Monday, May 31, 2010

Pride Month Begins

What a propitious transition! Monday ~ Memorial Day: Tuesday ~ GLBT Pride Month Begins!

And all of this in the year when the ban on being yourself in the military is about to end. Because lets be honest: GLB and, yes, even T, people have and are serving in our military. I know a wonderful women who is a decorated Viet Nam War veteran. She attended my church back when I was on the vestry there. Her courage and strength saved the lives of over a dozen soldiers when their helicopter was shot down. The only thing: they knew her as a man, and I only know her as she is.

Granted, that's a more unusual example, but why not imagine the extreme in setting this injustice right? It's no different than giving the right to vote to 18 year olds because they were being sent by elected officials to serve and die in the same war in Indochina. When you require someone to participate in the responsibilities of society like paying taxes, you should automatically include them in the rest of the rights of society. The right to serve their nation in its armed services, for example, when those armed services are a voluntary privilege of those who are both citizens and those who merely aspire to citizenship.

Otherwise, for the want of a feeling that someone else's proclivities toward sex and mating are not like yours, you would rather accept a citizen of a foreign nation to protect your civil freedoms. Honestly, how fucked up is that?

Speaking of Spiders

A delightful juxtaposition between this post and the last. My gardens are bearing more that simply flora, the fauna are out, too! In spite of my considerable arachnephobia, I was pleased to discover this little garden spider, Argiope aurantia, making a home in the circle garden. It's my wish that the little guy catches as many mosquitoes, gnats, and termites as its web and belly can hold. It's also the first time that I've had a member of this species of spider in my gardens, although not my first encounter with them. An experience that better defines my phobia.

It was back around 1985. I was teaching and living in central Kentucky near to the palisades of the Kentucky River. I had an apartment in the little hamlet of Wilmore, and it was a regular thing for me and some of my friends to go hiking and exploring around the cleavage of the gorge created by Jessamine Creek.

Very near the river in the hollow created by Jessamine creek was an amazing waterfall produced by a side stream to the creek. The water from the stream took a free fall of about 150 feet then exploded off of a ledge into a circular pool before brimming its edge and overflowing into Jessamine Creek. On one occasion I completely responded to a whim and took off all of my clothes to stand naked before my stunned friends on the ledge under the pounding flow of fresh water--it was just such an intoxicating place to be. Most days arriving at the falls and pool were enough to satisfy our desires for exercise and adventure.

But on one particular August day we ventured beyond the sun dappled mystical sanctuary of the falls to the place where the creek met the Kentucky river proper. It turned out to be a delta in the opposite plain of a concave arc on the river's never unwinding meander. It was a field with an ancient tobacco barn at the far end of its long abandoned soil--the current bumper crop being wild flowers with Golden Rods dominating. And who among us could resist the allure of a decrepit and listing barn well past it's own need for human interaction? So we did what all men in the prime of their lives do when presented with the possibility of discovery, we charged forth amidst an adrenaline induced frenzy of yelps and desire to be first to reach our certain treasure.

Now, if you've been in such a situation, you may know that feeling so alive will drive you beyond any reasonable examination of your actual circumstances. So it was that we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of this gloriously appointed feral field with it's various wildflowers and golden rods which actually reached beyond our 6 foot tall frames, when we discovered that we were also covered in a mesh of delicate, milky webbing....

Then one of my friends saw the first large yellow and black Argiope aurantia piggybacking on my shoulder -- (It was not unlike the scene from "Stand By Me" when the boys discover the leeches) -- and after that our eyes knew what to look for. We were covered in webs and spiders, and we were surrounded by webs and spiders! God help those poor little spiders because we freaked out in unison and finding whatever implements of sticks we could, we beat ourselves a path back to the mouth of the creek after beating one another with them to remove as much of either the webs or spiders as we had haplessly contracted before our need to flee overwhelmed all of our other sensibilities.

We never got to the old barn, and I still feel the webbing and spiders crawling on my flesh as I type this. I also feel a little sense of pride in knowing that I am not a slave to my past experiences. Life is a journey, and my foolish youth doesn't have to rob me of discovering something new, something beautiful in my adult present.

