Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday's Poetry: Playing Rough with "Green Eggs and Ham"

by Pa Rock
Non-Essential Government Employee

William Rivers Pitt, my favorite political writer bar none, had a great piece at this week in which he eviscerated Senator Ted Cruz over the lame use of Dr. Seuss's wonderful "Green Eggs and Ham" during the senator's faux filibuster a couple of days ago.

Calgary Cruz said, in part:

"Americans did not like green eggs and ham,
and they did not like Obamacare either.
They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox,
in a house, with a mouse."

That's pretty heavy versification for a lightweight like Cruz.

In his article on the antics of the Texas blowhard, Mr. Pitt noted that the senator missed the entire point of the famous children's book - a point that is grasped by many four-year-olds.   This is the lesson that Dr. Seuss was teaching to young children:   How do you know you don't like something if you have never tried it?  

How indeed?

That lesson sailed right over the head of the junior senator from Texas.

U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D, CO) penned the following short, untitled verse in response to Calgary Cruz's mangling of the Dr. Seuss classic:

"I do no like it when Obamacare 
he tries to ram,
Or says to breast cancer survivors
'sorry ma'am.'
I do not like Ted Cruz reading
'Green Eggs and Ham,'
And shutting down government 
Without giving a damn.

Somehow I think if the good Dr. Seuss had been around to suffer the rewrites of politicians, he would have looked upon the work of Congressman Polis with far more favor than that of Senator Cruz.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Meet the Baggers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Being a federal employee who is apparently "non-essential," it is beginning to appear very likely that I will be "furloughed" beginning this Tuesday as the government of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth begins shutting itself down - all because a very small group of very well insured congressmen don't want ordinary citizens to have affordable health care.

So who is essential in our government?  Congress, of course.  Our representatives and senators won't miss a paycheck or a perk as they hustle from lobbyist to lobbyist collecting campaign donations and marching orders.  It is such a comfort for me to know that my own personal congressman, Trent Franks of Arizona, a member of the Tea Party Caucus, will stay on the government dole as he wages his never-ending war against the rights of women to control their own bodies.

John Boehner, the neutered Speaker of the House, appears to be the key player in this latest burst of government melodrama.    Mr. Boehner can't seem to muster the courage to take control of the House and pass a bill that would keep the government from shutting down on Tuesday.  Instead of leading, he is choosing instead to follow a vocal minority within his own party in a futile attempt to keep harmony within the GOP and maintain his leadership position,nice suite of offices, and endless string of tee-times.

(It ain't gonna happen, Orange John.  Whether you succeed in mollifying the rabble or not, they're still going to dump you out of the Speaker's chair, an ignominious end to the most ineffective Speakership in the history of the Republic.)

News reports this week have talked about a teabag faction in the Congress numbering forty to forty-five members who are intent on stopping the government and likely wrecking the economy simply because they want to keep those in need from having health care.  These are the same individuals, by and large, who also voted to slash billions from the food stamp program to keep the poor from having a chance to stay healthy through good nutrition.

So who are these forty or so super-patriots, the righteous few so intent on imposing their angry values on the rest of us?   Extremist Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, established an official congressional organization called the Tea Party Caucus in 2011, with herself, of course, as the chair.  A few of the more notable members washed out of office in the next election (people like Joe Walsh, Allen West, and Todd Akin), and when the current Congress formed in January of 2013, there was a grand total of 49 Tea Party Caucus members in the House (out of 435) and five members in the Senate (out of 100).  All, of course, are Republicans, and almost all receive their health care through government-sponsored and supplemented insurance plans.  Those moral and intellectual giants (according to Wikipedia) include:

House Members of the Tea Party Caucus:   Michele Bachmann (MN), Joe Barton (TX), Gus Bilirakis (FL), Rob Bishop (UT), Diane Black (TN), Michael C. Burgess (TX), Paul Broun (GA), John Carter (TX), Bill Cassidy (LA), Howard Coble (NC), Mike Coffman (CO), Ander Crenshaw (FL), John Culberson (TX), Jeff Duncan (SC), Blake Farenthold (TX), Stephen Fincer (TN) John Fleming (LA), Trent Franks (AZ), Phil Gingrey (GA), Louie Gohmert (TX), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Lynn Jenkins (KS), Steve King (IA), Doug Lamborn (CO), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), Kenny Marchant (TX), Tom McClintock (CA), David McKinley (WV), Gary Miller (CA), Mick Mulvaney (SC), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Rick Nugent (FL), Steven Plazzo (MS), Steve Pearce (NM), Ted Poe (TX), Tom Price (GA), Phil Roe (TN), Dennis A. Ross (FL), Ed Royce (CA), Steve Scalise (LA), Pete Sessions (TX), Adrian Smith (NB), Lamar S. Smith (TX), Tim Walberg (MI), Lynn Westmoreland (GA) and Joe Wilson (SC).

