Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reply to Reed Smith on the Pervert Polanski and Fairness in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Cynic

There were two comments on my posting yesterday that dealt with pedophile film director Roman Polanski. The first was from my friend, Mike Box, an attorney, who made the point - quite well - that rich criminals often have better outcomes in the American legal system than their poor counterparts. Reed Smith responded to the blog posting and Mike's comment with the following:

"After reading Mr. Box's comment I have to wonder. We all now know your opinion, I want to know your prediction. Will justice be served and Polanski get your fair deal of ten years, or is Mr. Box right and "the rich never swing"


Mike Box and I have a great deal in common. We are both old, exceedingly cynical, and are steeped in a knowledge of how things work that comes from a lifetime of experience. Unfortunately for society in general and young children in particular, Mike is right. The rich in America never swing. Oh there may be oddball exceptions, like when a judge in Arkansas found Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton guilty of drunk driving despite her dream team of high priced lawyers, but generally the rule stands.

One big advantage that the rich have over the rest of us is the ability to get their own version of the story out through their influential friends and a fawning media. That was happening in spades this week with the Polanski travesty. I noted yesterday that directors Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorcese, and Woody Allen had collectively "demanded" that Polanski be released from his Swiss prison cell.

Now the noise from Hollywood is getting even goofier. Whoopi Goldberg has been quoted as saying that the incident that happened thirty-two years ago wasn't really a rape-rape! Seriously! So there are degrees of rape - even when a forty-three-year-old man has intercourse with a thirteen-year-old girl who doesn't want to do it? So that really isn't a rape-rape? What the fuck-fuck is it then?

Debra Winger minimized the sex crime as a "three-decades-old case that is dead but for minor technicalities. "We stand by him and await his release and his next masterpiece." In other words, the washed-up actress is available for any role that Polanksi might throw her way. Harvey Weinstein, a big-time movie maker in Hollywood referred to Polanski as a "humanist" who was a victim of a "miscarriage of justice". Are you listening, Roman? Weinstein is itching to fund one of your future masterpieces.

But, hey, that's how things work in Hollywood, America.

Roman Polanski's second wife, Sharon Tate, and several of her friends were killed by the Manson family in 1969. Today her sister, Debra, described her former brother-in-law as "brilliant" and stated that she feared he could not get a fair trial in the United States. She went on to say that Polanski did not forcibly have sex with the girl, and that it was a "consensual matter".

The girl described it differently back in the day. She said that he invited her into the hot tub of a major Hollywood star, gave her part of a Quaalude and some bubbly champagne, and then had sex with her against her will. But let's say, just for purposes of discussion, that she did not object - in fact, let's say that she eagerly consented. Just how does a thirteen-year-old "consent" to have sex with a forty-three-year-old pervert? Answer: A child cannot consent to have sex with an adult - ever! Say it with me, Debra: "A child cannot consent to have sex with an adult!"

And before we let Hollywood canonize Roman Polanski, let's not forget that he also committed the crime of fleeing the country in order to avoid prosecution. He jumped bail!

Poor Americans who have sex with children and get caught go to jail, often for long periods of time, and when they get out they are placed on sex-offender lists and tracked for the rest of their lives by an outraged society. Polanski, and apparently much of Hollywood, feels that he is better than the rest of us and special rules should apply.

Reed, this is the country that Mike Box and I inherited from our folks. Some things have gotten better during our watch, but much remains to be done. My hope is that you and your generation pick up the torch and lead our descendants on into a bright and glorious future - one in which the rich do swing, just like the rest of us mere mortals.

I am very proud of you.

Uncle Rock

P.S. Now let's hear from Mike!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski Needs to Do Time

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Roman Polanksi is an immensely talented film director, the craftsman of such celluloid classics as Rosemary's Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974), and The Pianist (2002). Unfortunately, he is also a child molester and sex offender.

In 1977 the forty-four-year-old Polanski invited a thirteen-year-old girl into Jack Nicholson's hot tub where he gave her part of a Quaalude and some champagne. And then he pounced! Polanski didn't "have sex" with the little girl as some modern accounts claim, nor did he "fall victim to a lusty teen temptress" as some European rags claimed at the time. He raped her. Rape is the correct verb because the girl, even though she was impaired by the drug and alcohol, objected. Rape is the correct verb because she was too young to consent, even if she had wanted to have sex with the old man - which she didn't. Rape is the correct verb because she was a child when he violently inserted himself into her body and her life!

Polanski served forty-some days in jail and thought that he had a plea deal that would keep him from going to prison. He pled guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He pled guilty. Before he made it to court, Polanski got spooked and decided that the judge was going to renege and send him to prison, so he took the dishonorable way out and fled to Europe. He has lived in Europe, primarily France and Poland, for the past three decades.

The girl's family eventually sued the director and got some money, sort of like what happened to Michael Jackson, but Polanski's cash did not buy the faux innocence that Michael Jackson was able to wear like a designer gown for the rest of his life. Polanski had admitted his perverse and illegal behavior. He remained a felon on the run.

This week Roman Polanski was snagged by Swiss police and is in jail awaiting possible extradition to the United States - a move that he is fighting. That's understandable. He is seventy-six now and probably not up to rubbing elbows (or other body parts) with the big boys who inhabit California's prison system - some of whom undoubtedly have thirteen-year-old daughters. No. Polanski the pervert prefers to remain in Europe leading a more refined life. Prisons are a bit too coarse for people like him.

But Polanski has friends in high places. Fellow directors Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen have rushed to his defense and demanded his "immediate release." That demand is fairly outrageous on its face considering the nature of the crime, but it is especially flabberghast-worthy coming from Woody Allen who made international headlines when he married his paramour's (Mia Farrow's) adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. (Mia and Woody hit the rocks after she found naked photos that he had taken of Soon-Yi.) Do Roman Polanski and Woody Allen have more in common than just making great movies?

The little girl whom Roman Polanski so egregiously and sadistically violated all those years ago is a woman now with grown children of her own. Not surprisingly, she is quite distressed that all of this drama has boiled up again, and she just wants it to go away. She feels, and rightly so, that she is being re-victimized.

But this grown woman was not actually the victim. The victim was a thirteen-year-old girl, and the woman who had to live with Polanski's cruelty all of these years is the result. The woman may not want justice, but little girls (and boys) everywhere need it. The message has got to be sent loudly and clearly that adults who have sex with children will suffer real consequences.

Ten years should be about right.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Raven"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I have mentioned my admiration of American horror author, H.P. Lovecraft, in the Ramble on several occasions. Lovecraft was a master of braiding terror and suspense with beautiful prose. But he was not the original American author to focus on the dark and eerie - that honor falls to Edgar Allen Poe. Today's horror scribes, people like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub, are pushing forward on trails that were originally hewn by Poe and lengthened by Lovecraft.

Edgar Allen Poe had a short and tragic life, yet he was able to publish poems, stories, and even one novel that can still make the skin crawl. Poe's most famous poem, The Raven, was published in 1845 - just four short years before his death at the age of forty. (One of my "treasures" is a small statuette of Poe with a Raven on his shoulder!)

For a fictional and evocative mystery based on the death of Edgar Allen Poe, I highly recommend The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. Pearl brings forth many little known facts about the master of the macabre and weaves them into an excellent read.

For your reading pleasure, here is...

The Raven
by Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pandorum: A Space Cliche

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

I love going to movies, getting away from the old trailer park, sitting in a dark auditorium lost in bad popcorn and a good movie. I'm not overly critical and can find something redeeming almost any professional film effort.

The pickings were admittedly slim at the local multi-plex today, and I finally settled on the new sci-fi flick - Pandorum. I'll admit to not being a huge fan of science fiction movies, but I did like 2001 A Space Odyssey. (The fact that it was considered to be futuristic shows just how old I am!) I also liked Star Wars (the original) and Barbarella.

Pandorum didn't make my favorites list. In fact, the best thing about it was the popcorn. I should have walked out, but I had five bucks invested and sat tight hoping that I would eventually get something for my money. Didn't happen. All that I came away with was a five dollar education.

The plot: Two crew members of a long-term space flight - a "Noah's Ark" cruising into deep space to found a new world on a planet similar to earth - wake up after an unknown amount of time in "hyper-sleep" (2001, anybody?) and spend the rest of the movie running around a monstrously large, dark and Gothic, spacecraft. Why are they running and why is the music loud and frenetic? Because they are being pursued by evil mutants who have inexplicably come to occupy the same spacecraft (a la Alien.)