Louise Bourgeois Has Died

Earlier, I facebooked this response: "The irreverent, irascible, seemingly indefatig- able grand dame of Dada and abstract expression- ist sculpture has died at age 98. Louise Bourgeois scatter your cells into the arms of a waiting universe...I just can't imagine you resting anywhere in peace~" and I meant it. She always seemed like such a force to be reckoned with, and no one to either suffer fools or trivialities. I fell in love with this Robert Maplethorpe portrait of her, devilish grin with her grotesque phallic sculpture tucked firmly under her fur clad arm. It's absolutely iconoclastic, and I've always imagined most everything I think I know about her personality based upon it first, and her opus second.

For most who can think of a sculpture by her the enormous spider probably comes to mind. Like Robert Indiana's LOVE, and Cleas Oldenburg's Typewriter Erasure, the spider belonged to Bourgeois. You can find images of it seemingly everywhere from Washington, D.C. to Balboa, Spain. But if you were to allow this to be your only frame of reference, you would fail to understand her genius.

Her sculptures were by and large construc- tions. They began with an idea, and the idea took form and was realized in a way that dictated the particulars of its being and allowed her to demonstrate her facility with a variety of mediums. In some cases they even took flight.

While in others, they might find themselves hung upon a wall. Yet be that as they may, their home, their form, their medium, were nothing more that highly skilled decisions held in service to their message. It's a discipline as an artist that seemed to come naturally to Bourgeois, and an example of both craft and dedication that will be her legacy for all those who aspire to fully actualize their own artistic identities. We are poorer tonight as a species, but the universe must be spinning with exuberance as her cells expand into its fold.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Pornography strikes again. The most derivative of all art forms.

Memorial Day 2010: Redux

As we commemorate the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in our military on this Memorial Day weekend, I hope that first and foremost in our minds and hearts is the fact that we are at war. Not a war in the conventional sense of WW I or WW II; nor even a regional conflict with a defined nationalist enemy like Korea or Viet Nam, but with an ideology. It seems crazy to me, but I am no less committed to the full support of our troops and no less grateful for their service; and yes, their sacrifice.

As of May 29th, the Department of defense has reported the deaths of 173 service members in 2010. Added to the total since the events of 9/11, and you come up with 5,463 casualties among our troops during the time we've dubbed "The War on Terrorism".

This year, of 173, 62% served in the Army, 32% were Marines, 3% each from the Navy and Air Force. 16 were Hispanic, 13 African American, 4 Asian, 1 Native American and the rest white. (Throughout this long conflict, there has been a perception that minorities have been disproportionately represented in the casualty counts. I once thought this was true myself, but the data demonstrates that this is actually only true for one sub-group of soldiers: women.) 4 were women. Texans lead the death count this year, followed by soldiers who call Tennessee, Florida, California, North Carolina, and New Jersey home. The youngest were 19 and oldest 53. In rank they span the range from Privates E-1 to Lieutenant Colonels.

Today, I remember.

Rolling Thunder

Every Memorial Day weekend, bikers from all across the United States descend upon Washington, D.C. to pay homage to the men and women serving in the military and most especially those who gave their lives in this service. It's a slice of the American pie that most people never experience. But living where I do, the sound of their motorcycles rumbling by punctuates the urban surf of my home all weekend long. Step aside robins, take break blue jay, Rolling Thunder is in town!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Today's Sermon #27

In my most recent bought of introspection and synthetic thinking, I wrote a poem. It was as miraculous as the chance that I found this image.


My mother loved
the Peace Rose above
all of the other plants
in her garden.

My father taught me how
to discover the Morel
Mushroom in the woods
of northern Michigan.

In spite of
their flaws,
I'm a happy

China Up-Date

This is not an image of some alien city for an episode of some SciFi TV series, it's a photo of Wuxi, China. A can't imagine a single American, if given this image, who would have correctly identified it. Americans are uber-ignorant of China. It's absolutely a tragedy.

I have a friend who is currently teaching there. In Wuxi, to be exact.

She's recently shared examples on her Facebook wall regarding the wacky way in which her students express themselves in English. This one caught my attention, and our exchange follows.

MY FRIEND: "The biggest difficulty for foreigners adapting to Chinese culture is China glory and profound language."

Yeah, it's all that China glory that I just don't understand.

ME: For me it's the morning glory. I pluck it out every year and every year it's back! -- is that like china glory?

MY FRIEND: If the Morning Glory believed that it was the most perfect flower that ever lived and that the other flowers were mere weeds, then it would have something in common with China Glory.

