Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Can Tell a Lot About a Man by His Dog

by Pa Rock

Rosie and I made a couple of trips to the local lumber yard yesterday to get materials for the peacock coop that I am attempting to build.  During our first visit to the lumber yard, the place was crowded and I had to place her on the sales counter while I paid for my purchases.  She entertained herself by showing off for the sales staff and the customers.  The sales clerk, a young man who knew Rosie from previous visits, commented about what a nice dog she was, and an old timer who had been standing around telling stories about shooting turkeys responded, "You can tell a lot about a man by his dog."

I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I took it as a compliment.  Rosie was having a very good day.

Actually, the older Rosie gets, the more good days she seems to be having.  She loves to get out and go to town, and she wallows in attention.  One of Rosie's favorite places to visit is our local Arvest Bank where the teller at the drive-up window always gives her a dog biscuit.  (Who says Jim Walton isn't charitable?)  Using B.F. Skinner's theory of intermittent reinforcement, that occasional dog biscuit at a drive-up window has taught her to go nuts as we approach any drive-up window.  Hey, lady, where's my dog cookie?

One of my other current projects at the farm is to move some cut firewood and large rocks from the back of the property and bring them up close to the house for use in future projects.  (First up will be a kick-ass rock fire pit - which will, of course, benefit from the firewood.)  I move the wood and rocks in my little farm truck - accompanied by little Rosie.  On these trips around the farm I am teaching her to ride in the back of the pickup, just like a real farm dog.

Surprisingly, Rosie is becoming a true farm dog.  She isn't one of those foo-foo little in-house yappers.  In fact, she rarely yaps at all.  And when I'm out working on a project, like yesterday at the peacock coop, she goes off and keeps herself entertained for hours-on-end - without roaming onto the road or getting lost.  Little Rosie is also developing skills as a chicken herder, racing around the girls to gather them into a tight circle and then moving them wherever she thinks they need to be.

At night, after a hard day's work on the farm, Rosie goes to bed without being told.  She knows that dawn comes early.

So, I'm not sure what you could tell about me by observing Rosie, except maybe that we are both adjusting to life on the farm and to getting things done without becoming too excited.  Most days we work hard, and we manage to play a little, too.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Ode to the Plum Blossom"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

While spring officially arrived more than a week ago, the new season has had a bit of difficulty getting its footing here in the Ozarks.  Just this past Saturday, in fact, it was snowing when I rolled out of bed in the morning.  Today is beautiful, however, and spring appears to have finally conquered the lingering winter.  The trees are beginning to bud, the grass is greening, peonies have pushed their way through the cold ground and are now about an inch high, and my jonquils, the new ones whose bulbs I planted last fall, are up and in full bloom.  Spring is here, along with all of the wonderful sounds, colors, and smells of nature's renewal.

As a tribute to the spring, I have chosen a poem to share entitled "Ode to the Plum Blossom."  It was written by the former Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong.   Surprisingly, at least to me, Chairman Mao penned quite a bit of poetic verse in his lifetime.

Here are Mao Zedong's thoughts on a little flower that was a harbinger of spring.  She shares her beauty not for herself alone, but for the benefit of all.  (That almost sounds like a political statement!)

Ode to the Plum Blossom
by Mao Zedong

Wind and rain escorted Spring's departure, 
Flying snow welcomes Spring's return. 
On the ice-clad rock rising high and sheer 
A flower blooms sweet and fair. 
Sweet and fair, she craves not Spring for herself alone, 
To be the harbinger of Spring she is content. 
When the mountain flowers are in full bloom 
She will smile mingling in their midst.

Outside the post-house, beside the broken bridge, Alone, deserted, a flower blooms. 
Saddened by her solitude in the falling dusk, 
She is now assailed by wind and rain. 
Let other flowers be envious! 
She craves not Spring for herself alone. 
Her petals may be ground in the mud, 
But her fragrance will endure. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tim Cook and the Spirit of Giving

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of days ago I wrote about how some of America's very richest individuals weren't very charitable. and, in particular, I pointed out the Walton family of Bentonville, Arkansas - the Walmart Waltons - as being individuals who give almost nothing to charity.  Quite a bit of what the family does donate goes to the Walton Family Foundation, an organization that seems to be as much about setting conservative policy as it is being charitable.  One of the foundation's primary efforts, as an example, is to foster the idea of school choice, an activity seen by some as an effort to sabotage free public education.

The Waltons have also set up a series of trusts for ostensibly charitable purposes, but one of the primary purposes of the trusts seems to be the avoidance of gift and estate taxes.  Money left over in these trusts at a certain point goes back to the heirs of the givers - tax free.

So apparently there is charity, and then there is charity.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple is, as I understand it, not a billionaire - but his wealth is estimated in the high hundreds of millions - nothing to be sneezed at!    Mr. Cook, a single man in his fifties who also happens to be gay, has a history of being charitable with his assets.  He recently disclosed plans for the distribution of his considerable wealth after he dies.  Mr. Cook intends to set enough money aside for his young nephew to have a college education, and the rest of his fortune, every darned penny, will go to charity.

