Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Could Things Get Any Moore Strange in Alabama?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a Republican primary election next Tuesday in Alabama that will determine which of two ambitious politicians will ultimately earn the right to represent their party in the race to fill the Senate seat recently held by Jeff Sessions.  The race is between the appointed incumbent, Luther Strange, who, as the state's attorney general, was widely thought to have abandoned an investigation of the state's governor so that that same individual would appoint him to the vacant senate seat - which he did, and a Bible-spouting lawyer, Roy Moore, who has twice been forced out as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court due to conflicts that he created over religion.

Strange, by virtue of his brief incumbency, has attracted lots of campaign cash and the support of such "strange" bedfellows as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.  Moore, who has far less funding than his opponent, also has some noteworthy public support from political powerhouses like Steve Bannon and Sarah Palin - as well as one of the Duck Dynasty hillbillies.  With only seven days left in which to campaign, most polls show Roy Moore with a significant lead.

The Senate race in Alabama is mean and getting meaner.  Both sides are accusing the other of being a part of "the swamp," with Strange being portrayed as carrying water for Mitch McConnell and Moore being cast as a part of the Mobile (Alabama) corrupt political machine.  And whoever ultimately prevails will still not be assured of six years at the public trough because the Republican nominee will still have to face a Democrat , former U.S.  Attorney Doug Jones, in the fall.  And with feelings this bitter, it is not inconceivable that Jones could win.

Donald Trump is planning a trip to Alabama this week to personally campaign for Luther Strange, a journey that will give the blowhard New Yorker some degree of ownership of Strange's ultimate success or failure.  It is a risk, and apparently one that Trump deems worth taking.  It could be a smart political move, or, perhaps more likely, Trump's trip south could be a sign of things to come - a very, very long midterm campaign season in which Republicans fight ruthlessly to rip each other asunder.

2018 may be a year of bloody Republican primaries - and, if it is, it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of folks.  Here's hoping The Donald makes time to personally become involved in each and every one!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "The Wanderlust"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

From my perch by the living room window I am struck by the wandering nature of the fowl who reside here at Rock's Roost.  There are four varieties of domestic farm fowl who call The Roost home, and each has its own distinctive roaming patterns.

The chickens, which in reality are two hens and eight roosters, stick very close to the chicken coop during the day, and it is rare when they drift more that twenty-five feet from their abode.  The two little hens, in fact, spend most of their time inside of the coop, perhaps due to the pronounced gender imbalance within their community.

The five geese also sleep in the chicken coop, reluctantly allowing themselves to be shooed in right at dark and then bursting forth in gleeful anticipation of a new day when the coop door is opened just before dawn.  They roam the entire yard, but have the good sense to stop at the road.

The guineas, who for the past couple of years have numbered only three, also sleep in the coop, generally going in voluntarily as it starts to get dark.   During the day they roam much of the neighborhood, and are not afraid to cross the road, albeit quickly.  Guineas establish a touring pattern and can generally be found in the same locations at the same times throughout the day - seldom varying from their schedule.

The peacocks, who were confined in an aviary and barn for their first three years at The Roost, have been running free for the past few weeks, and they are busy establishing their roaming patterns.  The first few days the peacocks (two actual peacocks and five peahens) were loose, they would return to their pen each evening to be locked up for safety.  Soon the two peacocks and four of the hens decided that they preferred to roost in the treetops, and they gave up the pen.  One hen, however,  continued to show up each evening to be locked safely into the pen.

Now one peahen, perhaps the one who was sleeping on her own in the pen, appears to have taken up residence on down the road.  I hear her calling the others most mornings, but they ignore her pleas to come visit.  The remaining six roam the neighborhood, much as the guineas do.   They still sleep at The Roost in a pair of their favorite trees.

Rock's Roost, it would seem, has become the home base of a multitude of feathered wanderers.  To honor these free spirits, I have chosen as this week's poetry selection, "The Wanderlust," by one of my favorite poet's - Robert W. Service.  It is an introspective piece in which the poet discusses his lifetime of wanderings and anticipates his final trek, the one that will lead him into the unknown territory of  eternity.

Please enjoy this piece by America's gold rush poet who did so much to chronicle life on the Alaskan frontier.  There is much to be said for wanderlust.

The Wanderlust
by Robert W. Service

The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,
Has dumped me on the tailing-piles of dearth;
The Wanderlust has haled me from the morris chairs of ease,
Has hurled me to the ends of all the earth.
How bitterly I've cursed it, oh, the Painted Desert knows,
The wraithlike heights that hug the pallid plain,
The all-but-fluid silence, -- yet the longing grows and grows,
And I've got to glut the Wanderlust again.

Soldier, sailor, in what a plight I've been!
Tinker, tailor, oh what a sight I've seen!
And I'm hitting the trail in the morning, boys,
And you won't see my heels for dust;
For it's "all day" with you
When you answer the cue
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has got me . . . by the belly-aching fire,
By the fever and the freezing and the pain;
By the darkness that just drowns you, by the wail of home desire,
I've tried to break the spell of it -- in vain.
Life might have been a feast for me, now there are only crumbs;
In rags and tatters, beggar-wise I sit;
Yet there's no rest or peace for me, imperious it drums,
The Wanderlust, and I must follow it.

Highway, by-way, many a mile I've done;
Rare way, fair way, many a height I've won;
But I'm pulling my freight in the morning, boys,
And it's over the hills or bust;
For there's never a cure
When you list to the lure
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has taught me . . . it has whispered to my heart
Things all you stay-at-homes will never know.
The white man and the savage are but three short days apart,
Three days of cursing, crawling, doubt and woe.
Then it's down to chewing muclucs, to the water you can eat,
To fish you bolt with nose held in your hand.
When you get right down to cases, it's King's Grub that rules the races,
And the Wanderlust will help you understand.

Haunting, taunting, that is the spell of it;
Mocking, baulking, that is the hell of it;
But I'll shoulder my pack in the morning, boys,
And I'm going because I must;
For it's so-long to all
When you answer the call
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has blest me . . . in a ragged blanket curled,
I've watched the gulf of Heaven foam with stars;
I've walked with eyes wide open to the wonder of the world,
I've seen God's flood of glory burst its bars.
I've seen the gold a-blinding in the riffles of the sky,
Till I fancied me a bloated plutocrat;
But I'm freedom's happy bond-slave, and I will be till I die,
And I've got to thank the Wanderlust for that.

Wild heart, child heart, all of the world your home.
Glad heart, mad heart, what can you do but roam?
Oh, I'll beat it once more in the morning, boys,
With a pinch of tea and a crust;
For you cannot deny
When you hark to the cry
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust will claim me at the finish for its own.
I'll turn my back on men and face the Pole.
Beyond the Arctic outposts I will venture all alone;
Some Never-never Land will be my goal.
Thank God! there's none will miss me, for I've been a bird of flight;
And in my moccasins I'll take my call;
For the Wanderlust has ruled me,
And the Wanderlust has schooled me,
And I'm ready for the darkest trail of all.

Grim land, dim land, oh, how the vastness calls!
Far land, star land, oh, how the stillness falls!
For you never can tell if it's heaven or hell,
And I'm taking the trail on trust;
But I haven't a doubt
That my soul will leap out
On its Wan-der-lust.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Tatterdemalion" Set to Premier at Heartland Film Festival

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

"Tatterdemalion," a feature-length motion picture which was filmed in and around West Plains, Missouri, in the summer of 2015, is set to have it's world premier at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis next month.  The film's lead actress, Leven Ramblin, who has had roles in "The Hunger Games" and "Chasing Mavericks" will be in attendance, as will the movie's director, Ramaa Mosley, and the film's writer, Tim Macy.

Pa Rock will also be there - puffed up like a proud old toad!

"Tatterdemalion" is the second movie collaboration of Mosley and Macy.  Their first, "The Brass Teapot," premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012.   (Pa Rock was at that one, too!)  The film was distributed by Magnolia Pictures and was eventually featured on both Showtime and Netflix.  It was also reviewed in several prominent publications including The New York Times and Variety, and was nominated for the International Critics Award and the Saturn Award.

The central character of "Tatterdemalion" is Fern Sreaves, a veteran of the wars in the Middle East who returns home to attend the funeral of her father and to search for her wayward brother.  As she is becoming readjusted to the unique pace of life in the Ozarks, Fern discovers a young boy living alone in the woods, and that discovery leads her on a quest to both care for the abandoned child and discover his story.  Several local actors are also featured in this clever tale which is rich in Ozark traditions and folklore.

