Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Public Apology To My Readers

24 hours. If you are a regular reader of this space, you know that I have led the charge in educating you all about the catastrophe that is about to befall us. I have done this because I don’t want any of you to be caught unawares, insufficiently prepared for the coming apocalypse. In this effort I have been aided immeasurably by the White House press office, Mr. Carney, as well as several cabinet members who have detailed the tremendous damage about to be done to our beloved country by the sequester. This morning however, I must confess that a great confusion has washed over me as I read the latest overnight reports coming out of Washington.

My administration sources have almost daily been warning of starving children, teachers receiving pink slips, 700,000 layoffs, dead in the water aircraft carriers, senior citizens thrown out on the streets, long lines at the airports, airplanes spinning out of control for want of air traffic controllers, meat rotting for want of inspectors, crucial life changing scientific discoveries scrambled beyond recognition, and worst of all…delayed tax-refund checks. All of this I have faithfully communicated to you so you would be without excuse come the first of March. But now oddly, less than 24 hours before Armageddon, a confusing inconsistency has emerged, a note of ambivalence, a hedging of bets, a dialing back of rhetoric. Naturally, I am perplexed by the stunning, abrupt change in tone.

Now, we are being told that perhaps, there may not be quite as many (if any) starving children, apparently the total number of teachers receiving those pink slips turns out to be 7 in a county somewhere in West Virginia. Now, we are also being told that maybe the 700,000 number of layoffs might not be immediate after all. Those long lines at the airport may not materialize either, and it appears that money has been scraped together to insure that those air traffic controllers stay on the job, same thing with the aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea. I learn all of this new information from “policy experts” who now are saying that the public may not even notice any impact for weeks or even months. Somebody named Loren Adler of the Bipartisan Policy Center is quoted in The Hill newspaper saying, “The key takeaway is that on March 1st no doors will be shut, no lights will go out. It will take awhile for these cuts to take effect.”

Well. I certainly feel sheepish. In my morning roundup of news sources about the sequester, gone are adjectives like “massive, draconian, severe, devastating”. Now, less than 24 hours before zero hour, I’m reading descriptive adjectives like “nuanced, complicated, and a new formulation…expectation reassessment”. I simply don’t know what to say. It would appear that I have been duped. Here I’ve been warning all of you about the coming end of days, only to discover at the very last minute that nothing is going to happen on March the first…nothing.

Needless to say, this has been a humbling experience indeed. The notion that responsible people throughout our government would try to manipulate me with false warnings of financial collapse to score cheep political points has been a bitter pill to swallow.

Well, on the bright side, there’s plenty of milk in the fridge, bread in the pantry, and I want have to buy batteries for years.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Batten Down The Hatches!

48 hours and counting. Every day the news gets worse as we slowly discover just how draconian the Great Sequester cuts will be. Now, we know that the ability of meteorologists to predict the weather will be severely constrained, criminals will be turned loose on the public, flights will be delayed, and trains will derail. It’s so much worse than we thought as recently as yesterday. Oh, and we also learned this morning that the 85 billion dollars worth of cuts will actually only be 44 billion in 2013, or 1.2% of all federal spending.

 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “draconian” as follows:

Exceedingly harsh; very severe; unusually cruel

 The second most used adjective by our news media to describe the cuts brought on by sequestration is “massive”, which is defined thusly:

Impressively large or ponderous

 These words are the ones chosen by the media to inform us as to the level of spending cuts about to be unleashed on the Republic…exceedingly harsh, unusually cruel, large and ponderous. A 1.2% reduction in 2103 federal spending, which even when it happens will result in total federal spending in 2013 higher than what we spent in 2012 and a whopping 30% higher than what we spent in 2007, the last year that Obama was not in the White House.

 48 hours from now, I for one will remember exactly where I was when these “massive, draconian” cuts became a reality. When my grandkids ask me where I was when the lights went out all over America, I want to remember.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

For Want Of A Nail, The Shoe Was Lost

We have 72 hours left. In three short days, life as we have known it in this country will be forever altered, our pursuit of happiness imperiled for years to come. The very foundation of our republic is about to be shaken. The eyes of the world are upon us, financial centers from London to Seoul, from Istanbul to Montreal are watching, waiting for a miracle.

Children in all 50 states prepare to eat their last meal. Senior citizens are saying their goodbyes in nursing homes from Seattle to Saratoga. 700,000 Americans wait anxiously for their pink slips. Aircraft carriers prepare to drop anchor, mid-mission in the perilous waters of the Mediterranean. For want of fuel, our fighter pilots await their orders to stand down. Scientists in research labs all over the fruited plain, on the cusp of discovery, anguish over seeing their work destroyed. The end of our grand experiment in Democracy is upon us. We are ruined not by invading armies of totalitarian barbarians, not by the ravages of nature and nature’s God. No, we meet our end because of a word that will forever live in infamy…SEQUESTRATION.

Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? Does it really matter? These hideous, devastating, egregious, slashing, wanton, extreme, massive, brutal spending cuts are sadly a bipartisan effort. The very thought of forcing a government that in more sane circumstances spends 10 billion dollars a day, (3 billion of which is borrowed from the Chinese), to suddenly get by on a mere 9.76 billion a day is, of course, a national outrage. The carnage done to our way of life by this draconian 2.3% spending meat cleaver is so much sadder because it could have been so easily avoided if only our leaders were worthy of the moment. If only someone in government could have just stood up and said, “An 84 billion dollar spending cut is going to visit all of this destruction upon us? Hell, why don’t we just eliminate the Department of Transportation? Their entire budget is 84 billion, and what in God’s name do they do?”

Alas, for want of a nail, the shoe was lost. To all my fellow citizens out there, Godspeed, and I’ll see you on the other side, March the first.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oscar Show

The 85th Academy Awards show is in the books and I for one would like to thank the Academy for spending 2 hours handing out Oscars for things like production design, makeup, hairstyling, and sound mixing, so the awards for stuff like best actor, best actress and best picture would come on after midnight. Only the inflated egos and hedonism of an industry like Hollywood could take 4 and a half hours to celebrate…itself.

I watched the first 2 hours or so with Pam and Jon, and before hand, just to make it fun, we all printed off our own ballots and voted for everything ourselves. Let me tell you, trying to decide who did the best job of sound editing for 5 movies you haven’t seen isn’t as easy as it looks! Anyway, at least now, we had a little competition going to make the evening more interesting.

I was feeling smugly confident after forging ahead with my brilliant pick of Christoph Waltz as best supporting actor and “Brave” as best animated feature film. But then things fell apart as my voting strategy in the short film categories failed miserably. Since not only had I not seen any of the nominated films,( where does one go to see short films?), I voted for the entry that sounded the most ethnic, the one that perhaps had been made about the most persecuted minority, counting on Hollywood’s propensity to throw bones to minorities by giving them “little” Oscars. Well, “Fresh Guacamole” and “Asad” let me down big time. It was all downhill from there. I did manage to correctly predict the winners for best actor and best actress but that was about the extent of my prognostication skills.

What I did find interesting was that in the entire 2 and a half hours that I watched, I heard not one single political joke, not one snarky putdown of the occupant of the White House. During the administration of every Republican president in my lifetime, it has been an article of faith that the Oscar ceremony was the ideal time for “speaking truth to power”, so actors great and small would routinely take shots at the President over the various injustices that he was trying to inflict on the country, from failing to adequately fund AIDS research to cutting funding for PBS, but this year, nary a peep of complaint from the glitterati. Not only that, I learn this morning, that the First Lady actually made a satellite appearance to present the Oscar for best picture, the shining jewel of the night. Wow! I guess all those fundraising events in Beverly Hills paid off for the President in more ways than one. The most hilarious thought of the night turned out to be trying to imagine any Republican first lady being awarded with such a plum assignment. Yes, here’s Barbara Bush live from Kennebunkport to present the Oscar for best picture, or let’s give it up for Laura Bush as she makes her way to the podium to award Quentin Tarrentino with the Oscar for best director. Hilarious.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bringing Dad Home

Dad comes home this morning. After one week in the regular hospital and two weeks in rehab, he is finally coming home. His doctors and therapists all declare him to be a “model patient”, and rave about the progress he has made. We have all seen an increase in his energy and enthusiasm in response to the rigorous physical therapy he has undergone. The trick will be whether he can move around well enough and safely enough on his own at home with dependable balance. No rehab on earth can alter the fact that he’s 88. But, Dad is optimistic, so we will be too.

 The great home decorating lollapalooza of 2013 is over! Pam has wrought a miracle transformation of 5 rooms of our house. When Kaitlin got home last night and took the “tour” she was blown away. I sent cool panoramic pictures to Patrick and he was blown away. Even Molly seemed thrilled with the results and all the new things to sniff. As I looked at the final product it occurred to me that Pam is one of those people about which others often say, “You know, she could do that for a living”. In Pam’s case, “that” would be anything that she becomes interested in and sets her mind to do. Whether it’s baking cake pops, interior design, scrapbooking, children’s church, planning an elegant party, or just being a gracious hostess, she does nothing haphazardly, nothing is left to chance, everything has to be perfect, and usually is. Maybe she does need a “chic nook”.

 For the past month or so I’ve been working on a novel, (don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job). I wrote one twenty years ago that’s still in the bottom drawer of my night stand, so this is a purely therapeutic, and self indulgent exercise. But I must say, it’s also a blast. I’ve managed to fashion an entirely separate world of my own design, populating it with characters that I care about in some strange paternalistic way. The story involves the general themes of gambling, luck, clairvoyance, the power of dreams, a tragic romance, suicide and redemption. As a genre I suppose it would be classified as a psychological thriller. It’s been great fun, and I have no idea yet what will happen next, and won’t until it appears on the screen when I write. Kinda cool.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tom Wolfe Is The Man


One of my literary heroes of the past thirty years or so has been Tom Wolfe, he of the brilliantly tailored white suits and Richmond heritage. My first taste of Wolfe was his 1979 book, The Right Stuff about the Apollo astronauts. Then I read his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities in the late 80’s and was mesmerized by his craft as a writer. Then I had to wait 11 years for him to research and write the fabulous, A Man in Full. For some reason unknown to me, I didn’t read I Am Charlotte Simmons when it was published in 2004, so I bought the i-book version  a couple of days ago for $9.99 and have been blazing through it ever since. I was so inspired to read Simmons because of the recent release of his fourth novel, Back to Blood.

