Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Well-Rounded Political Candidate

The Democratic primary result in New Hampshire makes at least one point--with me, anyway--that nobody has mentioned:

Bernie Sanders' complete evisceration of Hillary Clinton (60-38 percent) with the majority of women voting for him, shows a real maturity, at least in New Hampshire, of the women's movement. Women are no longer voting for a woman because she is a woman, but because they agree with her (or they vote for Sanders because they disagree with her).

I like the sound of that. It means female candidates for office can more readily concentrate on all the issues, especially those that interest them and about which they have expertise. Being a woman is a good thing, but being a well-rounded political candidate is pretty damn close to novel.

Now, we go to South Carolina (and then to the SEC primary week), where people are not quite so evolved. We may well see George Wallace emerge in full form (he has been showing up as Cruz, Trump and a couple of others).

The (Strong) Case Against Hillary in the Primaries

Hillary Clinton: The Supreme Court is the key.
[When you ask me to vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries] you are asking me to consciously give up on any hope I may have of living a sane life in our country. To vote for her in the primaries, I would need to believe that the establishment on both the right and the left have so thoroughly strangled the political system that it is no longer "reasonable" to even try for reform. I have to be so scared of political opponents gaining power that it is worth it to sacrifice even the hope of being able to get ahead, have a savings cushion, access healthcare, send our kids to college, retire, or just not feel like we're constantly living on a knife's edge, all because of fear of a potential future.

Robyn Morton in the Huffington Post (here)

Of course, as I have said many times, if it comes down to Clinton and any of the Republican nominees, I will vote for her without hesitation. I think our country can survive another politician like her. I am not sure it can survive Trump/Cruz/Rubio and the like.We already have a Congress full of people like them and we're struggling mightily just to be here.

Clinton will appoint two or three Supreme Court justices, perhaps with an opportunity to tip the balance against Roberts and company and if she does nothing else during her presidency--provided she wins--that would have major impact for decades.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pig Brings Margie Back to Me

My Margie has been blue this week because of a combination of circumstances (none having to do with impending Valentine's Day), so I figured I would try to giggle her out of her funk.

That's where the pigs come in.

Margie loves pigs. She has a pig screen cleaner for her computer screen, a stuffed pig (named Elbert, after me) to snuggle with when I'm occupied and now--Ta Dum!--she has what you see above: piggie slippers.

She found them on the sofa this afternoon when she got in from work and her mood became instantly sunny.

Thanks, pig. Got my Margie back.

A Little Local Color for Chinese New Year

Saturday's Chinese New Year's (Year of the Monkey) celebration at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke presented an opportunity to show off a lot of talent, not all of it limited to the Chinese who were being celebrated.

My friend Susan Kraughto, who re-introduced herself to photography after several years of a leave of absence, saw the color and pagentry and--using a simple point-and-shoot camera--took these lovely photos. Susan is a wildly enthusiastic photographer whose photos are infused with her enthusiasm and love of the form.

The New Year's celebration was sponsored by Local Colors, the wonderful organization my friend Pearl Fu took over more than 25 years ago (most of us feel like she founded it, but she didn't; she just made it). Anything Pearl is involved with becomes a celebration almost instantly, but the Chinese New Year didn't need any help. It is already over the top and the three groups of dancers added the exclamation point.

Here are some of Susan's photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Monday, February 8, 2016

National Anthem: Let's Celebrate Peace

Ironically, this service choir sang "America the Beautiful," While Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem.
It seems that every time I propose peace, I have to go to war for it. Last night as the Super Bowl opened and the military was parading its colors along with those of our country, I wrote the following on Facebook:

"I wish to god that we could de-militarize the National Anthem. I just watched the Super Bowl version of the NA and, except for Lady GaGa, whom I adore, I was left nauseated with the thought that my country is only about the military. Wouldn't it be lovely if our national colors were carried out onto the field by physicians from Doctors Without Borders, indicating our deep concern for the people of the world?"

My buddy Mark Dearing wrote that the simple paragraph was "about as big a can of worms as when you were bitching about the confederate battle flag?" Indeed.

Response, while mostly supportive, was quick and occasionally angry. My friend Whitney Hollingsworth summed it nicely: " I disagree with you - as always. But I like your optimism. The world needs people like you - people filled with hope that a better world is at least possible. I don't have that. I know that the meek might one day inherit the earth. I also know with absolute certainty that they won't stay meek once they get it."

