Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hiding the Homeless

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had a good friend who was living in New York City during the Democratic National Convention of 1980.  One of the stories she told from her many years of living in the Big Apple was the city's method for dealing with its burgeoning homeless population during that week when the world's news cameras gathered there to watch the Democrats convene.  Apparently, according to my friend, the city brought in buses and forced the homeless men, women, and children onto those buses - after which they were driven out into the countryside and dumped.  By the time the rag-tag army began making its way back to the familiar streets of New York, the Democrats and the news crews had packed up and gone home.

It was an outrageous abuse of human rights.  At that time, more than thirty years before all of those young Saudi Arabians attacked the city and took down the World Trade Center, no one even considered using the excuse of security or preventing terrorism.  The city just packed them up and removed them.  The only political party in the United States (even then) with a semblance of a moral compass was denied the opportunity to rub shoulders with society's wretched refuse.

Now a similar story is emerging from Philadelphia - the home of next summer's Democratic National Convention.  This week Pope Francis traveled to Philadelphia shortly after having lunch with the homeless of Washington, DC (rather than with members of Congress).  Francis, who repeatedly expresses his concern for the plight of the poor, both in word and deed, no doubt expected to encounter more than a few homeless individuals in the city of brotherly love, but that was not to be.  Philadelphia, for reasons of "security," had removed an estimated 5,500 homeless individuals from the downtown area where the Pope was to speak.

Part of the reason for this shameless action by the city fathers was apparently to reassure the Democratic Party that the city has the means and ability to clean itself up for a major event.  There should be no opportunities for photographers to snap pictures of well dressed Democrats stepping over or around homeless individuals as they go to and from the convention - just as there were no similar pictures taken in New York City in 1980.

Maybe instead of deporting these suffering individuals every time the circus comes to town, New York City and Philadelphia and every other large urban center in America - as well as the federal government -  ought to begin directly addressing the causes of the problem.  Things like job training and job creation, more low-income housing, education opportunities, and better health care (especially mental health care) could go a long way toward reducing the number of people forced to live out in the cold - people we all know exist, regardless of how well they are hidden!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Going Eastwood

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

A young man came knocking at my door yesterday afternoon.  His knock wasn't really necessary as both of the indoor dogs and the large outside dog had already rushed to the front door barking their warnings and welcome.  The fellow looked to be properly intimidated, but stood his ground nevertheless.

"Yes?"  I asked.  "Can I help you?"

"Do you have turkeys?"  He stammered in response.

"Yes, I do.  Three of them."  I suddenly became concerned and looked past the skinny twenty-something to the driveway where the turkeys had been sunning themselves earlier in the day.  The birds were nowhere in sight.  My turkeys, a breed called "bronze-breasted," bear a resemblance to wild turkeys.

"Oh,"  he said.  "I was driving by and saw the turkeys and thought if they weren't yours, maybe you wouldn't mind if I hunted them.  It's bow season for turkeys, you know."

"No, I didn't know that.  The turkeys are mine.  They are pets.  I don't want anyone hunting on my lawn."

"Oh.  Well, thank you anyway."  Then he got back in his truck and drove off.

I sort of liked the kid, an honest youth who presented as a bit simple, but I didn't like him to the point that I would let him dart about the yard playing Robin Hood.  A neighbor lad had been down a couple of weeks ago to warn me about the impending turkey season.  He suggested that I buy some small clothing and dress the turkeys so that people would realize they aren't wild.  That neighbor is a bit on the simple side as well.

All of this sort of puts me in mind of Clint Eastwood's menacing line from Gran Torino, "Get off of my lawn!"

So, before any of you big, brave turkey hunters go cruising past my place, real slow, hanging out of your truck window with your little bow and arrow, know this.  I have a counter-plan, and I will protect my birds.  So I guess the question you have to answer is this.  "Hey Punk, do you feel lucky?  Well, do you?"

Come on.  Make my day!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "My Lost Youth"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today while reading a story in the current issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, I came across a reference to the poem, "My Lost Youth" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I found the poem, read it, and liked it.

"My Lost Youth" is Longfellow's lament to his boyhood, a time when life was simpler, yet grander, and held the promise of many adventures and wonderful times.  It is an oft-told lament, but seldom recounted by as skilled a wordsmith as Longfellow.

My Lost Youth
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Often I think of the beautiful town
      That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
      And my youth comes back to me.
            And a verse of a Lapland song
            Is haunting my memory still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
      And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
And islands that were the Hesperides
      Of all my boyish dreams.
            And the burden of that old song,
            It murmurs and whispers still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the black wharves and the slips,
      And the sea-tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
      And the magic of the sea.
            And the voice of that wayward song
            Is singing and saying still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
      And the fort upon the hill;
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
The drum-beat repeated o'er and o'er,
      And the bugle wild and shrill.
            And the music of that old song
            Throbs in my memory still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the sea-fight far away,
      How it thundered o'er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay,
      Where they in battle died.
            And the sound of that mournful song
            Goes through me with a thrill:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I can see the breezy dome of groves,
      The shadows of Deering's Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
      In quiet neighborhoods.
            And the verse of that sweet old song,
            It flutters and murmurs still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
      Across the school-boy's brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
      Are longings wild and vain.
            And the voice of that fitful song
            Sings on, and is never still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

There are things of which I may not speak;
      There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
      And a mist before the eye.
            And the words of that fatal song
            Come over me like a chill:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

Strange to me now are the forms I meet
      When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,
      As they balance up and down,
            Are singing the beautiful song,
            Are sighing and whispering still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,
      And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
      I find my lost youth again.
            And the strange and beautiful song,
            The groves are repeating it still:
      "A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blue Heaven

by Pa Rock

Most reviews of the books of Joe Keenan quickly compare the author to the late British humorist and novelist, P.G. Wodehouse (of "Jeeves and Wooster" fame).  And those comparisons aren't without merit.  Keenan's first novel, Blue Heaven, which I first read a dozen or more years ago and recently re-read, has the sharp (and very funny) dialogue, clever plotting, and classy settings that are so reminiscent of the works of Wodehouse.