Senate Members of the Tea Party Caucus:  Mike Lee (UT), Jerry Moran (KS), Rand Paul (KY), Tim Scott (SC), and Ted Cruz (TX).

So no matter how the government shutdown affects you or members of your family (and if it drags on more than a couple of days - everyone will feel it), rest assured knowing that our representatives in Congress will still be getting paid and will continue to be covered by health insurance that all of us pay to supplement.

What a country!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ruthless! The Musical in a Black Box

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Ruthless!  The Musical in the new "Black Box" auditorium in the Phoenix Theatre complex.  Ruthless is the premier production in the Black Box, a theatre that seats five hundred, all with good views of the stage.  Because the seating runs right down to the performance area, parts of the show pushed up the aisles as cast members brought their musical numbers right out into the audience.

Ruthless is a tongue-in-cheek homage to stage mothers.   It is packed with quick and very clever dialogue - and two full acts of great songs, all of which are belted out by cast members who could easily be honor grads of the Ethel Merman School of Musical Comedy.  One of the central characters in the production  is Tina Denmark, a ruthlessly ambitious third-grader with her eyes set on grabbing the lead in the school play and ultimately conquering Broadway - even if she has to kill to get there. Tina is portrayed by a firecracker of a performer, Riley Glick, who is in actuality a 12-year-old sixth grader.   The young lady does an amazing job with both her singing and her acting.

Others in the exemplary cast include Johanna Carlisle, Rebecca Duckworth, Rusty Ferracane (a male who portrays a ruthless female talent agent), Alex Kirby, Barbara McBain, and Debby Rosenthal.

Ruthless! The Musical is a great show, one that merits the honor of opening Phoenix's newest theatre venue.

(A nice supplement to the performance was included in the printed program.  It contained mini-biographies on several infamous stage parents:  Gertrude Temple, John and Lillian Coogan, Jaid Barrymore, Joe Jackson, Teri Shields, W.G. and Edmonia Sue Coleman, and Kit Culkin.  Each merit a few minutes of research on "the google.")

Friday, September 27, 2013

Broadchurch Ends, but not with a Whimper

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

On August 8th of this year I wrote a piece about the premier episode of a gripping and intense British television drama called Broadchurch.  The show, which aired in Great Britain earlier in the year, was presented in the U.S.  by BBC America.  The eight one-hour episodes focused on solving one horrible crime - the murder of an eleven-year-old boy.

It was difficult, at least for me, to remember (or be available) to watch a program once a week for eight weeks, and during the run of Broadchurch, I managed to miss an episode-and-a-half.  But even with that dramatic deficit, I was caught up enough to thoroughly enjoy this week's finale, a conclusion that was as emotional as anything I have ever witnessed on television - or even in the movies, for that matter.

Broadchurch is programming of a quality rarely seen on the small screen.  David Tennant and Olivia Colman, the mismatched detectives whose lives suddenly coalesced around a single crime, had an intense chemistry that made both characters highly believable, though not always sympathetic.  Tennant and Colman tapped, and at times blasted, a staggering range of emotions, particularly during the last fifteen minutes of the finale.  Their performances in those closing segments were gut-wrenching and uncomfortably unforgettable.

Alfred Hitchcock would have loved Broadchurch.

Fox is reportedly planning an American ripoff of the series next year, and there is a rumor circulating on the Internet which claims the Brits may also produce a second season of the show.  If either or both of the new versions are as good as the original, we will all be in for a treat!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

There's One Born Every Minute

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I suspect that there are some ministers and religious leaders in this country who are sincere in their concern for the plight of humanity – but for every one of those who are focused on helping the poor and the suffering, there are dozens of others whose primary aim is to help themselves.    We have seen decades of television evangelists and mega-church pastors begging money from the masses for the glory of God, and then using the cash to glorify themselves with garish churches, private jets, and painted wives dressed as though they just stepped off of a fashion runway, or a Las Vegas street corner.

