Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dang, It's Hot .....

I, for one, get little consolation from the knowledge that it's a DRY heat. Wet or dry, sometimes hot is just that ..... hot!

I wish we could at least have some rainfall to go with it. One summer, when I was a seasonal employee for the BLM in southeast Arizona, every mid-afternoon was a 100+ scorcher. But then, in the late afternoon, the clouds would start forming over the Gila River valley and the neighboring mountains, and 'the monsoons' would make their daily visit ..... brief, hard and refreshing.

The thermometer in the truck said 104° when I picked up Younger Son from school Friday afternoon. It said 107° when we got over to the
Sonic on Big Spring Street (just in time for their 'Happy Hour') for half-price Slushes. The place was full, and stayed full, as folks poured in for a brief respite from the heat.

I remain hopeful, though, that relief may be on the way. According to the latest from Darrell at
NewsWest 9, a 'cold front' is on it's way ..... and next week's temperatures could plummet all the way down into the 90s!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Not an Addition to My Summer Reading List .....

I suspect there's very little in Scott McLellan's book about the Bush White House that I would find surprising or disagreeable ..... but that doesn't mean I plan on buying a copy.

"The former White House press secretary most known for defending President Bush on Iraq, Katrina and a host of other controversial issues," one report notes, "has produced a memoir damning of his old boss on nearly every level — from too much secrecy to a less-than-honest selling of the war to a lack of personal candor and an unwillingness to admit mistakes."

That same report goes on to note that the White House responded angrily to the memoir, calling it self-serving sour grapes, and its author disgruntled. Again, no surprise there ..... kind of expected, actually .... exactly what Scott McClellan would have said, I suspect, were he still the administration's mouthpiece.

McClellan claims that, in his capacity as the White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006, he was a public servant. Really? In my humble opinion, he was a political servant, a doctor of spin who used every scalpel and gyro at his disposal to craft news and information to suit his masters' purpose.

During his tenure, if anyone were to rear-up on their hind legs and bleat in opposition to the Bush administration and its policies, he was the man on the podium tasked with putting them back in their place with statements that questioned their information, their motivation, their state of mind and their patriotism.

And now he's making the very same charges himself? And making a ton of money in the process? Personally, that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. For what it's worth, I don't plan on adding my own pittance to his bank account.

Follow-Up: "In an encounter last night in the lobby of a New York hotel, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan apologized for denouncing a former White House colleague, Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser, after Clarke wrote a book highly critical of the Bush administration in 2004," says this report from ABC News. "Now McClellan is facing a similar denunciation from the White House for his own highly critical book."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Famous Composer Nobody Ever Heard Of .....

A passing of note for those of us of a certain age ... or for those who stay up to watch 'Nick at Night' ... Composer Earle H. Hagen has died. He was 88. HERE is the complete write-up from and the Associated Press.

During his long musical career, Hagen performed with the top bands of the swing era, composed for movies and television and wrote one of the first textbooks on movie composing. His television score credits included I Spy, The Mod Squad, That Girl, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and The Andy Griffith Show (for which Hagen also performed the trademark whistling).

Long before television became a fixture of American culture, Hagen plied his craft as a composer, arranger and musician on the live stage, and on radio, performing with the top big bands. It was while he was playing for Ray Noble’s orchestra, in 1939, that wrote “Harlem Nocturne” ..... and THAT is something for which I will always be grateful.

After retiring from TV work in 1986, Hagen taught a workshop in film and television scoring. He also wrote three books on scoring, including 1971’s “Scoring for Films,” one of the earliest textbooks on the subject. His 2002 autobiography was titled “Memoirs of a Famous Composer — Nobody Ever Heard Of.”

Let's close this set with
a performance of Harlem Nocturne by Ray Anthony and his Orchestra, courtesy of trumpetvideos at YouTube.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008 .....

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

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

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

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

President Abraham Lincoln
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Big Week In Pottstown, P-A .....

..... began with this post from Jim at serotoninrain, and continued through several posts and Utterz before we were treated to a photo of a signed-on-the-dotted-line document.

