Category: Just life

personal pleasures, pains and whadduyagot

Why I wasn’t there

August 24, 2013

Me, holding a sign in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

Me, holding a sign in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

I slept quite a bit later than usual today, thus missing the OKC event marking the anniversary of the MOW in 63. I think my body knew what my brain didn’t (yet): I did not want to go and listen to a lot of chants and speeches, and hear not one goddamn word about war or the warlike violence our nation perpetrates in the name of national security. You know, the shit Dr. King would say, if, by the grace of providence, he was here to mark the milestone with us. I didn’t want to see the JROTC/color guard leading the march like they do the MLK events in January every year, not just in OKC but across the nation. A “tradition” that is an unforgivable perversion of King’s values, and a knife in the heart of his legacy. Or witness the abominable (but very well funded) contingent of military recruiters, whose only goal of participation is to ensnare some poor kids into their crime syndicate.

If I am wrong, and I learn that “war” was uttered at least once, I will be properly chastised and sorry to have missed the historic occasion.

I will also be extremely shocked.

James M. Branum stands beside a Marines truck holding a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Branum's group, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, and the Marines were both participating in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

James M. Branum stands beside a Marines truck holding a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Branum’s group, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, and the Marines were both participating in the 2011 King Holiday Parade in Oklahoma City.

A new leaf

April 8, 2012

I’m not going to be an activist/organizer anymore.

Probably for good, but who knows. I doubt I’ll be able to quit cold turkey, that lifestyle is so ingrained, but I’ve already scaled back, and will continue in that direction. I hope those who are inspired to change the world for the better keep up the fight, and that they have better results than I did. I don’t know that it’s possible, but you have to believe so, in order to make the effort.

I hope they don’t make the same mistakes I did, though, like ignoring the need for money, friends and family. Yes, I know it’s impolite and impolitic to list the first along with the other two, but when you start getting old and don’t have any of them, things really start to suck. I realize, rather late, that the presence of at least one in some decent measure is rather critical to success, actually at any age, but especially old. I’m not technically old yet, but I am within spitting distance, and it’s looking grim.

If you want things to change, you can’t keep doing the same shit you’ve been doing. So I will be consciously altering my behavior, and trying to shake things up. And I’m going to be doing a lot more looking back at the things I’ve done and not done, and seeing what I can glean in terms of self-understanding — and create towards life enhancement.

Welcome Malee

May 12, 2011

The Oklahoma City Zoo’s new baby elephant, born on April 15, now has a name, Malee. I visited on Tuesday, my first trip to the OKC zoo believe it or not. I know I’ve been here a few years, but I really haven’t gone anywhere or done anything until this year.

This also serves as a test of a new (to me) WordPress plugin, Blip Slideshow. I like it because it can pull the feed from Picasa, Flickr, and lPhotobucket, and lets you configure a lot of settings.

Album view of my photos.


February 19, 2011

Hang On, Sloopy was a hit when I was in 7th grade. I was just becoming aware of the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t much on my mind; I had problems closer to home. Other songs I remember most from that year are Satisfaction, which played in heavy rotation in the little cafeteria where we waited to be picked up after the school bus dropped us off, and I Think We’re Alone Now, which suited my teenage desire for privacy and rejection of my parents and authority in general.

It’s interesting that, in the comments on this video at YouTube, some see it as promoting war or honoring vet, or condemn ruining a good song with unrelated pictures from a war — everyone seeing it in a different light, depending on their own world view and experience.

Fortunately, ignorant comments get offset by those from people who might have a better grasp on what they are talking about (and the world beyond themselves in general).

Grunt6869 says “I had ”[H]ang on Sloopy” written on my steel pot=helmet During my tour in Vietnam 68-69…” and fffreddie remembers that “[t]his song came out just the start of the Vietnam conflict. Our service men would play music to help forget the horror they were in. It still helps. Now´╗┐ some of the negative comments are from morons.”

I concur with fffreddie. If music was unrelated to current events, we would not have film soundtrack albums, or “hear” songs in our heads when we see old images, mementos or people. The video in my head for Hang On, Sloopy doesn’t have these images of a foreign war — it has school lunchrooms and buses, a pink bedroom and an AM radio — but this video might be a better reflection of the historical record.

Peace Arena sells out!

January 31, 2011

I’ve succumbed to placing a web ad on the site. Oh, well, so much for my integrity, right?

Ah, I hope not. But, yeah, I’ve become an affiliate of a domain registrar called Namecheap, which I’ve been using for about a year now. Based on that, I’m pretty sure they don’t suck, at least not relative to certain well known registrars I won’t name but whose initials are GoDaddy. So, what the heck, I thought I would tacitly recommend them and maybe make a few pennies should anyone follow that recommendation.

The problem with the ginormous suckitude of GoDaddy, from political to technical to (non)support, is that there are a number of other registrars you might use to avoid GoDaddy, only to find that they really are GoDaddy, in disguise. If this happens to you, believe me, you have lots of company, including me. I am still getting domains transferred off Wild West Domains after making this sad discovery last year.