Blue Heaven is set in modern New York City.  The narrator is Philip Cavanaugh, a twenty-six-year-old gay man with aspirations of becoming a writer.  Philip's best friend, and former boyfriend, is Gilbert Selwyn.  As the story opens, Philip learns that Gilbert is engaged to be married - to a woman - and not just any woman, but Moira Finch, perhaps the meanest and most conniving female in the whole of the Big Apple.  Nobody likes Moira.

It turns out that Gilbert and Moira had recently run into each other at a wedding.  Both of these young people were focused on living as well as possible with as little effort as necessary.  While at the wedding they noticed the wonderful pile of expensive gifts and envelopes of cash that were being bestowed upon the happy couple, and they soon hatched a plot to become man and wife - for the gifts!

But, their lives being a Keenan novel, problems quickly developed.  Problems such as Gilbert's mother's new husband (and his many, many quirky relatives) being part of the mafia, and Moira's royal (duchess) mother not quite living up to her hype - or pedigree.  And then there were psychotic dress designers, professional gossips, blackmailers, a drug-addled cross-dresser, and the list goes on - and on!  Philip, the narrator, and his friend, Claire, try to extricate the couple from the mess they have created, but each effort to set things aright quickly complicates the situation even further.

Joe Keenan has written three novels with essentially the same cast of characters - and each titled after a show tune:  Blue Heaven (1988), Putting on the Ritz (1992), and My Lucky Star (2006).  During the long hiatus between the second and third novel he worked as a producer and writer on the television show Frasier, which also speaks to his ability to inspire laughter.

I hope that Joe Keenan as well as Philip and Gilbert are around for a long, long time to come.  They are funny guys!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another Lottery Scam

by Pa Rock
Lotto Fiend

The lottery is controlled by crooks, both big and small.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped at the local convenience store to buy an iced tea as well as a Missouri Lotto ticket and a Powerball ticket.  I don't usually invest in Powerball since the price was raised to two dollars a ticket a couple of years ago, but with the current jackpot at $267 million, I decided to take a chance - one chance.

I knew shortly after I got home that I had definitely lost that two dollars.

The store where I bought those two lottery tickets was busy, and I just accepted mine and left - not bothering to look at them until I got home.  Upon examination of the tickets, the Missouri Lotto appeared to be normal, but something struck me as odd about the Powerball ticket.  Missouri puts the amount of the current jackpots on each ticket sold, and the amounts on the Powerball ticket were wrong.  It took a minute to figure out the problem, but I soon realized that the clerk had sold me an old Powerball ticket - one from last Wednesday's drawing - a ticket that had already lost.

Once I had left the store there was no way of proving that it wasn't me who had switched the ticket - so I took my loss gracefully.  This morning I returned to the same store where I was waited on by the same clerk.  I again purchased a Missouri Lotto and a Powerball ticket - and then I held up the line while I carefully examined each ticket.  Hopefully the message was received.

Lottery tickets should be checked at the point of purchase.  For an expenditure of $2.00, a person ought to have at least one chance in 179 million of winning the big jackpot.  Anything less is criminal!

(Note:  New York Lottery officials recently changed the rules on Powerball effective this October 7th.  They have added numbers to the main group and lessened numbers in the small group.  It will become slightly easier to win smaller prizes - but the odds of winning the big Kahuna will jump to one in 292 million.  Bastards!)

The Fate of the Ostrich

by Pa Rock

My dad used to have a saying, one of many:  a person should only have what he can take care of.  That lesson was brought home clearly to me through my efforts at trying to keep an ostrich.

As I noted in this space a few days ago, I bought two young ostriches on a whim back in the days when I had my little farm outside of Noel, Missouri.  One was a bit too young and disappeared the first evening that she was there.  The other, an adolescent male, quickly grew to tower above me and learned that he had the ability to physically frighten me - or, as my neighbors would have put it, he "got his bluff" in on me.

After our foot-and-fist fight, I had a new respect for, and fear of, the ostrich.  For the next few weeks I always had my gladiator shield (garbage can lid) in hand when I went into the barn lot.   The dance we did was one of careful observation and extreme caution.

But then one day I came home and the ostrich was gone.   I had what I felt to be adequate fencing to handle the menagerie of goats, and pigs, and emus, and the ostrich - but the big bird had somehow managed to to scale (or jump) the fence and hit the road to freedom.  And I would have wished him well in his travels and moved on if not for the fact that he was dangerous and posed a threat to others in the neighborhood.

I rounded up a neighbor lad who was good with a rope and also had a rifle.  When we located the bird, he would not let us get close enough to try to lasso him, and, as evening approached, I gave the order to shoot.

That act, killing an innocent bird, was hard to experience at the time, and it was hard to write about just now.  The poor ostrich did not asked to be born into captivity, nor did he choose to be sold off to someone who lacked the proper training to raise him successfully.   He was a creature meant to run free, yet his life was completely at the mercy of people.

Pa Rock had acquired something that he couldn't take care of.  The fault was his.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Guinea Non Grata

by Pa Rock
Poultry Provocateur

One more tale from the barnyard.

I don't know the collective noun for guineas - or even if there is one.  Based on my own observations of the hard-working farm fowl, I would hope that it is something both descriptive as well as colorful - such as a "geyser" or a "squawk" of guineas, but with my little assemblage of just eight of the chigger-chasers, I doubt that the world will be beating a path to my door in search of the best collective noun.  So for the purposes of this essay, I will simply refer to mine as a "flock."

