Sunday, February 22, 2009

There have been very few famous people Baylor University can claim as graduates. Baylor rarely has a claim to fame. They seldom have a winning season in any sporting event. The Lady Bears basketball team is their greatest claim to fame in sports. I am, nevertheless, proud to be a graduate of Baylor. I’m just thankful they let a country boy, like me, into the place all those years ago. I learned how to study and latched on to some life long heroes like Mark Twain. Most of all I learned about the meaning of life.

There have been a few notables to graduate or at least attend Baylor. Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, was a graduate. Mike Singletary, the football great is now head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. The famous attorney and Watergate prosecutor, Leon Jaworski was a graduate. Olympic Gold medalist, Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wanner as well as movie star Angela Kinsley were also graduates. One of my favorite graduates is Thomas Harris, author of the Hannibal Lecter stories and the book “Silence of the Lambs.” I believe that Robert Fulghum, who wrote “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, either graduated or at least attended Baylor. Baylor may not want to claim him because he is a Unitarian minister. A fellow that Baylor probably doesn’t want to claim but is one of my all time favorites, is the great Willie Nelson. Willie attended Baylor for only one year in 1954, during the time I was there. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet him.

Baylor can now claim another famous person who took the spotlight in the news this week. The great multi-billion dollar swindler, from Mexia, Texas, Allen Stanford is a graduate of Baylor. Mexia is turning out some great ones like Anna Nichole Smith and now Allen Stanford. Anna Nichole didn’t attend Baylor, but a few years ago some female Baylor students, who were on the Anne Nichole road to fame, gave a great interview and posed for Playboy. These girls had great potential but just weren’t endowed enough by nature to be in Anne Nichole’s league. Not long ago, a Baylor basketball player was murdered by a teammate and some shenanigans by the coach also came to light. In times past there was a big scandal in the home of the famous Baylor President Rufus Burleson. A foreign student staying in the home of Burleson, and being treated like a servant, became pregnant by the nephew of the president. The incident was handled like a Watergate cover-up.

So, Baylor has had some interesting graduates and like other Christian schools has had scandals in the past. All this is so glaring and distasteful because Baylor is a great Christian school. Even with all these skeletons rattling in the closet, I’m still proud of the place. I’m glad I went there and that my children and their spouses are graduates. I would be most blessed if some of the grandchildren followed in the same path as their parents. They should not be disappointed if more scandals occur and more criminals graduate. After all, a multitude of preachers, who manipulate their income tax responsibility, graduate each year. These events will always be spotlighted if they occur at a place like Baylor. People seem to get a distorted sense of pleasure out of seeing something good, encounter trouble, embarrassment or even failure. It’s almost like entertainment for the media. This type of perverted entertainment is something that has been labeled a “Roman Holiday.” It was great entertainment for the Romans to see the Christians thrown to the lions. Baylor is thrown to the lions every time one of its graduates misbehaves or a scandal occurs.

I keep a towel on the porch to wipe away the tears ever time Baylor is thrown to the lions or loses a ball game. The towel gets a lot of use and stays wet most of the time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I sure hope the economic stimulus plan, recently passed by Congress and signed by the President, does miracles. Miracles are going to be needed. The ink is not even dry and the auto industry is back asking for billions. The American automakers may be beyond hope and the Japanese don’t seem to be in any better shape. We are taking everyone down with us. I don’t guess anyone is going to buy a car again. Maybe we are going back to the horse and buggy.

My spouse and I visited a couple of furniture stores this week in search of a small bookcase. We had a long chat with one of the owners who has been in business all of his life. He said that none of the furniture is made in the US anymore. North Carolina was once the hub of manufacturing for furniture. He said nothing is made there anymore. It’s all made in the Orient. Pieces may be shipped to North Carolina and assembled but we are out of the manufacturing business in the US. We don’t seem to be making anything in this country anymore. The auto industry and electronic manufacturing have moved to Japan. Textiles are all from the orient as well as most everything else. Even much of our food is coming from other places like Mexico.

We have a GE washing machine that is a year old and has been broken three times, requiring four service calls. Fortunately, the washer has been under warranty, but the service has cost GE over $400 and is now greater that the original cost of the machine. The service man tells us the unit was made in Mexico. Nothing is made in this country anymore and what we get from elsewhere is junk or contains poison.

The only business to be in is plumbing and heating and air conditioning. Our most successful businesses are now service related. We have become a nation of consumers and all the stuff we buy has to be serviced. Even the service, such as electronics, goes overseas. Maybe the stimulus plan will create some jobs for the rebuilding of our infrastructures such as roads. The problem is that Americans don’t seem to want these jobs and we will have more illegal aliens pouring across the border to do the work.

