Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Miserable Ones

Tonight was perhaps the most captivating night at the cinema of my life. Our daughter Brannon treated us to Lex Miserables, the musical movie, at Ziegfield Cinema near Times Square in New York City. The theater was sold out so we were glad to find seats down close slightly to the right. I had the aisle, giving my aching legs stretching room, and my eyes a full view, sometimes of individual sweating pores and tears building to a drop.

I have a bone or two to pick, but let me begin by saying that it is a magnificent piece of film, creatively imagined, expertly cast, gorgeously photographed, dramatically lighted, really acted, beautifully sung.

Hugh Jackman will give Daniel Day Lewis a run for the Oscar for best actor. One of the beauties of this story, the musical, and now the movie is its reminder to those of us who live in comfort and plenty that poor, dirty, despairing folk are folk. Behind the grime, the pretense, the toothless grins, the overdone make-up, the ragged clothes, the unkempt hair, the poor English... are flesh and blood humans with the same wants and needs, hurts and hearts of all men. Jackman as Valjean is unrecognizable and totally believable in the opening scenes as the depraved, dehumanized convict.

And he becomes one of the beloved characters of all literature.
I thought Jackman's singing was sometimes a little nasal. Where Colm Wilkinson, very effectively and purposefully, used falsetto, Jackman used a full, though somewhat strained voice.

Fantine (Anne Hathaway),

not of her own volition, takes the opposite path, falling from virtuous and beautiful to compromised and pitiful. Both are outstanding.

My favorite character and the strongest acting and singing was that of Eddie Redmayne.

His portrayal of the distraught Marius singing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was heart-rendingly perfect. Redmayne deserves a supporting actor Oscar, in my humble and correct opinion.

Siblings Eponine (Samantha Barks) and  Gavroche (Danial Huttlestone) were captivating.

The Thernardiers were well cast, though I thought (my kids disagree) that they were overdone. The disgusting food scene was more graphic than necessary and not believable to me. Like Sheila, I was glad they were made more disgusting than comic though.

Russell Crowe as Javert has received the most criticism of any actor in the film, I suspect. I actually liked his acting. His singing was a little weak, though I like its understated manner except for the suicide when I wanted him to give me more overt pain and... volume.

The 1200 sold-out seats at the Zeigfield were filled with Les Mis enthusiasts, like the Shaws, who applauded for the announcement, after interminable previews, of the main attraction. They also applauded individual songs again and again, especially I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and nearly brought the house down for One Day More and the Finale.

Drat it! One of my dreams is to sing the Valjean part someday in a local production or concert version. Folks will now picture Jackman (20 years my junior) in the role rather than an older Colm Wilkinson type. I'm already pushing the upper limit even with the Wilkinson image of ol' Jean.

Get your tickets. You don't want to miss this on the big screen, at least once. I'll see it again soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Gotham, 2012

Here we are in Gotham for Christmas again. We did this in 2004, again in 2008, and now in 2012. I don't know if it's associated with elections or leap years, or what. But it's a great place to celebrate Christmas.

We have tried recently to de-emphasize the commercial aspects of Christmas and make it meaningful in a deeper sense. Our tradition of attending the Christmas Eve service then standing in the Trinity Methodist Nativity has been precious to me and broken only by these trips to NYC. On both earlier trips we have spent Christmas Eve at church (2004 at Marble Collegiate Church and 2008 at the Catholic Church of Saint Paul the Apostle near Central Park).  We were just too tired to go out to a Christmas Eve service last night. We'll see Les Miserables, the movie, today. To me that is a religious experience. We might make a Christmas Day service somewhere this morning, but I'm the only early riser in my family (Can you hear the snores?), so that's doubtful. I s'pose I could get out myself to one of the Greek Orthodox churches in this neighborhood. That would be a new experience for me.

I am thankful to be able to spend Christmas 2012 with my much-loved daughters and their mother whom I adore. I could never adequately explain my feelings for them but here is a little effort at that I wrote for them one Christmas when the girls were very small:

Exchanging Gifts 
What gifts will you bring your Papa?
Pure  gold, however they’re made—
Wrapped in sunshine of smiles;
Tied up with love that won’t fade.
What gift will you bring your Lover?
Its rich, whatever you’ve spent,
You’ve  paid thrice in sweat and tears
and my promises, broken or bent.
What gifts can I bring my daughters?
What present is worthy my wife?
Tawdry trinkets diamonds would seem
On these precious true-treasures of life.