ME: Well, there's also the simple fact that the morning glory only defines it's realm as from, say 8 am on a clear day to around 11 am. It's not the Center Kingdom of the known universe. But can you disparage china glory for communally expressing a huberus as ego centric as ours? We are, after all, only the sons and daughters of the "Greatest" nation on earth... I love your posts, they not only keep me close to you and your world, but they help me make more profound meaning out of mine. 谢谢!

We all have so much to learn about one another. I'm so grateful that my friend is there in Wuxi, learning and teaching.

Late May Garden Thoughts #1

Kinda of hard to see in this photo, I have this volunteer flower that formed a rather lacey leaf clump last year, and this year has produces this 6 foot tall hyper-blooming version of Queen's Anne Lace! Any thoughts? It's not like any Queen Anne's Lace I've ever seen before....

UPDATE [30MAY10]: It's (or it was) actually poison Hemlock! How very strange that it found it's way into my gardens. I've never seen it anywhere around here before....

I'd love some help in identifying this plant. I rescued it from over-achiever parent volunteers at my school who were hellbent on removing all of the "weeds" from a Maryland Wildflower bed at my school last year--don't get me started... It survived the move and remained a base of beautiful veiny leafed variegation. Now it's grown tall and blossomed. What is it?

I had originally chosen this portion of my gardens to create an "Herb Garden" in, but it never really worked out. So I settle for a rosemary bush (Rosemary, garlic whipped potatoes--to die for, trust me!), and a cluster of containers which are alive with mint (orange & pineapple), basil, and parsley (flat and curly leafed). I have separate colonies of sage, marjoram, fennel, and thyme.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Latest American Hero #141

Marine Cpl. Nicolas D. Parada Rodriguez, 29, of Stafford, Va.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died May 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.


A U.S. Marine who graduated from Lee High School was killed in Afghanistan on May 12.

Cpl. Nicolas Parada-Rodriguez, will be buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by a brother, two sisters, his mother and an estranged wife. He was 29.

Parada-Rodriguez was killed May 12 in the Helmand province of Afghanistan while providing support for combat operations there, according to a Defense Department statement.

Parada-Rodriguez was born in El Salvador in 1981 but moved to Springfield with his family in 1986 at age 5.

"He loved America from the very beginning," said his older brother, Lisandro Parada-Rodriguez, 32, of Stafford. "Even as a kid, he would play soldier and dream of actually becoming one."

After Nicolas Parada-Rodriguez graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1999, he joined the Navy and was later deployed to Afghanistan.

He left the military after four years and returned to Northern Virginia, where he briefly worked a night security job in Springfield.

"It didn't last very long, maybe four months or so," his brother said. "He really missed his buddies in Afghanistan and felt like he needed to serve his country some more."

Parada-Rodriguez soon joined back up, this time as a Marine, and went back to Afghanistan.

"When he left before Christmas last year, it was his second tour there," his brother said.

"Our mother was devastated because he was the youngest in the family," said Lisandro Parada-Rodriguez, who lives with their mother, Luisa Parada-Rodriguez. "We saw two officers approach the house and we knew. Nicolas always said 'If you don't hear from me for a while I'm probably OK, but if you see two officers come to the house, it means I am gone.' I love my brother. He was a great guy and a great warrior who looked out for everybody."

"He was a goofy guy, in a good way," said Lisandro Parada-Rodriguez's girlfriend, Olga Lara. "He would always crack me up and make me laugh."

"He was the baby," a tearful Luisa Parada-Rodriguez said. "He said he just liked defending his country. He wanted to do something that people would remember him for."

His family described him as bighearted, family-oriented and always striving to be a leader.

On Thursday, May 27, Luisa Parada-Rodriguez placed a heavy hand on the American flag presented to her by Sgt. Maj. Eric J. Stockton on Thursday. When her son Lisandro accepted another flag from Stockton, she grabbed his hand and held on.
Her younger son and Lisandro's brother, Marine Cpl. Nicolas D. Parada-Rodriguez, 29, was being buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

About 150 friends and family members took part in the last burial in Section 60 on Thursday before soldiers began placing flags on every grave in honor of Memorial Day.

He was a team leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"He said he just liked defending his country," she said in the earlier interview. "He wanted to do something that people would remember him for."

His family described him as bighearted, family-oriented and always striving to be a leader.