Guineas are the most self-reliant breed of fowl at Rock's Roost.   They search out their own food supply and navigate the farm during the day in an established pattern that runs as if on a schedule.  The only things guineas are not adept at is self-protection.  Last year I lost my entire flock of twenty to nighttime predators.  This year I lost nineteen of twenty-eight to predators, but the remaining nine managed to survive most of the summer as a cohesive group.  Then, while I was in Alaska, predators caught one napping.

Guineas stick together.  They dart from place to place across the lawn, a quick herd movement, and always together.  On the odd occasion when one or two get separated from the group, a squawk goes up from all of the birds until the errant few find their way back to the flock.

Yesterday morning, while scattering bread for the chickens, I noticed that another guinea was missing - bringing the size of the flock down to seven.  A bit later as I was giving the peacocks their daily bread - and forgiving their trespasses - I came upon the errant guinea.  Soon the rest of the flock wandered close to the scene, and the lost guinea rushed to rejoin his friends.  This time, however, instead of welcoming him back, several birds in the main group charged out and ran him off.  A few minutes later the scene was repeated.  It was obvious that he had become a guinea non grata.

This morning the little guinea is still on his own.

Expulsion from the flock is so un-guinea-like.  I am puzzled as to what behavior or circumstance could lead an established member of the flock to be driven out.

Life at the farm continues to be an education - and an amazement!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis Enlightens Congress by Word and Deed

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress this morning and apparently regaled that august body of professional politicians with a laundry list of things they didn't want to hear.   Being somewhat disconnected from the world, I didn't see or hear the remarks of the Pontiff as they were happening, but I have since read the reviews on various internet news sites.

It sounds like the Papal speech may have been a disappointment to the dark red (and orange) Republicans who control Congress.  Apparently Pope Francis failed to flog the conservative stalking horses of abortion and gay marriage, but did support that importance of "life" by speaking against the death penalty.  He lamented the unfairness of economic inequality, called for action to address the coming catastrophe of climate change, decried discrimination, and even proposed a solution for the refugee crisis - to employ the "golden rule."

Pope Francis has been in charge of the Catholic Church long enough now that his views on the important topics of the day are fairly well known.  He leads with his humanity, a practice that more often than not puts him at odds with the world's political and business classes - and with elected bodies that primarily serve the needs of the rich.

Most members of Congress knew going into the event today that they would not be enthralled with the Pope's message of preserving the planet and lifting up the poor and downtrodden.  That's not what this Congress is about.   The man addressing them might be one of the most important religious figures on the planet, the heir to the throne of St. Peter, but he was no Benny Netanyahu.  Some put up predictable scowls for the cameras when certain points were made, but for the most part the group was polite and attentive.

Interestingly, the United States Supreme Court, itself a basically Catholic institution (with six of the nine justices being Catholic and the other three Jewish) was not well represented.  Five justices skipped the event altogether.  The three Catholic justices not in attendance were all conservative firebrands:  Alito, Scalia, and Thomas.

All of the Pope's talking points to Congress were anticipated - with no major surprises - a cake served plain.  The frosting came after the speech when instead of going to a fine luncheon packed with important national dignitaries and their families, the Pope instead left the Capitol Building to go out on the streets and commune with the poor.

Pope Francis was, for today at least, Christ's man in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tim Macy Celebrates his Birthday in Los Angeles

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My youngest, Tim, is turning thirty-six-years-old today.   He and his family are spending this week in Los Angeles where Tim is promoting his writing.

Tim lives and works in the Kansas City area.   He is the author of two novels - one of which was published at - as well as numerous short stories, television scripts, and movie screenplays.  Two of Tim's screenplays have been filmed:  The Brass Teapot (2012) and the recently completed Tatterdemalion which is in the currently in the editing process.

Tim Macy excels as a husband and father, a writer, a hard-worker, and a consummate human being.  He always makes me proud.

Happy 36th, Tim!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Day I Fought the Ostrich

by Pa Rock

I recently heard a portion of a "Ted Talk" on National Public Radio in which the speaker was discussing the fact that everything we put onto the internet is one more piece in the ultimate composite of who we are - or, more accurately, who we were during our brief time on earth.  Eventually someone who wants to know about each of us will be able to pull up that composite and have a fairly accurate representation - our blog posts, tweets, responses to things other people have posted, Facebook items, reviews posted to Amazon - you name it.  We are creating our virtual selves.

As someone who has spent much time trying to sift family history from dusty old letters and records, I know that the further back one digs, the scarcer are documents relating to our ancestors' past.   But now, thanks to all the garbage that we've flung onto the internet, we are leaving an enormous amount of personal history for others to sift through.  Fifty generations from now people will have to do no more than just press a button to draw up shockingly complete family histories - at least back through this generation - with all the juicy stuff that some might prefer not be passed along.

While dealing with that mindset, I began thinking about trivia from my life that might not yet be included in my internet story - tidbits that I would like to have preserved.  One item that came to mind was the story of the day that I fought the ostrich.

When I had my last little farm, three-and-a-half acres on a hilltop in the pines just outside of Noel, Missouri, it gradually evolved into a petting zoo - sort of like what the current Rock's Roost is doing now.  I had several small goats, a few domestic rabbits, a dozen or more hens and a few roosters, two wonderful farm dogs, a goose, a Tom turkey, two peacocks and two peahens, and four emus.  One day while working with some foster children clients near Nevada, Missouri, I came across a lady who was raising ostriches.  Long story short, her birds were reasonably priced, and I wound up purchasing two from her:  a very young female, and an adolescent male.

The female ostrich disappeared the first evening she was at the farm.  She was small and fairly defenseless, and probably wandered too far from the protection of the dogs and was gobbled up by a predator.  The male, however, did just fine.  I had him for a couple of months, and he grew big (very big) and healthy.

