Monday, March 28, 2011

A Quandry

I wouldn't expect anyone to know this. Heck, I wouldn't know unless the blogography button on my computer hadn't said so, but this, today, is supposed to be my 250th entry under this space and name.
So, here's the quandry: What topic is worthy for this big occasion? There's the possible dialog between Lindsay Lohan and the corporate name change wizard on what her next name should be (she says she's changing it). I could spend a whole entry examining the merits of "Puff Mommy", "Ln-Z" or the Blackwater update "XE". But somehow the topic itself seems a little...fluffy. No sale.
There's the determined GOP governor in Maine who's so opposed to organized labor that he's having the state's Department of Labor Building's murals, which feature scenes of collecting bargaining, removed from the building entirely. Did you catch that? He's even against unions in artistic form. But I think he's already received his share of my attention.
Or, I could dip into history again. I decided that watching the Ken Burns documentary of the Civil War again is a good use of time. Here's my favorite quote from the era so far: a member of Congress and fellow southerner once described CSA President Jefferson Davis as "as cold as a serpent, and as ambitious as Lucifer." Ouch. Who says those folks didn't have a way with words?
I could describe in detail what qualifies all the possible Republican presidential candidates as "second stringers". Maybe I'll keep that one on the shelf awhile yet. Anyway. it was the exact same phenomenon that left the door open a crack for the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign to enter the race.
There's that organization first in the hearts of almost all Americans - not Medicare, but the NFL and its current labor troubles. I could use it as an excuse to explain how a strike differs from a lockout, and why the players don't really have the world by the tail as much as we might think.
I could even comment on the NCAA Basketball tournament, how you fill out a bracket, and why Richmond, VA is lucky enough to have TWO teams chosen to play for the title. Or I could explain why I found it impossible to find a team to support when North Carolina played Kentucky.
Japanese reactor meltdown, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Ferraro, Warren Christopher, the end of spring training, the torrential local rains, my new barber and why we didn't go to Medford Saturday, even though we had planned to for weeks. All (sort of) worthy subjects for the 250th blog. Alas, my space is squandered. Perhaps #251 will actually be interesting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Moment or Two

How many people do you think will be confused at the Chrysler ad which actually features down-and-nearly-out Detroit in its commercials, then refers its cars as "imported"? I wish the Motor City well, but, last I knew, it was still part of Michigan, right in Midwestern USA. Maybe the ad's purpose is to get you to forget that Chrysler's actual owners now live in Europe.

And have you seen the ad for The Hartford which features a one-legged woman swimmer? Evidently, she lost a leg serving in one of our never-ending wars, but now is determined to be successful as a member of a group of athletes with various disabilities. She must be very powerful in her upper body. If I had such a condition, I think I would simply...sink.

We have a member of our extended family who spends his time working with the elderly in a care home. It won't be his last job, but he has a good attitude about the people he serves, appreciating them as people, not just collections of symptoms. Whenever we see him, he has new stories about them, which even include impersonations. Pretty funny.
My own mother has now been gone for almost eighteen years, a victim of the big "C". I mention this because I now have a church assignment visiting a woman in a nearby care facility who was born at about the same time as Mom. One of the features of such visits is that you pretty much have to take people the way they are. Seeing them monthly isn't likely to change anyone's life very much, though most appreciate the effort.
My visits with Kay don't go very long. She has already been in the facility, she says, for about seven years, and is 86 years old. She doesn't walk, and her hearing is poor, which may be a good thing where she lives. Nothing is liable to change much except when her body finally gives out. But we were sitting in her half-room last week, pretty close together so that she could hear better. Then she reached over in just the most nonchalant way and put her finger on my eyebrow in an attempt to straighten something out. It surprised me a little, but I didn't object, or mind. I knew right away that her intention was just to help me a little, so I sat still. When it came time to go, I asked if there was anything she needed. She just said that she hoped I wouldn't forget to keep visiting. I assured her that I would remember. See you next month, Sister.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Style and Substance Meet

This week marks another birthday. I'm not really on borrowed time yet, though the length of departed high school chums gets longer. Staying up to date is pretty much a losing cause, but I can concentrate on not saying or writing anything that's patently stupid. Something could go wrong with the body, though, so it's still a good idea to get on the courts as often as possible. Exercise is great when you can also give yourself a chance to put up the "W" for the day.

I just don't think I can get my hands around the force set loose in Japan last week. Energy from that disaster traveled by water to create damage here, thousands of miles away, at a tsunami-plagued town up the coast. According to a local paper, 16 boats were sunk and 47 more were damaged. I read that the total energy released was 1.000 times greater than the quake centered in Northridge, CA a few years ago. Do we need more evidence that things done in one part of the world can have an effect in another?

