Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do we pay TSA officers enough? ...

One question I have concerning full body scans at airports, and the threats they pose to personal liberties, travelers' dignity, yada-yada-yada ... what about the poor schmucks who will have to look at way-too-many images of way-too-many travelers such as myself?

I mean, think about it. And think about some of the people you see standing in line at the airport's security queue (not YOU, of course - you're practically perfect in every way - but those other people in line with you). Just how much of them would you want to see? I can't help but think that prolonged and repeated exposure to the images they'd get, if they scanned someone like me, could lead to psychological blindness for the beholder.

Do we pay our TSA officers enough to run that risk?

Seriously, though, I have no problem with my personal liberties being violated ... and I bid adieu to the last shredded remnants of my dignity while I was in college. But along with the current discussion over full body scans comes news (see the link above) that the new generation of scanner software "projects a stylized image — rather than an actual picture — onto a computer screen."

So maybe we can dispense with the debate, and get on with the scanning?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ahoy, Cap'n Leach ...

'twas in September o' this year - on "Talk Like A Pirate Day," no less - that I posted a missive on Cap'n Leach of the good ship Red Raider, as he an' his hearty crew set sail for the port o' Austin ... where there be Longhorns, I hear.

Now comes news that Cap'n Leach be sailin' far different and troubled waters, this time in a Lubock courthouse, pleadin' for a judge's blessings that he might hoist his colors in San Antonio this Saturday.

Me? I be glad I'm not swabbin' the decks at Texas Tech's media office .. so many other tales to tell ... yet so little interest, I suspect. They even finds their pigskin program bein' likened to them scuppers, the Philadelphia Eagles, who had many a shot fired 'cross their bow when they announced their "Courage" award.


'course, not ALL the Texas pigskin prattlin' be of Cap'n Leach. There be those who've set their sights on the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, where one hears tales of Horned Frogs ... and the Rose Bowl in Californ-I-A, where the Longhorns will drop-anchor once again.

Smooth sailin' to ye, laddies!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hey, GREAT Special Effects ... but ..

Are special effects enough to carry along a film that's lacking in just about every other respect? I dunno ... I mean, they WERE really good special effects.

That's what I was thinking the other day, when Younger Son and I finally got around to watching "
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," courtesy of the folks at Netflix. Making up for missing the film while it was still in theaters, I at last had a chance to sit back in the comfort of my own home, and appreciate the cinematic artistry of Michael Bay ... so to speak ...

... or not. The film's special effects are nothing short of spectacular ... but for us, no other aspect of the film came close to being spectacular ... or even good ... the story, the characters, the lines they deliver - were all pretty lame. The pacing of the film suffered towards the end, with a climactic battle scene on the plains of Giza that seemed to stretch on forever. Hard to believe that such a battle scene could actually become protracted, then tedious - but dang if that isn't what we got. And I found the continuity - or lack thereof - to be especially distracting ... like a scene where someone bursts from a warehouse along the docks of New York City, then follows a road through the forest, and across a mountain meadow ... or a fight that starts in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, crashes through a museum wall, and tumbles outside into a large bomber storage base in the western U.S.

A lot of this, IMHO, can be laid at Bay's feet .. and I can't say I wasn't warned. A while back, Jim at serotoninrain expressed more than a little unease over the prospect of Bay helming the first Transformers movie.

You were right, Jim.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Burying Than Blogging, Lately

I have been more than a little slack in my blogging in recent weeks. But, sometimes, the actual world will do that ... make demands upon the time you would normally spend in the virtual world.

Such was the case with me for the better part of two weeks this month. Sure, at times, it was tiring and annoying ... but it was also educating and inspiring ... and it reminded me that the best way to shut out the hectic hustle of the holiday season might not be shutting one's self into a darkened and sound-proofed room but, instead, to go out into the world to serve, to accept added tasks and responsibilities.

That's what happened to me in early December when I got a Saturday afternoon phone call letting me know that a member of Midland's Burmese community was in the hospital. The doctor had diagnosed cancer, in an advanced state, and suggested the patient did not have long to live. Could I help with preparations and arrangements, I was asked ... well ... sure, I guess ... I mean, I had helped move furniture, buy school supplies, gather donated goods and and things like that. But this was something decidedly different, decidedly more serious ... but I said "yes, of course" nonetheless.

I have written before about the Chin, an ethnic, Christian minority from the southeast Asian nation of Myanmar/Burma. An oppressed people and an oppressed church, some have fled their homeland and now make their homes in villages and refugee camps in neighboring nations such as India, Malaysia and Thailand. Many of those apply for refugee status, and a chance to emigrate to the west ... and such is the case with the Chin who received permission to enter the United States, and now make their homes in Chicago, Houston, San Diego, Grand Rapids ... and Midland, Texas.