Guy Krikorian and his wife, both of Southern California, flew across the country to attend Parada-Rodriguez's service and to show their appreciation to his family. The parents of one of his friends, they wanted to let the corporal's family know "how much he meant to us and how sorry we are and we appreciate what he was doing for us," Krikorian said.

Lance Cpl. Andrew Krikorian, Krikorian's son, was transferred to Camp Lejeune, where Parada-Rodriguez helped him with the transition into a new base. In Afghanistan, Parada-Rodriguez served as the younger Krikorian's team leader.

"We looked at it from the standpoint of his family and what he meant to Andy," Krikorian said. "It would mean the world if somebody would be able to express something about our son" in a similar situation, he said.

The Krikorian family was able to meet Parada-Rodriguez one night last summer when he visited their home, and they found him to be a "very nice man" who could enjoy a good laugh, Krikorian said.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Art Linkletter ~ RIP

Another icon from my youth has died. I remember him being on TV as a kid like Virginia Graham, Dinah Shore, and George Perot. And just like the others, I thought he was already dead. But, no, born in 1913, we was still alive in southern California, presumably enjoying his golden years.

As the news of his death came to me, I went to YouTube to search out videos from those long ago days when he was a TV personality. I remember him as a wholesome, kid friendly entertainer. After watching about dozen clips, I found myself asking, how was it that he was so "campy" and borderline inappropriate with kids and yet such a success? Get your pens ready communications Ph. D. candidates ~ I think his show's popularity was perhaps directly due to it's risque skirting of issues otherwise taboo in adult circles. For example in this video clip, grown-up's couldn't talk about cross-dressing in public, but innocent little children by proxy could pretend. One intro I saw was a joke about a child who led a stranger into the bathroom to meet their naked mother who was in the tub. Yet, another focused on kindergartners being kissed and kissing back with this idea that it was naughty but okay, you sly little 6 year old dog, you!

People think that the past was always a simpler and more innocent time. I am doubting this more and more. It was just a time when innuendo was more strategically important and even children were considered grist for the mill of adult lasciviousness.

Art, you old perveyor of the yuck yuck laughs of my youth, rest in peace. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Glee Lessons of the Week, Episode 20 "Theatricality"

Premise of the week: Tina is told she cannot dress goth by principal Figgans, and so she is left without a persona. Assignment, Gaga the hell out it to find Tina a new persona! Problem, the boys, minus Kurt, ain't up with it. What ensues is one of the most power episodes in the history of television for the right to be who you are, even when you're gay.

This is the most subversive television since 'All In the Family" exposed bigotry. It rocks the world in such a powerful way, that Diahann Carroll's ground breaking role in "Julia" remains on the dust heap of TV trivia. Nichelle Nichol and William Shatner's interracial kiss on "Star Trek" merely quaint. And the very fact that it does this beneath the paramours of moral indignation on the freaking FOX network; that it takes a middle aged gay guy to even notice it, says more about the future than any election in Pennsylvania's 12th, or Hawaii's 1st congressional district.

Burt Hummel's (Mike O'Malley) dressing down of Finn for his liberal use of the word faggoty left me really struggling to see the TV screen, HD not-with-standing. I've described this show as "must see TV," but honestly, I've a new disclaimer, "Watch it at your own risk." 'Cause it will challenge what you think you know, who you think you are, if you'll let it, it will make you a better person.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More, Mid-May Garden Stroll

Remember poor St. Francis, the committed mendicant, covered in snow this past winter? He's very much more at home in the midst of my flourishing circle garden. Yet nearly as obscured!

A shot of my compost in my garden. It's made of organic kitchen scraps and yard waste. And it's practically a garden of its own. The pulled pansies continue to bloom, and now both potatoes and tomatoes are sprouting out of it, too.

It's crazy? Isn't it! The pile's making this amazing rich nutrient filled dirt out of garbage. I have an opening at the bottom of the pile that I reach into to retrieve the new soil and the stuff on the top just keeps dropping and transforming. I've been keeping this compost for the past 16 years, and I've never gotten potato plants from any of the scraps until I switched to buying only organic potatoes. It's a thing to commit to further consideration, yes?

