Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Blogroll Retired

Stop Rudy Now! 150 pixelsidIf you scroll down you will find that my "Stop Rudy Now!" blogroll has been retired. That battle is over and he's quit the 2008 Presidential campaign. He's thrown his support to Senator John McCain and perhaps he now expects to be offered a position in a McCain administration. Let's hope McCain doesn't choose ol' Rudy for the Vice Presidential slot!

Giuliani's presidential campaign was possibly the lousiest political campaign this nation has ever seen. Skipping the early primaries and caucuses as being beneath his notice - Rudy must have figured he'd be unable to win any of those elections - Giuliani poured all his electioneering eggs into the Florida Republican Primary. All the political capital he had entering this campaign he frittered away. His debate appearances were not only pointless but showed his emptiness as a candidate.

I don't know who convinced him that his fortunes depended on a single primary, but that was the stupidest decision ever. People forgot all about him as the other candidates campaigned. The MSM kept inviting him on the Sunday morning Talking Head shows, as if he had something to say, but he would never say those somethings to the electorate. Somebody should have told Rudy Giuliani that the era of the Front Porch campaign died in the 1920s.

Would he have listened? Probably not. I certainly did not want Rudy Giuliani as the Republican Nominee. But this lackluster, error-filled, above-the-fray campaign of his was embarrassing to watch.

And now it's over and done with. We can ignore Rudy and not wonder what electoral mischief he'll get into. And we won't have to look at that inane grin during the next Republican debate.

So, the "Stop Rudy Now!" blogroll is history, and retired. Will Rudy retire now, too?

Farewell, Rudy! We hardly knew ye! At least as a campaigner!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another Blogroll? Well, Why Not? Mitt's The Man!

I've been ill for a few days now. Flu, probably. It left me wrapped around a toilet bowl most of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. I managed to sleep for maybe three hours, then awoke to find myself weak as a kitten, sore at every joint, and with my ribs feeling like they'd had a going over by a gang of rabid feminists. Not a way to spend a few days off, but I'm a bit better now. *crossing fingers*

That said ... Fred's gone. He quit and we have to move on. Yeah, yeah, you already knew that. I'm not removing my Run, Fred, Run! blogroll. Why? Because I met some fine bloggers that way. If they want to remove the blogroll from their blogs, that's up to them.

However, I decided I may as well begin a new blogroll. I'm in agreement with a lot of my blogging friends: I've switched to Mitt. Mitt Romney was not my first choice. But I think he'll do in a pinch, and he was my choice - had Fred continued and taken the Republican nomination - as a the Vice-Presidential selection. So he's my logical choice for the top spot with Fred Thompson out.

For a well-thought-out post on why Romney's a good choice for the Republican nominee, I suggest you check out Patrick's post at Born Again Redneck, "Romney for President and leader of the free world". In that post was this naughty gem:
'Because Mitt, like the Bushes, is a very wealthy man and understands the global market and can look the billionaire Saudi "princes" straight in the eye as a financial equal and not be awed by their wealth. Romney will be able to speak to the smarmy Europeans nicely without punching them out as Fred may well have done.

Mrs Romney, having been the wife of a billionaire for nearly 40 years, will also be able to stand up to the plutocratic crooks who run OPEC. Oh, she will smile and say nice things but her eyes will say to them: "Back down, you primitive savage. You're in the presence of a free (and stinking rich) American woman." That's the kind of language that savages understand.'

I do have reservations about Romney, but not nearly as many as I do with McCain or Giuliani, and let's not even think about Huckabee. Ron Paul is simply out of the question. Any question!

So to show my support I have created a small blogroll, which you can see on my left sidebar. It's called "Mitt's The Man! 2008!" and you can join it by pasting the code into your own blog and letting me know you have. Just add a comment to any post, even this one! I made some images to use, based on the one at the top of this post. They are 150, 200, and 250 pixels in width. Don't like the images? Use your own. The point isn't the picture but the support.

Here's the code for your use:

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

The images you should save to your computer then upload to your own blog. Don't try to link them here.
Mitt's The Man! 2008! 150
Mitt's The Man! 2008! 200

Mitt's The Man! 2008! 250

If you have switched to Mitt Romney, or are thinking about it, and haven't joined a Romney blogroll, why not join this one? Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Nearly 40 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr, Pastor and one of the acclaimed leaders of the Modern American Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His murder brought to a close the most focused, dedicated, and non-violent chapters of the quest to grant to Black Americans the very rights that White Americans had held since the first setting foot on the continent of North America. With his passing went a unified voice - if there ever was such a thing - to speak to the entrenched bigots and racists of the United States, and opened the door for the violent, the self-seeking, the deluded and self-destructive elements of America to come to the fore.

Say what you will of the Reverend King as a man, a husband, a Christian, his main focus never strayed far from the main goal: Equal Rights for Black Americans. Those who sought, and still seek, to place King on a pedestal lose sight of the facts every bit as much as those who would attempt to drag his memory through the mud of his own humanity. He was not a Saint in the Catholic sense any more than we are, nor was he a demon. He was a man. As such he had faults, frailties, weaknesses. As do we all. Yet withal he endured imprisonment, threats, degradation, contempt, constant demands on his time and purse, and the soul-deadening treatment of Americans who dismissed him for the color of his skin.

