Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Are Star Stuff!


I couldn’t pass on this blog post and, if you're a regular reader, you’ll likely understand why!
by Charlie Leck

I send you to a lot of places – to read something, to listen to something or to view something – and I hope you enjoy that stuff. Today, something different...

The extremely famous scientist – astrophysicist – Neil deGrasse Tyson was recently interviewed by Stephen Colbert. Mind you, this is not a comedic interview, but there are some funny moments.

It’s a video that lasts nearly an hour and a half (84 minutes), so most of you won’t go there. Okay! If you don’t, however, how about starting the video and moving the little thing-a-ma-jig up to the 23 minute mark and listen to just a minute or two from that point; that is the point where Colbert asks this magnificently verbal and instructive scientist this question: “What is the most beautiful thing in science?”

Then listen, at least, for the next six minutes – though, at that point, you probably won’t stop listening and watching this remarkable video. If you don’t have 84 minutes for something this wonderful, I’m sorry for you. If you don’t have the 6 minutes to watch this little bit of it, oh, my god, I don’t know what to say.

Once again I must thank, as I often do here, the Open Culture web site for leading me to this remarkable video.

“We are star stuff… we knew we are star dust at the middle of the 20th century… that connects us to the universe like no other fact. That is beautiful!”

Tyson is a beautiful man – a beautiful human being – and he will make you glad to know there are scientists like this man. And, as I do, you will want to get to know him and about him very eagerly. He can handle Colbert all right and he can keep up with the comedian’s banter like no one you’ve ever heard.

I loved his answer to the very last question from the audience. That answer was, basically, don’t get in the way of your children’s experimentation in science – like when they pull all the pots and pans from the cupboards and start banging on them; for it is an experiment in acoustics. Allow your children to be creative and to investigate. You’ll love the way he explains it.

I sat back in a very comfortable chair and watched the complete video. It was terrific. If you watch, you’ll thank me. And, oh yes, Tyson received a standing ovation from his audience.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Astonishing News Out of Mississippi


Edgar Ray Killen writes in a letter that he is ready to confess his part in murder 47 years ago!
by Charlie Leck

Many of my regular readers know of my Mississippi 1964 Blogs. For them I need not set the scene in order to express my astonishment this morning about the article by Jerry Mitchell that appeared in the Clarion-Ledger on Saturday morning down in Mississippi.

“Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen is ready to confess his involvement in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers – as well as other crimes – in exchange for his release under house arrest, according to letters obtained by The Clarion Ledger.”

You can find the story here! I read it this morning with absorbed interest.

The story points out that two other suspects are still alive. It would be interesting to hear what Killen has to say about them. Frankly, it’s difficult to believe that the two haven’t been prosecuted long before now. There has been so much evidence and testimony, including sworn confessions from others implicated in the act, that the two should have been tried. Killen in his letters, however, emphasizes that the two should never be implicated.

This will help you understand Killen and why he was involved in this crime and, seemingly, in other hate-murders as well:

“The death of those three men saved the life (sic) of thousands of white women from rape from black men,” he wrote in an April 11 letter.

Killen expressed his confidence that a “majority of Mississippians” agree with him. Forty-seven years ago that was probably true. One can only hope that it no longer is!

Thanks to John Gibson, my faithful contact down in Mississippi for matters surrounding this case, for sending me this news. It’s an amazing way to get my week started.

I’ll be watching the Clarion-Ledger carefully.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

An Odd Sunday Sports Morning


Gophers win! We don’t hear it often, but the sports section of this morning’s Sunday newspaper is a delight to read!
by Charlie Leck

The Gophers’ basketball team (the University of Minnesota) was playing at lunch time on Friday and I had the family out for a lunch at a local restaurant. Across the big room, on a TV screen, I could see that the local collegiate team was losing to Indiana State University. It was a big enough lead that I concluded the game was lost and a shot at the Subway Classic Basketball Championship was lost. I never picked up the paper yesterday and, therefore, failed to learn that our college team had taken over the game at the end and won in the final seconds. So, they’ll face Dayton University today in the championship game! Hooray.

More unlikely, however, was the Gopher win in football yesterday. They quite handily beat the University of Illinois here on the Minnesota campus (27-7). Quite enjoyably, I got to watch the game on TV with an Illinois fan sitting only a few feet from me. I could hear him grinding his teeth, so I tried not to gloat.

These are not earth shaking events, but they make reading the sports pages in our local newspaper a lot more enjoyable on this Sunday morning. We haven’t had much good sports news hereabouts lately and we have generally buried our heads in the sand in embarrassment. Today, our chins are high.

On top of all that, the Gopher’s women’s basketball team won their game yesterday by a single point in the very last seconds of a contest with Virginia Tech. The women’s hockey team also got a victory over Harvard (2-1). The ladies are ranked number 2 in the nation right now. Good going ladies!

Go Gophers!

The Wild, our professional hockey team, is in the lead in the Western Conference of the National Hockey League with a record of 31 wins and 6 losses. I don’t know much about hockey, but my hockey friends are pleased with those numbers.

