Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Endorse Mike Burton for State Senate

Mike Burton is my close friend and the Education Candidate for the Georgia Senate, District 52. Mike says that when he and his brother and cousins would get into arguments as youngsters, his grandmother "Mama Brown" would say, "Boys, lets have a little 'sweet reason" here." And she would help them find a way to compromise and get along. Mike wants to bring some sweet reason to the Georgia Senate. It could sure use it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mike Burton for State Senate

I am proud to support my lifelong friend, Mike Burton, for State Senate, District 52. If you live in Floyd County, western Gordon County, or northern Bartow County, please look beyond the big money, slick ads, and negative attacks of the other side and vote for Mike and "Sweet Reason"

Mike will not represent a party, a special interest, or a rigid platform -- he will represent the people of our district. He is open, intelligent, and reasonable.

Mike is the Democratic nominee. Our district is 65% Republican. In order for Mike to win he must receive the votes of a lot of Republicans. I ask my many wonderful Republican friends to please give him a fair hearing. You will not agree with him on every issue, but I believe most of you will find more to agree with him on than you will his opponent if you give him a fair hearing. Thanks!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The New York "Mosque" Controversy II

 I do not understand why it would "disrespect" other loyal Americans for these loyal Americans, just as much victims of Al Qaeda as you or me, to build their center in lower Manhattan where our mutual enemies attacked us. Certainly Muslims in lower Manhattan are as likely as you or me, actually more so I imagine, to know workers at the World Trade Center who were killed in the attacks of 2001. Moderate Muslims are specifically targeted by Al Qaeda.

The Golden Rule is a great way to look at this. When I put myself in the place of an American Muslim I feel the incredible pain of seeing my own countrymen accepting Bin Laden's world view of a war between Americans and Islam instead of a battle against extremists who kill moderate Muslims daily. Putting myself in the place of my Muslim students, parents, and friends -- some of whom had very close relatives murdered by different terrorist, Saddam, BTW -- I would be terribly hurt and insulted and even angry.

Our allies among the Kurds, Shites, and Sunnis in Iraq and Afghanistan must wonder if we can be trusted if we treat even Muslim Americans as if they are "disrespectful" just for using a building in lower Manhattan. Our soldiers include loyal American Muslims and are fighting alongside Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. What message are the folks so vehemently opposing the "Mosque" sending the moderates?

I say again: Bin Laden must be chuckling at his unwitting allies. I believe that the vociferous opponents of this building are helping Bin Laden estrange Muslims from America. They are helping him create extremists. If they can't support it, they should be silent, in my opinion, because, even if they were right that it would be best not built, it is counterproductive, divisive, and helps Bin Laden achieve his goals to continue to alienate our allies among the Muslims. If we agree they have the right to build it, then how does insulting them help our cause?

The better response to the announcement of the building, however, would have been: "Good for these folks! This demonstrates that America will not fall into Bin Laden's trap. We actually believe in the words of our founding documents. See OBL, you creepy medieval rabid dog, reasonable Muslims are not on your side. They believe in America and want to help lower Manhattan recover from your evil."

Friday, October 15, 2010

The New York "Mosque" Controversy

Osama Bin Laden must be sitting in a cave somewhere chuckling about his unwitting allies.

The attacks of 2001 were attacks by extremists against the United States, a nation of all religions and none. In those attacks Methodists, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, atheists, Muslims, Sikhs, and more died. For the 200 years plus before that, other Americans, of all faiths and none, have died fighting for our Bill of Rights which proclaims freedom of religion.

Any American has the right to build a house of worship on land he owns if he pleases.

When I think of the sweet Muslim American kids I have taught over the years and the many fine Muslim American parents and teachers I have known, I am not bothered at all for them to build a mosque near the site where extremists of their faith tried to terrorize them and us into forsaking our freedom to worship as they and we please.

I stubbornly refuse to succumb to terrorism.