-Terrell Shaw

Happy Christmas to all my friends and loved ones. We hate to miss the Shaw Christmas tomorrow at Mother's house --- our flight won't get in till 9 pm or so. Y'all have fun!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Real Children Need Real Solutions

I have no problems with sporting hunters, target shooters, or the owning of firearms for self-protection. There was certainly a need in the 1700s and later for a well-armed militia. (We have the greatest standing military in the world now.) So I have no problem with reasonable interpretations of the Second Amendment. (You can tell there's a big "but" coming, can't you?)

BUT, that doesn't mean assault weapons and huge clips should be available to the general population or that crazy folk should be allowed arms, or that arms should be allowed into any and every location in the country.

It is time to get rid of assault weapons and big clips and to close gun show loopholes, and make sure reasonable limitations can be established to give us a shot(!) at preventing the slaughter that happens every year in this wonderful country.

Guns don't kill people, but often people who shouldn't have guns do, and they use them to kill thousands of people in America every year.

BTW Someone is going to be tempted to suggest arming teachers. Please don't. Even if that weren't insane on the face of it, it would be insanely impossible politically. Let's keep the discussion in the real world where 20 real first graders were shot and killed last Friday along with thousands of real Americans over the last 12 months.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Memoriam - Frances Hancock

Our family had spent the week at Callaway Gardens on vacation. I think we camped at FDR State Park. I had rented a canoe and, like the teenage imbecile I was, paddled around for hours shirtless. I had the worst sunburn of my life -- raised blisters on my shoulders. But it had been a fun week and our exhausted but happy carload pulled into the driveway of the handsome brick parsonage on Timothy Avenue in Summerville park, ready to unload and rest up.

We were surprised to see someone mowing our front lawn. It was our tall family friend and Trinity United Methodist Church board chairman, Leonard Hancock. Leonard was an executive with the historic Rome business The Fairbanks Company. He had helped me illustrate some of the procedures they used in the manufacture of wheels for industrial equipment for a school project in high school. He and my father had the important connection -- brotherhood really -- of being fellow Marines.

Today this wonderfully gentle man, one of my fathers closest friends and parishioners, had the sad task of informing my father that his dad, my Daddy Shaw, had died suddenly.

And I had the sad task, but memorable privilege, of driving my Daddy -- leaving probably less than an hour later -- from Rome to Conyers to join his mother and brothers in grief. Only the second time I had ever witnessed my father cry.

It is strange, I suppose, that such a sad occurrence should tie me so emotionally to a family, but it did. Leonard's obviously genuine concern and gentle manner that day endeared him forever to me.

This week Leonard's equally gentle and loving widow died. Her funeral was right at the end of the school day on Friday and I felt I shouldn't ask for a second special time off for the week (my co-workers and principal had already covered for me for another funeral earlier in the week) so I didn't get to attend. My mother and the Rev. Wayne Hopper presided. I am sorry I missed it.

Leonard and Frances were a model couple. Their love for each other was obvious to anyone who witnessed them together. And they doted on their precocious son, Sam.

Sam, you have a grand heritage in both of your parents. I miss them and I know you do. I am saddened by their passing.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

PTSW: Heads Or Tails

I don't know the poet, but this is a useful bit:

We have two ends
With a common link.
With one we sit.
With one we think.
Success depends
On which you use.
Heads, you win.
Tails, you lose.
- Unknown

Monday, November 26, 2012

I've done it again. Why must I relearn this lesson?

JS-Kit, alias Echo, alias Haloscan hosted comments for Alone on a Limb for more than five years. Those comments include writing that I treasure, embarrassments aplenty, trite fights over politics and language, silliness, thoughtful responses to my writing that occasionally changed my mind, reminiscences by friends old and new and a few who are now gone.

And now those comments are gone.

As far as I can tell they are gone forever. JS-Kit has taken down their website.