The Minnesota Vikings, in the National Football League, is a team we’d, well, rather not talk about. They play at Atlanta today.

It was a mighty fine half-hour I spent in the sports pages this morning. Now I must turn to the national and international news and to the stumbling, bumbling politicians. Ooooh!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paris to Istanbul

On my bucket-list I have a trip from Paris to Istanbul via the Venice Simplon Orient Express.
by Charlie Leck

Do you have a bucket-list? When I tell people I do, they think it’s because of the Jack Nicholson movie of a few years ago. Not true! I remember the term from years and years ago as it was used by my grandparents to designate some of the most important things they wanted to do yet in their lifetimes.

I have a number of little adventures I put down on my bucket list. I have it posted to keep me thinking about how I’m going to fit them in. A trip to Prague now has a line drawn through it. I made that wonderful adventure with my wife this past September. We had an extraordinary time and loved the city.

There are some simple things on my list; like a trip to Oklahoma (one of the last two states I’ve yet to visit). That little excursion might only involve a quick flight down and back, but, perhaps, I’d stay long enough to play golf on a couple of famous Oklahoma golf courses. A cruise through Alaska’s inner waterways on a small ship is also on the list (that’s the other state to which I’ve not been). Here are the other things I have on the list.

  • A nearly two week train trip across Canada – from Toronto to Vancouver – with interesting and remarkable stops along the way. (I love Canada and I love traveling by train).
  • A day or two of golf at the remarkable Pacific Dunes Resort in Oregon.
  • A baseball game at Fenway Stadium in Boston
  • A visit to the village of Leck in northern Germany (near the border with Denmark)

The major trip I’ve not included above is a voyage on the modern version of the famous Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul. It’s a 6 day/5 night journey aboard the most luxurious train in the world. The train only makes the trip once each year. In 2012 it will leave Paris on August 30. That would mean that I’d spend my birthday on a train – as I did this year – and nothing pleases me more. The tickets range from ten to twenty thousand dollars. So, it’s one of those maybe adventures. The economy would have to make a strong improvement between now and then.

Paris to Istanbul
The train leaves from Gare de l’Est in the afternoon with tea, dinner and an overnight stay on the train. The train rolls into Hungary on Saturday. Breakfast is brought to one’s cabin and lunch is served in the very attractive dining card.

Budapest
The night is spent in a luxury hotel in Budapest. One can dine at the hotel that evening or seek out another restaurant in the city. Breakfast is at the hotel and it’s followed by a guided tour of the city that sits upon the Danube River, with a lunch along the way. Dinner and the night will be upon the train as it rolls into Romania.

Sinaia
In Romania the train will stop in the mountain village of Sinaia. Passengers disembark for a visit to the Peles Castle (it was also visited by the travelers on the original Orient Express in 1883). After reboarding, the train travels on to Bucharest and passengers join a guided toward of the city and have dinner and spend the night in the Athenée Palace Hotel.

In the morning the train moves on to the south and crosses the Danube and enters Bulgaria. A short stop allows the passengers to enjoy a small village town and then the train moves on through the night.

Istanbul
On the final evening the train enters Turkey and crosses the Thracian Plain. In the afternoon the travelers arrive at the Sirkici Station in Istanbul

Dreams
Dreams, I believe, are what make life so wonderful. They take us beyond the ordinary and allow us to experience some of the remarkable and unreachable wonders of our lives. I’m going to keep thinking that my life still includes enough time to make this trip to Istanbul and to enjoy the marvel of travel on a luxurious and splendid train.

Do you have a bucket-list? What’s on it?

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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Umbrella Man


Or you might like to view this video review of Hannah and Her Sisters!
by Charlie Leck

If you want to spend some time during your day viewing serious and happy video – news video and general interest video – I wonder if there is any source richer than the New York Times on-line video department.

For the moment, one can get into this department and watch a bucket-load of interesting video for no charge. That is liable and likely to change, so enjoy it while you can.

For instance you can watch a video review of the Woody Allan movie, Hannah and Her Sisters. It’s spectacular and makes you want to get out to see the film right now! On Saturday we’re going to see the new Muppet Movie. Can’t wait! Grandma is extremely excited. The New York Times has a very sweet video of Kermie and Bret McKenzie (one of the film’s song writers) singing one of the cute songs from the movie, Life’s a Happy Song! (“Life’s a piece of pie, with someone to wash and someone to dry!... Life’s a piece of pie when there’s someone by your side to sing along!”)

Then, this may sound like a change from the light and enjoyable to the deadly serious, but it’s not: If you want to watch a very intriguing video about the Kennedy assassination (posted on the 22 November) then take 6 minutes to watch The Umbrella Man. How very, very interesting; and how beautifully narrated by Errol Morris. I think you’ll thank me.

Now there! I’m not going to ruin your Thanksgiving weekend by dragging you through the Tuesday night Republican candidates’ debate (oh, how awful!) and I’m not going to abhor you with discussions of renewed revolution in Egypt or financial crisis in Europe.