During severe economics times, in the past, we have always had a war to solve the problem. The war created manufacturing jobs for the production of weapons and the unemployed were given jobs in the military getting killed. We are already in a war but it is one of limited scale compared to those of the past. It’s just not enough to do the job. We need to declare war on Russia and China to solve our current problem.

We like to think that we should leave the world a better place for our children. The baby boomers and their kids have been a generation of lazy gluttons who have placed self-interest and greed above everything else. I was hoping to, at least, pass on my precious porch and its contents to my grandkids but the way things are going I may have to start dismantling the place for firewood and move out with the deer I despise so much.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who can we believe? Does anyone tell the truth? It seems like everyone who testifies before Congress ends up telling a lie. It’s all the way from baseball players lying about being on steroids to politicians lying about everything. The latest is that the newly appointed senator from Illinois, Roland Burris. lied when he initially claimed he had no contact with ousted Governor Rod Blogojevich. He now claims he had contact with some of the Governor’s people. Isn’t all this called perjury? The interesting thing is that when these folks get caught lying they never go to jail. Most don’t even say I’m sorry.

I’m beginning to doubt everyone. Medical science is sure filled with a lot of misinformation. It may not be an outright lie but there are some mighty big stretchers. For years we have been filling kids with cold medicine that is worthless and down right harmful. Now they are saying all the vitamins that were essential are really not needed. Most of the over the counter medicine is of limited and unproven value. We just believe the drug companies who are out to make a buck regardless of the truth. Even a lot of the drugs prescribed don’t do what they are claimed to do. Doctors prescribed hormones for postmenopausal women telling them it wouldn’t cause cancer when in fact it does. They did some of this in ignorance of the real scientific facts but there was always question and doubt that was ignored.

We sure can’t believe the folks who distribute some of our food. They will distribute salmonella tainted peanut butter even knowing it is contaminated. At least the peanut butter CEO didn’t lie to Congress. He just took the 5th amendment, which means I’m guilty.

Now we learn some truth about global warming. The news today stated that many states in the north have had the coldest winter in decades. NASA also reported that there is an increase in sea ice and that the ice cap in the Antarctica is getting ticker and larger as the Artic decreases in size. What is really happening? What is the truth? Also, what about the price of oil? The cost of a barrel of oil is going down but the price if a gallon of gas is again going up. Someone is tooling us around with a big lie. Who can we believe?

I love the porch more than most any place in the world. It’s a place where the truth is spoken except when the TV is on. There are no sports celebrities, politicians, CEOs, lawyers, TV evangelist and others in the lying trade allowed on the porch. It’s mainly just my spouse and she is the most honest person I have ever known.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I have been rereading Mark Twain’s “Rouging It.” In the book, he is pretty tough on the Mormons. He said, “the Book of Mormon is chloroform in print.” He didn’t know how Joseph Smith stayed awake to translate it. Twain was tough on all organized religion but especially like to poke fun at the Mormons and Christian Scientist. I have some good friends who are Mormons but I have to agree with Twain in much that he says. They are not a lot different than David Koresh and the Davidians. The government killed and burned the Davidians out of their stronghold. I guess the Mormons have been persecuted almost as much as the Davidians but so have a lot of Christian groups. Early on, the Christians were fed to the lions and suffered many other horrors such as burning at the stake and crucifixion. It’s not just the Christians who are slain for their belief. The Muslims kill each other as well as the rest of us infidels. Jews top the list for persecution and let you know it. The Nazis killed about 6 million Jews and God has killed quite a few in spite of them being his chosen people. Even with all the museums reminding us of the Holocaust, some folks deny that it ever happened. Recently, a catholic priest denied the existence of the Holocaust and of course the President of Iran claims it never happened.

Every religion claims it’s the only way to salvation. I have had Catholics and members of the Church of Christ look me straight in the eye and tell me I’m going to hell because I don’t belong to their church. As a kid growing up in the Baptist Church I thought going to hell was because you drank whisky, smoked or danced. The Baptist have eased up on the dancing part and science has taken care of the smoking. Baptist have given way to committee meetings and preaching about the blessing of money and other such things. I have always had the impression that Methodist were more of a social club and there hasn’t been much to change my view. Episcopalians want to think they are a more sophisticated Catholic who are intellectual and embrace modern concepts like homosexuality. The Catholics pretty much keep their homosexuals confined to the priesthood. I could go on and on about; those who handle snakes, speak in tongues, faith healers and TV evangelist who cry a lot. Hindus are a quiet, peaceful bunch who are killing us in another way. They have used the economic gun and have taken all our jobs through outsourcing for a paltry wage. I have said enough to put me in jail for years and make all my friends mad.

