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Oct 14, 2007
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Posted: Oct 14, 2007 10:09am
Sep 18, 2007
Focus: Politics
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Location: United States
I've written an editorial for the Op-Ed News network trying to make a case for getting Blackwater out of Iraq. If you are an American, you can contact your federal representatives via email at the bottom of the article.

Any social bookmarking votes would be appreciated. I think this is an important message to get out there.

Ousting Blackwater is a Win-Win

Finally, the government in Iraq has made a brilliant move. Is this administration just too deep into the inherent corruption of the whole situation to be able to do the smart thing for everyone? The US can't get away with another Fallujah now.

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Posted: Sep 18, 2007 9:44am
Apr 9, 2007
This is a cross-post from my VirusHead blog.

Even if George W. Bush has succeeded in drastically expanding the power of the executive branch, there is no anointed king here in America. No president has claimed to be a god, and senators are not priests.

In the United States, claims to divine authority tend to be somewhat more subterranean and implicit, if no less powerful. The religiously-tinged ideas of "manifest destiny" and "American exceptionalism" have served as covers for territorial acquisitions, genocidal violence, exploitation, and domination here and around the world. Domestically, I hope every American is aware of the costs to native tribal communities. Slavery was also rationalized under the banner of religion. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was dominated by Puritan ideology. The pledge of allegiance, already a creepy nationalistic ritual, has claimed since 1954 the status of the nation as existing under (the protection of? guidance of? stamp of approval of?) God.

The literal meaning of theocracy is "rule by God or gods." Theocratic governments can be formed of any significant mixture of claims to divine authority, the wielding of secular power by religious groups or figures, or a melding of the state with religion such that religious freedom is not possible. While there are subsets of society - intentional religious communities - that could be considered theocracies, these are protected under freedom of religion in the United States. We are in danger of - already in the the process of - forming a governmental theocracy here in the land of the free, and that is an entirely separate issue.

The specific theocratic threat to our nation right now is the erosion of the separation of the powers of church and state under an attempted coup by a very specific kind of christian ideology - dominionism.

Dominionism - a trans-denominational movement composed of radical fundamentalist, charismatic, and pentacostal protestants - openly seeks to establish totalitarian control over the nation and its people. To further their stated goals of secular domination, they have called for their followers to exert whatever influence they can - at any and every level and aspect of society - in order to bring our society into conformity with their beliefs.

Several years ago, these radical extremists found common purpose with the Republican party, which needed to expand its base (an interesting mirroring - al Qaeda: translation "the base"). Politics entered the congregations, and the congregations infused the party. Despite the uneasy nature of this unholy communion, the agendas of dominionists and their followers are now an established force in American politics. Their version of God's requirements was very convenient.

Please remember that not all christians are dominionists. Many still understand that the kingdom of God is within, and that humility is a christian virtue. Some christians still remember and advocate forgiveness, compassion and kindness.

Dominionists, on the other hand, seem very comfortable with throwing the first stone (and any further stones that may be required). Instead of freedom and justice for all, they seek conformity to their warped (and very selective) biblical interpretations. Some do so because they honestly believe that it is ordained by God and destiny; others do so for even more unsavory reasons. All this under a paranoid fantasy of persecution, and in the name of a special - even exclusive - relationship with the divine.

In many ways, dominionism is an anti-christian movement. Setting a christian example? Their version looks like a dance of hatred. I will never believe that power-hungry control freaks speak for God, or for any profound religious insight at all. They do not help to bring people into a relationship with the divine, but instead appeal to the darker aspects of their followers while appearing to shine as angels of light. I believe that the beliefs and actions of such extremists are in profound contradiction with deeper spiritual truths.
I name you and yours false prophets
because you do define the phrase,
You lead the would-be faithful
always far and further astray.
Placing demon masks
on the faces of our kin,
undoing all the fragile good
that lets us breathe again.
More compassion-based religious people should continue to engage in debates and discussions about the issues - spiritual, ethical, even biblical - raised by dominionists, as well as the questionable interpretations that they rely upon. A wealth of credible biblical scholarship is available, and it is time for it to become more widely known. Contextual ethics needs to re-enter the public sphere as well.

