Thursday, December 29, 2011

Extraordinary Snowbirds

Here, in Texas, we have an annual influx of 'snowbirds' ... large masses of gente norteña fleeing the winter weather 'up north' to enjoy a season of clear skies and milder temperatures 'down south.' It's a long and time-honored tradition ... for many years, my great-grand-aunt and uncle made their own annual migration from Leisuretown, New Jersey down to the sun and surf of Florida. And it's also a tremendous economic boon to parts of Texas that enjoy an annual influx of cash in return for all things leisure - goods, services, opportunities, you name it.

Not all snowbirds travel to Texas by R.V. ... and it is THEY who provide US an opportunity, a chance to observe something not-often-seen in these parts of the U.S. Here's a shot I took of two extraordinary snowbirds in Llano County, Texas, this past week. Regular visitors in the process of raising a brood of future snowbirds.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A rant and a wish for Thanksgiving

First, something for which I am less-than-thankful, this Thanksgiving ... my annual plea to the media to please, please, PLEASE ignore the people waiting for hours-on-end outside the doors of some megamania superstore, jostling to be the first to glom onto some Black Friday bargain.

I know, I know ... too late ... especially now that Black Friday begins on Thursday, or even Wednesday ... especially now that some people are going to greater lengths to get their fifteen minutes of fame ... this last, perhaps, best exemplified by
some mook in a 'Tigger' costume, camped out for Black Friday.

And, yes ... I realize I'm contributing to the very thing about which I'm complaining, by sharing/spreading the video,

To give CNN Headline News credit, though, at least they placed the report on that guy in a proper perspective by also airing reports on the steps being taken to place a holiday meal on the tables of mess halls in Afghanistan, for our men and women of the armed forces ... and what soup kitchens are doing to provide a Thanksgiving meal to others who are camped out on the streets tonight (NOT because they want the biggest, best TV e-vah ... but because they have no place else to go).

Sheesh, Jeff! Enough ranting already!

So, I will close with this ... wherever you are, whoever you are ... a happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The 9-POINT-9 Percent

Not all of today's political cartoons were devoted to Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Joe Paterno, thank goodness ...

Shout-out to R.J. Matson / St. Louis Post Dispatch

On a related note, THANKS to our vets, today and every day!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A picture's worth ...

You know the old saying that 'a picture is worth a thousand words?' There's an interesting discussion of the adage and its origin, and I'm sure many of us can cite at least one occasion from our own, first-hand experience where it has been put to the test, and passed that test with ease.

There are occasions when a picture's worth might be calculated by other units of measure. For example, how might a picture's worth be measured in terms of how many people are moved to change their hearts and their minds after viewing said picture?

Something like this happened to me earlier today, when I viewed a photo by Getty Images' John Moore, prominently displayed 'above the fold,' on the home page of , with the caption, "Occupy protesters dance on an American flag, November 5, 2011 in Denver, Colorado." I don't know how long the image will be featured in that prime piece of layout real estate (I suspect it might be bumped by LSU v 'Bama), but you can also see it in this post to's Photoblog.

The photo left me deeply conflicted, to say the least. Whatever else I might think of OWS (frankly, I still don't think I have a clear sense of their fundamental purpose, or their ultimate goal), I believed that there was about them a love for this country, and a fear of the direction that country was taking.

Now? After seeing that photo? I'm not so sure. When I look at the exuberance suggested by that image - the bodies in motion, the smiling faces - I wonder if this particular group of OWS protesters in Denver is representative of the movement as a whole. And I wonder if there is, at least in the hearts of those shown in the photo, any love for this country ... and all that is good about it ... and the freedom to protest and change what is not.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Opposite views from opposite sides of the pond

No matter where you turn in the media, there are a LOT of people offering up a 9/11-related post this week. Here's mine ...

"Beauty," Margaret Hungerford once suggested, "is in the eyes of the beholder." I suspect the same could be said for icons ... which is how I feel about my disagreement with Britain's Jonathan Jones over a photo taken that day by photographer Thomas Hoepker, an image that, according to Jones, "is becoming one of the iconic photos of 9/11."

I disagree.

"It is now established as one of the defining photographs of that day," Jones writes. "With the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Centre's destruction approaching, the Observer Review republished it this August as the 9/11 photograph."

You can see the photo in question, and read Jones' complete post
HERE. I've read it more than once, as well as the spirited discussion launched by the post. And I found myself agreeing with a number of the commenters who stated that, for all its supposed importance, for all its iconic status, this was the first time any of us had even seen the photo. In the foreground, a group of New Yorkers sit chatting in the sun in a park in Brooklyn - apparently unmoved by the huge column of smoke rising from Manhattan, just across the water, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Some have embraced the idea of their apparent nonchelance, and not just on the other side of the Atlantic ... Jones' post includes a quote from the New York Times' Frank Rich, who suggested "
The young people in Mr. Hoepker's photo aren't necessarilly callous. They're just American."

