Friday, April 29, 2016

Ideally...



John Archibald is a columnist for The Birmingham News/al.com. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the paper, and all the time at al.com. If you are not familiar with al.com, it is the best source for news about Alabama. Unlike the television stations and newspapers who all have a particular political bent (mostly religious, conservative, and Republican), you can always count on al.com to tell the truth. They don't print a story unless they can back it up with evidence, not something that can be said for most television news people. John Archibald is one of my favorites and I want to share two of his latest columns. The first is a fantasy that never was nor ever will be, but it's a nice fantasy, one that would make the south a true paradise that it should be (minus the heat, although sweet iced tea does slightly compensate for that). The second is Archibald doing what he does best, telling it like it is. He's good with calling out hypocrisy, some thing that too often the news media forgets to do. Though he is talking about Alabama politics, he might as well be talking about politics anywhere. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

 I want my South back

I want my South back.

You know the place. It recognized the past, but didn't wallow around in it. My South could laugh at itself, because it knew deep down it had it made. It had food to make you drool and music to make you feel, and it had the prettiest of people. It blushed at compliments and shook off insult, because the quirks other folks ridiculed were the wrinkles that gave it character.

And characters.

It was proud, but it was not afraid. It was welcoming, and it was – I swear it's true – gentle.

I miss that place. But then, maybe it never really existed at all, outside my head and my hopes. Maybe it was just an aspiration and an ideal, passed along by Southerners who knew this place and its people were nothing more or less than the sum of their scars. Where they came from shaped who they were, but did not dictate where they'd go.

That South was real to me. And I want it back.

I'm talking about my South, the way Morgan Freeman would say it or Harper Lee would write it, with pain up front and promise on the back end. I'm talking about the South the way we wanted it to be, the way some of us believe it can still be.

Not the Confederacy, or George Wallace. Not even Lynyrd Skynyrd, though the band will play on my soundtrack. I want the Southern Pride, but also that Southern Promise.

My South is not a place that blames everyone and everything for the unfairness of it all. It's not one that pines for a day that probably never was and never should have been.  My South could not watch unaffected as old people suffer, or stand by as children go without.

It was never a place so insecure that it barred its doors, never so offended by the ways of others that it wished them suffering. It saw needs and filled them. It saw hurt and eased it.

Oh, there was always hate and pain and righteous wrong in the real South, in a land built on man's inhumanity to man. But centuries of sins brought together a magical blend of cultures that made us something better than our parts. Our Eden was already perfumed with clover and honeysuckle, and together we added barbecue and collard greens. You can smell it today.

It's a place where you can laugh long and joke about anything. Except mama. It's a place where being a gentleman has nothing to do with a seersucker suit, where it's OK to disagree about politics or policy or even football, but it's never an excuse to be rude.

Maybe it's true that my South only existed in my head. Perhaps it was just a romantic notion, as misguided as those who look back at the good old days and see only good. But my South is not just the past. It is the hope for a better future.

In my South we are one people in one amazing place. Proud of who we are and proud of where we have been. And in my South we are proud of the changes we have made. We look at each other and see ... each other. We know pain, but we believe in promise.

Because we know we can be more, and better, and kinder, and fairer. We can be more giving and more forgiving than the world would ever imagine. And we can do all that better together.

In my South.

Alabama double standard: Politicians judge you, but not themselves

For a bunch so holier-than-thou, the Montgomery gang sure has become forgiving.

Of each other, I mean.

Oh, they'll judge you and me on our politics and national origin, our race and gender and religion and values. They'll poke around in your bedroom to see who's there – and who's not. They'll throw you in jail just to look tough on crime. And – oh yeah – they'll disqualify you as their brother or sister if you don't interpret your Bible the same as them.

But let a few fall off their high horses and the pillars of piety start to crumble.

Personal responsibility gives way to tolerance, of all things. Alabama values become fluid. All of a sudden – quick as a lawmaker can say OH MY GOD, WHAT IF THAT WAS ME – mercy and compassion debut in the Capital City.

Because self-preservation trumps accountability.

I swear Rep. Mac McCutcheon is like the lifeguard in this cesspool. Anywhere there's a politician drowning in a deep end of his own doing, there's McCutcheon to drag him to safety.

He was there for Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Soon as Hubbard was popped on 23 felonies for using his office for personal gain, McCutcheon came to assure us "Mike Hubbard is our Speaker and our friend."

Now he's there for Gov. Robert Bentley, with an amendment to a resolution that will derail attempts to impeach the governor. Because forgiveness and compassion are important.

This from a guy who once sponsored a bill making it illegal for ex-cons to homebrew beer.

And if McCutcheon's the lifeguard, Rep. Jack Williams is the pool boy. He rushes to anyone who fouls the water and apologizes for the mess.

He talks so much about forgiveness these days you forget he used to talk of "accountability" and "responsibility." When some Republicans questioned whether a guy facing 23 ethics charges really should be speaker, Williams lamented "the politics of personal destruction."

Not the personal destruction of crime. Or scandal. Or governing with a hand out and an expectation of special treatment. The "personal destruction" he criticized came from people demanding better.

This is where we are. With a group of so-called leaders who want to blow up the whole system because they can't keep their noses clean. That's why Williams last year sponsored a bill that would gut the ethics law and allow indicted politicians to beg for money to use in their own defense funds. It is why the Ethics Commission – which would rather give a politician a road map around the law than to hold him to it – now says it's OK for Rep. Randy Davis to take a job from a company with political interest.

Alabama politicians always find a way to take

If you can give a legislator a job with a wink and a nod, campaign finance and ethics reform means exactly squat. These wolves have huffed and puffed and blown our hope for honest government to hell.

