“We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds . . .” - Commissioner James Gordon/Batmen Begins
Glad am I that the United States learned the lessons the French were taught in Southeast Asia, and wisely passed on the opportunity to take part in a war which might consume thousands of American lives, cost millions of dollars over the years, and split a country so far apart that people would still debate what should have been done decades after we pulled out . . . if we ever got involved in the first place. Which of course we didn’t, of course.
Happier yet am I that we didn’t get involved with Afghanistan with the struggles against Russia in the 1980s, foolishly believing the comic book concept that, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
And I am especially glad that we checked the O-Rings on the space shuttle Challenger before it took off that on bright sunny morning, taking America’s first teacher into space.
None of what I believe is true? But . . . but . . . but if none of the above is true, then what am I to make of the claims that our involvement with the Syrian rebels will be minimal, and that they will be friends to America (whatever the hell that means) once the present regime topples - or just decides to shuffle off to Buffalo, saving a lot of lives and money for all concerned.
Granted, we live in a day when we give songs like “Give Peace a Chance” . . . well, the chance to be ignored, actually, but I’m sort of wondering if anyone - other than arms dealers and their political handmaidens, have given much thought to the possibility that, well, this might not go so well? That just perhaps the war will escalate, and we will see even more horrors on the news and the Internet?
In which case, of course, we may have no choice but to escalate our involvement . . . just a little, of course.
Perhaps a military adviser or two?
Of course, it isn’t as though we really need to learn from history (which thanks to the glories of the Internet, is constantly being rewritten anyway) but should instead rely upon what some call “American Exceptionalism” - the childlike belief that somehow, just by being Americans, we are, well, exceptional.
The belief in American exceptionalism has rewritten on of our old beliefs, that God is on our side. Now, we claim, we are on God’s side.
I once loved a woman who loaned me a futuristic novel about an American/Russian conflict taking place in Syria, bringing about what many call the End Times. Is it too cold-bloodedly cynical to question whether or not the support of some of our mnore conservative politicians (who seem to have emerged from ever more radical pits these days) may be prompted by their religious beliefs?
At any rate, if any of the above has made it seem that I in the same camp as those happy campers who stick their heads in the sand and proclaim it’s none of our business, nothing could be further from the truth. While I am horrified at the very thought of nerve gas, I do think it was foolhardy of Western powers to draw a line in the ground, when it came to issue of nerve gas - especially as there is strong suspicion that both sides in this conflict may have used Sarin gas.
Sarin gas. As well as that old horror of World War I - “the war to end all wars” - Mustard gas.
But is throwing more weapons - which will inevitably escalate into sending even more, even bigger weapons - the answer in Syria?
Living by the Ten Commandments . . . wild applause - until the one Commandment that didn’t go down quite so well
I was watching Daystar Television the other night (I watch all sorts of TV, just to keep abreast of what folks are thinking) and a minster in a Mega-Church was giving a sermon which was, basically, what would be so bad if the government got back to governing by the Ten Commandments?
Cuz in Fantasy Land, there actually was a time when we did. Not just the joyless folks who hanged witches, but in some folks minds, perhaps even the Founding Fathers themselves.
At any rate, this fellow was going down the list:
What if we went back to only worshiping just one God? No pretenders need apply, I suppose.
What if we lived a life where we didn’t covert, or steal?
But my favorite moment came when the wealthy minister said to his flock:
“And what if we went back to working six days a week and worshiped God on the seventh?”
Dead silence. No applause, not even from folks who were retired, and no longer had to worry about somebody cracking the whip over them on a Saturday.
A look of confusion crossed the young man’s face, and then he blithely went on the next Commandment, as if he had not uttered those deadly words at all.
Quote of the Day
The experience of strolling by one’s self through the vast multitudes of a strange city is one of the most wonderful in life. I suppose there is nothing quite like it this side of heaven. - Gamaliel Bradford
First off, I’d like to say how impressed I am with just how empty the stores seem to be when Wally World has commercials featuring real, actual customers. Do they have VIP Shopping Days, when you don’t have to fight the crowds?
That aside, I am here to attest that to the fact that I, too, am a Walmart Success Story, and feel just as empowered as the cheery folk on their new commercials - though perhaps for very different reasons.
This is the part where there are those who get to pronounce, “I never shop at Walmart . . .” and then often cast aspersions upon those who do, especially their fellow liberals/progressives. Well, I ain’t naming names, but you’d be amazed at just who darkens the door at your local Walmart.
‘Nuff said, as the famous American philosopher, Stan Lee, used to pronounce.
My own personal Walmart success story begins with the mass of humanity (from all walks of life) who decide to visit the store at the same time as Tracy and I do. Working your way through the teeming hordes of folks who suddenly park and block an aisle while they have a conversation with someone from home, totally unrelated to anything on their grocery list, can add a little time to your odyssey.
After you make your way out of the vittles department, you look over their book department, and see what might be new, noticing with some despair how Romance novels seem to be dominating the shelves. While I can find Rolling Stone at Walmart, that is pretty much the only magazine I’ll be able to find with any political writing.
I bump into fellow liberals, who admonish me, “Don’t tell anyone you saw me here.” No commercials in their future plans.
The electronics section is always a hoot, because while you may find folks who know what DVD players look like, and what cell phones they carry . . . well, that is pretty much the extent of their knowledge, much of the time. One helpful fellow did help me buy my camera, but he was an oasis in a sea of panicked ignorance.
This is not their fault, but the fault of whoever is supposed to be training them.
I have successfully given up trying to get anything as simple as a watch battery changed in any of the Walmart’s I have been to; one jeweler told me it was fortunate for the watch that the latest Walmart employee (I refuse to call any worker, anywhere in the world, an “associate”) finally gave up.