They are a good and gracious, hard-working people ... and I am the better for knowing them, working with them, celebrating with them and worshiping with them - and helping them make "arrangements."

First, there was the matter of hospice care ... a concept with which they were unfamiliar - a non-profit organization that provides care and support for the terminally-ill and their families. We visited with a case worker for Hospice of Midland, and it was agreed to transfer our friend right away to the hospital's hospice unit. From that point, there were two sets of arrangements to make. If his condition should improve, we would need to move him to a nursing home. If not, we needed to prepare for his funeral and interment ...

... at three o'clock, Monday morning, it became just one set of arrangements that needed to be made ... and that's when the REAL challenges arose. As I said, the Chin were not familiar with the idea of hospice care ... and they weren't prepared - any more than I was - for the procedural and legal hurdles that needed to be cleared before we could bury our friend. What followed was a week-and-half of local meetings and international phone calls, advances and setbacks, affidavits and inquests.

There may be people in America's larger cities with expertise in these matters ... but not in Midland, Texas ... at least, not until now. In America and other western nations, we have become used to almost-instant access with almost everybody, and the ability to speak with people, transmit information and forms to-and-from our offices, our homes, our portable phones. This man had family ... but we couldn't reach them ... his wife might be in Myanmar/Burma, or she may have moved across the border to a village in India ... his son might be in Myanmar/Burma, or he may have made his way to a refugee camp in Malaysia. He had information on their full, correct names, and how to get messages to them for arranging phone contact ... but he took that information with him. We needed to find a way, within the guidelines set by the Texas Funeral Service Commission, to get permission to bury this man.

That we eventually gathered for a memorial service at a local funeral home, followed by a graveside service at a local cemetery, is a tribute to the way so many people stepped-in and stepped-up to do something, anything to help. One volunteer worked with other members of the Chin community to try to identify numbers on the phone of the deceased phone, trying to identify those that would connect them to family members on the far side of the world, then making those calls ... others attended meetings the Chin had with funeral directors and cemetery managers to make arrangements and draft contracts ... another visited all of the campuses where Chin kids attended school, to advise principals that the kids would need time-off to attend a funeral ... others came forward and contributed money to help defray funeral costs ... a judge called me at home one night to advise on what I needed to do in order to clear the legal hurdles ... an attorney cleared space on her calendar to help me draft an affidavit - and did it again, two days later, to draft a second affidavit ... a justice of the peace cleared space on his calendar to hold an inquest and prepare an order allowing me to sign-off on the interment - and did it again, two days later, to prepare a second order allowing me to sign-off on funerary arrangements ... pastors and church organists contributed words and music to the services ... and so many others offered their prayers and their words of encouragement.

One of the pastors presiding over the memorial service reminded us that, just as it takes a village to raise a child, so it also took a village to lay this man to rest. He was right ... and I am grateful for what everyone did ... and will continue to do ... our experience of this past month already has us planning what we will do in the months ahead to prepare for another such occasion.

But, for me ... I'm done with burying, for now ... and more-than-ready to get back to blogging.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Joe Pa ...

Joseph Vincent Paterno (and YES, as a matter of fact, I DO think he is the best coach in the history of college football) was born on this day in 1926.

In 2007, Paterno was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, one of only three to be so honored while they were active coaches. His speech at the time reflected much about the man and his thoughts on the game in which he has taken such and active part for sixty years ...

"I have mixed feelings because there were so many people that are not with me any more who made it possible for me," he said. "How good has it been? What we share in football; there's never been a greater game. We've been involved in the greatest game, the greatest experience anybody could hope for. Great teammates. Guys you could trust. Guys you loved. Guys you would go to war with tomorrow. We're so lucky ... we're so lucky. If we lose what we have in football, we'll lose an awful lot in this country and we've got to remember that."

A five-time Coach of the Year, Paterno is the all-time leader among coaches in bowl appearances (35) and post-season triumphs (23). His overall postseason record of 23-11-1 gives him a winning percentage of 69.1, good for No. 2 among coaches with at least 12 bowl visits. The Nittany Lions are 16-7 in New Year's games under Paterno and 12-4 in contests that comprise the Bowl Championship Series.

Here is his
official Penn State bio page, and his write-up on Wikipedia

Friday, December 18, 2009

- 30 -

A good friend - not just of mine, but of the entire community - is leaving the staff of the Reporter-Telegram at end-of-business today. And while one part of me is saddened by the move, thinking the paper will be lessened by his departure, an even larger part of me is happy and excited for him, and the new paths he'll be following.

