Thursday, December 29, 2005

Something I Read ...

A post by my friend, Frank Wilson, at booksinq, earlier this month, provided me with my December 'Coincidence of the Month.' It also led to a great discussion of an author with whom we're probably all familiar, at least a little bit ... though we may not know it.

Frank was recalling James Hilton, a popular novelist of the 1930s and '40s who had several books ("Lost Horizon," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Random Harvest") adapted into successful films. "I don't know whether anyone reads his books today," Frank wrote, "though they are certainly worth reading."

I had just finished reading "Lost Horizon" that same week, and had thought of writing Frank about it, and asking his opinion (as Book Review Editor of the
Philadelphia Inquirer) of 'Where is James Hilton in today's reading consciousness?' or something to that effect.

I think many people out there may be like me ... saw and enjoyed the movie adapted from the book ... but never read the book itself.

I think Hilton is a wonderful writer, especially when it comes to presenting characters ... their way of speaking and relating to one another, their strengths and their shortcomings, and the strange, sometimes unpredictable course those characters may choose to follow.

I have read that his setting and characters in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" were inspired by his own experiences as a schoolboy in Cambridge. I don't doubt that he became all-too-familiar, as well, with the men and shells-of-men who returned to England from World War I, many of who may have nodded, knowingly, at what happened to Conway in "Lost Horizon," and may have yearned, themselves, for the peace he found in the Valley of the Blue Moon.

Yet, he leaves that peace behind, yielding to a sense of duty to the world he left behind, and to a young co-worker who remains determined to return to that world (in the film, the co-worker becomes Conway's kid brother, perhaps to better persuade film audiences wondering why Conway would leave).

I also enjoyed the setting, so exotic, so far-removed from the commonplace in England. But, then, I have always been a fan of adventures in faraway lands ... guess it comes from reading H. Rider Haggard when I was young.

I am left wondering, as the narrator does in the book's closing line, whether or not Conway makes it back to Shangri-La, and I believe the narrator shares my hope that he DOES. Still, though, we don't know. In the film, audiences are not left wondering, and are given a final, visual assurance that Conway eventually makes his way - albeit with great difficulty - back to the Valley of the Blue Moon.

All in all, a very good read. In fact. I'm going back to that 'Friends of the Midland Library' bookstore - where I found "Lost Horizon" - to see if they have some of his other works. If not, well, there's always Amazon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Something I Heard ...

As I posted earlier, the end of the year brings with it a variety of 'retrospective pieces' to the media, usually nothing more than assemblages of what news producers consider the best and the worst of the departing year.

One of the problems I have with these is that the perspective, all too often, is a shortsighted one, where the 'best' and the 'worst' is often determined by the heights - or the depths - something reached in just the last twelve months ... with little or no attention paid to 'the long view.'

One of these that struck me was a retrospective in 2001 that bemoaned the loss of current pop stars, but neglected
Isaac Stern ... I mean, come on ... was his life really of such insignificance as compared to, say, Aaliyah ?

Anyway, that's one of the reasons I've been enjoying, this week on
National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," a series called 'The Long View' featuring "conversations with people of significant experience, people who can both reflect on the past and look ahead to the future." Today's segment was especially interesting - George McKee Elsey, who quietly witnessed and participated in the making of American history as an aide to two presidents -- Roosevelt and Truman. Now 88, he tells his story, and compares what he experienced, then, with what is happening - in the White House, across the nation and around the world - today.

I STRONGLY recommend the series to you, whether you listen to it, right now, on the radio or, at your leisure, on the web.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Candid Camera ...

In another day or two, we'll wrap up the last of those old chestnuts that fill newspapers and television broadcasts this time of year ... stories about safe Christmas lighting, keeping to a budget while shopping, keeping to a healthy lifestyle in the midst of holiday indulgences, and THE must-have toy that turns the calmest of us into crazed shopping animals.

Next week, we'll be in the midst of those old chestnuts that fill newspapers and television broadcasts through that time of year ... year-end retrospective pieces, looking back upon the best - and the worst - the year had to offer.

I'd like to recommend one on It's called, simply, "2005: Year in Pictures." What makes this one especially interesting, to me, is that it presents two slide shows ... one of the Editors' Choices for the years best photos, the other of Your Choices for the year's best photos (which include the one shown here, by Diana Mulvhill of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. While there is some overlap (some photos appear in both slideshows), they represent, for the most part, two different interests, values, preferences, definitions of 'Best,' etc.

Be Warned: The "Editors' Choice" slideshow contains some graphic images.

CLICK HERE for the slideshows' intro page. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of the two different visions presented.

The Truth Is Out There ... Just Ask Lt. Haut

This past week brought news out of southeast New Mexico, that an old soldier had passed away. Nothing especially remarkable about that, you might say ... happens all the time, really ... but this was one old soldier who could tell one heck of a 'war story.'

Walter Haut, of Roswell, died Thursday at the age of 83.

Haut was a lieutenant in the United States Army, back in the 1940s, and was the spokesman for the Roswell Army Air Field. Nowadays, he'd probably have a more formal title, like 'Public Information Officer,' or 'Media Liaison Officer' or something like that.

Anyway, it was in his capacity as spokesman for RAAF that Haut issued a news release about the recovery of a flying saucer, on a ranch outside of Roswell, on July 8, 1947 ... certainly the first of millions of documents addressing what is now known as
"The Roswell Incident."

And the rest, as they say, is history. You can read some more about Haut and that history in the
Roswell Daily Record.

In my profession as a reporter and editor, I don't often have occasion to pay tribute to the PIO's of the world ... to be perfectly honest, the relationship between the two can often be antagonistic. But there aren't that many PIO's who have had a chance to contribute so much to our pop culture ... and, really, how many of them ever had a story like THAT to 'get out.'

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I Am Newsbot ... Please Insert Copy ...

Over the past six weeks, WHO-TV (an NBC affiliate serving the Des Moines, Iowa market) has turned to the web medium for a creative way to promote its broadcast product.

Visitor's to the television's website (during business hours, Monday-Friday) are greeted by 'Newsbot 13,' a digitized rendition of WHO-TV anchor Erin Kiernan that offers visitors a look at the day's top headlines, updated periodically through the day. Read "The Animated Anchor," Alison Romano's
COMPLETE REPORT , at Broadcast & Cable online.

The technology is nothing new ...
Oddcast characters are showing up on even the humblest websites. But, this particular application of an Oddcast v-host IS something new.

Most of you probably know that the "non-compete clause" has become almost standard in the contracts used nationwide by television stations and their on-air talent. It's a response to the practice of stations identifying a competitor's top performers, and trying to hire them away .... nothing new there, watch Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" sometime.

But those arrangements, it's been pointed out, do not extend to the Internet. So, until Actual Erin will be allowed on the station's broadcast, Virtual Erin will get plenty of exposure on the station's website ... which, reportedly, is enjoying a measurable increase in new traffic since Newsbot 13 was unveiled.

I suspect that we can look forward to the broadcasting industry reviewing and re-writing non-compete clauses in future contracts.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Funeral for a Friend ...

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been three deaths of special note - to me, at least - among the ranks of journalists ... one hit very, very close to home.

That was the passing of Gayle Hill (Mary Gayle Hill Bowden) ... news writer/reporter/producer, director, volunteer and advocate, community leader, longtime West Texas resident ... and friend.

Gayle and I met about twenty years ago at KMID-TV. I was a recent hire there. With the oil bust of the 1980s, a lot of smaller, connected industries went bust, as well. One of those was the contract archaeology business ... surveying state and federal lands slated for well pad location, roads and pipelines. So, I dusted off my second major from college - English - and got a job as a writer for the station.

