Monday, December 20, 2010

The Top-Heaviness of Christmas

Brownie Superior Sunset
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The first day of winter—and thus, the shortest day of the year—is hours away as I write this. Living only a few miles from 45 degrees north latitude (the halfway point between the Equator and North Pole), tomorrow’s sunrise is scheduled for 7:43 a.m. while sunset will occur at 4:32 p.m. When the days get this short, most of us know that Christmas is near… unless one lives in the Southern Hemisphere.

I was thinking earlier today about how top-heavy our world is—top-heavy as in dominated by the values of the societies found in the Northern Hemisphere. (On a fragmented sidenote here: From the perspective of outer space and someone who has never looked at a world map, I suppose it could be thought of as bottom-heavy too.)

For all that, it’s unlikely that many Christian-based folk here on Earth consider a gathering around the barbecue during the long days of Christmas unless they live in places like Chile, Australia or New Zealand.

As a kid, I remember the stories of Jesus and his birth on a cold winter’s night… well, as cold as it gets during an Israeli winter. We were never told anything about “a cold winter’s night in the Northern Hemisphere.” What I’m getting to here is that the emphasis of the Christmas story has always been placed on the season, not the actual date of the calendar.

That gets me thinking.

I wonder what it would be like if Christmas was celebrated twice every year—once in the Northern Hemisphere and once in the Southern Hemisphere. Allow me to think aloud here as I haven’t figured out what to do with those living in close proximity to the equator.

Imagine, Christmas… twice in a year, every year. Yeah, that could be a bit much for those like myself, but the retailers would love it, wouldn’t they? Maybe we could order up another sun as well, so we’d never live in darkness again.

And this… the folks in New Zealand wouldn’t have to stay up late just to walk or drive around to look at the Christmas lights. If the Southern Hemisphere celebrated Christmas on June 25 instead of December 25, it would be a universal experience every time it was celebrated—nasty winter weather, fireplaces crackling, dark beers, and short days with plenty of Christmas lights.

My argument becomes more poignant when considering Easter. As you may (or may not) know, Easter always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon of the Spring Equinox. As Christians, how do we live with ourselves in making our Southern Hemisphere brethren celebrate the resurrection of our Lord during autumn—the season of harvest and living things that die?

By the way, the sun rises on Invercargill, New Zealand at 5:48 a.m. tomorrow, and it won’t go down until 9:35 p.m.—only four days away from Christmas.

Just imagine.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Clichés, Hysteria, Ridicule... and Football

Discarded Program
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Recently, I wrote the following to the Powell Tribune regarding their lack of coverage (as I see it) in some of the outlying communities.

Dear Editor:
If the Powell Tribune can run a front page story about the monastery’s green light in Meeteetse, why can’t we get a little coverage on the same community’s athletics—even if it’s only the scores?

On a related note, the Tribune had a photographer covering the homecoming parade in Cowley for Rocky Mountain High School and not a word (or image) that the game played that evening was the first home game at their new field. What a missed opportunity that was. I wonder how many of your readers would rather have learned about the new venue and game outcome in Cowley as opposed to the ridiculously overworked piece on the various 3A playoff scenarios—all for a 4-3 football team that will likely be one-and-done in whatever playoffs setting that finds them.
—Morgan Tyree

The 4-3 football team I referenced above was our own local Powell High School football team. In the next issue of the Tribune, the following letter was printed from Powell High School’s head football coach Jim Stringer.

Life’s LessonsDear Editor:
My grandfather was a wise man, and he taught me many great lessons in life. Don’t get me wrong, Grandpa wasn’t a well-educated man in the image of great intellectual philosophers, problem solving rocket scientists or small college assistant professors of graphics arts/printing, however, he knew people and he knew dignity and he knew how to use one to treat the other.

As I learned the value of honest hard work living on my grandparent’s farm during the summer months of my elementary years, Grandpa also taught me important lessons in respect, appropriate social behavior and interpersonal communications. Many of the lessons continue to transcend time as sage clichés recognized and understood by most, such as: “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

Or… “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.”

And one of my personal favorites… “It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Now, my grandfather knew that the latter was not always possible, so he would sometimes follow it up with the age-old classic, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

While this concept seems to be less and less popular in today’s society of reality TV drama, social entitlement and malicious free speech, it would be nice if an educated fool could ponder the impact of his words on many innocent young men of our community. Mr. Tyree, I have no knowledge of personal wrong doing or atrocities committed on you by members of the Powell High School football program so the motivation behind your deliberate and unprovoked attacks over the years completely baffle me.

Maybe it is because of another lesson I learned from my dear departed grandfather, “Misery loves company.” Mr. Tyree, you must be one of the most miserable individuals around to feel the need to ridicule young men for wanting to be a part of something wholesome and greater than themselves. Professionally, I find it reprehensible that another educator would deliberately and publicly insult the community’s youth and seek to demean their efforts and goals. It is unspeakable and inexcusable, and as a father of a young football player and proud member of our school community, I find your remarks tawdry and offensive.

