Friday, September 29, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yes, Let's ...

Frank at BOOKS, INQ. suggests, "Let's do something really outrageous - and link to a very nice post about Joyce Kilmer. 'Trees' has given pleasure to many people and still does, I imagine. And you know, it's going to continue to do that."

Vote Early and Often

There's still time - though not much! - to vote for the Fire Ant Gazette's new tagline. Complete info, and a ballot, here.

Actually, YES ... You SHOULD Read the Book

Earlier this month, I posted about a new class at my church. At the time, I expressed some misgivings over the use of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," in a class devoted to exploring a Christian "deep narrative" underlying the books that formed this epic saga of Middle Earth, and the War of the Rings.

We're a few weeks into that class, now, and I think my initial misgivings on that point have been affirmed.

In so many respects, Jackson films are wonderful adaptations of the books. There is an attention to details that show the filmmakers' thorough and loving knowledge of the printed works.

But in one respect, the films - for me, at least - fall short, and that is in character development. In general, the films lack the full range of diverse characters with which Tolkien populated Middle Earth. In particular, individual characters that do appear in the film lack the depth and breadth of traits that gave such color and texture to their print counterparts. In the film, an individual character's traits may be changed considerably, or removed altogether ... with the resulting character on screen trivialized - I believe - to better fit into current 'Hollywood' values and sensibilities.

Is this an important point? If you're just sitting back and enjoying a good film - as I have with LOTR, more than once - then, NO, not at all. But, if you're studying, exploring a Christian narrative underlying Tolkien's story - a narrative conveyed in part by the story's characters and their actions - then, YES, it is a very important point.

But, I'll close this lengthy rant on a high and hopeful note ... with the observation that I am far from the first, and far from the last to whom this point is important. Wednesday night, before class started, a gentleman seated next to me was showing me an annotated "Hobbit/LOTR" that he had recently acquired. He told me he had never read the books before, had never seen the films ... but the class had piqued his interest, and now he was reading. He has just finished "The Hobbit" and is 100 pages into the first book of "LOTR" ... pretty impressive for just one month.

Frodo Lives!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Celebrating, Protecting the Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, the annual event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.

Some of us have experienced, first-hand, a conflict with the censors, the banners and the burners ...
my own experience came a few years back, in Fort Stockton, when a small-but-vocal group came forward and pressed the school board there to place restrictions on Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima" ... some calling for it to be removed, altogether from library shelves.

According to the American Library Association,
Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

Darwin on the Right

An article in the October, 2006, edition of asks the question, "Can one be a conservative Christian and a Darwinian?" The author of that article, Skeptic publisher Michael Shermer, goes on to answer, "Yes. Here's how."

Thanks to Frank at
BOOKS, INQ. for the heads-up.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A View from Inside

No "Cemetery Blogging" from SPOOKYRACH at SKEWED VIEW this weekend. But Thursday's post was good ... very good ... I highly recommend it, especially to those in the 'git a rope' crowd who know all about crime and punishment in America.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Friend Signs-off

You work in this market long enough, and you grow accustomed to A LOT of comings and goings. It's the nature of our market, a small 'teaching' market where young people come to develop their skills and develop their resumès, before moving on to bigger and better things.

Of course, every station also has a few 'old hands' around ... those with a long-time presence in the station, and established roots in the community. Some of them are people I was working with twenty years ago, and have worked with - off and on - ever since. From time to time, one of us will mention the youngsters ... 'hey, I saw [insert reporter's name here] is working in [insert city name here] now.'

Sometimes - rarely, but it does happen - it's one of those longtime, established co-workers that leaves, not for another market, but for another station in your own market.

Hey, it happens ...

But, it feels different. There's no longer someone your own age in the office around the corner. Someone with whom you can talk about the Big Bend of Texas and the Four Corners of New Mexico, about the glory of the original Ford Mustang and the glory of Clementè, Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Good night, and good luck, my friend.

