Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Obama vs Truman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ari-emanuel/post_1308_b_786617.html I hope the author of this article is correct. I'll look back and read this again in another 2 years.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Islamic Queries...

OK. Some of you may have been aware that I wanted to do this one for a while. Hopefully my attempt to do it doesn't fail. But here you go:

It's began to die down by this point but, for the last several months, there has been great interest and media attention given to Muslims; There have been many stories and videos in the media, especially regarding the "mosque at Ground Zero," and the crazy pastor in Florida who threatened to have a Quran burning. For what ever reason, I was so intrigued by all of this. And my gut reactions seemed to continuously change with each new media from which I heard the stories.

You had the people at CNN and MSNBC taking the "liberal" stance, portraying those opposed to the mosque, and those supporting the Quran burnings as whack jobs. And then you had FoxNews doing their best, right in character, of spreading the fear of a Muslim/Islamic uprising and takeover of the world. And, it's pretty easy, if you're the talking heads, to spread that fear, especially in the midst of an economic crisis, where everyone's nerves are raw, and everyone looks for someone to blame. At some point, I had to conclude that I can't trust the media. I mean, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Sean Hannity aren't Muslim, so why was I trying to get my information about Islam from them? Ironically, Hannity had me so confused because, when it came to the Quran burnings, he had, out of nowhere, began going out of his way to make great distinction between "mainstream Muslims," and "Islamic extremists." I decided to ditch all of them on the matter.

As for the so-called mosque at Ground Zero, my first instinct was to say, "No way in hell should there be a mosque there. It's too soon; not the right time; people are still angry, sad, at a loss." I wouldn't want anyone's Constitutional rights taken away, and I knew the imam in NY had the right to build his mosque or whatever it was. (A multi-faith community center, built by Muslims.) But I also felt, and still do to an extent, that it may not be the most sensitive of moves. After all, the 9/11 hijackers were Muslim, right?

And what about that Floridian pastor who wanted to do a Quran burning? Actually, I wanted his right of freedom of speech protected. I thought he should be able to do that if he wanted. In my opinion, Islam is not untouchable. There have been many a bible, many a U.S. flag burned both in the U.S. and out. It doesn't make me that mad. Is it disrespectful though? Probably. In the end, I'm glad the pastor didn't burn the Qurans. I'm glad the president urged him not to do it, in the interest of not adding fuel to any extremists' fires; in the interest of not adding more risk to our already overly at risk military men and women.

All of this hubbub had me wondering what my firm stance was. Am I afraid of Muslims? Does the Quran really tell Muslims to kill Jews and Christians? Would the mosque at Ground Zero be a "victory mosque?" Is there a big movement toward Islamic Supremacy in the world?

Having no Muslim friends; really knowing no one who's Muslim, I decided I couldn't really be fairly informed on this matter. I thought back to my life, maybe 15 years ago when I didn't know any gay people or have any gay friends. I was pretty homophobic. That all went away very quickly when I met some gay people who have become some of my best friends in the world. It was irrational and wrong of me to be homophobic. I'm so thankful for my friends and all they've taught me. You all know who you are and know that I think the world of you and my friendship with you. Some of the greatest examples of good people I've ever known. Anyway, I realized that I needed to go meet some Muslims and see if I could ask them some questions. So, about a week ago, I found a mosque online and contacted them. My contact was to the director of the Utah Islamic Society. He's also a professor at a prominent Utah University. Because he declined my request for an on-camera interview (he's not a big youtube fan) I'll respect his privacy and not mention his name in this public setting. He told me he's not so prominent a figure---although from what I saw at the mosque, he is---he didn't necessarily want me quoting him, although he said I could use any of the information he gave me. Anyway, we set up an interview at the mosque for yesterday. I was so excited, a little nervous too. But mostly glad for the chance to have such an experience.

I'll be paraphrasing our conversation as best I can. I recorded my notes onto a voice recorder immediately after the interview, and just before I went to the prayer meeting to which I was invited.