But you know what? So were the people who show up in some of MY iconic photos of that day ... especially the firefighters ... there has always been a special place in my heart and my prayers for firefighters, as there should be in the hearts and prayers of us all ... those rushing into the towers of the World Trade Center, and up the stairwells, even as the WTC rumbled and fell ... FDNY Chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge who remained in the lobby of the north tower, offering aid and prayers until he was killed in the tower's collapse ... and those who found a way to pursue their simple, daily routine of raising the American flag, even in this setting of terrible carnage.

Anyway, ten years later, those remain among the iconic images of that terrible day ... at least for this beholder.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Company I Keep ...

Among those born on this day are Queen Elizabeth the First (1558), painter Grandma Moses (1860), financier John Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1837), novelist Taylor Caldwell (1900), heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey (1908), astronomer/space scientist James Alfred Van Allen (1914), football coach/owner Paul Brown (1908), film director/producer Elia Kazan (1909), jazz musician Sonny Rollins (1930), singer Gloria Gaynor (1949), and West Texas' very own rock legend, Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holly (1936) .....
..... oh, yeah ..... and me (1957).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hangin' with the Chin, Pt. 1: Mysterious Ways

It was sometime in the second half of the 18th century that English poet and hymnist William Cowper suggested that "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." Over the ensuing centuries it has been used many, many times to explain many, many different situations that seem to defy explanation. Many of us have been faced with such a situation, and some of us have found Cowper's advice to offer a satisfying explanation ... it worked for me when I first met the Chin.

It was late spring in 2008, and I had just returned home from Christian mission in Thailand. It's hard to imagine a greater contrast - leaving behind Midland, Texas - one of the more affluent and comfortable communities in America - and working in the 'red light' districts of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and the refugee camps lining the Thai/Burmese border, But there I was, living and working, giving and receiving, learning and growing. I came back changed and charged, and ready to share my testimony with others, now that my mission had come to an end.

Or had it?

That's one of the things about overseas mission ... and to critics of such ventures, it's not a good thing. They cite the time and the money, the efforts and the resources spent in communities on the far side of the world, that would have been better spent right here in our home community. For that, all I can say is that a true missional church works both at home and abroad. Our Thailand mission turned out to provide a perfect example of doing both - though I did not realize that until much later.

It was a several weeks after our return to West Texas, that one of our mission team members was chatting-up an Asian man who managed the sushi bar in the local supermarket. She learned that he was originally from Burma (Myanmar), and was now making his home in Midland. And he wasn't alone ... there were almost 60 Chin-Burmese refugees living and working in Midland at that time.

The Chin are one of several diverse, non-Burmese ethnic groups living around the nation of Burma/Myanmar - and their situation at home is unsettled, at best. We were amazed to find Burmese refugees in our West Texas community - thinking that most would be clustered in the major American cities that are traditional ports-of-entry for immigrants. For their part, the Chin were amazed to find a group of Americans who knew of their circumstances back home, the government-sanctioned persecution that had driven them from their homelands to refugee camps, and - for a lucky few - a chance at refugee status, and a chance to begin a new life in some place like America.

The Chin are located in western Burma, along the border with India. And though we had not met any Chin during our work in the refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border, we DID work with refugees from the Karen, the Shan and other ethnic groups in the eastern part of that troubled nation - who shared their own stories of burned-out villages, land-mine strewn trails, impressment into labor gangs, the beatings, the rapes, the killings and so much more.

Their being Christian - the result of 19th-century missions by the Baptists - didn't help matters either, but provided one more point of contention with the Buddhist-majority government of Burma.

A persecuted people and a persecuted church, having fled their mountain/jungle homes in Asia for the desert flats of West Texas ... only to find a group ready, willing and able to help them find their way around that home, to share all that America had to offer, while helping them share their story, and contribute their part to the community.

So, when all was said and done, my overseas mission continued long after I returned home, and it continues to this day. Who would have thought it would work out this way? It's a mystery to me ... but then, I truly believe that God DOES work in mysterious ways.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Out to Sea, Day 1: Backing the Blue

NOTE: I’ve never been been one for blogging while on family vacations, not wishing to publicize how far I was from home, and how empty said-home was. So my ‘cruise posts’ over the week ahead – mockumenting the adventures of a West Texas desert-dweller in the middle of the biggest dang lake he ever saw – will be appearing one week after-the-fact.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 12 - The port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is slowly slipping from view, and we are now getting a chance to explore what will be our home over the week ahead. Plenty of topics for discussion among our new-found friends and acquaintances aboard the good ship Carnival-Freedom … “Where you from?” … “Is this your first cruise?” … “Do you get seasick?” … and, “Who’s going to win the NBA title?” Carnival Cruise Lines offered what I though was a splendid way to show our support, and I was sure to show my support for the Dallas Mavericks, early and often.

