Thursday, October 30, 2008

Take a trip to Henderson County and Burlington, Iowa

The grandkids were weekend guests and one of our outings took us to the Weir Apple farm, the Henderson Creek Covered Bridge, Lock and Dam 18 on the Mississippi River, and then over the high bridge to Burlington, Iowa. This is the midwest at its best.

Snake Alley in Burlington is quite a sight and even more exciting to drive down. Check your brakes before setting out!

Monmouth College Faculty Past and Present Art Exhibit

The Monmouth College Art Department faculty (Past and Present) opened an exhibition of their work last Friday at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in downtown Monmouth, IL. This show will continue in the BCA gallery until November 25th. The center is open free of charge to the public from 9-5 T-F and 10-2 on Sat.

Twelve different professors of Art will have works in the show.

Carla Marquart. a former department member, poses next to one of her new works in the show.

Harlow Blue, an emeritus Professor, discusses one of his works at the opening.

Stacy Lotz, current Art Department member, gets together with emeritus sculptor George Waltershausen at the reception.

Stephanie Baugh, current Art Deparment member(on left), chats with Janeve West(on right) of the Theatre Department and Julia Andrews of the Music Department(center).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Washington Post and Chicago Tribune Support Obama

I vacillate in these entries between political and artistic comments. My tone, admittedly, leans toward the "liberal" end of the spectrum, but without giving credence to the hostility laced rantings of either the far right or far left. In the Washington Post Obama endorsement I do see a rationally argued and fair minded attempt to make a pick among two capable candidates--both of whom are human and have shortcomings. The same can be said of the Tribune endorsement.
Both papers, one of whom has never supported a democratic candidate for the presidency, seem to find that a deciding argument rests in McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It is the only real decision that a candidate makes before an election that you are 100% sure will be with you after the election. I have not seen a single comment anywhere that says that Joe Biden could not step into the job if necessity called. With a major economic crisis in process, with the complexities of international affairs, with the responsibilities of a commander in chief, and with the dangerous fractures in our social and cultural milieu, it is inconceivable for anyone to ask that the country take the chance that the next in line is someone who is so manifestly unready in so many key areas as Sarah Palin. And when it is a seventy-two year old man who is making that decision, it also seems clear that he is not thinking of his country first.

Read the Post endorsement here.
Read the Tribune endorsement here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book Review: The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday by Alexander Mc Call Smith

Alexander Mc Call Smith’s books, whether set in Mma. Ramotswe's Africa or Isabel Dalhousie's Edinburgh, hover sweetly and delicately around their environments like butterflies above a flower. The locations are lovingly rendered and melded seamlessly into the plots. Mma. Ramotswe, the lead character in his Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, is unaware that she is a philosopher. Isabel Dalhousie, the central heroine in The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday is literally a philosopher. She is a funny, self-deprecating, attractive, and financially independent woman, who when not editing her journal called "The Review of Applied Ethics", spends her time nosing about Edinburgh's numerous cafes, galleries, concert halls, and lecture venues. In each waking moment she conducts slyly humorous internal debates on the moral significance of the interactions she is experiencing. These deliberations range from musings on the language development of her infant son and doubts about the friends of the father of her child to the murky levels of truth surrounding the life of a depressed medical doctor whose career has been ruined by accusations of manipulating results in a drug company research project.

Mc Call Smith gives Ms. Dalhousie a reputation for both inserting and being asked to insert herself into other folks' ethical dilemmas, but he also differentiates her from the legions of "gotcha" journalists who seem to be prying only to score media points. He has her say, "It had always struck her as wrong that we should judge ourselves--or, more usually, others--by single acts, as if a single snapshot said anything about what a person had been like over the whole course of his life." How refreshing to acknowledge that most lives are a combination of rights and wrongs. Even more refreshing is the view that you should not be saddled for eternity by a single mistake. Amends are possible and acceptable. Would that today's politicians, who would often have you judge their opponents solely by past associations rather than present programs, might read this book.

As Dalhousie’s interactions with her lover, her infant son, her sister, and the embattled doctor evolve, she becomes painfully aware that she was wrong on just about every judgment she made. The lesson is clear and sobering. Beware of presumption when speculating on feelings and/or motivations in others. "The moral account book (of others), wherever it is-- in some distant metaphysical databank or just in the heart--should never be contemplated, or dwelt upon."

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday ends, as most of the McCall Smith books do, in quiet contemplation of nature. You are left to speculate on the natural world, the simple sowing and planting of seeds, and the wonders of human love. You will not be disappointed in the answers.

(For additional book reviews by Jim De Young check out the web site of the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth, IL)

Do you want an advance look at a new McCall Smith novel? Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vote for a CNN Hero

When Jane Kurtz visited Monmouth last week, she told us of the CNN hero program. Her good friend and the founder of Ethiopia Reads, Mr. Yohannes Gebregeorgis, has been chosen as one of the finalists for 2008. You can read more about him and vote for him at this web site.