If you’ve got some time in front of your monitor, take a peek at these two or three charming videos – yes, charming!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thought


Photo by C Leck

Here’s a Thanksgiving thought for you on this special holiday.
by Charlie Leck

This came to me in an email from Sojourners and I happily pass it along to you:

Blessed are those who consider the helpless.
The Eternal will stay near them,
leading them to safety in times of bitter struggle. [Psalm 41:1]

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Romney Ad Stinks of Fraud


I had some hope that Mint Romney would be the one candidate who would keep the campaign clean, honest and believable. He’s sunk to sewer depth now!
by Charlie Leck

Oh, boy!
Even Mint Romney has sunk into the gutter in this campaign. He recently released a TV ad that is totally dishonest – and he knew it was and said only that “everyone does it!” The ad pictures President Obama saying that “if we talk about the economy we’ll lose!” In fact, it is a clip from 2008 when Obama was quoting John McCain, who actually did say that. The ad takes the quote totally out of context and clearly attributes it to the President.

Take a look at the ad on this Fact Check web site and read the short take that condemns Romney for dishonesty.

I’m so disappointed. I thought, in Romney, there was a glimmer of hope for a decent and above-board campaign. Now, after this low blow, I hope he takes it in the chops. What a mud sucker!

Here’s a story in the Washington Post about the ad and you can also view the video clip there.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why the Super Committee failed?


Here’s the truth about the Super Committee: It was destined to fail!
by Charlie Leck

Do you want the unvarnished story – the real deal – about why the Super Committee failed as we expected it would? If so, then read this exceptional story in the NY Times. It very clearly explains the reasons for the failure. Then – understanding that – you can go ahead and blame whoever you want to blame.

Don’t accept a lot of political hocus-pocus about all of this! The reason the Committee failed is simple. Republicans didn’t want to increase taxes on the wealthy and Democrats did.

Most economists in the nation agree that this is no time for government to cut spending. Doing so will only increase the desperateness of these economic bad times. This is the time to pour money into the economic engine in order to get it chugging away – but not borrowed money. Get people to work! That is the crucial requirement. The Republican plan won’t do that.

Democrats were not going to put their seal of approval on a plan that would cut, cut, cut and drive the economy into deeper recession.

Now the battle lines will be exceedingly clear in the 2012 presidential election campaign. Democrats will argue that the Republicans would not increase revenues in order to stimulate job growth and the Republicans will argue that Democrats have failed to manage the economy and stimulate job growth.

The simple question will be this: Who believes who?

The Republicans will have a pot of money to spend on the campaign. Remember? Corporations may now freely give unlimited funds to political candidates. Corporation executives are part of the wealthy elite. Most of them (though not all) do not want their taxes increased.

President Obama may break all the records in existence for campaign fund raising. He’s already stocking it up. Millions and millions of little guys will give him all they can afford.

In November, I think it will be close. However, if Obama wins the race but the House remains under Republican control, nothing will change.

If you’re a progressive and want to make a difference, contribute to Democrats who are running for election to the House of Representatives. If we get a strong House and a strong Senate, the Bush tax cuts will not be extended in January of 2013.

Do not forget for a second where and when this financial crisis began! It was during the Bush administration that the ugly housing crisis began. It was then that the banks ran into trouble and had to be bailed out to avoid a total crash.

I hope Republicans are made to pay for their total inaction over the last four years. They have virtually allowed the economy to fall into ruins in order to bring down the President of the United States. These have been ugly political times – by far, the ugliest of my life time.

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Gingrich leads in latest polls!
by Charlie Leck

You’ve seen it. You’re probably as surprised as I am. Newt Gingrich actually leads in the current polling on the Republican race. Amazing! At least he’s a bright guy – a little whacky, but bright. Have you heard his latest? He wants to put school children to work doing the janitorial work and other work around the schools. He says it would be cheaper than paying union janitors. Actually, I don’t think it would – not by the time you organize such a program and provide the supervision that the children would need. He wants to instill in poor, young people an ethic of work. There is some merit in what he’s saying, but the whole concept needs serious thought. We don’t want to lapse back into the era that preceded our child labor laws.

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Michele Bachmann
Bachmann is falling out of sight in those polls. Her only prayer is a big win in the Iowa caucus procedure; however, the other candidates are now getting themselves organized in Iowa and I think it spells the collapse of the Bachmann effort.

You're aware, aren't you, that Michele Bachmann has a book out. I don't recommend it (I'll bet that comes as a surprise to you). It's called Core of Conviction. Mother Jones Magazine, is fact checking it. They begin by saying, "There's enough to dispute in the first 13 pages that by the time she announces, on page 14, that she was born in Waterloo, Iowa, you want to ask for a birth certificate." My only advice is that you not get the book. You don't want to waste either your time or your money.

Plain and simple, Bachmann is fiction. Don't think of her as a true story. She's something she has dreamed up in her own simple mind.