The screenplay for this dud of a movie could have been written on an envelope. The entire film didn't contain a thousand words of significant dialogue, and much of that was whispered - as though the actors realized the triteness of what they were saying. The plot was so contrived that it didn't take long before I found myself rooting for the mutants!

Panodrum is the worst movie that I have paid to see in years, perhaps ever. Dennis Quaid couldn't save it, and I doubt that Dr. House could either! Don't waste your money or your time on this one!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Michele Bachmann as Lady Macbeth

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Constitution of the United States of America directs our federal government to count the nation’s people every ten years. That mandate of the Constitution is commonly referred to as the Census. It occurs on every year ending in a zero.

Census information is used by the government in determining national priorities and often plays a role in decisions about where national resources will be used. One of the primary results of the census is the determination of how many Congress people will be allotted to each state. A state’s total number of representatives in Congress may rise or fall depending on the total number of people residing within its borders when the census is taken.

Smart government officials want their state’s population to be counted as accurately as possible. The greater their population, the larger their share of federal resources (money), and the more representation they will have in Congress.

The concept is embarrassingly simple. More people equal more money and more power. Even a Congressman should be able to make that mental connection. If a state’s population goes down, that state could lose a Congressional seat – and it might be their own!

Enter Michele Bachmann, the ditzy Congresswoman from Minnesota who makes Sarah Palin look like an intellectual. Congresswoman Bachmann has declared war on the census, firing up the hillbillies and other goobers with dire predictions of the government using information collected in the census to send people to internment camps – like the American Japanese in World War II – or being able to see how much wealth a person really has and collect fair taxes – or how many guns we have! Eeegads!

Ms. Bachmann has declared that she will not fill out her census form – or at least not all of it – which is fine with me – and probably with many others. Either of those alternatives is a crime, and hopefully Eric Holder would grow a set and bring federal charges against the screechy drama queen. But if Ms. Bachmann refuses to even do her census form, that will lower Minnesota’s population. And if she is as influential as she believes she is, that could lower the Minnesota population a whole bunch – maybe even to the point that her seat goes away. That proof of God would be hard to ignore!

Now enter Bill Sparkman, a hapless part-time school teacher and census taker in rural southeastern Kentucky – down there among the type of folks that listen to the rightwing noise machine and think that they are hearing news. Mr. Sparkman, a well-respected and well-liked member of his community, was discovered dead two weeks ago under very suspicious circumstances. The corpse of Mr. Sparkman was found naked and hanging from a tree. His feet and hands were duct taped together, he was gagged, and his census I.D. was taped to his head. The word “Fed” was scrawled across his chest. The case has not yet been officially ruled a homicide, but that is clearly where it is heading.

Great work, Congresswoman Bachmann. One down and just a million or so more to go. Oh, you didn’t personally off Mr. Sparkman – just as America’s radio hate jocks didn’t personally blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City – but all of you have blood on your hands.

Ignorance and hate incite violence, and you are very inciteful. You may hide from the census takers, but you will never be able to hide from yourself. Bill Sparkman’s blood is on your lily-white hands and it will not come off.


Friday, September 25, 2009

High Flying Blues

by Pa Rock
Airport Lurker

This week I was a passenger on four airplanes in just two days, and fought my way through three different airports two times each. I stepped through metal detectors in two states, consumed airport food on the run, and read a hundred pages or so of Lord of the Rings from about seven miles in the air. I munched complimentary pretzels and washed them down with complimentary tomato juice - heading east - and complimentary diet coke - heading west.

This week four people showed me how to fasten my seat belt and cautioned me to get my own oxygen mask on before trying to help anyone else. Those same four people explained to me that the airplane seats are easily removable and can function as flotation devices - never mind that we would be crossing no water.

I learned way too much about weight and balance issues at the Lubbock Airport as we shuffled people from seat to seat, and off the plane and back on, in order to get the craft to where it could fly. I commiserated with my seat mate as he watched his baggage being removed from the plane in order to lessen the weight.

I am learning way too much about America's airports. I can find where they hide the sandwich bags at Skyharbor in Phoenix, where not to buy drinks at Kansas City International, the location of the absolute best airport food in Atlanta, the best stocked bookstores in several cities - especially Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and the handiest places to recharge computers.

I know the cheapest and best place to leave my car in Phoenix, and I have a stack of discount coupons to use at that garage. I know the places that are open for breakfast as I cross Phoenix in the dark for morning departures, and I know where to stop for a cold drink on the way home from the airport.

This year alone I have traversed the airports of Phoenix, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Lubbock, San Antonio, Northwest Arkansas, Atlanta, Orlando, Kansas City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and New York LaGuardia. I have been on twenty-six (I think) separate airplanes, and will be on four more in December. I guess that it would have been a really good year to get registered for airline miles. Maybe next year I will!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes Hell is Close to Home

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

Former child star Mackenzie Phillips is out peddling a book, High On Arrival. The drug-addled actress is now forty-nine, but three decades ago she played Julie on the popular sitcom, One Day at a Time. Her salary on that television show eventually reached $50,000 a week. She was also featured in the cult classic movie, American Graffiti, when she was only twelve-years-old.

Referring to Ms. Phillips as drug-addled probably comes across as a bit harsh, but she was fired from her TV series for drug use, and one member of her family recently said that she has had a needle in her arm for the past thirty-five years. That all needs to be noted just as a credibility check on the story that she has told.

Mackenzie Phillips was the daughter of John Phillips of the hugely popular 1960's music group, The Mamas and the Papas. Her step-mother, Michelle Phillips - John's wife - was also a member of the same group. After the demise of the group, John and Michelle were fairly open about their drug use. They ran around with stellar role models like Mick Jagger and the other band members of the Rolling Stones. Drugs were their lifestyle.

John Phillips has been dead for several years now, and Mackenzie has written a book exposing her loving daddy as the person who led her into hard drug usage and "pushed the plunger" the first time she shot up with cocaine. (What a guy!) She also said that Papa John raped her when she was nineteen. It was the night before her first marriage, and she was in a drug stupor. She woke up to find the deed had been done. That evening began a sexual relationship between father and daughter, according to Mackenzie, that lasted for a decade.

Some members of her family have rallied around her and offered support as she bares her soul to the world. Others in the family have been less kind, upset over the spillage of family secrets, or accusing her of being a lying bookseller just out trying to score some more money to shoot up her arm.

So why did I let this story whip me into a lather? Because I know families like this, I've looked into their scared, troubled eyes, listened to their tales of terror, felt their vulnerability and loss of self-respect. I don't know if John Phillips slept with his daughter for ten years and tried to convince her to move to Fiji with him where their love would be accepted. I don't know if Mackenzie is finally confronting her demons by writing this book, or if she is just some lying hustler.

But here is what I do know.

I know that this stuff happens, and not just in poor households out in the woods. I worked at the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline in Jefferson City one summer, and I took incest calls from rural areas, St. Louis and Kansas City, and even the intellectual enclave of Columbia. So I know that John Phillips, a drug addict who probably had few boundaries, if any, could have had sex with his daughter.

I know that if this happened, there would be people in the family who would deny it and blame the victim. It is much easier to blame the victim than it is to admit that such a monstrous thing could happen in their own family. Better to deal with a "deeply troubled youth" than to admit that a monster was loose and systematically destroying a life.

I know that in cases of incest, the victim is never to blame, regardless of their age at the time the sex was initiated. In a family system, certain people inherently have the power, and if they use that power to seduce those that have been dependent on them, they are the perpetrators - they are evil.

I testified in court on Tuesday on behalf of a young man who was shaped into a monster by his family. There was no incest involved, but there were many things that occurred in that family that children should have never experienced or been around. It was a very bad environment, and he became a very bad person. If he had grown up in my home - or yours - he would not be in prison today.

One other time I worked with a young man who had sexually assaulted a mentally challenged young girl. He was a teenager at the time, and he was already hard-wired into a life of crime, drug usage, and sexual perpetration. This young man had a drug addict father who had traded him to his buddies for drugs when he was a small child. The buddies used him for sex. As he got older he took up residence in his mother's bed. When I first met him, he told me that he thought that he might be the parent of some of his youngest siblings.

