Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Smythe Family Wednesday Weigh Down

When I visited my folks a few weekends ago my dad mentioned that his doctor had said he needed to work on getting to a more healthy weight. I said I had joined Weight Watchers and that maybe we could lose weight together. "You mean, like a contest?" my dad said (my dad is very competitive). That wasn't really what I had in mind, but then I decided that, hey, if that's what would get him into it, why not?

So I e-mailed my mom and she told my sister and brother-in-law and they decided they wanted in on the act, too.

The "Get There" Challenge

All five of us ante up 30 bucks. The first person to lose 10% of their body weight wins the pot. We decided on a percentage rather than a specific amount. Mom is not interested in having her weight posted on the web. Actually she doesn't want to tell anyone her weight, including us (I don't know what that is about, she doesn't really have THAT much to lose). I was willing to work on the honor system, but dad said we wouldn't have a way of knowing if mom cheated or not. For those of you who don't know my mom, when it comes to our family, she would be the last person to cheat at a game. My dad, however, would be the first (project much?), followed by me, and then my sister. Anyway, all that to say, you won't be seeing my mom's weight on here. I refuse to attach shame to weight (I think of it in terms of health and more clothing options) so I'm fine with telling you that I weighed in at 222.

The "Make it Last" Challenge

Everyone maintains their goal weight until the last person reaches theirs. Then, anyone who maintains their weight for six months after that gets some sort of prize. Actually, I haven't given the second challenge much thought, so I don't have the whole prize thing figured out. Growing Sense readers are welcome to offer suggestions.

Each Wednesday, will be Weigh Down Wednesday. I'll post a question or struggle and at least my family should post responses, this is our way of checking in. Other people are certainly welcome to offer support and perspective as well. And hey, if you want to join in the game, just let me know!

For the record, doing this on the web goes against everything I believe about making weight-loss efforts public (a sure way to jinx things), but I'm throwing caution to the wind and goin' for it anyway!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pistol Packin' Barney Fife Meets His Maker

"Oh my Barney,
Oh my Barney,
Had a jail and couldn't lock it,
Had one bullet for his pistol,
Had to keep it in his pocket"

This was Andy Taylor's sung response (to the tune of "Oh My Darlin' Clementine") to Barney's own Ballad of Barney Fife and Barney's recent self-shooting (in the foot) with the one bullet he was allowed to carry. Many residents of Batesville mourn the loss of Don Knots, the humorous lynchpin that held the Andy Griffith Show together. Without him, Mayberry would have been just another charming small town. But then again, don't all small towns have their Barneys?

For my money, he ranks right up there with Jack McFarland and Miss Jane Hathaway in terms of character-acting goodness. Though we might rather forget his stint as the swinger-wannabe Mr. Furley on Threes Company back in the 1970s (way creepy) he built up much love-capital with Barney and his later Disney and other movies. In honor of him, here is a snippet of script from one of the Andy Griffith Show, courtesy of my Mayberry Cookbook (beloved gift to me many years ago from fellow Batesvillian, Mandy Jones-Pascoe).

High noon at the courthouse. Aunt Bea is late with lunch. Barney is uptight because he has low sugar-blood content.

Andy: A few minutes one way or the other shouldn't make any difference.

Barney: Well, it does to me. I've got a clock in my stomach.

Andy: You must have.

Barney: I go by that clock, too. Tick, tick. I know it's time for lunch. Tick, tick. I know it's time for dinner. My mother was the same way.

Andy: I remember that about your mother.

Barney: She had a clock in her stomach.

Andy: Hey, Barn? These clocks you and your mother had in your stomachs? Did the tickin' keep your father awake at night?

Barney: You wanna get facetious? You wanna get facetious about the whole thing? Is that what you want to do--get facetious?

Andy: No.

Barney: Well, just don't get facetious. That happens to be a very common thing: clock in the stomach.

Andy: I know, I know, I know. Aunt Bea had an elephant she kept on the mantelpiece, and it had a clock in its stomach. Now don't get mad. I was just kidding.

Barney: I don't mind you kiddin' me about my stomach, but don't kid about my mother's stomach.

Makes me sad that he is gone. It's like he's left for that big Mt. Pilot job in the sky.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Dolly Gets Hate Mail?!

