27 February 2007

Peaceful Pursuits

In a time of war, it is necessary to concentrate on the effectiveness of peace. Dropping a bomb on someone's head is rarely as effective as digging them a well for clean water. To this end on March 1, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order that established the Peace Corps. At the time there was an intense Cold War that could have been fought with totally operational weapons of mass destruction. We even came close with the Cuban Missile Crises in October of the following year.

During the course of his campaign for the presidency in 1960, Kennedy had floated the idea that a new "army" should be created by the United States. This force would be made up of civilians who would volunteer their time and skills to travel to underdeveloped nations to assist them in any way they could.

During the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Americans-especially young people-flocked to serve in dozens of nations, particularly in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Volunteers often faced privation and sometimes danger, and they were not always welcomed by foreign people suspicious of American motives. Overall, however, the program has been judged a success in terms of helping to "win the hearts and minds" of people in the underdeveloped world. The program continues to function, and thousands of Americans each year are drawn to the humanitarian mission and sense of adventure that characterizes the Peace Corps.

Compare this to our current president who seems to think the way to convince someone of our superior way of life is to threaten their very existence. We can send our young to encourage, build, assist, and support or we can send them to destroy, kill and be killed or maimed in mind or body.

I will leave it to you to decide which President has best served the ideals of the United States:

30th Anniversary

1977 was a particularly good year for me. In the interest of being in a good mood the majority of the time for the rest of my life, I just stayed there. Therefore, this is the 30th anniversary of my 33rd birthday. As long as I stay away from all reflective services and don't look at my beloved children or grandchildren, this fiction should be able to continue indefinitely.

At the same time my greatest interests are genealogy and history where one is required to be totally accurate. As a result, here is what was going on when I was born:

The President was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Vice President was Henry Wallace (soon to be blessedly replaced by Harry Truman)

There was the Battle of the Bulge and a whole lot of other really nasty goings on in WWII

Mar 2, 1944 For the first time, the Academy Awards are presented as part of a televised variety show. Jack Benny served as master of ceremonies for the event, which was held at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. "Casablanca", Jennifer Jones & Paul Lukas win the major awards.

The Best Selling Books Were:

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Native Son by Richard Wright
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

There wasn't an Amazon to push books up to the top of the NY Times list in 30 days. It often took years to get there, but look at the quality. Nary a self help secret in there anywhere.


Bread: $0.09/loaf
Milk: $0.62/gal
Eggs: $0.63/doz
Car: $1,225
Gas: $0.21/gal

Average 1944 Home Price In California $3,527
Adjusted for Inflation to 2007: $36,700
Average Home Price In California in 2007: $549,460 (In case you were wondering why normal people aren't buying houses)

In 1944 the US population was approximately 131,669,275 people, 44.2 persons per square mile.

In 2007 the US population was approximately 281,421,906 people, 79.6 persons per square mile.

No wonder I feel crowded.

The Top Songs were:

Don't Fence Me In by Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters (Unusually Prophetic for me)
You Always Hurt the One You Love by Mills Brothers
Besame Mucho by Jimmy Dorsey
I'll Get By by Harry James
Mairzy Doats by Merry Macs

And That was the Year That Was, and I Was There

23 February 2007

Yellow Means Jonquils

Now Morgen has gone and picked a word that I needed for March. My birthday, my birth flower, and my favorite color. It is a tossup as to whether this belongs on Manic Monday or Wordless Wednesday.

The jonquils have followed me all my life. First they were decorations on birthday cakes. Then as a teenager in the role of Amanda in The Glass Menagerie where her great speech is how her arms were full of jonquills and life held such promise when she was desired by many and had not yet been abandoned by the man she chose.

In college they were on the corsage at my waist as a gift from my future husband. Then there were the grubby fingered bouquets from my son who picked them from a neighbor's yard simply because he knew they were "mommy's flowers", and finally to my joy every year when I see the first yellow of spring.

So there they are. My Jonquils. Perfectly yellow. Perfectly Spring. Perfectly Me.

Confessions of A Movie Nut

For as long as I can remember, motion pictures have been part of my life. The other day I was trying to remember the very first movie I remember seeing. As close as I can get, it was Song of the South which was released in 1946 when I was two, but I might not have seen it until 1947. That means, I have been in love with the movies for about 60 years.