That shit is evil. Kids are born good, but when they are driven into madness by the people who should be giving them love and support and hope, they are destroyed and so are we. My educated guess is that Mackenzie Phillips may be out hustling a quick buck with her book, but she is doing it by baring her soul and giving us a long gaze into her hell. I believe her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tim Macy at Thirty

by Pa Rock
Proud Dad

My youngest, Tim, was born thirty years ago today in Mountain View, Missouri. It was the first day of fall, and if he had been born female he would have probably been named Autumn in honor of the change of season. (His sister occasionally calls herself "Summer," so perhaps our family has some seasonal affectation!)

Tim was born on a Sunday. His mother went into labor in the morning, and we wheeled by our church enroute to the hospital and dropped his two older siblings off with his future godparents, Jerry and Carolyn Kinder. Our doctor at St. Francis Hospital in Mountain View was Jon Roberts. Because he knew us well, he was comfortable in asking Tim's mother if a group of EMT's could come into the delivery room to watch a live birth. There probably weren't as many of them as I remember, but it seemed like the room was full of on-lookers as Tim entered the world.

Another woman was delivering at St. Francis at almost the same time. I don't remember the parents' names, but the baby was Candice Brown. Happy 30th, Candy. I hope that you have had a wonderful life and made your parents proud.

My parents were vacationing in Florida with Mom's sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Bob Dobbs, when Tim was born. Christine's birthday was also September 23rd. They stopped by Mountain View on their way home to meet the newest Macy.

For those of you who don't know how proud I am of Tim (and his brother and sister) well, you just haven't been paying attention! He works with disadvantaged youth for the University of Kansas (smells like social work to me!), and he is an accomplished author and playwright who has had a play produced at the Kennedy Center in DC and has had two of his short stories made into films. All of that was in his twenties - think where his thirties can take him!

Tim has always pushed me to write, and last year when I would occasionally take a day off from the Ramble, he would immediately email asking what was wrong. This year, because of Tim's prodding, I have set a goal to publish in the Ramble every day. He is also challenging me to work my ass off at the gym, and, yes, my ass is disappearing!

If you would like to know just how fine of a person Tim Macy has become, read the comment that he posted to my blog entry yesterday entitled "Sadness." He cares about others. I could not be prouder!

Happy 30th birthday, Tim! May you have many, many more!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This morning I spent two-and-a-half hours on the witness stand at the Lubbock County, TX, courthouse presenting testimony as to why a twenty-seven-year-old murderer of five people should not be put to death. The absolute best that this youth can hope for is to spend the rest of his natural life in a cage. I am too wracked with sadness to blog this evening - but someday very soon I will launch a tireless tirade on how children are not born evil, but rather they are exposed to it, conditioned by it, and eventually overcome by it. I will also explain in dastardly detail why I oppose the barbaric practice of capital punishment.

But not tonight.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Texas State Mammal

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The mammal most closely associated with the Lone Star state a century ago was the Long Horn steer, a rangy creature that was driven north in great herds to railheads and then shipped back east to feed the masses. Later, as beef cattle began to be produced in other locations, the ubiquitous armadillo took over as the mammal most identified with Texas. Today, the armadillo has migrated northward to every state south of the Missouri River, and lies decomposing along most of the nation's highways and byways. It is no longer unique to Texas.

But not to worry, Texas has a new state mammal: the braying jackass. I came across a prime example of the Texas specialty this afternoon at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. This particular jackass had ordered a sandwich at one of the airport eateries, consumed most of it, and then got indignant because he was a diabetic and suspected that the food contained sugar. The first time I walked by the restaurant he was raging on the server: "I'm diabetic. If that's got sugar in it, and I think it does, you're going to damn well know it in a couple of minutes!" I came back by a minute or two later to see if he had collapsed into a diabetic coma, but he was still on his rant. He had a manager corralled who was not buying into his act - the guy apparently wanted a refund. The manager was assuring the guy that his sandwich contained no sugar. The diabetic (or con-artist) was demanding to know the manager's name - and the spelling.

There are some battles that are just not worth fighting. I felt like the restaurant manager wasted a lot of unnecessary energy engaging with this man. The scene cost them more business than the price of a lousy sandwich. I, for one, walked on down to a less combative section of the terminal for my burger.

One day the braying jackass will go the way of the Long Horn and the armadillo, but in Texas that may take awhile!

Family News Update

by Pa Rock
Proud Grampa

(Reported live from a bar and burger joint at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.)

Nick and Boone telephoned yesterday. They were getting ready to have a birthday barbecue for Riley, my granddog - a Boston Terrier. Riley was celebrating his first! Boone is in fifth grade this year. He said that his teacher is very into science and has lots of neat things in the classroom - like a tarantula! Nick and Boone are coming to Arizona in early October - with Uncle Tim - for a long weekend. We may go to the Grand Canyon and Sedona to escape the Valley of Hell!

Molly has been plagued with a diagnosis of placenta previa, but she went to the doctor today and learned that the placenta appears to be migrating. That is great news. She should now be able to have a normal delivery instead of a c-section, and Pa Rock doesn't have to worry quite so much about her health and safety.

Molly sent a nice video of Sebastian bouncing on the big white tiger that I got him for his first Christman. I'm glad that he is getting so much enjoyment out of it!

Scott (Molly's husband) turned thirty-two yesterday, and Tim will be thirty on Wednesday. Ouch! My baby is leaving his twenties behind!

Tim has been feuding with his evil insurance company for over a year. Today he learned that they have capitulated somewhat and will pay almost half of the amount that was in dispute. I told him that if there ever was a time that insurance companies should act with some humanity, this was it!

Remind me later, and I will publish my plan for paying for comprehensive national health care. Warning - some of you won't appreciate it!

Also, remind me later and I will tell the tale of a college party where a pet tarantula got loose and was roaming among the drunks! Ah, youth!

Off to Lubbock!

Monday's Poetry: "The Great Mandala"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection is a haunting protest song that was written by Peter Yarrow of the folk singing group Peter, Paul, and Mary. It is featured on their Album 1700, a wonderful collection of thoughtful and provocative music. The Great Mandala appears in this space today as a tribute to the greatest group of folk singers ever, and in loving memory of Mary Travers.

THE GREAT MANDALA (The Wheel of Life)
by Peter Yarrow

So I told him that he'd better shut his mouth
And do his job like a man.
And he answered "Listen, Father,
I will never kill another."
He thinks he's better
than his brother that died
What the hell does he think he's doing
To his father who brought him up right?

Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time.
Win or lose now you must choose now
And if you lose you're only losing your life.

Tell the jailer not to bother
With his meal of bread and water today.
He is fasting 'til the killing's over
He's a martyr, he thinks he's a prophet.
But he's a coward, he's just playing a game
He can't do it, he can't change it
It's been going on for ten thousand years

Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time.
Win or lose now you must choose now
And if you lose you're only losing your life.

Tell the people they are safe now
Hunger stopped him, he lies still in his cell.
Death has gagged his accusations
We are free now, we can kill now,
We can hate now, now we can end the world
We're not guilty, he was crazy
And it's been going on for ten thousand years!

Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time.
Win or lose now you must choose now
And if you lose you've only wasted your life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

District 9

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

District 9 is an allegorical tale of racism and apartheid with impoverished space aliens being the downtrodden group. It is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, just to ensure that viewers get the nuanced meaning of the film.

Here's the plot: A colossal space ship, something on the order of the mother ships in Independence Day, parks itself above Johannesburg, in the 1980's. After waiting a considerable time for something to happen, nosy earthlings break into the ship and find it full of weak and malnourished aliens, creatures that look somewhat like large, bi-pedal cockroaches. The South African government takes them from the spacecraft and ferries them to earth where they are placed in an immense, fenced-in interment camp that looks something like Soweto in its glory days.

The aliens get along as well as they can in their concentration camp, eating canned cat food provided by the government, trading their weapons (inoperable by humans) to Nigerian thugs for extra canned cat food and the services of Nigerian prostitutes, and rummaging through immense piles of garbage.

After two decades or so of living like animals at the suffrage of the South African government, public pressures force the government to try and remove the aliens to a more remote site. A bumbling bureaucrat, deftly portrayed by Sharlto Copley, is assigned the mission of going into the camp and getting the aliens to agree to sign orders of eviction. While there he suffers a strange infection and things start to get hinky.

This movie is filmed as a docudrama with various people telling the story through short, news-style interviews. The story is woven from several different directions, but eventually becomes a tale of courage and partnership between the bureaucrat and a very skilled alien who goes by the name Christopher Johnson. It features action, suspense, a Transformer on steroids, and enough violence and death to make the governor of California blush!