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Golf Down Under
by Charlie Leck

It was a wonderful golf course (Royal Melbourne Golf Club) that the American and International professional golf teams played on down in Australia. I’ve never been down there. I’d love to travel there someday, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The golf event was wonderful. Team golf is terribly interesting and compelling. Such sportsmanship and camaraderie. It makes golf special in my mind. I wish it was possible to make it a more common sport among children in all economic classes. There are some programs (The First Tee) that try to do this, but they just don’t get deeply enough into the areas they need to reach.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blog Recommendation to Minnesotans


Here’s a blog that should you be on your regular-read list!
by Charlie Leck

I only recently discovered that former Governor Arne Carlson writes a regular blog. As I wrote here not too long ago, many Minnesotans feel that Arne is the best governor the state has ever had. I’m close to believing that. Anyway, I believe he’s the best governor in my Minnesota experience (that would make it since 1963).

If you want to read an intelligent blog, featuring reasonable politics and interesting anecdotes, I really recommend this blog: Governor Arne Carlson – especially if you are one of my Minnesota readers.

I had the pleasure of paling around with Arne for a number of years. He has an intense sense of humor, one of the greatest laughs in the world and also a deep sense of compassion. The first two characteristics are well-known. The third, for some reason, is unrevealed. And, let me tell you, this man knows politics!

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“Work your grief up into art and it is gone!” [from a 1909 Roycroft Catalog]

Facebook World


How is it the Coen Brothers put it? This is no country for old men!
by Charlie Leck

My wife, who is computer challenged and has a difficult time keeping her email organized (she has 290 unread messages in her in-box), has opened a Facebook account. She immediately got dozens of requests to be friends with this person and that.

“How do I do that?” She screamed from her office out to me. I was preparing my coffee in the kitchen.

“You’ll figure it out,” I replied. Just keep playing around.

“I want to look at these pictures?” She screamed. “How do I do that?”

I was sitting over a small bowl of fruit now. I didn’t feel like moving.

“You’ll figure it out. Just keep playing around!”

I tried Facebook a few years ago. I ended up not liking it. It was strange, because I had just reconnected with a whole bunch of people from my childhood and I was curious about them. However, I ran into difficulties and got led to a web site that streamed malware into my computer. It cost me a significant amount of money to have it removed. The strain on my brain and having my computer down for a couple of days was the hardest part. I parted ways with my Facebook friends. I had hoped they might keep up with me by email – I asked them to -- but they didn’t. I guess you either do Facebook or you do nothing.

Maureen Kielly and Cecelia Parker are out there somewhere in a Facebook world and I’d love to make contact with them, but I just ain’t going through that experience again. Maybe, had I been a dozen years younger or so, I could have made it work.”

“Charlie, come help me with this Facebook thing. People want me to post a photograph! How do I do that?”

“I’m reading! I can’t help! Just figure it out. I’m sure you can buy a 400 page book in the store that will tell you how to do it. Maybe you can get one of the kids to teach you over Thanksgiving weekend.”

Facebook isn’t for old guys! Give me a break!

Look! I’m blogging, ma!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Palinization?


Here’s a new word for the English (American English) Dictionary and a new concept for American Politics: Palinization! Can you believe it? Basically, it’s defined as the dumbing down of the Republican Party.
by Charlie Leck

Terrific piece by Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post
Here’s a good piece to read from the Washington Post and Kathleen Parker. It will explain why your Republican friends – friends you know are bright and sharp – are accepting this bull being presented to them by the Republican Party candidates.

John Huntsman, once a candidate for the Republican nomination for presidential candidacy ruined all his chances with too many intelligent comments. For example, he suggested “that he trusts scientists on global warming.” Well, that’s certain death in today’s wounded and whimpy Republican Party!

Read Parker’s opinion column. She tries to explain why your very intelligent Republican friends are crossing their fingers and looking the other way. “Rush Limbaugh says that climate change is a hoax and so it must be. Huntsman may as well be a Democrat.”

If there’s a question too complicated that you can’t handle it as a candidate (a la Herman Cain), just blame the media for asking the question.

Who knows where this anti-intellectual express train is going? Frankly, it’s frightening to see politicians like Palin, Bachmann, Cain and Perry so highly regarded. Personally, I believe in the American people too much to ever think they could finally put forward anyone of these dummies as a candidate for office. There are conservatives with brains, you know. Remember Ronald Reagan! Consider Newt Gingrich! And, there’s also Mint Romney (though he often appears to be trying to dumb himself down!)

I tried to listen to Herman Cain on David Letterman’s show the other night. It gave me a bad headache. Cain thinks he’s playing to fools.

The Republican Party has become the party of the unbelievable! Read that the way you wish!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

What Happens if Super Committee Fails?


Super Committee? Super Committee? There’s no super committee at work for us in Congress! Your Super Committee is just another set of silly, irrational politicians!
by Charlie Leck

The Super Committee that now tries to come up with a way of balancing our national budget may be (probably is) misnamed! Super is indeed the wrong adjective in this case. They are pretty much just a bunch of sissy-assed, pansy chickens who are afraid of moving toward a compromise because they might lose their jobs if they do.