To understand what eventually happened with the big bird, a brief lesson on ostrich anatomy is in order.  Ostriches have two toes on each foot, a smaller toe on the outside, and a much larger on the inside position.  The big toe also has a formidable toenail.  There is a joint in the leg a foot-and-a-half or so above the foot which resembles the human knee - but it is actually an ankle joint that bends backwards - in the opposite direction of a human knee.  As ostrich attacks an enemy, it raises one of the powerful feet, and plunges forward using the deadly toe as a human might wield a knife.

That's what happened to me as I was out feeding the animals one evening.  I was scattering grain for the chickens and goats, when Mr. Ostrich suddenly got concerned that his pan was still empty.  Before I knew what was happening, the heretofore peaceful ostrich raised his foot and lunged forward right at me.  His toenail caught the collar of my shirt which ripped completely down the front - and also left a nice scratch down my chest approximately where a heart surgeon was destined to leave another scar a decade later.

The ostrich, a virgin to mortal combat, was as shocked as I was, and for a moment we just stood our ground and stared at each other.  But then my own survival instincts kicked in.  With no time for clear thinking or careful planning, I doubled my fist and socked him right in the beak.  The surprised bird turned and walked away, and I ran for the house.

From that day forward, when I went out to feed the animals, I always carried a metal garbage can lid as my Roman gladiator shield.  It kept the ostrich at bay and let me get my work done in relative safety.

The ostrich eventually ended up at the big zoo in the sky, but that's another story - one more page in the composite destined to be the total internet representation of Pa Rock.

Perhaps we'll get to it tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "The Spell of the Yukon"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

While in Alaska last month I had the opportunity to visit with a very interesting lady who was running the Klondike National Park's museum store in Skagway.  She had been a park ranger in the area years before, and after retiring from the park service had jumped at the chance to return to Skagway to run the little shop.  While there, I picked up two small books of poetry by Robert W. Service.  I am a longtime fan of this particular poet, and have two other volumes of his work in my home library.  But these little books that I bought in Alaska are special - because they come from the cold frontier made famous by the poet.

Mr. Service, who was on the scene during the famed Alaskan gold rush of 1898, recorded many of his observations in rhyming verse, often employing his sharp wit as he sketched comical vignettes of the characters who came to Alaska seeking their fortunes.  His "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" are American classics.   Both examine the unique quirkiness of prospectors who roamed the cold hills and riverbanks of Alaska seeking riches.

Service's "The Spell of the Yukon" looks at the activity of the gold rush, but then overlays that adventure with the real treasure in Alaska - the beauty of the land itself.


The Spell of the Yukon
by Robert W. Service

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy - I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it - 
Came out with a fortune last fall, - 
Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.

No!  There's the land.  (Have you seen it?)
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when he made it;
Some say it's a fine land to shun;
Maybe;  but there's some as would trade it
For no land on earth - and I'm one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it's been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That's plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I've watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I've thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o' the world piled on top.

The summer - no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the fairness - 
O God!  how I'm stuck on it all.

The winter!  the brightness that bills you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and find you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I've bade 'em good-bye - but I can't.

There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless, 
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land - on, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back - and I will.

They're making my money diminish;
I'm sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God!  when I'm skinned to a finish
I'll pike to the Yukon again.
I'll fight - and you bet it's no sham-fight;
It's hell! - but I've been there before;
And it's better than this by a dam site - 
So me for the Yukon once more.

There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
It's luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It's that great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer, and the Snake

by Pa Rock

I'm always reading, often with two books going at once:  one in the car in case I get trapped in town or out on the road somewhere, and one next to my bed.  Reading is truly one of the pleasures of my life.  Sometimes I read to learn things such as from histories or biographies, and other times I just read to relax.  Mysteries and detective fiction often are my focus when I am relaxing.

A few weeks ago while digging through a shelf of dusty paperbacks, I came across The Snake, a book by famed crime author Mickey Spillane which features his hard-boiled detective, Mike Hammer.  Those of us old enough to have enjoyed television in the eighties undoubtedly remember Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer from the old CBS series.  It's hard for me to revisit that literary character without picturing Keach as Hammer.

The Snake, written by Spillane in 1964, was his sixth book in the Mike Hammer series - a string of books that continues to the present, though now Spillane works with a co-author, Max Allen Collins.  The Snake is an urban tale of corrupt politicians, police (some good, some not), beautiful Velda (Mike's secretary and more), and a young lady who believes that her step-father is trying to kill her.  It is interwoven with an abundance of crime:  an old robbery and three million dollars in missing loot, racketeers, drugs, and prostitution.

Mike Hammer, in his typical tough guy style, manages to kill a couple of people in the first few pages - and has his gun at-the-ready through the remaining chapters.  Hammer isn't necessarily on the side of the law, because sometimes the law or its agents are corrupt, but he is unswervingly on the side of justice.  He beds the beautiful women, kills the bad guys, and leaves the rest for the cops and society to sort out.

The Snake is not a great book, but it is typical fare for fans of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer.   Read it to relax and get swept away in a hail of bullets, broads, booze, and bad guys.  Mickey and Mike  will probably never make it into a Norton's Anthology of Literature, but neither will they disappoint those who come looking for tales of gritty urban crime and gumshoes who aren't afraid to pull the trigger.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ahmed's Amazing Clock

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ahmed Mohamed, a fourteen-year-old Muslim lad in a Dallas, Texas, suburb, stirred things up this week when he brought a homemade clock of his own design to school.   As any knuckle-dragging Texas school administrator knows, a Muslim with a ticking device is a terrorist, so the cops were called and the boy was promptly arrested.

Public outrage over the racist incident was swift and certain.