If anyone knows of any way I can resurrect my Haloscan/Echo comments, please let me know.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My 2012 Predictions in the Presidential Race

Here is my best guess about how the electoral votes will turn out on Tuesday. This concedes the following losses from the votes the President received in 2008. 
The Second District in Nebraska (1)
Indiana (11)
North Carolina (15)
Florida (29) 

I believe the President will narrowly carry:
Virginia (13)
Colorado (9)

I think the President will also carry the following 'battleground' states:
New Hampshire

The President will carry these states that I believe have never really qualified as 'battlegrounds' in this election cycle:

That will give the President 303 electoral votes to 235 for Mitt Romney.
  [Election Eve Note: I see this is the same final prediction of Real Clear Politics and Election Projection - two conservative poll aggregators. I just spent a couple of hours making volunteer calls to voters in Florida. When the 9:30 deadline arrived I checked in on Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight and found Nate had turned Florida blue on his map. I'll take credit for that if Nate is right. ]

Now, I believe there is good (40% or so) chance that the President can also carry Florida. That would be great! 332 electoral votes!

Or even North Carolina!  (25% chance maybe)  347 electoral votes. I believe this map represents the best possible result we can expect, and it would require a point or two movement of the electorate toward the President.

I am also old enough to remember some very disappointing election nights, and there is still the small but real possibility that we could lose this thing (15% chance) if too many voters stay home and the more energized "antis" show up, as they always do. A small percentage of stay-at-homes could give FL, NC, VA, CO, NH, IA, and/or even, though less likely, OH away. That could be tragic. Please get out and vote on Tuesday!

Four years ago my prognostications did pretty well.

Are we better off than we were four years ago?  Yes, we are.

Monday, July 23, 2012

You Olympians didn't get here on your own!

We have lots of instances of Mitt Romney making the argument for the President on healthcare, abortion, human rights, the economy, balancing of common welfare and free enterprise... and lots of examples of him excoriating the President for espousing the very ideas Romney himself has propounded in the past, even sometimes his last speech. Here is an especially delicious one:

"You Olympians, however, know you didn't get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].” - Mitt Romney 2002

Exactly the message the President was giving business-folk last week when the Gov. decided to take him completely out-of-context.

Motivation, enterprise, innovation, invention, entrepreneurship, hard work, are so important, and this President has taken every opportunity to promote those qualities in the young people who look up so to him. But he also recognizes, as everyone should, that NO ONE achieves great success in any area solely on his own. We all owe our success also to ... well you know much of the list, and that a good deal of that list includes many many things we as a people have decided that we want to covenant together to provide for each other like [clears his throat] roads and bridges ... and even "communities built venues".

Our Congress is Disfunctional

Our Congress is disfunctional.

Virtually every bill in the Senate is blocked by filibuster. A majority of the Senate and a majority of Americans want to end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas. But Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bipartisan "insourcing" bill that would have have done just that.

The Bring Jobs Home Act also would have given tax incentives to companies that bring jobs back to the United States. The measure failed to advance despite a 56-42 favorable vote, because 60 votes are needed to end the Republican filibuster of the bill.

Earlier in the week, Republicans also used their ever-ready filibuster to stomp out the Disclose Act, which would have required (oh, no!) their fat-cat employers - errrrrr, contributors, to disclose campaign contributions of more than $10,000.

Our Georgia, errrr Corporate, Senators, Chambliss & Isakson, are part of the 42, of course.

Four Republican senators bucked their lock-step colleagues and voted with the people - Snowe & Collins of Maine, Heeler of Nevada, and Brown of Massachusetts (the last in a neck-and-neck battle for re-election - the opinion of the people is perhaps a little more important to him right now.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mitt's Bain


Gov. Romney made Bain the #1 reference on his job application to the American people.

Gov. Romney's the one who decided his lack-luster term as Governor wouldn't serve the purpose. Bain is his whole campaign.

“The costs of not releasing the returns are clear, therefore he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” 
- George Will, pretty much the dean of conservative commentators

Now he shows us one year of info - a year during which he was already running for President and surely had at least one sensible advisor to help him keep his finances un-embarrassing.