Gayle, on the other hand, was already a seasoned pro by the time she got to KMID-TV. She had had already established her credentials as a good investigative reporter over at KOSA-TV and, before that, in the Bryan-College Station market. Her move over to KMID from KOSA was one of a number of such moves, and one of many factors that made KMID-TV the dominant, #1 station that it was ... we were Big 2, with a proud emphasis on the BIG.

She did great work. I remember one series of reports she did from both sides of the Rio Grande, in the heart of the Big Bend country, following the flow of drugs over the border, noting the rush of sales at tiny Mexican markets that always followed a successful delivery, always keeping an eye on the men - sentinels? - who stood atop the cliffs overlooking the river, and followed her movements downstream.

She made a similar commitment - as we all did - during the rescue of Jessica McClure in Midland. Most of us put in a solid 72 hours, or so, on that story ... and some did more.

In a way, she started all over again, as many of us did when the new corporate structure, of which KMID became a part, decided that some changes needed to be made. Soon, a lot of us were out the door (I have often joked that one of the largest media groups in the Permian Basin is the "Big 2 Alumni Association"). Gayle was one of many who made the move over to KTPX-TV, and began the work that eventually led to a new name (KWES-TV, NewsWest 9), a new look (the "Star of West Texas"), and a new challenge to the market ... one that was answered, successfully, when KWES took its place at the top of the local market ... and continues to hold to this day.

And it wasn't just news, either. She was also a strong promoter of locally-produced children's programming, took the lead in organizations that encouraged the growth and development of the media, and was an active volunteer (from the street level right up to the board of directors) with many, many non-profit organizations in Odessa-Midland

Of course, work like that came at a price. There were times when she might be down-and-out for days following such a project, resting, recovering ... and thinking of her next assignment. This, from someone whose health was never what you might call robust, and who ultimately passed away at 45 years of age.

But in those 45 short years were enough experiences and accomplishments to fill the life of someone twice that age, and more. And, through it all, she remained a friend, forgiving of my shortcomings, and encouraging of my ideas .. developing a rich life of her own while contributing so much to the lives of so many others.

Vaya con dios, mi amiga


William Powers begins
"The Collapse of Big Media: Seven Steps to Salvation," in Wilson Quarterly, with the following ... "Let’s assume that the news media, collectively, have a soul—that somewhere beneath their tawdry, moronic surface dwells a kind of pure being whose intentions are good. Let’s further posit that this soul is, at present, a lost soul. Once, long ago, it had high principles and a clear sense of purpose. Now it’s at sea, buffeted by one scandal after another—plagiarism, payola, bias, and garden-variety sloppy work."

Take some time, and read the rest. It makes for good reading for news producers and consumer alike, including bloggers ... on some points, especially bloggers. Hat tip to my friend, Frank, at

Sunday, September 25, 2005

All Right ... Who Did THIS? ...

I don't know how long this will last, but give it a try ... it was still working as of tonight.

Go to the Google main page ...

Type in the word failure ...

Click on the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, and see what comes up.

Looks like someone at Google has too much time on their hands ... and if that someone's boss finds out who, they may have even more time on their hands. Oh, and miserable failure produces the same result.


UPDATE: 09/26: Apparently, I'm about two years behind on my current events !!!!! A friend just sent me the following link to a possible source (and, NO, it was not someone at Google), as well as a couple of reports on this from World Net Daily and BBC.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Thank God, Thank Goodness, Thank YOU ...

(Image by John Deering, Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

In the end, the impact of Hurricane Rita will not be as terrible as so many of us feared. Yes, there is damage, there is hardship, there is loss, there is injury and there is - at least in
one tragic case on a highway outside of Dallas - even death.

But - thank God, thank goodness and thank YOU - it has not been as bad as we feared.

We have much we should be thankful for ... and many to whom we should be thankful. And I do not use the word, "we," lightly. That's because, in the case of Hurricane Rita, there was so much first-hand, personal and professional connection between the people of the Texas Gulf Coast, and the people of West Texas. As the storm approached the shores of the Lone Star State .. so many of us were wondering, calling, offering.

I suspect that there will be many "what if" pieces published in the days ahead. What if a more potent storm had made landfall at Galveston, for example, or Houston? It should make for great chat ... or at least it WILL after many of us have gotten some sleep, catching-up on what was lost over the last few days and nights.

My own feeling is that, had the storm taken a turn for the worse, there would have been more damage, more loss ... BUT, that would have been alleviated by the emergency preparedness measures taken in advance of the storm by local, state and federal authorities. I suspect that, in the years ahead, policy-makers will look at Rita-Texas as a positive example, from which we might all learn ... and Katrina-Louisiana as just the opposite.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Let's Hold Off on 'Blame Game' Till Later ...

There will come a time, I hope, when an independent commission will sit down and sort out the natural mess that was Hurricane Katrina, and the bureaucratic mess that was our response to the storm and its devastation.

That being said, though ... do we have to sort out the mess and assess any blame NOW?

As time goes by, as the waters recede and order is restored along America's Gulf Coast, it's becoming apparent that many of the shots being taken - at one target or another, from from one direction or another - were based upon information that was, at best, limited.

I'd like to offer one example to illustrate that point ... but I have to warn you ... it's an example that relies upon a report from
National Public Radio, prepared the week following Katrina's pounding of New Orleans.

Do you remember the debate, the accusations over the levees that protect that city, the blame that one side or another attempted to lay upon someone else's doorstep? Plenty of conclusions were drawn in the very first days of the catastrophe ... and they were based upon incomplete information. You see, breached levees were only a part of the problem that led to 80% of the city being flooded ...
this report from NPR reveals that, "Engineers and scientists are getting a better idea of exactly how the New Orleans area flooded. In addition to several breaks in the city's floodwalls, engineers now say the Ninth Ward in the eastern part of the city was hit by a huge wave coming over a levee."

How massive was that wave? One estimate is part of the city found itself under eight feet of water in less than 30 minutes, and that the force of that water was enough to carry a 45-ton barge over the levee and deposit it a few-hundred-feet inside. Another analyst cited in the report states the wave was so big, it would have gone well over the levee, even if it had been raised a couple of feet, as had been proposed a few years back.

And it came with a speed and a fury that caught even the oldest, most storm-seasoned residents of the city by surprise.

That's just one example of new data reshaping our view of what happened ... I'm sure you've noted a few others of your own in the last couple of weeks. But it illustrates my original point ... there will come a time when an independent commission will sit down and sort out the mess ...

But not now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What's In a Word? ...

In the grim days following Hurricane Katrina's pounding of America's Gulf Coast states, people across the country and around the world were rushing in to fill some need, to contribute something to a rescue-and-recovery effort the magnitude of which may never be fully measured.

It was something that seemed to touch us all ... we ALL wanted to do SOMETHING. Some people contributed food, or clothes or money. Some people opened their homes to those fleeing the destruction ... while others rushed INTO that destruction, to deliver comfort and relief in person.

And some people argued over semantics ...

"What do you call people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their backs, unsure if they will ever be able to return, and forced to build a new life in a strange place," the Associated Press asked in
an article the week after the hurricane, as news media were filling with reports on the plight of hundreds-of-thousands of people who fled Katrina's wrath.

One thing for sure, those news organizations were being told, don't use the word "refugee."

Among those devoting an inordinate amount of attention to what, at first glance, seemed a non-issue, was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who claimed, "it is racist to call American citizens 'refugees.'"

