Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I'm Watching #56

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.

This is a powerful and difficult movie. Bring plenty of kleenex with you! All the good people suffer and the little triumphs are cold comfort by comparison. It's really just too REAL.

French with English sub-titles.

What the FUCK?

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
How do you address and curtail such ignorance? Who's (empty) head needs to roll?

"Grand Canyon's Age An Official Mystery"

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.'"

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed

Ancestry Role Call 2006

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Year “Ends” are always milestones. The passing into ancestry in the previous 12 months of public fugues gives us reasons to reflect. Here are my picks of the most significant passages in the past year. Personal thoughts appear in parenthesis after the brief biographies.

ROW ONE [L to R]

Singer Lou Rawls, January 6
Lou Rawls, the velvet-voiced singer who started as a church choir boy and went on to sell more than 40 million albums and win three Grammys in a career that spanned nearly five decades and a range of genres, died on Jan. 6. He was 72. Rawls had been hospitalized for treatment of lung and brain cancer. His wife, Nina, was at his bedside when he died, Shefrin said. The family said Rawls was 72, although other records indicate he was 70.

Actress Shelley Winters, January 14
Shelley Winters, a blond bombshell of the 1940s who evolved into a character actress best remembered for her roles as victims, shrews and matrons, died of heart failure on Jan. 14. She was 85. Winters was the first to win two Oscars in the best supporting category for her roles as Mrs. Van Daan in Stevens' "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) and Rose-Ann D'Arcy, the abusive mother who tries to turn her blind daughter into a prostitute in "A Patch of Blue" (1965). Among her 130 films was "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), which earned her another best-supporting actress nomination.

Actor Anthony Franciosa, January 19
Anthony Franciosa, whose strong portrayals of moody, troubled characters made him a Hollywood star in the 1950s and '60s but whose combative behavior on movie sets hampered his career, died on Jan. 19 after suffering a massive stroke. He was 77. Franciosa was part of a new wave in the mid-20th century who revolutionized film acting with their introspective, intensely realistic approach to their roles.

Coretta Scott King, January 31
Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband's assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died. She was 78. She was a supportive lieutenant to her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., during the most tumultuous days of the American civil rights movement. She had married him in 1953. After her husband's assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she kept his dream alive while also raising their four children.

Actor/political activist Al Lewis, February 3
Al Lewis, a longtime political activist best known for his television role as Grandpa Munster on "The Munsters" sitcom, died on Feb. 3 after years of failing health. He was 95.

ROW TWO [L to R]

Feminist-author Betty Friedan, February 4
Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique" helped shatter the cozy suburban ideal of the post-World War II era and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died on Feb. 4, her birthday, of congestive heart failure. She was 85. Friedan's assertion that a woman needed more than a husband and children was a radical break from the Eisenhower era, when the very idea of a wife doing any work outside of house work was fodder for gag writers.

(I ate a meal at Thaiphoon’s just off of Connecticut Ave., NW in Washington, DC a couple of years ago across from Betty -- it was rather spooky!)

Actor Franklin Cover, February 5
Franklin Cover, who became a familiar face as George and Louise Jefferson's neighbor in the long-running TV sitcom "The Jeffersons," died on Feb. 5. He was 77. Cover died of pneumonia at the Lillian Booth Actor's Fund of America home in Englewood, N.J. He had been living at the home since December 2005 while recuperating from a heart condition. In his nearly six decades in show business, Cover made numerous appearances on television shows, including "The Jackie Gleason Show,""All in the Family," "Will & Grace," "Living Single," "Mad About You" and "ER."

'Jaws' author Peter Benchley, February 11
Peter Benchley, whose novel "Jaws" terrorized millions of swimmers even as the author himself became an advocate for the conservation of sharks, died at his home in Princeton, N.J., on Feb. 11. He was 65. Wendy Benchley, married to the author for 41 years, said the cause of death ,was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and a fatal scarring of the lungs.

(One reason why I don’t like swimming in the ocean!)

Actor Dennis Weaver, February 24
Actor Dennis Weaver, the slow-witted deputy Chester Goode in the TV classic western "Gunsmoke" and the New Mexico deputy solving New York crime in "McCloud," died on Feb. 24. He was 81.

(I saw “Duel” when it first premiered on the Wednesday Night Movie of the Week. Amazing, riviting film, my most vivid memory of Dennis Weaver.)

Actor Don Knotts, February 24
Don Knotts, the saucer-eyed, scarecrow-thin comic actor best known for his roles as the high-strung, small-town deputy Barney Fife on the 1960s CBS series "The Andy Griffith Show" and the leisure-suit-clad landlord Ralph Furley on ABC's '70s sitcom "Three's Company," died on Feb. 24. He was 81.


Actor Darren McGavin, February 25
Darren McGavin, the husky, tough-talking actor who starred in the TV series "Mike Hammer," played a grouchy dad in the holiday classic "A Christmas Story" and had other strong roles in such films as "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "The Natural," died on Feb. 25. He was 83.

Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, March 6
Kirby Puckett, a Hall of Fame outfielder who won two World Series in a 12-year baseball career with the Minnesota Twins, died on March 6, a day after suffering a stroke at his Arizona home. He was 45.

Musician Ali Farka Toure, March 7
Ali Farka Toure, a traditional African musician who won two Grammy Awards, died on March 7 in his native Mali after a long illness. He was in his late 60s.

Actress Maureen Stapleton, March 13
Actress Maureen Stapleton, the Oscar-winning character actress whose subtle vulnerability and down-to-earth toughness earned her dramatic and comedic roles on stage, screen, and television, died on March 13. She was 80.

(Will never forget her performance in “Bye, Bye, Birdie”.....)

Fashion designer Oleg Cassini, March 17
The magic of Camelot may have had something to do with Oleg Cassini, the designer who created Jacqueline Kennedy's graceful, elegant look. Cassini died on March 17 at age 92 in a Long Island, N.Y., hospital, said his wife, Marianne. Cassini created Jackie Kennedy's Inauguration Day outfit, a fawn-colored wool coat with a sable collar over a matching wool dress, with a pillbox hat from Halston. Try though they might, the work of imitators never quite compared.


Race car driver Paul Dana, March 26
Race car driver Paul Dana, 30, died after a horrific two-car crash during the final practice for the Toyota 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26. The rookie driver had been traveling at close to 180 mph. He was pronounced dead in the trauma center of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Last Titanic survivor Lillian Gertrud Asplund, May 6
Lillian Gertrud Asplund, 99, the last survivor of the Titanic who remembered its sinking, died on May 6 at her home in Shrewsbury, Mass. Asplund's mother, Selma, and another brother, Felix, who was 3, also survived the Titanic sinking on April 15, 1912. The Asplund family had boarded the ship as third-class passengers on their way back to Worcester from their ancestral homeland, Sweden, where they had spent several years.

Former U.S. poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, May 14
Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner whose expressive verse, social commitment and generosity to young writers spanned three-quarters of a century, died on May 14 at his home in Manhattan. He was 100.

(I once had dinner in a tragically lousy restaurant at a table adjacent to Stanley Kunitz. Afterwards, I and my guest attended a reading by him at the Folger Library Theatre here in Washington, D.C. We were the only present who knew how many martini’s the good poet had just downed, and how difficult it was for him to get the Asian staff at the Thai-Italian fusion dive to get his directions for making one correct! Priceless evening; I only wish I had picked up the tab for him....)

