Winter in America by Gil Scott-Heron

From 1974. Or today.

From the Indi­ans who wel­comed the pil­grims
And to the buf­fa­lo who once ruled the plains
Like the vul­tures cir­cling beneath the dark clouds
Look­ing for the rain
Look­ing for the rain

Just like the cities stag­gered on the coast­line
Liv­ing in a nation that just can’t stand much more
Like the for­est buried beneath the high­way
Nev­er had a chance to grow
Nev­er had a chance to grow
And now it’s win­ter
Win­ter in Amer­i­ca

Yes and all of the heal­ers have been killed
Or sent away, yeah
But the peo­ple know, the peo­ple know
It’s win­ter
Win­ter in Amer­i­ca

And ain’t nobody fight­ing
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your soul, Lord knows
From Win­ter in Amer­i­ca

The Con­sti­tu­tion
A noble piece of paper
With free soci­ety
Strug­gled but it died in vain
And now Democ­ra­cy is rag­time on the cor­ner
Hop­ing for some rain
Looks like it’s hop­ing
Hop­ing for some rain

And I see the robins
Perched in bar­ren tree­tops
Watch­ing last-ditch racists march­ing across the floor
But just like the peace sign that van­ished in our dreams
Nev­er had a chance to grow
Nev­er had a chance to grow

And now it’s win­ter
It’s win­ter in Amer­i­ca
And all of the heal­ers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the peo­ple know, peo­ple know
It’s win­ter, Lord knows
It’s win­ter in Amer­i­ca

And ain’t nobody fight­ing
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Win­ter in Amer­i­ca
And now it’s win­ter
Win­ter in Amer­i­ca

And all of the heal­ers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the peo­ple know, peo­ple know
It’s win­ter
Win­ter in Amer­i­ca

And ain’t nobody fight­ing
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fight­ing
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fight­ing
‘Cause nobody knows what to save

Recovering the past through photos

2015 looks like it’s shap­ing up to be the year that online cloud pho­to ser­vices all take a giant leapt for­ward. Just in the last few months alone, I’ve gone and dug up my ten-plus year pho­to archive from a rarely accessed back­up dri­ve (some 72 GB of files) and uploaded it to three dif­fer­ent pho­to ser­vices.

First it was Drop­box, whose Carousel app promised to change every­thing. For $10/month, I can have all of the dig­i­tized pho­tos I’ve ever tak­en all togeth­er. It changed how I access past events. Back in the day I might have tak­en 20 pic­tures and post­ed 2 to Flickr. The oth­er 18 were for all intents inac­ces­si­ble to me — on the back­up dri­ve that sits in a dusty draw­er in my desk. Now I could look up some event on my pub­lic Flickr, remem­ber the date, then head to Dropbox/Carousel to look through every­thing I took that day — all on my phone. Some­times I’d even share the whole roll from that event to folks who were there.

But this was a two-step process. Flickr itself had boost­ed its stor­age space last year but it wasn’t until recent­ly that they revealed a new Cam­era Roll and uploader that made this all work more seam­less­ly. So all my pho­tos again went up there. Now I didn’t have to jug­gle between two apps.

Last week, Google final­ly (final­ly!) broke its pho­tos from Google+ and the rem­nants of Picasa to give them their own home. It’s even more fab­u­lous than Flickr and Drop­box, in that its search is so good as to feel like mag­ic. Peo­ple, places, and image sub­jects all can be accessed with the search speed that Google is known for. And this ser­vice is free and uploads old videos.

Theo (identified by his baby nickname, "Skoochie") in a backpack as we scout for Christmas trees, December 2003.
Screen­shot of Theo (iden­ti­fied by his baby nick­name, “Skoochie”) and Julie, Decem­ber 2003.

I’m con­stant­ly sur­prised how just how emo­tion­al­ly pow­er­ful an old pho­to or video can be (I waxed lyri­cal­ly about this in Nos­tal­gia Comes Ear­ly, writ­ten just before our last fam­i­ly vaca­tion). This week­end I found a short clip from 2003 of my wife car­ry­ing our new­born in a back­pack and cit­ing how many times he had wok­en us up the night before. At the end she joked that she could guilt trip him in years to come by show­ing this video to him. Now the clip is some­thing I can find, load, and play in a few sec­onds right from my ever-present phone.

