Saturday, February 26, 2011

Many states are facing major budget deficits and are looking at drastic ways to cut government spending. Wisconsin seems to be experiencing some of the greatest problems with state workers facing salary and benefit cuts as well as their right to collective bargaining.

Texas is also facing a meg-dollar deficit and many of the schools are facing draconian cuts. They are considering salary cuts for teachers as well as the elimination of many positions and programs. Even librarians and libraries are on the chopping block. It’s hard for me to imagine a school with no librarian or library. I guess the internet has become the primary source for the written word and we have Goggle rather than a librarian. It just seems impossible that the library may no longer be the center or nucleus for the dissemination of knowledge. All this seems like a science fiction story I once read where a man wished away his body parts because he didn’t think they were essential. First he started with his legs, then arms, and so on, until there was nothing left. Maybe this is just a process of evolution in which our society evolves to nothing.

My daughter has been a high school librarian for years and is even on a state committee that selects books for high school libraries. She has made books and reading exciting for the students. Now after years of hard work, all this is in jeopardy. Thanks to all the glutinous entitlement programs and also to Governor Rick Perry (Texas Gadhafi) for sucking the life blood out of our society. There is simply nothing more important than teachers and the education of our children, even our health care and many of the welfare programs. As education diminishes so does our life blood and the very element that makes us grow and advance in society.

Several years ago a library was started in our community. A primary source of funding for the library was a 1/2 cent sales tax on items purchased in our community. A citizen of the community, I know, is against all taxes and is also a person who has read few, if any books in his life. He was greatly opposed to the library and said. “we don’t need no lie-berrie in this town.” He was right, we didn’t need a library for him. You have to be able to read first. Maybe it’s best to just keep everybody behind a plow and the women pregnant.

It’s good to be retired and hiding on the porch. I may put locks on my book shelves because book burning may be next after closure of the libraries.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I am trying to keep the blog journal entries as apolitical as possible so as not to offend anyone, but for the record, I can’t help but comment on the turmoil in the Middle East. That entire part of the world is boiling over by people who have been oppressed for years by ruthless dictators. These dictators salt away billions while their subjects starve and are terrorized. Our on country has coddled and appeased these dictators for years in order to satisfy our addiction to oil.

The common people are finally revolting at the risk of their lives. They are overthrowing the dictators and corrupt governments. Maybe, if we had waited, the people of Iraq would have overthrown Saddam Hussein, and it would have saved us billions of dollars and many lives of US soldiers. Although the overthrow has occurred in Iraq, and the government is fragile, it’s about as stable as they come in the Middle East.

I have been wondering where all these deposed dictators are going to go when they are exiled. I don’t know where Mubarak of Egypt is currently hiding. If Moammar Gadhafi falls in Libya, I don’t know where he will find a safe haven. Revolutions are also erupting in Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen and places I didn’t even know existed. Where are all these leaders and government officials going when they are driven out of their countries? I suspect that Chavez in Venezuela or Castro in Cuba may welcome them but living conditions are pretty dismal in those places.

I used to have a piece of property in South East Texas that is hidden deep in the pine forest. It would have made a perfect hiding place. I used to think it would be the place I would go if there were a nuclear attack. It’s almost like Dogpatch USA. Except for me, no one really cared if the place existed or not, so it remained isolated through the years. It’s the perfect place to go and not worry about the rest of the world looking for you. Next to the porch, it’s the most restful and peaceful place I have found on earth. So, if I still owned the place I would offer it Mubarak, Gadhafi and others as a safe haven. Of course, I would charge them a hefty price. I would offer them a place on the porch but I’m afraid their camels wouldn’t mix very well with the deer in my back yard.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Today, my spouse and I made the mistake of attending the church service in our Village of Salado. They had changed the service times around, so the 11:00AM service was the so called “contemporary service” rather than a traditional service. The contemporary service is the one that is supposed to appeal to the younger generation and the folks interested in Rock Music. This, theoretically, helps bring them into the fold.

The music was worse than horrible. There were two loud guitars, drums, keyboard, a saxophone player with sunglasses and two singers. There were very few young people in the service. For thirty minutes the congregation had to stand as the rock group performed. It was absolute torture. The government should try this technique rather than water-boarding. It is enough to make the most hardened AL Qaeda terrorist confess to anything. No one in the congregation sang except the two singers in the band. They sang, so called, praise music. I couldn’t understand the words to any of it. The minister finally spoke, and it was a fair sermon, although he played the harmonica to illustrate a point. His sermon was about Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, where the trumpets were blown and the people shouted and the walls came tumbling down. I guarantee you; if the rock group, at church this morning, had been at Jericho they would have had the same effect as the trumpets. Not only would the walls have come down, everyone would have run for cover including the Children of Israel.

To borrow a line from “The Catcher in the Rye” spoken by Holden Caulfield, “if Jesus would have been there he would have puked.” I hope to have a good shot at gaining entrance into the heavenly hereafter, and if I do I hope there are indeed many mansions in the place. I want to be in a mansion far removed from the rock and praise music singers. I would much prefer the harp and traditional music. It would be nice to be near the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or in the same place as George Beverly Shea. I wouldn’t even mind visiting the Church of Christ group who don’t use instruments at all. I probably won’t bother the Church of Christ folks because I want them to continue to think they are the only ones there.

Anyway, as I have said before there is no place like the porch for reverence. I can simply shut the rock bunch out completely, and put on the recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or George Beverly Shea to get me in a reverent mood. There you have it. I know I have offended some folks with this one.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

When I was a kid I liked the newspaper mainly for the comics. As I grew older, I read the paper for the news and a few columnists. Now, with old age I turn immediately to the obituaries. I’m checking to see if my name is there and read about friends who may have passed on. I then read the Letters to the Editor because they are usually by people who are mad about something, and it makes interesting reading. I still like a few columnists. I get most of my news now from the internet or TV. The paper occasionally contains some local news of interest. The obituaries are what I enjoy most.

I guess I just have a morbid curiosity, but I read the obituaries in my local as well as my hometown paper even thought I haven’t lived there in over 50 years. I also enjoy the obituaries in the New York Times. I even have a book,”The Last Word,” that is a collection of interesting New York Times Obituaries. To make the New Your Times you must have done something interesting. For example, the book has one about a great teacher of the Classics at Harvard. He was the Mr. Chips of Harvard. There is also a good obituary about Orville Redenbacher, who revolutionized the popcorn industry. The one I really liked was about Babe Ruth’s little pal, Johnny Sylvester. This is the 11-year-old kid who was severely injured by a horse kick in 1926. The kid’s father didn’t think he would live so he sent a telegram to the New York Yankees asking for autographs to cheer his son. The entire team, including Babe Ruth, autographed a baseball for him. The Babe also told the kid he was going to knock a home run for him in the World Series. The Babe knockd three in one game. He told the kid he would knock another one in the next game, but didn’t. The Babe went and apologized personally to the kid. The kid survived and told the story for the next six decades. He died at age 74 and his obituary was in the NY Times.

I enjoy reading these interesting stories about just plain people who have done something extraordinary, I wish I could have known many of them in real life. If I had it all to do again, I would have tried to be an obituary writer for the NY Times.

One of the best obituaries I have read recently was by a 92-year-old cousin of by brother-in-law. The guy was very funny, even in death. His obituary was written in the first person. It started by saying he was dictating his obituary. Someone obviously filled in the blanks. One paragraph was a real jewel and said: “ I love you very much and I hope to see you in Heaven. For me to do that there are two things you must do. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, follow Him and do His will. Second, you must pass away as I have.” Now that’s one of the neatest and most novel obituaries I’ve seen Iin a long time. Wish I could be that clever thinking things up, even in the face of death.

Anyway, this is all a little morbid, but you do learn a lot about people by reading their obituary. With some folks, that’s probably the best way to know them. I think I will just sit back on the porch and reread my New York Times Obituary book. It’s great entertainment as well as informative.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My spouse and I traveled to San Antonio this past weekend to hear my granddaughter perform in the All State Symphonic Orchestra. She made All State in Viola last year as a freshman and again this year as a sophomore. Needless to say, we are very proud of her and all my grandkids.

The Orchestra, along with All State Bands and Choirs perform at the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Convention each year. This is a huge convention and the place was packed with proud parents, relatives, student musicians and their teachers. I was most impressed when the President of TMEA read out the statistics of the orchestra members. Their average SAT scores are far above the average student and one student even made a perfect 2400.

As I sat there and listened to this group of outstanding students perform I was comforted by the fact that these are our future leaders and teachers. I feel much more secure about the future of our country when these young folks take over. I don’t have a trained ear but they sounded as good as any professional symphony I have heard, and I have heard quite a few. Even though it was a hassle for old folks like me to go the concert, and fight the crowd, it made me feel great, and also thankful for the teachers and parents of these outstanding kids.

After that great experience, my spouse and I then watched the Grammy Awards last evening. Boy, was that a contrast to the All State Orchestra. The popular songs of today really make me feel old and out of touch. We listened to the awards and the performers in order to, at least, have a little knowledge of the pop stars, and be able to converse with our grandkids. We even listened to the interview with Lady Gaga on 60 minutes. A group called Arcade Fire won best album of the year with Suburbs. That group even had violins and violas playing (I think). Mostly, what Arcade Fire had was noise, loud drums and wild lighting. I became depressed all over again. The only thing that saved me with the Grammy show was the song “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. That song was semi-sane. An overweight Barbra Streisand singing “Evergreen” helped me stay tuned to the end.

Anyway after the Grammy Awards I’m ready to go back to the TMEA Convention and hear that great group of kids. I’m just too old for today’s music and put up with the likes of Lady Gaga. The porch looks better every time I leave it.

Monday, February 07, 2011

After a week of confinement from the freezing weather, the sun thawed things this weekend and allowed us to venture out and see a couple of our grandkids in great performances. One was a high school production of Li’l Abner and the other was the musical Annie by the Temple Civic Theater. The shows were terrific. I especially liked them because they were based on a couple of my favorite comic book characters.

