Sunday, June 30, 2013

Around and About

by Pa Rock
Busy Grandpa

Today we managed to stay very busy with trips to Cabela's (where I bought a hat to protect me from the Arizona sun), Old Navy (where we acquired a few new clothes), and a park (where we had fun swinging and sliding).  Meals were at the Panera Bread Company and Bob Evans.

Little Olive is so busy and so quick that most of the pictures I take of her come out blurred!

The weather continues to be cool and beautiful.  I sat on the deck writing for a couple of hours this afternoon.  I dread leaving all of this greenery and going back to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

Tonight there are fireworks going off near Tim and Erin's house.  It is so very Midwest and so very Fourth of July!

Tomorrow I am heading off to West Plains. Nick and Boone have made some plans which include going to see a fireworks display and taking in Johnny Depp's new movie - The Lone Ranger - this version of which promises to be very Tonto-centric.  Somewhere Jay Silverheels is smiling!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shade and Breeze

by Pa Rock

I'm sitting out on Tim and Erin's deck, just me and Mr. Furley, and it is the most pleasant environment that I have enjoyed in months.  The temperature is somewhere in the seventies, it is fairly cloudy, and a wonderful breeze is whipping through the enormous oaks that span the skies above this idyllic backyard.

CNN said just a few minutes ago that the temperature hit 120 degrees in Palm Springs today and was higher in Death Valley.  Phoenix and the Valley of Hell cannot be far behind.   CNN said that the Earth was possibly nearing its highest temperature ever - though I am uncertain as to how one would calibrate a temperature for an entire planet.

Of course, Rush, and Glenn, and Sean, and Michele, and Sarah, and Bill-O would all have us believe that climate change is a liberal hoax (or a left-wing plot), and that the Earth, in fact, is not warming - and if it is warming, it is the will of God.  I wonder if they will be wearing life jackets and broadcasting from corporate cabin cruisers when God wills the Atlantic to the foothills of the Appalachians and the Pacific to the base of the Rockies?

But those are problems for another day - maybe tomorrow or possibly the day after.  This day I am enjoying the beauty of a gorgeous summer afternoon in Kansas, sandwiched between breezy blue skies and the greenest grass imaginable.  The miserably hot, dust-laden air and scorched asphalt parking lots of Phoenix are over a thousand miles and a lifetime away.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Notes from a Green Place

by Pa Rock
Ozarks Homeboy

I arrived in Kansas City a couple of hours ago and feel as though I have stepped into Nirvana.  It is so beautiful here out in the quiet burbs surrounding the city, and everything is green - the big shady trees, the grass, the attitudes, everything.  And the houses are a variety of colors.  It is all so much different and so much more appealing than dry, brown Arizona.  And the temperature, while still plenty warm, is a significant twenty-five degrees below today's high in Phoenix.

Olive and I have been playing.  She is such a sweet and active little girl.  Tim and Erin have recently moved to Roeland Park, Kansas, and have a nice home that provides Olive with a big back yard in which to romp and stomp.  The family kitty, Mr. Furley, has also fallen in love with the sylvan setting and has transformed himself into an outdoor cat after living all of his previous years in apartments.

It will be very hard to go back to parched Arizona after experiencing all of this wonderful greenery!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Doing Phoenix

by Pa Rock
Desert Rat

My very good friend, Daniel Murphy, a psychologist with whom I worked while on Okinawa, arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday evening for a brief visit.  It is the first time that we have seen each other since I left the island last July.  Daniel and I are both leaving Phoenix in the morning - he is going to Seattle and I am headed for Kansas City and the Ozarks.

During the short visit I have been busy trying to show Daniel the highlights of Phoenix, not an easy chore in today's 112 degree heat.  (Tomorrow and Saturday are supposed to be 118 each day!)  Yesterday we had lunch with two Luke friends of mine, one of whom is also a psychologist.  Later we drove to the old town part of Glendale where we walked through a couple of antique stores / flea markets.