Considering the number of young men and families you have malevolently insulted within our community, I only hope they will be able to subscribe to another of Grandpa’s wise old sayings, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” —Alexander Pope
Jim Stringer
Powell, Wyo.

Here’s my response to the esteemed coach.

Dear Editor,
“It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”
—Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in the movie Tombstone.

After reciting a litany of worn-out sayings that he subscribes to such as, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” Powell head football coach, Jim Stringer then turns around and in the same breath, refers to me as an “educated fool,” and “one of the most miserable individuals around.”

Golly Coach, that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say. What’s that your grandpa said again?

And all that for simply saying your football team is 4-3 and “will likely be one-and-done in whatever playoffs setting that finds them.” I actually thought my criticism leveled toward the Tribune was more severe.

I strongly disagree that my brief comment about the local football team was an attack on the community’s youth or families. I am not one to pull punches, and had I intended to insult, it would not have required a long-winded, sanctimonious analysis by Stringer to point it out.

Stringer’s use of the word “ridicule” jumped out at me beyond his “lessons with Grandpa” that he learned long ago. I looked up the word “ridicule” right after reading Stringer’s letter because (as an “educated fool”) I wanted to be sure I really knew and understood its meaning—especially since I was being accused of it.

Ridicule: the subjection of someone or something to mockery and derision.
Since when was referring to a team by its win and loss record and predicting they will only last one game in the playoffs a form of mocking... how is it derisive/harsh? How is it so unreasonable as it is realistic? How does a football coach allow such a minor-league quip from a wimpy, 50-year-old rile him?

The truth be told, after spewing such hysterical drivel, I only wish to ridicule Stringer for coming up with such a poor and exaggerated interpretation of anything I’ve actually said about the Powell football program. Might his response be an illustration of the overly-sensitive climate that has gripped our country in the past decade, thus spurring the “Sanity Rally” this past week in Washington, D.C.? Of all the comical signs that were toted around, one in particular seems appropriate for Stringer to heed: “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”

Ironically, I can’t help but think that our model-of-toughness in Coach Stringer is rather thin skinned—and worse, suggests that his players (i.e., “innocent young men”) are the same. My guess here is that his football players who read my comments have easily recovered from the “ridicule” without counseling. Surely the trash talk they hear from their opponents on the other side of the ball during any given contest will render my words fairly inert in comparison. If not, perhaps football isn’t their game.

From my perspective, Coach Stringer blew a perfect opportunity in the handling of an unintelligent remark from an armchair quarterback (that would be me). Rather than responding with a personal attack on the commentator, Stringer could simply have addressed his team sometime before the big playoff game with, “OK boys, let’s show that lamebrain Morgan Tyree how stupid he is when it comes to Powell football!”

And had they actually won their first-round playoff game, perhaps a sharp rebuke could have followed in the next edition of the Tribune from the team captain that said, “Powell 28, Riverton 14. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Morgan Tyree.” Rather, the seasoned head football coach responded like a spoiled little girl who was knocked down in a mud puddle.

I admit to being blunt and not having the most tact, but in a world full of Pollyannas (i.e., see Stringer’s worn-out and trite clichés), the last thing I want to be is another person who sugar-coats mediocrity in all of its forms—football included.

Perhaps my upbringing in Northeast Ohio (the cradle of professional football by the way) explains my crude perspective on football (or sports)—so, again, my apologies. Fans of the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes or the Massillon Tigers have never hesitated to praise or take jabs at their favorite team.

Be assured, the Powell football team or its coaching staff have never brought “personal wrong doing or atrocities” upon me as Stringer ponders. However, given that the coach considers comments I’ve made over the years related to the Powell football team as “deliberate and unprovoked attacks,” that could explain his attacks on my character.

Nevertheless, I am only a critic and the last I heard, that was permissible, even if considered “tasteless” or not popular. I do not speak as an educator (again, something pointed out by Coach Stringer) when it comes to football as I am not an authority—merely a fan of the game… with an opinion. Therefore, I seek no forgiveness in expressing such opinions as Stringer has subtly suggested. Nor does he need to seek forgiveness from me for the personal comments he’s directed at my character. It’s all good.

Lastly... I like Lovell’s chances.
—Morgan Tyree
Touted keeper of “vitriolic negativity”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams: Objective Subjectivity or Vice Versa

One has to wonder—even the most liberal-minded of us—if NPR made a big mistake in terminating news analyst Juan Williams for his insensitive and opinionated remarks about Muslims on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor.

I’m still processing it.

Some have pointed out that this event has been a long time coming since Williams has weighed in before on other controversial issues—on the same program.

Perhaps it’s a no-win situation for NPR. Had they not reacted at all, hard-core, left-leaning NPR listeners surely would have been calling for his resignation—especially if he had expressed such feelings on one of NPR’s programs.

Many comments are coming in that NPR doesn’t respect Williams’ first amendment rights of free speech unless it is in line with their views. That’s doubtful. Everyone in this country has the right to free speech, but are there really any guarantees when it comes to free speech and job security—especially in the journalism profession?

Perhaps NPR is only guilty in its zeal for objectivity—much like Fox’s zeal for subjectivity. Just take a look at their nightly line-up of opinion-based programming (see image above).

