Friday, December 30, 2005

The Sins of Presidents

A Sordid Sexual Encounter

One of these days, when I get a round tuit, I’m gonna write the definitive post on this Democrat’s perspective on the Clinton era. I mentioned it, in passing, in another post and one of my favorite people in the whole world responded as follows:

"Clinton did not have "an affair" but a sordid sexual encounter with a girl a few years older than his daughter. I heard Larry king on CNN say " we do not do this..this is our daughters...we tell them to go home , behave...etc.... A few nights later Larry King came out with the same Liberal spin that it was a "private behavior" etc, etc. If this had been the very same "private behavior" by Republican President... the press would have put him out of office

I listened to Clinton yesterday...his entire speech. He is a gifted speaker and politicalan but i will never again vote for him or any of his cronies. I also listened to Barbara Boxer yesterday. I listen to both the "liberals" and the "conservatives," If one listens only to the liberal press and CNN, (or only to conservative radio) they get a warped view of what is going on now... We are in real danger and we have senators more intersted in trashing Bush than in truth."

I love that reader of Alone On A Limb!! I have practically worshipped at her feet. She had the courage to take up for Martin Luther King at a time in the early sixties when that was very unusual for a white person in Georgia. She has been an articulate proponent for women's rights in the church. She is a loving and eloquent pastor, parent, poet, and friend. She always voices her opinions in loving and polite ways. I hope I can do as well in voicing mine.

I agree that Clinton's private behavior was abominable. I wish it were only a "sordid sexual encounter": it was a least a series of them -- an affair.

But, affair or encounter, it was private behavior between consenting adults (chronologically speaking).
  • Clinton was not sending us to preemptive war.
  • Clinton was not intimating a correlation that did not exist between a tin-pot dictator and a terrorist attack on America.
  • Clinton was not lying to us about aluminum tubes in Iraq.
Clinton was lying about what most any other person, foolish enough to be in such a predicament, would lie about: stupid and boorish and unethical and “sordid sexual" behavior.

In the most powerful office in the world I will choose Clinton and his typical Baby Boomer irresponsible let's-feel-good-now unethical personal behavior over Bush's irresponsible unethical official behavior any time.

William Jefferson Clinton deserved his embarrassment. The United States of America did not deserve the disastrous change of power that would not have happened had Clinton behaved. George Bush should never have been selected President; but the Court would not, I believe, have had the opportunity to select Bush had Clinton behaved responsibly in his personal life.

Republicans should give Bill Clinton some sort of honorary membership in their party.


A little more spin from the limb:
  • Warped views: I watch some C-Span and CNN. I listen to NPR in the mornings. I catch a little blather on Fox and the other TV “news” sources. I rarely watch network or local TV news. I read the Rome News and the AJC every day, and Time every week. I read news that catches my eye on several websites. I read several blogs, conservative, moderate, and liberal.
  • Bush-trashers in the Senate: They are out-numbered: may their tribe increase. Lately a few Republicans have begun to show a little ethical backbone in the face of the Bush/Rove machine.
  • Truth: If the unvarnished indisputable version of that ever comes out, Bush, Cheney, Rove, and DeLay, among others, will be in big trouble.
  • Liberal Spin: The Republicans, while our planes were in the air, accused Clinton of political motives in attacking Saddam Hussein. I wonder what they would have done had Clinton lied about issues of war (aluminum tubes?) in his State of the Union speech.

I wish you enough.

Recommended from the Limb

I can say it no better than my mother already has said it at Ruthlace. Check it out.

Also, please remember to check my Grand Trivia blog occasionally, out of pity for me. (Carol says begging helps.) I have at least three unanswered trivia questions there.

Where is America's City of Bridges?
Which is the Deadliest Mammal in America (not counting humans)?
Where is the World's Largest College Campus?

Jane used Google to discover our highest ranking officer to wade ashore in Normandy on D-Day. Do you know who he was?
Enough for 2005 was getting my eldest back safe and sound from 100 days with a backpack in Europe. You can read about it and see her pictures at Bran's Euro Trip. Now she will be off for another three months beginning January 9 doing a Fifties Revue at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. Wow! Maybe there'll be a new Brannon Blog.

I hope the new year brings "enough" for each of the readers of this blog.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bob Barr, Patriot?

"Law doesn't back Bush tap"
by Bob Barr
from a special to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, December 21, 2005 at 9:00 AM

"The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and when carrying out duties in such capacity shall not be subject to the laws of these United States or of this Constitution."

—Constitution of the United States, Article II, Sec. 2, as amended 2005

I have never had a high opinion of my former congressman, Bob Barr. He decided the fate of the republic and western civilization was threatened by the President of the United States trying desperately to hide a sordid little sexual affair. I too was appalled at Clinton's boorish and stupid behavior, - and at unfaithful behavior by Barr, Gingrich, and other Baby Boomer pols -- but what do you expect when you elect a member of my generation to office.

But now Barr is actually realizing that the person currently occupying the White House might also be threatening us. I suspect even Bob knows a President who claims dictatorial powers is more dangerous than a philanderer. Here is the rest of an anti-Bush piece coming from the far right. Go Bob!

An Off-the-Cuff Serial Autobiography: Positive Influences on My Life (B)

People Who Have Influenced My Life (Part B)

(Outside of God and My Family Members)

This is the second part [Here's the first.] of my exploration of the influences on my life outside of family and God. These are mostly more famous folks whose influence was through their work, writings, recordings, etc. But I also include a few community theater friends, pastors, teachers, and personal friends.
As I brainstormed lots of names came up. Some with huge effect on my life and others with less dramatic, but still important, influence. So here we go again.

(In no particular order)

Erick Fromm, author, for his definition of love. See my recent post on love.

Pete Seeger, singer/activist, (yes, an old Commie), like several others, for living his beliefs, for being the same person in person as on stage.

Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Charles Weltner, John Lewis, public figures who have taken risks to do right and inspired me to want to impact the world in a positive way.

Robert E. Lee, soldier, for his loyalty, devotion and honor.

Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin, Lincoln, T.R., Wilson, FDR, Truman, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Bo Ginn, Ellis Arnall, Wyche Fowler, Sam Nunn, Buddy Childers (I'm going to write a , for their influences on my political life.

Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Camp Glisson counselors, Bill Landiss, James Sanders, Paul Hanna, George Freeman, Grant Magness, for their influences on my ethical, moral, and religious beliefs.

Twain, Shakespeare, Frost, Housman, Donne, Keats, Marvell, Nash, Whitman, Hopkins,
Tolkien, Dickey, cummings, Ciardi, Shel Silverstein, Professor Arthur Brestel, Gene Stewart (MYF friend and poet), Pat Alger (Camp Glisson friend and songwriter), Mrs. Howel (11th grade English), for influencing me to write, or influencing how I try to write.

Famous actors like:
Lee Strasburg, James Stewart, Alan Arkin, Topol, Olivier
Community actors or directors like: Cecelia Dawson, Rudy Childs, Brian Sikes, Barbara Myers, Nora Rouse, Wain Bates, Virginia McChesney

Community musicians like: Rachael Jones, Bob Jones, the other Bob Jones, Brian Horne, Angela Flanegan, James Willis, Sam Baltzer

Pete Seeger (again), Steve Allen, Donald Davis, Ed Stivender, Bill Harley, Ed Kilbourne, for their influences on my storytelling.

In some of these categories it feels downright dishonest to leave out family members. A few quick examples of many: I wouldn't have gotten back into acting without Brannon's influence. My love of storytelling stems pretty directly from listening to Bible stories from Mother and family stories from Daddy and Daddy Shaw. And although we have many philosophical and political differences, my two older sisters and their husbands were huge influences on my life, especially in my adolescence.

It's been fun remembering and evaluating the influences on my beliefs and behaviors. Maybe I'll choose in the future to explain more fully how some of these folks have influenced me. I know I am leaving out many and I'll want to revise this in the light of day and a little more reflection. It's a beginning.

First Lines

First Lines/First Posts
Check Daddy's Roses for more on the origin of this posting idea. Here are the first lines of my first posts of each month since I've been posting:

November 2005: "What I write below is very serious and important to me." I then tried to outline my political beliefs. Check it out.

December 2005: "It was a time of great fear." I compared Bush and his cronies to the McCarthyites. Check it out.

That's it. I've only been involved in this obsession for less than two months.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Visit Grand Trivia!

I have enjoyed coming up with trivia for my new Grand Trivia blog. I hope everyone will visit and give the questions a shot.

Up till now I have posted the questions on this blog and the questions and answers on Grand Trivia. That has become a pain. So from now on I'll just post Questions on that site and add answers in edits or comments.

So, if you are among the few, the proud, the intelligent, then bookmark Grand Trivia!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

True Love Links

Daddy's Roses and A Few Minutes with Andy and Robin each have stories of True Enduring Love. They are worth the visit: check 'em out. I would argue that the basis for these long love affairs is mutual commitment.

True Love is a topic on which I have very strong opinions. Basically my theory of love is that love is a choice. Anything less than a choice is sub-human. If it's just chemistry or fate; if it's something I "fall" into; then my free will is not involved and I don't want it. If it can be "fallen" into; if it can be brought on by pheronomes or fate: then fate might call later for a split or pheramones might dissipate.

I can't believe I'm doing this again but here are some of my poems. These deal with True Love.

The first is addressed to my daughters:

Listen, Daughters

To Brannon and Lillian

Listen, daughters.
Be careful what you name love:
It is not so cheap as musk or fate;
It is not so easy as a fall.

Hear the wisdom of age;
Hear your father's voice!
Love is a promise.
Love is a choice.

The second is just a basic statement of my stubborn proposition:

Choose Love

At first sight, never!
Let me choose or let me be.
There's no romance in lightswitch love
I will make my choice.
Let the rat keep his musk.

This one plays with the idea that I could have made a different choice. It ends with the affirmation that I am very happy with the choice I made.

I Suppose I Could Have Loved Jane

I suppose I could have loved Jane.
And Jennifer often waxed wise and gay.
You are lovely, true: Were others plain?
You laugh at my wit: So did they.

I long for your kiss and your touch
But passion, wit, beauty are all around.
Others have kisses as sweet; and as much,
All and any your charms abound.

Even now in age I see sometimes
A glance, a smile, a coy frown
And think my songs, my artful rhymes
Could win a youthful night in town.

Temptations beckon, the world's untrue.
Our promises keep. My world is you.

And finally I address the objection voiced by one person that my theory of love is cold. I took great exception to that objection since I have always felt my true love very warm, even, in today's parlance, hot!

When I first read Erich Fromm's little book The Art of Loving, a real weight was lifted from my shoulders. I had dated lots of girls. I had kissed a good many of them and had found all of those experiences very enjoyable. (Admittedly one girl who smoked heavily had kisses less enjoyable.) Suddenly I was free to choose the one I would love. And if I could find someone willing to choose meas well, I could look forward to a wonderful loving relationship without the fear that I might have missed that one magical match that twentieth-century America had decided exists for everyone. I now knew that what separates infatuation from true love is commitment. No commitment, no love.

True Love

You think me daft, You say I'm cold and sad
You think me a passionless crafty cad
You think that heartless we bargain - both
bloodless, scheming, colorless, mad!
You swear we swear a sterile oath.

I breathe, I feel, I bleed! -You are wrong.
True, for love we labored hard and long;
Made our choice, proclaimed our duty;
But we wrote love free, wild as song
composed with wit, passion and beauty.

Her beauty drew me; her wit entranced;
Her voice sang, painted, danced.
My pulse quickened; her palms seemed wet;
Our hearts meshed, entwined, romanced.
In song, in passion, our promises met!

You are right, true love must know fire
True love is kind, doesn't boast, or tire
It vaunteth not itself, is less "me" more "you"
Doesn't sulk, demand, abuse, require
But true true love must first ... be true!