The University of Texas at Austin, perhaps hoping to demonstrate that there are a few hidey-holes in the Lone Star State where education is valued, quickly invited Ahmed to tour its campus - as did the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Facebook.  President Obama also lauded young Ahmed by inviting him to bring his amazing clock and stop by the White House for a visit.

It was that last invitation, the one from our President, that set the lunatics baying.  The tea-baggers quickly launched an all-out attack on President Obama for what they saw as his overt attempt to stir racial tensions.  To spearhead their offensive, the baggers rolled out the most vicious of their many attack dogs (and America's poster girl for Unplanned Parenthood), Bristol Palin.  The fired-up Ms. Palin immediately set to blogging and opined that the leader of the free world needed keep his nose out of this business because he was clearly encouraging racism.

"This is the kind of stuff Obama needs to STAY out of.  This encourages more racial strife that is already going on with the “Black Lives Matter” crowd and encourages victimhood."
The unemployed former reality TV personality has also criticized President Obama in the past for his having the audacity to rename Alaska's Mt. McKinley to its native name of "Denali," and for his positive attitude toward gay marriage.

Clearly Bristol Palin is a political force to be reckoned with and a cornerstone of American morality - at least in her own mind.  But Bristol is just a temporary apparition on the national landscape.  It is the smart and inventive young people like Ahmed Mohamed who are leading us forward.  They are our future.

Thank you, Mr. President, for recognizing and applauding that fact - and thank you, Ahmed, for inspiring us all with your amazing clock!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Stream Me Up, Scotty

by Pa Rock
Entertainment Junkie

When I finally quit the wasteland of satellite and cable television early this year, I set about finding alternative ways to bring amusement and entertainment into my home.  I quickly discovered Hulu, a "streaming service" on the internet that allowed me to access certain complete series of television programs and view them episode-by-episode in their entirety.  Hulu is a two-tier format.  There is no charge for the cheap tier which I accessed on my computer via the internet.  They have a second tier of programming for $10 a month which contains programs that the company deems are good enough to command a fee.  I stayed away from the second option and found plenty to entertain me on the free Hulu.  The big inconvenience with Hulu was that it was littered with short commercials.  (I understand that Hulu now has a commercial-free service, undoubtedly for a fee - but I have not tried it yet.).

This summer I got hooked up with a "streaming device," something called a Roku which allows me to connect with other streaming services on my home television.  The two that I primarily use are Netflix which has a small fee (though I am currently accessing mine legally through someone else's account), and Amazon which I get free by being a member of Amazon Prime.  I also have some other streaming options on the Roku, but find myself primarily using Netflix and Amazon - which offers tons of movies and television programs.

One thing that has not been covered very well by the offerings on the Roku are the British comedies and dramas - always among my very favorite shows.  Some of the very best, Dr. Who  and Sherlock, for instance, have made their way into the offerings of the American streaming organizations, but others I seem to have lost forever.  I have not seen a dusty re-run of Last of the Summer Wine, a comedy about a group of old people puttering around a quiet English village, in nearly a year.   Summer Wine, which ran from January of 1973 until until 2010 (295 episodes) is the longest running comedy in television history.  I miss those quirky old guys terribly.

i also miss Absolutely Fabulous!, Are You Being Served?, and Keeping Up Appearances - all of which I came to love as offerings on various PBS stations over the years.

That void in my life may soon be filled, however.  The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced this week that it is developing its own streaming service, one designed specifically to bring those quality British programs to American audiences.  My life appears on the verge of becoming complete!

Sign me up . . . and stream me up!

Satellite and cable television are quickly becoming the just the vaguest of bad memories!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies, and Answering Machine Lies!

by Pa Rock
Caller Number Fourteen

Remember the good old days - the time when you could pick up the telephone, call someone, and a human being answered?  Or, at the absolute very worst, you got a busy signal and had to try again in a few minutes.   Those were simpler times, my friends, much, much, simpler times.

These days you might get a person to answer a personal phone call, assuming that after identifying you on the caller i.d., that person wanted to speak with you.  But as for the possibility of immediately connecting with a human being on a business or government phone, well that just ain't a-gonna happen.

Today I phoned my doctor's office and was almost shocked when a human answered.  However, before I could recover my voice and equilibrium, the telephone receptionist burped out a rapid monotone greeting which ended with "Please Hold."  At that point the recordings took over.

"Your call is important to us."  (Obviously it isn't or I wouldn't have been shuffled off to answering-machine hell.)

"We do appreciate your call and will be with you just as soon as possible."  (Or, barring that, shortly after hell freezes over.)

"Our receptionist will be right with you."  (I know it is just a machine doing the talking, but I could swear that I sensed a smirk with that one."

"We will be with you as soon as possible."  (Another lie.)

"Thank you for your patience while waiting."  (Not a problem.  I'm spending the extra time on the internet shopping for another doctor.)

"All of our representatives are currently assisting other customers."  (Or having lunch.)

"We value your comments about how we can make your experience with our office better."  (Somehow, I seriously doubt that they want to hear anyone's comments on their customer service experiences.)

Seven or eight minutes later, time I will never get back, the receptionist returned to the line.  I asked my question and was immediately put back on hold, listening to the same set of messages, while she went in search of an answer.  The final answer was "I don't know."

I am so glad that I am on Medicare and have a full supplemental insurance plan.  I would hate like hell to be paying for this crap out of pocket!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fox Buys National Geographic: One More Blight on Intelligent Thought

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It was announced a few days ago that 21st Century Fox, the "news" organization managed by James Murdoch, Rupert's son, has come to terms with the National Geographic Society for the purchase of many of the assets of that esteemed organization - magazine, cable channels, maps, travel, and digital platforms.  Actually, the two organizations are forming a partnership which will temporarily, at least, be managed by personnel from National Geographic, but whose ownership and control belongs ultimately to the dark forces of Fox.

