Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life without Texas (and the Houston Rockets?)

Since wing-nut Republicans can’t win without hanging chads and rigged electronic voting, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is talking about picking up Texas' loose marbles and marching The Lone Star State out of the Union.

And Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul is keeping the secession idea alive.

I say go for it, Texas!

With the exception of The Texas Observer, Austin City Limits, Kinky Friedman, Molly Ivins, Ralph Yarborough, Jim Hightower and a few other worthies, Texas has given this nation little more than grief.

Where to begin?

My first awareness that something was rotten in the state started on an indelible Friday. Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. The toxicity ran right through oil-patch-caused pollution and graft, Lyndon Johnson's Southeast Asian misadventures, dozens of Texas executions to the plutocracy of George W. Bush.

So go, Texas.

But be quick about it. The Trailblazers could use a pass on the rest of the series with the Houston Rockets? Remember, it's called the NATIONAL Basketball Association.

PS: For Hightower's take on Perry, go HERE.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Foul play and play-offs; Guilt and paranoia

Tonight is our regular Tuesday evening Scrabble game. I play with my mother-in-law and wife, who are, I'm convinced, in league against me.

It's the old-blood-is-thicker-than-water bit.

I'm certain they've devised secret Scrabble signals.

I've noticed that their eyebrows twitch uncharacteristically at times.

Earlobes are suspiciously squeezed and toyed with, like some signal from a Scrabble dugout. One wants the other to lay down a bunt, Scrabble-wise.

The other is calling for a triple-letter pitch out or a seven-letter steal.

Maybe a brush of the sleeve means "I have the 'q'. Play an open 'i'."

You laugh, but this isn't funny. I've seen it happen!

Anyway, between turns tonight I will put aside my paranoia about being duped. I intend to check out the status of Game 2 of the NBA play-offs between the Rockets and the hapless Blazers.

If Game 2 is anything like the Game 1 shellacking by Houston, I won't be gone long from the Scrabble board.

Then there is the little matter of guilt.

Play-off peeking constitutes a flagrant foul during the Days of Darkened Screens, more commonly known as TV-Turnoff Week. See yesterday's poetic post.

Oh well. I'm sure the Screen-time Awareness Network people (That's what the organizers now call themselves) will understand, as at least I will be AWARE of what I'm doing.

Now if I could only be aware of what my mother-in-law and wife were doing. What we really need is a Mother-in-Law/Daughter Secret Communication Awareness Network.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

An Ode to no TV

In honor of TV-Turnoff Week, which began today, here's ...

By Roald Dahl

The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clueless in the journalism classroom

To get a feel of what it's like to teach journalism these days, go here.

As soon as I read that New York Times article this morning, I fired it off to my dean at Portland Community College.

She shot back with a note asking whether I'd like to help develop a "News Blog" course.

Why not? Or as we said a decade ago — Whatever ....

Who knows what next semester, or next week, will bring?

Perhaps a course in post-apocalyptic "Town Crying" might be in order. Just in case.

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