And there's this curious, yet robust plant that's just about to bloom. I saved it two years ago from a spot at my school where well-meaning oafs of volunteers were hell bent on obliterating it's colony of plants. They destroyed them then, but I managed to save this one. It's been in my garden now for two years, and has decided to bloom. And I have no freaking idea what it is! But it's beautiful. And that's enough.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I'm Watching #239

Just watched "Little Ashes" the 2009 retelling of the forbidden and turbulent relationship between surrealist artist Salvador Dali and poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. It's a beautifully constructed film that handles the sexual tension between the two men with a measure of grace and a lyrical beauty. I was especially impressed with Javier Beltrán's performance as Lorca. A lovely film.

And Now For Something Completely...FABULOUS!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mid-May Garden Stroll

In some ways this is a relatively quiet time in my gardens; the rabid flurry of blooming that characterizes April, gives way to a more subtle and transitional period.

Yet it's not devoid of things to see, and these lovely volunteer Siberian Iris, Iris sibirca, which are in their second year of forming a clump on the left side of my driveway in the front are a great example. Spawned from the original by way of seeds, they are only just beginning to form the traditional circle of glassy leaves and intense blue fleur-de-les of the species. The original colony located on the right side of the driveway, eventually expanded to two large circles, but hasn't offered a blossom in the past two years. Still the rings of leaf-blades, but no flowers.

In the back in the circle garden I have two plants of interest blooming. First, is this trio of Jacob's Ladders, Polemonium caeruleum, with their powder blue flowers that open in clusters to the delight of the huge Carpenter Bee in this case. (Can you see him in the center upper portion of the photo?)They are fighting to hold their own in a neighborhood with both hostas and loosestrife. They are among the brand new arrivals to my gardens this year. I'm presently feeling really good about their prospects to remain and continue to form a place in the larger bed. The weather this Spring as been both good in its rain amounts and its temperatures in helping new arrivals to take root and flourish.

Near by are several stalks from a cluster of Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea x. et. al., that are offering their trumpet-like flowers to the world of pollinators. I like these flowers a lot and so go to extra lengths to pamper them, for truth be told, the gardens don't get the kind of light that is preferred by these fascinating biennials.

Finally, there is this planter. One of many, and for all my love of the natural wild garden, I am also very happy to arrange planters with odd, thematic combinations of plants. This one contains begonias, an allegator geranium, choleus, and Japanese striped grass. A little United Nations of plants, as well as, sea shells and coral and found stones from special adventures over the years.

What I'm Reading #30

On a far more pleasant note. I've just finished Michael Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road", and it was FANTASTIC! It's the story of two very unlikely adventurers who find themselves at the crux of an adventure not of their choosing, but impossible to leave unprosecuted. Chabon does a couple of things that make this little novel especially delightful. He recreates the world of 10th century Khazaria, a nearly mythical kingdom of a forgotten strain of red haired, fair skinned Jews which thrived along the northern edges of the Caspian Sea. His rich and varied vocabulary turns every page into a gold mine of linguistic gems. I often found myself rereading entire paragraphs just to savory the words in my mind. And it's this skill as a writer that accomplishes the second feat.

Time and again he takes the well worn, tried and true conventions of the classic swashbuckler's tale and makes them feel fresh and new. Even when I could see well ahead where some element of the plot was going and the subterfuge was being perpetrated upon the reader, I didn't care. The journey as it unfolded was far more important than the mere unfurling of the plot. Michael Chabon is one of the finest writers we have in our midst today. This is one that I know I will return to at some point in the future to savor all over again.

What I'm Watching #238

Pedro Almodóvar is one of Spain's best known directors, and he's gay which makes his ouvre of interest to me. This film was made in 1987 in a world without computers, and at a time when Antonio Bandares was more than willing to play a homosexual, homicidal psychopath with scenes depicting full frontal nudity and lots of hot steamy man on man sex. It was a simpler time.

But not even the eye candy can stave off the sour taste of this lemon. Honestly, the movie didn't make any sense. It was impossible to tell whether it was even a comedy or melodrama. And granted, unlike spanish language films shot in say, Mexico, or Argentina, or even Cuba; those made in Spain seem to always feature dialogue rattled off at an alarmingly impossible rate to follow. Yet, I'm confident that I got enough of it to keep up with the gist of the plot, such as there was one. For a student of Almodóvar, I suppose the option to this skip this film isn't really there, for everyone else...count your blessings.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Modern Family

Okay, I grew up on TV. It was my parent's babysitter of choice. I can't imagine my youth without WKBD Detroit with it's steady diet of "Little Rascals," "The Three Stooges," "Speed Racer," "Kimba the White Lion," "Gilligan's Island," "The Adam's Family," and "The Munsters!" When you don't know much, you know what you know a lot.