NPR made the following statement following Williams’ termination, “…his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” Translation: If your career is that of a news analyst, that pretty much means you’re about as objective as they come, so you shouldn’t be out there expressing opinions in any public forums—especially on one of the most opinionated shows in the country.
And I thought Daniel Schorr lived a long life, but now I’m thinking he didn’t live long enough in having the opportunity to chime in on this little drama.

From That Minority
What Williams said was dumb, plain and simple. But it was also “dumb” for National Public Radio—one of his media employers—to summarily fire him. Williams deserves the opportunity to defend himself, and at the very least explain what he meant and why he said what he said. And there are few better places for open and honest discourse than NPR. Even if his termination was inevitable, wouldn’t a few moments of clarity been of benefit to both Williams and the listening audience? If not NPR, where? Trust us, discussions of prejudice are best left off cable news. If Don Imus and Dr. Laura were given the chance to illuminate their moments of idiocy, why not Williams?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Goldilocks’ Planets, coffee, algae, and the Gospel

Wall Drug Dino
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
After hearing a story about the finding of a Goldilocks’ planet like our own (not too hot, not too cold, just right), I was reminded of an Arthur C. Clarke quote about whether or not we (Humans on Earth) are alone in the Universe. Then I took a tangent off into religion and from there, posted the following on my Facebook wall...

Let’s just say we not only discover life on one of these planets, but we make contact with intelligent life as well. Will Christians be obligated/encouraged to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

You can read or listen to the story here.

The following comments came in—most of which were on the light-hearted side of the spectrum.

Right after the 1st Starbucks opens there!

Christians will probably engage in evangelism and Muslims will engage in jihad. But cynicism aside, wouldn’t it be cool to find some kind of life somewhere else? Even if it were only algae.

A few days past and then one of my friends on Facebook sent me this as a message:

I was curious about your comment regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and Christians. I think I was offended by what you had to say and I wanted to be sure before I would make a comment on your wall.

I thought it was a fair question and as cynical as I can be, I felt an explanation was due that had a little more thought to it. Perhaps this is what I should have posted for starters...

Aside the light-hearted feedback regarding coffee, the question I offered up was sincere. I suppose directing the question at Christianity is only because I thought there would be more who would weigh in—I doubt I have many “friends” here on FB who are Muslim, Jewish or other established faiths.

The question is an extension of an Arthur C. Clarke (sci-fi author): “Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

I don’t recall ever hearing (or reading) anything about this “scenario”—in the Bible or in church when I attended regularly. That said, I’m not making any claims on authority here. Thus, my question.

At this point in time, it might seem a bit far-fetched, but given mankind’s curiosity and ability to see deeper into the universe, might it be an issue that those of faith will have to wrestle with someday should such proof be presented or contact made?

I found myself considering the two possible directions should such proof materialize and how it could be a conundrum—1. in sharing and preaching the Gospel with/to other intelligent life (non-Human), how does that sit with the teachings of the Bible that are leveled at mankind on Earth only? 2. in not sharing and/or preaching the Gospel with/to this same group, might that be seen as dismissive—elevating ourselves above another intelligent life form as if they were looked upon as animals on Earth—especially if their intelligence is superior to ours?

I hope this explanation clears things up and is not considered offensive as much as it might be simply naive. Regardless, feel free to comment on my wall as you see fit.

… or here in the case of this Facebook-thread-turned-blog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dialogue Diplomacy

Zenning Clint
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I read the Northwest Trail with interest about the facilitator visits on campus recently here at Northwest College. As some of you know, Dr. Pamila Fisher—a facilitator and mediator—was invited to assist us in working through the turmoil of last year as a result of a few significant and controversial events. In particular what caught my attention was her call to “creating a positive environment” by avoiding the use of email and blogs to criticize one another.


I agree with Dr. Fisher’s declaration as long as we’re focusing on the idea of personal attacks via email and blogs. But, I have to wonder if her counsel could be misconstrued, thus demonizing those who voice their opinions via email and blogs—like me.

Lately, there’s been much talk about the merits of face-to-face discussions over email and blogging. I don’t want to pooh-pooh dialog in the flesh but, it has its drawbacks as well when compared to email and blogging. For one, face-to-face discussions can get quite “passionate” leading to the parties involved saying things they regret. Further, face-to-face meetings often don’t include everyone that should be considered in the discussion.

On the other hand, email and blogging gets everyone involved (that wants to be involved) right away—and if nothing else, produces concerned spectators. “Hiding behind one’s computer” (as some consider it) allows for rationale, careful and organized thoughts to be worked out. Sure I’ve said a few things I regretted after pressing the “send” button, but I’ve regretted much worse and more often when carrying out a discussion in person.

I’m not advocating email and blogging over face-to-face dialog, but I’m also not saying face-to-face is clearly superior either.

Dr. Fisher was quoted in the Trail saying, “I also encourage you that while you’re practicing these things (i.e., not emailing or blogging?) and you have a colleague who does not, to consider having the courage to stand up to them and suggest that it might be better if they did. That’s probably the toughest one on the list.”

