From nest to grave

What Table Talkers are saying this week about a veteran's odyssey, "Goodnight Moon," and what the stork really brings.

By Salon Staff
Published August 27, 2004 10:56AM (EDT)

White House

Gulf War II - #4 - Dedicated to our troops

Aunt Snow - 04:06 pm Pacific Time - Aug 20, 2004 - #7567 of 7726

I was reading Kerry's 1971 speech and immediately thought about the men coming home now.

In 2000 a former co-worker of mine died. He was my union brother for almost 20 years.

He was a swaggering, attractive, macho kind of guy; a talented craftsman and a tireless worker who took risks, but could always be counted on to reach that extra inch, to push himself that extra bit on the job.

When I met him, I was an apprentice and he was a senior journeyman -- although we weren't that far apart in age; he had just been doing the job longer than I had. On the job we did a lot of physical work; heavy lifting, working at heights, working long hours, working under harsh conditions. He was always the guy junior people like me looked up to, tried to match, and I for one always tried very hard to make sure I measured up to his standard -- and worried if I somehow thought I didn't.

He was also a man who drank a little too much, and liked to get high. He loved his wife, but our job was one that put a toll on relationships due to the long and uncertain hours, the fluctuating pay.

His wife left him, and he entered into a series of troubled relationships. He began to drink more and more, and began to miss work. The union had to fine and discipline him for no-shows and for drinking.

Although he had many friends who loved him and cared for him, eventually he had been banned from so many workplaces that he had a hard time making a living and keeping up the payments on his home.

One night he tried to kill himself with a handgun. He missed, and lay injured for 12 hours before he was found. He ended up paralyzed from the waist down.

Because he was a Vietnam veteran -- a former medic -- he was treated at the V.A. hospital. For the first time in his life, he stopped drinking. For the first time in his life, he received counseling. For the first time in his life, he participated in group therapy with other Vietnam vets.

A year after he shot himself, he was released and had a place in an assisted living apartment. He was going into vocational training. He was dry. He went to sleep one night in his new apartment and never woke up. A blood clot in his brain. I think about men like my friend Tom whenever I think about men coming home from Vietnam. I think about him when I read about the men coming home from Iraq.

I sat with him one day in the V.A. hospital, about three months before he died, and he told me how -- 30-some years later -- he was finally dealing with his experiences in war. It's terrible to have to wage war that can affect a man's life the way Tom's was affected.

It's a crime to do it for an invalid reason.


Even more mangled language

Laura Erickson - 08:08 am Pacific Time - Aug 21, 2004 - #3894 of 3957

OK. Equipment on male birds: two testes, both internal (so avian sperm must be able to survive at very high temperatures, and they don't need to worry about their fertility if they jump on a bicycle now and then) that lead through the vas deferens to a chamber called the cloaca. The cloaca is sort of the vestibule entry into the whole house, with those two hallways to the testes, the ureters leading to the kidneys, and the large intestine. So it's very important for birds to poop before having sex, to clear out the vestibule before company arrives, so to speak, but since birds can poop at the drop of a hat (meaning on your head the moment your hat falls off) this does not represent any hardship.

Equipment on female birds: They have only one functional ovary (if they had two, and managed to ovulate through both, they'd end up with scrambled eggs inside), which is connected to the cloaca via the oviduct. During the nesting season, female birds usually ovulate about once a day. The ovary looks quite a bit like a teenie tiny cluster of grapes, only a couple of grapes are double the size of the rest, and one is HUGE. That is actually the whole yolk of the next egg to be ovulated. So the birds are feeling romantic -- maybe they're cranes and have been singin' and dancin' in the rain, maybe they're red red robins who've been bob-bob-bobbin' along -- and now the moment arrives! He flutters his wings in eager anticipation, and this time she doesn't flitter off saying she has a headache -- she actually flutters her wings back at him! So he hops aboard her back, and she's twisted her tail a bit to get the bottom to face the side, and he twists his tail to get the bottom to face the side, and their two cloacas meet in what ornithologists romantically call the "cloacal kiss." And a packet of sperm from him passes over into her cloaca. Then he flies off, she remains where she's sitting for a bit, and they each pull out a tiny little cigarette.

The sperm swim, as sperm are wont to do, and head up her oviduct. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, she's ovulated one yolk that morning, which is in the high reaches of the oviduct. One lucky sperm wins the race, and the rest go over into the pool hall and shoot a few rounds, hoping they'll have better luck the next day, and they sometimes do, because as I noted, they can survive warm body temperatures. As the fertilized egg works its way down the oviduct, the cells secrete the proteins that make up the albumen, and then secrete the calcium that will form the shell. And eventually, usually by early the next morning, the egg has reached the vestibule, which makes the female bird very uncomfortable and she heads for a nest (if her own isn't built, she'll take any port in the storm) and dumps that egg out. And it eventually hatches into another bird who will one day ask his parents to tell him where he came from, and they'll say, "The stork brought you," or "Toledo," depending on how much of a sense of humor they have.

Right-wing moral cripples II -- More of the same

Nancy Richardson - 09:41 am Pacific Time - Aug 24, 2004 - #8156 of 8241

For along I have been puzzled about why Wingnuts are the way they are, and I have observed a few things about them which seems to be endemic in their ranks. 1) No sense of irony. The inability to understand paradox. Extreme discomfort with ambiguity.

2) Poor critical-thinking skills. The inability to write about what they read with much competence. Unable to sort out the larger meaning of what they read. Tend toward not being about to sort out the difference between the theme of what they are reading, and unimportant details

3) Lack of imagination, and a singular lack of ability to intuit how to make elementary character judgments.

4) Lack of empathy. To the extreme.

5) Dislike of reading fiction.

6) Absolutist binary thinking run amok.

7) blah, blah, blah.

I have always wondered how these people turned out that way ... and though I have seen a bit of absolutist non-critical thinking on the left, I read something today on Atrios, where a troll was unable to understand why liberals like a "fake news show" like "The Daily Show."

Someone made a remark about "Goodnight Moon" and the person said, "What is 'Goodnight Moon'?" And like a bolt from the blue, it came to me.

His parents didn't read to him as a child.

When I was a new mother, and was cramming what to do to make sure my kid was going to be a reader, the advice that was repeated over and over again was, "Read to your kids"

And I did. From the time he was 4 months old it was ritual with my son, until he started reading independently, to read out loud to him every night. (Actually, it continued until he was 9.)

Now we see that the most important time in developing cognitive skills is between the ages of 0-5.

And I am willing to bet, that if you want a kid with an imagination ... and who is able to make character judgments, and who wants to read fiction, and learn to identify with people not like him or her.

You got to read to your kids. Every night, without fail.

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