Just belly-up to the bar, and cast your vote. Easy enough to do, really – there are a LOT of bars, lounges, etc. scattered around the ship, offering a variety of settings – some noisy and some quiet, some heavily-trafficked and some out-of-the-way – where you can enjoy your favorite alcoholic beverage, by yourself, or with a hundred-or-so of your closest friends. Many of these bars offered a chance to let your beverage do the talking on the subject of who would win Game 6 of the NBA Finals, taking place that very moment, just over the northern horizon.

A special blue punch for the Dallas Mavericks, or a special red punch for the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, the game was broadcast live on the ship’s Seaside Theater, a giant outdoor video screen and audio system in the pool/party area, top-deck, mid-ship, open to the sky and filled with very vocal fans for both teams. Me? I was a few decks below, in the Millennium Lounge, showing my support for the Mavericks – multiple rounds of support, actually – and getting my liquor tab going with a jet-assisted takeoff, and prompting the entertainer performing in the lounge that evening to note that his loudest, most enthusiastic applause came from “that guy over there, drinking the Windex.”

But, hey … IT WORKED. The Dallas Mavericks knocked-off the Miami Heat by ten points – IN MIAMI, no less – winning the 2011 National Basketball Association Championship … HOO-rah! And I’d like to tip my hat to whoever at Carnival Cruise Lines, came up with this idea. It was fun, and it certainly got a ship full of strangers interacting. Sure, there was some trash talk, but most of what I heard was offered and accepted in good spirits … though maybe what I heard was filtered by the good spirits in me at the time.

I’m wondering about the spirit punch promotion, and the Seaside Theater broadcast - was this just on Carnival ships from Florida, Texas ports that evening, or was it fleetwide? I’ll ask that question of John Heald, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Senior Cruise Director, and proprietor of the very entertaining John Heald’s Blog. If I get an answer, I’ll let you know.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Science On the Edge ...

This shot is from "McDonald Observatory," one of several photo albums posted to the Texas Forest Service Facebook page.

Land of hope and glory ...

In less than a month, we will observe the birthday of Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet, OM, GCVO and Master of the King's Musick, who was born June 2, 1857. I rather like how it happens that his birthday coincides with that time of year when one of his works, Pomp and Circumstance March #1 ("Land of Hope and Glory") has been heard so much, in so many places.

It is that time of year when we are living in a land of hope and glory, as we turn out in enthusiastic droves to honor young people (of ALL ages) as they cross the stage, accept their diploma and handshake, shift the tassle of their mortarboard from one side to the other, and take the next big step in their life.

I know, I know ... some of you will find this just another occasion for still another rant about what a terrible state we're in. You'll find some data somewhere about some aspect of society at-large ... something that places a moment such as school commencement in your preferred context. And you'll find someone - the President or the Congress, the liberals or the conservatives, the comet people from the outer nebulae, whatever - to blame for the sorry state of affairs that defines your world.

To me, all of that seems to follow
Screwtape's formula for re-defining our reality by attacking our intellect and emotions, advising Wormwood to direct his client's perceptions, so the client will accept "the sight of human entrails as a revelation of Reality and his emotion at the sight of happy children or fair weather as mere sentiment."

Me? I remain a sentimental fool, I guess. For me, it IS a time, and we ARE a nation of hope and glory. I'm not saying I can be totally objective here ... I am, after all, a staffer at a community college in West Texas. And while those kids that will be crossing the stage at Friday's commencement
ARE other people's kids ... they are also, at least in a sense, mine as well. I feel pride in their achievement, and I'm thrilled to have played a part - albeit, a VERY SMALL part - in that achievement.

I have hope!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Wearing My Yellow Tie ...

... in honor of Bhumibol Adulyadej ( ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช ), born on this day in 1927. Three years ago, I was part of a Christian mission to Thailand. In the course of that mission, I gained an appreciation for that country's ruler, the world's longest-serving current head of state and the longest-serving monarch in Thai history.