This year's Heartland Film Festival will feature a record 213 films from 104 countries.  "Tatterdemalion" will be shown at 2:30 p.m. on October 14th.

The popcorn is on me!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jemele Hill Nails It

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A few days ago ESPN sportscaster Jemele Hill took to her Twitter account where she called Donald Trump a "white supremacist."  Shockingly, Trump and his white entourage took offense.  Here is some of what Ms. Hill had to say in response to remarks from another tweeter:

"Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists."
"Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period."
"He has surrounded himself with white supremacists -- no they are not "alt right" -- and you want me to believe he isn't a white supremacist?"

Sarah Snarls:  Trump press tool Sarah Huckabee Sanders wanted to make sure that the nation, and particularly ESPN, understood her view that Ms. Hill's exercise of her First Amendment free speech rights was a "fireable" offense, particularly in the age of Trump.  Surely stating something that most nine-year-olds recognize as a gold-standard fact is far less "fireable" than using a publicly-funded position to lie to Americans about all manner of things day-after-day.  But still Sarah rattles on as if she matters an iota in the grand scheme of things.

Trump Dumps:  Donald Trump followed up a day or two later with a demand for an apology, though exactly for what remains uncertain.  Surely he wasn't offended by the "supremacist" part of the comment because he is fairly open in his contempt of everyone else in the world.   Trump was brought up to feel that he was supreme to others, and he wears his supremacy almost like a religious robe.  So what is the problem, Donald?  Are you denying being white?    Not everyone was weaned on reality television, Donnie, and there are people out there who flat-out don't like your vulgarity, selfishness, and abhorrent ego.  It might also help if you quit repeating your racist response to the violence in Charlottesville.

As of this morning we are still a free country with a whole list of civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution.  The first and foremost of those liberties is a right to speak freely.  People who choose to run for public office voluntarily place themselves in position where they are apt to draw criticism - some of which may be deemed to be unfair, and some of which does little more than to state the obvious.   Donald Trump chose to make himself the center of national attention, and Jemele Hill chose to take a few potshots at the persona which Trump has so carefully crafted for himself.

Donald Trump has a First Amendment right to associate with - and even defend - racists and bigots, and Jemele Hill has the same right to point out behaviors which many decent people find offensive.   

ESPN doesn't need to fire anyone, but America does.

Friday, September 15, 2017

To McCounty and Back Again

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Today I was on the road for a hurried round trip back to my old stomping grounds in extreme southwest Missouri - a total drive of 403 miles.  It was a day spent with old friends that included a visit to a library, lunch in a trendy cellar, some time talking to a couple of friends in a nursing home, and, sadly, attendance at a funeral.  I encountered some people whom I hadn't seen in decades.

Nursing homes and funerals - this phase of life has slipped up on me!

The drive was uneventful, no bumper stickers or other things of interest popped up to amuse or anger me as I ripped up and down the highway.  I did see one interesting bumper sticker yesterday here in West Plains.  A young man displayed a sticker on the rear of his car that said "I Don't Listen to the Liberal Media."  "Good," I thought, "You probably can't handle the truth!" 

Hopefully I can stay close to the farm for the next couple of weeks - and then I will be off for a weekend in Kansas City where son Tim and I have tickets to see "Kinky Boots" at the Starlight Theatre.  That will be a nice way to welcome Fall!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Motel 6 Leaves the Light On for Immigration Raids

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Phoenix New Times is, without question,  the best newspaper in the Valley of Hell.  It picked fights with out-of-control Sheriff Joe Arpaio for years and was instrumental in bringing many of the scandals involving the dubious lawman to light - often while the Valley's other news sources seemed to be providing cover for the misadventures of the maniacal sheriff.     The Phoenix New Times railed on Arpaio as he posed very real threats to the safety and lives of the residents of Maricopa County, particularly immigrants from Mexico, and burned through vast amounts of public revenue.  It was the New Times, perhaps more than any other news venue, which ultimately served to enrage the voting public to the point where Arpaio was voted out of office in 2016, even as the same county electorate gave its stamp of approval to Arpaio's hero, Donald Trump - bigly.

But just because Joe Arpaio and his twenty-year war on immigrants is finally off of the daily radar does not mean that The Phoenix New Times has folded its tent and slunk quietly off into the desert.  Just this week the venerable publication broke another story, which, though not about Arpaio directly, certainly relates to his unhinged and prolonged war on people with brown skin.

This week the New Times reported that at least two Motel 6's in the Phoenix area had been routinely sending Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) morning rosters of everyone who had checked into their units during the previous day and evening.  The reporting revealed that at least twenty "guests" at Motel 6's in the Phoenix area had been arrested by ICE agents.

The motel chain is blaming the problem on a couple of its individual motels and said that the practice only came to light last week and it has been stopped.  Law enforcement is barred by a Supreme Court decision of 2015 from forcing hotels to turn over guest information, so it seems likely that some members of staff made a decision to voluntarily release private guest information to ICE.  So far the motel chain has reported no reprimands or firings over the matter.

As these rogue Motel 6 units were providing the names of all guests to an agency of the federal government, that might also be of interest to the gun-shoppers who come from out of state to buy Arizona weapons by the truckload.

The lights are still on, for now at least - but Tom Bodett has some 'splainin' to do!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Confederate Monuments: History, Art, or Propaganda?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past Sunday morning as I was driving through northwest Arkansas I happened to hear a segment on a local National Public Radio (NPR) station about a controversy that was brewing over a Confederate monument at the center of the Bentonville, Arkansas, town square.  Two groups of local citizens appear to be busy passing petitions regarding the bronze statue of a Confederate soldier standing atop a large stone pedestal.  One group wants to remove the statue from its public perch, and the other petition seeks to preserve it - as history.

As a part of the story, the local NPR affiliate located an individual working at a college in Texas who had written her college thesis on that very statue.  The researcher gave an interesting perspective on the piece, noting that it was not erected during the Civil War era, but was paid for and erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy nearly fifty years later as an embellishment to the Jim Crow laws that were on the rise across the South.  Some felt that blacks had their heyday during the Reconstruction Era which immediately followed the Civil War, and by the beginning of the twentieth century it was time for southern whites to reassert their dominance in society.  Statues honoring service in the Confederacy were subtle ways of reminding blacks of their place on the bottom rung of the social ladder.

The college researcher noted that many of the Confederate monuments across the South had their origins in the Jim Crow period of the early twentieth century.  She also noted that while many of the statues might have plaques honoring specific individuals, the statues themselves were generic and often mass-produced.  She said that the statue in the Bentonville square was one of many stuck from that same mold that are still on display throughout the south.

The lonely sentinel standing atop the stone pedestal in Bentonville is historical in that it serves to remind us of the bloodiest epoch in our national existence, but beyond its historical significance, it serves as a statement of defiance and intolerance.  It is a very real insult to the millions of Americans who are descendants of the human chattel that Confederate soldiers fought to keep shackled in the chains of slavery.

The statue is history, but it is ugly history.

And it is art, albeit mass-produced art like the posters hanging on the walls of my living room.  They are art, but they will never be put on the auction block at Sotheby's.  These bronze soldiers were made on-the-cheap in northern foundries, they crumple when they are pulled down, and they would be just as at home in Walmart garden centers as they are in public venues.

But perhaps more than anything else, these monuments to a lost cause are propaganda, curiosities placed in public places to tell a story from a particular perspective - and in this case that perspective is intended to be hurtful to a large segment of the public.

We are all the results of history, and its impact on our lives and who we are cannot be denied.  But time flows forward and each day we must step bravely into the future.  We change, day by day, and we create more history as we go.  The world is not static, it changes and evolves.

If a Confederate monument is an important part of your heritage, then by all means honor that and keep it someplace safe - such as in a museum.  The place where it does not belong is out in front of people whose ancestors were kept in subjugation by the people those monuments honor.   Most Confederate memorials in public settings were erected for intimidation, and today they remain as taunts.

As a nation we must move past that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What Divides America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America which brought down both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and punched a big whole in the Pentagon.  In addition to thousands of lives lost on the ground, the crew and passengers of four commercial airliners also perished.

We all know the story of the attacks and their aftermath.  A couple of dozen young Saudi Arabians commandeered the passenger planes while they were in the air and, in three cases, managed to fly them into their designated targets.  The hijackers in the fourth plane had their plans interrupted when passengers staged a physical revolt.  Those hijackers opted to crash their plane into a Pennsylvania field rather than try to reach the U.S. Capitol.  Our glorious leader at the time, George W. Bush, (once he came out of hiding), promptly sent all members of the Saudi royal family home and then declared war on Iraq.  Not too long after that he also began pursuing war in Afghanistan, a war that rages to this very day.