And there were other love affairs with TV over the years.

In the late 60's "Star Trek." The 70's were first about the news from Viet Nam and the war and then still local news, and shows like "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons," "Good Times," and "Maude"...

I gave up on TV in the 80's.

"My So Called Life," "Homocide: Life on the Streets," "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego," and "Will & Grace" brought me back in the 90's.

Most recently "Law & Order": (the franchise--and backtracking via seasonal DVD purchases), and "NCIS" has snagged my interest. And then there's this year. Without much consideration to the hype and/or via word of mouth from friends I've completely been captivated by 3 shows: 1) "Glee," 2) "The Office (back tracking again--NOT liking the first season at all)," and 3) "Modern Family." The latter only just in the past few days.

Modern Family is at one and the same, insightful, witty, hilarious, and tender. Just like The Office has morphed into and Glee. It really pays homage to the shocking social humor of shows like "Maude" and "All In The Family" and the derivative nature of shows like "The Simpson's", while being fresh. Here the writers and actors shine. In a recent episode, for example, the character Phil (played by the actor Ty Burrell) delivered this line: "Just to be clear, I'm not condoning eating your kids, but I sure as heck know why giraffe's do it." If you're not watching this, you have no idea what you're missing....

Must see TV.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Day In The Life: A Trip To The U.S. Capitol

Being a teacher is absolutely the best vocation on the planet. I selected this word wisely: it's not a career, and it certainly is not a job -- It's a calling. Some have it, and some don't. And there's hardly anything more painful than watching someone who doesn't have the gift attempt to make a career out of it. That said, I am so blessed to have been born with this job as my vocation. I didn't see it until I was a senior in college. It found me. How amazing is that?

And as a result, among the myriad of incredible opportun- ities this fact has afforded me over the years, I was privileged on this past Tuesday to chaperone a group of our fifth graders on a field trip to the United States Capitol. Here, milling about waiting to begin our trek from the bus drop off site to the entrance of the new multi-million dollar visitor center located on the polar opposite end of the sprawling campus of the Capitol is the very future of our Republic. Citizens born a scant 11/12 years ago who have only know two political realities: Republican equals Bush, and Democrat equals Obama. It is not strange to them that our nation has elected a Black President, anymore than he has nominated to the Supreme court of the land one woman after another. And they know what our nation's founders went through to create our form of governance (the docent is about to find this out!), so that it's more perfect fruition in their short life spans doesn't seem anything more than ordinary. A fact that I find amazing.

In the beginning of our tour, we were all processed through metal detectors and conveyor belts with x-ray machines that exposed our bags, the contents of our pockets, and irradiated our belts to the vigilant eyes of a security guard. It was a process overall made efficient by familiarity. And yet one student had trouble navigating it. Brandon E. who's family only moved here a little over a year ago from the northern and more strife filled region of the Cameroon. The alarms were repeatedly set off because he was not able to remove a silver wallet fob that was attached to a belt loop on his black dress trousers.

As all of the other students collected on the interior balcony of the guest center, I noticed his absence and then went to his aid. He, of all of our students, came most prepared to pay respect to his new and adopted nation by donning black slacks, a white long-sleeved dress shirt, and a tie. By the time, I got to him, he'd failed his 3rd pass through the machinery of liberty and was nearly frantic in his attempts to disentangle the metal chain from his pants. Opposing him and monitoring the machine were three tall, fit; and otherwise pedestrian, African American guards. As they passed glances between themselves, I could see that they understood how scared Brandon had become. Then suddenly, by some miracle of magnetism, he made it through the arch on the fourth passing without setting off the alarm. I met him and assured him that it was all okay as he fiddled to return his belt to his waste. The rest of the trip found him nearby me. Happy-go-lucky as usual, but definitely clinging. This is what in loco parentis means, this is what it looks like.

Once assigned a docent, we traipsed into the theater and experienced a 18 min film of unbridled patriotic rhetoric -- which I enjoyed.

