Category Archives: Personal

Some things I will NOT look at on the Web

This news

Jennifer_LawrencecroppedGoogle has removed two links to a site hosting stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence after requests by the actor’s lawyers.

The takedown requests were filed under the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA), with her lawyers Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp stating that the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright….

… reminds me of this new category of Web content that I have gradually become aware of recently.

The Internet grants us access to almost anything that can be digitized. This is both a wonderful blessing and a terrible affliction. Once, I just had to avoid the dictionary to stay on task — if I looked up one word, I’d get sidetracked by fascination, as I’d inadvertently run into one interesting word that led to another that led to another.

Now, I never wonder about anything. No matter what I’m going at the time, if the thought begins to form, “I wonder…,” I stop and look it up — which in turn is likely to lead to link after link, because scratching that itch releases something in my brain, something related to what makes addicts act the way they do… hang on… dopamine. Dang, I could have sworn it was “endorphins,” but it turns out it’s dopamine. “Endorphins” would have given me an excuse to link to that clip in which Annette Bening says, in such a sexy way, that she digs “the endolphin rush.” Which, it turns out, is not that easy to find…

See what I mean?

But there are some things I won’t look at on the Web. There’s been a rash of them lately. They include:

  • The aforementioned nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence. I still agree with Ricky Gervais when he said celebrities should make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of them from their computers by not putting nude photos of themselves on their computers. But I have a responsibility in this, too, which is not to look when celebs fail to exercise that most basic form of good judgment.
  • The ISIL videos of the beheadings of Western journalists. I hear that they’re out there if you look, but I’m just not going to cooperate with the terrorists to the point of looking. I don’t need to get whipped up by viewing these atrocities; I’m fully committed to the “degrade and destroy ISIL” agenda without it.
  • The video of that football player beating up his girlfriend. Everybody has something that turns his stomach, and one that that does that to me is the very thought of a man hitting a woman. I have a very deeply conditioned response of revulsion at such a thing. I don’t ever want to see it. Just knowing it’s out there is bad enough.

What do you pointedly avoid online?

 

Haley, Sheheen SHOULD join together to call for a ‘yes’ vote on adjutant general reform

images (7)

On Nov. 4, South Carolina voters have the chance to put an end to an embarrassing anomaly — we have the power to cease to be the only state in the union that elects its adjutant general, the leader of the state’s National Guard.

The reasons why it’s a horrible idea to have a popularly elected general are many; Cindi Scoppe goes over some of them in her column today. It’s something I’ve never had to think about very hard, because when I was a kid, I lived in a place where it was accepted that that military officers got mixed up in politics.

In fact, it was far from an abstraction to me. We lived in the upstairs of a large house that was owned by a captain in the Ecuadorean Navy. One day, the captain asked if he could borrow our part of the duplex. My parents went out, and my brothers and I went downstairs to stay in the captain’s part of the house, while the captain and an Ecuadorean admiral met upstairs in our home. The next day, the president of the country had been put on a plane to Panama, the admiral was the head of the new military junta running the country, and our landlord was the minister of agriculture.

Actually, given what a disaster el presidente had been, Ecuador was no worse off. But in a country such as hours, with it’s deeply treasured culture of constitutional government and subservience of the military to legal authority, such a development would be catastrophic. Fortunately in our national history, such events have remained the stuff of political fiction such as “Seven Days in May.”

Except in South Carolina, where we require our top general to be a politician first (and really don’t even require him to have any military background at all).

Fortunately, our current adjutant general, Bob Livingston, is a well-qualified officer who also understands that we need to do away with this anomaly. That’s a very good thing, since his predecessors resisted reform, and the Guard followed their lead, and the electorate followed the Guard.

But now we have the opportunity to change the situation. We also have two people running for governor — the incumbent, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Vincent Sheheen — who are both known for advocating this reform (as well as doing away with other unnecessarily elected constitutional officers). In her column today, Cindi put forth a great idea:

Most of all, we need to hear from the most visible advocates of empowering governors to act like governors: Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen. This is a signature issue for both of them. It’s not too much to ask them to set aside their bickering for long enough to make a joint appearance — or to cut a TV ad together — asking voters to vote yes for the military meritocracy.

If they’re not willing to put some skin in the game, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame if we keep electing the adjutant general — and all of those other constitutional officers who ought to be appointed.

That would be wonderful on so many levels — including the first level, which is that it would make this long-awaited reform all that much more likely to occure.

Why don’t I write like that any more?

hemingway-writing

For my entire career, whenever I look back at what I wrote a year or two in the past, I think, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?”

This is, I hope, a twist on the “grass is always greener” phenomenon. Either that, or my powers as a writer have been declining for four decades, which means that by this time, I should be incapable of putting a noun and a verb together in an intelligible order.

Anyway, I had that experience again today. I accidentally ran across this post from four years ago, in which I had a little fun mocking the way Republicans talk in South Carolina:

As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ‘em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

That was prompted, of course, by my being fed up at hearing Republicans who are unable to complete a sentence without using the word “conservative” at least once, and preferably multiple times. In case, you know, you missed it the first time. It is mind-numbingly monotonous, and I needed a little comic relief. I thought we all did.

That got me sufficiently charged up that I turned and made fun of Democrats, saying that just once, I’d like to hear a candidate for office in South Carolina say the following:

Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili….

I had fun reading that. Why don’t I write like that anymore?…

You ever notice how much Jed Bartlet aged in office?

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Well, there’s not much “West Wing” left.

