Thursday, January 29, 2009

The First Jonquil: Harbinger of Spring

For many years now it has been my pleasure to search out a jonquil on February 1. Somehow it is very uplifting to know that somewhere in my hometown I can count on a precocious little daffodil raising its yellow trumpet in a solo fanfare to rouse its fellows, defy the frost or even ice and snow that may yet encrust its petals, and fairly shout, "Persevere, press on, Spring will come!"

This year I had only to walk a few paces to the end of my own drive. And several days early, at that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

For ourselves and our posterity

President Obama has broken with the policies of the last administration that, I believe, eroded our national reputation and our liberties. He has tried very hard to accomplish this with bipartisanship and without rancor. Some will argue that he has not gone far enough.

But is any executive action by the current President enough?

Aesop said: "Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in." I have lived to see our country enmeshed in two mistaken wars. I have seen mistakes repeated. I have heard more than one American President mislead the people. We have found ourselves sometimes in murky catacombs where the exits were all steep, slippery, and guarded by dangerous trolls. How can we ensure that the mistaken and/or illegal policies of past administrations do not stand as precedent for some future administration that finds itself in a dark place?

I believe:
• the last administration approved and used torture;
• they blatantly ignored law;
• they misled the nation and the world in their conduct leading to the war in Iraq.
• their actions, however noble or ignoble the motivation, did more harm to our nation than any foreign enemy could.
I also believe:
• the last administration believed it knew best what was good for our country and, in that certitude, arrogated to itself the power to ignore FISA, Geneva conventions, and the Constitution;
• prosecution of the former President, Vice President, or Secretary of Defense, however richly deserved, would further divide the country and possibly, God forbid, result in an acquittal which would make the precedent even stronger.
Some will consider it mean-spirited to point out the mistakes of the last administration now that it is gone. While I admit to anger at times with the conduct of those folks, I have no interest in "rubbing their noses in it". I have tried on the Limb, from the beginning -- with occasional missteps, I'm sure -- to deal realistically with the issues, to avoid name-calling and ad hominem attacks, to stay away from assigning motives in favor of evaluating words and actions. Sometimes I have rewritten posts three or four times to edit out the anger that I don't deny feeling. I certainly do not want our country further divided. At nearly 62 my time here grows short and I yearn for comfortable, friendly, easy relationships. I hate confrontation. I actively hate confrontation.

But our liberty is always only one generation removed from extinction. Our nation has certainly had more articulate and more effective champions but never a more sincere lover. I desperately want my generation to leave our children and grandchildren an America where it is crystal clear basic national principle that:
• the President must follow the law even in wartime;
• though We the People need our servant, the President, to control certain war powers, declaring a never-ending "War" on a tactic does not give the President unlimited or unending powers;
• Americans don't torture;
• Americans recognize self-evident, universal, Creator-endowed, unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
• if we compromise our principles in response to terrorism, the terrorists have succeeded;
So I ask again: How can we, with the least upheaval and unpleasantness, insure that past mistakes are not repeated? How do We the People, in this generation, provide for the common defense, insure domestic tranquility, AND secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?

Sunday Concert: Across the Universe - Let it Be

My voice teacher, Angela Flanagan, suggested I check out this exerpt from the movie musical Across the Universe. ATU is a 2007 Academy Award nominated film that uses a bunch of Beatles music to tell a story of the '60s.

Friday, January 23, 2009

38 Years and Counting...

Here we are again at January 23. I never write that date without thinking of a joyously received "Yes!" that I have reveled in every day since that date in 1971.

You can read more about it here and at other links from that post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This day, that has been anticipated by your host on the Limb for so long, has come and nearly gone. Words cannot adequately convey the joy with which I greet it. Anyone who has visited the Limb since it sprouted in November of 2005, knows how fervantly I have wished an end to the mistakes of the last eight years.

But when I wrote that first post I never dreamed that this day would bring the degree of joy that it has. Not only do we have a Democratic President who has already begun rebuilding our nation's reputation and the integrity of the executive branch, but he is a person of uncommon ability, eloquence, and vision. And he has, merely by his election, made spirits soar for folks who dared not dream that one of their own could lead our nation. What a light shown in the eyes of my minority students today as we watched that wonderful patriot, who happens to be African-American, speak of us of taking responsibility again. He challenged us to "...put aside childish things."
"...greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame."
And how reassuring to me were his words specifically reminding us that his obligation is not just to provide for the defense of the living but also to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations."
I have shed tears of joy today. There are those who would mock my tears as tears of naive adulation. They are mistaken. I recognise that, like the icy Delaware that faced Washington and his heroes in 1776, we have daunting challenges before us. There may yet be Valley Forge winters to come. But also like those men who braved the river and the Hessians and the Redcoats, we have a leader of strong ethics, fierce determination, cool intelligence, no wish to be king, and absolute loyalty to the American cause. That gives me great joy and hope.

