

It’s either a fib or a line picked up from some television show.

I knew: the relationship was doomed.

These past few days I’ve thought a lot about feet.

Spending time at a silent retreat at the Zen Monastery means you stare at sockless toes.

One woman—delicate and trim—has blackened soles and toes, which my husband says was probably due to frostbite.

My husband’s feet look pinkish, with toenails formed by a third-grader in a pottery class: gray and misshapen.

Another Zen disciple–a tall woman has elongated flippers–wears toenails painted black.

My toes are painted red to distract wandering eyes from the callouses (tennis) and bunions (mother’s genes).

My toes flare like Spock’s Vulcan salute: Live long and prosper.

My piggy who-went-to-market pairs with the piggy who-stayed-home, while the other three clump together to create the cloven hoof.

The V-shape of five toes looks like Spock’s greeting.

Each foot’s second lieutenant (stay-at-home oinker) looks like an inch-worm caught mid-step: an upside down “V” that’s not at all like its moniker of hammer-toe.


In a pig’s eye.


15 April 2018





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Becoming Buddhist

enzoI am inching toward becoming a Buddhist and find myself torn.

When practitioners “become” Buddhists, they are given the name of an ancestor.

And this is where my panic digs in.

It’s not just the accoutrements of religion–the bowing and the incense and the meditation.

It’s the naming.

I understand a “name” is just a label, yet I cling to my birth-name.

One of the Buddhist priests in our community doesn’t use his birth-name anymore.

He says when he mingles with folks in town, rather than giving his birth-name of Fred, he uses his Buddhist name, Tomoya (I’m using pseudonyms for propriety).

He says, “call me Tom.”

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Indian Horse film delves into Canada’s dark history of residential schools

via Indian Horse film delves into Canada’s dark history of residential schools

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Reimagining History


Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) by Emanuel Leutze

Taking Liberty with a Grin


George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975) by Robert Colescott

Can you close your eyes and imagine the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware?

Remember the general standing tall, facing the wind, in a tiny boat?

An American flag unfurls while sailors guide the craft through chunks of ice.

It’s nighttime, Christmas, 1776, and Washington is planning to attack a group of Germans (British allies) in Trenton, New Jersey.

Earlier that winter, Washington and his troops were driven from New York, south to New Jersey, and morale ebbed low among the Americans.

Washington’s surprise attack in the freezing early-morning hours would prove a success.

Today the Christmas-time battle is considered a turning point in the American Revolution.

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The sound I make

Thugly truth

After the first shock-wave hit the internet—Stormy Daniels’ tell-all on 60 Minutes about her sexual encounter with the US president—media pundits turned their gaze to thuggery.

Editorials surfaced in the second shock-wave that focused on threats made to Daniels to keep mum on the affair, once she told Anderson Cooper that a stranger pulled a Sopranos move.

The stranger “looked at my daughter and said: ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom’,” Daniels says.

And a moniker takes hold: President-as-thug.

Armed with the headline, All the Presidents’ Thugs, The New York Times’ Editorial Board chastised the thug-in-charge, observing:

We live at a time when a porn star displays more credibility and class than a president, his lawyers distinguish themselves through swagger more than legal skill, and we seriously wonder just how thuggish the man in the Oval Office is. It seems like a bad dream.

The word thug originated in India, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Continue reading

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When is a Terrorist a Terrorist?


It’s all about Semantics

Some words we toss around with abandon, having little idea what they mean:

  • Hegemony
  • Rhetoric
  • Semantics

We often use them incorrectly.

We think of hegemony as power over us, but Antonio Gramsci had a keener sense of the word.

Hegemony refers to domination we muggles accept blithely.

He wrote, “Ruling groups dominate not by pure force but through a structure of consent.”

Rhetoric just means speech, but it is often assumed to mean false speech or speech with a hidden agenda.

And semantics?

Semantics is the study of language.

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The Menace that Threatens “True Americanism”

Klan-sheet-music (1)

A closeted French philosopher, an immigrant from Jamaica, a Jew who fled the Nazis then killed himself, and a feminist who writes about film.

Does this sound like the foundation for a college communication course?

When my communication class starts in April, students will be mystified: what do these folks have to do with communication?

Taking baby steps, students learn a French philosopher (Michel Foucault) says that communication itself is a form of power—that those who frame public discourse help frame what we think is important.

The immigrant from Jamaica (Stuart Hall) points out in an often-cited article that people decode messages in ways that reflect their cultural knowledge.

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