As I was working out this morning, Leo McGarry — now Matt Santos’ running mate — was sweating over debate prep, and Josh and the rest of the campaign were leaking how badly he was doing, to lower expectations.

One by one, President Jed Bartlet’s key staffers have pulled away. Sam Seaborn just sort of fell off the face of the Earth when he went West to run for Congress (the way he faded away, without any mention of what happened to him, is one of the few weaknesses in the writing of the show). Leo stepped down after his heart attack, but is now “jumping off the cliff” again with Santos. Josh is running the Santos campaign. Toby is — well, you know what happened to Toby — and if you don’t, I’m not telling you.

The Bartlet administration is winding down. This was episode 10 of the 7th and final season. Only 12 episodes left.

And if you think the presidency of Barack Obama has aged him, have you ever compared pictures of Jed Bartlet from season one and season seven? Being a TV president can be pretty rough, too, apparently.

Of course, the transformation is more startling to me than it was to folks who watched the show the first time around. I saw my first episode at the start of this year.

As you know, I have loved this show. I don’t want to lose it, and have to go back to the horrible real-life politics. Or to vastly inferior television, for that matter. I try to cling to it. I get excited when someone else out there writes about how much he or she loved the show, and I nod enthusiastically. When a young woman asserted in the WashPost that “I’m the biggest ‘West Wing’ fan you’ll ever meet,” I protested, “No, you’re not.”

I’ve started following “Leo McGarry,” my favorite character, on Twitter. A sample:

All this fanboy behavior is pitiful, I know, but then my plight is truly pitiable: I’m about to run out of West Wings. And I fear there’s nothing out there that I haven’t seen that is as good as this.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Anybody want to give some platelets with me (or FOR me)?

This was what they needed last week. I'm not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

This was what they needed last week. I’m not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

As I told y’all, I had been scheduled to give red cells last week at the Red Cross, but at the last minute they called and asked if I’d give platelets instead, because there was a dire need. I had never been asked to do this, in all the years I’ve given blood, so I figured it MUST be dire, and said OK.

So I did. And learned to my surprise that this is a way more time-consuming process than giving whole blood, or even double red cells. From the time you start pumping until you stop, it’s 90 minutes. Not counting the interview and blood test and other preliminaries.

Not only that, but while you have to wait 16 weeks to give double red cells again, you can give platelets every week.

And sure enough, they called me today, and I agreed to go in and donate tomorrow. I said, “You sure you don’t want whole blood, or double red?” They said no, this need is quite urgent — regular donors have been out sick, so they really need me to do this.

So I will, assuming I don’t come down with something in the next 24 hours.

But now, I’m thinking it would be good to share some of this warm, self-congratulatory glow that I get from being such a good guy. I’m thinking maybe some of y’all should give, too. Because it’s needed.

And because, frankly, I don’t think I can find this much time to do this every week. I need some backup. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s just a matter of practicality — this burden needs to be shared.

How about it, folks? I’ll be glad to help set you up…

So why can’t a hallucination be an actual message?

Unfaithful

 

First, a confession…

Sometimes in Mass, my mind wanders. This is not entirely my fault. I love St. Peter’s and its architecture, but the acoustics have always been terrible. Everything said from the altar or the pulpit bounces around in the dome above it, so that the last thing a speaker said is competing with what he or she is saying after that. This is particularly bad for me with my Meniere’s problem, because it causes me to have particular trouble separating speech clearly from background noise. Add to that the fact that the Mass I attend is in Spanish, and while my pronunciation is good, my understanding isn’t what it was 50 years ago when I lived in Ecuador. Even when I can hear it clearly, I have to work hard to catch enough words to get the drift.

Put all that together, and I have a lot of trouble following what is being said. So my mind wanders. Frequently. And when it wanders, I often think of religious-themed posts for the blog. But then, by the time the Mass is over, and I go home and have lunch and, if I have my druthers, have a nice Sunday afternoon nap, I’ve forgotten about it. So Sunday posts remain rare.

But here’s the one that was going through my head in Mass yesterday…

The night before, I watched on Netflix an episode of “House,” from Season 5, titled “Unfaithful.”

It opens with a weary, dissolute-seeming young priest (Greene’s “whiskey priest” in The Power and the Glory seems to be a literary antecedent) who has just taken off his collar and is trying to relax in his dingy cell, located in the charity that he runs for the homeless, by knocking back a whiskey or three.

A few moments before, a homeless man had knocked, seeking a warm coat, which the priest gave him. Now, someone is insistently knocking again. Reluctantly, grimly, he drags himself to the door, opens it, and before him is a bloody Christ, with fresh stigmata, scourge wounds all over, and the crown of thorns.

The priest says, “That’s not funny, freak.” The figure before him answers, “No one is laughing, Daniel.” The priest looks down and sees that the figure’s nail-pierced feet are hovering several inches from the ground.

This, to say the least, freaks him out.

The priest immediately turns himself in to the hospital where House works — because, of course, he was hallucinating. He leaps to that conclusion because, after being hounded from parish to parish by a false sexual abuse charge leveled at him by a young man several parishes back, the priest has no faith left.

So to him, as to the atheist House, the only explanation for such an incident is that there is something wrong with his brain. It’s a symptom, not a message from God — a diagnosis with which the writers of the show clearly agree. And we viewers, being moderns, are meant to assume this is the case.

The next day, thinking about this in Mass, it occurred to me that there’s something wrong with the logic underlying the show’s premise. To follow me, I ask my unbelieving readers to suspend their disbelief for a moment. Stipulate — just for the sake of this discussion — that there is a God and that He does try to tell us things from time to time.