An extremist Christian terrorist set off a bomb in Centennial Park about 24 hours after I was there. I will not allow my rights as an American to be altered one iota by his terrorism. Nor will I quit visiting New York because of Bin Laden's terrorism. Nor will I change my belief in religious freedom, as Bin Laden would have me do, because of his despicable acts. I believe terrorism deserves a quick and brutal response. I  will cheerfully stand in line, shoeless, to have my belongings x-rayed before each flight. I will pay whatever taxes need to be paid so that practical safeguards can be maintained and so that terrorists can be hunted. But to alter my core values because of terrorism would be to surrender to it, period.

I will not do it.

I want Bin Laden and his ilk to see America going on about its business, refusing to be terrorized, -- ready to take safeguards, ready to punish terrorists without mercy, but otherwise -- bravely, determinedly, resolutely unaffected by terrorism.

The Case for the President

The link above (click on the picture) is to a pretty good rundown of the accomplishments of the last two years. They are impressive. Our President inherited a terrible situation on January 20, 2009. The economy was hemorrhaging jobs. According to almost every economist there was real danger of us slipping into depression. At the time virtually everyone admitted that it would be a long slog out of the recession. Well, it has been. But things turned in the right direction almost immediately under the pragmatic, calm, open-minded leadership of our President. We still have a terrible jobless rate, but we have gone from losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to gaining thousands of jobs each month. That's not enough, and would be better without the stonewalling of the GOP, but it is a huge improvement.

Yes we have terrible deficits. We have them because of the excesses of many, but a big part is the mess created by folks who want to conduct two wars and cut taxes at the same time. Letting the ridiculous tax breaks for the wealthy expire as originally planned will help the situation. The wealthy paid much higher taxes than they do now during the boom years of the fifties! (& even the roaring nineties under Clinton.)

Now is the time for level-headed folk to come forward and head off the silliness of the Sharron Angles, Christine O'Donnells, and Rand Pauls, (and Nathan Deals, and Barry Loudermilks here in Georgia) who want to blame this ongoing crisis on the very folks who are digging us, slowly but surely, out of it. The Teabaggers like Angle, et al, would remove any safety nets left for common folk, like Social Security and minimum wage.

Vote for reason. Vote for reality. Vote for hope. Vote Democratic!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sunday at the National Storytelling Convention

Sometimes the emcee is as entertaining as the tellers. That's how we were introduced to Kevin Kling a year ago. If Barbara McBride Smith or Ed Stivender or Gayle Ross is the emcee you look forward to their brief moments on stage.

Gay Ducey was emcee for the Sacred Telling session in the College Street Tent on Sunday morning. What a hoot! She performed the usual anti-cellphone duty to the tune of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus":

We know how much you love your cellphone,
You take it with you everywhere,
But if it rings while we are telling,
You'll be standing in the need of prayer!

Then in her best and most solemn voice she recited the rest of the usual "Thou Shalt Nots" of audience etiquette.

My Facebook friend, Suzi Whaples, was our first Sunday teller. She told a touching tale of a street person in Charleston, WV, who hung around the office building where Suzi used to work. Mary Jones was expressionless and definitely less than articulate, but Suzi made the effort of greeting her every morning and afternoon nonetheless. When the woman was suddenly killed in an accident, Suzi learned that her daily greetings were more important than she realized. "Be careful how you treat strangers," Suzi reminded us, "you might be entertaining angels, unaware."

Corinne Stavish was next. Of Jewish heritage Corinne is known for her bible stories told from the perspective of women from the Old Testament (Sarah on Friday). But this morning she spoke of her mother's creative uses of the common exclamation, "Oy veh!"
"I understood," she said, "that compassion passed directly from God to my mother." Though she also admitted that her mother "... had anger management issues of her own." Embedded in this story of her mother was a tale she borrowed from a writer named Kohn (sp), "The Princess Who Never Cried".

When Gay took the stage to introduce Bill Miller, she had to interrupt herself to turn and cough. She immediately turned back to the audience with an unwavering gaze to announce, "Don't worry -- just a hair ball."