Virtual Jim has been a longtime friend to many of us here, in the West Texas blogosphere. The real thing turned out to be even better when
Jim was the guest-of-honor at an actual gathering of virtual acquaintances during the Serotoninrain Road Tour.

So I know there are many of you out there who wish Jim well in this week in which everything changes all at once ..... and in the exciting weeks that lie ahead.

Memorial Day Memo .....

TO: All - I Repeat, ALL - Politicians, Incumbents and Candidates
FROM: Jeff
RE: Opportunities to Make Political Speeches on Memorial Day

Just shut up!

Friday, May 23, 2008

'Citizen of the Shale' Has Her Say .....

A few days back, I wondered in this post what Cowtown Pattie at Texas Trifles might say about becoming a 'Citizen of the Shale' ..... now I know.

Citizens of the Shale," is a 30-minute newsmagazine produced by Chesapeake Energy and set for multiple airings on six major stations in the DFW market. I don't know if there are plans to air the program here, in the Permian Basin - that would be like 'preaching to the choir,' abyway. But you can watch the program yourself, online, by clicking on that CotS link. The program is airing in conjunction with a major online effort by Chesapeake to engage in the debate over 'urban drilling,' and to promote its stand on the issues.

So what does one 'citizen' have to say?

The Simple Life Ain't So Simple in the Land of Shale," Miss Pattie concludes ..... and she's right. Hers is a first-hand story of a neighborhood confronted with the prospect of urban drilling. She is mindful of the benefits that residents might gain from that drilling ..... but she is equally mindful of the risks. A decision to sign a lease, she explains, is part resignation, part acceptance of the lure of greenbacks, and part hope that they might mitigate as much of the damage to their community as possible by acting collectively and employing a lawyer to negotiate the lease.

I see where she's coming from ..... but I don't know whether many in the Tall City will understand the concerns, the suspicions she and others outside the Basin have when dealing with oil-and-gas companies. Perhaps the push for urban drilling in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (and here, in Midland?) will provide an opportunity for these companies to reach out and actively address those concerns and suspicions - not just through preaching on the airwaves, but through practice in the neighborhoods ..... finding that balance between good business and good citizenship.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Something for News Producers - and Consumers - to Consider .....

From the other side of the pond comes the following comments about the images presented - and watched - on television news programs, on any given day.

The comments come from Brian at
Thought Experiments: The Blog, which I discovered a couple of years ago through my Philadelphia e-friend Frank at Books, Inq.: The Epilogue.

"Watching the news last night, the inevitable harrowing scenes from the Irrawaddy Delta and Sechuan were abundantly on display," Brian wrote earlier this week, under the heading Ethical Voyeurism and Selective Squeamishness. "In China, we watched a dying man making a last phone call to his wife as he lay crushed under a huge block of concrete. In Burma, we saw a grief-stricken family watching as their patriarch died."

"What purpose does such footage serve? There is nothing we might be spurred to do about either situation which would be of any use - the earthquake response has been, apparently, efficient and concerted and there is little chance of anyone more being found alive, while in Burma the military junta (despite 'Lord' Malloch Brown's optimistic snap judgment) continues to prevent serious aid getting to where it's needed."

"Is this intrusive footage anything more than a kind of 'humane', ethical voyeurism? The news crews' intrusiveness into private grief is apparently deemed quite permissible with people in faraway places who are 'not like us' - such footage of a homegrown disaster would not be shown."

Good questions ..... unfortunately, Brian does not go on to provide good answers. Also, I disagree on some points - I have over the years produced and consumed plenty of images from what he calls "homegrown disasters" ..... and fielded the complaints from those who objected. It is at THIS point that I have observed "selective squeamishness" - most of the complaints stem from a close attachment to the subject. Far less complaints come from a general, on-principal, regardless-of-who's-shown source.

I also disagree with Brian about whether presenting such images serves a purpose ..... they do. We have heard - and said - many, many times that 'one picture is worth a thousand words.' That old saying has been proven true to me on countless occasions, where a single image conveyed the depth and the scope of a tragedy far better than any text I could write.

Still, Brian's comments DO offer some good discussion points for news producers ..... and news consumers, too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Kickin' Soccer Weekend .....