Texas politician Lloyd Bentsen, May 23
Lloyd Bentsen, a courtly Texan who represented the state in Congress for 28 years and served as President Bill Clinton's first treasury secretary, died at his home in Houston on May 23. He was 85. Bentsen's distinguished political career took him from the humble beginnings of a county office in the Rio Grande Valley in the 1940s to six years in the U.S. House, 22 in the U.S. Senate and two in the Clinton Cabinet, where he was instrumental in directing the administration's economic policy.

Keyboardist Billy Preston, June 6
Billy Preston, the exuberant keyboardist who landed dream gigs with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and enjoyed his own series of hit singles, including "Outta Space" and "Nothing From Nothing," died on June 6. He was 59. Preston had battled chronic kidney failure, and received a kidney transplant in 2002. But the kidney failed and he remained on dialysis.


Comedian-actor Red Buttons, July 13
Red Buttons, the carrot-topped burlesque comedian who became a top star in early television and then in a dramatic role won the 1957 Oscar as supporting actor in "Sayonara," died on July 13. He was 87. Buttons died of vascular disease at his home in the Century City area of Los Angele, CA.

Actor Jack Warden, July 19
Jack Warden, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor who played gruff cops, coaches and soldiers in a career that spanned five decades, died on July 19. He was 85. Warden was nominated twice for best-supporting-actor Oscars -- for the 1975 movie "Shampoo" and in 1978's "Heaven Can Wait." He won a supporting-actor Emmy for his role as a coach in the 1971 TV movie "Brian's Song" and was twice nominated in the 1980s for best leading actor in a comedy for his show "Crazy Like a Fox."

Talk Show Host, Mike Douglas, August 11
Former television talk show host Mike Douglas applauds during ceremony inducting him and others into the Walk of Fame in Philadelphia, on Sept. 25, 1997. Douglas, who drew on his affable personality and singing talent during 21 years as a talk show host, died in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 11, on his 81st birthday, his wife said.

Actor Glenn Ford, August 30
Actor Glenn Ford, who played strong, thoughtful protagonists in films such as "The Blackboard Jungle,""Gilda" and "The Big Heat," died on Aug. 30. He was 90. Failing health forced Ford to skip a 90th birthday tribute on May 1 at Hollywood's historic Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. But he did send greetings via videotape, adding, "I wish I were up and around, but I'm doing the best that I can.... There's so much I have to be grateful for."

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, September 4
"The Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin, 44, who made a career out of getting dangerously close to deadly beasts, was stabbed through the heart on Sept. 4, by a stingray during filming of a new TV program on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

(Krykee! Live hard and fast, die young.....)

ROW SIX [L to R]

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, September 13
Former Texas Gov. Anne Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died on Sept. 13 at her home after a battle with cancer surrounded by her family. She was 73.

(What is it with Texas women? They are so amazing! Molly Ivans, Barbara Jordan, Barbara Lee...and certainly, Ann Richards. If only the men could manage to be such role models!)

Blues guitarist Etta Baker, September 24
Etta Baker, an influential blues guitarist who recorded with Taj Mahal and was awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, died on Sept. 23. She was 93.

Actress Jane Wyatt, October 20
Jane Wyatt, the actress who for six years on "Father Knows Best" was one of TV's favorite moms, died on Oct. 20. She was 96. Wyatt died in her sleep at her Bel-Air home. She experienced health problems since suffering a stroke at 85, but her mind was sharp until her death, her son Christopher Ward said. Wyatt had a successful film career in the 1930s and '40s, notably as Ronald Colman's lover in 1937's "Lost Horizon." But it was her years as Robert Young's TV wife, Margaret Anderson, on "Father Knows Best" that brought the actress her lasting fame.

(And don’t forget, she was Spock’s mother!)

Author William Styron, Nov. 1
William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose explorations of the darkest corners of the mind were charged by personal demons that nearly drove him to suicide, died in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., on Nov. 1. He was 81. Styron was reportedly working on a military novel, yet published no full-length work of fiction after "Sophie's Choice," which came out in 1979. His other works include "Lie Down In Darkness" and "The Confessions of Nat Turner," which won the Pulitzer despite protests that the book was racist and inaccurate.

Journalist Ed Bradley, Nov. 9
CBS newsman Ed Bradley died of leukemia at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital on Nov. 9. He was 65.

(A class act! Period.)


Actor Jack Palance, Nov. 10
Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in "Shane," "Sudden Fear" and other films who turned to comedy at 70 with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died on Nov. 10. Palance died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family,. Palance was 85 according to Associated Press records, but his family gave his age as 87.

Ex-Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, Nov. 17
Bo Schembechler, who became one of college football's great coaches in two decades at Michigan, died on Nov. 17 after taping a TV show on the eve of the Wolverines' No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with perennial rival Ohio State. He was 77. Schembechler collapsed during the taping of a television show in and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died.

(College football was the thing in my little hometown in Michigan; and Bo was the god. Every year when U of M and Ohio State met the balance of the universe teeter upon the outcome. I was saddened to learn of his sudden death, and reminded of how much power a stranger has over other’s worlds.....)

R&B singer Ruth Brown, Nov. 17
Ruth Brown, whose recordings of "Teardrops in My Eyes,""5-10-15 Hours" and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" shot her to rhythm-and-blues stardom in the 1950s, died on Nov. 17. She was 78. Brown, who later in life won a Grammy, died of complications from a stroke and heart attack at a Las Vegas-area hospital. Brown's soulful voice produced dozens of hits for Atlantic Records, cementing the then-fledgling record label's reputation as an R&B powerhouse.

Director Robert Altman, Nov. 20
Robert Altman, the caustic and irreverent satirist behind "M-A-S-H," "Nashville" and "The Player" who made a career out of bucking Hollywood, died on Nov. 20. He was 81. A five-time Academy Award nominee for best director, most recently for 2001's "Gosford Park," Altman finally won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.

(And my favorite: “Gossford Park”.)

Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Dec. 8
Former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, a one-time Democrat who switched to the Republican Party and became a heroine of conservatives, died on Dec. 8. She was 80.


Actor Mike Evans, Dec. 14
Mike Evans, best known as Lionel Jefferson in the TV sitcoms "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," died of throat cancer on Dec. 14 at his mother's home in Twentynine Palms, Calif. He was 57.

(Mike was just one part of an amazing franchise created by Norman Lear that profoundly challenged and ultimately changed America in the 70’s and 80’s. He joins fellow troup members Esther Rolle, Carole O’Connor and fellow Jeffersons’ cast members; Isabel Sanford, Roxie Roker, and Frank Cover into the realm of Ancestry. Thanks for being a part of something so culturally important! Let this be a salute as well to all the actors present and passed who participated in shows like: “All In The Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude,” and “Good Times!”)

'Godfather of Soul' James Brown, Dec. 25
James Brown, the undeniable "Godfather of Soul," died of heart failure on Christmas morning. He was 73. The pompadoured dynamo's classic singles included "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)." One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics. From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, Brown's rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape.