The Day it Serotonin-Rained in West Texas

As I write this, Jim Janotti is - or is very close to - pulling off the highway, and pulling into Pottstown, Pennsylvania ... bringing an end to a two-week journey that has covered thousands of miles on the actual highways and byways of America, and the virtual highways and byways of the blogosphere.

That included a stop in my own little American town, and my own little corner of the blogosphere ... something for which I'm very grateful.

Jim is a blogger at
serotoninrain and has been a virtual acquaintance of mine ever since my first, tentative steps into that online neighborhood. Being a dang Yankee from back east, myself, I enjoyed being able to share that unique perspective with him ... and being able to exchange with him secret passwords and high-signs (in d' vuh-nakyu-lah, y'know?) that mystified native and normally-astute Texans such as Eric at The Fire Ant Gazette.

This virtual acquaintance became an actual friend during a stop of the
Serotoninrain Road Tour at the Tall City. I first met Jim, when he and Eric met me at the southside Starbucks. Remember that old television commercial, 'talk it over, over coffee' ? Well, we did, and what a talk it was! Among other things, we covered the idea of a Christian narrative in the works of Tolkien. I had just come out of class - Wednesday evening, church night - and was still rushing through the Bible and the Lord of the Rings, simultaneously. Jim was more than patient with my ramblings, and also offered some points - he is a minister, after all - that have since set me off along new lines of inquiry ... he's good!

The next day, Eric, Jim and I met another local blogger - Jimmy of
Sticky Doorknobs - over lunch at Italian Village. It was a wonderful gathering of good food and great company. The wide-ranging topics covered everything from Jim's journey (though NOT about what was ahead!), to our families at home, to our work ... Jim and Eric had already visited Jimmy at the MRT, and me at KWES, earlier that day. Telling us of his own work as a rural carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, Jim described - among other things - the thoroughbred horse farms along his route, back east. Having seen something like that, myself, I suspect there is enough beautiful scenery to elevate what might otherwise be just another day in the four-wheeled office.

We also touched upon the impact - sometimes significant, sometimes not - that music performance has had upon our lives. I suspect hardly a day goes by that music fans in eastern Pennsylvania don't wonder ... 'whatever happened to the Daytrippers?'

Jim, Eric and Jimmy also share their their thoughts and observations.

In closing, this wasn't the first time I found that, as good as the virtual person is, the actual person is even better ... and I will remember the day it serotonin-rained in West Texas.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Review of a Review

Frank at BOOKS, INQ. has offered up this review of a new translation of a favorite book of mine, "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas. He and I share a great love for the genre, which once dominated the publishing world on the strength of such writers as Dumas, Sabatini, Conan-Doyle and Haggard. Frank's review has left me - to borrow his words - "resolved to spend some time once again with D'Artagnan and his three friends, Athos, Porthos and Aramis."

Speaking from Experience

Concerning the debate going on in Washington - over the Bush administration's efforts to re-define torture - I can't help but think that there are some who bring a unique perspective to the debate, a hard-taught lesson that we can acknowledge ... but, probably, never truly and fully appreciate.

I'm probably the only blogger - and one of the few, people, period - in the Tall City who thinks all of the years our administration has spent in the corporate boardrooms, ivory towers and executive suites of America ... don't give them as much appreciation for torture as they might have gotten from a single day in the Hanoi Hilton.

In this debate, U.S. Senator John McCain is fighting to preserve what he calls "the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions," and he speaks from a horrible experience at the hands of captors who flouted those conventions. I don't care what George, and Dick, and Donnie and Condi say.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Sublime and the Ridiculous

Earlier in the day, NBC News' Brian Williams interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He writes about that experience in his blog, The Daily Nightly.

That night, NBC Entertainment offered up a comedy sketch on
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and there, once again, was 'The Man in the Tan Suit' competing in a Jeopardy-like battle of wits and wit, with Fidel Castro and George Bush ... funny, I never realized before how much Ahmadinejad looked and sounded like Gilbert Gottfried!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One Picture is Worth a Thousand (to the nth power) Words

How many times have we listened to our elected officials in Washington tell us the Federal Budget was beyond the comprehension of most of us, and best left to the wisdom and discretion of they and their staffs?