His actions led inexorably to President Johnson pushing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a reluctant Congress - Republicans gave it more support than Democrats, don't forget - allowing King to see a day ahead when his skin color would count for nothing. Had he not been murdered no one can say how much more he might have accomplished. And he accomplished much in his life.

We celebrate his birthday today in recognition of what he did, not what those who came after have done. Some who quibble with his speaking style lose sight of the fact that he was in fact a preacher. He spoke publicly as he would from the pulpit. His words had a certain poetic power as well as a deep imagery that conveyed more than words alone. When he spoke at the Washington Mall, August 28th, 1963 - "I Have A Dream" - he was speaking to all of America, not just to Black Americans. His message of Equality of Opportunity was universal. And just.

When he spoke to his admirers at the Mason Temple in Memphis, TN, on April 3rd, 1968, he was tired, over-worked, and perhaps feeling his own mortality. Yet he spoke powerfully, poetically, with the fervor of the pastor. And his words at the end of his talk seemed prescient as well as thankful:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
The next day he was murdered by an insignificant man who had done nothing with his own life.

King's legacy survives no matter what fools and weaklings try to play off it for their own gain. In a way King trancended his own race as he spoke to all of us. So remember Martin Luther King, Jr, not as he has been portrayed by his admirers and not as he has been portrayed by those who have always loathed him. Just remember the man by his magnificent words.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Patrick Exposes A Meme! Cool!

Patrick at Born Again Redneck features a Meme on his blog today, which he found at Right Wing Rebel. Rebel has tagged everyone, meaning if you want to do it, go ahead! The rules are simple:

Anyone else who wants to try, here's how it goes:

You are about to have your own band's CD cover.

Follow these directions. Click on the following links:

1. The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together.

Now Patrick tells us about what he found as his band name, album title, and picture, so I should also. Why not? It's kinda fascinating what he links show you!

My band name is Smokey Bones Barbeque and Grill, a Florida-based chain of casual dining restaurants. It is one of the newest chains under Darden Restaurants, Inc. Smokey Bones opened its first restaurant in Orlando, Florida, in 1999, and has various locations across the Eastern United States.

The album title is "Never Going To Die", which comes from a quote by Marquis de Vauvenargues - the quote is: "To achieve great things we must live as though we were never going to die."

The picture is London Bridge - titled Two Towers and an Airplane - which I kinda liked. So I stuffed them together, used Paint Shop Pro 6 for the text, and here you go, my band's Album Cover:

Now, why don't you give it a try? It's fun!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Sad Lady

With all the publicity and commentary surrounding the former Fisrt Lady and her sad weeping, I thought perhaps a video was in order. A tune immediately came to mind - that's how empty my head can be - and I was compelled to begin searching for the images to go along with it.

This took hours and more than a day. Finding the right images was not as easy as I expected. Remembering where the bloody heck I had put the particular CD with the music was another unexpected pain in the toches.

Finally, with all the materials in place I had to make the video. The program is easy, as I explained before, but you still have to select the right images from your stash, put them in the right order, attach the music, watch a preview, remove some images, move others, play a preview ... get the idea?

Meanwhile I was also chopping green peppers for some Black Beans, roasting some Pork Ribs for the Black Beans - yummy over rice! - and doing the rest of my daily routine. And that includes that Dixville post, and writing two chapters - this is a fun novel, if I finish it! A SF young adult attempt in the style or footsteps of Robert Heinlein. I'm having a blast writing as a thirteen-year-old! What a hoot! - which is a little above my average, I think.

So all-in-all it's been a busy two days. But I had to get the video finished. It was making me crazy! And I finally did. I uploaded it to my MySpace page - google seems to ignore vid uploads now and then - and it's finally done processing.

The music is from "Back To The Egg" by Paul McCartney and Wings. The song is "Daytime Nightime Suffering" and you know the subject in the images. I think you'll enjoy. If not, let me know!

The Sad Lady

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Dixville Notch? What?

The Balsams

Some of you may be wondering just where the hell, or what the hell, Dixville Notch is. You know it's in New Hampshire. You know its voting begins at midnight - making it among the first places to cast ballots in New Hampshire each election - along with other places like Hart's Location (cute name, huh?) - but what about it, huh?

Well, here ya go! I did the surfing so you don't have to. But go ahead anyway. You know you want to! Now Dixville Notch used to be considered a solid Republican place. It cast 8 of 9 votes for Barry Goldwater in 1964, 17 for Ronald Reagan against 3 for Jimmy Carter in 1980, 29 of 30 for Reagan in 1984, 15 for George H.W.Bush against 2 for Bill Clinton in 1992, and twice - overwhelmingly - for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. But times have changed. Democrats now outnumber the Republicans in Dixville Notch - probably in all of New Hampshire - and the outcome may well show it.

So, this morning's totals for the New Hampshire Primary are:
2008 Results

Democratic Primary: (10 voters)
Barack Obama - 7
John Edwards - 2
Bill Richardson - 1

Republican Primary: (7 voters)
John McCain - 4
Mitt Romney - 2
Rudy Giuliani - 1

Hillary Clinton must be weeping again, don'cha think? And I wish they'd pulled the lever for Fred Thompson rather than Mitt or Rudy, but McCain was a shoo-in, really.