He has admitted that his records contain info that would be used by his opposition, and it must be worse than the info in the one he has already released. If the older records were virtually the same, he'd gladly release them and likely say "Na-na-na-na-na", at least mentally.
“He should release the tax returns tomorrow. This is crazy… you’ve got to release 6, 8, 10 years of back tax returns.”
- Bill Kristol, conservative commentator, Fox News
National Review, Will, Kristol, Perry, Paul, Bentley, Steele, Grassley, Barbour, Lugar, Frum, and lots more of the Republican leadership have called on him to, as Sarah! might say, "man up".

"The Romney campaign says he has released as many returns as candidate John Kerry did in 2004, and cites Teresa Heinz Kerry’s refusal to release any of her tax returns. Neither is an apt comparison [...]
Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient). But he’s a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won’t be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later [...]” 
- The National Review, leading conservative magazine
I disagree. I think he won't release them because he knows that he --
1) paid NO taxes one or more years,
2) will be documented to have seriously misled the public about his involvement with Bain after '99,
3) missed his financial commitment to the Mormon religion on one or more occasions, or
4) some other mortifying or even game-changing embarrassment.
“If you have things to hide, then maybe you’re doing things wrong. I think you ought to be willing to release everything to the American people.”
- Gov. Robert Bentley, (R-AL)
Gov. Romney really is in a Catch-22 bind. His emphasis on his business prowess demands he release them, but he has adamantly refused and will look weak if he backs down. And since by stonewalling he has succeeded in magnifying the issue, the embarrassment, whatever it is, will also be magnified.
“There is no whining in politics. …Stop demanding an apology, release your tax returns.”
- John Weaver, GOP strategist
Romney has been running for office for a lonnnnng time. He has won one race and served one unimpressive term as governor, renouncing his largest achievement. He is a smart, family-oriented, patriotic man but he is not, in my opinion, presidential material.
“…whenever you are asking for the vote of the American people you need to fully disclose what your holdings are, if you have any.”
- U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
Materially Governor Romney has some. And some.

I've said it before.
“Mitt Romney is not ready for prime time.”
- Terrell Shaw, Democratic blogger, Alone On a Limb

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Give Till It Hurts

 Sheldon Adelson

I guess I'm a big time political donor. I have given a larger percentage of my wealth to the President's reelection than than the portion of his wealth that Mitt Romney's largest donor has showered so far on the Romney super-PACS.  Of course even the 100 million he has indicated he may give is as nothing to Sheldon Adelson who will have 25 billion or so left. My proportionately larger (so far) donations added to the thousands of other middle class donations cannot match the proportionately smaller donations of the top 20 fat cats.

Yes, that's right, the vast majority of the money spent on this year's campaign will come from less than 20 men - whose donations will hardly be missed by the donors -- just trifles with which they may buy a President or Congress or both.

Oligarchy 1]  a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.

Thank Justices Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, & Thomas who believe corporations are people and that there should be no limits on the influence of money in politics.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It is a wonderfully historic day in America.

I am proud to support a former Constitutional law professor as President of The United States,

And I am proud to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (derisively called “Obamacare” by his political enemies). The American people support this act in almost all its parts, though a strong minority oppose it on principle amd a smaller group are confused about it and oppose the Act though they support its parts. A pretty large minority of the bill's opponents feel the bill does not go far enough!

First impression of the Results:
  • it will energize the far right- but they are already pretty well all-out enthusiastic opponents of the President.
  • it will also energize the President’s supporters. He has been validated as a Constitutional expert and as a leader. He has accomplished what Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton failed to do. What many of us have had as a major political goal for decades has been accomplished.
  • many independents and conservative Democrats will change their opinions as they see the benefits of this act and it has the increased authority of having been tested and having passed Constitutional muster in the Supreme Court.
  • the only part of the Act that was found wanting was the Romney/Republican idea of an individual mandate. The Democratic more-straightforward tax idea (which Roberts found in the Act de facto) has been accepted.

