Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chapter 11--The Song of the Goddesses

Chapter 11

12:30pm Monday Afternoon.

The time came to work the spell and go to Heaven. Belldandy and the others went out into the courtyard where Skuld put the finishing touches on the magic circle. She was quite proud of her creation and didn't hesitate to let anyone who stood still long enough know how proud she was. While it looked deceptively simple, there were highly sophisticated calculations that went into it's construction. It featured sub-circles around the edges for the goddesses and a larger space in the middle for Keiichi. Around the edges of the sub circles and the circumference of the entire circle were runes of a language Keiichi had never seen before. The circle was charged with power and even a human such as Keiichi could not fail to notice it.

Peorth cautioned Keiichi, “Whatever you do, don't step on any lines entering the circle, and once you get into the center, don't move and don't talk, we're going to need our best concentration and can't afford distractions. Focus all your energies and attention on our song. Nothing else. It will feel a little uncomfortable as the spell progresses, but you should be able to handle it. Now can I have a kiss for luck, Hmmmmm, Keiichi???” She slid uncomfortably close to him and he stole a glance at Belldandy. Bell saw what was going on and waved at him. “I guess that one little kiss won't hurt, Peorth.” That's all that she needed to hear. She grabbed Keiichi and laid a real smacker on the lips. “Thanks, cherie, Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.” She tipped him the wink and took her place in the circle, hips swaying provocatively under her tiny bikini bottoms.

Keiichi took great care to not touch any of the lines as he entered the circle. When he got into the center, he turned to look at each of the goddesses as they took their places also. Belldandy was in front of him. Skuld was to his right, Peorth was slightly behind him on the right, Urd was in the same position on his left and Lind was directly to his left. He took one last look at Belldandy. She looked at him with eyes of pure love and confidence. He smiled back at her. With a flash of light, Belldandy, Urd and Skuld changed into their formal goddess robes. The very same robes that each goddess wore the first time they met Keiichi. Belldandy's, a long white with blue and gold sawtooth trim. Urd's, a royal purple, and black and gold trim. Skuld, a pink short skirt and jacket with red buttons and a cape.

The courtyard was silent as night as the goddesses started the spell. Belldandy with her angel Holy Bell, led off with a rich golden soprano. Peorth came in next with Gorgeous Rose with a crystal clear alto, Lind came in third with Cool Mint and Spear Mint with a deep smoky tenor. And while they weren't required to sing, Urd and Skuld lent their angels World of Elegance and Noble Scarlet as well as their highly competent alto and soprano voices, respectively. The harmony of the five goddesses was exquisite. Keiichi felt himself being quite moved by the experience. His mind emptied itself of all thoughts and just concentrated on the beautiful harmonies these goddesses were singing all for his benefit. Lind's powerful tenor was clearly not the voice that one would associate with a goddess who fought demons and hellish creatures. Belldandy's and Skuld's sopranos were in perfect pitch as well as Peorth's and Urd's altos. Keiichi could feel the first hints of the spell working deep within him. There was a feeling of lightness that began in the pit of his stomach and radiated out towards his limbs.

A dome of power began to form over the circle and its inhabitants. The pitch and intensity of the goddesses song began to rise as the harmony remained in sync. Keiichi could see that all the goddesses forehead marks were glowing with a powerful blue-white light. He could see the runes of the circle mixing with the runes of the spell spiraling round and round over his head. His mind started to expand, wanting to break free of the constrictions of working in three dimensions. It began to hurt his head, but Keiichi continued to concentrate on the song of the goddesses. All five goddesses were singing with looks of joy on their faces.

Their song becoming more and more complex as the spell went on. His mind continued to change and reconfigure. It kept straining against the mental bonds that held it back. The pain in Keiichi's head grew until it matched the worst headache he'd ever had. It felt like someone drove a chisel into his head with a hammer. Still he kept focusing on the song, that beautiful, powerful song. The dome of power grew brighter. Almost blinding in intensity. Each goddess's marks grew brighter and brighter. The song was nearing its crescendo. Each voice scaled higher, the harmonies remained tight and precise. Suddenly at the point where Keiichi could stand it no more and he feared that his head would explode, he felt something give way in his mind. It was almost an audible snap, and the pain suddenly disappeared. But now his mind was working much differently now. He could actually understand what the goddesses were singing. Every word. He looked up at the runes floating over his head and he could read and understand them. At this point, the harmonies of the goddesses slowly started to become disjointed. Notes started to go flat, parts were missing. The goddesses tried desperately to pull the unraveling song back together. There were looks of surprise and worriment on each goddess's face. The dome of power began to lose its structure as well as it's intensity. The goddesses forehead marks started to flicker, and one by one went out. The dome gave one final powerful flash and then collapsed, the runes disappearing into the sky. Keiichi and the five goddesses passed out all at once.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chapter 10--Song of the Goddesses

Chapter 10

10 am Monday Morning.