View across the lake of the BalsamsI checked Wikipedia - this isn't political, so who would mess with this entry, eh?And Wiki begins:
Dixville Notch is an unincorporated small village in the Dixville township of Coos County, New Hampshire. The town is known for being one of the first places to declare its results for the New Hampshire Presidential primary and U.S. Presidential elections. It is located in the far north of the state, approximately 20 miles (30 km) from Canada, population approximately 75.

The village is named for the mountain pass (or "notch," in White Mountains terminology) about a hundred feet (30 m) uphill from it, that lies between Dixville Peak and Sanguinary Mountain, and separates the Connecticut River's watershed from that of the Androscoggin. Dixville Notch is also the location, in dramatic mountains about 1800 feet above sea level, of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel; one of a handful of surviving New Hampshire grand hotels ....

That's the short info on Dixville Notch. Being me I wanted to know more than that. I wanted pictures, too! So I went surfing. I have my coffee so I am ready to go. You, too?

The Dixville NotchThe community was named after a Col. Timothy Dix and his son, Timothy Dix Jr., who purchased almost 30,000 acres for development (around 1807). It sits at 1,877 feet above sea-level. Dix was a Revolutionary War veteran, and died in the War of 1812, leaving his business affairs to his partner and attorney, Daniel Webster. Webster sponsoed the village's first family , the Whittemores. These folks would share home and hearth with travelers heading up the old Coos Trail into the White Mountains. Eventually a local innkeeper - George Parsons - would build a 25-room Summer inn which he name the Dix House after the founder of Dixville Notch, and its fist landowner. The Dix House was built shortly after the close of the Civil War.

(The Coos Trail was built in 1803, from Colebrook through Dixville Notch and along the ancient trail of the Abenaki Indians to Errol. In Errol, the trail met the Coos Road of Maine, completed in 1802. * )

Aside from the early election times and the Historic Balsams Grand Resort Hotel - what a mouthful! - there isn't much to say about Dixville Notch. So what about the voting oddity? Wiki again:
[...] Although most New Hampshire polling stations open around sunrise and close in the early evening, Dixville Notch takes advantage of a state law that allows a precinct to close if all registered voters in that precinct have cast ballots. Consequently, all registered voters in Dixville Notch gather and are counted before the balloting takes place. The "Ballot Room" of the Balsams Hotel resort serves as the polling place; this room features separate voting booths for each citizen. The town residents also vote each cycle at a town meeting whether or not they will continue the tradition.

First vote cast in 2000 elections. Could this be Tillotson?The tradition was first organized by prominent Dixville Notch resident Neil Tillotson (1898 - 17 October, 2001 ), who was traditionally the first voter; he would reportedly hold his ballot over the ballot box while watching his wristwatch. At the moment of midnight, Tillotson would drop the ballot into the ballot box and the rest of the town's residents would follow suit. Since Tillotson's death from pneumonia in 2001 at the age of 102, the first voter has been chosen by random ballot beforehand.

In the most recent presidential election of November 2nd, 2004 the village had 26 registered voters, roughly half of whom are registered Republican; the other half are registered "undeclared", i.e., unaffiliated with a party. New Hampshire law, though, allows a voter to declare or change a party affiliation upon arriving at the polling place, so a number of independent voters vote in the Democratic party primary.
The Balsams and Lake Gloriette, View from Mt. Abenaki, ca. 1923
The Balsams and Lake Gloriette, View from Mt. Abenaki, ca. 1923

The votes are counted immediately after all are received; the Dixville Notch results of the primary (and now the Hart's Location ones as well) often lead morning news programs on election day. During every election year since 1968, the candidate with the plurality of Dixville Notch's voters has been the eventual Republican nominee for president. On the Democratic side, however, the village's election results have less often predicted the nominee. In 2000, for example, Bill Bradley won the most votes among Dixville Notch's Democratic primary voters although Al Gore was the party's eventual nominee.


The BalsamsThe voters head to the Hotel to vote. About that, Wiki says:
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel is a ski resort located in Dixville Notch in New Hampshire. It was first opened after the Civil War. The hotel covers 15,000 acres (61 km²) and features 95 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, an alpine ski area with 16 trails, five glade areas and a terrain park. There is also a 9-hole golf course and an 18-hole championship course called "Panorama" which was designed by Donald Ross.

The "Ballot Room" of the Balsams is where the Dixville Notch's presidential primary votes are cast just after midnight on the day of the New Hampshire primaries. Dixville Notch's votes are among the first to be cast, counted, and reported nationally.

Dixville Notch by Phat Ha Tang

Dixville Notch over Lake Gloriette by Guy Shorey
So now you know. And you are better for knowing, right? Oh, well.

Go Fred!

Monday, January 07, 2008

News Flash: American Flags Fear Hillary!

You have to see this video. It's a must! If you don't you will regret it forver!