Jefferson C. Davis

Finally, after grovelling, I persuaded someone to actually give a stab at my Jefferson Davis question.

Check it out.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Separated at Birth

Terrell's Celebrity Twin
My sister at Daddy's Roses has linked to the site above that compares your very own uploaded facial image to the faces of a gazillion celebrities and declares which you most closely resemble -- physically, not emotionally, politically, intellectually or etceterally. So my Grand Trivia question of today is: Who is Terrell's Celebrity Twin? On your honor, now, make a guess in a comment before you visit the answer. Repeating: Do not Click the following link until you have made a guess. Hint: it is not (??!!) Robert Redford or Tom Cruise. (The best full-face image of myself I could find quickly was the one at the left: I was in make-up for the role of Maurice in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Do you think that affected the match?)

Separated at Birth: Terrell and ???????

Give my Grand Trivia a try!

I'm Being Embarrassed Here!
Alright now, folks, I'm going to the trouble of coming up with obscure, interesting-only-to-me (obviously) but easily-answered-with-the-help-of-Google Trivia, the least you folks can do is make a stab at it. Granted, it's Christmas and folks are busy, but let's get our priorities straight. A few of you Romans, at least, must surely know about Jefferson C. Davis. Humor me. Let it be my Christmas present: Answer my trivial trivia question!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas to All!

Unto You A Child Is Born!
Last Christmas Eve my daughters, wife, and I worshipped with a wonderful assortment of folks in Manhatten. We heard beautiful music and the Christmas story in a little oasis of peaceful contemplation in the heart of the Big Apple.

Tonight we returned to our usual Christmas Eve custom. A custom from my teen years in the early sixties and one we have observed almost every Christmas Eve since 1982.We participated in the annual Live Nativity Scene at our church, Trinity United Methodist, in Rome, Georgia. We stood silently for 30 minutes as beautiful Christmas music played and we contemplated that Christmas Eve 2000 years ago. (Actually we had taken another turn on Friday night as well.) If you'd like to see pics visit my neice's blog at Reasoned (sic) (grin) Audacity. I'm the Wise Man (Wise Guy?) in the left foreground.

What a great way to prepare for Christmas. After days of hectic shopping, wrapping, budgeting, programs, school holiday activities, etc., etc., etc., etc., ... a quiet time of serious reflection on the wonder, joy, history, and meaning of all the commotion.

Happy Christmas to every one who reads these words!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Top Ten Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories
A preliminary Top Ten
-- until the ones I'm stupidly forgetting come to mind.

10. Receiving (or giving) the girdle from the Phantom in Milstead.
9. The first Christmas that I got to stay up with the big folks to prepare Christmas for the little folks.
8. Hunting a tree with my Daddy and sisters in my childhood.
7. Hunting the perfect Redcedar with my little daughters at the Burton farm in Booger Hollow.
6. Grape juice from little bottles on Christmas morning
5. Singing "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" and "O, Holy Night" at the Christmas Eve service
4. Standing in the Nativity Scene at Trinity every Christmas Eve.
3. Hunting Christmas stuff at a flea market a few days before Daddy's death.
2. Watching my little girls come through the door or down the stairs on Christmas morning -- usually through the lens of a camera.
1. Completing Daddy's projects for the grandkids, when he died suddenly three weeks before Christmas.

I'll probably expound on these a little soon.

My baby sister reminisces about Christmases at my grandmother's house here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

An Off-the-Cuff Serial Autobiography: Positive Influences A

The Influence of Friends

Daddy's Roses ran a meme (new term to me) and referenced the blog of The Euphemist as her source. Visiting there I found the meme: "MY TOP TEN (OR SO) GREATEST INFLUENCES, OUTSIDE OF GOD AND MY FAMILY MEMBERS."

I thought it would be fun to get this one started among my family's blogs. But when I got started I soon had brainstormed a huge list. So I'm gonna break it apart and probably break the rules along the way. This post will deal with the influence of close friends.

It is hard to leave out the exceptions above. My wife, daughters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brother, sisters, and my wife's parents have all been huge influences on my life, and I am a double preachers' kid, so I have certainly been exposed to the influence of the church. Maybe I'll discuss those family and church influences one day. After all, my wife is, without doubt, my closest friend on earth.

Rather than giving you my top ten list as suggested by The Euphemist, I'm just going to free associate for awhile and see what names pop to mind. It will be more than ten, I'm sure. I may get around to an overall top ten list, but maybe just listing all the influences that this meme brings to mind will do it.

In no particular order, (pop!) lets with the close friends:

Mike Burton, my slightly (admit it, Mike) eccentric artist/deaf educator friend. For his zest for life; his independence and efforts to be self-sufficient, creative, and moral. His (and Carolyn's) friendship sent me to Booger Hollow looking for property. That resulted in lots of experiences including getting to know Steve and Laurie Craw (below). Even before that he got me involved in performing folk music at his "Coffee Houses" and hootenannies. Movie making. And chess. And historic preservation. One job, when I needed one badly. Video storytelling. Hyperstudio/presentation computer stuff. Woodworking. Carpentry. Bronze casting. Blackberry picking. Sign Language. Bushhogging and gardening. House moving. Cow chasing. Dump harvesting. Goat husbandry. Swimming pool construction. Playhouse construction. Implausibly-tight-space plumbing. Well-digging. Demolition. Beekeeping. (Heavens to Mergatroid, Mike, I shouldn't have started counting the ways you've messed with my life!)

I adopted the wonderful Burton Girls as my "extra daughters" and he and Carolyn adopted mine. Mike's Mother and siblings adopted us into the Burton clan and we have been there at several extended Burton/Btrown gatherings.

Sheila and I were honored to help celebrate Carolyn's life at the wonderful memorial service Mike organized. And when Mike found Julie we got to help him celebrate the beginning of a new part of his life.

