Sunday, December 31, 2006

More than a dang Yankee from 'back east' ...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Noble Excellency Jeffrey the Philomath of Giggleswick under Table
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
With thanks to Grand Duke Frank the Splendid of New Invention at BOOKS, INQ. for the heads-up.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A couple of colorful stops along Next Blog Road ...

I still go exploring Blogger's corner of the blogosphere from time to time, clicking on the 'Next Blog' button, and seeing where it takes me. In return, I sometimes receive visits from others who are doing exactly the same thing, pausing to leave a comment and strike up an acquaintance.

One of those I've met recently - and virtually - is Karen at PEN IN HAND, who shares her views of the world through words (prose and poetry) and pictures (sketches and watercolors). Karen's a dang Yankee from 'back east,' like myself ... more than once, a West Texas native has asked me what I see in the northeast ... I think I might just start sending them to PEN IN HAND.

Another recent, virtual acquaintance is Californian Beau Blue at Blue's Blog who offers words spoken - and, sometimes, music played - by animated pictures. It's "poetry to protect the guilty" and it's presented in a manner that kept me clicking on the next offering, and the next, and the next. It appears the spirit of the Beat lives on, and has found a new avenue of expression on the information superhighway.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Actually shop till you virtually drop ...

Just returned last night from a trip to Albuquerque ... more on that, later. For now, though, I did want to recommend a visit to ABQ Uptown, not your run-of-the-mill shopping center, especially this place, if you're a Mac devotee (virtually nudging Eric).



Monday, December 25, 2006

The Light of the World ...

We light the candles as a sign of the coming light of Christ. Advent means 'coming.' We are preparing ourselves for the days when ...

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb.
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The nations shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus, it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.

The Lord will give you a sign.
Look , the young woman is with child and shall bear a son,
and shall call him Immanuel, God With Us.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who live in a land of deep darkness,
on them light has shined.

Let us walk in the light of the Lord ... Alleluia ... Amen

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Some Changes to the Blogroll ...

Julie, at "Adjusting the Jules/Yellow Bug News" appears to have dropped off the virtual radar. Hope to see her again - in the actual world - when the holidays are past, school's back in session, and we're back into parent mode over at SJ.

But, at the same time, another Tall City woman has taken up residence in our part of the blogosphere. If you haven't already, please be sure to visit
Sounding Forth, and welcome Janie to the virtual neighborhood.

Also added to my blogroll is Brian Williams (yes, the
Brian Williams), and The Daily Nightly, where he and other news staff "provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News." Now, if I could just get them to reciprocate, I'd be in the high cotton!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mystery of the 'Hardy Boys' Author ...

Solved, with a clue from Frank at BOOKS INQ. Who was Franklin W. Dixon? You can find out with help from Wikipedia, from CBC, and from the children of the man who - for the better part of a century - has gotten millions of youngsters around the world hooked on reading.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ludwig Van-athon

Marking the 236 anniversary, today, of the birth of Ludwig von Beethoven, perhaps the world's greatest composer (no, I don't mean the Western World's ... I mean the World's), whose music has managed to transcend centuries and continents, philosophies and conflicts, to entertain us and inspire us. Throughout the day, I am listening to his collected symphonies, a boxed set of records (yes, records) produced by Deutsche Grammaphone, and performed by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, back in the 70s.

I find myself listening, and wondering ... is there another Beethoven out there ... or a Bach, a Mozart or a Brahms? There are some gifted classical composers out there ... but ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

And, Speaking of That Generation ...

The concept of hospitality - the notion of welcoming someone, and sharing your roof and your table to make them comfortable - is incredibly old ... it's nearly universal ... and it's guided, in part, by our most enduring documents of social conduct and divine scripture.

Not to mention the fact, it's just plain fun.

Earlier this week, a band of virtual acquaintances gathered for an actual encounter, over lunch, at the Italian Village Restaurant ... fellow Tall City bloggers Wallace Craig of
Streams, Eric Siegmund of Fireant Gazette and Jimmy Patterson of Sticky Doorknobs, myself and NewsWest 9 friend Daryl Ward. Accounts of that gathering - in words and pictures - have been posted by Eric and Wallace.

The occasion for our gathering was
the passing of Wallace's dad, Wally Craig, and getting our friend away - for a little while, at least - from the hectic, swirling pace of conflicts and commitments, comings and goings, thoughts and emotions that accompany the passing of a loved one.

