Friday, August 28, 2009

the Last Waltz

In my efforts to catch up culturally, I got a copy of Scorcese's doc on the Band - the Last Waltz this week and started watching it.

Mixed reviews so far. As a documentary it doesn't stand out for me (yet) but maybe for 1976 when it was done it had something special about it. I also was never a huge Band fan. I like their music OK.

Enjoyed Neil Young and Helpless. My daughter #2 and I have tried that song together and completely butchered it more than once. Neil and the Band did a better job.

What's up with Joni Mitchell singing in the shadows?

The performances are pretty good. Last night I watched Dr. John. Again I am not a big fan but can he play the piano!? Like him or not he is/was (is he still alive?) some kind of pianist.

I also didn't realize some of the Band had died. My daughter came in while I was watching and asked about the movie. I told her it was old and probably half of them were dead. I didn't know that when I told her than I remembered Rick Danko passed away sometime back and one other Band member died.

I should finish up this weekend. Will write more after I've seen it all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paying it forward or getting blessed back.

A few weeks ago, I got some free tickets to the Ozark Empire Fair. My daughter and some friends used some of them but we still had some leftovers. On the last day of the fair, a Sunday, I still had several. I tried to give them away at church but everyone already had plans, had been to the fair or wasn’t interested.

I didn’t want them to go to waste and on our way home (our church is pretty close to the fair) I decided to just drive by. We got to an intersection near the main entrance where lots of people cross. I had my daughter jump out while we were waiting for a light and told her to go give them to somebody.

She approached a couple and I saw her explain and point back to me etc. She ran back to the car and as we drove past the people waved etc. at us. I felt good knowing we had been part of a small surprise blessing to somebody.

This past Friday I got 4 free tickets to a Springfield Cardinals game. Great seats right behind home plate. Lots of foul balls and pop-ups but we didn’t get a ball. But it was a great day at the ballpark, Cardinals won the game, the kids had fun.

So in a weird sort of way things got paid forward. I had no idea what would come when I gave the fair tickets away. But we were equally blessed back with a chance to see a ballgame.

You just never know about these things.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No accounting for taste.

As my profile notes; we have too many dogs; 4 at last count. I buy pretty decent dog food to the tune of $20/bag.

We have three horses. They get to eat a lot of grass and therefore one can find or step in numerous piles of horse ... well you know.

I walk two of our border collies as often as I can - for their sake and mine. Good exercise for all three of us and it is my quiet time to pray and think.

Both of these dogs will bury their noses in massive piles of the horsestuff like they haven't eaten in weeks. Then of course it's time for them to come and share their bounty with me through a loving lick wherever they can plant their tongues.

Life in the country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Odd observation #2

Walking by Drury University – the venerable Springfield institution of higher est. 1873 – when the chimes or bells went off in the clock tower of Stone Chapel.

The bell or chime or whatever it is, rang more with a thud or clunk – like the thing was padded or something. I don’t know, maybe some sort of noise abatement.

I was late for a 1 p.m. event so I also instinctively looked up to check the time (duh, it only thudded once!) and noticed the time on the old clock face was a few minutes until 3. Don’t know if that was a.m. or p.m. but I am pretty sure the clock and it’s companion ringer-thingy are somehow out of sync.

On the Waterfront

With the death a couple of weeks ago of Budd Schulberg, screenwriter for On the Waterfront and other well-known classic movies, I decided I needed to watch it. Like many I've probably seen the famous "I coulda been a contenda!" taxi scene with Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando many times. But I could not recall ever having watched the entire movie. So I checked out my local library's DVD.

It took me two nights to watch but I finished up last night. I think it still holds up although film-making and acting have changed a lot in 50+ years. The story became more interesting when I learned that Mr. Schulberg was one of those who "named names" back in the post WWII days when Congress and others were looking for anyone with Communist sympathies or leanings. Perhaps this was Schulberg's way of saying "Sometimes it's OK to name names. If the greater good is served, even if someone gets hurt."