Mike Bock, for his loyalty, intellectual approach to life, his determination to live life fully. Mike also showed up at my room in the clinic (I was abed with the mumps at the time and only days from graduation) with an application to the Teacher Corps -- I wonder what path my life might have taken without that little nudge. Mike has not only influenced my use of corporal punishment (jk) but education philosophy in general -- Socratic seminars, literature circles, Great Books discussion, cooperative learning, billiard ball math.

All those crazy Teacher Corps friends, struggling for civil rights, peace, education reform, womens rights, the environment.

Steve and Laurie Craw, for their determination, their loyalty, their creativity and talent, and their 25 years of friendship and sometimes partnership. They involved Sheila and me in an effort to give the Rome News some competition via Broadside (weekly newspaper) in the seventies. That experience had a huge impact on my life. Not to mention: the cookouts where Steve Buries the meat in coals to cook underground all day; duck hunting on Lake Creek; New Years watch nights at the farm; trips to the Collinsville Trade Day.

Mildred and Philip Greear, for their dedication to live their belief system, their love of nature, their family commitment. Mildred and Philip helped us overcome inertia and get involved in grassroots politics to fight Reagan's environmental disasters - and we won a battle: the Chattahoochee National Forest is still there!

Richard Ware, friend, for his contagious love of music and nature and his doggedness. He has spurred me to investigate trees and wildflowers and folk music. And what would the hootenannies have been (Would the hootenannies have been?) without him?

Solomon Lasoi, my college roommate, for his work ethic and scholarship.

Mrs. Lyle Moser, of Eleanor WV, close friend for a year or so, and her husband, who died very shortly after I met him. Again, people very determined to live their beliefs.

Bill & Cathy, Betty & Cotton, Cleve and Terri, Marty Teem, Gene Stewart, teacher friends, college friends, church friends, old girlfriends I dare not name (jk), who knows how Galen Foster influenced me my first three years -- Mama says Galen and I had own own language! --
there are many more I could name, but I'll stop there for now. This has been way too rambling.

Next time some famous persons who have influenced me.

What close friends have changed your life for the better?

Grand Trivia Question #4

Jeff Davis

The Line Item Veto trivia question reminded me of this one:
Who was Jefferson C. Davis?

  • President of the Confederate States of America
  • Union General during the Civil War
  • Son-in-law of the President of the USA
  • United States Secretary of War

Bonus: Who is the very interesting match for each of the other answers?

Grand Trivia Question #3

Get the newest Grand Trivia Question here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Grand Trivia Question #2

I had overwhelming response to the first Trivia Question. (Thank you, Joan. You tied for first and last responder.) Just for that, I'm gonna give my public more:

Grand Trivia
Question #2

Due South

You lead an expedition from Rome, Georgia. You have been instructed by your commanders to travel by land and water due south until such time as you set foot on foreign soil. When you acheive your goal, on the soil of what nation will you find yourself? (Alabama doesn't count.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Grand Trivia Question #1

My sister at Daddy's Roses posted a fun Christmas trivia questionaire. I decided I'd like to occasionally post some of my favorite little trivia questions and see which smart alecks out there will show out for us. Bragging rights will go to the blogger who first e-mails the answer to I will post answers, eventually, on my new blog Grand Trivia.

Grand Trivia Question #1
Line Item Veto
President Clinton gained the power of Line Item Veto on January 1, 1997. It was a short-lived privilege of the President. The Supreme Court on a 6-3 vote, June 25, 1998, struck down the legislation under which Clinton exercised that veto. Only one American President other than Clinton has been allowed to veto line items. Who was it?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Add Narnia to my travel maps

Today Sheila and I visited Narnia via the new Disney movie of C.S. Lewis's wonderful little book, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe.

It was a fantastic movie in more than genre.

The cinematography was dazzling. Gorgeous photography, creative angles, great visual storytelling, fantastic special effects, nice use of variable focus.

The animation and special effects never overwhelm the story. Yes there are enough glimpses of Mr. Tumnus's legs for us to notice they really are the legs of a goat: they really move like the hind legs of an animal, but we glimpse as the story moves on and we don't dwell on the absurdity. The beavers, wolves, fox, etc. in the context of Narnia are believable individuals.

The air battle of World War Two in the opening scene is a neat foreshadowing of the climactic battle scene in Narnia. The dramatic dash to rescue his father's photo during a London Blitz lets us know that Edmund has a spark of humanity despite his despicable behavior later. Maybe he is redeemable.

The allegory (Aslan/Christ) is obvious but not heavy-handed.

The changes and additions seem appropriate in translating the story for the screen. The opening scenes explain the setting of wartime England to a new generation. The chase from the Beavers' home, and the continuing race to the stone table, are closer, more dramatic for the screen. The end of the battle is effective, though I'm not as sure about the reasons for the changes there.

The acting is outstanding. The Witch and Tumnus are especially convincing, and so are the four children. The casting of Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund is perfect and the director gets flawless, sensitive, multifaceted performances from them.

This guy is a great director. Maybe I need to see the Shreck movies again. Were they this good?

How Old Was I When...

Another Silly Post

The Daily Meme has links to lots of silly little sites like this one that lets you know your age at memorable moments of history.

I was...

54 years old at the time of the 9-11 attack on America
52 years old on the first day of Y2K
50 years old when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash
48 years old at the time of Oklahoma City bombing
47 years old when O. J. Simpson was charged with murder
45 years old at the time of the 93 bombing of the World Trade Center
43 years old when Operation Desert Storm began
42 years old during the fall of the Berlin Wall
38 years old when the space shuttle Challenger exploded
36 years old when Apple introduced the Macintosh
36 years old during Sally Ride's travel in space
34 years old when Pres. Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.
32 years old at the time the Iran hostage crisis began
29 years old on the U.S.'s bicentennial Fourth of July
27 years old when President Nixon left office
25 years old when Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot
22 years old at the time the first man stepped on the moon
21 years old when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated
18 years old during the Watts riot
16 years old at the time President Kennedy was assassinated
12 years old when Hawaii was admitted as 50th of the United States
10 years old when the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 was launched
6 years old at the end of the Korean War

World Travel

I need to see more of the world!