Former President Gerald R. Ford, Dec. 26
Former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared "Our long national nightmare is over" as he replaced Richard Nixon but may have doomed his own chances of election by pardoning his disgraced predecessor, died at his desert home on Dec. 26. He was 93. A Michigan Republican elected to Congress 13 times before becoming the first appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew left amid scandal, Ford was Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straightforward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

(And yet, he was as entwined in the roots and essence of the neo-con machine whose agenda and ideology threatens the very foundation of our Constitution in this present hour as any politician of his time. His hands are not so clean, methinks...RIP)

Our Latest American Hero #55

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
While local papers are reporting on this story, the Dept. of Defense has yet to release an official PR on Army Sgt. Shaffer's death. So am not beginning this memorial in the usual way.

In fact, the picture is likewise atypical. On the left side of the photo of Army Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer, 23 of Mont Alto, PA, is an image from Iraq of a car bomb, an IED, being detonated by US troops. An image that compelled me to add this hero to my ongoing sample of the brave American's who have sacrificed their lives in our behalf.

The most common means by which US soldiers die in Iraq are the IED. And most commonly they are triggered as a convoy passes with soldiers in jeeps, trucks, humvees, tanks. And I've imagined that the percussive force of the explosion was the thing that killed them. That is, until I saw this photograph. And then read this article. And then came to this realization: our brave young men and women are being incinerated....

And our President manages to sleep well, to have no earthly idea of how to proceed, and to, from time to time, dismiss the entire war as a mere "comma" in the annals of history and to make jokes about his erroneous reason (WMD) with the Washington Press Corp for driving us into this Hell. So forgive my lack of imagination, but I don't get it.

“Mont Alto Soldier Dies From His Injuries”

The war in Iraq has claimed the life of a young Mont Alto soldier, critically injured when a roadside bomb exploded near his Bradley fighting machine Nov. 13 in Ramadi.

Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer, 23, died at 2:09 p.m. Wednesday in Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he had been hospitalized with burns over 80 percent of his body. Both hands and his left foot had been amputated since the explosion.

“We've lost a good son ... he was good to everybody,” his father, Edward C. Shaffer said this morning.

Shaffer and his wife, Brenda, as well as the soldier's girlfriend, Justina Martinez of Mont Alto and aunt and uncle Rod and Jody Shaffer of Scotland, were with him when he died.

“He went peacefully ... with no pain,” according to his father.

The soldier was sedated and hard to understand when he spoke, his father said.

“We talked to him just before he passed away. He was conscious for a little bit. You couldn't tell what he was saying,” the elder Shaffer said.

Shaffer was “very sick” since skin graft surgery last Wednesday failed, noted his father. “The doctors told us anything could happen at any time.”

The family kept a vigil by the soldier's bedside, “sitting and watching,” his father said. The Shaffers had rejoined their son Dec. 17, after being home in Mont Alto for about a month.

The Shaffers are planning to return home tomorrow and then will make arrangements for a military funeral.

Edward L. Shaffer of Mont Alto wants people to remember his grandson as being “a great soldier, a great hero and a great buddy to all his comrades. We're really going to miss him ... this will be a great loss to our family.”

The 2002 Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate was awarded a Purple Heart at an Army hospital in Germany before he was flown to Texas, according to his father.

Shaffer's parents and brother accompanied him on the journey.

Shaffer, a gunnery sergeant serving in the 136th Infantry, 3rd platoon, B Company, enlisted in the Army after graduating from Thompson Institute. He had served in Iraq for eight months and was due to come home Feb. 18.

Shaffer had undergone five surgeries, the last being skin grafting with skin grown from his own cells.

The quiet young man was close to his parents, Edward C. and Brenda Shaffer, and younger brother, Timothy, 22, and enjoyed computers.

The soldier was last home in July.

Shaffer described his son as a fighter, a go-getter who gave 100 percent to whatever he did.

The family is grateful for the support they have received since the accident.

“It's been great ... overwhelming,” Edward C. Shaffer said.

The local communities had rallied around the family, with hundreds of people sending well wishes via a link on The Record Herald's Web site as well as contributing to a benefit fund set up through F&M Trust in Mont Alto.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What I'm Watching #55

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
In the midst of the craziness of life, it's a good thing to enjoy comedy.

And this is a delightful little farce. It's not as good or as tightly focused as any on the shorts that catapulted Nick Park's little empire into a place that allows him to make more feature length films.

Like "Chicken Run" before it, it's just not that good a film, and yet--it's also amazing when you consider the technique invovled.


Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
A wise soul once said, "Those who can't do, teach." To this I would add: "Those who can't do (and most likely never could); can, at least, appreciate!"

Some War Analysis

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
A.k.a. "can't sleep/active mind"

Where to begin, eh? It's now December 29th, and we are on the cusp of many milestones. Saddam Hussein is about to die. We are about to record the bloodiest month of the year for US military casualties in Iraq. The Democrats are about assume control of both branches of congress. There is no end to the possibilities. So let's start with military casualties.

George W. Bush declared the end of hostile actions in Iraq in May of 2003. MAY OF 2003~! And since then, thousands of American soldiers have died. I know, cause I've kept track. Beginning with September 2001, I've kept an annual count of the men and women who've died while serving our country in actions related to A) our response to 9/11 and B) the "War on Terrorism" in Afghanistan and Iraq. I chose a September-to-September tally on purpose, and here are the stats:

Killed in this amorphous war against an ideology:
51 from September 2001 to September 2002 [i.e. S01-S02]
322 [S02-S03] = (sum) 373
734 [S03-S04] = (sum) 1107
991 [S04-S05] = (sum) 2098
851 [S05-S06] = (sum) 2949

And since September of this this year

370 [S06-D06] = (sum) 3319

In fact, this year's September to December totals present the highest trajectory of deaths of American Soldiers so far in this War. After the dust has settled, the Dept. of Defense has issued press releases for SEVEN soldiers who died on Christmas Day alone.

Amidst this rise in violence and attacks (and there are dozens and dozens of attacks on our troups every day which go unreported because no one is killed), we learn that the former leader of Iraq is about to die. I doubt Saddam will not see the light of 2007 (or the 11th day of Dhul-Hijjah in the Islamic year 1427). And what of his execution?

I predict two things. First, an uprising in Iraq that will escalate U.S. military casualties and once and for all demonstrate that George the Lesser bite off more than he can chew. And, second, a resulting softening of little George's resolve -- not based on troop loses or public opinion (two facts he's successfully ignored to date), but on the fact that his mission for his Daddy is finally complete. To say more is to write a whole 'nother essay, and better minds than mine will accomplish this task.

Finally, as Democrats assume power and begin investigations this administration will end. Oh, yeah; we don't get a new president for two years, but the power and huberace of George the Lesser is over.
And perhaps, faced with this fact and his father's vanquishing at the death of Saddam, the United States can begin the arduous task of leaving Iraq.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #54

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Army Pvt. Evan A. Bixler, 21, of Racine, Wis., died Dec. 24 in Hit, Iraq, of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire during security operations.  Bixler was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Baumholder, Germany.

'He Really Did Make Us Proud: Army Was Lifelong Dream For Bixler"

RACINE - August 2006 was the end of one long journey and the start of another for Evan Bixler.

Bixler, 21, a 2003 graduate of Park High School, had twice been denied entrance into the Army because of a medical condition.

But as autumn approached, his mother Lisa, father Kevin, sister Amy and grandparents John and Carol Neufield celebrated Evan's graduation from U.S. Army boot camp.

He had realized his lifelong dream of joining the Army, and was ready for his first assignment.

"He really did make us proud," sister Amy Bixler, 23, said. "There are no words for how proud we were of him."