Sunday passed without incident. Skuld and Urd were once again engaged in one of their running battles to control the television. This time instead of a game of Goddess Poker they decided to go out into the courtyard and throw Skuld-bombs at each other and whoever got blown up lost TV rights for the day. Banpei and Sigel, the female robot Skuld built from a old junk shop's welcome doll, who kept avoiding Banpei's advances, were chasing each other around the temple. Sigel kept shooting her rocket punch at the amorous robot, and he kept dodging them. Keiichi was working on his computer which burned out yet another hard drive. This was the third one in three months. And Belldandy was once again in the kitchen looking through Western homemaking magazines trying to find a new delicacy to serve Keiichi. This was the morning that Lind and Peorth were to show up to help Belldandy to cast the spell and escort the gang to Heaven. But no one knew the exact time they were to arrive, so they kept themselves busy until they showed up.

It was a little after noon when it happened. Belldandy was in the kitchen preparing lunch, when she suddenly tensed up. There was a familiar stirring of energy in the air. Urd ran into the kitchen and said “You felt that, right?” Belldandy answered “Yes, the gate's opening.” Both sisters dropped what they were doing and hurried outside into the courtyard.

They stopped next to Skuld who pointed into the sky towards the west. The clouds in the sky started to turn a purplish blue and the winds kicked up suddenly. All three goddess sisters stared at the sight, the winds blowing their long hair wildly. Lightning bolts flashed in the distance and an opening developed in the clouds. The center of the opening rippled and shimmered like the surface of a pond.

After a few seconds, an object appeared in the opening. It was hard to describe, but it looked somewhat like a Celtic knot with an empty space in the middle. It was the gate. The edges of the gate glittered with an unnatural sparkling. In the empty space, waves of energy flowed in upon themselves from the edges of the opening to the center. The lightning continued to flash as the clouds started to recede. The gate became much clearer as the clouds thinned. After about a minute, the clouds had completely disappeared leaving a completely blue sky. Two figures materialized in the gate. As they came closer to the opening, Belldandy could make out the silhouette of the figures. One was shorter, much more scantily dressed, and voluptuous than the other which was taller, slimmer and carrying a long handled ax that looked like a medieval halberd. The figures exited the opening of the gate and floated down to land softly in the center of the courtyard. It was Lind and Peorth.

Lind was the taller of the two. She was dressed in her Valkyrie battlesuit and carried her halberd in both hands across her chest. She had a stern look on her face as did all of the warrior goddesses of the Valkyries. Lind was a combat specialist. Trained to fight demons and defend heaven from all attackers. She had the reputation of being the most aggressive of the Valkyries and she also employed the most extreme training regimen. It was hard to understand how this goddess who was trained to fight could have such a beautiful singing voice.

Peorth was the more attractive. She was dressed in a revealing black outfit that resembled a bikini, but with a more substantial top. Over that she wore a brown harness/garter belt. She wore brown matching gloves, boots and garters that had undone clasps on them. Her hair was in a short pageboy with a long ponytail going down the middle of her back. Peorth was employed in the same job as Belldandy except she worked for the rival Earth Assistance Agency. Peorth's specialty was in “services.” Both Goddesses were First Class, but Peorth held the same type of license as Belldandy: Second Category, Unlimited. Lind held a First Category, Special Duty license as befitted her combat status.

Lind stepped up to Belldandy and her sisters, and said in a firm, clipped tone, “Belldandy, Urd, Skuld. It is good to see you again, although I wish the circumstances were more positive.” Peorth added “Oui mon chere, Belldandy has been the talk of all heaven. Everyone's all a twitter about her defying the Almighty. I can tell you, he is not pleased.”

Belldandy stepped forward and clasped the hands of Lind and Peorth and welcomed them. “Welcome back to the temple. It's been a while since you both were here. Shall we have some tea and discuss what's before us? Lind responded curtly. We can't stay too long. We need to get going as soon as possible, but a cup of tea would be satisfactory.