Consider me told. Nevertheless, I can be found in FAB 13 where I will gladly refer you to this entry.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Mosque Masquerade

Ebert Construction
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I’m thinking about building a mosque in my backyard. One problem: there might not be enough space given my small, in-town lot. Perhaps I’ll settle for a lone minaret.

It would probably be a good idea to convert to Islam before I get started too. I don’t want to come across as some disrespectful infidel mocking Islam.

I don’t know... Honestly, my heart’s not really into it. But, if I had the disposable cash and a little less common sense, I’d do all of these just to piss off the growing gathering of Islamophobiacs.

Islamophobia 101...
Islamophobiac is another name for the God-fearing, banner-waving, Fox-News-crazed, wear-it-on-your-sleeve, love-it-or-leave-it “Americans” who oppose the new Cordoba House Islamic Cultural Center slated for construction near “ground zero” in Lower Manhatten. The cultural center has been likened to a typical urban YMCA, but will include a mosque instead of a chapel.

It comes as no surprise that Islamophobiacs are the same folk who believe President Obama is a Muslim and was born overseas too. Too bad he isn’t a Muslim for the same reason as in paragraph number three.

One I-phobiac said, “It’s a deliberate Muslim thumb in the eye to survivors of the terrorist attacks to build the facility on such hallowed ground.” Admittedly, when I first heard of this, I assumed we were talking about the first-ever mosque destined for New York City—or at least Manhattan. Then, I heard a sound bite about an existing mosque somewhere else in town. Later, I wondered if I had heard correctly and found myself googling “mosque in New York City” that resulted in the graphic with this blog. So, what do the I-phobiacs make of the half-dozen or more Islamic centers and mosques that are already in Manhattan—or the city’s 100-plus mosques located throughout its five boroughs?

Here’s another argument against the cultural center that jumped out at me... “The whole connotation of putting a mosque on conquered lands has overtones here.” Since when was New York City classified as “conquered?” Has anyone considered informing a typical New Yorker that they have been “conquered?” Whoever sides with this viewpoint should take a lesson from the Japanese about all the Americans that were in their country (running it) after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled. I think they lost a few more than 3,000 civilians too. Anyone care to have a discussion about “turning the other cheek?”

Since a handful of Muslims brought down the World Trade Center, I could argue that we need to tear down the synagogues since a handful of Jews crucified Jesus? And surely the churches would be fair game too since their members have killed prostitutes, doctors, teachers and government workers—all in the name of Jesus.

Come to think of it, might as well get rid of religion altogether because all it does is make us feel good about ourselves (and there’s plenty of that going around these days) while excusing us to kill those who don't use the same nuts and bolts when it comes to worshipping God.

Location, Location, Location...
And all of this because the cultural center would be a mere two blocks from the hallowed “ground zero.” Isn’t two blocks in New York City/Manhatten pretty much like... two different worlds? If two blocks is really too close, how far is far enough? Four blocks? How about anywhere but Lower Manhatten? Anywhere but NYC? Sadly, I believe the most popular average American answer is “Anywhere but America.”

Maybe “Anywhere But America” will be the next bumper sticker along with “Not My President.”

I understand where the opponents of this project are coming from. Even President Obama questioned the sensibility of it all. Knowing the building will be so close to Ground Zero, I can almost appreciate how some might feel salt is being rubbed into our wounds, especially if they are truly unaware of all the other mosques in the New York City “gigalopolis.”

And perhaps that’s what really needs to happen here. Given America’s predominant Christian roots, this is the time to practice one of the more memorable teachings of Christ—as it relates to the events of September 11, 2001—“in turning the other cheek.” That said, even now might be too late given the two wars we initiated. Nevertheless, the opportunity to appreciate and welcome a lesson in tough love has arrived. As a country, we would do well in the eyes of the world if we simply all sat down, shut up and took our medicine. And wouldn’t that at least be a modest and admirable Christian gesture?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Facebook: Junk Food for the Internet?

Custard Squares
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Someone asked me not too long ago about this blog—in particular, where have I been and why haven’t I posted anything lately. Indeed, I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought and though many excuses come to mind, one in particular seems to ring louder than the others.

I’m blaming Facebook. But, it’s not as simple as you might think.

Before giving into the pressure of joining Facebook just over a year ago, when I had something to say, I did so here. And for the most part, it was pretty thoughtful and deliberate (not to be confused with intelligent)—often taking days before I actually posted something. Then, along comes Facebook with its limiting-number-of-characters status updates which has provided myself (and others to be sure) the chance to comment only briefly... but often. That is to say, although I’ve had several thoughts about posting something here about the “ground-zero mosque” controversy, I’ve had my say about it on Facebook even if I wasn’t very thorough or articulate. As a result of my Facebook posts, there is no wind remaining for my blogging sails on this particular topic. I suppose what it all boils down to is this: I’m doing what everyone else is doing—catering to the short-attention span of our 21st Century world.

Further, this inclination of replacing long-winded blogs (relatively speaking) with Facebook status updates about everything that is on my mind (and I’ll refrain from any discussion about Twitter) is akin to one moving from three nutritious meals per day to nibbling on nothing but junk food throughout the day. Surely, I won’t die of starvation, but it doesn’t feel all that healthy either.

