Friday, July 31, 2009

Who's Reading the Ramble?

by Pa Rock
Really Good Typist

A few weeks ago I made a whiny statement in one of these posts regarding all the effort that goes into writing something every evening for a very limited audience. In fact my youngest son and a couple of close friends were the only ones who seemed to be following my daily ravings. One of my old college buddies, Mike Box, suggested that I start using the website that he uses to track the hits on his blog –

On Thursday, July 23rd, while in San Antonio, I finally checked out Sitemeter and figured out how to connect it to Pa Rock’s Ramble. To my utter surprise and disbelief, I learned quickly that I have a small core of regular followers, and, in addition, the blog is pulling in a couple of dozen surfers a day. Just eight days into this process, I now find myself checking my stats on Sitemeter several times a day. I can tell how many hits The Ramble has had in the past hour, day, week, and beyond – and I have access to the locations of anyone who is or has been on the site.

Here are just a few of the basic statistics: Since signing onto Sitemeter a week ago yesterday, 223 people have visited Pa Rock’s Ramble, or an average of 27 a day. Those visitors have logged onto 370 of the articles that I have written. Most enter the site through the homepage, but many have come to The Ramble through search engines while seeking out particular topics. Over a third of the visitors have been referred by Google.

The most common points of entry besides the home page for the past eight days were: The Sad Ballad of Randy Leach (published on April 16, 2008 with 8 hits), Lovecraft Words (June 14, 2008 - 6 hits), Pa Rock's Dead Pool Entries (January 2, 2009 - 6 hits), August Rush (June 2, 2009 - 6 hits), A Tale of Two Vets (July 28, 2009 - 6 hits), and Rest in Peace Emmett Till (July 11, 2009 - 4 hits).

I was also interested in where all the visitors were coming from. Sitemeter can identify the preponderance visitors by the geographic location. Most visitors to The Ramble are from the continental United States. The blog appears to have regular readers in Kingwood, TX, Ochelata, OK, Topeka, KS, Leawood, KS, and San Jose, CA. It has had hits from a majority of the states - which was quite a surprise to me.

Today Pa Rock's Ramble had a visitor from the southern coast of Spain. Other international visitors over the past eight days have included APO Armed Forces in Europe (Middle East), Saudi Arabia, Germany, Holland, Romania, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Canada, Puerto Rico, and 5 hits from the United Kingdom - including London, Edinburgh, and three smaller communities.

As I type this, there is one person reading The Ramble in Langhorne, PA. That person entered through the homepage, and this appears to be his or her first visit.

Okay, 223 visitors in eight days is not a huge readership - in fact, it struggles even to even be considered a modest audience. But that modest number has me pumped and gives me the energy to keep typing. So I guess that you all are stuck with Pa Rock for awhile!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Suds Summit

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

Tonight the President of the United States, a distinguished Harvard professor, and an experienced police sergeant will settle in at a picnic table on the White House lawn and discuss racism, racial profiling, and the importance of maintaining public order in twenty-first century America. To take the edge off of what could be a tense conversation, the men will also be engaging in the great American pastime of drinking beer.

The press, of course, is all over this story – like flies on Roy Blunt – and has even reported the brands of brews that that participants will be drinking. The professor will be sipping Red Stripe, the policeman will be drinking Blue Moon, and the President, ever mindful of the need to connect with the common man, will be tossing back Bud Light – America’s most requested beer.

Most of us know the story by now, or at least some version of it. Generally we tend to believe the rendering that leaves us feeling the most comfortable – the account that aligns best with our lives and our values.

To a black American who has grown up dealing with both subtle and overt racism, this is a no-brainer: a power obsessed white cop who has trouble accepting the fact that a black man can be a successful professional living in a nice neighborhood, bullies his way into the black man’s home on a flimsy pretense and then, when the black man questions his authority to do so, promptly carts this uppity nigger off to jail. Black Americans have seen it all before – for generations. They know that the severity of the police reaction is a direct result of the race of the suspect – and the suspect in this case was an innocent homeowner who happened to be black and living in a nice neighborhood.

To a white American who has grown up in a blue-collar neighborhood and has had to work hard for every dollar, this case is also a no-brainer. An honest cop who puts his life on the line every day answers a call about a possible house break-in. He does his job and investigates, only to be screamed at and demeaned by the angry black homeowner. Clearly it’s a class issue, with the professor thinking that he is better than the cop and above the law. Of course he deserved to go to jail. Why, if it hadn’t been for Affirmative Action and quotas, he would probably be washing dishes or shining shoes and living around his own kind.

And to a mixed-race President of the United States, this is a teachable moment – whatever the hell that means.

Professor Henry Louis Gates, an eminent historian, is righteously appalled that the police can enter his house, Gestapo style, and arrest him for not stammering “yass suh” to the cop’s every interrogatory. He would probably admit to responding by being rude and obnoxious. He was in his own home, after all, and it’s not against the law to be rude and obnoxious, especially when you are behaving that way in your own home.

Sgt. James Crowley, a veteran police officer who taught racial profiling at the police academy, feels that he acted appropriately in dealing with an angry individual who was interfering with a legal process. He was disrespected by the professor who refused to quietly submit to his authority, and he was publicly insulted by the President who told a news conference, and thus the nation, that he had acted stupidly. He is angry at being rebuked for doing his job.

President Barack Obama, a man with a black African father and a white American mother, has grown up with a foot in each camp. He has seen firsthand the way some people devalue others on the basis of race alone. Indeed, a substantial segment of the American populace is vocally uncomfortable with having an African American family in the White House and is unlikely to ever be reconciled to the fact of Obama’s presidency. But the President also grew up with, and idolized, his white grandmother who had a fear of black men. Fortunately for him, and for America, she was able to open her heart to her mixed-race grandson.

It will be an interesting gathering tonight on the White House lawn, one that could portend the beginning of a new American era on race relations. Whether they will admit it or not, each of the three participants have embarrassed themselves to some extent in this affair, and depending on the way tonight’s Suds Summit unfolds, each could redeem himself and, in the process, make life better for all of us.

May the beer be icy cold and flow freely – and may humanity prevail.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arizona Government Buildings: For Sale by Owner

by Pa Rock
Amused Taxpayer

Let’s say that Claude and Maude, a well established married couple, have run into some serious financial difficulty. Their bills have been rising for the past few years, and they have cut their budget to the bone. This year the bills are still going up, and they can’t make any more cuts in spending.

What are Claude and Maude to do?

One option, of course, is to increase their income by one or the other taking a second job, but neither wants to make that sacrifice. It looks hopeless, but Claude, who is a product of the Arizona school system, suddenly has a brain fart. Their house, he points out to Maude, is paid for. Why not sell it and then rent it back from the new owners. Claude reasons that in a few years when times are better, they can buy it back – and meanwhile they will have enough ready cash to maintain their lifestyle – at least temporarily.

Okay, it doesn’t take a PhD in economics to see the gaps in logic of Claude’s proposal, yet that is exactly the course that the Arizona legislature seems hell-bent on pursuing.

The state is currently facing a budget shortfall of between three and four billion dollars, and instead of seriously looking for ways to increase revenue, such as through tax increases on corporations or the wealthy, they are pursuing a limited sales tax (one which will put the state’s financial burden primarily on the backs of the poor), and cutting business taxes. It has reached a point where even the dumbest members of the legislature, a quorum to be sure, realize that all of that nonsense (and all of their huffing and puffing) still won’t bring the budget into the black.

So here’s the new plan that is being bandied about the halls of the state legislature. (You might want to sit down and put your feet up before continuing, because this is a doozie!)

Members of the Arizona State Legislature are recommending that the state sell off its House and Senate buildings (and perhaps several other state buildings as well), and then lease them back from the new owners. The estimated cash influx from this scheme would be about $735 million, far short of the state’s projected deficit. When times get better, of course, they would buy their legislative chambers back.

And you know what, as a proud taxpayer of Arizona, I say “Go for it!” I just hope the new owners shop around for perspective renters. Those buildings would be far better utilized as flea markets or storage sheds. Sheriff Arpaio would probably be happy to rent a couple of his tents to the legislators for their meetings. Hell, he might even provide the catering.

Sorry, Senator. You cannot have Grey Poupon on your stale, green baloney sandwich! Only the guards, ...ur...uh...legislative pages, get condiments!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Vets

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

CNN had a very poignant story on the internets today about two veterans of the war in Iraq. The men featured in the story were Andrew Kinard, a young enlisted Marine, and Army LTC Raymond Rivas. Both men received serious war injuries, both were on a panel last April that discussed veteran's health care with Congress, and each experienced their own life-changing event on July 15th of this year.

Andrew Kinard is a bright and energetic young man who is on his way to Harvard Law School. He is ambitious and driven. Many of his friends believe that he will one day become the President of the United States. Whatever Andrew accomplishes in life, it will take extraordinary effort - because Andrew lost his legs in an awful IED explosion in Iraq. In fact, he lost his entire body below the hips.

