Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Got A Nikon Camera, I Love To Take Photographs.

These shots are from an outing earlier this week at the Country Club of Little Rock that somehow took leave of its senses and allowed me, PM and my lawyer Rick to play a round of golf on its hallowed grounds. Actually, they didn't go completely nuts over there. They assigned local lawyer and CCLR member Herb Rule to keep an eye on us in case we tried to steal some towels or something.

I took these shots with my new Nikon p5000. Not bad depth of field for a point and shoot, huh?

Cap Anson Update

From occasional Pup correspondent and world Cap Anson expert Howard W. Rosenberg:

"The article provides a window on what it’s been like to tout Anson, in
cities where it’s not that obvious where there’s a tie-in, and where local
news is everything. My favorite line in the article (given the Chicago
Tribune’s handling of Cap Anson 4 to date; see is: "And we leave
Chicago connections to Chicago-based newspapers."

2. As far as Cap Anson 3, a Baltimore sports weekly, the Press Box,
mentioned it in a duckpin bowling feature; see the sidebar on the
right-hand side of the following link:"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sursum Corda

The Heart of Elvis resides in Craighead County, Arkansas. Wella wella wella....

Hit the link:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Future Of American Tennis?

This is a story about 18 year old Donald Young who turned pro at the age of 14. This piece is a cautionary tale about just how hard tennis is at a certain level. I saw Young play last Spring here in the St. Vincent's Tournament. In fact, he won it after somehow beating Harrel Levy, who once made it to the semis of the French before having to leave the ATP tour to fulfill his Israeli military commitment if memory serves, to get to the final. He and a partner won the doubles the day before in an incredibly chippy match with a couple of whiners from Illinois.

It was a big payday for him. I bet he won all of 7 grand.

Anyway, I visited with his Mother briefly. She seemed like a nice lady for a tennis mom.

Hit the link:

"Classical music can really be pretty good."

That remarkable sentence graced the otherwise interesting piece in today's Week in Review in the New York Times about the amateur tenor from Wales who won Great Britain's version of "American Idol."

Since when did Wally Hall start editing the copy over there?

My Sunday Feeling

My excellent friend Renee Horton kind of stole my thunder for this week, seeing as how she wrote about the current wave of serious literature written by avowed atheists that seeks to, for lack of a better way to put it, remove or diminish greatly the use of religion and religious ideation in public discourse. To read her blog, go to . I decided to write about it after reading a "debate' in Newsweek Magazine between pastor and author Rick Warren and atheist neurobiologist Sam Harris. I thought Warren acquitted himself pretty well while Harris came across as smug and angry. But that's just me. Read it here and judge for yourself.

Back in the Spring, prominent atheist authors Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens spoke here in Little Rock. I was not able to see Dawkins but I did go see Hitchens, whose writing I greatly admire. I arrived early and I was glad that I did as the room soon filled to capacity and the sponsors of the event were forced to scramble for extra chairs to accommodate the crowd.

I marveled at this. You know, it wasn't all that long ago that the news of such speakers coming to our fair city to lecture in public facilities would have provoked a whirlwind of protest around here. And yet here he was speaking freely to a SRO crowd in the Bible Belt.

But I digress. Hitchens is the author of a recent book entitled "God Is Not Great-How Religion Poisons Everything." It is his thesis, based as much upon the examination of the tenets and writings of all the major religions as anything, that religion is a distortion of our origins, our nature and our cosmos. The only hope for mankind is to adopt a secular and scientific view of reality and to base our policies and our politics accordingly.

Whereas it is my understanding that Dawkins is caustic and combative in his interactions with an audience, my take on Hitchens was that he was the model of British civility, particularly when engaging an elderly person in our group who had a question or comment. Dawkins and Harris come across as angry and dismissive of religion as the province of fools. Hitchens does not. He acknowledges that religion has served as a force for good if only intermittently. Anyway, Hitchens seems like the sort of guy you would like to have a drink with and from I understand, he might accommodate you if the conditions were favorable. Atheists can be as dour as Calvinists. Hitchens is their "good humor man."

