Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood Makes Obama's Day

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I haven't had the cable in my military quarters hooked up yet - and may not, but even if it was hooked up I wouldn't have been watching the crabby old white men's convention in Tampa.  I mean, what would be the point?  It's all been so scripted, so fake. so entirely predictable - or at least it was until last night.  Last night was reportedly one of the most memorable nights in the history of political conventions - and I missed it!

But the Internet replays have been profuse and hysterical!

All week long the GOP (God's Own Party) has been hyping a mystery guest for Thursday night, the same night that their country club nominee was to deliver his acceptance speech.  The mystery guest would be Champagne Mitt's warm-up act.  Then on Thursday, they let the name slip - just to be sure people would tune in.   The mystery, warm-up speaker was Clint Eastwood!  Yup, Dirty Harry was coming to Tampa to make Mitt's day!

And of all the dumb things that the Romney campaign has done over the past year, bringing Clint on stage was undoubtedly the dumbest.  The former star of spaghetti westerns and San Francisco police action-dramas is a mature eighty-two-years-old - but he looks and sounds a hundred-and-ten.  Rumor has it that he showed up with prepared remarks but cast them aside before walking onto the stage.   He is Clint Effing Eastwood, after all, a true Hollywood star.   Why the hell would he need notes?

So Clint winged it, and Tampa, and indeed much of the nation, spent the next twenty minutes either cringing or laughing hysterically - depending on political affiliation.  Unfortunately for the GOP, they were the ones cringing!

Clint had a prop set up on stage - an empty chair for the comfort of an imaginary Barack Obama.  He proceeded to interrupt his remarks to the audience with asides to the imaginary Obama.  It was a sad diatribe from a once-formidable actor and director - much of which made little or no sense.  The only two things America knew for sure after the center-stage train wreck  was that Clint has definitely lost it - and the Romney campaign is being run by a bunch of goofy amateurs.

(One guy on Twitter this morning gave Clint some credit by saying that he was actually very representative of Republican delegates - an angry old white man talking to an imaginary Obama!)

Sadly for the tax cheat from Massachusetts, there was much more talk about Clint's speech today than there was about his own acceptance monologue.

Old Clint may not have made Mitt's day, but he sure as hell made Obama's!

Harry Callahan, you rock!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Killer Joe Comes to the Valley of Hell

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

Last night I drove across Phoenix to the high-rent area of the Valley of Hell, more commonly known as Scottsdale.  The purpose of that thirty-five mile sojourn was to watch the film version of Tracy Letts' riveting play, Killer Joe.  I had seen a staged version of Killer Joe a couple of years ago at Phoenix's Nearly Naked Theatre, and was pleased to discover that the film version by director William Friedkin  did not take many liberties with Lett's powerful script.

The plot is simple, bloody simple.  Young Chris (Emile Hirsch), a not too bright small town dope dealer, has his stash stolen by his mother.  Unfortunately, Chris still owes a local gangster for the drugs, and if he can't come up with the cash quickly, he has been assured that he will suffer a very real and painful death.

But it's hard to be too critical of Chris because he and his virginal younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), are from a broken home.  Dottie, in fact, lives with her dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his girlfriend, Sharla (Gina Gershon), in their rundown trailer.

Chris decides that the best way to recoup his money and save his worthless hide is to have his mother killed for her life insurance - which reportedly has Dottie as the beneficiary.  He has heard about a lawman who moonlights as a hit man, and determines to hire him to take out mom.  The other members of this highly dysfunctional Texas family are very quickly up to their red necks in the murder conspiracy.

Nobody, it seems, has much love for the dope-stealing mother.

The plan that Chris hatches is to pay the hit man, Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), from the proceeds of mom's life insurance.  Unfortunately, the plan is nearly derailed when Killer Joe demands his cash up front.  But then Joe meets Dottie and decides that she would be an acceptable "retainer" to insure that he gets his money - and, of course, he gets Dottie in the meantime.

And then it starts to get complicated.

Killer Joe is bloody and brutal with a dark undercurrent of macabre humor.  McConaughey took the title role in an effort to increase his acting credibility, and he was remarkably successful in that endeavor.  His Killer Joe is far more intense than any other character that he has ever played, and is, indeed, one of the more sociopathic characters of recent movie memory.  McConaughey's Joe Cooper is cold, impersonal, violent, and very deadly.  The only person with whom he displays any humanity is the simple and voluptuous Dottie.    The  movie is McConaughety's, from his arrival at the Smith family trailer to the blood-soaked finale.

Aside from learning a unique use for chicken drumsticks, there is little or nothing of educational value in Killer Joe.  But that doesn't mean it's not a good movie, because it is.  The movie takes us to the human zoo, late on a dark night, just as the animals are beginning to feed on each other.  It is disturbing, even repulsive, but it gives us one more insight into the complexities of life.  The Smiths aren't us, but they aren't total strangers either.

Killer Joe is rated NC-17 - for good reason.  Leave the kids at home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Burning Monk

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Malcolm Wilde Browne, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose most famous photograph, that of a monk who had set himself ablaze in a Saigon street, literally showed the world the horror that was to soon become the Vietnam War.  President Kennedy said that “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion as that one.”  The burning monk photo reportedly led Kennedy to begin a reevaluation of his Vietnam policy.

In June of 1963, several foreign journalists in South Vietnam were told where and when they could witness a “shocking political protest” against the government of South Vietnam which was supported by the U.S. government.  Of the several invited, only Browne showed up and was there to witness as a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, calmly parked his car, got out and sat in the middle of the street while several other monks doused him with gasoline.  The devout monk then struck a match and sat in prayer, burning, while hundreds watched and Browne snapped a series of photographs.

The incident signaled the beginning of a rebellion that led to the overthrow and deaths of the U.S. backed President and national security chief of South Vietnam.