With that in mind, it's not surprising that talk around the table included stories about Wallace's dad - and Jimmy's, and Eric's, and Daryl's, and my own - and the impact they have/had on our lives.

All had served in the United States armed forces.

All had raised their sons to get a good education.

All of us had lives that included faith and church.

And all of our dads had crafted (or are still crafting) a legacy of which their sons are very proud, and happy to share with one another ... sometimes with a sigh, or even a tear ... other times with a smile, or a laugh.

Let's do it again, sometime ...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Call to Arms for 'The Greatest Generation'

On this day, in 1941, American forces in the Pacific came under attack by those of Empire of Japan ... the opening salvo of our involvement in a most terrible conflict, one that truly encompassed the world, claimed untold millions of lives, and continues to define who and what we and 'we, the people' are today.

The following day, on December 8th, in Washington, D.C., President Franklin issued
this call to arms. The people of our nation responded in a manner that, half-a-century later, earned them the label, 'The Greatest Generation.'

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lone Star Nimrods Bag Trophy Squirrel ...

Yup ... it's huntin' season ... that time of year when men are known to vanish for extended periods of time, drink beer, drive vehicles off-road, shoot guns and - perhaps, most outrageous of all - grow beards. Some are already coming home with their trophies tied across the hoods of their cars ... like this pair, who paused to have their photo taken by a wandering gypsy landman, who then passed a copy on to me while telling my fortune (something about, 'stay away from fields with potash deposits'). If you think the squirrel's big, you should have seen its nuts.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Don't Know, Jim

"How in the world did they do this," Jim, at serotoninrain, asks. I don't know, but I found it to be A LOT more entertaining than other YouTube fare, such as fights at Midland Freshman.

By the way, Jim, your recommendation of "Tony vs. Paul" came at a perfect time. It went a looooooong way to lifting the spirits of Younger Child, just returned from district-wide Science Fair, and not having placed. Thank you, sir.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Worth Another Read ...

With developments in the Iraq War over the past few months, I would like to once again recommend the book, "Naked in Baghdad" by National Public Radio senior foreign correspondent, Anne Garrels. Though it is a collection of reports and impressions she gathered more than four years ago, at the start of the conflict, it sill holds up well to the 'current affairs' label it received when it first arrived on the shelves.

But, perhaps more than it is a document of political, social and martial forces at work in that still-bubbling cauldron that is Iraq - this is a book on the craft of journalism under the most trying of conditions. On one hand is the totalitarian regime that ruled Iraq at the time, and used a variety of methods to rule the media, as well. On the other hand are political forces on the far side of the world, adopting ever-more-extreme measures to change said regime.

And, caught in the middle are the ordinary people of Iraq, and a dwindling pool of western journalists who are neither embedded with the U.S. military, or 'in bed' with the Iraqi government. By the beginning of the war, that pool had gotten so small, that Garrels had an almost totally-unique and exclusive position. Some of the best examples of Garrels practicing her craft, are the steps she took to maintain her independence - and that of her reports - from the Iraqi government monitors ... one of those steps provided the title of this book.

"I'm not really very interested in the strictly military part of war," Garrels writes at one point. "Rather I'm fascinated by how people survive, and how the process of war affects the attitudes of all sides involved, and how they pull out of it."

"Naked in Baghdad" offers a healthy dose of comments and observations from ordinary Iraqi citizens ... a refreshing change from books filled with the rhetoric of leaders on both sides of the conflict. Some of you out there - content with your perception of journalists as a united and monolithic cabal of evil - might be surprised at some of the sharp words Garrels has for other practitioners of her craft who, she believes, have crossed the lines that define responsible journalism.

It is a book that granted us special insight, then, and perhaps an even greater insight now. As a report on current affairs, and as a primer on the craft of journalism, I heartily recommend it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Goodbye, for Now, to the Old Man ...

Those of us who frequent that portion of the blogosphere that touches of West Texas know that Wallace at Streams has been wondering how and when his father - in declining health - would at last pass away.

This evening,
he knows.

I hope you will join me in offering your condolences to Wallace, and to all who have known, and loved and appreciated his father. And while we pray for their comfort and their solace, let us also offer a prayer of thanks that Wally Craig has 'gone home,' and for the knowledge that they shall all be together again, someday.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Have We Got a Show For You ...

When I heard the news, earlier this year, that BigIdea's enormously popular "Veggie Tales" was making the move to network television, I had mixed feelings. I am a HUGE fan of the series ... but, would some elements of the series I enjoyed - the Scriptural basis of its plots and messages, for example - make the jump to this wider, but more secular venue?