Bill Birdsong Miller is a Mohican who grew up on a Wisconsin reservation. He sang two of his songs: "Listen to Me" and "Dark River"

Next came the inimitable, unlimitable, Kevin Kling. He told a short Ukrainian folktale called "The Mitten". Then told of some of his own childhood experiences in church. During one seemingly endless church service he noticed the long list of names under a stained-class window next to his pew and whispered to his mother to ask who those men were. "Those are the men who died in service," she replied. Kevin wondered, "The first service or the second?!!"

Abbi Patrix is this year's international teller. He's a Frenchman. He is an amazingly animated, joyful teller, whose stories give the impression of being created before you. They are more than passing strange. Unique. They include bits of chanted or sung French phrases. One was a dream/vision from the night before, or maybe moments before, about an ascension into the sky and his deposit outside the tent just before the telling. He reminds me of the lesson I try to teach my children before a performance: If you have fun on the stage, you audience will have fun too. Abbi always seem to be having great fun!

As Gay introduced the wonderful Carmen Agra Deedy, one of my very favorites (and a friend of our family friends the Jorge Gonzales family), she despensed with the usual admonitions and just just said: "Make your Mama proud."

Carmen told of her first visit to the public library in Decatur. Tersi, her older sister --- and another wonderful teller and my Facebook buddy --- took her there to be rid of her for an hour or so. (I'm sure there's another side to this Tersi!) This is the story in which Carmen describes Tersi as a "pink flamingo" in her ballet costume. She also beautifully paints the WPA murals in that library on our mental canvasses and sculpts for us a very Southern, very tough, and very loving, librarian.

Parenthetical aside: Some of my favorite folks have been librarians... Gloria & Priscilla, WC Owen, Matilda, Ms. Burge, Avis & Martha, Sadie, Libby, my buddies on the Bookmobile, even old FB friend Tony, and those whose names I can't retrieve, at the library in Griffin where we walked with my Mama in the fifties, and in the cannery-building library at Ellijay. I read all the Hardy Boy books and so was reduced to checking out Nancy Drew "for my sister".

Librarian Mary Mac explained to little Carmen that "you don't like books because it hasn't found you yet." So of course Charlotte's Web leapt off a shelf in no time, almost onto her toe, and found her, and Carmen was hooked.

I had to note this wonderful detail: "Librarians are all about precision - three-ninety-eight [quick index-finger jab accompanied by a sound-effect "pttt"] point-two"

Bil Lepp was next and chose to tell the familiar "My fourth-grade teacher was Wonder Woman". Fun all over again.
Bill Birdsong Miller was back with a few more songs: "Blessing Wind" "Blowing in the Wind" [We were invited to join in], a Jim Pepper song, and "Wild Horses".

Jay Ocallahan presented a tribute to the late Brother Blue. "Brother Blue flew above his ego."

The joyous Abbi Patrix was back to talk about the Creator and his imagination. He often accompanies his stories with a hand-held Kalimba. The Creator "... looks at man and thinks, 'I can do better!'" We must "... tune ourselves with the world."

We got our second taste of Charlotte Blake Alston -- I wish we had heard more from her -- who told a tale I have heard on Sunday morning, maybe from Jim or David, about the little girl teased about the futility of trying to toss all the stranded starfish on the beach back into the safety of the sea, "... to this one it will matter".

Bil Lepp came back on and talked of his experiences with other languages and as an exchange student in Germany. I laughed so hard I forgot to take notes.

Rafe Martin told folktales. I enjoyed them without jotting any notes.

Then here came Suzi Whaples again.
We are ready for the tears to flow as our hearts are rended as usual. She elicits tears alright!! The most tearful laughter of the festival!! She begins by discussing how language has changed since her childhood and teen years. She has learned that peddle-pushers are now capris, for example. She told of the incredulous looks she got from her granddaughters when, concerned that her granddaughters have appropriate footwear for the beach, she asked them if they were taking their thongs. With great timing she drew out this misunderstanding for several minutes ending with: "Well, if y'all feel that strongly about it, I'll leave my thongs at home, but you'll never talk your Granddad out of wearing his!"

Corinne Stavish told of her father's reaction to a neighbors petition to keep "those people" out of the neighborhood. She ended by quoting her father: "Honey, never be afraid to do the right thing. The time to be afraid is when you don't."

