Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Woman of Words and Worth ...

AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) - Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins died today at her Austin home following a long battle with breast cancer. Ivins was 62.

Her obit is posted on the Web site of the Texas Observer, where Ivins was an editor more than 30 years ago.

Ivins was a sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub." Ivins made a living poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in her home base of Austin or the White House.

She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist-toned humor.

MIDLAND, TEXAS - I never met Molly Ivins ... wish I had.

Hers was a style of writing that reached out to a person. She spoke much as we spoke, just a little better and - sometimes - a little stronger than we would be comfortable with.

She was a populist in the noblest sense of the word ... she and her work gave expression to the populists at-large, to 'we, the people' ... especially those of us who were, you know, 'THOSE kind of people' ... without connection, without pull, without a voice. Oh, how the political establishment hated her, and hated how she encouraged us all to rear-up on our hind legs, and bleat OUR mind, rather than THEIR spin.

I never met Molly Ivins. But she figures in one of the significant days in my career as a writer and a journalist. I recall - with pride - that day that her byline and mine appeared in the same issue of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. True, hers was an op-ed piece in the paper's A section ... while mine was a feature about the Odessa Meteor Crater, in the paper's B section.

I've associated with far worse people.

"I have a grandly dramatic vision of myself stalking through the canyons of the Big Apple in the rain and cold, dreaming about driving with the soft night air of East Texas rushing on my face while Willie Nelson sings softly on the radio," she wrote in 1976, as she bid farewell to the Texas Observer, to take a job with the New York Times, "or about blasting through the Panhandle under a fierce sun and pale blue sky …."

"I’ll remember, I’ll remember…sunsets, rivers, hills, plains, the Gulf, woods, a thousand beers in a thousand joints, and sunshine and laughter. And people. Mostly I’ll remember people."

And we'll remember you.

I'm not alone ... not by a long shot ... other tributes on the blogosphere can be found at Sticky Doorknobs, Texas Trifles and Pertinent Verge, to name a few

Friday, January 26, 2007

Good News for Ethanol, I Guess ...

Texas Politics, one of a slate of blogs at the Houston Chronicle, notes that Representative Rick Hardcastle, a Republican from Vernon, is moving over from the Texas House committee on Ag & Livestock (which he chaired) to be the new chair of the Energy Resources committee, replacing Representative Buddy West, a Republican from Odessa.

It's been suggested by the
Austin American Statesman that the move for West is one of a number of "demotions for former Craddick loyalists who opposed his re-election."

Maybe, maybe not ..... all I know is that Craddick has yanked a West Texan who represents the heart of energy production (oil and gas), new energy (wind), energy research (proposed research reactor, and CO2 school), and energy waste disposal (Andrews County) in the Lone Star State, and replaced him with an ag guy from the Red River Valley.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Speaking of Football ...

Not long until the Chicago Bears meet the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

My Pittsburgh Steelers didn't make it to the big game, this year ... heck, they didn't even make it into the playoffs.

I'll still watch, though ... and this dang-Yankee-from-back-east will probably be rooting for Da Bearz ...

Why We Remain Fans ...

Some days, it seems to me as though the Sports Page, the Gossip Column and the Police Blotter are all tangled up over who gets to carry news of our nation's pro (and, sometimes, college) athletes ...

For example ... here, in the Lone Star State, it's hard to tell what got 'T.O.' more headlines ... his grabs on the field, or his gabs in the locker room?

So, why do we bother? My own feeling is that - maybe, just maybe - there's something about sport, as a general phenomenon, that is bigger than its individual practitioners ... that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts ...

... that for all the glaring, lurid headlines, there are stories that rise to the surface, raising the image of 'sport' as they do, ennobling it and encouraging all of us that our love of sport, and those who practice sport, is not given in vain.

Here's one picture that tells a thousand words in just such a story ... that of an athlete who was not a winner in some respects, but was a winner in those other respects that truly mattered. A link to "Fallen Giant," the story behind the photo, its subject and its creation, is here, in the virtual pages of Smithsonian Magazine online.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Movie Night ...