When one has done just about everything one can do, soccer-wise, in West Texas, there's really nothing else to do but head to North Texas.

That’s exactly what Elder Son and his teammates – boys from Odessa and Midland who comprise the Dallas Texans 93-West Texas – were doing in Frisco this weekend. And they were doing it very well.

John Cordsen, who was my publisher at the Fort Stockton Pioneer back in the 90s, used to say that there’s a reason they go ahead and play the game anyway, in spite of the all the pre-game hype, and all the certainty over the game’s outcome.

I think our boys proved that point. You see, 3/4 of the team is comprised of 94 (born in 1994) boys. But West Texas is a region of small communities, and small pools of kids from which teams can draw players. The only way the Texans could make roster this year was to add some 93 boys. So now the team must play in the 93 bracket.

So, that’s what they did, knocking off generally-older, generally-larger and more experienced teams from Midland-Odessa, San Angelo and Lubbock to win the league title.

The contrast was even stronger this weekend in Frisco. In addition to tackling the bigger teams, the boys also found themselves playing ‘Classic’ league teams - a more competitive and talented league than ours. But, as John said, you go ahead and play the game anyway. So they did, knocking off one Classic Division 3 team, then two Division 2 teams on the first day to win their bracket. And that is NOT something a team from West Texas is supposed to do.

The next morning, it was the semifinals, and a Classic League Division 1 Team. Our boys lost that one in the closing seconds, when the other team scored a goal to break a 3-3 tie, bringing an end to one of the most exciting youth games I've ever seen, one of the team’s best tournament showings ever, and a totally awesome season.

The boys didn't have much time to dwell upon their loss, because their Sunday afternoon was spent at Pizza Hut Park as guests of Major League Soccer’s F.C. Dallas. They soon found themselves down on the field, one of the best pitches they’d ever set foot on, watching players from F.C. Dallas and the visiting L.A. Galaxy warm-up. Then it was over to the tunnel, where our Texans and other teams from the tournament lined up to ‘high-five’ the pros as they emerged from the locker rooms for the game. Elder Son scored something of a hat trick, managing to shake hands with three of his L.A. Galaxy heroes – Landon Donavan, Carlos Ruiz and David Beckham ….. he’s still talking about it!

Anyay, what a wild and wonderful ride it’s been, for players and parents alike, Congratulations, boys!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taking to the Airwaves .....

Midland is not the only Texas community where people are debating the subject of drilling rigs inside city limits. That debate is also under way in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This weekend, one side of that debate took to the airwaves in north Texas.

This in the form of "Citizens of the Shale," a 30-minute newsmagazine produced by Chesapeake Energy and set for multiple airings on six major stations in the DFW market. (You can watch the program yourself, online, by clicking on that CotS link)

The program is airing in conjunction with a major online effort by Chesapeake to engage in the debate over 'urban drilling,' and to promote its stand on the issues.

Opponents of urban drilling are also having their say. Some are reaching out through the media, such as this article that appeared last month in the Texas Observer. They are also going online through organizations such as Fort Worth Citizens Against the Drilling Ordinance, or FWCanDo.

Me? I'm wondering how long before our Fort Worth e-friend, Cowtown Patty at Texas Trifles weighs-in on the topic. THAT could be interesting.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Day in the Life .....

Perhaps the most unique, the most intriguing use of the blogosphere in West Texas continues to be Bob's ongoing, online journal, "Ran with the devil, Walked with angels" .....

"I am a survivor. That's what those of us with Traumatic Brain Injuries call ourselves," Bob explains. "Because I often can't remember yesterday, this journal serves as my memory. I have decided to share my life to help others understand this disability. Your comments are always welcome. Tell your friends about my blog if you find it interesting."

And it IS interesting. Bob is actually one of the most prolific bloggers in West Texas ..... it's just him, and the material is entirely his original composition.
His latest post covers a frequent topic, a day in the life of a Martin County farming couple ..... their long days filled with many tasks, the expected rigors, the unexpected problems, and the awesome sunsets ..... all of it with the added uncertainty that he'll remember any of this on the following day.

It is definitely worth your visit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunrise Midland .....