Something tells me that when Mr. Cook dies and goes to meet his maker, he will stroll past a whole line of Waltons and Kochs who are standing outside the Pearly Gates trying to figure out how to get their camels to pass through the eyes of needles!  Something also tells me that the gates of heaven will swing wide open for Mr. Cook, gay or not!

Tim Cook, I have no idea as to your religious beliefs, but you, sir, are the epitome of a fine Christian!  Thank you for your humanity.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

To Mow, or to Shovel Snow? That Is the Question

Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

Here it is, almost time to begin mowing, and it's snowing again in the Ozarks.  Oh, the snowfall is very light, but the ground is basically white with a hardy coating a bright green grass peeping through.  The winter birds are back at the feeder, attacking it from every possible angle, and Rosie and I are inside enjoying the warmth of the furnace.   I turned the furnace off two weeks ago to save a few bucks, but today it is back on and much appreciated - by me and by little Rosie.

It is supposed to start warming up again tomorrow.  I hope that is right because I am so ready to put winter behind me.   Rosie enjoys the snow, but even she seems to have had enough of it for this year.

Rosie has one thing in common with snow - they are both relatively quiet.   She disappeared one morning last week while we were in Kansas City.  I had been in the shower and while there heard her whimper a time or two.  I assumed she just wanted in the bathroom to see what I was doing.  Later, after I was finished showering and had gone downstairs to rejoin family, Rosie could not be found.  I searched outside, calling her name around the neighborhood, while Tim and Olive looked through the house.  Tim finally found her upstairs sitting quietly in the linen closet where she had apparently followed me when I had gone to get a towel.  No barking, no fuss - just sitting and peacefully waiting to be found.

Yesterday little Rosie disappeared again.  I had been outside feeding the poultry, and she had been constantly underfoot, but when I turned to return to the house, she had vanished.  I called for her in the backyard - and I called for her in the front yard, but the doggone dog was gone.   Finally I stood atop the back porch a yelled a few more times.  It was then that I spotted her, trapped in the peacock pen and jumping about briskly trying to get my attention - but still not barking!

The peacocks were not amused!

Rosie can bark, and when we are sitting in the house and she hears someone pull up - or a neighbor suddenly knock at the door, she lets out a stream of yaps that would wake the comatose.  But, as a rule, she is silent.

And I sort of appreciate that.

And it is beginning to snow harder.

Friday, March 27, 2015

GOP Budget: Screw the Poor, Fund More War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The United States House of Representatives and Senate have now each drafted versions of their proposed budgets - or what they see as business plans for America's future.  The two documents, both essentially written by the Republican majorities in each chamber, will be fit together into one plan by a conference committee after Congress returns from yet another holiday.  The end result will be awful - because both of the preliminary documents already agree on so much that is awful.

Here is how a writer at Dailykos described the mirror-image  "lowlights" of the House and Senate budgets:

"The lowlights of the (Senate) budget mesh with what the House did: Turning Medicare into a voucher program; slashing Medicaid and food stamps, and turning them into block grant programs that will be far easier to dismantle at the state level; and providing big tax cuts for the rich. Along with Obamacare repeal, it would roll back the administration's carbon emissions rules for power plants. But war? They're ready for more of it, adding $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account."
Once again big business and America's richest swine have geared up to steal our future through the purchase of a few dozen sleazy politicians.   America's corporate masters operate in a world of bottom lines and profits where the health of the masses is unimportant, or at least no concern of theirs, and where the education of the masses is something to be feared and controlled.  Their minions, the thieves and swindlers elected to Congress, aren't concerned with how the folks back home manage to make ends meet.  If the poor bastards need more money, let them work more shifts.  But they are concerned with themselves, and they work diligently at lowering taxes for the rich and pouring money into programs that will ultimately benefit defense contractors and trickle back into their own pockets.

Congress no longer represents the people of the United States, at least not the people who do the work and struggle to consume the goods that prop up capitalism.  Congress represents themselves and their owners - and no one else.

This latest heresy against America will eventually be circumcised with a presidential veto pen - but what happens when Sheldon Adelson, and Charles and David Koch, and all of the other vultures in the Garden, manage to buy the presidency as well?   We all may need that safety net that the Republicans are so gleefully shredding, and we may need it sooner rather than later.

Wake up America.  Social Security is a good thing, and so are Medicare and Medicaid.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has provided health insurance coverage to over ten million Americans, and programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide medical and nutritional assistance to the tiniest and most vulnerable among us.    And while the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) falls short of eliminating hunger in America, it does help those in need put some food on their tables.

War, on the other hand, often does nothing more than kill innocents and feed the hogs who own the plants that make the weapons of war.  It's good for the war industry, and bad for people.