District 9 has about run its course in theatres, and will soon be available in your local video stores. I rate it a strong "rent" or even "buy." It has a message that unfortunately will always be pertinent somewhere.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What the Oklahoma Students Did Not Know

by Pa Rock
Former Educator

Yesterday I noted that high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona had done very poorly on a citizenship test that (one would hope) even their parents could have passed. Today I came across a very good web site that got into the nuts and bolts of exactly what the students did not know.

Jeff Hoard is a freelance writer and researcher who lives in the woods of British Columbia (that's in Canada, kids). He states that in his spare time he searches for signs of "Idiocracy." Not surprisingly his searches led him to the story on the citizenship survey of Oklahoma students. The information that follows was pulled from Jeff's blog, The Idiocracy Index.

The question on the survey that drew the highest percentage of correct answers from the 1,000 students who were polled was this: What ocean is on the east coast of the United States? Sixty-one percent (610 students) were able to correctly answer that it was the Atlantic Ocean. Presumably, some had actually been there.

The question that garnered the least number of correct responses was this: How many justices are on the Supreme Court? Only ten percent (100 students) knew that nine justices sit on the Supreme Court. That was probably the toughest question on the survey, but a new justice was recently appointed to the Court, stirring a lot of news about the Court and its structure and balance, so more students should have gotten that right. (Are we watching too much Survivor and not enough news programs?)

The other questions went like this:

What is the supreme law of the land? Twenty-eight percent (280) knew that it is the Constitution.

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? Twenty-six percent (260) correctly answered that those amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights.

What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? Survey says: The Senate and the House. Twenty-seven percent (270) of the students got that correct.

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? The author of that critical document in our history was Thomas Jefferson. Only 14% (140) of students knew that answer.

There was an upsurge of correct answers on this question: What are the two major political parties in the United States? Yet, even on something that basic and well known, less than half of the students surveyed knew that those two political parties are the Democrats and Republicans. Forty-three percent (430) answered correctly.

We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
Just 11% (110) knew that the correct answer was six.

Who was the first President of the United States? Twenty-three percent (less than one in four) knew that George Washington was our first President. Come on guys, he's on the dollar bill!

Surprisingly, at least to me, more of the students knew who is in charge of the executive branch than knew the father of our country. Twenty-nine percent (290) answered correctly that the head of the executive branch is the President.

Here is another interesting way to look at the results of this survey:

Of the 1,000 students who were polled, 46 got none of the answers correct, 158 got only one answer correct, 246 got two answers right, 265 (the highest concentration) correctly answered three questions, 177 managed to answer four right, 80 got half correct- five out of ten, 22 got six right (the passing point), and six proved to be real scholars by getting seven correct. None of the 1,000 students who took the survey got more than seven out of ten correct.

So what is the problem? Why did a thousand high school students in Oklahoma do so badly on a test covering what should be a very basic part of their political and historical heritage. The answer is complicated. A lot of really talented people can't afford to teach and have to take jobs in industry or other economic sectors to feed their families. Schools are running so scared of test scores that they concentrate heavily on teaching the test, to the detriment of all other knowledge. Parents are working longer and harder, often both parents, leaving children unsupervised and homework unchecked. And the whole world appears to be angry. It is so much easier to stand around and yell than it is to roll up your shirt sleeves and begin to fix problems.

Knowledge itself is also being pushed under the church bus. Sarah Palin tells people that dinosaurs and people walked the earth at the same time - she's seen pictures! Places like Kansas and Texas go crazy trying to push science out of textbooks and replace it with Creationism, whatever the hell that is. (People who want their children to go to competitive universities and become medical doctors want real science taught in classrooms. People with serious illnesses and injuries - even fundamentalist Christians - want to be treated by people who have been educated in real science.)

Education will get back on track in this country when teaching salaries are high enough to attract really good teachers away from business and industry. Education will begin to recover when school districts start putting more books in their school libraries, books open to a wide range of real life, and quit allowing small-minded moralists to roam through the stacks and haul books that offend them off to community bonfires. Education will start to mean something again when we revel in ideas and encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone and see what this big world is all about.

Education will have arrived when the spelling bee attracts the same enthusiasm as homecoming, when the honor roll is as anticipated as the football starting lineup, and when every child is praised by their parents for what they have learned in school - every day. It's within reach and well worth the effort.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oklahoma Students Fail Basic Citizenship Test

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In preparation for Constitution Day, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, wanted to get a handle on the civics knowledge of Oklahoma high school students - so they commissioned a survey. Strategic Vision, a national polling organization, came up with a simple test of ten questions that were taken from the actual exam that immigrants have to take to become U.S. citizens. The questions that the polling organization selected were very simple, soft balls actually, whose answers should be nearly automatic in our informed society.

Here are the questions that were asked of Oklahoma high school students:

1. What is the law of the land?

2. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

4. How many justices are there on the Supreme Court?

5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

6. What ocean is on the east coast of the United States?

7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?

8. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?

9. Who was the first President of the United States?

10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

Immigrants must score 60% on the exam in order to qualify for citizenship. Using six of ten as a passing grade, only 3% of the Oklahoma students who were surveyed would have passed the test.

Not only would 97% of Oklahoma high school students have failed the test, three out of four could not answer question #9 - Who was the first President of the United States? Really!

(This may explain why Oklahoma sends the likes of Tom Coburn and James Mountain Inhofe to the United States Senate - for six year terms! Or why every county in the state went for John McCain in the presidential election - hoping to elect him President so that he could run the executive branch!)

Brandon Dutcher, the head of the conservative think tank that commissioned the survey, did point out one saving grace for Oklahomans - he said that Arizona had similar results! Color me surprised!

Noting that Thomas Jefferson had warned that a nation can't expect to be ignorant and free, Mr. Dutcher said, "It points to a real serious problem. We're not going to remain ignorant and free."

Are you listening Senator Coburn? Senator Inhofe? Senator Kyl? Senator McCain? Is there a reason why students in your states are basically ignorant about United States government, history, and geography? Is your focus on the future, fighting for things like education, health care, and social justice - or do you spend your official time appearing at tea parties and stirring discontent for political gain? Are you demonizing government and convincing today's youth that it is irrelevant, or worse yet, evil? You may not like our President, but do your personal feelings merit the need to be openly disrespectful toward the man or the office?

Is that the way you were raised?

Are you setting a positive example for tomorrow's leaders?

I didn't think so.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodnight, Sweet Songbird of Peace

by Pa Rock

Mary Travers died yesterday, and with her passing something much greater than one individual has slipped into the whispering echoes of history. Mary Travers was a singer, a sweet songbird of peace who was the sparkle and soul of the folk singing phenomenon of the 1960’s: Peter, Paul, and Mary. With Mary gone, the trio that was so much a part of American culture and counter-culture has also passed. An era has slipped away.

The songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary form a soundtrack of America across some of the most socially turbulent years of the twentieth century. Much of their music was geared toward peaceful protest, but even militaristic sorts could smile and sing along with “If I had a Hammer,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” And for sheer poetic strength in music and lyrics, there are few collections that can compare to “Album 1700,” a classic in every sense of the word.

The sixties are quietly disappearing, blowing in the wind. Those of us who were fortunate enough to come of age during those exciting times are graying now and beginning to slip off of the great mandala - the wheel of life. But the mandala keeps on turning, and new causes come around, and other fierce youth will climb on board and take up the struggles.

The world today is a much better place than when Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers took the stage to sing down war, marched with Martin Luther King to end segregation and violence, and lent their fame and talents to a myriad of other social causes like bringing an end to nuclear arms and promoting the fair treatment of farm workers. The world is better, but there is so much left to do. Young hands will take up the struggle for social justice, and new voices will sing them onward.

Thank you for the beautiful music, Mary. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Death of a Dance Whore

by Pa Rock

Patrick Swayze referred to himself and his beautiful wife, Lisa Niemi, as a "couple of dance whores," ostensibly because they loved to dance and they were really good at it. The couple met at his mother's dance studio in Houston when he was nineteen and she was fifteen. They married four years later, and remained married for the remaining thirty-four years of his life. That in itself was quite a Hollywood accomplishment!