Finally, it is time to successfully leave the store. As the long lines will attest, not all of the registers are manned. When you do get to the register (operated by someone who obviously can’t afford to buy the attractive shirt Wally World employees wear on all of their TV commercials) you engage in small talk. Watching them turn, twist and lift the bags into the shopping cart, you wonder about the effects on the human body.
The doors! The parking lot!
Once again, we are Successful Walmart Shoppers!
I gotta sign up for that VIP Shopping Day . . .
Whimsy aside, none of Walmart’s commercials can not hide some of the bitter reality
At the end of May, a report issued by Congressional Democrats revealed that the pull on public services such as food stamps and similar services to help meet the basic needs of life could cost taxpayers around $900,00 at just one - just one! - Walmart in Wisconsin alone.
The report reveals that Walmart had more employees signed up for the state’s public health care program in the last quarter than any other employer. 3,216 Walmart employees were able to take advantage of the services the state offers, just in order to survive.
Add in the numbers of dependents, and the number swells to 9,207.
The response from Walmart?
"Unfortunately there are some people who base their opinions on misconceptions rather than the facts, and that is why we recently launched a campaign to show people the unlimited opportunities that exist at Walmart," Walmart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said, noting that 75 percent of Walmart managers started as hourly employees. "Every month more than 60 percent of Americans shop at Walmart and we are proud to help them save money on what they want and need to build better lives for themselves and their families. We provide a range of jobs — from people starting out stocking shelves to Ph.D.’s in engineering and finance. We provide education assistance and skill training and, most of all, a chance to move up in the ranks."
And how many Walmart employees don’t become managers? What percentage?
That’s kind of an unfair question, I know, but I’m not the only one who can play silly math games.
A Reuters report indicates that Walmart seems to be falling into the trap - well, for workers - of hiring temporary workers to man some of their stores. The temporary worker business, so popular with employers, is hell on earth for workers, who often don’t receive benefits, or at the very least, must wait longer to get them . . . if they are still even working for the company at all.
Quote of the Day
It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong. - Molly Ivins
Soon after the Newtown shooting massacre a Republican senator (who later voted against any measures that might threaten the interests of the NRA) said we all remembered where we were when we heard the news.
Not to be cynical, but probably in our living rooms, when we turned on the news. For most of us in today’s world, “where we were” when we may have heard of a major event may only depend upon where we were standing or sitting in our living room or kitchen on any particular day.
There are a handful of events in my life when I recall the exact circumstances when I heard of them, outside of flipping on the news.
When our elementary school class was sent home early, because President Kennedy had been assassinated. Those of us who were Air Force kids wondered “if there was going to be a war tonight.”
When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in front of so many families on live television I sat in shock, unable to believe what I had just seen, while my father yelled for my mother to come in from the kitchen.
When Robert Kennedy was killed, my mother woke me up to tell me about it.
When the Challenger exploded after take-off, my friend Brent Carroll called me and told me I needed to turn the television on - NOW.
I was working in a chemical lab when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. A friend’s wife called him, and he told the rest of us.
Other than that?
Like most, I suspect, I turned on the news, or read an account on a news service on the Internet. For me, it is difficult to think of any event in the recent past I haven’t heard of directly from anything other than one of those two sources - unless it is “news” that has first been washed in the waters of conspiracy and paranoia.
How about you?
Quote of the Day
To expect to rule others by assuming a loud tone is like thinking oneself tall by putting on high heels. - J. Petit-Senn
Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
That's right, boy
You can do it
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
'Cause if you feed me, Seymour
I can grow up big and strong - “Feed Me (Git It)” - Little Shop of Horrors
Saturday’s headline in the Northwest Arkansas Times read:
University Buys More Property
Parking Lots, Sororities To Replace Buildings
In its Little Shop of Horrors fashion, the University of Arkansas has set its sights on even more land surrounding the campus; will outsiders soon be required to show their passports before entering the grounds?
The land in question? It ain’t empty parking lots.
Five duplexes, five rental houses, one owner occupied home and the Wesley Foundation’s campus ministry chapel - which I have always been sort of fond of, simply because it doesn’t look modern, or all steel and chrome. It looks as if it doesn’t belong that close to the campus, which is reason enough to leave it standing, in my book.
If we as truly a progressive (liberal?) city as we sometimes like to pretend - remember the days when we were the Athens of the Ozarks? - elected officials (or at least a few candidates for public office) would raise the subject. For crying out loud, these are voters/taxpayers who will probably be moving out of one’s ward - or even the city altogether. Maybe a little bleating, somewhere, even if it is insincere?
Every few months, it seems, yet another grand scheme is hatched for a new Eco-Spiritual-High Water Colonic apartment project in our fair town - which usually involves turning down or massively refurbishing something that is already in place. Those already living there are sometimes given the chance to stay there - at greatly increased rents.
They often end up moving, to far less desirable digs than they had before. And there they can live happily, until another developer casts their eyes upon the property . . .
At some point, it might be nice if somebody, somewhere in Fayetteville city government stood up publicly - with cameras on - and spoke in defense of these folks - and was even willing to stand in front of a bulldozer, if only with their words.
UA: The Colonists in our midst
Did Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for facilities, really, actually say that the sororities whose houses will be built on the site of the Wesley Foundation chapel would be “colonizing?”
Quote of the Day
America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week.~ Evan Esar, American Humorist (1899 — 1995)
There comes a point in most of our lives when it becomes necessary to be able to move outside of ourselves, and see ourselves as others see us - whether we be spouses, lovers, employers, politicians, artists or boards of directors.
That time may have come for the members of the Walton Arts Center board of directors, who while taking up at the chant of “Regionalism!” fail utterly to understand why anyone in the great city of Fayetteville might take umbrage at their recent actions.