I made a great "find" at one of those flea markets - two framed western prints, very unique with a rodeo theme - signed by the artist, a fellow named "Rocky M."  I felt like I was meant to have them!

Last night we went to see Man of Steel which proved to be a stink bomb of a movie - poorly conceived, badly written, and painfully wooden acting.

Our stops today included Cabela's, a store focused on outdoor activities.  The store, very similar to Bass Pro, had some great aquarium exhibits and several wildlife dioramas, lots of things to attract and educate children.  But there were also guns, guns, and more guns!  I had no idea that it was possible to buy automatic and semi-automatic rifles right over the counter - but you can!  There was also a special area identified as "Youth Guns," a great place for little Adam Lanza's to dream and shop.   (Gun buyers in Arizona have to be at least eighteen-years-old, but there does not appear to be an intelligence standard.  Apparently if you're smart enough to find the store, you're smart enough to own a weapon of mass destruction.)

Our afternoon was spent viewing the American Indian exhibits at the Heard Museum.  Barry Goldwater donated his large collection of Kachina dolls to the Heard back in the 1960's, and many of them were on display - along with information on many of the tribes of the West and examples of their craftsmanship.  We also had a great Mexican lunch in the cafe at the Heard.

Tonight we are packing to head to our separate destinations in the morning.

It is great seeing an old friend.  I really miss my family of friends on Okinawa - and I hope they are all able to come and visit before too long!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Huckabee Wept

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today's Supreme Court decision that essentially gutted one of Congress's most cherished pieces of hate legislation, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and allowed gay marriage to continue in California, has caused Red America to get its whine on - big time!  I just heard a man remarking on National Public Radio that the Court has essentially turned it back on four thousand years of civilization - and although I never sully my television by turning on Fox News, I am certain that talking heads have been exploding there all day long.

Former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, himself now a Fox News entertainer, tweeted his response to the decisions in two simple words:  "Jesus wept."  My guess is that if Jesus pulled out his hanky, it was probably to daub away his tears of joy.  The world, it would seem, is beginning, ever so slowly, to move away from hate and toward love - and it's driving the phony Christians, like Mr Huckabee, nuts.

Mikey, Jesus was a man of peace and love who spent most of his life roaming the desert with a group of single men.  The fact that you want to transform him into a fire-breathing avenger intent on making life a constant misery for everyone says far more about you than it does the carpenter's son.  You need to open your heart and your mind - and then revisit the basic tenants of Christianity.

Mahatna Gandhi, himself a man of peace and one of the most revered figures of the 20th century, captured the incongruity between Jesus and his modern day followers with this quote:

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians."
Amen, Brother Gandhi, amen.

Someone needs to pass Mike Huckabee a hanky, a nice silk one, and when he finishes wiping away his tears of hate and rage, he can hang it out of his back pocket!

Can I have an "amen?"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Really Good Radio

by Pa Rock
Radio Listener

Back in the 1950’s Marilyn Monroe sought to energize her acting career by posing nude for a calendar.  Facing reporters not long afterward, she was asked by one grinning inquisitor, “Marilyn, what did you have on during the photo shoot?” to which the coy actress replied, “The radio.”  And that was probably a true statement because radio had a prominent place in American society from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.

Some of my earliest memories are of listening to radio programs with my mother in the evenings as we waited for my dad to get home from work.  We had a large wooden radio that stood on the floor and was about three feet tall.  In those pre-television days, that radio was a natural gathering point in the house.  Mom liked “Inner Sanctum,” as eerie precursor of such television programs as “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits.”  I was more into the comedies and remember well the antics of “Our Miss Brooks” and “Fibber McGee and Molly” among many others

Most of the really good radio programs were gone by the 1960’s, but we still had that big old radio (it was in my room by then), and it consumed my evenings with popular music and a sense of independence from the television that tended to keep the rest of the family in the living room.  I listened to two very powerful a.m. radio stations.   My favorite station was WLS out of Chicago whose transmitter was able to reach much of the central United States.  It was a loud and very clear channel that made the station’s main evening disc jockey, Dick Biondi, a household name among me and many of my friends.  I also liked WHB in Kansas City.  One of their most prominent disc jockeys was a fellow named Bob Hale.