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of this budget, future-of-America business, is the sanctimoniousness of the bastards who are trying to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  Many of these shameless con-artists are standing on their Bibles to rise above us as they preach the gospel of wealth.  They need to bend down, crack open those Good Books, and open their minds to the concept of loving their neighbors and helping others.

If some of those people were more charitable and genuinely concerned with the plight of their neighbors, government programs to help the poor might become unnecessary.

Helping those in need - it's what Jesus would do.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Big Brother Is in the House!

by Pa Rock

Surely we all know by now that corporate America and the evil one-percent control much of what goes on around us in our daily lives.  They create the goods and services, convince us that we have to have what they produce, and buy legislators to ensure that laws are designed to keep us, and not them, under control.  The deck is stacked, the game is rigged - we all know that.

I naively thought, until recently, that we had a bit of safe space within our own homes, but now I'm not so sure about that.   Google reads my email, my most private communications to family and friends - not just occasionally, but every damned word of every damned line of every damned email - every damned day!  If I mention to Cousin Myrtle in South Turtle that I would love to have some of her homemade bread, ads for bakery goods and bread-making machines suddenly appear on my email page.  If I say, in passing, that I need some horse manure for my garden, I would be deluged with ads for fertilizer companies - and Google would likely pass that tidbit on to Twitter who would then recommend that I follow a whole slew of Republican politicians!

But it gets worse.

Yesterday I went to Amazon.com to see if I could locate a toner cartridge for my printer.  I entered the term "toner cartridge" in their search box, and immediately received a whole page of suggestions - all of which were for replacements for my exact printer!  I hadn't told Amazon What type of printer I had, but the company apparently was able to search my peripherals and find out exactly what I was using.  Amazon had a snoop around my office space!  Then, after I made my selection and hit "one click," I received an immediate notice that it was on its way to my home in West Plains.  Normally, I have to choose from several addresses stored at Amazon (grandchildren and friends), but this time the company knew where my printer was located and where to ship the toner cartridges.

It's a bit too much, it really is.  But if my toner cartridges arrive by the new Amazon drone delivery system, I guess I will forgive them.  It doesn't take much to get back on my good side!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rest Easy, Walmart Heirs

by Pa Rock
Trash Collector

I would like for the Walmart heirs, particularly the four richest ones:  Christy, Jim, Alice, and Rob, to know that they can rest easy because I have been walking the local roadways picking up the trash generated by their stores.  It's not an easy task, considering my advancing years and all, but I feel a moral and social responsibility to keep the roadways clean of trash - especially those that run along land which I own.  People who own something should take care of it.

Christy, Jim, Alice, and Rob - if you are unfamiliar with the term "social and moral responsibility," google it.

All across America people take time out of their busy days to clean up the messes generated by corporate America - whether its picking up trash, fighting for clean air and water, dealing with toxic landfills, campaigning for re-forestation or land reclamation from strip-mining, or begging for an opportunity to live in peace.    They take the initiative because they (we) have to if the world is to survive the onslaught of greed and pollution that is routinely and relentlessly foisted upon up by the uncaring one percent.

I shouldn't have said "uncaring."  True, you seldom see billionaires walking along the side of the road picking up trash, but a few are charitable.   The richest couple in America, Bill and Melinda Gates, have given over nine percent of their net worth to charitable causes, and the second richest person, Warren Buffett, has donated over twelve percent of his net worth to charity.

The four pillars of the Walton family, on the other hand, have been much less charitable with their cash.  Christy, the in-law, gave the most at .04 percent of her net worth, Alice did a little less with .01 percent, and the two men, probably ever-mindful of their financial responsibilities to their families and not their fellow man, did far worse when it came to giving.  Rob donated .00003 percent of his net worth to charity, and brother Jim, who also owns Arvest Banks, kicked in just .00004 percent of his pile of wealth to those less fortunate than himself.

Surprisingly, the ultra-rightwing Koch brothers outperformed the Waltons in charitable giving by a considerable amount.   David Koch donated .50 percent of his net worth to charity, and Charles Koch managed to let loose of .44 percent for charitable purposes.

One other way of looking at the math would be thus:  Bill and Melinda Gates gave 429 times more to charity than did the Walton family.  Warren Buffett outshines them by 472 times, and David and Charles Koch each gave more than ten times the amount to charity than the Walton's were able - or willing - to cough up.

So rest easy, Walmart heirs.    State and local governments are helping to subsidize the low wages that you pay your employees, other people are stepping forward to take care of the world's needy, and Pa Rock is still picking up your trash.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz: The Anti-Immigration Immigrant

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Standard-issue Republicans, the ones with tea bags dangling from their tin foil hats, are not overly fond of immigrants.  In fact, it's probably more than fair to postulate that many Republicans fear and hate newcomers to the land of the free - particularly those that cross in from the southern border.  They (the GOP knuckle-draggers) terrorize buses of youngsters from Central America, and they stand back offering righteous approval as their tattooed and toothless minions patrol the border and confront defenseless wanderers without any legal authorization to do so.