The blurb below the video reads:
Kind of a bizarre moment in Waterloo, IA. After a very presidential-looking news conference with reporters, Clinton stood in front of a dark blue curtain with four flags standing behind her. After answering questions - a Clinton staffer opened the curtains to escort the Senator away. One flag fell and the rest followed. Chaos ensued while Clinton, her chief of staff and advance members attempted to grab all of the flags that were falling.

Eery, yes, but hilarious as hell! A must see!

On Being Offended: A Rant

choose [chooz] : verb, chose; cho·sen or (Obsolete) chose; choos·ing. -verb (used with object)
1. To select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference: She chose Sunday for her departure.
2. To prefer or decide (to do something): He chose to run for election.
3. To want; desire.

We make many choices in life. Most we do not even think about, but make as a matter of course, habit, or instinct. Some, such as our choices in cuisine are based on personal preference. I enjoy spinach but find Brussels Sprouts abhorrent; I enjoy Rum Raisin or Coffee Ice Cream, but Vanilla leaves me yawning with boredom. Choices are what we do in our lives.

Most of us have made choices that we regret. All of our choices have led us to this point in our lives, where we no longer have the freedom of range we once had. But that’s what happens when we choose one course over another; one direction rather than another. The things we choose to do make us what are. Who we are.

When we are offended we have made a choice. For most of us some things are absolutely offensive in a deep-in-the-belly way. Abuse of animals offends most civilized people, despite the continuing popularity of Dog Fighting, Cock Fighting, and so on, in some parts of this country.

Sexual abuse of children may well top the list of those things offensive to our hearts and souls. Unthinkable to most of us. And yet that offense is a choice we make. It doesn’t matter if we feel disgust instinctively, rather than as a well thought-out stance. Either way it’s a choice. And we make it.

When enough people make the same choice, to wit: we are offended by action/activity “X”, we often pass a law to ban, restrict, or regulate such actions/activities.

But all of this is a choice. No matter how right or wrong we may be we are making a choice to be offended.

For far too many years those who wish to silence the majority have announced in aggrieved tones how they are offended. Offended by speech, offended by images, offended by music, offended by anything and everything. And the weak-willed who pretend to govern us - a fiction since they have no authority to “govern” us but instead to administer our public affairs - have fallen all over themselves in their attempts to stamp out the cited offense.

In Europe today, should you happen to oppose the actions of Muslim immigrants as they create their own encapsulated neighborhoods, and make it dangerous for a non-Muslim to intrude, you run the very real risk of being arrested. Someone will take offense, be it a Muslim ‘leader’ or a committed Leftist. And you will be arrested for merely reciting the facts. Or sued into insolvency and ruined. Recitation of facts regarding Islam and its followers is considered "Incitement to Racial or Religious Hatred". Virulent speeches demanding the deaths of Jews and Christians in these same countries garners only a shrug from the authorities.

It’s as if the Socialist/Leftist governments of these nations look upon the angry, violent Muslims within their border as merely unruly children, and those who report on their activities as dangerous Child Abusers. And they treat them in just such a fashion.

And yet, when you come right down to it, it’s a matter of choice. The Muslims ‘choose’ to be offended and their response is riot, rape, and vicious murder. The Leftist governments ‘choose’ to ignore the realities of Islamic Culture and ‘choose’ to harass their own citizens to prevent them from raising the Red Flags of warning.

And why not? To acknowledge that there is a very real and dangerous problem means one must act. Act to prevent or act to stop. That also means you must stir yourself from your comfy seat and do. And the Left prefers to maintain its power, not by actions that work for the betterment of their citizens and the nation at large, but through coercion, legal fictions, manipulation of the MSM, and very real threats to its own people, rather than deal with a problem they cannot understand.

And they ‘choose’ not to understand. To understand would mean the Left would have to agree that faithful Christians and Jews have a worthwhile opinion, and that simply cannot be. That would mean that the Left has to grasp Faith as something other than a mild delusion. And that cannot be. The Left cannot accept Religion or Faith as anything other than an illness, otherwise the tenets of the Left fall to pieces. The Left ‘chooses’ to not believe. The Left ‘chooses’ to see both Radical Islam and active Christianity and active Judaism as the same mentally unhinged philosophies.

If we ‘choose’ to remain quiet and quiescent while the Muslims agitate for more protection under the Law, at the cost of a weakened Constitution, if we ‘choose’ to shrug as the Muslims demand their own special apartheid of Shari’a Laws apart from the Law of the Land, then we ‘choose’ to be subjugated by an inferior culture. We ‘choose’ to be threatened by a radical, violent religion. And we ‘choose’ to leave to our offspring, not the land of opportunity our fathers left us, but a bloody tyranny that will extract from them any semblance of good and prosperity, and leave them Slaves to an alien god.