One odd observation - Leonard Bernstein (of future fame for West Side story among other things) was the composer of the film score. As talented as he was, it seemed like someone just told him, we need some music, make it almost wall-to-wall and occasionally punch it up to stir the emotions. I could get past the editing, a few quirky things, stiffer acting etc. but never could quite get past the soundtrack. It seemed intrusive to me.

but now I can scratch this one off my list. It doesn't displace any of my favorite old movies.

Don Hewitt, Creator of ‘60 Minutes,’ Dies at 86

This just in.

Some years back while a grad student at Drury and working on a paper about euthanasia I planned to include some comments and references to a 60 Minutes story. This was before email was ubiquitous so I resorted to faxing CBS and the show with my questions figuring at best I'd get a form letter thanking me for watching and that they didn't have time to answer individual requests.

Perhaps a few weeks passed and my office phone rings, the woman on the other end said, "Hold for Mr. Hewitt please." Quickly THE Mr. Hewitt picked up and started in on my list. We were probably on the phone for about 5 minutes but he answered my questions, offered advice and suggestions.

A few months later I wrote him with an idea for a program but he never wrote back or called on that one.

He was a pioneer. With Walter's death recently and even Mr. Novak's passing, like him or not, the industry has lost some lions in the trade.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't Fence Me In.

If you follow my wife on Facebook, you may have read an entry or two about chasing a big-butt cow. Some wondered if that was me (Wasn't!)

We vicariously became cattle-ranchers last weekend when we decided in the absence of sheep, to rent out our pasture to the local AG teacher who needed more acreage and grass for some of his cows. Last Sunday he brought over 14 of his Beefmasters and turned them out.

I did a fair amount of fencing when we moved in in 2006 but then ran out of time and money so we still have two sides of pretty old fencing that held up OK for sheep.

But seems big cows have a different effect on fences. Once their head is through, the rest is sure to follow or if the fence starts to lean with any weight, they will simply just walk it down and walk over. (that "grass is always greener" thing)

One side of our property has some pretty old fencing and this is likely where the cows got through. Yesterday was the first chance I've had to check it out and fix what could be fixed. Usually I'd much rather put up my own new fencing than try to fix an old one. But for the sake of time and money my option was to repair.

I raided my stash of t-posts (for the uninitiated - a 6 foot piece of steel with a spade-like thing near one end), got my trusty fencing tool kit and took off.

Surprisingly, the repairs went quickly and well. I was able to drive about 20 t-posts in between some older rotting wooden posts, clip the existing barb wire to the post and move on.

Thanks to Sam Osborn and the t-post driver he made for me almost 20 years ago, a handy-dandy little tool that helps with twisting the clips and a pair of channel locks (my favorite fencing tool) I had about a 200-foot-section of fence reasonably cow-proof in a couple of sweaty hours. The best part was being able to look back at the work and see something actually done - with my own hands.

I grew up in the city (Big D) and my exposure to ranch life was mostly old westerns in the 50s. No one ever showed me how to put up or fix a barb wire fence. I taught myself and even if I do say so myself, I think I do a pretty good job of fencing for a former city-slicker. I really enjoy good hard outdoor work and fencing fits the bill.

Maybe, just maybe, if I'd been born in another century, I could have been a real honest-to-goodness rancher. I interviewed a guy Friday for an Ozarks Farm & Neighbor story who started as a dairy farmer at the ripe old age of 53. Keep hope alive!

ranch rodeos

For the second time in my life I went to a small local ranch rodeo last night - took two of my daughters with me but the teen was off most of the time with, well, teens and the 9 yr. old was with a group of kids of all ages so I was pretty much left to myself to enjoy the fun.

What is a ranch rodeo? Instead of bucking bulls et al, this features teams of four who compete in several real-ranch events like: trailering, cutting/sorting, steer-mugging and a couple of roping events.