The goddesses walked back to the front door where they were met by Keiichi. “Hello, Lind. I'm glad to see you. I remember you said you wanted to come back on your next vacation.” Lind said “ I did make that promise, but I've been really busy with the demon problems we've been having lately. Unfortunately, this is not a social call. We have a lot to discuss and little time to do it.”

Peorth took one look at Keiichi, and floated over to him and put her arms around him in an smothering embrace. “Ke-e-i-i-i-i-c-h-i-i-i!!!, you're not going to welcome me back to the temple???” She nuzzled her face against his and cooed, “ You didn't miss me???, I missed you!!! I'm still waiting to grant you that wish, anytime, cherie.” Keiichi wanted to blow away on the wind. “Hello, Peorth.” he sighed. She was about ready to plant a kiss on Keiichi when Urd cautioned her “Peorth, I wouldn't do that if I were you. Remember Belldandy's jealousy issues?” Sure enough, thunderclouds appeared overhead, a savage bolt of lighting struck the temple roof and blew a foot wide hole in the shingles. Belldandy stood there her ocean-blue pupils the size of pie plates, her lips set in a firm frown. Murder written across her gorgeous face. Peorth let go of Keiichi, but only after lingering just a few seconds in seeming defiance to Belldandy. “Hhhumph, she's no fun.” Belldandy snapped out of it and acted none the wiser.

In the Tea Room Belldandy, Peorth, and Lind sat at the table while Urd floated nearby, Skuld and Keiichi sat next to each other, but the young goddess was still sore at him for bringing all this on her big sister. “You're gonna get it up in Heaven, Keiichi!” She said and stuck her tongue out at him. Keiichi shook his head and ignored her.

Belldandy opened the discussion, “Lind, how is this going to work? Lind said “The spell requires a special magic circle drawn according to these specifications. She waved her hand and a piece of paper with very complex equations and formulas written on it, materialized from nowhere. She handed the paper to Skuld. “Skuld, you are one of the best magic circle designers and mathematicians in Heaven. You're responsible for setting up the circle. It has to be laid out exactly as these formulas state. No deviation.” Skuld beamed at her new job. “It's about time someone around here recognized my sheer genius!!!” She happily ran off to her room to do the calculations.

Lind continued “Now, here is the spell program.” She waved another gesture and three more papers appeared. She passed them out to Peorth and Belldandy. “As you can see, this is very high level spell. We will definitely need our angels for this one. There is only one chance that we have to do it right. Any mistake would be unfortunate to say the least.

Once we get to heaven, I will escort you directly to council chambers. You should know that the entire company of goddesses is expected to observe this hearing. This is an unprecedented occasion. And the Almighty is very intent on revoking your license. I've been told that isolation is out. So you won't have to worry about that.” Belldandy breathed a sigh of relief.

But if you're guilty, it's safe to say that your license will be revoked. The question is for how long. He's hoping to get five years heaven time at least.” Keiichi raised his hand. “Lind, what is my role in this and why was I asked to come along. I don't know what I as a human can do to help Bell.” Lind looked straight at Keiichi and with all seriousness said “ Keiichi, you are the most important part of this whole thing. You will testify to Belldandy's character. You're going to be the one who'll tell the Almighty and the Council about what Belldandy has done for you and how she has helped you since you've been living with her. While we will all have a role in trying to sway the council from passing sentence on Belldandy, it will be your statements the council will listen to most. If there was ever a time for you to convey your truest and deepest feelings about Belldandy, that will be the time. Do not hold back under any circumstances. If you truly love Belldandy and your statements reflect that, your feelings will come through and she will be acquitted.

Peorth was sitting silent during the discussion, but she then added her concerns. “One major problem with this whole situation is Lind. As you know, Lind has Level One Song Proficiency. But you also know well that when it comes to non-combat magic, her skills are...lower than average. This level of magic is well above her abilities.” Peorth said her last sentence nervously ready to dive out of the way should Lind take offense. But Lind didn't flinch. “ I do admit that I am the weak link in this whole affair. My magical skills leave much to be desired. I am a combat goddess, we in the Valkyries have no use for singing spells. But I'm the only other First Class Goddess with the required singing credentials. There is no one else qualified. All I can ask is that Belldandy and Peorth can cover for my weakness. I will give all I have to make this work, but I will need help in casting my parts of the spell.” Belldandy put her hand on Lind's shoulder. “This problem presents a challenge, but I have faith that you will do your very best. We all have shortcomings we must overcome. But only by hard work and support from people who care about us, will we achieve success.” Lind looked at Belldandy, smiled and said “Thank you, Belldandy. With you helping me, I'll be all right.”