Those years in which our government was quietly engaged in a shadow war in Vietnam - trying to back the right generals and set up a government favorable to the United States - are chronicled, in part, in Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American.

While I was in Vietnam last winter, one of the places that I was able to visit was a monastery/orphanage in Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam.  One of the things on display at that orphanage was the auto that Thich Quang Duc drove to the scene of his death.   That old car serves as my very tenuous connection to Malcolm Wilde Browne.  It is clearly pictured in the background of the photo of the burning monk.

Mr. Browne died this week after a decade-long battle with Parkinson's.   He was fearless (having survived three plane crashes while covering the war in Vietnam) and truly a pioneer in his field.

(And, as an aside, his middle name comes from his grandfather's first cousin, British novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde. ) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The GOP Wallows in Dumb

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Okay, we all knew that the Republican gathering in Tampa this week would not be rife with intelligent thought, but the level of oral stupidity emanating from the convention and its environs almost defies belief.

Take Arizona’s sun-dried governor, for instance.    Jan Brewer, who built her national reputation by supporting and signing Arizona’s racist Senate Bill 1070, is now accusing President Obama of “race-baiting” Hispanics!    I’m not sure how that works in the real world, but out on the landing strip between Brewer's ears it is obvious that if Hispanics are voting Democratic, it must be because Obama is trying to make Republicans look racist. 

Note to the Sand Hag:    Take another spin or two on your bar stool and try to clear your head.  There is absolutely nothing that the President could do that would make your party look any more racist than its own history and legislative record.    The Republican Party gave up on being inclusive and a friend to minorities in the 1960’s – and now their lily-white conservative base is getting older, and older, and older.  You snoozed.  You lost.  Deal with it.

Radio bully Rush Limbaugh, who is not at the convention but still basically runs the GOP show, espoused an interesting theory yesterday in which he postulated that the Republicans cancelled the first day of their convention due to a faulty government weather report – a report that was manipulated by President Obama.  After Rush had released his gas for five minutes or so on this grand conspiracy theory, he concluded:  “That’s unbelievable!”

That just goes to prove that even Rush Limbaugh can be right on rare occasions?  His theory is truly “unbelievable,” like so much of what the radio misogynist spews into his microphone.

Today Rush was still fixated on Hurricane Isaac.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 helped to wreck the presidency of the first President Bush, and seven years ago Hurricane Katrina highlighted what a clueless boob the second President Bush was.    Rush and undoubtedly many other Republicans are in panic mode, worried that if Isaac generates a lot of destruction, President Obama will be right on top of things and again remind the nation of how inept frat boys are at handling natural disasters.

Rush began by saying that the delegates in Florida should be ready to send aid to New Orleans if it became necessary - buses, perhaps.  But then he gave in to his cynical and racist nature.  Rush suggested that Republicans send bags of cash to fortify the levees, and after they are in place, announce it so that the poor of New Orleans would rush out and destroy the levees themselves by pulling the bags of money out.  Then, he said there would be less Democrats (read "less blacks") to deal with after the levees broke.

That's dumb, even for Rush!

Monday, August 27, 2012

And Now, a Message from God

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican Party's celebration of hate and bigotry was gaveled to order today - and then immediately put on hold until tomorrow due to concerns over Hurricane Isaac.  Apparently they also lost a convention day four years ago because of the weather.    While it would be easy to blame all of the bad weather on God having her fill of the pious and odious GOP, Democrats are too tactful to waste their collective breath on the obvious.

Republicans, however, love to do just that.  Michele Bachmann, Pat Robertson, and Mike Huckabee have histories of blaming unpleasant natural phenomenon on their angry God.  Bachmann even referred to Isaac as a "hurricane of spirituality," with the storm's target being the sinful United States in general, but certainly not God's Own Party.

I saw a funny line on Twitter yesterday that essentially said if the hurricane had caused Democrats to lose a day of their convention, Republicans would be shouting for the whole world to hear that it was because God was angry over the Democrats' support of gay marriage.

Hurricane Isaac has veered away from Florida and is now headed toward New Orleans - and those poor souls are still trying to recover from Katrina.  Republicans, being sensitive types (when they aren't out slashing the FEMA budget) are very concerned about the danger posed by Isaac.  The danger, as they see it, is that the storm could wreak so much havoc on the Gulf Coast that the major networks would cover the convention with a "split screen" to keep the public abreast of the storm.  If things became too serious with the weather, the networks might even cut away from the rich white folks' party for storm coverage.  God forbid!

Boxes, Boxes, Everywhere Boxes!

by Pa Rock
Master of Cardboard

Last Thursday all of the things that I had stored in Phoenix arrived at my new home - in boxes - where they joined the stuff that I had with me on Okinawa - most of which is also still in boxes.  That was Thursday.  Friday I flew off to Portland and left the boxes and the stress of moving safely back in the desert.  Yesterday I returned to Hellizona and those damned boxes were still here waiting on me!

Why couldn't a good Samaritan have broken in and unpacked?

I have set a goal of emptying at least two boxes a day and putting stuff away.  Yesterday I did four, and today the total was five - with a sixth cut open and ready to empty.    Three of the boxes that I emptied tonight were wardrobes that were stuffed with clothing that I hadn't seen in over two years - all carefully wadded by the packers and movers.  Most of it was things that make no sense in the desert, like long-sleeve shirts and sweat shirts - and much of it was transferred to plastic tubs for delivery to our Airman's Attic, a local Salvation Army-type facility for our young airmen and their families.  Of course they won't need long-sleeved shirts either, but maybe they can be modified or put to some use - like really nice paint and cleaning rags.

Cardboard is a recycle item, and in order for the trash man to pick it up, all of the boxes have to be cut and flattened - so that is my next big chore.  Empty, cut, flatten, stuff in barrel, and repeat...and repeat...and repeat!   Ugh!

The only bright spot in the whole process is opening the boxes that have been in storage for two years and becoming reacquainted with items that I should have tossed a long time ago.  Many things are coming to light that I had completely forgotten.

