Saki and Hiro

Top: Saki, running. Seems like both pups are always running. I couldn't catch a good photo of Hero.
Bottom: Saki on top, Hiro on his back. This was the first time today that Saki got the upper hand. I think he's getting even with Hiro for the hundred ear bites he had gotten today.


Radical Proposal - Think!

I am no expert. In fact, I've chosen to keep my head in the sand to drown out the sound of all the negative news for most of my life. Now that I'm working in the news, I don't think I'm much closer to the truth of what is happening today than when I chose to ignore it. However, I do think I'm smart enough to pull a few ideas out of my head every now and then. In that light, I'm going to make a few proposals, and I have no doubt they will be radical. I'm just fed up with the whole she-bang.

Close the borders.

No one in, no one out. No business in, no business out. Period. If you are American, if your business is based in America, stay home and take care of your own. Not enough of a market, you say? Probably not if you are counting on making a ridiculous profit margin. Bite it already. Exactly how much money do you need anyway? For you to have all that wealth, thousands upon thousands have to fight tooth and nail to make it from measley paycheck to paycheck. How does that make you feel? Proud?

Really close the borders.

Imports, exports, rescuing other countries, blah blah blah. No more. Quit the bull about "buy American" already. Have you looked lately? Nothing is made in America anymore. If you want to sell it here, make it here. Oh, we're back to the profit question again. Yes, you'll have to pay workers and make their working conditions safe. Yes, you'll have to be sure you don't muck up the environment further. Yes, you'll have to pay benefits. You'll no longer be making throw-away crap, and you'll be doing something good. If that isn't good enough for you, leave the country.

There's a food shortage here too.

Or maybe it's more likely that people can no longer afford to buy food if they put gas in their cars to get to work. Once again, what is grown here is sold here. Period. If we don't currently grow something we need, well, grow it.

Control the gas prices already. Duh.

If the government was truly by the people, for the people, this situation wouldn't be happening. What I'd really like to know with 100% accuracy is how many refineries exist in the US, how many gallons of refined gasoline comes from one 50 gallon barrel of crude, and I'd like to know the real cost of refining crude. Not lies, not creative bookkeeping - the truth. Then I think a 40% profit is enough for you greedy jerks to make.

The downfall of national - and international - consumerism.

It's here. It's happening. It's Armageddon for capitalism. We have all been programmed to sell our time and spend what money we make on the products we assemble while making a few S.O.B.s very, very wealthy. It's against the law to sell the milk you get out of your own cows. You have to have all kinds of licenses and permits to sell the produce you grow from a roadside stand. The little local farms are long gone, bought out by mass producers of everything we eat. If you ever saw a chicken farm you'd never eat chicken again. Thousands of chickens, wall to wall white with red flecks, crammed into a huge building so long that you can't see the other end -- but you sure can smell it. Grains and produce are genetically altered and livestock is shot up with antibiotics and hormones. No wonder we're all fat and dying of cancer! I want local food!

You have a voice - use it.

I'm not talking about putting up yet another blog, or social networking. I'm talking about going out there and getting people together. It works best if it is in small groups where everyone is truly heard. Don't just go along with what everyone else says, think for yourself and decide for yourself. The people coming down right now are the rich bastards. But, they don't have to bring us down too. We are the majority and it's time that we took control of our own lives.

I'm tired of the sodomy.

You bet I am. I'm tired of inequality, of chauvinism, of the imbalanced distribution of wealth. I'm disgusted with the human race, with the stupidity of wars, of the inability to define and live per a belief system, of the idiots that suck down beer and get fat in front of a boob tube. And I'm totally disgusted with dogmatic fundamentalism based on some psychopath's interpretation of teachings that have been around longer than the dirt we walk on. I'm horrified at the 'devout' Sunday church-goers that come home to beat children adopted for the state aid and starve them and all their livestock.

Make this a better world!

It takes each and every one of us. No one can sit this one out. Yes, it's the end of the world as we know it. Now it's time to make a world that's worth living in.


100 Posts and Still Ticking!

Wow, 100 posts!

That's hard to imagine...

Think of it: I'm just getting started!



Today was not a typical Monday.

First, I was asked to go out and take photos of a golf tournament fundraiser to benefit Special Olympics. It was a nice day, good to get out of the office, and I looked forward to it.

Before I could leave the office for the golf tournament, the Sheriff's office called to say that there was a bad accident with a fatality, and since I was the only photographer, could I go get photos, then go to the golf thing.