So what I’ve noticed is this quick access to unshared pho­tos is chang­ing the nature of my cell­phone photo-taking. I’m tak­ing pic­tures that I nev­er intend to share but that give me an estab­lish­ing shot for a par­tic­u­lar event: signs, dri­ve­way entrances, maps. Now that I have unlim­it­ed stor­age and a cam­era always with­in reach, I can use it as a quick log of even the most quo­tid­i­an life events (MG Siegler recent­ly wrote about The Pow­er of the Screen­shot, which is anoth­er way that quick and ubiq­ui­tous pho­to access is chang­ing how and what we save.) With GPS coor­di­nates and pre­cise times, it’s espe­cial­ly use­ful. But the most pro­found effect is not the activ­i­ty log­ging, but still the emo­tions release unlock­ing all-but-lost mem­o­ries: remem­ber­ing long-ago day trips and vis­its with old friends.

Colorful Quakers

Hold onto your broad­brim hat! After 58 years of black and white, COLOR is on the way to Friends Jour­nal start­ing in AUGUST 2013. To announce it, FJ’s first Vine video:

This was what we were work­ing on last week, when I tweet­ed out ask­ing how many Quak­ers does it take to shoot a seven-second video!

How many Quakes?
The impromp­tu FJ video team: yours tru­ly, Gabe, Gail, and Sara.

As you might all expect, I’m real­ly hap­py with the move. Col­or won’t add very much to the over­all bud­get just 1.5 per­cent!) but it should help us reach new read­ers. I’m also hop­ing it will give lapsed read­ers a rea­son to open the mag­a­zine again and see what we’ve been doing the last few years. Sub­scrip­tions start at a very rea­son­able $25. If you sign up before July 8, you’ll get August’s very first col­or issue!

Naked Leadership on QuakerQuaker This Week

On the blogs, Robin Mohr wrote about Friends lead­er­ship and vision and the “Nakedness/You’re Not a Quak­er” respons­es con­tin­ue with two more follow-up’s among this week’s Edi­tor Picks. Else­where, the Mod­ern Quak­ers and Cloth­ing project has been col­lect­ing some great per­son­al sto­ries. And on a house­keep­ing note, dona­tions for Quak­erQuak­er have been pret­ty light late­ly; please con­sid­er help­ing out.

Embed­ded Link

Naked Lead­er­ship? [Quak­erQuak­er This Week, 2/26/12] — Quak­erQuak­er
Naked Lead­er­ship?
On the blogs, Robin Mohr wrote about Friends lead­er­ship and vision and the Nakedness/You’re Not a Quak­er respons­es con­tin­ue with two more f… 

Reading John Woolman 1: The Public Life of a Private Man

Read­ing John Wool­man: Parts 123, 4 (miss­ing)

I’ve final­ly done it. I’ve read John Woolman’s Jour­nal. Here I’ve been an activist among Quak­ers for almost two decades and I’ve read one of our Big Books.

I have tried before. Many’s the time over the years where I cracked open Moulton’s edi­tion to set­tle myself down. Chap­ter one read, chap­ter two read. Then to chap­ter three, open­ing with:

About this time, believ­ing it good for me to set­tle, and think­ing seri­ous­ly about a com­pan­ion, my heart was turned to the Lord with desires that He would give me wis­dom to pro­ceed there­in agree­ably to His will, and He was pleased to give me a well-inclined damsel, Sarah Ellis, to whom I was mar­ried the 18th of Eighth Month, 1749.

And that’s it. One run-on sen­tence about court­ing and mar­ry­ing his wife. I always put the book down here. I tuck a book­mark in with all good inten­tions of con­tin­u­ing after din­ner. But the book sits on the cof­fee table till a week or so goes by, where­upon it’s moved to the library area for a month or so until it’s final­ly reshelved. The book­marks stays put until a year or two pass­es and I re-start the Jour­nal with renewed deter­mi­na­tion.

I know why the sen­tence stops me. Through­out my twen­ties and ear­ly thir­ties a lot of my emo­tion­al ener­gy was drained in the (most­ly Quak­er) dat­ing scene. In the­o­ry I thought it a good time “for me to set­tle” and would have been quite con­tent with a well-inclined damsel. But the chaos of my per­son­al fam­i­ly his­to­ry com­bined with the casu­al dat­ing cul­ture I was part of com­bined to keep me dis­tract­ed with the largely-manufactured dra­ma of rela­tion­ship roller-coasters. For bet­ter or worse, if and when I ever write a jour­nal I will have to find a way to talk about the ways this dat­ing era both fed and stunt­ed my spir­i­tu­al growth.

One of the les­son I learned back in the ear­ly 90s when I was edi­tor at New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers was that I should pay atten­tion when I put a man­u­script or book down. The temp­ta­tion is to chalk it up to tired­ness or a busy life but I found there was usu­al­ly some­thing going on in the text itself that caused me to drop it. When I picked the man­u­script back up and re-read the pas­sages on either side of my aban­doned book­mark, I found some sort of shift of tone that weak­ened the book.