The answer appears to be YES. Last Saturday, I watched the story that was offered in response to a viewers' question about 'Love' ... is the love you have a cupcake the same as the love you have for a person?

In answer, Bob the Tomato tells us the story of Duke (played by Larry the Cucumber) who shows compassion for an elderly widow and her daughter-in-law, Petunia - also a widow - by allowing them to glean apples from his orchard.

Sound familiar?
It should.

Duke falls in love with Petunia. Unfortunately, Petunia is an outsider, a Rhubarbarian, who chose to travel to her mother-in-law's kingdom out of her love and devotion for the old gal ... and that raises trouble, and a challenge to their love.

No spoilers, here ... though if you are familiar with the source, you have an idea of what the outcome will be. Be advised, though, that the story takes some patented Veggie Tales twists and turns on its way to the conclusion.

When all is said and done, Bob the Tomato returns to stress that there are different kinds of love, which will be familiar to those who have considered or discussed the definition of agape. He doesn't turn to Scripture at this point - as he would have in the video series - but he does close with the suggestion that we can learn more about this kind of love, "at church."

"Veggie Tales" airs Saturday mornings at nine o'clock (central) on NBC affiliates, and - in Spanish - Saturday mornings at eight o'clock on Telemundo affiliates.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What a Way to End a Season ...

A couple months back, I posted this about the start of the Midland Soccer Association's Fall 2006 season of Co-Ed Rec Soccer ... complaining.

A few weeks later, I posted
this about the continuation of the Midland Soccer Association's Fall 2006 season of Co-Ed Rec Soccer ... still complaining.

Now, the season has come to an end. I'm beginning to think that - maybe, just maybe - all those games against older, larger and more experienced teams may have served a purpose. That's because, in the last three weeks of the season, when the Tornadoes played teams from their own age group, in the only games that were counted in the league standings ... it was as though a dam had burst.

The kids won all three games, and they did it by a 5-1 ratio on the scoreboard. One of those wins was a 6-2 decision over the many-times-defending-champion Extreme ... one of the highlights of the season. With a win over the Mustangs, under the lights on a brisk and breezy night, the kids thought they had an undefeated season, and their very first championship.

Well ... no ...

It turns out, MSA announced, that we had actually lost to Extreme, and the Tornadoes were actually in second place, behind the perennial champions.

Typical ...

The coach appealed the ruling and was told, 'yup, you lost it, they won it.'

Nonetheless, plans proceeded for an end-of-season party. We all knew who had really won it all, and there was never any doubt that we were very, very proud of our kids and their hard work on the field. Still, though, there was some talk among the kids about returning the 2nd Place trophies to the league.

So, imagine everyone's surprise at the party, when the coach pulled out a box of championship trophies! It seems she had persisted in her challenge, and the league relented, looked at the documentation for the game, the score cards the coaches fill out and get countersigned by the official, and declared, 'yup you won it, they lost it.'

What a way to end a season ... CONGRATULATIONS, TORNADOES !!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Have to Wonder ...

... after reading this post, what a guy has to do to earn the confidence and support of film producers ?????

Riding Off Into the Sunset ...

Hanging on the wall over my desk is a photo of the three ugliest cheerleaders in West Texas, a trio of hirsute harpies, urging the crowd at a United Way-Odessa luncheon on to fundraising victory.

One of them is Horace Brown. At the time, he was an artist at KMID-TV. Today, he is an on-air personality, delivering the weather report at six and ten o'clock on Big 2.

Another is myself. At the time, I was a writer at KMID-TV. Today, I'm a member of the Big 2 Alumni Association - the largest media group in the Permian Basin - and the web editor for

The last is Rick Wood, who once practiced the craft of sales account executive at KMID-TV before going on to become general sales manager at KWES-TV, NewsWest 9 ... or, at least, he was ...

Late Sunday, Rick Wood passed away, bringing an end to more than two decades' experience in West Texas media ... and an end to more than two decades' friendship we had. Rick was a hard-working man, innovative and resourceful, ready to tackle a wide variety of ventures, including - when asked - those that lay outside his job description, such as leading cheers at a United Way banquet.

The same could be said for his home life, where he and Karyn raised four of the nicest kids you could ever want to meet.