Someone asked him how the crowds have been on his book tour. He said that they have been about like the one that showed up in Little Rock. He interpreted this to mean that people were ready for the arguments of the atheists, that they were fed up with how religion poisons the public arena.

I don't think so. At least not here in Flannery O'Connor's Christ-haunted South where Jesus-or a typically right wing facsimile thereof- is practically on the ballot every election year.

But I do think there is a sense that religious ideology of a certain stripe informs certain policy decisions to an inappropriate degree. Further, I believe that there is a sense that things are not working in this country as they should and that people are turning to Hitchens in order to examine the origins of this particular ideology that some folks feel have an inordinate influence.

Hitchens breaks no ground that wasn't broken earlier by the likes of David Hume and Sigmund Freud among others. But he and fellow Brit Karen Armstrong raise powerful and compelling arguments against religious fundamentalism of any kind. And I think that is how the debate in this country is going to be couched. It matters little to people like myself that the Bible was pretty much a work over time by a committee of people who had their own agendas. I believe that if God wanted to originate the species by evolution, that's OK by me. I don't believe for 5 minutes that gay folks threaten heterosexual relationships. As for myself, I am perfectly capable of scuttling my relationships with women. I don't require the assistance of an adherent from an alternative lifestyle to further the usual process of my undoing.

But there are people out there for whom these issues mean everything. And they vote.

I say let the debate begin. Go give Hitch a listen if he comes to your town. You'll at least come away from the lecture with a different perspective on things. What's the harm in that?

Plugola: For those who are in the least inclined, you can tune in to "Tales from the South" at KUAR 90 FM on Thursday at 7 pm to hear local authors, including yours truly, reading stories about Father's Day. It will be simulcasted (is that a word?) on

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Got A Nikon Camera. I Love To Take Photographs.

This is my new toy. It is a Nikon Coolpix P5000. I need to put more pics up here and and lugging the D70 around is a pain. None of these damn "point and shoots" are what you would use for real photography. But at 10 megapixels you will get some good depth of field with this little box and I can carry it around in my bag.
It has a hot shoe on top that I can slide a Speedlight into if I want to do real flash stuff w/this camera. Which I can't imagine I will do. But I got the capability.
Besides, if this camera is good enough for a big time sort of director like Barry Sonnenfeld who recommends it, it's good enough for me.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Positively Curtains

It had been a long time since I had gone to lunch in the District. 2 and a half years. Easy. Used to practically live there.

It was time. The place where I used to hang was closed. I had to see it for myself.

It was busy down there. I had somehow forgotten that the Farmer's Market was on Tuesday. But then again, it had been awhile. On the way over I laughed in spite of myself when I realized that I couldn't remember what street to turn on. Cumberland? Or was it Commerce? "Give yourself a break." I muttered under my breath. "It's been awhile." I found my old spot. You could always find a place there if you didn't mind walking a bit.

The entire district was bustling with commerce. There were long lines at every vendor. Folks from the Presidential Library, schoolkids and the crazy guy who thinks he is the Mayor. Well, he thought he was the Mayor back in the day when I used to hang out down there. Who knows? Maybe he thinks he's Governor by now. Crazy people have thought crazier things.

I got my lunch at the Mediterranean place. I was happy to see they still had the spicy curry gyro platter. The man at the back was busy working as I came up to the counter to place my order. He stopped carving the lamb when he saw me. He smiled and nodded his head by way of greeting. I waved.

I got my lunch and sat in front of what used to be the old business. It was covered with white tarps as if it were enshrouded. The window facing President Clinton Street was partially covered and the logo had been scraped off. A sign said a pie shop was going in there. Hope it does well. It's a hell of a location.

A place like Little Rock gives up its stories pretty easily. You hear things. What was once inexplicable now makes some sense in retrospect. Not that it much matters. Nothing lasts forever. All things must pass. But from where I sat, it felt something like a death.

After lunch I went to the Farmer's Market and bought some especially pretty tomatoes. I wandered down the street to the art gallery on the corner. The lady that owns the place looked up when she heard the buzzer.

"Well, hello." she said. "It's been awhile."

" Yeah." I replied. "Awhile."