According to Contact Music, Dolly Parton gets hate mail because she has a large gay following. She is probably coming under attack because she wrote and performed Travelin Thru, an Oscar nominated song for TransAmerica, a movie about a pre-operative transgendered woman starring Felicity Huffman.

"The 9 TO 5 singer hopes the movie and her song can foster understanding and tolerance between people from different walks of life.

Parton explains, 'Some people are blind or ignorant, and you can't be that prejudiced and hateful and go through this world and still be happy.

'One thing about this movie is that I think art can change minds. It's all right to be who you are.'"

Dolly is living proof that the Love of God is best delivered through a big heart, an open mind, and a lot of courage. I've said it before, but I'll say it again--I love that woman.

Oh, the photo is from Flickr and was taken by Prawnpie.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Is Brokeback Mountain a 21st Century Uncle Tom's Cabin?

The year is 2105. A freshman film studies student is handed an annotated "recommended viewing" list of classic American films by his teacher. Next to the title "Brokeback Mountain" the description reads "Early 21st century film that raised public awareness of the negative effects of homophobia on society. Many historians credit this movie with igniting the broad fight to abolish all discrimination against gay people."

The student won't see the movie. Not because he carries some anti-gay torch, but because the subject matter is so dated and irrelevent to his life. Sure there are still small pockets of seething bigots who organize backwoods "take back marriage" rallies. But this cultural battle seems so distant, the student is more interested in learning about the actual skirmishes than the events that led to them.

Have you read Uncle Tom's Cabin? To be honest, I only read it once I kept hearing the phrase "Uncle Tom" thrown around to describe anti-gay Senator Rick Santorum's gay aide, Robert Traynam. In the book, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom, an enslaved man, remains ever faithful to his master, and by extension to the system of slavery.

However, the story is about many slaves, all of whom are terrrorized in various ways by a system that turns good people and bad into agents of oppression. The book was read by 300,000 people in its first year, and this number does not include the pirated copies made in the absence of copyright laws. It swept Europe. Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Stowe is rumored to have remarked, "so this is the little woman who started this big war."

Like Stowe, Brokeback author Annie Proulx never personally experienced exactly the same trials as her characters (though never enslaved, Stowe certainly would have been the victim of systemic racism of the time). And as far as I know, neither has Director Ang Lee. It may be the combination of compassion for and distance from the struggle that allows the story to be told so that both non-gay and gay people identify with it.

Brokeback Mountain provides a point of reference for discussing the destructive pressure of pretending to be someone you are not and the results of cultural and domestic terrorism. The story points to the fact that for a gay person terrorism often comes from within their own family and social systems--it is very common for a gay teenager to be isolated by the family, often to the point of abandonment. U. S. Diplomat Alan Keyes' daughter Maya being kicked out of their home is the most recent high profile example of this.

Without laws to protect them, the families of gay people are subject to the good or bad natured whims of physicians in crisis situations. When it comes to inheritence, all that stands between some families and financial ruin is the will of extended family members.

Slavery and its younger cousin, the Jim Crow South, have no equal in terms of long-term, bewildering evil. The scope of their atrocities is incomprehensibly broad. The question of whether or not Proulx's story will have similar results as Stowe's is not a comparison of slavery and discrimination against gay people. I'm just wondering if Brokeback Mountain will promote dialogue and open eyes the way Uncle Tom's Cabin did.

I will say this, the last time I saw the movie, I was surrounded by straight couples, most looked to be in their 60s and 70s. It was a surprising sight.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Which Superhero are You?

You are Spider-Man
You are intelligent, witty, a bit geeky and have great power and responsibility.

You will note that I am only 70% Spiderman, evidently the part without the washboard abs. Scroll down for the percentages. I'm surprised I'm not a little more Catwoman.

Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lovin' on Lincoln

Went to Arkansas this past weekend for my friend Jennie's fabulous Lincoln's Birthday Party. Saw scads of old friends and even won the award for driving the furthest. The prize was a pack of stars and stripes Kleenex Snifs, which came in handy when our friend Ashley read a very sad Civil War story called Pink and Say. BTW, Jennie if you read this, I accidently left my Snifs at Lori's! There were other stories available on the record player.