So, if we accept that… why would the incident being a hallucination mean that it wasn’t an actual message from God? Mind you, I can’t tell you what the message in this case would be, beyond shocking the priest out of his faith slump.

But what about a hallucination makes it an invalid form of perception, within the context of faith? Think about this: The Bible is filled with instances of people receiving divine messages through dreams, from the original Joseph of the many-colored coat to Joseph of Nazareth. No one says, “It can’t be a real message because it was just a dream.”

And what is a hallucination except a waking dream?

We mortals have a wide variety of methods of communication. We can speak to people face-to-face, or tell them what we’re thinking with sign language. There’s writing, smoke signals, Morse code, email, videochat, texting — some of which are more “virtual” than others, but all seen as genuine communication. And let’s not forget movies with special effects — do such effects mean that they can’t communicate a serious message? (Not that CGI-rich films tend to be heavy on ideas, but they can be, just as any other film can.)

The hallucination, or the sleeping version, seems to be a favorite mode of communication of the Almighty.

And you don’t have to be a believer to find meaning in dreams, to see them as powerful communicators of important ideas. Ask a Freudian. Absent God, it could be your superego is trying to tell you something.

We empirical moderns like to think that something isn’t real if it can’t be independently confirmed — which seems rather narrow and limited of us. If someone else looking out his window at the moment the priest was having his waking dream did not see the crucified figure hovering there, then the priest didn’t, either. Except that he did. And if anyone could make him see something that his neighbor didn’t  — encoding the message for him alone to see, which is not a radical concept — an all-powerful God who knows everything about how every individual is made would be the one. Again, you have to believe in God to follow this, but if you do, why would you think the Deity couldn’t do that?

A photograph taken at the time wouldn’t show the Jesus figure. There would be no drops of blood on the sidewalk. But then, there was no physical evidence of Moses’ burning bush experience, either. The scripture specifically notes that although it was burning, the bush was not consumed.

So while you might not believe, if you do believe, why is this priest’s vision automatically less legit than that of Moses, or the dream in which Joseph was urged to go ahead and marry Mary?

There are some belief systems that are all about hallucination, even about deliberately inducing them — I think of shamans who treat peyote as a sacrament.

Have you ever read any of Carlos Castaneda’s books? They’re all about achieving greater enlightenment by inducing hallucinations, and actually entering into those hallucinations and taking action within them. The Separate Reality is as legitimate, within the context of that system of thought, as one that concrete thinkers see as the only reality.

So, given all that, what’s the justification for seeing a hallucination as just a hallucination, and therefore automatically devoid of meaning? That seems a very shallow, and at the least unimaginative, explanation.

Anyway, that’s what I got to thinking about during Mass when I was supposed to be paying attention…

This turnip isn’t giving YOU any blood, anyway

I knew the Democrats were in trouble this year, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this email appeal today from Nancy Pelosi:

Dear Brad,

What’s the main difference between Republicans and us?

Them: They rely on the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and outside interests to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy elections for them.

Us: We rely on grassroots support from Brad…

Wow, y’all really are hard-up.Turnip_2622027

I mean, first, you can’t get blood from a turnip. And second, even if this turnip had blood to give, he wouldn’t be giving any to you or any other political party.

So you might want to review your strategy. Better do what the Republicans — and you — have long done. Turn to George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and the rest of your “outside interests.” (And while you’re at it, take a good look in the mirror at the beam in your eye.)

Oh, but speaking of blood — I have an appointment this afternoon to give again at the Red Cross over on Bull Street.

This time, I’m doing something new. I was all set to do my usual double red-cell donation, but then on Friday, they called to say that right now, they need platelets even more. So I’m going to do that.

I don’t even know what that entails. I’ll tell you later…

And so it begins: Walk for Life 2014!

Walk2013

With six weeks to go until the event (Oct. 18), I’ve set up our Walk for Life team for this year — so it’s time to sign up and start raising some money to fight breast cancer in the Midlands!

We have a reputation to live up to, you know — our team came in 9th in total fund-raising last year, with a total of $3,651.44 raised.

The lion’s share of that was raised by MVPs Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross. Doug always makes a strong showing in fundraising, but Bryan topped the charts last year with an email appeal that is still talked about with awe over at Palmetto Health Foundation. It began, “Cancer: Are You For It or Against It?” and then worked the word “boobs” into the second graf.

How we’re going to top that this year I have no idea, but that’s what we’re going to do.

You’ll be hearing a lot from me about all this this year, as Palmetto Health Foundation has signed me up to be a brand ambassador for the event, or as they have dubbed it, a “Pinkador.” On account of my alleged social media prowess. So I intend to have a lot of fun with that, while at the same time flogging potential donors to boost our team’s contributions.

Watch for more in this space. And go ahead NOW and sign up for the bradwarthen.com team. And then get busy hauling in the moolah. If anyone hesitates, mention boobs. It worked for Bryan

Last year's actual walkers -- yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

Last year’s actual walkers — yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey, Doug Ross.

 

A typical day, and then the one with the scorpion

cropped

At the office this morning, a little dialogue box popped up on my laptop saying my daughter in Thailand is online on Skype.

Thinking she might be skyping with my wife, I decide to join the conversation and say hi. My daughter answers immediately, and asks whether her mother told her to call. I said no, then asked why.

Because she got stung by a scorpion today.