LTC Ray Rivas got too close to several blasts and developed symptoms that included difficulty in talking, reasoning, and remembering. He was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, and a later diagnosis revealed that he had emerging Alzheimer's Disease. He required help from friends for ordinary functions like bathing, eating, and dressing himself. Ray Rivas was also in a lot of pain.

On July 15th Andrew Kinard celebrated with friends at his "going away" party as he prepared to leave Washington D.C. and head to Harvard. That same evening Ray Rivas sat in his car in the parking lot at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where he wrote several suicide notes to family and friends and then killed himself with an overdose of prescription drugs.

Andrew Kinard and Ray Rivas each had their lives irrevocably changed as they helped to carry out the world view of a cabal of ego maniacal characters who were too chickenshit to go to war themselves a generation ago. I grieve for Ray and his family, and I am hopeful that Andrew can live all of his dreams despite his monumental handicap. I hope that Andrew does make it to the White House. If he does, and if the subject of war comes up in his presidency, Americans will at least know that their leader understands the true costs of war.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Poetry Monday: "Somebody Was Breaking Windows"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

On March 29th of this year, well before the advent of Poetry Monday I featured a poem in this blog by Luis J. Rodriguez, a poet, story-teller, and immigrants' rights advocate whom I met at the Cesar Chavez Conference in Glendale. That piece was entitled Running to America, a harsh, yet beautiful, description of the struggle of "illegal" immigrants in their quest to get into the United States for a better life. Running to America is the opening poem in Rodriguez' collection called My Nature is Hunger. Every poem in the volume is stunning, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Part of my job with the Air Force is to facilitate Anger Management Groups for men and women. Most of the people who come into those groups, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not, are young and are dealing with the pressures of relationships, young families, and highly stressful jobs. It isn't surprising that when those types of pressures are present, anger and rage often result. I use the following poem by Luis Rodriguez, Somebody Was Breaking Windows, to identify with the rage that is often within the members of the group and to get the conversation on anger flowing. It usually has a very powerful impact, because the characters in the poem are very much like the people sitting around the table talking about their anger issues.

Somebody Was Breaking Windows
By Luis J. Rodriguez

Somebody was breaking windows
out of a 1970’s Ford.
Somebody’s anger, for who knows what,
shattered the fragile mirror of sleep,
the morning silence
and chatter of birds.
A sledge hammer in both hands then crashed
onto the side of the car,
down the hood,
through the front grill and headlights.
This Humboldt Park street screamed
in the rage of a single young man.
Nobody got out of their homes.
Nobody did anything.
The dude kept yelling
and tearing into the car.
Nobody claimed it.
I looked out of the window as he swung again.
Next to me was a woman.
We had just awakened after a night of lovemaking.
Her six-year-old daughter was asleep
on a rug in the living room.
The woman placed her arms around me
and we both watched through the louver blinds.
Pieces of the car tumbled
onto the steamed asphalt.
Man hands to create it.
Man hands to destroy it.
Something about being so mad
and taking it out on a car.
Anybody’s car.
I mean, cars get killed everyday.
I understood this pain.
And every time he swung down on the metal,
I felt the blue heat swim up his veins.
I sensed the seething eye staring from his chest,
the gleam of sweat on his neck,
the anger of a thousand sneers
--the storm of bright lights
into the abyss of an eyeball.
Lonely? Out of work? Out of time?
I knew this pain. I wanted to be there,
to yell out with him,
to squeeze out the violence
that gnawed at his throat.
I wanted to be that sledge hammer,
to be the crush of steel on glass,
to be this angry young man,
a woman at my side.

My Nature is Hunger by Luis J. Rodriguez is available from Amazon. It is an amazing collection.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weddings and Funerals

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

Weddings and funerals: two tiresome events that foist themselves on society with irksome regularity. But does anyone really enjoy either of these gatherings? Possibly (probably) the brides and perhaps even a few of their mothers have a fondness for weddings, but anyone who gets caught up in planning a wedding will readily admit that it can be more traumatic than than a level five tornado. And funerals? What could be more barbaric than singing and praying before a waxen-faced corpse lying in an expensive box?

Yesterday I had a couple of unplanned experiences that led me to believe that both weddings and funerals could be made into entertaining affairs. The first eye-popping experience was the U-Tube wedding video that is causing all the buzz. Several million people have viewed the "dancing" wedding on their computers. The groom somersaults down the aisle, and everyone else dances forward. It is very animated and loud, and it is obvious that the guests are having a great time clapping to the music and cheering on the antics of the wedding party. I could enjoy going to a wedding like that. Maybe the millions of hits on U-Tube will help the concept to catch on.

I saw the wedding video on the NBC Evening News - so it is really getting coverage.

Later, I was channel surfing and came upon a British screwball comedy entitled Death at a Funeral. The movie came out a couple of years ago, but I hadn't had the opportunity of seeing it yet. It was directed by Frank Oz, and the only actor in the production that I recognized was Kris Marshall who has been a regular in a couple of programs on BBC America.

Synopsis: The family patriarch has died, and friends and relatives are gathering at his British country home for the funeral. Some of the relatives include the pretty widow, their grown sons who are at each other's throats over money and dashed dreams, the deceased's tightly wound brother who is a doctor, and the doctor's two grown children - a son who is studying to be a pharmacist and has just developed some kick-ass hallucinogen which he puts into a Valium bottle and inexplicably brings to the funeral, and a daughter who is coming to announce her engagement to a man that her father, the doctor, does not like. The fiance is understandably nervous about his impending encounter with the father who doesn't like him, so his girlfriend gives him a Valium - yup, one of those Valium, to calm his nerves.

Another guest at the funeral is a dwarf who had been having a gay affair with the deceased, and who brought along photos to prove it. He gets his chance to blackmail the brothers shortly after the funeral is interrupted when the hallucinating boyfriend knocks the coffin over and spills the corpse out onto the floor.

By being a "screwball" comedy, some of the action is predictable, yet funny nonetheless. After the brother with money decides that he won't pay the blackmail, the other brother comes up with the idea of tying the dwarf up until the wedding is over. When the bound and gagged dwarf remains unruly, another guest who has stumbled into the mayhem stuffs him with five Valium to calm him down - yup, those Valium! Later when the tripping dwarf falls off of a table and hits his head, and it appears to one-and-all that he is dead, the gang makes a decision to slip him into the coffin with his lover, dear old dead dad! After the mourners reassemble to complete the funeral, it is only a matter of moments before the dwarf comes to and begins rocking the box.

Now I'm not suggesting that people attending funerals be given acid, at least not unknowingly, but could there be a better occasion for getting drunk and disorderly? In fact, weddings would be a lot better if the reception was held immediately prior to the marriage ceremony!

Weddings and funerals should not be such awful events. Who really needs wedding planners and funeral directors, engraved invitations and mahogany caskets, bridal gowns and burial suits, and flowers, flowers, flowers! Spend that money on alcohol, and if there is any left over use it to feed the poor! That would be something worth remembering!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

San Antonio Rude

by Pa Rock

A while ago I rode from my hotel to the San Antonio Airport on the airport shuttle, an expensive operation called SATrans. (To get from the airport to downtown and back is a pricey $32.00.) SATrans operates for its own benefit, and, in the process if it can benefit travelers, well, that's just gravy. When I arrived, for instance, I had to wait nearly an hour while the shuttle dogged around waiting to fill every seat. It is a money maker, pure and simple, and on top of that the drivers expect a nice tip for doing their job.

This morning there were a group of what appeared to be college students out of New York on the shuttle. When we got to the airport, everyone was busy getting their bags when the driver suddenly went theatrical. "Ma'am," he said. "Take your thirty cents back. That's not a tip, that's an insult!"

I only observed one insult, and that was the one hurled by the driver at his passenger.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Texas Shenanigans

by Pa Rock

I'll be flying out of Texas in the morning, and I hated to leave without taking a swipe or two at the Lone Star State. So here goes:

First of all, I miss Molly Ivins - I really, really miss Molly Ivins. The late Texas newspaper journalist had a well-earned national reputation for telling it like it was. When Miss Molly sat down at her keyboard, Texas politicians would start diving for cover. But Miss Molly has been gone for a couple of years now and the Texas political snakes have begun crawling out from under their rocks and are once again making their state look extremely foolish.

The Texas School Board, which controls - really controls - school curriculum in the state, has recently set up a committee of six typical Texans (they call them "experts") to review the curriculum for social studies. It seems that the good ole boys on the Board feel that there is currently an over representation of minorities in the state's social studies books. David Barton, one of the "experts" appointed to the curriculum committee, said that Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union, lacks the "status, impact, and overall contributions of so many others." (Translation: We don't want our kids reading about no union organizing Mexican!)

Evangelical Minister Peter Marshall, also on the Board's social studies curriculum committee, said "To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben ludicrous." He went on to say that Chavez "is not a role model who ought to be held up to students as someone worthy of emulation." The good reverend is also wound up about Thurgood Marshall, the late Supreme Court Justice who was also the attorney in Brown vs. Board of Education - the case that desegregated America's public schools. Marshall said that Thurgood Marshall was "not a strong enough example of an important historical figure to be presented to students." (Translation: Our kids don't need to be reading about no uppity nigra who probably got into law school because of a quota!)