And painting President Obama as some sort of illegal immigrant power-usurper has become a staple in the pantry of the Republican Party.

But those same Republican moralists and racial purists miraculously seem to be able to turn off their hostility to the foreign-born when it suits them.    Former Michigan governor George Romney was born in Mexico.  His father had moved there so that he could practice polygamy.  Romney didn't get the nomination in 1968, but no one in the hierarchy of the Republican party questioned his citizenship or his right to run.

John McCain was born in Panama, admittedly to American parents - but Johnny Mac is a product of Panama nonetheless.  Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, is Mexican, but the location of her birth has no relevance on the political careers of her husband or son - not should it.  But still, it is somewhat remarkable that the God-fearing defenders of anglo-America haven't made it an issue.

And now we have Ted Cruz, the first Republican to throw his hat into the 2016 presidential ring.  Calgary Ted was infamously born in Canada to a Cuban father and an ex-pat American mother. While some on the left may try to have fun with Ted's family history and situation, the Republican Party welcomes him with open arms.  There is not talk among the GOP faithful of the need to produce a birth certificate - short or long form - as has been the hue and cry for eight years with Barack Obama, and Joe Arpaio is not gearing up to send deputies on a paid holiday to Canada to investigate Teddy's birth.

Ted Cruz is okay, you see.  He is against those damned immigrants!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "The Freshet"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

A "freshet" is a spring stream of freshly melted snow or fallen rain that makes its way into the valleys and toward the sea.  I first ran Henry David Thoreau's "Freshet" in this space on Easter Sunday, 2008.  It was March 23rd, a date referenced in the poem, and it was also my sixtieth birthday.

And, as a couple of close friends from my college years have reminded me via email this morning, today is once again my birthday - this time number sixty-seven.  I came into this world in 1948 - during the Truman administration - and will probably exit during the Taylor Swift presidency!

March of 1948 also saw the birth of some fine musicians - though sadly the only musical talent I managed to develop is whistling.  James Taylor beat me to the party by eleven days, being born on March 12, 1948, and I arrived three days ahead of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler who was born on March 26th of the same year.  Happy birthday, guys!  Fortunately, all of us are still much younger than Mick Jagger!

(James Taylor was probably a sweet baby, but I suspect that little Stevie Tyler wailed until he was hoarse!)

But I digress.

Here is the beautiful poem that the bard of Walden Pond penned on March 23rd many, many years ago.

The Freshet
by Henry David Thoreau

Tis now the twenty-third of March,
And this warm sun takes out the starch
Of winter's pinafore - Methinks
The very pasture gladly drinks
A health to spring, and while it sips
It faintly smacks a myriad lips.

A stir is on the Wooster hills, 
And Nobscot too the valley fills,
Where scarce you'd dip an acorn cup,
In summer when the sun is up,
Now you'll find no cup at all,
But in its place a waterfall.

The river swelleth more and more,
Like some sweet influence stealing o'er
The passive town; and for a while
Each tussock makes a tiny isle,
Where on some friendly Ararat
Resteth the weary water rat.

Our village shows a rural Venice,
Its broad lagoons where yonder fen is;
Far lovlier that the bay of Naples,
That placid cove amid the maples;
And in my neighbor's field of corn
I recognise the Golden Horn.

Here nature taught from year to year,
When only red men came to hear.
Methinks 'twas in this school of art
Venice and Naples learned their part,
But still their mistress, to my mind,
Her young disciples leaves behind.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ol' Roy Blunt Slings His Bull

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Roy Blunt may not be every one's idea of what a tolerable legislator should be, but by golly he has one honed one political skill that is crucial in maintaining his place at the public trough.  Ol' Roy can sling the bull with the very best of them - and in quantities sufficient to fertilize most Missouri gardens multiple times a year!

This past week I signed - and personalized - one of those "give peace a chance" petitions on the Internet asking my two senators and congressman to stay calm and let the adults negotiate with Iran without interference from individuals who are not elected to represent the entire country in foreign policy negotiations - people such as senators and congressmen.

My congressman never replies to communications from people like me - people whose point of view could never be stamped on a teabag - but my senators usually do entertain me with their wisdom.  Claire McCaskill hasn't replied yet, but she will - eventually - and her response may even relate to the subject that I contacted her about.

Ol' Roy Blunt, on the other hand, my Republican senator out of Springfield, always responds promptly.  He quickly sets me straight on every topic, telling me in condescending terms why I am mistaken and how the views of corporate America and God are his views.  His email replies, of course, are canned responses drafted by peons in his office, or ALEC, or whomever, and they always address my issue in very general terms.