1) Do political generalizations, such as Mormons voting Republican seem to apply to American Muslims?
He suspects that, in keeping with many minority classes in the U.S., that most Muslims would probably lean toward voting Democrat, more so than Republican. He said that, while he voted for Gore/Leibermann in 2000, most American Muslims voted for Bush and for Ralph Nader, based on Leibermann being Jewish. (We'll get into that later.) He urged his friends and fellow Muslims not to take the vote from Gore/Leibermann, based on religion but he suspects that's what they did.

2) Who is God, and what is God's role?
Muslims are the most monotheistic. God is the creator of all things. But God didn't need a son, or a partner. He is simply God, able to do anything and everything he wants. He was able to put a baby inside Mary simply by willing it so. He didn't need to make a son. They call God "Allah." And he will be our judge.
3) To Muslims, what is appealing about America, or what would make them want to move/live here?
Muslims here want to be individualistic, having individual, guaranteed rights, which isn't the case in Muslim countries. They value democracy and value having a voice. They value freedom and liberty. So, while there seems to be plenty about America which angers some Muslims in the world, they DON'T hate freedom, as some heads of state have tried to strongly suggest.

4) How are Muslims "converted," or can they be?
He didn't really get into a spiritual conversion, to which I was trying to lead him. He simply said, Muslims must believe in God. They must believe in all the prophets up to Mohammed. They accept all scripture, in it's original and purest forms, to be God's word. (I don't have to mention that this doesn't include the Book of Mormon, do I?) It includes the Old and New Testaments, The Torah, and the Quran. Then a person can recite a prayer, after the imam, which takes about 2 minutes. It's very informal/non-ceremonial. Then they can be considered Muslim.

5) What is it about America, Americans, or American government that the world's Muslims seem to resent, or even to hate?
This goes back to its roots in the Israel/Palestine conflict. With Israel ever expanding into Palestine, uprooting Muslims in order to grow their Jewish state. And the U.S. is seen as the world's greatest supporter of Israel, even after Israel commits atrocity after atrocity against Palestine. (Yes, I'm familiar that this fight goes both ways.)
Our foreign policies are often seen as offensive and/or oppressive to Muslims. We seem to do a lot of damage in Muslim lands. Americans do so much good in the world, regardless of who lives where, rebuilding, or giving aid to about any nation, regardless of whether or not its Muslim or whatever. But, we're often, as perceived by Muslims, found to be on the opposing teams from Muslim countries.
A good example is Iraq. After 9/11, we went to Iraq with the majority of our forces. We were sold the war on "good intelligence" that there were WMDs. After that justification failed, we were told that Saddam was evil and needed to be removed. No one disputes that Saddam was a bad guy, but there are bad guys, equally as evil, around the world so, why Iraq? Then we were told we were spreading freedom and democracy. Eventually we were told that we had to protect interests, namely oil reserves in Iraq. And, in the process of all the good we've done in that region, how many tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims have been killed? Sure, we got rid of an evil dictator. But at what expense? We went into Afghanistan, with which most American Muslims agreed. But we still haven't gotten Bin Laden. And, again, we're in a Muslim region, killing the bad guys and also countless innocents.
So, many of the world's Muslims don't like U.S. foreign policy, as it relates to flexing our military muscle and sort of shaping the world and its people as we see fit.
(Remember Ron Paul's stance on this during the presidential debates? Still think he's a whacko, Mr. Hannity?)
That said, he made it clear that Islamic extremists are absolutely wrong. He said they could bring Al Quaida in, sit around a table with them, and prove, with the Quran, that they are absolutely wrong. As well, he pointed out that it isn't just America the terrorists hate. In fact, there have certainly been far more terrorist attacks, both plotted and carried out, in the rest of the world.

6) What is the Islamic view of the after-life?
There will come a day where the world will be filled with so much evil and transgression, and God will cleanse the earth, and we will all be judged according to our works and deeds, according to our knowledge of God's word. (Hmmm...not very different from Christianity at all.)