The bitter truth is that cities compete for tourist/tax dollars, and when the actions of the WAC board seem to benefit one region in particular, perhaps they should just hit the mute button on their microphones before extolling the virtues of regionalism when they talk to the folks in Fayetteville.
As long as Fayetteville buys into the “We’re all in this together, folks, heh heh” line the worse off we will be. We aren’t Bentonville or Rogers, Jr. We are Fayetteville, damn it, which has supported the creative spirit for decades - something other cities in our midst can not claim. We need to shout that out at the rooftops, and the regionalism folks be damned.
Well, at least the regionalism folks haven’t asked that the Washington County Fair be held in Bentonville.
Two and a half million dollars from a “long-time” WAC sponsor as one of the key factors in moving the Arkansas Music Pavilion from Fayetteville to Rogers? Who is the unnamed donor? They won’t even tell us the name of an individual whose largesse is one of the key factors towards removing a key entertainment attraction in Fayetteville?
It ain’t $500, it’s $2,500,000 we’re talking about here.
Why the need for secrecy?
Is the donor in the Witness Protection Program?
Or might folks be upset if they knew who the “long-time” sponsor is? Would it just confirm their worst suspicions about the fealty of the WAC board, and most especially, that of CEO Peter Lane?
Yeah, that’s a little harsh. But when you keep stuff like the above secret, you sort of invite speculation like that.
When WAC board members dismiss “process” - you’re board members for crying out loud! Do you have any rules at all, or just make it up as you go along? - they invite such speculation.
Former New York mayor Ed Koch would stop people on the street and ask, "How'm I doin'?"
Perhaps it is time that members of the Walton Arts Center board started asking folks the same question.
"How are we doin'?"
And not with surveys filled out by patrons of WAC, but by asking ordinary folks - who may or may not even use WAC. What they need to be asking about is how people view them, and what effect they are having on the world-at-large.
It can be a humbling experience, when you are able to step outside your comfort zone, and see yourself as others see you. But the board members of Walton Arts Center, which may soon reorganize itself to reflect a more regional approach to their work, might well learn how to do this.
Drop in at any bar or restaurant on Dickson Street, or anywhere Northwest Arkansas artists get together. Take a field trip together to a local gallery, or a meeting of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective.
Come to Fayetteville Public Access Television, where talented men and women work to show their talent to the world. Come to the Farmer’s Market, set up a booth, and ask folks their opinions.
And while you are at it, let us know who dropped 2.5 million dollars in your lap to help move the Arkansas Music Pavilion from Fayetteville; it seems only fair.
Quote of the Day
I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning, There they are, and they are beautiful. - Pete Hamill
Shortly before Christmas 1994, my father died of cancer. Like all men who have what can most kindly be described as “troubled” relationships with their fathers, my feelings after his death were complex and difficult to give form to. A very wise woman I was involved with in 1996 urged me to write about his death, so that I might find a way to deal with my feelings.
Realizing there may be something universal in what I wrote, she urged me to publish it, and so I did that summer.
Journey’s End: Thoughts on the death of my father
One November evening in 1977, just a few short hours after I had entered into a marriage that could only be described as “disastrous,” (and which everyone could see but me) my father sat at the kitchen table and wept.
My father and I never spoke of the incident. I found out only because my mother had related the story to a woman I was living with several years later. Hearing about it both amazed and disconcerted me.
There was much that my father and I never spoke of; like many parents and children, there constantly seemed to be a barrier between us. There were differences and issues between us that we both were aware of but never spoke of. And on the few occasions when one of us would make the attempt to breach the wall, it seemed that the other was not open to the effort.
More often than not, I was the one who rejected the efforts at reconciliation. And yet the bonds that connected us, both genetic and spiritual, could not be broken, despite everything.
Two years ago, in June of 1994, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had celebrated his 61st birthday just days before.
I got the message at around ten o'clock in the evening that my father had had what seemed to be a stroke. Arriving at Washington Regional Medical Center, I was informed that he had collapsed at home and that my sister had driven him to the hospital. Once at the hospital, he had begun having seizures. He also could not remember his own name, nor the name of the family members with him.
As I walked into the emergency room, he was laying atop the bed, nurses hovering around him. He looked up at me and said, “Hello, Richard.”
“Do you know who that is?” someone asked.
“Yes,” he answered,” that’s Richard.”
Why would he recognize me, when there were others gathered around who had been more attentive, more respectful, more loving than me? I have never been able to answer this question: Who was I to you?
I volunteered to watch over my father while the rest of my family went home and got some much-needed rest. That night my father and I had an encounter that would stay with me throughout the course of his illness.
My father was still confused as he was put to rest upstairs in a room. Moreover, he was fitted with a catheter which we were told must stay attached. I settled down to watch over him as he slept.
Every so often he would moan loudly, or ask for his wife (his memory was returning). I managed to calm him and sat with him throughout the night, talking quietly to him when he would awaken.
Close to dawn, my exhaustion and fear for my father combined to bring me to momentary sleep as I sat in the easy chair next to the bed. My eyes snapped open as my father leaped from the bed, attempting to rid himself of the catheter. I rang the bell for the nurse and placed my hands my father's shoulders, trying to calm him.
In his confusion, he fought against me, and to my horror, I found myself struggling with my own father, clad only in a hospital gown in a darkened hospital room, while calling loudly for the nurse. He slipped from my grasp and against a small table, sliding to the floor.
I ran to the door, yelling for the nurse. Within seconds, she was in the room, helping my father back to the bed.
In all, the entire sequence of events must have only lasted perhaps a minute, but it was a minute that has stayed with me since then.
But perhaps what disconcerted me the most during my father's illness was his resultant loss of physical and communication skills. To not be able to read, or speak coherently, or even tell time must have been a living hell for my father.
What terrible frustrations he must have felt, able to communicate with no one, trapped within the prison of a mind which had betrayed him.
My mother and sister took care of my father for the length of his illness, just as they had during his previous bouts with cancer. Though my mother asked me several times to come over and take care of him for a weekend, I almost always found something to do, whether it be work or other obligations.
The memory of grappling with my confused father in a darkened hospital room was never far from my mind.
After several stays in different hospitals, my father spent his last days in Fayetteville’s Veteran’s Hospital. When I went to visit him I was shocked at how terrible he looked. Laying in a bed in a room which almost resembled a storeroom rather than a hospital room, he was shrunken in on himself. “It's time to die,” the thought came unbidden from my mind. “It's time to die.”
We spent a few minutes engaging in meaningless conversation, neither understanding the other. We had spent 40 years engaged in similar conversations, each of us unable (and perhaps at times unwilling) to understand the other. Where before some of our misunderstandings and miscommunications may well have been because our viewpoints were so divergent, now the wall between us was stone solid, thick and cold and dark.
This last wall would not be crossed by hand or voice or prayer. This was Death’s wall, and its gate would only open for a second, and would admit only one.
My father had come to the VA to die, and so he did a few days later, on a cold Saturday, close to midnight. Christmas was a short week later.
Within minutes after he was declared officially dead, I went down to the office and completed the paperwork necessary at times like this, since I was the only family member who still had composure left. But very soon after my mother and sister had left the hospital, the shock hit me, and badly. I looked down and saw my father’s body, stiff under the sheet. Panic and loss began to surge through my bloodstream.
Reaching for the telephone, I began dialing all the numbers I could remember, but almost everyone I tried to reach was asleep or not at home. When I finally made contact with a human being, I found myself unable to speak more than a few stumbling sentences.
On the way out of the hospital, all of the emotion that I had been suppressing surged through me at once, and I hurled my fist straight out at the gleaming wall of the elevator. It did no good at all. Once out of the hospital, I walked for hours before coming home and surrendering to an unsettled sleep.
As in all families, each person in my family traveled the road toward my father’s departure on similar yet very different paths. For the survivors, the hardest path was traveled by my mother, who took care of him over the last months of his life.
Finally, I realized that our paths are continuing, even two years later, and we are still affected by his death. As I walk down the path along other deaths and toward my own, I hope that use the lessons my father’s death taught me, and cross over - however briefly - onto other’s paths, and walk through walls.
Ozark Gazette - June 10, 1996
Okay, not really. But still, I do have my fantasies . . .
It all begins with Mars Attacks! - a film which kicks the highly cliched Independence Day right out of orbit for sheer cleverness. Mars Attacks! was directed by Tim Burton from a script by Jonathan Gems. Gems, of course, based his screenplay on the famous series of Mars Attacks! trading cards produced by the Topps Company so many years ago.
In order for my tale of woe, full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing more than my dark fantasy that somehow, somewhere, a manuscript of a story I wrote in fifth grade is still making the rounds out there, you have to understand that I never saw the aforementioned cards from Topps until years after I wrote what I believed at the time was every bit as good as Fireball XL-5, my standard for SF at the time.
In 1964, when my father was stationed at Croughton Air Force Base in England, our teacher, Mrs. Hathaway, assigned us all a writing assignment - write a short story and bring it back to class the next day.
I don’t know about your schools, but our teachers were always giving us assignments like this.
Write a short story!
Write a poem!
Write a haiku!
Learn passages from Shakespeare!
So there I am, at the ripe old age of 10 years old, and suddenly a teacher wants me to write a story? What to do? What to do? Fortunately, she didn’t give us the old line about “Write about what you know.”
Most of the world’s greatest science fiction - not to mention political commentary - would never be written if folks all stuck to this rule.
My one abiding love at the time was science fiction. Fireball XL-5, Doctor Who, Superman comics, A Wrinkle in Time, and Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars all fed my childhood imagination.
I wrote a story, perhaps only two pages long, called “The Siege,” about a Martian invasion of Earth.
It has occurred to me many times over the years that when we really do find those underground cities on Mars - yeah, try telling me that they don’t exist - the Martians are going to have a pretty hard time, when it comes to making friends here on Earth.
Outside of the valiant efforts of writers such as Ray Bradbury, most of the PR the Martians have gotten is pretty bad. And my efforts followed along that same line.
As so many young boys might, I found it terribly important to list not only the sorts of weapons the Martians brought to Earth, but the exact number.
Lots and lots of tanks, as I recall. Being Martian tanks, they were superior to our tanks, and the human race lost.
So far, so good - or so far, so fifth grade. Nothing to whine about here. In fact, I got an A on my effort, which inspired me to write many unpublished SF stories over the years, and one self-published SF novel.
So just why am I complaining, Zany Reader? Well, after the Martians succeed in their monstrous invasion, they take back the greatest treasures of Earth back to their home planet.
The English Crown jewels.
Something else which I can't remember, but was probably pretty cool to a fifth grader.
I hadn't had much exposure to the Beatles; all I really knew was that most of the grownups I knew really, really hated their music.
So this is where my imaginary beef with Tim Burton comes in. If you will recall, the music of Slim Whitman (ugh) helped drive away the Martian invaders in the film. In “The Siege” - which sadly doesn’t exist anywhere anymore except in my memory - when the Martians heard the music of the Beatles they hated them so much they gave Earth back to the human race.
Or conspiracy? You be the judge . . . and please be kind. Obviously, I’m not well.
In the meantime, I’ll be checking out the new Star Trek movie closely, and taking notes to see if any plot points resemble a Star Trek short story I wrote when was in eighth-grade.
Sadly, that to is lost to the ages, so the evidence is gone. But it won’t stop me . . .