The curriculum controversy in Texas is important to the rest of the country because Texas is a huge purchaser of textbooks, and its goofball curriculum guidelines literally become the tail that wags the dog. The publishers don't make a Texas edition, they make a national edition that meets the Texas standards. As Texas slides, so slides the nation.

Another bit of Texas political nonsense came to light today when Governor Rick Perry, whom Molly Ivins used to refer to as "Great Hair," announced his belief that the states should be responsible for health care policy - not the federal government. Unsaid by the pretty-boy governor was the fact that Texas has the lowest rate of health care coverage in the country with a full 25% of the state population completely uninsured. Apparently health care costs in Texas are among the very highest in the nation. Governor Perry has been in office for nine years, health care in his state is a complete and total joke, and he thinks fixing health care needs to be left to the states? What a bozo!

Rumor has it that there are some intelligent people in Texas. Apparently they live in El Paso and Austin - but the Austin group does not include the state legislators!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

She Wants Her Country Back!

by Pa Rock
Amused Observer

There is a video circulating on the Internet that is as funny as it is scary. It is a clip of Congressman Mike Castle's (R-Del) recent town hall meeting. One very angry (and bizarre) woman gets the floor, begins angrily waving a document that she says is her birth certificate, and explodes that President Obama is refusing to produce his birth certificate (not true) because he was actually born in Kenya (also not true). The elderly Republican congressman appeared to be mortified by the crazy woman, but a group of hillbillies whom she probably collected at the local tavern on her way to the town hall hooted and hollered and cheered her on.

The authenticity of the Presidential birth certificate has been has been verified by several sources - including - which is where I viewed it. The document says quite clearly that he was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. But Nutbag Lady and her Hillbilly chorus were having none of that. She stated adamantly that he was born in Kenya. Where is the proof for that?

The most telling part of the scene occurred as she was winding down. She dropped her head, began rocking sadly from side to side, and said, "I just want my country back!"

Implied, but not stated: She just wants her "white" country back.

Sorry, Honey, but that ain't gonna happen. I spent eight long, miserable years "wanting" my country back from George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their gang of thieves, war mongers, and environmental rapists, but I had to sit politely and wait the bastards out. Many of us had serious doubts about whether Bush was actually elected either time, but we didn't go psycho over the issue because the government had to function.

A major difference between Obama and Bush (and there are many!) is that Obama was clearly and decisively elected.

This noise about the President's birth certificate is very reminiscent of the GOP's campaign against the Clinton's that lasted throughout Bill's eight years in office. It was a cheap and tawdry effort that succeeded only in keeping his popularity ratings unusually high. The Republicans spent eight years slinging crap, and the American people didn't like it. And now it's starting again!

The Republican's did manage to make a comeback, barely, in 2000 with the questionable election of George Bush. But they are so fragmented and self-marginalized now that a comeback in the foreseeable future is unlikely. The most viable Republican presidential candidate at this time is Mitt Romney, a Mormon. How's that gonna play with their hate-riddled Christian fundamentalist base?

The Republican Party appears to be hellbent on self-destruction - from the Palin's, to the Cheney's, to Joe the Plumber, to the religious right, to the loony birthers. I wish them God-speed in their race to become totally irrelevant!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welcome Little Ruby!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grand Uncle

My father's fifth great-grandchild, Ruby Estelle Pfetcher, was born earlier today in London, England. Her parents are Jason and Heidi (my niece) Pfetcher, and her older sister is Lauren. My sister, Gail, is the happy grandmother.

My mother's first name was Ruby, although she always went by her middle name, Florine. I spoke to my dad tonight on the phone, and as we were talking about his new great-grandchild, he said simply, "Florine would have been so proud!" She certainly would have been!

Ruby, our sweet little July gem, we are so pleased that you have joined us! May your life be long, healthy, and very, very happy!

With much love,

Uncle Rock

Short and Sweet - Must be a Tweet!

by Pa Rock

I have always been a whistler. I don’t know why, but I suppose that whistling is a just a nervous habit that I acquired at some critical juncture in my life. Over the years, it has occasionally proven useful – like when I was a high school principal wandering the halls. My whistling would alert misbehaving students of my imminent approach and give them time to clean up their act and hide the evidence. Anything that I didn’t catch made their lives better as well as my own! I remember when one particular class graduated – probably thirty years ago – Cindy Stanley, a favorite student of mine, wrote in the school newspaper that what she would miss most about high school was Mr. Macy whistling in the halls.

It’s so great to have a legacy!

But this posting isn’t about whistling, it is about tweeting. While whistling involves expelling air across the tongue, teeth, and lips, tweeting is the act of excreting thoughts through the fingertips and onto the keyboard. Whistling may go on for hours, but a tweet lasts no more than 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

Tweeting, if you are still behind the cyber curve, is the fine are of posting very short messages, observations, quotes, threats, or obscenities on your homepage at It is similar to posting on Facebook or MySpace, but does not involve the use of passwords or any passive pressure to get cutsie or creative with the appearance of your page. It is much more user friendly, to me at least, than its two knuckle-dragging older cousins.

I am not very adventuresome when it comes to the Internet. I use the google like an encyclopedia to look things up, email for corresponding with a few close friends and my children, and news sites for keeping up with local and world events. A year-and-a-half ago I discovered blogging, and that hobby, as evidenced by The Ramble, has gotten totally out of control.

I had heard about “twittering” or “tweeting” around and about. I knew that Ashton Kutcher had some big contest going with CNN to show that he could attract more followers than them, but I had no idea how one became a follower - nor did I have a desire to do so. I also heard that the turmoil in Iran after their recent presidential election was being fomented on Twitter, but again, I had no idea how to follow that activity except through regular news sources.

I got into this mess on the morning of June 28th while I was catching up on the Internet news. It was then that I came upon a reference to a tidbit that Senator Claire McCaskill (Missouri’s good senator) had had apparently tweeted to her followers. To read her exact words, I had to hit a link to Once there, I was directed to register before I could pull up her comment. The process of registering was quick and painless. When I submitted my email password, I was given a list of my email contacts who were on Twitter. I checked each of their sites to see what they were discussing, and became a “follower” of most of them.

Being someone’s follower on Twitter is not like being a follower of Charles Manson (well, not usually), it just means that when that person posts a tweet, it appears on your home page. If nine people that you are following each tweet twice during the day, you have eighteen small messages to catch up on at the end of the day. Any tweets that I type to onto my homepage and are also distributed to anyone who is bored enough with their life to be one of my followers.

So far I am following ten individuals. Nine are friends who are also following me, and the tenth is an Hispanic poet whom I admire. Thirty-two people are following me – Allah knows why – and many of those seem to have an agenda that involves selling me something. This group of strangers appears to use the “search” function on Twitter, and then start following people whose tweets contain words related to their products. For instance, one evening I mentioned insulin in a tweet, and soon had three new followers who all had something going in the diabetes field.

Another evening I made a brief comment about Scroungy Bastard, the neighborhood cat that is adopting me. Within minutes Ted Danson’s Cat, Mittens, was following me on Twitter! Mittens lives in Ted's laundry basket.

The thing that I like best about tweeting is the challenge of saying something profound in just one-hundred-and-forty spaces. I am a fan of word games, crossword puzzles, and structured poetry, so I find the limitations of the tweet very appealing. It’s sort of like a haiku rest stop on the information highway.

If I’m not at The Ramble, check for me at And if I’m not there, it probably means that me and Scroungy Bastard and Mittens are hiding out somewhere snarfing up some creamed tuna on toast!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Got Soul?

by Pa Rock
Barstool Philosopher

Sunday's foray into the metaphysical left me thinking about the concept of the soul. When I sit and ponder, I wonder:

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that humans have souls. If that is true, does it necessarily follow that all humans have souls? People also have arms and legs, for the most part, but some do not. Not all humans possess the sense of sight, but most do. If the soul exists, is it necessary equipment, like a brain, or can a person function without one? Are we born with souls or do they develop as we mature?

Years ago a young man and I were talking about human life being created in laboratories, something that was well within the realm of possibility even then. He grudgingly admitted that scientists might be able to manufacture sperm and an egg, and thus produce life through chemistry, but he was adamant that such a laboratory creation would be born without a soul. So sex is necessary for the creation of a soul?

How would one know if an acquaintance had a soul or not? What would a soulless individual look like? Would he resemble a movie zombie, stumbling through a decaying cityscape and ripping the heads off of innocent bystanders? Or would he be a suave and charming sociopath like Ted Bundy, equally capable of flattery or butchery?

Is it possible for a soul to detach itself from the individual before death? Could a creature with a soul be a serial killer like Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer? Could a creature with a soul avoid service in a war (Bush, Cheney, Rummy, or Wolfowitz) and then cavalierly send the children of others, less privileged than themselves, off to the sands of slaughter? Could a person with a soul harbor that much evil?

Can a soul be consigned to Heaven or Hell for eternity by some overgrown hall monitor with a pulpit? What is Heaven? What is Hell?