Swayze, who died earlier this week after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer, grew up wanting to be a professional ballet dancer. Injuries put that goal beyond his reach, but even so his athletic prowess and sheer ability to move his body to music made him the most memorable Hollywood hoofer since the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. (Sorry, Travolta, you are nowhere near their league!)

Patrick Swayze was able to regroup after the loss of his ballet dream and establish a very successful career in film. He was an acknowledged member of the "brat pack" that included such young Hollywood favorites as Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and C. Thomas Howell. Swayze had a wide ranging acting ability, playing characters as diverse as a bad boy dance instructor, a ghost, a drag queen, and a pedophile.

There have been polls all over the Internet yesterday and today rating the public's favorite Patrick Swayze films. I have seen polls proclaiming Ghost, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, Point Break, and even Road House as the best Swayze films ever.

My own personal favorite Patrick Swayze movies are: #5: To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar; #4: Ghost; #3: The Outsiders; #2: Red Dawn; and, #1: Dirty Dancing. It was in Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze uttered one of the most famous lines in filmdom: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Baby is out of the corner, and Patrick is out-of-body, probably much as he was in Ghost. Regardless of his current ectoplasmic makeup, however, Patrick Swayze is out there somewhere - and he is dancing! Once a dance whore...always a dance whore!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Acrostic Poetry

by Pa Rock
Tortured Rhymester

Yesterday in presenting an untitled poem by Lewis Carroll, I referred to it as an acrostic, because, reading down through the first letters of each line, a message was revealed. On November 15th, 2007, I published an acrostic poem of my own - actually a sonnet - in the Ramble. It was meant to be an improvement on the Petrarchian sonnet form. I penned it years and years ago, and am still proud of finished product.

For your reading pleasure...

Ode on a Pet Rock
by Rocky Macy

Palsied mind that wrought so profound a frame
Exact with count and the structure of rhyme
Tortured mind of thoughts contorting for time,
Reason and rhyme – fix your discipline game.
A flaw is present which you may not claim,
Reaching deep, as to the heart of a crime,
Clipped ever precise is half of your climb,
Half, though, is ragged and mortally lame.

Go rework your scheme from the beginning,
Open each line with an important clue,
Only by doing this type of penning,
Fair thoughts made more pregnant will you imbue.
Embolden each verse with empowered meaning,
Demand your pen add dimension to you.

Domestic Violence as a Pre-Existing Condition! Really!

by Pa Rock
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

I am on most progressive mailing lists and a few from the nutbag right, so my email inbox always contains entertaining reading. I'm fairly cognizant of world events and domestic political issues, and I seldom get surprised by the petitions and appeals for donations that flood my inbox. Today, however, I opened a shocker.

I work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. I've done that type of work for years in various settings, and I have a fairly good grasp on the dynamics of that dangerous process. Today I received an email from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) informing me that eight states and the District of Columbia allow insurance companies to label domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. So a man beats the crap out of "his" woman (and, yes Neanderthals, it is usually men doing the beating) and the insurance company can step in and re-victimize the poor soul by refusing to help with her hospital expenses. America's insurance companies - what a bunch of sweethearts!

The email from SEIU asked that I send an email to Congressman Dennis Kucinich who is heading a committee that is looking into insurance company abuses. I quickly complied. If any of you would like to join the effort, you may connect using the following site:

Below is the message that I crafted for Congressman Kucinich and his committee:

From: Rocky Macy
To: U.S. House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy
Subject: Domestic violence is a pre-existing condition

Dear Representative Kucinich,

Domestic violence is a pre-existing condition in eight states - Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming - and the District of Columbia.

As a licensed clinical social worker with the armed forces, I work with victims of domestic abuse almost daily. The fact that immoral insurance companies can label domestic violence as a pre-existing condition is outrageous! It is clearly a case of re-victimization.

No American, and most certainly no one who has survived the trauma of domestic violence, should be denied insurance because of a “pre-existing condition.”

Rep. Kucinich - please use your power and authority in Congress to help right this terrible wrong.

Rocky Macy, LCSW
Litchfield Park, AZ

Please consider joining in the effort to hold Congress's feet to the fire on this issue. If you live in any of the states involved - Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming - you might also consider writing to your state legislators or state insurance commission. Stuff like this shouldn't be allowed to happen in twenty-first century America!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday's Poetry: Untitled by Lewis Carroll

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One morning last week I was sitting in my car at work, killing time and getting centered for the work day by reading the current issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, when I came to a jewel of a story by Dale C. Andrews. The story was entitled The Mad Hatter's Riddle, and as might be surmised form the title, it contained references to the works of Lewis Carroll. One of those references dealt with the today's poetry selection, taken from Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.

The story's author relates through the voice of one of his characters that Mr. Carroll, a mathematician whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, denied that either of his most famous books, Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, was written with a real Alice in mind. The following poem, however, would indicate otherwise. Please read carefully!

by Lewis Carroll

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July --

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear
Pleased a simple tale to hear --

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life what is it but a dream?

Dale C. Andrews describes the above type of poem as an acrostic, one where a message is spelled out by reading down through the first letters of each line. Miss Alice, it would seem, was most probably Alice Pleasance Liddell. So, if you are ever on Jeopardy...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

Last night I had to get out of the house, to get away, to lose myself in some pleasant diversion. I headed to the movies, and I knew exactly what I wanted to see: something that wouldn't appeal to screaming kids, adolescents who had to constantly check their text messages and bang out replies, and crowds. After reviewing all of the selections, The Time Traveler's Wife seemed to hold the most promise for a quiet evening.

I walked into the theatre one hour early, bought a large buttered popcorn and a big drink, and parked myself dead-bang center in the back row. I had brought my notebook and a pen, so I munched, sipped, and wrote for quite a while before anyone else stumbled into the room. It was a wonderful evening, and, if the movie turned out to be good, well that was just gravy. Eventually all of a dozen people wandered in to join me.

And gravy it was! The Time Traveler's Wife is a dramatic jewel with facets of romance and science fiction. It sparkles from beginning to end. Eric Bana plays Henry, a young man who discovers early in life that he has the ability to travel through time. Henry does not have the ability to control this talent. When his body suddenly transports out of one place and time, his clothes remain behind, and he arrives naked at his next stop.

Henry is standing naked in some brush one day having just arrived through a time jump. A little girl named Claire comes along and sets up a picnic in the meadow that surrounds the brush. Henry calls to Claire, by name, to hand her picnic blanket into the brush so that he can cover himself, which she eventually does. They become lifelong friends, and Claire eventually grows into a beautiful young woman (Rachel McAdams) who becomes Henry's wife.

Claire has known about Henry's uncontrollable ability to travel through time basically her whole life, but she marries Henry without fully recognizing the effects that his unique gift (or curse) will have on their life as a couple. Henry almost misses their wedding because of one of his sudden trips, and when he returns just in time for the ceremony, he is several years older than he had been when he left. He misses their first Christmas and New Year's together as husband and wife because he has popped off somewhere and cannot get back. Finally, as a gesture of contrition, he uses his talent as a time traveler to secure the winning numbers for the Illinois lottery and is able to buy Claire a nice home with room for her art studio. (So being a time traveler does have some practical advantages!)

Henry finds a doctor who studies his condition and refers to it as a "genetic anomaly," which proves to be a major complication as he and Claire try to become pregnant.

The Time Traveler's Wife is a clever idea that began as a novel by Audrey Niffenegger and was transformed into a tight and effective screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin. It has the feel of Somewhere in Time, but is highly original and stands well on its own. This is a movie that inspires contemplation, and that in itself is worth the price of a ticket - and the popcorn and drink!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lovecraft on Twitter

by Pa Rock
Fan of Good Literature

H.P. Lovecraft is my second favorite American writer. Tim Macy of Kansas City is first, Michael Chabon is third, Mark Twain is fourth, and the top five is rounded out by Kurt Vonnegut.

Lovecraft published his stories in pulp magazines in the 1920's and 30's, sometimes for as little as a penny a word. He took the concept of horror fiction that had been practiced so well by Edgar Allen Poe, and took it places that Poe could never have contemplated - creating a world that is unmistakably Lovecraftian. From the dank halls of Miskatonic University where a fragile copy of the evil Necronomicon was housed in the school's library, to the ice fields of Antarctica, to the falling down houses of Providence, Rhode Island, in the early days of the twentieth century, Lovecraft created mysterious worlds that were truly gateways to terror.