Walking back to the car I went past the business again. I turned my back to it and headed South with my little bag of tomatoes. Back to the parking place I like because I don't mind walking.

A door has finally closed. The curtain has come down.

And the feeling that I have? Well, it feels an awful lot like peace.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Sunday Feeling

It is a law of the universe that men and women are just wired differently. So it should come as now major surprise that they tend to have different approaches to certain celebrations. Most guys I know could pretty much give a rip about Father's Day. Don't get me wrong. It is great fun to get a card drawn by hand from a 4 year old. It is a great excuse to go buy sporting goods or cologne (that's how I celebrate it) and you can get a free pass to go fish or play golf. But that's about it. Mother's Day is a considerably bigger deal for women. Even when they say it's not.

The owner of the bookstore here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest once said of her grown children, " If they can't be nice to me 364 days of the year, then I don't want anything for Mother's Day." Of course this means that there would be brains spattered against the wall if any of her kids took her at her word and didn't remember her.

One of our local DJs put it best when he said, "Women want to gather the family all around and spend time sitting around visiting and all that. All I want for Father's Day is I just want Josh to give me back the debit card. Please God, give me back the debit card."

Or as my friend Richard said back when in the kids were in the house, " All I want for Father's Day is to go by myself to Brown's Country Kitchen where I can eat a meal in peace and maybe get a vanilla ice cream cone."

Dad died in 1977 so I haven't celebrated Father's Day in forever. I don't know what my brothers have on tap. Maybe John and his buddy Rollo will take the boys out to play golf. Bob works the graveyard shift at the nervous hospital so he will go to work around noon which will cut into the time for celebrating. I'm sure whatever they do it will be pretty low key and consistent with the regular guy ethos of not wanting much in the way of a fuss.

And if you are a Dad, I hope you get what you want even if all you want is to be left the hell alone.

Speaking of Father's Day: Last Monday myself and 2 other guys read short stories we had written for Father's Day that will be broadcast later on this month on public radio station KUAR's "Tales from the South." While God knows I have done public speaking on numerous occasions this was the first time that I had ever read a story live. My excellent friend PJ, who teaches the "talented and gifted (and from what I can tell extremely neurotic) program at one of our local high schools, is the one that got me into this. About the only advice she had for me was to speak slowly and to use facial expressions more than I normally do.

Great. I am pretty poker faced at my most animated. One of my numerous exes used to say that I was "hard to read." That's how I like it. Anyway, I decided to go with my strengths and I concentrate on the speaking part when I rehearsed it.

I guess it went OK. The story I read was a rewrite of the Father's Day piece that first appeared here. This was a piece that was described by one reader as "one of the saddest things I had ever read' although that was not my intent when I wrote it. But it was the only Father's Day piece I had and the deadline was upon me so I sent it in.

It was odd. The audience laughed at some parts that were not written for comedic effect. For example, I described donating books I had bought on step-parenting to the library after I had split up with a woman who had children. It brought down the house. "Jesus" I thought to myself as I paused for the laughter to subside. " It wasn't very funny at the time. Maybe I can work in some suicide jokes for you people too."

And the big joke I added for the story, the one that made me laugh out loud when I wrote it (and I think I know funny) produced not a titter. I paused waiting for the laughs to come. Dead air. I peered over the top of my papers to see if my audience had been taken by the Rapture or something. No such luck. I decided to move on before they started throwing stuff.

My buddy PM says that happens to him all the time when he reads his stuff in public. And a couple of years ago local authors read a chapter apiece of "The Great Gatsby" outside the library for the Arkansas Literary Festival. PM read the last chapter, which as you know, has precious few yucks in it. He said they were rolling in the aisles.

That's show biz.

After I got through reading, I sat and listened to the others. The taping was taking place at a restaurant downtown. A street person shuffled in and quietly took a seat behind me where she sat and listened politely. After awhile she tapped me on the shoulder. I leaned over. On her countenance she wore a beatific smile.

"I just love poetry." she said. She then got up and left.

I guess prose can come through as iambic pentameter when you are off your lithium.

It was an interesting end to an interesting evening.