Clearly they are parting fools from their money.

Last night, while thumbing through the pages of a popular almanac, I came across a religious scam that was so outrageous that I felt compelled to comment.  It was one of those full-page advertisements designed to look like an actual news story.  In the narrative, a lady tells about a wonderful prayer that one of her relatives taught to her.  The prayer has no words (not sure how that works), and is helpful in curing poverty, illness, loneliness, shingles – you name it.  

And the lady writing about this prayer is a good woman – a truly angelic woman – because she wants to share the miraculous (and wordless) prayer with the world – in book form at just $22.99 a copy – with all major credit cards accepted.

If sales are good, clearly her prayer will have been answered.

Praise Jesus!

Or P.T. Barnum.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Car Rises

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A week ago I wrote about skeletal remains being found in two sunken cars that were recently discovered in an Oklahoma reservoir called Foss Lake.  It is thought that the discovery of the two cars, a 1952 Chevrolet and a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, will close cases on six individuals who have been missing for decades.   The cars were discovered next to each other in the murky water at a depth of twelve feet and just fifty feet from a marina and boat ramp.  The discovery was made by police who were testing new sonar equipment.

Now another submerged car has been found.   A fisherman discovered the wheel of a 1960 Studebaker Lark protruding from the surface of a creek that he was fishing near Beresford, South Dakota.   The license plate on the car matches that of one that was being driven by a high school girl as she and her female passenger were heading to a party at a gravel pit in 1971.   The car was found just a half a mile from the place where the party was held.  Both girls were seventeen at the time. 

All three of those sunken cars could have been, and probably were, the result of accidents.

The strange disappearance of Randy Leach, however, may not have been accidental.   Young Mr. Leach, aged 18, was at a “pre-graduation” party at the home of a classmate on April 15th, 1988.  He disappeared sometime after midnight, in what was described by some as a distressed condition due to alcohol or drugs - and was never seen again.   There were over a hundred people at the poorly supervised party, many of whom were not members of the class preparing to graduate at the small Linwood, Kansas, high school.  Stories coming out of the event touched on romance gone wrong, possible drug deals being stumbled upon, kids with cruel intentions, and satanic cult activities – all quite incongruent with the rural nature of Linwood.

There is an abundance of murky water within the vicinity of where that party occurred, and chances are that Randy Wayne Leach is resting somewhere beneath the muck and muddy water of a local river, lake, or farm pond.  Whether Randy died by drunken misadventure or was the victim of a murder, his parents, Harold and Alberta Leach, desperately need and deserve some closure. 

May Randy’s be the next car to rise from the dark waters.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Damned Zealot

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was a very good editorial by journalist Michael Gerson in yesterday’s Washington Post entitled “Pope Francis the Troublemaker.”   Gerson’s commentary was a critique of an interview that the Pope gave to the Jesuit publication, America

Some of the Pope’s comments in that piece have been in the news this week.  The interview was the forum where he criticized the church’s moral police for focusing solely on issues of abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.   Pope Francis said that these issues should be raised “in context” and “not all the time.”  He compared the Church to a field hospital after battle, noting that when someone is carried in on a stretcher with war wounds, “you don’t treat his high cholesterol.”  He said, “You have to heal his wounds” before talking about everything else.

The Pope’s remarks were about accepting and loving the whole person in much the same way as Christ demonstrated two millennia ago.  “The proclamation of the saving love of God,” Pope Francis proclaimed, “comes before moral and religious imperatives.”

As Pope Francis endeavors to paint the Catholic Church with the broad brush of acceptance and break down institutionalized walls of hate, he is truly making trouble in the hoary old Church – much as Christ angered and made trouble with the clerics of his day.

The pontiff is another damned zealot, one that recognizes the power of love and acceptance.  

And he is such a breath of fresh air over Benedict XVI! 

