Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Pain of Others is Not News

Weathermen say that the tornadoes tearing through the south are not unusual.  They have happened before and will happen again.  We know about the human tragedy left in their wake - know from video and film and first hand accounts. It is almost unbearable to learn the fate of Daniel Wassom. Wassom, his wife Suzanne and their two girls, Lorelei, 5 and Sydney, 7 took shelter in the center hallway of their home.  Wassom sheltered his girls with his own body and died - crushed to death by a beam that broke Lorelei's shoulder.  The rapacious reporters push microphones at survivors and loved ones and ask how they feel.  What possible answer?  Why do we have to interfere with their suffering to fill the hours of cable news?  Can't they be left alone to gather their strength and grieve in private?  The tornadoes of the 19th Century ravaged the same plains and left similar victims in their wake.  Perhaps in a diary, or private letter there are accounts.  Families share their grief and hand down stories of heroism.  I feel as though I have invaded the privacy of those on television today.  I don't like it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Tenor Voice

Always on the brink of chaos.  The tenor seems to barely keep his instrument under control.  The tenor voice thrills in every musical genre.  In opera the voice fills the house as nothing else can.  The opera goer stares at the performer with heart pounding.  A hundred years ago the Metropolitan Opera declared that there would be no encores permitted in regular performances that would interrupt the dramatic flow.  For only three singers have the audience demanded that the Met bend its rule.  All three were tenors.  Last Friday night the Met's headline tenor in "La Cenerentola" (Cinderella) was ill.  Juan Diego Florez was unable to perform so his "cover" was called in.  Javier Camarena was well prepared.  In the second act playing the prince smitten by the strange and beautiful girl, he became the third man to repeat an aria, "Si, ritrovaria io giro (Yes I swear I'll find her).  Florez himself was the second tenor so honored by the audience during his performance as the love struck stranger in "the Daughter of the Regiment".  The first tenor encore was the incomparable Luciano Pavarotti singing the role of the doomed lover in "Tosca".  I offer below a recording of each aria.  They are not from the encore performance, but will thrill you nevertheless.  Listen and watch.  The high notes are toward the end.

First, Javier Camarena.

 Then, Juan Diego Florez.

And finally, Luciano Pavarotti.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I have written several times about my Border Collie Floss.  She is a wonderful dog who loves to work sheep.  A few days ago we went out to to a friend's ranch to try out different sheep in a new setting.  My friend's ranch sits on a hillside sloping down towards the Chehalis River.  She put out sheep for us in a 12 acre pasture.  The land there is cleaved by a drainage - a rivulet with low, steep banks.  At the edge of the field a culvert makes a dry crossing for their tractor.  Floss and I walked out to the far side, crossing on the tractor path.  The sheep were grazing on the other side.  We made our way up the hill and to the middle of the field until we were opposite the sheep.  I sent Floss out to the left.  She would be running clockwise down to the ditch and up the other side to the sheep.  She went very wide - over 30 yards wide so she could use the tractor crossing.  She got up the other side and came in well behind her sheep.  Pushing forward, she guided them down to the ditch and gave them a nudge to get across.  Then, to my surprise, she dashed to her right, all the way back to the dry crossing.  Safely across, she dashed back to the sheep, just catching up as they climbed through the brush growing on the bank.  In fine form, she came forward with her sheep, delivering them to my side.  The sheeps' legs were muddy.  Floss' feet were dry.  Princess!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shout Out to the Lacey Police

I live in Lacey, WA.  Lacey is a quite town of 44,000.  In 1853 the first school in South Puget Sound  was built here by Steven Ruddell.  Forty years later Saint Martin's College opened its doors.  Incorporation of Lacey came later, and with it the expected services: water, fire fighting, public works and police.  Today, a stone's throw from the site of Steven Ruddell's school, I met a member of the Lacey police force.  I was impressed. My friend's truck was stolen ten days ago.  It is a farm truck, a bit rusty and dusty, but low mileage and serviceable.  It is a small Nissan, gray.  It had a camper top.  My friend has hauled sheep in her truck; hay, feed, equipment and dogs.  She filed a police report and expected the worst.  We all assumed the truck was gone.  Today, a police officer was on his beat, cruising neighborhoods, protecting the peace and looking for trouble.  In a trailer park on the edge of one of Lacey's five lakes, he saw a truck parked "in an odd way" as he told us later.  It was right near a dumpster, set off from the homes, almost into the trees and brush at the lake's edge.  He called in the license plate.  Then my friend heard from headquarters.  They had found her truck.  He waited there for her, helped her go over the truck and record the damage.  The camper top was gone, the back window broken, but the truck was otherwise undamaged, drivable, and vacuumed!  We guessed that the thief intended to sell it.  Crime rates in Lacey are low.  Recently Sperlings's Best Places designated our town the "Most Secure Mid-sized City".  I can see why.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Recently I was riding in the car with my son, and his son.  My grandson is in 4th grade.  He reads about military campaigns with the enthusiasm of a West Point plebe.  We played Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" through the car's speakers.  We turned them up to high volume. All over America this spring bands and orchestras will be working up a presentation of this great piece to play on our own 4th of July celebration.  The vollies of canon fire, ringing church bells and brass fanfare are a sure way to excite and please a patriotic crowd.  Many assume the piece has something to do with our defeat of the British in the War of 1812.  It doesn't.  It was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in 1880 to commemorate the stunning defeat of Napoleon and his half a million battle hardened French forces as they laid siege to Moscow in the winter of 1812.  The victory came at great cost and would not have been possible without Russians from small villages and towns rising to aid their army.  Bitter cold weather finished off the French.  The temperature dropped to -30 degrees.  Their canon froze to the ground.  In defeat and retreat, the French froze to death.  Only 10,000 made it home to France.  My grandson knew the story line.  He narrated as the music built to the climactic defeat.  He pumped his fists and cheered.  We had a grand time.  Here is the music.  Enjoy it yourself.  Listen to the French advancing with their national anthem, La Marseillaise.  Hear the Russian folk music weaving through the battles.  In  defeat, La Marseillaise is broken up by the Russian anthem God Save the Tsar and the bells and whistles of the final measures.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Be Sure You Read This Testimony

Catherine Engelbrecht is caught up in the drama at the IRS.  She has been snared in a web of reviews, audits, inquiries and inspections by Federal agencies.  She believes this activity is connected to the delay, review, re-review, requests for more information and re-review of two applications she submitted to the IRS for tax-exempt status.  She tells her story in testimony presented on February 6th to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs.  Read it here.  Or just watch and listen.  You go girl.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Good Crew

Here is a shout out to the cast and crew of the television series "The Good Wife".  For over 200 days they kept a secret that was hot!  There was no leak.  No one knew the secret except those who had to plan and write the episodes that would follow the in-drama murder of Josh Charles' character last week.  Why can't the subjects discussed in a "top secret" meeting in Washington DC be kept secret for 24 hours?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

__ / __ __ __ / . __ . / __ / . .__ / . __ . / .

By now you will have read about Jeremiah Denton, squadron Commander of A-26 Intruders, shot down in North Vietnam.  Early in his 7 1/2 year captivity the Vietnamese forced him into an interview with a Japanese film crew and made clear he was expected to attest to the good treatment received by POW's.  He spoke in careful sentences about the food and accommodations.  He said he believed in and would continue to serve his government.  And at the same time, he blinked out the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code.  Watch him in the clip below.

Try it yourself.