Then there is the discussion about addictive behavior as it relates to Facebook. Perhaps that should be saved for when we break up into smaller groups.

It’s hardly New Year’s, but I feel it might be a good idea to make a resolution with myself here and now—something like: less Facebook with a recommitment to more meaningful and substantial material here.

Is it possible? I’m not sure, but in the meantime feel free to friend me on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

“Staycations” and Low Gas Prices

Bed & Chair
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Comment posted to NPR’s Talk of the Nation

Regarding today’s discussion about getting the most of your summer vacation...

When one of your guest brought up the point that gas prices are down, she eluded to the idea that we can go farther in considering travel destinations. True—and I bet the big oil companies loved hearing her make this suggestion.

I sat there thinking how unfortunate it was that no one brought up the idea of continuing the practice or at least considering the “staycations.”

Imagine if “staycations” continued to be a popular form of recreation despite dirt-cheap gas prices—as a form of protest to what has unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico and other past oil-related catastrophes; as a form of protest signaling that we will continue with this frugal behavior until something better for the earth is presented to us in our transportation needs.

Just imagine...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

“We Need It All” —Senator John Barrasso

Light Speed & Wind Speed
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Wyoming’s U.S. Senator John Barrasso was recently interviewed on Wyoming Public Radio’s Open Spaces where he was asked several questions about today’s energy issues—in particular those about energy regulation and transmission lines in the Cowboy State. When discussing his support (or non-support) for renewable and fossil-based energy, seven times he used the term (or a reference to it), “We need it all.”

So... that’s it from Senator John Barrasso when it comes to solving our energy woes: “We need it all.” Not one word from Barrasso about conservation of energy or energy efficiency when it comes to our excessive consumption.

We need it all.

If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the good senator weighs over 400 pounds. Rather than acknowledging he has a weight problem, his response is to simply say he needs more food to maintain is weight and perhaps even get bigger.

I was reminded of the shallow thinking that came from many of our top leaders following the attacks on September 11, 2001. Most outstanding were the words that came from former New York City major Rudy Giuliani when he told reporters during a news conference on September 12, 2001, “Go to restaurants, go shopping, do things, show that you’re not afraid.” Former President George W. Bush basically said the same thing several times too—including urging us to “...get down to Disney World.”

The promotion of consumerism—for whatever reason—seems to be the call to arms in this day and age when things aren’t going our way. Should oil prices soar even higher because it becomes harder to come by, I wonder if Barrasso will use the same approach as Giuliani and company in advising us to take a road trip.

In sorting out our ongoing energy conundrum, I would like to know whatever happen to the promotion of true conservatism? Rather than acknowledging that we will continue to use more energy than ever, when will one of our leaders call us out on the carpet and say, “You know son, it’s time we had a little talk about these 30-minute hot showers you take twice a day.” More importantly, if someone does blurt out the obvious, will we be humble and honest enough to acknowledge such a critique or will be become defensive while wearing patriotism on our sleeve as we’ve done so many times in the past when backed into a corner?

I was surprisingly encouraged today when listening in on President Obama’s press conference regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He indirectly eluded to Barrasso’s folly which tells me one thing—Obama gets it. Here are his comments (and off the cuff) regarding our precarious lifestyle when it comes to energy.

Now, let me make one broader point, though, about energy. The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky.

And so that’s part of the reason you never heard me say, “Drill, baby, drill” —because we can’t drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources, but we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.

And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept. And that’s part of what the commission I think is going to have to look at.

I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow—we’re going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we’re going to have to start moving on this transition. And that’s why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, let’s work together. You’ve got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham—even though Lindsey is not on the bill right now—coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support, and says, yes, we’re going to still need oil production, but you know what, we can see what’s out there on the horizon, and it’s a problem if we don't start changing how we operate.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Palin Takes A Hitt

Cattle Sign
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Here are some classic excerpts from the June 2010 issue of the Harper’s Magazine article titled “Is Sarah Palin Porn?” written by contributing editor Jack Hitt.

Modern television politics, we are usually told, begins with the famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. If you look back to them, what you see is not merely the first presidential candidate to realize that packaged talking points come off convincingly on television but also an obituary for a lost political style. Critics always note that Nixon looked crummy in those debates—the five-o’clock shadow, the sweats, the sideways glances, the tugging at his infamous dewlaps. But those gestures are not what sank Nixon. They were merely symptoms of what Nixon was doing, and he was the last politician ever to do it on live TV: Nixon was thinking.

...At a recent “tea party” gathering, she leaned over the lectern and sneered, “How’s that hopey, changely stuff working out for you?” It was a great bit, but a great written bit.

Here Palin most resembles Reagan, but cut her loose from her speechwriters and she shrivels into Dan Quayle. It would not be fair to make this case if she’d had only a few frozen moments with television interviewers. But without a tight script or notes scrawled on her palm, she quickly becomes confused. Her itinerant syntax is now legendary, what Bill Maher calls her gift for unspooling the “sentence to nowhere.” You don’t need to be an English teacher correcting an essay to know that the student did not read the assignment and is slipping into classic high school bullshit.