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Baumholder, Germany, and later served in Iraq.

Bixler died Sunday while on duty in Hit, Iraq, of wounds from enemy indirect fire received during security operations, the Department of Defense said.

Hit is one of several predominantly Sunni population centers along the Euphrates River in Iraq's Anbar province.

Of the 2,978 U.S. war casualties in the war in Iraq, Bixler is the 20th American casualty in the small town and the eighth in the last three months.

Hit is considered a volatile town, and has seen recurrent fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents. It's along one of western Iraq's main routes traveled by non-Iraqi insurgents from Syria into central Iraq.

Gregory Jackson, the Warrant Officer assigned by the Army to assist the Bixler family as they cope with the loss of their loved one, said Bixler died while performing guard duty.

Jackson will help the family with funeral arrangements, communicate information from the military to the Bixler family as it comes available and assist with any research or counsel, as needed.

"They have taken it hard. Every day is going to be different from the next," Jackson said. "Their son gave the ultimate. This is the way the military family can give back during this difficult time."

What I'm Watching #54

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The first time I saw a Shakespearean play performed on stage was back when I was a senior in High School. I was smart enough to skip Basic English, and was allowed to substitute an elective course on English Lit. The drawing card was the fact that a Flat Rock High School graduate, who had led our school to the state championship in football the year before by kicking a winning field goal at the newly built Pontiac Superdome (and son of our middle school Librarian), was playing the role of Mercutio. The production was at Wayne State University in Detroit. The theater was rather small and in the three-quarter round. I had never read the play before.

And I will never forget the early bantering scene between the boys of the two houses. In the staging, when the character Gregory says,
"To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand: therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away," and punctuated the dialogue by grabbing a huge salami and placing at his crotch, swaying the hardy meat from side to side. Imagine my surprise! And I thought, 'Wow. Shakespeare is really cool!"

This film reignites that notion. See it again, soon.

Random Quote #59

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
~ Albert Einstein, 1879 - 1955

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I Love The DIVA's 01

#1 - Walking on Broken Glass

Three cuts from this amazing DIVA!

My Favorite. It was at it's zenith in the charts in the autumn in which my mother died. Such associations cement in our hearts asthetic experiences. And God knows, I've walked on broken glass a time or two in my life! Bless you Annie, and enjoy my other two selections.
#2 Sweet Dreams

The first rythym pounding presence of Annie. And my first turn on to her magic.
#3 - little bird

Love this one to pieces! The homage to her look in her first video, and other diva moments, and the rocking song! A speed walker's dream tune!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mastercard Blowjob Commercial

The Commercial you'd wish to see!

I Love My Apple

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
laptop! Like what's not to love!!

Monday, December 25, 2006

What I'm Watching #53

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
What was I thinking? Marriage for me is totally illegal in my Maryland!

This is a totally TV, Reality, Kitch-Vid. That's my warning.

It's inane! That's my review.

Our Latest American Hero #53

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Army Spc. Scott D. Dykman, 27, of Helena, Mont., died Dec. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

“Roadside Bomb Kills Soldier Near Baghdad”

Spc. Scott D. Dykman was killed when a roadside bomb struck his patrol Tuesday in Baghdad. Dykman, 27, was from Helena, Mont.

Army officials on Friday identified a Fort Richardson soldier killed in Iraq this week. Spc. Scott Dykman, 27, of Helena, Mont., was killed by a roadside bomb while on foot patrol south of Baghdad near Jurf al Sakhar on Tuesday, Alaska time, U.S. Army spokesman Maj. Kirk Gohlke said.
Dykman joined the Army in September 2003 and was assigned to Fort Richardson in July 2006.

Four other soldiers were injured in the incident, three seriously. Their identities have not been released. The injured soldiers were evacuated to a military hospital in Iraq for treatment, Gohlke said.

The death brings to six the number of dead from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, a 3,500-member unit out of Fort Richardson that left for a year-long deployment to Iraq in October. The unit had its first deaths in mid-December when five soldiers died in the span of a week.

The news comes as President Bush is in the midst of reviewing his policy on Iraq after months of escalating violence in the country.

About 3,800 Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers who left for the war zone in late summer 2005 recently returned. Twenty-six soldiers in that brigade died in Iraq.

Christmas Cheer

Vaughn Lowery-Joe Boxer KMart Christmas Commercial

For something on the lighter side. Joyeux Noël!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas at War

But clearly not for all -- Do something this Chirstmas to make someone's life merrier. And continue to demand an end to war and the suffering it brings. Blessings, r.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Random Quote #58

"For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men."

~ Pericles, c. 600 BCE

What I'm Watching #52

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Popped this DVD in last evening. Gosh it's an awefully good movie. The only one in which I enjoy watching Jack Nicholson perform. And Helen Hunt is a wonderful actor. And after Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas broke the "Gay" ceiling with "Philadelphia" back in 1993, it was fun to watch Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding, Jr. take up the challenge here. Any movie with a theme of imperfect people stumbling toward epiphanies quiet and profound is a winner in my book any day of the week. 5 kleenexes for "As Good As It Gets."

(Five? More like 45, I'd say!

Thank you, Alice.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In Memorium, Zolton Elik Naki, Jr.

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I learned today with confimation of the passing into Ancestry of my boyhood friend and next door neighbor, Zollie Naki. Thanks for the website,, I was able to make contact with his sister.

Allow me to celebrate his life with a portion of her email to me and my response.


What a joy to hear from you!  We have all wondered from time to time about your family.  It's been many years since anyone in our family lived in Flat Rock, so it is difficult to keep up.

I'm very sorry to tell you that Zollie died in April 2002.  It was an unbelievable shock--one from which we are still recovering.  As I write these words, I still find it hard to believe and miss him desperately.  He suffered a brain aneurysm with no advanced   warning.  He was in the hospital for 6 days with his family and friends pulling for him.  He tried to fight back but had a heart attack in the hospital.  He donated his organs to help other families--it was a small comfort to us.

Zollie was very happy.  He was working as a general foreman for a heavy equipment manufacturer.  He was living in Monroe with his wife Sue and their five school-aged daughters.  The oldest two have since graduated and are now in college.  I don't know if you know their history.  Let me just say that Zollie had a full load.  His wife has had MS most of her adult life and is now dealing with cancer--making Zollie's death all the more dififcult and hard to comprehend.  The girls take care of her now with lots of support from the family.

It warms my heart that he is remembered by others.  He was a great guy. 

Dear E.,

I hesitated to open your email for fear of what I would read. I am so deeply sorry for your loss; and for his family, and for himself. Zollie was a good man, and his passing into Ancestry was way, way too soon. Please accept my heartfelt condolences and allow me to share with you my most vivid memory of your good brother.

It was an early autumn day before the leaves had begun to turn, and we were walking home together from High School. I can't remember whether anyone else was with us. We turned onto Evergreen Drive headed for Field Street. For some reason we were walking in the middle of the street. Within a couple of houses walking distance, we noticed a car headed toward us, and then we realized that it was K. V.'s car. At almost the same time the driver of the car gunned his engine and peeled out toward us. I ran to the curb, and when I looked back there was Zollie, standing smack dab in the middle of the street. He legs where locked his chest was thrust outward, his arms spread open like a "star", and his eyes fixed like steel upon the speeding car. I barely had time to scream, "Zollie, get out of the road!" when he shouted, "Come and get me, V.!!!" Suddenly, the air was ripped by the squeal of skidding tires, and I swear to you upon a stack of Bibles, that car wrenched and slid to stop only inches away from your brother! And he never even flinched.