Not a bad start this morning ..... I can think of worse places to greet the sunrise than Midland, Texas. It was one of those good-news, not-so-good-news kind of things that had me greeting the dawn today.

The good news? With graduation behind us, Midland College goes to summer hours, and we're only open four days-a-week. The not-so-good news? Those four days are longer, and I'm in the office, now, at seven o'clock in the morning, instead of eight o'clock. It's no problem getting up early ..... I was already up and busy that early ..... those of you with school-age children will understand.

A good-thing-about-the-not-so-good-news? An early morning drive through the (not-so) Tall (as-it-used-to-be) City. A treat for the eyes was the sun coming up and, in and out of the clouds on the eastern horizon. Overhead, the sky was a beautiful blue - progressing through every shade of blue as the sun rose. There was that wonderful coolness we enjoy, even on the mornings where the day's high temperatures will reach into the 90s, or more.

All of this complemented by music on the radio - an XM Moment! - "Song of the High Hills" by
Frederick Delius.

All in all, not a bad way to start the morning.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Next Time, Shut the Heck Up .....

Opened my big fat mouth a few weeks back, and that turned out to be a big fat mistake. Next time, I just need to shut the heck up.

A friend was asking me about my new job at
Midland College ... "What's it like?" and "How does it compare to your old job?"

I pointed out that the hours are A LOT better than in television news and production ..... less of them and more consistent. It REALLY IS a Monday-to-Friday, eight-to-five job. No overnight stabbings, shootings or fatal wrecks, no weekend tornadoes or wildfires, no long nights following the latest football scores from Girvin, or election returns from Eureka.

I also commented that the stress level was a lot lower, and I smugly observed that what counts for a crisis on a college campus would barely raise a ripple in a television newsroom - big fat mistake.

"It is statements like these,"
John Maddox Roberts wrote in his short story, The Statuette of Rhodes, "that provide the gods with no end of amusement."

We are now less than 12 hours away from commencement, and less than 72 hours away from moving our office to temporary quarters to make way for renovations on our building. To say it's been 'hectic' would be a ridiculous understatement. I'll re-cap next week ..... if I live, or haven't been taken into custody!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Is It Such a Bad Thing? .....

More than one observer of national political news has commented on whether or not the Democrats have already lost the 2008 presidential race through an extended and possibly-divisive primary campaign.

Me? I can't say whether they have or they haven't ..... I'll be able to say better on November 5 ..... or later, if the State of Florida disagrees with the results this time around.

But I do find myself wondering if an extended campaign - one that might go all the way to the convention before it's resolved - is necessarily a bad thing. In my own humble and uninformed opinion, I would say it's a good thing, at least from a news journalist's perspective. And in the long run, it might be good for news consumers, as well.

In recent years, political parties have bemoaned the fact that news networks don't devote the time to convention coverage that they once did. It's true, they don't ..... though not necessarily for the same reason suggested by the party leadership. There's nothing like an early, quiet end to the primary campaign to take away just about any news value to the convention ..... 'So-And-So' has officially received the party's nomination for president? ..... well, duh ..... wasn't that settled, for all intents and purposes, in April?

A decision early in the primary campaign means that, by the time the national convention comes along, all we are left with is essentially a week-long un-paid political announcement, carefully crafted and scripted for news consumers ..... a PR sheep in news wolf's clothing.

It hasn't always been that way ..... you don't have to be as old as me to remember when the national convention could easily become a rough-and-tumble, raucous affair where the candidate, and planks of the party's platform were yet to be settled. "Ohio passes," anyone?

So, as far as I'm concerned, go ahead and let Obama and Clinton continue to duke-it-out right up to the convention. It may be a bad thing for the Democratic Party leadership ..... then again, maybe it won't.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogger Has Us Seeing Stars .....

Missioner may be a Christian gentleman, and would decline using the Lord's name in vain. But Blogger, on the other hand, may have earned an epithet or two.

Apparently, his blog, West Texas Missioner was bedeviled by the sudden and inexplicable appearance of a 'review' feature, where each of his posts was tagged with a panel, asking readers to rate the post on a scale of 1-5 stars.