A reporter on National Public Radio (NPR) yesterday asked several individuals about their memories of what they were doing on the day of the attacks, and then followed up with a query as to whether those people felt that the attacks served to unify America.  One young man - who sounded remarkably like one of my neighbors from further on down the road - said that he felt the events of 9/11 did bring the country together, but that now, sadly, the media was tearing it apart.

It was, I surmised, a stunning conclusion on his part, given the facts at play in the world in which I live.

Donald Trump has told this young man and all of my other neighbors who live further on down the road that the media lies and that it is tearing America apart - and those poor folk believe him with all their hearts and souls.  Anything that shows the world in terms that make them uncomfortable obviously can't be right - and then when Trump himself yells "fake news" or ridicules a journalist from his High Podium,  their fears are encased in cement and made real.

Of course, this particular neighbor and all of the others who drink from the same pitcher of Trump kool-aid are not completely wrong.  Our country is being torn apart and our historical values tested as they have never been before.  The source of the disharmony and outrage, however, is not the media nearly as much as it is our leader.  Donald Trump campaigned by pitting elements of society against one another, and sadly he governs the same way.

We are no longer a nation indivisible, we are a patchwork country of special interests who are being encouraged  to turn on one another.   The person who has worked so successfully to destroy our national unity is Donald John Trump.  Every day he and his administration work tirelessly to drive wedges into society and split us apart.  Separate and unequal - that's how Trump likes us.  Disunity feeds his libido and sustains his power.

What America needs is a world class leader with the heart, soul, and intellect to bring us together.  What we have is a greedy, self-serving, narcissist demagogue solely focused on feathering his own nest.  It feels like a truly bad reality television show.

Donald Trump is tearing America apart, and he is doing it intentionally.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mondya's Poetry: "The Hurricane"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Nineteenth century writer and poet William Cullen Bryant was perhaps best known as the editor of the New York Evening Post, a position which he held for over fifty years, and he was also politically active throughout much of his life.

Nature is a fairly constant theme in Bryant's poetry, and in 1854 he wrote "The Hurricane," a piece that was undoubtedly based on a first-hand observation.   Much of the imagery that he evoked then still appears to be relevant to the destruction that recent hurricanes have brought  to our shores.

Friends in Florida, please stay safe!

The Hurricane
by William Cullen Bryant

Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!

And lo! on the wing of the heavy gales,
Through the boundless arch of heaven he sails;
Silent and slow, and terribly strong,
The mighty shadow is borne along,
Like the dark eternity to come;
While the world below, dismayed and dumb,
Through the calm of the thick hot atmosphere
Looks up at its gloomy folds with fear.

They darken fast; and the golden blaze
Of the sun is quenched in the lurid haze,
And he sends through the shade a funeral ray--
A glare that is neither night nor day,
A beam that touches, with hues of death,
The clouds above and the earth beneath.
To its covert glides the silent bird,
While the hurricane's distant voice is heard,
Uplifted among the mountains round,
And the forests hear and answer the sound.

He is come! he is come! do ye not behold
His ample robes on the wind unrolled?
Giant of air! we bid thee hail!--
How his gray skirts toss in the whirling gale;
How his huge and writhing arms are bent,
To clasp the zone of the firmament,
And fold at length, in their dark embrace,
From mountain to mountain the visible space.

Darker--still darker! the whirlwinds bear
The dust of the plains to the middle air:
And hark to the crashing, long and loud,
Of the chariot of God in the thunder-cloud!
You may trace its path by the flashes that start
From the rapid wheels where'er they dart,
As the fire-bolts leap to the world below,
And flood the skies with a lurid glow.

What roar is that?--'tis the rain that breaks
In torrents away from the airy lakes,
Heavily poured on the shuddering ground,
And shedding a nameless horror round.
Ah! well known woods, and mountains, and skies,
With the very clouds!--ye are lost to my eyes.
I seek ye vainly, and see in your place
The shadowy tempest that sweeps through space,
A whirling ocean that fills the wall
Of the crystal heaven, and buries all.
And I, cut off from the world, remain
Alone with the terrible hurricane. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bad Gramma

by Pa Rock
Character Collector

Rosie and I have spent so much quality time together this weekend that she has gone into seclusion beneath the couch, apparently relishing a bit of privacy.

We made a hurried trip across the state to extreme southwest Missouri yesterday where we visited a friend in a nursing home and had some interactions with a couple of other friends.  Rosie was a hit at the nursing home as we sat out front on the porch and my friend, who is currently non-verbal, seemed to enjoy petting and playing with her.  Rosie, never a shy girl, really liked putting on a show for all of the old folks. who were outside getting some sun and fresh air.  Later we went to Aunt Gail's in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Rosie always has a good time at Aunt Gail's and jumps in the air and spins whenever I tell her that we are headed out to see my younger sister.

Last night we went to a barbecue at the home of my rich nephew, Justin, and his beautiful wife, Lisa.  My other nephew, Reed, and his equally beautiful wife, Jamie, were also there.  The food and company were exceptional!  Thanks, guys.

Our trip home was across northern Arkansas and was uneventful - and we got back around noon.  Later this afternoon I headed into town for an iced tea and lottery tickets.  Rosie, who was by then ready to hit the road again, hopped in for the ride.  I left her locked in the car while I went into a local quick stop.  When I emerged a young couple was standing at the car staring in a Rosie - and Rosie was parked in the driver's seat staring back.  The fellow asked me how long I had "him," and I replied that I "she" had been with me three years.  It turns out the guy thought he had found his missing dog which he described as being a male Chihuahua with features and markings exactly like Rosie.  I got suckered into a conversation and asked how he had lost his dog, and he replied that he had given him to his grandmother to watch, and while the little dog was with Gramma she sold him!

The couple was parked next to me in a mini-van - with no evidence of children.  Hopefully they hadn't let Gramma babysit for the kids, too!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

One, Two, and the Pig Flew

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's a particularly satisfying feeling when a belching bag of excrement gets his comeuppance while the whole world is watching.

Last week radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh told his listening audience that Hurricane Irma was "a hoax" designed to whip up a "panic" and exaggerate the dangers of "so-called" climate change.  According to Rush, the idea that a massive hurricane was going to devastate Florida was nothing more than just another liberal fake news story.

Today, of course, Irma is ravaging almost the entire state of Florida, and the injuries, deaths, and property damage are expected to be astronomical.

But what about Palm Beach, Florida, resident Rush Limbaugh?   His ditto-heads do not need to worry because Rush jumped in his Lear Jet and got the hell out of harm's way before that big bad gale of liberal fake news showed up to try and blow his house down.

Hopefully he had time to pack - or to at least save his stash of OxyContin.

Friday, September 8, 2017

BritBox Disappoints

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

I continue to be proud of the fact that I cancelled my satellite television service way back in early 2015 and am getting along just fine without current programming and commercials, thank you very much.   For awhile I got my television fix through DVDs and watching YouTube and Hulu on the Internet.  Them my son hooked me up with a Roku streaming device, and from that point on I have had access to literally more television programing than I could handle - and all without commercials.

I rely on two primary sources for the programs that I watch on the Roku - Amazon and Netflix.  Access to Amazon did not cost me any extra out-of-pocket because I was already a member of Amazon Prime.  Netflix is around ten dollars a month, considerably less than I was paying for the satellite service.  Both of those providers enable access to movies as well as popular television programming.  Both also market original movies and series which they develop and produce themselves - usually high-quality viewing.

If I could only have one of those two programming providers, I would choose Netflix.  With Netflix a viewer has a complete and honest choice among its hundreds of offerings - which are updated monthly.  Amazon also has a good variety, but with Amazon viewers don't always have automatic access to the offerings.   One annoying trait of Amazon is that it will occasionally lead viewers on with free access to a season or two of a really good show, one like the PBS series "Poldark," and then, after the viewers are hooked, throw in a charge for the next season.

Also, sometimes there is an intervening service to which one must subscribe in order  to see certain programs.  Amazon will entice viewers to click on programs, and then a notice will pop up saying that to access that particular show viewers will need to subscribe to Acorn, Masterpiece, or some other service.  With Netflix one gets what one clicks on - but that's not always the case with Amazon.