In this group photo you can see the table full of Lincolnalia. On the back wall is a drawing Jennie's fiance' J made for the occassion. It is drawn on a chalkboard with a gilded frame (love this idea). I'm holding Jake, Carey and David's very cute new baby. David is Jennie's brother (to the right of me in the pic; Carey is to the left). Carey, by the way, is quite the karaoke queen. And she loves the harmonica, so much so that someone gave her a hand's free harmonica holder that fits over her head so she can safely belt out the tunes as she drives.

Carey and Jennie say they will come up to Indy for Fry-day, the all-fried holiday, at the end of May and karaoke for us (what does it say about me that Jennie celebrates a historical figure and I celebrate fried food?). Maybe they will bring my Snifs. Oh, and drawings of Lincoln by Carey's former students plastered the walls at the party, a nice touch.

My friend Lori agreed to pose with me in the Mr. and Ms. Lincoln cut out. Lori is Jennie's sister, and the party was at her house. It is beautiful. Lori shares my obsession with fabric and paint. I hadn't seen her house since she got it many years ago. She's been busy! The bathroom was so nice she and I had ate our cake there while we talked.

The party was well worth the trip. I liked it as much for what is wasn't (over-hyped) as much as for what it was (sincere). It always annoys me that the February President and MLK holidays have turned mostly into ops for stores to run sales. Lincoln rocked and should be celebrated. Jennie's passion for him is fun and inspired--just like her.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

J. C. Watts Ignores My Question

J. C. Watts, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, came to Indianapolis to speak to Butler University about valuing diversity. Ken, Dave and I went to hear him. He brought up the sad state of political discourse these days. I agree with him, and I sent him the following e-mail. He never responded, so I thought I would at least send the question out into the blogosphere.

Dear Congressman Watts,

I had the honor of attending your talk on diversity last night at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Your remarks about the disappointing state of civility in political discourse rang very true to me. Actually, it was my keen awareness of the current climate that made me afraid to walk to the microphone to ask the question I had. Friends who attended with me suggested that I write you instead.

This morning I was second-guessing whether or not I should even write until I read in the paper that Mrs. Corretta Scott King had passed. I ran across this quote from her:

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. (USA Today-3/24/2004)

Mrs. King’s statement is also my question. Putting aside the “marriage question”, what shall our government do to provide the thousands of children of same-sex couples and their families with the same inheritance and tax protections other families have? Scores of these families exist. I know many who live right here in Indiana. They are loving and hard-working families that sound a lot like the one in which you were raised. And they are everywhere, rural as well as urban and suburban areas.

I know your Southern Baptist faith informs your views. While many Baptists would not entertain the thought of letting same-sex couples marry, many of these same people are committed to justice for all.

You seem to avoid bogging down in only one way of thinking about an issue, which is why I write you today. How do we get from a place of fear and name-calling to a place where all children are treated equally?

Respectfully yours,

Troy Smythe
Indianapolis, Indiana

So far, all I can hear in Mr. Watt's version of positive discourse is silence. I'll let you know if he ever responds.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stop The Federal So-Called "Marriage Protection Amendment"

Senator Bill Frist and his crew are pretty sneaky. They changed the name of their failed Federal Marriage Amendment to the "Marriage Protection Amendment." Ironically, the amendment does nothing to protect marriage. In fact, it is designed to remove any hope for protecting MY marriage and family into the constitution. But the name will be handy when talking with the less informed. Who wouldn't want to protect marriage?

Why should you care? Well, if this version of the Federal Marriage Amendment passes any protections states have granted to families like mine will be removed completely. No Civil Unions, no end of life decision-making rights, no legal way to protect our kids if one partner passes away-not anywhere. Nothing that even looks like marriage for us will be available anywhere in the U.S.

Frist will move for a vote on June 5, 2006.

What can you do? The Human Rights Campaign has an easy way to send word to your senators that you do not support amending the United States Constitution to put families of your friends at even GREATER risk.

Click HERE.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Great Grandad McLester

The little boy on the left holding puppies is my great-grandad Oran McLester, from about 1888 if I had to guess. I don't know who the other boy is.