Friday night is 'movie night' at our house ... a time for the family to get together - usually after a hectic week of work, school, sports, etc. - over popcorn and a movie.

Just in time for tonight, Netflix delivered
Akeelah and the Bee, the story of an eleven year-old who overcomes the challenges posed by her family, her school and her neighborhood to make a run down the road that leads ultimately to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her travels down that road are helped by a wide array of characters ... including many from those same areas that had initially challenged her to succeed.

Keke Palmer, as Akeelah Anderson, does a wonderful job as a young girl with a gift, who finds herself discovering things about herself and those around her, even as she discovers new words. Palmer is joined by J.R. Villarreal and Sean Michael, who do much through their characters to illustrate the wide variety of kids who make their way onto the spelling bee stage.

Notable among the adults in the cast are Laurence Fishburne (who was also a producer of the film) as the professor who coaches Akeelah, and Angela Bassett who plays Akeelah's mom. Both contribute much to the main story as we learn, bit-by-sometimes-painful-bit, more about their own stories, and what they can offer to Akeelah.

Also notable on the cast (for me and other fans of
My Name is Earl) is Eddie Steeples as Derrick-T, a gang-banger with a surprising amount of insight into Akeelah's dream, and a determination to help her realize that dream. He also has my boys' favorite line from the movie.

If you're wondering whether it's possible to make a compelling story out of a spelling bee ... well, yes, you can. Those of us who have been-there-done-that once upon a time, know you can ... and those of us with kids who are being-there-doing-that right now, REALLY know you can.

Good movie ... I recommend -- R-E-C-O-M-M-E-N-D -- recommend it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Spending the Night On the Day Job ...

Haven't spent much time on the blog these last few days ... frankly, I've spent so much time on the keyboard the past couple of weeks, so much time at webwork, that the last thing I wanted to do was spend any spare time at the keyboard, on the internet ...

Winter weather and school closings, bodies found and identified, little girls lost and found and allegedly violated ... it's all had me spending a lot of nights working my 'day job' at

All-in-all, I think I've done a pretty good job ... heck, I think I've done the best among the local websites ... but that's hardly an objective opinion ... and I'm sure the other web editors in West Texas feel exactly the same way about their product this past month ...

A dreary weekend ahead ... and - maybe, just maybe - a break in news developments ... so, maybe I can catch up on some long-delayed posts I've been meaning to get to ... more on that later ... maybe ...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wow ...

Just saw a trailer for "300" ... a film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, about the Battle of Thermopylae.

Wow ...

If it comes to the Tall City, I plan on catching this one on the BIG screen. I also plan on having a word or two, later, about Frank Miller and his impact on contemporary filmmaking through such print products as 300, Sin City, Daredevil, and Batman: The Dark Knight.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Those Michigander Roots of Mine ...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Poetic Justice ... Vogon-Style

Some time back, I posted a comment at Fireant Gazette, suggesting that the title of a poem Eric had composed reminded me of something that might come up in a discussion of Vogon poetry. Now, we can put that suggestion to the test, with the help of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Poetry Corner, and its Vogon Poetry Generator.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2007



A Great Weekend to Stay Home and Watch Movies ...

Temperatures at-or-below-freezing, snow flurries and freezing rain, and a few days mostly free of engagements of any kind ... a great weekend to stay home and watch movies. And that's just what the three of us (elder son is out-of-town with church youth group) have decided to do.

We started tonight with a rental from Netflix, "The Cat Returns," a feature-length animated film from Japan's Studio Ghibli, directed by Hiroyuki Morita. Perhaps better-known to American audiences is the film's executive producer, Hayao Miyazaki, who directed such films as "Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle" (which was nominated last year for an Academy Award).

When a high school girl named Haru saves the life of a cat, she sets in motion a series of events that will change her life. It turns out that cat is a prince, the son of the Cat Kingdom's ruler. In gratitude, the Cat Kingdom showers the girl with gifts, including an offer of marriage to their prince.

We enjoyed the film. It's shorter than some of the other works listed above, well illustrated, and the story has enough action and theme to hook you and keep you watching. The English-language version is also helped by a talented voice-over cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Elliott Gould, Peter Boyle and Tim Curry. I recommend it!