It's probably just Alzheimer's.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Day with the Grandkids

by Pa Rock
One Tired Grandpa

Yesterday began with a trip to the local IHOP for breakfast where I was reminded of why it is that having children is a privilege of youth.  Old people cannot possibly keep small children safe and calm when there are so many great things within grabbing range.  I shoveled my food down quickly and then walked Judah, in his pram, around and around the outside of the building while his parents ate and fed his brother and sister.  Judah enjoys riding in his pram.

After breakfast we rode the "Max" to the area around the Portland Zoo - where we visited the Children's Museum and spent the day watching the kids enjoy the various interactive exhibits.  Sebastian played hard at everything, and Judah especially likes mechanical things.  One play area had a wheel that, when turned, moved quantities of a bark-like substance up a conveyor belt.  Judah immediately knew what it was for and how it operated, and he turned the wheel well past the point where most children would have gotten bored and moved on to other activities.  When other kids weren't loading bark onto the conveyor belt for him, he would stop turning the wheel and load it up himself.

Sebastian enjoyed a stage area where the little kids put on their own production.  He danced for the audience.

There was one area reserved for very small children that Willow got to enjoy.  She liked sitting on a water mattress and bouncing around.  Willow is very focused on her older brothers and intently watches what they are doing.  She also likes to play with their toys.

Last night was "movie night," a Saturday ritual in the Files home.  We all sat around their small DVD player and watched most of "Polar Express," the boys' favorite movie.  Molly and Scott made popcorn, and Sebastian set up his popcorn tent.

I think it is great that they have chosen "The Polar Express" for their movie fixation.   Sebastian and I watched it in Phoenix one night when he was just a few months old.  (When my kids were small, one of their regular movies that they watched over and over was Gene Wilder's version of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

This morning I am at the Alaska Airlines departure area waiting to board a plane to Phoenix.  The personnel at Alaska Air are so much more cheerful than the US Air people whom I dealt with on Friday.  It is possible to be pleasant in a high pressure job, and for those who can't maintain a pleasing demeanor when dealing with the public, they should find another line of work - like cleaning chicken houses.  

The TSA people are also much less uptight than their counterparts in Phoenix.   My large stick of Old Spice deodorant went right through the checkpoint with no problems, although a couple of years ago the same item had been seized at Sky Harbor in Phoenix.   (I didn't let that bother me too much because the woman who seized it obviously needed it.)   Also, the last time I was at the Portland airport, one of the TSA guys was wearing a turban.  Joe Arpaio would never allow that degree of personal freedom in Phoenix!

The plane is boarding.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Morning in Portland

by Pa Rock
Busy Grandfather

Molly's family and I had a nice day in Portland, Oregon, yesterday.  I was especially pleased to meet my newest grandchild, Little Willow, who is a charmer.  She has brown hair and brown eyes - and a big happy smile.  She moves around in a low crawl that is exactly like the one we used to have to do in the Army, under live fire, so many years ago.  And like her brothers, Sebastian and Judah, Willow goes at full speed!

This morning Sebastian and I headed out to do breakfast by ourselves like we did last fall when I was here.  Unfortunately, the hotel cafeteria by the lake had been taken over by an evangelical church group, and those pious porkers had eaten all of the food.  We couldn't even get anyone to wait on us.  Then were walked next door to a restaurant that specializes in sandwiches and breakfast - but it turned out to be closed on weekends!  Now we are waiting on everyone to get ready so that we can take the hotel shuttle to IHOP.

One of the places that we went to yesterday was a store called "The Learning Palace."   It specializes in educational toys and games for kids, as well as classroom posters and exhibits for teachers.  Judah worked at the train table, very patiently sharing train cars with other kids, and making long trains and pulling them along the twisting and winding track.  He and Sebastian have a train setup at home, and they really enjoy it.  I didn't realize that "Thomas the Train" is an entire book and toy industry - and movies, too!

We also rode the "Max." an urban rail, down to Pioneer Square and walked around for awhile.  An Italian festival was occurring at the Square with music (a live band singing Italian songs), food, and other items of an Italian nature such as Versa scooters.  Dinner was a few blocks away at a pizza place.

There are numerous street people in Portland, and all of the downtown businesses have strategies in place to keep them out of their restrooms.  Nordstrom's has coded locks on the men's room, and most businesses have signs that say only customers can use the restrooms.  At the pizza place where we had dinner, you had to order and pay before asking for the restroom key!  Not sure where the street people go to relieve themselves, but my guess would be in the alley's somewhere.

They want the poor are invisible and have no needs.

It's a Romney world, after all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Traveling Man

by Pa Rock
Winged Warrior

My dream is to live someplace where I can travel in comfort, with a modicum of dignity, without being subjected to the thievery and barbarism of airlines and airports.   Someplace close to an Amtrak station would suit my needs.  Of course, if the Koch-head brother succeed in buying the election, President Romney will sell Amtrak's trains to China and turn its tracks over to the military!

I am at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, a bastion of suffering and indignity.  The first issue was my assigned window seat that I wanted to trade for one on the aisle.  There was one aisle seat left, on an exit row (which meant I could wind up working for the airline in the event of an emergency), and the sweet lady at ticketing told me that I could have it for the bargain price of just twenty-five dollars.  I told her to keep her aisle seat.

The next obstacle was the baggage-check.  I had one small bag to check, an heirloom of my father's.   As it was being tagged, the baggage lady told me that would be twenty-five dollars!   That was my penance for not forking over the dough to the first bandit.

Then, of course, was the worst experience of all in most airports - dealing with the bullies and small-town-cop wannabes who work for the Transportation Security Administration, commonly referred to as the "TSA," among other things.   After I had gotten everything conceivable into their plastic tubs, I started to step through the X-ray when I realized that my wallet was still in my pocket.  I politely asked the uniformed Komodo Dragon if I needed to place it in the tubs.  A "yes" or "no" question, right?  She snarled (spittle emanating from her oral cavity - the whole bit) that I needed to read the sign!

