Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Breaker, Breaker. Anybody Got a Copy?

The whole Pajamas Media/OSM uproar prompted Xoff to make a request after the heavy-duty folderol Althouse found herself engaged in. I'm still new enough at this that the very act of blogging is something I'm willing to examine a little further.

I've done a little navel gazing of my own a come to a startling realization. Blogs are the CB Radios of the new millenium. Most everyone has one and if they don't they will soon. If they could figure out a way to wrap a blog ID and put it under a tree even your Aunt Mildred would have one.

But then, she's probably already posting some version of her hopes and dreams.

It's not so very different. Everybody gets a handle. Newbies get raked over the coals for violating unwritten rules of etiquette. A new community forms out of thin air. Sooner or later nobody remembers what it was you said. The loud ones get all the attention and thrive on good reactions and bad. The quiet ones sometimes have the most to say.

The CB phenomenon lasted the best part of 20 years before it died out. By that standard blogging has a ways to go yet. I'll jump on for the ride just like I did the last time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My New Hero

Over the weekend I bundled up my misgivings and attempted a trip to the mall with my Beautiful Wife, who wished to return some things.

I don't normally thrive in the mall. Too much stuff, too many people, too much bad behavior. The mall has all the bad smells of a hospital with none of the compassion. You may be able to tell that I was not in the Christmas spirit.

I had just taken a shortcut through the "Gifts" section of one of the anchor stores, a sad collection of wallets and scarves for the "Man who may or may not have everything, I don't know. I just need to cross him off the blasted list." Also there was a wall of World Series of Poker branded video games and tubs of WSOP merchandise. I'm not sure when the Flop, the Turn and the River took over from the Three Wise Men but it was fairly clear that Christmas 2005 would be the Poker Holiday for a lot of people.

I moved on to the belts and tried to not act too perturbed when I heard a young voice from over by the Wall of Poker. "Mom? Is this 'propriate? Mom, it's a money game. Is this a "propriate toy?"

I didn't listen for her answer. I was pretty sure I knew what it would be. I started grinning like the old fool that I am just because I had heard one child ask if something was an appropriate gift. He didn't whinge and creeb over it. He knew that some toys would have to wait for later and that Mom's answer was the final say.

My heart soared. There are holdouts in against the all-consumer society. We may have a chance.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Reality Check

Yesterday we went to my brother's house for the annual cookie baking ritual. My family has been chain-baking frosted Christmas sugar cookies for more than 50 years. We are well into our fourth generation of coming together to provide color and carbs for Christmas plates for family, friends and co-workers.

I asked my 15 year old niece to bring up The Happy Circumstance to share a piece with my mother. Mom liked in and asked, "Oh, you have a blog now?" in the same tone she would have asked about a new piece of furniture or the apperance of a dancing bear in the living room.

"Yes, I do."

"I do, too, Uncle Jim," Casie shared. And the conversation veered away from me with a gigantic whooshing sound.

Now I ask you. What is the point of having a blog except to say, "Hey, look at me?"

I know. I know. There are blogs for frogs, hogs and logs. I cruise some of the lists on Blogger and have found blogs that areonly about Scottish ruins, computer code, the death of the Internet and quilts. There are blogs about blogs and bloggers. One of my favorites, and my first daily read, is about community life here in town.

I shouldn't have been surprised that Casie beat me into the blogosphere. Harper's is saying that a new blog is created every second right now. In the time I've been plugging at this 350 people ahve staked a claim on our attention and bandwidth. Weblogs have become the Beanie Babies of 2005, everybody is in on the game and we collect them just as avidly. And, just like Beanies, you'll never get them all so you have to pick your subset.

My favorites are the political blogs, some of which you can see in my Reading List. I check out DailyKos and TPM every day, sometimes every couple of hours for a quick fix. I'll read The Madison Freedom Fighter or McBride's just for another POV.

I've put no links in here on purpose. Track them down as you wish, or not. You don't need to read what I read to validate either one of us. If you stumble onto this and like what you see, leave a comment or share a link. It's wide open and brand new here. But, there is one thing the dancing bear needs to say.

Hey, look at me!

Friday, November 25, 2005

An Evening of Great Music at Evansville High School PAC

On Saturday, December 3rd E-Arts will host the UW Madison singing groups, The MadHatters and Tangled Up In Blue. Ring the Holiday season in with a touch of humor, family fun, and some great a-cappella singing at the beautiful Performing Arts Center in Evansville.