Let's honor Doctors Without Borders
Ernie Bentley pointed out that Doctors Without Borders is an international group (with heavy U.S. membership), which is all the better, as far as I am concerned.  Its presence could mean we support all people and their right to life and freedom.

Others were hateful and nasty. Teresa Brummer wrote (ungrammatically, I'm afraid), " Well when this country gets taken over because of pussy ass Jerks like you. please don't call on us. Stop taking money from us too." Not quite sure where the money reference comes from. She also wrote that "if it wasn't for the military, there would be no doctors." I'd love to hear that explained.

My conservative buddy, Phil Chitwood, wrote, "'...Doctors Without Borders....'" Didn't we recently bomb them??" Yes, we did, Phil. Indeed, we did. It was called an accident.

Ric Walters wrote, "You should be ashamed of yourself disrespecting military. Shameful."

Kirk Musick called me an idiot. My pal Mark Layman had a good suggestion: "Maybe we need a less-militaristic national anthem. 'This Land is Your Land,' anyone?" "America the Beautiful" is already the unofficial national anthem (and it preceded the militaristic anthem last night, in fact). 'Course I always liked Paul Simon's "America" ("And we all came to look for America ...").

Kristi Meador Doolan gave me a history lesson that included references to the War of 1812 and 9/11, among other things, but failed to mention that "The Star Spangled Banner" is the love child of an old Irish drinking song and Francis Scott Key's homage to the beauty of war.

Lady Gaga: Red, white and blue
My buddy Jeanne Fishwick "really liked Lady Gaga's eye makeup" (I did, too, but then I love all things Lady Gaga) and Julie Snowmen (who is from Cambridge, England), "loved her blue nails, too."

Roy Sutton asked me if I "would fight for those colors." No, Roy, I would not fight for colors of any hue, but I would risk my life for ideas that support freedom (real freedom, not George Bush's Republican version of it).

Diana Christopulos wrote, "As the daughter of a career military officer and WWII combat veteran... the fewer people who serve in the military the more those who know nothing about war think it is great and that they have done their part by saying, 'Thank you for your service.' It is nauseating and hypocritical to me."

Mark Dearing, who always seems to bring in pearls of wisdom, wrote, "Really want to stir the pot? There hasn't been a justified since WW2 , also the USA has been the cause of 200 wars since then and have caused the deaths of 15-30 million people. None of these wars have been about our freedoms or rights as USA citizens." Those are very difficult truths that people supporting militarism want to ignore. They see John Wayne in "The Green Berets" watching the sun go down (in the east) on the South China Sea.

Now there's a picture I can live with: John Wayne celebrating war as the sun goes down in the east. That's about the way it would work for some.

John Wayne in the final scene of "The Green Berets".


Saturday, February 6, 2016

This Ain't No Nurse Jackie

When  Margie got home from work at Warm Hearth Village yesterday, I was so taken with how pretty she is that I asked her to pose for me on the deck in her scrubs. Nurse Jackie never got this close, even when she was on drugs. Lovely woman, I'd say.

Another Goal: Making Progress

The jeans I'm wearing in this photo, taken this morning on a hike along the Roanoke River, are a size 36 waist. On January 1, I was a 38 and set a goal of being 34 by the end of the year. I think we can call this progress.

(Photo by Janeson Keeley.)

Mom and Jennie and a Trip to the Thrift

Yesterday would have been my mother's 101st birthday and, like most that preceded it, I forgot until I was reminded. The reminder came this morning in the Facebook posting by my daughter, Jenniffer, who was so close to Mom that you would have thought them mother/daughter. Mom died about 25 years ago, but she hovers over all she touched to this day.

Mom in about 1956
Jennie posted the note above from "Grandmother," as she called Mom, who always seemed a little formal to me. She liked Mr. and Mrs. courtesy titles, even for her friends. You will note that Mom misspelled Jennie's name (the spelling changed as she aged), but it was right at the time, I'm sure.

This note was so very Mom. She's excited about going to a thrift shop in downtown Asheville, The Next To New Shop (which still operates on Biltmore Ave. downtown). She's looking for some boots and Jennie reported this in her FB post:

Today is my grandmother's birthday! Happy birthday! I post this card from her, because it makes me smile. She is so excited about Jackie's pregnancy. She writes that Jacquie is taking her to the next to new consignment shop and about a pair of Aigner shoes that she bought there for $3. She gives me advice on being a thrifty shopper.