7) Is there an Islamic "holy day" during the week?
It happens to be Friday. On that day is their congregational prayer, where everyone comes to pray together. Muslims say 5 obligatory prayers every day, which they can do on their own if they wish. But on Friday, the congregational prayer must be done with everyone, at the mosque. They believe that on this day, their prayers have the best chance of being answered, (At the end of the interview, the director and the imam invited me to the prayer meeting. I was so honored to be able to participate in that. Well, I didn't actually pray with them. I sat in the back of this big, beautiful prayer room, behind all of the men as they prayed and listened to the imam's words. They even let me take photos, as you can see. It was a very spiritual atmosphere. And you could tell that those men have a bond with each other, even if they don't really know each other. I don't know if they just feel so great to be in the mosque, or if they're just happy to be amongst other people, with whom they share such a big part their lives. Where were the women, you ask? They were above, in a balcony. I couldn't see if they performed the same prayers, or if they just watched. Part of the prayer meeting lesson had to do with husband/wife relationships, and I got the impression that American Muslims are a little more "progressive" than those in Muslim countries. For instance, the imam said that wives should listen to their husbands, but also that they should "move on" if their husband was abusive and couldn't be a good man. The bulk of the lesson was about not just listening and hearing the words of Allah, but that Muslims should act and be true doers of Allah's word.)
8) Do you sympathize with those who protest the mosque at Ground Zero, based on that it would be "salt in their wounds?"
He said his thoughts on this had evolved. In the beginning, he thought, it's the wrong time; why do you want to stir things up, especially since Muslims have been living under a sort of fear since 9/11. He says whenever he hears that there's been an attack or a bomb or something, he hopes and prays it wasn't Muslims because of the repercussions on all Muslims, and not just on the few who commit such atrocities.
Now, he feels like, no, the imam in NY shouldn't back down. It's a multi-faith center. There was a mosque in the trade center. Most important, it's their constitutional right and, if they back down on this, they'll be asked more and more to give up their rights and eventually they'll be oppressed here in America. And if that happened, he'd then wish never to have come to America. (He's originally from Bangladesh.)
He brought up the point that, while Christians believe that it was the Jews who killed Jesus Christ, but America isn't kicking all of the Jews out of the country, nor telling Jews they can't build their synagogues in our "Christian nation," or Christian-majority towns. And, something I think is important to note; The U.S. didn't kick all Muslims out of the country after 9/11, which sort of suggests that even the same government who the right-wing Fox News supported, knew that not all Muslims are terrorists; In fact, very few, of the 1.5 billion are.

9) What is the difference between Sunni, and Shia?
About 90% of Muslims are Sunni. Only 10% are Shia. The division between the two is rooted in a history which should ring very familiar with Mormons. Before the prophet Mohammed died, he hadn't chosen a replacement, even though he knew he was sick. After his death, a small group of Muslims thought the replacement leader ought to be a blood relative or direct descendant of Mohammed. Most of the people disagreed and just wanted the people to be able to choose a new leader, regardless of blood relation. And thus, there became the division.
OK, so I gladly went to the congregational prayer service. It was more casual than I expected. Some men in casual, street clothes, some in more culturally traditional clothing. I had asked about the caps some wore, and was told it wasn't necessary. There is nothing that says it must be worn, but they feel that it more closely emulated Mohammed, which is nice if you want to sort of be more holy. I asked about the Turbans as well, and then felt ignorant, again. The turbans are worn all around the world, but they aren't a Muslim thing; that is to say, turbans have nothing to do with Islam. They're simply worn by many peoples of the world as a cultural article of clothing, not religous.
Anyway, back on topic. I already talked about the prayer meeting lesson back on question 7. But the meeting was nice. I definitely felt some sort of spiritual connection there. You can see the devotion in the way they all carry themselves, and in the way they seem so happy to be in that prayer meeting. I felt very welcomed, if a little odd for being the guy in the back of the room with the camera. Still, I was greeted with many smiles and several handshakes. Only one man did I see who gave me an odd, colder look. But that may have been geared more to my camera than to my simple presence. And I was told by the imam that I was welcome there anytime, and that he hoped I'd return again.
So, this was a very positive experience for me; I'm glad I did it. And I may well return to the mosque, and to my new friends Mr. Name kept private, and the imam of Khadeeja Mosque.