Ol' Roy's response on Iran was little more than the standard GOP (defense industry) saber-rattling, but he did include one little nugget that I found especially intriguing - and just a bit funny - and also a bit sad.  Ol' Roy felt compelled to comment on his role as a signer of the open letter to Iran's leaders that was also signed by 46 of his Senate Republican fellow-travelers.   The letter was so stunning in its effort to disrupt President Obama's negotiations to keep Iran nuclear free, that the New York Daily News labeled the 47 signing senators as "Traitors" in a very bold headline.  In fact, many newspapers and news outlets across the country were critical of the Republican senators' political stunt.

But Ol' Roy wanted to make sure that his constituents, even me, knew his truth.  He addressed the topic in his canned email with the following very carefully-crafted explanation:

"On March 9, 2015, I signed an open letter to Iran's leaders with forty-six of my Senate colleagues to explain Congress's role in negotiating international agreements.  As discussions proceed, it is important that Iran clearly understands the U.S. constitutional system as it relates to international diplomacy."
Yup.  That was it.  Ol' Roy was just providing a public service by teaching them A-rabs about the U.S. Constitution - you know, the one with a Second Amendment and little else.

Senator Blunt, you were elected to consider and act on proposed legislation - and to occasionally ratify treaties - but never to negotiate them.    Please let the executive branch do its job - and then, if you don't like the treaty, vote against it.  America elected President Obama - twice - and he should be free to act in our behalf without interference from the peanut gallery.

You sir, need to read the Constitution and then get to work on fulfilling your legislative duties.  Sadly, the House of Representatives in the last two Congresses accomplished almost nothing, and now the new GOP Senate appears poised to follow the lead of the House.  How sad for us - and how fortunate for the golf courses in and around Washington, D.C.

Wouldn't it be great if all of our senators and congressmen actually worked for the people they were elected to represent?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Great Kansas City "Hair" Bait-and-Switch

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

The music was there, and it was marvelous, but the energy and vibrancy that one would expect to see on stage during a production of the classic rock musical "Hair" was lacking.  Of course, it really wasn't "Hair," the play that most of us had come to the University of Missouri at Kansas City expecting to see staged by the KC Repertory Theatre.  It was a "retrospective."

We were invited outside before the performance for one of those "director's chats" which was actually handled by a couple of production assistants.  There they attempted to plant the seeds of what the audience was to expect.  Yes, we would hear every song from the original Broadway stage play, but no, we would not be seeing the actual play itself.  Instead of a stage loaded with singing, gyrating, young hippies, the performance would be peopled primarily by an older generation, including some of the original Broadway cast members.  And instead of doing the play, they would share their personal memories and tidbits about the play as they sang and danced their way through all of those memorable songs from the sixties.

I re-entered the theatre disappointed.

The play was a very strange affair.  Almost the entire cast was my age or older - and, bless their hearts - their age showed as they romped and stomped around the stage.  For a long while the audience reaction (and my own reaction) was tepid, but ten or fifteen minutes into the performance it all began coming together and the pity party that I had been enjoying drifted into the rafters like pot smoke from a senior citizens' love-in.

My son, Tim (himself a playwright and screenwriter) and grandson Boone, a high school sophomore with bold red locks that would have blended well into milieu of the 1960's, were with me at the performance.  I had wanted to introduce both of them to what was easily one of the defining cultural milestones of the sixties, and was disappointed and a bit put out when it became obvious that they were not going to get the opportunity to see that great musical.  However, all three of us wound up enjoying the presentation. For me it was a bit of a walk down memory lane interspersed with little supplementals that added to my knowledge of the period.  For Tim and Boone it was a history lesson set to music.  Boone is still talking about it this morning and asking questions.

(I remember teaching history to high school students.  God, how I loved it when then they got caught up in what I was trying to teach and started asking questions!)

The performers on stage last night were teaching - they were doing a superb job of sharing their histories with some very eager, starry-eyed, toe-tapping pupils.

Perhaps the only cast member with a bit of a personal connection to much of the audience was Heather McCrae,  Ms. McCrae related that she had replaced Diane Keaton in her role with the original Broadway production during the first year of the play.  Later, when the near seventy-year-old McCrae mentioned that she was the daughter of Gordon and Sheila McCrae, she got a nice round of applause from those of us old enough to remember her parents, both television stars from the 1950's and 60's.  (Gordon McCrae also starred in the movie versions of Oklahoma! and Carousel.)

One other aspect of the production worthy of note was the visual presentation that ran in the background.  There were photos of the war and the protests on the home front, newspaper stories and headlines from the time, and creepy black-and-white images of some of the period's most villainous characters such as LBJ and Nixon.

Hey, hey, LBJ - how many kids did you kill today?

If you are interested in hearing personal insights on the cultural upheaval of the 1960's and enjoying some great music from the period, don't miss this fine retrospective on "Hair" that is currently being staged by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre at the UMKC campus.  It is a unique experience, and one that is unlikely to be packaged and presented elsewhere.   And it is also a fun encounter with the past, one that not only teaches, but delights as well!

