Saturday, March 29, 2014

The South, Christianity, and Tennessee

Anyone who spends any time studying literature is bound to run across southern-born authors who have a love/hate relationship with the south.  I have to admit, though I’m no author, I too have that love/hate thing going on with the south.

More recently, I’ve added Christianity to that list as well.  Sorry, Christians, I’m having a tough time buying it these days, especially as it’s practiced in the US in 2014.  I’m tending to regard it as just another example of man’s attempt to explain the unknown.

Christians:  If you live in the United States, YOU ARE NOT PERSECUTED.  If you want to discover what persecution is, may I direct your attention to India, Russia, and China (those are the “nice” ones), the Muslim world (in its entirety) where evangelization will at very least land you in prison for life (if you’re lucky), and the ever-charming North Korea (where possession of a Bible carries a mandatory sentence of execution, no trial, no jury, no kidding).

In any event, this week the Tennessee legislature passed a nasty and hurtful bill in the name of “religious freedom”.

Tennessee's latest outrage

(this from the same state where a legislator keeps trying to make the word “gay” illegal…).

The law basically means you can say or do anything you want in the name of your religion. 

A quote directly from the bill:

“a student may express beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. A student would not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of the student’s work.”

The bill goes on to allow any student to commandeer school facilities for “religious purposes”.  So, students can preach at will, forcing others to listen to them; prayer over the intercom is back, etc etc etc.

I lived in Tennessee for 3 long, awful years.  I had some nice friends from there, but I HATED living there.  Churchy, preachy, nasty people.  Sorry, Tennesseans who are friends of mine, but that’s basically what I heard, over and over and over.

Some interesting facts about Tennessee:

Wealth per capita:  #40 of 50
Unemployment:  #43 of 50
Poverty:  #40 of 50
% of students graduating high school:  #42 of 50
Life Expectancy:  #43 of 50
Infant Mortality Rate:  #47 of 50.
Obesity Rate:  #44 of 50.
Overall Wellbeing:  #47 of 50.
Math scores:  #42 of 50.
Reading scores:  #35 of 50 (hey, they broke into the 30's!)
Least Income Inequality:  #41 of 50.
Highest % employed in Math, Science, et al:  #38 of 50 (Oak Ridge...)
Teen Pregnancy:  #41 of 50.
Smoking Rate:  #47 of 50 (meaning 4th worst in US)
Diabetes Rate:  #46 of 50
STD Rate:  #44 of 50.

I looked these up on the internet; most came from very reliable sources (the CDC, for example).

Tennessee legislature, looks to me like you’ve got PLENTY of things to worry about without spending time on protecting Christians from non-existent persecution, eh?

Ah, well…this is the state that brought you the Scopes Monkey Trial.  It’s just sad to see that the great-grandchildren of the Scopes-era idiots are just as stupid (ignorant too, though there is a difference between the two) as their forebears.

Now, this is not saying that Tennessee’s southern friends and neighbors are any less stupid and ignorant; they’ve got lots of company.  It’s just that Tennessee is AGGRESSIVE about being stupid and ignorant.

One more thing:  Christians, do you not realize that bills like this are harmful and dangerous to YOU!?  What if a Satan Worshipper decided to take advantage of the bill’s provisions and proclaim his religion to your precious children?  What if a Christian decided he didn’t like that and they wound up fighting and potentially killing each other?  (Gee, this sounds familiar—Bosnia, anyone?).

One thing I DID learn from my religion classes at Baylor:  Christians are FAR better off when the law protects religious freedom, while saying as little about the actual practice of religion as possible.  The more you try to write religion into law, the more dangerous it is for Christianity.

At least a survey came out this week to the effect that gays are now more popular than evangelical Christians.  (Ya know, Evangelicals, think about that—you’re supposed to be attracting people by example; it appears you’re having the opposite effect.)

Sigh.  Rant over.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's the Little Things

Just a quick thought on a subject that's been "done"--

As I write this I'm sitting in a hotel room on one of my business travels, performing one of my favorite little rituals.   It's not very original, but I cherish it anyway.

Dad ALWAYS encouraged us to read the newspaper.  Since he had to leave so early (he had to be at work by 7, usually), he liked the afternoon edition to be fresh and crisp and waiting for him when he got home.  He would discard a section and I would be circling like a shark in the waters below, waiting for it.