Yes, GoDaddy is probably the cheapest registrar going, it is the Walmart of registrars, but c’mon, are you willing to sell your soul AND risk a future technical black hole for $1 – $2 a year per domain? (I know people who would not set foot in a big box store on principle who just don’t get why GoDaddy is evil). Domain registration is fricking cheap, regardless, so use a registrar that is not the shame of the business, okay?

Anyway, should you want to buy a domain, NameCheap’s prices are pretty damn cheap and there is usually a coupon code available if you use The Google like you should with every online purchase (or go to which is my fave source for discounts). There is a special discount code just for transfers (there’s no point giving you a code here, since they change regularly). All their domains (at least all the ones I’ve purchased)) come with free privacy, should you want that. Personally I don’t think you should cloak ownership of a domain except for really good cause, but that’s me; doing so is perfectly legal.

Now, in the interest of honesty, Namecheap also sells hosting. But you should not get your hosting from them, you should get it from me unless you really want to get into the weeds of running a website. I do site admin so cheaply, considering the time and learning curve involved, you would be crazy to go that route. But I won’t stop you if you want to use the link at the top of the page for that either.

If there is great public outcry at this violation of my DFH oath of purity and poverty I may reconsider. ;-) Likewise, if I find that the company is not Rena-rated after all, I will pull the ad and post a retraction.

How I’ll get Sarah Palin and my pro-life brother to give a big donation for abortion rights

December 23, 2010

Just found out my rabidly conservative brother is sending me a signed copy of Sarah Palin’s book for Christmas. He’s also sending a copy to my other brother’s wife, who is conservative, but not very political and sweet in real life; I guess he’s doing his part to help with the lagging sales.

In the past, he’s sent me a book by Bill O’Reilly, which I tossed out with the wrapping paper and boxes. I didn’t want to even give the book to Goodwill at the risk of poisoning a potential reader with Billo’s lies and bullshit.

But I have a better plan for this year’s book gift from my Fox-News-victim sibling: The Google tells me that signed copies are going for over $100. But wait … being as I’m a godless pinko commie who will stop at nothing to destroy America, I also see that a copy of SP’s book signed by Tina Fey went at auction for over $2500. So, yep, now my quest is to get Tina to co-sign my book and then auction it and give the money to an abortion rights group here in Oklahoma.

Thanks and Merry Christmas, bro! Keep ‘em coming. Also.

Dangerous memories

December 14, 2010

I came across an interesting “diary” blog post at Booman Tribune, one of the sites I read daily, about a memory Rosa Parks recalled of an experience she had at about age 6. It’s on page 2 of her autobiography (Rosa Parks: My Story), so you can deduce the import it had for her.

“One of my earliest memories of childhood is hearing my family talk about the remarkable time that a white man treated me like a regular little girl, not a little black girl. It was right after World War I, around 1919. I was five or six years old. Moses Hudson, the owner of the plantation next to our land in Pine Level, Alabama, came out from the city of Montgomery to visit and stopped by the house. Moses Hudson had his son-in-law with him, a soldier from the North They stopped in to visit my family. We southerners called all northerners Yankees in those days. The Yankee soldier patted me on the head and said I was such a cute little girl. Later that evening my family talked about how the Yankee soldier had treated me like I was just another little girl, not a little black girl. In those days in the South white people didn’t treat little black children the same as little white children. And old Mose Hudson was very uncomfortable about the way the Yankee soldier treated me. Grandfather said he saw old Mose Hudson’s face turn red as a coal of fire. Grandfather laughed and laughed.”

Just in case it’s not clear to the reader what this story has to do with Mrs. Parks’ arrest in December 1955, she explains: “There had been a few times in my life when I had been treated by white people like a regular person, so I knew what that felt like. It was time that other white people started treating me that way.”

I have not yet read this book, so this particular reflection by Ms. Parks is new to me. But I completely understand how something that happens to you at 6 can be one of the most critical moments in your life (go read the diary to understand the point of my title here, “dangerous memories”). Here’s my comment to the post which hopefully explains how I can say I know that for sure:

This story is particularly interesting to me. When I was in the first grade, in 1959 southern Georgia, and just starting to learn to read and write, I went to a friend’s house to play and took up a blackboard to show off my new skills. I tried to write a sentence with the word “air” in it, but I didn’t know how to spell it. The only adult in the house was the black maid of my friend’s family. So I asked her how to spell “air.”

I remember distinctly that she was ironing sheets at the time — white sheets, ironically (all sheets were white and flat back in those prehistoric days) — I remember it because we didn’t iron sheets at my house (but then, we didn’t have a maid).

Anyway, I went up to this woman and asked her, “how do you spell ‘air’?” I didn’t think anything of it, I had asked such questions of all the adults in my life and been given unremarkable but satisfactory answers. But this woman paused and looked at me with a look I can’t describe, I think it must have contained both shame and anger, and said, “I don’t know how.”