Miracles - God is nowhere? Or, God is now
In a perfect world, television networks wouldn’t be run by soulless automatons, concerned only with the bottom line. In my idea of the perfect world, television programs would actually be given a chance to find an audience and a following before being yanked off the air.
Ah - silly me.
Miracles (2003) is another one of those shows that you might have enjoyed, had you actually known it was on. Like so many series before it, it concerns a group who investigate what we like to refer to as “the unknown.” No, not Bigfoot - that’s for would-be scientists who think that Coors has all the essential vitamins they need.
The Miracles team looked into so-called miracles, trying to determine how authentic they might be. Paul Callan (Skeet Ulrich - Jericho) is a priest who had previously served the same function for the Roman Catholic Church, only to leave due to his frustration over the fact that the church didn’t really seem all that interested in the cases they were sending him out on. The idea that some of the “miracles might be real seemed to make some in the church hierarchy nervous.
While looking into one case, Callan is involved in a car accident, and sees the words, “God is now here,” written in his own blood.
Or, as pointed out to him later, was he really seeing, “God is nowhere?” This brings him into contact with Alva Keel, formerly of Harvard, now full-time investigator of the paranormal. Keel feels that dangerous events may be happening at an accelerated pace on the spiritual realm, and that they must look into these occurrences.
They join up with a former police officer (Marisa Ramirez - General Hospital) and begin to find their way through this psychic maze. I wonder how you find a psychic detective agency, anyway?
Miracles had a good pedigree; executive producer David Greenwalt was one of the creators of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and had worked on the spin-off, Angel. Richard Hatem, writer of many of the shows, helped guide The Dead Zone on the USA network.
Even so, ABC did its usual bang-up job of mishandling a truly creative series, giving it an extremely poor time slot, and giving it very poor promotion. As a result, the show was canceled after only six episodes.
Interesting thing about shows that are yanked like this - when these shows are shown in foreign countries, those viewers often get to see the entire run of episodes. And so it was with Miracles; though American viewers were denied the final seven shows, foreign viewers were able to see them.
But now, thanks to the magic circles known as DVDs, we in the states can now enjoy them. Almost without fail, the episodes are intriguing, and provide the viewer with more than a few chills. The only weak episode is the last one, in which I felt they were trying to tie up a few too many loose ends.
Sure, a lot of it has been done before, but it’s how you tell the story that matters. The crew behind Miracles have a sure hand when it comes to storytelling, and the guest star roster is also impressive.
And I suspect that some of these plots have never been done before. So this is a series that you should definitely check out.
Quote of the Day
It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins
The Walton Arts Center Board seems to be classic proof that while you may work or live in a town, you may not actually be of it.
This is a not a blanket dismissal of all of the members of the WAC board, especially those who have fought valiantly for the best interests of the people of Fayetteville - home of more local artists per square mile than any other community in Northwest Arkansas - but of the “professional” board member types who sit upon that August body.
Said board is currently considering moving the Arkansas Music Pavilion to Rogers, away from its long-time home in Fayetteville.
Peter Lane, CEO of the arts center, was quoted in the Northwest Arkansas Times today as saying, “Our mission for a long time has been to serve all of Northwest Arkansas” - along with his comments about a “multi-campus” approach to WAC’s goals.
Well, build your own damned music pavilion in Rogers, then, and leave the one in Fayetteville alone.
Kudos to Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, who wonders why sites such as the available 200 acres near I-540 and Cato Springs Road in Fayetteville have not been considered.
Well, no doubt the Realtors, Tyson and Walmart execs and University of Arkansas folks on the board have an answer. If they do, they should say so, publicly - particularly those who live in Fayetteville.
Then again, just cuz you live somewhere, doesn’t mean you feel any special appreciation for it. Or the people in your own community. Hell, they may not even know anything about the city in which they lay their head down to sleep every night.
This is what you get when you have an “arts” center board whose membership is mainly built up of those who can raise money for the organization, or perhaps are resume padders (oh, don’t look so shocked - every board of directors on the planet has at least one of these parasites sitting on it), or have ties to other organizations.
Note: Not only have I written about non-profit boards in the past, but I have been a board member on several.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if WAC had a number of seats open for local artists?
Painters? Poets? Writers? Photographers? Singers? Dancers? Actors? Directors? And not just well-known ones, at that?
Yeah, I imagine they’ll get right on that one . . .
Oh, and “multi-campus?” Really?
Only a man who is blissfully unaware of the joke made in the 1990s about the design of WAC in Fayetteville - “Somewhere in Georgia, somebody is missing their junior high school” - could utter such a phrase with a straight face.
Quote of the Day
People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. - Iris Murdoch
And they are usually men, aren’t they?
If one reads letters to the editor, ramblings on Facebook or listens to the rantings on talk radio (where everyone with a microphone is king) we hear cries of “Oppression! Conspiracy! Plots against the American people!” each and every day.
It doesn’t matter if the government is involved in the business of counting calories, enforcing seat belt laws, raising the minimum wage, ensuring worker safety or regulating industries which take advantage of the less well off among us, there are those who are prepared, eyes ever narrowed, voices ever raised in song against what they see as the Dark Hand of Oppression.
Of late, warnings of that oppression have taken an even more strident tone:
The government is “raping” us.
Not actual sexual assault, mind you, though many of those who make the rape claim tell us that “political rape” and real sexual assault - with all of its attendant horrifying reality - are no different from each other.
In fact, as one writer pointed out some time ago, sexual assault affects only one person, while political rape affects us all.
It is almost impossible to express the contempt I feel for such men. They seem totally oblivious to the reality of real sexual assault, and are quite happy to bandy about such terms, thing they are making some sort of legitimate political point.