When I went off to college, I started taking The Dallas Morning News; upon moving to Houston, I took the Houston Post.  I learned (shocking to those who knew me) that if I'd get up early enough, I could drink my morning coffee (yes, an entire pot) and read my morning newspaper in peace.  In the early days of being an "adult", this also included my morning cigarette(s).

I'm still doing it at 57 (though I now use the online editions of the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph).  Online isn't the same as having the newspaper.  I miss the smell of the paper and the way you got a little newsprint on your fingers if you weren't careful; the paper also had uses afterwards, such as lining birdcages, wrapping things, putting down for the dog when in an apartment, etc.

Nevertheless, I now have "instant gratification", since the online editions are usually updated when/as news occurs or changes, rather than "waiting for tomorrow".  I miss all the grand old papers of yesteryear, but as long as the New York Times, the Telegraph, and the Times of London hold out, I'll be good.

So, here I sit on a business trip, finishing a $12 "pot" (it's so tiny...) of coffee (at least they use Starbucks), having read a bit of today's NYT.

Do you have any little rituals like that?  What are they?  

*Note to hotelliers:  Not all of us like to be in a crowded breakfast area with Fox News blasting inescapably out of the TV.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fred Phelps and Other News Items

Fred Phelps

As most everyone knows (at least everyone in the United States), Fred Phelps was a so-called Baptist minister who founded a “church” (mainly his house and consisting mostly of his family) based on his outright hatred of gays, gay people, rainbow flags, and anything not completely toeing the line on his views.  Later, he expanded his vitriol to protesting (mainly at military funerals, but also at high-profile events) homosexuality with his trademark “God Hates Fags” signs. 

There was a time I thought I’d be throwing glitter in the air and dancing in the streets singing “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” when Fred Phelps no longer infested the earth with his presence.  There was a time I longed for someone (anyone) to blow his brains out. 

Lately, however, I’ve kind of taken a different turn.  I’m certainly not sorry that Fred Phelps is dead.  Is he in Hell?  I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell any more, so not sure where Fred is.  Nor do I care.

Now, I’m mainly sorry for him.  (WHAT?!)  I’m sorry for him that any human could become so sick and evil and twisted by hatred that he spun into this hate-filled thing. 

Society is moving past Fred and his whacko band.  NONE of my Christian friends countenance him or his followers.  Good has triumphed over evil once again.  Equality is slowly becoming the law of the land; an icon I never thought would happen in my lifetime, equality for gay people, is going to happen.  Whether it happens voluntarily or at the order of the Supreme Court (I’m thinking #2), it IS going to happen.

What I will not forgive Fred and his minions for doing is the picketing of military funerals.  I’ve been called everything in the book—faggot, fucking fag, cocksucker, you name it, and I’ve got a thick hide.  Protesting at these innocent families’ moment of deepest grief while an American hero is laid to rest just disgusts me.

I feel sorry for anyone whose hatred so consumed them.


Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Anybody who knows me well knows that I am a Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theorist.  I just think there’s no way Lee Harvey Oswald KILLED Jack Kennedy.  Did he shoot at him?  Probably.  Was he, in fact, a “patsy”, as he claimed?  I think probably so.  Did the “magic bullet” actually happen?  (Read the Warren Commission Report, it’s available online on the National Archive website, just google it).  Not even a chance.  The “magic bullet” is fiction.

There are a lot of amazing theories on the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.  I have no idea what happened.  It’s one of the most baffling things I’ve seen or heard of in my entire life.  Short of alien abduction, I tend to think there’s a logical explanation out there somewhere.  If the plane actually crashed in the very deep waters over which it may have flown, we may never find the black boxes—and they’re the only way we can even guess at what happened.  Truly fascinating.

They found some of D. B. Cooper’s money, but they never found a trace of him—and that was the Pacific Northwest, not the ocean.

We may never know.


Sheridan, Arkansas High School Yearbook censored


My home town, Malvern, is southwest of Little Rock; Sheridan is south-central.  They’re about 30 miles apart on US 270, and there’s a lot of commerce and commonality there.