It took Skuld two hours to draw the circle according to instructions. She borrowed every calculating device in the house including Keiichi's computer and soon had her room filled with arcane formulas and calculations. She had to convert ten-dimensional math into three-dimensions, take into account the difference in time calculations between Heaven and Earth and also make sure that the gate deposited them in the correct location. Keiichi stopped by to ask if Skuld needed any help crunching the numbers. She looked at him as if he had grown a second head and kept doing her work. He looked at her calculations and within ten seconds had gotten hopelessly lost. She was doing math that wasn't found anywhere on the Earth. He had to admit, that even though she was annoying, immature, self absorbed, and incredibly moody, Skuld was a hell of a mathematician.

Belldandy walked up to Keiichi and pulled him aside. She had serious concerns on her face. “Keiichi, I'm nervous. I'm wondering whether I made a mistake in defying the Almighty like I did. So many things could go wrong. The spell could fail, you could be destroyed, and even if we make it to Heaven, I could still lose my license.” Belldandy wrapped her arms around Keiichi and said “Hold me, for just a little while.” Keiichi held his goddess, and spoke words of reassurance to her.

Belldandy, there comes a time when people have to take a stand for their convictions. Standing up for what you believe is not an easy thing to do. If it were, everyone would do it. You love me enough that you would disobey an order from the Almighty himself. I am humbled and awed that you care enough for me to do that. Whatever happens, you have my word and my bond that I will always be with you. No matter what. The Almighty can take away your license, but he can't take you away from me. What's done is done, you can't go back now.” Belldandy didn't say anything, she just held on tight to her man. She could once again hear her's and Keiichi's hearts beat as one. She took comfort from his reassurance. She drew on his strength and retreated into his warmth. Keiichi looked into Belldandy's face and kissed her on the forehead. “Hey, you're supposed to be the big bad Goddess First Class who could destroy the earth with one wave of her hand. And you're taking solace from a frail human like me? Something's wrong with this picture.” Belldandy smiled.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Conservatives got their panties in a wad over this???

As you know I rarely tackle politics on my blog partially because there are no shortage of political bloggers out there that are much better at analyzing America's favorite contact sport than I am. Also a lot of the shrill screaming and boorish nattering from both sides of the political aisle gets old real quick when the extremists and full mooners on both sides start using and reusing the same old arguments and talking points to try and shove their point of view into the face of the American public.

But the recent flack that was exhibited by conservatives at President Obama's speech to America's school children has gotten even a political lightweight like me to focus the Scribbler on this issue. Urged on by various right-wing talk show hosts and Republican congressmen, many conservatives had decided that their children would be absent on the day of the speech and even some school districts held off on showing the speech live until it was determined that the content of the speech passed muster, i.e. it didn't have political overtones that would get the more conservative parents in the district upset. The thing that these parents feared was Obama was going to try and indoctrinate their kids into some kind of socialist agenda that would somehow make little Johny and Suzy into the American equivalent of the old Soviet Komsomol. So I decided in take a look at this speech and see whether their fears would be realized. Here's the text of the speech in it's entirety: My thoughts will be in the italics.


Hello everyone - how's everybody doing today? I'm here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I'm glad you all could join us today.

Well, so far, so good, he didn't refer to the kiddies as Comrades!

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

I guess the President's mention of his families' living in Indonesia will give the birthers some more sticks with which to beat the very dead horse that is the debate over the legitimacy of Pres. Obama's birth certificate. But in an age where latch-key kids are more and more the rule of the day, the fact that his mother taught him extra lessons should get some points from the right-wing crowd and their displeasure of "government" schools.

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I'm here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to talk with you about your education and what's expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I've given a lot of speeches about education. And I've talked a lot about responsibility.
I've talked about your teachers' responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working where students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.

Wow, isn't this something that the conservatives love to preach about to anyone who'd stand still long enough to listen? They love to banter endlessly about the word "responsibility." That's their mantra. We hear all the time, "take responsibility of your life, be accountable and all that. " Standard conservative talking point, why would they get bent out of shape over this?? Maybe because one of their icons isn't the one saying it.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world - and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.

Even more of this responsibility stuff. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that ol' Ronnie Reagan, the patron saint of the Right had penned this speech! Not some lefty, pinko, socialist community organizer!!!