She didn’t know what it was at first, she just felt this intense pain radiating from her big toe up her leg, and looked down and saw a small gray scorpion skittering away. She got a ride to a medical clinic in her village, and they sent her to the hospital in the next town. They gave her a shot for the pain, then when that didn’t work, another in her hip. They wanted to keep her overnight, but the Peace Corps doctor she had reached on the phone said that wasn’t necessary. So they sent her home with an antibiotic to take.

I decided to call my wife to make sure our baby isn’t allergic to the med. She’s not. So we strongly urged her to take it, and to call us in the morning (this evening, for us).

That was today, which sort of has us vibrating with apprehension. Here, from her blog, is a more typical day. She posted this Friday:

6 am:  I wake up to the sounds of my neighbor calling for her cat, “JUNIOR!!! JUNIOR!!!!” and the clanking of pots and pans as my neighbors busy themselves preparing breakfast.  I reach for my headphones.

7 am:  The school across the street plays Pit Bull and KPop at a dangerous volume as my alarm begins to go off.  I change the alarm to 7:30.

7:30 am: Snooze.

7:35 am: Change alarm to 7:45.

7:45 am: I lay in bed, contemplating my past, present and future.

7:50 am: Run to the bathroom and throw buckets of water on my shoulders. Nevermind the tadpoles. Brush my teeth with a bottle of water.

8 am: Put on my most missionary-looking outfit.

8:10 am: Mix some bottled water with a scoop of instant coffee and stir.  Good thing I have all those years as a barista under my apron.  Review my lesson plans as I choke on the bitter elixir.

8:20 am: Put on some mascara and lipstick and smile at myself.  J

8:25 am:  Walk across the street to the school.  As I traverse the 15 feet, two different people on motorbikes will stop and ask if I need a ride, and then laugh because they remember I’m not allowed to ride a motorbike anyway.

8:30 am: Say “Sawatdi ka” and wai all of the elementary school teachers as the kindergarteners do the same to me, followed by them yelling English words at me,  “HELLO!” “THANK YOU!!” “1,2,3,5,7!”  I then go to prepare my classroom and wait for the students to trickle in.

8:40 am:  I greet my students.  One of them will yell, “STAND UP PLEASE”, and then as a group they will all say, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER”.  No matter how I respond, they will continue with, “I AM FINE, THANK YOU, AND YOU?”  I normally try to stick with the script at this point because I can’t undo years of training and it’s good for them to feel confident greeting me in English, even if they really don’t know what they are saying.  My English class will then consist of some kind of active review game, followed by the introduction of a new conversational question and answer with new vocabulary, and then an activity to encourage the students to practice speaking. My students are typically very well behaved and adorable.  I really like them and am impressed with their big person personalities inside their little person bodies.

9:45 am:  I ride my bike to another school for another class.  On the way I grin at everyone I see and yell “Sawatdi ka”.  Most people do the same to me and ask me where I’m going, though occasionally I will so surprise someone with my Caucasian-ness that they can only stare at me with a hilariously confused expression, or utter “Oh! Farang!”

9:55 am: I continue riding my bike and as I feel my skin getting warmer in the sunshine and look around at the endless green meeting the endless blue I tell myself again not to forget how lucky I am to be alive.

10 am: Ride into another school and am greeted much the same way as at the first, except, what is this?  Why is everyone gathered outside, along with lots of villagers?  I notice a tent set-up near the field and am told as I walk towards the principal that this is Sports Day!  Wahoo!  The principal greets me and hands me a microphone, saying, “speak”.   He just laughs when I ask what I should say, so I start, (translated from Thai of course), “Hello, how is everyone today?  Today is Sports Day.  I am happy.” (Hundreds of people staring and taking pictures of me) “Umm…  I Iike soccer and dtacraw, but I cannot play.  Students at this school are good at volleyball. ”  (Someone in the audience asks if I have a boyfriend, and another if I can eat spicy food.)  “No I do not yet have a boyfriend and I can eat spicy food. Thai food is delicious.  Thank you.”  And then I try to run into the crowd but am intercepted and encouraged to sit at the obligatory VIP bench.

10:20 am:  A chubby little girl brings me some 3-in-1 coffee and a little green cake.  As she sets it down, a teacher yells at her to go do something else, turns to me, and says, laughing, “I make her run around because she is a fat girl. She needs exercise.”

10:30 am: SOOOO HOTTTTTT.

11 am: I am instructed to stand up and award the winners their medals, however, I am confused and think that I am being gifted an honorary aluminum foil.  I realize my mistake and only I laugh…

Noon:  Lunch time!  Today we are having Gang Fak Tong, a hearty potion of pumpkin, chicken, and God knows what else.  I am no food critic, I just know what’s good and it REALLY is.  I chat with the parents and teachers and ask them how to make it, which I understand a lot of but forgot all of.  Someone gives me a kanom wrapped in a banana leaf.  It consists of cream soaked sticky rice sculpted around candied peanuts.

12:30 pm:  Thank the principal for having me and make my way to another school to do Life Skills activities.

1 pm:  I have managed to find my co-teacher.  I explain to her my goals for the lesson and I think she understands.

1:20 pm:  We begin the guidance period about Leadership skills with about 20 14 year olds all dressed identically. I am astonished at how patiently they listen to me stumble over their language, and am again impressed by their insight when I pose introspective questions.

1:50 pm:  My co-teacher hands a student a camera to take pictures of us teaching together.  I try to smile and not forget what I was talking about.