Of course, serious consideration might - for many people - have ended then and there ... as it often does when Reverend Jackson addresses an issue and attempts to shape and direct the debate and the attention it receives.

But, then, in came President George Bush. Now, President Bush will not go down in history as a wordsmith of the highest order ... his strengths lie in other areas of his mind and his character. But, still, he felt compelled to address the word usage, as well, saying, "The people we're talking about are not refugees. They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens."

Sources for definitions ... both on- and off-line ... vary. defines "refugee" as "One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution" and that seems to exclude those who fled Katrina, if you limit yourself to the examples offered in that definition. At the same time, though, the website defines "refuge" as "1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship; 2. a place providing protection or shelter; 3. a source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble" and THAT certainly sounds like what they were seeking, and what they were offered by those of us fortunate enough to be out of the storm's path.

So, what are these people?

In my own, humble opinion, they ARE refugees, among other things. In my work at, I have used the word, and others, to refer to those that fled the hurricane's destruction. Have I used it every time? No, of course not ... one thing a writer must beware of is over-using a word. So I use "refugee" as well as other words. (Another one that is over-used right now, "devastation")

And while it does set me at odds with Reverend Jackson and President Bush, that's fine ... there's plenty to keep us all busy in the weeks and months (and years?) ahead ... and most of it is a heck of a lot more important than the use of semantics as a form of political posturing.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 ... Different 'Spokes' for Different Folks ...

There are different ways to address the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States ... different thoughts ... different ways to share those thoughts ... different ways to engage others in consideration/discussion of those thoughts ...

Why should that be any different on the internet? ... or West Texas' own corner of the blogosphere?

Actually, very few of West Texas' virtual fora for discussion of news and views have anything to say about the '9/11' anniversary ... you have
Jessica's Well, for one, with its patented barbs ... but also a sprinkling of blessings. It may not be for everyone's tastes ... but you can always move on and 'talk' with someone else ... one of the perq's of the blogosphere ...

Then there's
Fire Ant Gazette ... but you'll need to visit it right away, because it appears to be a one-day post. No bile, no blame, and only a little finger-pointing ... but plenty of more substantive thought. And when it DOES point a finger ... it's in the direction of salvation.

Finally, there's the Open Forum over at ... unfortunately, the folks there have demanded that I not discuss their site ... so I won't.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Right Person for the Job ...

There are some people on our local corner of the blogosphere to whom I'll defer on some subjects ... one of those is Wallace, over at Streams, when it comes to matters military.

Recently back from the mountains of New Mexico (be sure to check out his pictures, the lucky son-of-a-gun), Wallace was commenting on
FEMA chief Michael Brown being relieved of Katrina duties. He also had this ... "I have one piece of advice for future Presidents. Here it is. When filling important positions like FEMA, get a military man ..."

He's absolutely right.

Something the magnitude of Katrina, and the death and destruction it has wrought across the Gulf Coast states, is not a civilian matter ... it's not even an extreme civilian matter ... it is something that calls for a military mind, and military resourcefulness. There IS a role, a HUGE role, for civilian services ... but I think those services are best directed by a mind and a vision tested and enhanced by military experience.

Think about it ... is there any facet of American society better suited to operating in an extreme situation, than the military? Is there anyone with more experience in establishing and maintaining order, communications, operations and supply in the most extreme circumstances (sometimes under simultaneous attack by both Man and Mother Nature) than the United States Armed Forces and its auxiliaries?

As for Mr. Brown, I don't grieve at his departure ... by all accounts, the guy couldn't even manage his own resume ... what chance did he have trying to manage the aftermath of Katrina

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

... and Then There's Rick Perry ...

Alright ... enough is enough ... just WHO is that they have sitting in the Texas Governor's office, and where have they squirreled-away the REAL Rick Perry?

Like water pouring through a breached levy, we have had a veritable torrent of phone calls, executive orders and emergency declarations ... all originating from somewhere in the vicinity of the offices of the chief elected official of the Lone Star State.

They have served to mobilize pretty much the entire state to receive and care for an estimated quarter-of-a-million refugees from Louisiana and other states ravaged last week by Hurricane Katrina. They have also served to cause me a great deal of distress as I contemplate doing something I never thought I'd have occasion to do ... write something complimentary about Rick Perry!

Yesterday, I wrote of
Congressman Dan Flood, whose personal initiatives - strengthened by every ounce of political clout he could bring to bear - focused badly-needed state and federal attention and resources on communities threatened by the rising waters of the Susquehanna River, in 1972. Am I seeing a similar display of will as I watch Rick Perry dealing with a flood of his own in 2005?

By all appearances, emergency preparedness and planning by local, state and federal officials, for the possibility of severe storms and flooding in Louisiana, looks more like the script of a Marx Brothers movie. But, couple this with the unprecedented sweep of Katrina and the total destruction of infrastructure for communications, transportation and emergency response, and there's nothing to laugh about.

And then there was Texas. It looks to me as though calls went out from Perry's office to just about every agency and department of the state government, with marching orders for putting much of the state on an emergency relief footing ...

* The
Texas Education Agency (TEA) cleared the way for Texas public schools to opening their doors to school-age refugees.

* The
Texas Attorney General warned businesses that fraud and false advertising to inflate prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Southeast Louisiana will not be tolerated.

* The
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) offered expanded, round-the-clock services at highway rest stops and welcome centers to accommodate buses with evacuees from New Orleans, provided constant updates on highways in and out of the affected areas, and polled its 25 districts to develop a list of assets that can be made available to the Louisiana Department of Transportation to assist the state in its cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

These are just three early, very general examples. There are, by now, a hundred other, smaller and more detailed examples of how the State of Texas is mobilizing to meet the emergency needs of its neighbors.

And it appears to have all started in Rick Perry's office, and it was given teeth by the Governor's
emergency declaration earlier this week.

Rick Perry? ... Who'd'a thunk it?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

(insert official's name here) is No Dan Flood ...

As I noted in a previous post, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina across America's Gulf Coast states has reminded me of the devastation I witnessed when Tropical Storm Agnes raged through northeastern Pennsylvania, and flooded the communities of the Wyoming Valley.

I counted myself blessed that there were a number of differences between what I experienced in 1972, and what the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are experiencing now.

But in the day's following the storm's departure, I have come to realize that the people of northeastern Pennsylvania were blessed in another way ... we had Congressman Dan Flood.

Flood was a man of another century, of another America. In his heyday, he was probably the most adroit and effective individual to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. The people of his district loved him, and sent him back to Washington over and over again, usually after running unopposed in the election. Admittedly, people of other districts probably despised him for what he was able to do for his district and his state ... and for his 'pull.'

And, boy, did he have pull! As a leading member of the House Appropriations Committee, he held a firm grip on the nation's purse strings, and his influence in the federal government was considerable.

He needed every ounce of that influence, and more, as the prospect for disaster grew in northeastern Pensylvania in 1972. Even as flood waters were still on the rise, a variety of relief and security resources were already on their way to the scene. It's hard to underestimate Flood's impact on bringing those resources to bear on the situation. There was no federal structure at the time for dealing with such a disaster ... in fact, Flood's actions, and those of local and state leaders, laid the groundwork for the establishment of FEMA, later on.

As I watch the chaos, now, in Louisiana and elsewhere, I realize that Flood's initiatives might not be possible today. We have a massive federal emergency preparedness and reaction bureacracy in place, now, that would stifle any such attempts.

