Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Behold! The Bliss Watch List

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Tunnel vision & hot potatoes

Suggestion for Nate Poppino at the Times-News

Hello Nate,

Jim Banholzer here again. I have not heard anything back yet from regarding war-blogs and the story of soldiers bringing back their trauma to the States via quickly changing lanes in tunnels. I did think it was interesting though that there was a major crash in an LAX area tunnel the day after the letter regarding this ran in the Times-News. Made me wonder about all of the contributing factors.

Anyhow, in case you missed it, I wanted to point out that on Sunday the Idaho Statesman ran a front-page story on Military blogs –“Mil blogs”, as they are known. I cannot find that article online on their site, but the same story about how Iraq changed war veteran Alex Horton, originally ran in the Dallas Morning News:

In addition, Alex Horton’s mil-blog is here:

In the Dallas News story, Davie McLemore reports that Wired magazine estimates that there are 1,200 active military blogs. I think that it would be interesting if we could find a soldier from Idaho who is actively reporting on his or her experiences over in Iraq or Afghanistan and bring some of it to your newspaper.

Meanwhile, I would like to offer another suggestion regarding “Is war too much of a hot potato for Idaho classrooms?” I made a similar suggestion to a journalism instructor at Wood River H.S. last year, but she did not want to touch it. Anyhow, I believe that the same suggestion retains its merit and so will paste a modified version of it here:


I would like to suggest a story regarding how war is approached and discussed in some Idaho classrooms.

Here are some questions and ideas that I think would help stimulate healthy dialogue for a reporter assigned with such a mission:

Do students think that some teachers are playing it safe and avoiding subjects too hot to handle?

Do students ever consider that they probably have more open and honest dialogues than the cabinet leaders of our Government do with our own President?

Do students thinks that history books should show that the Bush administration mislead the country in sending us to war?

The disappearance of the recent past seems to be an all too common theme in our schools and textbooks. If students are exploring this subject in their debate clubs, I believe much of the community would be interested in hearing their valuable viewpoints.

How else does the war affect students? Some must have family members and friends overseas right now. Surely, most students know a few who have recently served in our armed forces.

How does the price of gas affect young people who have jobs delivering pizza, etc.?

For those students who are considering military duty or have already signed up – what are your motivations? What do you expect to get out of serving your country? Have you discussed the likelihood of posttraumatic stress disorder with your friends and family? Do future soldiers of America believe that the enemies we fight are somehow less human than we are? Or, that our ‘enemies’ are actually people, much like us, only that they have been thrust into extraordinary different circumstances?

I think that the greater Idaho community would be interested in hearing about this from students’ perspectives. Thank you for considering these questions and comments.

Best regards Nate,

And whenever I hear anything back from, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Jim Banholzer

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Letting go

One cool crisp autumn evening, as I was raking up some pin oak leaves in the front yard, I glanced at the tree above, to see how close it was to becoming bare. Up there, I spied three empty robin nests and instantly collected two of them with a stretch of my long rake. I gently placed the nests on the porch’s knick-knack table, and then looked at the third abandoned nest, forty feet high. This one was going to be more difficult.


Fortunately, I had just purchased a small stepladder from Kings. At Twin Falls prices too.

I drug the ladder through the leaves, over to the oak. Since no one was around, I put my cell phone in my pocket, for emergency, in case I toppled out of the tree.

I donned my best lumberjack shoes, and climbed the tree, using the teetering ladder to get into the first part. Once ascended to twenty feet, I saw two separate branches as logical routes to the last robin’s nest. One was easy and one hard. But if I climbed the easy route, with my heaviness, I would likely splinter off some spindly oak branches and have to take the most dangerous route down. I should have tossed the rake up in the tree before I started. I decided to sit down in the wide expanse where the branches intersected with the trunk, to think it over.


There was a cubbyhole up there in the protection of the tree. With my bare hand I pulled out what looked like radio crystals, an old piece of wire and a baseball card of Jim Thorpe. The wire was amazingly thick and long. Probably ten-gauge. It kept coming out of the oak, with every five feet or so, an ancient piece of rusted tin attached. I had to tug hard on the tree, whenever these sections appeared, to yank them out of the oak hollow.