Here he is again as a teenager playing cards with some friends. He's the one on the far left. Notice the cash on the ground. Playing cards was usually considered suspicious activity. Playing for money was just asking for trouble. Great-grandad looks like he had a lot of fun, but mom says he was very serious and always busy. They had land and he worked it all the time. Though he was smart enough to take time out to marry my great-grandmother Cora. You can see both of them all grown up HERE.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

To Get You Ready for Valentine's Day

I'm a sucker for these stories. Their sweetness outweighs the sad parts. From The Advocate:

...During the latter part of their 50 years together in California, Bill Swenor and Marvin Burrows were often asked why they’d never had a commitment ceremony. Swenor would cite the number of years they had been a couple and muse over whether that hadn’t been commitment enough.

But when gay couples started getting married in San Francisco, Bill proposed to his high school sweetheart, and the two were among those married in that memorable February of 2004.

“The impact of saying those words out loud brought tears to our eyes,” Burrows said. “It did change the dynamics of our relationship. It seemed to give us a measure of acceptance in the community and made us proud. Bill really felt great about being able to do something so personal yet political in one action.”

Swenor passed away from an apparent heart attack in his sleep in March 2005, his marriage to Burrows already having been voided by the courts. Burrows has since been denied access to Swenor’s pension benefits. Burrows celebrated New Year’s Eve with a few male friends before going home a bit early—alone. He knows his grieving process will take time.

Long devoted to numerous gay rights and civil rights organizations, including the local group Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, Burrows vows to continue to do all he can to fight for equal marriage rights.

“We always felt we were just like anyone else,” Burrows says. “Married, committed, and in love.”

Monday, February 06, 2006

When Southern Baptists Lie

"TheVanguard.Org" is a conservative consulting group. Its founder, Rod Martin helped presidential hopeful Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee by serving as his Director of Policy Planning and Research. The Vanguard's Christian bona fides are prominantly displayed on their website:

Our Statement of Faith is "The Abstract of Principles", the official doctrinal statement of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, adopted in 1858.

Vanguard's staff include a "grassroots director" named Tim Pope.
Tim Pope is TheVanguard.Org's Grassroots Director and President of the Oklahoma Republican Assembly. A seven-term member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, he served six years as Republican Whip, and won awards for legislative excellence from the Oklahoma Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Oklahoma Taxpayers Union. He has worked across Oklahoma and the nation teaching conservatives the nuts and bolts of how to win.

Wow, Tim is busy. And by busy I mean pulling shady strings behind the scenes as well.

From The Dallas Voice:

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth says he will ask for a determination on whether laws on elections and campaign finance were broken by the backer of an automated telephone call targeting him. Roth is the county’s first openly gay public official.

The recorded message accused Roth of “advancing the homosexual agenda in Oklahoma County” and mentioned a speech he was to give. The recorded female voice did not say who paid for the call or leave a return number. The number that showed up on caller ID was from a Michigan area code. The calls were made last weekend.

“I think it’s an outrage that they send those type of smearing, trashy phone calls to people on a Sunday afternoon and don’t have the courage to remove the white hood and show their face,” Roth said. “I’m concerned that it has the potential of violating a number of laws.”

Tim Pope, a Mustang resident and board member of the Oklahoma Republican Assembly, said he paid for the calls. Pope said he was not required to put a disclaimer claiming responsibility on the call because he was promoting an event at which Roth was scheduled to speak.

“It’s not a political call for a political candidate, so there is no requirement that there be a disclaimer,” Pope said.

“We just wanted to help him get a bigger crowd. It didn’t attack anybody.” The event mentioned in the call was a Monday evening program sponsored by GayOKC.com, called “The State of Our Community 2006.”

Yeah, Pope is hate-o-phoning people that Roth is "advancing the homosexual agenda" in order "to help him get a bigger crowd" at his talk. You believe him, don't you?

Pope's as crooked as a holler branch. This tactic is right out of Karl Rove's play book, though Rove wouldn't have shown his hand like Pope did. What is horrifying to me is that Vanguard is supposedly faith based. I guess the same "end justifies the means" approach used during the Crusades and the Inquisition comes in pretty handy for Southern Baptist policy wonks today. Somebody best be gettin' ready for the Holy Smackdown though. God typically frowns upon using faith-speak to cover lies.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Grandad and Grandmom McLester

Photos of my great-grandfather Oran McLester and my great-grandmother Cora Henderson McLester. The gridded lines of the cotton gin and the fence in the background make the photo look like an Ozark Mondrian. (photograph by Mark Harden.)