My favorite genre of programming is British television shows, both comedy and drama, produced by the BBC - and I am a particular fan of British detective programs and mysteries like "Midsomer Murders," "Luther,"  "A Touch of Frost,"  "Jonathan Creek,"  "Dalziel and Pascoe,"  "Rosemary and Thyme,"  "Death in Paradise," "Poirot," and  "Miss Marple."  Recently while trying to access a British detective/mystery offering from Amazon, I learned that I could only get to it through a service called BritBox.  After a brief bit of investigation it became clear that this new service was the Holy Grail of British offerings.

I was connected to BritBox about a week ago and dived right into the buffet of great programs.  Sadly, the experience was a bust.  The shows were available, alright, for anywhere from five to thirty seconds at a whack, and then they would disappear as the service spent several long minutes rebooting.  Over the past week I have managed to watch two 50-minute episodes of "Hettie Wainthrope Investigates" (starring comic genius Patricia Routledge of "Keeping Up Appearances" fame), an endeavor which took several hours to complete. 

The Roku operates off of the Internet service in my home, and while that service sometimes is below what I would hope for,  Netflix and Amazon operate relatively interference free.  I was left to deduce that the problem with BritBox was based with the provider - and reluctantly cancelled the service

BritBox is a new subscription service and a few start-up problems are to be expected - but the offering is, at my place at least, unwatchable in its current form.  I hope they can get the bugs worked out eventually provide all of that great British entertainment that America deserves.  For now, however, it is a dream deferred.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dolores Huerta Marches On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As a licensed clinical social worker of long standing, I have to stay constantly focused on earning Continuing Education Units (credits) - also known as CEUs - in order to keep my license renewed and current.  Usually that involves time spent in boring classes held in remote or inconvenient locations, or long hours in front of a computer screen taking on-line courses.  It is a necessary part of staying current in my professional training that often proves to be tedious and expensive - but not always.

Back in late 2006 when I was plying my trade as a civilian social worker at the army base at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky,  I came across an opportunity to earn CEU's that was unique in that it held the potential for having a bit of fun as I became educated.  The National Association of Social Workers was joining forces with Ms. Magazine and sponsoring a "feminist cruise" across the Caribbean that would offer enough CEUs to meet half of my two-year requirement as well as present an opportunity to interact with some preeminent figures of the feminist movement.

At the time I was working for a civilian contracting agency that offered, as part of its employment package, assistance in paying for CEUs.  I called my contractor and asked if that payment could include chipping in on a cruise.  To my surprise and delight, the contracting agency kicked in nearly half of the cost for the tropical adventure.

The cruise left from Ft. Lauderdale, made a stop in Key West, and then sailed on southward to Mexico and Central America where we visited ports in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala.  There were sightseeing excursions at each of the ports - such as one that I took to a American-owned banana plantation where some of the labor was being performed by children.   Most of the "education," however, occurred shipboard while we were at sea.  It was there that lectures, programs, and small group sessions were held and social workers who had come along were able to earn their CEU's.

The group was small enough (probably less than 200 total) that it was easy to interact with the celebrities who were in attendance and often directing the educational efforts.  The first night of the cruise, at a booze and cheese reception, Eleanor Smeal, a founder of The Feminist Majority and a former president of the National Organization of Women (NOW), came up and introduced herself to me with a cheery "Hi, I'm Ellie Smeal."   She was an engaging conversationalist and seemed particularly interested in hearing about life on an army base.  Later, at that same event, I took the initiative and introduced myself to Tyne Daly, the actress, and also found her to be personable and engaging.

Other fellow travelers that I remember encountering on that cruise were Dr. Martha Burk (an author who gave a stinging indictment of Walmart), pollster Celinda Lake, and LaDonna Harris whom I had previously met at a campaign stop in 1972 when her husband, former Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris, briefly ran for president before being knocked out in the primaries by Jimmy Carter.

But all of those celebrities were just the second string as far as I was concerned.  The real star of the whole trip was Dolores Huerta, a civil rights and labor icon whose social protests reached back into the 1950's.  Huerta served alongside Cesar Chavez in the struggles to unionize migrant field laborers, and she had been on the stage with Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles just minutes before he was shot and killed.

Dolores Huerta spoke to one of the workshops about prisoners rights in California.  At that time I was working with a foster student whose mother was in prison in California, and Ms. Huerta and I had a discussion about her case.  She gave me the names of some people to contact in California - and, more importantly, she expressed a sincere interest in the case.  (The mother - actually an adoptive grandmother - was elderly and infirm and was eventually released for humanitarian reasons.)

And the reason I am thinking of Dolores Huerta  is that DailyKos has chosen to publish a piece on her today focusing on her continuing activism - at the age of eighty-seven!  Dolores is not happy with Trump, and she is livid about his efforts to end DACA.  But the seasoned fighter sees some good in with the bad, noting that Trump is serving to fire up progressive activists.   She was quoted as saying that she thinks the '60s are back.

I hope she is right.  It would be a comfort to realize that something positive has germinated in the terrible time of Trump.

The DailyKos piece ended with this challenge and call to action:

"May we all find the tenacity and courage to actively organize and fight this battle in whatever ways we can—and may we all channel our own inner Dolores. "
That would be a truly worthy goal for any of us.   Dolores Huerta is a beacon of tolerance and justice from out past that needs to forever shine into the future.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Second Coming May Be Upon Us

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

With storm clouds from Hurricane Harvey still visible in the rear view mirror, the struggle to clean up and rebuild the coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana that were devastated by ferocious storm system has already begun.  Donald Trump asked Congress for $7.9 billion in aid for the stricken areas, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott believes that $180 billion might be a more realistic request.   Conservative estimates suggest that a complete recovery from the horrors inflicted by Harvey will take years to achieve.

The National Weather Service in describing Hurricane Harvey said:

“This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”

But Harvey is just the first gut punch of this hurricane season.  Irma, which originated in the Atlantic, is now a Category Five hurricane and whipping into the Caribbean.  Weather models indicate that it is likely to reach Florida by this weekend.   While Irma was still out in the Atlantic it was being touted as the most powerful hurricane ever to exist outside of the Caribbean Sea.  It's a biggie, and Irma is going to do some serious damage wherever it happens to come ashore.

(A good friend living in Key West has already evacuated and is en route to sanctuary in Atlanta.  Stay safe, Coretta!)

Irma is gut punch number two. 

Jose, also based in the Atlantic, is on deck to follow Irma toward the Caribbean and southeastern United States.  It will be this season's third gut punch - and after him Katia is already forming.

Harvey was "unprecedented," and Irma, before she even got to the Caribbean, was "the most powerful hurricane to ever exist."  And then there will be Jose, and Katia, and who knows how many others. 

It's looking as though this will be one hell of a hurricane season.  Trump's request of nearly eight billion dollars for rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey may seem like little more than chump change after all of this year's storm bills are submitted for payment.

None of the great scientific minds that Trump has appointed to head the various federal agencies associated with the environment know what is going on, or, if they do they aren't at liberty to share that information with the unwashed masses.  We must accept the word of our government that four feet or more of rainfall within a few hours has nothing to do with climate change.  We must accept the assurances of demonstrably un-Christian people that any change in weather patterns has more to do willful sin and lesbian mayors than it does with man's misuse of the planet.

It's like we are witnessing the Second Coming - of the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Trump Prepares to Pass the Buck on Dreamers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Within the next hour or so Donald Trump is expected to announce his plan for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order initiated by President Obama more than five years ago.  The Obama program, which has proven to be very popular with the American public, has allowed young people who arrived in the United States illegally, but as children, to remain in the country as they pursued education and jobs.  Under the Obama plan, these individuals who had no control over their parents' decision to break United States immigration law have been allowed to apply for two-year renewable permits that allowed them to avoid deportation.

Many Americans view DACA as an overt act of kindness and fairness, but others in this country are not so understanding.  Donald Trump spoke to America's intolerant element during the campaign when he promised to "immediately" end the DACA program after his election.  "Immediately," of course, did not happen, and now the political blunderbuss is returning to his promise with much less gusto and personal involvement.

The intensity within the White House to end DACA, often mischaracterized as the "dreamer" program, waned as the nativists who followed Trump to Washington, people like Steve Bannon and Simon Gorka, began losing influence and disappearing from the scene.  But Trump, who has of late been besieged with scandals, investigations, and political pressures from a variety of sources, has felt the need to reignite his base.  To that end, he has, of late, been stoking the fires of intolerance with renewed talk of border walls and tax reform.