Wouldn't it be great to set aside the reams of paperwork and turn, instead, to a simple visual representation of the budget? Well, now we can!
“Death and Taxes” is a representational graph of the federal discretionary budget. The amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes.

Alright, alright ... maybe I'm being a little sarcastic when I say "simple."

Of course, it does raise the question ... do you think anyone inside the Beltway really has a clue about all this?

Thanks to JJ Sutherland at
Mixed Signals for the heads-up.

Aye, Here Be a Bloggy Roger!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

On the Passing of the Big Gold Dog

Say a prayer for Wallace, at Streams, as he mourns the loss of Tres, his beloved 'big gold dog,' who passed away this morning.

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his DOG. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground,where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wing and reputation falls to pieces, he is as content in his love as the sun in its journey throught the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast into the cold, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard him against danger, and to fight against his enemies. When the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws and his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death." ..... George Vest, 1870 .....

Rest in peace, Tres

This Morning at First Prez ...

This morning, at church, we had a chance to hear a pair of short performances by Antonio Tarase, the new principal clarinetist with the Midland-Odessa Symphony. We heard Cesar Franck's "Andantino Quasi Allegretto" and Joseph Rheinberger's "Andante Pastorale" - both arranged for clarinet and piano duo - with Tarase on clarinet, and First Prez' own Rebecca Sawyer on piano. Both performances were wonderful, with high marks for technique, and very high marks for raising the level of worship a notch or two ... and how many of us could do that at eight-thirty on a Sunday morning?

Sunday school, this morning, was devoted to a presentation by Michigander Mark McPherson, who will be performing a one-man show as English academician, author and philosopher C.S. Lewis. This is not the first time that McPherson has written and performed a one-man show based on a figure of history, having previously trod the boards as Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt and Wyatt Earp. During this morning's presentation, I found McPherson to be charming and articulate, with a devotion to scholarship that is impressive, and a faith in Christ that is inspiring. I STRONGLY urge you to take a break, later today, and see his show.

"From Narnia, With Love - The Spiritual Voyage of C.S. Lewis"
Sunday, September 17, 5:30 p.m.
Sanctuary, First Presbyterian Church, Midland, Texas
Written and presented by actor/playwright/author Mark F. McPherson
Call 684-7821 for more information.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tip of the Hat to "Daily Report"

Brian Stelter at TVNewswer described this segment on Wednesday's Daily Show - in which Jon Stewart explored the 'Cavuto' and its application in fair-and-balanced journalism - as a "must-see" ... I agree.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Answer to "What Petroleum Landmen Discuss When ..."

Okay, it's been one week since I posted this question.

The answer to the question, the solution to the problem? ... "Get your drunken rear-end off the merry-go-round!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


It's Wednesday, and that means 'church night' ... a shared meal, some music and prayer in the fellowship hall at First Prez-Midland. Following that, while some enjoy continued fellowship, or head home for the night, others will break up into groups and meet in classrooms around the building.

This fall, that last group includes me. I have joined a study group that is following a 'deep narrative' of Christian theology underlying Tolkien's grand work, "The Lord of the Rings." Our textbook for the course is "The Battle for Middle-Earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in the Lord of the Rings" by Fleming Rutledge. Our class is being led by Pastor Steve Schorr and Jeff Hewitt, who is a member of the Episcopalian church here, in the Tall City. Also playing a prominent role in the class will be Peter Jackson's acclaimed three-film adaptation of LOTR.

Right up front - before the class has even gotten under way - I have some misgivings about both the book, and the film in this setting. But, what if I turn out to be wrong? Better to keep them to myself ... unless those misgivings are actually realized ... I'll keep you posted.

