Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Finished Barack Obama's THE AUDACITY OF HOPE today. He cuts an impressive figure in person, he evinces charm no end on the tube, and he writes with clarity, reason, and persuasion. The message is boldly hopeful (re: the title), but perhaps naive within the context of current political reality. He takes on all the current problems (race, immigration, faith, abortion, the war) and asks for reasoned discourse, compromise, and tolerance. Tis a big order. My hope is that he takes Senator Robert Byrd's advice, which he cites in the book, to take your time and learn the history and rules of the Senate before focusing on the White House. In eight years Obama will still be in his fifties and far more seasoned. By that point he may not be as idealistic and may have picked up a few more warts, but he will be more prepared to make the run and to govern after victory than he is now.

As a side note, today was also the day that another Democrat threw his hat into the presidential fray. Former VP candidate John Edwards took time off from building his three million dollar mansion to travel to a still flood ravaged New Orleans neighborhood and christen his campaign with an "Eliminate Poverty" program. Even with sleeves rolled up and shovel in hand, there was an air of irony about the moment that several news organizations were quick to pounce on.

For the drama buffs out there you must check out the mock review of a second grade production of Peter Schaffer's EQUUS that appeared in last January's issue of The Onion. This item was sent to me by a former student who currently heads my old Theatre Department. He played the Lead Horse in my own production of Equus many moons ago.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Report

Some Christmas days seem to resemble zoos at feeding time, but ours was about as peaceful as it could get. From the lightness of our morning buttermilk pancakes to the crystal clear sounds of Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols an aura of calm descended over the house. David spruced up our computer and introduced me to Flickr and U-Tube. He also dragged the expresso machine out and brewed us up a lovely cuppa in the late afternoon. As I write this the ham is in the oven and aromas of roasting Weir's apples, along with sweet potatos and cranberries, are floating up the stairs to the study.

Along with the Queen and the Pope we yearn for peace out there. We cling to the hope that "somehow, some way, some day" the hate that seems to well so strong in the killing fields of Darfur and Iraq, and Afganistan can be melted. Miracles may not be possible but it would be a start if a few more folks could accept differences without feeling the need to crush them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Wedding of Note

December 19th is a pretty cool day. It marks the latest day we have still had a fresh tomato from our garden. It was a bit wizened but still tasted better than the red croquet balls being offered at Econo Foods. But the best part of the 19th is that forty seven years ago on this day my wife and I were married. You want to talk about sympatico. We began the morning by discovering that we had bought each other the very same card. Luckily we hadn't bought each other the same gifts. An afternoon at the Smith Creek Pottery a week ago had produced a magnificent bowl for Jan and a lovely little olive oil jar for me. The day was spent baking and frosting Christmas cookies, then to the college library Christmas Party, and then home to make some more cookies. The mind meld continued on into the afternoon when Jan said she'd like a Cape Codder for our pre-dinner drink. I had been thinking the very same thing and had even put a jug of cranberry juice in the refrigerator earlier in the day. Spooooooky! There are an awful lot of bad things in this world, but our marriage is not one of them. We wish you as much joy as we have known and of course Peace!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Christmas Greetings to Blogland

Even though you (me) are Time magazine's People of the Year, the times they are a changing. Our legal counsel has recommended that we offer you a politically correct Christmas (oops Holiday) greeting this year. Thus “Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practice of your choice.” Now isn’t that warm and fuzzy?

Let’s push on to the news from our town—the community that most people don’t leave because the roads out are too bad. Speaking of roads: IDOT stands for the Illinois Department of Transportation. Last year IDOT installed at over $250,000 each a series of electronic signs on Interstate 80 to provide information for motorists. Last week during our first major snowfall of the season I 80 turned into an icy mess of jackknifed semis and blocked lanes that stranded hundreds of people. Did IDOT use the new signs to warn folks of the danger ahead? “No”, said a spokesman, “the signs were installed only for Amber Alerts.” Now here’s a question for all of our readers. “Can you tell me where to put the extra “I” in IDOT?”

Jim and Jan have continued to enjoy the fruits of retirement. Jan still keeps the Warren County Library Board, the AAUW Art Presenter Program, and the women of AAUW on target while also managing to coach some student teachers for Monmouth College. Jim retires from the governing board of the Buchanan Center for the Arts at the end of the year and just last month got a special award from the Center for his long time service.

He will now devote more time to a new “unpaid” job titled Director of Advocacy for the Illinois Theatre Association. Both of us would like to spend more time attempting to improve our golf scores, but we have come to the sad realization that for folks of our age practice does not even make better much less perfect.

Since we have too many shampoos, pastes, and emollients to fit into one plastic baggie, we decided to forego major travels this past year. We did sneak in a trip to London last spring to lay some ground work for the 3rd edition of London Theatre Walks (, but the rest of the journeys were stateside. We spent some time in Arizona with my cousin, traveled to Cedar Rapids and Minnesota for family outings, and also made a lovely trip with friends to see some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the Madison, WI area. The most recent journey was a Thanksgiving outing to see my sister and her husband’s new retirement home in South Carolina. While there we visited the Biltmore Estate, Brattonsville Pioneer Village, and did a quick traverse through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you feel the need for a travelogue with additional commentary look at

On the children and grandchildren front we can also report reasonably clear sailing. David continues as a computer guru and continues to devote equal time to music. He was featured in an article in the Grinnell College Alumni magazine and his music web site won an award from the Minnesota Music Academy as Best Online Music Media resource in the Twin Cities.

Amy and her husband Todd continue to do the parenting gig while holding down full time jobs. Luckily Iowa, doesn’t seem to be suffering too much from a decline in demand for new homes. Todd, the big builder in the family, continues to build houses, while Amy continues to build the minds of the horde of young’uns that all the new houses seem to be filled with. They are both looking forward to one of those milestones for young parents—the reduction of day care costs when Mikel, 4 ½, goes off to kindergarten in the Fall. TJ, the little builder, will be 11 by the time you get this. He has had a great time this fall making marvelous models of native American houses for his history assignments.

While we are in the Iowa mode, daughter Amy told me about the newest rebate deal. It’s called the 401 Keg Plan and is a real winner. It is convivial, environmentally sound, and a money saver. All you do is buy $1000 worth of beer. After you drink it, you re-cycle the cans in Iowa and get $214 back. It’s a win-win for everything but your liver.

That’s about it for another year. You’ll note that I’ve stayed away from politics and social issues in the thirty-third edition of this letter; they are in the capable hands of our President and Congress. And that’s my last joke for 2006.

We hope your year has been as pleasant and rewarding as ours and that your holidays will see good cheer, good health, and fun family reunions.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

And then there was Snow!

About a foot of the bloody stuff and it just about did in the new snow blower.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006