Archive for December, 2010

Yearender: America’s Wars Are Somewhat Ignored in 2010

December 29, 2010

  It is incredible that our country is in very costly wars – costly in many ways – but most Americans appear not to be thinking about it. It is probably thought about more in our area, Columbus (Georgia not Ohio), because Fort Benning supplies so many troops to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.

I just checked the top 10 searches on Yahoo in 2010. The BP Oil Spill tops the list, followed by the World Cup. Teen singer Justin Bieber and American Idol made the list. But neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are on it.

More than 4,400 Americans have been killed in the Iraqi war and more than 1300 in Afghanistan. About 34,000 have been seriously wounded. In 2001 the U.S. Defense budget was $316 billion. $13 billion of that went to the war in Afghanistan. This year, 2010, it’s $693 billion, according to Time, with $102 billion going to Afghanistan and $61 billion to Iraq.

This is really serious business, but you don’t see much about it on TV nor in the newspaper. Even though I was just a child during World War II I vividly remember the constant coverage of the war. It was front page and led radio newscasts just about every day, and dominated the newsreels in the theaters every week. Just about every one had a friend or relative in the military. People were keenly interested in news about the war.

Now, it seems to be something everyone just takes for granted. We have been at war so long that it has become the norm. It is a norm that is having tremendous consequences, consequences that not many of us seem to think about very much.

2010 Yearender

December 26, 2010

My son Rick's backyard, Cumming, GA

 With just a few days left in 2010, it’s time to look back at the highlights of the year.

At the top of my list right now, though it is certainly not the top story of the year, is the fact that parts of Georgia had a rare white Christmas. The picture above was sent to me Christmas day by my son Rick to show that, indeed, folks in the Atlanta area were experiencing a snowy Christmas day. This is the first Atlanta white Christmas in more than a hundred years, I learned on CBS Sunday Morning, one of the best programs on television. It was also reported that it is the first white Christmas in Birmingham in recorded history.

Snow in the South is usually welcomed because of the novelty.  It’s usually not around long enough to present much of a problem. People who live where it’s not a novelty don’t appear to welcome it all that much. After a few days of snowball fights, fashioning snowmen, and sledding down hills, a lot of them must make plans to move South, because there has been a huge migration into the South over the years. When I worked in Atlanta in 1957, the metropolitan area population clock showed a million people. Now, it’s more than 5 million and growth continues.

As I said, this tops my 2010 list because it is happening right now. We had a little snow in Columbus yesterday, and I have seen a few tiny snowdrops today.

Between now and New Years Day, I’ll be taking a look at the 2010 events that have stood out with me.

I am also interested in your thoughts about the top events of 2010.  Just click the “Comment” button below and tell us, if you like.

My Kind of Halftime Show

December 24, 2010

Knowing I was once a high school, college*,  and U.S. Army bandsman, Milton Jones sent me a link to this YouTube of one of the most clever halftime band formations I have seen.  This is the type of halftime show that is not only entertaining, but shows incredible formation marching skills. It’s the University of Hawaii Marching Band performing a stick figure kickoff. I had to share it with you.

*I know a lot of my family will find it news that I was once in a college band. I don’t think I ever told them that I was a member of the Mercer University ROTC band.  It was formed for the sole purpose of playing for Mercer ROTC parades; it  also played at basketball games.  I made the parades, but they managed without me at the basketball games because I was working nights as an announcer at radio station WBML in Macon.  

My YouTube Merry Christmas

December 23, 2010

Here we go with my very first YouTube production.  It took a special occasion to prompt me to go to the trouble to learn how to do it, and, to be  honest I am still learning, because the reason I finally was able to get this on  this blog is the help I got from my stepson Ken Champion, who has a computer science degree.  I know you don’t need one for that purpose, but it doesn’t hurt. The special occasion is, of course,  Christmas.

Keeping my Monday Promise

December 20, 2010

I promised that I would always try to have a new post at least every Monday, but with Christmas shopping and a special Christmas card I am planning for you, my plate is full, as it were. (Ever wonder what the heck “as it were” means?) But, full plate or not, a promise is a promise. 

Then again, maybe Mark Twain had the right idea. Here’s what he says about promises in The Innocents Abroad, which I am just getting around to reading.


Mark Twain, as photographed by Mathew Brady

  “I never could keep a promise. I do not blame myself for this weakness, because the fault must lie in my physical organization. It is likely that such a very liberal amount of space was given to the organ which enables me to make promises that the organ which should enable me to keep them was crowded out. But I grieve not. I like no half-way things. I had rather have one faculty nobly developed than two faculties of mere ordinary capacity.”

As I said, I am just getting around to reading it, and at the same time sampling the Autobiography of Mark Twain, the new autobiography that contains a lot of material just released, because he stipulated it not be released until 100 years after his death.  Sampling seems appropriate to this highly publicised book because it is pretty much a stream of consciousness affair.

On top of all of that reading, I am really engrossed in Ken Follett’s new epic, Fall of Giants, the first volume of his 20th Century trilogyAfter reading Pillars of the Earth, I decided that I would immediately read anything  he writes.  He has to be one of the world’s greatest writers. His style is contemporary, which makes it easy to read because he makes no attempt to impress us with long, convoluted sentences, but he does throw in a word we have to look up occasionally, which I like, because I like learning the meanings of new words, as long as there are not so many as to drastically slow down reading.