Think of National Geographic as a large, modern hen house with picture windows peering out into the future -  and Fox as . . . well, as a fox!

One of the world's premier science outlets, and the one which publishes a geographic and scientific journal that is the most readily accessed on earth, is being taken over by an organization with an anti-science - and particularly an anti-climate change mindset.

The mind reels, and boggles, and ultimately deflates.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Milking the Fame Cow

by Pa Rock
Movie Groupie

As mentioned in this space a few days ago, the local filming of the new movie, Tatterdemalion, was completed this past week and the cast and crew has now left the area.  Last Saturday our local newspaper, The West Plains Daily Quill, ran a front-page, above-the-fold story of the wrap-up of the filming - along with a few photos.

I subscribe to The Quill and therefore get one copy in the mail.  Upon seeing what a nice job the newspaper had done with recapping the film, I set out around town to purchase some more copies at convenience stores to send to family and friends.  Each place I stopped I pointed out the article to the store clerks and said, "My son wrote that movie," to which most replied with appropriate 'oohs' and 'ahs'. One young fellow did ask if that was the movie that Brad Pitt had been in town filming.

(No, Tatterdemalion was a real movie - while Brad Pitt's West Plains movie was imaginary!)

So, thanks to Tim and his friends in the motion picture industry, I have been busy building my fifteen minutes of fame a few seconds at a time!

The making of this movie did have a big impact on me and my family.  First, Tim and Erin and Olive got to spend a month in the West Plains area, a time in which my little granddaughter did get quite attuned to life of the farm - as well as to life on a movie set.  That little girl has had some amazing experiences in her short life.

My daughter, Molly, flew in from Oregon for a few days to visit with the family and to see the set.  Molly spent quite a bit of time watching the movie being filmed and interacting with the stars.  She told me it was the best vacation that she had ever had.

My oldest son, Nick, who lives here in West Plains, got to help with some of the location scouting, and he also got a bit part as an extra in the bar scene - along with a couple of his friends.  Although I haven't seen any of the outtakes, I have heard that Nick is located quite close to the star, Leven Rambin, at the bar.

I visited the set for an hour or so one evening with Molly where the thrill for me was getting to watch Tim work and interact with the cast and crew.  Prior to the actual shooting of the film I was also involved in some location scouting and took the first photos of two locations that became prominent in the filming.  I had lunch with Tim and the director, Ramaa Mosley, on the day that she arrived in town and got to listen in on their discussions of the upcoming project.  I also rode with Ramaa on a couple of her scouting forays into the local wilds, attended an evening production meeting, and even got to sit in and watch some of the auditions.

All in all, I had some highly interesting experiences and learned quite a bit about the basics of film making.  My fifteen minutes of fame is slowly but surely filling up!

Thank you to all of the Los Angeles, New York City, and Kansas City people who invested so much of their summer in this movie and in the small and grateful community of West Plains, Missouri.  It was a very rewarding experience for all of us.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Seattle"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poetry selection, "Seattle," by the late Rod McKuen pays homage to my recent trip out west in a couple of respects.  First, it is about the natural beauty that surrounds Seattle and vicinity, an area in which I was fortunate enough to spend one of those wonderful days.  And second, I came across this particular poem in a collection by McKuen entitled Valentines which I found on the same trip while perusing the used book store in the Salem (Oregon) Public Library.

In this brief verse the poet talks about the difference between monuments to God, natural things such as tall trees, and monuments built to man - with cities being the example he uses for that.

Saint Ronald Reagan once famously said in defense of loggers who had surreptitiously cut down the tallest tree in America - "A tree's a tree.  How many more do you need to look at?"  If America has been reduced to two camps, one which sits and ponders the giant redwoods and the other which stares hypnotically at a Trump Tower, look for me among the trees.

by Rod McKuen

I'd like to be a lumberjack again
straddling high trees
          instead of high-born women,
climbing heavenward among the branches
out of the well of meaningless words
I've fallen into from too much city living.

Trees are monuments to God,
          cities monuments to man.
I need to meet my God again
among the ferns and trees.
There's too much me in my life now
and not enough of Him

And so I'd like to be a lumberjack again.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Of Dropouts and Bookies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The evacuation of the overcrowded and wobbling GOP clown car finally began this past week as former Texas governor Rick Perry became the first bozo to roll off of the running boards.  That still leaves fifteen or so others to sort themselves out before the actual caucuses and primaries begin next February.

But if the wannabes of either party need help in determining their actual chances of prevailing in the race to the White House, Great Britain's bookies are busy taking bets.  As of a week ago, the British bookies saw Hillary Clinton as the candidate with the strongest chance of winning the race.   They had her at 1.1 to 1, followed by Jeb Bush at 4 to 1, Donald Trump at 8 to 1, and Bernie Sanders at 14 to 1.

The bookmakers also had Jeb Bush leading in the race to capture the Republican nomination at 1.88 to 1, followed by Trump, at 3.5 to 1, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio tied for third at 6 to 1.  On the Democratic ticket, the bookies had Hillary with a tight lead of .25 to 1 followed by Bernie Sanders at 6 to 1, and Joe Biden at 8 to 1.

If the bookies are up to their usual high level of accurate prognostication, and there is no reason to believe that they aren't,  Mrs. Clinton appears to be headed back to her old home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  There is no word yet on the odds of whether she will take Bill along on the move or not.

An article by Martin Rogers (a sports writer) in USA Today last week reported on the odds of the British bookies, noting that "It (the American election process) is a dirty fight, and the Brits are lapping it up."  Rogers quoted one of his bookmaker sources as saying, "America may be bigger and richer, but Britons get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that your politics are even more unproductive, vulgar, and captured by special interest than ours."

It almost sounds as if the bookie is implying that American politics have a stench similar to that of reality television.