It's been quiet on my limb this week. Too busy with school, family, Christmas, and drama. With my daughter just home from gallavanting through Europe, I got to thinking about the limited traveling I've done myself. I've visited the states colored red on this map.

(You can create your own personalized map of the USA.)

I have also visited two provinces of Canada.

(You can create your own personalized map of Canada.)

(Create your own visited country map.)

That's my full 58 years of travel.

Meanwhile my 22 year-old-daughter has visited 14 European countries!

(You can create your personalized map of Europe.)

Read about her 100 days in Europe or see her pictures here.

I have my passport now, so who knows, maybe I'll take off and explore one day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Person of the Year!!

I am Time's Person of the Year!

Click on the link above.

Y'all aren't surprised I'm sure, that Time Magazine put up a huge electronic bulletin board on Time Square in New York announcing me, by face, not by name, as their Person of the Year.

This is supposedly an actual undoctored photo according to my friend, Barbara Myers, who sent in a bunch of pics from Stars in Our Eyes to the Time Magazine promotion and mine is one that made it through. I would have chosen a different pic. And it would have been nice if my name were attached. Strange, huh? Wouldn't it be interesting if someone who would actually recognise me saw it. Or do they flash them subliminally?

I've got to find out more about this promo!


Aha!! I did find out. Try these links:
Brannon on Broadway 1
Lillian on Broadway 1
Brannon on Broadway 2
Lillian on Broadway 2
Brannon on Broadway 3
Lillian on Broadway 3
Brannon on Broadway 4
Brannon on Broadway 5
Terrell & Sheila on Broadway

What a silly use of time!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Off-the-shelf & Out-of-the-fridge Soup

Eating soup all the cold week!

Now, my gourmet sisters are probably gonna chuckle at my simple-minded glee at discovering that really good soup is available quickly and easily from just what happens to be around. (Be kind Jan, Joan, Carol, Debi, and Beth. And David has become something of a chef as well: I guess I'm last to this game.) It's so easy, and probably obvious to them, but revolutionary and novel to me, and an integral part of my Slow Motion Diet (Make checks payable to Alone On A Limb for more information on the sure fire, no pain, eat your way to health and happiness, Slow Motion Diet. I'm down 22 libbies so far.)

Since cool weather came around again, I’ve been making these impromtu soups. I have really enjoyed them. Basically, I have been combining low-fat, low-sodium canned broth with whatever is in the pantry and/or leftover in the fridge, that might make a pleasing combination.
The first one started out to be Black Beans with Rice but it became a soup that Lillian and I liked and Sheila accepted.

A hunk of onion chopped
A clove of garlic chopped and squished
A couple of handsful of sliced mushrooms
A little olive oil
A can of black beans
A can of tomatoes and chilies - I used Ro-Tel mild.
A can of low sodium, fat-free chicken broth
A couple or three handsful of cooked rice
A few dashes of non-salt seasoning, like Mrs. Dash
A little water
A few dollops of low fat plain yogurt
A handful of shredded cheddar
A garnish of chopped green onion

In a large saucepan sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil. I just used a little spray olive oil “Pam” to coat them.
Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, rice and seasoning and simmer over medium heat. Taste frequently and add water to achieve the desired consistency.

Add a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of cheese and a little green onion to each steaming bowl full. Serve with corn muffins, cheese toast, or a few crackers.

Since then I have tried different combinations. I have liked them all. And I get to totally leave out the stuff I don't want, like English Yuck Peas and Green Yuck Beans. And I get to really pour on the on(yum)ions and to(yum)matoes and mush(yum)rooms! A can of chicken breast always helps. A dash of hot sauce can't hurt. Left-over pasta? Toss it in. Water chesnuts add crunch. Different beans. No beans. More tomatoes. Less mushrooms. More mushrooms. Less tomatoes. Let your imagination soar! For some reason I'm at a point when I prefer a sorta transparent, watery but spicy base with good sized chunks of veggies floating around in it.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Church, State, and Cultural Literacy

Ladies and Gentlemen!
Behold, a spade!

One of my genuine pet peeves for many years has been the tendency of public institutions to muddy the water, dumb down the discourse, and bore us all to tears, just to avoid controvery.

Some folks have complained, justifiably, when public schools, for instance, have allowed themselves to be in the position of promoting a religion. As a result, some dumb and/or lily-livered school administrators, textbook companies, and teachers have taken the easy way out and basically pretended religion doesn't exist. How stupid! And how destructive to the cultural literacy of our students!

Madison and Jefferson, even though they breeched it themselves sometimes, were in favor of a wall of separation between church and state. Me too. But it doesn't have to have razor wire at the top and guard dogs and armed sentries. It could even have a few windows in it, for heaven's sake! They did not want us raising ignoramuses who do not know the stories of the Bible, who do not know the meanings of religious words, who do not know the basic tenets of various Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, and other groups.

This is not officially a "Christian" nation and never has been. It has certainly never been an "Evangelical Christian" nation. Our framers were careful and deliberate and specific in leaving references to the deity out of the Constitution with the exception of the traditional "in the year of our Lord" at the end. We have always had a variety of religious and non-religious men among our leaders. But they were not, as a group, anti-religious. (Paine was and Jefferson may have been privately.) And they didn't expect us to pretend religion doesn't exist.

I teach fourth grade. We used the Houghton Mifflin, Spelling & Vocabulary series for several years. Near the first of the year one of the spelling words is "pray". According to Houghton-Mifflin the word means: "To wish or hope strongly" ARRRGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!! "Pray" may sometimes be used in this way, but it is primarily used to mean "To petition or express thanks to God". It is simply absurd to give "wish" as the primary definition.

Similarly, to call a Christmas Tree by another name as a way of making it palatible for a multi-cultural group is just revolting. "Holiday Tree" is boring and incorrect. There are ways to be sensitive to a diverse populace short of homogenizing the taste right out of our diversity.

"Happy Holidays" is a perfectly suitable greeting with history behind it. It's not very interesting, but there's nothing wrong with it. If I were a Jewish or Muslim businessman that might be my most common greeting during the Christmas season. But there is no reason to demand that those who observe Christmas ignore its name or its significance.