Yes, ma'am - bitch.

On a more positive note, it has now been almost five years since personnel at Sky Harbor have killed a passenger - at least as far as I know - but I have been gone for two years!

Soon I will be in Portalnd, Oregon, one of the most progressive cities in the United States with an exceptional airport.  These sandbillies could learn a lot from Portland, but learning is not a priority in Jan Brewer's Arizona.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Heat, It Did Retreat

by Pa Rock
Half-Baked Typist

It has rained the past two nights in the western part of the Valley of Hell - long, slow, pleasant rains with just the right amount of wind gusts, lightening, and thunder.  Two nights in a row!  That absolutely never happened during the three years that I lived here before going to Okinawa.   My yard is green,  and the air is suddenly free of dust!

It's supposed to start getting hot again tomorrow, but early tomorrow morning I will be on a plane heading out to see Molly and her family in Oregon.  (We are meeting at a hotel in Portland and will spend Friday and Saturday having fun with the three Files kids.  This trip will be my introduction to little Willow, my youngest grandchild.)

The movers came today and spent a couple of hours unloading the stuff that I left in storage here while I was overseas.  It was almost like Christmas, opening boxes of things that I had completely forgotten about.  Of course now I have boxes stacked everywhere, and it will probably be Christmas before I get them all opened and put away!

Neil Diamond is coming to the Valley next week, and so is David Partridge Cassidy.  Crosby, Stills, and Nash will have a concert at the Phoenix Symphony Hall on September 4th.   The latter is the only one that appeals to me, but I will be on the road again when CS and N are in town.  Maybe they will swing through again in a few months and bring Y with them.  That's a show I wouldn't want to miss!

Who knew Phoenix had a Symphony Hall?    It's probably sandwiched between two gun shops and across the street from a massage parlor!

Portland tomorrow - carpe diem!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The GOP is Ripe with Embarrassment

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The GOP is claiming to be mighty embarrassed by poor Todd Akin, the blundering senatorial candidate from Missouri who made statements which implied that some rape was not legitimate (you know, like the ones where women ask for it), and that "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy because women's bodies can somehow keep from getting pregnant - unless they were enjoying the rape, of course, and then their bodies make fetuses.

I heartily acknowledge that Todd Akin is an embarrassment to the human species - but does that necessarily make him an embarrassment to the Republican Party?   Basically he just said what many others in the party have either already said, or affirmed with their years of silence on the subject.  Paul Ryan, the potential vice-presidential candidate had earlier supported only one exception for abortion - and that was in cases of "forcible" rape.  Those who got pregnant through un-forced rape could bear their shame for nine long months and then spend the rest of their lives caring for the child of their rapist.

Sweet, Paul.  Sweet.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a teabagger Republican and ever the intellectual, said that Akin's statement was "a little bit outrageous," but did not call for him to drop out of the race.   Brewer would certainly qualify as an embarrassment to her party, if her party had any shame.

And Mitt Romney has been all over the place on the subject of abortions, from his past support and endorsement of Planned Parenthood to complete denial of any abortion rights.   After Akin's grotesque remark, Mitt had to sleep on it overnight while his campaign monkeys did some quick sensing of the public mood.  When he awoke, Mitt was aghast at what Todd Akin had said and encouraged him to quit the senate race.

The old joke about 'you know he's lying if his lips are moving' has never fit anyone as well as it does Romney.  Mitt may not be an embarrassment to the GOP, but he would have damned sure been an embarrassment to his father.

The Republican Platform, the plan on which the candidates run (in theory) has its standard anti-abortion plank - which does not mention any exceptions such as for rape or incest.  That should embarrass the party, but again, the party has no shame.  Some wags have taken to calling the anti-abortion plank, the one the party trots out every four years,  "the Akin Plank" because it is essentially the view that Todd Akin has always espoused - and it is the position that many Republicans are very comfortable in supporting.  (They are, however, very aggrieved that he brought so much public attention to their extreme and official position.)

But back to the idea of Republicans being embarrassed -  how can a party that invites Sheriff Joe Arpaio to speak at its national convention not be embarrassed?  That's right, Geriatric Joe will be speaking live to the convention from an elephant compound at the Tampa Zoo.  Seriously.  Of course, Hurricane Isaac may be blowing into town about the same time, so maybe those fidgety elephants will...but I digress.

Congratulations to all of the hookers in-and-around Tampa, both male and female.  You should be rolling in the dough next week as the ever-pious members of God's Own Party (the GOP) hit the streets!    Teach those greedy bastards what capitalism is all about!   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

McCaskill Plays the GOP Like a Rare Stradivarius

Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While I am not an unabashed fan of Missouri's senior senator, Claire McCaskill, primarily because her constituent services suck, I am in awe of her political instincts and skills.  True, she jumps around on the issues and continually tries to tell people what they want to hear, and she deserts her principles and her party when she feels it is politically expedient - but through it all she has the focus of an eagle and keeps her eye on the prize.

This year the prize is, of course, re-election to the United States Senate, a task that looked impossible up until earlier this month when the Republicans selected her challenger in the state's primary.  Three people vied for the Republican nomination and they split the vote in almost equal proportions.  Polls showed that any of the three would handily defeat McCaskill, but her pick was Congressman Todd Akin. a troglodyte with the potential to self-destruct in a rough general election.

Akin was Claire's pick, but she obviously didn't get to choose her own opposition - or did she?

The cagey Ms. McCaskill spent some of her own campaign money to air commercials complaining about how Akin was way too conservative, too much of a right-winger.  Of course, upon hearing her complain about Akin's knee-jerk conservatism, every moron in the state's Republican party, of which there are many, rushed out to support him, and Aiken won the three-way.

McCaskill essentially helped to select her Republican opponent.

