Friday, December 10, 2010

Tim Minchin: White Wine in the Sun

White Wine In The Sun

I'm looking forward to Christmas
It's sentimental, I know, but I just really like it
I am hardly religious
I'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest

And yes, I have all of the usual objections to consumerism
The commercialisation of an ancient religion
And the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer
But I still really like it

I, I really like Christmas
Though I'm not expecting a visit from Jesus

I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun
I'll be seeing my dad
My sisters and brother, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

I don't go for ancient wisdom
I don't believe just 'cos ideas are tenacious it means they are worthy
I get freaked out by churches
Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy

And yes I have all of the usual objections to the miseducation
Of children forced into a cult institution and taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs

I'm not expecting great presents
The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate is just fine by me

Cos I'll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun
I'll be seeing my dad
My sisters and brother, my gran and my mum
They'll be drinking white wine in the sun

And you, my baby girl
My jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a primary school
And you're too young to know
But you will learn yourself one day
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world
My sweet blue-eyed girl

And if, my baby girl
When you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know what ever comes
Your brother and sister and me and your
Will be waiting for you in the sun
Girl, when Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
Will be drinking white wine in the sun
We'll be waiting for you in the sun
Baby whenever you come
We'll be waiting for you in the sun

I, I really like Christmas
It's sentimental, I know

-- Tim Minchin

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Allwine Resigns

My first post about Rebecca Allwine appeared on November 3, and was titled What are they thinking?

Between then and now, I've given this a lot of thought:  I might be a curmudgeon were a curmudgeon young, lithe, lighthearted and not pegged "a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas."

I'd also like a little latitude to play with alternate spellings.  I'm thinking something along the lines of "kermudjin."   
Curmudgeon that I am not, then, I still doubt that Rebecca Allwine has made what amounts to the right decision by virtue of... well, by virtue of her own virtue.
Speak plainly?
Now, there's a notion.

[One of my Brother-Units is a patient educator of 18-22+ year olds at a state university, and as such, has had occasion to offer a good many composition tips over the years.  He has, he says, "seen it all." Although he marvels at my writing, he offers me the same boring critique, year in, year out:  Too many words.] 
When elementary school teacher Rebecca Allwine graced these hallowed manor halls a few weeks back,  she had been arrested for attempting to kill her husband by poisoning his drink with a lethal dose of Ambien.  As the newspaper put it, succinct to a fault, "he survived."
[With my luck, on one of my more suicidal nights, the only thing that would likely happen after such a dosing?  A little zombie refrigerator raiding, unrecalled the next morning, as I puzzle my way through a farewell note smeared with chocolate sauce.] 
What she did is what ought to have been remarkable enough as news fodder, but you know, and I know, that it was not.  So she poisoned her husband: Well,  meh.

What moved me to mention the endearing educator in this blog was the fact that she was allowed to continue teaching there, in Coweta County, Georgia,.  Why?  Because, we are told, she had always been "a good teacher." 
Oops.  Sorry.  That's a ridiculously erroneous quote.
She was "a very good teacher."
Back in November, I did verbal gymnastics over the word turpid, as found in turpitude -- the moral sort of which the governing standards commission for teachers in Georgia determined her to be free of.  Or, at least, unconvicted.  Of. 
My grammar is dangling all over the place tonight!
Okay, so there is breaking news in Coweta County. 

Rebecca Allwine voluntarily resigned.  I think any reasoning reasonable adult would recognize that as the proper course -- that a teacher charged with such a crime not remain in the classroom (until the facts of the case are elucidated), that a teacher determined to have committed such acts never again grace the classroom.

Unfortunately, what remains a puzzlement to this kermudjin is the insistance of her school colleagues on the excellence of her character and job performance.  I suppose there is a throw-away phrase or two to which newspaper readers are not exposed -- something like "given that it was a crime of passion" or "she just must not have been in her right mind, momentarily..." There are probably even a few versions of "he had it coming..."