No American should be forced to comply with (or participate in) any particular religious ideology, and this is especially the case for one that has such destructive repercussions on American life and liberty, and which seems to represent a fairly hateful infantile sort of God-character. In addition, let's remember that freedom of religion also implies freedom from

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, and I have seen some of the costs of pseudo-religious authoritarian control in terms of the real human lives it affects.

Jehovah's Witnesses describe themselves as a theocracy. In their case God lives in Brooklyn, so to speak. God's power, spirit and guidance are believed to be directed through the members of God's channel (a group of men known as the Governing Body) and transmitted through the Watchtower magazine and other publications. Their somewhat anonymous leaders and authors claim to be a few of the 144,000 "slave class" who they believe are intended to rule with Christ over the post-apocalyptic paradise earth. Ever "faithful and discreet," this slave class has created a very lucrative publishing empire with an unpaid sales force - the "great crowd." The great crowd are second-class citizens, although they do not recognize themselves as such since most of them would rather live in Paradise than in Heaven. Still, they are unworthy of even partaking of the wine and bread at their yearly memorial of the last supper. In addition to their publications, the Watchtower corporations control their followers with circuit overseers, district overseers, local uneducated elders, multiple weekly meetings of repetitive pseudo-bible study, family and congregational peer pressure, and the threat of shunning.

Their followers live in expectation of God's immanent (and loving) slaughter of most of humanity at the hands of the Prince of Peace. Their judgment of society is just as rigid as the dominionists, with many of the same hatreds and prejudices, but their reaction is to separate their people from "worldly influences." They don't vote or salute the flag. They don't fight in worldly wars. They don't run for office, or join the boy scouts, or celebrate "pagan" holidays like Christmas, or even accept the blood of others to save their children's lives.

From my perspective, dominionists are something like an example of "When Jehovah's Witnesses Attack."

America's contract with its citizens is to be (or at least try to be?) a land of freedom, with liberty and justice for all. The rise of religion in America is directly associated with the national experiment of religious freedom. Without the separation of religion and the government, and the accompanying protection of religious freedom, religious groups could never have thrived as they do in this country. We have an amazingly diverse religious population, and this is because every American is free to choose the path of his or her own religious journey.

This weekend, many Americans are celebrating the risen Christ - whether with or without the traditional elements of spring fertility signified by the Easter bunny, bright clothing, and the hunt for colorful eggs filled with candy treats. Other Americans are observing the traditions of Passover. Others celebrate something else, or nothing at all.

Whatever your religious tradition or inclination, I would ask you - please - to take a moment or two to reflect upon the nuggets of spiritual insight that you may have collected and found to be valuable and wise. Consider whether any of them involve hatred, domination, or control over others.

It is an insecure (and I think inauthentic) kind of faith that cannot stand on its own merits and inspire others with its goodness. It is pure spiritual arrogance - hubris, really - to believe that anyone has the whole truth about God, or that they must impose it on everyone else. We are human. To target fellow humans simply because they do not subscribe to one fallible interpretation of what God may want of humanity is profoundly anti-religious. To do so at the level of government is anti-American. And to do so under the mantle of a claim of divine authority may be the closest thing I know of to blasphemy.

Is this not a sin against the spirit of love? Does this not take God's name in vain?

There is no authentic spirituality based on fear and hatred of others or on the endless quest for power.
"There is no disguise that can for long conceal love where it exists or simulate it where it does not." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you." - The character of Jedi master Yoda, in Episode I of the Star Wars films

Be sure to check out the other blog posts on the Blog Against Theocracy swarm. The logo was designed by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors. A big thank you to Jolly Roger at Reconstitution for the invitation to join in. Thanks for thinking of me (smile).

Apr 7, 2007
Join the blogswarm this weekend. Blog against Theocracy.

My contribution is at
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Posted: Apr 7, 2007 7:43pm
Mar 10, 2007
VirusHead Blog
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Posted: Mar 10, 2007 2:38pm
Mar 9, 2007

I never thought of Baudrillard as an outlaw. What a strange label to put on him. He may have stood outside the academic establishment, but in many ways that can only be considered a compliment.