For at least the last 50, I have been paying attention to The Academy Awards and agreeing or disagreeing with the selections while talking back to the TV all the way through the show. This includes the night in 1964 that I was pounding on the floor screaming "If it isn't Sydney Poitier, I'm never watching another show!"

These days, I don't enjoy the Oscar presentation as much. There is too much pre show "who are you wearing". There are really too many truly stupid production numbers. The pairs of presenters with inane dialogue are a bore, and rarely is the emcee as warm and witty as David Niven the night he reflected on a streaker's "short comings".

Still on Sunday night, I will be sitting in front of the TV with my list, marking off who I think will win (not who I think deserves the award), and this year for the first time chatting live on line with a group of fellow watchers as we cheer or mourn the results. For the record, here is how I think it will turn out. I'll be back on Monday with a follow up of the show, but just for my wish that may not happen: I think Forrest Whittaker will win. I deeply wish it to be Peter O'Toole.

Best Picture

Actor in a Leading Role

Actor in a Supporting Role

Actress in a Leading Role
Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN

Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS

Animated Feature Film

Art Direction


Costume Design


Documentary Feature

Documentary Short Subject

Film Editing

Foreign Language Film


Music (Original Score)

Music (Original Song)
"I Need To Wake Up"

Short Film (Animated)

Short Film (Live Action)

Sound Editing

Sound Mixing

Visual Effects

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Writing (Original Screenplay)

22 February 2007

Bread and Circuses

It has been noted that the Roman Empire fell when it extended its borders too far, made taxes too high, gave benefits to those who kept the system afloat, put all the power into the hands of the executive, and appeased the general public with entertainment with monies from the public purse that was already stretched thin by the expenses of the nation.

Don't look now folks, but you may want to duck because the U.S. could be tumbling down.


Our current President is assuming the powers of a dictator and insists he is the decider of all disposition of the manpower and wealth of the nation with no need to consult with the Senate or House.

Our military is stretched into every continent on earth.

Unfunded mandates have pushed much of the cost of society down on the middle class.

The wealthiest in the nation receive the greatest benefits from the government

The economy is in a decline with the dollar losing value against world currencies.


We have just been through constant tabloid coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, Brittany, whoever the dead blond of the week might be, and a petty squabble of no import from two political candidates, while those actually responsible for relaying news and information have totally reneged on their responsibilities to investigate and inform.

Our military is under great stress, we are in conflict with several nations in the world, there are major issues regarding the neglect of veterans, and prisoner of war detainees are being incarcerated without trial. These are just a few issues that have been virtually ignored by the network and cable channels.

This morning The Guardian had an excellent article on the problem with the frivolous including the following paragraph:

It matters that we got into Iraq, all of us. It matters, enormously so, that our "intelligence" led us there, or was led. And in any rational society there would have been firings and resignations in those areas to make the troops shudder. It matters that from the outset we sent troops in without language, a plan, local knowledge or body armour. It matters that our leader said, let's have a war over the most serious issue of our time but don't let's act serious about it - don't let us tax ourselves more gravely, don't let us have a draft, don't let us ask for universal service. Let's "surge" instead of think. Let's pass over as fit only for praise that 3,000 of our troops have been killed, 20,000 maimed and unknown numbers of bystanders wiped out. Let's act as if it's a game show.
Don't, under any circumstances, upset the American public.

Nothing will save this country until people get angry enough to demand change.

21 February 2007

We May Have Made A Mistake

Swamps, aligators, Seminole wars, Hurricanes, Key West, Bay of Pigs, Cuban refugees, millionaire gold coast, Disney World, Presidential brother, Terry Schiavo, two narrow elections that stuck us with W and now the possibility of moving up a primary that even further extends the election period into mind numbing perpetuity. Florida may be a perfectly wonderful state, but I can't help but wonder if Spain wouldn't like it back.

In 1819, after years of negotiations, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams achieved a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially put Florida into U.S. hands at no cost beyond the U.S. assumption of some $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain. Formal U.S. occupation began in 1821, and General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, was appointed military governor. Florida was organized as a U.S. territory in 1822 and was admitted into the Union as a slave state in 1845.

20 February 2007

Happy Mardi Gras

Le bon temps roulette

This whole week has had a Mark Twain theme. From his biography: He worked as a printer and a reporter selling much of his work to newspapers. He continually moved from town to town. In 1857, he decided to move to South America to make a fortune there. He boarded a riverboat and headed for New Orleans where he would arrange the rest of his trip. However, he never made it past New Orleans.