The Speaker will go to trial. It looks like the governor has fouled his pool in legal and personal ways. The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is again facing complaints from the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

And our government is as crippled as our trust.

If you don't think so, just look at what Hubbard has done to budgets of the state's district attorneys and the attorney general – whose office is prosecuting Hubbard. Look at what he does to routine bills prosecutors want to see passed.

This session he diverted several of those bills -- which had absolutely nothing to do with himself or the armed services  –  to the Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee. To die.

That committee, by the way, is chaired by Rep. Barry Moore. Who was charged with perjury – and acquitted – by the AG's office.

They don't want oversight. They don't want accountability for themselves. And they don't want the law to apply to them.

Just remember it, the next time they judge you.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Danish Girl


Last night, I watched The Danish Girl. What a truly remarkable film! I had not watched it before because I knew the ending would be sad. However, my boss had watched it and when I told her that the sad ending was why I had not seen it, she insisted that the ending really wasn’t sad. I trusted her on this and oddly she was right. It wasn't sad; it was just a beautiful movie. Now if you don’t know the story of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe and you don’t want to know anything about the film before watching it, then stop reading right here.

Lili Elbe was one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery.  She had been born Einar Wegener and was married to fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb. Einar knew all of his life that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, and the movie follows his transition from a man to a woman. Garda stayed with Lili until the end. You see, Lili died from complications from the four surgeries she had (in the movie it is only two).

There are two things that make this film extraordinary. The first is Eddie Redmayne. He is stunning in his portrayal of Einar/Lili in the film. Redmayne has been criticized by some in the transgender community because Redmayne is a heterosexual male. But Redmayne is a superb actor and any criticism is unfounded because he was superb in the role. The second is the way that Lili and Gerda’s relationship is handled. The movie is a true tribute to the transgender community. Lili Elbe was a great pioneer and many pioneers do not survive their pioneering endeavors. Lili was one of them.

The death is dealt with so sensitively and with such grace that you just see the beauty of the scene over the sadness. I had expected to cry at the end, but when the scene came, I did not cry. I guess I had prepared myself enough that I was ready for the scene, but also you know that Lili is at peace at the end.

If you have not seen this movie, I think you should. If you have seen it, I hope you will tell me in the comments what you thought of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Snow


Just when we thought that winter was over, it snowed all day yesterday. Now, I personally would rather have snow over rain, but that's just me. However, this was a slushy snow so it might as well have been rain. My hair got just as wet. I know I looked like a drowned rat, lol. I had to walk across campus yesterday and I needed a hat or an umbrella, but both were in my car and not where I needed them to be.

Maybe that is the last of the snow. We got a lot more snow than was predicted, but it's supposed to be sunny and beautiful the rest of the week. I've been told that summer in Vermont makes it all worth it, but I've been told the same thing about autumn and spring. I'll make my assessment on the best season in October when I've been here a full year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sonnet 104


To me, fair friend, you never can be old (Sonnet 104)
by William Shakespeare
To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d:
For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

In this poem, Shakespeare uses his first memories of meeting his lover as inspiration for this poem. This sonnet makes it clear that the passion he feels for his male lover (possibly the Earl of Southhampton) is one of the most intense experiences of his life. His "fair friend" is the most important thing in his life. Their love is eternal, and his lover is eternal, both in beauty and spirit. It's also about his lover's eternal beauty that will never fade.
The three Aprils and three Junes suggest that the two were together for just three years. There was also a three years age difference between the 18 year old Shakespeare and the 21 year old Southampton at the time of Shakespeare's marriage to Anne Hathaway. Some critics of this method of interpreting the three years argue that the poet's use of 'three' years specifically may be simply a poetic convention (based on the significance of the number three in the Bible) and not a literal reference to the time he has spent with his lover. 
Whatever the case may be, Saturday, April 23, 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Today, actually marks the 452 year of his baptism which is the closest evidence we have to knowing Shakespeare's date of birth.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, Monday



It's back to work today. I don't think it will be a very busy week, but then each time I think that, it becomes a very busy week. I have a few projects to take care of, but they will get done in due time.

If I think of what I need to do, it might actually sound like more than it is. I have some editing to do. I have some press releases to get out. I'm sure I will also be working on some exhibit stuff. Come to think of it, it should be a pretty typical work week. Hopefully there will also be phone calls and emails to answer. Maybe I can schedule a few interviews during the coming week.

On another subject, did anyone watch Game of Thrones last night? I can't wait to see what's in store next week. I'm so used to binging on the episodes when I get the DVDs that I'm not sure I'll be able to handle waiting from week to week. I guess it will teach me patience.

Back to the old grind (work that is). I will worry about Game of Thrones next week and concentrate on what I have to do at work. I know one thing, I'm going to need some coffee.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Prayer for Strength and Love


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.—Ephesians 3:14-21

In this prayer, Paul tells the Ephesians to ask God to strengthen them by His Spirit. This is not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength. This strength is so Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. 

Paul further asks God that with both feet planted firmly on love will be able to take in with all Christians the many glorious dimensions of Christ's love. Paul tells the Ephesians to reach out and experience the breadth of God’s love, to test the length God’s love. He tells them to measure the depths and to rise to the heights of God’s love. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory.

He wants us to live full lives, full in the fullness of God.  Paul tells us that God can do anything. He can do far more than we could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams. He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God.

In this prayer, Paul gives us the path to happiness. He wants us to realize how much God is there for us. we can turn to him when we are weak, and he will give us strength. He gives us the strength to do all things in his name. He wants us to understand how much God loves us. The truth is there is no way to measure God’s love. It is infinite and everlasting. If we live our lives in the fullness of God, then we will be able to accomplish anything. God is with us, and if we let Him, He will fill us with his love and strength.