Change has come... already.

To anyone who has visited the official White House website the change in administrations will be immediately obvious with their first visit after 12:01 p.m. today. Before Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill had finished playing John Williams wonderful setting of "Simple Gifts", the White House website had been retooled. (Here is that glorious quartet. Notice the joy in Yo-Yo Ma's performance.)

It is friendlier, beautifully designed, open to complete indexing by the search engines, and ready to provide interaction between the executive branch and the American people. After a brief tour, I like it. Take a look.

New: White House 101
Old: White House Kids

New: Main Page
Old: Main Page

In graphic design as in many other aspects of life "...'tis the gift to be simple." The new website uses larger, simplified, easier-to-read-and-interpret elements.

President Obama has promised an open and transparent executive branch. Uploaded during the very first minute of his presidency, while the quartet played, and before he and Chief Justice John Roberts even began reciting -with some alteration - the Constitutional oath, this website is a good start.

President Barack Obama

As Michelle Obama holds the Lincoln Bible, her husband (already officially President for four minutes) pledges to "... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

President Obama delivers a dynamic challenge to America.

President Obama and his wife, Michelle, walk down Pennsylvania Avenue today.
(Photos from

President Barack Hussein Obama

I believe President Obama will be one of the outstanding Presidents of my lifetime. But whatever occurs over the next four or eight years, this day will live in the memories of Americans as one of the most happy moments of our history.
We are beginning to live the dream.

God bless the memory of Charity Stinchcomb and all those who lived as slaves.
God bless the memory of Rosa Parks.
God bless the memory of those little children mistreated
as they integrated schools in the fifties and sixties.
God bless the memory of Medger Evers.
God bless the memory of those three boys in Philiadelphia, Mississippi.
God bless the memory of Dr. King.
God bless the memory of Silas McComb.
God bless the memory of Solomon Lasoi.

God bless this good man, our President.

God bless America.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pete is back on the Mall!

I don't remember what year it was. It was B.C. (before children) -- maybe '81 0r '82*? Sheila read in the paper that there was to be, the next weekend, a celebration of Oklahoma on the Mall in Washington DC. As part of that there was to be a free concert on the Mall in honor of Oklahoman Woody Guthrie.

"If there's a concert honoring the memory of Woody Guthrie, Pete will be there!" Sheila declared.

I agreed. We called the event organizers to ask. They said contractual agreements would not allow some performers to officially announce their participation, but if we were to come to Washington, she believed, we'd be glad we did. So we called up Amtrak and ordered tickets and headed to the nation's capital on a whim. We arrived very early to the Mall stage and parked ourselves right in front. And after a very worthwhile wait we witnessed one of the greatest concerts we've ever enjoyed. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo, Pete and others sang their hearts out. Afterwards we got to talk with Pete and Arlo and found them to be the genuine article.

I found my eyes misting up again today as I listened to the short speech that Barack Obama gave standing where Martin King stood in 1963 to deliver "I Have a Dream". Then I thought I heard a familiar voice.
Photo stolen from the Chicago Tribune. You can read their story here.

There was video of Pete Seeger, born the same year as my Daddy, his voice wavering but still Pete's, lining out the words of "This Land is Your Land" for Bruce Springsteen and the 300,000 joyous people crowding the Mall to celebrate this wonderful moment in our history.

We could have been there. Sister #1 offered free lodging at her home in Laurel MD. But my personal leave days were used for a niece's wedding last fall. And getting around in DC will be/is very difficult with safety precautions in effect. And really we'll see and hear things better on TV. Still, how angry with myself I am that I did not just take unpaid leave and go. We would have done it 25 years ago.

Here are Barack Obama's comments at the Lincoln Memorial today:

* It was 1982. That was the year of Oklahoma's Diamond Jubilee.

Protect and Defend

On Tuesday next, Barack Obama will place one hand on the Bible Abraham Lincoln used in 1861 and raise the other as he becomes the 43rd person (44th President -- Cleveland counts twice) to officially recite the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
I have been disturbed to hear the current occupant of the White House repeatedly misstate the President's first duty. And I have heard others accept that misstatement. I have even heard Barack Obama dangerously simplify the President's duty to "protect and defend".