Afterwards, he led us into the main concourse beneath the massive iron dome of the Capitol. He parked us beneath this painting and began a long presentation about the history of the building and the meaning of the statues, murals and paintings in the room. With each question, our students had the answer. At one point he stopped dumbfounded and declared, "I hope you hold on to this information. I just led a group of 8th graders through here, and they didn't know any of this!" The question that prompted this observation was "What does e pluribus unim mean?" And after he'd said his piece, several of our students pointed out that we'd just been told this during the video presentation that we'd just left. I'm sure they thought, "How dumb are 8th graders who can't remember something they've been told for a span of 10 minutes!"

One fact that our docent planted firmly in our minds was the image painted upon the interior crown of the dome of George Washington being assumed into heaven surrounded by 13 muses representing the 13 original colonies. What an ultimate bow to neo-classicism. And the kids got it, knew about it, told the docent things about it to his own chagrin. For his part, he probably taught some of them the meaning of the word "apotheosis".

We ended the official tour in the crypt, where our students continued to pelt the poor docent with probing and challenging questions. And don't mis- understand, he was a very knowledgeable guy. But our kids asked very challenging questions, like, "Is the majority of the mythology represented here Greek or Roman?"

I love these kids, I really do. And I am want if I do not conclude this little post with the idea that in the past 10 years, we've upped the educational ante by setting ever higher and higher bars of expectation and accomplishment. It's been tough. But kids have, en masse, responded by knowing more and doing more than members of my generation were ever expected to let alone did in such solid percentages.

Zimbabwe: The Concept

Thank you, Robert Mugabe; may your legacy never fade from the minds of those who assume your powers after your passing, and may that elevation to a higher estate of consciousness be to you a reward and blessing that arrives sooner than later.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Glee Lessons of the Week, Episode 19

So what did we learn this week on Glee?

1) Neil Patrick Harris can sing!
2) Tina and Arnie can dance!
3) Rachel has a mother (and it's neither Patty LuPone or Barbara Striesand)!

And if you missed tonight's show, that's what you missed on Glee.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

FaceBook Broadway Near Miss!

My facebook friend, Joel D. tossed out a little missed-lyrical reference that got picked up by a few of us. It’s a delightful little strain that I want to share here. One of the reason I actually enjoy Facebook.

Joel D.: “There's no business like the entertainment business.”

Kathleen W.: “ no business that I am familiar with.”

Michael Living-J.: “everything about it is attractive."

Me!: “Still you wouldn't trade it for a sack o' marbles!”

Melissa F.-A.: “I wish I'd gone into show business!”

Sunday, Lazy Sunday

Spent the day keeping my carbon footprint low. Brunched on sauteed asparagus tips with cherry tomatoes, over which I scrambled an egg and then folded it into an omelet with asiago cheese. That was sweet (well, actually quite savory!). I don't often give myself a proper breakfast.

I had some plants to toss in here and there around the garden and a pot over burdened with some tropicals on the sun porch that I liberated and dealt with in various ways. By mid-afternoon I was camped out under the red umbrella on my deck in the back reading and day dreaming.... Still nursing "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chavelier. The first chapter was such magical poetry that the rest of the book has been more disappointing. Not bad, and not uninteresting, just not nearly as well written. So I'll get there eventually; managed to polish off another 60 pages between day dreams, about 110 to go.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

RIT Men's Lacrosse Up-date

Okay kids, the Tigers of RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) won the Division III, Empire 8 league championship and drew a bye in the NCAA Division III round one play-offs. They played a higher ranked Connecticut College today in round two of the play-offs at Connecticut and sent them packing (well, walking) back to their dorms with an 11-9 victory that also qualifies them to play the quarter-final round on this Wednesday. This is such big shit for these guys and being sucked into it via my colleague M.'s son Ryan, and can honestly say that this is sport at it's innocent, fundamental, amazing best. RIT is the underdog in this tournament, and by shear will of belief in themselves, they've managed to advantage themselves over opponents with superior records in this season.

And I'm NOT forgetting the power of M.'s cupcakes to inspire!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cannes Fever

Cannes is on and the "Golden Palm" is again being offered to a select group of international films on the French Riviera. I LOVE Cannes. It give me a chance to scope out films that I want to see.

Among my top choices is a Spanish film: "Buitiful" staring Javier Bardem. From Cannes' website: "Biutiful" is the story of Uxbal. Devoted father. Tormented lover. Mystified son. Underground businessman. Friend of the disposed. Ghost seeker. Spiritual sensitive. A survivor at the invisible margins in today’s Barcelona. Uxbal, sensing the danger of death, tries to reconcile with love and save his children, as he tries to save himself. Uxbal’s story is simple: just one of the complex realities that we all live in today. What's not to love about that? And Javier Bardem to boot! Now, that's cinema!