So there!

Senator Max Baucus (Montana) seems to be the only one of them with any common sense and he’s worked exceedingly hard in an attempt to reach an agreement. He’s also telling us how things really are:

“We’re at a time in American history where everybody’s afraid – afraid of losing their job – to move toward the center. A deadline is insufficient! You’ve got to have people who are willing to move.”

Super conservatives and super liberals are both afraid of angering their constituencies. Even though they likely believe the best and the right thing to do is to arrive at some kind of sensible compromise on these economic issues – cut back debt and raise revenue through increased taxes – they are not going to do it because they want to get reelected.

I tip my hat to an old high school classmate and friend who strongly proposes one term maximum service for any and all members of Congress – one term and that’s it! Then they won’t always be worrying about losing their next election and they’ll do what they know is right rather than what they think might get them reelected. In the end, he was right about this matter and I was wrong. I'm on his side now!

Everyone thinks the super committee has only 5 more days to get its work done. In fact, if they do absolutely nothing, there will be no changes to the budget until January 2013. [There’s an excellent article about the deadline in today’s Washington Post!] That will give everyone time to reconsider. It will also give all these congressional members time to take the temperature of the nation during the coming campaigns. If Congress can’t make sense and give us some progress, maybe the American people will; perhaps they’ll send a message to Representatives and Senators.

The overly emotional and irrational Tea Party has everyone in this country overly-riled up and that has got to be changed. I get the sense that the Tea Party has run its course and the common American voters are sick of the unyielding, angry movement. You can see it in the Republican’s debates; for there is incredible confusion over just whose ass these candidates are supposed to be kissing now. There are a lot of sick, silly and mentally challenged candidates seeking the Republican nomination. Paul is not included in that critique and neither is Romney; however, Romney is the only one of them that seems to be able to combine intelligence with sensibility. I hope to goodness he gets the nomination and then, perhaps, we’ll get sensible and rational debates during the coming campaign for President. I don’t think Mr. Paul (either father or son) would be well received in a presidential campaign; though I refuse to question either their intelligence or their sincerity.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1933 in Germany and in America

An older brother of mine sent a book to me that he thought I’d find interesting; and what I found tucked inside it really interested me!
by Charlie Leck

Have you ever heard of the Roycrofters? How about Elbert Hubbard?
No? Neither had I.

Here on my desk I have a copy of an old book (1923) by Elbert Hubbard that was published by “the Roycrofters at their shops in East Aurora, Erie County, New York State.” It’s quite handsomely bound in a three hole style that is then threaded with a ribbon and tied very tightly on the top cover. The front and back covers are semi-hard and the pages themselves are done in an elegant paper. The type-set is splendid and extremely readable. The page design is a bit crowded and awkward, but, afterall, this is a scrapbook. (I will try to take some photographs of the book and include them here for those of you who are bibliophiles.)

In the Foreword, the publishers (who I am sure is Hubbard himself) writes of the contents and purpose of the book (or scrapbook):

“When Elbert Hubbard was storing up in his Scrap Book the fruits of other men’s genius, he did not contemplate a volume for publication. He was merely gathering spiritual provisions for his own refreshment and delectation.”

The book (scrapbook) that Hubbard then presents is jammed full of some of the most remarkable quotations of some of the world’s finest writers, artists and thinkers. Like, this one, for instance:

“It is great, and there is no other greatness—to make one nook of God’s creation more fruitful, better, more worthy of God; to make some human heart a little wiser, manlier, happier—more blessed, less accursed.” [Carlyle]

Now a whole blog needs to be written about these Roycrofters and their remarkable compound in East Aurora. I will get to that one day very soon. The book includes a series of photographs of their compound that included a printshop, a chapel and an inn. All this is intriguing and we will have to (must) know more about these fellows. Stand by for a report.

However, I write today about a little treasure I found within the scrapbook – tucked away within its pages! A copy of a 1933 New York Times story was folded away neatly inside the book. When I withdrew it and tried to unfold it, it, of course, cleanly broke apart at each of its folds. So, I had a little jigsaw puzzle to put together. I did; and I found a section eight story about the government’s success in increasing crop production of all kinds in the agricultural states of the union (The Farm Relief Record). This, I remind you, was 1933 and the nation was still deeply mired in a lingering depression.

Bored with this story, I turned the page over and put it together again. There I found intriguing stories that gave ominous hints about what was happening in Germany. Women were being cleverly forced to learn factory work; that is, to take over the roles formerly played by men. The men were in training for different work (not mentioned in the article); that is, the work of invasion and dominion and building secret weapons of war. Hitler, the article says, disapproves of women displacing men in these jobs and vows to fight against it. So, the women don’t like it and Hitler doesn’t like it and, yet, it continues. Clever deception! The world was not yet sure just what was going on in the mind of a lunatic!