I Am Charlotte Simmons is not an easy breezy read. It’s depiction of the often debased life of the modern American undergraduate experience, while true enough, comes awfully close to being merely raunchy. Its lurid portrayal of sexual debauchery seems excessively and unnecessarily descriptive for my taste. But the way Wolfe captures the cloistered arrogance of academia is worth putting up with the occasionally over the top raunchiness.

Can’t wait for Back to Blood, a book Wolfe publishes seven months after his 81st birthday. My man, Tom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Barnyard Manure Detector Is Going Off

Fresh off his golf vacation in Florida, the President yesterday breathlessly intoned that the looming sequester was poised to visit untold devastation on our nation. A government with a 3.6 trillion dollar budget is about to be eviscerated by an 85 billion dollar cut.

A mere ten years ago, this same government managed to get by on only 2.2 trillion dollars of spending. That’s a 68% increase in the budget in ten years. And yet this government will be brought to its knees by a 2.3% decrease in spending?

Here’s a question for you. Has your income increased 68% in the last ten years? I did the numbers for the Dunnevant family and found that our family income has increased roughly 28% since 2003. Not bad, but compared to my government, I’m an underachieving hack. Second question, how many of you would be thrust into economic Armageddon if you were forced to reduce your yearly spending by 2.3%?

So, if the President and his party are to be believed, in 9 short days, our very way of life will be plunged into a desperate struggle for survival. Children will starve; old folks will be cast out into the mean streets, millions will lose their jobs, infrastructure will collapse before our very eyes, our air and water will instantly be polluted beyond recognition, our meat won’t get inspected, but worst of all, no one will be able to answer our tax questions at the IRS, all of this calamity because 85 billion dollars will have been trimmed from our 3.6 trillion dollar government. 85 billion, or put another way, the amount of money that our government spends every eight days.

We are being asked to believe that a sequester that cuts the equivalent of a little over one week’s spending will plunge us all back into the Middle Ages. Hmmm.

Call me skeptical.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Birth Of A Man-Cave

For the better part of a month now, we have been in the process of remaking the upstairs of our house. I say “we”, when it would be more accurate to say “Pam”. It’s not that I am uninterested in the project or that I disapprove of anything that has been done; rather, I am more like a willful participant in Pam’s vision. My contribution so far has been to respond, ”I love it”, when asked, “What do you think of this?” This system has worked beautifully, producing as it has, a complete remake of the kids’ wing of the house. The new paint and decorating touches make that end of the house nearly unrecognizable, leaving barely any evidence that we ever actually had kids. That’s not entirely fair, of course. Kaitlin and Patrick will always own their end of the house. It’s just that everything over there looks so…clean, a marked contrast to the years when they ran the place.

Now I’m told that I need to take the lead in redecorating my little office from where I am typing this blog. I have been given the liberty to create a “man-cave” out of the place, which sounds wonderful, but from the size of it, I think that the word “cave” is a bit too grand. But a “man-closet” sounds terrible, even effeminate, so Man-Cave, with capital letters, it shall be.

First order of business will be to clean out the mountain of official marriage paperwork. These are the documents, photographs, paper memorabilia and assorted debris which 29 years of a happy life produce. On the shelf above me are 9 picture albums. On the cloth board in front of me are no less than 22 pictures pinned up with thumbtacks, the unfortunate ones who never made it into frames, but if thrown away by yours truly might insure that year thirty never comes. To my right hangs evidence of our 13 free resort vacations courtesy of Life of Virginia from 1989 to 2001. To my left is a shelf dominated by as random a collection of “Pam stuff” as can be imagined. This particular shelf is so precarious, so filled with danger, so fraught with peril; no amount of money could induce me to touch it. But this particular shelf is a garden of delight compared to what lies behind the doors directly behind me in the left corner of my office. Here lies that space that shall not be named. It is the “closet of doom”, containing as it does, Pam’s filing cabinet from hell. In this ordinary looking tan metal cabinet there are four drawers. On the doors of the top three are affixed aqua colored sticky notes. Drawer number one, “KIDS church”, drawer number two, “Scrapping Pics”, and door number three, ”Travel”.  Door number four has no label, making its contents too terrible to contemplate. The chances of me touching this filing cabinet are about as high as the chances that I will win the gold medal in the decathlon in the 2016 Olympics.

Once proper care has been taken in organizing this minefield, I will then move on to the business of painting, buying furniture and all the accompanying nick-nackery so essential to modern decorating. When completed, I will publish a photograph of the results. I am told that the room should reflect my tastes and sensitivities. Hmmm. Maybe a Blazing Saddles theme with a Fathead of Cleavon Little, or perhaps a baseball theme with a simulated pitcher’s mound in the corner with real dirt!

I’m going to drive Pam crazy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Most Disgusting Blog Topic Ever

I have written before in this space of my wretched opinion of the month of February. Nothing that has transpired in the 2013 edition has done anything to elevate my views of this miserable month. This morning I see that on Thursday we can look forward to heavy rain and 40 degrees. Peachy.

Spring training has begun, the only bright spot that occurs during this festival of dreariness. I now get to read baseball gossip each morning, my lifeline to sanity. There was a professional basketball All-Star game yesterday I’m told, and it appears that a woman has won the poll for the Daytona 500. I can hardly contain myself.

