Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Birthday .....

Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis, academician, author, and an aetheist who became a champion of Christian faith and struggle, was born on this day in 1898.

In a way, I first "met" Lewis through a mutual friend, as I was studying the life and works of John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien. Both were part of - for me, at least - one of the most interesting generations of modern English history.

There is a pretty thorough
Wikipedia entry on Lewis. There is also the website of the C.S. Lewis Foundation, dedicated to advancing Christian thought & creative expression throughout the world of learning, and this site from Harper-Collins Publishers.

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step ..... You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday: The (simply) Sublime and The (tragically) Ridiculous .....

One of the perks to no longer working in news reporting is that I don't have to get up at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, covering the latest edition of the Black Friday Bacchanalia.

That's not to say I don't tune in, though ... this year, I was watching NewsWest 9/Telemundo's Victor Lopez do the ... uh ... honors of bringing us live coverage of
Black Friday in the Tall City, talking to people who had spent the past 10-hours-or-so outside a local electronics store, and hearing their plans for an even-more-serious encampent next year.

By the way, don't get me wrong here ... Victor is an outstanding writer, reporter and producer, and
NewsWest 9 was doing an admirable job covering what has become an annual news event.

My gripe is with the story itself ... and what it might say about us. We have all heard how bad the economy is nationwide ... yet, if the national news reports are any indicator, it appears that our response to the economic news is not to re-trench and make do with what we have (as our grandparents did during the Great Depression), but to go out and buy newer, bigger, better.

Or am I reading this story wrong (wouldn't be the first time), and it actually says something positive about us? What do YOU think?

I will note, though, that - at the very least - local reporters did not have the opportunity to report two stories that inspired the title for this post. In the case of one, I hope they never have to. In the case of the other, I'm hoping that they will, someday.


There was this story from the Associated Press about "The (tragically) Ridiculous" ... police are reviewing surveillance video in an attempt to identify who trampled to death a Wal-Mart worker after a crowd of post-Thanksgiving shoppers burst through the doors at a suburban store and knocked him down. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

On the other hand there is
this story from KARE-TV about "The (simply) Sublime" ... hundreds of people packed into the Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul with one goal in mind: reclaiming the holiday season, to take back Black Friday as the beginning of the Christmas season that has some different values to it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Actual Incident's Virtual Effect .....

UPDATE: Weather Underground once again has updated content from Thailand, with reports now coming from Hua Hin Airport.

There are storm clouds over Thailand today, tossing the political and social seas to the extent that small ripples reach one of my blogs here, on the far side of the world.

According to
this report from the Associated Press, "protesters occupying Bangkok's two airports braced for a raid after Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat declared a limited state of emergency authorizing police to take back the terminals. Meanwhile, rumors swept the city that the military would instead stage a coup to end the months-long standoff between the People's Alliance for Democracy and the elected government, which the alliance has vowed to topple."

I am reminded of the ongoing troubles there each time I visit my West Texas Missioner blog, where one of my Weather Underground gadgets (set for Bangkok, Thailand) remains in gray-scale mode, and tells me "DATA UNAVAILABLE" ... the reporting center for that city, is the airport.

I passed through that airport on my way into and out of Thailand, earlier this year ... and I met a lot of good people - both native Thais and foreign nationals - in the days between my arrival and my departure. I think of them a lot these days, and I pray for their safekeeping through these troubled and uncertain times ... I hope you will, too.

This One May End Up on My Shelf .....

Books from politicians, and from those who are a part their aspirations and achievements, are common enough ... but not many of them find their way onto my shelves.

This one might ...

"First Lady Laura Bush confirmed to The Associated Press that she is planning a memoir and has met with publishers," Frazier Moore and Hillel Italie write in
this AP report. They go on to note, "A memoir from Laura Bush could be the political version of 'Garbo Speaks.' The public has long been fascinated by the First Lady, if only because she has said so little about herself, and her life is already a best seller in fictional form, in Curtis Sittenfields's novel 'American Wife.'"

"While Nancy Reagan famously settled scores with old foes like former White House chief of staff Donald Regan in 'My Turn,' one publishing executive with knowledge of the meetings with Laura Bush said the current first lady has vowed to write a positive book, with a minimum of criticism."

That wouldn't surprise me. While she was First Lady of Texas, I had a chance to interview Laura Bush twice, and found her to be smart and well-informed, with the ability to speak firmly - though not offensively - on those topics for which she feels strongly. I also found her to be very gracious and open to 'the press' ... far more so than those who comprised her entourage at the time (and still do, as a matter of fact). For me, the First Lady remains the best thing about the Bush White House.

Which is why I'll probably add hers to to those few of the aforementioned books that have made it to my shelf. Others already on the shelf include ...

Profiles in Courage by John Kennedy;
The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt;
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton;
Faith of My Fathers; by John McCain; and
Earth in the Balance by Al Gore.

... so, what's on your shelf?

Happy Birthday .....

... to William Blake, English poet, painter, printmaker, and advocate for such causes as abolition, religious freedom and sexual equality. We've all had to read his poems at one time or another, in high school English classes, or college Lit courses ..... some of us have gone back, on our own, for more. A great man of words, I'll be the first to admit ..... but I've always been more partial to his pictures, which served so well to complement the images he conjured with his text.