Of course, we've been told there really aren't any problems in Louisiana and elsewhere ... that emergency services have been delivered, and delivered well, and that the timeline for delivering those services is really alright. I watched the President's briefing, and I listened to his assurances ... and I thought, "he's no Dan Flood."

My mind went back 33 years, when Flood addressed us by television. He didn't look as good as George Bush ... he was not the 'Dapper Dan' we all knew. He was old and he looked tired, he seemed almost scrawny inside a large Army field jacket and standard field cap of the era, and was soaked by the rain. He lacked, the freshly made-up and combed appearance politicians demand today. Yet, for all of that, there was nothing bedraggled about his voice. He spoke with strength and a cocky defiance, saying to us all, something like, "I have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers not to let the water advance another inch!"

And it didn't ...

Returning to Washington, Flood still used whatever clout he had. One of the results was President Nixon's appointment of Frank Carlucci as a special White House administrator for flood relief services.

All in all, 1972 was one of Dan Flood's finest 'hours' ... and it would be one of his last. He would later find himself under investigation, and step down under a cloud of elections violations.

But back then, he was something of a savior, an inspiration ... and a public servant of the highest order. He was someone who got something done, when and where it needed doing ... and political consequences be damned while people's lives were at stake. Flood may not have been familiar with Davy Crockett's advice of to 'go ahead and do what you're sure is right,' but he applied it, and applied it well. And he did it all with style and panache, with a flair that reflected the time had spent on the stage as a young man.

May all of our leaders ... take note.

The Return of "Jessica's Well" ...

A cause for celebration on the local blogosphere is the return of Jessica's Well from their summer-long hiatus. One of the pioneers of blogging in West Texas, they sport a great (I think) new look that is definitely worth your perusal ... among the many details of that new look, my particular favorite is their blogroll.

But some aspects won't change ... and that's a good thing, too. It appears Jessica's Well will still be what I once referred to as a "nattering nablog of negativism" when it comes to some of the 'usual suspects' ... one page under construction there is called 'Old Media' ... devoted, perhaps, to debauched harlots of the mainstream media, like myself?

But, while I may disagree with their take on a variety of topics, I will still visit, and I hope you will, too. Sure, it's their take ... but, maybe - just maybe - it's also the right take.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's Devastation and Memories of Agnes ...

I'm sorry to have been absent for so long this week ... I have visited and enjoyed all that you've been posting, here and on other sites of the blogosphere ... but time for posting of my own? ... that's something else.

But I have had time to think in the midst of the thousands of words, photos, videoclips and links I have published - so far - this week, and you have given me much to think about ... and for that, I am grateful, for it has had some effect upon what, when and how I publish.

I am also thinking back more than thirty years, standing on the banks of the Susquehanna, desperately raising the the level of the dikes that were so hard-pressed by the floods that accompanied Tropical Storm Agnes ...

I remember the odd mixture of excitement and exhaustion as thousands of us labored at sandbagging ... the shock and incredible sadness when air raid sirens filled the air with their mournful wail ... telling us that the engineers had determined a break was imminent, and that we had to leave ... NOW ...

I remember being overwhelmed by the site of a river three miles wide, after the dikes burst on both sides of the river, flooding the communities of the Wyoming Valley ...

Thank God, we were spared the horrors being visited upon New Orleans and other communities smashed by Katrina ...

The flooding was confined to our valley ... relief in the form of volunteer fire companies and ambulance squads, emergency shelters and fully-functional hospitals ... communities untouched by the ravages of Agnes ... were just ten miles away, on the other side of the mountains that lined the valley ...

We had effective leadership that had prepared for such an event (previous floods in 1936 and 1902), we had a plan that incorporated policemen firefighters, stat police, even Boy Scouts (that's how I ended up on the dikes).

We had effective communications that survived Agnes' rampage and enabled us to identify and address emergencies as they came up ... a fire, for example, in Wilkes-Barre's flooded downtown district ... that was extinguished after a firefighting boat was airlifted to the valley ... but also sending a couple of people out in some guy's little motorboat to pull someone off the top of their house.

And we weren't alone ... the National Guard and the regulars of the U.S. Armed Forces turned out in force ... and for the first few days after the waters of the Susquehanna receded, something like martial law was imposed and traffic in and out of the valley was severely curtailed as the damage and the death toll was assessed. They also choppered supplies and medical personnel back and forth across the valley before the bridges were repaired, and trucked supplies to shelters that were established in neighboring communities.

I've thought a lot about our National Guard in the last few days. That most effective of forces for tackling emergencies and restoring order is stretched to the limit ... and beyond ...

For these reasons, and more, I never felt the absolute desperation people are feeling - and rightfully so! - in the streets of New Orleans tonight ... God bless them and comfort them, strengthen their spirits, and the spirits of those rushing to their aid!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Belated Review of "War of the Worlds"

Another post long overdue ... this one fulfilling a promise I made to Eric Siegmund at Fire Ant Gazette and Patti at Texas Trifles, and writing a review of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

It's hard to raise an issue, or even just a point, that has not already been covered - and covered well, or at least thoroughly - elsewhere. So, I'll just touch on some of the concerns I raised
earlier this year, before the film was released.

"Will the Martians be absolutely unbeatable by anything 'Man' can bring to bear upon them," I asked in that earlier the post. The reason I asked was because the battle between the Martian invaders and the British armed forces provided much of the drama in
Wells' original novel. The tripods were vulnerable to the Royal Artillery Corps, and one of the most exciting scenes in the novel was the battle between the ironclad HMS Thunder Child and three tripods threatening boats full of refugees.

I had predicted, earlier, that Spielberg would produce something of a hybrid, borrowing some things from Wells' novel, and some things from Byron Haskins' classic
1953 film. And, that's exactly what Spielberg did. The tripods have the shields that Haskins introduced to the story, but Spielberg finds a way through those shields, giving his tripods a small degree of vulnerability, just as Wells originally gave them.

So, why is the degree of vulnerability important? Because it was a significant factor in the story's development ... and in the underlying messages Wells wished to convey. As I pointed out before, Wells lived and wrote at the height of the British empire ... but he was no fan of the means by which that empire was sometimes reached, writing ...

"And before we judge the aliens too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?"

So, in Wells' story, humans become the savages battling a technologically-superior invader. Sure, the savages have their moments of victory ... their Isandhlwanas and their Little Big Horns ... but their final defeat and extermination is inevitable.

Spielberg's battle between human and Martian forces captures the sense of that struggle, though he assigns the small victories to his star, Tom Cruise, who blows one tripod up himself, and later rallies American troops to attack another tripod ... stretching credibility well beyond the breaking point, but giving Cruise an opportunity to play action hero.

So, while Spielberg's film would not allow the battle that was a favorite chapter of mine in the book, he did recreate that scene to some degree ... as three tripods appear on a hilltop, then stride down into a village, and attack a ferry and other water craft that are trying to cross a large river ... but no HMS Thunder Child with its gallant crew, alas.

In many places, Spielberg nails the story. Advances in digital effects (not available to Haskins, who settled for his gliding war machines) allows Spielberg to produce totally-believable tripods that combined the traits of both the 'fighting machines' and the 'handling machines' that Wells' described. Spielberg also backs off some from the heavy-handed religious tone that filled much of Haskins' film, turning back to the tone of the novel. The Martians ultimately fall prey to terrestrial diseases, to bacteria, among the simplest of Earth's life forms, "which God, in his wisdom, created." Wells was a staunch advocate for evolution and presented the fight between human and Martian (and bacteria and Martian!) as another of the struggles in which species engage to survive.