Another movie that I anxious to see is "Abel" out of Mexico. The Cannes blurb reads: A first time behind the camera for Diego Luna, and his first time in Cannes. The Mexican actor, now also a director, presents Abel, his first feature film shown in Special Screening at 7:15 pm in the Salle du Soixantième. Its eponymous hero, who is nine years old, has not said a word since his father left home. One day, the child starts to speak and acts as the head of the household. He takes care of his mother, watches over his brother and sister and no one complains. Until the day a man rings the door bell: his father.

And finally for this blog entry I turn to Thailand. Two of my favorite films of the past couple of years came out of Thailand: "Beautiful Boxer" and "Bangkok Love Story". Now, Cannes adds the tale of family and magical thinking titled "Lung Boonmee Reluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives)" to its distinguished roster of 2010 competitors. From it's website, again: Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave -- the birthplace of his first life...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Glee Lessons of the Week, Episode 18 "Laryngitis"

This week we learned that Puck can't sing (But he's still hot and can dance), and Santana can sing (and dance). The power of the emotional fulcrum on the show belongs to Kurt -- and he can really sing. And the writing is less witty with less Sue Sylvester. And if you missed it, that's what happened on Glee....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Our Latest American Hero #140

Army Sgt. Anthony O. Magee, 29, of Hattiesburg, Miss.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April at Landstul Regional Medical Center, Germany of wounds sustained April 24 at Contingency Operating Base Kalsu, Iskandariyah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire.

"He Gave His Life For Our Freedom"

HATTIESBURG — Sgt. Anthony O. Magee, 29, of Hattiesburg, returned home for the final time when a Kalitta Charters jet carrying his flag-draped coffin touched down at the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport at 7:22 a.m. Friday.

Magee died April 27 from wounds suffered three days earlier when his unit came under indirect fire at Contingency Operating Base Kasul in Iskandariyah, Iraq. He was a member of the United States Army's 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga.

Magee is the second soldier from the Hattiesburg area killed in a 20-day span during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. William Anthony Blount, 21, of Petal was killed April 7 by a roadside explosive device in Mosul, Iraq.

"This is something we should do," said Maxine Coleman, neighborhood coordinator for the city, who stood at Pine Street and Second Avenue to pay her respects as the funeral procession passed. "He gave his life for our freedom.

"I can't imagine what his family is going through. It could have been my son. I have kids that age."

About 25 members of Magee's family were at the edge of the airport tarmac Friday, one grasping a small American flag that rippled in the breeze.

The Mississippi Honor Guard Team from Jackson met Magee's casket at the airport.

An escort of law enforcement from Hattiesburg Police Department, Forrest County Sheriff's Office, Petal Police Department, University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, followed by a formation of Patriot Guard Riders, led the procession down I-59.

From there, the line traveled along the Evelyn Gandy Parkway and Glendale Avenue, before winding past Hattiesburg High School and other central Hattiesburg neighborhoods before arriving at Hall's-Fairley Mortuary at 701 Hall Ave.

The halls of Hattiesburg High were silent Friday morning as students filed along Hutchinson Avenue to catch a glimpse of the hearse.

"A young man, young man," said Madeline Hayes, who worked for six years at the Hattiesburg Police Department with Magee's father, Tony Davis. "It just hurts. I feel the pain that the family feels."

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Today's Sermon #26

Psalm 8

Our Lord and Ruler,
your name is wonderful
everywhere on earth!
You let your glory be seen
in the heavens above.
With praises from children
and from tiny infants,
you have built a fortress.
It makes your enemies silent,
and all who turn against you
are left speechless.
I often think of the heavens
your hands have made,
and of the moon and stars
you put in place.
Then I ask, “Why do you care
about us humans?
Why are you concerned
for us weaklings?”
You made us a little lower
than you yourself,
and you have crowned us
with glory and honor.
You let us rule everything
your hands have made.
And you put all of it
under our power—
the sheep and the cattle,
and every wild animal,
the birds in the sky,
the fish in the sea,
and all ocean creatures.
Our Lord and Ruler,
your name is wonderful
everywhere on earth!

~ David, King of Israel