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Community Comment

Archive for November 2011

Meaning of the Season? Is that all there is?

Good morning, Netizens…


After surviving Black Friday, and still facing Black Monday, I have more questions than answers.


How have you fared during Black Friday? Did you succumb to the advertising wiles of the Big Box stores waiting in line in the cold for their doors to open or did you ignore the licentious speed bump advertising for incredibly cheap prices in favor of staying home and reclining in your chair? Or, rather than fight with the people in line waiting for special pricing, did you smile smugly to yourself as you ordered the special prices online?


Yes, now we have arrived at Cyber Monday, an online version of Black Friday, and although the members of the news media will not be able to show pictures of harried shoppers standing in line outside your favorite mall outlet, somehow they will attempt to quantify this shopping experience, and thus will not stop them from extolling the virtues of Christmas Shopping online this year.


We still come back to the moral and ethical business of the commercialization of Christmas and how you perceive it in your personal lives.


In times when I lived as poor as a church mouse, I sought and often found traces of the humanity and human character that, for me, make up what Christmas is all about. Christmas is not about what you buy, or where or how you buy it. It isn't about how many dollars you spend, but rather the condition of your heart at Christmas. For this year, perhaps more than ever, there are vastly more people in need, unable to fend for themselves at Christmas, for whom even purchasing the basic essentials of life, exceeds their abilities to survive.


Each year at Christmas I have attempted to portray life as I see it, in both fantasy and fact. This year is not much different, for I will not spend time wasting a lot of time on the commercialization; rather, I will continue to reach beyond that veil and tell tales of Christmas that are meaningful, rich and full of light and laughter and, for me, the joy of the holiday season. Then on Christmas Eve, I will tell the story of the First Christmas, in the hope that it still touches lives wherever this is read.


Cyber Monday? No, this is actually quite an ordinary Monday as far as I am concerned, with the exception that most of my family are sick with the flu, and for a time, we are bonded to another as families often should be at times such as these. We each commiserate with one another, our ailments and pains as various as the bugs that caused them, and somehow we will survive, preparing ourselves for this most joyous time of the year, for although Thanksgiving Day is over, we still give thanks for one another and for others who have touched our lives.



To one and all, Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving, Netizens…


You seldom miss what you've seldom had.


Until recent years, I have not really enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day, simply because I was busily working as a long-haul truck driver. As a child I never had established Thanksgiving Day as a holiday, excepting for when my grandparents had us over for the traditional feast. Hence, after I left home at 17, it was very easy to overlook Thanksgiving Day in lieu of making a truck payment and pay on the insurance. Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas all paid double-time if a truck driver knew what he was doing.


Oh, sure, I had my share of turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, because there were always truck stops that gave away free meals to truck drivers here and there across this sand-blasted country, and for a time, it was nice to have a hot meal and someone to talk with.


However, the last fifteen years or so I have enjoyed a return to Thanksgiving, due to my wife, Suzanne, my stepson Scott and our granddaughters, for each year we have had a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast, complete with all the trimmings.


Last evening, our two granddaughters, their dad, Scott, Suzie and I all sat down together around the kitchen table and had a traditional dinner, consisting of turkey and dressing, gravy, potatoes, sweet potatoes and fruit salad. We toasted Thanksgiving and one another, and for a time, we were as one.


Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.



Bake a Cake, Win a Turkey, or Starve!

Thanksgiving was just around the corner, years ago, when my sons were 8 and 9.  I worried about Thanksgiving, coming and going, without a turkey.  It was going to be a pretty grim Thanksgiving; I was eyeballing chickens and wondering how fooled the boys would be.