Although I had never consciously considered the racist culture around me before, in that look and statement, I was stunned into an awareness of it. I knew without a second’s thought that the reason she didn’t know was that she didn’t know as much reading and writing as I knew halfway through the first grade, and I knew the reason for that was because of the color of her skin.

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, which was not a very good one, but I have always remembered this incident. I’ve been a activist for peace and social justice practically all my adult life, and I see that moment as the start of that process. So I know exactly what Rosa Parks is talking about here. Sometimes it only takes a second for your whole life to be set in motion.

It’s kind of crazy that I clicked over to read this diary at all and found this treasure, because I actually never read the member diaries at Booman Tribune, just the front pagers. Any member can post a diary, and such diaries that are recommended by other site members are listed in the sidebar, and I rarely notice them, much less click the links. But this diary was authored by user “massappeal” and I took a couple of writing classes with the playwright who wrote a play called Mass Appeal that was made into a film starring Jack Lemon (one of my meager claims to fame, LOL). I had kind of schoolgirl crush on him. So I thought, hmmm, could it be …? Probably not (though the Catholic theology thrown casually into the diary suggests a remaining chance), but I got something good out of that click anyway. Life is funny that way.

There are (so far) two other diaries posted by massappeal that also look at some of Rosa Parks’ history from the book.

David Rovics does OKC, awesomely, but probably wonders why he bothered

November 20, 2010

And of course, few in OKC bother to support this talented progressive singer songwriter. Next time someone complains that OKC doesn’t get included in such tours, I’ll just ask, well, were you at David Rovics (or David Swanson, or Max Blumenthal and David Cobb — all outstanding local progressive events that were under-attended)? These people talk to each other, you know, though I really don’t want to speculate about that conversation.

Yes it’s a niche audience he appeals to, but that niche exists here and its members need to turn off the fucking tv and get their priorities straight. Changing this backwater into a reasonable, respectable, non-embarrassing place to live, work and play isn’t going to happen by itself.

Yet the concert was a smash sellout compared to the Let Them Heal demo earlier in the evening. Ah well, everyone’s just tired of politics and war, I guess, and of course, Obama’s just going to sprinkle magic liberal dust and make everything perfect without our help. I wish I could drop out as well, in some ways my life would be so much better. … but, it would also be a lot less interesting, and what the hell would I have to blog about.

This was my favorite from the night’s playlist:

He also did songs about the Gaza flotilla action, the Iraq war, uprisings here and there, Jesus, anarchists and love. His voice is not bad, but nothing to rave about — however, his songwriting is astute, polished and subtle but powerful. He was passionate, non cynical and humorous.

I hope he comes back through before too long, though I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.

P.S. Other attenders were similarly impressed.

The older CDs are available on iTunes as well.

Peace Arena to become two-ring circus, soon with acrobats AND elephants

October 31, 2010

Crossed off my to-do list: WP upgrade to multiblog. Finally. Yay!

Yes, that upgrade I threatened back in June has finally been accomplished. A couple of life changes later.

Close followers of this blog (all two of you) might remember that I installed WPmu a couple of years ago, but had some technical issues with it and abandoned the idea. Well, now, WP and WPmu are merged, supposedly said issues are past (and I surrendered to using WP in the site root) and so I can gather up a number of blogs I’ve been hosting with their own separate installs and have them managed, and best of all updated, all at once. Hallelujah!

I’m also looking at installing BuddyPress alongside WP 3.0. I had set up (but never promoted or used) a bbPress forum with a shared user table with WP, but apparently the future is BuddyPress so I’m going with it. It includes a Groups feature along with the bbpress forums as a wP plugin, altogether making it much like Drupal with Organic Groups module, which I’ve used on other sites. There are some cases where a more sophisticated CMS like Drupal are still called for, but they are becoming less and less necessary (for my needs at least) as WP evolves. And you just can’t beat WP for its easy interface and active community, not to mention the eleventy million themes.

Anyway, the afore-mentioned life changes included the death of my mother, for whom I cared for for the past several years, leaving little time or need for additional income. But now, sadly but also with some enthusiasm for new adventures and opportunities, I’m back to full-time freelance self-employment.

Thus, I hereby announce upcoming content changes coming to this space: the splitting of Peace Arena into .org and .com branches. The former will be pretty much the politically oriented blog you see here, and .com will feature some for-pay services I am offering (web development and IT consulting, etc.) and tech tips and such.

I will be offering web hosting, domain registration, web development, training in the use of technology in activism, and other services to the progressive community in Oklahoma. Obviously I will take business from non-progressives, baring ethical issues, but my heart will be in using my skills to help advance my progressive values and the common good for my Oklahoma friends and neighbors, and that’s what will be dedicated to, from a business angle, while keeps plugging a radical (“from the root”) change in our civic and political lives, and just serving as a site where I (and maybe others) share opinions and activist activities, with hopes of expanding the dialog through forums, chats and other means.

Finally, I’m working on a more fun and colorful theme for this .org branch, and will use the current one (or something similarly frill-less) for the .com services branch.

If you have any questions or (constructive) suggestions, please feel free, comments are open for a month.