When Rahm Emanuel referred to liberal activists as “retarded” in a private conversation, she opportunistically pounced. Typically, conservatives stay away from the political-correctness angle. But Palin howled that she was deeply offended. Unfortunately. Rush Limbaugh shortly thereafter denounced the retards in the White House. Retard, retard, retard—he said it forty times, with the usual honking, farting, grandmother-horrifying derision that passes for humor on radio these days. The day after that, Palin defended Limbaugh, drawing a meandering distinction between Emanuel’s comments and Limbaugh’s “satire.” The very next day, an actual satirist, Stephen Colbert, made the argument that “we should all come to her defense and say Sarah Palin is a fucking retard.” For once, Palin shut up.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother, Mom, Mum... Erma

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
For those of you who remember my mother, Erma, I’m happy to tell you that she is still making deserts, tending to her garden during the growing season, pampering her dog Mandy, and finding projects for my dad around the house.

On this mother’s day I thought I would tip my hat to her for the life she has carried on; especially the one that had to deal with me when I was such a disrespectful, self-serving, arrogant teenager.

Erma Wilma Kline Tyree is now 81-years-old.

My mother was the second daughter and the seventh child born to Thomas and Stella Kline. Seven more siblings came after her as well—fourteen children in all. Here is the line-up: Velma, Earl, Gayle, Herb, Fred, Paul, Erma, Imogene, Shirley, Hillis, Russell, Elenor, Leo, and Dorreen. Of this list, six have passed on including the oldest and the youngest.

Raising children throughout the 60s and 70s, my mother was probably not much different than others during this period. She was a stay-at-home mom which seems luxurious compared to the mothers of today’s kids. I could always count on her to make sure I was awake on time and ready for school, while having a lunch ready for me when I returned home midday. Whatever activities/sports I participated in, she was there to witness my accomplishments and failures and lend an ear of support.

Erma & Pauline Ave House
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I learned many things from my mother. She taught me to behave around girls/women as I entered courtship, she encouraged me to fight my own fights and challenge anyone that spoke untruths. She didn’t tell me who I should make friends with and who I shouldn’t, but she told me a lot about what to look for in a friend. Many of these friends that she welcomed into our home often told me she was a “looker,” but I saw her as the person who kept me in line, took care of me and rewarded me when she saw fit. Several times when I was in high school, I would come home at some point in the evening with a few friends and she would drop whatever she was doing and make us all some of her delicious French Toast. She has always been willing to feed or offer drink to whoever has come around.

As a junior and senior in high school, I was stupid enough to tell my mother during any given disagreement how much I looked forward to moving out after I graduated. And indeed I did—going off to college in far-away Arizona. Fortunately, during my freshman year at ASU, I realized how good I had it thanks to her and—soon after—how much I truly missed her.

Grand Erma
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Each year I travel back to Akron to visit her and my dad. This year will be no different. I’m uncertain as to how many years are left for such visits, but everything about her is permanently written into my fiber.

Along with my own mother, there are a few others who took me in under their wing from time to time as well. These are the “other moms”—the mothers of friends and family.

The Belle of the Ball
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Helen Pryseski lived next door to us and was my best friend’s mom. She always laughed along with our stupid jokes and antics, made the best chocolate chip cookies and was responsible for my appreciation of good chili. During World War II, Helen worked on aircraft that were produced inside Akron’s giant airdock. Never one to get out much, Helen was the quintessential stay-at-home mom who was always upbeat and positive despite losing her oldest son when he was in his 20s.

Phyllis Gilbert was another next-door-mom who raised the five-famous Gilbert kids. Despite the ups and downs between her oldest boys and myself, she always treated me warmly and welcomed me in whenever I came by their house. Florence Henderson’s “Carol Brady” had nothing on Phyllis Gilbert.

Alice Fuller tolerated the taking over of her laundry room by her son Jim and I when we started our own photography business in high school. Even when Jim wasn’t home and we had prints to make, she allowed me to come over after school and set up our basement darkroom while a meal awaited me when I was ready to take a break.

Mamie Lew is Kevin Lew’s mother—my roommate all through college at ASU. I loved this woman before I even met her. She made the best beef jerky and often sent an abundance of it to Kevin with instructions to share it with me. When I travelled home to Oregon with Kev following the completion of another school year, I was as good as adopted in this extensive Chinese-American family.

Orillia LeRoux’s son Bouvier taught me to make tortillas from scratch. He had learned from his mom because she suffered from arthritis. Once I was visiting their place and Bouvie wasn’t home from work yet, and she needed a batch of tortillas to go along with the evening’s dinner. I offered my new skill and following the completion of dinner, Orillia and the entire family paid me several compliments for the tortillas I had made. To this day, every time I make tortillas, I’m thankful for her and the arthritis she endured back then.