Thai king recovering following operation

He was the King in the 1960s, when my father visited that nation for R&R, in the course of two tours-of-duty in the Vietnam War. Thailand has long been a friend of the United States - due in part to the appreciation their monarch has for the west. He was born in the US, and his education not only included schools in Thailand, but the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, and Harvard University, in America. He serves as head of the National Scout Organization of Thailand, one of the oldest Scouting organizations in the world. He also developed a passion for jazz music, as both a performer and a composer, and was the first Asian composer awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna.

Other interesting points ... he is an accomplished, medal-winning sailor and sailboat designer ... he is possibly the only monarch in the world to hold patents (for, among other things, a waste water aerator) ... he is also a painter, musician, photographer (using a Canon!), author and translator.

So, why the yellow tie? While I was in Thailand, I learned that yellow is the color associated with the day of the king's birth (a Monday). That's why you see so much of that color during his birthday celebrations around the country, and on tributes to him throughout the nation.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

― 30 ―

Nancy Hellinghausen Brown was born February 25, 1964, in Breckenridge, Texas. She passed away on March 31, 2011, after a courageous battle with cancer. She is not the first member of the MC family to pass away since I've joined the staff of Your College, but she is the first with whom I had actually worked on a daily basis over the course of 2+ years in the college's Public Information & Media Office.

During that time, I gained great appreciation for Nancy and her work, and the impact that work had upon our college, and our community at-large. She was MC's Director of Public Relations, while I was the college's web editor ... but we both had a background that included professional experience in writing and promotion/outreach. In those capacities, Nancy's abilities were nothing less than remarkable.

Those of you who have read the "MC Page" each Sunday in the Midland Reporter-Telegram will share my appreciation. Nancy was so good at interviewing people who - on the surface, at least - might seem ordinary at best, but drawing from them the most extraordinary stories. She had a way of finding the remarkable that lies within all of us, sharing it with others, and encouraging those others to dig a little deeper and find the remarkable within themselves.

From my own experience, I can tell you that's not always an easy task ... in part because the subject of your interview might be the first to say something to the effect of, "oh, I'm not so special ... nobody wants to read about me." Drawing the subject out, learning the story-behind-the-story, then composing it in a manner that draws in the readers, not only informing them, but inspiring them.

Not every reporter is willing to tackle such stories - some preferring to chase the celebrity flavor-of-the-month down the red carpet - and frankly, not every reporter is able. But West Texas is fortunate to have those ready, willing and able to do it, and have done it well ... people like Ed Todd and Ken Broadnax, Jimmy Patterson, and Nancy.

Part of me will also miss having someone in the office who can relate to some of the unavoidable silliness that comes with my being a dang-Yankee-from-back-east. Nancy's career included a stint in New York City, and I was thrilled to have someone who shared my genuine appreciation for Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Plaza ... and for Chock Full o'Nuts and Carnegie Deli.

And for so much more ... conversations with Nancy usually resulted in additions to my bookshelf, my CD rack and my Netflix queue. And really, I'm just touching upon one facet of Nancy here ... others could tell you about her poetry, her cooking, her (Texas Master) gardening, her community involvement, and her cats.

CLICK HERE to read more about Nancy and her life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Midland College, directed to the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series, or the Arts Program at MC, c/o the Midland College Foundation, 3600 N. Garfield, Midland, Texas 79705. You may call the Foundation office at (432) 685-4526 for more information.

Goodbye, my friend

― 30 ―

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Excuse me ... you did WHAT? ...

Here, in the heart of the oil patch that is the Permian Basin, one often hears complaints about the image oil & gas companies have among the general public ... mostly negative, and often unwarranted. And on that point, I agree ... it IS mostly negative, and it IS often unwarranted.

Where I part company with many of my fellow Patchers is in the reason for said image. I've been told over and over again that energy companies' bad image is SOLELY the result of ongoing efforts by Democrats in general, President Obama in particular ... liberals in general, and environmentalists in particular ... and don't forget BIG GOVERNMENT such as the EPA and OSHA.

Me? I'm willing to take all of the above into consideration ... BUT, I'm also ready to add another, significant contributors to that negative image ... the actions of a few companies, themselves. For example ...

Transocean gives safety bonuses despite Gulf spill deaths
Company filing calls safety record 'exemplary' for meeting internal goals

Staff Report

"Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the 'best year in safety performance in our company's history' — despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people, including nine of its own employees, and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico."
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the story from

At the risk of sounding all Dr. Phil-like ... "what were you you thinking?" I mean, what kind of year would this company have to have, where top officials wouldn't get bonuses for an exemplary safety year?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How about a show of hands ...

Is anybody out there really, truly surprised by this? ...

Congressional pay during a shutdown? Still looks likely

By Luke Russert
NBC News

"With the threat of a government shutdown again rumbling on the horizon, federal workers may be looking nervously at their bank accounts ... but what about members of Congress?"
CLICK HERE to read the rest of Russert's report ... though you've probably already guessed the answer to the above question.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Well ... actually ... no, it's not ...