The reality that we have created has overtaken us… and is creating us. To challenge how that happens, to describe it, even to play against it, is not the same thing as being an outlaw.

With his words, he painted a way of seeing objective irony and reversibility… his fascination with photographs is no coincidence.

Outside of that, this obituary is nicely done.

From JEAN BAUDRILLARD; ‘Outlaw’ Cultural Theorist By Chris Horrocks, The Independent, March 9th

Jean Baudrillard, the French writer of brilliantly discomfiting books such as Simulacres et Simulation (1981, translated into English as Simulacra and Simulation, 1994), in his many publications challenged and extended the fissures, contradictions, extremes and ironies in culture and society. He dies at a time when his work is perhaps at its least fashionable, but most important.

Born in the year of the Great Depression - or what he saw as the “first great crash in values” - Baudrillard devoted his work to our present, chronic collapse, which for him was more a problem of a dramatic but unnoticed transformation in our relationship to a “new global order”, a world in which the cult of production - of meaning and reality more than economic wealth or consumer objects - had saturated all aspects of life. Baudrillard’s version of our universe is one where codes and signs coercively produce and designate our societies and cultures as simulations that produce our versions of reality.

Jean Baudrillard’s intellectual odyssey found its way through the enclosed but combative Parisian academic community of the 1960s. Myths abound from this period of Baudrillard’s early tenure as an assistant and researcher in the field of sociology. It seems he flourished in this hothouse of new ideas, although, unlike many of his colleagues, he did not seek to affiliate himself with the more direct brands of revolutionary thought - neo-Marxism, Maoism, Situationism - that had swept through the universities and culminated in the events of May 1968. Instead, he worked and published in the margins, under more established figures - Roland Barthes, Henri Lefebvre, Pierre Bourdieu - while not directly associating himself with a movement or discipline.His writings from the period demonstrate a desire to draw together the dominant strands of thought: semiology, poststructuralism and brands of psychoanalysis and anthropology. In works such as the elegantly titled Pour Une Critique de l’economie politique du signe (1972; For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, 1981), the collected essays of La Societe de consommation (1970; The Consumer Society, 1997) and Le Systeme des objets (1968; The System of Objects, 1996), he emerged as an important critic of a world of consumer objects that “quite tyrannically induce categories of people”.

When I interviewed him in 1995 he said, rather melancholically, that he had no more friends in Paris, by which he meant that he had become an “intellectual outlaw” - a thinker detached from the academic establishment. Three publications in the 1970s had forged Baudrillard’s reputation as a thinker beyond the limit of prevailing ideas.

The first, Le Miroir de la production (1973; The Mirror of Production, 1975), took on Karl Marx. In characteristic fashion, Baudrillard saw Marxist thought as part of the problem it sought to the-orise: Marx simply universalised or replicated bourgeois notions of the market and capitalist ideology, and effectively fetishised the idea of work. Then Baudrillard delivered the bombshell Oublier Foucault (1977; Forget Foucault, 1987), an assault on one of the most influential writers of that generation. Michel Foucault had chosen not to read the draft Baudrillard sent him, but when it was published he was furious (”Foucault is the last great dinosaur of the classical age,” said Baudrillard).

Baudrillard had written off Foucault’s idea of “ower” as simply a redundant notion. All formerly secure terms, such as “desire”, “reality”, “truth”, were now targeted,andthetrioofcategoricalcrimes against thought was completed when De la seduction (1979; Seduction, 1990) emerged. This publication, which has recently been reassessed as the first “ost-post-feminist” text, exemplifies Baudrillard’s technique of looking at society from another side, emphasis-ing what he called “reversibility” - in this case the gendered triumph of apparent “objects” over the attempts of subjects who wish to control them.

In the early 1990s, the backlash against so-called “ostmodern theory” (of which Baudrillard was never a part) became popular in the press, and conservatives and radicals condemned Baudrillard in equal measure. Many critics accused him of being wilfully obscure, and irresponsible - a kind of intellectual playboy whose work was simply a special effect that exacerbated rather than alleviated our symptoms. But Baudrillard’s project was never concerned with providing answers or antidotes, and he was always puzzled when he was called to account.