Maybe you could be a good writer - maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper - but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor - maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine - but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life - I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

More responsibility!!! Nothing about cheating on tests, or taking the easy way out, or God forbid, depending on the government to pour the information into your head!! Nice touch including the jobs of police officer and the military. That usually goes over real well with the "strong defense, law and order" types. But still, what is there to get conservatives knickers' in a twist??

And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

You might get some conservatives to cringe at the mention of AIDS, a lot of them still think it's that disease that only gays and prostitutes get, and of course, there aren't any conservative gays and any right-winger worth his National Review subscription wouldn't need the services of a prostitute, at least in this country, anyway.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that - if you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.

Now I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

Yeah, like parents who refuse to let you be exposed to ideas, thoughts and ideologies that clash with their admittedly narrow world view.

I get it. I know what that's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn't always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn't fit in.

Lookee here!!! A single mother who didn't rely on food stamps!! Conservatives should be dancing in the streets over this. No welfare queens in the Obama household!!

So I wasn't always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I'm not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

I wonder how long it'll take before the Republican noise machine starts demanding an investigation into these things President Obama's not proud of. And I'm sure that the shrill cry for impeachment proceedings will be cranked up before long.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn't have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Of course the Right-wingers could spin this into President and Mrs. Obama being Affirmative Action babies, and that by taking advantage of that controversial government program, they denied two white kids of a chance to become President or First Lady.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life - what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home - that's no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That's no excuse for not trying.

Straight out of the conservative playbook, except a liberal is saying them.

Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

Of course some rightie will want to know: "Since she's got one of them there Hispanic names, I bet she's an illegal alien, getting an education on the government dole!!!"

I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer - hundreds of extra hours - to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he's headed to college this fall.

And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That's why today, I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education - and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.

THIS is something our kids need to hear and I don't give a damn who says it!!! Kids in the black community especially need to disavowed of this notion.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That's OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Yeah, but remember Mr. President, a lot of right wingers especially those of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian strain think that JK Rowling should be condemned to hell because her Harry Potter novels could teach kids how to use magic and of course, magic is the Devil's province.

These people succeeded because they understand that you can't let your failures define you - you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. It's the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.

He mentioned "hard work"!!! What left thinking liberal layabout would want to espouse hard work? They just want to hang about all day sucking on the government teat!!!

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust - a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor - and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

This is interesting. Most conservatives believe that it's a sign of weakness to ask for help. In their eyes, this is a dog-eat-dog world, where everyone has to fight for their own share of the prize and the weak are left behind and/or stepped on to advance the goals of the strong. Asking for help??? How positively liberal!!!

And even when you're struggling, even when you're discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you - don't ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down - don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

All in all, pretty innocuous stuff. No clarion call to join the great Socialist Revolution. Matter of fact, it sounded quite conservative to me. Stay in school, take responsibility of your life, don't let your environment dictate your attitude, hard work. What were the folks on the right so worried about? I don't get it.

Sometimes, I wonder if the folks who listen to right-wing talk radio understand that the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys, the Glenn Becks, and Micheal Savages of the world are actually laughing at their audience? Do they actually believe what they are saying? Maybe so, but understand that the real function of talk radio or any radio for that manner is not to inform or entertain the audience or get them to think, or provoke an honest discussion, it's all about selling soap, to use an old Doug Hoerth quote.

Radio 101, boys and girls. Sponsors pay the radio stations big bucks to air their commercials during these talk shows, and the more people who listen to them, the more the stations can charge for spots. And what provides massive listenership and hence top ad rates for spots? Conservative talk radio. There's hardly a market in this country that does not have at least one right-wing yakker, either local or syndicated. And they all pretty much sound alike in terms of their anti-Obama screeds, the way they rile up their intended audience, and the amount of money they bring into their radio partners. They know that loud mouths and polarizing rants bring in the bucks better than reasoned debate and calm discussion. Americans like their radio like they like their sports. Full contact and lots of crashes. And we also know that if something is said enough times, in a loud enough voice, eventually someone will believe it. Hitler proved that.

But I wonder if listeners of right-wing talk radio understand how they are being conditioned to react to certain words repeated over and over again in a menacing tone. Words like "Socialist", "Communist", "Government-run" It's like Pavlov and his dogs. These hosts know that all they have to do is say one of those buzz words, and like Pavlov's dogs slobbered at the ringing of a bell in anticipation of receiving a reward, so will these listeners react positively and viscerally in anticipation of a reward, which in this case, is affirmation of their own beliefs.