2:30 pm:  I ride my bike to the SAO (Subdistrict Admistrative Office).  I greet everyone and tell them where I’ve been when they all say, “I haven’t seen you in forever”.

2:35 pm:  Someone grabs me and says we are going to the market.

3 pm:  We go to the District Office and I try to be charming.

3:30 pm:  We go to the post office.

4 pm:  We stop at a Wat where, I am told, over 500 monks will be arriving the next day for a lecture.

4:15 pm:  I entertain a large group of grandmothers hanging out at the Wat.  They tell me I have to come to the event tomorrow.

4:30 pm:  I am told to help make the Wat beautiful.  So I am handed a bag of big yellow flowers, walk around and find nooks inside of these big leafy plants to put them.  It really did look nice.  I then threaded flowers through the middle to make garlands.

5 pm:  We return to the SAO, having never made it to the market, and I get on my bike to ride home.

5:01 pm:  Dogs across from the SAO chase me, so I get off of my bike and walk for a while.

5:03 pm:  Everyone I pass asks me why  I’m walking, so I get back on my bike and ride home.  Where I put on some electronic or classical music and dance alone in my room.

6:00 pm:  I go to aerobics with a group of ladies from the village. Everyone tries to make me teach but I refuse. Afterwards someone will insist on accompanying me home.

7:30 pm:  I am hungry so I load up a bowl of deliciousness with rice and eat it while I watch Roseanne on Youtube.

8 pm:  I screw around on the internet, try to learn something about what’s going on in the world via BBC 1 Minute World News or Vice, or make collages with cut-outs from Thai beauty magazines.

9 pm:  Skype America or watch more Youtube videos.

10 pm:  At this point in the night I want to eat something sweet, so I go look in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I get lucky and there are little bottles of this sweet and sour fermented milk thing that I guess is kind of like yogurt.  I eat it and feel great about it.

11 pm:  I cut out my light and ask the Great Spirit to watch over my family and friends.  Then I fantasize about my future in the mobile sweetened milk product business until strange things start to happen, and then suddenly I hear my neighbor yelling at her cat again.

I prefer that she have more days like that. Without scorpions.

Ha, ha! That’s very funny! Right? We’re laughing here, right?

dinner

Last night, my wife made a big pot of spaghetti sauce. It was very good. And normally, I’d be looking forward to having it a couple more times before the leftovers ran out.

But at mid-morning today, I got this text:

Just found my spaghetti sauce on stove. Was planning on giving it to kids for lunch.

Ohboyohboyohboy. Homina-homina. I was the last one to eat last night, and the last one to bed.

I have excuses, real ones. I had meant to put it up, but the pot was still hot, and I wanted to wait until it was cool enough to put in a plastic container. The light is out over the stove (not just the bulb; something wrong with the switch), so I couldn’t leave it on to remind me when I was turning lights out in kitchen. Etc.

She wrote back that there was nothing in the house (fortunately, she found some chicken nuggets in the freezer for the grandchildren), and that I was cooking tonight, and “I am hungry by 6. 7 at the latest.”

I answered with the equivalent of “aye-aye,” and went back to what I was doing.

Later, I happened to take a second to check Facebook, and found the above update, with a link to the story I made a pun about yesterday.

Good one, huh? Ha-ha!

Heh-heh.

(chuckle)

Yeah…

By the way, Sunday we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary.

If I make it to Sunday.

Gotta get that light fixed on the stove…

Richard Nixon, impersonated in all his awkwardness

Hard to believe that Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

I was already working at my first newspaper job at the time. I was a copy clerk at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. I spent a good part of that evening running back and forth between the newsroom and the composing room (on the next floor), as the managing editor sent me up to have various headlines blown up to full page-width, and I brought full-sized proof of those heds back down for him to peruse.

That was how you did an eye-popping, historic headline in those days. Now, you’d just try various heds on your screen, and see immediately how they’d look on the page. Then, with the news pages still done on hot type (loud, clanking linotype machines, cutting-edge technology in the late 19th century), we had to get the hed set in the desired font by a compositor, have a high-resolution proof of it made, and have a camera shoot it at the right distance and magnification to blow it up on the page camera — a process even more tedious than that employed by David Hemmings in Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.” Then, a proof was made of that.

At least, I think that’s how we did it. It’s been so long.

I saved at least one of those proofs I brought down to the M.E. Don’t know what I did with it.

Anyway, to celebrate the milestone, I share the above weird little video with Harry Shearer playing Nixon. Here’s a description of the video:

In a new video just posted online, Harry Shearer inhabits Richard Nixon in a verbatim comedic re-creation of Nixon’s poignant last 6 minutes before he resigned the Presidency, forty years ago today.

This excerpt, from Shearer‘s TV series “Nixon’s The One,” includes Nixon’s previously little known – and surprising – words to the CBS camera crew, which Shearer uncovered using advanced audio restoration techniques.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD46pHpRVzo

For the rest of “Nixon’s The One,” Shearer and his co-writer Nixon historian Stanley Kutler combed through thousands of hours of the legendary Nixon audio tapes, and re-enacted word for word the best moments as if filmed by a hidden camera.

“Nixon was one of the great comic characters of the 20th century,” Shearersays. “When I first began listening to his secret tapes, the revelation to me was the crazy conversations that went on in this place on the public dime. Stanley and I aimed to be as accurate as humanly possible in the way these lines are spoken, in the intonations, in the pauses, in the way people interact. Our job was to be faithful transmitters of this incredible record of craziness.”

Stay tuned for more news on the US launch of the series in fall 2014, which aired earlier this year on Sky Arts in the UK.