Personally, I think Wells' story had more than enough plot and characters to carry a film. But Spielberg didn't, and this was where most of gripes over the film stem from. So, we add a couple of smart-aleck, screaming kids (really wouldn't be a Spielberg film without those) with which Cruise has to re-establish a relationship over the course of the film ... the result being that an interplanetary war for dominion over the Earth, and the extermination of the human race periodically has to take a back seat to a crazy road trip during which Tom Cruise must come to terms with himself, his fractured relationships with his children and his forgotten responsibilities as a parent ... I kept squirming in my seat, wondering what the Martians were up to while we were wasting out time on all that silliness.

Other ridiculous additions to the story ... the plane crash, the television news crew, and having the Martian machines placed under the Earth's crust thousands of years in the past so that we could devote so much time to storm scenes as the Martian's are squirted into the cockpits.

If my gripes seem small in comparison to the rest of this post ... they ARE. I enjoyed the film, and it was well worth the price of a ticket. But I won't go back a second time, and I probably won't rush to get the DVD when it's released in November ... it was okay, but it wasn't THAT good.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

And Belated Congratulations to Eric Siegmund ...

Another post long overdue ... congratulating Eric Siegmund at Fire Ant Gazette for successfully completing Blogathon 2005.

(I may be into a vicious cycle here ... by the time I catch up on all the posts I should have made while I was a away on vacation, then all the posts I normally would have made this week, will be overdue ... so, I'll finally post THEM next week, putting off next week's posts until the week after that ... I may be in a state of Perpetual Belation!)

But, getting back to Eric Siegmund, who posted steadily for a solid 24 hours, doing his part to raise funds for charity. During the Blogathon, people update their websites every 30 minutes for 24 hours straight. For this, they collect sponsorships. Pledges can be a flat donation, or a certain amount for every hour the blogger manages to stay awake. In Eric's case, he was raising funds for
Midland Fair Havens.

Fair Havens' mission is to "equip single mothers and their children for self-sufficient living by addressing their educational, vocational, spiritual, and emotional needs in residential and non-residential settings." It sounded to me like a good cause, so I sponsored Eric ... so did a number of you, and I would like to extend my appreciation to you, as well.

I also sponsored Erin at
Mighty Wench, who was part of quartet of bloggers on Three Moms and a Single Lady, a weblog created especially for Blogathon. They were raising funds for the M.I.S.S. Foundation, which is dedicated to "providing crisis support and long term aid to families after the death of a child from any cause."

A look at just a few from the long list of the other charities benefiting from Blogathon this year ... ASPCA, Amnesty International, Doctor Without Borders, Save the Children, the Chinatown Community Development Center, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, American Diabetes Association, Greenpeace, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation ... another indicator of the incredible diversity of bloggers and their interests which, as I've said time and time again, is one of the strengths of the blogosphere.

The numbers? This year, there were 216 participants, 1,883 sponsors, and $58,146.97 pledged. And think about what the participants accomplished ... posting at least every 30 minutes? That's at least 48 posts in 24 hours ... I'll be lucky to post 48 times in the next two months! Then there's the impact of the money - and the awareness! - they raised for their charities.

So, congratulations to Eric, Erin and all those - short on sleep but long on heart - who put their keyboards to work for Blogathon 2005. And, thanks to all of you who are putting your checkbooks to work, now, supporting the Blogathoners' efforts ... if I understand correctly, it's NOT too late to pledge/donate.

And a reminder to EVERYONE ... the next Blogathon begins August 6, 2006, at nine o'clock in the morning (EDT).

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Belated Tribute to Peter Jennings ...

I realize I am late getting to this, but I've been away for a couple of weeks, traveling across the country to a family reunion. One of the perq's to being on the road like that was rarely being in close proximity to a computer ... hence the dearth of recent postings to ArchaeoTexture.

But, getting back to Peter Jennings, who
died Sunday from lung cancer ... the web has been filled with postings, and the blogosphere has been no exception. Those postings have run pretty much the full range of opinion ... and really, is that any surprise?

For example, Keith Oberman at
Bloggerman, says, "the calm, seasoned, assuring voice has been stilled," describing Jennings' career as, "a half century of perseverance, growth; even redemption ... he was a man of whom a colleague would say in the early 1980s - with pride and affection - 'He is now as good as he used to think he was.'"

Closer to home, Julie Craig at
Yellow Bug News, begs to differ, saying, "He was a pompous, arrogant SOB. I didn't care for him in the least."

As for me, I really can't comment about Jennings (as a person) with much authority, never having met the man. And the work I did with him was best described as 'indirect' ... though it did give me some insight into how he worked. And it's that work, and his record, on which I can speak with some confidence.

And my opinion is only a little different from Julie's ... that difference being that - his personality aside - I DID care for the man, and for his work, very much. And the arrogance? Yes, he was proud of his achievements, and how hard he worked to attain those achievements, having overcome a variety of challenges and early setbacks.

He wasn't really larger-than-life ... rather, he was an example of how large all our lives could be with hard work and determination. And he wasn't really a know-it-all ... he just came closer to it than most of us could ever hope.

Jennings was anchoring "ABC World News Tonight" in New York when I was a writer here, in West Texas, for KMID-TV. We sent some promotional scripts to New York, asking Jennings to record them for us ... something like, "You're a part of it with Big 2 News, the Permian Basin's News Leader" ... which is a pretty common practice for networks and their affiliates.

But Jennings wouldn't do it, at first. How did he know, he asked, that we were "the News Leader?" It was only later, after re-submitting our request along with the ratings numbers (showing us to be a dominant #1) that he relented, and cut the promos for us.

Arrogant? Yes. But it also was an example of his making sure he didn't go on the air with anything less than the facts, and that those facts were checked and verified. A small point, maybe, but significant in forming my impression of the man and his work ...

... I will miss both in the years ahead.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Blogger/Journalist Killed in the Iraq War

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - An American freelance journalist was found dead in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday. Police said Steven Vincent had been shot multiple times after he and his Iraqi translator were abducted at gunpoint hours earlier. Police said Vincent, a Web blogger who had been living in New York, had been staying in Basra for several months working on a book. Vincent had been critical of Islamic radicalism’s rise in southern Iraq. In an opinion column printed in The New York Times on July 31, Vincent wrote that Basra’s police force had been heavily infiltrated by members of Shiite political groups, including those loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

CLICK HERE for the complete story from

Monday, July 25, 2005

Boy, Did I Get THAT Wrong! ...

In late May, I posted on the topic, Now, It Gets a Little Harder ... in which I drew upon my deep and wide-ranging experience in the media to predict that we were about to settle, once again, into the inevitable news lull that accompanies summer.

Boy, was THAT a mistake ...

There may have been some year, where we had a busier summer in West Texas than the one we're having now ... but I'd be hard pressed to name it.

Part of it is due to where we are, and how important the weather is to us. In West Texas, even the most urban of us tend to keep our eyes on the skies, as anxious as any cotton farmer. We are in the midst of another wet year - the second year in a row - and that's news. One doesn't often devote much space in the news to flooded homes and streets in July, but we have.

The other extreme of West Texas weather - the very hot, the very dry and the very windy - has also contributed to our full assignments boards. The same grass that flourished in the rain, then becomes tinder-dry ... literally. Add fireworks to lightning and other sparks, and that's why we've been covering dozens of wildfires across West Texas and southeast New Mexico. Some day, I'd like to devote a post just to the men and women of our small towns' volunteer fire departments.