Another story pointed out that immigration flows into America were down and it was because of the high rate of deportations of unlikeable characters and criminals and spies and general ner-do-wells and immigrants who had just plain failed in America because of the depression – “the flow of migration is reversed!” Also being deported were illegal aliens who had smuggled themselves into the country. The estimates were that 400,000 illegals were living in America at that time.

What goes around comes around!

What a lovely morning with one single page of the New York Times from 1933 (November 12). My sister would have been only two weeks from her third birthday. My brother, Frank, who sent me the book, would have been only two weeks old. My mother and Father and their two children would have been living in the Bronx and struggling through the hard times.

“Whatever strengthens and purifies the affections, enlarges the imagination and adds spirit to sense, is useful.” [Shelley]

“God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages.” [William E. Channing]

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why is the Government Broke?


Chicagoans call in The Bean. It's real name is Cloud Gate!

You know, we ought to have plenty of money to educate our kids and provide wonderful health care to everyone if only we spent our money more wisely!
by Charlie Leck

I watched a terrific video called The Story of Broke. It’s right-on and explains exactly where all the money goes that we send to the U.S. Government. I found it where I find so much really interesting and creative stuff – on the Open Culture web site.

I really recommend that you take the 8 minutes required to watch this very clear and well produced video. I’ve put it right here on this blog so you can easily begin watching.

Be aware that the federal government collected 2.16 trillion dollars in tax revenues in 2010. Geez, Louise! We oughta be able to get by on that! The video explains what happens to the dough and what could happen to it if it was spent correctly

When you finish watching it, you could also take a look at this production’s predecessor, a terrific little video called The Story of Stuff. In case you’re interested, I’ve included it below.

Thanks for visiting my regular blog. We’re over 1300 posts now and we’ll keep trying to bring you interesting thoughts and opinion.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Amy at it Again

Amy's Grand Entrance into Millennium Park in Chicago, in front of the Bean.

I went down to Chicago for a special 11|11|11 celebration called The Beckoning of Lovely and it was an awful lot of fun!
by Charlie Leck

Last year I wrote a blog here called Once in Love with Amy. Well, Amy is still charming me and making me feel misty and mellow.

Amy Krause Rosenthal has been staging these loving and wonderful get-togethers since 2008. That one, of course, was on 8|8|08 at 8:08 p.m.. These gatherings are for people who believe love, compassion, understanding and helpfulness can cure everything. In may ways, they are correct!

If you want to understand Amy better, and perhaps fall head-over-heals with her as I have, then watch this lengthy video. It's more than an hour long, but you can take it in 5 part bites if you'd like. Watch it and I think you'll be nuts about Amy, too, and I think it will put a little more hopefulness in your soul. Amy sure has put more in mine.

I was in her audience in Chicago on Friday morning at 11:11 a.m. when Amy made her grand entrance (yellow umbrella and all) and she wowed us all again with her utter simplicity and her belief that we really, really can appreciate one another, whatever and whoever we might be.

You'll understand what I'm talking about a little better if you watch the video. Part I is below and you can find the rest under the Beckoning of Lovely tag on Amy's Website.


I've given away, mostly to strangers, 20 copies of Amy's wonderful little book, The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. It's out of print now or I'd send one to you too.

Below are a few scenes from the park on Thursday.

Blurred Entrance

Camera Man

Devotees

Marriage Proposal

Once in Love with Amy

In the Bean

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday’s Election Results

What did the voting across the country on Tuesday have to say to us?
by Charlie Leck

The results of local elections all across the nation on Tuesday say something very interesting to which the Republican Party may indeed need to pay attention. The conservative voice of America appears to be telling the Republicans that they have gone too far to the right – that they need to straighten up and move back to a more moderate and conservative position. This is not strictly my position, but it seems to be that of political analysts all over America.

The best explanation of Tuesday’s results come from E. J. Dionne, Jr., one of the best political observers in the country. [Click here for Dionne’s explanation!]

This verse from scripture, sent to me by Sojourners speaks a good warning to the Republicans.

"Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. When you speak the word, speak it gracefully (as if seasoned with salt), so you will know how to respond to everyone rightly." - Colossians 4:5-6

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joe Pa


There is a time for all things and everything has its time!
by Charlie Leck


[13 July 2012] I felt strongly, when I wrote this blog last November, that I was correct; that Joe Paterno could not have known about the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and then kept quiet about them. It appears that I was very incorrect. The Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan Report makes it quite clear that Joe Paterno knew more than any of us believed he did; that he should have acted promptly and efficiently to condemn Sandusky and report him to the proper authorities. Instead it appears that Paterno tried to wish the problem away and had not the heart or guts to deal with it. It hurts to admit this about a guy I so deeply admired (as the terribly incorrect blog below asserts). I can not say it any more clearly that this: I was deeply wrong and incorrect and the history of the Joe Paterno reign at Penn State University will sadly need to be adjusted.

No draft this morning! I'm writing directly into my blog apparatus. I want the blog to be real and represent my feelings as truly as it possibly can, with no rewriting or restructuring or rethinking what comes right off the top of my head.