A key part of the Trump plan to make America whiter was the elimination of the DACA program.  But now some prominent members of his own party are expressing their reluctance to send this emerging talent pool back to countries that many of them haven't seen since they were infants.  Trump, ever mindful of his sinking approval ratings, is reportedly going to punt on this lightening rod issue and "defer" the implementation of his decision to end the program for six months while Congress tries to pass a permanent measure that would protect this vulnerable set of individuals.

If House Speaker Paul Ryan and his "moderate" buddies want to save the program, here is their opportunity - but if Congress fails to act, as it seems to almost constantly do, them the removal of these young people is on them.  The Donald's hands are clean.

Donald John's hands will also be clean when it comes to handling today's announcement.  Instead of him stepping up to the microphones and personally crushing the hopes of millions of deserving young people and their families, he is turning that task over to his evil little toad, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, has no qualms whatsoever in deporting brown people and crushing dreams.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Street Musicians"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

American poet John Ashbery passed away yesterday at the age of ninety in his home state of New York.  Ashbery, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1976 - as well as nearly every American award for poetry, was widely recognized as one of this nation's preeminent word stylists.  Many regarded Ashbery as one of the most distinctive poets of the last fifty years.

To honor this great man of letters, I have chosen "Street Musicians" which was written in 1977, the year after he won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award, a period of time when he was certainly at the height of his poetic prowess.  This poem is from Ashbery's collection entitled Houseboat Days.  To me this piece is a cold look at growing old - but make of it what you will.

Street Musicians
by John Ashbery

One died, and the soul was wrenched out
Of the other in life, who, walking the streets
Wrapped in an identity like a coat, sees on and on
The same corners, volumetrics, shadows
Under trees. Farther than anyone was ever
Called, through increasingly suburban airs
And ways, with autumn falling over everything:
The plush leaves the chattels in barrels
Of an obscure family being evicted
Into the way it was, and is. The other beached
Glimpses of what the other was up to:
Revelations at last. So they grew to hate and forget each other.
So I cradle this average violin that knows
Only forgotten showtunes, but argues
The possibility of free declamation anchored
To a dull refrain, the year turning over on itself
In November, with the spaces among the days
More literal, the meat more visible on the bone.
Our question of a place of origin hangs
Like smoke: how we picnicked in pine forests,
In coves with the water always seeping up, and left
Our trash, sperm and excrement everywhere, smeared
On the landscape, to make of us what we could.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Trump Brings His Kool-Aid to Springfield

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald John Trump and I were both in Springfield, Missouri, this past Wednesday.  I drove through shortly before noon on my way home from Kansas City, and Air Force One dropped Donnie and his entourage off in the early afternoon.  Neither of us spent any more time in "The Queen City" than we had to.

Trump spoke to an invited and seated crowd at a plant that manufactures industrial fans.  The owners of the factory are well known in Missouri Republican circles and have donated over $200,000 to various state GOP candidates.  Trump said he chose Springfield for his important policy address because, being located on historic Route 66, it represents America's Main Street.  (Of course, by that standard Chicago, Amarillo, and Los Angeles are also symbolic of America's Main Street - and some would argue that those cities are far more representative of American diversity and enterprise than the cow town sitting on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.  But that is grist for the blog posting of another day.)

It was Springfield where Trump chose to dump his major policy address - an appeal for tax reform.  The speech, like all policy spouted by the Trump administration, was light on specifics, but one thing he did touch on was the need to lower corporate taxes, something that one must assume would help Trump personally, though that is impossible to know for sure because he still refuses to release his own tax returns.

And the crowd cheered as though Trump was proposing something that would benefit them.

Missouri's Republican governor and most Republican state officeholders were there, along with the state's sole Republican senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, and six Republican congressmen - all angling to be captured in news photos with their twitterpated idol. 

Noticeably absent from the Trump love fest was the state's attorney general, Josh Hawley, who is being pressured by party leaders to run against incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in next year's senate election.   One of Hawley's endorsers is former senator (and Ralston Purina heir) John Danforth, an Episcopalian minister who gave the sermon at Ronald Reagan's funeral.  In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post Danforth cut loose on Trump and declared that he was doing serious damage to the Republican Party.  The minister declared:  "Our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril."

Hawley has yet to disavow Danforth or his controversial remarks - and he has yet to declare his candidacy for McCaskill's senate seat.  Trump did, of course, use his Missouri podium to take a few tweet-worthy potshots at McCaskill, telling the small crowd essentially that if tax reform did not pass it would be her fault.

Those present were reportedly well sated with the vast quantities of baloney and kool-aid.

Do the honorable thing for once, Donald John, and show us your taxes!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Junior Trump Peddles His Wit and Wisdom in Texas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After learning that its campus would host an appearance and speech by Donald Trump, Jr., the student newspaper at the University of North Texas went to court to find out just how much of their school's money the son of a bankruptcy king would be taking home.  The staff of the publication learned from its successful use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that the Trump heir would pocket a hefty six figures.

(And none of that money will have to be laundered!)

Junior Trump will receive $100,000 for a thirty-minute speech, and then, just to make sure he really earns all of that easy money, he will also have to stick around and answer thirty minutes of questions - all of which will have been submitted to him ahead of time.  There will be zero risk of a headline-grabbing "gotcha" question ruining his trip south - not for a paltry hundred grand, there won't!  Junior Trump also had to agree to pose for pictures with some of the school's dignitaries and benefactors as a part of his six-figure payday.  An extra five grand will be included to cover transportation and lodging costs.

(Remember the old days when a student would have driven his own car to the airport to pick up the speaker, and then he would have been put up for the night in a dorm room?  The Trump's don't roll that way.)

This event, a speech by Donald Trump, Jr., is not about a prominent figure sharing his knowledge on a particular topic, for indeed the only knowledge that Junior Trump possesses that people actually want to know about will require the adroit use of subpoenas.   The University of North Texas is not buying the wit and wisdom of this particular speaker.   The school is, instead, purchasing influence within the Trump White House.  When the need arises, the University of North Texas will have a chit good for a hundred grand.  The school's administrators understand that, and so does "businessman" Donald Trump.

Most political grifters at least have the common decency to wait until they leave office before trying to cash in, but common decency is a burden that will never afflict the Trump family.

Friday, September 1, 2017

That's "Mister" Peacock to You, Bub!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

Way back in the early summer of 2014, during my first year at The Roost, I learned of a family living near Willow Springs who had some baby peacocks for sale.  Having had a prior experience raising peafowl, I drove out to her farm and wound up coming home with four chicks - so small that I was able to transport all of them in one cardboard box.  They quickly settled into a combination indoor and outdoor nursery and pen that I had set up.  The birds proved to be so easy to care for that before long I bought four more from another breeder.

As the birds got older it became apparent that six of them were females (peahens) and the other two were males (peacocks).  They quickly began outgrowing the nursery complex, and  my son and I built a large aviary connected to the old ramshackle barn that had been on the farm for generations.  The new facility, like the nursery, allowed the birds to go in and out of the barn at will, while remaining safe from predators by being caged when they were outside.

During the intervening three years they had a natural increase of one (a peahen) when one of the hens managed to hatch one egg out of a nest of about a dozen eggs.  There was also an artificial increase of one other through an abandoned egg that I managed to hatch in an incubator.  The incubator baby, Cosmo, was killed by predators soon after being released outside.  Two of the grown hens were also later killed by a predator who managed to get into their aviary on two separate evenings.

This spring the peahens laid many eggs, but refused to sit and try to hatch any of them.  I ran about two dozen eggs or so through the incubator process, but none of those hatched.  It was a year without an increase in the peafowl population at The Roost.

I had kept the peafowl captive for the past three years as a safety precaution.  This year, however, I began to sense that they were unhappy being constrained, and I knew that they particularly did not like the geese parading up to the aviary and taunting them.  Last Sunday I made a carefully considered decision and released the peafowl to go an explore the farm.  They are territorial creatures, and I knew that after three years in this one location they might roam, but they would  very likely head back to the aviary to roost when evening approached.  Thankfully, that assumption proved to be right.

On Sunday as I released the five remaining peahens and two peacocks, all five geese rushed forward at the gate to assert their dominance.  One goose grabbed a peahen by the top-not and shook her.  That quick attack, however, was the only victory that the poor geese were destined to experience in the war with the peafowl.

One of the peacocks decided that he was tougher than the geese, and he proceeded to strut his stuff in open defiance of the goosetapo.  Before the day was over he had completely taken charge of the five geese and was marching them around in a frenzied, but tight, formation.   In fact, the angry peacock marched the five geese into the hen house two different times during the day, something that had to be humiliating to the geese who had up until then been the acknowledged masters of the yard.  By the next night the peacock was helping me put the geese up in the hen house in the evening before he headed over to the aviary to retire for the night.