So in actuality people, don't think that Rush, Michael, Sean, Glen and the other right wing talkers actually care about you, and or your struggles, or your feelings about the future of this country. All they care about is the money. And right now with a struggling Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Congress, they're stacking the bucks hand over fist.

So what did we learn about Obama's speech? Did he manage to convert a nation's youth into little communists? No, his speech was no different from speeches that Republican presidents gave to school children. Hard work, responsibility, succeeding in school, respecting teachers? Those are messages that no one political party or ideology has exclusive claim over. Who knows maybe our children will grow up to be great in spite of their parents as well as because of them.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Chapters 8&9--The Song of the Goddesses.

Chapter 8

4:30pm Saturday Afternoon.

WHAT????” Keiichi screamed when Belldandy broke the news to him. They were in the Tea Room standing face to face. “Belldandy, what were you thinking, opposing the Almighty like that? Do you want to lose your license? Am I that important to you that you'd risk everything for me? Please tell me this is a dream. Yeah!!!, it's all a dream. I'm really asleep and my girlfriend didn't just talk back to the Almighty, and I'm not going to Heaven and I don't have to put up with Peorth again...”

Belldandy grabbed Keiichi by the shoulders and shook him a little more violently than she intended, “Keiichi, this is not a dream, this is very real. You, I, and my sisters will have to go to heaven for this hearing before the Council in two days. I'm sorry that what I did caused you so much grief, but I love you so much that I can't stand to be without you. I'm willing to put my license, my career, and my life on the line to stay with you.

I confess that since I have lived here with you, my weaknesses and flaws have been made clear to me. And one of those weaknesses is that I am possessive of you and very jealous. Seeing any woman flirting with you enrages me. You've seen my jealousy storms. You've seen the destruction I can cause. Can you still stay with me knowing this?”

Belldandy collapsed to the floor at Keiichi's feet with a wail and cried out tearfully,

I am so horrible!!, I am undeserving of you, and my goddess license. Goddesses are supposed to be kind, gentle, warm, and loving. Above all they are supposed to be selfless and I am not selfless. I am the worst kind of selfish. I want you all to myself! I want to give you all of me. Just like I want all of you. But I'm not ready for that yet.

Keiichi, my love. Please tell me you'll forgive me!” Bell's face turned red as the tears flowed. Her shoulders heaved as she continued to cry. Her hair, always in place and immaculate, was disheveled. The ribbon holding her ponytail fell off, and her hair cascaded down the middle of her back flowing free. For the first time ever, Belldandy didn't look the perfect goddess. She looked like a frightened and traumatized young woman. All pretense was stripped away, and Belldandy's true feelings were laid bare for all to see. Keiichi was stunned. He had never seen Belldandy open up to him to this extent before. She hadn't revealed anything he didn't already know. But he never saw her in such a vulnerable state.

Keiichi reached down and extended a hand to Belldandy. He helped her to her feet. He grabbed a towel and gently wiped the tears from his goddess's eyes. He looked into those very same eyes and saw the depths of Belldandy's soul. He spoke to that soul.

Belldandy. You have given me the greatest years of my life. You have taught me what love really is. You have stood beside me. You have protected me and saved my life many times. I owe you a debt that I can never repay. It is not just your warmth and kindness and gentleness that makes you a great goddess. It is also those weaknesses that complete you. Light cannot exist without darkness. The function of light is to dispell the darkness. Your light, your pure light scatters the darkness within you. It will always be there. But you can control it through your light. It is alright to be jealous as long as it does not consume you.

And being possessive, I don't mind you being possessive of me. I'm glad that you find me worthy enough to be possessive. It is good for you to acknowledge your flaws. That means that we, and I do mean we, can work on fixing them together. Belldandy, you mean the world to me and I would go through hell itself before seeing a hair on your head harmed. There is nothing to forgive. You have done nothing wrong.