Well, Dear Apologists -- you are just wrong and, in your wrongness, manage to beg so many disturbing questions that we have issued writs and warnings throughout the realm of Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs) about the dangers of sending one's children to a school in Coweta County, Georgia. 

The fear, though, is far less about the moral fiber of Rebecca Allwine than it is about the lack of common sense of school and state education officials in that otherwise fine region.

Teacher in domestic dispute resigns
By Jeff Bishop

The Times-Herald

Facing continued questions from concerned parents and even national publicity, teacher Rebecca Allwine has resigned from her position at Willis Road Elementary School.

"We have accepted her resignation, and it was a voluntary resignation," said Coweta County School System spokesman Dean Jackson. He said he could not comment further because the matter is a personnel issue.

Allwine's last day of employment was last Friday.

The second grade Coweta County teacher allegedly attempted to poison her husband last winter. But she kept teaching at Willis Road Elementary School, even after she was arrested for the crime and later indicted by a Coweta County grand jury.

The controversial move to support Allwine made national news, with popular Headline News Channel host Nancy Grace expressing outrage and asking her viewers, "How can she not be a threat?"

"A second grade school teacher has been discovered poisoning her husband -- she's not in jail. In fact, she's back in the classroom?" said Grace on her nationally-televised cable show.

"Someone explain. She's back in the classroom with second graders. How could she not be a threat?"

As late as two weeks ago, Coweta school officials said the school system had not changed its position of support for the teacher. But parents in the meantime continued to meet with Superintendent Blake Bass and others, expressing their concern.

Newly-elected Coweta Board of Education member Amy Dees said she had problems with the school system's decision.

"I absolutely feel that she should not have been placed back in the classroom," said Dees soon after her election. "She was obviously having some emotional issues and our children were exposed to that. Whatever rules protected her need to be changed." Times-Herald reader comments also tended to be critical of the decision. One Sound Off contributor asked, "Would you let your child be in a classroom with this woman?" Another stated, "I have children at Willis Road Elementary. While I'm sorry for Allwine's personal problems, I resent the school board's attitude on this matter. She's demonstrated that she's unstable. She should not be teaching small children. She will never teach mine."

"I have a student at Willis Road Elementary School in first grade," said Sharpsburg resident Brad Gaines in a Letter to the Editor of The Times-Herald. "I am appalled the teacher accused of such a serious crime is allowed to continue to teach our kids.

"Call it what you want, but she was originally charged with attempting to murder her husband by putting something in his drink.

"I believe as parents in our community we should not just stand by quietly and allow the school board to make such a stupid decision. She has obviously proven by her actions that she is an unstable person."

Allwine so far has not responded to requests for comment.

Allwine pleaded guilty earlier this fall to disorderly conduct. A Coweta County grand jury meeting for Coweta Superior Court indicted Allwine in September for aggravated assault and battery, alleging that Allwine had attempted to poison her husband, Joshua Allwine, with Ambien and melatonin pills, court records show.

The charges arose from an incident that occurred on Jan. 31, 2010, at 2:01 a.m., following a domestic dispute, according to testimony given by Coweta County Sheriff's Office officer Trent Hastings, who arrested Allwine, according to court records.

Hastings said Mrs. Allwine did "intentionally cause physical harm to her husband" when she "struck him with her hands numerous times" in the head, "resulting in multiple lacerations," according to court records.

Allwine also "intentionally put approximately 18 melatonin and 10 Ambien in the victim's drink that he prepared for himself, and that she knew he would be consuming," said the officer. "The victim did consume the drink, resulting in a likely chance for bodily harm or death."

"The school system does not feel that she is a danger in any way, not in the least," said Jackson, speaking on behalf of the school board, after the incident became public. "If we did, we would have taken action from the beginning.

"We were made aware of the details of this incident from the start, and the school, the school system and the Professional Standards Commission were all involved. If at any time the school system has a question about whether or not a teacher should be in the classroom, that teacher is not going to be there, but there were no such concerns in this case."