Surely not!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Show Me the Video

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I used to have serious qualms about all of the video cameras that are watching the world in public locations.  In certain big cities, London, for instance, it is hard to go anyplace without being stared at by the eye that never blinks.  I felt that all of the video taping was a serious violation of privacy, a further indignity heaped upon the masses by an omnipotent Big Brother.

But now I'm not so sure.

Over recent months we have seen several examples of police assaulting people with little or no apparent reason.  Sometimes these incriminating films were taken by bystanders or passing motorists, and other times by the dash cameras in the cops' own cars.  Now there is a strong movement afoot to require all police to wear body cameras - a movement that is not resonating well with the police themselves.

However, body cameras for police make sense.  When police do happen upon an actual crime, the videos taken from their body cameras would give a judge or jury a very complete and accurate sense of what was happening at the scene of the event.  And if an untrained, inexperienced, or angry policeman did overreact, well that would be in evidence as well.   Body cameras should make police safer in the long run as they help to rid the streets of criminals, and they should have a calming effect on society as they remind police not to cross the line of proper response.

Today there was a petition at from a mother in Kentucky whose daughter suffered physical injuries in a special education classroom at school.  The little girl left the school with welts after being tied to a piece of furniture.  The mother spent a lot of time investigating the incident and learned that her daughter's individual educational plan was not being used and that she was being exposed to the general curriculum, something which was frustrating and scary to the little girl.

Now that Kentucky mother is circulating a petition in an attempt to get Kentucky to place cameras in all of its special education classrooms.  My concern with her petition is that it does not go far enough.

As a former teacher and school administrator, I know that classrooms truly are often a jungle.  Teachers are overworked and underpaid as they manage classrooms that are filled with far too many children.  The students come to school to socialize, or fight, or engage in numerous activities that take precedence in their minds over study and learning.  And parents, once overly supportive of teachers, now enter conferences with the stated view that their child is right and the teacher is wrong - when they bother to show up at all.

I also know from experience, that not every teacher is a good one, a person with the knowledge and self-control to run a functional classroom.

Cameras in every classroom in America (and on every school bus) would modify and record behaviors - and provide a valuable record for everyone as to what is actually occurring inside of those confined spaces.  It would be a record that could be easily reviewed and analyzed - and understood.

The world is a complicated place.  Reducing it to a video library sounds like a cold and heartless solution to that complexity, but perhaps, in an age of near unchecked authoritarianism, it is an idea whose time has come.  We all deserve to be safe at school and on the streets - safe even from our protectors.

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's a Wrap!

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

The film crew which has been headquartered in West Plains for more than a month now has finished its work and is headed home.  Their movie, Tatterdemallion, is in the post-production phase and will be getting ready for presentation at film festivals and general release over the next several months.

Tatterdemallion is the story of a young woman, Fern Sreaves, returning to the Ozarks following service in the Middle East with the U.S. military.   Fern's father has just died, and she is busy establishing herself in his residence when she encounters a little boy living alone in the woods.  The movie focuses on Fern trying to bring some sense to her situation as well as to that of the boy.  It is a very poignant story.

Ramaa Mosley was the director of this film, and the principal screenwriter was Tim Macy.  The pair worked together previously on the movie, The Brass Teapot, with was featured on Showtime and Netflix, and shown in theaters.

This film production was a mini-economic boon to the Ozarks, bringing employment to several local individuals including some who will be featured in significant roles in the movie.  It also brought in people from outside of the area who spent money and helped spur on the local economy while they were here.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Tatterdemallion.  Thank you for choosing to come to the Ozarks to create your cinematic vision!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Morehead, Kentucky: A Gay Marriage Mecca

by Pa Rock
Urban Planner

Rowan County, Kentucky, and its largest city (and county seat), Morehead, have been in the news over the past few weeks as its officious county clerk, Kim Davis, sought to make herself a martyr and national celebrity by refusing to follow the law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Mrs. Davis told the press that he was making that controversial stand against gay marriage under "God's authority."

The four-time-married Mrs. Davis who became pregnant with twins by husband number three while still married to husband number one apparently felt herself to be the obvious choice to determine and uphold God's will in matters related to marriage.  Republican presidential candidate and fellow spokesman for God, Mike Huckabee, rushed to Morehead to share Mrs. Davis's limelight and to be on hand when the judge finally released her from her confinement.

Mrs. Davis describes herself as an apostolic Christian who goes to church every time the doors are open, a statement that might lead to the assumption that Rowan County and Morehead are particularly fundamentalist Christian in nature.  And to a certain extent, that is true.  According to the 2000 census there were 25 evangelical churches in the county, four mainline protestant churches, one Catholic church, and one Latter Day Saints.  But even with all of those doors open on Sundays, not many people attend.   Rowan County ranks 113th of the 120 Kentucky counties in overall church attendance.

The county also describes itself as "moist" when it comes to liquor sales.  Rowan is a dry county, but the city of Morehead does allow sales of package liquor.

Part of the reason that liquor sales are allowed in Morehead, as well possibly why such a low percentage of county residents go to church, may be the presence of a small public state university being located in Morehead.  The school, Morehead State University, is home to more than ten thousand students, making it likely to serve as some sort of balance to the area's conservatism.

The median family income in Rowan County is just barely over $33,000 per year.  The average income for males is $26,777, and that of females is $20,104.  Those figures would tend to strongly indicate that it is an economically depressed area - even with a university.  Clearly, the county could stand some sort of economic stimulus - especially after the reporters tire of Mrs. Davis and her delusions of importance and return to their homes out in civilization.

My humble suggestion:

I recommend taking advantage of this momentary bubble of fame - in a positive and pro-active manner - and making Morehead the gay marriage capital of America.  While the city itself would likely be resistive to this change in its character, the national gay and lesbian community could make it happen with the establishment of open-minded wedding chapels, as well as speciality bakeries, florists, and travel agencies.  Morehead, being located along the foothills of the Appalachians, would undoubtedly also have many scenic spots for honeymoon cottages and resorts.  And surely many of those college students already in town would jump at the chance to work at someplace other than a mill or a factory.