The big event for me every February is a story that never gets told, largely because it is something that is seldom mentioned in polite conversation. But, if I am ever to write on this subject, February would be the logical choice. Yes, I am referring to the annual mid-winter dog-poop removal project, or AMDPR for short.

Dog owners in this audience know the drill. All year we go out into the back yard every Friday or Saturday, usually right before cutting the grass, to remove the week’s damage. It is a mundane task requiring only 10 minutes, rubber gloves and a grocery bag. But then winter comes. The weather gets bad, the back yard becomes a bog, so the job goes undone…for weeks and weeks. Finally, once the middle of February rolls around, it takes the dog 15 minutes to find a bare spot. Something has to be done. So, on the most favorable day available, you gird your loins, and begin the hour long ordeal of filling a 45 gallon garden leaf bag with 8 weeks’ worth of Fido’s bowel movements.

This is the only time of the year where the great old joke about dog-poop and women doesn’t apply, since…what, wait…you haven’t heard that joke? What do women and dog poop have in common? The older they are the easier they are to pick up…that doesn’t apply during AMDPR, since the opposite is true. Eight weeks of exposure to the elements does horrible things to canine feces, let me tell you. But there’s a job to do, so you trudge on, reminding yourself, that you really do love your dog, and spring is on it’s way.

In a few short weeks this will all be over. The grass will begin to grow, the birds will begin to sing, tulips will bloom and February will be but a hideous memory. Hopefully by then I will be able to find more noble topics to write about.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Welcome, students to today’s edition of Vocabulary Enhancement Training. As you know, in this class we take quotations from famous people, pick out phrases, and try to come up with other, perhaps more creative ways to communicate the same meaning…sort of advanced synonymetry…if you will.

So, today’s quote comes from Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who, when told that if the sequestration went through, Congressmen and women would also get a pay cut, responded that a paycut would be “beneath the dignity of a congressman’s job”. Now, I want us to concentrate on the phrase, “dignity of a Congressman”.

What are some other ways that we can say the same thing more creatively, without changing the original meaning? Anyone?

 “How about instead of “dignity of a congressman”, we use…chastity of a prostitute?”


“I’ve got one! “scruples of a banker”.


“self-control of a toddler?”


“soft hands of a brick layer?”

Beautiful! Class, I must say I’m overwhelmed with your responses today.

“Basketball skills of a white midget?”

That’s very creative, but let’s try to keep race out of our language. Oh, and the term “midget” might be seen as pejorative towards the vertically challenged. Bill? You’ve been awfully quiet today. Do you have any ideas on our topic?

Bill: “dignity of a congressman”? That’s a tough one. How about the efficiency of the DMV, or the Friendliness of the IRS, or maybe the fidelity of Bill Clinton?

All of those are excellent! Class, you have outdone yourselves today. Ok, next week our phrase will be “audacity of hope”.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dad's Valentine's Day

Last night after a marvelous dinner that featured the insanely beautiful and delicious dessert pictured above, my wife prepared a special Valentine's plate for my Dad. There was a helium filled balloon with a Valentine's greeting and a giant picture of sugar cookies. Pam picked that one because it reminded her of the ones Mom used to make for the kids every Valentine's Day. She also bought a package of heart-shaped Reeses peanut butter cups. Then she placed the delectable treat in the picture above underneath a clear cake bowl and off we went to the hospital to see Dad.

When we first arrived he was laying back in his bed looking particularly tired after his second full day of rehab, but as soon as he saw this cake, he perked up. When asked if he wanted to eat it now or wait until later he answered, "Give me that fork!". He sat up and plowed through it with unrestrained glee, and as is his practice, cleaned the plate. For the rest of our visit, Dad was animated, his voice clear and strong, demonstrating once again the value of a sugar rush. It's been 9 days now since he first was admitted to the hospital and last night was the best he has looked. I credit my wife's gift of thoughtfulness, her cheerful love for Dad, and her culinary skills for his turnaround.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

My "Paying-For" Problem

 Nancy Pelosi, the remarkably well-preserved former Speaker of the House, has contributed mightily to the ongoing debate about the 6 trillion dollar debt explosion we have endured over the last 4 and a half years. Appearing on Fox News, she told Chris Wallace that it was a “false argument to say we have a spending problem, when in fact we have a budget deficit problem.” To make it even more clear Rep. Steny Hoyer added this valuable insight, “we don’t have a spending problem, we have a paying for problem.”

Far be it from me, a mere business owner who over a thirty year career has managed to overdraw his checking account only once, to question two savvy veteran politicians, but I would say that if you have spent 6 Trillion dollars more than you have collected over 4 and a half years, you have a problem that sure looks and sounds like it has something to do with spending. But if Nancy and Steny and President Obama are convinced that our financial problems have nothing to do with spending too much money, well then, it must be true. I do wonder though how this explanation would hold up down at my bank:

 Wells Fargo Banker:  Mr. Dunnevant, thank you for coming in this morning. We have a problem with your business checking account. It seems that over the weekend you wrote three checks, one to the Melting Pot for $158, another to the Apple Store for $3205, and a third to Martins for $219. However, you only had $2100 in your account, so we have a problem.