With a program like this, maybe even I could have served

I’ve always chafed at the fact that I could not serve in the military, because of something as simple and stupid as chronic asthma.

As long as I use Asmanex and Singulair daily, it’s totally under control, as my nightly strenuous workouts on the elliptical trainer prove. (Although, I confess, the drugs available when I was military age were considerably less effective.) But as an Army general confirmed for me recently, they don’t want you if you need to take anything on a regular basis.

But according to this video shared by Stan Dubinsky, Israel makes it possible for anyone and everyone to serve in the IDF.

That’s the way it should be. I think everyone should serve. It’s good for the individual, and good for the society overall. But at the very least, you should be allowed to serve if you want to.

Here’s a piece about the Israeli program:

Children with special needs in Israel face an often harsh disappointment at the age of 18, when they are left behind as others join the IDF. A unique project seeks to change that, allowing disabled children to overcome their limitations and enlist.

Maj. Col. (res.) Ariel Almog founded the project ten years ago, to integrate disabled youth into the IDF in a three-year program, helping prepare them for independent life in Israeli society.

A few months ago the association “Lend a Hand to a Special Child,” founded in 2005 by parents of special needs children, joined the project to help increase its scale and allow thousands of disabled youth to join.

Rabbi Mendi Belinitzki, CEO of Lend a Hand to a Special Child, explained that the project “starts in the army but doesn’t end there. We can clearly see how afterwards it leads to a better integration into the society, the community and the workforce.”…

Yeah, I know, wise guys out there. This indeed invites comparison to the classic Onion piece about “very special forces,” which was funny but cruel.

But this is a serious matter. Everyone should have at least the opportunity to serve.

Remembering Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee

Lamar Hand Shaking_Display

I got this email yesterday…

Hi Brad,

I am a staff writer for Governing Magazine and came across your blog while doing some Googling about Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee. (Governing covers state and local governments across the country and our audience is largely elected officials/public employees.) I’m working on a fun piece for one of our upcoming issues about the political stunt of walking and was wondering if you were available this week to chat about the topic as you covered Alexander’s campaign in ‘78. The piece will take an overall look at some of the more famous “walks” by pols – from Missouri’s Walkin’ Joe Teasdale to Illinois’ (aptly named) Dan Walker, the public stroll has been a popular political tool. More recently, Adam O’Neal, mayor of the small town of Belhaven, N.C., took a 273-mile trek to Washington, D.C. to protest the closing of his local hospital. President Obama this spring took an impromptu stroll to the Dept. of the Interior for a meeting.

I’d love to hear your take on the effectiveness of Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk and how it resonated with people. And I’m also curious about your broader thoughts on the gimmick as a whole. How effective has this type of stunt been? Who’s done it right and are there pitfalls?

Are you available Wednesday or Thursday for a phone call? Or you can always reach me directly at the number below.

Thanks,

Liz

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Liz Farmer | Staff Writer
Governing Magazine

… and I talked with Liz for about 20 minutes this morning.

I didn’t have anything really profound to say. Here are some of the points I hit on:

  • First, I wasn’t on the actual, full walk across Tennessee (which, if you follow I-40, is about 450 miles). I was covering him during the last weeks of the general election campaign, and he had completed the walk (if I remember correctly) well before the primary. His walk was a campaign trope in the past tense: “On my walk across the state, I found yadda-yadda…” BUT I got the general flavor of it, because everywhere he went, he’d get out and walk a mile or so along the side of the road in his trademark red-and-black checked flannel shirt, khakis and hiking boots, waving at the cars. I got some photos of him doing that along a busy thoroughfare in Nashville. The brand was working for him, so he kept it going through to the end.
  • Lamar was trying to set himself apart at a time when politicians-as-usual had a particularly seedy reputation. The state had endured four years of astoundingly bold corruption under Democrat Ray Blanton. And Lamar himself had worked in the Nixon White House, a fact that might have figured in his failure to get elected four years earlier. Nixon was the master of limited access and staged availabilities, since he was so socially awkward. This walk was the opposite, and allowed him to project as an outdoorsy, clean-cut kind of guy — he looked and sounded like Pat Boone (Boone did some PSAs that were airing on the radio at about that time, and whenever he came on, I thought it was Alexander).
  • Since she was looking for examples of politicians talking long walks for political purposes, I urged her to look into Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000 to demand that the Confederate flag come off the dome. That had an impact at the time — and was mentioned recently in a nationally syndicated column, so it should be easy to look up.
  • Even though we’re far more cynical and suspicious these days, I think Tennesseans who remember Alexander’s walk still have positive connotations connected to it, largely because he wasn’t a disappointment to them. He was open and aboveboard in his dealings as governor. He worked VERY well across the aisle, persuading Speaker Ned Ray McWherter and the other Democratic leaders to go for the kinds of education reform that were usually anathema to Dems. He harks back to a better time, when Republicans like him and his mentor Howard Baker disagreed with Democrats, but didn’t see them as the enemy, but as people to work with for the betterment of the state and country.
  • That, of course, is why Alexander has Tea-Party opposition in this Thursday’s primary (Tennessee has primaries at a much more rational and voter-friendly time than we do; our June primaries mean there’s plenty of time for mischief in the Legislature after filing deadlines). Here’s hoping his opponent does no better than his counterpart in Kansas, the president’s distant cousin. Lamar Alexander is exactly the kind of senator this country needs in Washington, and there too few like him left. (See “In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand” by Dan Balz in the WashPost.)