A local radio station in Springfield, Missouri, KICK, provided the musical backdrop for my college years.  I knew people who knew people at KICK, and was at the station on several occasions.  In fact, I even remember (barely) being there the night of my 21st birthday.

But in the years after college, as I matured and the connection between me and contemporary music began to blur with age, I lost interest in radio – at least until “oldies” programs and stations began emerging in the 1980’s.  Music those stations classified as “oldies” constituted, in large measure, the soundtrack of my youth.  A friend once described music of that era as being songs a person could actually sing along with.

Now the age of “oldies” programs seems to have also slipped by, although 80-year-old Dick Biondi, the “wild I-talian” apparently still broadcasts an “oldies” program out of Chicago.  (Hang in there, old man!)  But as that door closed, another opened.

Fifteen years or so ago I discovered Garrison Keillor’s wonderful “A Prairie Home Companion” which airs on most NPR stations every Saturday evening for two hours – and is usually repeated on Sunday mornings.  Keillor modeled his show on radio’s iconic “Grand Ole Opry.”   It is a special blend of folk music, humor, radio drama, poetry, and a variety of other things that the host (Keillor) opts to throw into the entertainment mix.   Some of his fictional sponsors include the “National Catsup Advisory Board,” the “Professional Organization of English Majors (P.O.E.M.),” “Bertha’s Kitty Boutique,” and “Bee-Bop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Pie.”

“A Prairie Home Companion” is based out of the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, but it also travels from city-to-city much of the year.  It is always performed before a live audience who hoot and holler at the performances and are sometimes invited to sing along with the performers.  Political discourse on the program is decidedly liberal and always funny. 

Regular features on “A Prairie Home Companion” include “Tales of the Cowboys,” the chronicles of Dusty and Lefty – two cowboys who are endlessly herding cattle to cities where the show just happens to be playing, “The Adventures of Guy Noir,” a low brow detective whose cases will never elevate him into the big leagues of private detection, and Keillor’s signature monologue “The News from Lake Woebegon,” an hilarious send-up of the quirky characters and oddball situations that arise in Keillor’s fictional hometown where “the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average.” 

“A Prairie Home Companion” is really good radio.

Radio and I have both changed over the years, and although some might regard us as increasingly irrelevant, we both have our moments.  Getting to them just requires patience, careful listening, and an occasional bit of fine-tuning.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday's Poetry: "An Ode to Air Travel"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This Friday I will take part in one of our most notable and collective forms of public humiliation:  air travel.  I will be flying from Phoenix, Arizona, to Kansas City, Missouri, for a brief visit with two of my kids and their families.   The airport at Phoenix, Sky Harbor, bills itself as being the friendliest airport in America - an outrageous lie, and KCI at Kansas City is only marginally better.

But those are just the airports.  There is an additional humiliation between the airports, and that is the flight itself.

I heard a news story on the radio this morning stating that the new wide-bodied passenger jets currently being constructed are a few inches wider than the old wide-bodied jets.  The story continued by noting that the airline companies are already planning to take advantage of those few inches - and removing one inch from the size of existing seats, to squeeze in one more seat per row.  The flying cattle pens, it would seem, are about to become even more crowded and uncomfortable.

(The basic difference between flying cattle pens and those on the ground is that the ones dealing with actual cattle are likely to be more humane.)

A couple of weeks ago I heard another radio news story that reported one major carrier was going to begin charging one hundred dollars for every bag stowed in the overhead.  (Of course, they already charge for those that go in the cargo hold - which is why so many people are dragging their luggage onto the plane and cramming them into the overhead.)

If the airlines need to generate more income, why can't they just be forthright and increase the price of tickets rather that trying to make their profits through nickel-and-dime shenanigans?


What follows is a clever little poem that encompasses some of the other indignities of air travel.  Enjoy.

An Ode to Air Travel  (Upon Flying Cross-Country in Seat 31A)
Gregory K.