Sheridan residents, you have been portrayed in the national news in the worst possible light—and most of you shouldn’t be.  Most of you accepted a young man, one of your own, when he bravely came out.  Sheridan is about 30 miles down the road from Malvern, my hometown, and I would NEVER have had the guts to come out in Malvern.  Many Sheridan residents just took it in stride, accepted that “some boys marry boys” and got over it.  It’s shocking, then, that your school board and high school principal took such a bigoted stand in censoring the yearbook.   Censorship is NEVER a good thing.  If you tell the students “the yearbook is yours”, you can’t then come back and say, “Oh, except when some religious group in town is offended by what you publish.”  But thank you, Principal Williams and Dr. Haynes.  By showing what bigoted, homophobic jerks look like, you’ve given the rest of the world an object lesson in unacceptable behavior.  Bravo!  (Sigh.  Arkansas, in the news for being a bunch of backward, redneck hillbillies—again.  Just when I think we’re getting better…).


Gay Marriage

As I write this, Michigan has just become the latest state to have its discriminatory anti-gay-marriage law struck down by a Federal Judge.  It’s coming.  It’s taking a lot longer time than it should—systematically discriminating against any group of American Citizens, denying them basic rights, is Unconstitutional on the face of it.  Will everybody be happy when Equality becomes the law of the land?  Certainly not.  Are there people out there right now who wish that all those “uppity” black people are not picking cotton or shining shoes by day and eating watermelon and singing in the cabins by night?  Of course there are.  There are plenty of people in the world who hate people who are not JUST LIKE THEM—whites who hate non-whites, blacks who hate non-blacks, Baptists who hate Catholics, Catholics who hate Baptists; good grief, look at the middle east—Christians and Muslims have been brutally killing each other (in the name of the same god) for centuries.  (One of my favourite illustrations of the stupidity of this is the Star Trek (The Original Series) episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, in my opinion one of the better episodes of the entire series, in which two survivors== of a catastrophic planet-wide war are beamed on board the Enterprise—and continue their fight to the death, until finally returning to their own planet—which has been totally destroyed, all inhabitants lost; the two continue their battle to the death.  Cause of the hatred—they are pigmented black on one side, white on the other—except different sides.  Both consider the other’s pigmentation reprehensible and inferior—which is silly to the crew of the Enterprise and to all of us; what possible difference could it make?).


Commissioner Bele (Frank Gorshin), explaining to a puzzled Captain Kirk and a skeptical Lt. Uhura why being white on the left and black on the right is far superior to being white on the right and black on the left…

Are there a bunch of people who feel threatened by gay marriage?  Yes. 

Are there a bunch of religious people who don’t like it?  Yes.

Are there a bunch of conservative people who don’t like it?  Yes.

Does this mean that we should allow discrimination, because to end it means some group is offended?  If so, we should allow discrimination against black people because some whites are offended that they’re allowed the same rights; we should allow discrimination against women because some men are offended they’re allowed the same rights; the list is endless.  Before long, we’d just destroy the whole society—like the planet Cheron on Star Trek above.

Can a cake baker discriminate against an interracial couple because some religion or another dislikes it?  No.  Can she discriminate because she dislikes two men or two women marrying?  No.

Should churches and ministers be forced to marry gay couples?  No.  (They can believe what they want and handle their church as they wish—excluding gays, blacks, whites, or whomever they desire.  We do have limits on things churches can do; sacrificing children to Baal is not allowed in the United States…).  Religious people, know this:  You have the right to believe whatever you want—but so do the rest of us.

Government and businesses should be forced to give everyone the same rights.

Businesses are leading the way.  They know it’s coming and they’re out in front.

The Courts are headed there.

It’s coming.

Let’s just all agree that everyone should be equal and get on with it, shall we?



Please support the Human Rights Campaign, I do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Family Stuff, and MUTANTS!

All my life, Mother collected her crystal, china, and silver patterns.  “A Southern Belle Primer” details southerners and their dedication to Crystal, China, and Silver patterns.  It’s just in our genes.

Mother’s crystal pattern was Fostoria American.  It wasn’t glamorous; it was classed as “everyday crystal” (that you have to wash by hand because you can’t put it in the dishwasher).  She had a ton of it.  We gave it to her for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and she was always glad to get it.  As an adult, when I ived next door to them in Arkansas, I went shopping (at flea markets and antique stores) for the more esoteric pieces.  Long and short, she wound up with a LOT. 