The boys participated in the Boy Scouts Bake Sale the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The prize was a turkey dinner, complete with potatoes, gravy mix, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.  With $6.00 to my name, I knew this was my only chance.  That, or we'd have to settle for chicken.
The scouts were supposed to make <b>their own</b> cake. Home made by the boys. My mind slithered back to the soap box derby earlier that year, where the boys were supposed to make a screaming racing car out of a block of wood, <b>*by*themselves*</b> There was a family at the bake sale that evening - affluent, intelligent, and beautiful parents with equally beautiful twin boys, age 9.  The twins showed up at the derby with a cherry-red, cherried-out, speed demon race car that won hands down! My son showed up with a hand carved by him (with a little inadequate help from me), lemon colored (for a reason) obviously home-made car that wouldn't even roll an inch without help.
Now my mind came back to the night before Thanksgiving, and there on the table of 20 cakes was the twins' cake, stunning in its beauty, <i>of course</i>, an absolutely beautiful beehive cake with yellow and white striped icing, and little furry bees on toothpicks “hovering” over the beehive, every detail finely etched as if it were created by some elite French chef. And our cake, Mr. Happy Face, which was bumpy and wavy, black frosting smeared into a crude half circle with a crooked little smile and two globs for eyes – the saddest cake I have ever seen.  (But <i>hand-made</i> by my son!)
I grumbled to myself. I had decided I was going to have to buy the cake back for $2.00, leaving me $4.00. I could still get that damned chicken.
It was getting darned close to disaster time in my family as our misshapen cake, made totally by my son (did I say that already?), was sitting forlorn and lonely as all the other cakes were being raffled off – it was down to the beehive cake or the happy face cake.
Bee Family bought my cake AND theirs! 
I felt a strange twisting in my gut – I was bitter and angry and jealous and peeved and crabby. They could have bought all 20 cakes! And of course, Bee Family won the turkey dinner. It was a test for me to practice sweetness in the face of total disaster.  Now, I had no turkey dinner.  And I had no cake!
I told myself that this was a good thing. I still had SIX dollars to buy my “chicken” dinner. And spare change to get two ice cream cones for two pretty sad little boys.
We got to our car and I was loading the kids in, when Mr. Bee came up to me with this HUGE box, the hump of a gigantic turkey peering over the edge; potatoes, stuffing, Pumpkin Pie, the WORKS. “We've already got our turkey – this would just go to waste – would you mind taking it off our hands?”
Well, I tell ya, I could hardly talk to him as I choked up and teared up and tried to stuff all the guilt I was feeling for, well, for feeling cheated, and poor, and pathetic!
There is always something to be thankful for.  If you find yourself in a downward spiral, something will come along to lift you out of that hole.  I am ever thankful for this family's gift to my family.  
May I be able to pay it forward in every moment where I can pass along a kindness or a gentle touch.  Hoping everyone finds abundant reasons for being thankful.

When will it come and how?

Good morning, Netizens…

Judging by the run of successful natural disaster films in the past few years, people are fascinated by the idea of the end of the world. In Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, a virus ravaged the UK and beyond; an asteroid was the world-ending threat in Deep Impact and Armageddon; and climate change got a starring role in The Day After Tomorrow. Plus we have a plethora of atomic war movies, some of which are nearly infeasible. An exceptionally-strong magnetic storm, of course, could have deadly effects on our planet, as depicted in the picture.


In the real world, we do not know how or when the earth (or mankind) will meet its end. Pondering such stuff has largely been the business of the world's great religions, if not the cinemas. There is simply too much sin and debauchery according to most religious leaders. Or, as viewed from another perspective, we can take the view of Country Joe McDonald who observed of the War in Viet Nam, “Whoopee we're all gonna die!”.


There is always the possibility that a giant asteroid will collide with our planet. The massive tsunamis this would generate would end coastal cities around the globe; the huge clouds of dust would induce global winter that would, in turn, bring on world-wide famine. It happened once before to dinosaurs, did it not? Experts state that a meteorite larger than 1km wide will collide with Earth every few hundred thousand years and a one larger than 6km, which could cause mass extinction, will collide with Earth every hundred million years. We statistically we are overdue for a big one.


Of course, anytime you are talking about the end of mankind I firmly believe that mankind itself is probably its own worst enemy. If the vast world of man-made germicidal agents don't get us, the Bomb will. I have always said that in a world where there are thousands upon thousands of germicidal and atomic weapons, it demonstrates the folly of our world's leadership that we even allow such hellish devices to exist.