For example, when he published his book Amerique (1986; America, 1988), he was castigated for its failure to represent the actualities of the United States. His response to accusations that he had failed to represent issues of racial conflict was that it was not the America he had sought to represent. He always thought of phenomena at another level, and was not allied to the mission to seek out and determine social or other truths.

In the late 1980s he appeared at the ICA in London for a book launch. Academics and the press wanted something from him; the queue of young postmodernists put such pressure on the event that the overspill had to be absorbed into a room next to the “real” show, with his talk relayed via a monitor. Everyone was captivated. Baudrillard greeted the idea with his usual shrug and ” Pourquoi pas?” This reduplication of an event within an event, which dismantled the idea of the event, struck me as perhaps the most Baudrillardian experience one could have.

He had friends. The “academic establishment” never offered as much to me as he did.

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Posted: Mar 9, 2007 6:03pm
Mar 7, 2007
“The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning.” - Jean Baudrillard

I remember a lecture given at Emory. The crowd had transcripts of Baudrillard’s lecture, in case his accent was too overwhelming for them. People flipped pages like it was the Bible.

I just looked and listened. I had no trouble whatsoever - and after all, he gave the lecture in English, not French.

At one point, he quoted “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” while making slight gestures from side to side. Because they were focused on the paper before them, not many people saw his slight gestures (nor, I suspect, recognized the lyric). Performative irony.

I laughed out loud, earning disapproving looks from those around me. It reminded me of the old days at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But Jean Baudrillard looked straight at me, and grinned.

If you are a literalist, don’t even bother trying to read anything by Baudrillard. It will never make sense to you. The question and answer period after that lecture was a parody of the intellectual life toward which I had always worked.

Yes, Baudrillard could have been more clear, less aphoristic. Yes, he got both the left and the right to froth - that’s one of the things that made him interesting. But let’s start with a hermeneutics of paying attention, eh? Sigh…

Baudrillard is partially responsible for my marriage. He has already apologized (grin). John has been friends with Baudrillard for years. He had translated some of his work, and they were actually working on a project together… he is even more upset than I am.

Anyway, the early encounters between John and myself were all about arguing about Baudrillard. We had differing interpretations on his views of evil and reversibility and the viral. We began to meet in order to argue about Baudrillard. We met a lot. It took a song by Leonard Cohen to tip the balance, but without Baudrillard we would never have gotten together.

Eventually, we visited Baudrillard in Paris together, and posed our questions. It was one of the highlights of my life, and that session did more to solidify the eventual argument of my dissertation than almost anything else. My dissertation, by the way, leaves a lot unsaid.

What isn’t mentioned very much in discussions of Jean is the kind of energy he gives off as a person. When I’ve seen him, he’s been a bit rumpled, often needing a shave and a haircut. He had the most wonderful mischievous grin, and he was hospitable and clearly delighted to see us. What struck me most was his “there”-ness. He was there in a way that is very rare. He made me feel confident, engaged, worthy of being an interlocutor - and a friend. Beyond the incredibly stimulating intellectual/pataphysical discussion, I remember being surprised by Jean’s kindness and charm. I had read his books so feverishly, but I had not understood the tone of voice. The books read differently, later - much more comprehensible, with different rhythms.

His works in progress looked something like the Burroughs “cut-up“, which explains a lot.

I admired his crystal bowl full of lemons, a point of beautiful innocent clarity among all the piles of books and papers. I’ll be buying a bag of lemons later today. We’ve got a beautiful big crystal bowl, and we’ll honor and remember him that way.

When John and I married, Jean gave us a large print of one of his famous photographs as a wedding present.

John has been able to spend more time with him than I have - and of course they have known each other much more closely and for a longer time. I don’t get to Paris very often, and Baudrillard only came to Emory a couple of times.

Jean Baudrillard was, nonetheless, one of those rare people who change something within you - something subtle perhaps - but something real and permanent. I have my disagreements with some of his ideas, but my engagement with them changed me. It was a kind of alchemical synergy.