And then he slammed his fist onto the hood of the car and cried out, "Screw you, V.!" (I think K. was vomitting onto his dashboard he was so shaken by Zollie's bravery.) The rest of the way home I felt like some silly puppy dog following his hero. I saw a man of integrity and courage that day. And that's how I will always remember Zollie.

Zolton Elik Naki, Jr. ~ May Light Perpetual shine upon you.

Our Latest American Hero #52

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew W. Clark, 22, of St. Louis, Mo., died December 14 due to injuries suffered from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Clark was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

"Ladue High Grad Is Killed In Iraq"

Marine Lance Cpl. Matt Clark thought about his mother when he filled out his emergency contact form before leaving for Iraq three months ago.

He wrote that he wanted his priest present if his mother had to hear the news dreaded by every parent of a child in the service.

On Thursday night, Msgr. Vernon Gardin accompanied three Marines to break the news that Clark was not coming home. That morning, at 8 a.m. St. Louis time, Clark, 22, was driving a vehicle when he was killed by a roadside bomb, Gardin said.

The word spread through a flurry of calls and e-mail among alumni and faculty members of Ladue Horton Watkins High School, where Clark graduated in 2002. He had transferred from Priory School at the end of his sophomore year and quickly became a key part of a close-knit drama club.

"He was a talented young man," said Kurt Knoedelseder, who had been his theater director in high school and heard the news late Thursday evening. "It knocks the wind out of you."

Clark's friends described a creative and intelligent young man, who loved to hang out at coffeeshops and drive around in his car. Some were surprised when he decided to join the Marines after a few years at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

"I couldn't believe he was going to do it, but there was no stopping him," said Eden Newmark, who attended high school with him.

He had been kind of different from some of the drama kids — more conservative and very religious. And he had always been interested in the military growing up, Gardin said.

"He spoke French and wanted to study philosophy. He could have done anything, but he wanted to be on the front lines," his uncle Todd Chamblin told the Belleville News Democrat.

He followed his father into the Marine Corps.

In Clark's senior year, his father died of lung cancer. His mother could not be reached for comment Friday.

Gardin said Clark attended daily Mass during his summer leave. He had already served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and was making plans about the rest of his life, according to his girlfriend, Leah Nuetzel of New York. She said he was a writer. He was considering colleges and graduate school and wanted to study philosophy.

"He was probably the funniest guy I knew," Newmark said. "He was the kind of person you stayed out with until 5 a.m. and didn't even realize it was late." He ate lunch in the theater class and found his niche with the drama club.

He had a role in "Oklahoma!" his senior year, at a time when his father was critically ill. Knoedelseder said the brothers and priests from Priory attended the production to show support.

Clark had met Gardin when he was a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton. He is now the vicar general for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

"I buried his father," Gardin said. Clark was an only child.

He is the 18th member of the battalion to be killed since it deployed to Iraq in September.

Gadin will preside over a Mass for Clark Friday at the Basilica of St. Louis followed by a burial at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, according to the Kriegshauser West Mortuary in St. Louis.

It's A Dog's Life!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
On one of the few cold days and on the eve of the Lunar Winter Solstice, it's nice to remember warmer, easier days spent on a beach somewhere!

A Commuter's Fantasy!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
As one who daily commutes two hours to and from work...I can relate!


Monday, December 18, 2006

Now That's Entertainment!

The Queen of the Night - The great Luciana Serra

From "Die Zauberflöte" by Mozart, The Queen of the Night aria is one of my favorites. If you've got the vchords, it must also be one of the most enjoyable to perform.


Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
With a mere seven days to go to the celebration, I choose two of my favorite Classic Comics protagonists, Camili-Cat and Naked Justice, to join me in wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous holiday for those who do not celebrate the birth of Christ.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Random Quote #57

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
"Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic."
--Frank Herbert, 1920-1986, from *Dune*

Meet A Courageous Young Man

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Matthew La Clair is a hero of a different type. He's a hero for everyone who has the mental ability and the ethical intregrity to understand the difference between personal theology and U.S. Constitutional polity.

His teacher was incapable of acting in a way that witnessed this distinction. I'm sure David Paszkiewicz is an honest, sincere, and good man. I would love to have him as my neighbor. YET, I would not allow him to make such blatant pro-Christian statements in any classroom I had any authority over.

Here's the article in part. The rest can be found at: And it includes audio exerpts from Matthew's tape recordings.

"Talk In Class Turns To God, Setting Off Public Debate On Rights"

KEARNY, N.J. — Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates.

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew is “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.” Some anonymous posters on the town’s electronic bulletin board,, called for Matthew’s suspension.

On the sidewalks outside the high school, which has 1,750 students, many agreed with 15-year-old Kyle Durkin, who said, “I’m on the teacher’s side all the way.”

While science teachers, particularly in the Bible Belt, have been known to refuse to teach evolution, the controversy here, 10 miles west of Manhattan, hinges on assertions Mr. Paszkiewicz made in class, including how a specific Muslim girl would go to hell.

“This is extremely rare for a teacher to get this blatantly evangelical,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit educational association. “He’s really out there proselytizing, trying to convert students to his faith, and I think that that’s more than just saying I have some academic freedom right to talk about the Bible’s view of creation as well as evolution.”

Even some legal organizations that often champion the expression of religious beliefs are hesitant to support Mr. Paszkiewicz.

“It’s proselytizing, and the courts have been pretty clear you can’t do that,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a group that provides legal services in religious freedom cases. “You can’t step across line and proselytize, and that’s what he’s done here.”

The class started on Sept. 11, and Matthew quickly grew concerned. “The first couple of days I had him, he had already begun discussing his religious point of view,” Matthew, a thin, articulate 16-year-old with braces and a passion for politics and the theater, recalled in an interview. “It wasn’t even just his point of view, it went beyond that to say this is the right way, this is the only way. The way he said it, I wasn’t sure how far he was going to go.”

On the second day of taping, after the discussion veered from Moses’s education to free will, Matthew asked why a loving God would consign humans to hell, according to the recording.

Stumbling Feet, More Like It!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Never one to get anywhere ahead of the pack, I just saw "Happy Feet" this evening as the entertainment portion of my monthly outing with my ex- and Miss M. his amazing grandmother and my beloved friend. As I mentioned once before, she's our cover for going to popular animation films. Although, I could also justify it by saying it's important research for my work with my constituency, the "Elementary" crowd--and truthfully I've been hooked on the medium since "Bambi"!