Firefighters have been way too busy this summer ... and so have police and paramedics, SWAT teams and haz-mat crews. From manhunts in Odessa and mortar rounds in Midland, to traffic accidents and drug busts everywhere ... there's been little or no opportunity for West Texas' emergency personnel to enjoy a 'summer break.'

Then, there are the stories we planned on having this summer ... Independence Day parades, movie festivals, and tours of West Texas' smaller communities, live broadcasts from throughout the region, highlighting the people and places outside the metropolitan area.

Special projects, like a series of live reports from Iraq, meeting West Texans serving in the Army National Guard there, have also created a lot of local activity. Other state, national and world news items that contributed to busy newsrooms locally ... the Texas Legislature and school finance reform, the U.S. Supreme Court, the launch of the space shuttle Discovery and the terrorist bombings in England and Egypt.

Even in the area of sports, where there is a summertime lull in high school activity and interest, there's been news. Locally, the Midland Rockhounds were Texas League-West champions for the first half of the season. And West Texas' youngest pro sports franchise, the Odessa Roughnecks, went undefeated in the regular season. National and world headlines contributing to local sports reports ... Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, Tiger Woods and the British Open, and (I guess) the end of the NHL lockout.

"Right now, there is an avalanche of stories out there. But that will soon change," I wrote in May. Boy, did I get THAT wrong ... or did I? ... hmmmm ... I know ... I admit NOTHING ... no wrongdoing, no mistake whatsoever ... I never said that ... or, if I did, it was taken out of context ... I blame the media!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Eric's Doing His Part ... How About YOU? ...

Eric Siegmund over at Fire Ant Gazette is planning on burning a little midnight oil in August, and not just at midnight ... he's getting ready to pull an all-nighter for his part in Blogathon 2005.

Like many ventures in the media, the concept of Blogathon began with the initiative of a single person, at a single outlet. The 'History' page of the Blogathon website tells, "On July 29th of 2000, Cat Connor of
Frytopia posted an entry in her blog every fifteen minutes for twenty-four hours. At the end of her adventure she had posted a whopping 96 entries and had what was truly a unique experience in the blogging world. The following year when she decided to stage the 24-hour blogging event again, she decided that her event would do more than just gain attention - it would make a difference in the world. So Blogathon was born."

Blogathon has enjoyed growth in the ensuing years. Granted, the growth has been erratic (with the event going on hiatus last year), but it has been growth nonetheless ... would that all media could say the same. This year's event begins Saturday, August 6, at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Time). Participating bloggers are expected to follow Connor's original example of posting near-constantly for the next 24 hours ... one of the FAQ's on the Blogathon website is, "How can I stay awake?"

The rest of us are encouraged to register as sponsors for a participating blogger, encouraging them and helping them raise funds for the charity of their choice.

And THIS is where bloggers have a chance to put their money where their mouth is ... uh ... fingertips are. You see, for all their whining about mainstream media (whatever that might be) and how awful it is, citizens of the blogosphere would be hard-pressed to match the example set by local, traditional media outlets in raising awareness and raising funds for charities in West Texas and southeast New Mexico. And DON'T go telling me we're required to do it by law ... because we're not ... guidelines enforced by regulatory agencies for public service programming were suspended years ago.

"Hard pressed," I said ... for now, at least. The role of the blogosphere IN/AS mainstream media is already established, and is growing almost daily. Bloggers have a tremendous opportunity to promote/complement existing public service efforts, and to develop efforts of their own ... which can, in turn, be promoted/complemented by traditional media outlets.

In the meantime, I intend to register at Blogathon this year, and to sponsor Eric in his round-the-clock efforts to raise awareness/funds for charity ... I had recommended he raise funds for the National Association to Send Bloggers to Disneyland ... I'm sure that suggestion will get all the consideration it deserves.

Seriously, though, Eric will be blogging for
Midland Fair Havens. Fair Havens' mission is to "equip single mothers and their children for self-sufficient living by addressing their educational, vocational, spiritual, and emotional needs in residential and non-residential settings." Sounds to me like a good cause.

How about YOU? Why not sign-up today as a sponsor ... and get the word out to some of your friends, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Fountain of Youth in the Tall City? ...

The subjects for the last couple of posts on this blog - initial coverage of the terrorist attacks in London, and a particularly macabre resident of the blogosphere - have, admittedly, been grim ... it really wouldn't hurt to reverse course.

The last month or two, I've been wondering about Wallace, the proprietor of
Streams, one of our West Texas-based weblogs. As you probably know, Wallace is an oil man, drilling for black gold in the Permian Basin. But, I'm wondering if ... maybe, just maybe ... he struck something else ... something more valuable than oil ... even with oil at $60/barrel!

I started wondering this during the months of May and June of this year, as we were marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the final end of the Viet Nam War. Wallace is a veteran of that war, and more than one of his posts were about meetings with fellow vets, old comrades and new friends ... and some of those were accompanied by photos ... have you looked at them? Good old boys, one and all, gray-haired or no-haired ... except for Wallace, who still sports a full head of beautiful brown hair!

How does he do it? Even I, the son of a man who served two tours in Viet Nam, have more gray hair than Wallace does!

What is Big Gold Dog really drilling for? ... oil? ... natural gas? ... or have they tapped into the legendary Fountain of Youth, just a little bit to the west of where Ponce de Leon first sought it?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Dark Corner of the Blogosphere ...

Have you ever thought to yourself, 'gee, I wonder what it would be like if (insert name here) had a blog?' Or, maybe you're one of those established residents of the blogosphere that keeps an eye out for new, especially interesting arrivals ... someone who brings a unique perspective, or a wealth of knowledge and experience to their posts.

Be careful what you ask for ...

One can't help but be attracted to the unblinking honesty that crops up from time to time in someone's weblog. True, some bloggers imagine themselves to be a notch above the rest, as close to perfection - in every way - that a person can get. But then there are those that concede their shortcomings, their anxieties, their disappointments, their hopes unrealized, their goals unaccomplished.

Some posts you come across are very, very angry .... some are very, very funny ... and some are very, very sad. Then there are those that, when read in the light of current events, are very, very frightening.

Blogging the Fifth Nail, for example ...

"... My blog entries lately are erratic and full of a lot of B.S., for that I apologize. I am just trying to put down what is in my head, regardless. As far as 'taking people with me' well, I don't know if that is right or wrong. In fact, I don't know much any more what right and wrong even is. My view is either everything is right (in some regard) or everything is wrong (in some other regard). The question (one I am struggling with at this point) is, 'Does it matter?' ..."

Dated Friday, May 13, 2005, this was the last entry posted to "Fifth Nail." Two days later, Dylan and Shasta Groene were taken from their Idaho home and their family members killed. Police now believe that their suspect in the murder/abduction, and the author of "Fifth Nail," are one and the same ... convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III.

The Associated Press reports, "police concluded that Duncan was the author of the journal based on interviews of people who knew him and on the Internet Protocol address - an identifying number specific to a computer - that was used to establish the blog."
(Read the Complete Story)

Letters and journals are nothing new in providing a record of a criminal's actions and state of mind. But I think this may represent something of a first, that such an account is left open on the internet forum, placed there by someone accused of a string of horrific acts. For now, "Fifth Nail" is still up-and-running ... BUT I HAVE TO WARN YOU ... the language, the profanity is very, very strong in the comments that people are now posting by the hundreds, even thousands.

On Top of the Situation ...