Offended? Who cares? That’s your choice, not mine. Maybe it’s time to stand up, be an adult, and see what it is that I’m writing about. If not, then buzz off! I’m offended by you! And I so choose!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Epiphany In Tarpon Springs: January 6

A Winner!My Folks live in Tarpon Springs, Florida, about 24 miles north of me here in Largo. They have learned quite a bit about the culture of the little town on the coast, and enjoy much of it. Church-goers, they are not a part of the Greek Orthodox Christianity that is the majority religion of the town. But they heard about the celebrations of that church and the festivals, and each year see the decorations and whatnot that accompany each. And they told me all about them. I visit them as often as I can - though I tend to laze about at home rather than fight the ugly traffic that tends to crawl along (this is, after all, a very old driving population, hereabouts. They tend to drive very slowly!) - and have enjoyed the sights and sounds of Tarpon Springs. Though I'd probably enjoy the Epiphany Celebrations I never go. You see, the small town of Tarpon Springs, home to the largest Greek-American population in the United States, swells to three times the normal population, when Epiphany rolls around. Greek-Americans from around the nation come to Tarpon Springs for Epiphany each year.

Statue of young Epiphany diver in courtyard of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox ChurchLocal Legacies says:
In Tarpon Springs, Epiphany on January 6 is truly a celebration of life in this unique community on the Gulf of Mexico. Schools close so that students can join family, friends, and as many as 25,000 visitors at an array of events. This day-long Greek Orthodox celebration includes a morning service at St. Nicholas Cathedral, the release of a white dove of peace, the ritual dive in Spring Bayou for a cross, followed by Greek foods, music, and dancing.

What is Epiphany, that it draws so many people to Tarpon Springs? Well, Wiki describes it thus:
Epiphany, meaning 'appearance' or 'manifestation', is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the "shining forth" or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. Some Christians commemorate the visitation of the Magi to the child Jesus on this day, while others use the day to commemorate the baptism of Jesus as an adult. It is also called Theophany, especially by those commemorating Christ's baptism.

Though Christmas is a big deal for the town, Epiphany is the larger festival, celebration, feast of the season. It's a very big deal. Last year - 2006 - marked the Centennial of the Tarpon Springs Epiphany celebration. Such is the fame within the Greek Orthodoxy of this town's celebration that the head of the Greek Orthodox Church - - came to the town to join in the festival. Wiki remarks:
Epiphany in Tarpon Springs in 1921.

On January 6th, 2006, for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Epiphany services in Tarpon Springs, his all-holiness Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered "first among equals" of all hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, visited Tarpon Springs to preside over the Epiphany services. Bartholomew's visit to Tarpon Springs was one of the few visits to America by an Ecumenical Patriarch thus far in history.
That's a pretty big deal!

Diving for the Cross. from the St. Petersburg Times
A St. Petersburg Time photo of the boys diving for the Cross.

The big public part of this festival is The Dive For The Cross. This is what tourists gather to see, along with the Greek community. Local Legacies describes it nicely:
Greek-American male youths have braved the chilly January waters of Spring Bayou since 1920 in hopes of capturing the coveted Epiphany Cross. Although there are similar events in Greece, Epiphany observances in Tarpon Springs have exceeded the fame of all others. One reason is the fortuitous location of the church near Spring Bayou. Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. The day begins with a Divine Liturgy, then a liturgy procession makes its way to the bayou. After the archbishop blesses the waters, praying for calm seas and the safety of sailors, he casts a white cross into the waters, and a young woman releases a dove.
waiting for the cross to be thrown into the bayou
Boats are anchored in a semi-circle facing the dock. The boys swim out to the boats, climb in, and wait for the Cross to be thrown.

The dive for the cross is the highlight of the Epiphany events. Locals believe that retrieving the cross will ensure a year of good luck and blessing. About fifty boys, between ages 16 and 18, dive. Each Epiphany cross is made from a single piece of wood. Local teacher Bill Paskalaks has made the crosses for decades. When a young man finds the cross, he is greeted with wild cheers of delight and the procession carries him back to the church, where a short service is held to bless the diver. A celebration is then held in the park nearby.
The waters are extremely cold, but the young lads brave it to find that cross. Considering some of the weather around this time, in recent years, it's amazing the boys haven't succumbed to hypothermia. We're talking coooold water!

swimming out to the boats by © gcoop
Swimming out to the boats.

overturned boat by © gcoop
Sometimes boats overturn. All part of the Dive.

diving for the cross by © gcoop
And in they go, diving for the Cross!

The winner - from a few years back.
This is the winner from a few years ago.

It usually doesn't take long for one boy to find the cross on the floor of the Bayou. They practice diving, you see. It's that important to them and to the Greek community. Many of the previous images are borrowed from the Webshots album of gcoop. They are part of the Epiphany 2004 album and you can find it here. Many, many more images to enjoy!

As I said, I don't attend, as I don't care for huge crowds nor the long, slow drive north. But if you are ever in the area at the beginning of the year I suggest you head for Tarpon Springs for the Dive For The Cross. Then feel free to explore the Docks and all that Tarpon Springs has to offer. Yes, they have touristy places along the docks, but so what? Imagine seeing the Sponge Ships and the Greek Bakeries (Ohhh, man! The aromas! Wow!), visit the restaurants and museums, see the turn-of-the-century homes along the bayous. It's beautiful. Just remember to wear comfy shoes and bring a sweater!

Friday, January 04, 2008

I've Had Enough!

No, I ain't a-quittin'. That's the title of a Paul McCartney tune - with Wings - that kept running through my head while I read the Primary news. And it seemed to me that it might fit nicely with what I've been mumbling about this endless election-cycle for some time. So I cobbled together some images and slapped on the song, and here you are!