It didn't take long for the rhetoric swirling around the current NFL/NFLPA tiff to remind me of how fast and how tired I became of the rhetoric that accompanied their 1987 tiff. It also emphasized that some players would be better off to let their actions on the field do their talking, rather than engaging their mouth. Back then, it was Tony Dorsett in the parking lot at Cowboys Stadium ... this time it's Adrian Peterson in a Yahoo Sports interview.

Doug Farrar writes, "Speaking just minutes after the owners locked out the players, Peterson compared the players' place in the game to 'modern-day slavery,' a statement that, while ill-advised, was made in the context of how the players feel they're being treated in these talks."

Farrar quotes Peterson as saying "It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too."

What? ... "kind of" laugh at that? Why not try "TOTALLY" laugh at that ... and for good reason, too. There are plenty of us here, in Midland, that have experiences abroad - through Christian mission, business development, etc. - to see what modern-day slavery is REALLY like, and to find ways to combat it with our time and effort, our love and our funds. Our community has also provided a new home for people fleeing the acts of modern-day slavers working through sweat-shops, brothels, and impressment into 'armies' and labor battalions. Sadly, we have also seen modern-day slavery right here, at home, where sex trafficking is creating a new and growing slave trade, 150 years after we fought a terrible and bloody war for emancipation and union.

So, please, spare us the rhetoric about modern-day slavery, save it for the closed negotiations, behind closed doors, sparing the rest of us the public outrage ... and you the public ridicule.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Luck, Chaps! ...

It's Spring Break this week on the campus of Midland College ... but NOT on the hardwood floors in Hutchinson, Kansas, where the MC Chaparral men's basketball team begins play, tomorrow, in the NJCAA National Men's Basketball Tournament, in pursuit of another national basketball championship.

Good luck, Chaps !!!

Friday, March 11, 2011


I suspect just about everyone has at least one period of time - a moment, a season, a year, or more - that is especially significant, with an impact upon their lives that may be instantly obvious ... or not even recognized until much later. One of mine was the summer of '75, when I journeyed with a troop of Boy Scouts from Pennsylvania and New York, to the town of Lillehammer, Norway - site of the 14th World Scout Jamboree. An acquaintance I made in the course of that journey was a Boy Scout from Japan, Kiichirou Kamio. At one point in the Jamboree, 20,000 Scouts from around the world were organized into the multi-national patrols, and sent backpacking into the mountains around Lillehammer, at the height of a Nordic summer ... I can think of worse ways to spend one's time. Here's our patrol ... that's Kiichirou and I on the right.

In the years that followed the Jamboree, he and I kept in touch intermittently, by mail and by telephone. Sometimes the letters would be accompanied by cards, mementos of our countries, and wedding pictures. We hadn't kept in touch so much in recent years ... there was our work (he's a restaraunteur, I've been all kinds of things), and our families, and our moves from one city to another.

Yet, as the news continued to stream-in today from Japan - earthquakes and tsunamis, fires and floods, death and devestation - I found myself thinking of Kiichirou (who several years ago had moved from Hiroshima to the coastal city of Iwakuni), and hoping he was alright ...

... and it turns out, he is. I know this courtesy of a Facebook connection that didn't even exist at the start of this year, but was there now. I'll let Kiichirou fill you in on the rest ...

"Thank you worried for me. This earth-quake was 5th-biggest since 1900. But here west part of Japan, there is not any trouble. I have usual life. It is said there will be about 1000 people died. Because of under the broken bildings and houses, and "Tsunami". Especially Tsunami's broken is hard, floated cars, floated houses, people who run away and are late, people who do not know tunami occurred, people who do not think so big wave comes. Tsunami's height is much over forecast, 3m-7m high."

"Japanese earth-quake measures is top level of the world. When earth-quake occurs, the signal 'earth-quake comes soon' appears on TV and Radio quickly. So we can go to more safety space near by.(in house or bilding under the desk etc.) or can make safe action; runs away from big machines; stop the dangerous machines) Before shake comes . And then people near sea or river run go to higher place. But unfortunately people who don't know this message, who can't make safty action (old people, on dangers work,etc.), who don't think damage is not so big, are have big damage. Lose own life, injured, lose cars. New houses and bildings don't have big damage. But old ones are have big damage. Law of building construction is severe in Japan, so few people was damaged on this earth-quake."

"Yours, Kiichirou"

さようなら今のところ、私の友人。 私達は再度会うよろしいです。

Those who want to help can go to and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A wonderful, classical birthday, Pt. 2 ...