Could we survive long without money? Stop and think what would happen if our entire economic system were to suddenly fail. Money would suddenly be worth little to nothing. The credit systems around the world would simply cease functioning. There are reasoned men and women around the world who believe we are actually much closer to this taking place today than at any time in history.


So, just how close are we to extinction?



About Community Comment…

Good morning, Netizens…


Earlier this week Jeanie of Spokane and myself were invited to a discussion panel chaired by the Spokesman-Review's Rebecca Nappi and attended by a number of other SR staff members and bloggers. Also present and accounted for were SR reporter and blogger Dave Oliveria by telephone, who gave everyone a lot of good ideas how to improve or make blogs more vibrant than they already are. This panel, which met at the SR's news room, discussed both our existing blogs and newcomers who either are or may become viable in the coming months.


Being only slightly diplomatic about it, I waited with bated breath to see whether any other bloggers would seize the moment to discuss the future of our tenacious hold on what I have referred to as “the new journalism”, and since I heard nothing, I am going to pick up the thread and comment about Community Comment and how Jeanie and I are involved with it. Of course, as always is the case, Jeanie may have opinions of her own and I encourage her to speak her mind on what she brought away from our panel meeting.


One of the secrets to success in running a successful blog, according to Oliveria, is perhaps the most difficult part of it, that being to post something at least once each day. That implies to me that I must remain as I have done for decades, a dedicated “news head”, reading a large number of news sources each day and commenting upon the news stories I perceive as meaningful or important. That's a pretty big universe we are talking about here. Most of the time I can always find something in the morning news that speaks to me and makes me sit up in my chair, but then there are the days when, either because there is nothing truly exasperating in the news to capture my interest or ire or because I simply have run out of disposable time, I have little to nothing to say. That is when I fall back on my plan B, that being the venerable A Word A Day which always seems to have interesting words which sometimes generate comments.


The other part is knowing a lot of people, their lives and business, any of whom often end up commenting in or being discussed. At Community Comment we seem to have a lightning rod which attracts all kinds of esoteric people to our doorways, while maintaining the strictest guidelines of news journalism about what we say as bloggers. The latter is sometimes the most difficult decisions one has to make each day.


There were many other things I brought away from the panel meeting, and as I have said in the recent past, I believe there is a valid and important purpose for similar meetings between journalists and bloggers on a frequent basis. Those of us who survive down in the trenches, away from the hue and cry of the news room, can gain a lot of insight into how to make things better, to grow our blog over time and to encourage others to join our little piece of heaven. I especially want to thank Becky for inviting us to the panel and a special thanks to Dave Oliveria for all the good ideas he shared with everyone. Of course, I would be remiss in giving thanks if I forgot my liege and partner-in-crime, JeanieSpokane, who brings a very special insight into our discussions.


My undying thanks to all.



You will know when the ground is shaking….

Good evening, Netizens…


Omak and Tonasket were mildly rocked this morning with a 4.6 magnitude earthquake shortly after 5:09 AM but there are no reports of damage, although the quake was felt as far away as Grand Coulee, Wilbur and even a handful of early risers in Spokane.


Sitting in the Great Chair overlooking the Virtual Ballroom and Garden at that hour, I admit I missed the ground motion. In fact, despite being up and consuming vast quantities of strong coffee, I'm not certain even a 4.6 shaker beneath Spokane would rattle me much, having endured bigger quakes in my past.


We have had 4.0 shakes around our house in the past. Typically all it means is someone needs to adjust the load balance in the washing machine or reduce one's intake of Dave's special blend coffee. Some say three or four cups of that near-espresso blend will make you think you're having an earthquake, one person once suggested.


However, a few years ago we had a “flurry” of really small earthquakes hit Spokane. Since our home is geologically situated immediately atop a granite dome on Spokane's north side, we didn't necessarily feel the quakes, at least in the beginning. Instead we heard the mini-quakes as they hit, each rumbling deep within the earth. Those few times when we actually felt the earth move, my wife and I rolled over, looked at one another, and promptly went back to sleep.


It seems it takes more than half a pot of my coffee or a 4.6 magnitude earthquake to awaken us fully.