This was intriguing me. It was as if someone had long ago attached an old ham radio to the interior of the tree for better reception, and over time the solid oak had swallowed up this technology. As a light rain began, I fiddled around with the wire, from my perch. The small end of the wire looked to be the same size as a port on my cell phone and on a lark I inserted it. The phone immediately sparked, and then up popped a ghostly picture of my cousin standing in a blizzard atop Mount Borah. We began chatting over the Pictaphone and I said, “How are you cousin? You know that I dream about you often.” He smiled that forever mischievous smile of his, which reminded me of the glory days, when we would see each other at the beginning of each summer. And check each other out to make sure that society and school headucation hadn’t squeezed out every last bit of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer out of us. We were usually okay, but one year I noticed that Phil had to look me over a second time; in that supra-intuitive way of his before deciding I hadn’t tarnished yet. And then we laughed those childhood natural laughs and sprinted off into his back yard to freely display our proud b-b gun marksmanship skills on the cans strategically pre-placed atop his back fence. Never at birds though, only the tin cans, pinging us with resounding rewards, in the Pennsylvania Amish hills.


I spoke ~into the phone with great echo, “I’m sorry didn’t go to your funeral Phil. You know it happened at a bad time for me. Just when I was getting better from that last bad thing. People choose to grieve in different ways you know, and this convoluted way was the only method I could figure out how to talk about it.” Suddenly, I was shocked and the phone zipped out of my pocket and into the leaf-pile, twenty feet down. Then the rain increased and a wind gust blew over the ladder.


Now I was in a pickle. Nobody was around with this rain. But, that was fine. I didn’t want anyone to see me foolishly pining in an oak about my long lost cousin, in this lightning storm. Maybe, with this newly acquired wire, I could fish the cell phone out of the leaf pile, while I could still see its imprint. I could call somebody after the calm. No, it’s best not to go fishing around with a lightning rod in this tempest. I’ll just chuck that metal aside. Forget that robin’s nest too, it’s turned into a green hornets nest for me. I will stick Jim Thorpe in my pocket for good luck before I make this giant leap. Mighty good thing those leaves are stacked high. Well, here goes…

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Finer Game


I have an archery target in my yard for when I am trying to figure things out. I suppose this is because I am told there is an ancient hunter in me which seeks nothing more than the thrill of the chase, a bit of danger, and some well-earned bragging rights around the fire in the evening. Yet I also know from the study of primates that I am equally well evolved for lounging around in the bush all day, grooming with my pals and eating bananas. So which of these two tendencies will prevail from day to day? It seems unlikely there will be a trophy head hanging on my wall any time soon.

I shot a blackbird off a wire with my BB gun when I was 9 years old and then cried alone as I watched it die. I knew better than to admit my weakness to friends, who were already well indoctrinated into the culture of hunting.
When I got a shotgun for my 13th birthday, I started killing all kinds of things, eating most of them. When it came time to hunt larger game I found I didn’t have the heart to kill Bambi; so my father’s friends saw fit to arm me and my friend Turner Simpkins and drop us off in a South Carolina swamp inhabited by a wild boar said to be killing horses. It got dark and we found our way out without having to face the beast, but I suppose the exercise succeeded as a man-making experience; enabling me to confront later challenges in life, like finding a job, signing a lease or picking out a shampoo. Sometimes I find that even the subtlest of efforts, though lacking in drama, can require true acts of courage.

In tribute to some old instincts, I do still wander around the hills this time of year with a bow and arrow, lazily looking for grouse and rabbits. Although I have not hit anything in years, I still enjoy being a good shot. And as an omnivore I tell people I will eat anything that won’t eat me first. But why the trophies?
While hunting can be an experience with deep resonance and noble intent, there is a bit of native wisdom that discourages aiming for the grandest males in a herd. Trophy hunters who take the tallest and oldest males unsettle and disperse the herd, while removing the carefully (sexually) selected DNA from the land. Plains Indians once expressed sympathy and devotion to the sacred game they hunted in ceremonies central to their religious practices. This is a far cry from the idea of hunting as a competitive sport. Maybe I was praying for the soul of my little blackbird without knowing it.

When I shoot arrows these days I think I am really hunting for a sensibility in myself usually having to do with relationships. While hunting is ultimately about killing, relationships are about compromise and mutual survival. A native proverb says we have two wolves inside of us—one angry and ravenous, the other mild and forgiving. The wolf that prevails is the one we feed.

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Can an MRI see God?

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How Television Works

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Walking around in the Heart

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Whenever a feeling of aversion comes into the heart of a good soul,
it's not without significance.
Consider that intuitive wisdom to be a Divine attribute,
not a vain suspicion:
the light of the heart has apprehended
intuitively from the Universal Tablet.

- Rumi

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