And now, nearly a week later, the barnyard dominance is clearly established and all of the routines have been set.  The peafowl leave the aviary every morning when I let them out, and they work their way around the farm as a group dining on bugs and clover - with the exception of the one peacock who still acts as a drill sergeant for the geese.

Hup, two, three, four!  Hup, two, three, four! 

(To every thing there is a pecking order - turn, turn, turn!)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Bottom Line in Houston

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The bottom line is that Houston - and, indeed, much of coastal Texas and Louisiana - needs our help.  Hurricane Harvey dumped rainfall on the low and densely populated areas of those states so deep that it had to be reported in feet rather than in inches.  The resulting flood would have gotten the attention of Noah, and it was just one of several occurring worldwide at that same time.

Texas politicians are among some of the hardest to convince that the earth is undergoing dramatic climate changes - and that those changes are the result of actions by mankind, never mind that the evidence is flooding the streets and homes of the people who vote them into office.  But regardless of the ignorance and indifference of their politicians, the people of Houston need our help.  That's the bottom line.

A big part of the reason that the flood damage has been so colossal in and around Houston is that the city and the state of Texas have never been proactive in addressing the danger of potential flooding.  Governing bodies are elected to find ways to increase gun sales, dumb down education, and stymie abortions.  Anything else is probably socialist in nature and can best be addressed through individual initiative or the good will of charities.  But the people who have traditionally never had a voice in Houston are now standing in four feet of water - and they need our help.  That is the bottom line.

Texas politicians were among some of the most mean-spirited in Congress when it cane to providing disaster relief to people in New Jersey and along the East Coast after the horrors of Hurricane Sandy - with over twenty members of the Texas congressional delegation and hateful Senator Ted Cruz voting against the aid package.  But now the shoe is on the other foot, and we must hope and pray as a nation that New Jersey's politicians possess more true Christian charity than their Texas brothers in Christ.  That's the bottom line - Houston and its neighbors need our help.

Joel Osteen, the well-heeled pastor of a Houston mega-church, an edifice to the glory of God that seats in excess of 16,000 donating souls at its regular services, literally tripped all over himself this week as he struggled to justify not opening his church's doors to the bedraggled and muddy refugees of the storm.   Negative publicity and increasing public pressure for some good old-fashioned Christian compassion has apparently finally succeeded in forcing Rev. Osteen to open the doors of God's showplace to the muddy masses, albeit belatedly and reluctantly. 

But this crisis isn't about protecting carpets and plush pews, or sticking it to East Coast liberals, or issuing recriminations against Texas for being Texas.  This is about casting a lifeline to those in need.  It is about the social obligations that should be felt by all humans - and that is the bottom line.

The Salvation Army has my donation.  I have had involvement with them through several disasters, and know firsthand they can be relied upon to spend the money where it is actually needed.  But regardless of how one chooses to get involved,  it is imperative that we all do something.

Houston needs our help.   That is the bottom line. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kansas City Sings Along with Garrison Keillor

by Pa Rock
Cultural Artifact

My son Tim phoned a couple of months ago and told me that Garrison Keillor was coming to Kansas City.  Did I want a ticket, he asked.  Having missed the opportunity to see Keillor perform with his beloved radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, I jumped at the opportunity to at least see the man himself.  Yes, I told Tim, get me a ticket.

Tim is always on the lookout for good shows headed into the Kansas City area, and consequently, since returning to the Midwest nearly four years ago, I have seen some stellar performances:  Cher and Cindi Lauper, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel - and also attended some wonderful plays.  Not bad for an aging hillbilly stuck two hours on the wrong side of Springfield, Missouri!

And when it comes to snagging a good seat, Tim never falters as he wields Old Dad's credit card with wild abandon.  He had me on the front row last night - just left of center - at the historic old Uptown Theatre (built in 1928) in beautiful downtown Kansas City.

Ordering the ticket for the Keillor performance was such a spur-of-the-moment thing that Tim and I both forgot about it until last week when he got a email reminder.  Tim called and got me geared up for a quick trip to the city - and then the pump in the well house went out and it looked as though I would miss out on the show afterall.   But the pump repairman came early Monday morning, installed a new part,  and had my well pumping water within five minutes - all for about the price of a front row seat-and-a-half at a Garrison Keillor event.

So, with the water restored at The Roost, Rosie and I headed northwest to Kansas City - where everything remains disgustingly up-to-date.

Keillor retired from hosting A Prairie Home Companion last year, or possibly the year before - so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Friends of mine saw him perform in Nashville a decade ago and said the show was primarily a monologue with some music.  As I entered the auditorium it was apparent from the stage setup that a small band would be on hand to liven up the show.

The program was billed as the "Prairie Home Love and Comedy Tour," so I had hopes of seeing some of the show's regulars that I had listened to for years.  I was not disappointed.  Rich Dworsky rocked the house with his piano-pounding skills, and sound effects genius Fred Newman proved amazing beyond description.  At one point Newman sang while playing a "jaw harp" and later whistled while playing the same primitive instrument.  Keillor challenged Newman several times during the three-hour show with stories involving all types of weird things, animals, and events to which Newman automatically responded with appropriate sounds - a game that they often played on the old radio program.

The stage band consisted of four members including Dworsky.   A beautiful and very pregnant vocalist by the name of Aiofe O'Donovan was also a central focus of the show.  The young lady sang numerous duets with Keillor and performed several individual numbers.  Miss O'Donovan had a powerful voice, echoing a bit of Loretta Lynn, and accompanied herself with a guitar on a few of her numbers.

Keillor was a bit of a surprise as appearance goes.  At the mature age of seventy-five he remains instantly recognizable to those who are familiar with his work.  But for an elite individual who reportedly spends much of each year living in Paris (France, not Texas), his wardrobe was remarkably relaxed.  He wore a beige suit that was so rumpled that it could have easily come directly from the bottom of a laundry hamper.  He also wore a long-sleeved white shirt adorned with a red silk tie, and red socks and red sneakers.  The sneakers were understandable for a person who was required to spend the better part of three hours standing on a stage and walking through the auditorium.  The sneaks probably had a long personal history with the star, because they were obviously older than at least his teenage daughter - and the right sneaker had a pronounced hole along its outside edge.  (Okay, maybe I was too close to the stage!)

But the man definitely looked comfortable, and through his storytelling and singing he made several hundred folks from the Midwest comfortable as well.

There is little point in trying to describe Garrison Keillor's performance.  Most of graying America has listened to him for decades, and he is, in person, exactly what one would expect.  Keillor is familiar with Kansas City, and he managed to weave quite a bit about the community into his monologue - as he does with all cities that he visits.  He sang one of own compositions which focused on the names of many rivers in Missouri, and he made several references to the  Starlight Theatre, the venue which he has initially intended to use for last night's performance.  Keillor made the audience feel that he was at home in Kansas City as they were.

The show began on time (yeah, team!) with Keillor strolling out into the audience and leading the house in a sing-along.  He began his set with "My Country Tis of Thee," progressed through "Shenandoah"  and several other familiar American classics, and ended on stage with the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There."  As he closed out the sing-along he solemnly noted that the people in that theatre were among the last generation who would be able to sing those tunes without frantically searching for the lyrics on their phones!

Two hours after the show began, Keillor (who never left the stage) called for an intermission.  He told people they could go out in the lobby for a drink, work on their cars, or do whatever they needed to do to get ready for the rest of the performance.  He then added that he would spend the intermission singing.  A few ran for the bathrooms, but most members of the audience stood by their seats and sang along with the one of the most familiar voices in America.  We sang verse after verse of "Home on the Range" and even did "Silent Night."  The Uptown's acoustics combined with the gentle exuberance of the crowd to create a group vocal experience that sounded like it could have originated in Vienna (Austria, not Missouri).

The Love and Comedy Tour presented several staples of the familiar radio program.  "Powder Milk Biscuits" and "The Catsup Advisory Board" were both nominal sponsors of the event, and "Lefty" of "Dusty and Lefty" also put in an appearance at an Old West saloon where he he had a spelling duel with a character given voice by Fred Newman.  It was during the cowboy skit that Keillor and Newman combined to poke some good-natured fun at Donald Trump.  Sadly, Guy Noir was a no-show.