Jimmy Patterson steps down today as the MRT's web editor, video contributor, blogger (and I-don't-know-what-else) to pursue a writing career. It's something he's wanted to do since he was a kid in freshman English ... and I can empathize with that, having a similar dream when I was pursuing my second major in English while in college.

I STRONGLY suspect Jimmy will realize his dream.

And don't read too much into my statement that "the paper will be lessened by his departure ..." It's something I feel whenever someone departs, whose byline I always look for, whose work I've come to respect and enjoy. There are still plenty of good people on staff at the MRT and ... but I will miss Jimmy nonetheless. I'm told John Boyd will assume online editor duties, and that he "is as capable as they come." It really can be a very exciting position, and it's one whose job description changes with the passage of time AND the development of technology. That's something I know, myself, from first-hand knowledge and experience, as a former editor of ... I wish John nothing but success.

And I also suggest he look to his predecessor, among others, for guidance. Jimmy took the newspaper's virtual property into new directions, and achieved new heights. He is one of a select group in Midland's virtual community who showed that the Internet can be a positive and productive force in the actual community. Jimmy's been there, done that ... and we're all the better for it.

Good luck in the future, my friend!

- 30 -

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Being Quiet, and Listening ...

… those who know me will say that’s something I don’t do very well, or often enough. But I am trying to do better this month, with a little help from my church.

During the Advent season,
First Presbyterian Church of Midland is hosting 'Come to the Quiet,' Wednesday evenings at 6:30, in the chapel on the corner of Texas and A streets.

The church is located near downtown Midland, but by this time, that area is nearly empty, and the bustling traffic that filled the streets just an hour ago is already gone. With the time change, it’s also near dark — but lanterns placed outside the open doors of the chapel help you find where you’re going — to find a more contemplative setting than you’ll find in the shopping mall.

Everything about the service is designed to quiet us, and to shut out the noise of a hectic holiday season ... all the better to hear The Word, and to take into our hearts the story of what Christmas truly is all about. It's something that, unfortunately, lies behind and beneath all the holiday hoopla - placed in that secondary position, admittedly, BY US.

Lit by candles, led by softly-spoken words, inspired by homilies from the floor (rather than sermons from the pulpit), and carried by songs of praise accompanied by piano ... it all makes for a wonderful experience.

We'll meet again, this Wednesday evening at 6:30 ... won't you join us?

Happy Birthday to an Old Oilman ...

J. Paul Getty, the son of a pioneer oilman whose life was not so much a rags-to-riches story, as it was one of riches-to-even-greater-riches, was born on this day in 1892.

The life of the man who would someday head Minnehoma Oil Company, Getty Oil, Pacific Western Oil, Tidewater Oil, Skelly Oil and who-knows-how-many other oil-and-gas-related businesses, and who would someday amass one of the world's great private art collections, hobnob with American political leaders and European royalty, and earn the title of 'richest man in the world' ... all makes for great reading.

Here is Getty's obit from 1976 edition of the New York Times, as well as his Wikipedia write-up. You can also visit websites for the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Museum. There are also plenty of books out there, including some written by the man, himself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Step by Step: Christmas for Our Troops ... Pt. 2 ...

If you haven't checked-out and gotten involved in Christmas for Our Troops, you should. Ask anyone who has served in the military, and they will tell you that 'care packages from home' are a great way for you to show your support for the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with the United States armed forces.
This is a Midland-based effort that "provides individual Christmas boxes full of a variety of gifts, necessities and goodies for our local men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These boxes will be shipped in mid-December via Priority mail to ensure that our troops have a package from home in their hands before Christmas Eve. This is a non-partisan private effort to give West Texans the opportunity to give a little something back to the military folks who give so much for us and this country."

Last month, I posted about part of this year's effort at First Presbyterian Church of Midland, where young people assembled and stacked shipping boxes, getting them ready to be filled, sealed and mailed overseas. THAT step - the filling and the seasling - took place this week at First Prez. As you can see from the photos below, there was a wonderful turnout of volunteers of all shapes and sizes and ages.

Since that day, the boxes have made their way to the post office, and are headed overseas. But there are still ways for YOU to get involved and help out - if not this year, then next. For more information, please contact CFOT Chairman Scott Davis at (432) 620-8820, or e-mail . You can also make a financial contribution by contacting Western National Bank ("Christmas for OUR Troops Fund"), 508 W. Wall Street, Midland, Texas 79701.

Memo to "Chairman of the Board:" Happy Birthday ...

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra - an American success story whose career included everything from big band to bobby-soxers, from Vegas to Hollywood - was born on this day in 1915, in Hoboken, N' Joizey.