This security guy is from Yugoslavia. He said he'd been working security for the Islamic Society for 10 years. He was very friendly and actually asked me to take a picture of him for my project.
Here is the imam, greeting a woman, followed by her child, to the prayer service.

This is a photo of the mosque from the parking lot entrance. Kind of unexpected, especially since I just had no idea there was such a place in Utah.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Latest family portrait shoot

This is Kayden. His blue eyes became the subject of many of the photos this shoot.
Yeah, a suitcase on a beach doesn't make a ton of sense. But check out the cute kid inside!
Couldn't get him to stop doing his squat pose by this barn, so we just went with it.
Kayden, standing in front of his dad.
I can tell you, from having only spent a couple of hours with them, that this couple has a passion for each other.
What they would have looked like in the old days.
Love the color of this one; but I'm good enough to realize that I didn't frame it right; I didn't get the effect I wanted and so we will do them again soon.
Awesome barn. You'd have to be pretty tight with me to get its location out of me.

This is Justin and Jacey, and their icy-blue-eyed son, Kayden. (Hope I'm spelling his name correctly.) This was such a fun shoot; so fun, I've already offered to do a part II for them. They're a great-looking couple, both with fun personalities. I was sort of intimidated when they said they were bringing their one-year old son, because I just have a hard time getting kids that age to cooperate. But that handsome little kid arrived with a huge smile on his face to match his huge eyes and I think I got some killer shots of him. So, tell me what you think...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Extended wolf timeline


Latest thoughts and figures on Yellowstone wolves...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seems a fitting article right now...


Monday, March 15, 2010

He's my boy!

The neighbors' awesome truck is the first truck he's ever been into. Looks like he's a Ford guy.
Representing our street with an attitude.
It's gonna be a while before you can make a basket here Buddy.

This may be common in kids, as my friend says her kid did this too. But he LOVED getting up the curb, and then down the curb; and then up the curb, and then down the curb; and then up...
He definitely likes rocks.
Baby got his good looks from his beautiful momma. Lucky for him.
Innocent eyes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Losing my best friend