Words! All these words!

Good evening, Netizens…


I was taken a bit aback by the today's A Word A Day as I always have referred to the plural of the cow as cows, or in the language of the garden gnomes, kubozen. It appears according to my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary that kine is an archaic form of the plural of the bovine species. For those interested in such anomalous words as are in common use among the garden gnomes, the plural of horse is even more obtuse, orskendorskies. I suppose if time permitted, I should also run a daily entry called Garden Gnome Speech, thus edifying everyone to some of the purely fanciful words known to garden gnomes.


However, before someone hastily points it out to me, none of the words which I have created as being parts of the garden gnome language are presently found in any dictionary that I have found, thus far, regardless of how archaic or obscure the wordbooks might be.


Of course, I cannot claim to possess one of those new-fangled gadgets like Doug Clark has. (See to clarify whether you have or will have one of these electronic pieces of wizardry.



No concession from Verner. That’s beneath royalty

Good afternoon, Netizens…


Current Mayor, Queen Mary Verner, did not have the guts to appear in public, much less make a formal concession speech. It seems royalty has a problem admitting defeat, even in a mayoral election. Instead, she wrote this pithy explanation on her Facebook Page:


“To the citizens of Spokane, I am deeply grateful to have had the privilege of serving as your Mayor. It has been a great honor and a time of deep and abiding growth. It is gratifying to reflect on many important community accomplishments I initiated, led, and completed during my term. But nothing I accomplished was done alone. I’ve been supported by an impressive workforce of professional public servants at all levels of City government, and my countless partners in business, academia, and community organizations. These have been very tough years for our city, state, and nation. I’ve had to play the cards as they were dealt by circumstances. But I’ve also had the opportunity to achieve a great deal of my agenda for our citizens’ priorities. Like all others in leadership roles, I’ve been saddled with undeserved blame, but I’ve also received unearned praise. And throughout the range of highs and lows, my love for Spokane has grown deeper. I believe Spokane is a great city. It is a city of refuge, where people can start over and do better. It is a city of promise, where dreams are fostered and brought to fruition. It is a city of innovation and entrepreneurship, where the American dream can be realized. It is a city of heritage and culture, where all people are respected and we don’t forget the past while we push toward a better future. In the end, serving Spokane each day with a focus on the best interests of the community has made me a better person. Time will tell what’s real and what’s illusion. As I move forward with my career and life goals, I will always be grateful for my time serving Spokane as a City Council Member and Mayor. It has been a very full and rewarding 7.75 years. Thank you, Spokane!”


Queen Mary Verner was inaugurated and crowned as Spokane's first-ever queen about the time we had a blizzard hit Spokane and nearly the entire town shut down while Queen Mary hid out from the gaze of the news media. It was not the first nor would it be the last time Queen Mary hid her true motives and designs from her constituents, much less the news media. She only recently has urged the feds to perform a full investigation of the Spokane Police Department, something she should have done a long time ago. Too little, too late, Queen Mary. Don't let the door hit you in the buttocks on your way out, platitudes notwithstanding.


Now we have a chance to start with a clean slate with Mayor-Elect David Condon. Will someone loan him a giant bottle of air freshener so he can hose down City Hall?



A Brand New Day

Wow - reading the headlines today brought the thought that we are going to experience a brand new slate of politics in 2012 in Spokane.

We have kind of been mired in chaos over the last few years in a myriad of areas.  There's the Otto Zehm case.  There's the mish-mash of excessive force, power-hungry, control-freakish officers in the police department, getting away with all kinds of abuse.  There's the City council meetings constantly erupting in shouting matches and power struggles.  There's the mayor making statements supporting the lies of several police officers.  

Suddenly - starting at the first of the year - we will have a new police chief, a new mayor, a new council president.  Oh My God!!!  We have been crying for a clean slate - and we're getting it!  

My hope is that the three new positions will have learned something from their predecessors and that we will indeed have a new and positive group of leaders.