(Photo courtesy of

A busy day, today, whether you're part of the mainstream media ... like myself ... or one of those courageous purveyors of the REAL truth that - I am told - can only be found in the blogosphere. I cite this dichotomy that is often drawn between the two deliberately, and I deliberately use a sarcastic tone. The reason I do, is that ... for today, at least ... we seem to be working well together.

The news out of London - the extent of the damage, the number of deaths and injuries, the impact felt around the world - continues to develop ... and so does our coverage of that news, and your reaction to the news.

On the internet, the first notice/coverage of the news from London, posted to a West Texas website, was on, where I work. The next two notices - locally - didn't appear on news sites, but on weblogs ... Eric Siegmund's Fire Ant Gazette and Julie Craig's Yellow Bug News. Taken in conjunction with one another, those three sites provided a good, comprehensive reporting AND commentary on the news ...

(I'm coming back to this a few minutes later ... the official death toll in London has risen, and I needed to make the appropriate changes to headlines and leadlines on my website)

The coverage at is pretty straightforward ... the facts as they are known at this time, the accounts of witnesses, the reactions of world leaders and related developments around the world ... today's decision, for example, to increase security on American trains and buses. Text stories are supplemented by photo galleries and audio/video clips of speeches, briefings, etc.

As for our local weblogs, they add that personal touch to their commentary on the headlines that is one of the strengths they bring to the online medium.

Eric, for example, has redesigned his blog's
home page to incorporate England's "Union Jack" and a message of solidarity into his banner. One of his London-related posts links us to Patty at White Pebble who has only recently arrived in London, and is now blogging from the scene.

Julie, meanwhile - noting that "... Many tourists in central London were caught in the blasts ..." - offers up her own brief, but heartfelt
"What if ..." commentary, recalling that it was just last month that she and her son were tourists in London, riding the same kind of bus that was torn apart this morning by a terrorist bomb.

As the day progresses through the afternoon, more local sites are getting something up. Wallace Craig at Streams has reworked his site's banner to show his support for the Brits. John Boswell at Blogging for Midland describes his reaction to the images he's seeing on television. George Johns at Sleepless in Midland looks at today's performance of London's stock exchange.

Ironically, Jessica's Well might have had something as well, even though they're on hiatus. Chris Muir, creator of "Day by Day," has pulled today's cartoon and replaced it with his tribute to the Brits ... unfortunately, the link at Jessica's Well does not seem to be picking it up. You can see it at Muir's website, though.

Each site, in and of itself, tells part of the story. Together they offer us a wide and diverse variety of news reports and opinions. In a way, the combination of reporting on news websites, and commentary/discussion on weblogs, represents a complete "water cooler" cycle - reading/hearing/watching the news, then discussing it with others - all in one place, the internet.

And other West Texas news sites? The Odessa American now has a headline about the news from London. KMID-TV has Congressman Randy Neugebauer's response to the news ... but nothing about the news itself. And the rest - for now, at least - have nothing at all. I'm certain, though, that will change in the hours ahead.
That link at Jessica's Well has been fixed ... they're on hiatus, perhaps, but still on the ball.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Strike the Tents ...

In my own humble opinion, America lost a historian, writer, storyteller and gentleman of the highest order last night.

Civil War historian Shelby Foote dead at 88

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE (AP) - Novelist and historian Shelby Foote has died. He's best-known for his three-volume history of the Civil War, and his appearance on the PBS series about that war. Foote worked on the book for 20 years. He used a flowing, narrative style that let readers enjoy it like a historical novel. He once said, "Narrative history is the kind that comes closest to telling the truth." His widow says Foote died last night. The long-time resident of Memphis, Tennessee, was 88 years old.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

An Evolving Discussion of Evolution ...

I find myself wondering ... is there a way to discuss a divisive issue in a manner that brings us closer rather than drives us further apart?

In a previous post on this blog (regarding Dr. Richard Leakey's visit to the Tall City, and the polite reception his views on evolution received) I suggested that maybe, just maybe, we - the people, in general - erred by leaving the debate over such issues as evolution to the extremists on both sides.

What do we get in such an extremist debate? Viewpoints that border on fanaticism, belief systems that border on dogma, pat presentations of trite and well-worn phrases delivered more in the tone of a mindless mantra rather than a rational discussion, an iron-bound refusal to grant an inch or a breath to the other side, and a commitment to the confrontation that borders on bloodlust - where the only acceptable outcome to a debate is the total destruction of, not just the viewpoint, but the holder of that viewpoint ... ON BOTH SIDES ...

If you feel strongly about the scientific principals of evolutionary theory, and how they apply to the incredible diversity and form of life on this planet, please read the following at, and tell me what you think ...

This particular example deals with evolution, but there are other topics of interest out there. Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion of opposing views over a divisive topic such as this and, if so, can we not also discuss other, similarly-divisive topics in a similarly-reasonable manner?

If the answer to the above is "Yes," then there might be some hope for us all.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Blogs and the Realm of Public Service ...

Eric Siegmund over at
Fire Ant Gazette is planning on burning a little midnight oil in August, and not just at midnight ... he's getting ready to pull an all-nighter for his part in Blogathon 2005.

Like many ventures in the media, the concept of Blogathon began with the initiative of a single person, at a single outlet. The 'History' page of the Blogathon website tells, "On July 29th of 2000, Cat Connor of
Frytopia posted an entry in her blog every fifteen minutes for twenty-four hours. At the end of her adventure she had posted a whopping 96 entries and had what was truly a unique experience in the blogging world. The following year when she decided to stage the 24-hour blogging event again, she decided that her event would do more than just gain attention - it would make a difference in the world. So Blogathon was born."

Blogathon has enjoyed growth in the ensuing years. Granted, the growth has been erratic (with the event going on hiatus last year), but it has been growth nonetheless ... would that all media could say the same.

This year's event begins Saturday, August 6, at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Time). Participating bloggers are expected to follow Connor's original example of posting near-constantly for the next 24 hours ... one of the FAQ's on the Blogathon website is, "How can I stay awake?" The rest of us are encouraged to register as sponsors for a participating blogger, encouraging them and helping them raise funds for the charity of their choice.

And this is where bloggers have a chance to put their money where their mouth is ... uh ... fingertips are. You see, for all their whining about mainstream media (whatever that might be) and how awful it is, citizens of the blogosphere would be hard-pressed to match the example set by local, traditional media outlets in raising awareness and raising funds for charities in West Texas and southeast New Mexico. And DON'T go telling me we're required to do it by law ... because we're not ... guidelines enforced by regulatory agencies for public service programming were suspended years ago.

"Hard pressed," I said ... for now. The role of the blogosphere IN/AS mainstream media is already established, and is growing almost daily. Bloggers have a tremendous opportunity to promote/complement existing public service efforts, and to develop efforts of their own ... which can, in turn, be promoted/complemented by traditional media outlets.

In the meantime, I intend to register at Blogathon this year, and to sponsor Eric in his round-the-clock efforts to raise awareness/funds for charity ... I had recommended he raise funds for the National Association to Send Bloggers to Disneyland ... I'm sure that suggestion will get all the consideration it deserves.

ADDED NOTE: At least I WAS going to sponsor Eric ... now I'm not so sure. You see, I've heard from Princess Erin the Mighty over at, who makes a 'mighty' pursuasive appeal. :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Battle Over a Book ...

The inspiration for this post comes from Burr, over at
El Llanero, who was discussing what he called, 'The best two novels of the Llano Estacado' ... Elmer Kelton's "The Time It Never Rained" and Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima"

There is much, in both books, that brings West Texas and Eastern New Mexico to life ... the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the passionate and the indifferent, the sensitive and the brutal ... all delivered in well-crafted prose, with colorful characters and compelling imagery.