This could be an idea that revitalizes a community.  Morehead could go from being the kind of place that produces Bible-thumping bigots to a town that embraces the living Constitution in all of its glory.  When the town has fully established itself as America's gay beacon, the proud citizens will be able to look back and know that they have people like Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee to thank for its transformation.

Morehead, Kentucky, could have a lot of pride in its future.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Visit from an Old Friend

by Pa Rock
Gentleman Farmer

Rock's Roost was graced with a visit yesterday from an old friend.  Rosemary Maxam, whom I knew in my undergraduate days at Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University).  She dropped in for a day and an evening.  Rose, who lives and works in the state of Texas, has been visiting her sister and relatives in the Kansas City area, and took that opportunity to come to West Plains to see what all of the farming buzz is about.

I think she found the dogs to be too friendly, and Thor, with his big, muddy paws, never missed an opportunity to jump up on her.  Little Rosie and Riley also managed to make nuisances of themselves for most of the visit.

I gave my friend the standard farm tour and then we went to town and saw the sights there.  One of the places we visited was the old farm house that is featured in Tim's upcoming movie, Tatterdemallion.  We also managed to have meals at T.J.'s Steakhouse and Brenda's Cafe, two of my favorite local eateries.

I don't keep up with many of my old friends from college, but Rosemary does - primarily through Facebook.  It was interesting hearing what so many of those old timers are up to!

Now my company is gone and life is settling back to normal.  This evening will be my first night back at pinochle in nearly a month - and I am looking forward to that!  I feel a double run coming on - or at least double aces!

Safe travels, Rosemary.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Floyd Sreaves at Eighty-Five

by Pa Rock
Family Man

I only have two remaining relatives from my parents' generation.  Sweet Aunt Mary out in San Diego was married to my Uncle Wayne, making her an in-law - though the charming and witty 90-year-old certainly feels more like a blood relative than someone who married into the family.  And then there is my mother's youngest sibling, Floyd Edgar Sreaves.  Floyd turned eighty-five-years-young this past Saturday, and a big celebration was held in his honor at the Swars Prairie Baptist Church in rural Newton County on Sunday afternoon.

I made the nearly four-hour trip to Uncle Floyd's birthday bash to wish him well - and to check in with the assembled cousins - some of whom I had not seen in multiple decades.  If I counted correctly, there were eight cousins present, all grandchildren of Daniel Alexander and Nancy Jane (Roark) Sreaves.  In addition to myself (the oldest), there was my sister, Gail Macy, and Cousin Bill Dobbs (the prosecuting attorney of McDonald County).  Two of Uncle Ned's girls were there:  Nedolyn Sreaves LeMasters, a retired elementary school teacher, and Amy Jane Sreaves (whose married name I don't know).  Three of Uncle Floyd's daughters were also at the party:  Connie Sreaves Fisher, and Roxanne and Dana Sreaves (whose married names I also don't know).

And there were kids and grandkids aplenty!  Uncle Floyd even introduced two of his great-great-grandchildren to the gathering.

Uncle Floyd and I had a nice visit.  He remembered that the last time we had seen each other was at my father's funeral.  That would have been in December of 2009 - a long time ago.  (I have lived in Japan since then!)

I met a young lady at the party named Jennifer, the daughter of one of my cousins, who has an interest in climbing the family tree.  I hope she follows through with her research.  It is a fascinating field of study, and I am so glad to see it being picked up by the younger set.

One genealogy-related thing that I did that afternoon was to get out and walk through the cemetery at the church - a place where multiple generations of my grandparents are buried.  Back when I was working hard at collecting family tree information, I would spend hours in cemeteries meticulously writing down information.  Now all one has to do is just quickly snap pictures of the tombstones with cell phones!  That plus the availability and ease of using the internet makes modern family research so much simpler than it used to be.

Mom used to tell the story of Uncle Floyd visiting her at the hospital after I was born.  He would have been seventeen at the time.  Apparently Floyd picked me up and looked me over, and then said with a straight face, "Why Florine, he's only got nine toes."  That remark threw the new mother into a panic!  (Just for the record, I had ten toes - and still do!)

Sunday was a long day - over seven hours on the road, but it was a nice reunion - one that I would have hated to have missed.  It was great getting to re-connect with so many people!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Shirt"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It is Monday, Labor Day, in the year 2015.  While Labor Day is seen by many as the unofficial end of summer and a grand excuse to barbecue, it represents, in fact, so much more.  Almost every improvement in the lives of American workers over the past century and a half has come about through the direct involvement of labor unions.  (The forty-hour work week, paid sick leave and vacations, worker safety requirements, compulsory education for young people - and so much more.)  Now, sadly, one political party in the United States appears hellbent on rolling back all of those gains and returning workers to the subhuman degradations that they endured back in the dark ages of American manufacturing.

Scott Walker and his union-busting Republican colleagues don't have the intellect or or the common decency to be ashamed of themselves, so it falls upon the rest of us to be ashamed for them.

The following poem by Robert Pinsky references the infamous fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1911 - a tragedy in which over one hundred and forty individuals -mostly women - working in an upper-story sweat shop lost their lives when fire swept through the building.  They were locked in the workroom with no fire escapes - a time that modern Republican politicians regard fondly as "the good old days."

Unions are good things, they represent our humanity.  Republican politicians, as a rule, represent our greed and our lesser selves.  They are not good things.

Always look for the union label - and thank you Bernie Sanders for ensuring that every item in your campaign store is union made.

by Robert Pinsky

The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms   
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord.   Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,

The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.