Not one, but TWO wonderful composers of classical music were born on this day - a century apart, and on opposite sides of the world, yet still sharing a creative spirit that brought new ideas and themes into the concert halls ... where they still resonate to this day.

Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky was born on this day in 1839, while American composer Samuel Barber was born on this day in 1910.

Barber was a dang Yankee from back-east like myself, born in the Pennsylvania town of West Chester, just a couple hours' drive south of my hometown. His interest in music began early - a musical at seven years of age, and an attempt at opera at ten years - and would cover orchestral, opera, choral, and piano works that spanned a long and productive life, which knew both highs (including a pair of Pulitzers) and lows (critical rejection, and clinical depression). Unlike Mussorgsky, Barber would live to see near-unversal acclaim for most of his works - helped in part by a distinguished list of musicians, singers and conductors worldwide who were among his champions.

Certainly his most well-know and easily-recognized work is "Adagio for Strings," a movement from Barber's "String Quartet" that has emerged as a stand-alone classic, a favorite for film scores and television soundtracks ... and the first works that comes to mind for many on occasions for mourning. It was broadcast over the radio following the announcement of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's death, and played at the funerals of Albert Einstein, and Monaco's Princess Grace (another Pennsylvanian). In 2001, at Englad's celebrated Last Night of the Proms, it was performed to commemorate the victims of the September 11 attacks ...

Barber died on January 23, 1981. I was working the evening/closing shift at KHFM radio, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the news came over the AP wire. I went back to our library, pulled a worn cover off the shelf, and placed an oft-played album on the turntable. It was about time for sign-off, I read the AP report, then closed the evening with "Adagio for Strings."

A wonderful, classical birthday, Pt. 1 ...

Not one, but TWO wonderful composers of classical music were born on this day - a century apart, and on opposite sides of the world, yet still sharing a creative spirit that brought new ideas and themes into the concert halls ... where they still resonate to this day.

Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky was born on this day in 1839, while American composer Samuel Barber was born on this day in 1910.

Mussorgsky's works gave new, lyrical voice to Russian history and Russian folktales, as well as contemporary expressions of Russian culture at the time. Ironically, this put him at odds with the Russian royal court, which preferred a more traditonal and less innovative, European-themed approach to classical music. But what Moscow's inner circle dismissed at that time, the world has acknowledged and embraced over the ensuing years ... creating a legacy that Mussorgsky never even imagined when he died an untimely and debilitated death shortly after his 42nd birthday. That death left a number of his works in various states of completion or format ... some of the orchestral works of his, that are a popular part of today's classical music canon, are actually transcriptions prepared by Mussorgsky's friends, or by later advocates for his music.

'The Bogatyr Gates' movement from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" has become a staple for film, television and commercial productions. One of my favorites, though, is the transcription of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain ... like millions of others, I was introduced to Mussorgsky cortesy of Walt Disney, Leoplod Stokowsky and the animated film "Fantasia" ... coupled with "Ave Maria" in the video below (from sadisticmind87 at YouTube

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Going to Midland media, Midland College for the truth ...

It may be the truth for some in Travis County ... but it registered otherwise on the Austin American Statesman's "Truth-O-Meter," with help from Midland's newspaper, and Midland's college.

The "Truth-O-Meter" is a daily fact-checking feature powered by and the Austin American Statesman, and appears locally on the op-ed page of

"Sweeping statements oft fuel fact checks," the T-O-M-Texas home page explains. "As fact-checkers, we sit up especially straight when someone connected to Texas politics makes a flat-out claim. Absolutes seem to holler for review."

Such as the statement from Andy Brown - chairman of the Travis County Democrats, and past executive director of the 21st Century Democrats in Texas - who said nobody in higher education believes Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal to "serve up $10,000 college degrees" is possible. Brown was harldy alone in his opinion ... but it was his statement that provided the spur for T-O-M's analysis - an analysis that concluded, "We rate Brown’s statement False."

That analysis included the following ... "Catherine Frazier, Perry’s deputy press secretary, pointed out a Feb. 10 news article in the Midland Reporter-Telegram describing Midland College’s applied technology bachelor’s degree, which the article says can be earned for about $10,000."

And in an ironic twist on the subject that prompted the original, tested statement, Truth-O-Meter noted that the MRT's article also reported that MC's BAT program might not be funded in the next state budget.

Sheesh ...

Anyway, a hat-tip to the Midland Reporter-Telegram for the part they played in holding the feet of at least one political pundit to the factual fire. I hope they will continue to include the Truth-O-Meter feature on their website.