The comics were my favorite reading material as a kid. My favorites were Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel, but I read them all including; Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie and Li’l Abner. I didn’t appreciate Li’l Abner and Al Capp, the guy who created it, until I was older. Capp was a master of satire and poked fun at most everything, especially the government. Capp’s cartoon strip was frequently banned and today he would really be considered politically incorrect. He offended a lot of folks, but he was very funny. Capp created some great characters like; Marryin' Sam, Hairless Joe, Lonesome Polecat, Evil-Eye Fleegle, General Bullmoose, Lena the Hyena, Senator Jack S. Phogbound, Scraggs, Washable Jones, Nightmare Alice, Earthquake McGoon, and a host of others. Most notably were the beautiful, full-figured women like Daisy Mae, Wolf Gal, Stupefyin' Jones and Moonbeam McSwine. All these characters lived in the worthless, backwoods town of Dogpatch. Most of these characters were in the musical production, and brought back some great memories.

Then, to make the weekend perfect we saw my youngest granddaughter play one of the orphans in Annie. That one also took me back to my childhood. There they were on stage, Annie, Daddy Warbuck’s and the dog Sandy. Missing was one of my favorites, Punjab the giant. The comic strip also had political commentary. In the stage production, I was really taken back to my childhood reading when Annie said, ”Leapin Lizards.” That was one of her favorite expressions and one I loved.

Unfortunately, the comics are disappearing along with the newspapers. I was lucky to live in the Golden Age of the comics, otherwise I may not have learned to read. At least reading was more fun and the comics were a lot more exciting that Dick and Jane. Some of the comics are still okay, but they have become very anemic in most papers. I used to trade them and probably had some valuable jewels. Not long ago, the first Superman comic published in the 30s sold for a million dollars. I probably had that one, but let it go like many other investments through the years.

Anyway, it was good to get off the porch for a little while this weekend and see these great musicals based on the comics that also included my grandkids in the cast. Even the porch can get confining in this cold weather, but I would get off the porch in any weather for a repeat of this

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I have not written a blog for several days.. I’m afraid the blog offends some folks. I don’t mean for it to offend anyone in particular, just everyone in general. The blog is called JLM’s Journal and is written for my personal satisfaction as a record of the things that interest me and I want to poke fun about. If I live long enough, I may go back and read them when I’m too feeble to type. They might amuse me at that time. It’s also a little record of my views that some future great, great grandkid might read. I would sure like to know what my great grandfather thought about the Texas Revolution, slavery, etc. As far as I know he didn’t write anything.

In my poking fun, I commonly refer to thieves, politicians, lawyers, bankers, doctors, preachers and others in the trade. Notice, I don’t say physicians or ministers. There is a difference in my mind between doctors and physicians and preachers and ministers. I don’t usually criticize people who earn their way by the sweat on their brow or respectable professions like teaching. I hold these folks in the highest esteem and consider some of them almost sacred. The only thing I criticize related to these folks is the injustices in their live like lack of proper respect or compensation. I also don’t like to criticize veterans who put their lives on the line for us. I have recently contributed to a blog that may be published on the web site of my previous place of employment. It’s about the problem of access to doctors and it’s sure to ruffle some feathers. Anyway, enough said about all this stuff.

In the past few days, its been too cold to think about anything except staying warm. In my advanced age it’s just harder to stay warm. This cold spell has made me think of other cold times in my life. When I was a kid I had three uncles who lived in the piney woods area. One was a farmer who had a son my age. I once visited them during a cold snap and remember it as one of the coldest times of my life. He lived in a Texas style dogtrot house with board siding and absolutely no insulation. Insulation had not been invented. You could actually see between the cracks of the adjacent boards. The house had a tin roof with little perforations in the tin that allowed you to see the night sky. There was no electricity, and as a result no lights. There was no indoor plumbing, so we used a chamber pot under the bed until daylight when we would make a run through the freeing weather to the outhouse. The house was built on bocks, so stepping on the floor was like stepping on a block of ice. The main heat for the house was a wood burning stove in the kitchen.

My Uncle would get up before daylight even in the winter and start a fire in the stove. He then went into the night to feed the animals and milk the cow. He then came in at dawn for a breakfast prepared on that stove by my aunt. There was no such thing as hot water from the tap. The breakfast was, nevertheless, great. We had mouth watering, deep yellow yard eggs, bacon, biscuits and unpasteurized milk with the cream. The breakfast was delicious but pure cholesterol.

I enjoyed playing with my cousin, but the visit was like camping with the most primitive conditions. It was during that cold visit when I decided I didn’t want to be a farmer. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t like farmers and am trying to demean their line of work. There conditions have greatly improved and I have great respect for farmers. The improvements were just too late for me, and my poor uncle.

Farming is a pretty hard life but some of these folks live a long time. Like my uncle I probably wouldn’t have been one of those to live so long. If I had chosen farming as a career, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here on the porch on this cold day writing a blog that, hopefully, won’t offend too many folks