By this time I think Gayle Ross is the emcee. Her introduction of Andy Offut Irwin was simple: "Take cover -- incoming!!!"
Aunt Marguerite is back of course, this time with a campaign to change the Newton County High School "Lady Rams" (????) to the "Embraceable Ewes". Braswell plays cymbal in the band and uses them for an impractical joke that he thinks goes unnoticed, but he's convinced otherwise when Margueite remarks, "Braswell, that's a wonderful use of symbols."

The festival ends for those of us at the College Street tent with the grand old man of storytelling, Donald Davis. Donald talks of visiting Hugh Massey's Toggery with his mother. Her only admonition before they entered was two words: "Be Have!" Of course he didn't. After all "I was only six. I didn't have a memory yet. Didn't need one."

And it's over. We rush to the "Resource Tent" - It's only open for thirty more minutes! - and drop a hundred dollars (it's only money) for an assortment of storytelling CDs to listen to on the way home. Sheila has finally succombed to my cold and is miserable so we head back to the hotel where she collapses into bed and I go out for soup-to-go from Panera. After a long night of sleep, we have a brunch at IHOP across the street -- no diet today -- and Sheila sleeps more as I drive listening to Andy Irwin and Kathryn Windham and Kevin Kling thorugh the beautiful Tennessee countryside.

Alright, Facebook friends! I want to organize a real, big name with local talent interspersed, Northwest Georgia Storytelling Festival! I can see those beautiful white tents blooming in the pastures at Berry College, or down in Booger Hollow at the Burton Farm. Tie it to Chiaha? Or Waterfest? Maybe get the Georgia Writers group involved.

We've got Tersi & Carmen & John & Andy right there in the Atlanta area. Kennesaw has a storytelling professor! We've got Jane & Barbara & Bob (and Terrell, of course) here in Rome. Shoot, Ms. Windham and Donald Davis aren't all that far away.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Saturday at the National Storytelling Convention

Our second wonderful day with a schedule of stories from 10 a.m. till midnight including two hours each to Donald Davis and John McCutcheon!

Donald Davis described the family reunion as a "semester of eating." And when someone said what he shouldn't: "...he looked like like he'd just stepped in a hole and realized there wasn't a bottom in it," and "... I had a bite ... right there. [points to neck and pauses] ... Wouldn't go either way. [now the patented Davis neck jut and stare]"

John McCutcheon joyfully sang and sang, and had us join him often, with this encouragement: "Music has a wonderful inclusionary clause -- harmony. You have several chances to get that right, and if you don't... it's jazz."
During his "college year abroad" in Eastern Kentucky, John learned that, in the South, "...even vegetables aren't vegetarian." He finished by singing one of my very favorite American hymns, accompanying himself on his newest instrument, the the Tibetan Singing Bowl -- "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

His second set was a request time. I put in two, neither of which was chosen ("Old People in Love" and "The Wind that Shakes the Barley") but I was very happy with the hour he gave us. He sang "Cut the Cake" for someone's birthday, and spoke of his campaign to replace the dirge-like "National Birthday Anthem" with this lively alternative (Afterwards I had the chance to tell him that I am doing my part in that effort!)
And when he was interupted by the train, -- as tellers often are, especially in the Courthouse Tent where we spent the day -- he just added a train verse to the song without missing a beat.

The story of Kathryn Windham's coffin was like hearing it the first time all over again. We were reminded of the epitaph she wants: "She was twice blessed. Say she was happy. Say she knew it."
Then she turned to a long discussion of her current full-time career: "I take care of a crotchedy old woman." There followed a detailed and hilarious depiction of the challenges of living into one's nineties ... with many references to "she", the unwelcome "house guest". And another train brought the suggestion that "they could use some WD40 on those wheels!"
Our only hour with Kathryn Windham was a wonderful blessing, and we knew it.