Here is what Mark Twain said about religion and man. “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven. “

As I sit on the porch and contemplate all this, it’s very confusing. It seems that the best thing to do is accept your faith like a child and hope for the best. Maybe everyone is right and there are many paths. The New Age bunch are going to conquer the world anyway and we will all become part of the wind and other such things in the universe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Most folks want a hero in their life. It’s common for kids to pick a sports figure. In recent times, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriquez and Michael Phelps have been popular heroes. These guys, like so many super stars, are lying jerks and ruin the hero image. It’s just hard to trust a human to be a hero. They will disappoint you most of the time. Sports stars fall in the same category as movie stars, politicians, CEOS, bankers, preachers, Wall Street gangsters, thieves and others in the trade.

I have never put much stock in humans as heroes. Even when I was a kid I never cared that much for sports heroes. I did like Roy Rogers for a while but I was just about as fond of his horse Trigger as Roy himself. I liked all the cowboy movie stars and thought I might like to be a real cowboy and chase rustlers and Indians.

My real heroes throughout life have been those from fiction and fantasy. These will not let you down. Superman was always among my favorites. I have admired many others such as; Captain Marvel, Batman, The Phantom, etc. These guys never lied to Congress, smoked marijuana, or took steroids. I was even in the Captain Marvel Club when I was a kid and knew his secret code, which was the alphabet backwards.

The only good thing about the current A-Rod scandal is that Congress has decided not to pursue the matter with panels wasting a lot of time and taxpayer money questioning this guy. I can’t see that it’s any of their business anyway. Who cares if he took steroids? Kids and the rest of the public need to understand that these athletes are just artificially enhanced and are much like a robot. We might as well have a robot as our hero, but I strongly recommend Superman to avoid disappointment.

Anyway, on the porch I don’t think much about any heroes. Even my fantasy heroes have lost their appeal. The comics look like they have had a dose of steroids. The drawings and the story line just don’t look like they did years ago. Even though these steroid enhanced athletes set all sorts of records they will never surpass the great Babe Ruth. I think all the heroes are now dead.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My spouse and I signed up for a Baylor continuing education course on Mark Twain. It’s a very short course consisting of four 1 ½ hours lectures. We attended the first lecture last week and it was terrific. I took a course on Mark Twain in college and have had a life long love for this guy and his works. We have visited just about every place he lived including; Hartford Conn., Hannibal Mo., Virginia City, Neveda and most important of all Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY.

The first lecture in our mini-course was all about Quarry Farm. This is the only place he could write in peace and quiet. It was a farm in rural NY owned by his wife’s family. Even though Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were all about life on the Mississippi, those characters, along with many others, were born on Quarry Farm in the mind of Mark Twain. He did his writing in a little octagon shaped house overlooking the river at Quarry farm. The place reminded him of his home in Hannibal, Missouri.

Our reading assignment for the next lecture is from “Roughing It.” We read that book, in my course, when I was in Baylor and I am reading from my old book that has many great passages underlined with margin notes. It’s about his trip on stagecoach from Missouri to Nevada then to California. It’s almost like a diary describing the events of the trip. One of my favorite chapters is the one describing the coyote. Twain says the coyote looks like a skeleton wrapped in skin but he can outrun and outsmart just about everything else, especially a dog who thinks he can catch him.

Of the people who have lived on the planet, other than Jesus, the one I would like most to have dinner and a conversation with would be Mark Twain. Mark Twain hated hypocrisy. He would have a field day today with our CEOs, politicians, bankers and ministers. I might be too intimidated to speak in his presence but I’m sure he would quickly put me at ease.

The closest I can come to the great man today is to sit on my back porch surrounded by his books. The first thing one sees when entering our home is a large bust of Twain in the entrance hall and a replica of the octagonal house at Quarry Farm. I pick up the paper and am reminded of all the things he loved to attack with his great gift of words and the use of satire, namely the government, politicians and all other forms of hypocrisy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The media is already after their darling, Obama. Some of his appointments have been a big problem and he even admitted today that he screwed up. It seems that the media even expects Democrats to pay taxes as well as raise them. Tom Daschle, the always-frowning former Senator, has admitted to not paying $130,000 in taxes and a few other unethical things. Daschle withdrew his name from consideration as Secretary of Health and the czar for orchestrating healthcare reform.

The other causality of the day was Nancy Killefer who was to be Chief Performance Officer for the White House. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m sure it pays well. Nancy had also failed to pay taxes. She bungled the payroll taxes on her household help. Last week Timothy Geithner was appointed Secretary of Treasury and head of the IRA in spite of not paying $34,000 in taxes. It’s good to set an example for all of us who religiously pay taxes in fear of imprisonment.