That career included many peaks, many returns to stardom, including very late in his life. Me? ... I'll always prefer those early years, and that awesome young voice singing "All, or Nothing at All" ... or "I'll Never Smile Again." I loved him in lighthearted and lyrical films such as "On the Town" ... but he also showed his flair for drama in "From Here to Eternity" and "The Manchurian Candidate." It was a career that successfully spanned generations, as well as media ... among the zillions of sidebars composed during coverage of last year's presidential campaign, it was reported that
Sinatra was the only artist to make the top-ten list of favorite songs of (then) candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

Here is his Wikipedia write-up and the official Frank Sinatra website. Also, here is an audio recording of "The Best is Yet to Come," courtesy of scooterride33 at YouTube.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Goodbye to a Good Man .....

It was with great sadness that I read that Sal Guererro of Odessa, a pioneer and a patriot with a legacy of "exceptional volunteerism and love of his country," has died.
CLICK HERE to read the rest of this story from the Odessa American's Laura Dennis (right, OA Photo)

I first met Sal in the 80s, working a camera on the studio floor at KMID-TV/Big 2, as he (along with Roger Robles and Gracie Reyes) were recording weekly episodes of Mexico Tejano. We would touch-base again a few years later, after I was laid-off at 2, and was working as a freelance writer. One of my assignments was a feature-length piece on Sal, for Nueva Vista, a weekly bilingual publication of the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Sal and I spent a long and wonderful afternoon at his home in south Odessa. His life provided enough material to fill a book ... in fact, it DID fill a book, and Sal was kind enough to present me an autographed copy at the end of our interview.

Sal's early life, living and working in Texas was something many of our Hispanic pioneer families would recognize. But his life took a dramatic turn when he enlisted in the Army, and fought in World War II. Sal was a combat engineer - and those of you with some knowledge of the military profession know what a hazardous job that can be.

Like so many vets, Sal came home with a determination to play an active role in his community and his country, to serve and work for its preservation and - when necessary - its improvement. Most of that determination and that work would play out in Odessa, where Sal moved in 1947. He was active in Scouting, youth athletics, radio and television broadcasting, veterans affairs, voter registration, politics (Ector County commissioner) and so much more. At times, the impact of his efforts reached outside Ector County - he was a charter member of the American GI Forum, for example, which had an impact across the Lone Star State.

And now he's gone ... and our world is lessened by his departure ... goodbye, my friend.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It's Almost Showtime for Midland Artist .....

This week on Texas Country Reporter ... "meet a painter with a Chinese watercolor style from the Far East." It's none other than Ricky Chou of Midland, Texas!

CLICK HERE and HERE to learn more about Chou, his art, and TCR's visit to the Tall City, courtesy of Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs.

Locally, Texas Country Reporter airs Sunday nights at 10:30 on KWES-TV, NewsWest 9 (Channels 9 and 709 on Suddenlink Cable), right after the ten o'clock news.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy Hirsute Holiday .....

Holiday Evening at MC offered me an opportunity to see how my whiskers measured-up against those of a leading, longtime member of the Brotherhood of the Brush. I have that 'right jolly old elf'' beat every which way in terms of length ... but, alas, he's got me in coloring, with a beard as white as new snowfall on a moonlit night. Me? My coloring is a motley collection of browns and grays and whites ... but, give me time.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Oh, Come All Ye Faithful ...

Here comes the Lee High School Band, a really great train from the Oops Alley Clowns, and a mounted patrol, bringing an end to the parade. Good night, everyone.

Hark, the Herald ...

Music from the Alamo Junior High band, floats from Cub Scouts and Indian Princesses, candy flying in all directions, and a reminder from one of the local churches of 'the reason for the season.'

My Favorite Entry In the Parade ...

The Mustang Band from San Jacinto Junior High School, with baddest baritones in the Basin!

Winter Wonderland ...

Music from the Goddard Junior High band, all kinds of brightly decorated flatbed trucks from local businesses, and a four-wheelin' Santa.

Jingle All the Way ...

Leading off the parade with "Jingle Bells" are the combined bands from Midland High, Midland Freshaman - and the downtown debut of the Bowie Arts Magnet School band.

Underway at Last ...

The phalanx of police cars at the head of the parade is finally on the move! Looking forward to what follows. It's cold out, but a thermos of hot chocolate is helping that.

I Love a Parade ...

... and it looks as though the Midland Christmas Parade (2009 nighttime edition) could offer lots to love - if it would just get started, that is. Running a little late - I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Past Offers Glimpse of Wizards Yet-to-Come .....