My joy is overflowing.  Just imagine:
  • Health insurance providers can NOT cancel your policy because you get sick. 
  • Kids won’t be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, NOW.
  • Ordinary folks will be no longer be just one catastophic ilness or injury away from bankruptcy.
  • Parent’s health insurance policies can cover young folks until age 26, NOW
  • Grown-ups won’t be denied health insurance because to a pre-existing condition, as of 2014.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership. You took a lot of grief from your base over your compromises, but I believe you got through a great, but flawed, reform that was probably about the best bill that could have gotten a majority in the Congress. You went for "what you can get" as Edward Kennedy advised you. The reform will be refined and improved over the years.

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, for putting, in this instance, right and law ahead of politics. I wish (barring an opportunity for another Breyer, Stevens, Souter, or Ginsberg) you had been on the Court in 2000. I wonder if things would have been different.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day to all my daddy friends out there.

I still miss mine, Charles Shaw, every day, and his daddy, Grady Shaw, nearly as often. Their gregarious nature and joyous stories and huge hearts are such an essential part of me. Another big part of who I am is attributable to a father I never met, Wilson Baird. He died long before I was born, but his example to his eleven children, especially the youngest (my mother) still influences my world.

And here's to fathers-in-law, like Jay Matthews whose quiet integrity and work ethic and frugality helped form the wonderful woman who has shared my life for 41 years.

And to the two wonderful young women who once called me "Papa" -- I can still imagine those sweet little voices -- but now usually say "Dad", thanks for your kindness today. I hope I have been one-tenth the daddy that the above have been.

And Lil, I can't wait for the pot-roast lunch!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to Write Good

Thanks to my friend and brother-in-law, Gregg Lewis, for forwarding this to me:

How To Write Good

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

    •    Avoid alliteration. Always.
    •    Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
    •    Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
    •    Employ the vernacular.
    •    Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
    •    Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
    •    It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
    •    Contractions aren't necessary.
    •    Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
    •    One should never generalize.
    •    Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
             "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
    •    Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
    •    Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
    •    Profanity sucks.
    •    Be more or less specific.
    •    Understatement is always best.
    •    Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
    •    One-word sentences? Eliminate.
    •    Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
    •    The passive voice is to be avoided.
    •    Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
    •    Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
    •    Who needs rhetorical questions?

By Frank L. Visco,
a vice-president and senior copywriter
at USAdvertising.

Monday, April 23, 2012

PTSW: Contagion

A post I began back in February and neglected in the intervening weeks:


Tonight is our annual science fair. The eleventh iteration. And each year some ten-year-old comes up with a question to investigate that has never occurred to me before. My favorite this year was the quest to prove whether smiling really is contagious. The young fellow not only had a decently controlled experiment, he tacked on a bit of poetry to  his enthusiastic and entertaining oral report --- I hope his log gives evidence of an experiment to match his little speech. I immediately thought: "There's my next 'Poem to Start the Week'".

Smiling Is Infectious
Author Unknown

Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner
and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled I realized
I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,
then I realized its worth.
A single smile, just like mine
could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,
don't leave it undetected.
Let's start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!

Later note: The project, still my favorite of the year, did not win a gold medal as I recall, but did win a lesser medal from the judges.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Another Birthday Feast at the Johal/Singh home

You may remember that we have twice enjoyed the hospitality of my teacher friend Nancy Johal and her physician husband Jagdeep Singh. Saturday Nancy and Jagdeep threw another shindig at their home in celebration of the first birthday of little Eva their daughter. Here are my pictures from the occasion.

Two years ago we attended the first birthday celebration for Eva's brother Avi - here is my post from that party.

Nancy & Eva, the b'day girl

Big Brother Avi in the colorful inflated gym in the backyard.

Andrea & Wendy

David, Melissa, Dylan, & Mercedes

Mrs. Cipolini of Meals on Heels with her culinary creations.

A pineapple salsa
A bacon and spinich dip

Pasta salad




Sheila & Penny

A proud Mama



Avi watches a helium-filled balloon ascend into the gorgeous blue Georgia heavens.

Eva and the iPhone

Chasing balloons

The balloon is imprinted by the b'day cake.

Time to blow out the candle

Help arrives

Pucker up



Through the window

Jagdeep's dad - Engineer & Poet

Father & Son

Nancy & Eva