The Wreck of the Old 97

I opened up my homepage today to see that on this day in 1903 was the day of the wreck of the old 97, the mail train that was headed to Spencer, North Carolina.  Read all about it here.

Of course I knew about this event from the old folk ballad titled The Wreck of the Old 97.  So after reading about the wreck, I had to listen to a few versions of this classic folk song.

Here’s Woody Guthrie singing a version of it.

The first time I heard this song, it was on a Ramblin’ Jack Elliott LP in my basement in Ohio.

And of course we had to have some Johnny Cash. Here he is performing the Wreck of the Old 97 at San Quentin.

Hope you enjoy them.  Any other good railroad songs you know?


Nine Years On…


Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,
Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,
not a war – for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
a secret war … ssssshhhhh….
Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.
An hour of silence for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
refrigerator of our consciousness …

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all…Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ,  September 11th, 2002.

Baseball and Badminton


Baseball is my most truly loved sport ever.  It is the perfect game; it flows naturally; it is perfectly organized and also timeless.  There is no other sport or game that even approaches the perfection of baseball.

Badminton is a sport that I have picked up over the last year and-a-half.  My fiancee pushed me to try it initially, and because of many nice and patient people, I can get by in games pretty well now.  It’s fun and gives me a thorough workout, but will never approach the place nearest to my heart that is reserved for baseball.

Then recently, something happened.  I started combining my knowledge of baseball strategy and the game of badminton.  I have found a way to reconcile my favorite sport with the sport that I play the most!

It’s simple really.  In baseball, the pitcher has to know about the hitters he’s facing: What pitches do they like?  What part of the field do they tend to hit to?  What will they do when a pitch is high and inside?

I’ve taken this strategy and have started applying it when I serve in badminton.  I have to know and predict what the person receiving will do with a specific serve.  If I give a short serve, are they more likely to touch it over the net?  Or are they likely to lob it up and far to the back of the court?  I have to consider if the receiver is aggressive and if they’ll smash if I give them a long serve or not.  Considering the situation in badminton with the eye and knowledge of baseball helps me win sets.

I’ve also taken baseball knowledge and applied it to returning the shuttle, although not as much as in serving.  “Choke up and protect the plate,” my dad used to say when I was playing baseball as a kid.  Choke up on the bat so your swing is shorter quicker and don’t let any strikes cross the plate.  You can choke up in badminton when you need short, accurate strikes when returning the shuttle.  Protecting the plate for me in badminton simply means hit accurately and play it safe; don’t try any new moves or fancy backhand hits and keep the volley alive with solid and accurate returns.

Then there’s the brushback.  In baseball this is when the pitcher throws at the batter to scare him or psyche him out.  In badminton it works as well:  Just hit the shuttle directly at your opponent if the opportunity is available.  Even something as lightweight as a shuttle will make someone jump it it’s flying at their head at high speed.  If you are able to do this early in the set, your opponent will play extra cautiously and be very nervous, hence probably making more mistakes and helping you win.

So I’ve found some similarities between baseball and badminton, beyond the fact that they both start with the letter “B.”  If you play or watch baseball or badminton, does this make sense at all?  Or am I reading into it a little too deeply?

Regardless, I will continue to apply baseball strategy to my badminton game.

Classic Rock for the Weekend

It doesn’t get much more classic than Led Zeppelin.  Here they are singing Rock and Roll.

And here’s David Bowie with Suffragette City. “Wham, bam thank you ma’am!”  Great stuff!

Finally, we should have some John Cougar Mellencamp.  Here’s Pink Houses. I used to not like this song when I was little because I didn’t like the color pink, but as I matured I realized that the song kicks ass.