The school system took the position that this was a private, domestic dispute. Mrs. Allwine filed for divorce and a temporary protective order shortly after the altercation.

The Professional Standards Commission stated that because the assault charge did not result in a conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude, Allwine's employment status was left up to the school district.

"We were continuously informed of the legal proceedings, and the issue was reviewed by the Professional Standards Commission," said Jackson. "The charges were resolved.... She has continued teaching throughout, and is a good teacher and employee."


Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care.

A: What do you want for dinner?
B: Meh.

Used in the greatest tv show of all time, The Simpsons. In the episode Hungry, Hungry Homer, Bart and Lisa respond to a Homer inquiry with "meh."

Homer: Kids, how would you like to go... to Blockoland!
Bart & Lisa: Meh.
Homer: But the TV. gave the impression that--
Bart: We said "meh".
Lisa: M-E-H. Meh.
-- The Urban Dictionary

all we have to do is keep on walking

Again, I have that feeling of being the Last Known Blogger in the Universe to have seen this YouTube video gone viral.  That incomparable Brother-Unit, Tumbleweed, posted it on another of his blogs -- one that I'll not advertise -- but I like to think I'd have stumbled on it eventually by my own initiative.

He managed, however, to tag the thing with a perfectly apt quotation:

If we are facing in the right direction,
all we have to do is keep on walking.
--Buddhist proverb

Posted on YouTube by derbydanx, with "[t]hanks to Matthew Stevens at Woodbine Racecourse" on November 7, 2010.

Monday, December 6, 2010

on a day we meet to walk the line

Howdy high there, buckaroos!  It's been a hoot of a day.

Without disclosing what exactly made me think of it, I spent a good quarter of an hour this afternoon extolling the merits of Frost's poem Mending Wall.  We were on the way home from my two medical appointments, and stuck in nasty traffic behind tentative drivers, all of whom, according to Fred, represented the fruits of the bastardization of our species.  Or something like that.

I had a captive audience, is what I'm saying.

In a vain effort to keep me from endless nattering, he switched on NPR.  At some point after the story on Clinton's meeting with our "chief Asian allies," shortly after the report on the televised arguments before California Supreme Court on Prop 8, but before the bit on the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon, I managed to reproduce the poem in its entirety.  You might call it A Blurt.

Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. 
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. 
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him, 
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Personally, I found my outburst not just appealingly literary but also perspicaciously germane. 

Okay, so I didn't reproduce the poem perfectly, all of a piece.  Maybe I paraphrased a little and transformed larger passages into morcels of personal opinion -- but largelyLargely, it was there.

It was enormously beneficial that Fred was very familiar with Mending Wall, and, of course, fairly familiar with my belief that poetry is as important as politics, and often times is as much -- or more -- of an event.

Did I align myself as pro-community, against isolationism?  Did I declare my make-up to be all pine in a world of hardwood fruit trees?  Do I hate walls but believe in the neighborly act of gathering to repair the divider?  

Maybe the wall has value only as a point of broken-down and crumbling old references, as what is familiar, and therefore dear, no matter whether proven true, disproved, or established as patently irrelevant. 

It's where we gather;  It's where we start.

Why not end with a story, a true one, both germane and tangential?  When I was browsing, reading about walls [[[I am weird that way... a poem about mending walls requires at least some time thinking about actual walls {always remember:  "imaginary gardens with real toads..."}]]] -- Anyway, I came across this at a site called Texas Escapes which sometimes features columns by Mike Cox, and in this instance, one called Rock Fences. He particularlizes one of the German immigrants who authored the many rock fences of Texas Hill Country, the "backyard of Austin and San Antonio," and one is reminded, even more, what a rich expressive vehicle a wall can be:

Louis Grosz, born in Hueffenhardt, Germany in 1853, came to Texas when he was 18. His uncle, Phillipp Eckert of Mason County, had written and told him what tools he needed to bring to make a living in America. Grosz weighed his two trunks down with iron, including a broad axe needed to build a log cabin.