I wished I could have put my hands on one story I wrote, right after Alexander won the 1978 election, which ran on the front page of The Jackson Sun. It was an exclusive, and one of the best stories I wrote during my brief time as a reporter. It was Alexander’s own account of how he had come back after defeat four years earlier. A week or two before Election Day, at the end of a long day of campaigning, Alexander and a reporter from the Tennessean were relaxing over a drink on the campaign plane on the way back from an event at one of the far ends of the state. (We had access to candidates in those days that reporters only dream of now, and our papers thought nothing about paying a pro-rata share of the plane rides.) Alexander just started talking about how he come to that point, and the Tennessean guy just listened and enjoyed his drink, and I took notes like mad. Even John Parish, the gruff dean of Tennessee political writers, praised the piece I got from that eavesdropping.

That probably would have provided Liz with some insights, but this was years before electronic archiving. That clip is probably moldering in a box in my attic somewhere…

My son-in-law’s study mentioned by The Atlantic

This morning I happened to be searching for something unrelated and came up with an article that appeared last week in The Atlantic. I skimmed it, and it suddenly started looking very familiar, right at this point:

There are more variables at play than just pronunciation, though. In competitive fields that have classically been dominated by men, such as law and engineering, women with sexually ambiguous names tend to be more successful. This effect is known as the Portia Hypothesis (named for the heroine of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice who disguises herself as a lawyer’s apprentice and takes on the name Balthazar to save the titular merchant, Antonio). A study found that female lawyers with more masculine names—such as Barney, Dale, Leslie, Jan, and Rudell—tend to have better chances of winning judgeships than their more effeminately named female peers. All else being equal, changing a candidate’s name from Sue to Cameron tripled a candidate’s likelihood of becoming a judge; a change from Sue to Bruce quintupled it….

And sure enough, I followed the link and found that the study was one co-authored by my son-in-law, an economist who teaches at USC.

If I recall correctly, the idea for the study grew out of a conversation several years ago between him and my daughter, an attorney, regarding such female federal court judges in South Carolina as Bruce Hendricks and Cameron Currie. The subject was particularly, personally interesting to them both because it was about the time their twins were born. The twins are named for their great-grandmothers. Twin A is called by my wife’s mother’s unmistakably feminine first name. Twin B is known by my mother’s neutral maiden surname.

The twins are six-and-a-half now, so it’s a bit early to see whether Twin B will be a federal judge, while Twin A follows a different path. We’ll see. They’re just precious little girls right now…

What's in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

What’s in a name? The twins last week, trying to get their cousin to smile with them for the camera.

I enjoyed the beach much more this time. Didn’t cry once…

beach 1954 cropped

As I may have mentioned, we were at the beach all last week. While there, my mother shared with me the above photo of my reaction to the ocean on being introduced to it in 1954.

I look at it, and I know exactly what I was thinking: “It’s WET, and it’s SANDY and the SUN is RIGHT in my EYES! What are you people DOING to me?!?!?”

That’s my Dad, the career sailor, doing his best to bravely smile through his son’s disgraceful, lubberly behavior.

Just to let you know that the Warthen stock has gotten hardier over time, and improved its attitude (maybe there’s something to that evolution stuff), below you will see a photo I took of my grandson at about the same age (last summer), charging into the surf laughing.

He was just as enthusiastic this year, but this photo captured the contrast so well.

Anyway, we had a great time. Even I did.

beach 2013

 

 

 

Here’s how the scar is coming along…

scar

Doug, or someone (I can’t seem to find the email now) said I should give y’all an update on how the Red Badge of Stupidity is coming along.

I was reminded again this morning when Pat Littlejohn of the SC Center for Fathers and Families told me I had kind of a Frankenstein thing going on.

The doctor who took out the stitches assured me it would make for a real “tough guy” scar, since it’s vertical, and doesn’t blend in with the wrinkles when I furrow my brow, which you see me doing above in an effort to look at the camera. Sort of like the mark you’d get from someone breaking a bottle on your head in a barroom brawl in an old Western. Except it the Westerns, no one ever had any marks on them in the next scene…

As for other effects, I’m still kind of scatterbrained, but no one will think that’s out of the ordinary…

An act of God kept The State from winning that Pulitzer

TIM DOMINICK TDOMINICK@THESTATE

TIM DOMINICK TDOMINICK@THESTATE

That is to say, a second act of God, less than four weeks after the first.

You may have read in the paper that those of us who were on the newsroom staff that nearly won the Pulitzer for our coverage of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 are being honored with a reception at The State today.

We should have won it. We did a bang-up job in those days and weeks before and after the landfall on Sept. 21, not only covering every possible angle of the damage and its impact across the state, but providing lots of “news you can use,” telling people where and how to get help or give it, updated daily.

It was a heady time, characterized by strong teamwork. A couple of my fellow editors got to go down to the ravaged coast with the reporters and photographers, and I was envious of them. I was stuck at the office, helping supervise and coordinate coverage and get it into the paper.

But then, on Oct. 17, the second act of God — or the fickle finger of fate, if you prefer — struck. A 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit San Francisco during the World Series. The fact that it was the first earthquake captured live on television — because of the Series — riveted national attention on that disaster in an unprecedented manner. The San Jose Mercury News, our Knight Ridder sister paper, also did a bang-up job. Remember the quake beginning as my wife’s cousin Tim McCarver was narrating highlights from the previous game? Remember the images of the pancaked overpass? Yeah, everybody else did, too. They got the Pulitzer for General News Reporting, leaving us as one of the two finalists.

