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The Observer recently attended a talk at the Clinton School of Public Service, lured there by the appearance of a NASA astronaut. His name was Scott Parazynski and he is one of these guys who can exhale his nitrogen, suit up and step into space to repair things on the International Space Station. Talk about the right stuff. How many people could do that? How many could jump into the void, spend hours there working, hope the orbiting space crap doesn't knock a hole in his suit? His audience, including The Observer, was rapt.
The lectures at the Clinton School are one of the great things about this town. The Observer has missed too many. So we are glad to see that Parazynski and 193 others who've appeared at the Clinton School are now online at www.clintonschoolspeakers.com. So if you missed E.J. Dionne or Alan Keyes … well, you didn't. Video of their presentations is all there.
You can have a little fun, too, on the site. If you sort by “popular,” the speakers come up in this order, from 5th most popular to most popular: 5) Historian Taylor Branch, on civil rights; 4) law professor John Yoo, defending the Bush administration's view of presidential power; 3) TV commentator George Stephanopoulos, on the historical importance of the 2008 election; 2) campaign advisor Bob Barnett, reminiscing on the War Room in Little Rock in 1992. Numero uno? TV's Jerry Springer, on “liberal societal shifts.”
The left and right stuff, in other words.
In 1982, The Observer went to see the group Rush at the St. Louis Arena. We were no stranger to concerts or high volume, but Rush's sound system was cranked up so loud that at one point we were sure our ears were bleeding. It was so loud that it was actually impossible to make out what we were hearing. Geddy Lee's vocals pounded like needles into our ears and we were thankful when it was over. Then came an hour of that ringing you hear when your ears have been under decibel assault.
It was, until Nov. 22, the loudest thing we'd ever heard. That's when we went to hear Metallica at Alltel.
Did we say hear? Metallica was so freaking loud that we have absolutely no idea what songs were played or what ANY of the words were. And we were wearing EARPLUGS! (Yeah — we got over feeling uncool for wearing them.) It was a noise that transcended music, sound beyond sound. Admittedly we were literally right at the edge of the stage, but … holy eardrums!
It is a truism in Little Rock that when you've stepped out in rags and untidy hair, you will find yourself surrounded by neatly coiffed women in Christmas sweaters, all of them smelling good and none of them with dirt under their fingernails.
The place: a bustling store in Little Rock's midtown. We were shopping for a trash can, wearing something we should have put in the one we have. We would have done well to put the trash can lid over our head. Unsure of dimensions, we decided to hunt for someone with a measuring tape, only to stumble into the middle of a circle of women holding long ribbons and paying close attention to two nice ladies in aprons.
One of the apron ladies said, “Don't you want to tie a bow, too?”
Not knowing what else to do, we threw our trash can lid, our purse and coat to the floor and, as in a trance, accepted the long white ribbon. We began to wrap and wrap, just as we were told. Then we were handed scissors to make a strategic cut. We went snip — right across our finger. Now we had crap at our feet and blood on our bow. Then a lady came up behind us in a dither about the purse on the floor. It might get stolen! Pick it up!
We grabbed the purse, the trash can lid, the sweater, all the while keeping the bloody bow in hand, and fled back to the trash can aisle to return the lid. Then we fled the store. We're never leaving the house again.
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