True, our language has reached certain hysterical levels in recent years, tossing words like holocaust, fascism and Hitler about in a moment’s notice, but the “Political oppression is just like rape, when you think about it,” is more than just intellectual laziness or stupidity.
I suspect it largely comes from men who haven’t opened their eyes to the fact that so many women in their own lives may have been raped at some point, or can just turn off their minds to the pain of another.
It comes, Yapping Reader, from men who are jerks.
Quote of the Day
"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Local media - especially television news, which greets each new Walmart press release as though it were manna from Heaven - has never had a particularly critical eye when it comes to the behemoth of the retail world.
Never is that adulation more in play than during the annual shareholders’ meeting, when thousands of Walmart employees are trundled together to hear inspiring messages of hope and faith from those at the top of the Walmart food chain, and be entrained by various entertainers.
The pep talks from top management never fail to make it onto the news, as if somehow the folks at Walmart have said said something new, and wondrous.
But the performers? Really? Honestly?
It has always been sort of difficult to take someone like past Walmart entertainer Celine Dion seriously at the best of times, especially after the grotesque performance she gave on Larry King a few years ago, when she warbled a few lines to inspire the folks who were stuck in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.
That most of them didn’t have electricity, and probably weren’t listening to her song of hope went completely over her head.
Leaving the unfortunate Ms. Dion aside, this year's shareholders’ meeting will be chock-full of such entertainers - who will receive top coverage from Walmart’s handmaidens in the media.
But just imagine how much cheering might fill Bud Walton Arena should Walmart decide to follow the example of competitor Costco, and pay a starting wage of $11.50, or if the Walton family decided to take a stand to raise the minimum wage in this country.
Now, that would be worthy of front page news.
Quote of the Day
I never knew how soothing trees are - many trees and patches of open sunlight, and tree presences; it is almost like having another being. - D.H. Lawrence
Whenever conservatives get together and talk about the Yesteryear That Never Was, the image of communities coming forth to help folks when they are in financial straits is often invoked, as if somehow the example of folks coming to the aid of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life occurred on a daily basis around this country.
No one was ever allowed to go bankrupt, or into the poor house (real or virtual) and that churches, scout troops and junior high school bake sales would help whenever the rare occurrence of cancer came around.
In fact, I think we all remember the battle cry of FDR: “We really don’t need to help anyone, but my bosses in the Kremlin expect this of us,” when he campaigned for those who had been brought low by life’s cruel circumstances.
I thought about those smug, well-fed, financially well off folks and their Walton’s Mountain (the cool Waltons - not the Wally World Waltons) vision of America when I stopped in at a fast food place to get a cup of coffee last week.
On the counter was a large plastic jar, with a note underneath it, explaining that it was there for donations to help a long-time employee who had suffered a medical catastrophe, and whose medical bills were overwhelming his family.
I put a dollar into the jar.
Fact is, every time I pass the place now, I stop in for a cup of coffee and to put a dollar in the jar.
I think the employees of this establishment are to be commended for putting the jar on the counter. There is no hard-sell - such as when you are at the grocery checkout, and the clerk asks if you’d like to contribute a dollar to a particular charity. The jar just sits there, with no one bringing attention to it, and yet it still manages to have dollars dropped into it.
On the other side of the coin, it is abominable that we must go begging for paltry sums to help offset huge medical bills. It is abominable that so many who claim to be “pro-life” in this country can’t see past birth.
It is abominable that well-fed folk will pontificate that we have “the best health care system in the world,” without even giving a nod to the reality that for many, that health care will always remain just out of sight.
Even without crippling accidents or cancer, many ordinary families must go to doctors who are one step ahead of a lawsuit, or ration their visits to the doctor.
Or treat any and all medical problems with extra doses of Alka Seltzer.
I think about all of this each and every time I drop a dollar in the jar.
The Plaintive Battle Cry of the GOP: Democrats just want voters . . . yeah, so what? Don’t you?
One of the more plaintive snarls one might read in letters columns or on Facebook is that “Democrats just want voters,” as if there is a certain purity in belonging to a political party which seems to have less and less public approval, and seems to go out of its way to insult anyone who might think just a little differently.
I was never a Political Science major, but it occurs to me that it is pretty much the job of the Democratic Party to attract more voters, just as it is with the Green Party . . . and even the GOP.
Claiming that the other side just wants voters (the very same voters you would insult into oblivion) seems a little idiotic to me.
At this rate it won’t be long before conservatives of all stripes, upon losing an election, will claim that they were only running an “education campaign” anyway - the swan song of many losing political campaigns.
Quote of the Day
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! - Maya Angelou
Why Those Who Punch a Time Clock Should Pay Attention to the News - Chapter 906
The Scowling One, ever the champion of the working class, has informed his constituents about H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. The House of Representatives passed this piece of legislation last week, and no doubt has high hopes that Democrats in the Senate who take corporate donations will roll over their constituents and vote for this as well.
According to Steve Womack, this simply amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) so as to allow private employers and employees to establish agreements that for compensatory time off instead of monetary overtime compensation.
This “option” is already available for those who work for federal, state, and local governments.
Gosh. That’s okay, then. Nothing to see here, folks. Everybody move along, now.
Well, maybe not so much . . .
I imagine that there may be two main reactions to this. The first will be from armchair philosophers who may or may not have punched a time clock for an appreciable period in their lives.
The other will come from those activists who have worked for years in factories, mini-marts, motels or wherever folks work. Their reaction may be loud and strong.
It has been a long time since I have worked for an hourly wage, but I dearly loved overtime pay - even when I hated working the overtime hours. Overtime work means time and a half pay, which can bolster your paycheck in uncertain times.
If it weren’t for overtime, many workers across this country wouldn’t make it financially.
The Democrats in the House, at least, had it right when they referred to this act as the “More Work, Less Pay Act.”
Basically, passage of this act could replace overtime at the time and a half figure with comp time off that a worker might be able to use later, most likely at the employer’s discretion.
The strong supporters of the working class in the GOP (and their paymasters in the business community) claim that this is something that workers actually want, because it would give working women (you know, folks the GOP traditionally falls all over itself to worry about) to get more time off. Also, those who care for sick loved ones will have more time off - but just not quite have so much money to spend on taking care of them, perhaps.
It’s a win-win scenario, damn it!
Well . . .
There are those - who can’t quite grasp the innate love and care for working men and women that went into this bill - who claim that it will also empower employers to require workers to work over their regular 40 hours, without any financial consequences for the employer.
Ah - we never worked overtime for the money anyway, we worked it for the pleasure of hanging out with our fellow employees . . . and our boss.
True, the bill does give workers the right to sue an employer if they feel “intimidated” - but don’t even think about going to the Department of Labor (outside agitators, anyway) for help.
Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, had this to say about the bill, “The Republican Working Families Flexibility Act is a fraud and anything but working family friendly. The act simply works to kill overtime pay and allow flex time only to meet the employer’s needs.”
While the White House has spoken out against the bill, the Obama administration has been markedly MIA when it comes to workers’ rights over the past few years. Just imagine a scenario in which President Obama caves on this, as part of a deal to appease Republicans over budget and tax issues.
There are still a few stalwarts in Congress who remember that America is made up of human beings, and not simply campaign contributors, but unless we all pay attention, and keep their feet to the fire . . .
Any guesses on how Mark Pryor might vote on this?
Once again wearing the Shroud of Chagrin: why I deleted yesterday’s blog
Believing that Life is a Work in Progress, I almost never (I can’t recall the last time I have) delete a blog, but yesterday’s entry was such a screw-up on my part that I deleted it last night.
Why am I wearing the Shroud of Chagrin today . . . so soon after removing it?
In my blog on the TV series Gavin and Stacey - both the BBC original and new Fox version - I wrote about the leads, and how young and sexy they are compared to the BBC version, where the leads were appreciably overweight.
But I was wrong. I was looking at folks in the supporting cast, and not the two leads. The two leads in the British version - as in the American version - are not how I described.
I like to blame things like this on my cataracts, but I just screwed up royally (that’s a weak pun, since I am writing about a British show) and Mea Culpa seems to be the only thing I can utter around the house today.
Which is sort of inconvenient, it being Mother’s Day and all.
I got several emails on the subject, including some from England (which I read this morning) asking me about the blog. And I will tell you this:
The people who are fans of Gavin and Stacey seem to be the nicest people in the universe. I’m not sure that Steptoe and Son fans would have been so nice, when pointing out such an error on my part.
Special congratulations (and thanks to pointing me in the right direction) to former Arkansas Times intern Ashlie Atkinson, who will play the role of Nessa on the American version.
Quote of the Day
Winter is not a season; it’s an occupation. - Sinclair Lewis
And here’s the other thing that drives me crazy. They trot out the victims. And I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting. I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims. - Bob Davis, radio host/former Republican candidate for governor
As I listened to the unrestrained rant by radio host Bob Davis which has made him a household word - at least for this week - I flashed back on the documentary which Rachel Maddow produced some time back for MSNBC on Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Mcveigh, who succeeded in killing a number of innocent children in his infamous bombing, told his interviewer that he had no sympathy for the families of those who had been killed in the blast, and that they should “Get over it.”
Frustrated that the so-called “Newtown Effect” lasted more than the hoped-for few weeks, and at a loss to understand it, their argument that the grieving families of those who have been killed by gun violence are being used as unwitting political props falling on deaf ears - except on those already predisposed to believe it - they are now using a new tactic . . . gun owners and defenders of liberty in this country are being bullied by the families and survivors of shootings.
Particularly harsh words have been thrown at former astronaut Gabby Giffords, who also served her country in Congress - two achievements most of the flying monkeys who are scrambling to attack her will never achieve.
James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, dismissed an op-ed Giffords wrote for the New York Times, and criticized her for practicing “incivility and unreason.”
Kevin Williamson of The National Review showed much greater courage than Taranto when he wrote, “It should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions.”
Just get over it.
A calm approach was urged by Alaska Democrat Mark Begich, when he told the New York Times, “It’s dangerous to do any type of policy in an emotional moment, Because human emotions then drive the decision. Everyone’s all worked up. That’s not enough.”
One can only imagine Comrade Begich taking to the floor after Pearl Harbor, offering this sage advice.
Begich offered no clue as to whether or not he was ever emotional upon getting his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association . . . or their coin.
Attacking the victim has long been a game in America, only now we have moved from attacking just victims of sexual assault to victims to killers. Now the families who will have an empty chair at the dinner table every night and dare to speak out are smeared as “bullies,” and told to get over it.
Those whose bodies have been ravaged by bullets are best kept out of sight, unless they can just be seen as inspirational stories of human endurance. If they dare to speak their minds, to exercise their rights as Americans, they are dismissed as “bullies.”
Poor gun owners, cowering in the night, never knowing when a victim of a shooting might show up in their town, might show up and speak at a public meeting in their community.
In 1976, a good friend and his father were burying their guns in their field, sure that Jimmy Carter would confiscate them once he took office. In 1996, gun shops were warning about Bill Clinton’s anti-gun “agenda” during his second term.
The only answer to such a threat is buy even more guns.
Ironically, this is something that rarely gets covered on the news. Perhaps more guns are being bought, but in many cases, the same people are buying more of them. A local television station is going to offer a “news” segment on gun ownership in the coming weeks, including the number of guns being bought from gun shops.
I suspect they will gloss over this fact.
But I digress (but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to), so back to Timothy Mcveigh’s advice to the families of those he murdered.
“Get over it.”
Morally, those who are venting their wrath on those who have suffered at the hands of gun owners are filling in for Timothy McVeigh, through his very own words, in a manner too creepy to even consider when he himself uttered them before he was executed.
True, McVeigh did renounce his NRA membership, but guess what?
Much is made of the fact that McVeigh was a member of the National Rifle Association, but he also renounced the organization because he considered that their support for gun rights wasn’t strong enough.
Would he renounce his membership today?
Quote of the Day
We are more inclined to regret our virtues than our vices; but only the very honest will admit this. - Holbrook Jackson
Human history is filled with stories of prisoners, every ounce of information being wrenched out of them, who were tortured still . . . because it amused their captors. From the torture chambers of the Inquisition to the scream-filled rooms operated by Central American dictatorships, the story is an old one.
People torture others not so much for whatever information they might glean, but because they well and truly enjoy it.
The torture groupies among us, who get such a thrill from the thought of people they hate being tortured, will in turn torture the English language, in an effort to make the gullible believe that what is happening in the rooms we should never see is just “enhanced interrogation,” and that this is the new normal, so get over it already.
There seem to be two camps in the “Torture is the New American Normal” debate. One, the professionals who have actually gotten information from suspects, dismiss the use of torture, and the torture groupies, those who enjoy sitting in front of cameras and flexing their patriotic muscles, all the while denying that torture is anything but torture.
There seems to be a sort of agreement in the media that the words “enhanced interrogation” will always be used, unless it is on the rare occasion when they interview a critic of torture.
Does the fact that torture is openly debated on TV, radio and in newspaper columns make us better than dictatorships which practice it, or creepier? At least those regimes had the good grace to deny that torture was ever taking place.
In this country, the torture groupies - and those in the government who lack the spine to stand up to them - are making the American people accomplices in their horrors.
So, are those who clamor water boarding - and whatever else might be in a torturer’s arsenal - actually interested in any information which might be gotten from a suspect, or are they so vengeance-driven that the punishment must begin now, even without resorting to a trial?
In the rare event that answers are forthcoming, would they be content to let the torture stop there, understanding what the suspect might be guilty of?
Again . . . Does the open debate on torture in this country make us better than those other countries which have engaged in it, or creepier?
Does it make us better as a people, , or a whole lot creepier?
Quote of the Day
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. - George Carlin
If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves. - Howard Zinn
Someone pointed out to me that North Korea has been awfully quiet this week, all things considered. Or, at least, our crackerjack news networks haven’t seen fit to cover them.
True, we have had two major events happen in close succession - the Boston bombing and the plant explosion in Texas. Oh, and how our “lawmakers” sprang into action when airline profits were threatened by the government budget battles.
Other than that, though, what else (other than stories about the Boston bomber) have we learned about?
We have seen endless footage of the Royal “baby bump,” with anxious Americans being informed of the child’s role when it comes to succeeding the current Queen of England - roughly, a few thousand supermarket openings and other photo ops to go, kid.
We don’t actually know anything about the oddly-bland made for TV Royal couple, other than what press releases tell us . . . but then, modern journalism lives on press releases.
The opening of the George Bush Presidential Library, which featured fawning reporter after fawning reporter talking to the former president about his new found love for painting.
Som yes, Wagnerian Reader, one might possibly be forgiven for thinking that nothing else happened in the world this week. Except for . . .
I picked up a copy of the New York Times yesterday, just to see if there might have been one or two stories the networks might have let slip through the cracks, and here are some of the nuggets I found:
North Korea Issues Threat At Ceremony For Military - North Korean generals warned that not only were their forces ready to launch ICBM attacks against this country, but that the North is “ . . . one click away from pressing the launch button.” The claim was made that pilots, instead of loading up with fuel for a return trip, would be prepared to launch “kamikaze-like” attacks against this country.
Venezuela Says U.S. Citizen Plotted Unrest - Timothy Hallett was arrested on accusations that he was working with right-wing groups hoping to promote violence, and possibly even a civil war.
Cuba: U.S. Bars Raul Castro’s Daughter from a Forum - Castro’s daughter was to attend a gay rights conference in Philadelphia next week, when she was to receive an award. No explanation was given for the decision to bar her from the conference.
South Africa: Lawmakers Pass Contentious Secrecy Bill - The South African government approved a highly criticized bill would increase the government’s power to restrict access to information.
Agency Halts Trials for AIDS Vaccine - A trial of a possible Vaccine against AIDS was halted because it appeared not to be working, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Cancer Specialists Attack High Drug Costs - More than 100 cancer specialist from around the globe met to take what has been described as the “first step” in banding together in the hopes of persuading drug companies to bring their prices down.
Wouldn’t it be nice if “lawmakers” who get campaign donations from drug manufacturers also felt such concern?
And if this wasn’t bad enough, it takes the excellent HBO documentary series VICE to lay open just what is happening in Europe, while on American TV news all we hear is that folks are in an uproar due to “austerity measures.”
I still cling to the old-fashioned view that knowing things (real things, not conspiracy drenched crap) is important to our culture, and to ourselves as human beings. It sets good example for our friends, and for the young people in our lives, while being pig ignorant, on the other hand . . .
Maybe it’s too late to expect anything of local and national news, but we can expect more of ourselves, and it only takes a few minutes a week to stay informed.
And here is one bit of news a local anchor and weatherman twisted out of all proportion
A local anchor and weatherman were practically giving each other high fives a few days ago, because “the drought is over.”
This headline from the New York Times:
In Midwest, Drought Gives way To Flood.
Deep, deep sigh.
Quote of the Day
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition. - Carl Sagan
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