I would preface this review by saying, it's wonderful that a mere 12 years after the medium was declared dead; it's seen such a rise in popularity. With competition, and advances in technology, the scripts have improved, the range and quality of voice talent has grown, and generally things are really good. But with quantity there is also an inevitable rise in mediocrity. And "Happy Feet" certainly doesn't live up to the amazing quality of what I'm starting to describe as the holy trinity of pixaresque animation: "Shrek," "Monsters, Inc.," and "The Incredibles". I also enjoyed very much the first "Ice Age" (sequels in this medium have uniformly disappointed me), "Finding Nemo," and "Cars" (although I would have clicked a much heavier editing mouse on that one, it was too slow to start, and too enamored with it's own speed oriented special effects, a mon avis humblement)

But back to the "Happy" little flick in question. The story was tedious and the flow from premise to conclusion too riddled with gaps, diversions, and music! For a kids flick, some of the musical selections were inappropriate (NOTHING with SEX in it need even be considered--what where they thinking?!). The ethnic stereotypes were NOT amusing (or offensive actually, just BORING). And the obvious jabs at conservative religious fundimentalism seemed even in their blatancy confusing and weirdly sophisticated for a children's animated film. Conservative Christians have complained about the movie's supportive messages for homosexuality (as an expert in that field, with 45 years of first hand, on the ground, experience, they are once again using a non-issue to mask the real offense), when, in fact, it's far more anti religious absolutism than any stretched connection to GLBT ANYTHING.

Bottom line: 2 flippers down on "Happy Feet".

Friday, December 15, 2006

Random Quote #56

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
"There are years that ask questions and there are years that answer."

~ Zora Neal Hurston, 1891 - 1960

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Child's Art & Poetry 02

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I am amused when people try to equate the prestige of a job against it's monetary renumeration. Money isn't everything! Into my 23rd year as a public school teacher, and my 14th back in an elementary school, I am a rich man. I want for nothing. In the realm of perks, I cannot contain all the gifts that are mine....sincerely!

One of the truly amazing things about working with children is their creativity. How purely they express their understanding of the world around them. It is rejuvination to my soul on a daily basis.


The tiny fish enjoy themselves
in the sea.
Quick little splinters of life,
their little lives are fun to them
in the sea.

~ D. H. Lawrence, 1885 - 1930

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Method To Such Madness

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
And I know what I'm talking about!

This is John Wesley. A radical Christian who inspired a following that became a movement and eventually a sect that finally won denomination status under the auspices of the Protestant branch of Christianity....confused? Well, so are most Methodists! I was raised in a home where religion was not practiced, and yet acknowledged vis a vis the United Methodist church. So when I attended, I attended the 1st United Methodist Church of Flat Rock, Michigan. Methodists have been described as a denomination with rules, but no theology. Possibly why I gravitated to the Episcopal church (John Wesley's alligned faith home up until his death--he never founded a new denomination, his followers did.)

Here's a rundown of Methodist participation in our government. I graduated from the same college as Ted Strickland and Rob Portman.

"United Methodists Fill 61 Seats In New Congress"

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Sixty-one United Methodists will serve in the 110th Congress - approximately the same number as were elected in the 108th and 109th Congresses. The denomination also remained in third place among all religious groups.

The number of United Methodists in Congress will be the same as in the 108th session and one less than in the 109th session. Some partisan reshuffling has occurred, resulting in a net gain of four Democrats. In fact, all five newly elected United Methodists in the House of Representatives are Democrats. They are Tim Mahoney of Florida's 16th Congressional District (the seat vacated by Mark Foley); Dave Loebsack of Iowa's 2nd District; Nancy Boyda of the 2nd District of Kansas; and Betty Sutton of Ohio's 13th Congressional District.

CQ's Guide to the New Congress also lists Baron P. Hill, of Indiana's 9th District, as a United Methodist. In his former years in Congress, Hill was a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

There are 34 Republicans and 27 Democrats in the Methodist membership in the House of Representatives.

There were no changes in the 13 United Methodists serving in the U.S. Senate, where they are second in number to Catholics.

Missing from the 110th Congress will be Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who retired; Tom Osborne of Nebraska, who ran unsuccessfully for governor; Ted Strickland of Ohio, an ordained United Methodist minister, who was elected governor of the Buckeye State; and Donald Sherwood of Pennsylvania, who was defeated in November. (Rob Portman of Ohio resigned from Congress before the 2006 election; President Bush appointed him U.S. trade representative in 2005.)

With 10 members, Texas has the largest number of United Methodists in Congress (with a runoff election set for one of the state's districts Dec. 12), followed by five in Florida, four from Ohio, and three from Indiana and Kansas. Thirty states elected at least one United Methodist to Congress in 2006, the same as in 2004.

Thirty-five United Methodists represent states in the South or Border South, while 16 hail from the Midwest, seven from the Rocky Mountain West and the Pacific Coast, and three from the Mid-Atlantic states. There are no United Methodist members from New England.

In terms of strength within state delegations, the denomination is strongest in Kansas, where three of six members belong to The United Methodist Church. Two of five members in Nebraska and New Mexico are United Methodists. A third of the members from Arkansas and Wyoming are also United Methodists. Nearly a third - 30 percent - of the Texans in Congress are United Methodists.

United Methodists rank third in total Congressional membership, following Roman Catholics in first place and Baptists in second. Presbyterians, Jews and Episcopalians are in fourth, fifth and sixth places. Nondenominational Protestants, Lutherans, Mormons and nondenominational Christians complete the top 10 religious groups represented in Congress.

In addition, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are United Methodists.

After the recent elections, the United Methodist Church also has six members who are or will be serving as state governors. They are Janet Napolitano, Democrat, Arizona; Ruth Ann Minner, Democrat, Delaware; Charlie Crist, Republican, Florida; David Heinemann, Republican, Nebraska; Ted Strickland, Democrat, Ohio; and Rick Perry, Republican, Texas.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #51

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Marine 1st Lt. Nathan M. Krissoff, 25, of Reno, Nev., died Dec. 9 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Krissoff was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

"Stevenson Grad Killed In Iraq"

Most things came easily to Nathan Krissoff.

He was an accomplished student, athlete and musician, said his friends, who attributed his successes to his tremendous focus and discipline.

Krissoff, a 1999 Stevenson graduate and first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, died Saturday in Iraq's Al-Anbar province while serving as a counterintelligence officer. He was 25.

His death was caused by an improvised explosive device, or IED, his family said. The Department of Defense has not officially stated Krissoff's involvement when he was killed.

A boarding student while attending Stevenson, Krissoff's family lives in Reno, Nev., and has a house in Carmel. While at Stevenson he competed in water polo and swimming, earning all-league honors and serving as captain of the swim team.

"He was a very special kid in many ways, not just intellectually, but musically, athletically and in his involvement in the community," said Rob Klevan, who coached Krissoff and directed him in the Stevenson orchestra. "He was just one of those gems... I've been teaching a long time, and he stands out."

Stevenson is flying its American flag at half staff in honor of Krissoff.

Peter Jamison, a high school friend, remembered Krissoff as a hard worker with a lighter side.

"Nate had a really quirky, dry sense of humor that I really appreciated," said Jamison, who now lives in Vermont. "He was very focused on things he did. He was an extremely disciplined person, but not in a way that came off as uptight. He always seemed relaxed."

Jim Fannin, Krissoff's junior varsity water polo coach at Stevenson who remained close to him, described Krissoff as a hard worker, a stand-up citizen and a community leader.

"He always had a great attitude," said Fannin. "He was not a guy you ever really saw down."

A member of the U.S. Junior National Kayak team, Krissoff went on to earn a degree in International Affairs from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he competed on the swim team, then spent a year living in Europe before joining the Marines in 2004. He was deployed to Iraq in September with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Krissoff family released a statement that said the Marines "were his first priority... He was a tremendously loyal son, brother and American who made the ultimate sacrifice for the defense of his country."

The funeral is planned for Monday in Reno.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Take Three On The Pee Pee (Or Four.....)