As Estella Hartmann Orrison related in a family history she self-published in 1957, “Eckert Record,” when Grosz finally reached the Hill Country he had to go to work to repay the $50 his uncle had advanced him for his passage to Texas. His first income came from laying rock fences at 50 cents a day in an era when no one had yet considered working only eight hours out of 24.

Likely toiling from “can see to can’t,” Grosz’ rate of compensation amounted to only pennies on the hour. And the work must have been brutally hard. Roy Bedichek, in his 1947 book “Adventures with a Texas Naturalist,” estimated the stone fences on his place in Hays County weighed “not less than a ton per linear yard.” The rule of thumb passed down to the present is that it took one man one day to build three feet of fence three feet high.

That three-feet-a-day pace involved not only the relatively mindless toil of finding, digging up, lifting and hauling suitable rocks but the more cerebral activity of sorting and stacking them just so. Gravity held these fences together, not mortar. The rocks had to fit snugly and be balanced.

Picture working a gigantic puzzle with very heavy pieces in a climate where most of the time it’s too hot and sometimes too wet or cold or both. Throw in a sore back and the occasional displaced scorpion or rattlesnake and you have a pretty tough way to make four bits a day. Oh, and hostile Indians still posed a danger in Mason County when Grosz had to earn money as a rock fence builder.

While rock fences also are known as “German fences,” research by University of Texas graduate Laura Knott, a landscape architect specializing in historic preservation revealed that dry-laid fences did not originate in Germany. Rather, the style used in Texas and elsewhere in the South seems to have been modeled after rock fences common to Great Britain.

Knott theorized that German Texans learned of the style and imitated it. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a rock-it scientist to figure that a potential farm field strewn with plow-breaking stones could be both fenced and cleared by stacking those very stones.

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****      *****     

Of course, the truly infuriating thing is that no matter how outnumbered are the Forces That Would Have A Wall, the mere existence of a single wall proponent is enough to necessitate a building project worthy of the Army Corps of Engineers.  In much the same way that one must opt for the plural masculine form of the third person personal pronouns if a single masculine element is present in the subject pool, one wall-lover casts a broad shadow.

After all these years it still pisses me off -- that when 999 women openly gather, you just have to discover one guy in the coat closet to ruin The Sisterhood.  You must represent the group as masculine plural; You must choose ils as subject pronoun.

And unless you can withstand the onslaught of Shrugs-for-Answers, you don't ask "Why?"

Laws of race, laws of gender, politics of sexual orientation, tax breaks for millionaires, warning shots across the bow, ideas of intellectual ownership, and walls.  Walls.  Yeah, my ride home was deep today!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jonathan Brookins, TUF

Congratulations to Jonathan Brookins who just took two of three rounds to become this season's TUF winner over Michael Johnson.  Johnson had a great first round and had he been able to connect, could have taken Brookins out at any time.  Jonathan seemed to get the point and was fairly adamant about keeping it on the ground for the last ten minutes!

He's refreshing, is Brookins, and so I make the usual wish that he may stay that way...

Stephan Bonnar won his match, handily (29-26, unanimous) but I still was able to complete a crossword, groom two cats, fetch dessert, and fold laundry during the fight -- all without that gnawing sense of deprivation.

No, he did well against Igor Pokrajac -- and the Words of the Day seemed to be momentum and reliability, and the struggle to establish them both.  Bonnar was fit and fairly twinkling on his toes, and when on the ground showed steady aggression.

Pokrajac lost a point for kneeing Bonnar in the head, and Bonnar lost one for blows to the back of the head.  Mazzagatti might even have been about to stop the fight, seconds left in the third, when he censured Bonnar for the illegal blows.  Fortunately, the bell sounded and Mazzagatti wasn't able to act on those fascist urges, born, no doubt, from the silly brown Hitler Youth uniforms that some refs now sport.   Joe Rogan had a few things to say about both point charges and the rules that prompted them.