The other night, I had a chance to watch Blackadder's Christmas Carol, with a cast that included Robbie Coltrane as the Ghost of Christmas Past ... in a performance that - to me, at least - also offered a preview of filmgoer's first glimpse of Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, more than ten years later.
(go about six minutes-or-so into the following clip, courtesy of
E5A9O8B7 at YouTube)

Please, Take Your Time and Take Care .....

I've already had to help a couple of folks who got spun around and stuck on an icy patch of Wadley. If you must go out today, PLEASE take your time, and take care.

If you can work from home today, do it.

Going out? While your vehicle's warming-up, sweep-off ALL the snow, including what's on your hood.

Assume all the roads allow 10 mph, and plan accordingly. You may not have to travel that slow ... but then again, you might. I know, I know ... some mook's going to blow by you in the next lane. Let 'em go.

Heavy feet on the gas and brake pedals do NOT help.

The fact that you're driving some SUV that covers all kinds of outrageous terrain in a television commercial does NOT apply to Midland streets. They are not a closed course, and you are not a professional driver. No matter what you're driving, it's YOU - as much as, or more than - the vehicle that will get you where you're going, safely.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Community College Community: Holiday Evening .....

To say that it's a little busier-than-usual around the workplace, today, would be a mild under-statement. Midland College's Holiday Evening, one of the Tall City's premier seasonal celebrations, is TONIGHT!

It's a family-friendly evening that offers, as the saying goes, 'something for everyone.' Most of the events taking place this evening are free-of-charge, and we're hoping you, your family and friends can join us. I don't think there's a single part of the college organization - students, staff and faculty - that isn't helping out in some way.

The students are a big part of the evening. The
MC Students In Philanthropy organization will be holding their annual Frito Chili Pie Fundraiser this evening from 5:15-6:30 p.m. in Marie Hall Academic Bldg. Proceeds from the event benefit SIP's spring grant-making activities.

Then there's MC's art students. There will be a
reception for the Fall Student Art Show this evening from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the McCormick Gallery of Allison Fine Arts Building. Also taking place at Allison (tonight and tomorrow) is the MC Student Art Hallway Sale, a wonderful opportunity to get a one-of-a-kind gift for someone - or yourself! - and, at the same time, reward the work of an MC art student.

You can also enjoy the work of our students during the “Sounds of Christmas” concert presented by the MC Jazz Band and the MC Chap Singers, this evening from 7:20-8:45 p.m. in the Wagner & Brown Auditorium of the Allison Fine Arts Bldg.

But Wait! You Also Get ...

Lighting of the Hodge Carillon Tower and Carolling by MC Chap Singers at 6:45 p.m. Our physical plant staff have been hard-at-work getting lights up around the campus, and it's a sight to behold.

Christmas at the Dollye Neal Chapel, from 5:15 - 6:30 p.m. in the chapel. Enjoy music by harpist, Megan Metheney, in a candle-lit setting filled with holiday cheer. Also, plan on seeing the special holiday decorations at Hall’s Way.

And I almost forgot Santa! He'll be around the entire evening, making his list, checking it twice ... and visiting with you to find out if you've been naughty or nice.

It should be a great night, and we hope you can join us!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This Nut's Nuts About Nuts .....

One of the perk's to the cooler temperatures we've been experiencing ... it's time to get out there and gather pecans. There's nothing like the approach of winter to convince even the hardiest among them to split-open their outer husks and drop to the ground ...

... where they find me waiting. A couple times a week, after dropping Elder Son off at Math Lab, I proceed to the nearest public pecan tree, bag in hand, and gather-up a few dozen candidates for my next batch of cookies, muffins, cake frosting, pralines, whatever.

And while I don't "work" the public trees the way some do, there's still plenty to meet my needs for my brief forays into the kitchen, and the needs of others I encounter under the trees, gathering their own batch of fresh pecans, and making their own culinary plans.

And there will probably be more pecans on the ground a few days later. Pecans seem to drop like that, in fits and starts, following intermittent pauses ... different, really, from crops like cotton, which seems to follow a much stricter timeline in opening-up for harvest, responding to man's prodding as much as - or more than - nature's.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Certain Smugness .....

... felt by dang-Yankees-from-back-east such as myself, as I watch all the brouhaha over the winter weather sweeping into out part of West Texas - BRING IT ON!
Of course, that being said, I plan to stay off the road as much as possible today. One of the things about my winter weather expertise - gained in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and other frozen locales north of the Arctic Circle - is to avoid demonstrating that expertise, unless absolutely necessary ... and I hope you'll do the same, if the weather around here does indeed turn dicey, and the roads get icy.