Tickets are now available for only $7 or a family four pack for $25. Tickets can be purchased from EHS Choir Students, Evansville Pharmacy, and Piggly Wiggly or by calling 882- 3570. Tickets are also available online at . Seating will be general admission with the performance starting at 7:30 PM. Coat check service will be provided by EHS Choir students. Just roll over the headline to order tickets.

The MadHatters are the premier men's a-cappella group from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Since their humble beginning the MadHatters have seen their fan base explode, selling out their 2002 spring concert at the historic Orpheum Theatre, the Overture Center in Madison and performing at the acclaimed UW Varsity Band Concert in April of 2002. Word of this talented group from Wisconsin has even begun to spread nationwide since the release of State Street, the MadHatters' award-winning debut CD recorded along with the UW's premier women's a cappella group, Tangled up in Blue.

The female counterpart to the MadHatters, Tangled Up In Blue was founded in the spring of 1999. Since then, TUIB has performed across the Midwest, including Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In February 2005, TUIB competed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, earning the title of Midwest semifinal champion and placing third in the regional final. TUIB released their first full-length album, Unraveled, in the Fall of 2004.

The concert will also host the AWARE Food Drive. Collection areas will be set up for your donations of non-perishable food and paper goods. Your donations to AWARE stay in Evansville. Come join the fun and help your neighbors.

A Lesson From Maddy

Maddy is in Second Grade now. It is possible that she is one of the best reasons to travel 75 miles for Thanksgiving dinner.

Yesterday she sat watching the Very Serious Euchre game at the Men's Table after the first round of plates had been cleared. There was a steady hum from the other room where the women were doing the business of the day, catching up on weddings, funerals and babies. The football game was on low in the front room and Google Maps was the entertainment of choice in the back. The gaggle of kids had taken the pack of dogs and gone upstairs to do whatever it is that kids and dogs do in a house full of adults too stuffed to chase them.

But Maddy sat by her father's side watching the Very Serious Euchre game. After all, if you only get together once a year then every game is the Annual Tournament. Maddy dutifully told us all of the things that she learns in Second Grade and spelled her hardest word for us. She also got Dad's help to say the hardest word she cannot spell. In short she was her usual charming self.

Between hands Maddy stood up. "While I'm up, can I get you anything to drink? Some more coffee or a glass of punch?" She stood ready to take our orders.

"No, thank you. I'm good. No, Maddy but it's kind of you to ask." General replies that we were not going to consume one more thing until the pumpkin pie came.

"Well, then. I guess I'll just sit down." And she did.

Bless her heart. She made a point to get up and then ask us what she could do for us "while she was up." Let's all follow her example. We can do more for each other without much effort. Look around. See what needs to be done and then get up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Take On Thanksgiving- Other Families, Other Ways

Roll over the title to link to Richard Lawrence Cohen's moving thoughts about his own family on Thanskgiving day and how difficult it can be for some families to see what they share, for better or worse.

What Am I Thankful For?

A man in Ireland told us that, "If you can feel the cold of the bedroom floor on the soles of your feet it means that you'll have a good day."

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most men are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Today is a day we set aside to give thanks and to take stock of our blessings. Here are a few of he things that I am thankful for.

  • I have a family. I am blessed to have a wife, a brother, a mother, a grandmother (102 and still going strong), a whole mess of kids, the most beautiful granddaughter and an assortment of in-laws and outlaws who make my life better by their presence.
  • I have a job. It's not the job I thought I'd have by now but it's a fine job, respectable and challenging, working alongside good people.
  • I have a home. We don't live in a McMansion but we have a place of warmth and comfort to share and enjoy.
  • I have friends. My life is filled with people who share my interests and joys. I am seldom happier than when my house is full of people sharing a good day or night.
  • I can make a difference. I have been lucky enough to find ways to give my time and energy back to the community. I work with the Stateline Literacy Council and with E-Arts to open doors for others.
  • I live in America. I have the freedom to express my thoughts and access to the process to effect change.
  • I am "me." The creaks and groans of a body that's a half-century old let me know that I'm alive to feel the cold of the bedroom floor. I have a set of talents and skills that is unique and a supporting network that is unsurpassed.

Today is a good day to be alive. I would not trade the things that I have for power or fame or money. I am thankful for another day to be me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Challenge To The "Religious" Right

A short piece in Cheers and Jeers on DailyKos highlights a speech by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism. The Rabbi takes offense with those who lay claim to a sole path to righteousness.

It's humbling to remember that there may be more than one path to Heaven. It is incumbent on each of us to remember that there is more than one way to get through this life.

When I hear some members of the "Religious" Right condemning others for not being Christian enough I hear the voice of the Pharisee, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not like that awful sinner." They forget that we are all sinners, trying to find our way through this world. We'll all do better if we help each other.