Neither is it un-American to admit to your beliefs (or dis-, un-, or other belief). If I use my position as a public school teacher to actively promote the United Methodist Church, I should be reprimanded. Public school groups have no business attending church-related activities or meetings and such meetings should not take place at school. But there is nothing wrong with my students knowing that I am Methodist; that I pray; that I attend services regularly; or, incidentally and assuming I want to share them, what some of my beliefs are. Cultural literacy demands exposure to the different belief systems in our country.

It is a fine line. Teachers should be careful they don't cross the line between teaching and preaching. I would certainly scream bloody murder if the Falwell ilk started proselytizing my children at school. But I have no problem with my children having an idea of what it means to be, for example, Baptist in Georgia. They would be illiterate in this society without that information.

There is nothing unconstitutional about calling a spade a spade, even religious spades.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nosy Questions

Have you ever...:

My sister Joan used this questionaire on her blog, Daddy's Roses. I couldn't resist giving it a go.

Crashed a friend's car? Yes. I had agreed to buy his old Olds, but we hadn’t gotten around to the paperwork! I rear-ended another car. Definitely my fault. Don’t ever let that happen to you. Both of us should have known better. It made for a complicated situation!

Been dumped ? She just barely beat me to it, dadgum her!

Been fired /laid off?

Snuck out of your parent's house ?

Gone on a blind date? Yep. Bad idea.

Lied to a friend? Just little white ones!!!! Honest.

Skipped school? Maybe a couple of times.

Been to Canada? Yes. Visited my sister and her family, two or three times when they lived in Buffalo, New York; we visited Niagara Falls and we spent a day in Toronto. Later Sheila and I spent a night or two at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton National Park in Alberta. Gorgeous!

Been in a fist fight?
Not since fifth grade. Came close to one in 1993.

Been to Mexico? Nope.

Eaten Sushi? Nope.

Met someone in person from the internet? Nope

Taken pain-killers? An aspirin a day is about it.

Had a tea party? My daughters and I have had beaucoups of Tea Parties when they were preschoolers. Imaginary tea, of course. Mostly tiny cups of sand tea served with small plates of sand cherry pie and other sand delicacies. Always delicious.

"...Turn around and they're tiny: turn around and they're grown..."

Cheated while playing a game? Don't think so.

Fallen asleep at work ?
Went to sleep in mid-sentence while reading to my fifth-graders at McHenry Elementary School about 1977. I woke to those immortal words: “Look, Mr. Shaw’s gone to sleep!”

Felt an earthquake? Twice, I think. Once in West Virginia about 1970 and again in Georgia a few years later. I haven’t thought of that in years.

Touched a snake? Many times.

Been robbed? We’ve been burglarized several times. Lawn mowers, weedeaters, bicycles, etc.

Petted a reindeer/goat? Yes. We even borrowed a friend’s goat for a few days so it could eat up some honeysuckle. This may not count, but one of the most memorable Independence Day Barbecues I've ever attended involved a goat -- delicious.

Won a Contest? I guessed the number of beans in a jar at Camp Glisson. I was awarded the beans.

Been in a car accident? 6 or 7 since 1963. Only two have been my fault.

Had braces?

Eaten a whole pint of ice cream or a whole package of cookies at a sitting?
I am sure I have.

Witnessed a crime? No

Swam in the ocean?
Yep. I love the ocean, but I’m not big on swimming in it.

Sung karaoke? Yes. Most recently I led our fourth-grade teachers in karaoke versions of "Monster Mash" and "Purple People Eater" for our school fall festival. It was a schoolyard smash!

Paid for a meal with only coins? Some youngster wrote this question. I remember 10 cent hamburgers. As late as 1970 I was eating a full home-cooked meal at Opal’s Diner in Eleanor WV every third day. It cost a dollar even. I’m sure I occasionally paid in quarters.

Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose? Yep, again. I don’t have a specific memory. But I can conjure the sensation easily.

Crashed a party?

Worn Pearls?
Pearl’s what?

Jumped off a bridge? At a swimming hole near Red House WV

Eaten dog/cat food? Yuck!!!!

Kissed a mirror?

Glued your hand to something?
Super Glue!

Been kissed under mistletoe? And other greenery. Not all girls know mistletoe in the wild and others are willing to imagine the mistletoe.

Done a one-handed cartwheel? I wish.

Talked on the phone for more than 2 hours? I doubt it. Close a time or two.

Didn't take a shower for a week? Never! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. (And to my clothes.)

Picked and eaten an apple right off the tree? Yes.

Been told by a complete stranger that you're hot? It happens all the time to us hefty 58-year-olds. The animal magnetism is just more than some women can resist, I guess.

Modified School Calendar and some guy named Steve Gill

Hosting a Talk Show Must be a Tough Job

Steve Gill is evidently some sort of talk show host on a radio station in or around Nashville TN. I've never heard him. But my sister has and she mentioned on her blog, The Median Sib, that this guy has been bloviating about the cushy job we teachers have. He was, she said, upset at the "nitwit" idea of schools going to a modified calendar in his area.

I am a public school teacher: I know about "nits". And I fancy I know something about wit as well. Don't we all.

We've been using the modified calendar for a couple of years in our school system and I think it's great. Everyone I know who is associated with our school likes it as far as I know. I have heard no complaints except from outside the system. There are those that don't like it, I'm sure, but I haven't heard them.

As the Median Sib has said, the modified (or "balanced" or "extended") calendar makes no difference at all in the number of days of paid work for teachers. I suspect the county gets a few extra days of unpaid work out of most teachers as they use some of the "intersession" time to plan for the coming quarter. I always work at least one day, usually more, of intersession on planning, etc. unpaid. I usually work 4 or 5 official winter intersession days each year teaching. I get paid a little extra for that and that's nice. I encourage my students to come to winter intersession so I can work with my own students. I know what they need to catch up on.