First snowfall hits Spokane region…

Good morning, Netizens…


I knew, as soon as I crept forth from my bed this morning, that during the early morning hours, some of that wretched snow would fall. Both my wife and I suffer in later life with what I call “weather joints”; whenever the weather is going to change, particularly if it involves moisture in any form or at least a change in the barometric pressure, our joints remonstrate with us about it, more often than not in advance. We both have known this weekend was going to be a meteorological “busy” time, with several weather fronts moving through the area.


An old shoulder injury and a faulty kneecap both were taking front row seats as soon as I hit the deck, muttering such inanities as, “Here's a little pain to start you on your way, Sunny Dave” and “You deserve this, you know!”


Our overnight half-inch snowfall contribution wasn't all that much, although the gusty winds last evening contributed its fair share of downed trees, power lines in the streets and general mayhem, most of which appears to have been repaired overnight. Areas of the South Hill and the outlying areas of Spokane appeared to have been hit the hardest, and although we in the near north side did not appear to have lost power not even once. The one positive note about last evening is that all the leaves from our pair of aspen trees that hadn't already hit the ground did so, and the leaves that had fallen were neatly moved into the neighbor's lawn, thus negating the need for us to rake leaves. Good move, Mother Nature, and thank you!


Today is the first day of the annual Fall Folk Festival, but this year, unlike nearly a decade in the past, neither of us nor our granddaughters will be in attendance for a remarkable number of reasons, a few of which I will elaborate upon at another time in the near-future. The Fall Folk Festival is a good show and it's still free which matters a great deal, even here in budgetary-challenged Spokane.


Of course, our Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, has announced to the news media that she is retiring by January. All things being equal, you will pardon me if I rebut her comments with an admonition for her not to let the door out hit her in the butt. Of course, as always, your opinions and ideas are worthy. As I always say, it's another day in paradise! Try to ignore the snow.



An ode to veterans everywhere…

Good morning, Netizens…

Here is one of my favorite quotations about Veteran's Day and all veterans everywhere:


In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky The larks still bravely singing fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead: Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved: and now we lie In Flanders fields! Take up our quarrel with the foe To you, from failing hands, we throw The torch: be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields (John McCrae, 1915)


The race is still too close to call…

Good morning, Netizens…


Good journalists are never supposed to speculate on the news, but on the other hand, journalists have been speculating on the news for decades and their reputations seem none the worse for wear. If you believe this axiom, this is especially true of elections; no one ever should report an election until the last ballots have been counted, and the recount completed. History is full of instances where journalists reported what they thought was a sure thing only to eat their newsprint the next day or week.


Now we come to the political race between Queen Mary Verner and David Condon which, if you adhere to the latest ballot count, puts Condon ahead of Verner by a small percentage of the ballots tabulated as of yesterday evening. Someone asked me if Queen Mary had conceded the race yet, perhaps thinking I had a magic ball that would grant me hitherto unseen powers and thus allow me to predict this contentious race.


In another dimension of time and space, perhaps, I would be holding desperately onto the vision of Queen Mary Verner handing over her ostensible crown to victor, Mayor-elect David Condon, but probably not today. Who is to say what the ballot count will be? That, my fine friends, requires speculation. At this point in time, it does appear as if Queen Mary Verner will descend from the throne, yet another victim of the one-term-mayor syndrome that has so afflicted Spokane in past years. According to every known news source I have read, hardly anyone gives Queen Mary Verner a chance to beat Condon at this late time in history.


It could go the “other way”, with Queen Mary winning the election, but I do not see it happening. Some have suggested this is the influence of the Ghost of Otto Zehm from his kiosk in the Great Ballroom of Community Comment, as we have many ghosts in our ballroom who regularly tinker with life. Others have suggested Mayor Verner winning the election would be a statistical anomaly, a fluke, if you will.


So the verdict regarding Verner-vs-Condon is not in yet. We probably won't know for certain until Monday, if then. Your results and opinions, of course, may differ.