Peace out, flower children - and enjoy your grandkids!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rockers, and Hippies, and Drag Queens - Oh, My!

by Pa Rock

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band are at the Sprint Center in Kansas City this evening - and tickets are going for around $125 a pop.  (That's about half of what it cost to see Cher and Cyndi Lauper last May.)  The Sprint Center is right downtown across the street from the  Power and Light District, and Seger is sure to have the whole area rocking and singing along with his band's many memorable hits!

The website, visitkc.com, is promoting the Bob Seger concert - as well as two full web pages of other happenings in and around Kansas City this weekend.  What that city's primary tourist guide doesn't list, however, is also worth a mention.  Famous drag queen, RuPaul, is bringing her "Drag Race" to the Uptown Theatre late tonight - and her ladies will also have an impact on the local cultural scene.

All of that and plenty more is happening in Kansas City this evening - whether visitkc.com approves or not.  My little group will be at the KC Repertory Theatre watching the opening night of "Hair," where people are likely to be singing along even more joyfully than the thousands spending their evening with Bob Seger at the Sprint Center!

It's so nice to spend the weekend in a place where there are entertainment options!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

North by Northwest

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

This morning, well before daylight, I was out getting chicken chores done so that the birds would find things to their liking when they awoke later and began their daily routine of hunting and pecking across the farmscape.  As I was stumbling around in the dark I started coming across large plops of manure.  If these are from a dog, I thought,  he's bigger than I want to mess with.  Turns out that the neighbor's cows had escaped during the night and had themselves a walkabout across Rock's Roost.    While the big bovine consumed some of the chickens' feed, they more than paid their bill with a substantial deposits of nature's finest fertilizer.

Rosie and I hit the road at daybreak, and, after a quick stop at Sonic, we headed out  to Springfield where we connected with Grandson Boone who joined us on our road trip.  From Springfield it was north by northwest to the Kansas City area.  This evening finds us safely at Tim and Erin and Olive's house in Roeland Park, Kansas.   We made a couple of egg deliveries since arriving and have now settled in for the evening.

Tomorrow's highlight will be a theatre outing for Tim, Boone, and me.  We have opening night tickets to see the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's production of "Hair."

Let the sunshine in!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The End of Lousy Service?

by Pa Rock
Couch Spud

As the few who follow my musings know, I ended my relationship with Direct TV more than a month ago and have since been finding my way along the wasteland of television detritus through other options.  I am currently watching programs on Hulu and DVD, and am looking into getting one of those streaming devices.

(Direct TV owed me money when we split, but this week they sent along a pre-paid Visa card in settlement, and now I feel as though a judge has banged a gavel and our divorce is complete!)

I just read on the Internet that Apple plans to start a web-based subscription television service this fall.  It will be offering around 25 channels, and unlike the big cable and satellite providers, most of Apple's channels will probably be ones that people actually like.

The Wall Street Journal article where I found this information stated some interesting facts about the popularity of certain corporations with the public.  It said, for instance, that Apple ranks in the top ten companies of more than thirteen hundred rated by YouGov's BrandIndex - and that all of the cable companies were ranked in the bottom ten percent of the same survey.   Clearly a company as popular as Apple would be in a strong position to make a major competitive move against the giant television service providers - which are at the other end of the popularity spectrum from Apple.

Jan Dawson, an independent telecom analyst, had this to say about Apple's upcoming entry into the subscription television market:

"If nothing else, it should put some pressure on traditional pay TV players and get them to up their games.  Most of them don't have much competition today, and as a result they have high prices, poor customer service, lousy interfaces, and complex offerings."

Yup, that's the way I remember Direct TV.  Bring it on Apple - America needs you!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Road Trip

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

It's a bit on the ugly side of five in the morning on St. Patrick's Day, and I am up preparing for a drive to see one of my medical providers in Springfield, Missouri - a trip of one hundred and one miles - each way.  I made essentially the same trip two days ago also - that time to take an AARP Safe Driving course in order to mitigate the negative effects of a speeding ticket that I received in Arkansas last month while on another road trip.  All of that travel will be capped off with a trip to Kansas City on Thursday.

That's the bad thing about living out in the beautiful countryside - nothing is convenient.

Living in Howl County reminds of when I was a resident here before - in Mountain View.  It was a St. Patrick's Day about thirty years ago.   I took a busload of high school students to Rolla, Missouri, for a speech and debate tournament.  Rolla is home to the University of Missouri School of Mines, and the mostly male student body there always makes a very big deal of St. Patrick's Day.  The students from Liberty High School that day got to see much more than they had bargained for - including, at one point, two drunken, shirtless college boys stumbling down the sidewalk who were both painted green from head to toe!  It was what we in the school biz called an "educational" field trip!

It's a shame that this recent spate nice weather hasn't been around long enough to pull all of the reptiles from their cold-blooded slumbers, or I could use this day to drive the snakes to Springfield.  Maybe next time!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Comin' Thro' the Rye"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday in this space I discussed the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  The book's title was taken (kinda, sorta) from a poem by the eighteenth century Scottish poet, Robert Burns - a piece commonly called  "Coming Through the Rye."