Both writers are now recognized as masters of their craft, and that recognition is well-deserved.

But there is one difference between the two ... while Mr. Kelton's works have found, pretty much, universal acceptance, the same can't be said for Anaya in general, and "Bless Me, Ultima" in particular.

It brings to mind a ruckus we had in Fort Stockton a few years back, when a small-but-vocal group came forward and pressed the school board there to place some restrictions on "Ultima" ... though there were also calls for complete removal of the book from local shelves. There were concerns about the profanity some characters used when they got drunk, and got violent. Critics also believed the book glorified witchcraft, and was nothing less than a 'how-to' manual for impressionable young minds. These were the 'official' reasons, offered openly for publication, and we reported them in the local newspaper. There were also other reasons, of an uglier nature, that were offered by one segment of the critics ... but not for publication, and they were not reported.

To the credit of the Fort Stockton community, opposition to the book never reached the point it did in smaller, socially-conservative communities in New Mexico and Colorado, where the books were removed, and destroyed. Instead, the Fort Stockton ISD Board of Trustees instructed a panel of educators to review the book and make recommendations. Meanwhile, an assistant superintendent of the school district was given an added duty, a temp job, of making sure copies of the book remained on the shelves until the panel reached its decision.

In the meantime, the local newspaper gave plenty of coverage to the debate, and to arguments for and against the book's removal ... not surprising, really, for a small town weekly to give space to something that had people talking. But what did surprise readers were the sidebars that appeared with those reports ... excerpts from the books, discussions of what a curandera really is, and exclusive interviews with the author himself, Rudy Anaya, who was following the story from his home in Albuquerque. There was even an editorial from the paper's managing editor, a nasty liberal-media-type of the worst order, calling upon the school district to keep some place for the book on the shelves.

You see, everybody in Fort Stockton knew I was a dang Yankee from back-east ... but they didn't know that, on the way from Pennsylvania to West Texas, I stopped in Albuquerque, and studied English literature and creative writing with Rudolfo Anaya, a professor at the University of New Mexico.

In the end, the panel recommended keeping the book on the shelves ... though not unconditionally. It could not be assigned as required reading, for example, but as one of a list of books from which students could choose in completing their assignment. It was also recommended that the book be kept at the high school, only, where students of that age might be able to better cope with the instances of profanity.

That same rascal at the newspaper wrote another editorial, praising the panel's recommendations as a means of balancing educators' missions with parents' concerns.

Praise was also heard from Anaya, who said he understood why parents might be concerned, sharing his own concerns as a grandfather teaching his grandchildren to read. Later, at a conference in New Mexico, he had a chance to meet personally with a number of educators from Fort Stockton.

All in all, the incident reaffirmed my decision to make my home in West Texas, and to ply my craft as a journalist here. West Texas is a special place, and those who make their home here are, for the most part, special as well.

"Bless Me Ultima" was #75 on the American Library Associations list of
100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Those books in Fort Stockton could have ended up on a bonfire, as they had elsewhere ... but they didn't ...

Sometimes, you take a stand ...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

... and El Llanero on Line ...

Not long after I had published the previous post, noting that
Jessica's Well was going on hiatus, a new site, El Llanero, made its debut. In many ways, I think this will be a cut above the average weblog, and I'm genuinely excited to see it online.

The proprietor of El Llanero is Midland's Burr Williams. Already an accomplished presenter in person and in print, Burr is now bringing his presentation to the web, and we're all the better for it. While Odessa-Midland sites have brought some local color to the blogosphere, and observations from our experiences of the region ... none of us can match the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience Burr has in observing, recording and sharing its natural history.

In less than a week, Burr has already published posts placing some recent phenomena - like the rain we've been having, and the rodent die-offs from plague, and Africanized bees - in the context of the region and its history. He has also posted about legends of the Llano like Charlie Goodnight and Jesus Tafoya, and about the storytelling tradition.

These are topics of interest, and I hope they'll speak to us, the newest generations of Llaneros out there.

And besides, Burr has a magnificent beard ... and THAT is something in which many may dabble, and a few may seriously practice ... but, oh, us fortunate few who have mastered the hirsute art!

Also, I don't know the details, but it seems that Wallace, over at
Streams, deserves some credit for getting Burr online. Thanks, Wallace!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Jessica's Well on Hiatus ...

This morning's stroll through local addresses in the blogosphere pulled up the following message ...

Jessica's Well is now officially on hiatus until Labor Day, 2005."

What lies ahead for one of the pioneers of weblogging in West Texas? I have no idea. Their note goes on to say, "What happens on Labor Day, 2005? Maybe nothing! We may be back. We may not."

The site remains active, however, and you can still peruse their archives, or check out the day's edition of Dave Muir's "Day by Day" comic strip.

ADDED NOTE: Actually, "Day by Day" is by CHRIS Muir. Thanks for a heads-up from Eric over at Fire Ant Gazette (who also knows where the "Dave" came from).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Nattering Na-blogs of Negativism ...

Almost as interesting as the
revelation that a former FBI deputy director, W. Mark Felt, was the legendary "Deep Throat" are the responses to that revelation posted on weblogs

Breaking a silence of 30 years, the revelation came from the source, himself, when Felt stepped forward Tuesday, claiming he was Deep Throat, the secret Washington Post source that helped bring down President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. That claim was later verified by the Post, itself.

Now, we've been assured ... both here, in the Tall City, and elsewhere in the blogosphere ... that this is a non-story, a yawner that no one (except us debauched harlots of the evil MSM empire) are interested in. The blogs poke fun - sometimes in a humorous tone, sometimes in a tone that's downright nasty - at how the mainstream media is blowing the whole thing out of proportion in a pathetic attempt to pat ourselves on the back.

Yet, less that 36 hours after Felt's announcement went out over the newswires, the public seems to be interested. As of Wednesday afternoon, reported,
All The President's Men, the 1974 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate scandal, ranked as the 43th best-selling title. That's quite a jump up from its rank - #400 - the night before. That book formed the basis for the 1976 Oscar-winning movie of the same title. According to (an online movie rental outlet), requests for that movie have increased twelve-fold ... again, in less than 36 hours from Felt's announcement.

How big was Watergate? How big IS Watergate? Have you noticed that, to this day, more than thirty years later, just about every scandal - big or little, real or imagined, Republican or Democrat - that blows through our nation's capital has 'gate' attached to the end of it ... especially by opportunists out for someone's blood, seeking the political advantage that could be gained from getting the public to identify their issue with Watergate.

For those interested in the media's perspective on those days, especially from the vantage point of the Washington Post's news desk, I strongly recommend's
interview with Ben Bradlee, who was Editor in Chief of the Post when Woodward and Bernstein reported the story. Among other things, Bradlee talks about how the information from Deep Throat was just a starting point ... there was still plenty of slogging around, back-checking and corroborating to do with that information. It was good investigative work, solid writing, and a story - a truly significant story - that galvanized the nation.

For journalists, it was one of the high points of our craft in the 20th-century, and no amount of spewing from the nattering na-blogs of negativism can take that away.

ADDED NOTE: Among the many sites I visited while getting some feel for the blogosphere's take on the "Deep Throat" story is West Texas' own Jessica's Well, a longtime practitioner of the art of nattering.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day, 2005

So much going through my head at this time ... how to express it? ... maybe I shouldn't try's been said before, and said much better than anything I could compose ...

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

President Abraham Lincoln
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863