If you don't know about Joe Pa, the coach of the Pennsylvania State University collegiate football team for the last one-thousand years, then you may as well not read any further. He's more formally known as Joe Paterno.

Mr. Paterno is an institution within an institution. Say Penn State to a hundred people -- that and nothing more -- and 99 of them will answer: Joe Paterno (or Joe Pa). He has been the face of that university for the last 45 years and he's been on the coaching staff for a total of 61 years. He'll turn 85 years old on December 21. He's brought in tens of millions of dollars to the University and much of it has been used to fund activities outside of the Athletic Department. The main library at Penn State is named after him because he and his wife gave the start-up funds to build it. He's already been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was the first coach in major college football to reach 400 victories. He's had five undefeated seasons. His teams have won 24 post season bowl games. He has won in all of the most famous bowl games at least once -- the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. 37 times his teams have appeared in bowl games. In 2010, the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia announced that it would annually present the Joseph V. Paterno Award to the college football coach who has made a positive impact on his university, his players and his community. Paterno has turned down several offers to coach professional football teams because he loves the college game and the college atmosphere.

More importantly, Paterno insisted that his football program would not, in anyway, diminish the academic reputation of the university. He has consistently had the highest graduation rates of his football players among all major college programs.

Joe Paterno may as well have been the head-man at Penn State for the last 30 years because he is the most important figure down there in Happy Valley. What Joe Pa wanted, Joe Pa pretty much got. A few years ago the President of the University sent a clear signal to Mr. Paterno that he might want to start thinking about retirement. Joe Pa sent a clear signal back that he wasn't ready to start thinking about it. That was the end of it.

One has always figured that Joe Pa would name the time that he would end his career at Penn State or he would die on the job. At any rate, Joe Pa would exclusively call the shots.

That glory and power has all come to an abrupt and sad end and Joe Pa is probably confused as hell about it. He may be gone as the Penn State coach and be relieved of all connections to the University as early as today and certainly within the next several weeks.

Why?
It appears he didn't take actions required by law to report an incident or incidents of child sexual abuse that he had been informed had taken place in his football team's lockerroom showers. A former assistant coach, had retained keys to the place, and often took young boys there to show them where their heroes showered, and then molested them there. Joe Pa clearly knew about one occasion. It had been reported to him in no uncertain terms by one of his employees who had witnessed it.

Perhaps Joe Pa chose not to believe the report or couldn't believe it or wouldn't believe it of his former associate and assistant.

It appears a number of people knew! They chose to look the other way. Their inaction allowed such molestation to continue.

The details coming out of Happy Valley are saddening and sickening. I am sick to death and sad as hell.

Mr. Paterno is a good and decent man -- ten times better and ten times more decent than most men. He just chose to believe in a friend when he shouldn't have. He wanted to be positive rather than negative. Yet, it was the wrong thing to do at that terribly wrong time; and one of the most glorious careers in all of sports will be brought down in a way that rivals the most cataclysmic of Greek tragedies and it makes me weep.

The End!
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Keep the Vikings


If you are a Vikings fan and want to keep them in Minnesota, watch this video!
Christian Ponder photograph above, thanks to
Zimbio.com/Christian Ponder photos!

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about the Minnesota Vikings before, but today is the day!
by Charlie Leck

I’ve got a good blogging friend, Tony Rugare, in Cleveland. Tony has a sharp wit and a good mind. His bogs never go on and on. He gets right to the point and those points are nearly always sharp. Among other things, Tony is also a terrific sports fan and devoted to his Cleveland Indians. The fact that he can think well about national and world current events and local muddles there in Cleveland AND sports makes him, I think, a well rounded guy. He doesn’t over-do it with his sports detours, but one feels his passion when he does. [Check out From Tony’s Keyboard]

I should like to know from Tony what the atmosphere must have been like the day it became clear in Cleveland that their professional football team, the Browns, were headed for Baltimore, leaving heartbreak behind them.

Now here’s the reason I ask…
I’m a hopeless Minnesota Vikings fan and have been since the team came into existence in 1961. Now, there is a danger that we will become another Cleveland – broken hearted lovers who have been left in a lurch by the one over whom we have poured out so much affection and emotion.

The Vikings have made it clear that they can’t compete with the other guys with the stadium they have. To pay the price of the best players these days, a team needs first class practice facilities and a first class stadium to play in. The old Metrodome isn’t that place. The Vikes have made it clear that they will contribute nearly 500 million dollars to this stadium that will we owned by the state and will be used for many other community events – concerts, entertainment galore, high school football and soccer championship games, national collegiate championships in football and basketball and on and on….

The team’s lease runs out this season – in February. There are other towns (the City of Angels, for one), courting our team. Can you imagine the Vikings of Los Angeles? It doesn’t make sense.

I’ve contacted my State Senator (Gen Olson) about this and also my District Representative (Steve Smith). I’ve had a good response from Smith, a Republican, who says he’s on board for getting something done that will help the Vikings get a new stadium. Senator Olson hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I’ll keep bugging her.