Andy Williams diagnosed with cancer…

Good morning, Netizens…


With a long list of those from my generation who preceded me, I have frequently pondered my own personal liabilities when it comes to cancer and other ignominious diseases that have claimed the great and not-so-great in recent times. Hard on the heels of Andy Rooney having passed away comes word that one of the great crooners from our generation, Andy Williams, has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Even 20-somethings probably have heard, perhaps even appreciated Williams voice crooning that great song, “Moon River”, if not other great songs such as “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Can't Get Used to Losing You,” “Solitaire,” “Music to Watch Girls By,” “Can't Take My Eyes Off of You” and the theme from the 1970 movie hit “Love Story.”


I constantly am reminded of the long list of singers, songwriters and entertainers from my generation who have already passed on and I have then pondered the question, who will replace them? Some mutter such names as Justin Bieber and various other recent-aspirants to greatness. Pardon me if I retch overboard of the humble ship USS Community Comment. They just are not the same!


For that matter, how many of the former greats of our generation would have perhaps been mere flickers of their former selves without the music composition and skills of the late Henry Mancini and various others?


I could easily add to this list, but I will defer to others who remember what was once greatness in our midst. Of course, your results and opinions may differ.



Andy Rooney has died…

Good morning, Netizens…

Longtime CBS News commentator Andy Rooney has died, CBS News reported Saturday. He was 92.He had been hospitalized after suffering “serious complications” following minor surgery last month.Rooney got his start in journalism during World War II, when he wrote for the “Stars and Stripes,” and joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for Arthur Godfrey's radio and television entertainment show.He went on to collaborate between 1962 and 1968 on a series of essays with his friend the late newsman Harry Reasoner.He joined “60 Minutes” in 1978, according to CBS, beginning decades of show-ending essays on topics as varied as looking for a job (“We need people who can actually do things. We have too many bosses and too few workers. More college graduates ought to become plumbers or electricians, then go home at night and read Shakespeare.”); his bushy eyebrows (“I try to look nice. I comb my hair, I tie my tie, I put on a jacket, but I draw the line when it comes to trimming my eyebrows. You work with what you got.”); the “shock and awe” campaign that started the Iraq war in 2003 (the phrase “makes us look like foolish braggarts.”)Rooney announced on Oct. 2, 2011 in his 1,097th essay for “60 Minutes” that he would no longer appear regularly.


Play fair with everyone or not at all…

Good morning, Netizens…


Taking a brief respite from the ongoing trial and conviction of Karl Thompson this morning, we'll take a brief look at the status of John Edwards with the cartoon by Seattle PI's David Horsey. If you are scratching your head and muttering something about, “Who the heck is HE?” I have to admit since Edwards has fallen off the front news pages in recent months, you are not alone.


Edward's sordid tale began four years ago when, in the midst of a Presidential election campaign, he had an affair and fathered a child with a hot-to-trot videographer, Rielle Hunter, thus setting the federal dogs hot on his trail and, as David Horsey's cartoon suggests, they haven't backed off over time. All this while his wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer. Talk about tasteless!


To keep his affair secret and Hunter quiet, Edwards arranged for one of his rich supporters, elderly heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, and his campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, to pay Hunter close to $1 million in a series of secret payments over an extended period. The government claims this was a violation of campaign finance laws and prosecutors want to send Edwards to jail for up to five years, fine him $1.5 million and take away his license to practice law.


It doesn't make a bit of difference to me whether Edwards was a staunch Democrat (which he was) or another Republican with a loose zipper. He was a tasteless profligate, a womanizer and a fraud. If there are laws on the books against this kind of behavior, what is Newt Gingrich doing running for the Presidency? His wife #2 was dying in the hospital while he was wooing wife #3. Where is the difference here?


My thoughts are if the law is going to force any aspiring politicians to force them “zip it up”, the same law(s) should apply to them all.


This is my opinion, and you, of course, have a right to your own thoughts on this matter.



After five years and change, finally justice!

Good afternoon, Netizens…


The jury in the trial of Karl Thompson has returned a GUILTY on all charges. Given all things, this could have been any of us, wanting a candy bar and a bottle of pop and we could already be dead, waiting for a jury to return a verdict.


Perhaps now more than ever, it is time to hold our public officials accountable. Just because the jury returned a verdict will not make the death of Otto Zehm go away.



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