Addendum: To this day, Blake's words continue to inspire ... here is "Tyger" by Guilhere Marcondes, who used one of his favorite poems, Blake's "The Tyger," as the starting point for his short film.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Marines Out There Will Understand .....

... the added significance of this day. It is written that no Marines ever faced worse weather, terrain, or odds than those who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, begining on this day in 1950 and continuing for the next week-and-a-half.

Sign me, The Proud Son of One of the "Chosin Few" who Served with Chesty Puller and the First Marines ... Semper Fi

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Gifts at First Prez .....

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

(1st verse and refrain from the original by Elder Joseph Brackett; 2nd and 3rd verses added later)

First Presbyterian Church of Midland hosted its very first Neighborhood Thanksgiving Party, Tuesday night, where friends and family were joined by guests from Breaking Bread Soup Kitchen, and others who do not have a home or a place to enjoy a shared meal for Thanksgiving. In addition to a traditional holiday meal with all the trimmings, there was plenty of fellowsip, children's activities, and live music from Jody Nix and his band. Also, a large number of meals were packed "to go" for delivery to the home-bound.

Organizers were pleased with this innaugural event, and are already talking about getting together once again, same time next year. For more information about Breaking Bread Soup Kitchen, call First Presbyterian at 684-7821.




Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Former President's Legacy a Work-In-Progress .....

Over the last couple of months, reports about the legacy of George Bush and his presidency have appeared with increasing frequency ... and a bit too soon, if you ask me.

The proclamations of the spin-doctors and punditz notwithstanding, I honestly don't know if it is possible to get a clear and comprehensive picture of such a thing, here and now, in the present. I suspect that the passage of time will provide a more accurate view ... and that will include taking into account his accomplishments as a former President of the United States.

This idea came to me, late last year, while researching for an article about developments in the ongoing campaign against debilitating, even deadly diseases that plague the Third World. That research brought me to this article by Robert M. Poole, in the June, 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

"His once-sandy hair had gone all white; his shoulders were a bit more stooped; his freckled face was lined with new creases. But Jimmy Carter's 82 years had diminished neither his trademark smile, which could still disarm skeptics at 20 paces, nor his enthusiasm for the long chance, which had propelled this obscure peanut farmer to national prominence in the first place," Poole writes. "That quixotic spirit took him this past February to an impoverished corner of Ethiopia, where he would announce his most audacious crusade yet: to eliminate malaria, an elusive and ever-changing killer, from this ancient African nation of 75-million people."

I would submit this article for the consideration by those who think a President's legacy is determined solely by what is said and done (and perceived to be said and done) while in office. When Carter's life has come to an end, decades after his political career ended, how will that life be remembered? His road to the White House, and his service there once he arrived, will - of course! - provide many factors that contribute to the image of him that we hold ..... but so will his service to an even larger constituency, since 1975, as an advocate for health and housing, for populist government, for world peace and for truly bilateral efforts to achieve that peace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Help Wanted: Apply Alaska PIO Office .....

Memo to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, re: "Turkey Pardon" Gaffe ..... instead of chewing out the debauched harlots of the mainstream media, why not chew out - or, better yet, kick out - your public information officer.

Much of the debate I've heard and read over this - both in the virtual world and the actual world - has centered on criticism of Palin, her critics and the media ... and has pretty much followed party lines.

I'd like to suggest a different point ... there are people, PIO's, whose job is to promote and present a state's chief executive, and those folks definitely dropped the ball on this one. Turkey pardons at Thanksgiving are nothing new ...
they have one each year at the White House, and those are pretty good, straightforward affairs, easy for the media to cover, and pretty much guaranteed to run in the news that night ... without controversy or embarrassment. Compare one of those with the debacle in Alaska, and you get an appreciation for how well Bush's people do their job, and just how badly Palin's people did theirs.

• The Guest: Bush is presented with a single turkey that has been cleaned (those of you who have experience with poultry farms will know the importance of this) and prepped for the occasion ... not Palin.

• The Setting: Bush greets his turky on the lawn, flanked only by his guests for the ceremony, with the White House as a backdrop ... not Palin.

• The Crew: Bush has people on top of the situation, making sure everything goes according to script, and that nothing intrudes in the background that might disrupt that script or distract from their boss ... not Palin.

We're not talking rocket science here, folks. You go ahead and blame whoever you want to blame ... As for me, I'm blaming her PIO.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Birthday (#?) to The Doctor .....

Doctor Who, one of the most popular and longest-lived franchises in science fiction, premiered on this day in 1963.

In a day when a show's life is measured may be measured in just a short run of episodes, it's hard to imagine that one could remain - and grow - over 45 years. I think that's been helped by the near-limitless opportunities for story and character development. The series has taken viewers back and forth through time and space, in and out of alternative realities and - with the 10th Doctor at the controls of the Tardis - across the barrier between parallel universes. Occasionally, those travels criss-cross with one another, creating opportunities to resolve old issues, anser old questions from previous episodes ... and start new ones.

Add to that a changing cast, as well. This Christmas season, British viewers of the series will meet the 11th Doctor ... did I tell you the character is an alien with the ability to regenerate when mortally injured? He comes back as the same character, but with a new appearance and personality. Also ever-changing is the Doctor's companions, usually women, whose appearance does not always coincide with the Doctor's regeneration ... Rose Tyler accompanied the 9th and 10th Doctors. The 10th Doctor has had two companions since then.