Contrary to the picture's composition, my great-grandmother was not one to be boxed in.

When she was small, her father, Vinson died on the way home from taking her sister Evie to boarding school. He crossed a river just as a log jam broke free upstream and slammed into the small ferry that carried him. He drowned. My great-great-grandmother, Lue was left to raise their seven children on her own. Despite the tragedy my great-grandmother Cora went to college, rare for an Arkansas woman back in the early 1900s.

We used to look at photos of this part of the family and wonder at how well-dressed they were, considering their circumstances. Then we found out this year that the lumber company responsible for the deadly log jam break had issued a settlement of 10,000.00 to my great-great-grandmother Lue, which was a big chunk of change back then.

This probably explains how they afforded college for my great-grandmother as well as the modest but elegant string of pearls a very exhausted looking Lue wears in this picture. And look at my great-grandmother (to the left of Lue), such a sweet looking little spark plug--energetic and optimistic. My aunts look like contestants in a Miss Jane Hathaway look-alike contest. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I LOVE Miss Jane.

My great-grandmother always amazed me. Even when she was in her 80s she would stand in my grandparents' garden bent at the waist picking gallons of strawberries for hours in the 90 degree heat. She always talked to us about the importance of education and shared great stories about her career and family. She was very proud of both.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Uncle Bob Butler and Uncle Will Harrison

Can you tell I've been busy at the scanner? Ran across this photo when I was at my Aunt Judy's house this past summer. More family, but they aren't related to each other.

My great grandfather Leonard Butler married my great grandmother Minnie Harrison. Bob, who is on the left, was my great-grandfather's brother and Will was my great grandmother's brother. They were good friends. Hard to tell where this photo was taken. Looks like a studio. Don't know where they would have found the money for that. They look like they are about 18.

Anyway, I thought it was kind of a cool photo.

My mom, Aunt Judy, and Uncle Troy

Yes, my family is a bunch of hillbillies and we have the dogs to prove it.

I love this picture. My mom is on the left. She's always been quite fashion forward. Notice the Shirley Temple hair style. She's looks shy in this picture, but she isn't in real life. She may have been a little scared of Bill, one of my grandad's bird dogs.

The self-possesed little girl with the hand on her hip is my Aunt Judy. Uncle Troy is holding the dogs. He passed away when he was 10 after a long battle with a weak heart.

My grandfather kept all of Uncle Troy's things in the bottom drawer of his dresser after he died, but even when he was much older he couldn't look at them because it made him too sad.

When my grandfather passed on a few years back, my mom and Aunt Judy went through this drawer and found one of Troy's theme books from school. In it he had written that his best friend was Larry Haile. My mom and Aunt Judy started crying because that is who my Aunt Judy has been married to for over 40 years.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oh, How I Love Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald
Originally uploaded by Theron Parlin.
From Raw Story:

RAW STORY has acquired a letter from CIA leak Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, who was indicted for allegedly obstructing justice and other charges for his role in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

In the letter, Fitzgerald admits that he has been told some emails from the President and Vice President's offices have been deleted, though he cautions that "no pertinent evidence has been destroyed."

"In an abundance of caution," he writes, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal achiving process on the White House computer system."

The New York Daily News' James Meek reported this morning that "CIA leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald collected 10,000 pages of documents - including the most sensitive terrorism memos in the U.S. government - from Vice President Cheney's office, he said in court papers released yesterday.

Libby's lawyers are seeking classified material to aid their defense, which many legal analysts see as an attempt to force the prosecutor's hand in dropping the case or reducing certain charges in the interests of national security.

Meek added: "Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy."

Hmmm...strangely missing communications. You can bet that letter to Libby's lawyers put a little sweat on the brow of our vice-president. Come to think of it, Fitzgerald mentions that the president's office is missing communications as well. This little piece of information means some people haven't made it out of the wood shed yet.

I've missed Fitzgerald. He's the Ang Lee of special prosecutors--sharp, subtle and dignified, sort of the anti-Ken Starr. And heads up single people, me thinks he's unattached.