Does conscience trump soul, or complement it? Or are they the same?

Is living well the best revenge?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "Sounds of Silence"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, MO, I had a wonderful literature professor by the name of Ann Slanina. Under Dr. Slanina's careful tutelage I learned to love the romantic poets: Byron, Keats, and Shelley. She also led me in an individual study of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a novel that is so wonderfully complex that no movie maker has come close to capturing its full essence. The thing that made Dr. Slanina such a great teacher was that she loved what she taught with a passion.

I can only remember one time when I felt like I knew more than Dr. Slanina. One day she was at the board discussing Byron, or Keats, or the Shelley's, when a cloud seemed to drift across her persona. She declared, sadly, that she worried that no one seemed to be currently writing great poetry. The first thought that came to my mind was that she needed to spend some quality time listening to Simon and Garfunkel - or the Beatles - or the Moody Blues. There was so much great poetry being written at that time!

What follows is the signature song of Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence. It is poetry, pure and beautiful, as are so many of their other songs: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bookends, At the Zoo - just to name a few.

Great poets are still at work writing great poetry, its just that now they often put their works to music.

Sounds of Silence
by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

The last I heard of Ann Slanina, she had changed her last name to Marlowe in honor of another of her favorite writers, Christopher Marlowe, and was still inspiring college students - but that was thirty years ago. I would love to have an update!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Of course machines can think...but do they have souls?

by Pa Rock
Barstool Philosopher

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! This posting deals with ascribing human characteristics to machinery, including the ability to think and the ability to choose between moral and immoral behavior. If you are a tightly wound Christian Fundamentalist, please leave this site at once. You have been warned!

Two decades ago I was teaching Intro to Psychology to a group of college students who were basically my age or older. One of the questions for discussion at the end of a chapter was this: Can animals think? Surprisingly, there were no varying points-of-view on that question because everyone agreed that of course animals could think. The discussion came when students started boasting about the things their pets could do, and whose pooch or kitty was the smartest. They were quicker to brag on their pets than their kids!

Basically the argument about whether animals think or not has been resolved to most people's satisfaction. Oh, there are enclaves of know-nothings here and there who take pride in believing that they represent God's vision and intent for the planet, but most of them are much closer to hogs languishing in the mud of ignorance than they are to the intelligent end of the humanity spectrum (with sincere apologies to hogs everywhere!).

Of course animals think and reason. There is a grackle (an Arizona crow with an acorn-sized brain) that flies over Luke Air Force Base every morning looking for my car. When he spots it, he swoops in and makes noisy demands for his share of our breakfast. A half of a mile south of the base a scroungy orange tomcat roams a trailer park looking for handouts. He drinks from my birdbath and knows just when and where to show up for his grub. I realize those aren't great examples. Most creatures learn to get their needs met, but not all humans seem to be able to rise to that challenge.

Kicking that can on down the road, I would argue that if humans are endowed with souls, and so far there is no credible scientific evidence to back that idea up, but if humans do indeed have souls, chances are good that all of the earth's living and breathing creatures are also thusly endowed.

Humans have had a deep and abiding relationship with animals, basically out of necessity, since they (humans) crawled onto the shore - or dropped out of the trees - and began walking upright. But during the past century or so, man has begun forming relationships with machines that quickly replaced their old dependence on animals. The twentieth century witnessed mankind being subsumed by cars, radios, televisions, and personal computers - just to note the high points. This trend is accelerating in the in early years of the twenty-first century.

Tonight, for example, I am typing this post on my laptop computer several hundred miles from home. I am connected to the Internet with an "air card," an electronic device that allows me to access the net from virtually anywhere. I have a cell phone in my pocket, and my iPod is within easy reach. I can communicate quickly and easily by email or by cell phone with my children who are widely scattered over three states - without a land line to either of my communication devices, and I can listen to musical selections from several hundred music CDs that are in my music library back in Arizona. Oh, and there is a big, flat-screen television playing in the background - and I am wallowing in air-conditioning!

Many would argue that while we benefit greatly from all of this technology, machines simply function as they are programmed to do, and do not possess the ability to think independently. They may concede that Artificial Intelligence is on the horizon, but deny that machines currently have any ability for independent thought.

I beg to differ. I have ascribed the term "evil" to treadmills in the past, perhaps unfairly because certainly all treadmills, like all humans, are not evil. In fact, the deaths and maimings that are inflicted by treadmills may entirely be the fault of the humans who are walking (or, Allah forbid, running) on these monsters when they should be parked somewhere in a shady bar drinking a tall glass of beer and stuffing down happy hour snacks. It's not fair to blame the results of bad human choices on machines.

Cell phones also bear close scrutiny. Those handy little gadgets have ended more marriages than Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna combined. Again, however, their evilness may be due primarily to the stupidity of the primates who use them text their lovers and email racy photographs.

Some machines, however, do have the capability of thought that is entirely independent of human involvement. My iPod is a case in point. It is a small sucker with a great deal of memory - capable of holding over nine thousand songs. It is currently programmed with my entire CD collection totaling 3,250 songs. I keep it set on "shuffle" so that, in theory, I will hear a completely random selection of music. Generally, it works as it should, and the selections bounce from Van Morrison, to AC/DC, to the Beatles, to Hank Junior or Senior with wild and unpredictable abandon.

But it gets more complicated than that. I have a "station" at home and at the office where I can plug Mr. iPod in and listen to music without the headphones - much like a radio station with the world's greatest playlist. The iPod generally works as it should when I am present, but the moment that I leave the room it begins to do its own thing - and it's thing is Rod Stewart's An American Songbook, a jazzy collection of old American standards including many duets with legends like Elton John and Cher.

An American Songbook is a four-CD set that contains about 40 songs - 40 out of 3,250. Whenever I leave the room and return a few minutes later, Rod Stewart is playing wall-to-wall. It has become obvious that my iPod loves the sandpaper-voiced Brit singer. The iPod usually tries to atone for this indulgence by coughing up some kick-ass country as soon as Rod finishes his current selection.

And it doesn't end there. Today as I was flying into San Antonio, gliding through the wild, blue yonder in an over-sized tin can, Mr. iPod kicked in with an instrumental version of San Antonio Rose, a selection that I hadn't heard before and can't find on the playlist. Oooh-weee-oooh!

I do not pretend to know how many or what types of machines possess the power of independent thought, but of this I am certain: my slick little iPod has a mind of its own. And if it has acquired the power of independent thought, can the acquisition of a soul be far behind?

If my laptop has a soul, what happens when it dies? Will Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut be able to pick it up on the other side and begin blogging? Will Leonardo daVinci take it apart and try to put it back together? Will Michael Jackson use it to compose music - or pull up child porn?

The concept of machines having souls makes the idea of a next life infinitely more interesting. There's got to be more to an afterlife than bad Baptist hymns and harp concerts in the clouds. Bring on Rod Stewart!

Good night from San Antonio, Rose.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last night I tweeted ( about a serious dust storm that had just raged through the Valley of Hell leaving thousands of homes without power. Good friend Mike Box, a Kansan who once lived in Arizona but got smart, responded with an email discussing the phenomenon of an "haboob" - one of those massive, dangerous dust storms that I had described.

According to Mike, "The haboob is a naturally occurring event in the Arizona Sonoran dessert and the Horn of Africa. Fortunately these things tend to happen during daylight and can be seen coming. The sky takes on a reddish yellowish cast as the storm front approaches. Visibility can drop to zero. If you are traveling in the city and see it coming, pull into a restaurant order a cup of joe and wait it out. On the other hand if you are on I-10 between the Capitol City and Tuscon, then pull over as far as you can off of the road. Then turn off, yes off, your lights and take your foot off the brake."

Mike's rationale for getting off the road and "going dark" was that as the road completely disappears during an event like this, not every driver is smart enough to stop driving. If your tail lights are on, some numb nuts may see them and assume that you are tooling on down the road - right up to the point where he rear ends your car!

Yesterday's was the third "haboob" that I have been through in Arizona. During two I was home and able to sit back and observe, much as one would marvel at a thunder and lightening storm in the Ozarks. But during one of the haboobs I was driving down Litchfield Road, a four-lane thoroughfare in the West Valley. I was almost home and didn't have the good sense to pull over. Tumbleweeds and a couple of lawn chairs flew across my path, but the force of the winds could have easily propelled larger items into the traffic flow - cars, trees, or even people. Getting home quickly is not worth the risk!

So now I must be on the lookout for scorpions, rattlesnakes, and haboobs. Will the list of Arizona terrors never end?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Most Trusted Man in America

by Pa Rock
Baby Boomer

Walter Cronkite, the anchor of the CBS Evening News throughout the 1960's and 1970's passed away this evening. The 92-year-old former television journalist was known to be near death for the past few days, so the cable networks were ready. MSNBC has been airing a Walter Fest all evening.

The recognition is good, and it is well deserved. They are running old clips of his announcement that JFK had been shot, and minutes later somberly telling America of the President's death in Dallas. There has been footage aired of him tonight with every President from Eisenhower through Clinton, and we have heard his famous on-air editorial in which he concluded that the Vietnam war was not winnable.