But she was almost too successful.  Akin chose to self-destruct exceedingly early with his repugnant and stupid remarks about "legitimate" rape and his medical opinion that the bodies of women who were legitimately raped did something internally to prevent pregnancy.  He said what many  Republicans, especially the good old white male Republicans, believed.  But when the uproar set in, the GOP decided that Akin's fit of what many considered to be absolute truth would offend too many women and ultimately cost the party that much-needed senate seat from Missouri.   Everybody from Mitt Romney all the way up to Rush Limbaugh criticized Akin and said that he must withdraw from the race.  And he had, by Missouri statute,  a deadline of 5:00 p.m. today in which to effect his withdrawal.

The deadline came and went, but Akin is hanging tough.

McCaskill again waded into Republican Party politics while Akin was trying to salvage his candidacy.  Yes, she took a couple of generic shots at him, but deep down she was desperate for him to remain in the race.  McCaskill bent the ears of a few reporters telling them essentially that it would not be right if the national party came in and denied the Republicans of Missouri the candidate that they had chosen in a free and fair election.

Akin's decision not to fold was probably fortified a little by Claire's astute observation that he had been chosen, and who were these national bozos to come in and un-choose him.

Todd Akin survives as a senate candidate.  He will still run fairly well in Missouri, but he is an absolute country bumpkin when compared to the slick and very political Claire McCaskill.  She will win that election, and her sudden showing of strength might just carry Obama through to a victory in the state also.  And the frosting on the cake is that Akin lives as a candidate and will be around three more months as a constant reminder as to how little the elders of the Republican Party value women.

Great job, Claire.  I wish you would put that much focus and effort into running your office.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mr. Yoder Shows His Junk on a Junket

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-KS, is on the fast track to becoming this generation's Wilbur Mills.   Both Mills and Yoder displayed an affinity for splashing around in the water, but Mills did it with a stripper in the Washington Tidal Pool, and Yoder did it naked in the Sea of Galilee.

Politico broke the story this weekend that several members of Congress (all young Republicans) along with a few relatives and an entourage of staff members, took a late night dip in the famous Sea of Galilee during a visit to Israel a year ago.  Yoder claimed to have had a glass of wine with dinner and used bad judgment when he stripped bare and jumped into the famous fresh water lake where Jesus used to perform his water-walking and fishing skills.

Some of the other members of Congress also admitted going for a swim in the Sea of Galilee after dinner because it had been a long day and they were hot.  All were very clear in their statements that they were not nude during the swim and that they swam nowhere near the 36-year-old Yoder - nor did they witness him splashing around in his birthday suit.

But somebody saw him because the FBI allegedly got wind of the partying pols and looked into the matter.  Eric Canton, the Majority Whip in the House was also on the trip, but not in the lake - although four of his top aids apparently were in the water.  The story goes that the next morning Cantor dressed the whole group down for their bawdy behavior in what is an important Christian historical site.

Another congressman mentioned in the story is Arizona's own Ben Quayle, son of Dan and Marilyn.  Ben is allegedly bright enough to spell potato, but just.   He admits to being on the tour, which was funded by a pro-Israel group to the tune of over $10,000 per attendee, but denies heavy drinking or even going in the water.  And he certainly wasn't naked!

Quayle has been gerrymandered into a district with another freshman congressman, David Schweikert, and he blames Schweikert (who was also on the junket) for alerting Politico to the story to begin with.  Quayle and Sweikert are in a horse race for the Republican congressional nod in a primary election to be held later this month.  

As an aside, Congressman Quayle used to be a regular contributor to an adult website called    He wrote under the pseudonym  Brock Landers.  When that fact surfaced during his first run for Congress in 2010, he initially denied it - just as he is denying the nocturnal swimming now - but later admitted to his penchant for lusty writing.

Unfortunately for Kansas, Congressman Show-Us-Your-Stuff Yoder is running unopposed in his re-election bid.  First rule of politics:  you have to have a horse in the race to win the horse race!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

As My Gray Hair Turns Yellow

by Pa Rock

Still unpacking, stacking, shuffling, re-stacking, unboxing, boxing, lifting, dropping, cussing, and banging my head against the occasional wall.  Every time I finish one thing, I find two more that have to get done.  The end is no where in sight!

I was out in the storage shed a few minutes ago doing all of the above when I noticed a small lizard scampering up the wall.  Arizona has lizards, big ugly ones like gila monsters and Jan Brewer, but I have never come across a small one before.  Curiously, this one looked very similar to an Okinawan gecko.  It's probably not, though, because two months in a hot box would not be the healthiest way to travel.  If it is a gecko, however, we may have the makings for a Japanese horror flick as some environmental cataclysm unfolds.

Friend Brenda answered my questions about how to clean the bookcases that arrived with mold.  Basically she told he to roll up my sleeves and wash the damn things - which I did, and the mold came right off.  Then I let them dry in the hot Arizona sun for a few hours, and put them back in the storage shed to see if the mold would return.  It didn't.  The final step (this was my own idea) was to spray and wipe them down with Old English spray - and again let them bake for a couple of hours in our killer heat.

I have a couple of other bookcases that arrived without mold.   They are blonde and made from real wood, whereas the moldy ones were more of a darker, composite mixture.  I bought a can of spray Pledge for those bookcases, and last night I sprayed them down in anticipation of stocking them also.  You are probably way ahead of me here, but instead of grabbing the Pledge, I mistakenly grabbed the Old English spray can (it was the exact same size as the Pledge.  I finished shining both bookcases before I realized my mistake.  Now those two book cases are a light brown - but they still look nice.

The bookcases may no longer be blonde, but I obviously am!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Finally, Some Good News from Phoenix!

by Pa Rock
Seasonal Whiner

Sometimes it seems really difficult to think of Phoenix, Arizona, in a positive light - what with it being the home of Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce, and thousands upon thousands of teabagger numskulls packing firearms and telling each other how much Jesus would have hated Mexicans.   The stupidity is absolutely exhausting.