Again, the program is called "Tales of the South" and will broadcast on KUAR FM 89 here locally on June 28 at 7pm CDT. Or you can listen to live streaming of the show on . If you something better to do that night, and I can't imagine that you do not, you can listen to it on the archives at .

I hope you enjoy it. And that you laugh at the lines that were written to be intentionally funny.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Guest Editorial

This is the link to an excellent essay in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Times by my good friend Steve Straessle on the perils of raising teenagers nowadays. Though prompted by the accidental overdose of a neighbor's son, this issue has been much on his mind for some time and he and I have had many talks about this subject for the last year or so.

His thoughts on the issue are informed by both his experience as a father and as the Headmaster at Catholic High School for Boys here in Little Rock. Anyway, he offers many thoughtful suggestions about raising kids in his essay but his thesis can be boiled down to one word: Communication.

You don't have to be a parent to have a stake in this issue. Read this if you have a kid in your life even if it's just a neighbor. And pass this along to your friends or relatives who are parents. This essay is a good Father's Day present to the world from a man who has thought long and hard about a troubling subject that nobody really wants to talk about.

From a man who is just as worried about his own kids as you are about yours. Hit the link.

Radio, Radio

I have been asked to read an edited version of last year's Father's Day post which will be broadcast on public radio station KUAR's "Tales of the South " and maybe NPR. It will be recorded tomorrow night and broadcast sometime later. The clip will also be put up on the KUAR website.

I had to clean up the Woody Allen joke and delete the other examples of mild profanity so the FCC won't bitch but it is otherwise pretty much intact although I had to turn it into "a story."

Anyway, once I get the time of the broadcast I will put it up here and I will provide the link to the program as soon as I get it as well. I assume it will air sometime around Father's Day.

My Sunday Feeling

I write these words not too far removed in real time from Paris Hilton getting thrown back into the County Jail crying and screaming by an apprently irked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. For those of you that live in a tree, this completely useless young woman was ordered to serve 45 days for contempt of court. The Sheriff's office released her to home detention after only 3 days citing an undisclosed medical condition that further incarceration would allegedly exacerbate.

The reaction to her release was swift and predictable. Hit the link below to see the e-mails on the subject gathered up by the good folks at The Smoking Gun.

I guess I'm kind of ambivalent about the whole silly episode. On the one hand, it is hard to feel too sorry for her. She and her fellow travelers Britney Spears and Nicole Ritchie are self-promoting slackers of the first water. Paris Hilton is precisely the sort of unsympathetic defendant that a judge tends to make an example of if he or she gets the chance. And of course, when you are dealing with a self-absorbed bubblehead like Hilton, the odds are good that you will get precisely that chance.

But let's look at the other side of the coin. It wasn't like she killed anybody. She was found gulity of a misdemeanor. She had no criminal record prior to then. The jails are crowded. And they house real criminals who represent genuine threats to society. People with records like Hilton's tend to get released early in the state and local criminal justice system. It happens every day to the less notorious.

But still, there are folks in there that have medical conditions as well. Some of them are pretty serious. They don't get to leave. There is that side of it as well.

Here is what I think will happen. She will do about another week or so while her lawyers gin up a case for her release due to some medical neccesity. The judge will release her to home detention or maybe he will impose an additional obligation of public service-2 words rarely uttered in the same breath with that airhead. Or, maybe she will accumulate enough "good time" (I think it is 4 days credit for each day served ) that her sentence will "flatten out" and she will be released to get out in a week or so even if she doesn't go back to court. In any event, if she has any sense, a big if given her past escapades, she will lay very low when she is released.

The hopeful news for parents of teenage girls everywhere is that perhaps Hilton's street cred took a hit when she went to jail screaming and calling for her Mommy. Granted, nobody likes to go to jail and it's not like she exactly fits the usual profile in there. But then again, there are people who have been on the receiving end of death sentences that bore the imposition of same with greater dignity than what Hilton was able to muster under far less trying circumstances.