After spending eleven years in the "private sector" I have an appreciation for the perks, privileges, and advantages of teaching. I like teaching. But I suspect this talk-show host has no idea of the pressure, paperwork, daily preparation, and aggravations of teaching. It is DEFINITELY NOT a 9-5 job. (It's a 7:30-4 or 5; then 8 or 9 -10 or midnight, and more time on the weekends job.)

I wonder how many hours our talk show host puts in on his job per day, and year. I am not in his position and so can only guess. I would guess it's more than the few hours we hear him on the radio each day.

I suspect, though, he does not prepare a detailed plan for his hours of programming, documenting objectives for each hour, writing essential questions, showing how the listeners of different abilities, skills, and handicaps will be provided for in each part of the broadcast.

Does he gather manipulatives, set up experiments, reserve books, videos and other resources, print and organize materials? Does he create evaluations to prove that he is accomplishing his goals? That his listeners are understanding and retaining the information he is dishing out?

Does he eat lunch in a noisy cafeteria where he shepherds 25 listeners through the lunchline and has twenty minutes to wolf down his own meal before helping those 25 unruly listeners get out of the cafeteria for a fifteen minute outdoor play period that he supervises? Does he help settle who pushed whom and who does/doesn't like whom? And does he take temperatures and apply band-aids and hugs to make booboos better?

I am not sure he schedules a lot of meetings with the relatives of his listeners to give and receive feedback on how his listeners are doing.

I wonder how often he has to deal with counseling listeners who have lost parents through death or divorce; deal with little girls terrified at changes in their bodies; check his listeners hair for head lice; put up with the three elementary school "p"s - puke, pee or poop - in his studio. I could go on.

Talk show hosting has its pressures, I'm sure, but I am ignorant of them. Just as he is ignorant of, and guessing about, our jobs.

Steve, you are guessing wrong.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Whoops! Many of my comments have disappeared!

When I added the "Haloscan" commenting to my blog, some of the comments to recent posts disappeared. I like the new commenting, but I'm sorry to have lost my old comments. Oh, well.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

An Off-the-cuff Serial Autobiography (Arachniphobia - 2004)


Our school is an official "Environmental education" school and we pride ourselves on our use of our outdoor classroom gardens, our participation in the sturgeon release program, our bog garden, our milkweed, passion flower, and other butterfly food plots, our tiny American chesnut recovery grove , our outdoor classroom, and our nature trail. When we find an interesting bug of any sort, we tend to capture and display them. We were proud to parade several black widow spiders from class to class in bug barns -- though the pest control company made an extra visit to dispatch their brethren. We ocasionally have rodent visitors from the woods and fields take refuge in our building. One little terrified mouse was chased from room to room for several days before the janitor's sticky trap caught him. Nature guru, Ms. Lindsey, carefully peeled his feet from the glue and released him into the woods!

So when my sister Carol included the phrase "...spiders and other insects..." on her blog I couldn't resist a little arthropod lesson. I enjoyed correcting and teasing her for that common mistake of classifying all "bugs" as "insects". As it turned out I had misread her words, she did not mean to imply that spiders are insects.

Spiders and other arachnids are not insects, of course. They have eight legs, claw-like mouth parts, two body sections, and no antennae. Insects have six legs, three body parts, jaw-like mouth parts, and antennae.

As a matter of fact, the term "true bugs" is correctly applied to insects, but only to the order of insects known as Hemiptera - "half-wing" insects like wheel bugs, milkweed bugs, water boatmen, stink bugs and such.

Carol's story of spiders at school reminded me of the Great Spider Uproar at our school last year.

As we ate lunch in the teachers' little lunchroom one day, a big wolf spider crawled under our table. Ms. Lindsey and I noticed it, remarked at its size and beauty, as we sipped our tea and munched our sandwiches.

"Oh, look at that spider!" exclaimed my co-worker.
"Wow!" articulated yours truly, "What a beaut! I'll get a cup to catch him in and we can examine him in science class this afternoon."

At the next table sat my lovely little student teacher. "Did you say "Spider?!"

"Yes," I replied enthusiastically, "As soon as I catch him I'll let you see."

She leapt upon the table.

Having grown-up as the big brother of three younger sisters (and two older ones) I naturally perceived an opportunity to tease a girl, the favorite occupation of my youth. By now holding the spider in my hands, I held it aloft to display it.

The student teacher screamed as if mortally injured. She leapt from the table in the opposite direction and ran down the adjacent hallway in terror. Realizing (Duh!) that I was dealing with more than ordinary squeamishness, I quickly deposited the spider out-of-doors.

When I returned, I found my wonderful arachniphobic student teacher in wretched tears and myself in unbearable embarrassment. I had had no idea! Her history includes a car wrecked at the sight of a spider, and an hour crouched atop a table in terror till her father returned home to squoosh and remove a spider! A true arachniphobe!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Charles Shaw

My Daddy

Today is the anniversary of the saddest day in my life so far. In a way, I should be grateful. So many people have had greater tragedy in their lives. I have relatives who have lost young fathers and sons. I have lost close friends at much younger ages. My Daddy was 67 when he died suddenly, of a heart attack, in 1986. He had led a busy and successful life. He grabbed life by the horns and he loved his family and friends fiercely and without reserve.

My sisters, Carol and Joan, have posts on their blogs about my daddy. Joan's is named Daddy's Roses. Today, Carol has posted an article she wrote about Daddy a few years after his death. My mother has been posting autobiographical sketches in her blog, Ruthlace. One is about her eventful "visit" with Daddy in San Diego before he shipped off to the Pacific with the Marine Corps in 1944.

Another sister, Beth, has paid tribute to my father on the web site she maintains for the little mill town where he grew up, Milstead, Georgia.

I've expressed grief over Daddy's death in poetry several times. Here are two poems.

The first is about the grief therapy I found in being able to complete, with the help of my brother and even my beautiful little three-year-old daughter, Daddy's Christmas woodworking projects for his grandchildren.

The second is about the sadness I feel that my youngest wasn't able to know her granddaddy and the fear that perhaps his death was even necessary to the miracle that she is. (My poetry is replete with references to ways that, paradoxically, good sometimes springs from evil: A morbid fascination of mine.)

In Daddy's Workshop, The Day He Died
December 3, 1986
for Charles Shaw, 1919-1986

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
await his hands
guiding the teeth of a saw,
the bite of a router,
the grit of a sander,
color from a brush,
the polishing rag.
His stubby fingers trace the shaped edges;
test the smooth surface.

Scent of pine, and pungent oak
mingle with his in the denim jacket
on a nail near the door,
with pocketed pencil and tape handy.

He stands here, hours ago,
the great boy,
planning his surprise,
sketching, exploring the shapes to be formed.

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
want cutting, shaping, sanding, shining;
cry to be more: sled, cradle, rocking horse;
await his hands.

He speaks to the scraps and pieces:
"Tomorrow I'll buy maple for the runners."

Tomorrow is here;

and he is here

in scraps and pieces
in scent and plans;

and here am I,
his hands.

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
cry to the him in me:

You have rockers, ends, planks, plans,
and three weeks till Christmas.

All Things Work Together:
A Daughter is Born
to Lillian

If Daddy hadn't died, would this poem be?

-- A bull through china, the ugly thought crashes --

Would his longer thread in the mesh
of years obstruct by chance
that one in a trillion accident of love,
coincidence of sperm and egg?

-- The breakage, unmanaged, scatters and
scratches! --

Could his garden bugs these years have fed
a nest of wrens to send a wanderer to my window?
And letting a living poem sleep,
might I have written, instead, the wren?

-- Bull-headed I sweep the debris --

If Daddy lives, must the poem vanish?

I weep for my Daddy;
I mourn the wren that never was;
And welcome you to my heart, my present poem.


The wonderful gift my father gave each of his children was unconditional love. Whatever else was going on in his life or ours, each of the seven of his offspring knew: Charles Shaw loves me and will be there for me if I need him regardless of miles or expense. Thank you, Daddy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

McCarthy is Alive and in the White House.

Deja Vu All Over Again

It was a time of great fear. An enemy appeared that seemed to have no compunction executing horrible atrocities. They murdered their own people over political differences. Small cells of adherants grew up all over the world and operated clandestinely to try to infiltrate societies and governments everywhere. It was a time rife with opportunity for anyone willing to exploit fear for profit and fame. Joseph McCarthy was willing.

It was a dangerous time for democracy. Many people were, in fear, ready to abandon the very freedoms they ostensibly sought to protect.

You cannot read about the McCarthy years without seeing plain parallels to our own time. Read the vicious rants of McCarthy and you taste the venom of the Limbaughs and Coulters of today. Read the blogs of the right-wing today and you hear the emotional twins of the scared mobs ready to ostrasize, ruin the careers of, lock up, smear, anyone with real or imagined associations with communists. Ready to tar anyone who disagreed as "anti-American". Today, again, one cannot just disagree. To the right-wing, dissent is "anti-American".

The situations are so similar.

1. A very real, very evil enemy: Communists, then; Radical Islamists, now.

2. Real heroes of the fight against these enemies: Then - Harry Truman and (eventually) Dwight Eisenhower. Then and now - our military; a few determined journalists; a few responsible Democratic and Republican members of congress.

3. Charlatans promoting panic, fear, and hate for their own ends: Then McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, the right-wing press, lots of Republicans and a few Democrats; today, the neo-conservatives led by the President of the United States [GWB: "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."] , the right-wing press and its echo-chamber talk-shows; lots of Republicans and a few Democrats.

4. A legitimately fearful public latching onto supposed security at the expense of freedom, and in the process endangering both by heeding, at least temporarily, the demagogue.

Benjamin Franklin said ‘‘They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

God bless America and protect her, once again, from those who, in their fear of terrorism, would trade our freedoms for security. Those folks are more dangerous, in the long run, than even Stalin or Bin Laden.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cousins, Rice, Sea Legs, and Multiplication

Multiplying People, Rice and Readers

My sister wrote about a rice tale on her blog. (The Median Sib- scroll down near the bottom of the page.) I've read the rice tale. It's in one of our reading books, but that version is called "The Rajah's Rice", I think. It teaches the power of multiplication.

When we start talking about multiplication each year, I greet my fourth grade students with: "Hello, Cousin Jenny, Cousin Joe," ... etc. They ask why I'm calling them cousins. I say, "Well all of us are cousins aren't we?" Eventually I say I can prove it's true. And I start doubling parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and going back 25 years per generation. By the time we get to 1492 or so we're past a million ancestors apiece. A few generations more and we each have more ancestors than the earth had people at the time. We are all cousins.

I have enjoyed The Median Sib's discussions of kids' books. (She also tackles that subject on her other blog: The Reading Teacher.) I love children's literature. I would have thought that I had read most of the Newbery Award winners during 25 years of teaching elementary school, but when I counted them up, I'd only read about twenty out of 84. I've been trying to better that record since early this year. I've now read over half of them.

They are all good so far, but some are definitely not really the best of their year of publication. And a couple are just strange.

And some books that make my all-time favorites list didn't make the Newbery commmittee's cut for the best children's book for eht year of its publication. Charlotte's Web, Hatchet, The Lion's Paw, The Little House books, Bristle Face, and Jim Kjelgaard's books are beloved but un-Award-ed. (Several received other awards or the "runner-up" Newbery Honor.)

I’ve recently read a new silly book called Sea Legs by a British author, Alex Shearer. I laughed out loud several times. Nothing deep. Just a good kids’ book. It’s about a set of twins who stow away on a cruise ship. My student twins were eagar to read it when I told my class about it. Since they were in the middle of other big books I loaned my copy to another student first. It is now being read by one of my twins though he had to wait through three students before he got a turn. Each reader has speculated about which fictional twin is most like each of our real twins.

And today we finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That gives us time to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever before the Christmas break. I have Imogene Herdman in my class this year. I wonder if my students will notice.