Our local profession as broadcasters, and the community we serve, is noticeably lessened by his passing. If there is any comfort to be gained from all this, it is the sure and certain belief that Rick and I - and Gene, Roy and Dale, the Duke and Hoppy - shall all be together again, someday.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And, While I'm Sending You Elsewhere ...

Check out this post at Skewed View, where spookyrach reports on the latest developments in the continuing saga of Cheese and Trinny, Sonic and IHOP.

While We're on the Subject of Good Discussion ...

Check out this post and its attendant comments over at serotoninrain. And, PLEASE, post something of your own ... if nothing else, to balance-out my own silliness in the comments.

Circle This Day on Your Calendar ...

... and do it with a big, red Sharpee. Because, today, I'm linking you to a post over at Jessica's Well! It's true, I visit the site, myself, on a daily basis ... And, it's also true that I include them in my blogroll - though that's more out of respect for the blogospherian trails they blazed into West Texas, than it is out of identification with what they say and think.

But, I do want to link you to this post by one of their anonymisses (or anonymisters) named Theocritus, and to the comments that have begun attaching to that post. The post itself is a cut above the ordinary ... And so are some (but, not all) of the comments.

It's a good discussion. I suggest you join it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get Behind Me, Rhetoric ... I'm Goin' to the Polls!

The polls in most of Texas close in about two hours. A cause of relief for some ... but not for me, who now gets to spend most of the coming night at his 'day job.'

Still, though, I love to do it ... I especially love trying to do it better than the other kids around the block, here, in West Texas. Hope I do it tonight ... wish me luck!

Went and voted. I don't have a bumper sticker that says, 'My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter.' But I can say, I hope, 'my governor is a Jewish singer-songwriter-author-pundit.'

Who did you vote for? I don't care ... Did you vote? I do care ... I hope you did, and I hope you voted well. If you're angry with the way things are, I hope your vote reflects that. At the same time, if you're happy with the way things are, I hope your vote reflects that. Just vote, for crying out loud!

I declined the offer of a 'purple thumb' sticker at the polls. When one considers what Iraqis experienced on election day there, in order to get their purple thumb - and when you consider what they continue to experience to this day - I consider the idea of me waving a purple thumb around more-than-a-little presumptuous.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

You Can Take the Dang Yankee from Back East Out of West Texas, But ...

Jim, the proprietor of serotonionrain, has moved to a new location, hosted by WordPress. And, unless I miss my guess, an image of West Texas - taken during a recent tour of virtual friends in the actual world - occupies a prominent place on his new blogspace.

The Worst News Job I Ever Had

Well, crosstown football rivalry night is over for another year ... it occurred simultaneously in all three cities that comprise our 5A district and, somehow, civilization as we know it has survived ... at least, for another year ...

Friday morning's story meeting included comments from a couple of recent arrivals about the intensity of these crosstown rivalries ... my response was something to the effect of, 'Welll, lemme tell ya, youngins, ye ain't seen nuthin!'

The worst news job I ever had was under the Friday night lights, several years ago, in Odessa. I was still working at KMID-TV (back in the days when one said 'I work at Big 2' with a swagger in your voice) and we were doing a live shot from Ratliff Stadium for the Odessa High/Permian High game.

The level of intensity that usually accompanies a crosstown game was especially high that year. It had been reported that the UIL was investigating some aspect of Permian's football program, and that said investigation was prompted by reports from OHS faithful ... word on the street was that some scores might be settled, on the field and in the parking lot, and that there might be violence, especially from those who didn't care a whit for football or high school, but were looking for a chance to cause some trouble.

So a couple of us were told to accompany the engineer and help him set up the Big 2 Live Action Cam (a souped-up Suburban with a microwave mast), then stand there between the Live Action Cam and any stones that might be thrown ... cross my heart, and hope to die!

Makes sense really ... production assistants are a-dime-a-dozen. But that Live Action Cam was expensive!

So there I was ... a human shield for Big 2 ... worst news job I ever had ... true story.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Am What I Am ... So ... Uh ... What Am I?

More than once, I've been introduced as our television station's webmaster ... and more than once, I've offered a correction. There are a lot of skills, and a level of expertise that I associate with the phrase 'webmaster' ... skills and expertise in which I find myself lacking.

I prefer the job title 'Web Editor.' So, what's the difference?

I see a Webmaster as an IT professional that works on the internet and 'speaks' in HTML. I define a Web Editor as a News professional that works on the internet and 'speaks' in AP Style Manual.

Granted, this hardly seems a profound observation, or subject for consideration ... but, still, I'd like to know what you think.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No, I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth ....