It's really hard to overstate the show's impact. It continues to be referenced in just about every medium of pop culture ... te most recent I've seen was an episode of American Dad ("Escape from Pearl Bailey," 2008), when a candidate for class president courts the vote of those who are "obsessed with an old British TV show," much to the approval of students in the bleachers dressed at the 4th Doctor.

... wish I had a scarf like that. Happy birthday, Doctor!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Optimisim ….

Greeting the morning with news of advancing cold-fronts and increased winds, clouding skies, the prospect of overnight freezes ... and this ...

Check It Out ….

The work is done, and KWES-TV, NewsWest 9 has a new set, with a new look. Tune in, check it out, and let me know what you think. One initial comment I have ... I wish I could take a 'virtual tour' of the new set on the station's website ... more, later.

Hardly Breaking News ….

... but good news, nonetheless, is the return of Stephanie Rivas to the West Texas airwaves. In a market that has been filled with so many 'goodbyes' this past year, it's nice to be able to say 'welcome home' for a change.

Stephanie anchors CBS7 News at Five and also reports on a variety of stories from across the Basin for KOSA-TV.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Changes for an Ink-Stained Sister ….

Around our local corner of the blogosphere, most of the posts devoted to newspapers seem to be rants about the evils of the mainstream media, and the divine justice being visited upon them through dwindling readership, and through the unvarnished contempt – the virtual slings and arrows - of online punditz.

Kind of sad, really.

Going back forty-or-so years, I have come to know and work with an awful lot of newspaper people … a heck-of-a-lot more than most of you have. I have found an overwhelming majority of my ink-stained brothers and sisters to be good journalists … and good people. And while my most recent work has been devoted to broadcast and online media, I still keep my hand in print, writing an occasional magazine article, and keeping in touch with those who work the medium full-time.

If only the online rants were the worst of the challenges they confronted. They must also deal with the challenges posed by a constantly-changing, endlessly-evolving media marketplace … a marketplace that demands reducing costs, and reducing the payrolls that are a part of those costs … which is what my e-friend Karen at
Pen in Hand must now confront.

“The newspaper industry, as you might have heard, is struggling mightily, which means my beloved
Plain Dealer is struggling right along with the rest. Contracting, like the rest,” Karen, a reporter in the Plain Dealer’s Arts & Entertainment section, writes in this post at her blog.

There is a silver lining to this cloud, and it’s a pretty good one …. The Plain Dealer’s loss may become a great gain for a much larger audience than was ever reached by that fine old daily.

“It seemed like a good time to listen to the voice inside me that kept saying things like, ‘In my next life I want to illustrate children's books.’ Or suchlike,” Karen goes on to write. “I didn't really think that would be possible, and maybe it won't be. But this week I finished my portfolio for my application to art school, and while I'm not officially a student yet, I hope to be soon.”

“Journalism has been so good to me. I worry that people will discover, all too late, the value of a strong local newspaper. Bloggers are nothing without professional journalists -- don't let anyone tell you different. On the other hand, it might be time for a different generation to take the wheel of that ship. And it's definitely time for my next life to begin.”

Atta girl!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Solemn and Imposing Event .....

... took place on this day in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln stepped up to the podium, delivered a few appropriate remarks, and set one of the benchmarks for rhetoric in American - and world - history.

Lincoln's speech was part of a ceremony (shown in the photo, at right) to dedicate a new national cemetery at the site of a Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ... hence, the Gettysburg Address.
A report on the day's activities from an 1863 edition of the New York Times (.pdf file)

"In just over 2 minutes, 10 sentences and 272 words," it's been written, "Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence, and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as 'a new birth of freedom' that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant."

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.

In general, contremporary response to the address was polite, at best ... though there were individuals - such as Congressman Edward Everett, who also spoke that day - who had some notion of its greatness. That greatness has been borne out over time ... it remains one of the most often-quoted speeched of American history ... 100 years later, Martin Luther King would allude to Lincoln's speech in delivering his own oratorical benchmark, the "I have a Dream" speech ... and the words "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" would find their way into the French Constitution.


Thank you, Mr. Lincoln ... well done, sir ... well done ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good News, Bad News, "Mars" News .....

Not officially announced, yet, but reports about "Life on Mars" appearing on the internet this past week have me going "Oh, Yeah!" and "Oh, No!" simultaneously.

According to this report from hollywoodreporter.com, "ABC has some intriguing scheduling experiments planned for early next year." Online punditz are speculating that a lead-in from "Lost" (with its similar demographics) could boost LOM - which started the fall season strong, but has since slipped in the ratings - in a way that "Grey's Anatomy" and its demo's could not ... OH, YEAH!

But, this also means that, come January, LOM would be running opposite another favorite show of mine, Top Chef ... OH, NO!

Lord Knows, They Need Something .....

No more monkeying around! Maybe this guy-rilla can reach out to punditz in all media, across the political spectrum.
PhD APE HELPS RIGHT WING PUNDITS
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Leaving the side of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, PhD Ape begins preparations for a three-day seminar aimed at settling fears of the Right Wing radio and television personalities over the coming Obama Administration.
Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

Statistically Significant Birthday .....

Journalist and adman, academician and market researcher George Horace Gallup, a pioneer of survey sampling techniques and creator of the Gallup Poll, was born on this day in 1901.