My dissertation owes a debt to Baudrillard (among others, of course). Of course, that may be why it took so long to write… What I ended up with was a cyborg creature. Perhaps Baudrillard was its eyes.

There was one very unfortunate side-effect of reading his work, and taking it seriously (and playfully and provocatively and ironically). A series of synchronicities occurred which, together with reading a lot of Baudrillard, made me very nervous about the potential “revenge” of the viral. It was a bit like Nietzsche’s abyss gazing back at you.

I can never decide whether Baudrillard is more of a Gnostic or a magician.

I am not sure how Baudrillard’s work will resonate in future. Others may attempt to paint the bigger pictures, to create the spectacle, the more-Baudrillard-than-Baudrillard. Or perhaps he will just disappear.

Still, this death - this “disappearance” of a “simulacrum” - affects me deeply, personally.

There is so much to say, and nothing to say. He’s gone.

Baudrillard on Tour, Nov. 28 2005, From The New Yorker, Talk of the Town

?I don?t know how to ask this question, because it?s so multifaceted,? he said. ?You?re Baudrillard, and you were able to fill a room. And what I want to know is: when someone dies, we read an obituary?like Derrida died last year, and is a great loss for all of us. What would you like to be said about you? In other words, who are you? I would like to know how old you are, if you?re married and if you have kids, and since you?ve spent a great deal of time writing a great many books, some of which I could not get through, is there something you want to say that can be summed up??

?What I am, I don?t know,? Baudrillard said, with a Gallic twinkle in his eye. ?I am the simulacrum of myself.?

The audience giggled.

?And how old are you?? the questioner persisted.

?Very young.?

“Perhaps our eyes are merely a blank film which is taken from us after our deaths to be developed elsewhere and screened as our life story in some infernal cinema or dispatched as microfilm into the sidereal void.”

“Mistakes, scandals, and failures no longer signal catastrophe. The crucial thing is that they be made credible, and that the public be made aware of the efforts being expended in that direction. The “marketing” immunity of governments is similar to that of the major brands of washing powder.”

“What you have to do is enter the fiction of America, enter America as fiction. It is, indeed, on this fictive basis that it dominates the world.”

A little background:

More Obit thoughts:

Of course, that’s just a start. I’ve got a shelf of Baudrillard books here. When I can stand it, I’m going to read them all again.

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Posted: Mar 7, 2007 8:49am
Mar 3, 2007

From where I am, the eclipse will already be in progress when the Sun sets and the Moon rises. I’ll be watching the eastern horizon at sunset to watch the coppery red moon rise. Mid-eclipse (dark moon) is at 6:21 p.m. eastern time. By 8:12, the Earth’s shadow will have left the moon’s surface (from the moon’s perspective, it would be a solar eclipse by the Earth). This total lunar eclipse is very special - it is partly visible from every continent around the world.

Check a visibility map, and get more detail at NASA’s eclipse page.

Thanks to a forward from my friend Kerritwyn, I’ve gleaned some tips about possible ways to celebrate the eclipse.

According to some astrological and magical systems, eclipses co-mingle the energies of Moon and Sun, often creating disturbing or intensified effects. The supercharged full moon and its eclipsing is a reminder that we are held in the dark by clinging to only one perspective.

This lunar eclipse resonates for break-through insights and practical solutions. Bring the mind and body together.

The Full Moon is in Virgo - a full moon of healing and service and breaking free.

Celebrate those who work tirelessly to serve the needy, the wounded, and the infirm. If you are one of these, take a break, recharge, and celebrate your hard work. If you have a friend or a loved one who is one of these amazing people, you might want to give them a chance to turn some of that love and attention inward. When most astrologers speak about Virgo, they tend to use descriptors like perfectionist, critical, analytical, discriminating, empirical, and calculating. Virgo understands the oneness of all life through the physical realities of cosmology, mathematics and physics. We all express our Virgo side when we strive to be our best. Also associated with Virgo are words like healing, service, sacrifice, and mentoring. Virgo is the healer, the doctor, the nurse, the teacher, the therapist, the worker, the researcher, the scientist, and the engineer. For Virgo, caring comes in the form of finding workable solutions to everyday problems.