I remember all of that stuff because I was in high school and college during those years, and was already a budding news junkie. There were only three television networks at that time, and much of America got their daily dose of national news from Walter Cronkite. I think that my most vivid memory was of the color footage of the Vietnam combat and the daily body counts that Cronkite gave - bringing the war right into our living rooms.

Walter Cronkite was a part of everyone's family. He was giving us the news while we kicked our shoes off after a hard day at work or at school. Through his steady baritone voice we learned what was going on in the world as we set the table for dinner (families used to eat dinner around a table), and settled in for our evening meal. Shortly after retiring from CBS in the early 1980's, Cronkite was voted as the most trusted man in America by a national poll. - and the results of that poll were accepted as an obvious fact by a broad spectrum of the American public.

Even this old news hound learned something new about Cronkite from tonight's television coverage. Dan Rather, his replacement at CBS, told Rachel Maddow that Cronkite had flown into France on a glider shortly after D-Day. Hugh Downs, another news ancient, was interviewed over the phone and quoted Cronkite as saying that a person had to be a liberal in order to be a good journalist. (Need proof? Think of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. There's not an ounce of credibility or journalistic integrity in the lot!)

Walter Cronkite was a native of St. Joseph, Missouri, and still had family ties in the Show Me State. I know that because several years ago I was spending the evening with my friend Millie Crossland, a social worker and political maven in Kansas City. Millie was working in the office of Kay Barnes, the mayor of Kansas City, and her desk was located just outside of the mayor's inner-sanctum. We were in the office that night when Millie took me in to see where Mayor Barnes did her work. There, in the middle of the mayor's desk, was a small framed photo of Walter Cronkite. When I asked about it, Millie told me that he and Mayor Barnes were cousins.

Not surprisingly, no one anticipated the passing of Walter Cronkite in the 2009 Pa Rock's Dead Pool. In fact, most of the entrants were too young to have any clue as to who he was. That is too bad, because the craggy old journalist was, for a very long time, the face of American television news - and perhaps the face of America itself. He will be missed by the Boomers and the hearty few left of the World War II generation. An era is slipping away.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Survivalism in the Valley of Hell

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an article recently in the Valley's stodgy old rag, The Arizona Republic, that focused on some local residents who are preparing for Armageddon, locusts, the gummint coming to take their guns, a collapsing economy, and/or a multitude of other paranoid wet dreams. You know these guys (and gals) - the ones who are bitterly disappointed that Y2K never happened, Obama hasn't tried to repeal the Second Amendment, or what in the hell happened to the Rapture anyway! They don't know what the crisis will be, but, by God, when it comes they will be ready - and their neighbors can go suck on a gas pipe because these guys ain't helping nobody!

The Republic interviewed several of these people, citing examples of survivalist ingenuity. Some of their ideas were practical and made sense, but many were less realistic.

Most were planting gardens - itself a major challenge in the desert environment. A big secret out here is that water is embarrassingly cheap. (My bill was $28.00 last month, and that was with automatic sprinklers!) So gardens actually make sense - fresh veggies with no preservatives.

One young man who has planted a twelve-row, 384-foot-garden, said that he is now thinking about branching out into pygmy goats or chickens. Chickens are good for keeping the ticks down, but Arizona has no ticks. Chickens won't lay eggs in the heat, and it would take a major effort just to keep them alive. There are good reasons that you seldom see any poultry in this awful desert.

And pygmy goats? I've raised pygmy goats, so I know that of which I speak. A grown pygmy goat has less meat on its bones than an adolescent squirrel. Little goats like to do things their way. If you have five acres of tall weeds with one fifty dollar rosebush hidden out in the middle, they will head straight for the rosebush. They will eat holes in feed sacks and grain bins, and just one little goat would wreak havoc on that 384-square-foot garden!

The same guy also talked about setting up solar panels for electricity - a good idea, but almost all of the housing associations out here won't allow them because they don't like the way they look. He also discussed installing a rainwater collection system. I have been here two years, and the amount of rain I have seen wouldn't fill a mop bucket!

And, of course, preparing for the worst is an excellent excuse to stockpile guns and ammo. My guess is that the survivalists aren't really that worried about the need to combat violence, rather they are salivating in anticipation of having a good excuse to shoot their liberal neighbors!

Not every survivalist is a whack job, though many are. There is something positive to be said for the back-to-nature movement, primarily healthier food and living, and conservation measures. But there are a lot of people out there making money off of the paranoids. Army surplus stores are doing a bang-up business, as are the gun shops and gun shows.

Not everyone will be content to stockpile forever, however, and that is worrisome. If the much anticipated disaster fails to materialize, will a dangerous few harken back to the bravado of George Bush and and decide to "bring it on"?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Good Shepherds

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist


That is the advice that I would give anyone who has the temerity to send money to television evangelists or religious charlatans who are whore mongers (like Jimmy Swaggart), unfaithful to their wives (Jim Bakker), hypocritical gay crackheads (Ted Haggard), dangerous pedophiles (Tony Leyva, Tony Alamo, and several platoons of Catholic priests), or just generally deranged (Wiley Drake).

If you support scum like that, repent!

Tony Alamo made the news today. He is a televangelist from Arkansas who has been accused of taking young girls across state lines for sex. Today one of his wives told about Alamo's graphic description to her of him raping an eight-year-old girl while she clung to a stuffed animal. Fortunately for the world in general and little girls in particular, Alamo is under lock and key and currently on trial in a Federal Court in Texarkana, Arkansas.

Prosecutors are making the case that Alamo married the 8-year-old girl and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. He is also accused of raping or sexually assaulting (like there is a difference with victims that young!) at least four other girls.

The adult woman, a witness against Alamo in the trial, said that she has been involved in his ministry since the age of three. She said that the 74-year-old Alamo told her that she should not question "what the Lord told me to do."

Tony Alamo's defense: The U.S. Government and the Vatican are conspiring against him.

What a shame the Feds don't have the legal authority to impose a penalty involving the use of a dull paring knife!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Good Shepherd

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Reverend (sic) Wiley Drake is a Southern Baptist minister and radio knucklehead in southern California who lives for controversy. He has been an officer in the Southern Baptist Convention and was the Vice Presidential candidate of the American Independent Party in 2008.

Drake, a native of Magnolia, Arkansas, wrote a resolution for the Southern Baptist Convention in 1996 condemning the Walt Disney Corporation because of it's gay-friendly policies. When Dr. George Tiller, a women's health provider, was murdered earlier this year in church, the good Reverend Drake proclaimed loudly that he was glad that the physician was dead.

Now Reverend Drake has admitted to the press that he is praying for the death of President Obama. Seriously.

And we don't like Muslims because...?

"There are few people in this world more evil than a 'good' Christian." Pa Rock

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Studs of McDonald County"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today’s poem recognizes and illustrates the talent of Joan Yeagley, a poet from my home, McDonald County, Missouri. While Joan and I lived for a time just a few miles apart, I have only met her once, and that was briefly.

The following selection, The Studs of McDonald County, is from her 1987 collection of poetry of the same name. Studs was published by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. The volume contains many poetic vignettes of rural Ozark life. I particularly like The Studs of McDonald County because it succinctly captures the struggle of male youth as they leap from the nest in full glory, only to be tamed by their women and brought back to the sensible world of local and mundane expectations. It also gives a nostalgic view of summer afternoons in the beautiful creeks and rivers of McDonald County.

Our dreams are funny things. If one doesn’t pay attention every minute, they tend to slip away. Several years ago I visited with one of my former foster kids in the Vernon County (Missouri) jail. He was enroute to the Missouri penitentiary. As our emotional visit was coming to an end, the young man got up and hugged me. And then he said, “Rocky, I never intended for this to happen to me.” He was a McDonald County stud whose dreams had been dashed.

The Studs of McDonald County
by Joan Yeagley

Summer boys down from haying,
Wheeze red dust,
Spit the raw stink of mown grass
And take the beach,
Capsizing with obscenities
A gentle generation of grandmothers
Porked in their inner-tubes.
Unzipping with the cheek of young Zeus,
They peel marble white legs of its skin of jeans,
Stow boots in the crotch of a tree.
Male grace
In the bronze loop of neck, shoulder, arm;
Civil War in the thigh;
They plunge.
From their beachhead on the granite buttes,
They pepper the girls with propositions,
Woo them with breakneck leaps
Then strafe the beach with insults.
The girls are cooler,
Will marry them down
And live in Carthage or Joplin.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Hand on David Brooks' Thigh

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I'm not sure if New York Times' columnist David Brooks meant to make the news himself this week or not, but make it he did. In an interview with John Harwood and Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC Brooks was prattling on about how sad and needy many politicians are when he suddenly blurted out this gem:

"I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner, and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time."