...just been busier than all get-out at my day job ... more on that, later ...

Monday, October 09, 2006

In Memory - and In Praise - of One of Those Damn Liberal Media Types!

Ira Harkey, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, dead at age 88

Retired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ira B. Harkey Jr., has died. Harkey's eldest son, Ira the third, said his father died of complications from Parkinson's disease at Parsons House in Kerrville, Texas, where he'd lived for the past two years. He was 88.

Harkey was awarded the 1963 Pulitzer for editorial writing while editor and publisher of The Chronicle Star in Pascagoula, Mississippi. His 1962 editorials called for the peace and order during the integration of the University of Mississippi with the enrollment of a black student, James Meredith.

Harkey was vilified for those editorials, his life threatened, and the newspaper and its advertisers boycotted. A cross was burned in front of the newspaper office, a rifle was fired into the front door, and a shotgun blast took out his office window before the FBI was called.

Harkey detailed the events in his autobiography, "
The Smell of Burning Crosses," in 1967.

Funeral will be Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville and Friday in New Orleans.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And the Winner Is ...

Eric has announced the winner in his contest to select the Fire Ant Gazette's new tagline. Not my choice, but I don't go there for the tagline. I go for the content ... regardless of Eric's claims about being content-free..

What a Way to Continue a Season

A few weeks back, I posted this about the start of the Midland Soccer Association's Fall 2006 season of Co-Ed Rec Soccer, complaining that Elder Boy's U-13 age-bracket team opened the season against a U-14 team. Well, a week later, it was another U-14 team.

But, the week after that, there was a break, of sorts ... when our kids were matched against a U-15 team!

Typical ...

But, the kids are still ready to play, and we're still ready to cheer them on to victory, whether it's the kind that shows on the scoreboard, or the kind that shows in their hearts.

Another Way to Depart the Anchor Desk

NBC's Brian Williams may be America's #1 news anchor, but what if the time to go "in a new direction" should come along? How would he cope? Brian, himself, answered those questions here.

Thanks to Brian Stelter at for the heads-up.

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?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Blogroll Additions

I would like to add two sites to my "Blogs of Note (around Texas)" ...

I met spookyrach at
Skewed View through a mutual blogging friend, Cowtown Patty at Texas Trifles. Spookyrach tells us, "I live in a small Texas town, full of the wicked, the weird and the woefully uninformed. I love it here," and she has some great stories to tell ... it may not be your hometown, but it sure will sound like it, sometimes.

Over at
West Texas TV, Les' goal, "to help educate the people of West Texas about this new Digital Television thing. And I may, from time-to-time, post about the technical or aesthetic qualities of specific broadcasts. As a final word of caution, I'm not above off-the-wall comments." He and I got to e-talking last month as we both looked forward to watching a high-def broadcast of the shuttle launch, and I recalled the excitement I felt as a youngster watching the first Mercury launches. There is, in my opinion, waaaaayyyy too much talk about West Texas TV on the West Texas blogosphere, but Les brings something genuinely different - and genuinely useful - to the discussion.

I Know, I Know, I'm Busy, I'm Sorry ...

I Know, I Know ...

It was been a long time - waaaaayyyy toooooo looonnnng - since my last post ...

I'm Busy ...

My day job, web editor for
KWES-TV/NewsWest 9, has been keeping me busy. Ours is - quite literally - a one-man operation, and there are days when you're as busy as that proverbial one-armed paper-hanger ... during the month of July (one of four ratings months for television stations), you have even more of those days than ususal.

I'm Sorry ...

Really, I am. Will try to do better in the future. Plus, some changes in store, at work, that should free-up some more spare time, for non-work-related online pursuits, like blogging.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Eppy Award-winning Blogs, Part 2 ...

Last month, Editor and Publisher and Mediaweek announced the winners of the 10th annual Eppy Awards in Las Vegas. Here's what Mark Briggs, Editor of Tacoma's News Tribune, wrote about Today in the Sky, selected as "Best Business Blog" ...

USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh knows about forming online communities.

"Readers are our friends," Mutzabaugh said when asked what he has learned as a blogger for the past four years. "In print it's easy to feel you are at odds with readers because people will find one little thing wrong so as a journalist you get defensive. The readers on a blog chime in and help you. They want you to get the story right. Readers help make the blog stronger than any single author could make it alone."