I appre­ci­ate that Quak­er jour­nals are not racy mem­oirs; they have a spe­cif­ic reli­gious edu­ca­tion pur­pose. But I think it’s nat­ur­al to look to them for clues about how to live our lives. Samuel Bow­nas talks a bit about his engage­ment and David Fer­ris turns meet­ing his future wife into quite a humor­ous sto­ry. Per­haps Wool­man was such a saint­ly aes­thete that Sarah was sim­ply pre­sent­ed to him with no futher ques­tions. But still, there’s a lev­el of pri­va­cy in Woolman’s writ­ings that sep­a­rates him from us; I’ll return to this is part three.

Before I go: so how did I get through the jour­nal this time? Two things are dif­fer­ent now: first, my five year wed­ding anniver­sary is only a few weeks away; and sec­ond: Woolman’s Jour­nal is now always with me inside my Palm Pilot (cour­tesy the Chris­t­ian Clas­sics Ethe­r­i­al Library). A few weeks ago I found myself on the train with­out read­ing mate­r­i­al and start­ed read­ing!

Next Time: Wrap­ping our­selves in the flag of Wool­man

Dick Cheney’s Rambo Complex

U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney is tour­ing Eng­land this week, try­ing to find co-producers on Gulf War II, the sequel to the dis­ap­point­ing minor hit of 1991. You remem­ber the orig­i­nal: it was briefly pop­u­lar until Bill Clinton’s “Peace and Proper­i­ty” broke all pre­vi­ous records for an unprece­dent­ed run.
In Gulf War II, Dick Cheney is play­ing Ram­bo. It’s twelve years lat­er and he and his side­kick George Bush Jr. are going to re-fight the war against Iraq sin­gle­hand­ed­ly. No oth­er coun­tries will join them this time in their fight for jus­tice.

Like all shot-em-up movies, this one needs a con­vinc­ing vil­lain. There’s no con­nec­tion between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Osama bin Laden but so what? They’re both shifty Arabs with facial hair. Throw in a spicy sub­plot if you want – “Dash­ing Amer­i­can pilots secret­ly held pris­on­er since 1991.” Amer­i­cans bare­ly notice plot and moti­va­tions. After 9/11 the White House is bet­ting that the audi­ence wants more war and ret­ri­bu­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this isn’t a Hol­ly­wood movie. Dick Cheney and the sec­ond Pres­i­dent Bush are indeed try­ing to start a sec­ond war against Iraq. There’s no new provo­ca­tion from Sad­dam Hus­sein. There’s no con­nec­tion between him and Osama bin Laden or the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks. None of our allies from the first Gulf War want to join us in a sec­ond.

But Cheney and Bush want a fight any­way. It’s hard not to con­clude this is some sort of “Ram­bo Com­plex.” The U.S. is led by two men fight­ing lega­cies that won’t let them put 1991 behind them. One is the son of the pres­i­dent accused of pre­ma­ture­ly stop­ping the 1991 war before U.S. troops got to Bagh­dad. The oth­er is the dying aide to both father and son, who has wait­ed almost twelve years for a chance to prove he was right.

This week rumors of an Amer­i­can pilot sup­pos­ed­ly held for eleven years have appeared out of nowhere. Pres­i­dent Bush has been divert­ing atten­tion to Sad­dam Hus­sein even while Osama bin Laden runs free. And Dick Cheney is indeed in Eng­land try­ing to drum up sup­port for a new Gulf War.

While the Vice Pres­i­dent is off wan­der­ing the mar­gins of stage right, real tragedy and dra­ma are hold­ing the world’s atten­tion cen­ter stage. Pales­tine and Israel are close to an all-out war. The mount­ing vio­lence has wor­ried impor­tant coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia and Syr­ia so much that they’re propos­ing new peace plans. So much of the Mideast’s anger against the U.S. revolves around the Pales­tin­ian ques­tion. A war there could top­ple friend­ly Mus­lim gov­ern­ments and rip apart our cur­rent alliances.

This is where the world’s atten­tion is focused. But Pres­i­dent Bush and Cheney are ignor­ing the sit­u­a­tion. They have not fol­lowed past Pres­i­dents’ lead in lead­ing peace nego­ti­a­tions. Amer­i­can pres­sure and involve­ment is cer­tain­ly need­ed to craft real peace between Pales­tine and Israel.

But Bush and Cheney are snor­ing in the bleach­er seats when it comes to the world’s most press­ing and intractable con­flict. They’re dream­ing of cin­e­mat­ic glo­ry. It’s 2002 and two lone G.I.‘s are para­troop­ing into Iraq, knives clenched in teeth, machine guns at the ready. One dreams of aveng­ing the cow­ardice and fail­ure of his father. The oth­er of win­ning just one more war before the cur­tains close in on him.