Lastly, I can’t forget my grandmother Marcella Tyree who possessed a sharp wit like no one else I knew growing up. She was a prolific crossword puzzler, a wicked card and domino player, scored the Cleveland Indian baseball games she listened to on the radio and always had cookies and milk whenever I visited. Marcella always kissed my friends when I brought them along with me for a visit and truly loved meeting any girlfriends I was willing to introduce to her. An impeccable dresser and always in fashion, she wasn’t shy about discussions that some might have found uncomfortable. One of her more humorous and memorable comments had to do with how she couldn’t do housework in the nude any longer because the wooded area behind their house was being thinned and those living in homes on the other side of the wooded area could now see through.

These accounts above remind me of what Mark Twain once said about his mother, “My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart—a heart so large that everybody’s joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.”

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Weather of Economic Times

Spring Irrigation Ditches
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Even though June 21 is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, that day and the days surrounding it aren’t necessarily the hottest. The same goes with the shortest days of the year not being the coldest.

I suspect this same model applies to global and national economics too. Yet, there seems to be many folk who think that if the administration of Barack Obama was all he and others (like me) made it out to be, we’d be out of the woods by now. As I see it, when Obama assumed the office of the President, that was probably the equivalent of the shortest day of the year—not the coldest.

Have things become worse since he took over? Probably, but not because he has been running the show for 15 months. I chalk it up to the same inertia that brings on the coldest days way beyond those that are the shortest.

Still, I’m not totally happy with every play our President has called, but I knew way back before his election, that whoever won the race, they weren’t going to win the popularity contest that followed. Both candidates promised plenty of pain in turning the country around.

And the promise of pain has certainly found us—as we deserve!

So, are there any signs of spring yet? I suppose it depends on what glasses you might be wearing and what latitude (of economics) you call home. Many economist point toward the “crocuses” of rising oil prices—which isn’t the kind of economic news I personally welcome. Back in December, better economic conditions were reported in consumer spending, moderately improved manufacturing conditions and a slight upswing in real estate activity. Now there is promising news related to jobs, but unemployment is still high. Hardly a banner year, but some signs of life are beginning to take hold.

We’re hardly at the point where we can put away that wooly hat and gloves, but I’m giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. However, if it’s still blustery come 2012, I might reconsider voting for him again, but we should keep in mind that the summer of our economy is still a considerable stretch down the road.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Picking On Posers

Art Tourist
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Art exhibit openings remind me of going to church—to paraphrase the words of Holden Caulfield (the main character of Catcher in the Rye), “…many of its attendees are a bunch of phonies.” And like many church-goers, I attend because there is a certain guilt I take on when I consider not attending. As a fellow artist myself (a questionable declaration), this guilt is rooted in that my non-attendance could be interpreted as not supporting the artist and, in general, the arts. Fortunately, any guilt experienced is not unbearable, but certainly aggravating.

I just attended an exhibit opening last night and walked away with the same disdain I had the last time I attended one—thinking to myself that I’ll never attend another.

Yet, as I sit here and think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is something akin to attending a high school football game—something I can definitely relate to and enjoy. Like a football game, many people attending an art exhibit opening could care less about the art that is on the walls; they are simply there to socialize and discuss anything with the various individuals they seldom see in attendance. Further, there are others who surely attend for the sole purpose of “being seen.” So, why does the insincere motives of an “art-going” crowd get under my skin unlike the insincere motives of the “football-going” crowd?

Added to my consternation for such settings, when I queried a colleague (also an artist) about his thoughts on exhibit openings last night, he concurred with me, but followed up with a reference to the food and drink provided in saying, “Well, this is a pretty good spread here.”

I will confess that in my attendance last night, I did get to visit with a few individuals that I haven’t seen in a spell, but nothing prevents me from calling them up and inviting them to join me over a cup of coffee either. Now that I think about it, attending an art exhibit opening is a material-world version of signing on to Facebook—nothing more than a backdrop for humdrum socializing.

As an aspiring artist myself, the question of whether or not to attend an art exhibit opening is a true conundrum. If given an “opening” for my own exhibit, I’d just assume not have one, but that’s pretty anti-social. Which (as far as I’m concerned) is OK, because being anti-social has nothing to do with an art exhibit.

Perhaps I would feel better about attending art exhibits (whether my own or those of others) if I knew for certain that the conversations by those attending were limited to topics of the exhibited artwork or art in general.

My solution from here on: stop attending art exhibit openings, but visit the exhibits during regular viewing hours while attempting to leave a fairly intelligent or thought-provoking comment in the guest book. Hopefully the artist will appreciate this approach more than me swooping down on the complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine while participating in the listless conversations in the presence of their works.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Don’t Report No News

Do you know Kate? Perhaps another Paris Hilton is she?

I still don’t know who this woman really is, but the fact that she was on Yahoo’s home page as the most significant news of the moment is very disheartening. And it’s all about her hair for Pete’s sake. Who makes these moronic decisions? Even from a photo opp perspective, there must be something more important than some no-talent, famous-for-fluff character who is supporting a new “do.” Twenty years from now will anyone know her for being anything more than she is today?

Talk about a slow-news day. Thank God I’m still without TV.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

They Eat Their Own Don’t They?