The main idea is - while having fun - to do the things that some ranchers still do when they work cattle.

Nothing slick but a lot of fun to watch because they are having fun too. In some cases I was impressed with the roping skills - several of the cowboys and one cowgirl in particular were pretty good at getting a rope around the head or horns of a fast moving steer. For those who follow roping (I don't) the other part is called "heeling" where you have to get a rope around one or both of the rear legs.

Watching them work (and play) I occasionally convince myself I could do some of this but then I get my old frame out of my chair and head stiffly toward the concession stand. I imagine if I tried any of their events, you'd have to visit my in the ER today.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Scary stuff

In a short video clip from Fox News, Congresswoman Maxine Waters made what appeared to be a slip that she almost caught in her questioning of an oil company executive. She twice calls herself a liberal - give her credit for being honest about that. But then she remarks " ... guess what? This liberal will be all about socializing ..." then she pauses twice to find the right word then continues "basically about taking over and the government running all of your companies." Somewhere on Fox News within the last month a segment labelled "Oil Executives grilled during House hearing."

Not defending big oil. Reasonably happy right now with $2.39 per gallon gas though.

As DC pols continue their discussion of health care reform, things like this should be remembered.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Show us the work.

Another historic week with the Senate voting to confirm Ms. Sotomayor as an Associate Justice.

In one feld swoop – and maybe you can say you heard it here first – Obama has possibly locked up a key demographic as he begins his campaign for re-election.

I’ve said many times that the GOP needed to reach out and court Hispanics, Latinos – you pick the most politically correct way to refer to this fast-growing diverse group of citizens – and Obama has yanked this rug right out from under them.

Regardless of her political and judicial ideology Sotomayor ensures that Obama and those who follow his coattails in the next election will be better thought of by Hispanics - a demographic that initially, Hillary had better numbers with than he.

Only time will tell how Sotomayor will turn out as a judge.

One other issue that I guess now is no longer an issue – her ‘wise Latina’ comment.
She was of course raked over the conservative coals for that one. I guess it was about all anyone could really find in her track record and she didn’t offer up much grist during her confirmation hearings. But I suppose she offered up enough to get 9 Republican Senators to vote Yea for her.

Here’s my take on that: everyone one of us comes at any decision with a bias; a political, religious, world view that has been shaped and formed by many influences: our up-bringing; the place and culture under which we grew up, our education (or lack there-of) and in general all of our life experiences have gone into shaping the kind of person we are, how we think and how we act. To ask anyone to somehow dismiss all that and approach every issue or decision with a so-called “tabula rasa” (I still remember my college philosophy courses) is impossible.

A side-road using math. I used to be pretty good at it until I began to reach the higher levels like trig, calculus etc. I might somehow make my way to the right answer but professors and teachers wanted to see how I got there. “Show me your work” was a common refrain. If I couldn’t show that I took the right route or at least that there was more than one way to get to the right answer, my score got knocked down – sometimes 50% even though 2+2 really does equal 4, I just wasn’t able to show how I figured that out. Sometimes I even got partial credit for a wrong answer if I at least went about getting it in the right way and could show how I derived it.

In much the same way perhaps we just need to show how we come to our decisions and be honest about it.

Math is much easier. 2+2 still equals 4. But life isn’t nearly so linear or easy. You and I can have very differing opinions on issues and the good (and vexing) thing is that we can both be right and/or we can both be wrong. It is rarely as clear-cut as a math problem.

But if we know and understand how we arrived at those decisions we may not be able to change the other persons mind, but at the very least should have earned respect for arriving at our position with some knowledge and not simply blind prejudice.

This is not easy and could become a slippery slope but I’ve been thinking about this idea lately and how it applies to politics and maybe even religious issues.

It is OK to stake out your position and hold firm even in the face of criticism, ridicule etc. But know how you got there or at a minimum, be honest and say it’s because you heard so-and-so voice that view.