Harwood snapped awake with "What?" And when O'Donnell quit laughing and was finally able to focus on reporting, she asked "Which one?" But Mr. Brooks was not one to get groped and tell. Later O'Donnell, again laughing, managed to ask Brooks if he drank his lunch before the interview. He denied that, but his presentation shouted otherwise! Maybe after one more wet lunch he will begin to name names. One can only hope!

The affable Mr. Brooks did not indicate why he let the senator's hand remain on his inner thigh the entire evening, leaving one to assume that a.) he expected to get something in return - such as ready access to the senator - or, b.) he liked it.

The interview is all over the internets. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. It's hysterical!

Andrew Sullivan, an openly gay writer, had this to say about the incident in his column, The Daily Dish: "Mercifully, I avoid dinners with Republican senators. It's usually far too gay a scene for me."

Would somebody please pass the Family Values - and some of that hypocrisy sauce?

Talking the Talk

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

I just returned from a trip to our community center (the Circle K Quick Stop) where I noticed a fellow wearing an interesting tee shirt. He was standing on the sidewalk at a machine renting movies with his back to me. The man was sporting a black tee with bright yellow lettering that said "Ashes to Ashes - Be Tobacco Free." Being an ardent non-smoker, I planned to say something positive about his shirt as I stepped past him and into the store. The plan changed, of course, when I got to where I could see his face - and the cigarette dangling from his lips!

That's Arizona logic, I suppose. These folks are so hard-headed that they won't even take their own advice. "Ain't no tee shirt gonna tell me what to do!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rest in Peace, Emmett Till

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If there was ever a troubled soul who deserved to rest in peace, surely it would be that of Emmett Till. The strikingly handsome black youth was murdered in a brutal hate crime in 1955 near the small town of Money, Mississippi. His death is generally agreed to be the spark that lit the American Civil Rights movement.

The past:

Young Mr. Till and his cousin arrived in the Mississippi Delta country on August 21, 1955, to stay with his grand-uncle, Reverend Moses Wright. The Delta was a warren of small towns, white bigots, and colored folk who “knew their place.” Before leaving his hometown of Chicago, Till’s mother, Miss Mamie, cautioned her son to “mind his manners” around white people. Mamie Till had grown up in the Delta, and she knew well that racial attitudes there were much more pronounced and dangerous than they were in Chicago.

Three days after his arrival in Mississippi, Emmett and some other black youths entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market where they intended to buy sodas and perhaps some candy. Uncle Moses was out in front of the store playing checkers. What happened inside the store remains unclear to this day. It was being run by twenty-one-year-old Carolyn Bryant. Her husband, Roy Bryant, was on a road trip and was not due to return for a couple of days. Emmett Till seems to have momentarily forgotten his place around the young white woman and either wolf-whistled at her, spoke to her in an inappropriate manner, or touched her. It is possible he was egged on by his companions, or even given a dare.

Whatever happened in Bryant’s Grocery did not sit well with Carolyn Bryant, and she talked the incident up around town. When her husband returned a few days later, he felt honor bound to put the boy in his place and set things straight.

Sometime shortly after midnight on the morning of August 28, 1955, Roy and Carolyn Bryant, Roy’s step-brother, J.W. Milam, and an unidentified individual got into Roy’s car and drove to the home of Moses Wright. Roy beat on Reverend Wright’s door and finally succeeded in getting Emmett outside where Carolyn identified him as the boy who had disrespected her. The group took Emmett and left. The next day when he did not return, Reverend Wright reported the incident to local law enforcement. When Roy was questioned he said that they had pushed the young man around and scared him, and that he had run off and was probably heading back to Chicago.

The body of Emmett Till surfaced in the Tallahatchie River a couple of days later. He had been beaten, shot, tied to a seventy pound cotton gin fan with barbed wire, and dumped in the river. Suspicion fell on Bryant and Milam who denied killing Till. The badly disfigured body, they argued, was not even that of Till. He was identified, however, by a ring that he was wearing which had belonged to his father.

A local mortuary tried to get the body of Emmett Till safely in the ground where the brutality of what had happened to him would be forever buried, but Till’s mother would not have it. Miss Mamie insisted that his body be brought back to Chicago for burial.

A Mississippi mortician spent an entire evening trying to make the corpse presentable before it was shipped north. The state of Mississippi instructed the funeral home in Chicago to leave the casket closed. Again, Miss Mamie would have none of that. She insisted that the casket be opened so that she could tell her son good-bye. When she saw how horrifically disfigured Emmett was, she made the hard decision to have the casket open at the funeral. She wanted the world to see what the segregationist south had done to her son.

Fifty thousand people viewed the body of Emmett Till, and Jet Magazine published photos of his corpse for those who couldn’t make it to Chicago for the service. Much of America, even white America, was outraged. The fuse for the Civil Rights Movement had been lit.

Emmett Till was laid to rest in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois - but there would be no peace for the youth, even in death.

Emmet’s father, Louis Till, had left his family shortly after Emmett was born in July of 1941. By 1943 he had joined the army and was fighting in Italy. It was during the Italian campaign that the family received official word that he had been killed. They assumed that was the end of his story.

As the world began to turn on Mississippi and the segregationist practices of the south, Mississippi’s Senator James Eastland released information about Louis Till to try and lessen the impact that Miss Mamie was having. He reported that Louis Till had been arrested for two rapes and one murder in Italy, and had been executed by the military. The implication was, of course, the son of a rapist animal could hardly be expected to be any better himself.

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were tried for the murder of Emmett Till in the state of Mississippi. It took the all male, all white jury just sixty-seven minutes to acquit them of the crime. One juror remarked, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken us so long.” The following year both men sold their stories to Look Magazine for $4,000 each. Both men. protected by double jeopardy, admitted that they had killed Emmett Till. Milam said that they had intended to simply pistol whip him and threaten to throw him off of a cliff, but the spunky youth would not be cowed. Emmett’s bravery and pride cost him his life.

A new investigation into the death of Emmett Till was opened by the federal government in 2004. At that time his body was exhumed for a forensic autopsy. He was later reburied in the same plot, but in a new casket. The original casket was set aside and plans were for it to become part of an historical display.

The present:

Burr Oak Cemetery, the place where Emmett Till is buried, is today a crime scene. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has announced that hundreds of bodies have been dug up and dumped into an overgrown section of the cemetery – and the freed up plots have been resold to others. Some of the cemetery’s operators are facing criminal charges.

Supposedly the grave of Emmett Till was not disturbed during this disgusting episode of greed run amok, but authorities did make one startling discovery involving the Civil Rights martyr. Till’s original casket was found inside of an open storage shed where it had been abandoned. Some wildlife had adopted it for a home.

In time some of the remains will find their way back to their original burial spots – but others will probably undergo the indignity of being shoveled into a common grave. In time the shocked relatives will leave the cemetery and put this horror behind them. In time the police will be gone, the yellow tape will come down, and Burr Oak will resume a peaceful existence. One can only hope that this time Emmett Till will be left to rest in peace – eternally.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More on Snakes Fornicating

by Pa Rock
Defender of the Wall

On February 8th, 2009, I wrote a review (of sorts) in the Ramble of an amazing book that exposes the workings of a secretive Christian group that is methodically developing a political choke-hold on our nation and the world. The group, known among themselves as "The Family," provides guidance and support (emotional and financial) to politicians whom they see as having been preordained to lead our country, or any country for that matter, into the service of the Lord. They have supported totalitarian dictators whose aims complement those of The Family, and boast an admiration of the way Hitler organized his power. They jokingly refer to themselves as the "Christian Mafia." This is the group that originated the National Day of Prayer that Obama slighted.

The book is The Family by Jeff Sharlett, a young man who went undercover and lived in one of the houses owned by The Family in the Washington, DC, area. The clandestine religious group generally uses these houses to provide members of Congress with cheap (free?) places to live and to have Christian fellowship with other like-minded members.

One of the residences owned by The Family is a place known as "C Street." If the name sounds familiar, it may be because the residence called C Street has figured in the sex scandals surrounding Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Senator John Ensign of Nevada. Sanford has admitted that he had been working with C Street for months regarding his infidelity. Engsign actually lived at C Street. It was revealed today that his roommate, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and others of the seven Congressmen residing at that residence had attempted to take control of Engsign's love life and extricate him from the affair - even though he did not apparently want to be extricated.

One of the ways that The Family exerts its power and influence is through the direct exchange of cash between individuals - without any messy transaction records - things that might be audited or, God forbid, taxed. Their modus operandi of shuffling around cash seems to have at least provided a game plan for getting Ensign clear of his Mistress - if not some of the actual cash itself. Apparently the Republicans living at C Street knew that he had employed her son at the National Republican Senatorial Committee as a way of keeping his lover's family in cash.

C Street is officially listed as a church - undoubtedly for tax purposes.

As someone who read The Family and was appalled by the group's accumulation of wealth and power, I must admit to being somewhat amused as these stupid sex scandals are having a very real result of shining a light on this secretive and, to my way of thinking, sinister society.

The Family by Jeff Sharlett is now out in paperback. Buy it, read it, and pass it on. It is a startling and breath-taking look at the slow and systematic subversion of our government by a radical group whose sole purpose is to bend America and the world to its religious will.