The elder statesman of this group, Mutzabaugh began the blog in 2002 as part of a job change that brought him from the sports department of the interactive staff to the business reporting desk. He said he didn't have the pedigree for the assignment, with a background in college athletics PR, but he always had an interest in the airline industry and air travel and begged and pleaded for a shot. He said an encyclopedic memory for facts and trivia have helped.

"It was a pretty big shift," said Mutzabaugh, who also writes for the newspaper. "I couldn't be happier."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Virtual Acquaintance ... an Actual Friend ...

Perhaps, I have been lucky ... perhaps, I have been careful ... perhaps, I have been both ... whatever the reason, I have found that my acquaintances in the virtual world (those who have welcomed me to the blogosphere neighborhood) have been everything I thought them to be - and more! - when I meet them in the actual world.

Those virtual acquaintances have become actual friends ... at least, that's the way I feel, and I hope the feeling is reciprocated.

Some, I couldn't help but bump into. In many respects, Midland is very much a small town. There were several on the blogosphere - Eric at
Fire Ant Gazette, Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs and Burr at El Llanero - who were friends and acquaintances of mine in the real world before I met them online.

Others, it's just a matter of time. I suspect that Wallace at
Streams and Julie at Yellow Bug News and I have been three ships passing each other in the night on more than one occasion, as we sail along in our kids' wake. I'll probably meet them at last, in the real world, this fall, during a PTA meeting at San Jacinto.

I hope, someday, to head 'back east' and visit my family, there. And, maybe, at the same time, I'll be able to meet two more e-acquaintances ... Jim at
serontoninrain, and Frank at BOOKS, INQ.

With this in mind, one of the highlights of a trip elder son and I took to the Fort Worth area, earlier this week, was lunch with Cowtown Pattie of
Texas Trifles at a location near and dear to both our hearts - and palates! - The Purple Cow.

There are other items we have in common, as well ... appreciation for the words of Edward Abbey, and the country that inspired those words ... love for our families ... respect for the great State of Texas, its people, its culture and its history ... all of this I knew from our virtual acquaintance.

Cowtown Pattie, in person, is even better!

It was a good lunch, with great company and conversation. And, I'm hoping to get together again, someday, with this woman who "meets life and takes it by the horns." At the end of lunch, as we prepared to depart, I told her that we expect her and her husband - the K-Man, who, I learned, is an accomplished muralist - to visit us on their next jaunt to the Big Bend ... after all, Midland is right along the way, and it IS the greatest concentration of Texas Trifles fans between Stanton and Odessa.

Eppy Award-winning Blogs, Part 1 ...

Last month, Editor and Publisher and Mediaweek announced the winners of the 10th annual Eppy Awards in Las Vegas. Here's what Mark Briggs, Editor of Tacoma's News Tribune, wrote about Crime Scene KC, selected as "Best News Blog" ...

Kansas City Star editor Mark Zieman pulled Greg Reeves into his office on July 22, 2005, and said, "I want you to start blogging."

Zieman's idea was a local crime blog with "content, content, content, analysis."

"I have a long background in criminal justice reporting, database programming, public-records acquisition, etc." Reeves said via e-mail. "Mark wanted me to take all that and blog about Kansas City crime news."

Attitude was fine, but "this is not a celebrity blog," Zieman reportedly said.

The blog went online Aug. 1, 2005, in experimental mode. Reeves strung out hundreds of crime stories from The Star, and police blotter reports from the paper. He went on a ride-along with Kansas City police and blogged like he was writing a note to friends.

Neither of these approaches worked, however, but the blog readers are enjoying today arose out of those attempts. In the past six months, the blog has received more than 15,000 comments, according to Reeves.

"When comments started landing on my blog, it dawned on me, 'I can talk to these people,'" said Reeves, who has served as a courthouse and police reporter, special assignment reporter and database/CAR reporter over the years. "The interactivity was eye-opening. I was finally learning what people care about and what they don't care about. Now I'm getting 300 to 500 comments a day, and online communities are forming in the blog."

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Year of the Firefighter ...

Word around town is that the idea of a ban on fireworks sales, by county governments in West Texas, is being discussed. No actual moves made at this time, no steps taken ... just that the idea is being considered before a decision - if any - is made.

I guess I'm just not as smart as the average county commissioner ... because I can't, for the life of me, imagine what there is to consider ...

For crying out loud ... give bone-dry, baked West Texas a break this summer! Ban the sale of fireworks! And prohibit their use in any setting that is not carefully controlled, and monitored for safety (such as 'community displays' at the fairgrounds or the ballpark) !