Before I started reading Fall of Giants, I read John Franzen’s highly touted Freedom. Critics who proclaimed its greatness say it reflects the current society. I agree, but I really don’t think his writing is as engrossing as Follett’s.  He really gets into long, convoluted sentences and weighs us down with tedious detail.  That is, of course, just my opinion, but it’s the one I value the most when it comes to books, movies, music, plays, and art. Let’s face it, reviewing is a subjective endeavour.

TCM Honors Mickey Rooney this Month for Good Reason

December 16, 2010

Mickey Rooney and his wife Jan

  Like just about every kid, when child star Mickey Rooney’s name went up on a movie theater marquee, I asked my mom for ten cents to buy a ticket. That’s right. When I was a small boy kids tickets were a dime.  The request was usually unnecessary, because adults loved Mickey Rooney movies, also, so the whole family went.

Mickey, who is 90, is being featured as the Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.  It became clear to me as I watched some of his early movies why he was so popular.  In an early movie where he played a supporting role, every time he would appear in a scene he would steal it. Children usually do; however in his case, it was more than that. He was the best actor in the scene. Back in the 30s, a lot of acting was overboard, not natural, but Mickey, even when very young,  possessed a natural, believable style.

He was usually comic relief, but even at that, his characters were believable.  His Andy Hardy movies, especially the ones with Judy Garland, were smash hits. But, he could also win hearts playing serious roles in movies like “The Human Comedy,”  “National Velvet” with Elizabeth Tayler, and “Boys Town” with Spencer Tracy. Mickey Rooney was top box office draw,  topping “the king” Clark Gable, in 1939, 1940, and 1941. 

He also gives some other stars famous for multiple marriages a run for the money. He has been married eight times. The last one stuck. He and Jan have been married for more than 30 years.

After the heydays of the 30s and 40s, when he was no longer a juvenile actor, he managed to make more movies, appear in plays, and on TV, but his best days were when he was a kid. Fortunately, those classics are still around and thanks to Turner Classic Movies, you can see why he won an Academy Juvenile Award in 1938, and was given an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1983.

John Van Doorn is New Chair of Muscogee County Democratic Party

December 15, 2010

Jeanne Dugas and John Van Doorn at Muscogee County Democratic Party meeting

   John Van Doorn is the new chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Party. He got more votes than former Chair Jeanne Dugas who ran for reelection; however,  she was elected to Van Doorn’s former position as First Vice Chair. Van Doorn is a political science professor at Troy University, the Columbus/Ft. Benning campus. Dugas is a retired Columbus State University psychology professor. Both are PhDs.
Van Doorn called for three “forward looking” changes.  He will work for “unity within the party.” He will present “a clear firendly message of inclusion to all members of the greater Muscogee County area.” He said, “We are a Big Tent party that welcomes all comers. We are not interested in reading people out of the party.” He added, “Democrats will be organizing and educating voters for the pivotal 2012 elections and beyond.”
Dugas said the Muscogee Party has gotten great results, pointing out that had the state gone the way Muscogee County did  in the last election Democrats would hold all of the statewide offices. She also pointed to the success of Teresa Tomlinson, the Democrat who won the non-partisan city-wide election for Mayor of Columbus. 
Other officers elected are Juanita Booker as 2nd Vice Chair, Barbara Jackson as Secretary, and Judy Brouillette as Treasurer.

Christmas Thoughts

December 13, 2010

    The emotional intensity of Christmas is amazing. It’s manic-depressive. It’s full of cheer, good feeling, carols, familial love, feasting, fruit cake (nothing’s perfect), ambrosia, adorable children, presents, etc. But. it also has its lows: the crazy uncle at Christmas dinner, maxed-out credit cards, booze overload, severe depression. It’s not all beautiful, but some of it is. May the beautiful outweigh the ugly for you.

There is an Alternative to Security Vulnerable Email

December 12, 2010

While it appears that nothing really bad about the U.S. has been revealed in the Wikileaks leaks, there is a big concern about online security.  Whatever one puts online is online and forever, I am told, and hackers can get to it.  What to do? Well, there the good old United State Postal Service.  A letter is certainly not a hundred percent secure, but it’s not available to the world online, and there are big penalties for someone intercepting and opening your mail.

And if you really want to make a message special, sending an old fashion snail mail epistle especially written in cursive has an emotional impact that  email doesn’t. I got one Friday and it was indeed a rare and special experience.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence Band Gives Excellent Christmas Concert

December 6, 2010

My Army band memories came flooding back yesterday afternoon as we sat in the mezzanine of the Bill Heard Theater.  The Fort Benning band, now called the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band, was delighting an almost-full house with its annual Christmas concert, “Ringing in the Holidays!” ( Bill Heard is a 2,000-seat theater.) The band also packed them in again for the evening performance. It got a long, standing ovation at the end of the concert, and, I am sure it was not just because Columbus is an Army town, one that continually shows its appreciation for the Fort Benning troops, but because it was an excellent concert.

Ft. Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band's "Ringing in the Holidays" concert, Bill Heard Theater, River Center, Columbus, GA

30th Army Band, Munich, Germany, 1955

The 30th Army Band, the one in which I was a percussionist and drum major in 1954-55, no longer exists, and a Google search produced no history of it.  It was located at McGraw Kaserne, Munich, Germany, which was headquarters for the U.S. Army in southern Germany. 

We also played some concerts for civilians, but our main function was to play for review parades, not only at McGraw Kasern,  but for Army posts all over southern Bavaria.  Every week we would board a bus and travel to other kaserns and posts.  The views could be spectacular as the bus would wend its way to some remote posts high in the Alps.