The works of H.P. Lovecraft are an acquired taste, and once a mind has experienced his disquieting tales, it will forever know tremors of trepidation at every chance encounter, every coincidence, and every surprise that presents itself onto the quiet tranquility of day-to-day life.

I began using a tracking site on July 23rd of this year to get some sense of who was reading The Ramble and the types of things that drew people to the site. The runaway favorite post has been "Lovecraft Words," a piece that ran on June 14th, 2008, and examined the beautiful vocabulary that Lovecraft used in one of his short stories. That post has had 48 hits in less than two months, almost double the number of visitors to the second most popular piece - "The Lumley Vampire," which ran on May 31st, 2009, and has only recently outdistanced the third placeholder "The Sad Ballad of Randy Leach," a column on a Kansas mystery that was featured in The Ramble on April 16, 2008, and has been viewed 23 times since the tracking service went into effect in July.

I learned yesterday that there is a new twitter site dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft. I am hopeful that it proves to be an effective medium for reaching the fans of this prolific and amazing author. The site is It is just getting up and running.

If you are on Twitter and have an interest in H.P. Lovecraft, check it out and become a follower.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th - Then and Now

by Pa Rock
Cultural Historian

Eight years ago I was managing two county offices for the Missouri Children's Division and driving to Columbia, Missouri, from Noel, Missouri, two days a week to take graduate courses in social work. The trip was 270 miles each way, and I was doing two round trips a week. On September 11, 2001, I was sitting on the 7th floor of Clark Hall looking out over the University of Missouri campus when an ashen-faced classmate came in and told us that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. There were only a few of us in the class, and we were all shaken by the terrible "accident." A few minutes later we got the report that another plane had crashed into the other tower, and the thought of an "accident" was quickly replaced by abject terror. The professors set up a television out in the hall, and students from all of the classes stayed glued to the coverage.

Several things happened that morning as we followed the coverage. Word began to come out through the news services that the Taliban of Afghanistan might have been involved. (Nothing was even hinted at that indicated Iraq was involved.) Word went out that the local Red Cross was collecting blood, and several people left Clark Hall to go contribute.

Our small group of doctoral students had a pre-planned lunch with one of our professors, Dr. Marjorie Sable (she is now the Social Work Department Chair at MU), and we decided to go ahead and do the lunch. Margie suggested that we eat at a middle eastern place on 9th Street, ironically called "Osama's." My memory is that it was a very somber meal.

Driving back to McDonald County that afternoon, I couldn't help but notice the long lines at the gas stations. I got in line at a station near the Lake of the Ozarks, and waited half-an-hour to top off my tank. The price went up while I was waiting in line!

One of the things that I remember about that day and the days immediately following the attack was the vacant look on George Bush's face when he was informed of the attack while reading a book to elementary school children in Florida. Even without the commentary of any pundits, it was obvious that he was lost and had no clue what to do. He grew up pampered and cared for, and had no idea how to react in a crisis. I also thought it looked especially bad when Air Force One hop-scotched all over America like a scared rabbit before eventually getting the Commander in Chief back to the nation's capitol. Shouldn't our leader have said something like, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." Isn't that what a real leader would have done?

I remember that former President Clinton was in Australia at the time of the attack, yet he was able to make it back to the United States and get himself to ground zero well before George Bush did his hardhat and megaphone piece of theatre.

And I remember Bush finally getting his bearings and declaring his wrath at Osama bin Laden - and going to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. That war, it could be argued, had an element of moral imperative. The Bush administration soon abandoned that imperative as they confabulated a fiction to take us to war in Iraq, a move to secure oil export routes, oil field leases, and burnish the honor of the Bush family by capturing, humiliating, and killing Saddam Hussein, a man and a country that had no involvement in the 911 attack whatsoever.

In just a year or two our country went from a justified moral outrage to a sleazy Middle Eastern power grab and Christian fundamentalist religious jihad. Over the ensuing years, the Republican Party and other conservative elements in society have carefully created a fiction that 911 is a patriotic and religious symbol that belongs to them alone. They quickly moved to paint any and all opposition to the "War on Terror" as treasonous activity.

So anyone who spoke ill of George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfield was publicly ridiculed as being un-American. (Remember Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks who dared to comment that she was ashamed of our President? The conservative press wanted blood - literally.)

The political culture of the United States seems to have gone into the crapper on the day Skippy Bush left office. Now it is perfectly fine to question the President - as it should have always been. But now that our new President has the audacity to not only be a Democrat, but to also be a mixed-race Democrat, it is suddenly okay, even glorified, to carry guns to Presidential speeches, yell down public officials as they attempt to answer questions and explain policy proposals, pull students out of school so they won't be exposed to the President encouraging them to set goals and work hard, and to scream at a President as he addresses a joint session of Congress.

Good manners need only be exercised when a white, conservative Republican (preferably male) is in charge of things, regardless of whether he is up to the job of leading or not. For anything less, send in the jackasses!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flash Floods and Cat Fights

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a low, rolling thunder in the Valley of Hell this evening, and the winds have just a hint of a coming rain. Rain could happen, the odds say it won't, but rain could happen. It rained up north in beautiful Sedona today, and the resulting flash flood stacked up cars in the parking areas of the Talapaque Village - just across the highway from the UFO Store and the Psychic Emporium. An argument could probably be made for alien or psychic involvement in this surprise flash flood, but I'm too damned tired to propose one.

Fortunately there were no deaths or serious injuries in the flash flood, but I understand that some people had to be rescued from their cars.

Arizona is a dry, parched land. (Did you know that?) The ground is so dry and so hard, that only a very slow rain stands any chance of soaking in. Hard and quick rains run off into the streets and parking lots. Flash floods are a very real threat in the desert.

And in the news closer to home...

Scroungy Bastard came running home as I pulled in after work. I didn't feed him right away because I had to rush in and look something up on the Internet for my Dad. Before I could get back to taking proper care of my dependent kitty, I heard an awful screeching and snarling racket on the back porch. Although I have not seen any other cats loitering around this end of the trailer park, I know a cat fight when I hear one - and this was a dandy!

By the time I got outside, both cats had disappeared and there was literally fur floating in the air - and there were two small deposits of cat poop on the porch. Had Scroungy Bastard been scared shitless? It took about an hour for him to make it back home, and he arrived without any obvious scars. I broke open a can of Friskies Gourmet and then stood guard while he chowed down. Poor baby!

If I had a gun I would probably shoot that other cat. But, of course, if I had a gun that would make me an Arizona moron and I wouldn't have the ambition to load the gun or shoot it. And there wouldn't be any way in hell that I would waste that expensive cat food on a cat! Seafood Supper on a shingle, anyone?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Southern Charm

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

There was a cultural myth when I was growing up that said - whatever their faults, southerners could always be counted on for politeness. A southern lady was a lady. She might not like you, or your politics, or your Blue Tick Hound, but she would have you parked in a comfortable chair with a glass of cold and sweet iced tea before you could doff your ball cap and bid her good afternoon.

A southern gentleman was a gentleman. Oh, he might take a mistress and hit the bourbon a little too often, but he was a gentleman who subscribed to all of society's conventions regarding good manners.

She was Scarlett O'Hara and he was Colonel Sanders, and they were the poster people for order and decorum. But it was a myth. The ideal was false. There were no (or damned few) gentle southern souls sipping their mint juleps and dispensing kindness to every wayfarer who happened to stroll across their plantations. Real southerners at the time I was growing up were more apt to be raging crackers and hillbillies who fought integration and prayed to a white male God who smiled kindly on the likes of Bull Connor, Orville Faubus, George Wallace, and Lester Maddox. They bombed black churches, murdered civil rights workers, and overtly supported the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.

But that was decades ago. Integration happened. The South slowly progressed into the American mainstream. Witness Atlanta, for example, a fairly liberal and progressive city that is leading the South into the twenty-first century. All of that ignorant cracker and hillbilly stuff is history - it's a New South.

Or is it?

Representative Joe Wilson, a Republican of South Carolina, showed his class and his ass tonight at the President's speech before Congress when he felt obliged to yell out "You lie!" at one point during the speech. He was, of course, playing to his voters back home - people who would appreciate name-calling and rudeness - ignorant crackers and hillbillies. Good job, Rep. Wilson. You may be the fool nationally, but the good ole boys back home are gonna love that shit. What a great sound bite for your next election! You really told that uppity colored boy a thing or two - by God!

Kudos to my senator, John McCain, for calling the fool, Joe Wilson, out on his bad behavior.

Update: I just heard Rachel Maddow say that Congressman Joe Wilson has issued a written apology to President Obama. So, in the words of the immortal Miss Emily Litella, "Never mind!"

(But I still think the slimeball will use the sound bite in his reelection campaign!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

American Soldier Dies for Health Care Coverage

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Army Specialist Gregory James Missman died of war wounds suffered in Afghanistan. He had been in the war zone only five short weeks when he was killed by the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) on July 8th of this year. SPC Missman was thirty-six-years old. He was survived by his four-year-old son, Jack, a sister, and his parents.

SPC Missman had served in the United States Army eleven years earlier. When he completed his three-year tour he got out and found work as a computer consultant. Earlier this year he was laid off from that position and lost health care coverage for himself and his son. He eventually made a fateful decision to go back into the military so that his son would have health insurance.

Little Jack Missman will now be covered by the Army's health care (Tri-Care) until he reaches the age of majority. He told reporters, "Dad was a strong soldier. He loved us. We loved him."

The moral of this story is, of course, that any boy or girl in America can have health insurance - if they have a parent who is fit enough to get into the military, and willing to die for it!

Surely that premium is too high!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Square Root of Three"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week's selection falls under the general heading of cult poetry. It was featured in the movie Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, which is easily the second best Harold and Kumar movie ever made. There is a scene near the end of the movie where Kumar (Kal Penn) is breaking up his ex-girlfriend's wedding (a la Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and Bruce Willis in Blind Date), when the bride suddenly turns to him and complains that he never does anything spontaneous, or lame, or whatever. Kumar immediately rises to the challenge and begins stepping over furniture while reciting this poem - a poem that he was supposedly writing the day they first met in the university library, just minutes before they had sex in the university library. How sweet is that?

The Square Root of Three
by David Feinberg

I'm sure that I will always be
A lonely number like root three

The three is all that's good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight
Beneath the vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine

For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I'll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality

When hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of three

As quietly co-waltzing by,
Together now we multiply
To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds
With the wave of magic wands

Our square root signs become unglued
Your love for me has been renewed

Kumar's recitation of this poem is the high point of the movie. He never misses a beat or a syllable as he climbs over furniture and steadily closes the distance between himself and his lady love. It is a very touching scene, one that even surpasses the bong-smoking incident in the airplane restroom, and the duo's inadvertent parachuting into George Bush's Crawford ranch house.

They just don't write movies like that anymore! And the poem ain't bad either!

Adios, Nueva Noel!

by Pa Rock
Flying Fool

Tiffany Burke, my niece, will be here in thirty minutes to collect me and my baggage and drive the whole mess to the airport. She is my sweetest relative and is definitely in line to inherit my cat, Scroungy Bastard, if she can catch him! Tiffany is such a sweetie that he will probably curl right up in her lap and act civilized!

An interesting thing happened last night. I went to town to grab a sandwich at the local quickie mart. While I was perusing the contents of the sandwich cooler, I noticed the lady at the counter who was waiting on another customer, but paid her no never mind because I was focused on food. When she finished with her customer and turned to help me, she came out with a big "Well, hello stranger!" Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that the person working the counter was Wife #2, Carol - the massage therapist. We chatted briefly about ourselves and the state of the town, but really didn't have much to say. Carol and I were married for six months about fifteen years ago. Tempus fugit!

Must get packing! Will post Monday's Poetry later tonight from Arizona.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old Friends...Sit on Their Park Bench Like Bookends

by Pa Rock
Native Son

This morning after breakfast at my Dad's favorite cafe, we drove into Southwest City and visited with my former brother-in-law, Bob Smith. Bob's mother, Lucy Smith, passed away last month. She had been a lifelong resident of the Southwest City area, and worked fifty years there at the Cornerstone Bank. They are auctioning off Lucy's estate tomorrow (Labor Day), and there should be a million or so people crowed into the yard and house. (Well, maybe not quite that many, but Lucy had lots and lots of nice things, and she knew everyone for miles around - so it will be especially crowded.)

This afternoon I have made the rounds checking in on old friends, a pleasurable and treasurable experience. My first stop was at the Noel Housing Authority to visit Mollie Carroll, one of the dearest people in the world. Mollie graduated from Noel High School a few years before me, and then headed off to New York City where she spent over three decades teaching in Catholic schools and living on the fringe of the theatre community. Her background is in English and drama, but she can speak for hours on literally any topic and do it well. She is one of the singularly most knowledgeable and caring people whom I have ever known. Mollie told me that she is working on a novel - and who better to write one!

Stop number two was to spend some time with Mertie Harmon and her housemate, George McGee. Mertie is my Dad's age, the mother of one of my classmates, and a very cherished family friend. She caught me up on more local news, and I shared stories about my children and my old girlfriend, Susan. When Susan and I lived in Noel years ago, she and Tim and I would often play cards with Mertie and George. Mertie is very alert and seemed to be well and happy. George is frail and on oxygen, but also very alert and talkative. It was good to catch up with both of them.

The third stop of the afternoon was to visit with James and Patti Carroll. James and I have been close friends since junior high school, and I have known Patti (Gough) almost that long. James works for the local post office as a mail carrier, and Patti has been a fixture at the local Methodist Day Care center for many years. Both have quietly evolved into family caretakers, carrying the weight of dealing with siblings and parents as they get older and are no longer able to care for themselves. James and Patti have two sons. Anthony lives in Springfield, MO, and manages a nice restaurant, and Ryan has been teaching in China for several years.

Tonight I may catch up with Brenda Cates Kilby, a former classmate of my sister's who has remained in this area and managed to navigate past its shortcomings. She has been a college professor, newspaper reporter, and world traveler. Brenda writes a couple of blogs and occasionally posts comments to things in the Ramble. She has a unique perspective on the world and is a very good person.

My niece, Tiffany Burke, will be here at noon tomorrow to take me to Highfill International - and my brief vacation will be at an end. I know that Scroungy Bastard will be glad to see me back in Arizona. He has had to spend the past couple of days panhandling - but, hey, he was panhandling when I met him - and he's very good at it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Nice Day for a Mow!

by Pa Rock
Happy Camper

My sister, Gail Macy, and her daughter and granddaughter, Tiffany Burke and little Brieanna Macy Burke (we call her "Brie") came by Dad's house this morning and he took us all to breakfast at a place that he likes near Southwest City. The food was excellent! Brie is such a pretty baby! She was passed around quite a bit and never fussed - and she has the happiest little smile!

Gail had gastric bypass surgery a couple of months ago. She has lost forty pounds so far, and her diabetes completely disappeared!

Tim and I mowed the farm (Rock's Roost) this afternoon. The poor little farm is empty and looks so neglected. But a good mow restored some of its happy face. I had trouble mowing out next to the road - Old Pine Trail - because my old neighbors kept stopping by the talk. But I really did enjoy catching up on all of their news. The house across the road had been gutted by fire and has looked awful for several years, but neighbors Kevin and Ellen Arnold have bought it and fixed it up. It looks so much better! Apparently their son, Chris, will be moving in there with his lady. Times change so fast - I am remembering little Chris racing up and down Old Pine Trail on his small scooter. Now he is twenty-one and doing electrical work with his dad.

Tim started doing a task for me today that I have been after him to do for a long time. He is interviewing my dad - on tape - about his life experiences. I stayed out of the way. I would like to for it to be done from his and the grandkids perspectives.

Tonight Tim and I are off to a movie - or a bookstore - and then he is driving back to Kansas City late. He likes to drive at night. It has been great fun being around him for these two days. (Nick, my oldest son, and his son, Boone, were supposed to have joined us here, but Nick has the flu. Nick, Boone, and Tim will be coming to Phoenix next month for a couple of days - so we will catch up then,)

I expanded yesterday's blog a little while ago - check it out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Terrorists Won

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

The War on Terrorism ended when the United States lost its focus, quit worrying about Osama bin Laden - the man who plotted the attack on our country - and went charging off into Iraq to fight an unrelated war for oil. When our government made the inexplicable decision to pump our troops and our treasury into a global war with no defined objectives except to remove a leader who had been a personal embarrassment to our leader's father, the terrorists had won. Suddenly we were not out to right a monstrous wrong, we were invading and occupying a country that had not been involved in the attack on the World Trade Center.

Remember George Bush deliberately lying to America about Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mas destruction in Iraq? That was the premise for the unnecessary war on Iraq and the expanded "Global War on Terror." The weapons, of course weren't there, but Bush and his enablers needed for us to think they were. Bush was very fond of comparing his mean-spirited oil war to World War II, and he wanted the country to be completely senseless with patriotic fervor.

Valerie Plame, a CIA operative (spy) sent her husband, Joe Wilson, a former ambassador with impeccable credentials, to Africa to check out the administration's claims that Niger was sending materials (yellow cake uranium) to Iraq to help make nuclear weapons. He came back and reported publicly (because Bush and company didn't want to hear it) that those claims were false. The response from the Bush team - specifically Vice President Cheney - was to leak the fact to the press that Ms. Plame was a spy for the CIA, effectively ending her spying career. If you, or I, or any other ordinary citizen had outed a U.S. spy, the crime would be treason, and the punishment could be death. But for Darth Cheney, it was just another day at the office. We lost the war to the terrorists when a functioning CIA operative was made useless due to Dick Cheney's petty revenge - you betcha we did!

The war was no longer about terrorism when our nation, the greatest national bastion of democracy and democratic principles on the planet, sent the murderous thugs of Blackwater into Iraq and told them to do whatever they damned well pleased. That scary outfit, under the direction of their wealthy and politically connected Christian fundamentalist leader, Erik Prince, apparently was fighting a religious jihad with a goal of eliminating Muslims from the face of the earth - a goal that fit in fine with the world view of Bush and Cheney. When Blackwater was loosed on the Middle East with the funding and official blessing of the United States government, the terrorists had won.

When young, naive, American servicemen and women at Abu Grahib Prison spent weeks and months humiliating Muslim prisoners by making them strip naked and endure inhumane humiliations, with at least tacit approval of their superiors, we as a nation had definitely lost, and the terrorists had won.

The terrorists won when we began waterboarding prisoners and practicing tortures that were expressly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. We had given up the high moral ground and taken up residence in the gutter - a very poor location from which to wage a war. And now, when our troops are captured (God forbid), they are likely to be tortured in the same manner thanks to the old schoolyard adage - "He did it first!"

When America began to turn away from its own Constitution and ignore basic American values like the right to a fair and speedy trail - or any trial at all for that matter, the terrorists had won.

When our politicians began to feel they could they control elections through raising and lowering the color levels of the national terrorist alert systen, the terrorists had won because their actions resulted in us being the simplest of pawns to these shameless political hacks. When we have to take off our shoes at the airports and make sure that we have the proper amounts of toothpaste and deodorant stored in the proper sized sandwich bag - who has won? The terrorist have won!

And now we are fighting two wars, wars that show signs of never ending, and paying for them with our children's and grandchildren's future - and by passing that burden along, the terrorists have defeated our kids and grandkids as well as ourselves.

It is well past time to start refocusing on our true strengths and American values - things like liberty and justice for all, compassion and caring for the needy, universal education, affordable health care that is available to everyone, religious tolerance, and basic human rights - and it is also well past time to quit dancing to the terrorists' tune and letting them define us. We have a far better face than the one we have been showing to the world for the last several years. We aren't Blackwater, we aren't racist or homophobic morons, we aren't religious extremists - we are Americans, plain and proud. Let's start to act like the good people we are!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ozarks Getaway

by Pa Rock
Native Son

Early tomorrow morning I will board a jet plane and head for the hills - the beautiful Ozarks of southwest Missouri. I will be going home to Noel, MO, to visit with my dad and see how he is doing. My sons and oldest grandson will also be there, so it should be a very nice four-day weekend.

Some of my trip will focus on checking out my small farm on Old Pine Trail. It is sadly vacant (I refuse to rent my green haven), so I will have to knock down the cobwebs and give the place a good mow. My little farm, aptly named Rock's Roost, is the most serene spot in the Ozarks, and I miss it terribly - especially every time I step outside here in Aridzona and into the bowels of hell!

Noel has several claims to fame. It is nestled along the Elk River, the first floatable river south of Kansas City. There is only one decent motel with just fifteen or so rooms, but the area abounds in nice campgrounds that will put you in a canoe or kayak at a very affordable rate for a day of floating down the river. It's a wonderful way to enjoy the summer weekends.

Noel was the home to a Hollywood crew and cast in 1939 when Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and Nancy Kelly all called the little town their temporary home while the movie, Jesse James, was filmed in various locations throughout McDonald County.

Kate Smith, the singer, formed an attachment to the small town in the 1940's after several residents got together and sent her a very large birthday cake. She talked about Noel on her radio program several times after that. In 1969 some boxcars filled with fertilizer on a Kansas City Southern train exploded one hot August night and nearly leveled the town. One person was killed, and several others were severely maimed.

And then there were the escaped convicts from Kansas who hopped a freight train in the early 1980's and decided to hop off when they got to Noel. They played cat-and-mouse with several law enforcement agencies throughout the town and its rustic environs for several days before finally being captured in a boxcar of another train as they were ending their Ozark vacation!

I'm anxious to get home - as if you can't tell!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Politics of Bacon

by Pa Rock
Political Satirist

If the modern Republican Party was a farm animal, it would be a big, mean, stark-raving-mad hog determined to eat every morsel of slop that the farmer's wife throws in the trough - especially if doing so would deprive the other farm animals of the means to survive. The hog wants it all - and piss on those other animals because they're just looking for handouts!

The hog would be white - very, very white. It might associate with a few hogs of color, but that would just be for show - so the hog could point with pride at its tolerance as it sought to strengthen its political influence around the farm. The hog would be the great white hog, and it would be damned proud of it. And the hog would speak Hog only, and if the cows and chickens wanted to have any influence on the farm, they had better learn to speak Hog!

Oh, it would be a pious hog, claiming to own the entire concept of Christianity and ready to quote those passages of the Bible that promote greed and hatred, but conveniently overlooking the words of the man after whom the religion was named. The hog would squeal and yell and out-shout anyone who dared to have a differing point of view, and it would tell lies with less effort than some of the other animals would use in breathing. When the hog finally quit squealing, it would once again become pious - and it would light up a big cigar!

It would be a tough hog, armed to the teeth with pistols, rifles, automatic weapons, bazookas, ground-to-air missiles, and whatever else was needed to protect its spot at the trough. The gun-toting hog would have an American flag pinned to its snout and a "God hates fags" bumper sticker stuck to its butt.

The hog would be in a constant state of arousal, quickly mounting anything or anyone who happened by - House pages, Argentine vamps, strangers in public restrooms, other farm animals (or their wives), any pig in the pen, and the odd goat. After the hog had its sexual desires sated, it would stand ready to expose and ridicule the most mundane and private sexual practices of every other animal on the farm.

The hog would be horny and hypocritical, mean and dangerous, loud and offensive, pious and sanctimonious, and very ego-centric and racist. But more than anything else, the hog would be greedy because it is, after all, a hog. It would oppose anything that would benefit any other animal, whether it deprived the hog of anything or not. If the hog had a motto, it would be "I got mine - screw you!"

Today the hog is going for a ride in the bed of the farmer's pick-up. The hog is smug because it knows it's headed to the vet to get its shots. The hog doesn't have to pay anything for its health care because the farmer takes care of that. It's not the hog's fault if the other animals can't be seen by the vet because the farmer is so poor. He's just a farmer, after all, and he must give his resources to the animal that matters the most - the hog. If the farmer needed money, maybe he could butcher the cow. The hog would like to have more red meat in its diet!

But wait! The truck is headed down the wrong road. "Go right, Mr. Farmer!" The hog squeals to no avail. "The vet's office is off to the right!" Then a sign comes into view, and the hog is reassured. It can't read, of course, (it was always too busy eating to indulge in any of that intellectual stuff), so it assumes that the sign is directing the farmer to a new vet. The hog - fat, dumb, and happy - slips into a peaceful slumber as it bounces along in the summer sun. The hog is truly content.

The farmer is feeling pretty good himself, knowing there will be plenty of ham for the holidays and fresh sausage for breakfast every morning. And he will finally be able to get caught up on the vet's bill! He smiles to himself as he passes the sign that reads: "Slaughterhouse Dead Ahead."

The farm is a cooperative effort. Those who can't plant or harvest the crops, clean house, do chores, pull the hay wagon, guard the place, catch mice, produce milk, or lay eggs - wind up in the freezer.