Boone Macy's Summer Vacation

by Boone Macy
Young Explorer

When we went to the Bahamas we took a tour of a hotel called the Atlantis. They had all kinds of fish. Part of the hotel was seawater fed. There was an arch on the hotel that was $25,000 per night. The Bahamas had thousands of stray dogs. After Nassau in the Bahamas we went back to the ship. Then we played basketball. After that we went to the Pirates in the Caribbean party. Nassau had a very beautiful ocean. Then we went to the Disney island, Castaway Cay. I went kayaking with my dad. He went parasailing. We went to the ocean and played. We got a lot of shells. Now we are on the ship ready for dinner. Then we will be back in West Plains. I can’t wait. We are sailing away from Castaway Cay. We saw the new movie, Up. It was really funny. I just got back from dinner. We saw the Musical Dreams. When we were kayaking my dad’s hat blew off. Then a barracuda started poking at it. On our tour of Nassau we saw the Queen’s Staircase. It had a secret passageway to a fort built by slaves. The Queen's staircase as built in Queen Victoria’s honor. It had 64 steps for the years that she served as Queen. But they had to build 66 because 64 did not go all the way down. In Nassau they had a Hard Rock CafĂ©. They had a drum signed by Jim Morrison. They had shoes worn by Elton John. They had a guitar signed by Kiss. They had one of Ozzy Osbourne's suits. They had paintings of Steven Tyler. We had dinner at a restaurant called Tritons. In the Disney park we saw a squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie. We also saw some older autographs of celebrities. They had autographs by Angus Young, Russel Crow, and a suit worn by Dick Van Dike in Mary Poppins. We saw Honey Darlin. We saw the Monsters Inc. studios. We rode the Star Wars ride flight simulator. We rode the Waski river ride. We rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We had a fun time. Me and my dad saw a whole bunch of red and black fish. They were 7 to 8 feet. One had to be 13. I just got up. We saw Chip and Dale, Pluto, Goofy, Minny and Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck. We saw Captain Hook, too. Now we are on the bus to the airport. Now a drawbridge is going up. Now we are at the airport. We are going to ride the monorail. It is bumpy. At Castaway Cay we saw a seagull behind us at lunch eating people's food. He even ate a hotdog! Our room had a balcony. We got lots of things. I had a great trip.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Queen of the Nitwits

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an Arizona state legislator who was sponsoring legislation that would do away with need for people carrying concealed weapons to have a special permit to do so. This legislator, whom I diplomatically did not name, felt that carrying weapons was a "God-given right." Seriously. She also prattled on about it was a duty of the legislature to remove restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms.

That legislator was State Senator Sylvia Allen, a flake from Snowflake, Arizona. That piece of buffoonery did not bring her enough ridicule, so this week she upped the ante. Yesterday Senator Allen was all over the internets and the cable news shows with her taped testimony on a bill regarding the mining of uranium. This piece of silliness is the real reason that Arizonans wear big straw hats and shades - it isn't the sun, we are just so darned embarrassed by our political leaders!

Senator Allen had this to say about the importance of mining uranium:

"I can't say enough how it's time that we get beyond and start focusing on this technology we have and move forward into the future so that our grandchildren can have the same lifestyle we have.

"The Earth's been here 6,000 years - and I know I'm going on and on and I'll shut up - it's been here 6,000 years, long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn't been done away with.

"We need to get the uranium here in Arizona so this state can get the money from it and the revenues from it. It can be done safely and you'll never even know the mine was there when they're done.

"So I am for this."

So, Senator Allen is neither a great orator nor very bright.

Praise Allah for term limits! Our legislators have to leave office after eight years, regardless of how stupid they have been. But not to worry, Sylvia's days in the legislature may be numbered, but all will be well because an equally incompetent yahoo is out there somewhere spinning on a bar stool and waiting to take her place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Ants Go Marching...

by Pa Rock
Nature Enabler

My work group recently moved to a different location on base, but I continue to park in my old spot which is quite a walk in the Arizona heat to the new office. There is plenty of parking at the new location, but I am tethered to the old spot by responsibilities that can’t be ignored.

One responsibility, of course, is Bob, the brazen old grackle who flies in every morning as I am parking and paces restlessly as I get my breakfast sandwich unwrapped. I have to throw Bob several bits of cheese, egg, sausage, or muffin before daring to take a bite of the sandwich myself. He knows that the sausage-egg McMuffin is intended for him, but he will tolerate me sneaking an occasional bite if his needs are being met.

Bob has more common sense than people, and will fly off when he gets full. A few sparrows and cactus wrens swoop in after his departure and pick up most of the scraps that he leaves, but even they do not get everything. The tiniest tidbits go to a colony of ants that are located just in front of my parking space.

The ants have burrowed through several layers of asphalt (or perhaps out of several layers of asphalt) and have formed a small mound of Arizona red dirt in the center of the hard, hot parking lot. Occasionally human klutzes or evildoers will come by and step on their hill, but the industrious little buggers clean up the mess and are quickly back on their never-ending march to survive. I like to think that the leftovers provided by Bob and me form an important component of the ants’ life cycle. The truth is, of course, that Bob (or his descendants) and the ants will be getting along just fine long after Pa Rock has moved on.

There was a scientific article in the news last week on ants. It seems that a particular breed of ant that is native to Argentina has now migrated (thanks to humans) to every continent in the world except Antarctica. These Argentine ants form large colonies and have proven to be a pest to plants and animals. They have created one giant colony that stretches for 3,700 miles along the Mediterranean coast, as well as huge colonies in Japan, California, and other scattered locations.

Most junior high “scientists” know that if you mix ants from various colonies that fights will ensue. Ants are very territorial and can apparently recognize interlopers by the chemical smells that emanate from their cuticles.

Scientists who have been studying the Argentine ants were surprised to learn that they recognize (by cuticle smell, apparently) their cousins from overseas colonies - and tolerate them. It would appear, in fact, that these expansion-minded insects are forming a global presence much on the order of humans. Could it be that these invaders from South America are destined to be the next masters of the Earth?

A couple of years ago I was in the jungles of Guatemala visiting a recently excavated Mayan site. One of my most vivid memories of that experience took place in a large sandy area that was deeply shaded by tall trees and climbing vegetation. A large troop of ants were marching across the sun-dappled expanse of sand. In fact, it was a major highway of ants heading in two directions with both destinations hidden in the neighboring jungle growth. They marched along completely focused on their communal mission and unperturbed by the gaggle of tourists snapping pictures of their progress. The tourists had time to waste – the ants did not!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Holy Oklahoma!

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

Certain of our fifty states are way too easy to ridicule, primarily because of the dolts that they seem to "religiously" elect to public office. Recent postings on this blog have taken Arizona to task over various absurdities (like the state’s rampant desire to have no restrictions on gun ownership, and the pervasive feeling that government should run quite well without any revenue, thank you very much!), and a nutty legislator from Missouri who thought that children who were hungry would be more motivated. (Yeah, more motivated to get out and steal food!) I have managed to ignore most of the silliness in the other forty-eight, but a barrage of recent news out of Oklahoma is forcing me to widen the loony net.

Overview: Oklahoma was the only state in the union to have all of its counties carried by McCain in the 2008 general election. And while many, though certainly not all, Oklahomans will declare emphatically that they are not racist, that is one important social component at play in the Sooner State. Southwest and south central Missouri, as well as rural western Arkansas voted for McCain en masse, as did Oklahoma. As a former resident of that three-state area, I can say without hesitation that the populace is focused on thumping the Bible and keeping the “coloreds” in their place. Many were salivating over the rumors that Obama was a secret Muslim because that provided them with a more socially acceptable reason for voting against him than the race issue would have been.

So jump to the present.

Last week Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Senator, James Mountain Inhofe, described the man who was about to become his new colleague in the Senate, Al Franken of Minnesota, as a clown. Yes, Al Franken was a nationally known comedian several years ago – and he made a very good living at it. Mr. Franken has also been a successful author, a radio personality, and, did I mention, a cum laude graduate of Harvard University. Clown, indeed!

Senator Inhofe, on the other hand, is a graduate of the University of Tulsa, without honors, and used to be president of Quaker Life Insurance Company – an organization that went into receivership on his watch. He is also one of the loudest skeptics of global warming - a position that some wags might be tempted to feel is connected to the over one million dollars that he has received in political contributions from the oil and gas industry. He also has a propensity for citing the Bible to back up his position on various pieces of legislation. Who’s the clown?

Former President George W. Bush (the dumb and dangerous Bush) gave a Fourth of July speech this week in the small Oklahoma town of Woodward. Bush, ever the patriot, reportedly spoke for a fee, though apparently no one is yet publicizing the size of the check that the good people of Woodward cut for the for the unemployed politician. Tickets for the event ranged from $25 to $500, and supposedly a highlight of the event was Bush’s retelling of some of his favorite poop jokes. One can only hope that everybody profited from the experience!