So, now to our title subject, before I break the "stupid" rule I just set above. Our congregation, for complicated reasons, has no choir these days. I was asked just a few weeks ago to gather a group of men to sing in one of our Sunday meetings. I had thought I had seven lined up, but one had to stay home with a sick little brother, so we performed with six.
It's surprising all the things that have to go right in order to achieve the desired effect for something like this. We had a song, but had to change the key and print the words larger. I had to compose and print an introduction, which was slightly botched by the man conducting the service. I had to decide who would handle each of five short solos, though deciding on who wouldn't get a solo was pretty easy - a guy with severely challenged musicality. I let him pretend to sing bass.
We had several short practices, with just one or two including all the members of the group. I also had the delicate task of telling the accompanist to back off the tempo. The delicate part is that it was the Mrs., who was patient with me. We had to also decide whether or not solos would be accompanied, where to stand and in what order. Lots of potential things to foul up.
The song's message was that serving one's fellow man is important in life - not a new message. My thought was to match our performance to the slightly folky nature of the music, while letting the words stand out. The final ensemble included a teenager, a man in his eighties, the teenager's father and a tennis playing friend now in his seventies. We may have created some musical keys which don't occur in nature, but got through the four verses (skipping three others) without dissolving into either laughter or tears. A few people said they liked the performance, and the ones who hated it were kind enough not to say so out loud.
Perhaps all this indicates is that my high school days spent in the not-so-manly art of speech and debate might have been better spent in the choir, which met at the same hour. I can't change that, but can say I enjoyed debate, but also look forward to the next chance to sing, though perhaps in a more supporting role. Let's hope future style meets the substance of religious music in a way that makes everyone happy they attended.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Strange Days

Many, maybe all of you, are busy people who like writers like me to quit dawdling around and get right to the thesis. So here it is: Today's Republicans do some awfully strange things to prove they should run our government. And here are two examples, if you're willing to read some more.
It's common for the GOP these days to oppose any kind of government policy that results in more revenue, with the possible exception of seeing a natural increase from a broader base of workers, all paying taxes at about the same rate. So far so good, but what about simply getting more revenue through better enforcement of tax laws on the books? Our IRS, not the most popular of institutions, nevertheless now returns $10 for every dollar spent. Shouldn't that appeal to most folks? Spend the money- catch the cheaters?
To our Republican leaders, though, this idea is a "no sale". They have, in fact cut the IRS budget by around $600 million for this year, and seek even deeper cuts next year. I just can't see how this makes sense. Yes the 10:1 ratio in benefits breaks down at some higher point, but wouldn't it be smart to have some idea of what that point is?
And who wants the IRS watchdogs put on shorter leashes? Only one answer makes sense - "tax cheats." Even people who hate all taxes, but pay them anyway, should despise the idea of someone else getting off without paying their fair share. The news that the IRS is operating on a cheese sandwich budget will no doubt encourage more people to try cheating to see if it can be done. That's a slippery slope we don't want to be on, but that's exactly where the Republican Party wants us to be. Who do you suppose gave them this idea? I don't think it was regular working people.

Mike Huckabee should know quite a bit about interviewing with the broadcast media, and plenty about running for president. He did it four years ago, and lasted far longer than most thought he would. He's no babe in the woods even if he did, like Bill Clinton, start his career in Arkansas.
He said some strange things on the radio last week. In fact they were so strange that you have to wonder who his real intended audience was, along with his real message. President Obama, the former governor Huckabee claims, gets his world view from his father who raised him in Kenya and made sure he was indoctrinated with an anti-colonial, anti-British attitude. This, in turn, caused him to do awful things, such as remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. How terrible, Mr. H. moaned.
When reminded later that Obama had actually first seen Kenya as an adult, Huckabee brushed it all off by saying he had meant to say "Indonesia". But in order to be accurate, he would have also had to change "father" to "mother" and "British" to "Dutch", the former colonists of Indonesia. What Huckabee may have actually been stretching for was a way to connect Obama to another buzzword in the making - "Mau Mau", a former group of anti-colonialist African rebels dating from the 1950s. He had no comment on our own revolution against those same British.
What this all seems to say is that today's GOP bigshots don't even seem to care how roughly they treat the truth. If they're caught fibbing, well, it was just that awful liberal press picking on them again, trying to stymie their message. Either way, the appeal is to the (sob!) unfairness of it all. This way you can whine your way to the top. By the way, that Churchill bust? It's still in the White House, but its former spot in the Oval Office was taken over by the bust of a Republican - Abraham Lincoln.