My seat belt is fastened – it’s snug and secure.
Been sitting here hours... and feels it for sure.
I finished my books during airport delays.
It turns out my iPod’s been uncharged for days.
I’ve studied the plane wing: I’ve counted the rivets.
I’ve noted my seat cushion’s deepening divots.
I spilled all my water (my pants are still drying).
I hear one babe cooing... and 17 crying.
The man right behind me drones stories so boring,
I think I’m preferring my seat-mate’s wheezed snoring.
My back aches in tense, upright, locked tight position.
It’s clear 30A has a stomach condition.
Yet just when I think I can’t take anymore,
And I’m wishing my window would turn to a door,
I hear these great words (over 30B’s cough),
“This is your captain… we’re cleared to take off!”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Bad Business Practice

by Pa Rock

I remember years ago, while sitting in a college class for aspiring school superintendents, hearing the professor caution us to "try and keep doctors off of your school boards."  His reasoning was that doctors were used to getting their own way and did not take well to being rebuffed or told "no."  And while doctors tend to be well educated and perform a necessary and valued service to society, some do appear to operate in a rarefied air of arrogance and interact with their patients in a detached manner that seems to be flavored with just a pinch (or more) of contempt.

Friday evening I received a telephone call from a local number, one that I did not recognize.  Upon answering, I was connected to one of those annoying recording messages.  It was from a doctor's messaging service, and it informed me that I had an important message from my doctor, one that I could only access by calling a certain number and then providing a password.

Three problems:   1.)  I don't respond well, or politely, to recorded messages;  2.) the only passwords that I create or learn are those few which are absolutely necessary to do my job;  and, 3.) people of a certain age, like me, tend to have multiple doctors.  So, the call itself pissed me off, I didn't have no stinking passwords, and I didn't have a clue as to which of several doctors was trying to contact me.

The first thing I did was to call the number back.  It was, of course, answered by a recording which informed me that I was probably calling because I had received a call from "this number."  The recording informed me that meant that my doctor was trying to get a message to me, and not to worry because the machine would keep calling me until I responded to the message.

The second call came yesterday, and the third this morning.  Number four will surely get my blood pressure roiling tomorrow while I am work.   Perhaps during my lunch hour tomorrow I will be able to start calling all of my various physicians in an attempt to find out which one needs to get a message to me.  I hope I can identify the miscreant because there is a message that I would certainly like to get to him.

Doctors, get over yourselves.  If you need to get a message to some poor bugger who pays good money for your advice and services, pick up the phone and call him.  Direct communication is a good business practice.  And if you are honestly too busy to call people who put their lives and their checkbooks in your hands, assign the task to one of your numerous office staff - like the young man at the appointments desk who keeps people waiting in line while he monitors his eBay auctions!

Treat your patients like human beings.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Best Movie at Best Buy

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

Reed Smith, one of my two favorite nephews, texted last night with the news that he had found copies of Tim's movie, The Brass Teapot, for sale at the Best Buy in Rogers, Arkansas.  (The movie also went on sale at Amazon this week.)

Today I drove down to Goodyear to see if it was on the shelves of that Best Buy, and sure enough, I found four copies, two regular and two Blu-Ray, in the comedy section sandwiched between The Blues Brothers and Breakfast at Tiffany's - and just one down from The Breakfast Club.  What a great neighborhood!

I bought the two regular copies and told the checkout clerk that the store needed to order more in anticipation of my Arizona friends coming in to get their own copies.  The young man, a shameless skeptic, compared the last name on my credit card with the name of the screenplay writer on the DVD package.  When he convinced himself that I just wasn't another Arizona loony who had spent too much time staggering beneath the brutal desert sun, he said that he would have to check the movie out himself.

After leaving Best Buy I walked down the block to the Barnes and Noble to see they were carrying The Brass Teapot.  They weren't.  No wonder Amazon is eating their lunch!