And even though you're not ready to become completely intimate with me, I think that you need this right now.” And he pulled Belldandy to him, put both arms around her slim waist and kissed her hard on the lips. She offered no resistance, and threw her arms around Keiichi's neck. Her lips were so soft and moist. Belldandy never wore perfume, but Keiichi could smell honeysuckle, and cherry blossoms and ocean breezes. In his mind he could hear a mix of Belldandy's infectious giggles and her and Holy Bell singing a tune just for him. His mind started to drift away on a cloud of passion. He could feel Bell's love flowing through his body, radiating through his soul, Energizing him. Fulfilling him. He started to feel himself becoming aroused, and it would have been so easy to carry her to his room and make love to her. But out of respect for Belldandy's wishes, he didn't want to give into his desires just yet. In response, Belldandy drew him even closer to her. Not wanting to let go. She melted into his arms. She felt at home. She wished that they could stay like this forever. Her goddess powers started to stir within her, flushing away her despair, filling her with new hope and courage. Once again their hearts were beating together in perfect time. She wanted to give her all to him right there in the Tea Room. But she knew that it wasn't the time. After what seemed to be hours, but was only ten minutes, they released from their embrace. They looked into each others eyes, and Belldandy said “Thank you Keiichi, I did need that. I didn't want to let you go. I wanted to stay in your arms forever.”

Meanwhile, Urd was standing just outside the Tea Room watching the entire exchange. She said to herself with a chuckle,“ Good for you, Belldandy. Maybe this relationship has a chance after all.”

Chapter 9

6 pm Saturday Afternoon.

Keiichi and the three goddesses were at dinner in the Tea Room discussing the upcoming hearing. Skuld was mad that she didn't get to hear the phone call between Kami-sama and Belldandy, and she wasn't excited about going back to Heaven because the first thing she'd end up doing was going back to work debugging Yggdrasil. Of course she blamed the whole mess on Keiichi.

SEE KEIICHI, THIS IS WHY I HATE YOU SO MUCH!!!, IF YOU HADN'T GOTTEN SO LOVEY-DOVEY WITH BELLDANDY, WE WOULDN'T HAVE THIS PROBLEM!!! Skuld screamed, her voice ripping through the thin walls of the temple like a tornado. “I was just getting to enjoy life on Earth, Sentaro and I have been getting along so well, and now this!!! I HOPE THE ALMIGHTY ZAPS YOU WITH A THUNDERBOLT, KEIICHI!!!”

Belldandy came to Keiichi's defense. “Skuld, if there's anyone to blame, blame me. I was the one who challenged the order. Keiichi didn't put me up to this. He has done nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, he's taking a very big risk by agreeing to go to heaven with me. If the conversion spell goes wrong, he could be destroyed. Even if he wasn't and the spell didn't work, he would still remain on earth and couldn't accompany me to the hearing, and that would cause Kami-sama to implement the punishment against me. So please don't put this on Keiichi. It wasn't his fault that I fell in love with him. It just happened.”

Skuld was satisfied with Bell's answer for now. “ Well, I guess that it really isn't Keiichi's fault. It's just that he's such a convenient scapegoat for all the crap that happens around here, she said with a smirk at Keiichi.

Keiichi took this time to divert the discussion to the matter at hand. “So, what do I need to know in order to prepare for this trip to Heaven?, I mean I'll do whatever it takes to make sure Belldandy is all right, but this spell business has me a little concerned. I mean I could be scattered all over Japan if something goes wrong. I'm sure that Belldandy can do her part singing-wise, but I don't know about Lind and Peorth.”

Urd tried to add a little levity to the situation. “Well, if I were you, I'd make sure I had a will in place, for one thing. Lind's magic leaves a lot to be desired. I've got dibbs on the liquor cabinet and the TV's.” And Skuld jumped in, saying “ And I want all your tools, your computer, your motorcycle...” she was bouncing up and down gleefully in her place just thinking about the cool inventions she could make with Keiichi's stuff.

Keiichi said “All right you two, cut it out. Let's get back to the subject at hand. What do I need to know about Heaven?”

Belldandy said “It's very hard for a human such as yourself to understand what heaven is like. No offense, Keiichi, but humans like yourselves are much too limited in their senses to appreciate and fully comprehend what Heaven is like. Heaven is a ten-dimensional place. The majority of what goes on there will be well beyond your understanding. The conversion spell will most likely allow you to do the basic things like see the sights, interact with us as well as Kami-sama and the council and move around as well as understand the language. But much of the deeper aspects of heaven are simply not describable to you in a form that you can understand. I can tell you that it is the most beautiful place you will ever see, even with your limited vision. The colors are so bright and rich. You'll see things that don't make sense in this world, but make perfect sense there. Even us goddesses will look different than what you're used to.”

Keiichi said with a grin “Hmm, will you be as beautiful up there as you are here?” Belldandy blushed a deep crimson.