I’m sorely tempted to go back to church.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Kansas City Macy's Fly Home

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

I took Tim, Erin, and Baby Olive to Sky Harbor Airport early this morning, and a couple of hours later they were safely home in Kansas City.  It was a short weekend for all of us, but we managed to stay busy and get a lot done.  Tim was back at his teaching job tonight.

Today is Tim's 34th birthday.  I was really pleased that I was able to spend a small bit of his special day with my youngest son.  He continues to make me very proud!

Monday's Poetry: "September 1, 1939"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

W.H. Auden is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  The old poet with his ubiquitous cigarette passed away forty years ago this month.

What follows is one of Auden's best known works.  September 1, 1939 was his reflections on the day that World War II began - the day Hitler's forces invaded Poland.  The most memorable and quoted line in the poem is the last one of the next to the last stanza:  "We must love one another or die."  It is a line that Auden deleted at one time, and changed at another - but history - and publisher's - have chosen to preserve it for its startling clarity and important message.

The novelist, E.M. Forster, famously commented about Auden, "Because he once wrote 'We must love one another or die' he can command me to follow him." 

September 1, 1939

by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-Second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low and dishonest decade: 
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offense
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god: 
I and the public know
What all those schoolchildren learn, 
Those to whom evil is donenn
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book.
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In a euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong. 

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day: 
The lights must never go out, 
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home; 
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Abotu Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love,
but to be loved alone.  

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow, 
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And the helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky: 
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen of the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere, 
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just 
Exchange their  messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday at the Westgate

by Pa Rock

Fall seems to have suddenly arrived in the Valley of Hell.   The temperature was very pleasant today, though I don't know what it was, and there was a nice breeze.  The remarkable weather is probably just an aberration, but I'm glad that it occurred while the Kansas City Macy's were in town.

We spent the day at the Westgate which is a funky outdoor mall with lots of shops and eateries on the expensive end of Glendale.  (I live on the poor end of Glendale!)  The Westgate is in an area adjacent to the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play football - though thankfully they were playing in New Orleans today which meant that the shops and cafes were not overly crowded.

Erin and Olive spent the day with an old high school friend of Erin's who lives in Mesa.  They sat out in a park and had a good visit while Olive played in a fountain with several other little kids.  The fountain sent spouts of water into the air from the ground at odd intervals, and the kids would run through never knowing when they would be in the right place at the right time to get wet.

While the ladies watched Olive play in the fountain, Tim and I went to a movie at a theatre that was just a few yards from where they were at.  We saw Prisoners, an exceptional movie that I will probably write about later.  It was tense and exciting - with an intricate plot and superb acting.  Go see it!

My daughter, Molly, has a blog of her own.  She wrote a review of Elysium in her blog, a movie that she liked far more than I did.  At one point in her review, Molly described the futuristic Los Angeles setting as being "marinated in graffiti."   What great imagery!   All of my kids are talented writers - which makes me very proud!

Baby Olive reminds me so much of her father when he was that age.  She likes jumping off of things, and moves at the proverbial mile a minute.  Olive knows no fear!

The Kansas City Macy's will fly home in the morning.  We have had a great visit.

The Parking Spot in Phoenix

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool

On those occasions when I travel out of town by air, I leave my car at the Parking Spot in Phoenix - a commercial "park and fly" that transports me from my vehicle to the airline gate at Sky Harbor Airport.  When I return, I hop on one of their shuttles and am delivered back to my car.  It is a nice service, but one that can become rather pricey if I am away from the city for several days.The last time I was out of town, I even paid the Parking Spot to have my car freshly washed upon my return - nothing like arriving home in style!

When my friend Murphy arrived in June for a visit, I decided to park there and shuttle to the airport to pick him up.  I paid for a full day of parking, but it wasn't much more than what a couple of hours at the airport lot would have been - and it was a lot less hassle.

Friday when I went to get Tim and his family at the airport, I again stopped at the Parking Spot.  They gave me a copy of USA Today to read on the ride over to the airport.  When I came back with the family in tow a couple of hours later, they gave us each a bottle of water for the hot trip home in rush hour traffic.  After studying my parking ticket, the guy at the booth decided that we shouldn't be charged for a full day, and just let us slide in for free.

It was a very nice gesture.  The Parking Spot has made lots of money off of me over the years, but that courtesy last Friday made me feel that it had all been money well spent - with nice folks!