Have a listen. I think Patrick might even enjoy this old-fashioned-sounding Rock tune. Hope so!

I call the video "The Primary Blues".

The Primary Blues

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I've Had Enough
Paul McCartney & Wings

You're Talking To Me
From The Back Of My Car
And I Can't Get Nothing Right
And Then You Wonder
Why Stand At The Bar
Day And Night

I've Had Enough
I Can't Put Up With Any More
No No No No No No No
I've Had Enough
I Can't Put Up With Any More
No No No No No No No

You Stand Behind Me
With A Watch In Your Hand
And I Can't Get Nothing Done
Well, People Tell Me You're Punctual Man
But Come On
Come on!


I Earn The Money
And You Take It Away
When I Don't Know Where You're From
I Should Be Worried
But They Say It'll Pay For A Bomb

I've Had Enough Baby
You Know Sometimes
You Get A Little Weary
But If It Ever Happens Honey
You Just Come Along To Me
Because You Know

I've Had Enough
I Can't Put Up With Any More
No No No No No No No
I've Had Enough
I Can't Put Up With Any More
No No No No No No No

I've had enough!

You can also catch the video here.

Iowa Over! *whew!*

Clinton Campaign Bursts Into Flames

By now you all know that Barack Obama and Mick Huckabee are the big winners in the Iowa Caucuses. Huckabee's win is not a surprise; Obama's is more so, at least as far as his totals. The late night Republican returns showed Mike Huckabee at 34%, Mitt Romney nine points behind at 25% and Fred Thompson tied for third with John McCain at 13%. Obama beat Hillary Clinton 37% to 29%. Edwards was second with 30%.

From Red State comes this nice round-up of the results. Pejman Yousefzadeh writes:
Winners For The Republicans
1. Clearly Mike Huckabee. I think that he is the worst major candidate to throw into the general election, but give the man his due; with very little money and very little organization, he won in a state where money and organization matter a great deal indeed. And he won by taking Huey Long populism, rebranding it with a Republican label and selling it as the coalition of the future.
2. Fred Thompson. I know that he didn't campaign as hard as some thought he should have in Iowa. And I know that he doesn't have much money. Despite all of that, he snagged third place. He can get stronger as candidates drop out or as those who looked to Mitt Romney perhaps look again (whether Thompson will get stronger is the question). Thompson will probably look for a third place finish in New Hampshire and then look to South Carolina as well for a state in which he can do well. One thing is for sure: He's not going anywhere. He's remaining in the race.
3. John McCain. Thanks to Romney being wounded, McCain looks to New Hampshire with a lot of hope and promise. The only question, however, is whether his campaign might falter in its quest for New Hampshire independents thanks to Barack Obama's strong win in Iowa this evening.
Loser For The Republicans
1. Mitt Romney. All that money just went down the drain, didn't it? Apparently "I can look at spreadsheets with the best of them" and "I can calibrate my positions to make anyone happy" just don't go down well with the electorate, do they?

I'm not sure about the McCain analysis, but perhaps he's right. As for Romney ... who knows? He did spend a lot of money on this tiny caucus and has nothing to really show for it. But he still has a bundle of money and his campaign will continue.

Pejman Yousefzadeh continues:
Winner For The Democrats
1. Barack Obama. The only winner the Democrats had. A very impressive turnout led to a convincing victory, which led to a powerful speech. The man has loads and loads and loads of political talent and even if you disagree with his worldview (as I do), you can't deny that he is one of the most engaging and charismatic politicians out there. He goes into New Hampshire with huge momentum.

Losers For The Democrats
1. Hillary Clinton. A no-talent campaigner with no message other than "wouldn't it be cool if a former First Lady got elected as the first female President?". She can mention "change" until the cows come home--it won't alter the fact that she is the ultimate status quo candidate. [...]

2. John Edwards. How is that Huey Long Message Of Populist Anger working out? [...] It is all rage, all class warfare, all the politics of resentment. And it failed tonight. Couldn't happen to a more deserving candidate.

I think Yousefzadeh hit it pretty well, don't you? And what of the other candidates? Does anybody really care? Biden and Dodd are out of the campaign, but were they ever really in?

Erick, another writer at Red State, opines:
Another story tonight should be that Fred Thompson gets a second chance. According to the entrance polling, late deciders broke for Huckabee and Thompson. Voters who wanted to vote for someone they trusted broke for Huckabee and Thompson. Huckabee isn't going to play well across the board. Thompson, getting late breakers with his game face on, has a second chance in South Carolina.

Big loser on the GOP side: Rudy. Sure he didn't play. But damn.

On the Democratic side: Edwards and Hillary battle it out for second place. Obama sweeps it. Hillary is actually vulnerable. Good for Obama. Ironically, this pushes the Democrats to the left with their guy. Hillary actually does have more experience than Obama.

This is really phenomenal though. Not since the early eighties have the Clintons received such a drubbing by the voters. And Bill went out of his way to campaign for her. This is a repudiation of the Clinton legacy. According to entrance polling, Obama won massively against Clinton in the 65 and under crowd.