Now it’s at my house.

One of the things I never got was the Old Fashioned glass.  It’s a bit small and strangely shaped for what it is.  Notwithstanding, it is NOT cheap.  I have other Old Fashioned’s (some crystal, some glass) that are bigger/nicer, so I had plenty already and wasn’t looking to add.

But—at an estate sale this last weekend, 2 doors down from me, there it sat.  One.  How they only had one…?  $1.  It’s here in my hand, with the ice slowly melting with the whiskey.  With my weight-loss program, any whiskey is too much, but ya know…gotta live a LITTLE bit.  So, I actually measure—and filled with ice, this is exactly 2 jiggers.  Cheers, Mom!


So, I’m sitting in my “little den” listening to my Magnificent Magnavox cranking out Henry Mancini loud enough to disturb the neighbors, sitting in a chair that’s been in my family since the 1920’s…(snif—the Maggie is going to the shop.  She’ll be fabulous when she gets back, though—full recap, revamp turntable, clean/repair.  I can rock the house now, what’s it going to be like when it’s fully restored?  Quick funny aside—I’m taking it to Dawson’s TV & Appliance here in Houston to be repaired.  The shop is a shambles; it used to be a beautiful store, gleaming (note to my friend Lisa Alston Lulick—it’s directly next to Dick-n-son’s Winking smile.  Mr. Dawson sold me the first television set that I bought as an adult, new, from a dealer.  I moved to Houston, was staying on a buddy’s couch—my apartment wasn’t ready yet and the movers weren’t there with my stuff—but by God I had a TV, a 19 inch RCA Colortrak “Tabletop” model that I used for decades; $500.  Mr. Dawson is long-dead (he was old then), but the guy my age who was apprenticing there is still there—and knows how to fix this old equipment.  Mr. Dawson was an authorized Magnavox dealer, so this kid learned how.  He’s an old man now too (like me).  I can’t wait.  I love my Magnavox collection.  When I die?  That would seem to be a Nathan problem). (I have a Custom Imperial for Nathan, and one each for David, Rachel, and Matt).


…while my dinner cooks.

I’ve done several of the family recipes over the years, usually with fairly decent success.  I’ve never assayed Mom’s meatloaf, though.  For one thing, she did it better than anybody else.  I can’t imagine that mine would even be edible compared with hers.

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I got my sister to write down Mom’s recipe (I watched Mother; she didn’t have a recipe, she just knew what she was doing); my sister had stood behind her taking notes.  I wish either of us had done so for her chocolate pie….

So it’s in my Magnalite roaster right now. 

It calls for 1 egg, but I used more of everything, so I used 2 eggs.

I’m persnickety about eggs.  I like ‘em uber-fresh, and I buy only organic, antibiotic-free eggs from cage free, free roaming hens.  They’re $5 a dozen.  One of my little splurges. 

So I got the eggs at the store when I bought oats (OATS?  Mother always put them in—so I bought them.  Jeebus, the box will mold before I ever use that many, I hate oatmeal).  Went in to crack them and…


2 yolks PER EGG!!!!  Ok, maybe that’s common but **I’ve** never seen it!

(We’ll see how the meat loaf turns out.  Mom never had Whataburger spicy ketchup to put on it, either Winking smile). 

Cheers again, Mom!




A quick internet search says “they lucky!” so by golly, I’ll take all the luck I can get!

What do you think?

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Two of my current round of TV shows wound up this week (or at least I watched the final episodes of the season this week):  Downton Abbey and House of Cards.

I confess, I have a weakness for soap opera.  I came by it honestly.  When I was a tyke, my Mother still worked at Southwestern Bell.  My grandmother lived with us; she and my cousin Neda came to stay when Mother was pregnant with me and never left.  Neda married and moved out, but Grannie lived with us the rest of her life.

Grannie had a crew of “running buddies”; Mrs. Ledbetter, Mrs. Bidwell, and our next-door neighbor, Mollie Fowler.  Mrs. Fowler was a scream.  Every morning, she’d wait for her grown son, Furman (with whom she lived) to leave for his job at Ford Motor Company.  Ford had a huge plant in Dallas at the time, and Furman had a pretty nice job there; he had the first Mustang any of us ever saw, a 1964 1/2 red Mustang convertible. 