Think of it as a way to mark the 'Year of the Firefighter.'

That's what we ought to call 2006 ... or, maybe we should mark the year as starting in December, 2005, when wildfires swept through Cross Plains, leaving 2 people dead, and 116 homes destroyed.

It was less than three months ago, that we marked what was called "the worst single day in Texas wildfire history." By that time, fires in the Panhandle had scorched 700,000 acres and killed eleven people ... and the fires weren't more than half-contained at that point. By the time the fires were well and truly 'knocked down' in the Panhandle, another 300,000 acres would be scorched. And the death toll would climb, as well ... and don't forget, more than 10,000 head of livestock lost, too.

Fires of one kind or another are an almost daily topic in the news. Some are big, like the fires in the Davis Mountains, last month. Others are small, but intense, like the fires that struck two different sets of apartments in Midland, this week. I have lived and worked in West Texas for more than twenty years ... and that included some prize-winning work, a few years back, covering the massive Glass Mountain Fire in Pecos and Brewster counties ... but I have never, NEVER seen a fire season in West Texas like this one we are experiencing now.

Almost anything can set them off ... lightning, cigarettes, sparks from welders' torches, people burning trash (in spite of a burn ban!), sparks from the wheels of railroad cars, kids playing with a lighter ... and fireworks.

And through it all, our firefighters - professionals and volunteers - have responded admirably, going out again and again in response to something terrible - even deadly - that they didn't start ... but were determined to finish. And some have given all that a person can give ... the death toll from wildfires, this year, includes a number of Texas' bravest.

Little has changed from the condition that have existed through much of the year. True, we do not have the strong, driving winds that plagued the Panhandle in March ... but it is every bit as dry, now, as it was then ... and it's been a lot hotter this month!

There are things that we, as private citizens, can do to reduce the threat of fire, and to assist the efforts of our firefighters ... and one way would be a decision to NOT light-up little packets of explosive powder and toss them God-knows-where ... couldn't we all, this year, forego a few seconds of 'snap-crackle-pop' in order to save firefighters from spending additional hours on the fire line?

July 4th, Independence Day, is just around the corner ... let's make that day the centerpiece of our celebration of 'The Year of the Firefighter' ... and give them all a quiet, fire-free day off.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What We Learn When We Teach ...

I know, I know ... it seem as though I'm always mentioning Eric Siegmund, and recommending you read one of his posts on Fire Ant Gazette ... but, c'mon, he is 'Da Blogfodder,' of West Texas, after all!

But, this time, I really, REALLY, REALLY
think you should go read this post about his service as a teacher at Vacation Bible School ... or VBS.

It is a reminder of what a wonderful resource a youth ministry can be ... of what assets to the community are found in those who step forward and take an active hand in serving that community, at-large, through its churches ... and what we might all learn
, when we set out to teach!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Where in the World is Eric Siegmund? ...

Eric at Fire Ant Gazette is in the midst of his annual rite of family and fellowship, dominos and deviled eggs ... and he's offered to take his extended, virtual family along with him, to the Hill Country ...

If you can get by the scary guy at the front door, you may want to drop in for a visit ...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, America's Wordsmith

Walt Whitman, arguably America's most influential and innovative poet - and a dang Yankee from back east, like myself - was born on this day, May 31, in 1819.

"I Hear America Singing"

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;

Those of mechanics - each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;

The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat - the deckhands singing on the steamboat deck; The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench - the hatter singing as he stands;

The wood-cutter's song - the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;

The delicious singing of the mother - or of the young wife at work - or of the girl sewing or washing - Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;

The day what belongs to the day - At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A World Where Memorial Day Only Comes Once a Year ...

It's been more than thirty years since I made my last, final and permanent move out into the civilian world ... leaving behind the life of a military brat, which had been mine since the day I was born ... and making a new life 'out there' ...

Life is different off-base ... and, so are the people ... not better, not worse ... just different ...

Out here, Memorial Day only comes once a year. On base, not a day went by that there wasn't some reminder of the sacrifices - not just in dying, but also in living - that are expected of the men and women who answer our nation's call to glory, and enter service with the United States Armed Forces ...

We weren't more morbid ... just more mindful ... everyone who lived on our block was the family of an NCO. Most of our dads were career men ... a few old-timers who had served in World War II, a ton of Korean War vets, and plenty of Vietnam War vets. Many of those last had multiple tours ... it was explained to me, once, that you could have way too many lieutenants in a war, but you could never have enough sergeants.