Polls are a bane or a blessing ... that determination usually being made on a case-by-case basis, and depending not so much upon their general effectiveness or accuracy, but rather on how their results square with our own, personal point-of-view. Sometimes, we also err on just what we ask the numbers to do, or how we "spin" them to suit our purposes.

All of which doesn't take away from the fact that polls are an effective tool, thanks to people like George Gallup. Sure, sometimes the numbers erred - "Dewey Defeats Truman," anyone? But if the pollsters know and love their craft, those errors are used to develop better methodologies for polling, and better procedures for analysis.

Here is
his write-up on Wikipedia, and a nice Time Magazine profile of the man and his methods, from 1948. And from the businesses of which he was once part, here is his bio page at gallup.com, and a tribute page at Gallup & Robinson.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Step by Step: Christmas for Our Troops .....

If you haven't checked-out this post from Wallace at Streams, then you should ... then you should get involved in Christmas for Our Troops.

This is a Midland-based effort that "provides individual Christmas boxes full of a variety of gifts, necessities and goodies for our local men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These boxes will be shipped the first week of December via Priority mail to ensure that our troops have a package from home in their hands before Christmas Eve. This is a non-partisan private effort to give West Texans the opportunity to give a little something back to the military folks who give so much for us and this country."

The latest step in this year's effort took place last night at First Presbyterian Church of Midland, where about 35 young people assembled and stacked shipping boxes, getting them ready to be filled, sealed and mailed overseas. In addition to those from First Prez, I am told, we also had kiddos from Lee High School, Stonegate Christian Fellowship and Midland College.

There are other steps coming in the days ahead ... and other opportunities to for YOU to get involved. For more information, please contact CFOT Chairman Scott Davis at (432) 620-8820, or e-mail capatazhsd@sbcglobal.net . He'll tell you about ways you can contribute your time and effort, or about what is needed to fill those boxes the kids have assembled.

You can also make a financial contribution by contacting Western National Bank ("Christmas for OUR Troops Fund"), 508 W. Wall Street, Midland, Texas 79701.

A 'Team of Rivals' in the White House? .....

It's been noted that Presidents typically say they want to be surrounded by strong-willed people who have the courage to disagree with them ... but President-elect Barack Obama actually might mean it.

According to this report from the Associated Press, Obama has spoken several times of the book, "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about how President Abraham Lincoln brought foes into his fold.

Now, "Obama is considering [Hillary] Clinton for secretary of state or another senior position, meeting John McCain on Monday to see how his Republican presidential rival might help him in the Senate, and sizing up one-time opponents in both parties for potential recruitment. He made one Democratic presidential opponent, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden his running mate." Read the rest of the story

"I think it reflects a great inner strength on Obama's part that he is seriously considering creating a team of rivals as Lincoln did," Goodwin told The Associated Press on Friday. "By surrounding himself with people who bring different perspectives, he will increase his options, absorb dissenting views and heighten his ability to speak empathetically to people on different sides of each issue. The challenge, of course, is to ensure that the discussions do not become paralyzing, and that once a decision is made the inner circle accepts that the time for debate is over."

Lyrical Birthday Wishes .....

Canadian singer and songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, whose voice I coveted when I was a teen, was born on this day in 1938.

When asked to name "THE" music of the 70s, some might say disco, while others will say rock. Actually, I think it was both, and plenty more, besides. For example, it was a great decade for folk songs and ballads, too. There were many during that decade, who took some really fine poetry, and set it to music ..... they included Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Seeger, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Chapin .... and Gordon Lightfoot - with that sound of his, that wonderful baritone voice, and that combination of acoustic and electric guitars.

Here is
Wikipedia's write-up on Lightfoot, an entry in canadianencyclopedia.com, and his page on myspace.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Knew It ... I Just KNEW It! .....

I just KNEW there was more to this "Red State" stuff than meets the eye! You won't find this in what Jessica's Well calls the "super secret right wing blog astroturf network," but thank goodness there are still journalists of ... uh ... character out there ...
GOP GATHERS TO SUMMON NEXT LEADER
SMITHDALE, VIRGINIA - Under Wednesday’s full moon, heads of the Republican Party gathered in a dark ritual to summon their next leader.
Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Birthday .....

Yesterday, a man who created a distinctive American sound for music. Today, a woman who created distinctive American images for painting. Georgia Totto O'Keeffe, who emerged as a major figure in American art in the 1920s - and remains so today, twenty years after her death - was born on this day in 1887.

She is chiefly known for paintings of flowers, skulls and natural landscapes. But she also had an eye for urban subjects, as one of my favrite paintings by her,
Radiator Building, will show. And while she is most closely - and rightfully - identified with New Mexico, she was also at home in New York ... and Texas. Early in the 20th-century, she was an elementary school art teacher near Amarillo, and later an instructor in the art department West Texas A&M University, in Canyon. While there she created many beautiful images of nearby Palo Duro Canyon. During a trip through the Panhandle, My Favorite Landman and I spent the night in Canyon at the Husdspeth Inn Bed & Breakfast, a former boarding house where a young Georgia O'Keefe once took her meals.

I saw O'Keefe once, fleetingly, from a distance, as a crew of us were heading through Abique and Ghost Ranch on our way to a dig. I would have liked to meet her sometime, although she had a reputation as a very private person who did not encourage visitors, especially those who would show up, unannounced, at her doorstep.

Here is
Wikipedia's write-up on O'Keefe, and a pretty good, comprehensive online gallery of her paintings. You can also visit, online, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Top Chef Season 5: Bright Knives, Big City .....

No longer do I find myself adrift late on Wednesday nights, when I get home from church ... Top Chef has returned!

It's
Season #5 of Top Chef, the #1 food show on cable, and one of the few 'reality' programs that I truly enjoy watching. This season, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and the cheftestants are taking a bite out of the Big Apple, New York City ... I guess if they can plate it there, they can plate it anywhere. However, the first episode of the new season did manage - through the selection of this year's cheftestants, and the first episode's Elimination Round - to highlight New York's status as that most international of American cities.

Speaking of elimination rounds ... a little twist to the new season was the decision - in the first episode, at least - to double the displeasure with a double elimination. The winner of the Quick Fire Challenge still earned immunity in the Eliniation Challenge. But this time around, the loser of the Quick Fire - in this case, Lauren Hope, a Chef Tournant (relief chef) at Jag's Steak & Seafood in Cincinnati, Ohio - was sent packing ... OUCH! Something I liked about this Quickfire was the multi-tiered levels of competitions within the overall challenge. I also liked the way it tested basic knife skills before going on to test conception and execution of a dish.

So, what happens in the actual Elimination Challenge? No big surprise in the end, really, but a lot of fun getting there, as cheftestants paired-off to prepare dishes inspired by NYC's various ethnic districts (Italian, Russian, Chinese, Jamaican, etc.) and, again, engage in multi-tiered competition. When the knives were stilled, the flames had died and the smoke had settled, Patrick Dunlea, a student at NYC's Culinary Institute of America, was told to pack his knives and go home.

A few other points ..... with just the first episode to go on, Stefan Richter looks like a formidable opponent, as does Hosea Rosenberg, Gene Villiatora and Leah Cohen ..... it's hard to remember an episode of Top Chef that was bleeped so little, which was a pleasant surprise for someone like myself who never appreciated the Gordon Ramsay School of Culinary Cussing ..... the emphasis on some cheftestants' sexuality and 'gay pride' had me wondering if they would be equally please if one of their opponents was so vocal about 'straight pride' ... all in all, it looks to be another good, entertaining season.


Top Chef airs Wednesday nights at nine o'clock (central) on Bravo TV network (channel 63 on Suddenlink cable).

Happy Birthday .....

... to a favorite American composer of mine, among the most of 'American' of composers, Aaron Copland, born on this day in 1900.

A number of compositions are among what is called 'those old chestnuts' ... works that show up perenially on concert programs ... works such as
Appalachian Spring, which displayed Copland's genius for finding a balance between modern music and American folk styles, capturing the essence of an ideal America while forging a distinctly American style of composition, and earning the title, “dean of American composers.”

Here is Wikipedia's entry on Copland, and a really nice, multi-media Copland Artist Page from NPR Music. Another nice stop is this site for Copland House.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Elephantasy .....

President of the United States George Bush approves of the idea ... but Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia thinks it will have America goose-stepping into the future.

According to this report from the Associated Press, the Republican congressman said he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

Broun cites a July speech by then-candidate Obama, in which he called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun is quoted as saying.

Disagreement with Broun has been something of a bi-partisan effort. The report from the AP notes that an Obama spokesman described the proposal as a civilian reserve corps that could handle postwar reconstruction efforts such as rebuilding infrastructure ... and that the idea was endorsed by the Bush administration.

Some of the buzz since Broun's broadside includes contributions from older citizens, suggesting the proposal might be similar to their own experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps, almost 70-some years ago.

Later today, I'll post something on what America's mayors have to say about the proposal.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off-base," Broun himself said of his own suggestion ...

... uh, yeah, it sure does.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Call It What You Will ... But MARK It .....

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved,
and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt. Col. John Alexander McCrae, MD - Canadian Expeditionary Force

Here in the U.S., one doesn't see the poppies on people's lapels so much, as we used to when were children ..... One of the most ridiculous victories in America's 'war of drugs' was the declaration by 'drug czars' and their staffs that the poppy reminded people of addiction to drugs, rather than appreciation to those who gave the 'last full measure of their devotion' in service to their country. Such is not the case in Canada, England, and other countries that once formed the 'Commonwealth.' The paper poppies - and the fundraising for veterans' relief that they represent - have been prominent in photos and video the past couple weeks.

Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day ..... call it what you will ..... but find some way to mark this day. Here, in America, the focus of the day has been expanded to honor all men and women who, throughout history, have answered their country's call to serve. There have been many in our own family, but - mindful of the origins of this particular holiday - I will tell the boys of their great-grandfather Frederick, a sergeant with the 102nd Balloon Company, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, and his service in France during the First World War.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Right Man in the Right Place at the Right Time? .....

It's been suggested that U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel has just the personality to make him a valuable asset as White House Chief-of-Staff ... that's a compliment ... I guess.

"The Chicago congressman and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus has been described in the past as a profane, hyperactive attack dog," Time Magazine's M.J. Stephey and Kate Pickert write in this "2 Minute Bio" of Emmanuel. "There are few people in Washington D.C. who could make for such a formidable gatekeeper to the Oval Office. Plus, with the 44th President having just four years of experience in Congress, Emanuel's lengthy political background and knowledge of individual lawmakers — not to mention his fund-raising prowess — are perfect for the job."

He may just become one of the more interesting characters to occupy this all-important post ... especially as our new president deals with the national/world economic situation. Among the snippets I learned from the Time bio ...

• Before working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel worked for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. He was first elected to Congress in 2002, and is the fourth-highest ranking House Democrat.

• In between his stints in Washington, Emanuel got rich working as an investment banker. He once sat on the board of Freddie Mac and recuses himself from any Congressional votes on the mortgage giant.

• A devout Jew, Emanuel was so intent on negotiating the passage of Congress's $700 billion-bailout bill that he got a special waiver from his rabbi to work through Rosh Hashanah.

• He studied ballet in high school and was offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet, but went to Sarah Lawrence College instead, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He has a master's degree in speech from Northwestern University. He's also a tri-athlete.

• Has been known to send out cheesecakes from Eli's Bakery in Chicago to campaign donors and the many Democratic candidates he has recruited over the years. Once, when a pollster made him angry, (and this is one of my favorite snippets) Emanuel sent him a dead fish.

Time will tell whether Emanuel has what it takes to help make the Obama administration a successful and effective one. I hope he does ... our country couldn't stand the alternative, no matter who was in charge.

Can We Stand Just One More
Pt. 2 (the Yankee Version) .....

... comment regarding this weekend's 'Ignominity in Iowa City' between Penn State and Iowa? "What's sauce for the goose," said the blogger who posted a very similar photo just a week ago ...

Dogs and Blogs ... and Farewells ...

Is there something about blogs that's related to dogs? I ask myself that because, at least among those virtual acquaintances I've been encountered in the actual world, I've met several with canine companions ...

... and there are quite a few that have had to bid farewell to those companions ... a couple years back, it was
Wallace and the Big Gold Dog, and just a year ago it was Jim and Figalwicks. In August of this year, it was Janie and Zoie the Wonder Pup.

And now we read
this about Eric and Abbye.

It depends, I suppose, upon who you talk to, when trying to decide who might have been the REAL star of the Fire Ant Gazette. Me, I thought it was Eric, whose wit and wisdom, words and whimsy never ceased to entertain and stimulate. Younger Son disagreed. Whenever he saw me stopping-in at the Gazette, the first words out of his mouth are, "ahhh, the many moods of Abbye!" We'd then take a moment to refresh the screen a few times, to see if some new additions have been made to the Abbye gallery, Eric's photo tribute to his canine companion.

Although, statistics report, the cat has supplanted the dog as the #1 pet of choice, it's hard to imagine the dog ever relinquishing the title of 'Man's Best Friend.' The dog is our oldest friend, as well ... the first to cross over that intangible line and join us in the realm of domestication ... and the stories of devotion between human and canine are legion, ranging from "Ol' Yeller" and "Greyfriar's Bobby" to Ulysses' "Argus" and the residents of Clifford Simak's "City."


"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," said George Vest, in 1855, speaking to a jury that was hearing a lawsuit brought by a man whose dog had been killed. "When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens."
CLICK HERE to read the rest of Vest's closing argument to the jury

Good dog, Abbye ... stay ... they'll be along someday.

Happy Birthday to the Corps .....

It was on this day in 1775, that the Continetal Congress approved a resolution to form the Continental Marines ... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Two battalions of Marines were raised to conduct ship-to-ship fighting, provide shipboard security and assist in landing forces. With their maritime mission in mind, recruitment was held on Philadelphia's bustling waterfront, at Tun Tavern ... some might say an appropriate place to find Marines!

The birthday of the Corps is celebrated worldwide, wherever Marines are posted. It was a big night in our household, with my parents in formal dress, heading out to spend the evening at the Marine Corps Ball.

Here is
Wikipedia's write-up on Marine Corps history, a brief write-up about that first recruitment on the official USMC site, and a page devoted to this year's Commandant's Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Prayer from Those of Us Who Have it Easy, for Those of Us Who Don't ...

A reminder this morning, during early service at First Prez-Midland, that not all Christians in this world have it anywhere near as easy as we do in matters of life and faith.

Today, we observed International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a reminder to offer a prayer from those of us who have it easy, for those of us who don't ... and maybe it shouldn't be a once-a-year thing, either.

CHAINS
(Prayer for the Persecuted Church)
Words and music by Mary Rose Jensen

"Lord, we remember the chains of Your friends
Suffering for witness to life without end.
Christ, Your sorrow brought joy and release
So, in their chains, give them peace."

"Lord, we remember the chains that now bind
Those who are tortured in body and mind.
Christ, Your rising gives hope for our plea
So, from their chains, set them free."

"God, protect and defend the accused.
Give them courage when they are abused.
Keep them faithful when tragedies fall and
Show them Your love most of all."

"Lord, we remember the chains that distress.
May Your church prosper, though under duress.
Christ, Your kingdom defeats every foe
So, by the chains may it grow.
"

The following was prepared by www.persecutedchurch.org/

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith. We also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it.

We believe that prayer changes things. Exactly what happens is a mystery of faith. God invites us to present to Him our requests and to pray without ceasing. Persecuted Christians often plead for prayer to help them endure. The most we can do is the least we can do — pray. We also encourage continuing prayer and educated involvement on behalf of persecuted Christians. Visit our partner Web sites to discover further ways to get involved.

How did the IDOP get started?