How does all this tie back to the Supreme Court? I’m OK with Sotomayor bringing all her “Latina wisdom” to the table and to the cases she now gets to read and vote on; some of which may affect our country and us individually for years to come. I’d like her to be honest about her decision making process. Let’s see her work.

Imus v. Rush

Having a conversation with a friend last week and somehow he asked me the question “Who would I rather listen to, Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh?”

Before I answer and before you jump to any conclusions first know that we are both pretty conservative in our political and religious views.

My answer was of course Don Imus.

Some explanation is in order.

Like most radio shows, Imus works off a wheel – you do certain things at certain points in the hour all (ok most of) the time. It happens that on most days, Imus is interviewing a well-known author, historian, politician etc. between 7:35 and 7:50 a.m. That coincides with my drive time.

If he has someone interesting I’ll stick with him. What I usually get is at least 1 & ½ perspectives on an issue. Even if Imus likes or agrees with the person he is talking to, he’ll poke and prod enough to get them to talk and explain themselves. Even with a liberal weenie like Frank Rich, he’ll give him a hard time and make him explain or answer questions that aren’t big softballs waiting to be hit out of the park.

On the other side (disclosure – I haven’t listened to Rush in several years but I did try for a period of time) it seems like Rush (and I guess most of talk-radio) are just going to tell their audiences what they already know and want to hear. Rush telling me Obama’s health policies are going to hurt our country etc. doesn’t tell me anything new. It might make me mad but so what?

I’d much rather hear some dissent or discussion. I guess that is what is missing from most of talk radio for me – discussion. It is usually just one side repeating its case in a louder voice and more often.

Reminds me of a situation at church recently. One of the staff was taking some folks from Ecuador around on a tour. They spoke no English – the guide spoke no Spanish. A couple of us joked that the staffer would simply say things louder in the attempt to make them understand. Mostly it was a lot of pointing and limited communication.

I cannot imagine how Rush et al are going to win anyone over to their particular opinions. They are already “preaching to their choir.” Saying things louder isn’t going to make much difference if the same people hear the same thing all the time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Texas Music

My daughter gave me a 2008 issue of Texas Monthly magazine (alas no on-line or back-issues of this one available) featuring Lyle Lovett on the cover and several articles on various well-known (and some not-so) musicians in or from Texas.

Enjoyed reading it but I guess you can't please all the people ... (partial quote courtesy of Abe Lincoln) One of my favorite music haunts was the Rubaiyat, a little dive of a place that was around for years and years in a couple of Dallas locations.

In the Texas Monthly article it of course mentions Austin numerous times what with Willie hanging his hat there and all. But no where does it mention this local icon called the Rubaiyat.

Several of the performers in the mag graced its stage. And others mentioned as influences also played the Rubaiyat.

In recognition of this glaring omission of important Texas musical lore, I'm linking to an old post (on a former blog) about said establishment to see if it will bring any more folks out of the woodwork who can share some memories and correct some of my own.

Miracle Whip

I don't recall where this came from - likely some lunchtime internet browsing but ...

Miracle Whip was created in 1933 during the Depression and one of its main positive qualities was that it was cheap (as a replacement for Mayo).

Got me to thinking since it is called a "Salad Dressing." Does anybody really put that on their salad? I might use it as a sandwich spread on bread but never on a salad. It is way too thick.

random observation

Noticed on the front page of NY Times on-line the big headline is “Clinton leaves N. Korea …” but just below that another head goes: “Secretary of State begins Africa tour.”

Interesting even after all these years that former Pres. Clinton becomes or still is "THE" Clinton while his wife, er, Sec'y of State is recognized by title only.

Health care "Reform"

I had a long random-like post which included some thoughts on Health care reform legislation but then I read this - Robert Samuelson's recent column in Newsweek and it pretty much sums up anything I was trying to say but more better!

I don't know if Mr. Samuelson is liberal or conservative - he is an economist. I think they work with numbers and last time I checked 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of your political persuasion.

So rather than me say something - just read this.