But the nuttiest thing out of Oklahoma last week by far was a resolution introduced in the state legislature by Republican (of course!) Representative Sally Kern. The overly pious Ms. Kern has submitted a proposal entitled Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality, a document that places blame for the economic crisis in America on the moral collapse of our nation. The mean-spirited Ms. Kern is clearly not a believer in the concept of the separation of church and state, and her contempt for President Obama borders on being savage - never mind that the economy went into the crapper under his successor, Republican George Bush. Sally Kern's wingnut manifesto follows:

We the People of Oklahoma, Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of Liberty; to secure just and rightful Government; to promote our mutual Welfare and Happiness, do establish this proclamation and call upon the people of the great State of Oklahoma, and our fellow Patriots in these United States of America who look to the Lord for guidance, to acknowledge the need for a national awakening of righteousness in our land.

WHEREAS, "It is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon
which Freedom can securely stand" (John Adams); and

WHEREAS, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with
human passions unbridled by Religion and Morality" (John Adams); and

WHEREAS, "Our Constitution was made only for a Moral and Religious people" (John
Adams); and

WHEREAS, "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the
power of government...but upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God" (James Madison); and

WHEREAS, "Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that
belongs to us by the laws of God (Benjamin Franklin); and

WHEREAS, "God who gave us life gave us liberty and can the liberties of a nation be
thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God" (Thomas Jefferson); and

WHEREAS, "Whether any free government can be permanent, where the public
worship of God, and the support of Religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state" (Joseph Story); and

WHEREAS, "We hold sacred the rights of conscience, and promise to the people...the
free and undisturbed exercise of their religion" (Roger Sherman); and

WHEREAS, "This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians"
(Patrick Henry); and

WHEREAS, "When you...exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be
impressed upon your mind that God commands you to choose just men who will rule in the fear of God" (Noah Webster); and

WHEREAS, "The principles of genuine Liberty and of wise laws and administrations
are to be drawn from the Bible" (Noah Webster); and

WHEREAS, the people of Oklahoma have a strong tradition of reliance upon the
Creator of the Universe; and thought secure when we have removed

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national
moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion,
pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and
WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking
the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and

WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused
to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer; and

WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States
disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE; and

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the undersigned, believers in the One True God and His
only Son, call upon all to join with us in recognizing that "Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord," and humbly implore all who love Truth and Virtue to live above reproach in the sight of God and man with a firm reliance on the leadership and protection of Almighty God; and

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the undersigned, humbly call upon Holy God, our
Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to have mercy on this nation, to stay His hand of judgment, and grant a national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin.

Signed on the second day of July in the year of our Lord Christ Two Thousand and Nine.

Where to begin? Ms. Kern’s disgust for President Obama is evident, first-off, by the way she consistently refuses to capitalize his title. She seems to be incensed by the fact that he did not stop the government to observe the National Day of Prayer, a highly political event that was thought up by a group of rabid anti-communists just after World War II. The original intent was to quietly slip God back into the operations of American government. President Truman told the group of fascist fundamentalists who were promoting the idea that they could basically to go to hell, but they were eventually able to foist the concept onto Eisenhower. Since the 1950’s every President has been coerced into doing the bidding of this right-wing religious cabal – at least on that one special day. If President Obama can resist the pressure to give in to these intolerant bastards, more power to him!

I noticed also that Ms. Kern likes to quote the crusty old Puritan, John Adams, a man who openly yearned for a hard-ass God to be feared by one and all. Perhaps she would benefit from spending time reading some of the thoughts on religion of his successor, Mr. Jefferson. Jefferson was so distressed over what he considered to be false teachings placed into the mouth of Christ, that he wrote his own version of the Bible.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Christianity has become the most perverted system that ever shone on man. Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus.” Did you catch that, Sally? The real Jesus may have been a lot more fun-loving and tolerant than the manufactured one that you worship. Maybe he was even a sexual being. Heaven forbid!

Sally, if you want to live in abject terror of a mean and wrathful God, do it in the privacy of your home, or in church – but keep your God and your religious intolerance out of government! This is America, Sally, and we have the right to believe or not to believe as we see fit. Our government is a compact designed to serve all of its citizens – white, black, brown, oriental, Christian, Muslim, Jew, straight, gay, healthy, sick, disabled, rich, poor, all of the citizens of Oklahoma, and even me!

Times are tough, Sally. Get over yourself and quit wasting Oklahoma’s money!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This evening, and for the next several Monday evenings, I am going to talk poetry. In particular, I am going to present poems that have had some impact on my life, and attempt to explain how and why they touched me. The initial selection for Monday's Poetry is Robert Frost’s simple, yet beautiful, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a poetic account of a traveler pausing briefly in the woods to contemplate the solitude and snowfall.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
(by Robert Frost, 1923)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I went to high school in the small town of Noel, Missouri. My senior year was the last year that high school was in operation, because it was being consolidated into a county school system the following fall. My twenty-one classmates and I literally shut the little school down in May of 1966.

One of the classes that I took my senior year was speech, and my teacher, Jennibel Paul (who was also my English and Latin teacher), came up with the idea of taping all of the speech students reading a poem early in the school year, with the intent of playing the tape back at the end of the year to have some sort of measure as to our level of public speaking progress. She borrowed a large reel-to-reel tape recorder for the project.

I have no idea what poem I chose to read, but my friend and classmate, Linda Merchant, selected Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Sadly, I can still hear her reciting those stanzas over forty years later.

Linda and her younger sister, Susan, had moved to Noel that year from the neighboring small town of Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, a community five miles south and just across the state line. They lived in a large house on Sulphur Street, just off of Main and about three blocks from the school. Most mornings I would ride to town with my dad and then walk to school. Many mornings I would pass Linda and Susan’s house just as they were emerging, and we would all walk together.

It was a warm Saturday night early in the school year. I had just gotten off duty at the local movie theatre when the horrible news started making its way up and down Main Street. Linda and Susan, as well as two other sisters, Shirley and Thelma Todd of Sulphur Springs, had gotten into a car with a young man who was home on leave from the military, and they had just been in a bad accident south of town on a treacherous piece of highway prophetically referred to by the locals as “Dead Man’s Curve.”

We quickly learned that the car had been travelling downhill and had careened into the path of a semi-tractor trailer that was struggling uphill. Several of the kids in the car had, according to the flying rumors, been killed.

Linda and the Todd girls did die that night, as well as the driver of the car. Susan hung on for a few days longer before joining her sister in death. Several weeks later Mr. and Mrs. Merchant heard about the taped recording that their oldest daughter had made just days before her death. The class presented it to them in remembrance.

Linda Merchant and those other young people should have had many more miles to go before they slept, but that was not to be. We need to appreciate our snowfalls as they happen - and experience each as though it might be our last.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sebastian!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grampa

My youngest grandson, Sebastian Phoenix Files, turned two-years-old today, and though it has been way too long since I have seen him, his mother sends me pictures and short movies over the Internet almost daily. He is walking, often running, and pulling things out of his cabinets, like most explorers his age tend to do. He is also learning to use the potty like a big boy! And he is always busy, busy, busy - but never too busy to stop and smell the flowers. Sebastian, like Pa Rock, loves to smell the flowers!

Little Sebastian called me this morning. I sang "Happy Birthday" to him, and when I finished, he said clearly, "I wuv you!"

Well, I wuv you, too, Sebastian! I weally, weally do! Have a wonderful birthday!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Arizona Gun Stupid

by Pa Rock
Sad Observer

A few days ago I "tweeted" ( about a couple of Arizona gun stories that had been in the local press that day. One was regarding a five-year-old boy who died as a result of firing a loaded gun that he came across in his home. The other involved a twenty-year-old male who found a pistol in a closet. He pointed the gun toward his head and pulled the trigger to prove to a friend that it wasn't loaded. He was wrong about that - but he did go a long way toward confirming Darwin's theory of evolution. Nature has a way of weeding out the inferior members of a species.

A friend of mine from back in the Ozarks who has a different view on the gun issue tweeted back and suggested that the story of the 5-year-old was an urban legend that occasionally surfaces to discredit gun enthusiasts. I will admit that the story sounded a bit contrived, but it did, in fact, actually occur in rural Maricopa County last Monday. The youth, described by a neighbor as a "sensible little boy," shot himself in the stomach and expired at a local medical center. Other neighbors described the family as "tight-knit and religious."

The doofus who shot himself in the head was in the Queen Creek suburb of Phoenix.

The sources for those stories are:

Arizona, and particularly the Phoenix area, has an abundance of stories like the two mentioned above. Phoenix, by virtue of it size (the fourth largest urban area in America), is bound to experience a large chunk of personal tragedy. But the odds of gun mishaps are increased dramatically by the continuing efforts of our state legislature to remove any and all restrictions on gun ownership, as well as the local citizenry's determination to handle guns on their own terms. Many see government safety suggestions or regulations - trigger safety locks, for example - as an intrusion into their private lives. It's often a case of "the gummint ain't gonna tell me what I can and cain't do with my guns!"

Until that attitude changes, more parents are going to be finding themselves in the personal hell where the parents of that five-year-old are currently residing.

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys - because evolution will eventually win out.