Me:  A problem? What? I don’t understand.

Wells Fargo Banker:  Well, generally speaking, one needs to have sufficient funds in an account to cover checks written. In your case, you spent $1482 more than your balance, so there’s a spending problem.

Me:  No, no. You don’t seem to understand. I don’t have a spending problem. It’s more like a deficit problem.

Wells Fargo Banker:……………yes…but that’s pretty much the same thing.

Me:  More specifically, I don’t really have a spending problem as much as I have a paying for problem.

Wells Fargo Banker:  Wait…what?

Me:  Here’s the thing. Yes, my accounts seem to be out of money, but just because I’m broke doesn’t mean I can just stop making investments in my business. That computer I bought over the weekend is going to pay huge dividends down the road in improved efficiency at the office.

Wells Fargo Banker:  I’m sure it will, but Mr. Dunnevant, you are $1482 overdrawn and I will have to charge you $150 for the bounced checks.

Me:  Fine, just put it on my tab. One of my kids will be getting married at some point and then it won’t be long before I’ll have a grandchild. He’ll be good for it, I’m sure.

We are being governed by morons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This morning in my news feed are these headlines:

President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Mysterious end to man-hunt

Alicia Keys underboob incident at the Grammy’s

 Now, I ask you, which one of these sparked the most curiosity? In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I watched neither the State of the Union show, or the Grammy’s. I did watch the live reports from California of the burning cabin where Christopher Dorner was supposedly holed up. As of this moment the remains found inside have not been identified as those of the cop-killer.

 But as interesting as these stories may have been, I was most intrigued by this underboob business. First of all, what a cool word…underboob. It’s even fun to say, let alone the “titillating” prospect of what it may mean. So, I did my research and discovered that an “underboob” is exactly what its name would suggest, ie…the revealed lower section of the female breast. Well, apparently CBS came very close to pulling the plug on Ms. Keys’ revealing underboob garment since it clearly violated its pre-show dress code. This is where it gets confusing. CBS, or any other network to my knowledge has never had any problem with plunging necklines that reveal practically every part of the female breast EXCEPT the underboob, so why all the fuss about this rarely revealed section of the female anatomy? Maybe we’ve run out of things to be scandalized about. Ever more scantily clad women have been paraded in front of us for so long now that we’re bored with the female form, and must create some new forbidden thing? It’s ok for Beyonce to give a concert in her underwear, but as a society we must draw the line at the over the top display of underboobs? (or should it be UNDER the top?) And I haven’t even mentioned the growing sideboob controversy.

I’m with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. I might not be able to define pornography, but I know an underboob when I see it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Late Night Conversation With My Dad

Last night at the hospital with Dad, he was especially talkative. He began telling me stories from his life, ones I had never heard before. There was a crazy one from his days in the navy during World War II. On the day that Japan surrendered, bottles of booze materialized out of thin air. Since Dad had famously never taken a drink in his life, a couple of guys decided to force him to by cornering him and pouring it down his throat. When Dad realized what was up, he grabbed the bottle out of the guy’s hand and cracked him over the head with it leaving only the jagged- edged neck in his hand. The other guy backed off as his buddy lay out cold in a puddle of bourbon. Dad even remembered that his would be attacker was from Waycross, Georgia. This from a man who can’t remember what he had for lunch, but can recall the home town of a man he hasn’t seen in 68 years.

 Then he told me in great detail the story of Charlie Newton. When Dad became the pastor of Nicholsville Baptist church in Nicholsville, Alabama in 1965, he was warned by the members not to bother visiting Charlie. He was something of a celebrity in that small farming town because he was so violently hostile to the church in general and preachers in particular. Of course, Dad determined to visit him first before anyone else. Dad went through all the details of the long and tortuous relationship that he gradually built with Charlie, all the nastiness that he endured from this wretched and profane man. When Dad got to the part where Charlie knelt on the kitchen floor of our trailer early one Sunday morning to become a Christian, my father broke down in tears. “When the people saw Charlie Newton walk into church, in his right mind, and a bible in his hand, they just couldn’t believe it.” Dad said through his tears. “ I never can get through talking about Charlie without crying son, even after 48 years.”

 Later, I asked him to look back on his amazing 88 years and try to pick his favorite year. “I’ve had lots of favorites,” he said with a smile. Then he talked about the year he was saved, the years he was going to University of Richmond full time, while working midnight to 7 every night, and the years in Seminary where he spent 5 nights a week loading freight as a teamster, while pastoring a church in Alabama, and taking a full load of classes at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as a 41 year old man with four kids. “Dad,” I said, “Those were the hardest years of your life, how on earth can they be your favorites?” He looked at me with an easy smile on his face. “It’s not a hard year when you’re in the center of God’s will.”

 After talking for the better part of an hour, he was tired and fell silent for awhile. Then out of nowhere he says, “You know, your Mother didn’t marry a preacher. She had a preacher thrust upon her. She had to learn to be a preacher’s wife, but she ended up being the best preacher’s wife in the whole world.” Once again he began to cry.
I’ve written this down because I don’t ever want to forget these conversations. My dad is laying down a marker for me and my children and their children to aim for. Not sure any of us will hit it, but even if we miss and just end up in the neighborhood, we will have lived well.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Skipping Church

I will be skipping church today. Every now and then it’s nice to experience a two day weekend, so I can better relate to my un-churched friends. My church is in the middle of it’s annual Israel-a-thon featuring something called the “Watchman On The Wall”, which sounds perfectly dreadful. The church website features not only this Watchman thing but also an April pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and coming soon, a “first Friday Shabbat”. Perhaps we should just declare ourselves a temple and be done with it.

But, luckily for me, there’s no law that says that you have to be fully on board with everything your church does to remain a member. Grove certainly has enough good qualities to compensate for this particular annoyance, so I’ll skip the “Israel can do no wrong” love fest again this year and enjoy a Sunday at home.

Inquiring readers might like to know what I will be doing instead. I will be serving as Pam’s low skilled, poorly paid manual labor in her latest campaign to makeover our house. This arrangement works quite well actually, since I have no appreciable interior design gifts, and therefore no strongly held opinions on the subject. Pam, on the other hand, while sometimes wracked with indecision and plagued by the lethargy that it produces, once sufficiently inspired, becomes a whirlwind of activity, grabbing everything that isn’t nailed down at Hobby Lobby and Khol’s, and making online purchases until 2 in the morning. After last night’s internet shopping breakthrough, Pam has enough Khol’s cash to become a majority shareholder.

So, today I will hang curtain rods, mirrors, and wall clocks. I will reach the spots that she can’t as a month of painting begins. Before she’s finished, the downstairs bathroom, the kids’ bathroom, the breakfast nook and Patrick’s old bedroom will have new coats of paint and be redecorated from wall switch cover to curtains and everything in between. The transformation will be complete with only hours to spare before a bunch of kids from a traveling choir from Belmont come to stay beginning the first weekend in March.

My wife is awesome.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Celebrity Gun Control

Sometimes in life, irony is subtle. It is found only after deep thought or revelation. Then other times it screams at us like the angry lead singer of a high school metal band.

One such occasion occurred this week when Sylvester Stallone issued a ringing endorsement of gun control. Even the headline writer at the Huffington Post could see the irony…”Bullet To The Head star doesn’t see value in assault weapons”

I suppose it isn’t quite fair to single out Rambo. He had plenty of help from several other celebrities this week. At a press conference in support of Obama’s gun control initiative, that famous authority on firearms, Tony Bennett, came up with this gem…

It's the kind of turn that happened to the great country of Germany, when Nazis came over and created tragic things, and they had to be told off. And if we continue this kind of violence and accept it in our country, the rest of the world's going to really take care of us, in a very bad way.”

Tony probably shouldn’t have mentioned Nazi Germany in a discussion of gun control, since no country in modern times had tighter gun control laws than the Nazi’s. And I’m sure it will come as a surprise to the soldiers of the 101st airborne that the Nazi’s were defeated when we “told them off”. How does Mr. Bennett think that the citizens of France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Greece, fought back against their German invaders? With what did their underground resistance movements defend themselves? The headline read, “Tony Bennett says that without gun control U.S. may end up like Nazi Germany”. Apparently, his heart wasn’t the only thing Tony left in San Francisco.

Not to be outdone, comedian Chris Rock followed Bennett to the microphone with this savvy advice…

"The President and the first lady are kind of like the Mom and the Dad of the country. And when your Dad tells you something, you listen, and when you don’t it ends up biting you in the ass.”


Thanks Chris. It’s good to know that we’re all children.

Seriously, for those of you who support the President’s gun control efforts, please tell your celebrity supporters to shut up. They’re not helping.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Drones And Our Philosopher King

It’s taken me several days to process the startling news of the leaked memo from the White House concerning our philosopher-king’s new and improved license to kill. It seems that the phrase “imminent danger” now means something closer to, “seems suspicious”.

With the rise of the drone as a neat, clean, killing tool, governments can now exert their will with a single machine rather than having to go to the expense and aggravation of marshaling troops and public opinion to support their foreign policy objectives. Under former President Bush, drones were used to go after Al-Qaeda types hiding in straw-roofed huts in Pakistan. This President has managed to make Bush look like a weak kneed pacifist, wracking up kill after kill of swarthy terrorist types along with any innocent friends and neighbors who were unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. Instead of Code Pink protesters swarming Pennsylvania Avenue with signs screaming, ”Obama=Murderer”, this killing frenzy has been greeted with silence by the left. But with the release of this memo, even the most sycophantic members of the loyal press are snapping out of their hero worship long enough to think about how awful this new power would be in the hands of a future (shudder) Republican President!

The new policy gives the President the authority to order drone strikes against even American citizens abroad who the President believes might be a threat to national security, but with the new meaning of words made famous by this administration, the lack of specific prohibitions against killing Americans on American soil gives pause. That slacker Bush toiled under the timid definition of “imminent threat” which restricted the kill order to Americans involved in activities that actually  constituted an imminent grave danger. For example, surveillance cameras pick up Joe packing the back of his van with a thousand sticks of dynamite, while on the front seat there’s a street map of Washington DC with the Pentagon circled by a red sharpee, along with a worn copy of the Koran. That’s an “imminent” threat. Under this new definition of “imminent”, all it might take is intelligence reports that Joe was seen in the middle east aisle of the local library checking out biographies of Bin Laden then going to an Arab film festival, smoking a Hookah pipe and drinking really strong coffee.

I’m fully aware that there are some weirdoes in America. Among my fellow citizens there lives every strata of social and political deviants known to exist on the planet. But, the idea that we would allow any one man or woman to possess the power of judge, jury, and executioner of one of our fellow citizens is an outrage and an insult to our founding documents. In the 236 year history of this nation, there isn’t one single President who I would trust with this power, and few who would even dare want such authority. With such flimsy evidentiary standards as those advanced in this memo, every American citizen should be appalled at so stunning a power grab, at such an evisceration of due process.

So far, the only thing we Americans can manage to be appalled by is the possible loss of the Hostess Twinkie.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Dad and Thomas Jefferson

The other night, I read the final two chapters of Jon Meacham’s “Art of Power”, his masterful biography of Thomas Jefferson. The great old man was dying. In painstaking detail, Meacham described the physical struggles and bouts of melancholy that plagued him in his last days. But to the end, Jefferson’s mind still had moments of clarity, and in those moments his thoughts were of the great events of the revolution, and his obsession with the well being of his family.

After the last page was read, I sat in silence for awhile, as I often do in such moments, trying to take it all in, trying to process so monumental a life, so magnificently lived. Jefferson was a great man with admittedly great flaws, but remains one of the few men from history with whom I would love to have dinner.

As I sat there staring off into the distance thinking of Monticello, my cell phone began to vibrate on the reading table beside me. It was an e-mail from my sister. My Dad had fallen now for the third time in one day. Something was wrong. Suddenly, his legs had become weak and his gate unreliable. We would take him to the doctor and discover a badly swollen leg and foot. He would be admitted to the hospital for treatment of the infection.

So for the next several days we will all visit him there. We will monitor his progress, and sit with him when we can. He will make it as easy as possible on us by being cheerful. He will be grateful for every visit. He will make conversation even though he would rather sleep. He will eat whatever awful food is put in front of him. He will inform me of the latest news of the world as I marvel at how he manages to be so peaceful, while his body continues to betray him.

While Thomas Jefferson was the great man of history, my Dad has always been, and still remains the great man of my life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beyonce's Show

I suppose that I should begin this post with a warning. You are about to enter an “old fuddy-duddy zone”. Watching Beyonce’s halftime show the other night made me feel every day of my 54 years and then some. It was a twenty minute blitzkrieg on the senses that left me exhausted and bewildered.

This woman has an incredible voice, but she is no singer. She is an exhibition, an object of fantasy. Within the first two minutes, she tore off the wrapping paper of her outfit and flung it into the crowd, and performed the rest of her show dressed like a Victoria’s Secret mannequin. Amidst dazzling pyrotechnics and pulsing video images, she showed 108 million viewers more athletic ability than Joe Flacco ever dreamed of having. Her dance moves were pure eroticism. She gyrated and hip-thrusted across the stage like a Las Vegas showgirl on steroids. What actual singing she did seemed beside the point, a mere accessory to her sexual objectification. When it was all over I wasn’t quite sure what I had seen. It certainly wasn’t a vocal performance, more like an X-rated jazzercise workout. I certainly had gotten a workout. I suppose after several years of worn out rockers like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, the Super Bowl people felt that some youth, energy and vitality needed to be injected into the proceedings. Mission accomplished.

The Super Bowl has become the image America projects once a year to the world, and each year it gets bigger, louder and more aggressive. It’s an all out assault of glitz, an extravaganza of frenzied energy. The world would be forgiven for thinking that America may very well have lost it’s mind. Is this who we are? The numbers say yes.

In the middle of it all came the voice of Paul Harvey, a recording of a speech he made in 1978 to a meeting of the Future Farmers of America. My television was treated to two minutes of still photographs, showing that most unglamorous thing, hard, back-breaking, solitary work. There were no swelling violins, no music of any kind, just silent images of the country we used to be before the Super Bowl, quiet, steady and decent. Harvey’s words sounded like poetry to me.

Next year it will be even bigger, bolder, louder. The technology will be cutting edge, the envelope will once again be pushed. Maybe Justin Bieber will do the halftime show. He might rip off his shirt. Can’t wait.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Super Bowl vs. The Dowager Countess

Super Bowl XCVII is now in the books. There was plenty of violence, ridiculous strategy, confusion, moments of laughter, and times that made you want to cry. The game? No, I’m talking about the commercials.

Loved the Clydesdale ad, but can’t for the life of me figure out how it is supposed to make me want to drink Budweiser. On the other hand, the Dodge ad featuring the voice of Paul Harvey talking about God creating a farmer on the eighth day of creation was a two minute long masterpiece that had me seriously considering selling my Cadillac CTS and buying a pick up truck. The similarly long Jeep ad showing soldiers coming home from war lost me when I heard Oprah’s voice, since I associate so many negative things with her.

There were some funny ads too, the Oreo spot particularly so, as it revived the “great taste-less filling” battles of twenty five years ago. The scene featuring a police officer whispering into a bull horn was classic. However, the most delicious line of the night belonged not to a Super Bowl commercial, but to the Dowager Countess over on Downton Abbey.