Best Buy, you rock!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Exodus International Makes Its Exit - and the World Is a Better Place

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Way back in 1973 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, commonly known as the DSM, removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.  Three years after that a religious group in Anaheim, California, founded an organization called Exodus International whose mission was to help people overcome their homosexuality with a type of “change” therapy.  This attempt to “pray the gay away” spread like cancer throughout the land and eventually encompassed two-hundred-and-sixty ministries across North America.

The concept of these “ex-gay” ministries was based on two fallacies:  First of all, a belief that many, if not all, gay people chose to be gay, and could therefore change their minds and choose to not be gay – if given the right Christian education and incentives (like eternal salvation).   The second fallacy was that if people were indeed born with a disposition toward being gay, they could learn to set their sexual natures aside and be celibate – or maybe even see the light and change their sexual orientation.  Both of these ideas were nonsense and served primarily to foster self-loathing and psychic trauma - and sadly, even suicide.

But thoughts and attitudes about sexuality in America are rapidly changing.  A Gallup Poll in 2001 found that forty-percent of American adults believed that gay and lesbian relationships were morally acceptable.    Gallup asked that same question last month (May of 2013) and found that the number of American adults who believed gay and lesbian relationships were morally acceptable had risen to fifty-nine  percent – a nineteen-point increase in just twelve years.  Twelve states and the District of Columbia now permit gay marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court could announce two decisions related to gay marriage as early as next week.

With the world changing so quickly, it wasn’t too surprising to learn that Exodus International announced earlier this week that it is shutting down.  In making the announcement, the organization’s president, Alan Chambers, apologized for the “shame and trauma” that Exodus International has caused over the years.

This type of treatment is worse than useless – it actually harms people.  The California legislature has made it illegal to practice “reparative therapy” in their state, and that legislative remedy will undoubtedly make its way into other states as politicians race to catch up with the public on the issue.

Alan Chambers and the members of Exodus International should be commended for pulling the plug on their organization before even more lives are ruined by a “therapy” that has no basis in research.  Hopefully Marcus Bachmann’s clinic will get the memo.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My First Live Theatre

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

A couple of days ago I wrote about the first concert that I ever attended – Gary Lewis and the Playboys at Southwest Missouri State College in the early fall of 1966.  It wasn’t more than a few weeks after that when I had my first opportunity to see live theatre.  The play was Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and it was presented in the auditorium of the Administration Building at SMS.

Not only was live theatre a new treat for me, it was also my first practical introduction to the works of William Shakespeare.   In high school we had read snatches of Macbeth and Julius Caesar, but this was real Shakespeare, funny Shakespeare, happening right in front of me!   I was amazed - dumbfounded  - and in complete and absolute awe of the acting company and the story they were telling.

I went by myself that evening and was hunkered down in a theatre seat waiting on the curtain to go up.  I had no idea what to expect, and hell, it was Shakespeare so I might not even understand what I was watching.  Boy howdy Hamlet, was I ever wrong about that!

I remember that the curtain went up on an empty stage.  Suddenly there was a swell of screaming and yelling behind me as the entire cast came rushing down the aisles toward the stage on stick horses.  And they had me at the noise and stick horses!  For the rest of my college career, I doubt that I missed over two or three stage performances.  Although I had no talent of my own, attending all of those plays gave me ample opportunity to enjoy the talent of others.

A young lady names Felicia Soper starred as Kate, the shrew, in the 1966 SMS production.  She was great.  A couple of years later I ran into her at a small Springfield grocery store and introduced myself like the star-struck fan that I was.  She was so nice, and I couldn’t have been more impressed meeting Sandy Dennis or Elizabeth Taylor!

(I would love to hear what became of Felicia Soper if anyone knows.)

Missouri State University (as SMS is now known) is noted for its superb theatre department.  Kathleen Turner, John Goodman, and Tess Harper are all veterans of their program.  

Southwest Missouri State College and wonderful people like Felicia Soper helped to spark an interest in theatre for me that has lasted a lifetime.    It is one of the things of value that I acquired in college, something that would have never come my way if I had remained in the wilds of McDonald County. 

Going to college has worth that goes well beyond a bank statement!