I have more than my share of the questions. I have very few of the answers. I'm learning to listen but there seems to be an awful lot of noise that makes them hard to pick out.

TheRabbi cut through a lot of the noise in this speech.

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the
Religious Right is the voice of atheism. We are appalled when "people of
faith" is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews,
Catholics, and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you
have a
monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a
person of faith?
So we ask our neighbors on the Religious Right to take
note: We are
religious Jews, gathered in Houston to study, pray, and commit
ourselves to God.
And yes, we are generally liberal in our politics. But our
liberalism flows directly from our religious commitments. And we worry that you
don't understand what this means, or what it means for anyone to be a liberal
religious believer.

What it means is this: that we bring a measure of humility to our
religious belief. We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct
lines to heaven and we aren't always sure that we know God's will.

It means believing that religion involves concern for the poor
the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God
yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they
themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.

It means that "family values" require providing health care to every
child and that
God cares about the 12 million children without health
insurance. It means
valuing a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a
fertility clinic, and
seeing the teaching of science as a primary social
And it means reserving the right for each person to prayerfully make
decisions for herself about when she dies.

It also means believing in legal protection for gay couples. We
understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we
read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two
people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal
guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society.
We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things
that he did was ban gay organizations.
And today, we cannot feel anything
but rage when we hear about gay men and
women, some on the front lines,
being hounded out of our armed services.
Yes, we can disagree about gay
marriage. But there is no excuse for
hateful rhetoric that fuels the
hellfires of anti-gay bigotry.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Have We Lost Our Way?

The former President says that America is on the wrong path. Here are my thoughts.

It is hard to not be discouraged when we see the state of government in 2005. It appears that we have descended into a Kakistocracy in which only the venal and selfish rule. The steady parade of mug shots and bald faced liars is damned disheartening. Sound bites and talking points rule the day.

It is vital that we focus on those politicians who can see a course that will guide America back to what it once was. There are still politicians who care about governance on both sides of the aisle. They need our support. We must be the driving force to take America back from extremists of all stripes.

Less than a generation ago America was a shining star on this planet, a place where any common woman or man could make their fortune. America stood steadfast as a respecter of human rights and freedoms, not only within its borders but around the world. Today we take our shoes off at the airport, talk about building fences and suspend habeus corpus for people who don’t look like we do.

Less than a generation ago we shone as a bastion of religious tolerance, of scientific innovation and of economic promise. Now we have slid backwards to a society where politics uses our differences to divide us both to keep us submissive and to trade on our fears for our votes. We are told to ignore those things which we know to be right and proper and to go along with those who lead us down an improper path for their own exaltation and reward.

Less than a generation ago political campaigns sold us hope and promise and adventure. We were to ask what we could do for our country, to be a part of the Great Society. Now we are fed a steady diet of fear. We are told to be afraid of those who are different from us. We are told that we are always in danger and only by meekly submitting can we live to see another day. If we constantly live in the ominous shadow of the dread unknown are we truly living a worthwhile life?

We are just now starting to hear voices that shout, “The Emperor has no clothes.” Listen to those voices and join the chorus and then do your best to be a part of the solution. Write to your Congressman and Representative. Send an e-mail to your Assemblyman or Senator to tell them when they’ve done a good job. When you see your Alder or Mayor at the market let them see that you care. Don’t let them pander to the extremes of Left or Right. Make sure that they understand that you care more about healing rifts than about driving wedges.

Governance is not a video game. There are no Final Battles against the Ultimate Enemy. Statesmanship is about finding the best course for the greatest good. It is about small steps on a steady path. We must take our government back from the lobbyists and big-money interests that make it impossible for politicians to both do the right thing and get re-elected. Too often political races come down to the interests of the few to the detriment of the many. We need to be the ones to fix that.

Apathy will kill Democracy most efficiently. Become a partner in your government. Vote, read, write. Show government that you want better, if not for yourself then for your children and grandchildren. America has wandered in the dark before and come back to see the light of truth shine on its face. It will happen again but only if we care enough to make it happen. There are men and women in office who want to be leaders for more than venal reasons. Seek them out and support them. Do your best to get them help. Don’t be content to complain. Be the difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

First Up

Why blog at all? It seems just a little narcissitic to me to presume that anyone wants to read what I think on any given issue. On the oher hand, I do have a viewpoint that I share freely. This is another way to put that viewpoint in front of people and to share their thoughts about it.

Give me the sense to not stick my foot in the conveniently open orifice and let's see what happens.