Since then, The State has only come close to a Pulitzer twice. Both times, the finalist was Robert Ariail, during the years that I was his editor. So I was close to the situation all three times that The State was close to a Pulitzer. But that one in 1989 was particularly bittersweet, because it would have been a win for all of us, Robert included. We wanted to win for The State as an institution, and for Tom McLean, as that was his last year as executive editor.

We didn’t make it, but we went down swinging. And we remember what we did together fondly. Not that we’re ghouls, fondly recalling a disaster. It’s the camaraderie, the Band of Brothers aspect that generates the positive feeling.

Here’s the list of people being credited with that finalist showing:

Hugo Alumni include:
Jeff Amberg
Susan Ardis
Robert Ariail
Dottie Ashley
Perry Baker
Pat Berman
Warren Bolton
Lee Bouknight
Margaret Bouknight
Claudia Brinson
Rosie Brooks
Bobby Bryant
Clint Bryson
Pat Butler
Bob Cole
John Collins
Betty Lynn Compton
Jeffrey Day
Tim Dominick
Carol Farmington
Thom Fladung
Holly Gatling
Bob Gillespie
Doug Gilmore
Kay Gordon
Richard Greer
Frank Heflin
Bill HIggins
Dawn Hinshaw
Gordon Hirsch
Bobby Hitt
Deborah Lynn Hook
Bhakti Larry Hough
Bill Hughes
Page Ivey
Joe Jackson
Bill Kelly III
Lou Kinard
Michael Kozma
Dawn Kujawa
Clif LeBlanc
Michael Lewis
Mike Livingston
Diane Lore
Salley McInerney
Norma McLean
Tom McLean
Jim McLaurin
Jeff Miller
Michael Miller
Bill Mitchell
Dave Moniz
Will Moredock
Fred Monk
Loretta Neal
David Newton
Jennifer Nicholson
Margaret O’Shea
Paul Osmundson
Levona Page
Charles Paschal
Lezlie Patterson
Beverly Phillips
Ginger Pinson
Charles Pope
Bertram Rantin
Dargan Richards
Bunny Richardson
Maxie Roberts
Bill Robinson
Pat Robertson
Cindi Ross Scoppe
Michael Sponhour
Bob Stuart
Beverly Shelley
Steve Smith
Bob Spear
Bill Starr
Linda Stelter
Clark Surratt
Rick Temple
Rob Thompson
Ernie Trubiano
Jan Tuten
Helene Vickers
Nancy Wall
Brad Warthen
Neil White

I wonder how many of us will be there this afternoon…

pulitzer

Pew thinks I fit in the ‘faith and family left.’ Interesting…

When I saw the headline at The Fix, “Proud to be an American? You’re probably not a true liberal,” I thought, Well, that’s yet another reason why I’m not a liberal.

At least, not as the term is popularly defined. There are a lot of points of alienation between me and today’s “liberals” beyond the fact that Michele Obama set my teeth on edge when she said, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country…”

And yet, the study upon which the piece was based, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, says I fit in a category that has “left” in its name.

Specifically, it thinks I fit in the “Faith and Family Left,” one of eight “political typologies” into which it separates Americans. The category is described thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

So, Pew thinks I’m a black preacher or something. OK, I’m certainly more comfortable being that that I am as “Solid Liberal” or “Steadfast Conservative.” I’m even pleased with the “Faith and Family” part, but I could do without the “left” part. Because you know how the current “left” and “right” repel me.

Pew’s questionnaire forced me into that box with questions that had no right answer. Take this one, for instance:

bad choices

Like the Kulturkampf battle between faith and science, this is framed as a false and unnecessary choice. I don’t hold either of those positions. I clicked on the second one because I HAD to choose. But as you know, my belief is that we have not given up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism — which the libertarians believe is false. Since we haven’t been asked to do that, then it obviously isn’t necessary.

But a casual observer would read that response and think that I’m in the Edward Snowden camp, arguing against surveillance programs. Which is 180 degrees from where I am, as you know. I think the NSA programs are fine. I just don’t think they intrude on our privacy or freedom.

What I needed was an option like, “Our current security measures are fine, and don’t infringe our privacy or freedom. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.” That I could have clicked on happily.

There were a bunch of questions like that. Which causes me to doubt the value of the survey.

And yet, when I had glanced at the categories before I took the survey, my first impression was that if I fit in any of them, it would be the one called “Faith and Family” leaving out the “left” bit.

So maybe there’s something to this method after all.

Maybe you should take it, and see where you end up. Here’s the link.

The 2014 Political Typology: Polarized Wings, a Diverse Middle

The passing of Howard Baker

baker

This came in a little while ago from The Washington Post:

Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked “what did the president know and when did he know it?” and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom….

That’s me with Baker in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1980. I had just arrived to cover him as he campaigned for the presidential nomination. It’s a shame that he didn’t do better than he did.

And it’s a greater shame that there are so few pragmatic centrists like Baker left — a fair-minded conservative who did not hesitate to grill the Nixon administration to discover the truth.

We still have Lamar Alexander, who comes out of that same commonsense Tennessee Republican tradition — people who gained high office before the Reagan revolution, and before the hardening of ideological positions on both ends of the spectrum. Our own Lindsey Graham is made from a similar mold — although, being of a later generation, he is more marked by the partisan wars than Baker ever was.

But the Howard Bakers, the Sam Nunns, the Scoop Jacksons… they’re all gone. And we’re worse off for it…