Full Moon in Virgo reflects a tremendous desire to throw off unhealthy habits that create sickness and sadness. Take responsibility for your health. Start questioning and being pro-active. This is the ideal Full Moon to start a weight loss or de-tox program, especially with Venus in Aries (the athlete) and Chiron (wounding) in radical change, tell-it-like-it-is, unemotional Aquarius.

The Pisces Sun (which rules a spectrum of experience ranging from pure transcendence, selflessness, unconditional love, to addiction, co-dependency, denial and fantasy) temporarily covers the energy of the practical, analytical Virgo Moon; veiling this Moon’s clarity and grounded reality-based thinking but opening up new possibilities. Practical and logical processes are temporarily out of balance, and solutions seem blocked by harsh realities. The challenge is to stay open to inspiration regardless of our daily circumstances. Bring mind and body back together.

On this Full Moon, Uranus is conjunct the Sun in Pisces, which on the positive side enlivens the energy of radical awakening into divine transcendence, or on the more negative side, leads to trauma through mindless, addictive behaviors. Not a good night to be abusing substances, but a great night to deeply connect with clear-minded approaches to alternative realities and break-through solutions. Pisces understands the oneness of all life through a deeply spiritual lens.

The opposition of Moon with Sun/Uranus is square Jupiter in Sagittarius, creating a T-square. If one walks the path of mindful inquiry and deliberate seeking, this T-square will open Devic and philosophically deep realms to conscious awareness. On the other hand, if partying is your objective, Jupiter will heighten the potential for over-indulgence and harmful behaviors. Again - no partying tonight! There is also a yod between Moon in Virgo, Venus in Aries, and Chiron in Aquarius. This yod may make romantic endeavors feel a bit disconnected or emotionally off the mark. Keep your attitude compassionate and caring.

The Moon is focused on service, and together with the Sun/Uranus conjunction insistent upon compassion, peace, and love, the Virgo cry of “get real and heal” is powerful. This Full Moon is ripe with potential for new health and healing. Experience your celestial origins by celebrating your body as a heavenly gift. Celebrate a global consciousness - think solutions and healing.

This Virgo Full Moon is also an opportunity to make friends with the inner critic, turning it into more of a help than a hindrance. Tame the self-doubting perfectionist within, and hear only the criticism that can help you thrive and grow. The emphasis again - break-through understandings.

I’ve got less than an hour to prepare my own eclectic ritual for the eclipse. Enjoy!

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Posted: Mar 3, 2007 2:37pm
Mar 2, 2007

Petition to Israeli, Palestinian & international leaders: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies at the heart of a global clash threatening to divide us all. People from every corner of the world want a just and lasting peace in the Middle East - and the international community can and must help bring all sides to the table. Start Real Middle East Talks Now, and stay at the negotiating table until we have peace…

Stop the Clash

(Note: Gender plays an interesting, somewhat unusual part in this video…

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Posted: Mar 2, 2007 7:22am
Mar 1, 2007

It’s been raining steadily all day. I’ve had a matching headache.

When I outside to make sure water wasn’t anywhere it wasn’t supposed to be, I observed a couple of new baby fishes in the pond, and buds opening on the hydrangeas. The daffodils are knocked down - whether because of the rain or because I probably didn’t plant the bulbs deep enough, I don’t know.

By the edge of the deck, I saw a chipmunk. It was eating a worm.

There is no doubt about this. It stuffed most of the worm into its cheek-pouch, but I saw it bite down and drop the end off into the mud - where it wiggled - then it picked up the worm and finished off the meal.

I mean, come on. Worm-eating chipmunks? Carnivorous chipmunks?


So, I googled it. Yup, they sometimes eat worms - and slugs, and snails, too - although they prefer seeds and berries and the other sorts of things you’d think of them eating.

All news to me. A whole yard full of acorns, and the chipmunk is eating worms.

Maybe I need to rethink my totem animal… or could it be a sign?

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Posted: Mar 1, 2007 1:09pm


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Heidi N.
, 2, 1 child
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