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The Penis has been in the news lately with the release of an article out of India on the problems getting European condoms on most Indian men's members. So here are three articles on the tribulations of penis owners.....why be envious, girls?


Condoms designed to meet international size specifications are too big for many Indian men as their penises fall short of what manufacturers had anticipated, an Indian study has found.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, a leading state-run center, said its initial findings from a two-year study showed 60 percent of men in the financial capital Mumbai had penises about 2.4 cm (one inch) shorter than those condoms catered for.

For a further 30 percent, the difference was at least 5 cm (two inches). A poor fit meant the prophylactics often didn't do the job they were bought for, and led to some tearing or slipping off during use.

"One of the reasons for a failure of up to 20 percent (of condoms) is the association of the size of the condom to the erect penis," the council's Dr. Chander Puri told Reuters, adding another reason was couples often put them on in a hurry.

Puri said many men in India, which has the world's highest HIV positive caseload, were too shy to ask for condoms.

"We need more vending machines for condoms of different sizes so people can pick a condom with confidence that is suited to their needs," he said.

The Times of India reported the ICMR survey had studied 1,400 men between 18-50 years of age in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi as well as in rural areas in a report. It entitled its story "Indian men don't measure up."

August 1, 2003

Germany has demanded a rethink on EU guidelines on condom size after finding its average penis did not measure up. Doctors around Essen were ordered by the government's health department to check out the average size suggested by Brussels. They reported the EU has overestimated the size of the average penis by almost 20% and insist other countries will discover the same.

Urologist Gunther Hagler, head of the team compiling the research, said: "By checking hundreds of patients we found German penises were too small for standard EU condoms. "On average they were 14.48 cms long and 3.95 cms wide. That makes them much smaller than the EU standard condom size of 17 cms in length and 5.6 cms in width." He denied the German man was any smaller than the rest of Europe, adding: "We think the EU has got its sums wrong, and if other countries were to check out their men's assets they would find the EU has made a mistake in its calculations.

"There should be a rethink and the EU statisticians should check their figures again. After all, they have also ruled EU standard condoms should be able to hold 18 litres of fluid without breaking, which also seems a bit excessive."


An Indian businessman born with two penises wants one of them removed surgically, saying he wants to marry and lead a normal sexual life.

The 24-year-old man from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has admitted himself into a New Delhi hospital this week with an extremely rare medical condition called 'penile duplication' or 'diphallus'.

The surgery was expected to be difficult as both organs are well-formed and full blood supply to the retained penis had to be ensured to allow it to function normally.

"Two fully functional penises is unheard of even in medical literature. In the more common form of diphallus, one organ is rudimentary", says a surgeon for the case in a national newspaper.

The newspaper said there are about 100 such reported cases around the world and it is known to occur among one in 5.5 million men.

Apple Lore

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
This from a wonderful book: "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. The Set-Up: Did you know that apple trees are incapable of producing offspring that are like the parent plant? It's true.

"The botanical term for this variability is 'heterozygosity,' and while there are many species that share it (our own included), in the apply the tendency is extreme. More than any other single trait, it is the apple's genetic variability--its ineluctable wildness--that accounts for its ability to make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California. Wherever the apple tree goes, its offspring propose so many different variations on what it means to be an apple--at least five per apple, several thousand per tree--that a couple of these novelties are almost bound to have whatever qualities it takes to prosper in the tree's adopted home."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Funnies #1

Corky And The Juice Pigs - I'm The Only Gay Eskimo

They're probably right, you know. There are never two of anything....

Sunday Funnies #2

They are Not GAY

And whatever on earth would lead you to think otherwise?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Naked News!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
It's about time someone presented the news of the day without any pretense! Without any subterfuge. Without and clothes!!!

Check it out @:

Holiday 2006 Reflection #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
There used to be a radio station in DC that practiced a thing they called 2fer Tuesdays. It amounted to two cuts from a single album played in a row. It was novel. It was nice. I miss it.

And I have adapted it in regard to a gift I am sending to a few of my friends. "Holiday 2fer's 2006" is a CD containing favorite seasonal songs & carols performed by two different artists back-to-back. I have included some of my personal favorites more than once, the trend is obvious. Here's the playlist:

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Chirstmas"
~ Sarah McLachlan & Chris Isaak
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
~ Steve Wariner & Chet Atkins
"White Chirstmas"
~ Michael Bublé & John Pizzarelli
"Away In A Manger"
~ Rhonda Vincent & Trisha Yearwood
"Some Children See Him"
~ James Taylor & George Winston
"O Holy Night"
~ Reba McEntire & Josh Gracin
"Blue Christmas"
~ Tammy Wynette & Chris Isaak
"Silent Night"
~ Sarah McLachlin & Rhonda Vincent
"Silver Bells"
~ Vince Gill & Dave Koz
"Let It Snow"
~ Rhonda Vincent & Chris Isaak
"The Christmas Song"
~ Rhonda Vincent & Michael Bublé

What are your favorite songs of the holidays?

Our Latest American Hero #50

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of [Army Capt. Travis L. Patriquin, 32, of (San Angelo) Texas] who [was] supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  [He] died Dec. 6 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near [his] HMMWV during combat operations.  [He was] assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Giessen, Germany.

“Local Soldier Killed”

LOCKPORT -- Capt. Travis Patriquin, a former Lockport student whose Army achievements included service in Iraq and Afghanistan, numerous special forces missions and the ability to speak multiple languages, was killed Wednesday in Iraq, his parents said.

Patriquin, 32, was with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, serving in Tikrit, Iraq, said his parents, Gary and Connie Patriquin of Lockport.

Details of the incident in which Patriquin was killed were unconfirmed as of Thursday night, his parents said.

Surviving family includes Patriquin's wife, Amy, and three children, Emily, 7, Harmon, 5, and Logan, 1, who live in Bonstadt, Germany. His family moved there when he was assigned to Frankfurt.

"He wanted everyone to know what a good job the Army was doing in Ramadi, and he had a lot of Iraqi friends who will miss him, as well as friends throughout the world," Connie Patriquin said.


Travis Patriquin was born Aug. 15, 1974, in St. Louis. He attended St. Dennis School in Lockport and graduated from eighth grade there in 1988.

He graduated from Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo., in 1992. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

In boot camp, Patriquin showed intelligence and excellent leadership skills, his father said. The young man was offered training in special forces. He attended Ranger school, and entered the special forces, but information on those operations is classified.

His parents know from their son's accounts that he served a minimum of two tours of duty in Central America around 1993 or 1994, his parents said.

When Patriquin returned to America, he was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. At that point, he was considering leaving the Army.

Instead, he opted to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. The institute is part of the former military complex known as the Presidio.

There, he met his future wife. The couple married in 1998.

Also in California, his outgoing personality led to friendships with two Arabic speakers from Egypt. He already was learning Arabic, and the two friends helped teach him conversational Arabic. This enhanced the language skills he would use in Iraq.

Patriquin spoke several languages, including Spanish, two Central American Indian dialects, Portuguese and Arabic. When he was in the United States, Patriquin translated Arabic for the U.S. government, said his brother Daniel.

Upon completion of his training in California, he returned to service at Fort Campbell, still participating in special operations. Once again, he was looking at leaving the military.

Instead, he attended officer school at Fort Benning, Ga. He graduated from officer training school and was stationed in Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.