The IDOP began in 1996 through the efforts of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) in cooperation with a variety of denominations and faith-based organizations. From a core group of approximately 7,000 churches, the IDOP has grown to be the largest prayer day event of its kind in the world. The IDOP is a rallying point for Christians and others to stand behind those who suffer for their faith by providing prayer support and appropriate advocacy.

In 1998, Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Inc. (PPC) took oversight of the IDOP organizing efforts in the United States while WEF continues to coordinate the IDOP internationally. PPC is an independent, nonprofit, nonpolitical organization whose primary agenda is informed and active prayer.

What are the goals of the IDOP?

The goals of the IDOP and Prayer for the Persecuted Church are to:

• Increase awareness of the persecuted Church worldwide.
• Lead in prayer on behalf of the persecuted Church.
• Promote ongoing and appropriate action on behalf of the persecuted Church.

Why doesn’t the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church pray for all persecuted people regardless of their religious, political, or social affiliation?

As a human rights issue, the persecution of Christians dwarfs all other forms of religious injustice. It is beneficial to take advocacy for fellow believers who suffer for their faith as a starting point, as Christians living in free societies have been largely unaware of or silent to this increasing tragedy. As we gain a deeper understanding of the plight of our Christian family, we can also grow in knowledge about human rights issues affecting all people. A Christian’s compassion is not reserved only for fellow Christians, but is to be given to all who suffer injustice and oppression (Luke 12:29) and to those whose dark consciences press them to perpetrate evil (Matthew 5:44). Christians are encouraged to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

What have been some results of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church?

Prayer is a mystery and difficult to measure. However, we can look at some of the changes occurring in the past and draw inferences from them.

• Over 100,000 U.S. churches, representing nearly every U.S. denomination, are estimated to have taken part in the IDOP.
• Christians in over 130 countries remembered the persecuted on the IDOP.
• Christian churches are growing in awareness of the problem and coming together in unity to pray for fellow believers.
• Christian leaders in restricted nations report that they are experiencing a new boldness in their witness to others.
• There has been increased media coverage of the problem of persecution in both secular and Christian publications. (In the U.S., such publications include The Denver Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson, Christianity Today, and Message of the Open Bible.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Offhand, but Significant Words .....

For someone such as myself, who has made a living from words, stories such as the following hold a special interest ...

"With just three offhanded words in his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama reminded everyone how thoroughly different his administration — and inevitably, this country — will be." Read the Rest of the Story by the Associated Press' Alan Fram

Plaudits to Pam .....

There weren't a lot of choices for watching this morning's downtown Midland implosion from the comfort of your own home. But I give KWES the edge among those who offered live coverage of this unique event in the Still-Tall City.

That being said, I think mywesttexas.com had the better shot(S) of the implosion, but KWES had Pamela Hamm ... and that's hard to beat.

Pam anchored KWES' live coverage of the event this morning (special kudos, by the way, to the station's enginering staff), and anchored it well. I can almost imagine the photog moving his arms in and out, telling Pam to "stretch" while Wes Perry spoke through the longest "three-mimute warning" in the history of the western world. Pam did just that, filling the time with her own recollections of the building when she was a student at Midland High School, and the downtown district was still the vibrant heart of the community. Pam's a hometown girl, a second-generation local media professional with many years of experience in the Permian Basin ... with Austin and New York City thrown in, as well.
HERE is KWES' report from the scene

• mywesttexas.com's videos can be seen HERE and HERE
Good job, Pam ... and good job, too, to Jimmy at mywesttexas.com!

FOLLOWUP
"Blogging the Big Bang" - We had at least three bloggers on the scene, George at Sleepless in Midland, Wallace at Streams, and Bleu at Bleu Chocolate ... great camera work from all of them!

Wow! Just Imagine What She's Saying About the Democrats .....

Sarah Palin fired back at unnamed McCain campaign aides she claims maligned her, calling their criticism “cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks.”
Read the Rest of the Story from the New York Times' William Yardley and Michael Cooper

Happy Blogaversary! .....

..... to Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, marking six years of Abbye photos, observations, unrelenting trivialities, random musings, baby squirrels ..... and so much more.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Life (and Christ?) on Mars .....

Over the last few weeks of "Life on Mars" Detective Sam Tyler has explored a number of possibilities for explaining how, and where and when he is. Last night's episode introduced a new and interesting line of inquiry.

Is he a time traveler ... is he in a coma ... is he dead .. or is he on a journey that will bring him back to the Christian faith he lost as a child?

That last is the possibility that arose in the course of last night's episode, "Things to Do in New York When You Think You're Dead." At the heart of the episode is a racial confrontation triggered between the African-Americans and Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood following the death of a young black girl. While investigating the crime, and searching for a suspect, Sam is confronted with a pair of new characters - a pugilistic priest, and a homeless wise man - who may help him in another, more introspective investigation, and a search for his place in this strange (yet, still, God-created) world. It's a world much like our own, where miracles CAN happen ... or so it is hoped.


Finding his suspect, finding his way home ... and, this time around, finding whether his prayers to be reunited in some way with his 'father,' will at last be answered ... all contributed to another good episode of an outstanding television series ... I'll be watching again, next week.


Life on Mars airs Thursday nights at nine o'clock (central) on ABC (KMID-TV in the Permian Basin). And you can catch-up by watching complete episodes on the ABC/Life on Mars website. It is well worth your giving it a look.