Blanket all of that nonsense with day-after-day of record-breaking heat, and it the whole mess just seems unbearable.

But change is in the air, literally.  It rained last Thursday, a long, slow, lovely rain that soaked the ground and dragged the temperatures down - and tonight it looks and feels as if it could rain again.  Rain, glorious rain!

The other bit of good news is that the theatre season is ramping up.  Nearly Naked Theatre, a great small venue, will present Parallel Lives, a play by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney from August 31st through September 15th.  And then four days after that production ends, the Phoenix Theatre  begins its run of Monty Python's Spamalot.   All of that should be great fun!

Now my goal is to have my house completely unpacked and settled by the time I go to Parallel Lives, probably on September 14th or 15th.  It can be done, but will take a lot of hard work and concentration because I am also going to visit each of my three children between now and then.   Going to the play will be my reward for getting my work done!

Friday, August 17, 2012

There's a Guy at the Gym Who's Trying to Kill Me!

by Pa Rock

Part of the deal when I rejoined my old gym last week was that I would get a couple of free sessions with a professional trainer who would teach me a few useful exercise routines and introduce me to some of the equipment.  My trainer's name is Dustin, a recent Army veteran who knows how to inflict pain and suffering!

Actually, I exaggerate.  Today Dustin taught me three routines to work on my "core."   The exercises were so simple that anyone could do them - even me.  But the three left me wheezing like an asthmatic in a summer hay field, and now, two hours later, I am really feeling the physical effects on my worn out old body.

The first exercise had me sitting on one of those big rubber balls that should be rolling around on a beach somewhere.    The object was to extend one leg out until just the heel was on the floor, keep the other leg perpendicular to the floor, and then rise and sit using just the perpendicular leg.  It sounds easy, and probably would be if I was a teenager, but twelve reps on each leg was exhausting and very difficult.  After two sets of twelve, he gave me a heavy pole, sort of like a big ski pole, and had me do them again using the pole as a guide for my leg as I stood and sat.

The next exercise involved a weighted ball that I held between my spread legs as I did squats - while keeping my back straight and butt out.  I think I had to do three sets of fifteen each.  Not difficult, but again very strenuous for an old coot.

The final activity involved leaning into a bar that was about three to four feet off of the ground and doing push-ups - all the while keeping my back straight.  I did a few sets of those, but had lost the ability to count by time Dustin said I was finished!

My grandsons would have loved all of the exercises and thought of them as being great fun!  All Pa Rock could think about, however, was going AWOL!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brewer and Arpaio Get Their Mean On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I talked about the fact that thousands of young, undocumented Arizonans - kids and young adults who have lived here a hell of a lot longer than me - had begun registering to take advantage of the President's offer to let them stay in this country to pursue an education.  It was a great day for them, for the state of Arizona, and for our country.  Admittedly, however, not everyone feels the same way that I do about this issue.

Arizona politicians routinely wallow in hate in order to win the votes of the cranky old white people who have negative views on every social issue except the ones that benefit them directly - and who always vote.  Two of the biggest manipulators of these haters are our governor, Jan Brewer, and the sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio.

Yesterday as all of the happy young people were registering so that they could remain in this country legally, Jan Brewer issued a scathing executive order in which she essentially said that she didn't give a damn what the federal government said, these young individuals would remain second-class citizens in Arizona.  She let them know in no uncertain terms that they could not get driver's licenses or state identification cards.  Her order also mandated that any state agency that provides public benefits must put rules in place to keep these "deferred action" individuals from receiving any of those benefits.

Goody, more government rules.

Most of what Brewer wrote in her order was redundant because state law already speaks to those issues anyway - but that wasn't the point.  She wanted the world to see her scraggy middle finger raised proudly under the searing Arizona sun!  (I'm guessing she wrote the order last Sunday in church and saved it for the big moment when she could steal some of the young people's thunder.)

It's reported locally that Jan Brewer used to be a caring and compassionate individual, but that changed drastically when the house fell on her sister.

Our geriatric sheriff, Joe Arpaio, also could not let the day of celebration pass without staining it with his particular shade of vitriol.  Old Joe grabbed some headlines by having his 64th immigrant roundup.  His storm troopers barged into a local door factory and arrested four individuals on suspicion of being in the country illegally.  They were hard at work trying to earn an honest living, but Joe and his boys put a stop to their nefarious plans to build better lives for their families.

I guess that I shouldn't be too critical of our governor and sheriff.  Between the two of them they have a hundred-and forty-eight years of life experience -  a significant portion of which has been with their snouts in the public trough.  They got theirs - and that's all that really matters.

Hate prevails.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

America Just Became a Whole Lot Better

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of President Obama's finer achievements in office was his executive order allowing young people who came to this country as the children of undocumented workers to sign up for work permits to stay in the country without fear of being suddenly deported back to a life that many of them literally never knew.  Some had been here since infancy and did not even know they were "illegal" (excuse the redneck-speak) until they applied for a driver's license or had to prove citizenship for college, voting, or perhaps a work permit.

Young people who came to the United States with their parents before the age of fifteen and who have been here at least five years and not been in any serious trouble can register for the program.  The upper age limit on the process is thirty.

Today the process became real when thousands showed up on the first day of the registration process and filled out paperwork to remain in the country legally - at least for a few years.  Now they can stay near the friends they developed at school and in their neighborhoods.  Now they can have some of the same opportunities as their life-long friends enjoy.  Now they have the dignity and respect of being who they are openly and proudly.

It is not only a great day for these young people and their families and friends, it is also a great day for America.  We are keeping a big pool of talent and potential on this side of the border where it can flourish and benefit us all.  Estimates are that the process may eventually effect as many as 700,000 young people - bright, hard-working, talented young people whose futures would be put in jeopardy by deportation to a strange land that is only their home on paper.  They benefit by staying here, and we benefit by having them.