We chose the evening concert in the Courthouse Tent, "One Clown Short of a Circus" with Bil Lepp, Kevin Kling, and Andy Offut Irwin. We got back from supper only 45 minutes early so there were no seats left except for one single seat on the very back row. So we claimed that and sat behind it on the asphalt to eat our soup and sandwiches from Atlanta Bread. We struck up a conversation with the fellow beside us who was holding three seats. He said that it was possible one of his companions would decide not to come. That how it turned out so Sheila and I both got seats after all -- one on each side of this nice couple. They live in Jonesborough and are interested in renting out their basement next year dring the festival. We traded e-mail addresses! Wouldn't it be nice to stay right there in Jonesborough!

Crazy Bil Lepp told the tale of his visit to a rodeo last year, and his participation in a Wild Cow Milking Contest. I noted his mention of "...the kind of vegan who won't even say 'Glad to meet you'..." His adventure included "...800 pounds of aggravated radical feminist bovine" and his punchline was: "Hell hath no fury like TWO women scorned!"

Frenetic Kevin Kling kept me so limp with laughter that I only managed one brief note and I don't remember the context exactly: "...brothers from other mothers and sisters of from other misters."

If you have not heard Andy Offut Irwin's Aunt Marguerite from Covington Georgia, you have missed a treat. He. has. her. down. I have Newton County roots myself. I have met that woman! She gives two examples of "The very defininition of a fool...": "some one who'd pay a dollar for a bottle of wahrter..." or "... buy a bale of pine straw in Jahrja." One of her neighbors would not go to the optician who recommended progressive lenses "... Ah'm a R'publican!"

The Midnight Cabaret was one of our favorites: Bill Harley ... and friends. Great music (What a keyboard artist is Bill's friend whose name I forget! I swear he rivals James Willis.) and some storytelling in between.
"The most radical thing in America is a longterm memory!"
He called Willy Chaflin and Barbara McBride Smith and a couple of others to the stage to help him with a hilarious "radio play". "That's like beating a dead horse of a different color!"
He talked of his father's laissez faire parenting style: "My Dad figured I was stupid enough to learn from my own mistakes." He sang his song "Daddy Played the Phonograph" and explained, "It's not enough to know how to play, you have to know how to listen too."

And he mused: "You can't see the story when you are in it."

As Bill finished up the evening he reminded us of Edgar Mitchell's awe-inspiring glimpse of the whole earth and famous exclamation: "Now I know why I have come so far."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Friday at the National Storytelling Convention

What a great time we are having! Yesterday we spent many happy hours hearing stories and songs. We have heard several of my old favorites and several of my new favorites!

Kevin Kling's evil old woman walked "... grass dying around her feet...". Another of his characters "... didn't know coincidence: to a fool there's no such thing."

When John McCutcheon missed a word of a song he interjected: "When your memory goes ... forget it!"

My new facebook friend, Suzi Whaples, described one of her characters as "... madder'n a 'possum turned upright!" She is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

Andy Offutt Irwin, another Georgia boy, explained that in the South folks think an "underwire bra" is redundant!

Corinne Stavish told the story of Sarah from the old lady's point-of-view. Imagine! (I remember, the first Sunday after Brannon Ruth Shaw was born, that James Sanders used the story of Abraham and Sarah in his children's sermon, then had me distribute my Baby Ruth candy bars. Hmmmm.)

Bill Lepp patiently gave the history of the invention of the Tiki Torch. Later he suggested that deerhunters would be more successful if they took a hint from car manufacturers. Cars are made ever more bullet-like, why not make bullets car-shaped. Why, wouldn't deer just jump right out in front of those things?

Michael Parent's semi-fictional cousin Artie, given the choice of having his pizza cut six or eight ways, chose six. He just wasn't sure he could eat as many as eight.

Carmen Deedy's father to Carmen's mom: "May God bless the tree that gave the wood that made the bed where you were conceived."

Frenchman Abbi Patrix: "Truth and falsehood live in the same house..." [points to noggin] "...and use the same door." [points to mouth].

Minton Sparks described Vicki Pickle's mother as "... smokin' herself into a bass..."

We started at 10 a.m. and finished up a few minutes after midnight, tired but happy.