The song is about the people who were stranded at the convention center in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. All royalties of the (itunes) download single is given to Musicians' Village in New Orleans, and is available on Harry Connick, Jr's album "Oh My NOLA".
These People

An Old Idea

After watching all the news of airline passengers mouldering for hours on the ground, bus stations from hell that look and smell like skid row, trains that cost too much and don't go anywhere you want to go in one trip or on time, I would like to propose a solution: Give the nation's transportation system to FedEx.

Once upon a time, there actually was a combined system that worked before the pieces were discarded. Ever the innovator, Santa Fe was one of the pioneers in intermodal freight service, an enterprise that (at one time or another) included a tugboat fleet and an airline, the short-lived Santa Fe Skyway. A bus line allowed the company to extend passenger transportation service to areas not accessible by rail, and ferry boats on the San Francisco Bay allowed travellers to complete their westward journeys all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway officially ceased operations on December 31, 1996 when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.

If you can't get people in the air, put them on a train. If the train line fails, call in the buses. Run ferrys down the major rivers, and then get someone who knows how to deliver stuff on time efficiently and at a reasonable cost to run the whole shebang. Combine all of this with metro rails, trollies, pick up/delivery vans and maybe everyone could get where they want to go without having a nervous breakdown.

There are times when a monopoly isn't a bad idea, but just to throw some competition into the works, let UPS have the East Coast and Fed Ex the west. They could even throw in the U.S. postal service as a bonus. Then the mail carrying railways of the 1800s could get things to you on time in 2010.

I couldn't find Judy Garland singing Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe, so you get Gordon Lightfoot at his best.

19 February 2007

Frog Town

Happy Birthday Morgen

If you were the Public Service Director of a country radio station in Fresno, California, "celebrated" meant only one thing: The third week in May and frogs, frogs, and more frogs. Championship frogs, children with frogs, DJs needing frogs, escaped frogs, and all of it because Mark Twain wrote a short story.

It was always our big May event with contests, charity promotions, and interviews. You've heard of herding cats. You haven't lived until you've found yourself on hands and knees under a desk trying to get a bulgy eyed amphibian to cooperate. Whatever feminine delicacy I might have had prior to that job, rapidly disappeared amid ice chests filled with warty denizens, not one of which was worth kissing, though some were probably better than the Program Director.
In the Sierra there is a peaceful little town named Angels Camp that swells to a half million of your nearest and dearest friends once a year, it is the location of the Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County. Should you ever find yourself in the Golden State in the Month of May, there is only one place to be. You can even bring your own frog to Frog Town.

If hopping amphibians aren't your cup of tea then you will find yourself in the beautiful Sierra with amusements that span the range from four star dining at local wineries to risking life and limb rock or cave climbing. You can even still find gold in them thar hills.

Until you can head that direction, pour a glass of wine and cuddle up with Mark Twain and his humorous tale.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

17 February 2007

Coming Home

There are occasions when weeks in history almost seem to have a theme. This week it is home in all of it's variety of meanings.

First up: In 1979 : Prairie Home Companion debuts

Garrison Keillor's popular radio variety show is first broadcast nationally as part of National Public Radio's Folk Festival America. The show, which had been running locally on Minnesota Public Radio since 1974, is still on the air today, and is more popular than ever. The home there is a wonderful place named Lake Woebegone whose stories all end with "And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

In addition to the wonderful weekend show, Garrison Keillor does a daily Writers' Almanac. For those who miss its daily broadcast, just click on the link for a transcript. You will find both the familiar and unknown, and the authors you will want to bring home in order to revisit or get to know.

The second is the theme of being far from home and the differences in culture.

'Madame Butterfly'(Italian title: Madama Butterfly) an Opera by Giacomo Puccini debuted on this day. Based upon a sentimental English story, it was not well received at first until a first act was added that introduced you to Butterfly so that her grief and death at the end made sense. No single work of art has created so many misconceptions about another culture than this opera, and yet it is so beautiful that it's attraction is understandable.

Finally, this week in 1885 saw the publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which just may be the Great American Novel. The abused run away boy joins with the family loving run away slave for a trip down a river and into history via a work of genius that sheds light on all of humanity. If you have never made the trip with Huck and Jim, go grab a raft immediately.