Violet had summoned Dr. Clarkson to her house for a meeting in an attempt to get him to change his story about the events that led to Cybil’s death. The controversy had caused a serious breach in Robert and Cora’s marriage, and Violet was doing serious damage control. The good doctor objected to Violet’s request on the grounds that he found it very difficult to tell an intentional lie, to which we were all treated to this classic exchange:

Dr. Clarkson: I find it very difficult to lie.

Violet: Do you and I have nothing in common? “Lie”…is so unmusical a word.

If, the next time I enter a voting booth, The Dowager Countess is on the ballot as a candidate for President, I will cast my first joyful vote in thirty years!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Racist Commercials. It's All The Fault Of The Berenstain Bears.

For several years now, the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl have featured organizations of the aggrieved calling press conferences to discuss racist commercials. This year there are two that I’m aware of, but I’m sure there are more. The offending companies are Coke and Volkswagen as follows.

The Coke commercial features a swarthy young man of middle eastern extraction on a camel in the middle of a desert. It is hot and he peers out on the horizon and sees a giant cold bottle of Coke, oasis-like in the distance. Suddenly a group of Mad-Max types come roaring by on motor cycles, racing towards the Coke. The race is soon joined by a busload of chorus girls equally thirsty and intent on getting there first. Meanwhile, our Arab man is seen tugging desperately on the reins of his camel who refuses to budge. When the contestants reach the bottle they discover that it was just a sign advertising Coke and that in fact the Coke bottle is another 50 miles down the road. End of ad.

I will now quote someone from something called the “American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee”….

Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers? The Coke commercial for the Super Bowl is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world.”

Ok. First of all, the Arab shown in this commercial was neither an oil-rich sheik, a terrorist, nor a belly dancer. He appeared to be an ordinary run of the mill Arab man, a Joe Camel, as it were. In addition, not only did he have no chance to “win” the bottle of Coke, nobody else did either, which was the whole point, as far as I could tell, of this moronic ad in the first place. The last thing I thought when watching this commercial was that it was possibly offensive to Arab-Americans. However it was offensive to viewers like me, expecting hilarious and inventive ads during the Super Bowl. Now, it WOULD have been racist, offensive, and much more awesome, if after the Mad-Max guys and the showgirls reached the Coke bottle, our sweaty Arab man reached into his vest and pressed a red button detonating a bomb hidden inside the bottle blowing them all to smithereens!


The second offending commercial features a dreary office building filled with drearily dressed middle-management Minnesotans. They crowd into a dreary elevator and someone bemoans how much they hate Mondays. Then a very white man in the back of the elevator speaks in a rich Jamaican accent, “Don’t worry mon, everyting is gonna be alllright!” Later we see four equally white men riding to lunch in a hot red VW Beatle, all deliriously happy and speaking fluent Jamaican. The tag line of the ad is…Get In. Get Happy.

A New York Times columnist instantly declared the commercial, ”blackface with voices”. A CNN critic was appalled at the suggestion that “all black people are happy”. All of the perpetually aggrieved media groups failed to ask the Jamaican government and it’s tourism officials what they thought of the condescending, racist suggestion that Jamaicans are happy. When some intrepid reporter finally did he discovered that they were thrilled with the commercial, and terribly “happy” about the publicity.

Now that the subject of racist ads has been broached by our media, I would like to get in on the action. Just the other day, I was greatly offended and perhaps permanently scared by another vicious ad by the people at Volkswagen. The scene is a suburb somewhere, peaceful streets, finely trimmed front yard, with a white man still wearing a shirt and tie throwing a baseball with his son. All is well until we see the father trying to teach his son “how” to throw the ball. He winds up and makes the most pathetically unathletic attempt at throwing a ball seen in this country since FDR threw out the first pitch in the 1938 World Series. Picture a girl in the midst of an epileptic seizure trying to throw a ball and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how bad it was. The tag line of the ad encourages the viewer to buy a Volkswagen so…“you can have something worthy of passing down to your son”.

Seldom in my life have I seen such a brutally racist ad. It plays on the vicious stereotype of the white suburban man’s lack of athletic ability as well as his total lack of self-awareness. This is just the latest in a long line of advertisements depicting white men as inept morons, clueless fathers, and shiftless bums who not only lack athleticism but are totally devoid of ambition, any sense of fashion, and the slightest inkling of romance. If an anthropologist from 200 years in the future were to appear on our shores and his only information about our culture was derived from watching television commercials, he would no doubt conclude that white men were the scourge of the planet.

This all started with the most subversively vile books ever written…The Berenstain Bears. I remember being at first slightly annoyed when I started reading them to my unsuspecting children. Every story was the same. Brother and Sister Bear encounter some problem. They first consult Papa Bear, the dumb as a box of rocks father, who invariably gives moronic advice that when followed results in a world of trouble. Enter Mama Bear, the mother/savior of Socratean brilliance who with characteristic patience, foreBEARance, and common sense saves the day by giving the “correct” advice. Of course, Sister Bear is twice the athlete of Brother Bear who shows early signs of being equally as helpless as the old man. The fact that this family of brown bears live in a tree is never explained, neither is the fact of what Mother Bear could possibly have seen in Father Bear back in the day that could have led her to want to marry such a clod. The first of these wretched titles appeared in 1962. America began to see commercials featuring inept manhood shortly thereafter. Coincidence? I think not!