Friday, February 19, 2010

Now I Know What Eric Sees In Them ...

More than once, the proprietor of the Fire Ant Gazette has paid traibute in some way to those insects of the family Formicidae, and I can see why ... in hi-def, no less.

I've just finished watching the documentary, "Ants - Nature's Secret Power" on
Discovery HD Theater, and it was pretty amazing stuff.

"What animal has achieved immortality," the documentary asks. "What animal is the most warlike? What animal has the greatest supercity on the planet? Not man but ants. They are the real success story. It is only their tiny size and our vanity that allows us to hold onto the myth of our supremacy. Ants rule the planet. They are found in more habitats from far northern Finland to the sweltering tropics."

See for yourself (courtesy of ...

Visit for free online documentaries!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow Man ...

The more I see of this year's winter weather in the northeast, the happier I am to be in the southwest. Reasons well illustrated by a pair of photo albums from Jim at Serotoninrain, a fellow Dang Yankee/Keystone Stater who remains Back East ... and, apparently, north of the Arctic Circle.

Check out his albums HERE and HERE.

Keep the home fires burnin' up there, Jim ... especially the oil- and gas-powered ones. Those of us down here in the 'oil patch' appreciate y'all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Devotional:
In Spite of What Others Say ...

Saturday mornings this time of year find me working the floor of the gymnasium at our church in Midland, offering halftime devotionals during Upward Basketball games. I was inspired to prepare this week's devotional by one of many stories coing out of Dallas this weekend as they host the NBA All-Star Game.

Upward, by the way, is one of the the world’s largest Christian sports program for children, and was created with a vision to provide the best sports experience possible for every child. An estimated 1-million people around the world play, coach, referee or volunteer in some way to support Upward sports activities, hosted by more than 2,600 churches - there are four churches here, in Midland, including my own First Presbyterian.

The organization notes that, "anyone – children and volunteers of any faith or no faith – can participate in Upward sports. Specifically designed for children in K5- sixth grade, Upward aims to bring out 'the winner' in every child – regardless of the game’s score."

Really, not a bad venue for discussing a man who might never have become a professional basketball player if he listened to what everyone else said, instead of listening to his heart. Thirty years ago, I told today's crowd, a young boy named Anthony was playing high school basketball in Dallas, and doing pretty well. He had good skills, but – and this was pointed out to him more than once – he was also ‘five-foot-nothing,’ as the saying goes, and just didn’t have the size to succeeed in basketball. But Anthony didn’t see it that way. He had a dream and he was ready to work hard to realize that dream.

I cited two lines of Scripture, one from the Second Book of Chronicles ... “but as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded" and another from the Book of Matthew ... “seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (NIV)

Anthony found himself having to knock on one door after another. They said he was too small to play basketball, period – but he showed them otherwise. Then they said he was too small to play high school basketball – but he proved them wrong. Then they said he was too small to play varsity high school basketball – but he finally got his chance to get off the bench and onto the court, becoming one of his school’s top scorers, and being named to the Texas High School Basketball All-State Team.

Yet with all those accomplishments and statistics, he still couldn’t raise any interest among college basketball programs – especially the major colleges. Finally, he was invited to join a program at a junior college in West Texas. So it was that Anthony ‘Spud’ Webb became a Midland College Chaparral. In the course of his two tears here, he became one of MC’s top scorers, was named an NJCAA All American, and led the Chaps to the National Championship where he was named tournament MVP.

This was followed by a write-up in Sports Illustrated and an invitation to join the Jim Valvano's basketball program at the University of North Carolina. Later, he was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. A couple years after that, Spud Webb was back in his hometown of Dallas for the NBA All-Star Game, where he won the Slam Dunk Contest – and he’s back there this weekend as a judge for this year’s slam dunk contest.
Out here, I reminded the crowd, is a court full of young people with dreams and aspirations of their own – and not necessarily basketball, but something in their life that draws them upward. I thanked the for being there for the kids that day, cheering them on, and supporting their dreams and aspirations.

By the way, whoever you are and wherever you are, we would love to have you on our team! If you're the parent of a youngster who wants to play basketball, soccer, flag football or cheer, chances are
Upward has a league or camp near you. What? No kids? No problem ... Upward programs always need volunteers to coach teams, to referee games, to operate game clocks, to rustle-up snacks for the kids, or offer devotionals at halftime.

I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Happy Birthday to a Film Favorite ...

Ronald Colman, award-winning actor of stage and cinema, radio and television - and one of my favorite stars of the cinema - was born on this day in 1891.

Colman was a man of another time and another place then those we now know, but his performances continue to capture us and move us. Maybe it was his good looks ... maybe it was his charm ... maybe it was that voice of his, and his wonderful delivery, which served him so well when he made the move from silent films to 'the talkies.' Or maybe it was all of the above, brought together in one very special package.