And then there was the jewel of the show, Garrison Keillor's iconic "News from Lake Woebegone" (where all the women are strong, all the men good-looking, and all of the children above average).  This particular monologue contained classic bits from older shows - including on of my favorites where the twenty-four large Lutheran ministers go for a cruise on a twenty-two foot pontoon boat.  It took Keillor about two fifteen-minute stints to get through all of the "news" from Lake Woebegone.  He related it all, in his dulcet tones, without notes while sitting on a stool at the edge of the stage directly in front of his biggest fan in West Plains, Missouri.  It felt like he was looking directly at me as he chatted about the good folks in Lake Woebegone.  That seat was priceless!

I missed out on seeing a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion during the years that Garrison Keillor was at the helm, but with last night's Love and Comedy Tour I managed to get awfully damned close to correcting that bit of personal history.

Garrison Keillor is a comic genius and folksy entertainer who remains at the top of his game!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Road to Nuclear Annihiliation for Dummies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

North Korea has been on a fairly steady course of developing a nuclear capability for several years now, a feat it is accomplishing by directing massive amounts of the nation's struggling economy toward the military and a missile program while letting millions of its citizens essentially starve.  North Korea is a nation constantly on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, yet it is also an increasing military threat to the rest of the world.

The Obama administration tried to leverage good behavior from North Korea through diplomatic efforts and sanctions, a strategy that worked to some extent and slowed the expansion of their missile program.  Those types of measures are viewed as soft by the Trump White House which prefers to practice diplomacy through 140-character insults and threats.

The world has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the threat level from North Korea since Donald Trump took office in January.  The North Koreans began lobbing their missiles into the sea and demonstrating an ever-increasing distance range.  Trump, ever the showman, responded to this growing threat to world order with what he considered to be a bigger threat - his infamous "fire and fury" comment.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, who is himself a bit like Donald Trump, responded ot Trump's unhinged bluster with a threat of his own to fire a missile at the U.S. Territory of Guam.  Japan then entered the verbal fray and noted that it would shoot down any North Korean missile headed toward Guam.  It was at that point that Kim Jong Un did his only retreat, modest though it was, by saying North Korea would only shoot a couple of missiles into the sea close to Guam.

Over the past few months we have learned first that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching Alaska and a few points within the continental United States.  A few days ago we began hearing that North Korean missiles can now reach any point within the continental United States.

But we don't worry because the United States, like our allies in Japan, has the capability of shooting down North Korean missiles - right?  (And, of course, we also have legions of goobers with guns crawling the hills eager to protect us from whatever menace the NRA and the Klan identifies as a threat.)

Yesterday North Korea launched a missile that flew over northern Japan and then landed in the sea.  The Japanese failed to shoot down a missile flying over its own homeland and instead implored the people of Japan to "take cover!"

Thankfully, one must suppose, Donald Trump was busy reinventing segregation and dealing with the flooding in Texas.

We live in dangerous times, ones where a pair of ignorant blowhards control the fate of every living thing on the planet.  We may cling to hope that Donald Trump will be held in check by the knowledge of what even a few limited nuclear strikes would do to the world economy and ultimately to his personal fortune, but Kim Jong Un has less skin in the game - he has no golden towers to worry about.

Donald bellows "You wouldn't dare!"  And Kim does.

Wouldn't this be a wonderful time to have an adult in the White House.

Pa Rock predicts that fallout shelters are going to be making a comeback.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It would have been far more appropriate to post the lyrics to this song last week on the day of the solar eclipse, and to my credit I did mention in that post that Bonnie Tyler had been hired by a cruise ship company to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on a voyage during the big event.  But for reasons now lost in the murkiness of time, I opted instead to rerun "The Daffodil Poem."

Today Rosie and I are in Kansas City, and I always try to make mental notes of unusual things that I see on the long drive between my home and KC.  One oddity that I came across on today's trip was a feature on a car that I happened to pass somewhere near Bolivar, Missouri.  It was a very small, boxy white car that bore long eyelashes above each headlight.  Eyelashes on cars may be common sights in some areas of the country, but for this old timer from the sticks it was a first.  The lashes were about eight inches long and curled upward with the wind - and were actually quite becoming.

And as I passed that little car, the phrase "turn around, bright eyes" popped into my head and has been camped out there ever since.  Now I am left to wonder if the car's eyes wink?

"Total Eclipse of the Heart"  is an iconic song that is primarily associated with one artist - Bonnie Tyler.  The song was actually written by James Richard Steinman.  May he and Tyler sop up royalties on this work forever because it is a poetic masterpiece given life by a resounding voice.

Total Eclipse of the Heart
by James Richard Steinman

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you're never coming round
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified
And then I see the look in your eyes
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
'Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
And there's nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight (and I need you now)
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight (and if you only)
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right ('cause we'll never be wrong)
'Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
And there's nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart
A total eclipse of the heart
A total eclipse of the heart
Turn around bright eyes

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Life in the Dry Lane

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I rise early here at The Roost, an hour or so before daylight.  I wake automatically without the aid of an alarm - and almost never oversleep.  My internal clock, it would seem, is one of the few components of this aging body that still works as well as it did when I was twenty.  (Though, come to think of it, I usually tended to oversleep in my wasted youth.)

My morning routine is fairly . . . well, routine.  I take care of some personal business and then let the dogs out so they can take care of theirs, and then I sit at the computer and check email until Rosie and Riley are ready to come back in.  If it's cold or rainy they are usually begging to be let back in before I even get logged on to my email account, but on nice mornings they enjoy more time in the yard.  After  my own personal needs and those of the dogs are taken care of, I go outside and open the hen house and scatter grain for the chickens, guineas, geese, and peacocks. 

Today's routine, however, was truncated by a crisis.  I discovered within moments of arising that there was no water.  I had had a couple of warnings earlier in the month but ignored them because I am getting ready to switch from getting my water from a well to connecting to the rural water provider.  It's going to be an expensive proposition involving purchasing a water meter, having to pay for twenty-five-hundred-or-so feet of digging for the new water line, and then paying someone to connect the new line to the house plumbing -  so I have been hemming-and-hawing when I should have been biting-the-bullet and writing checks.

And now I have no water - and to further complicate the issue, it is Sunday, a day when I am unlikely to find someone to help me through this crisis.

The water did come back on for just a few minutes - time that I used to rush about filling eight available milk cartons, watering the plants, and filling the dogs' water bowls - and then it shut off again.  I brushed my teeth later while standing on the back porch and using bottled water - and I suspect that I will make a trip to the laundromat before this day has ended.

Tomorrow will no doubt involve begging tradesmen to do their jobs - and writing checks.

Life could be simpler, I suppose, but. if it was, it would not be nearly as interesting!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Racist, a Bully, and a Draft Dodger Walk into a Bar

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a Friday news dump that was epic even by Washington, DC, standards, Trump officials took out the trash yesterday evening and set it on the curb hoping that by the time the capital returned to business as usual on Monday (or Tuesday, in the case of Congress) much of the commotion over these news stories would have died down. 

The timing of the news dump was as good as the administration could have hoped for.  The three major television networks had completed their evening newscasts, and most news organizations were scrambling to cover the first major hurricane to hit the mainland United States in several years.  Maybe nobody would notice.

But "Trump Pardons Arpaio" was a headline that could not be blown off of the front page, even by a hurricane.   Everyone did notice, though few were surprised.  One racist bully looking after another is little more than business as usual in Donald Trump's America.     Those who were still suffering under the delusion that all persons are equal before the law in this country now officially know better.  The law is a contrivance to keep America's underclass in its place - and it does not apply in equal measure to the masterclass.

Another story that the Trump administration tried to bury in the Friday news dump revealed that Donald John had finally signed his promised ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.  The notion that a two-bit draft dodger can presume to decide which patriotic Americans may and may not serve in our nation's military is a manure sauce so rich and creamy that it merits being poured over the famous chocolate cakes at Mar-a-Lago.

And there was a third story that made its way into the dump, a story that has the potential to offend a big segment of Trump's white nationalist base.  Right-wing counter-terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka "resigned" and will likely slither on back to Breitbart to be with his buddy, Steve Bannon.  Multiple White House sources have indicated that Gorka's "resignation" was requested.    While no one working in the White House seems to have yet figured out how to control the boss's late night Twitter assaults, it would appear that an adult has at last come upon the scene and is ridding the place of bomb-lobbing assistants.  Thank you for that, General Kelly.

Donald Trump is sitting alone at the bar, but he has his ego and his many personalities to keep him company - and there is always his adoring fan base.  People love him, he knows that - and he deserves their love and adoration, he knows that, too. 