As for the inmate herself, I have my doubts that she will learn very much from this. I have my doubts that she will accept responsibility for her actions. One of my friends thinks Paris is crazy. I happen to think that she's not very bright although she is Madame Curie next to fellow reveler Britney. Whatever. There is a big difference between self-absorption and self-awareness. For whatever reason Paris Hilton has very little of the latter.

No, we can't expect much of anything out of these completely useless young women that the cameras love to follow around. No sense in holding your breath until the next incident. I just hope nobody gets killed the next time one of these morons does something stupid behind the wheel.

Friday, June 08, 2007

How Not To Start A Round Of Golf

Here's the latest incident in the fine tuned machine that this the marriage of John Daly. As bad as it has been at times with me, no woman has ever come at me with a steak knife.

At least not yet.

Hit the link:


In the alumni section of this month's Tulane Lawyer it is announced that John Timothy Griffin was sworn in as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas back in December. The blurb candidly admits that he was serving under an appointment by the Attorney General which is shorthand for " not confirmed by the Senate."

Curious. I guess when one gets appointed to such a position one has to tell it on the mountain. It is part of the public record and all. But in my line of work, one learns to parse language. He was the duly appointed US Attorney under the law at the time which allowed the President to insert these guys into the office without Senate confirmation under the Patriot Act. The law has been changed since the defenestration of 7-8 US Attorneys for what seemed to be purely political reasons.

But, contrary to the bleating of certain media and political types, his appointment to the office was strictly legal at the time despite the fact that it turned out to be impolitic. Strictly legal is strictly legal. Here's an example.

I once pissed off a Federal Judge in another state who threatened to find me in contempt of court based upon advice I had given someone about honoring a subpoena. After cooling my jets for 3 days in court he allowed as how "technically" I was correct. Which was great. "Technically correct" was all I needed to get around that problem. Because if I was technically correct I was not in contempt of court. Here's some free advice. When confronted with a close question about whether to comply with a subpoena issued by a Federal Court, you should err on the side of compliance. It will make your life easier. Trust me.

Anyway, since I was technically correct I was not in contempt. Similarly speaking, since Tim Griffin was technically and therefore legally the US Attorney, why did he qualify the blurb he sent in by saying he was serving under an appointment by the AG?

Since we are speaking of technicalities, it is a moot point. Griffin is gone as of last week. His replacement is in the works. And you can bet that whoever they appoint to replace him will get stuck before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But I wonder why he felt the need to qualify the blurb in the Tulane Lawyer?


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Bet you didn't know that 2007 marks the 55th anniversary of the appearance of the alien being known as the Flatwoods Monster in rural West Virginia. This link provides you with all manner of information concerning this and other phenomena that you have never heard of because the government "doesn't want you to know."

Like that time the United States Air Force got in a dogfight with a bunch of UFOs back in the Fifties. You could look it up!

Anyway, cover all your windows with aluminum foil and then hit the link:

As Mother used to say, "You don't know it isn't true."

The Sunday Sports Page

Got back from Heber last night. Although I didn't have time to do the usual Sunday thing, I decided to put some sports stuff up today out of force of habit as much of anything.

The first link is to a piece in today's edition of Play, the new sports offering from the New York Times in which the question is asked that has presented itself to my mind from time-to-time: "Is Phil Mickelson a knucklehead?"

The other 2 links concern the chaos in Arkansas Razorback athletics as a metaphor for the larger problems in college sports. Today's column by the always excellent Selena Roberts is particularly acute. The 4 part story in ESPN doesn't unearth any news, but has to represent more water torture to the Razorback Nation and gives the lie to the old saying "Any pub is good pub."

None of this is good pub.

Finally, I include as a public service today's column by our own inimitable and often unreadable Wally Hall as an example of how not to write a sports column. And today's offering is one of his more coherent efforts!


Friday, June 01, 2007

Off To The Ozarks!

I will be off to a family reunion and snake handling service in Heber Springs this afternoon. So there won't be the usual Sunday offering. I will get back to it next week.

I occasionally get e-mails from folks wanting to know when new posts go up. In fact, got one all the way from Brownsville, TX yesterday. If you want to be added to the "blog alert list" please let me know at . Be glad to accommodate you!

Have a good weekend and we'll see you next week.