Urd said slyly. “If you think she's hot down here, Keiichi-boy, you haven't seen anything yet. You'll barely be able to keep your hands off her once you see what she looks like in Heaven. And if you think I'M hot down here,” Urd continued, suggestively fondling her voluptuous breasts. “I know you won't keep your hands off ME!!!” She moved in to toy with Keiichi's affections, but quickly jumped back when the teapot exploded sending hot tea all over the table. Skuld let out a scream and ran back to her room. Urd turned to look at Belldandy and could see the intense look in her eyes, her thin pursed lips. The massing energies of jealousy that were coming off Belldandy like lethal rays of radiation. “Belldandy!!, Belldandy!!” Urd cried out, panicking. “I was only joking. Settle down!!!” And just like that, the jealousy storm was over. Belldandy snapped out of her trance, blinked a couple times, and said, “Huh, Oh I'm sorry, Urd. Please forgive me.”

Geez, Belldandy, you're going to have to get a grip on those jealousy storms. It's just me. I'm not going to take your Keiichi away. You know I like to play around with him. I don't mean anything by it.” Urd complained while wiping the tea off the table.

I know that you aren't serious about seducing Keiichi, but when I see other women even playfully flirting with him, It just makes me so mad. I can hardly control myself.”

Keiichi leaped up and rushed to Belldandy's side. “Are you all right?” “Yes, I am” Belldandy said. “I need to go and clean this mess up.” She picked up the broken teapot and ran off into the kitchen.

Urd grabbed a towel and finished cleaning the table and then sat down again. “Urd, Keiichi asked, “Belldandy has been under a lot of strain lately. I wonder if she did the right thing by confronting the Almighty like that. She could end up in some serious trouble if I don't make it to the hearing and also if the Council rules against her. She could end up disconnected from Yggdrasil. That sounds harsh.”

That is the worst punishment a goddess can face, it's almost a living death. Urd replied with all trace of mischief gone from her voice. “She would literally be floating in a netherworld. Conscious, but completely isolated from everything, No one would be able to see or talk to her, and she would not be able to respond to anything. She'd be better off dead rather than disconnected from Yggdrasil.”
“How long would this punishment last?” Keiichi asked, not wanted to hear the answer.

It depends. For Belldandy, who has a clean record, maybe a year in heaven time which comes out to 5 years in earth time. The maximum sentence that is given is 10 years. But even the Almighty has never passed that sentence. But those who go into isolation, even for a year, never come out the same. And for a goddess like Belldandy, who thrives on being around people, it would be like slow torture. It would destroy her. But that's the extreme punishment, It's unlikely that Belldandy would be sentenced to that. Most likely she'd lose her license for a while. Which is serious because she would not be able to do her job with the Goddess Assistance Agency. Most likely, she'd be shunted off to a desk job to work off her sentence. But it would still tear Belldandy up because she loves doing things for humans.

Defying the Almighty is a serious offense, Keiichi. He's not known for taking kindly for such insubordination. It's a testament to Belldandy's character and to her greatness as a goddess that he's even granting her a hearing. Also, It's a credit to you.”

Keiichi looked confused “How's that, Urd?”

If Belldandy would have been contracted to any other human when she defied the Almighty, she would have been punished on the spot. No exceptions, whatsoever. Believe it or not, Kei, the Almighty knows a lot about you. You've done quite a bit of service to Heaven since we've come to live with you. The Lord of Terror incident, the separation of my demon half from my divine half, the Angel Eater getting loose. You played a major part in all those situations and The Almighty has quite a bit of respect for you. You could almost say that he likes you. That's why he's granting Belldandy a hearing and allowing you to come along. He would never do this for any other human.

Keiichi said “Wow.” I didn't think the Almighty even knew me, much less had any opinion about me.”

Remember one thing, Keiichi” Urd cautioned. “Belldandy is putting a lot on the line because she loves you so much. She would not have done this for anyone but you. You're a very lucky guy.” Urd then reached over and gave Keiichi a kiss on the cheek and a wink. Keiichi leaped back “Urd, don't do that, you'll cause Belldandy to go off again.” He tensed up waiting for the fireworks.

No, Keiichi, I'm all right this time.” Belldandy said, walking into the room just as Urd leaned back. Keiichi looked like he was going to go through the floor. “ I could tell that kiss was out of respect and affection, not to flirt with you.” Belldandy then sat down next to Keiichi.

“But I may have to do this to get you back into my good graces.” She said with a touch of mischief in her tone. And she pulled him to her and gave him a very big kiss on the lips.