His love was special forces. He always wanted to be a Ranger. But now he was with the infantry.

"It's sad to say he never got his (Ranger) cord," his father said. "He accomplished it, he went through it the first time -- but then he got pulled into co-op operations."

Patriquin served about six months in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In Afghanistan, he once fought behind enemy lines for 18 hours, and received a Bronze Star. His unit started Operation Anaconda.

He served in Afghanistan despite a knee injury that required a knee brace that had steel supports on each side, which his daughter called a "bionic brace." He still was able to jump out of planes in that brace.

After service in Afghanistan, Patriquin eventually was stationed in Germany. On Patriquin's birthday -- Aug. 15 -- in 2005, his third child, Logan, was born.

Patriquin was assigned to Iraq in January 2006. Because he spoke Arabic fluently, he already had been to Iraq several times on special forces missions.


In Iraq, Patriquin served with the same Army unit that his grandfather, John Patriquin, served with in World War II, his family said.

One of Patriquin's uncles served in Vietnam. Another served in the Air Force during Desert Storm. Patriquin's brother Daniel works for the Will County police. His mother works for the federal government.

Patriquin's family in Lockport is setting up a trust fund for his family in Germany.

James Antole, Lockport's interim city administrator and police chief, has a son, Joseph, serving in Iraq, and all of Antole's children attended St. Dennis School during roughly the same years as the Patriquin siblings did.

"I can sympathize with the family. This is my second year with my son in Iraq," Antole said. "I'd just like to give my deepest condolences to the family."

Survivors here include Patriquin's parents, Gary and Connie; and three siblings, Daniel, 29, Karrie, 27, and Steven, 22.

"He's my brother, but he's also my hero," his siblings said in a joint statement Thursday night.

Friday, December 08, 2006

¡Bravissimo Milenio!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
One from a series of print advertisements for the Mexico City newspaper Milenio (Milennium). The caption reads: "Un mundo tan complejo necesita una buena explicación" (Such a complicated world needs a good explanation.) And this particular one makes a "hello" of lot a sense to me!

I've Got A Question Or Two.....

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
And not a chance in hell of getting to ask them!

So here goes:

1) Given the fact that every military action that you've lead is headed for a disastrous and infamous conclusion, do you regret that you ignored the experts and distained all opinions that did not completely support your objectives?

2) Now that only a handful of the lowest players in the abuses committed in the name of the United States against prisoners in our care have been held to account, are you ready to admit and accept your role as the chief architect in a strategy which you both created and implemented, and which led to these "on the ground" atrocities? Where are you willing to let this "buck" stop?


3) Without flipping me off (Don't pretend to scratching you little nose!), forget history and tell me, please, what grade do you give yourself as Secretary of Defense? It's a reality check thing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Facts From The Forgotten War

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The enduring war for freedom....

That's Afghanistan, BTW.

Since we first engaged the Taliban and routed them from this poorest of central Asian nations the following facts are worth some scrutiny.

Americans Killed and Wounded

356 Americans have been killed. The breakout by year looks like this:

2001 - 12
2002 - 48
2003 - 48
2004 - 52
2005 - 99
2006 - 97 to date

As a teacher under No Child Left Behind in a county that has embraced a Standards-Based Curriculum, we are taught to grade according to the trend and not the average....the trend isn't very pretty.

A look at the wounded who have required air-transport for medical attention beggars even more questions.

Wounded in combat - 633
Injured in Non-Hostile events - 1,327
Disease - 3,605

Disease? Is there a plague in Afghanistan that we've not been told about? Past the middle ages, has there been a war were illness trumped combat in threat to the welfare of the troups by a factor of 6 to 1?

Afghanistan is a coalition affair. The top 10 nations who have seen casualties in the war for Enduring Freedom in descending order are:

1) USA - 356
2) Canada - 44
3) United Kingdom - 42
4) Spain - 19
5) Germany - 18
6) France - 9
7) Italy - 9
8) the Netherlands - 4
9) Romania - 4
10) Denmark - 3

And things in Afghanistan have been and are deteriorating as regional "war lords" reassert their power and control. As the Taliban picks up the pieces wherever they can -- to quote Monte Python: "They're not dead yet!" And as the herione/poppy trade undergirds the local economies of so much of the nation again, it's only lucrative resource.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Class of 2008

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Although we've just completed a very important midterm election, and all eyes are already pointing toward the Presidential contest in 2008 with names like Baye, Clinton, Guiliani, McCane, Vilsack, Brownback, Hunter, and Obama being batted about already. There is another election that deserves some early scrutiny. It will be the election for 33 US senators from the Class of 2002, the Class II senators. This was a class of senators that took the senate for the Republicans 4 years ago. They road in on the coattails of Bush exuberance and in 2008 they will likely face a report card based on presidential failure and huberice.

Who are they?

Alexander, Lamar
Allard, Wayne
Chambliss, Saxby
Cochran, Thad
Coleman, Norm
Collins, Susan
Cornyn, John
Craig, Larry
Dole, Elizabeth
Domenici, Pete
Enzi, Michael
Graham, Lindsey
Hagel, Chuck
Inhofe, James
McConnell, Mitch
Roberts, Pat
Sessions, Jeff
Smith, Gordon
Stevens, Ted
Sununu, John
Warner, John

Baucus, Max
Biden, Joseph
Durbin, Richard
Harkin, Tom
Johnson, Tim
Kerry, John
Landrieu, Mary
Lautenberg, Frank
Levin, Carl
Pryor, Mark
Reed, Jack
Rockefeller, John

Of the Democrats the 2002 squeakers were: Johnson - SD, Bacus - MT, and Landrieu - LA. The Republican wave riders were: Chambliss - GA, Cornyn - TX, and Sununu - NH. Other freshmen included: Lindsay - SC, Coleman - MN, Dole - NC, and Alexander - TN. It was not a great year for minorities: ZERO were elected, or women: 3 were elected (1 Dem/2 Rep).

By Senate standards, it's a low seniority class, with little legislative action to stand on, and a majority of Republicans who have to find a way to walk away from the present administration's record. It's a democrat strategist's dream. Let's hope someone's dreaming out there!

Midterm Election 2006 Redux, part 9

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Joining my previous maps of Senate Results of MN, TN, OH, PA, MD, and MO, is New Jersey. Won by Democrat Menedez by a 53% to 48 % margine, it's a victory predicated on the state's urban centers. From south to north, they include, Camden, Trenton and Newark.

This was a race touted as a really vulnerable seat for the Democrats. In the end, the five point margin proved this prediction wrong. Five points in elections is not a fordable stream, but a comfortable gulf.

Senator Menedez joins a rather exclusive sub-group of senators who are also members of recognized racial/ethnic minorites. African-Americans 1 (Senator Barack Obama ~ D, IL); Asian-Americans 2 (Senator Daniel Inouye ~ D, HI; Senator Danial Akaka ~ D, HI); and Hispanic 3 (Senator Mel Menedez ~ D NJ; Senator Ken Salazar ~ D CO; Senator Mel Martinez ~ R FL). That's a Senate with a 6% minority membership serving a nation with a 32% minority population. Democracy? Democracy in process!

If the senate looked like America in it's representation; there would be 13 Hispanic members; 12 African American members; 1 American Indian/Eskimo member; 4 Asian American members; and 2 members representing a bi-racial background.