I remember Grandmother and I taking the bus into downtown Asheville for a shopping trip. She found a pair of tall white leather Aigner boots at the consignment shop. How awesome is that. I really miss her. Throwing her birthday kisses.

Jennie at 2 in 1970
I have this permanent vision of my mother, the dumpster diver, imprinted on my mind: Mom's short legs poking straight skyward from a large dumpster as she rustles through the contents. Mom was barely 5-feet tall, so finding her in the dumpster was needle in a haystack stuff. But you could often hear her. She taught all of us the value of recycling before that was a word ordinary Americans used. Jennie and I still haunt the thirft shops and Goodwills of the world and are as proud of our finds as we would be if we'd found something great at a boutique in Paris.

I would love to be able to take Mom to Goodwill for a couple of hours. But, I'm afraid I missed my chance.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Jumping the Creek, and Shooting a Picture

This is my friend Janeson Keeley and me jumping a creek on a hike this past weekend. It was taken by my friend (and coach) Susan, who was giving her new Nikon camera a test run. I just love this shot. It captures the energy and enthusiasm that marked this special hike among good friends.

You will notice that Mr. Multi-Tasking is taking a photo, mouth wide open, even as we take the short leap. It was a pretty good shot of Susan.
This is my shot of Susan, taken jumping the creek. Pretty good, huh?

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Smiths Spend an Afternoon in Malaga

Oz finds some balls he can't throw; so he climbs them.
Malaga is a lovely large city in Southern Spain on the coast, one that is custom-made for families with smaller kids--like my son's family. They spent Sunday prowling the attractions and my daughter-in-law, Kara, was on top of it with her magic phone, which is a great camera. Here's some of what she saw.
Selfie: Kara, Madeline, Oz and Evan in Malaga.
Maddie tests her balance.
Evan pushes Maddie in the cool circular swing (Oz plays at the base, left).
It is never this cold in Southern Spain.
Oz tries it the other way.
Wish I had one of these.

Don't Eat Yellow Snow!

This is from my hike with a couple of pals yesterday. Old men have to pee. A lot. And on hikes, it is good to be a man because every tree contains a pissoir. This is an example.

Avoiding Rapists: Some Simple Tips

Just found the following online (here). It is some superb advice about avoiding rape and reacting if a rapist approaches you. Sorry I couldn't get it to convert to a Word file, but here is the graphic:


Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Whole Day for Writers

That's me kicking off the conference Saturday.
The Ninth Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Saturday at Hollins was a bit of a different ballgame than our students had seen in the past, but they seemed pleased with the results. It was a smaller conference, but the level of enthusiasm and electricity remained high.

Greg Trafidlo sings for us.
The conference went from two days to one and from 24 classes to 18, so the students--and the director, for whom I will speak--didn't completely wear themselves out.

There were a few surprises, one of them the quality of keynote speaker Terry Maggert's 10-minute kickoff talk. It was simply dynamic and caused a buzz all day. There were a number of business deals made during the conference and at least one young--very young, like 14--writer was discovered among us. I tried to chat with her at one point, but I think I terrified her. Several of the women writers came to the rescue.

The writers conference is quite a breakout for people in a profession who work alone in dark places. This is an annual recess for something like 120 of us. And we have fun. Promise.

Janeson Keeley and me teaching a class on billing (Yaaaaaawn).
I watched another young student blossom in the atmosphere, which is a sweet thing to be exposed to. She came in a scared kid, but ginned up her courage, talked to the pros and found a level of confidence I suspect she has rarely seen before. I suspect that young'un is on her way.

Here is some of what it looked like (photos by Anne Sampson and me.

Leah Weiss' class drew a full house.
But Leah had some technical problems, which were fixed.
Annie Woodford, a teacher, made a lovely student.
Todd Ristau of Hollins taught playwrighting.
Minister Joe Cobb's class was popular.
Storyteller Saundra Kelly in the middle (left).
Ed Falco of Virginia Tech teaches fiction in the auditorium.
Indy author Liz Long.
Author Diane Fanning seeks peace.
Not everybody listened all the time.
Professor emeratis Paul Sorrentino of Tech.
Ran Henry (left) with Floydians Neil Sagebiel and Sarah Beth Jones.
This shot in the auditorium will make you dizzy.
Leaning into learning during class.
Joe Cobb and Tom Gerdy chat.
Me pretending to be a teacher. (Note my unruly hair. That's why I wear a baseball cap.)