PACtoons: Episode One
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The late Northwest College anthropology instructor Doug Nelson once quietly said to me over a cup of coffee, “Given how many administrators we go through here, why can’t we mold them over time to better serve the college’s real mission (beyond some trite jingle like “your future, our focus”)—resulting in a body of leadership who are more invested in this place?”

At the time when Nelson posed this question, I was in agreement with him responding, “Yeah Doug, how come we can’t do that?” I’d certainly felt this had been achieved with the faculty—including myself. When I came on in 1991, I was pretty raw and didn’t see myself lasting longer than five years. Nineteen years later, for better or worse, I’m still on the job.

Recently, my walks to the workplace each day have sadly become drearier—attributed to a handful of the most powerful people on campus and their concerted efforts to make a power play or two. For the most part, the students, fellow faculty and staff are a joy, but as I think of the institution’s top leadership, only words and terms such as “self-serving, ineffectual, cliquish, mediocrity, spineless, smarmy, out-of-touch, fake, knifing, pollyanna, nefarious,” and “watch-your-back” come to mind. These descriptors have found me via my own experiences with the college’s “upper crust” or in listening to the testimonies of other faculty and staff.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say here that the five-headed monster that has become Northwest College gets my vote of “no confidence” here. And there’s nothing I would rather see than a good five-headed decapitation via an axe-wielding Board of Trustees.

Oooooooooo... what shocking news coming from yours truly. This should really shake things up in the workplace. As Bill Cosby often said so unenthusiastically well, “Righhhhhhht.”

It appears that I have been picking on NWC quite a bit lately—much in the same way that I was critical of the Bush administration when they were in power. All I can say is that when targets this large come on the scene, one can’t resist but taking an occasional shot now and then.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Modest Agreement on Attendance

Study Hall Teacher
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I wrote the following over the Christmas break following the completion of another semester where students disappeared around midterm and miraculously reappeared as finals were upon us.

I agree the only excused absence shall be defined as a communication to the instructor of this class from another NWC official requesting so. If an absence is classified as excused, assignments may or may not be postponed according to the instructor’s judgment. However, any quizzes, in-class assignments or exams can be made up without penalty. It will be my responsibility to make such arrangements with the instructor. This is all that an excused absence covers. The instructor is under no obligation to repeat the information from classes missed. I take full responsibility for recovering all material and assignments from a class where I was not attending (whether excused or not).

If I am sick (complete with doctor’s note), if my transportation fails me, if there is a death or serious illness in my family, it is not excused. Whether I am to blame for missing class or someone else (including an act of God), I take full responsibility for what I have missed. As a result, I will do my best to take care of myself by getting sufficient rest, nutrition and exercise to at least control those things I have some control over. If I miss a quiz, in-class assignment or exam as the result of an unexcused absence, I accept the “no credit” grade that will likely result.

I will make an honest effort to acquaint myself with fellow classmates. As a result, we can assist one another when one of us is unable to attend via sharing notes or information about the class and provide assistance in the comprehension of the course materials and subject matter to one another.

I understand there is no “extra credit” to make up assignments I have not completed. Missed assignments are “credit,” so why would the instructor/should the instructor give me a chance to earn extra credit when I haven’t completed the regular credit?

Failure to sign this will result in an incomplete grade for this class.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The mistake of a “Foxy” Sarah Palin

Gummy Rubbers
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
OK, so I’m not a Fox News fan and I’m certainly not a Sarah Palin fan, but that doesn’t mean I wish eternal damnation for both. And so, I don’t get it.

How does a network that uses the jingle “fair and balanced” believe that bringing Sarah Palin on board is going to give them more credibility in the fair and balanced arena? How do they expect skeptics like me to tune in when they’ve taken another step toward the dark side? Talk about reinforcing stereotypes that have everything to do with Fox News being way right of center—and thus off-balance...

Perhaps what is most saddening is they let Lou Dobbs slip away after he left CNN unexpectedly. Who knows, maybe he’s still on their line, and they simply haven’t reeled him in yet. He’s every bit as big a fish as Palin and much more substantial.

And I’m not as naive as I sound. I understand what this is all about—ratings folks, ratings! But at what cost? Fox News is one step away from becoming the classified television version of a supermarket tabloid magazine like the Globe or National Enquirer—neither one known for their astute journalism ethics/practices.

And if Fox News can’t get Lou Dobbs, perhaps they should look at Oliver North or Ted Nugent and leave Sarah Palin to QVC... which will undoubtedly send sales through the roof.

PS: Do you suppose there is any chance that Sarah Palin will get to return the favor and interview Katie Couric? Perhaps Palin can ambush Couric herself with questions like, “So Katie, what do you read?” At the least, I’d tune in for that!

Friday, January 08, 2010

New NWC T-Shirt Design

Taylor Spartacus
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Just in time for the new semester... show your support for Mike Taylor who suffered from a firing only because he wasn't in with the right people at Northwest College... shame on you Mike!

Just goes to show, it's all about who you know, not how good you are at your profession.

If interested in a t-shirt purchase, contact me via email ( all proceeds go to Mike Taylor, of course.