So, What Kind of People Would Vote for Obama .....

Apparently, just about every kind of people. This report from msnbc.com's Tom Curry notes that, "no single group can take credit."

"If as the saying goes, 'victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan,' among the 'fathers' claiming credit for Barack Obama’s triumph are different demographic groups and Democratic constituencies," Curry writes. "It was union members who helped make Obama president, says the AFL-CIO. It was young voters who lifted him to victory. Latinos were crucial. Single women were decisive."

But, Curry goes on to note, the numbers tell a different story.

The Power of Spectacle, Part 2 .....

Once again, the power and potency of spectacle, especially when employed in politics, was demonstrated. Just as it was more than two months ago, at a plateau of the 2008 presidential campaign, so it was again this week, at the summit of that campaign.
In late August, I offered
this post, in which I tipped my hat to everyone involved in the conception and design, the prep-work and the production of finale to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, held in Denver's Mile High Stadium. "For all the chuckles from the punditz (in-print, on-air and especially online) regarding their choice of venue for the final evening," I noted, "it produced a stunning and spectacular evening that created positive and indelible images of the candidacy that, I'm sure, the Obama camp hopes will carry over to November."

Images and spectacle, bread and circuses ... it's a recipe for success in the arena of statecraft and politics that is as old as society itself. Sure, there are those whose words transcend the event, and become a part of us ... Martin Luther King could do that ... so could John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Lou Gehrig. It's said that Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth I and Julius Caesar could, as well.

But there are also those occasions, where the setting, the context places an added emphasis upon the event, long after the words are mostly forgotten. Tuesday night may have been one of those occasions ... and I think the producers and directors at msnbc realized that when - just moments after the polls on the west coast had closed, and another block of states were projected to go to Barrack Obama, and he was declared the winner - their anchor team fell silent. For the next several minutes, we were treated to sights and sounds around the country, of people celebrating the announcement ... in Harlem and Times Square, in New York City ... in Spellman College and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta ... and, most of all, in Grant Park in Chicago, where the crowd was estimated in the hundreds-of-thousands.


No commentary from Matthews, Olbermann, et. al. Instead, just moving back-and-forth from one location to another, relying solely on video and nat sound as people cheered and waved flags, laughed and cried, danced and prayed. Sometimes, all the words you need are found in scenes such as these that offer no scripted words ... but speak eloquently nonetheless.

And now begins the hard part ... whether the Obama administration will deliver on the promises of the Obama campaign. Time will tell. It's good to have image and spectacle ... but a little historical perspective on your side won't hurt, either.

Can We Stand Just One More .....

... comment regarding last weekend's 'Lulu in Lubbock' between UT and Texas Tech? This one's been circulating through the e-mail the last few days, and it's awfully cute ...
On the local blogosphere, Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs beat me to the punch on this one ... but I still wnated to share it!

The Birth of GOP's Elephantasy .....

On this day in 1874, Harper's Weekly featured a cartoon by Thomas Nast, an image that included the first important use of the Republican Elephant.
According to
this archive piece in the New York Times, the cartoon is one of Nast’s most important because, "it marks the first notable appearance of the Republican Elephant, which the cartoonist would develop over the next few years into the universally recognized symbol for the Republican Party. An elephant had been associated twice before with the Republican Party ... however, in neither case did the caricature have a lasting impact on other political cartoonists or the public as a symbol for the Republican Party."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Strike Up the Birthday Band .....

John Philip Sousa - American musician, composer, director, writer, and the namesake for my beloved Sousaphone - was born on this day in 1854.

Being the son of a musician and member of the Marine Band, combined with the martial spirit of Civil War days of his youth in Washington, served to give Sousa's talent the bent which made him America's "March King." I would have a chance to enjoy that legacy during visits with my Dad to Marine Barracks-Washington ("8th & I") for
summer evenings of music and marching that included several of Sousa's works.

Here is a nice site devoted to Sousa, maintained by the Dallas Wind Symphony. You can also visit the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music and Sousa's obituary in the New York Times .... hey, Jim, did you know he died just up the road from you, in Reading?

OUT With the Alien, IN With .....

PhD APE TO COUNSEL MCCAIN FOLLOWING HISTORIC LOSS
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - After losing the 2008 presidential election by nearly 200 electoral votes and nearly six percent of the popular vote, Senator John McCain is understandably in very low spirits.
Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

And, it's time for what Jessica's Well calls the "super secret right wing blog astroturf network" to start sharpening their quills for the next election ...

OBATMA 2012
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - In the wake of President Elect Barack Obama’s speech, Obatma took to the stage to make his own announcement.
Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Remember, Remember .....

..... the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot."


Was Guy Fawkes a patriot or a villain ..... a martyred saint or the Devil incarnate? It's been 402 years since the "
Gunpowder Plot" was foiled ..... a date that (under a variety of names) is still marked to this day in England ..... It has also provided the


foundation for a society of its own, and a popular modern film. On the blogosphere, here is one Brit's view, and a site that helps you make your own Guy Fawkes mask (ala "V for Vendetta") which looks A LOT snazzier than a paper sack over your head, another blog channeling Fawkes' spirit ..... plus Brian Appleyard's profile of that blog's creator.

( I've wondered if some scurrying about Midland's corner of the blogosphere imagine themselves like the proprietor of Guido's blog )