He had no idea how it got there, and he couldn't figure out how to get rid of it ..... and can any of you find a way to contact Blogger help directly or immediately?

It turns out "Blogger Goofed" ..... at least that's the line that eventually showed up in one of Blogger's 'Help Groups.'

Hey folks,

So we goofed up a bit and accidentally enabled an experimental feature
that was supposed to remain only on Blogger in Draft :P

Some of you may have noticed these star ratings, and we are currently
working to disable the feature for everyone at the moment. If you like
what you see though, you can still log into Blogger in Draft and
enable star ratings via

We apologize for any inconvenience, and will keep you updated with any
new developments. Thanks for hanging in there!

Gatsby (Blogger Employee)

So now Missioner can get back to other matters, like Burmese cyclones. In the meantime, you might head over there and give a few 5-star ratings ..... everyone needs a little encouragement now and then.

The Politics of Compassion .....

On the heels of our hearing how desperate it was for the people of Burma/Myanmar, it just got A LOT more desperate.

On Sunday, Midlanders had a chance to hear Steve Gumaer, co-founder of
Partners Relief & Development speak about the peoples of Burma who are beaten, displaced and victimized by their own government. We watched late last year as this government bloodily suppressed pro-freedom demonstrations in the streets of their major cities - the atrocities committed by the government and its army are even greater, and have been going on even longer outside the cities, in the lands occupied by ethnic minority groups.

These acts have earned our condemnation at both the official, government level and the private, individual level. But circumstances have a way of changing, and now we are rushing to help .... if we can. In the wake of
this weekend's terrible, deadly storm, the greatest obstacle to helping the people of Burma may be the government of Burma. Relief efforts - those of both governments and NGO's worldwide - have been frustrated by the demands of Burma's ruling military junta that all aid be give to them, personally, and by their refusal to grant relief workers access to their country. Now there is news that the U.N. is considering plan to force Burma (Myanmar) to accept the aid.

Agencies are moving forward, though, preparing for that moment when access may at last be granted - no matter how grudgingly - by Burma's government. One of those agencies is Steve's Partners organization, which is mobilizing to assist people directly impacted by this natural disaster.

"Four days ago a devastating cyclone hit the southern delta region of Burma," said an e-mail I received Tuesday from Partners. "These winds flattened homes and resulted in thousands of deaths. Partners is currently mobilizing a relief team comprised of medical personnel and logisticians to respond to this tragedy."

"The people who remain in Burma are in a desperate situation and in need of emergency relief supplies - food, shelter, medicine and clean water."

"God's heart bleeds for the people of Burma. They are an oppressed people mired in poverty under the hand of a regime that refuses to serve their own people. And now, they are confronted by this terrible natural disaster."

"As you may have seen in the media, the Burma regime had foreknowledge of the weather conditions and yet neglected to inform the people in the path of the cyclone. Consequently, the human cost and needs are enormous."

"The current death toll is 15,000 [it has since reached 22,000 or more] and the numbers are growing by the hour. "

"In order to respond to this tragedy, we are needing your help. Partners has launched an immediate Burma Cyclone Emergency Relief Appeal fund. Please
donate online to help finance this action of love."

"Please continue to pray for this evolving situation. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available."

I've already contributed, and so have others here in Midland. I strongly urge you to contribute, too. Or, you can go
here for a list of other agencies accepting Burma/Myanmar cyclone donations.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

You Really Ought to Come Hear This Guy .....

His name is Steve Gumaer, co-founder of Partners Relief & Development, and he is on the road in the United States, on a journey that includes a stop in West Texas this weekend.

Steve will be speaking at
First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Sunday, May 4, at both the 8:15 and 11:00 a.m. services. Steve promises to paint a picture of the people he works with who are vulnerable and abused, yet a powerful symbol of faith, real freedom, and a willingness to live out the words of Christ, not just talk about them. Those people are refugees from the atrocities committed by the Army of Burma (Myanmar) against various ethnic groups in that troubled country, including the Karen, the Chin, the Shan, and others.

It's not only the story of a persecuted people, but a persecuted church ..... and I hope you can attend.