I certainly want the President of the United States to do all that is ethically and morally in his power to protect and defend the lives of me and those I love and all Americans. But that is NOT his first duty. His first duty is to the Constitution of the United States. I hope that if it ever came to such a choice that I would give up my life for the Constitution. Despite the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the burning of Washington, DC in 1814, or the evil murders and destruction in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York in 2001, those events did not damage the Constitution of the United States.

Others can belittle us. Others can mock our traditions. Others can terrorize us. Others can kill us.

But only Americans can destroy our freedoms.

Very few established institutions, governments and constitutions ... are ever destroyed by their enemies until they have been corrupted and weakened by their friends.
-Walter Lippman, journalist (1889-1974)

I have no great need to rub George Bush's nose in his failures at this point. He is headed day after tomorrow for Crawford, Texas and political oblivion. Barack Obama has made it plain that he wants to heal the nation's wounds by looking forward, not back. I support him in that.

But it is also of the utmost importance that he take that oath seriously. One of the most pressing duties before him is to make clear that even the President must respect the the law. That Americans do not torture. That the last administration was in error when it put protecting against terror above protecting the Constitution.

I trust Obama to use his power in legitimate ways. But some day there will be another President. What precedent will that future President follow when our people are again victimized, as we eventually will be, by foreign evil? Will he or she be tempted to sacrifice our freedoms for physical security?

Protect and defend? Yes! By all legitimate means. But protect and defend the Constitution first.

Sunday Concert: Riding Rails

Here's the classic Arlo Guthrie hit, The City of New Orleans. This is from a 1978 concert in Atlanta.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Joy to the World

I asked Mother to suggest our twelfth Christmas song. We agreed on this joyful standard. At youTube I discovered a number of nice versions and one awful one (Michael Bolton with an unenthusiastic Placido Domingo singing backup). I considered using a different Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance, but they sang "saints and nature sing" in place of "heaven and nature sing" -- what's with that?

For Epiphany, here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Renee Fleming presenting musical gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What better way to close the Christmas season than with a rousing declaration of Joy to the World?

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Eleventh Day of Christmas: A' Soalin'

This song also on the "Moving" album by Peter Paul and Mary -- one of the dozen or so albums I obtained with my original membership in the Columbia Record Club. Here is a live performance.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Monthly Marathon: Resolve

We began the year with the usual resolve: this year we will exercise, lose weight, improve health, flexibilty, and stamina.

So we walked our three miles or so on New Year's Day, down the levee to the new pedestrian bridge, across to Broad Street, down to Second Avenue then up to third, a block east, up East First Street to Fourth, back to Broad, on to Seventh, back down West First to Fifth Avenue, and the levee and home.

And yesterday, the third day of the year we walked across the bridge to the east side of the Oostanaula, up the Riverwalk past Chieftains and back, pausing at Starbucks to use our Christmas gift cards for cappacino and frappacino, and home again -- probably four miles but the 'cinos cancel that out.

It's fun to walk in winter, despite the lack of color, because of the increased visibility. We can see our own bedroom window from the park.

We can tell when we are opposite Oak Hill Church of Christ and the Martha Berry home. We can see much more of the river.

And we can notice the somber remains of last summer...

Last year's red oak leaves clinging desperately to twigs.

Spikey seed pods dangling from the bare limbs of a sweet gum tree.

The weedy dried skeletons of some spent composite flower.

...and the hopeful intimations of a spring to come...

Buds waiting for a coaxing spring sun to call forth green.

And an over-eager sumac (?) already testing the air.

And in our own yard, pushing through the mulch, brazen jonquils declaring to winter their February plans come what (cold winds, snow, or crusting of ice) may.

Soon after Christmas we visited my niece and her family (two daughters, a son, and a hubby) in their brand spanking new home near the banks of the Etowah River east of town. The kids and adults were fascinated with the latest technological home wonder -- the Wii!! As Arthur C. Clarke has noted, technology can be indistinguishable from magic. It is fascinating and sometimes hilarious to watch my relatives, young and old, hold the Wii's magic wand and utter real grunts as they serve virtual tennis balls, give real follow through to real heaves of virtual gutter balls and occasional strikes in virtual bowling, take gigantic muscle straining Casey-like swings at virtual fastballs in virtual baseball, really huff and puff and punch and parry in virtual boxing, and hunch to putt at a virtual hole in virtual golf.

Lillian was not with us that day, but she heard the tale and soon headed to a big box store with her savings in hand to buy one of the things for herself. Her child-like father has hogged the thing since. Every muscle in his body protests, but ever-stubborn Pop is determined to lower his virtual age...

My first Wii virtual age on New Year's Eve -- I managed to lower it temporarily to 37 for New Year'd Day, but was so sore that by Saturday 63 was the best I could do!