At one point toward the end of Salinger's novel, the central character, sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield, is having a conversation with his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe, a bright and assertive little girl whom he constantly refers to as "Old Phoebe."   During the conversation, Phoebe lets her brother know that she is disappointed in him and somewhat angry because he has managed to get kicked out of yet another boarding school.  She gives Holden a speech about his lack of ambition and interest in things, and then challenges him to name something that he would like to do with himself.

In response to Phoebe's challenge, Holden refers to the Burns poem which he misquotes into "If a body catch a body, coming through the rye."  After Phoebe corrects him and tells him that it is "If a body meets a body, coming through the rye."  Holden then goes on to explain to his little sister that he has this notion or idea or vision of thousands of children are playing in a field of rye that lies along the top of a steep cliff.  He pictures himself having the duty to race about and catch the children as they get too close to the edge of the cliff - hence, the catcher in the rye.   It is a fantasy that young Mr. Caulfield's psychoanalyst will undoubtedly explore with his patient at some point down the road.

There are several variations of "Comin' Thro' the Rye," but what follows is one of the more common versions.  A bit of a glossary is also included at the end of the poem.

Comin' Thro' the Rye
by Robert Burns

O, Jenny's a' weet, poor body,
Jenny's seldom dry:

She draigl't a' her petticoatie,
Comin thro' the rye!

Comin thro' the rye, poor body,
Comin thro' the rye,

She draigl't a' her petticoatie,
Comin thro' the rye!

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro' the rye,

Gin a body kiss a body,
Need a body cry?

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro' the glen,

Gin a body kiss a body,

Need the warl' ken?

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro' the grain;

Gin a body kiss a body,

The thing's a body's ain.

a' weet . . . . . . . . . . all wet

draigl't a' her petticoatie . . . . . . . . . . dragged her petticoats
Gin a body . . . . . . . . . . If sombodyeed

need the warl' ken . . . . . . . . . . need the whole world know

The thing a body's win . . . . . . . . . . it's nobody else's business

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Banned Book #9: "The Catcher in the Rye"

by Pa Rock

The late J.D. Salinger's 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye, while easily one of the most banned books in the history of American literature, has also, at the same time, found its way onto many high schools' suggested or required reading lists.  The book, based on characters and plot points which had appeared in previous Salinger short stories, describes the emotional unwinding of a sixteen-year-old boy, Holden Caulflield, as he leaves his boarding school (from which he is being expelled due to poor grades and lack of interest) and travels home to New York City.

Holden spends a couple of days kicking about New York as he puts off returning to his family who live in an apartment in the city, all the while offering up a personal, and highly cynical narration on life.  He stays in an inexpensive hotel that offers a view of "perverts" on the street below,  travels the city streets in cabs or on foot, tries to impress a couple of nuns, takes an old girlfriend to a play, has a close encounter with a prostitute and her aggressive pimp, smokes too much, drinks at every opportunity,  and spews a constant criticism of life and all its trappings.

Holden Caulfield struggles to understand life as he slowly and painfully matures.  He has flunked out of several private schools, witnessed death up close, and almost experienced sex.   Somewhere in that struggle he has started to unwind, or, as he puts it, to "disappear."   As he walks across the busy streets of New York, Caulfield feels himself being pulled down into the pavement and pleads with his dead brother to help keep him from disappearing before he can make it across the street and onto the safety of the next curb.

As the story concludes, the narrator, young Mr. Caulfield, reveals that he has disappeared into the safety of an institution.

The Catcher in the Rye is the granddaddy of teen-angst novels, one that is often referenced in more modern works for teenagers.  It is a novel that Charlie reads for his own edification in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and in Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the central character, Arnold Spirit, Jr., places The Catcher in the Rye, second on his list of all-time favorite books - right behind The Grapes of Wrath.

Small minds have pulled The Catcher in the Rye from bookshelves for years due to offensive language and its heady spirit of teen rebellion, but the book has proven to truly be "timeless" in its ability to capture the interest and imagination of succeeding generations.  One suspects that it will be read and discussed by many generations yet to come.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Pi Day of a Lifetime

by Pa Rock

It's here again - Pi Day - a day for everyone to post tweets honoring their favorite high school math teacher and make jokes with the punchline "No.  Pi are round, cornbread are square!"  God, that was a knee-slap[per in the fifties!

Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is commonly expressed at 3.14, and in recent years it has been celebrated as "Pi Day" on 3/14 - or March 14th.  When the mathematical expression is carried out further by two additional digits, it becomes:  3.1415, a number suggesting that 3/14/15 could be regarded as the "Pi Day" of the century - an event that will occur just once every one hundred years.

And that date of ciphering significance is today!  But don't tell my bank - they celebrated yesterday by giving free pie to all of their customers.