Here’s a very cool and heart-tugging video the Vikings have put out and asked their fans to spread around. I’m easy! I know that! I have strong emotional ties to the Vikings. Sure they’ve broken my heart a number of times. It’s so hard getting over those four (4) – yes FOUR – Super Bowl losses; yet, they are still my team – my one and only team and I’ll pull for them forever – at least for as long as they’re in Minnesota and I’m still kicking.

If you’re a Vikings fan, be sure to watch the video. If you remember Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, Karl Kasulke and Jim Marshall, you’ve just got to. Our state will lose so much if we lose the Vikings. It would be one of the most foolish things we’ve ever done. Don’t let them do it!

If you're hooked on the Vikings also, you might want to take a look at the web site Save the Vikings.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Down Some Country Road


My town is very unusual and plenty of my friends wonder why I live out here, so far from the excitement of life!
by Charlie Leck

My dog and I took a little ride yesterday. The Gopher (University of Minnesota) football game was over and they lost again – this time to the Michigan State University Spartans – after playing tough for three quarters. I needed to shake some cob webs from my head, as they say, and I cranked up the old car and drove out our gravel driveway and up our gravel road and just roamed around my town, looking here and there at pretty much nothing.

What is it that inveigles me so much about this town? When one realizes that it is part of the metropolitan complex – a virtually suburban community – only 25 miles from the heart of Minneapolis – one is then caught up in its wonder. How can there be such opens spaces – these meadows, rolling hills, wetlands and beautiful farms – in such a large and populated urban setting?

Someone did something right a number of years ago and I owe them a lot of gratitude. This land and these opens spaces, you see, are protected. Housing developments and commercial or industrial complexes are forbidden out here.

I drove straight north on our tidy, but graveled, road. I passed two handsome golf courses, at least five pretty, little farms, acres and acres of pastureland and a couple dozen cozy houses nestled on very large plats of land. At the highway I zigged right and then quickly zagged north again on another gravel road. I looked out at two or three more small farms neatly fenced and maintained, a few houses sitting on the shores of a small lake and a nursery where a fellow grows trees to sell. After a couple miles the road climbed a small hill and wound this way and then that and I found myself in a very attractive county park.

I pushed the car slowly through the park. There were still some colorful leaves clinging to oak, maple and elm trees, but the wind was strong today and the leaves were falling gently all around the open land. A large lake was at the center – the heart – of the parkland. As I drove on, I saw the bike trails and hiking trails snaking through the park hither and yon.

There are plenty of people out here who want to put an end to all of this. They think they missed out on the American dream – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They figure there should be housing developments over here and an industrial park right there. At the southwest corner of this fantastic parkland there should be a Super Target complex with a big, macadam parking lot with those white lines into which ones squeezes a thousand cars. I visualize the big lamps that give light to the commercial corner at night. The sign for the Target Store is bright red and lit up at night and the field of black soil that gives birth to yearly crops is no longer there. Kentucky Fried Chicken will want to put a drive-through nearby and someone will figure we need a fitness center and a bigger gas station and convenience market. And then the roads will need to be paved because who wants to drive his black Lexus over dusty roads on a dry summer day. (Should there be a question-mark here? I don’t think so!)

What will happen to our wild turkeys and the red fox who like it here? To the white tailed deer who frolic over the lands and through the trees? To the bald eagles who nest in the tree-tops along the lake shore? To the fellow who nurses beautiful trees to just the right size and shape? To the creek that runs with clear, clean water all the way through our town to the little known lake on its south boundary?

I drive past John and Kathy’s pleasant horse farm, with the red and white jumps neatly set up in their riding ring. There’s Whee’s remarkable place on nearly 600 acres of lovingly cared-for, heavily forested land. Virgil’s house is at the end of that pretty driveway lined with drooping willows.

There are no gated communities and no sprawling housing complexes. I don’t pass a single blinking light trying to convince me I’m hungry or thirsty. If I want fast-food, I need to drive east toward the city – to where the suburban sprawl spreads its ugliness across the land. Or, I can drive west six miles to where the sprawl once again commences. But here – here in the same county that is home to Minneapolis – there is nothing to distract the eye from the beauty of the land – from the rolling meadows, patches of forest, streams and creeks, fence-lined farms and long, long driveways leading to hidden homes.

I suddenly realize that I’ve been driving for nearly two hours. The sun is very low and the shadows that spread across the open fields are very, very long. The autumn sky in the west is painted in marvelous hues of red, pink, blue, yellow and orange. Some incredible artist did this work. I pull the car to the shoulder and climb from it. The sunset is spectacular and I wish that I’d brought my camera.

“You don’t need to capture it,” I tell myself. “Just enjoy it.

This is my town and I love it here. The dog’s head and shoulders are sticking out of the car’s rear window. He is watching me and wondering, I think, why I am so melancholy. I don’t how to explain it to him. I free him from the car and he sits at my feet and we watch the sunset together.

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