Obama already had a problem with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who had been proposed for Secretary of Commerce. Richardson had been involved with some contracts for work in New Mexico where he may have profited.

Obama didn’t need this distraction from the problems facing the nation with the economy. His bloated bailout plan is facing problems in the Senate with all the pork added by the Democrats. Instead of cutting cost every department in government is set to gain billions and every pet project for the Democrats has been tacked on to the proposal. In the meantime, Wells Fargo executives are having a big party in an expensive hotel in Las Vegas. Isn’t anyone honest and willing to do what is right? Rod Blagojevich, the recently impeached governor of Illinois, will probably be applying for a position in the administration. He should be a good fit.

Healthcare reform is off to a rocky start with the departure of Daschle from the scene. Healthcare reform should be a high priority to keep all of us taxpayers healthy to foot the bill for the bailouts and growing deficit. It’s sure in the best interest of the government to keep me healthy. I’m stupid enough to be one of their best and most honest contributors. Even though the Wall Street gangsters have taken a large chunk of my retirement and I pay my taxes in full, I will continue to cough up my share of the bailout funds rather than risk being taken off the porch and placed in a cell in Huntsville with a tattooed gorilla. For me, they might even figure out a more harsh punishment like staking me down in a deer lease.

Monday, February 02, 2009

My spouse and I saw “The Reader” last week. I think it should get an Oscar for the Best Picture. The story is terrific and the acting superb. The nudity and sex at the beginning of the movie will offend some. At my age and profession it’s nothing. My hormones have cooled long ago. When I was young I might have had a hormone rush, especially if the lady who has been my spouse for 52 years was sitting next to me. She also thought nothing of the scenes and realized their importance. The nudity and sex scenes were necessary to set the stage for the real relationship that develops between and older women and a teenage boy. The movies starts in the late 1950’s and there are numerous back flashes and fast-forwards that were very easy to follow.

The movie is also about the holocaust and Nazis war crimes, but this like the nudity and sex are only the backdrop for the real story. The story is about literacy/illiteracy and it is a very powerful story. Kate Winset plays an older woman, Hanna Schmitz, who has a steamy affair with an adolescent. She likes for the young man to read to her before and after sex. He reads some great stuff like the Odyssey and Huck Finn. Then one day, she disappears from his life. He encounters her again several years later when he is a law student and she is being tried for a Nazis war crime that has come to light because of a book written by a holocaust survivor. What happens is most interesting and is the real crux of the story. It is also the story of the life long repercussions of an action taken earlier in life.

To me the real theme of the movie has to do with illiteracy and it’s impact on ones life. The embarrassment of being illiterate dominates everything in the lives of these unfortunate people. They had rather face death or imprisonment rather than reveal their illiteracy. The story is incredible and the message most powerful.

The movie is not for those under 13 or for the Church Ladies who are likely to be offended by the nudity and sex at the beginning. The adults who are likely to be offended should stay at home but I really don’t care to have them on the porch because the conversation would probably be pretty shallow and narrow.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I’m sitting here on a recliner in my climate controlled, enclosed backporch, watching the Recession Bowl on my big screen TV. It’s a perfect 72 degrees and I had a gourmet lunch prepared by my spouse. I’m typing on my Apple ibook connected to the wireless network in my home. Last night we went to a local restaurant for dinner and had to wait an hour for a table. Last evening we also attended a choir concert where my granddaughter performed. The traffic driving to Waco was almost bumper to bumper. Times are tough in this recession.

This years Super Bowl has been labeled the Recession Bowl. The stadium is packed with many seats costing several thousand dollars. I watched some folks interviewed. One guy said the room for his family was costing $7500 dollars a night. He did say they are making some sacrifices to attend and will not go to Disney World this year.

As I watched the halftime show I wondered how much Bruce Springsteen was paid for his performance. I’m sure it wasn’t depression wages and is a far cry from what Woody Guthrie made as he sang his way across the country as a hobo. One good thing about the depression is that I could understand the words in the Woody Guthrie songs compared to the amplified noise and fireworks of Springsteen.

I was born during the great depression and have never grown out of that mindset. If my father were alive today he would think he was in heaven. Times are now tough but pale compared to The Great Depression. Regardless of how bad things may get I’m sure we will always have a Super Bowl. Some things we will not give up including; the Super Bowl, high paid stars, Wall Street gangsters and greedy CEOs.

I was pulling for the Cardinals and hoping for a miracle. I almost got it but the Steelers came back for the win. I am also hoping for a miracle for the recession and I hope I don’t get the same results as the Super Bowl. At least I’m on my comfortable porch and did enjoy a good game. That’s pretty good for someone who really doesn’t care that much for football.