If you would like to learn more about Ethiopia Reads, you can go to their web site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gibson Woods Glows in Autumn Colors

There are plenty more expensive golf courses in the state, but there are none that match the beauty of Gibson Woods in the fall. Playing on this Monmouth Park District gem in October is like walking through a kaleidescope of colors. At each new tee a new vista and at each turn of the head another splash of vibrant reds, golds, rusts, and greens. Here's a sampling for you. And anyone for a foursome?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jane Kurtz Speaks at Warren County Public Library

Jane Kurtz , award winning author of over twenty five books for children and young adults, spoke at the Warren County Public Library on Tuesday, October 7th about “THE POWER OF READING AND WRITING TO CHANGE US FROM THE INSIDE OUT” The Monmouth College graduate talked about how books set her parents (both also Monmouth College grads) on an amazing path of international travel, shaped her own life, shaped the lives of her siblings, and helped her to support the first children's libraries in Ethiopia. Go to Ethiopia Reads for more information on this project.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Arts Advocacy for October

What do the current presidential candidates think of the arts? The Americans for the Arts Action Fund has released a side by side comparison of both candidate’s positions. Go to: for a short summary. Additional links are there if you want more detail.

Note the recent release of the Coalition for Theatre Education’s Joint statement on Freedom of Expression in the Arts. This coalition was formed two years ago by members of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), and the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) to address issues of mutual interest and concern in theatre education. The CFTE represents more than 7,000 theatre educators in American elementary, middle, and high schools, colleges, and universities. You can read this important statement on Freedom of Expression in the Arts by going to:

If you still don’t have enough new things to read, I recommend a fascinating publication titled Committing to Quality in Education: Arts at the Core just released by the Illinois Arts Allance. It is designed for Illinois teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and community partners. You can find this superbly illustrated publication at: Chapter topics include “Curriculum and Assessment,” “Accountability,” and “Planning for Effective Arts Education.” Ra Joy, the Executive Director of the IAA and his Guidebook project directors, Julie Andrianopoli and Lara Pruitt have performed a truly magnificent service in compiling this publication.

The Congressional Arts Report Card for the 110th Congress is available and you can read it at: According to the Arts Report Card, the cumulative grade point average of the Illinois delegation is a B+ for 2007 to 2009. The last Arts Report Card in 2006 issued Illinois a B grade. The Illinois delegation ranks 17th highest among all state delegations.

The Illinois Arts Friendly Community Awards serve to recognize municipalities that support the arts and to celebrate municipal leaders who use the arts to build healthy communities. They are awarded by the Arts Alliance of Illinois and the Illinois Municipal League. Arlington Heights and Effingham, IL were among those honored this year. Fifteen other communities captured Honorable Mentions. They were Aurora, Bartlett, Belvidere, Carol Stream, Danville, Elmwood Park, Hickory Hills, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Lombard, Orland Park, Palatine, Princeton, Tinley Park, Urbana, and Waukegan. Might your community be eligible? Check it out at:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Back to the Arts

Although it is clear that our national election may be decided on issues other than support for the arts, I would like to express a hope that both candidates might, in the next month, better describe how they view our nation's arts education and cultural policies.

The "Creative Economy" is a strong element of the 21st century workforce and could be crucial in helping our economy recover.

Research has also shown that students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates. These findings appear to cut across all socio-economic categories.

I call on both candidates to support funding and policies at the federal level that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.

If you would like further material on where Obama and McCain stand on the Arts, check out the link.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Have you heard the one about the post turtle?

“While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, a doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid to be a heartbeat away from being President.

The old rancher said, ’ Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle.’

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was.
The old rancher said, ’ When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle.’

When the doctor still looked puzzled, the old rancher explained.

‘You know she didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there , she doesn’t know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder who the dumb ass was that put her up there to begin with.’

If that is too partisan for you, then chill out with this one from another anonymous internet savant, and forwarded by my daughter.

May it bring at least one smile or two before you cry.

Watch for these mergers before the end of the year. Get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks.

1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W.
R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2.) PolygramRecords, Warner Bros., and ZestaCrackers join forces and
become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood

4.) Zippo Manufacturing, AudiMotors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will
merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa

5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and
become: FedUP

6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will
become: Fairwell Honeychild

7.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become:

8.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will
become: Knott NOW!

And finally....

9.) Victoria 's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new
name: TittyTittyBangBang

Sometimes you just gotta laugh!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Buffett Wisdom and a Palin Note

Warren Buffett was cited this morning as a believer in the three I's of the economic cycle. First come the Innovators; then the Imitators; and finally the Idiots. It is your guess as to where we are at this moment. (Hint, the first two don't count.)

The latest word from Arizona is that Gov. Sarah Palin will be released from the Witness Protection Program in order to debate Joe Biden on national TV Thursday evening. Further appearances may be made, but only if accompanied by Federal Marshall John McCain. Fred Thompson, former Republican candidate and Law and Order DA, admitted on CNN this morning that there was a possibility that Ms. Palin had been micro-managed.

Has Palin been the victim of a vicious media attack? There is no question that she has been placed under the proverbial magnifying glass in the last month. But we should also remember that nearly every voter in the lower forty eight had never even heard of her a month ago. These people do have some right to know as much as possible about an individual who has a 1 in 3 chance to become president of the United States. The skinny on Biden and McCain has been floating around for years and Obama's garbage can has been thoroughly sifted for nineteen months now. All the real dirt, the half truths, and the lies are out there to be studied. Issues like McCain's censure for his involvement in the Keating Five Scandal, Obama's poor pastoral choice, and Biden's unzipped mouth have been ground up, assimilated, and and for the most part discarded as significant campaign considerations. Palin's background is a catch-up target and unfortunately for Republicans some of it is still going to be current on election day. McCain and his people clearly knew this when they nominated an unknown and they will have to live with it.