But it's not all cactus blossoms.  The immigration issue (debate) has more needles that a century-old prickly pear.  Big prick number one, in my opinion, is Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.  Joe has been in office sixteen years and is currently running for one more four-year-term.  He will win reelection handily because he is a superb  campaigner and knows the issues that drag his base, the blue hairs in Sun City and other snowbirds and senior citizens - almost all white, of course - to the polls.

A few years ago Old Joe (he just turned eighty) figured out that immigration was the biggest boogie man to those voters, and he has shamelessly gone after "illegals" ever since, often, of course, pulling a fair amount of very legal U.S. citizens into his dragnets - citizens who just happen to have brown skin and Hispanic surnames.

Recently Joe has been on trial in Federal Court in Phoenix on a charge of racial profiling.  He denies that allegations, but evidence presented against him and his department is compelling, and he is likely to be found guilty and perhaps be assigned a court monitor to oversee his policing operations.  Such an outcome would be a stunning blow to the ego of America's meanest sheriff.

One of the tidbits of evidence that was brought up at the trial was a letter from an elderly female constituent who complained to the sheriff that the workers at her local McDonald's were speaking Spanish to each other while they worked, and apparently conversing with her in "broken English."  Instead of politely telling the woman that there is no law against speaking Spanish in Arizona or even Maricopa County, and that perhaps she could find a different McDonald's to frequent, the sheriff, ever mindful of the aging white votes that keep him in office, sent her a nice letter in reply stating that he would look into it.

Joe Arpaio, contrary to what he believes, will not be in office forever.  I hope that when it comes time to replace him, one of the fine young people who registered for their work permits today, will step up and run for his office.   What a pleasant and uplifting change that would be!

Congratulations to our young Hispanic friends who can now stay in this country legally.  Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Big Iron Bed

by Pa Rock
Unpacker and Stacker

The movers arrived an hour late and spent most of the day unloading their truck and loading my home. There was no serious breakage that I am aware of yet, but there are still some boxes to be opened and gone through.  I bought many plastic tubs on Okinawa that were used in the move for items that I wanted to have extra protection, and several of the lids for those tubs were broken.  That surprised me because they appeared to be indestructible.

The best news of the day is that my big iron bed is assembled.  I am washing the linens right now.  (There was a mold and mildew issue on some of the furniture, and  some of the linens and towels felt damp, so I am going to wash everything.  Does anyone know how to get mold off of wood?  Two of my nice bookcases arrived covered in gray mold.)

My youngest son, Tim, and his wonderful wife Erin, found a washer and dryer for me on Craig's List, and the fellow, a young Hispanic man named Alex, delivered them this evening.  He brought new washer hoses and a spare pigtail for the dryer to make sure he had one that would work.  Alex did all of the heavy lifting by himself, though I volunteered to help, and he ran both machines to show me that they worked properly.

Joe Arpaio may use the Hispanic community to scare his cadre of elderly white voters, but by-and-large, the Hispanics that I know in Phoenix are exceptionally fine people.  Alex certainly made my day better.

I had a very nice surprise tonight.  Don Hunsberger, a newspaperman from Florida who reads the Ramble and often posts insightful comments, called - and we had a good visit.  Don and I have communicated back and forth by email for some time, and it was really good getting to talk with him.  Don and Mike Box and I ought to take a political road trip and see what kind of shenanigans we could get into!   Maybe we could spend a few nights driving around Phoenix stealing Arpaio yard signs!

Okay, its getting late and the goofiness is setting in.  Time to get the sheets our of the dryer and hit the sack!

Monday, August 13, 2012

One Night Only - Without Furniture

by Pa Rock
Hardy Camper

Tonight I will be sleeping on an un-assembled futon without benefit of sheets or blankets.  (I do have a couple of pillows.)  The whole experience will be very primitive, or rustic if you will.  But it will only be for one night because my household goods arrived in Phoenix today and will be delivered early in the morning.  Yeah!  I'll have my big iron bed which has followed me into four states and to Okinawa!  That will be wonderful!

I tried to call the Apple Store at Arrowhead Mall in Phoenix today to see if my new computer was ready.  The  phone was answered by voice recognition software that was very insistent on learning all about my issue before transferring me to a human.  The poor software finally got tired of being verbally abused and brought a human onto the line.   The human was working at a call center!  Eventually I called the home office in Cupertino and talked to their voice recognition software.   By the time I got out to Arrowhead to pick up my purchase, I was barely functioning on a human level myself.

But my little computer is home now and I am learning how to use it.

It's late.  Now I am going to put this entry to rest, brush my teeth, sing a couple of camp songs, and try to sleep on my flat-footed futon!  Tomorrow will be a very long day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Calcutta Train Station

by Pa Rock
Anxious Consumer

I will be moving out of temporary quarters and into my new home tomorrow - and  will, at that time, lose my free Wi-Fi.  The laptop that has been my primary computer for the past four years has been sputtering and trying to die for several months now, and I have been doing most of my writing on a net book.  And, since arriving in the States one month ago tomorrow, my primary phone has been a pay-by-the-minute Trac Phone.

So my objective today was to acquire a computer and a phone.  I knew that I wanted to switch from a PC to Apple because my youngest son told me that's what I wanted - and he is a very smart fellow.  Yesterday evening I went to a local big-box store that specializes in electronics.  It was where I bought my PC four years ago, and I knew they have carried a few Apples over the years.  But alas there were no Apples to be picked, and two very nice salesmen actually drew a map for me to the Apple store.

Apple is a quality brand and I expected their store to be somewhat calm and dignified.   The reality was quite different.  It was a madhouse.   People everywhere shouting, barking, grabbing - and there was even one couple who apparently sought refuge in the store just so they could fondle each other.  The whole place was just a few goats and chickens shy of being the Calcutta Train Station back in Gandhi's time.  