Anyway, Mrs. Fowler would wait till Furman left; then she’d peek out the curtains and wait for Mother to leave, first on the bus, then, when we became a “two-car family”, in her shiny black Chevrolet.  As soon as Mom was good and gone, Mrs. Fowler would scoot through the hedge and over to our house, usually bringing doughnuts or bear claws or fried pies or whatever.  She and Grannie would pile up on Mother’s smart sectional with coffee and doughnuts, with me on the floor with my own coffee (yes, they let me have it) and doughnuts while we watched “Love of Life”.  They’d sit there and shout advice (“You’d better watch out, girl!  He’s up to no good!”) at the actresses.


A quick aside about “the girls”.  They played bingo at the American Legion Hall every Friday and Saturday night.  Mrs. Bidwell was the only one who still drove, and the only one with a car—a red Falcon.  They’d pile in the Falcon and go to the Legion Hall, play bingo and drink beer (one each per night) till the place closed, then come home late.   Astonishingly, Mother let me go with them occasionally, and I remember the Hall and the Caller and the bingo cards.  They had these little sliding things that slid over the numbers, very professional.  When somebody got a bingo, they’d holler “BINGO”, and one of the workers would come over and read the card off to the Caller; if it checked out, they won whatever prize was offered that round.  I still have 2 items Grannie won playing bingo.  They’d let me have a card, but those old bats would have 4 cards going at once.  They were in it to win it, play hard or go home.

Anyway, from there, my soap watching progressed to 1965 (summers only then, as I was in school).  A new show came on, Days of Our Lives.  It profiled the Horton family, a doctor and his wife, their children, and all the trials and tribulations of the small town of Salem.  The first real bad-guy on there (there were lots of baddies, but this was the first “supervillain”) was Victor Kiriakis.  (This is important for later in this blog).  (The part of Victor has been portrayed for the entire run by John Aniston, father of Jennifer Aniston).

2008 version

I’ve followed the goings-on in Salem on and off for almost 50 years.

A friend of mine is a fellow Days fan; we lived through the Salem Stalker and the abduction of most of the town to Melaswen Island (New Salem spelled backward); we lived through Bo and Hope; Kate and Roman; the trials and tribulations of John Black/Roman/John Black (as of this writing, he’s back to not knowing who he really is); the great Brady-DiMera feud, etc.

When I was in college, we scheduled classes so as to be at home to watch Days.

Then, my senior year, an astonishing thing happened:  CBS piloted a show that was a night-time soap—and it was set in DALLAS.  I was in college in Waco, and we thought Dallas was the be-all and end-all, so we were delighted—until we watched the first episode, in which—astonishingly—a hurricane strikes Dallas!!!  And it’s a SURPRISE hurricane, nobody knew it was coming!  “It won’t last”, we sighed sadly.  Of course, we all know the rest of that story…and it spawned Knots Landing, and inspired Dynasty and Falcon Crest….

I remember this Dallas. The Village is directly behind the gold tower.

I was with that same group of friends, but in my apartment in Dallas 2 years later, when JR Ewing was shot—and we all collectively screamed.  You could also hear screams from all over the complex, there were Dallas watch-parties all over in our age group.  We all lived in The Village, a huge group of apartment complexes in Dallas that were singles-ville.  It was like the dorms, except we were all grown up and had jobs….


Ol’ JR.  Make mine a bourbon and branch, darlin’.

There have been other soaps through the years, and of course the hysterical parody “Soap”, starring the divinely hilarious Katherine Helmond.  Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman!  And who could ever forget Carol Burnett’s hysterical send-up of the soaps as Marian in “As the Stomach Turns”, occasionally featuring Harvey Korman’s most hilarious drag sequences ever, as “Mother Marcus, Canoga Falls’s leading yenta and chicken soup pusher.”  When last we left Canoga Falls…

Marian consults Mother Marcus

So that brings us back to the present.  I love Downton Abbey.  I love House of Cards.  Dallas is back with a new generation of Ewings, John Ross and Christopher, and the Barnes-Ewing feud is still going strong. 

And on Days of Our Lives, the hot supercouple is a beautiful (naturally—this is soap!) young gay couple.  Their names?  Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis.

Long live the soaps!


Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis