Friday, December 23, 2005

Camera Obscura - Write The Caption Contest

Here's a few things for you on this non-normal Friday movie post.

First -- feel free to make up your own caption for the following photograph. And no, it is not from the movie "King Kong". (And thanks too go to the Rodeo Monkey for showing me the national value of monkeys in general.)

Also, I have to hand out just a few lumps of coal for some folks who have made this Christmas season a time of greed, hatred and lies.

First Fox News in general and also Fox host John Gibson, who used falsehoods and fear about the holiday to increase his book sales with a dubious example of writing (and also it gave him airtime to screechingly whine in a feeble attempt to "prove" his ridiculous viewpoint and more importantly to sell a few hundred thousand copies of his Book of Lies, called "The War On Christmas: How The Liberal Plot to Ban Christmas Is Worse Than You Thought."

Another title could be "Please Buy My Book Or I'll Shoot This Dog" (apologies to the National Lampoon for use of their headline.) What a twisted excuse for journalism.

So, just for fun, make up any caption you wish for the photo here and add it in the comment section.

And you can also find a whole heap of great monkey stories over the last few weeks at Rex L. Camino's Blog of Doom. That story about Paris Hilton's pet monkey attacking her is my favorite story of the year. (See "Paris Monkey Attacks" Nov. 16th post for the first of many stories.)

Oh and one more question you may or may not want to answer - Why do I title my Friday posts "Camera Obscura"? My answer will appear next week.

Feliz Navidad, Merry Ho-Ho, Happy Holidays and don't monkey with my Christmas again.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

10,000 Plus for Christmas

I just wanted to say a giant-sized thank you to all the many readers and bloggers and subscribers and the curious who have been making this page a stopping-off point. Sometime on Wednesday, the statistic counter on this page noted I had passed 10,000 page views. I know some sites get many many more, but I still say THANKS!!!

I have just started to dip into this new form of media and communication since August 2005, and to have so many readers in such a short time, I feel I have offered enough of worth and note here to encourage you to return and others to seek this page out. Many fine writers - see all those links over on the left - have added greatly to the number of visitors here and I thank them with all my heart. And I hope you visit them as well, since they have given me many hours of excellent reading and information.

I know I am hardly a constant source of news, but the opportunity to write and share that writing with any and everyone who has some kind of computer access means more than I can express. It is truly liberating to bypass all the typical boundaries of publishing and find there are readers who care to spend time here. While the banks and stores I try and do business with never ask if I want to trade some blog time for their services, the worth of this project is priceless to me.

All in all, it makes me want to work a little harder to provide information and stories and oddities i encounter as I shuffle my way forward. There have been so many excellent rewards in terms of friendship alone, I can only consider myself a wealthy and fortunate man indeed.

So Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks for a gift I will diligently return with as much good writing as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dancing In The Streets

You've likely heard it before here in the South -- Dancing leads to corruption, sin, decadence, sex and maybe even tobacco. Thanks to a short but deeply enjoyable visit with my mother and two of her sisters yesterday, I remembered my first attempt into getting busy on the dance floor when I was still a wee lad. It was thanks to another set of sisters, Edna and Rita, my aunt's kids, that I hit the floor to twist the night away waaaaaaay back when in - well, I think it was 1965.

As memorable as the image of dancing may be, the music that was played is just as vivid and it marked my first encounter with the soulful R&B sounds of Motown. (Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post, in all it's black and white glory.)

Here's the scene - a high school room, in the late spring I think, in Crossville. I have no idea how I ended up in the charge of my cousins that day, but there I was. It was getting close to the end of the day and some agreement had been made by teachers and students that music and dancing would be allowed for a short time. I imagine today the teacher would be fired and the students the victims of national media scrutiny for such hedonistic, extra curricular actions.

The students were allowed to bring in their 45s (no, not guns), though my aunt wondered if each kid brought in 45 recordings each to be played -- no, these were tiny vinyl discs played at 45rpm on a belt-driven turntable fitted with these stubby metal adapters and the sound came out of a single mono speaker. Sounds ancient today - it was back when rock and roll was in its infancy, though in a skyrocketing move to the top of the pop culture, when singles were still a mostly new way for records to be sold. You didn't download it - you bought these li'l discs in paper sleeves in grocery stores and drug stores since record stores were something only major metropolitan cities possessed.