For those of us who count our time since high school by decades, a refresher is in order:   Pi is a critical component in determining the area of a circle:  pi (3.14) times the radius (one half of the diameter) squared equals the area of a circle.

I liked geometry in high school and found it much easier to understand than algebra.  In fact, my classroom observations led me to theorize that there are three types of high school math students:  those who like geometry, those who like algebra, and those who like passing notes.  Geometry always made sense to me.

Being a purist, I had my pie today - and ate it, too!

Let's have another cup of coffee, 
And let's have another piece of pi(e)!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Threat of Snow Pushes McCain to Sign with #47Traitors

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The New York Daily News didn't mince words.  The newspaper used big, thick letters on its front page to denounce the forty-seven Republican senators who signed "An Open Letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran" as "TRAITORS."  A bold assertion in very bold print!  The most popular Twitter hashtag for the group is #47Traitors.

The letter, an egregious effort to undermine President Obama's sensitive nuclear negotiations with Iran, was drafted by freshman Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, an aspiring politician with only two months of experience in the Senate.   (Some news sources point to campaign contributions that Cotton received from the defense industry and a pro-Israeli lobby as perhaps playing a role in stoking his desire to interfere with the Middle East peace process, and at least one other outlet has hypothesized an ambition on Cotton's part to be the Secretary of Defense in a Jeb Bush administration.)

But Tom Cotton is new at his job, and a bit of over zealousness is perhaps to be expected.

Cotton's letter warned Iran, in part, that Obama would leave office in 2017, but that senators are elected for six-year terms, and most of the signers of the letter could be around for "decades."  Sadly, that part is true.

One of the signers who already has been taking up space in the Senate for decades is John McCain of Arizona.  McCain, a feisty little firecracker who is known for being impulsive (his Sarah Palin selection, for instance), quickly signed Cotton's letter but later, after a lot of national blowback in which words like "traitors" were bandied about, had second thoughts about his hasty decision to climb aboard the noisy little bandwagon.  McCain, in hindsight, said that he, and perhaps others, had rushed to sign the letter because they were in a hurry to get out of Washington, DC, before a forecast snowstorm struck the city.

Johnny Mac, signing a letter with the potential of disrupting U.S. foreign policy solely due to the threat of a snowstorm is most certainly the epitome of good governance - at least good Republican governance!  Tom Cotton may have not matured into his role as a senator yet, but,you, sir, have been roaming the halls of Congress and the Sunday talk shows for a very long time - long enough to know who's who and what's what - and how things should work - according to the Constitution of the United States.

John McCain, you should be ashamed of yourself.  You really should.   Maybe it's time that you gave some serious consideration to a quiet retirement out at the ranch out in Sedona where you can spend your golden years chasing Gila monsters and watching sunsets.

And while you're packing for that final trip home, remember to take Lindsey with you!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Peeks In at Rock's Roost

by Pa Rock
Chicken Rancher

Yesterday it was sixty-seven degrees in my corner of the Ozarks, and the sun was shining.  Just one week before it had been snowing - fiercely.  Songbirds were singing outside of my bedroom window when I woke up the past two mornings.  While spring does not officially arrive for more than another week, it does seem to be tiptoeing up to the house and peeking in.

My beloved bird feeder is on the ground this morning, and although I have not yet been out to investigate, from the window it looks as though it suffered substantial damage.  Those pesky squirrels may have brought it down, or perhaps a bear.

I placed my chick order this week.    I held onto the order form for a couple of months, thinking about what I would like to try and raise at The Roost this season.   (Chicks are like garden seeds, and it's easy to get impulsive and over-order.)   I had some success with the Rhode Island Reds from last year, but suffered complete failure with the turkeys and guineas.  This year I am set up better and have more protections in place for the young birds, but, even so, raising livestock of any type is a risky business.

My chick order for this year wound up to be relatively modest.  I decided to go with a straight run of ten more Rhode Island Red chicks.   (Straight run means that they aren't pre-selected by gender and I will likely receive little cockerels and pullets, a.k.a. roosters and hens).  Those, combined with the eleven grown red hens that I already have, should provide more eggs than I can handle.  Additionally, some of the adult hens will also undoubtedly get broody and try to hatch out some offspring of their own during the spring and summer.

I have one little banty hen that was given to me by a neighbor.  She lays one or two tiny eggs a week.  I have ordered seven banty chicks for her to mother.  Bantys are lots of fun to have around, and they help the other poultry keep the bugs under control.

Finally, I also wanted to try something unusual, as a sort of complement to my peacock operation.  I ordered seven Red Jungle Fowl, birds that developed largely on their own in remote overseas locations - wild international chickens.  The jungle fowl will be housed in the barn in close proximity to the peacocks.

It was a small chick order - just twenty-four birds - but if the poultry gods smile down on Pa Rock this year, The Roost could be one happening place!

Feathers are likely to be flying!

(And I was just kidding about the bear!)