They'll Be Coming 'round the Pumpjacks, When They Come

Another actual encounter with a virtual acquaintance is in the works. In past encounters with bloggers, I have found the real-person to be even better than the e-person ... and I suspect that will be the case with this encounter, as well. More details, later, in this space and elsewhere on the Texas blogosphere.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where Were You, When ...

Brian Stelter at TVNewser has gathered stories and recollections, images and clips of what we debauched harlots of the mainstream media were up to, five-years-ago Monday.

Words for the Occasion

So many speeches today ... so many of our elected officials, or members of their entourage, stepping up to the microphone and using the 9/11 anniversary to imprint their definition of America and Americanism upon us ...

I don't care to share with you their words ... if I could, I would share with you the sights and sounds of Wynton Marsalis and his trumpet, playing 'Closer Walk With Thee' at Ground Zero ...

But I can't ... I'm stuck with words ... unfortunately, the words of Bush and Rumsfeld, Conaway and Cornyn, defining my country - and defining my heart and mind as a citizen of that country - are inadequate, at best ...

I'll defer to words from the past, penned by Robert Frost in "The Gift Outright" ...

"The land was ours before we were the land's
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

West Texas Woman's Wild Wheels

Not a day goes by that I don't find myself asking ... "What happens when Red Raiders in Yellow Bugs hit Red Raiders?" ...

Now, thanks to Julie at
Yellow Bug News, I have the answer ...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Agree ... It IS Depressing

In a post, earlier today, at BOOKS, INQ., Frank recalls a conversation he once had with Michael Skube at the Washington Post, while both were serving as Pulitzer jurors. The topic was dismaying encounters with "college students who were, for all practical purposes, functionally illiterate (or so it sounded it to me)."

Skube has returned to that topic with
this article, and Frank offers some observations of his own here.

What a Way to Start the Season

The Midland Soccer Association's Fall 2006 season of Co-Ed Rec Soccer is now under way.

Elder Boy plays in the U-13 bracket. At the start of the week, we had no idea when the team's first game would be ... the process of getting a schedule worked out - and what teams would be a part of that schedule - seemed to have gotten bogged-down somewhere. We finally learned, with less than 48 hours' notice, that the first game would be this morning ...

Typical ...

We were told we'd be playing the Falcons. They are a relatively new team, organized last year. But, they have plenty of spirit, and we looked forward to a good game.

Only it wasn't the Falcons we ended up playing. It was a team from the U-14 bracket ... a year older, a year bigger, a year's more experience ...

Typical ...

I have to hand it to our kids, though ... they stayed in the game till the end, they never gave up, and they even got a couple of licks in (including a goal)! After the game, I told them that they played so well, we were going to match them against one of the high school soccer squads, next weekend ... and maybe, just maybe, Major League Soccer's FC Dallas had an open date for the weekend after that!

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Golden Night with Golden Dragon

Didn't get home until late, last night, so I didn't get around to posting the following until this morning.

The boys and I - and thousands of other West Texans - packed most of the Chap Center last night for a performance by the
Golden Dragon Chinese Acrobats. They are among the 21st-century practitioners of an ancient tradition ... and the word "ancient" is not used lightly, as it may date back to Xia Dynasty, 4,000+ years ago.

If you have watched Cirque de Soleil - either live or on television - you have seen performances by entertainers steeped in the tradition of Chinese acrobats.

Thursday night's performance was nothing short of WONDERFUL !!! And, I would like to thank the folks at Midland College's
Phyllis & Bob Cowan Performing Arts Series for not only bringing Golden Dragon to town, but for opening the doors to thousands of appreciative fans ... free-of-charge.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What Petroleum Landmen Discuss When Oil Futures Slip BELOW $70/Barrel

You are on a horse, galloping at a constant speed. On your right side is a sharp drop off, and on your left side is an elephant traveling at the same speed as you. Directly in front of you is a galloping kangaroo and your horse is unable to overtake it. Behind you is a lion running at the same speed as you and the kangaroo. What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?