And we were mindful of the loss ... on-base, we had more neighbors killed or wounded in action, just on our block, than you had in whole cities on the outside, in the civilian world ... true, it was simply a matter of demographics - more soldiers, more casualties - but it shaped our minds and our memories, nonetheless.

More loss, and more apprehension ... that day, for example, when none of our dads came home, all unexpected, because President Kennedy had issued an ultimatum to the Soviet Union over missiles being placed in Cuba ... Kennedy (himself a combat vet) was backing-up his words with actions, and the Marines were headed for Little Creek ...

And more history ... one of the advantages to being posted someplace like Quantico, Virginia, was the close proximity of Washington, D.C. That meant Evening Parade at The Barracks at 8th and I streets ... music, drill, the pomp and ceremony, the tradition ... and the stories! My father, meeting with other old sergeants, the sleeves of their dress blues resembling a colorful washboard with the hashmarks that noted their years of service ... "Well, let me tell you about Chesty Puller, son!" ...

It's easy to forget that history, off-base, provided you ever knew it to begin with ... 'Chesty Puller? ... 'First Marines?' ... 'Chosin?' ... What the hey? There's an old saying about learning from history. I remember, last year, when a Midland elementary school announced they were dropping "Raiders" as their mascot. Okay, that's fine ... your school, your mascot, go for it. But what got to me was, they couldn't let it just go at that ... they had to go on and on about the negative connotations of the word, "Raiders," and how it just wasn't appropriate for a school that prided itself on being exceptionally patriotic ... and they relied upon faulty history to justify their beliefs in what the word represented.

I was mindful of my Uncle Fred, a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II, who was briefly attached to Colonel Carlson's Raider Battalion, and fought in some of the most desperate combat of the war. True, 99% of the civilian world has never heard of the Marine Raiders, which was a small, elite unit, in a remote corner of a world war. But you'd think a lot of people would have heard of Dolittle's Raiders, and their 'thirty seconds over Tokyo' ... it was part of a major Hollywood film in 2001, for crying out loud!

And so, today, I have marked Memorial Day ... as I will tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, and next month ... the sacrifice of America's war dead, what Lincoln called "the last full measure of their devotion," won't end in a few minutes, here, as the clock strikes midnight ... why should our gratitude?

Semper Fidelis

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Coming to a Theatre Near You ...

David Montgomery, at Crime Fiction Dossier, has some thoughts about the new Oliver Stone film, World Trade Center, coming out late this summer, and starring Nicholas Cage. It's the story of two Port Authority police officers who become trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center.

the trailer .

David's comments are not so much about the merits of the film, or the obligations we have, as Americans, to go see it. Rather, it's about whether we can watch the film. Even accounting for the fact that a trailer presents a film at its very best (as carefully-crafted as the film, itself), I think it's going to be emotionally powerful.

I am reminded of some of the comments local Blogfodder, Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, made regarding "United 93," which may apply to this film, as well.

Me? I don't know if I can watch the film. I have always had the highest regard for the NYPD and FDNY of '9/11' ... when the traveling exhibit came to Fort Worth, one part that did cause me to choke-up was that part dealing with the fire crew whose 'day in the life' was being followed by a documentary camera as the planes crashed into the towers behind them. And, the story of the FDNY chaplain, too.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't Panic ...

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Thanks to Frank at BOOKS, INQ. (a real frood who always knows where his towel is), for the heads-up.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mom and Pop's and Books and Stuff ...

Jim at serontoninrain shares this post about what appears to be a vanishing breed on the American cultural landscape ... the small, mom-and-pop bookstore ...

Here, In the Tall City, I still lament the closing of "Pages & Prints." And I found myself nodding in agreement more than once as I read Jim's post about what we stand to lose - not just as readers, but as a community - when such stores close their doors.

P&P's Jim and Alathea Blischke weren't just proprietors of a bookstore. They were - and still are! - friends of mine, and friends of my family. Among the gifts that greeted the arrival of our firsborn, was a copy of "The Legend of Bluebonnet" , a present from the Blischke's, inspired by one of the first photos we had taken of the our child, lying in a field of Hill Country bluebonnets.

While they do offer their own, unique advantages, our modern mega-bookstores simply can't compete in other respects. The setting at Pages & Prints was intimate, the contact was personal, and the experience of discovering old bibio-friends - or finding new ones! - was exhilerating.