14 February 2007

Stay Close

I've always loved the childhood poem Monday's Child that was written to teach children the days of the week.

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I'm a Thursday child and it always tied in to my peripatetic existence bouncing from place to place as a child and then finding it hard to stay in one place as an adult simply because there is always another road that goes somewhere and adventures are wonderful things.

Recently, I heard of a new meaning for Thurday's Child. Sometimes a child is out on the road for other reasons where they are prey to others willing to use the defenseless. There is a wonderful charity dedicated to at risk teenagers. Please take the time to visit them.

Thursday's Child

13 February 2007

When You Care Enough

Many years ago a gentleman of my acquaintance said that he only had one real regret with women and that was that no one had ever sent him a love letter. I couldn't in all honesty send him a love letter, but I could write something imaginary for a good person. Now that he is no longer around, feel free to steal his:

Love Poem By Request

I wouldn't have been ready for you then
when the wounds were still fresh
when tomorrow was the hope of fools like
Santa Claus
Sir Galahad
Fairy Tales and
Happily ever after

I wouldn't have been ready for you then
when tears were for goodby
when nice guys like the pledge of allegiance were
In school
In Church
In Books
But never at home

I wouldn't have been ready for you then
when my faith had grown dim
when self evident truths weren't eternal like
Aple Pie
or most of all Love

I wouldn't have been ready for you then
Before I found myself
Before I knew I could still believe in
Santa Claus
Sir Galahad
Fairy Tales
Happily Ever After
Apple Pie
And You

Culture Clash

Valentine's Day is not always for lovers. There was at least one time when it marked an event that meant, "Leave Me Alone!" It is always dangerous to blunder into another society expecting a great welcome when you know nothing about the people. The initial meeting may be pleasant, but ignorance can turn to death very rapidly leaving a huge mess for others to clean up afterwards through negotiation and diplomacy.

In the case of Cook and the Hawaiians, you might say things turned out well once they had been invaded, their culture destroyed, their numbers decreased through disease, their wealth stolen, and the Islands turned into a western society paradise overrun with tourists. Others might think that this wasn't an improvement. As always, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

The Death of Captain Cook

Captain Cook Society

Aloha `Oe
words and music by Queen Lili`uokalani

Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs
As it glided through the trees
Still following ever the bud
The `ahihi lehua of the vale
Ha`aheo ka ua i nâ pali
Ke nihi a`ela i ka nahele
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko
Pua `âhihi lehua o uka


Farewell to you, farewell to you
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
'Ere I depart
Until we meet again
Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e auUntil we meet again

Sweet memories come back to me
Bringing fresh remembrances
Of the past
Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
From you, true love shall never depart
`O ka hali`a aloha i hiki mai
Ke hone a`e nei i
Ku`u manawa`
O `oe nô ka`u ipo alohaA loko e hana nei


I have seen and watched your loveliness
The sweet rose of Maunawili
And 'tis there the birds of love dwell
And sip the honey from your lips
Maopopo ku`u `ike i ka nani
Nâ pua rose o Maunawili
I laila hia`ia nâ manu
Miki`ala i ka nani o ka lipo


12 February 2007

SPIKE! - Manic Monday

Being blessed with a brain that regularly runs on free association overdrive can produce some unusual results.

California girls with spiked hair leap at Venice Beach to spike a ball before racing into the sea after the game. Fishermen with sand spikes hoping to catch something with fins ignore the leggy mermaids. Deeply saddened at being slighted, the ladies go home to ankle biting guard dogs named Spike and wait in their spiked heels for the boyfriends bearing spiked orchids who often would rather watch a football being spiked instead.

A lover of history and genealogy might remember the Golden Spike that joined the railroad from West to East coast or the Scottish ancestors who worked the railroad and the one who died eviscerated on the tracks. Modern types could find themselves spending late evenings at piano bars listening to great jazz while slowly stirring an alcohol spiked drink and hoping to go home with the muscian or just to the movies to be challenged by Spike Lee. Of course if you are of a certain age then slide whistles and old songs remind you of another Spike named Jones.

Railbirds who love the ponies remember Dusty Spike, but what is this subject going to do to Technorati's blogosphere chart of spikes and valleys? Finally, the whole point: As someone who loves the pictures that are often worth a thousand words, here they are stuck on a spike, and it is up to you to figure out what is what and who is whom.