Monday, March 07, 2011

My first - and last - visit to the "Herd Rock Band Bracket"

Wednesday evening is 'church night' for some of us, and you'll find me attending "The Gathering" at First Prez-Midland each Wednesday night, enjoying a shared meal, fellowship and a variety of activities ... sometimes choir practice, sometimes Bible study, sometimes a worship service ... and sometimes, an intense discussion of contenders for the title "Best Rock Band" ... e-vuh!

I think it was Greg Pysh - who heads music ministry at FPC-M, and is an adjunct professor of music at Midland College - who raised the topic of "The Herd Rock Band Bracket" where, we are told "Colin Cowherd and The Herd with Colin Cowherd staff need your help crowning the best rock band." There were a number of us who had listened to at least a little rock over the years - many of us spinning 45s on a turntable, way back when - and we soon had the liveliest table talk in the fellowship hall.

Hmmmm ... what WOULD Jesus listen to?

This morning, I finally got around to visiting the bracket's website, and started ticking-off my votes in each of the 32 match-ups. Some were pretty easy ... I picked the Rolling Stones over Blink 182, and U2 over Korn. Others were harder ... I had a hard time deciding between The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which opened my eyes to new paths that rock might take, and Electric Light Orchestra, which produced my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE cover of "Roll Over, Beethoven."

So far, so good ... until I had gotten to the end of the selections and realized that MY personal favorite rock band - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - was missing from the list. What the ... ?!?!?!

Let me explain why this upset me ... I don't necessarily think they would win the contest. I mean, look at the four #1 seeds ... the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, U2, Led Zeppelin ... all of whom I consider strong - or stronger - contenders. I guess what upset me the most was that Springsteen's band didn't even make it into the initial field of 64 ...

It ain't right, man!

And that's why I've paid my first - and last - visit to the "Herd Rock Band Bracket."

Friday, March 04, 2011

"The Last Doughboy"

A passing-of-note took place early this week ...

"Frank W. Buckles died Sunday, sadly yet not unexpectedly at age 110, having achieved a singular feat of longevity that left him proud and a bit bemused," Paul Duggan wrote in
this article for the Washington Post "In 1917 and 1918, close to 5 million Americans served in World War I, and Mr. Buckles, a cordial fellow of gentle humor, was the last known survivor."

When I was young, World War I vets were still common enough that we could all hear their first-hand recollections of that era, and the changes wrought by that conflict. I had both a grandfather and a great-grandfather in the war. But even back then, forty years after that strangely silent November morning signaled the end of "the war to end all wars," the old soldiers were begining to pass on to their final posting.

In the 70s, when I moved to New Mexico to attend college, I ended up living next door to another old vet. A dang Yankee from back-east like myself, he had moved from Ohio to the southwest for health reason, due to a collapsed lung he suffered from a gas attack during the war. A few years after we met, that grand old man passed away.

Sure, we have books and photos, films and audio tapes ... but it isn't quite the same as being there with them, asking questions, listening to the answers, watching their eyes, hearing a catch in their voice, and getting at least some sense of what it must have been like. The recollections are still there, but now they are second-hand ... as Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said, "We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history."

Midland kids go nationwide

You don't have to tell me what a great job is being done by "Coach" Curt Cowdrey and the students in San Jacinto Hunior High School's "Robotics Program" ... it's something I've experienced first-hand through Younger Son's participation when he was a student at SJ. But now more people are finding out, thanks to a report from KOSA-TV/CBS 7, that has since gone nationwide - and beyond! - with that story being picked up by CNN

MAJOR hat-tip to Coach Cowdrey and the kids at SJ Robotics!

Buon Compleanno! ...

... to il Prete Rosso Antonio Lucio Vivaldi - composer, priest and virtuoso violinist - born on this day in 1678. Dismissed by some, but loved by many more, Vivaldi - in his life and his music - has known both acclaim and obscurity over the centuries. At this time, he is very much IN and works such as The Four Seasons have become staples of classical music performance and enjoyment over the past century.

Here's "Winter" from The Four Seasons, performed by
I Musici in Vivaldi's hometown of Venice, Italy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Well, I'm "Inspired!" ...

I stumbled across this video by accident, watching the scoller of Tweets that pop-up on your screen when you've logged-out of your Twitter account. I really, REALLY like this video. Now, if Southwest could just start flights to Iceland ...

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.

Hat-tip to Eric for something well done AND well deserved ...

Does it worry anyone that more people can quote Charlie Sheen than can recite a poem from memory?

Someone please tell me why Charlie Sheen is news? WHO CARES ABOUT CHARLIE SHEEN? Egypt, Libya, union battles with Congress, that's news.