I arrived at the scene about 15 minutes after the accident happened. There were police of all kinds all over the place, huge trucks, and it was almost impossible to find the vehicles involved. Armed with camera and notepad, I set out and aimed for the middle of it all.

I was stopped and a spokesperson was called, and he told me that two cement trucks, each heading in a different direction, clipped each other as they passed each other. The one going north veered left, went off the access road and across the northbound lanes of the freeway, and stopped in the median. The one going south also veered left and hit a pickup truck following the northbound cement truck - head on.

What I didn't expect to see was a white sheet in the cab of what was left of the pickup. That white sheet covered the body of the driver. The shape of what that sheet covered didn't resemble a person at all.

I crossed the crime scene tape to get the shots of the cement truck across the highway, and that was when I was escorted back to my truck.

Off I went to the golf tournament, hiked in the heat to the first tee, got a few shots and went back to the office. I loaded the photos onto the server and went back to my desk before I went through them. Damn, I did take those photos.

I think going to the golf tournament right afterward gave me the time I needed to let my emotions perk awhile. I had to drive and frame up other shots and think about doing my job. Driving home, I had to pass the scene again, and that's when I realized that the experience hit me. It punched the breath out of me.

I didn't see this one coming at all.

April 22 update:

As I figured I would, I woke up angry as hell about this. Sloppiness, stupidity, whatever it was, cost a man his life. It's not the first time truck drivers have taken lives in this state. There is an influx of tanker trucks involved with all the natural gas drilling going on around here that not only destroys miles and miles of countryside, but even more miles of road. The drivers barrel on through everything, and cross the yellow lines at will at ridiculous speeds. They took the lives of two small children a few months ago.

So now two cement truck drivers follow suit. Whatever the facts reveal will determine who was responsible for vehicular manslaughter.

I doubt it will mean much to that man's family. He was 31.


A Beautiful Day for New Year Celebration

Today, the local Thai people celebrated Songkran, their New Year celebration. The weather celebrated along, with warm, mostly sunny skies. Children took glee in Water Throwing, which, by tradition, washes away the sins of the past year and blesses for the new year. The shrine room was breathtakingly beautiful with a huge figure of a golden Buddha.


More Garbage News

Yeah, it's news; especially for this very rural state.

For me, it's a challenge. How do I make garbage into art, or at least attractive enough to catch readers' eyes so that they are reminded to take care of their trash?

When one of the people gave me a list of names for the photo's caption, they called the man in the orange slicker "Mayor." I thought, "Now that is news." Turns out, that was just his nickname.

They had me going.


Perspectives: What is News to You?

In Perspectives: What is News, I talked about how I decided to write a story about the experiences of people during a severe storm instead of the it-rained-here and a-tornado-hit-there facts that all other radio, TV and newspapers had already stated a hundred times over. I took the angle of what would be more important, more in depth and more real than just statistics and objective facts - to me.

Hearsay though it is, I was told that someone commented that my story was sensationalism, and the publisher retorted that it wasn't sensationalism but sociology. I have no idea if he was being sarcastic, but I was told he said it genuinely. My story related the experiences of 4 people in that storm in their own words, but I would hardly call it sociology. Psychology maybe, but not sociology. Toe-may-toes, toe-mah-toes.

But, the comment jarred me into deep thought. I tend to react emotionally first, then allow thinking to make sense of the emotions. Thinking might kick in almost instantaneously, or it may take awhile if the situation is emotionally intense. I decided to be more cognizant of how differently my emotions shape my perceptions compared to others around me.

I was able to run this evaluation last night. Like I talked about in Bumps in the Path: an Experience of Listening, I dropped into my "mode" at a public meeting held about an issue of a wastewater treatment system malfunctioning for a group of homeowners. I watched the department of health, the department of environmental quality and an assistant attorney general back this small group of blue collar property owners into a corner. (The sand bed part of the system is pictured.)

What I sensed was that all these department-of-whatever people were doing was their jobs, and they were doing their jobs by the letter; nothing more, nothing less. They were as cut and dry as the laws they were looking to enforce. What came from the owners was entirely different - all emotion, and fear. It may be the same feelings you can sense growing as you realize that it isn't mud you stepped into, but quicksand. Flight isn't an option, so fight kicks in; but there's nothing in arm's reach to hit. They probably don't have thousands of dollars for repair, upgrades or new installations of viable individual systems. Another meeting is scheduled in a week, but I doubt these people will have come to a unanimous decision by then. I don't think it would take you much to figure out which way my emotions went: I related to the homeowners, lock, stock and barrel.

Let me step back a moment here to give you some background. This roads in this state have no shoulders. They are as wide as the two lanes, and that's it. There are also very few guardrails, so there is no room for driving mistakes. There are roadside ditches for runoff, but those ditches don't drain off into anything, so once water is in the ditches, that's where it stays until it evaporates. Sparsely populated, a lot of the state is very rural, yet someone came up with the idea to put in public water to everyone in the state including farms and ranches miles away from anything. If there's public water available, you are not allowed to use a well for water, even if you had a well before they put in the public water. There is no public wastewater or sewage out in the boonies, though there are a lot of subdivisions built by contractors that install mini systems like this one in question. I'm guessing, but if a community isn't large enough to be called a city, then there isn't a wastewater treatment facility. There is no cable TV or DSL available to me here, but I have public water. These are just a few of what I see as 'oddities' in this state.

I decided not to write the story until this morning to give me time to step back from my emotions. I sat down and read through my notes and the inspection reports and some background information on how wastewater systems work. I felt it was necessary to put into print all the things that shaped the limited options those homeowners have because I know that few of them were able to hear what they were told in that meeting. I'm hoping that everyone that reads that story will see how these agencies boxed these people in instead of condemning those homeowners for noncompliance.

I feel like a traitor. Then, a friend tells me, "It doesn't interest me. I wouldn't read a story about some small group of people's sewage." Those people were trusting me to bring out into awareness what was happening, what they felt was being done to them, but it won't do any good if nobody but the people involved in the situation read it.

Which brings me back to the question of what is news to everyone. I'm reading a book that says people have an inherent drive for news. People need to know what is going on outside the limits of their own perceptions. News enables democracy, and democracy can't exist without news. News gives individuals and publics what they need in order to make the decisions that shape their lives. News is the governments' watchdog.

Put this way, I can morally and ideally be a part of something so necessary. I haven't seen news in such a way as you know, and to be honest, I'm relieved to have found this statement of value. No cognitive dissonance with doing something against my core values, and I can continue loving my job.

But, what do you and I need to know to make decisions for our daily lives? I have found that I have a bit of social ignorance here. I'll save that for another post. I look at the weather, I listen to traffic reports while driving, and I wouldn't mind knowing when and where there will be road construction. I would like to know what things are happening that would have an impact on my daily routine and on my life. I sure would be interested in knowing if the government was going to be stepping on my toes. That would be news to me. But, being socially ignorant, I have little idea what would be news to you.

What do you need to know?


Scared Straight - Again

Back in the early to mid 70's, in the middle of the Hippy era, my school had an anti drug program. Granted, the drugs of yesteryear were far more simple and weak compared to what I hear about the drugs of today. But, along with the drugs was sex. Unbridled, uninhibited, wild, free sex that we called 'free love.'

It was right after Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin when people from this drug program came into the classrooms to act out getting high and either having a 'bad trip' on LSD, or getting totally zonked on heroin. It was called "Scared Straight," and the purpose was to frighten us so badly that we'd never go near that crap.

Not soon after, the Health Department hired smelly, long-haired hippies to man their Sexually Transmitted Diseases program, and they too visited our classrooms. They had graphic photos of herpes outbreaks, syphilis lesions and pubic hairs crawling with lice. Not long after that, of course the anti smoking coalition had to come in with photos of disected black lungs and mouth cancer.

That was a time before cable TV. CBS, NBC and ABC were all we got. No worry, we were desensitized by bloody, gory, graphic images courtesy of our schools.

Would something like Scared Straight work with today's kids? Has TV, social networking and video games desensitized kids so much more than I was at their age that even witnessing tragic consequences first hand won't influence their decision-making process enough to prevent their own tragedy?

Yesterday, I was able to witness today's version of the Scared Straight program at one of the local schools. The entire high school of 1800 students attended the demonstration of the events surrounding 4 teenagers partying, driving impaired, and getting into a high speed, head-on wreck.

It was an all out simulation. The teens were torn up, bloodied and trapped in the vehicles. There were more police cars than I've ever seen in one place, and just as many ambulances. Firetrucks and rescue teams were topped off by the MedFlight helicopter that flew in to take one of the victims to the hospital. Jaws of Life took the roof off one vehicle, and the injured were extracted on backboards from both cars. Except for the drunk driver. He was taken away in handcuffs, and the only one unhurt. Only 17 years old and the sole cause of so much devestation.

Today, the school followed with a video of what happened at the hospital, doctors pronouncing two dead, the parents' reactions, the driver booked and tried and sentenced. When the video finished, a pastor delivered a eulogy with two caskets, real caskets, on the stage next to him. Then, the students that acted in the simulation and their parents all came out to give speeches on the experience. There was even a Grim Reaper.

"I hope it hit home."

"If it saves one life, it was worth it."

This presentation had a big impact on me. I watched the faces of the kids there, and a good number of them were reacting the same way I was. The film brought it home. When the camera was on a girl in the back seat of the party car, she was genuinely crying and in a state of panic.

One mother was an ER nurse and she described how parents react to being told their child is dead in such a way that my skin went cold. She said it was a sound like you'll never hear at any other time; a wailing scream. The boy pictured above played the character of the drunk driver. He didn't have a prepared speech; he spoke from his heart and told his school to take this seriously because he sure did. His mother said the worst part of it was how many lives were destroyed by her son's one bad decision.

I don't know the statistics of the 70's Scared Straight program. What I do know is that, at the very least, it caused me to think twice about indulging in illegal drugs. At the most, it stayed at the back of my mind for life.

You're never the same after witnessing a traumatic event.


Am I a writer yet?

The question that is actually going through my mind is, "What do writers do on their days off?" Well, they write! I felt the same way when I was singing. I sang every day, no matter if there was a microphone in front of me or not. I feel like a writer; can I say I am one?

I got an email asking for updates on things I left hanging...

I'll get more photos of Saki and Hero soon. I just looked at the first photos I have of them, and the second ones taken just a few weeks later, and already they look like different dogs again.

I was asked how many animals I have now. Um, let's just say I ran out of fingers to count!

I reread and think I came across as a bit defensive about my writing in Perspectives: What is News? It's more that my head was spinning than it was defensiveness. It's a new thing for me, this newspaper business, and how things break. If news doesn't break, then it's a different mad dash. It turns out that my weather story was used on the front page. It was below the fold, but it was still front page!

I never got the chance to interview the 90 year old hairdresser. When I called her, I was completely captured by how dynamic and alive she sounded. Very joyous and bubbly, she keeps busy and does more than I think I could keep up with. I will call her again the next time there's a lull. I can't wait to meet her in person.

The week started with talking to people in the process of picking up their lives after last week's tornadoes and storms. Photographers were sent out to the heavily hit areas and came back with incredible photos. This photo is one I took at a sports complex that was heavily damaged. The park has to completely replace the lighting and wiring.

I had the chance to talk to a woman who was organizing a Military Appreciation Day. Her passion about putting together the event was inspiring, especially since she currently has no family members that are active duty. It won't be long before our Soldiers in Iraq receive the thousands of pounds of everything her event collected. It was a great thing that she did.

Relay for Life is coming up in May, and I did a story about it yesterday. Once again, people involved are volunteers and very passionate and dedicated. Talking to one woman, I almost started crying as she told me about the Luminaria ceremony that is a part of the festivities.

I found that the people getting paid to do a job are less welcoming and friendly, and less likely to want to talk about the changes going on that effect them. Perhaps it's stress and exhaustion. Or, maybe it's defensiveness.

What is more likely is that it is much easier to talk about a passion or skill. If that's the case, then I've met some people that might do better at a different job.

I've found that the newsroom of this newspaper is filled with talented people. It's like playing in an orchestra again. They are wonderful, and I learn from each of them every day. For the first time, I can say, "I can't wait for Monday!"

Thanks for reading!

Hegemony's Downfall

The big picture is painted with broad strokes.

A prolific statement perhaps, but an analogy worth exploring. It goes along with "seeing the forest for the trees." Each bristle of the paintbrush is unique, yet part of a whole - the paintbrush itself. Together, expression is found in thousands of strokes in a myriad of color and texture, and each stroke unique as each bristle contributes in its own way. Every tree is unique, and every tree contributes to the big picture that is the forest.

The big picture is Earth itself, and people are the bristles of the paintbrush. In other words, human beings, all of them, create the world.

Hegemony is another word for superpower. Hegemony exists based on three conditions: economic, military and political strength. The United States was the world's hegemonic power since WWII, and now shares it's power with the European Union and China (Waving Goodbye to Hegemony).

By its definition, hegemony is leadership, not dominance, of the world; leaving each culture, society and country intact and untouched. It is an oxymoron to say that hegemony is shared by three entities, no matter how idealistically sound the theory of leadership instead of dominance may be. To be a hegemony means absolute financial, military and political strength over all others. What is avoided, nay, danced around in today's news, is that the position of World Leader is vacant. It would be more accurate to say that the European Union, China and the United States are now campaigning for election; but only if democracy truly existed.

Hegemony, in its idealistic form as leadership, would be the handle of the paintbrush, the soil beneath the roots of the forest's trees. Transparency is an acceptable attribute, translucency is not. The potential unity of hegemony is no longer possible or probable. Will today's point in history mark the disintegration of the big picture?

Perhaps it is beneficial to rebuild from the ground up, to conceptualize the canvas under the paint, to honor the Earth as the foundation to life that it truly is.

Yes, it is abstract. The only way through an abstract to reach truth is to understand it individually. Without bristles, there is no paintbrush; without trees, there is no forest.


Garbage News

I have to admit, I'm having way too much fun!

This is the photo that ran with my story about a city's clean up day. They said there was no one to clean up on this particular road, and it just so happened that there was a bag of garbage conveniently waiting for me to prove that someone was needed to clean up along this road.

The school bus was one of four that conveniently passed the place where I was standing ankle deep in mud and muck, and of course this was bus #4.

It wouldn't be 'news' without that school bus.

Photos taken with my Canon Powershot S5 IS and shown here on my blog are untouched. I optimize and resize for Web presentation only.


Perspectives: What is 'News'?

What started out as a great week turned confusing. For me.

There is something from me in every issue of the newspaper now. I am still blown away by that. The big surprise of the week is that one of my photos ran along with one of my stories.

I don't have the photo here at home. I'm kicking myself for that one. The photo that made it into the paper is one composed like this one, with the foreground focused and the background blurred, yet it's the background content that is the main point of interest.

Since it was a story about a city's cleanup day, the foreground in that photo was a bag of trash on a roadside and in the blurred background was a school bus going by on the road. The bus was the only thing with bright color too, and that added to the dingy feel that trash on the side of a road tends to give. But, the photo ran on a page that wasn't color.

For the next issue, I was given an ad and told to make it into a story. What in the world can you write about a car and truck show when the sponsor of the show only says exactly what's in the ad? Three calls to the man and I couldn't get him to squeak out anything more. The proceeds of the show go to a program that just hired a director who knows nothing (yet) about how monies are raised and spent, though she did get those answers for me. Still, I ran out of words.

All that is inconsequential when it comes to the news of the day: Another major storm went through the area Thursday night, and tornados touched down right around the capital city. In fact, a tornado hit 200 feet away from the National Weather Service station and destroyed many planes in that airport. All the TV stations, radio stations and newspapers kept that NWS phone busy. I know because I tried to call.

Yep, I was given the task of talking to the NWS about what the storm did. I caught the fire and interviewed the senior meteorologist on duty at the time - by phone. Very pleasant man to talk to. So, after listening to the same things I had heard all day about it, I dug a little deeper and got him to talk about his experience of having to run to the storm shelter. I took the angle of human interest. Can't use it, I was told; I didn't talk about the paper's coverage area.

Back on the phone again, and this time, I talked to the meteorologist on the day shift who told me what and how they measure to determine the strength of a tornado by sifting through the debris. Teams were out, and no results back yet. That took the priority in the article, it was moved up, though they left in the human interest part. So much for catching the fire. I think they were talking about putting it as a sidebar, or adding it in to a senior writer's main story. They sat there until going to press, so it's doubtful that any of it was relevant in the end.


On my way out the door, I was given another story for Monday. I'm to get ahold of a 90 year old woman that is still a hair stylist - for dead people.


A Carriage Ride

Yesterday, the folks at The Princess's Carriage swept away kings and queens during their "Enchanted Anniversary Party" at Harding Place in Searcy, AR. Very beautiful ride!


March Highlights

In like a lion,
Out like a lamb?

Like February, March was a turbulent month, but the turbulence came more in the form of wet weather and flooding than current events. Here in Arkansas, the month is exiting the same way it came in - like a lion. I'm sure we haven't seen the end of the flood stories.

Like the weather, and the current events of the month, blog posts reflect as much change as the changing season:

For a complete list of articles, see the March Archive list.

A Bumpy Path took off in site visitors and feed subscribers through Facebook, and the expansion Internationally of readers. It is exciting to me to see even more people read what I write. Welcome to all!

As always, all feedback, comments and discussions are welcome! Click on the "comments" link below, or on the title of each post - that will take you to a separate page that includes the article and all the comments so you can join the discussion.

Thanks for reading!