Just don't expect him to buy a round for the house because generosity is for losers.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump Trains his Fire on Republican Senators

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

During Donald John Trump's trip to Phoenix earlier this week he took pot shots at the state's two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.  Trump's attack on McCain was oblique with a complaint about the repeal of Obamacare failing in the Senate by just one vote - presumably McCain's.  Then, moments later he pivoted to Flake, though taking care not to call him out by name:

"Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won’t talk about him.”
Trump met with three potential Republican primary opponents to Flake while he was in Phoenix, reportedly trying to arrange a strong primary challenger to the incumbent senator. 
Got that?  Trump doesn't like McCain and he sure as hell doesn't like Flake.  Together those two are two percent of the entire United States Senate - and they are Republicans, members of Trump's own political party.

But McCain and Flake not the only Republican senators who have captured The Donald's ire.   Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska suggested before the election that he would prefer taking his children on a tour of dumpster fires than to actively work for Trump.  Senator Lindsey Graham who doubles as a personal body servant to McCain,has also garnered Trump's wrath on occasion, as has Senator Dean Heller of Nevada.

And then there's Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate - and also (obviously) a Republican.  Trump never tires of telling the politically seasoned McConnell how to do his job, and the story is now going around that the two haven't spoken in weeks and that their last conversation was a telephone call that was heavy with profanity and ill-temper.

And now there's Corker.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee comes across as a statesmanlike figure and is one senator who can usually be relied on to approach matters with calm deliberation before issuing carefully thought-out opinions.  Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He was widely rumored to have been in serious consideration for Trump's running mate in 2016, and some thought that he might even be named Secretary of State in the new administration.  Corker has a bit of gravitas.  People tend to listen to him.

Last week, after Donald Trump failed to castigate white nationalists for the violence and intimidation in Charlottesville, Bob Corker seemed to have reached his limit with the new administration.  In a statement to reporters in his home state of Tennessee, Corker said, in part:

"The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

Got that?  Trump has yet to demonstrate stability, therefore he is . . .

Trump's front-line liar, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said essentially that the administration would not dignify Corker's comments with a response, but the ever-petulant Trump could not let it go at that.  This morning he vented his spleen in a tweet and hinted at a political reprisal:

"Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in '18. Tennessee not happy!"
McCain, Flake, Graham, Heller, Sasse, McConnell, and Corker are all Republicans, and should the House of Representatives ever vote to impeach Trump, he will be tried in the Senate -  and each of those senators who have suffered from Trump's Twitter tantrums and bullying will have their say.  And then Donald Trump had best hope that they are not as mean-spirited and vindictive as he is - because payback is a bitch!

They will have the collective power to say, "Trump, you're fired!"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Crisis in Six Scenes

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

I'm old enough to remember Woody Allen doing stand-up comedy routines on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1960's, but for the past half-century or so the prolific writer, director, and actor has showcased his comedic and dramatic skills on the big screen - with an amazing total of twenty-four Oscar nominations for his work in those three areas.  Allen is, whether one cares for his work or not, literally in an artistic class by himself.

Now, fifty years after doing self-deprecating monologues on the Ed Sullivan Show, Woody Allen  has returned to the small screen with a six-part mini-series for Amazon, a series which he, not surprisingly wrote, directed, and starred in.  The show is titled "Crisis in Six Scenes."  In addition to Woody Allen, the series stars another comedic genius, Elaine May, and former Disney star Miley Cyrus.

Allen's foray into television collectively isn't much longer than a movie, with the six episodes being less than thirty minutes each.  The brevity of the project however does not limit the laughter.  The story centers on Allen and May playing an old married couple living on Long Island in the politically turbulent 1960's.  Allen is a writer of commercials who has had modest success with a couple of novels, but has fallen short of his life's goal of becoming the next J.D. Salinger.  May is a marriage therapist who works out of their home and has some unconventional approaches to saving marriages.

The plot kicks into gear when Miley Cyrus's character, an escaped sixties' radical, slips into their home one night seeking sanctuary until she can organize a relocation to Cuba.  The Cyrus character is the daughter of people that May had known earlier and thus has a connection with her.  May is supportive of the new arrival, but Allen is resentful (she eats his food) and paranoid that because he has helped to harbor a fugitive, he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he will be badly used by big convicts in the showers.

The show offers a refresher course in the philosophies of Chairman Mao and Che Guevara, along with a sense of what it was like to oppose the Vietnam War from behind the security fence of wealth and privilege.  And through the entire ordeal radical ideas are shared, tolerances and alliances are formed, and laughter prevails.

"Crisis in Six Scenes" is Woody Allen at his absolute best, and Elaine May ain't too shabby either!

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Milo, Erik, and the Profits of War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was written in the 1950's and had its roots in Heller's actual experiences in the Second World War.  

Milo Minderbinder was one of the Heller's most unique characters in Catch-22.  Milo was a mess officer in the fictionalized Army Air Corps unit stationed on a small island in the Mediterranean.   He figured out early on that war is nothing more than business.  Milo went on to build a highly profitable syndicate by buying and selling food and supplies that were intended for use by the troops.  As his business grew, he eventually was arranging military outcomes for profit, and, at one point, even had his own unit bombed as a part of a business transaction.  Milo Minderbinder was the ultimate war-profiteer.

Joseph Heller saw war as being fought by one class of individuals for the financial benefit of another class - the poor fight and the rich cash in.  Milo figured that out and managed to move himself to the winning side off that equation.

Erik Prince is a real person who, unlike the fictional Milo, had the good sense to be born rich.   Erik developed an ardor for the glamour of combat - though he still understood the business realities and unlimited profit potential of war.  Prince founded the company originally known as Blackwater which provided contractor services like body guards and mercenaries for the Bush wars in the Middle East.

Erik Prince was an early adviser to the Trump campaign, and when Trump took office he seemed to have an inordinate amount of access to ear of the narcissist in the White House, most likely through the friendly channels of Trump's chief adviser, Steve Bannon.  Not only was Erik being heard on important matters like war, but his older sister, Betsy DeVos, was putting her indelible stamp on other matters of national import in her new position as Trump's Secretary of Education.

But now Bannon is out, and Trump has begun plotting war strategy without the able assistance of Erik Prince - and the war entrepreneur is not happy.

In fact, Erik has just referred to Trump's proposed new start in Afghanistan as "Obama Lite."  He said Trump's plan was a "continuation of the same limited or failed strategy of the last sixteen years."

What is Erik Prince's answer to turning things around in Afghanistan?  Erik believes the U.S. needs to be using private contractors instead of military personnel, services he would no doubt eagerly provide - for a healthy profit, of course.

And Betsy believes schools should be owned and operated by private businesses.

Milo would love them both - and he would trademark "Obama Lite!"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The War in Afghanistan Gets a New Owner

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last night the bloodshed and unrelenting horror that is the war in Afghanistan became the personal property of hotelier Donald Trump.    In a major televised address, Trump announced an about-face from his earlier position when, as a candidate, he had advocated for the United States withdrawing from the war.  Now the United States is apparently in it to win it.

Donald John might do well to turn off Fox News and watch the History Channel instead - because it is doubtful he would ever commit to reading anything as mundane as history.   The Afghan peoples have been fighting off the Brits, the Soviets, and now the Americans for nearly two centuries and all of the invaders have learned the hard way that the people and the terrain are almost impossible to subdue.  The British were involved militarily in Afghanistan three times between 1839 and 1919 and achieved a mixed record at best.  The Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1989) was such a disaster that it is credited as being a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And now the United States has been fighting there for sixteen years - and has been unable to conquer what is essentially still a third-world nation.

But Trump is going to fix that.  He is the man with the plan, although he was careful not to say what that plan was other than he was going to leave the war to "his" generals.  There are currently 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and that number will rise.  Trump won't say how many additional troops will be heading there, but "his" generals are hinting that the initial increase will be around fifty-percent - or four thousand more men and women in U.S. uniforms.  Trump will also tell us when we have won, though the criteria he will use in making that determination will be kept secret.

Trump's war in Afghanistan will have to be won militarily because, after six long months in office, Donald John still has not nominated an ambassador to Afghanistan.  Diplomacy, one must assume, is for losers.   "His" generals are probably still back-slapping each other this morning now that they are going to have free-rein to pursue this war.   But one has to wonder how the generals will be feeling six months or a year from now when no visible progress has been made, and a tantrum-prone Trump begins pointing his fat little fingers and assigning blame.

Military careers are going to end in scorn and ridicule.

Nothing is ever Trump's fault.