Sure, I could paint the Mona Lisa, but it's already been done - and done far better than I ever could - by Leonardo da Vinci. Along those same lines ... sure, I could deliver a well deserved, virtual dope-slap to celebrity flavor-of-the-month Charlie Sheen. But that, too,
has already been done - and done far better than I could - by Eric at Fire Ant Gazette.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

All good things must come to an end ...

A few weeks ago, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers' run for a record 7th Super Bowl victory and National Footbball League championship ... and a few days ago, it was that awesome beard sported by one of the Steelers' "Mane Men."

"He knew sooner or later it had to go, so Brett Keisel figured he might as well make it worthwhile. That’s why he hosted Shear the Beard, to benefit the cancer programs at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC on Thursday." MORE ...

Clean-shaven as he now is, I still tip my hat in deference to this gentleman who was a temporary - but peerless! - member of the Brotherhood of the Brush.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Speaking of winners and losers ...

... Eric, atFire Ant Gazette picks the winning and losing ads from tinight's lineup.

No ...

... they can't. It's Green Bay's game, Green Bay's day, Green Bay's championship. "The Lombardi Trophy is going home," and there's something neat about that.

But there is no joy in the Steeler Nation tonight :-(

Whoo-Hoo 3!

Good thing I have a Terrible Towel, cuz I'm sweatin' bullets! Back-and-forth Pittsburgh scores a touchdown, then gets a two-point conversion. Then Green Bay takes it the other way, snd scores a field goal. Two minutes left ... one timeout left, and a great team on the other side of the ball. Can Pittsburgh drive 85 yards and score a touchdown?


For the third time tonight, a Pittsburgh turnover has resulted in a Packers touchdown. The Pack leads 17-28, and I'm getting worried. Let's go, Steelers!

How about the ads? Are THEY stepping up?

Eric, freshly fortified from halftime fare, is back at work atFire Ant Gazette. So how are ads shaping up in the second half ... we have some differences of opinion, Weigh-in for yourself.

Turning Into a Game

What did I expect of a Super Bowl involving two of the most storied franchises? Pretty much what I'm seeing now. An intense and physical struggle ... brilliance from both teams, and on both sides of the ball, exhileratinf plays and near-misses that are every bit as exhilerating ... and no sign that either team is relenting.

Whoo-Hoo 2!

FOX is right ... we've got game. The Steelers take their first possession of the second half, and score a touchdown! Packers still lead, though, 17-21. Time for the Steelers defense to step up.


I've been thinking that the NFL's decision to go with the Black Eyed Peas was a good one ... but I had no idea HOW good until tonight. It wasd a GREAT show, one of the best. Sure, some technical problems with sound and the floor lights in the Tron-inspted setting - but those were minor. Significant contributions from guest artists such as Slash and Usher, and no wardrobe malfunctions.

What appealed to me about the NFL's choice was that it was a break from selecting performers who may not have as strong an appeal for younger viewers as they do for older viewers. Not so the Black Eyed Peas, who have had a solid fifteen years ... including a strong preference among colleges producing Lipdub videos.


Less than two minutes left in the half, and the Steelers scored a touchdown! Packers still have a substantial lead, though, 10-21.


The Packers did it agaion! They intercepted Big Ben ... again! They get a thouchdown ... again! They now leaD 3-21. at some point, the Steelers need to settle down, and step up ,,, NOW would be a good time.


Into the second quarter, and the Steelers finally get onto the scoreboard with a field goal. Game's now 3-14 in favor of the Packers!


... all of which is quickly followed by Big Ben being picked-off, with the interception being returned for a touchdown ... Packers now lead 0-14. I EXPECTED special teams to have an impact ... but I WANTED it to be in the other direction!

How are the ads doing?

Eric at Fire Ant Gazette wraps-up the first quarter of ads. Check it out, and offer up your own views. My favorites? Chevy Silverado, Kia Epic Ride and "Cowboys and Aliens."


Less than four minutes to go in the first quarter, and the Green Bay Packers score a touchdown, and now lead 0-7. The ensuing kickoff return - 45 yards! - is then called back by a Pittsburgh penalty. C'mon Steelers!

A tip of the Terrible Towel ...

... to Eric at Fire Ant Gazette. Even the mosT tiresome aspects of the Super Bowl - the self-congratulatory promotions, the marketing, the latest spin on our National anthem - are all best seen from a fire ant's perspective!

Check it out!

A place I don't want to be ...

... is at the bottom of the pile struggling to reclaim a dropped ball! Both teams are really very good, and neither is here by fluke. Special teams play could be critical!

Packers retain possession ... Dang!


More than four-and-a-half hours after the pre-game sho started ... 34 minutes after the 'start' of the game ... and we have kickoff!