So, there I was, a newbie to the dance and rock world, watching as these older kids (who all seemed like adults to my five-year old mind) hurled their desks and chairs to the sides of the room. The record player was plugged in to the wall outlet, the stack of 45s jammed onto the spindle of the player, and shoes went flying - it was easier to find a groove and move just wearing socks. Seems there was even a kind of Soul Train solo dance show, as kids lined up on either side of the room and we all took turns showing off our painfully white-people dance moves.

A lifetime of technology has been developed and taken hold since then. Today, music is downloaded onto your portable phone, and many high school or younger kids can videotape themselves with that same phone, dancing or singing along to the music and then post those videos in dozens of places on a Webly Wired World. Saw one the other day of some kid dancing along to a revamped hip hop mix of the old 60s tune "If You're Going To San Francisco" -- a weird mix to be sure. And there they are, performing solo like a superstar for all the world to watch.

And Crossville is mighty different too - home to Espresso Bars and Chinese diners. I recall when the big event was to hit the A&W Drive-In and get root beer. Dear God, I'm old.

But it is the music of that day I remember most - the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles. How could anyone stay still hearing those hits? Simple lyrics, yes, mostly about love or the loss of it and some more songs just about dancing itself. Looking back at what the Top 40 hits were that year, the tunes ranged from Buck Owen's "Tiger By The Tail" to Edwin Starr's "Agent Double-O Soul" to the Beatles, the Stones, Otis Redding, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke and on and on.

Thankfully, even then, most dance steps were all improvised by everyone. So anyone could dance and we sure did. Joyous and unself-conscious, loose and free, I had no idea we were part of a cultural jump that was on the verge of changing the world. For us, it was just good music and laughter and fun and gave even the wee east Tennessee folks like myself a chance to get funky and find soul. We helped make cool a way of life.

That said, here's a sample of the music and the performances, this one from The Temptations (and consider this one a long-distance dedication for her.) Please feel free to dance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My Way via the President and Paul Anka

Since TN Jed mentioned it in his comment on the last post, I did some wading thru the Web and found that yes, "the I-Word" or Impeachment, is beginning to stir and raise itself up. When hard-core convervatives like former congressman Bob Barr start calling for it, the ominous clouds of a failed presidency begin to gather.

In the popular phrasing, it's just "wingnuts" and unpatriotic insanity. What actions can the president legally take concerning wiretaps? Is it, as the president claimed, justified to achieve a speedier result rather than slog thru courts seeking approval?

Newsweek columnist Johnathon Alter notes:

"What is especially perplexing about this story is that the 1978 law set up a special court to approve eavesdropping in hours, even minutes, if necessary. In fact, the law allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact. Since 1979, the FISA court has approved tens of thousands of eavesdropping requests and rejected only four. There was no indication the existing system was slow—as the president seemed to claim in his press conference—or in any way required extra-constitutional action."

Uh-oh. Which law applies to who for what? What may appear to be real trouble may just be so confusing for the average American that all this uproar is merely to be another funky story for the fringes of BlogLand. Still, the calls for investigations of impeachment are underway.

Is it just me, or can you hear the strains of Paul Anka's "My Way" playing behind the president as he speaks?

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Giving In To Despair

Christmas, 2005.

Just a few days shy of the arrival of the rotund man in red with a bellylaugh and a sleigh crammed with gifts, the national mood is slipping into despair according to the President's speech on Sunday evening. His comment referred to the growing attitude that America's war in Iraq had brought more problems than resolutions and he urged reflection on the concept that positive changes are underway, that we are winning the war. But who said the attitude was "despair"?

It isn't easy to accept the responsibility for mistakes made, regardless of whether you are a president or a waiter. Yet the nation is seeing more and more information which questions how and why we have taken the course of action in the current war. And America loves to second guess, to wonder and to imagine if we are on the best path and if not, then where do we go and how do we get there.

Yet in all the complaints and protests here in this nation, I had not encountered the idea of "despair" mentioned by the president.

So I wonder, who feels despair?

I don't expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom."