Friday, January 29, 2010

COM: Bent out of spelling shape

i routinely get on the national news services' cases for their ridiculously poor spelling skills, but it'd be nuts to do the same for the local paper . . . to list their daily faux pas would swamp my blog, but every once in a while something really tasty pops up . . . like this one tonight [i especially love that it's been "updated" and still they missed it] . . .

Suspected bending machine burglars caught

Published January 30, 2010 - Updated 38 minutes ago

Two men and a woman were arrested Thursday night after a surveillance video recently installed at the Y.O. Ranch Resort Hotel caught the men breaking into the machine.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Daily Sadness

RIP J.D. Salinger . . .


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COM: When will these people evaporate . . .

State of the Union Not Immune From Racial Innuendo

One Year into Obama Presidency, Some Still Use Race to Define First Family

By SARAH NETTER, Jan. 28, 2010

As pundits and politicians alike reflect and analyze President Obama's first State of the Union speech, one topic not included in the address has surfaced -- his race.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews' off-the-cuff comment that he "forgot he was black for an hour" during a post-speech analysis quickly raced around the Internet and was met with some incredulity and, from The New Republic's Michael Crowley, "Huh?"

Matthews quickly tried to clarify his comments on "The Rachel Maddow Show" by saying he was simply proud that race seemed to have no place in Wednesday's address, but the initial comment reflects the racial taunts and innuendos that have punctuated Obama's first year in office.

The offenses against the first black president have ranged from crude to subtle, and offenders have ranged from the unknown to elected officials. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, an Obama ally, had to apologize for what many considered to be insensitive, denigrating language while referring to Obama.

Poll numbers suggest most voters are not judging Obama's presidency based on the color of his skin, but the issue has continued to surface in Obama's presidency with disheartening regularity.

The president's image has been altered to look like an African witch doctor, his wife's to look like a gorilla. The idea of having a black family in the White House was initially so sensitive to some that even simple acts like a fist bump or a pat on the behind between husband and wife, were analyzed for possible racial undertones.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said he has seen evidence, albeit anecdotally, that Obama's race has become significantly less of a factor for most Americans since he took office, "in spite of an increase in vicious, mean comments from a small minority."

Poking fun at the president is an inevitable tradition, almost a national pastime. President George W. Bush was skewered by opponents who believed him to be unintelligent and inarticulate. And for years, President Clinton's libido was the prime target for late-night comedians.

But for many, criticism based solely on the color of Obama's skin crosses a line.

"Some of the attacks the president has taken have been unusually harsh for an American president," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told

Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report told that he expects the vicious and racially charged insults to grow among the small minority who will always use the president's skin color as a way to lash out against his policies.

"You've always had the kooks. You're always going to have the kooks. I don't think that changes," Rothenberg said. "I think the people who focus on race and express animosity and antagonism toward him based on race won't go away."

Despite any inroads made in regard to Obama's own racial identity, poll numbers show a slipping confidence in progress for blacks overall.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found fewer Americans believe Obama has helped race relations than when he took office, dropping from 58 percent to 41 percent. That confidence fell 15 percentage points among whites, but more sharply -- 24 percent -- among blacks.

ABC took a look back at some of the examples of racially charged incidents which made the public record over the last 18 months. We reached out to those who made the offending statements to see what they had to say about them now. Some answered us, some didn't:

MSNBC Host Chris Matthews

MSNBC Host Chris Matthews

Then, Jan. 2010: As Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" reflected on Obama State of the Union address, he dropped the line, "I forgot he was black for an hour," while discussing the apparent lack of racial overtones during the speech.

Now: Matthews tried to clarify his comments on "The Rachel Maddow Show" by explaning that he was delighted to see race had no place in the State of the Union address after growing up in a country divided by race. "It wasn't even in the room tonight," he said.

MSNBC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Then, Jan. 2010: One of several high-profile politicians to merit a mention in the controversial book "Game Change," Reid, a Democrat and longtime Obama ally, was cited in the book for describing the president before his election as a "'light-skinned' African American, 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'"

Now: On Jan. 9, Reid issued a written statement that read in part, "I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans, for my improper comments." Reid's Senate office had no further comment.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Then, Jan. 2010: Illinois' disgraced former governor told Esquire magazine, "I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up."

Now: He quickly apologized for the comment, telling reporters, "I deeply apologize for the way that was said and having said it. Obviously, I am not blacker than President Obama." Blagojevich declined to comment further to

Minnesota State Senator Mike Parry

Minnesota State Senator Mike Parry

Then, Jan. 2010: Earlier this month, Parry, then a GOP Senate candidate, was found to have scrubbed several tweets from his Twitter account, including one that described Obama as a "power hungry arrogant black man."

Now: Neither Parry nor his campaign manager returned calls or e-mail seeking comment. He told reporters recently, "My opinion is that our president is arrogant and angry. The fact is that he is a black man."

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton

Then, Jan. 2010: The former president was one of many politicians called out in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new book "Game Change." In the book, they said Clinton caught flak from Obama's campaign for reportedly telling the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Obama, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."

During the presidential campaign Clinton also called Obama's run for the White House as "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

Now: A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.

Russ Wiseman

Arlington, Tenn., Mayor Russ Wiseman

Then, Dec. 2009: Settling down last month to watch the annual showing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Wiseman was irked to find the Christmas favorite had been pre-empted by Obama's speech announcing efforts to send more troops to Afghanistan. He took to Facebook, lashing out at Obama for being a "Muslim president."

"Try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose," Wiseman posted, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes.'"

Now: "They were totally taken out of context," Wiseman told

"All it was, was me trying to get my Democratic friends riled up. But did I mean it? No," he said. "If somebody reads that and these guys don't know me they think immediately, 'Either this guy's an idiot or he's a racist.'"

Wiseman said he's neither.

"I was looking forward to Obama inviting me to the White House for a beer," he said, "but that didn't happen."

 Lynn Jenkin

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan.

Then, Aug. 2009: The congresswoman raised eyebrows in August when she told a public forum "Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope."

Now: A spokeswoman for Jenkins told that the congresswoman had no comment on her statement.

David McKalip

Dr. David McKalip

Then, July 2009: The Florida neurosurgeon and healthcare reform opponent sent out an e-mail in July containing an image of Obama as an African witch doctor, dressed in a loin cloth and with a bone through his nose. Underneath the picture were the words "Obama Care: Coming Soon to a Clinic Near You."

Now: "I did not create that image. I did not widely spread it," McKalip told "It got more exposure because of the media than me forwarding it."

McKalip complained that liberals and the media picked on Republicans, especially small-town Republicans like him, while giving a free pass to people like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"That image was offensive and inappropriate. I apologized," McKalip said.

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck

Then, July 2009: The host of "Fox and Friends" said the president was racist in late July. While discussing the arrest of black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Beck said Obama had repeatedly shown that he is "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is."

When it was noted that Obama's administration was largely white, Beck continued, ""I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist."

Now: Through his publicist, Beck declined to comment further to In a September interview with CBS' Katie Couric he apologized for "the way it was phrased."

Gary Frago

Atwater, Calif., Councilman Gary Frago

Then, July 2009: The Merced Sun-Star newspaper revealed that Frago had sent several racist e-mails, including a comparison between Barack Obama and O.J. Simpson and a crack about Michelle Obama posing in National Geographic.

Now: Frago did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment. He told the Sun-Star in July, "I'm not the only one that does it. I didn't originate them, they came to me, and I just passed them on."

Rusty DePass

Rusty DePass

Then, June 2009: The longtime South Carolina GOP activist was responding in June to a Facebook post about an escaped gorilla at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia when he wrote, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors probably harmless."

He later confirmed that he was referring to First Lady Michelle Obama. "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone," he said. "The comment was clearly in jest."

Now: Reached at home, DePass had no interest in explaining his comment further, saying his apology should stand on its own.

"Do you think I've changed my mind?" he said. "I've said all I've got to say about it."

 Sherri Goforth

Tennessee State GOP Staffer Sherri Goforth

Then, June 2009: The legislative aid for Republican state Sen. Diane Black was reprimanded in June for forwarding an e-mail image showing all the presidential portraits, with Barack Obama appearing only as a set of white eyes on a black background. She later told the online publication that she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.

Now: Goforth told she had nothing further to say about the e-mail. But Black's spokeswoman, Darlene Schlicher, said the incident prompted mandatory all-day diversity training sessions for all employees of the Tennessee Legislature.

Mike Green

GOP activist Mike Green

Then, June 2009: The South Carolina businessman, whose communications company worked on the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, was caught by the Indigo Journal in June tweeting, "I just heard Obama was going to impose a 40% tax on aspirin because it's white and it works."

Now: Green admitted the tweet was his and pointed to tweets he made shortly after, which read, "I sincerely apologize for the comments I made on Twitter yesterday. I made a mistake," and "I realized that my comments were hurtful, wrong and have no place in civil discourse."

"I think I should just stand by that and not elaborate," Green said.

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Then, June 2009: The conservative radio host has been cited for a series of remarks that liberal Media Matters for America has concluded are racially charged statements. Among them, are Limbaugh saying in June Obama was "behaving like an African colonial despot" and calling Obama an "angry black guy" a month later.

Early on in Obama's White House bid, Limbaugh was flamed for playing "Barack, the Magic Negro" to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon" on his show.

Now: Kit Carson, Limbaugh's chief of staff, told that the radio host would have no comment about his prior statements.

Diann Jones

Texas GOP Leader Diann Jones

Then, May 2009: Jones, a vice president of the Collin County Republican Party in Texas, forwarded an e-mail to area Republican clubs calling a state-sponsored firearm tax "another terrific idea from the black house and its minions."

Now: Jones did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment. In June, The Dallas Morning News reported, she sent a follow up e-mail saying she was "horrified" and did not see that particular comment in the forwarded e-mail.

Sean Delonas

Sean Delonas

Then, Feb. 2009: The cartoonist caused a firestorm in February after his cartoon appeared in the New York Post depicting two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over a dead chimpanzee with the words, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The cartoonist was inspired by the mauling of a Connecticut woman by a pet chimp which was shot and killed by police officers.

The Rev. Al Sharpton quickly lent his voice to the controversy, calling it offensive and divisive. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the New York Post and also of News Corp., which owns the paper, apologized for the offending cartoon.

Now: Delonas' brother, Nick Delonas, told that the controversy was painful for his brother and the family because he never meant for the chimp to represent the president.

"The cartoon was wildly misinterpreted," Nick Delonas wrote in an e-mail. "The idea was that the stimulus bill was so bad, so massive and so outrageous, it must have been written by a mad chimpanzee. The chimp represented nothing. It was literally a picture of Travis, the rampaging chimpanzee shot dead in Connecticut after mauling a poor woman."

Delonas said the association between the chimp and race never occurred to his brothers or the editors who approved the cartoon.

Buck Burnette

Buck Burnette

Then, Nov. 2008: The Texas Longhorn lineman Buck Burnette was booted from the university's football team in 2008 after posting as his Facebook status, as quoted by NCAA Football Fanhouse, "all the hunters gather up, we have a #$%&er in the whitehouse."

Now: Burnette issued an apology shortly after the incident. He did not return repeated messages left by

Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated

Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated

Then, Oct. 2008: The California women's GOP group put out a newsletter in October 2008 with an image of "Obama Bucks" food stamps with Obama's head on a donkey surrounded by fried chicken, watermelon and ribs.

Now: Organization president Diane Fedele did not return messages seeking comment. She told the Press Enterprise in southern California after the incident that she intended to apologize, but that they were only trying to draw attention to the fact that Obama "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

David Storck

Former Florida GOP Leader David Storck

Then, Oct. 2008: Storck, the former chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party, forwarded an e-mail in October 2008 written by GOP volunteer Ron Whitley that said, "I see carloads of black Obama supporters coming from the inner city to cast their votes for Obama. This is their chance to get a black president and they seem to care little that he is at minimum, socialist, and probably Marxist in his core beliefs. After all, he is black no experience or accomplishments but he is black."

Now: Current Hillsborough GOP Chairwoman Deborah Cox Roush told that the party denounced the e-mail shortly after it came out.

"To me, it's bad to re-hash it all," she said. "That's not what we're about at all. I think David just made a terrible mistake."

Storck and Whitley did not return messages seeking comment.

Virginia GOP Leader Bobby May

Virginia GOP Leader Bobby May

Then, Oct. 2008: May, then the treasurer of the Buchanan County Republican Party, wrote a column for the Virginia Voice shortly before Obama's election questioning whether Obama would change the American flag to include the Islamic symbol or divert more aid to Africa so "the Obama family there can skim enough to allow them to free their goats and live the American Dream."

Now: May did not return repeated calls for comment.

U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis

U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis

Then, April 2008: As Obama's presidential bid heated up in April 2008, Davis, R-Kentucky, said, "That boy's finger does not need to be on the button," according to a blog in the Lexington Herald-Leader, referring to the country's nuclear arsenal.

Now: Davis' spokesperson did not return calls to Davis wrote a letter to Obama shortly after the incident apologizing for using "boy," a term widely believed to be derogatory toward black men.

Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro

Then, March 2008: The one-time Democratic vice presidential candidate made headlines while working on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential bid for saying Obama's candidacy wouldn't have been so successful if he weren't black.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro told reporters in March 2008. She left the Clinton campaign shortly after.

Now: Ferraro told that she stands by her comments.

She said Obama's success at the polls were due to not just the black community, but to the unprecedented numbers of young voters hitting the blogs and the voting booths to be a part of history.

"When you end up with these young people -- what an exciting thing for them to be able to tell their children, 'I helped to change history,'" Ferraro said, adding that she fully supports Obama in the White House. "No way in hell could anyone say I was a racist. They know better than that."

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ATH: Donovan's First Goal

Jan. 27, 2010
Donovan Scores First Premier League Goal

US Midfielder Landon Donovan Scores First Premier League Goal

(AP) LIVERPOOL, England (AP) - U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan scored his first Premier League goal, helping Everton defeat Sunderland 2-0 on Wednesday night.

Donovan, on a 10-week loan from Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, scored in the 19th minute at Goodison Park with a left-footed shot off a headed pass from Tim Cahill.

Cahill put Everton ahead with a sixth-minute header at Goodison Park.

Donovan has signed a new contract with the Galaxy through 2013 and is scheduled to rejoin the team for its March 27 league opener, but a MLS work stoppage could start next week and prompt Donovan to try to extend the loan.

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OBT: Mike Farhoudi

i had the wonderful fortune to have known Mike Farhoudi through coaching his sons over the years. this is another great loss for our community. he was a wonderful man who, with his wonderful wife Vinna, raised three outstanding young men. i am rather lost at finding this out.

Michael “Mike” Farhoudi

Michael "Mike" Farhoudi, 66, died peacefully at his home with his wife at his side on January 20, 2010, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. A memorial service will take place Wednesday, January 27, at 11:00 a.m. at the Kerrville Bible Church, 898 Harper Road. Pastor Chris McKnight will officiate.

Fulfilling his lifelong dream, Mike came to America in 1966. He studied at the University of Houston and worked part-time at the Rice Hotel. A year later, he met Vinna Conlee and it "was love at first sight." The couple married December 16, 1967 in Markham, TX, and lived in Houston, where Mike worked for Cameron Iron Works. As a young adult, Mike loved fishing and playing billiards and backgammon. He had a lifelong love of antiques and was a skilled furniture refinisher. His biggest passion, however, was his profound love for his family and enjoyment of family gatherings. Often, his "family" numbered in the hundreds.

In 1983, the family moved to Kerrville where Mike opened Pioneer Furniture and Moving Company. He proudly became a U.S. citizen in 1987. Later, the Major James Kerr Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution honored Mike as Citizen of the Year.

In 24 years of operating Pioneer, Mike garnered a reputation as a generous and friendly person who put people at ease, who took time to listen and encourage, and who delivered what he promised. He taught his family and his employees the value of integrity and hard work.

Born Mohammed Hormoz Farhoudi on December 28, 1943, in Tehran, Iran, he was the oldest son of Mohammed Taghi Farhoudi and Zara Atoofi Farhoudi. He grew up in Tehran and vacationed every summer with his family in Tafresh. He was preceded in death by his dear parents. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, three sons, and their families. These include Farrel and his wife, Shannon, of Los Altos, CA; Kamron and his wife, Jennifer, of Kerrville, and Ryan, of Hollywood, CA.

He was the devoted grandfather of Austin and Rachel Farhoudi of California and Ryland, Ethan and Lyla Farhoudi of Kerrville. Also of Kerrville are his niece, Shahrzad, and her husband, Ali (Jamshid) Vahidi, and their children, Golnaz and Navid. Other survivors include two sisters and their husbands, Sima Farhoudi and Usef Ahadi of Vancouver, Canada, and Homa Farhoudi and Javad Shahverdian of Tehran, Iran. His sisters' children are Sara Ahadi of Vancouver and Gita, Babak and Laudan Shaverdian and their families, all of Tehran. Also surviving in Tehran is his brother, Ali Parviz Farhoudi.

The family thanks VistaCare Hospice for their faithful compassion, especially Bonnie Bennett. Floral gifts can be sent to Kerrville Bible Church, or Memorial contributions may be given to the Sarcoma Foundation of America (9884 Main Street, Damascus, Maryland 20872) or to the charity of one's choice.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NAT: Rosetta Stone Chitimacha

Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program Releases Chitimacha Language Software

ARLINGTON, Va. - Rosetta Stone, leading provider of technology-based language learning solutions, announced today the release of the Chitimacha language version of Rosetta Stone software for exclusive use by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana. Despite the death of the last fluent speaker in 1940, the Chitimacha tribe is reviving its language through collaboration with the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program. The Rosetta Stone immersion approach enables language learners to develop everyday proficiency by linking meaning and structure of a new language directly to real world objects and events without translation. The Chitimacha language version of the software has been created through a Rosetta Stone corporate grant with all distribution rights belonging to the tribe.

“We are honored that the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program can help the Chitimacha reclaim a piece of their heritage and cultural identity,” said Marion Bittinger, manager of the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program. “We are optimistic our work with indigenous groups will be a step towards reversing the tide of global language extinction.”

With no native Chitimacha speakers in existence, the tribe’s Cultural Department began its language revitalization program in 1997, using wax cylinder recordings and field notes made 65 years before by renowned linguist Morris Swadesh. The recordings and field notes allowed a few tribal members to immerse themselves in the complex grammar and vocabulary of the dormant language and learn to pronounce the difficult sequences of sounds. As a result of the grant, Rosetta Stone staff members collaborated in the adaptation of the software to teach concepts and structures using only the Chitimacha language.

“Language is really the heart of any culture. It’s not just about learning the words – it’s about the connection to your past,” said Kimberly Walden, Cultural Director of the Chitimacha Tribe and a key figure in the three-year effort to customize, record and produce the software. “The Rosetta Stone component of our language revitalization program will transform the way the Chitimacha language is taught. It will allow us to reach our entire membership regardless of their location and will enable the tribe as a whole to communicate as we did more than 75 years ago.”

Learning with Rosetta Stone is a natural choice for language revitalization programs as the award-winning solutions help users develop language proficiency without translation, memorization or conjugation tables. The Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program has developed software for several indigenous languages, including Mohawk (Kanien’keha), the coastal dialect of Inupiaq in Alaska and Inuttitut in Labrador, Canada. The North Slope Inupiaq and Navajo languages are also currently under development with Rosetta Stone.

About Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program

The Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program works with native groups to customize Rosetta Stone software for exclusive use in language revitalization. Each revitalization project builds on the company’s mission to help people improve their lives and make the world a better place by delivering the best technology-based solutions for learning languages. A natural choice for language revitalization programs, Rosetta Stone helps learners develop everyday proficiency the same natural way people everywhere learn their first languages, by directly associating new words and structures with real-life meaning. This approach allows Rosetta Stone to customize the context of meaning for endangered languages. Languages selected for software preservation – including Mohawk (Kanien’keha), the coastal dialect of Inupiaq in Alaska, Inuttitut in Labrador, Canada, North Slope Inupiaq and Navajo – are produced by Rosetta Stone and are distributed exclusively by the sponsoring group. The company offers a subsidized development program for tribes and organizations to finance language revitalization projects. For more information, visit

About Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone Inc. is changing the way the world learns languages. Rosetta Stone provides interactive solutions that are acclaimed for their speed and their power to unlock the natural language-learning ability in everyone. Available in more than 30 languages, Rosetta Stone language-learning solutions are used by schools, organizations and millions of individuals in over 150 countries throughout the world. The company was founded in 1992 on the core beliefs that learning a language should be natural and instinctive and that interactive technology can replicate and activate the immersion method powerfully for learners of any age. The company is based in Arlington, Va. For more information, visit

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Monday, January 25, 2010

ENV: A fourth US kingfisher!

another new US species found, this time in Laredo -- Amazon Kingfisher! amazing . . .


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MSC: Vince Bell in Austin

Vince Bell in Austin Tonight!


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ATH: World Scholar-Athlete Games

i have written before about my wonderful experience at the World Scholar-Athlete Games, where i coached in 1993, and with National Sportsmanship Day which my soccer teams promoted . . . well, the next installment is about to come to fruition . . .

Huge Global Reaction to

2011 World Youth Peace Summit and

World Scholar-Athlete Games

On a global scale, The Institute for International Sport is receiving an overwhelming number of emails, letters and calls regarding the 2011 World Youth Peace Summit and World Scholar-Athlete Games.

Key Dates

  • February 13, 2010: The World Youth Peace Summit will be recognized at a half-time ceremony of the nationally televised UConn-Cincinnati Men's Basketball game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
  • March 1, 2010: Applications for participation in the 2011 World Scholar-Athlete Games will be made available on the Institute website, Applicants ages 15-19 as of June 1, 2011 are eligible to apply.
  • April 2010: The Institute for International Sport will host the inaugural Connecticut Peace Lecture at the Gampel Pavilion on the campus of the University of Connecticut. The major speaker will be announced on or about March 1.
  • April 15, 2010: Applications for participation in the 2011 World Youth Peace Summit will be made available on the Institute website and World Youth Peace Summit website,
  • May 15, 2010: Applications for participation in the World Youth Peace Summit and/or World Scholar-Athlete Games as a volunteer or coach will be posted on both websites.
  • Other major events scheduled for 2010 will include the World Youth Peace Summit honors dinner at the Mohegan Sun on October 22, 2010.
  • The Institute is also planning a major 25th anniversary dinner, scheduled for April 2011 in Rhode Island, and featuring an internationally renowned speaker.

Interested in the WYPS/WSAG?

Simply Email us at We will be sure to keep you posted on developments.

Linking our Past with our Future

A wonderful Boston Globe Photo Journal, which appeared following the 2006 World Scholar-Athlete Games, provides an important link between our past and our future work in world peace.

Peace on Display

Differences put aside when students gather for Games

By Stan Grossfeld

Boston Globe, July 4, 2006

South Kingston, R.I. - On a soft summer day when representatives from around the world gathered in the tiniest state, a beautiful thing happened. The Iraqi coach embraced an Israeli student-soldier at the 2006 World Scholar-Athlete Games.

"I was very impressed by him," Tair Kowalsky, a 20-year old Israeli college student, said of Basel Al Harbi. "We took a picture and we hugged.

"Peace on earth," she said smiling.

Over the course of a week, 1,900 students from 157 countries and all 50 states came together to live, play, and learn from one another on the campus of the University of Rhode Island in a program sponsored by the nonprofit Institute for International Sport, which is based at the University.

On June 26, at World Peace and Non-Violence Day, former president Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker. The Jumbo-tron flashed the famous photo of a teenage Clinton meeting President John F. Kennedy at the White House. Clinton told today's teenagers that diversity is a good thing. "You're having more fun today than if you all looked alike and thought alike, and you're going to learn a lot more than if you all looked alike and thought alike," he said, followed by an ovation.

The Globe talked to athletes from countries that have undergone conflict to see how sports can heal the wounds of war.

Gareth Brown, 18 Northern Ireland: "I've always been an outgoing person, but this has got me more outgoing. I was at something like this in Belfast but it was smaller. When I came here and saw 2,000 people, I went, 'Gee, this is good.'

"I'm Catholic. Where I come from Protestants and Catholics, there's the troubles. But I go to an integrated school and I don't really care about that. Two weeks ago I found I had a friend who was a Protestant. I thought he was a Catholic.

"If you love the game of sport, you don't really care about religion. The whole point is to get along with everybody. So it's not worth coming here if you're thinking, 'I hope I don't get no Protestant 'cause I'm going to wale him.' Sport brings a lot of people together. It brings sense into their heads about what religion you are. The point is, just get along."

Surekha Rodrigo, 14 Sri Lanka:
"When I was born, the war was going on. I've never known anything different. I've lived in a country that's been in a state of uncertainty for 20 years now and I don't know anything different from that. The peace treaty signed in 2001 is not being followed. The LTTE (Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam) wants a separate country, so there's still bombings and land mines. I don't hate people in my country. I think we should live together because in my country there's many adversaries and a union is the best thing. It's still an uncertain state.

"I don't know if it will directly help my country but bringing students from around the world like this will allow more cultural and political understanding of what's going on in the world. It will help over time.

"Sports is a good way for release, a way for people to get their energy out. I don't think sports is too emphasized here. I think everyone should be enrolled in it. When I'm swimming, I don't think about anything else.

Peter Malual, 19 Sudan:
"I have been playing sports for as long as I can remember. When I didn't have a job, I'd just play to keep me happy.

"During my journey every day was a worse day, but you just go to make it out there. I lost a lot of friends, a lot of them. I walked hundreds of miles. I brought nothing. I came to the United States they gave me shoes to get in the plane. I flew out of Kenya.

"Right now I'm in Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College. Playing with people from different countries motivates me. Maybe by playing with them they can understand me and then from there on we can grow. I know some people from Chile and from Ghana, in Africa, and that's how the unity starts. We start talking about it on the field and then carry it on out. It won't hurt trying."

Rawi Awayed, 17 Nazareth, Israel: "I am enjoying the games and having a great time. I'm studying photography. All the people I met from the USA, they are nice people. Before I arrived I was afraid because I am an Arab, but the participants here don't have a problem if I was Arab or Jew or Muslim. The Israelis we came with are very nice. At first when we met on the plane we weren't so friendly, but now we're so good. I like them, I have fun with them. I don't know them in Israel, so I can't judge them as bad soldiers.

"I got into a Cisco computer program set up by a Jewish man. Now I am friends with them and send them e-mails. I discovered that the Jews want to have peace, especially in Israel so they can be comfortable in their personal life. Jews are wonderful and supportive so I know now that Jews are not bad.

"Two years ago there was a soccer program between Arabs and Jews. I participated in that, and we became friends with the Jews. But when you're off the field, their political opinions sometimes annoy you. I try to be optimistic about the future. You know, for sure, if we put aside our religious stuff and political stuff, it will be a better environment to live in."

Tair Kowalsky, 20 Tel Aviv, Israel: "I don't meet terror every day. I don't go in the street and someone shoots at me. I'm going to parties and the beach, and the military. The life is so different there. This is a chance to explain my country. You will enjoy it. There's nothing bad there. There is terror, but you can go through it.

"What can I tell you? It's always in the back of my head.

"One of the things I can take back with me is that you can treat people as individuals and not judge them by their culture or territory. Like two kids who come from Nazareth. I don't know Arab kids. I don't get a chance to meet them. I don't have any contact with them. But I met those two and she's a really sweet girl and he's a bright guy. They wouldn't harm a fly. So you need to judge people individually and you can open your mind to things like this. Sports and arts are the basis of peace."

Rose Albert, 15 Haiti: "These games are about friendship. I meet other people and learn about other cultures. We're here as a group to learn together. I'm going to try. I don't think I can do it by myself, everybody has to do a part.

"In Haiti, when people are burning houses, when they are mad about something, they don't talk. We don't really have the freedom to speak, so they burn something. I don't think it's good.

"Sports can bring peace because a lot of people love sports."

Senia Abderahman, 18 Western Sahara: "It's a very special experience. Every second person you talk to is from a different country. Western Sahara is in northwest Africa, it's occupied by Morocco. (But) I've never been to Western Sahara. I was born in the refugee camps in Algeria and I live in a refugee camp in Algeria. My parents were fleeing the Moroccans in '75. I don't hate the Moroccans. The classic answer is this is not people's problem. It's more a political and governmental problem. I haven't met the person here from Morocco yet. Hopefully I'm not going to say, 'You are my enemy.' Of course not.

"Whenever I spoke to someone, they never heard of Western Sahara. Therefore they will become more and more aware. They are the future leaders, they can affect their governments in the future. They can be very important people and therefore find solutions to these problems.

"I've never been on any volleyball team. I'm much better in running long distance. Here, it's about trying to understand each other, not as much about winning or losing."

Former President Bill Clinton, Keynote Speaker: "I kind of wish this program was available when I was your age. I might have been a better athlete, and later avoided heart surgery for all I know. If only I'd had the chance.

"Our differences do matter. Some of us are blacks, some white, some brown or some other pigment. Some of us are Christian, some Muslim, some Jews, some Buddhist, some Confuciusists. Some of us are liberals, some conservatives. These differences are good. First of all, they make life more interesting. Our differences aid the search for truth. Because since none of us knows everything, it's only by listening to people with different perspectives, arguing, discussing, cheering while we go, that we ever make any progress. So our differences matter but our common humanity matters more. That's the only thing you have to believe to bring the world together.

"And all these wars, amid all this killing and all these people dying in every country. They're all dying because the people that killed them believe our differences are more important than our common humanity, that our differences define our humanity.

"You are the first to come of age in a time of global interdependence. You can't get away from one another, but you can hold hands and make sure that your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren will also have a chance to live their dreams.

"If you engage in athletics, every time you compete you know you might lose. If you were paralyzed by that, you'd never compete. And if you never win a championship, you're better off for having competed. You're healthier, you're stronger, you understand teamwork. You understand discipline. Your mind works better. The act, the effort enhances the quality of your life. Everything else is like that, too. I'm 60 years old, almost. I go back to all my high school reunions, the saddest people are those that never tried to live their dreams.

"So, my advice is to try."

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The Daily Silliness

This time CBS weighs in by spelling the same word three different ways in one sentence in an article ostensibly about spelling -- how to strengthen your online passwords! Yay CBS!

Strengthen your password by using numbers, uppercase letters and symbols, and uncommon words. For instance: Applesauce could be @pple$@uce, Use the @ for you're A's, the $ symbol for you S's, and exclamation points for your I's.

hahahahahahahahahaha . . . .

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ENV: TP&WD Magazine

The new February issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine is out today for subscribers and feature a wonderful historical article, a fine article on Ocelots featuring Dr. Mike Tewes, and a couple of fantastic bats in flight photos by Dr. John Abbott.

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ATH: USA v Honduras

from the US National Team Players Association

USA 1 - Honduras 3


The United States started their 2010 schedule on a down note, losing 3-0 to Honduras in front of 18,626 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Clarence Goodson scored the USA's only goal in the 70th-minute.

Jimmy Conrad was sent off in the 18th minute for a second yellow after bringing down Jerry Palacios in the box. Pavon thought he converted the ensuing penalty, beating Troy Perkins with a strong shot. That attempt was called back by the referee after at least one Honduras player came off the line. Pavon took his second attempt the opposite way and scored. Palacios headed in a Pavon cross to make it 2-0 in the 37th-minute.

"It changed it quite a bit," US defender/midfielder Jonathan Bornstein told Fox Soccer Channel. "We had to play a man down from the 17th-minute on. Obviously, with that red card comes a PK and they go up 1-0. It's tough to fight back, especially a man down.... I thought we put in a lot of heart. The match just didn't go our way this time."

Robbie Rogers hit the post in the 50th-minute. Three minutes later, Roger Espinoza finished off a nice passing move in and around the US box with Honduras's third goal.

On the hour mark, US coach Bob Bradley substituted five players, including giving Orebro SK midfielder Alejandro Bedoya his first cap. Clarence Goodson got to a Brad Davis corner and headed it in for the US opener in the 70th minute.

"The starting point for the game in January is always assessing players," Bradley said. "Seeing them in a good game, a tough game, gives you the opportunity to find out what guys are all about. It gives you an indication as to where they might fit in as you move things forward. So we take a lot from it."

Game Report

Match: United States vs. Honduras
Date: January 23, 2010
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: The Home Depot Center – Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT
Attendance: 18,626
Weather: Cool, clear – 55 degrees

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
HON 3 0 3

HON – Carlos Pavon (penalty kick) 19th minute
HON – Jerry Palacios (Carlos Pavon) 37
HON – Roger Espinoza (Jerry Palacios) 53
USA – Clarence Goodson (Brad Davis) 70

USA: 1-Troy Perkins; 12-Jonathan Bornstein, 15-Jimmy Conrad (capt.), 8-Chad Marshall (2-Heath Pearce, 61), 4-Marvell Wynne; 14-Robbie Rogers (6-Brad Davis, 61), 5-Benny Feilhaber (10-Dax McCarty, 77) 7-Kyle Beckerman (9-Conor Casey, 60), 16-Sacha Kljestan (20-Alejandro Bedoya, 61); 19-Jeff Cunningham (3-Clarence Goodson, 46), 17-Robbie Findley
Subs not used: 18-Nick Rimando
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

HON: 12-Donis Escober; 5-Erick Norales, 6-Johnny Palacios, 23-Mauricio Sabillon, 17-Roger Espinoza (7-Mariano Acevedo, 90); 19-Danilo Turcios, 20-Amado Guevara (capt.) (13-Melvin Valladares, 56), 21-Emilio Izaguirre, 15-Walter Martinez (14-Oscar Garcia, 68); 9-Carlos Pavon (25-Georgie Welcome, 78), 16-Jerry Palacios (10-Ramon Nunez, 61)
Subs not used: 1-Ricardo Canales, 2-Osman Chavez, 4-Carlos Palacios, 18-Noel Valladares
Head Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 11 / 9
Shots on Goal: 2 / 6
Saves: 3 / 1
Corner Kicks: 6 / 3
Fouls: 14 / 12
Offside: 0 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Jimmy Conrad (caution) 6th minute
HON – Jerry Palacios (caution) 9
USA – Jimmy Conrad (caution) 17
USA – Jimmy Conrad (sent off) 17
HON – Amado Guevara (caution) 50

Referee: Benito Archundia (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Antonio Lopez (MEX)
Fourth Official: Baldomero Toledo (USA)

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MSC: Denise Franke tour

Denise Franke's first performance for 2010 will be at one of my favorite venues, Anderson Fair (Houston) on Saturday, February 20, 9pm. Clive Gregson will kick off the show and then accompany Denise for the rest of the evening. It's always a pleasure to have Clive on board. Check him out at Anderson Fair is located at 2007 Grant (at Welch, off of Montrose, just behind Texas Art Supply).

Here's how the rest of the year is shaping up - March - Midwest; April - Northeast; May - California; July -Texas, Maryland; August - Michigan

For details about what's already booked, please visit the tour page at -- We'll update it as the dates are confirmed.

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MSC: Fifer at Schreiner Cofeehouse

Clifton Fifer to perform at Schreiner Music Coffeehouse in February

Schreiner University’s Texas Music Coffeehouse series will present Clifton Fifer and Friends, from 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3, in The Lion’s Den in the Floyd & Kathleen Cailloux Campus Activity Center. The program will honor Black History Month Month.

Fifer is a middle school history teacher and presents programs and poetry about Buffalo Soldiers, black cowboys and Native Americans at schools and other gatherings.

Also performing will be Sam Skeist, acclaimed slam poet and Schreiner graduate, and writing prodigies Arthur and Oliver Koppenberg.

The Texas Music Coffeehouse series is sponsored by Schreiner’s Center for Innovative Learning, Texas Heritage Music Foundation and Student Activities Board. For information about Schreiner and other CIL programs, visit the Web at

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COM: Some Intriguing Notes on Haiti

In Haiti Words Can Kill

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Friday, January 22, 2010

ENV: Last Arizona Jaguar

Feds Allege Crime In Wild Jaguar Death
Federal Investigators Allege Criminal Wrongdoing In Death Of Arizona's Last Known Wild Jaguar
PHOENIX Jan. 22, 2010
(AP) Investigators say a contractor and possibly an Arizona Game and Fish Department employee acted criminally in the death of what was believed to be the last living wild jaguar in Arizona.

The allegation is in a federal report obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The state says the male jaguar known as "Macho B" was unexpectedly caught in February in a snare trap. Officials attached a tracking collar and released him.

Two weeks later, researchers tracking the cat found he was acting abnormally and recaptured him. Veterinarians found that Macho B was in renal failure, determined the condition was irreversible and euthanized him.

The report says there is evidence the first capture was probably intentional and violated the Endangered Species Act. The Game and Fish Department said Thursday it didn't direct any employee or contractor to capture a jaguar. It says it's cooperating with the investigation and conducting an internal probe.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

COM: Another Kerrvilleite in the National News . . .

Murdering minister’ gets 65 years
Was convicted of killing wife and trying to cover it up as a suicide
The Associated Press, updated 6:50 p.m. CT, Thurs., Jan. 21, 2010

WACO, Texas - Jurors on Thursday sentenced a former Texas minister to 65 years in prison for murdering his wife and trying to cover it up as a suicide.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before agreeing on the sentence for 38-year-old Matt Baker. He had faced from probation to life in prison for slipping his wife sleeping pills and suffocating her in 2006.

The case almost never went to trial. Her death was deemed a suicide after a note and sleeping pills were found by the bed, and Baker said she was depressed over their 16-month-old daughter's cancer death in 1999. But authorities reopened the case several months later after her parents shared evidence obtained for their wrongful death lawsuit against Baker.

When the judge asked if there was any legal reason why he should not be sentenced, Baker said: "I truly believe in my innocence. I believe the jury made a mistake in this."

During closing arguments, prosecutor Crawford Long — who previously called Baker a "murdering minister" — said he killed his wife in "cold-blooded cruelty" and seemed to take pleasure in getting away with it.

"Folks, I can look every one of you in the eye and say Matt Baker deserves the maximum sentence, and Matt Baker, I can look you in the eye and say because of your heartless, soulless conduct, you do deserve a maximum sentence," Long said, glaring and pointing at Baker.

‘Things he's not proud of’
Defense attorney Harold Danford said Baker "did some things he's not proud of" but reminded jurors that Baker was eligible for probation because he had not previously been convicted of a felony. He urged jurors to consider Baker's entire life and activities such as youth mission trips and his work as a Baptist pastor.

Prosecutor Susan Shafer said Baker was dangerous because he still could fool people into believing he was a good person. She said the "best of Matt" was his two daughters, who were asleep in the house when he killed his wife.

"He thought no more of them than to murder their mother and then erase her legacy with them by convincing them that she didn't love them enough to stay and raise them, that she committed suicide," Shafer told jurors.

Baker, who did not testify during the trial, was convicted late Wednesday.

Kari's mother Linda Dulin told Baker that the family had decided to forgive him for the sake of the daughters.

"You took her from us Matt, you discarded her like she was yesterday's trash ... and you left so many other victims," Dulin said in her victim impact statement at sentencing.

"What you did was horrific ... and I believe you are capable of much more evil."

As deputies led him from the courtroom, Baker turned to his mother.

"Love you, Mom," he said. "Take care of Kensi and Grace."

Jurors declined to comment after the trial.

Ex-mistress’s key testimony
Baker's attorney Guy James Gray had told jurors that he was on trial only because he lied about having an affair.

The state's key witness was his ex-mistress Vanessa Bulls, who told jurors that Baker slipped his wife the prescription sleep aid Ambien, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, and smothered her with a pillow after she fell asleep. Baker told Bulls he typed a suicide note and rubbed Kari's lifeless hand over it in case it was tested for fingerprints, she testified.

Then he called 911 and said he moved her to the floor, dressed her nude body and began doing CPR, but witnesses testified that was impossible in the few minutes before police arrived.

Baker told a police officer that Kari was fine before he left the house 45 minutes earlier to run errands, but in different media interviews said she was asleep or awake. He told the officer that the door from the garage to the house was locked and told others that the bedroom door was locked, witnesses testified.

Baker also searched numerous pharmaceutical Web sites and almost bought Ambien online, according to other testimony. Ambien was one of three drugs found in Kari Baker's body, according to the autopsy results.

Shortly after her death, he removed Kari's pictures and clothes and replaced them with photos of Bulls with his daughters, according to testimony. He also looked at engagement rings with Bulls.

Unwanted sexual advances
During sentencing Thursday, four women testified that Baker had made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including one who complained to police of an attempted sexual assault.

Baker also used his church-issued laptop and a computer at a youth center to look at pornographic Web sites and those for married adults who want to have affairs, Noel Kersh, a computer forensics examiner, testified Thursday.

Several people who knew Baker as a child or teen called him a "good guy," and Sharon Rollins who grew up with him described him as charming and flirtatious, but that she "never took it as an advance."

Jeanne Lehrmann, a member of a Baptist church in Riesel where Baker was pastor several years ago, testified that he was a fine pastor.

"I truly felt that he is a man of God," Lehrmann said, adding that she still felt that way and did not believe much of the trial evidence.


The Daily Silliness

worst. supreme court. decision. of. my. lifetime. . . i. know. who. to. blame.


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MSC: Vince Bell's Lives

The sun and moon and stars make the wind blow
Took me twenty years to understand
Sun & Moon & Stars, Vince Bell

Vince Bell was a gifted musician and songwriter on the 1970s-early-1980s Houston/Austin Texas folk scene when his life was cut short by a carload of drunk Austin teens. He did not die, though many of his friends were told he did. Instead a fortuitous diagnosis by a determined doctor brought him back to life – sort of. He did not die, but the life he had created up until that moment was gone. Vince had years of recovery ahead – physical, emotional, and mental, before he quite literally willed himself back into music. Not only did he have to reclaim his ability to play a guitar, but he had to relearn how to sing, and he had to reclaim the days of his life through the memories of others. Little remained except a conceptual portrait, learned through friends and family, of a young man with a zest for life and a gift for translating it into song. One has to believe it was the music that really saved him. With the help of devoted musicians, friends and loves, he made his way back to being that someone every Texas musician knows by name if not in life. Vince is a living legend. The University of North Texas Press has just released his autobiography “One Man’s Music: The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell” in its Lives of Musicians series. It is complemented by a like-named CD of 14 songs, a musical autobiography reaching back to his pre-wreck days, a set of tunes which speaks eloquently of his road back into life, a man recreating his own history. Here is my assessment of his story in print and on disc.

i feel obliged to start off with a disclaimer ~ i met Vince Bell a couple of times, hardly reason in and of itself to be reticent to write about him, but in that time i was also part of the same intimate music scene he was, we know many of the same people, you know, i hung out. i had been traveling with, playing with, and being sidekick to Lyle Lovett for a few years. we had spent nights camped out at Eric Taylor and Nanci Griffith’s little apartment in the Montrose and played Anderson Fair and other Houston joints that offered a stool and a mic. it was Lyle who called to let me know about the wreck. through Eric and Nanci’s close relationship with Vince i met him and heard him play. but my life, being stretched a lot of directions, didn’t make for me to be any more than an acquaintance. nevertheless my friends were tight with Vince in the way that people of common ground and means often are, and so i knew much about him. i say all this for two reasons: first, that i was sent the book and CD by Vince’s agent Kevin Avery, in order for me to, unpressured, write a review, and i agreed to do so. although this is somewhat standard practice [1], i feel the need to let folks know. and second, because having listened to the CD dozens of times now, and having read the book twice through, i have to tell you that it was like reading about a goodly portion of my own life [2], and not the hard portions about the wreck and the recovery, those belong to Vince alone, but because i know those places and those people, and i was swamped with waves of recognition of place and time and faces. it was all too personal in ways i hadn’t anticipated. one more thing in the way of disclaimers, Kathleen Hudson wrote the foreword, which i didn’t know until i received the book, but she is a close and dear friend, we work together often on music and writing projects, including sharing publishing of up and coming writers.

okay, so now that that’s out of the way, i need to say that i think anyone who has an interest in Texas music should give both of these their time. the book is deeply wrought of frail humanity and evocative of a time now gone. an innocent time? probably not – but hopeful in a way now lost to the cynicism of an age? absolutely. the CD, on the other hand, does something that i consider a mark of great art – it takes a time and place and makes it universal and timeless. for those of us who have lived through deep heartache, wandering needs, a sense of congruent/conflicting hopelessness and belonging, this album strikes deeply. over and over i have been hearing the words “they call me Frankenstein” in my head. we have all been there, although not in the debilitating manner that Vince was, but that’s what resonates, this juxtaposition of our own need to be such a part of the fabric that we are not stared at, but somehow needing to be on stage so that, indeed, we are stared at. and for those reasons we both grieve and celebrate with Vince, such that we can summon the courage to wake up another day and put our feet on the ground – if Vince can, maybe we can too.

i started reading the book first, partly because it showed up in my office late in the day December 22nd, one day off of exactly 27 years since the wreck that nearly cost Vince everything. so when five o’clock rolled around i simply leaned back and got started. as a writer i was immediately struck by something in Vince’s delivery – it felt like he was trying too hard. trying too hard to make each sentence carry freight. big, heavy words, weighted with importance. i knew Vince’s music already of course, but two songs stick with me, as they probably have for many of his fans –Sun & Moon & Stars, and 100 Miles from Mexico. both have been recorded and spread about by such luminary voices as Lyle and Nanci and Denise, not only for the yearning beauty of their melodies, but precisely because they have an ear for the wondrous things language can do, if and when strung together in ways that charm. so in reading those first chapters, i steeled myself to ignore what i thought was the lead in the sentences in order to plumb the depths for his wisdom. and that was easy enough knowing his way in song.

i did not finish reading before needing to take care of some other things and so i headed to town and pushed the CD into my player to listen. criminy, the wounds in that man brought me immediately to tears. right from the first line you can hear his struggle to get the words out, his effort to just breathe and sing, and for god’s sake the pain of all those pent up years of regaining his life. by the time i heard Sun & Moon & Stars and 100 Miles from Mexico i was overwhelmed. of course, the CD is filled with other gems – in fact, for now anyway, my favorite song on the album is Frankenstein. i’m a bit embarrassed by that choice since it’s the only song on the CD not written by Vince, but i think perhaps it’s the song he most makes his own. it sits a pearl amongst his diamonds. and it must be on there for a reason, he must have liked it/identified with it enough to include amongst his own.

the sum total of the hearing is to be once again simultaneously filled with painful sympathy and wonder at the odds Vince overcame. do yourself a favor and listen to the Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett versions of Sun, before you hear it from the master’s own lips. do that for you own sense of appreciation of how one man can write one song about one epiphany, and wring so much from it. Lyle’s and Nanci’s are two versions of the truth, two truths actually, delivered pitch perfectly, and yet the song is woefully incomplete until you hear the Vince version of truth on this CD. and, you know, there was Vince’s delivery of the song before the wreck . . . maybe there’s four truths in that one piece.

for another exercise, listen to Denise Franke’s take on 100 Miles from Mexico, and then Vince’s. we’re not talking about the pop-culture catchphrase “own interpretation” thing here. we’re talking about two honest human beings who find and deliver the same interpretation with compound nuances. to hear Vince sing this song is to understand something about the man. to hear Denise is to be privy to an outside look at that same man.

i had to get all that said in order to say that late that night, when i returned to the book, i found myself doing something completely subconsciously – i was reading all the sentences in that halting lilt i’d heard on the CD, the raw-edged voice, that need to breathe in cadence, that determination to push a word past the tip of his tongue. and everything fell into place. i realized Vince is having a conversation with himself in the early part of the book, convincing himself of the things he no longer remembers, the things he has been told about himself, of the import of them, the way the lives of everyone around him changed in that moment of impact on an Austin street. and suddenly, reading with that cadence myself, all of that leaden language felt instantly perfect, like, here’s this guy, sitting in a smoky bar, rattling off the moments of his life, a life not wholly within his grasp, trying to tell strangers the things he thinks they should know in order to appreciate the gravity of their own lives. i found myself reading/mimicking aloud just to hear that gravelly voice recount the tale. and then the book evolved . . . right along with Vince . . . when his life becomes his again, mentally and emotionally anyway (his body wasn’t quite ready to cooperate), so do the memories, and he writes with ease about them. and the language smoothes and begins to read like a well-written life story, but of a second life. he finally becomes the writer of his own true memories.

i confess that i am addicted to spare, acoustic arrangements of lyrical songs . . . i am about the words first, but the music has to work for me too . . . i have a habit of not reading lyrics when a song is sung, i want to know if they are hearable/understandable and if they are palpably one with the tune . . . and i don’t read the liner notes first either, don’t want to know technical details before i listen, although i always try to identify musicians later . . . on listening for the first time to Vince’s CD i sunk myself so deeply into the easily heard language that the music did not come into play, largely because it was one with Vince’s lyrics . . . this sounds ridiculous, but at the end of the album i don’t believe i could have told you what instruments were playing . . . only that i sensed a sort of perfection in the music . . . that’s not my way, i often note particular stretches and leads . . . so i have to say i was surprised to realize that the only instruments being played were Vince’s guitar and piano by Ned Albright . . . and on subsequent listenings i was keenly aware of the spareness of the cohort, and yet there was a richness in the combination and the counterpoint that almost defies the lack of other players [3] . . . i think there is immense credit due Albright on this. though i don’t really have an idea of the process by which they got from simple melody to their dense interplay, i know that music like this doesn’t invent itself overnight . . . and then there’s Vince’s guitar work, which you can do nothing less than marvel at, especially after you’ve read the book, and fathom the road he crawled . . . musically the entire album flows like the connection between a swimmer and the water. . .

i think, logically, i would recommend reading a book like this first, to give context and understanding to the songs . . . but because of the way it reads, because of what hearing that voice did for me, in this case i feel like i have to recommend that you listen to the CD first then read the book . . . and perhaps you need to hear the songs first for the pictures they paint, for Vince is as much a painter as a storyteller . . . then read the book hearing that voice behind the lines . . . and then listen again with the gravity of the journey underlying each line, each word, each determined breath.

as Vince heals over the course of the book, so do we. we follow the pain of his forming thoughts and sentences in the very choice of his words, they seethe from the page, and we slowly settle as the structure becomes more rote and familiar. we get glimpses of the road as much by the shouted entries in his journal, by the recounting of the hard moments by the folks who were present, as by his own fragments. and soon, as music drifts back into Vince’s life, and he back into music, more than a series of vignettes began to take shape, you begin to feel the resolution coming, and above the obvious wisdom that this book is being written by someone who has all his faculties, you sense the return of this man to the world he once knew well. the stories that are his, the long road to recovery, the struggle to be recognized again as a writer and musician are straightforward in the reading, and cumulatively wise. i won’t recount the stories, that’s for you to read in the book, and to hear on the CD, but i will say that the ending is not one i saw coming. in one swift moment Vince takes another big turn, around a corner to life: part three. or is it life number three? new lives for both him and a long time companion. the end not only revolves, but resolves. it fits to end it like that – it is uniquely, surprisingly, the Vince you will know well by the time you breach that last chapter. aren’t the best ends beginnings, and the best beginnings ends?

Before the headlights become the dawn
me and my amigo will be gone.
110 Miles from Mexico, Vince Bell

[1] albeit, as i explained to Kevin, i don’t so much review as i write mostly about things i like, and gush about memories and wonderful people – both of which i do here, nevertheless i think it’s a fair review of what i got from both the book and the CD . . .

[2] pictures, oh the pictures . . . Eric on the patio at Anderson Fair holding his son, laughing at the cheesiness of 70s promo photos, the swamp at Addicks Dam!, and realizing that i still have that calendar from Anderson Fair, one of the finest they did in a long line of fine releases, seeing pictures i’ve never seen of old friends, realizing how many people i know in this story – i apologize for the name-droppy sound of this, but there was so much excitement for me in the rediscoveries here . . . all of it evokes what a tight scene Texas music was in its nascency . . . and how, once it got big, like every other good thing we construct, greed takes over, people get in it just for the money and the stardom and pretty soon we’re overrun with the Pat Greens of the world . . . in all artistic movements though there is a period of great flowering, that time we look back on and rely on its highlights as pinnacles of what something was . . . make no mistake, there are wonderful new Texas writers out there, and they carry on this tradition, and create new moments of their own, and i could list a solid dozen amazing young performers . . . but i think often of what they missed out on – this time of sitting around on porches in steamy Houston summers and making literature of the mundane . . . so i’d ask these youngsters to read and listen to Vince Bell, because there they’ll get a taste of that scene . . . to read “The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock” for another glimpse of that era, and at least know some of their own history through those pages . . . i know they’ll make their own statement someday, they’ll have to, because the era of the flowering of the Vince Bell’s is gone, but i would hope their own new wisdom is informed by that of this lovely past . . .

[3] i am no stranger to the combination . . . my current album, in the mastering stage (forever it seems) relies on voice, guitar and piano too, but, although i am deeply pleased with our work, the fact is we never achieved anything nearly so full and rich . . .

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