And you know what? Women backed Obama over Clinton. So how's the identity politics working for you tonight Hillary?

Lastly, goodnight pretty boy! John Edwards, who has campaigned for the job since November 8, 2004, is out.

Well, he's not really out, but man is he down! And that's a good thing.

Jed Babbin remarks:
Clinton, whose huge campaign war-chest isn’t much diminished (nor is her national machine) by the Iowa result, won’t end her bid. But now she’s an underdog, the second or third choice. She has a tough road ahead to come back. And Hillary is no Bill: the “Comeback Kid” succeeded on selling his charm. Hillary is the snake, not the charmer.
Yep. Then he continues thus:
The entrance polls -- used instead of exit polls because of the fluidity of the Democrat caucuses -- showed two important points.

First, among Republicans (most of whom identified themselves as conservatives and a great many of whom were Evangelical Christians) illegal immigration was the biggest issue. For Democrats, issues were as fuzzy as their late decision-making. Fox reported that about 51% of the Dems were most concerned with “change.”

Second, the lack of early commitment among Democrats -- not paralleled among Republicans -- shows Obama’s win to be a soft one. At about 8:15 pm last night, CNN was reporting that about 25% of Iowa caucus attendees hadn’t made up their minds before arriving at their caucus sites. A hard win -- either more than 50% of the vote, or at least a vote by committed voters -- would have meant a lot more.
Babbin also had this to say about Fred Thompson:
Thompson’s third-place finish was good but not great. After disappointing many conservatives with his slow September start, Thompson’s fast-break in the last weeks paid off. Thompson’s December 30 speech, aired on his blog and viewed by large numbers in the days since, hit solid notes that other Republicans hadn’t. Iowans apparently took Thompson more seriously than the media did, and it paid off. But the fact that Thompson tied with McCain -- whose campaign in Iowa was almost nonexistent -- doesn’t mean the Iowa result catapults Thompson into real contention in New Hampshire.

Alright, it's time for Fred Thompson to swing into full campaign mode. Hear me, Fred? Laid back is all well and good, but the voters need to know that you are, in fact, interested in winning. So get moving! We called you to run, we want you to win, but you actually have to work to get the voters to vote for you. You're not just in Tennessee anymore.

Note:The totals as of 7:15 AM this morning:

President - Democrat Caucus

1781 of 1781 Precincts Reporting - 100%

Obama, Barack Dem 940 38%
Edwards, John Dem 744 30%
Clinton, Hillary Dem 737 29%
Richardson, Bill Dem 53 2%
Biden, Joe Dem 23 1%
Uncommitted Dem 3 0%
Dodd, Chris Dem 1 0%
Gravel, Mike Dem 0 0%
Kucinich, Dennis Dem 0 0%
Other Dem 0 0%

President - GOP Caucus

1702 of 1781 Precincts Reporting - 96%

Huckabee, Mike GOP 39,814 34%
Romney, Mitt GOP 29,405 25%
Thompson, Fred GOP 15,521 13%
McCain, John GOP 15,248 13%
Paul, Ron GOP 11,598 10%
Giuliani, Rudy GOP 4,013 3%
Hunter, Duncan GOP 515 0%
Tancredo, Tom GOP 5 0%

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Wasted Documentary

"Andrew Jackson was a patriot and a traitor. He was the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. He was the most candid of men, and capable of the profoundest dissimulation. He was a democratic autocrat, an urbane savage, an atrocious saint." ~ James Parton, Jackson's first biographer, 1859

Our local PBS station has been advertising the latest documentary for a few weeks now, and it was scheduled to air last evening. I like documentaries. One of the best I ever watched was about the Johnstown flood (narrated by David McCullough) and made me want to know more and see the next documentary the network offered. Last evening's offering, "Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency", was not worth the two-hour screening time. In fact it was a complete waste of time.

Sheen the MoonbatThe first indication that this documentary would be a waste was hearing a familiar voice begin the narration. Why would anyone choose Martin Sheen (C - CA) to narrate a serious film about an important person in American History? It isn't simply that Sheen is a radical Leftist Loon - which he is - or an anti-American - which he is whenever he opens his mouth in public - but that Sheen's narration was continually overwrought, breathless, and devoid of any flavor of seriousness that a documentary about our seventh President should have. He sounds as though he's speaking to small children. Indeed, aside from the fact that the documentary claimed, over and over, that Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party (not quite, but he certainly took it over and changed it forever), his Militarism and bigotry, paranoia and inability to see any opposition as less than an utter betrayal seems an odd choice for Sheen to agree to laud.

*I suppose that Sheen saw 'Democrat' as Jackson's party affiliation and just couldn't help himself.*

Two hours of this production were two hours too much for me. By the 20 minute mark I had had enough and found myself wandering my apartment seeking something to distract me. At the one hour mark I turned off the TV, switched off the lights, and went to sleep. It was that bad.