... regardless of the Ibuprofen costs involved. So we have gained some exercise points for our virtual sports exploits the last few days. But we take a long time descending the stairs each morning.

Perhaps our resolve this year will be bolstered by our determination to help the cause of defeating leukemia. We plan to join other supporters of Lily's Garden (Lily is my great niece) in the Country Music Half-Marathon in April. If you'd like to help that cause follow the links above to learn more.

The Tenth Day of Christmas: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

This is Sheila's favorite Christmas carol.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Ninth Day of Christmas: O Holy Night

This is another song that I have sung many times. Here is Josh Groban's rendition from a 2006 performance at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting program.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Eighth Day of Christmas: The Christmas Song

Another Christmas song written by a Jewish fellow. Mel Torme wrote this. Here Ricky Nelson sings it on the old Ozzie and Harriet show.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

GrannyJ and the Third Avenue El

GrannyJ at Walking Prescott visits the Limb occasionally. I often click her homepage link then to discover what daily wonders she and her camera have recorded for us in and around Prescott, Arizona.
On this first day of 2009 --- I am living a life of science fiction: I have traveled to the future! --- Granny commented on my recent posting of "The Yawn" by Paul Blackburn with a few memories and a couple of pictures from our visit to New York City last week.

She wrote:
"You have reminded me, Terrell, that a one-time college friend made an 16 mm indie film years and years ago, Third Avenue El, that won many prizes."
Being me I immediately had to run the collective memory of mankind through the Google "Third Avenue El" sieve. Sure enough there is a webpage dedicated to the now-defunct Third Avenue El. And about halfway down that page of old pictures of stations and tracks, and newer photos of remnants and artifacts, was this --- Is it your friends film, Granny? --- imbedded youTube video, a beautiful 10 minute film of a "day in the life" of the late Third Avenue El with no narration but the strains of Haydn and the rattle of the elevated train.:

What is a 3rd Avenue El?

It's the elevated train that used to run up and down Manhattan until the mid-1950's, when it was decommissioned and turned into scrap metal.

Despite this, you can still experience the trip through New York City that vanished over half-a-century ago, not only from the overhead view of the train window, but through the actual neighborhoods and with the authentic people who road it daily.

A beatnik photographer with a tripod, a stumbling drunk from the old Bowery, a giddy little girl traveling with her father, and a couple on a romantic excursion help create a loose narrative.

For the soundtrack, a sprightly rendition of Haydn's Concerto in D for Harpsichord is accompanied by all of the real sounds of a metropolitan elevated subway trip. Along with it's superb photography and creative editing, a viewing of '3rd Avenue El' is like taking a ten minute vacation to a place that is no more.

-from the youTube intro to the video

The Seventh Day of Christmas: The Friendly Beasts

Fifteen or more years ago the four of us, Brannon, Lillian, Sheila, and I performed "The Friendly Beasts" for our church Christmas Party program. It may have been the only public performance of the Shaw Family Singers.

I couldn't find video I liked of this song so just listen to Garth Brooks and friends. The donkey part is sung by Pat Alger. Pat wrote (or cowrote) several of Brooks most famous hits like "Unanswered Prayers" and "The Thunder Rolls". I like to brag that back in the sixties I cowrote a song with this famous songwriter. Pat was in the cabin with me, Cleve Burton, Greg Cordle, and other friends at good old Camp Glisson. Our counselor was "Big John", a Methodist preacher of great girth. At the Friday night talent show our group of audacious boys sang "Who Could Ask for More?" -- a song written mostly by Pat but with input from the whole cabin. I remember one verse alluded to the fact that even if "Big John"'s belly arrived on time, the rest of him might still be late.

Here is what Brooks writes about the performance:

"From the beginning I wanted the beasts of the stable to be separate, individual characters, so I asked some of my songwriting buddies to help out.

The donkey is played by PAT ALGER who wrote "The Thunder Rolls", "Unanswered Prayers" and "What She's Doing Now".

STEPHANIE DAVIS sings for the cow. She wrote "WOLVES" and "THE GIFT".

The sheep is presented by LARRY BASTIAN who wrote "I've Got A Good Thing Going", "Cowboy Bill", "Nobody Gets Off In This Town", "Unanswered Prayers", "Rodeo" and "The Old Man's Back In Town"

VICTORIA SHAW, who wrote "The River" sings for the dove.

And finally, TONY ARATA sings the camel's verse. Tony wrote "The Dance" and "Same Old Story".

Sunday Concert: For Auld Lang Syne

For your New Year's enjoyment a variety of takes on the traditional anthem:

Soulfully done.

Closest to Unique

Kenny G

The Alexandria Harmonizers