There was some efficiency in spite of all the chaos.  One employee caught me as I was drifting in with the crowd and asked what I wanted.  I told her I intended to buy a computer and a phone.  She started speaking into her headset and a kid salesman showed up almost immediately.  Unfortunately, nobody seemed to care that he was my personal kid salesman, and all kinds of riffraff stepped between us to ask him questions that had nothing whatsoever to do with my purchases.

But, the kid salesman was very patient and nice.  It took two hours, but I am now the proud owner of an Air Book and an iPhone.  I am already using the iPhone - learning very  slowly - but the Air Book is still at the store where the files from my PC are being transferred to it.

Here are two things that I have learned already.  My iPhone, which has access to the Internet, creates a personal "hot spot," so if I have the Air Book with me, it has Internet connectivity - as long as my iPhone is nearby.  I can also speak to a telephone muse named Siri who will tell me what the weather is like outside, provide all kinds of other information in response to voice commands, and type and send emails!

My grandfather arrived in Missouri in a covered wagon - and here I am composing emails and sending them around the globe with just the sound of my voice!

What wonders will my grandchildren experience?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Today the Frosting, Tomorrow the Cake

by Pa Rock
In Transition

Today was the busiest day that I've had since returning to Arizona.  Yesterday I signed a lease for a house on base and picked up the keys.   All of my household goods and other stuff is still enroute from Japan, so I am moving in with essentially nothing.  I will still be at the base temporary housing tonight and tomorrow night, and then I have to occupy my new home on Monday.  So today I moved some of my clothes and small items that I have with me, and went in search of essentials to live on until the slow boat from Naha finally arrives.

I now have a futon which I have to assemble tomorrow - and oh how I hate assembling things.  (My dad owned and ran an appliance store when I was in junior high and high school - and one of my grunge jobs was to assemble television stands, put the handles on lawnmowers, and put together anything that arrived in pieces.)

My first stop of the day, however, did not involve shopping.  I stopped by my old exercise club - Lifetime Fitness - and signed up for a membership.  The guys there were nice, and when I told them that I had been overseas for two years "on military orders," they agreed to let me join at the old rate from two years ago - a nice savings.

Lifetime Fitness is very modern with exercise equipment and television screens covering two extensive floors.  It also has basketball courts, and three large swimming pools.  My favorite part of the facility, what I missed the most over the past two years, are two large hot tubs that each accommodate fifteen or twenty people comfortably.  My routine in the past was to work on the exercise equipment until I felt that I had earned the right to go sit in one of the big hot tubs.   The exercise was the cake and the hot tubs were the frosting.  Today after renewing my membership, I headed straight for the hot tubs where I boiled for twenty minutes or so.  I'll try to do the exercise thing tomorrow!

My final act of valor this evening was to spend quite a bit of time watering the yard at my new place.   It has a few patches of green grass, but most of the yard is Arizona brown.  If a steady routine of watering doesn't help, I'll get some grass seed.  I think I missed working in the yard even more than I missed relaxing in those hot tubs.

Some days life just has to be about the frosting.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hank 3: Some Personal History

by Pa Rock
Name Dropper

One of our local newspapers ran an article this week on Hank Williams III, the son and grandson of country music legends.  The young singer and musician (age 39, young to me) will be performing in Tempe, Arizona, next Wednesday, West Hollywood, California, Friday evening, and Las Vegas on Saturday.  A photo of young Hank, literally covered in tattoos, accompanied the article.

I met Hank 3 when he was eleven-years-old, well before his first visit to a tattoo parlor.  The year was 1984 and I was helping to set up a riverside picnic for the Democratic Committee in McDonald County, Missouri.  The lad (whose real name is Shelton Hank Williams) showed up at the picnic with his other grandfather, Tommie Yeargain of Jane, Missouri.  Tommie was the Eastern Commissioner of McDonald County at the time and was out hustling votes.  Yeargain's daughter, Gwen, had been married to Hank Williams, Jr.  After they divorced Shelton spent a great deal of time with his Missouri relatives, and he was often in the company of his grandfather as he traveled the back roads of McDonald County in his pickup truck doing his commissioner duties and campaigning.  The bond between Tommie and Shelton was strong and obvious.

Our sheriff, Lou Keeling, walked up to me while I was doing some picnic-related chores and said, "Rock, I want you to meet Hank Williams the third."  I shook the kid's hand and told him how much I liked his grandfather's music.  Later, when he was preparing to talk to a local television reporter, he borrowed my boom box and put in one of his dad's tapes for background music.  He was obviously proud of his dad and solidly connected to him.

(A few years later he wrote a piece for our local newspaper in which he was very critical of his dad - undoubtedly some obligatory teen rebellion stuff - but they have since recorded together, so the rift must have healed.)

I did see the future country singer one other time when he was still just a boy.  He and some of his young buddies were running amok at the country fair when one of the local teachers who knew the group rounded them up and proceeded exert a calming influence.  Good teachers are always "on duty!"

Hank 3, as he is professionally known, earned his chops as a country singer by performing in Branson for several years.  He sounds more like his Hank Senior than Junior.  He also bears a striking physical resemblance to Hank Williams, Sr.  When Hank 3 met Minnie Pearl, she supposedly remarked that he was the "ghost" of his grandfather.

But Hank 3 is his own man, and his music has branched out into punk and metal as well as his basic country. He had an album entitled "Straight to Hell" that Wal-Mart refused to handle until he provided them with a sanitized version.  The un-sanitized version became the first country album released by a major label that had to have a parental advisory warning

So that quiet little kid from all those years ago has grown up, gotten tattooed, and sings songs that offend the censors at Wal-Mart.  It would appear that he is every bit the individual that his famous father and grandfather were.  Bochepus is undoubtedly proud of him, and I suspect Hank Senior would have also admired his grandson for making his own music and living life by his own rules.

I know that his other grandfather thought the world of him.