Andrew JacksonGranted, I could have gotten past the breathless quality of Sheen's narration - the director may have thought it was necessary to 'punch up' the production - if the information had been new, or shocking, or in any way interesting. The fact is that though the film used some nice film recreations of incidents during Jackson's life, the film was cotton-candy when I had hoped for something more meaty. PBS says about the documentary:
"This presidential biography contains penetrating insights from a distinguished and diverse group of historians and scholars such as lead advisor Dan Feller, professor of history and editor/director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson , University of Tennessee; Richard Blackett, director of graduate studies at Vanderbilt University; Kathryn Braund, professor at Auburn University; Dale Cockrell, professor of musicology at Vanderbilt University; Daniel Walker Howe, professor emeritus at UCLA Department of History; John Larson, professor of history at Purdue University; Bobby L. Lovett, professor of history and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tennessee State University; Robert Remini, historian, U.S. House of Representatives; Ann Toplovich from Tennessee Historical Society; Harry Watson, professor and director for the Center of the Study of the American South at UNC at Chapel Hill; Sean Wilentz, professor of history, Princeton University; Benny Smith, oral historian, Cherokee Nation; Catherine Allgor, professor of history, UC Riverside; Jon Meacham, Newsweek editor and Jackson biographer; Kirsten Wood, associate professor of history at Florida International University; Marsha Mullin, chief curator and director of museum services at The Hermitage; and Mary Young, professor emeritus of history at University of Rochester."

All these may be very good scholars and biographers. But once they got before a camera they shrank into 'Gosh, gee-willickers' students, showing off their little nuggets of information, making sweeping assertions without referring to the source of those assertions, and generally sounding like starry-eyed Film School Students making their first foray into entertainment. Along the way they managed to make Jackson sound insane - which he might have been, granted - childish, petulant, and evil.

Among the claims to Fame that Andrew Jackson holds is his victory over the British at New Orleans in the War of 1812. Despite the fact that the war had already ended, by the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, the combatants did not know and fought as if everything depended on the outcome. And in some ways it did. Had the Brits won at New Orleans they may have decided to stay right there, as they did in the Old Northwest after the American Revolution, despite their treaty obligations (British forces remained in place until the War of 1812 ended, and caused no end of trouble stirring up the Indians along the frontier). The Battle of New Orleans was a masterful use of terrain and forces by Jackson, and destroyed the British forces at little cost to the American Army (over 2,000 British losses as compared to 100 American casualties). And the documentary allowed about two minutes to this pivotal moment in Jackson's career.

In fact his life seemed to jump from his childhood, and the events that created his life-long hatred of the British, almost directly to his adulthood as a lawyer in Nashville, to the War of 1812. (I exaggerate, but it was covered pretty lightly, and pretty fast) Then on to the campaign for the Presidency! Whee!

Rachel Donelson JacksonJackson's relationship and marriage to Rachel Donelson was given a bit more coverage than I expected, and yet remained less than filling. This was the single-most important relationship in Jackson's life. And the producers made it seem a bit tawdry (it was considered scandalous by the elite of the time) but just a bit whacky, too. What it was to Jackson was the single human grounding point in his life. His attempts to protect his beloved wife from the accusations hurled against her, and them, led to duels that left Jackson wounded and at least one man dead. The scandal of his marriage followed Jackson for the rest of his life. For all the bloody actions of his military career, the paranoia and distrust he held for nearly everyone, Rachel was the one person who could calm him, relate to him, and provide a place in the world where ugliness could not enter. That story could have filled the two hours of the production all by itself. And would have been a better use of time.

Unfortunately it was a minor mention in the documentary. Rachel died two weeks after Jackson's 1828 election victory; she had just bought her inaugural gown. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for her death - the scandal over their marriage had reared its ugly head during the campaign - and never forgave Adams. Jackson seems to have never forgiven anyone for anything. He was uncompromising.

The "Corrupt Bargain" that handed John Quincy Adams the 1824 election was treated so lightly that viewers had to wonder what the fuss was all about. And I wondered if it was mentioned merely to assuage Democrat sensibilities regarding the "stolen election" of GWB in 2000. The intricacies of the Presidential elections, where the States had vastly different way of choosing electors, was reduced to an "Us" against "Them" simplicity that did not exist. The story of the 1824 election is more exciting than the producers let on, but they wanted to move on, so it was over quickly. Such was the case with so much in this "documentary".

It was about this point that I finally gave up. Compared to the PBS American Experience production of "Ulysses S. Grant", this biography of Andrew Jackson was garbage. See it if you must, enjoy the production values, but don't depend on it for much information.

Andrew Jackson in 1844Wiki says:
Jackson remained influential in both national and state politics after retiring to The Hermitage in 1837. Though a slave-holder, Jackson was a firm advocate of the federal union of the states, and declined to give any support to talk of secession.

Jackson was a lean figure standing at 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, and weighing between 130 and 140 pounds (64 kg) on average. Jackson also had an unruly shock of red hair, which had completely grayed by the time he became president at age 61. He had penetrating deep blue eyes. Jackson was one of the more sickly presidents, suffering from chronic headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough, caused by a musket ball in his lung which was never removed, that often brought up blood and sometimes even made his whole body shake. After retiring to Nashville, he enjoyed eight years of retirement and died at The Hermitage on June 8, 1845 at the age of 78, of chronic tuberculosis, "dropsy" and heart failure.