Yesterday, March 10, 2010, I lost my best friend of more than eleven years. His name was "Uintah's Foxy Jake," and he was my dog. He was an Alaskan Malamute and I adopted him when he was just 4 months old. We were nearly inseparable. He was such a good dog, so happy, fiercely loyal. He was my only friend, during a time in my life I don't wish to relive. But he was always there, giving me those eyes that said, "I'm here friend. Tell me what I can do to help." He was definitely an alpha dog; always posturing around other dogs, letting everyone know that he was boss. He was smart as a puppy and easy to train, though he didn't always steer clear of trouble.
When he was just 7 months old, he chased down and killed a sheep. I think he was just testing himself, rather than following an instinct to kill. He was a pretty gentle giant, a 100+ lb. teddy bear.
He hated the hot sun, but tolerated it, always happy. He loved the Winter and would perk up so much as the temperature started to cool each Fall. I used to have a sled that he would pull me in. One regret I have is that I never got to take him with me to Alaska, land of his own heritage. Perhaps now your spirit is in Alaska Jakey.
From the time he was with me, he liked to "give me five." This was his way of telling you that he considered you his friend. Another habit of his was to come up to you and bury his head between your legs while you petted and massaged him. He was kind and gentle, in a way that only he had. Such a good dog. Such an even better friend.
Jake was a dog with a few lives, if not nine. Several years ago, while I was on a 4 wheeler ride, Jake running out in front of me, we went up by an old gravel pit, where the landowner had been burning trees and trash. The flames were out, and it was the middle of the day which is, perhaps, why Jake walked right out in the hot ash. It started to burn his poor paws so he laid down on his side, cooking his hair. I jumped off the 4 wheeler and ran into the ash to grab him and pulled him to safety. He was fine, but the pads on his feet were burned. A couple of weeks of bandages and living inside my house and he was better.
During the past few years, as old age began to show its face, he began to be less active which, in turn, made him gain weight. I never considered him a fat dog. He still looked somewhat athletic, but the extra weight began to wear at his joints. He was getting pretty arthritic. I was feeding him glucosamine, MSM, and fish oil with his food, which seemed to slow the arthritis substantially, though not entirely. He was showing signs of being sore and that he was losing some range of motion in his hips. Still, he remained a happy dog, making the best out of his days.
A month ago, he blew out a ligament in his right rear knee. We decided not to do surgery, fearing that the recovery would prove too difficult, and knowing that this sort of injury can heal on its own. We put him on a prescription anti-inflammatory which seemed to help immensely with pain. Then, maybe 10 days ago, he broke a toenail off from the same leg, which led to a severe infection. He was put on an anti-biotic and sent home with bandages, which he pulled off that night. (He couldn't help himself from wanting to lick that very sore paw.) I re-bandaged it only to have him remove that one too. I did his bandages again and put a "buster collar" on him so he couldn't get to the bandages which seemed to help some, though he was determined to get at it again. When I took him in for a check up 2 days later I was faced with the harshest reality; My bandage was too tight and had begun to cut circulation off to his foot. This is hard for me to deal with; a painful regret I hope won't eat at me for the rest of my life. The previous infection had begun to do some bad things to his foot. Wounds were opening up in a few places where the infection could drain out. But now he also had skin starting to die. The prognosis after a couple of days of living at the vet clinic was that it was likely he would lose one or maybe two toes. My heart sank. A big dog, with arthritis, blown knee ligaments, and missing toes--all from the same leg--would have a very drawn out, horrible time recovering. He would likely be recovering for the rest of his natural life. To top all of this off, they found a suspicious mass at the hip of that same leg. There were no easy fixes, no miracles offered. The vet was very good at her job, and just as good at informing me of everything. She spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with me, explaining everything, after hours. Her advice to me--having a 12 year old dog herself--was that full amputation was the 2nd best option. At the clinic last night, full of sorrow and confusion, I listened to her talk about Jake's possible future. The last thing I'd ever want to do is to put my best friend through his final days as a dog which could only lie there and dream of running. As he has had trouble getting up from a lying position for the past couple of years, and progressively more so that last 6 months, I knew that amputation would only be for me not having to say good bye to him. Maybe if he didn't have arthritis in his "good" back leg it would have changed something. The young DVM welled up with tears, telling me about how hard it is to even think of her 12 year old dog getting closer to life's end, answered my plea for advice with, "If he were mine, I would euthanize him." I had been painstakingly thinking about that possibility for days, hoping for some miracle which never came. I can't even type about it now, let alone tell someone about it in person, without sobbing. After my wife and I discussed things, we both felt the best decision for our happy, elderly friend, was to let him go.
And so, hoping his happy spirit has found it's eternal resting/playing place, I write this to tell you how much I loved my friend, and how intensely I miss him. And also, to maybe finish telling Jake how much his friendship has meant to me; how much his loyalty through the ugliest times in my life got me to the better place I now find myself. I love you Jakey. I'll never stop missing you.
Last night, after he passed, I drove him up to some family property, where I placed his body, now painless and carefree, next to his old mate, Kita. I will visit the two of them from time to time. I will not forget them for one day. And I believe I'll see them one day when I pass on from this world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I feel too much...

This could turn out to be the worst day of my life. Can a person really make a decision like this? The right decision?

Will I still like myself at 8:00 tonight? Will I like myself at 8:00 tomorrow morning? Will you?

Then, what is it? How much pain is to be endured? How can I think for you? I can't even see straight. Can't move to get out of bed. The only feeling with any clarity is that I want to be numb.

How do I know if your life is full? Isn't that between you and your Maker? How do I know when enough is enough for you? Is this the end you wanted?

Getting ancient; Becoming lame; The cancer; Death at the door. These are the worst tricks that will ever be played on us.