We might never have come to appreciate him, if he had pursued his original intention to study engineering ... or if his service in the Great War had taken a tragic turn. Things were different back then, especially in England, where few were content to remain at home. Colman - along with fellow actors Claude Rains, Herbert Marshall and Basil Rathbone - enlisted in the army, and was among the first to fight in World War I. In 1914, at the Battle of Messines, Colman was seriously wounded by shrapnel in his leg, which led to his being released from service.

You have to wonder, though, if that service left an indelible mark upon Colman and upon what he would bring to the characters he played in the course of his career. Some of my favorite performances by him are all characters who have been out in the world, and have come home with weariness and wounds from that experience ... Robert Conway in "Lost Horizon," Dick Heldar in "The Light That Failed," John Smith in "Random Harvest" and -- perhaps most of all -- Sydney Carton in "Tale of Two Cities" ... to me, it is a far, far better performance than anyone else have ever done ...

But whatever the role, Colman always brought a sese of grace and style, even panache to his portrayel that was not easily duplicated, no matter how often filmmakers might try in later re-makes.

There aren't very many (non-subscription) online resources for Ronald Colman (at least, when compared to other stars). There is his
Wikipedia Write-up, and pages devoted to him on Internet Broadway Database and Internet Movie Database.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Buddhism's Answer to 'Rock the Desert?' ...

According to the following report from Al Jazaeera, "Kansho Tagai, a Buddhist monk known as MC Happiness, believes in keeping the appeal of his religion fresh. He regularly holds music sessions at a 400-year old temple in central Tokyo to teach Buddhist principles and rituals through hip hop." The report goes on to state he is branching out into tap dance as well.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Marking the Birth of a Martyr ...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and theologian martyred through his resistance to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, was born on this day in 1906. It was the begining of one of the more significant - if tragically short - lives of the 20th-century.

There was nothing cloistered about this cleric. He attended college in his native Germany, earning a PhD in theology at the age of 21, and took to traveling. He studied at a seminary in New York City, and attended Baptist church in Harlem, where he was introduced to the African-American spirituals that he collected and took back to Germany. He also traveled in India where he met Gandhi and studied the principle of non-violent resistance.

Non-violent, perhaps ... but serious nonetheless, as he returned to his native Germany, co-founded the Confessing Church, and ended up joining a resistance movement that opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. "Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church," Bonhoeffer once wrote. "Our struggle today is for costly grace."

And it did, indeed, prove to be costly. Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943, and again - for the final time - in 1944, after a failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life. He was imprisoned in a series of concentration camps. Bonhoeffer was tortured, then executed under brutal circumstances in the camp at Flossenb├╝rg on April 9, 1945 ... ending a life, but not a legacy that endures and inspires to this day.

Online resources include
this page devoted to Bonhoeffer created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the website of the International Bonhoeffer Society, the Bonhoeffer Reading Room at Tyndale College & Seminary and Bonhoeffer's Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Happy Birthday to an Artist ....

Norman Percevel Rockwell, a 20th-century American artist whose works were embraced as icons of American life and ideals, was born on this day in 1894.

It's true, Rockwell's work was dismissed by a number of critics and artists of his day. One large body of his work — illustrations for magazine covers that presented idealistic or sentimental portrayals of American life — were targets-of-choice, labeled as bourgeois kitsch, disconnected from reality, and even "Rockwellesque." Some of his critics sneeringly called him an "illustrator" instead of an artist ... which was fine, really, because that's what Rockwell called himself.

But in the larger, more widespread and popular circles, Rockwell was appreciated to the point of reverence. His many, many images of Boy Scouting were held in high regard by my mom, a woman who has served nearly half-a-century as a Scouter. His images have been recreated in every medium there is, and originals of his works are much-sought-after (there's one in Midland's Museum of the Southwest, I think). And over the course of his career, Rockwell was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

Me? I like his works. Here is a video prepared by the Normman Rockwell Museum, featuring interviews with models, friends and family members, and artists Minor) influenced by Rockwell.

Good online sources about Rockwell include his
Wikipedia write-up, his official website and the museum he established in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day! ...

UPDATE from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (02/02/10) ... The world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged before chilly revelers in western Pennsylvania Tuesday to see his shadow, meaning winter will last another six weeks.

Whither winter? There's only one gen-yoo-ine and official representative of Marmota meteorologica that can tell us ... and that's
Punxsutawney Phil ..... don't be fooled by imitations.

Here's video from last year's festivities at Gobbler's Knob ...

According to
this Wikipedia write-up and the various sources to which it links, the roots of this annual celebration are very old, even ancient, and reach deeper than even the most persistent of groundhogs can burrow.