Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pomp and Circumstance

Like many millions of Americans and others worldwide, I watched the inauguration of President Obama on Tuesday. Like most of those, I had a variety of emotions and thoughts. Not the least of these thoughts is that I am blessed to live in a country where racial perceptions have shaped much of our culture, but still the race that constitutes about 80% of the population elected and supports a member of a minority race that constitutes less than 20%. AND there was a peaceful, respectful transfer of power. Much credit has rightfully been given to Dr. Martin Luther King and many of his contemporaries for bringing us from a hateful, abusive environment to the one that exists today. The speeches and actions of Dr. King had an influence on me as a school-age boy growing up in the first forced-integration schools in the south. I grew up caught between white elders that resented the "trouble-makers" and my own growing perception that some of the treatment just could not be right. The events of this week cap a long transition that most young white and black citizens could not possibly appreciate fully. Because of these thoughts, I have been reluctant to forward e-mails (some funny, some not) that utilize racial stereotypes like spinner wheels on the limousines and purple suits on the secret service personnel. I want to make my best, honest effort to observe this president based on "the content of his character" and not the color of his skin. Besides, during the summer he is not that much darker than I am.

Having said all that, I want to address the goof during the administration of the oath of office. No, I don't want to join a conspiracy group claiming Obama is not really the president. And the stumbling over the words seemed to be primarily the fault of the chief justice who chose to recite from memory rather than read the oath. That choice is key to the point I wish to make. Why would you choose that? My contention is that only ego would drive that decision--an attempt to impress. There was lots of that on Tuesday. It would be difficult to suppress one's ego if selected to be part of the pomp and circumstance associated with the transition of power. In my opinion pride and ego was evident in most who had a public part, including the two that led prayers. Really? Is that a time for elementary rap? As most Americans know by now, the oath was administered again in private out of an "abundance of caution".

The two things that startled me during the inauguration were (1) the fumbled oath--which made me slide to the edge of my chair and say out loud "Are you kidding me?" although nobody else was in the room and (2) prior to that, the comment on the network I was watching that Obama had already taken office before the oath. Although I printed a copy of the constitution a few weeks ago (because I don't even remember taking a civics class) and have read over it some, I only learned since the slip-up that the presidents term begins at noon on January 20, but (depending on interpretation) the powers of the executive office are received after taking the oath. Obviously, the ideal is for the two to coincide. Can you imagine how many protocol experts were involved with planning and orchestrating this event? How would you like to be a civil servant tasked with keeping celebrities and politicians at the highest level on schedule? My question (from one who is ignorant of constitutional law) is; "Why in the world would you not schedule the events and maintain the order so that the oath is taken before noon--no matter what?"

My guess is that many who bother to read this far are saying "So what?" What does it matter if he gets the right words or gets them in the right order? What does it matter how much time elapses before he has the "legal" power of the president?

And here we are at my point. The oath itself is a promise to uphold the constitution of the United States. The importance of that can not be overstated. The reason we have an orderly transition of power is that wise leaders hammered out a process and wrote it down as part of our "constitution" (pun intended). Those few minutes were the reason millions stood in the cold for hours and countless millions more watched on TV. The assembly was not about Aretha Franklin or Yo Yo Ma or Joseph Lowery or Rick Warren. It was about fulfilling a constitutional requirement to replace the president of the United States. Words make a difference. Legal requirements matter. Good intentions and warm feelings can not replace doing what is required. May I add that great speeches, impressive intellect and warm relationships with celebrities can not replace doing what is required. I pray that President Obama will have wisdom and humility enough to do what is required to move our nation in the way it should go over the next four years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photoshop for Beginners

Kudos to the folks at Adobe for branding Photoshop so well that the name has become a verb. No matter which software you use, people refer to the process of editing pictures as "photoshopping". Like most software there is a learning curve. You would expect those using these tools to create professional advertisements to be pretty good at it. Not necessarily. Check this ad for a photo processing business, of all things. How many photoshop problems do you see?

The big one for me is the creepy man's hand on mom's shoulder with no body attached. And what is that little girl looking at? Maybe it is the rest of daddy's body? I am no expert, but how does that little camera work? There is no viewfinder or screen. Do you just aim it in the general direction of what you want to photograph? The big question for me is this; how bad was the original picture?

Saturday, January 17, 2009


So...I was tagged by my daughter, Laura. The instructions are to post the fourth picture from your fourth folder and describe it.

This is not one I would have chosen but it is the correct number. I spotted this oversize stuffed tiger in a dumpster at a trailer park near beautiful downtown Wetumpka, Alabama. It struck me as funny so I took several pictures, thinking it might fit an Auburn joke somewhere along the line. This year has been tough for Auburn and I did not want to pile on so I have not share the picture---until now. I am going to pass on the tagging. If you read this and would like to play, jump right in.

Saturday, January 10, 2009 I got me a pen and paper....

....and I made up my own little sign.....

What? She will only be here on Thrusday? Not even Firday?
See boys and girls--stay in school and study hard so you can be a Manger some day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Time Passages

I almost always have a camera with me these days. It is my modern version of Paladin--you know "Have Camera--Will Travel". Actually, if you are younger than 50, that probably doesn't make sense.
I passed one of those little dirt drives that I have noticed before and knew I would eventually explore. So I made a u-turn--I mean legally turned around--and drove up the drive to find this little gem.

I took several pictures of the front of this old house but intentionally chose this angle because it captured the interesting tree on the west end of the house and mostly because it showed the cell tower about 50 yards behind the house. Can you imagine explaining to the original occupants of this house what a cell phone tower is?

Even with the clutter and dilapidated condition of the house, this chair by the window looks like some old guy was just watching the Sun set and got up to feed the dogs before dark.

I wonder who looked out this door and tried to imagine how big the world is outside the house. What would they think if they could come back now?

This room made it obvious that somebody has used the house as home recently. The carpet remnants are neatly patched together to form insulation against the cold drafts. Is there a woman's touch here? Who is so estranged from family and friends that they need to sleep in this collapsing house?

The faux brick asbestos siding reminds me of the houses near Doles, Georgia where I first learned the joys of exploration. The first house I lived in had siding similar to this but it was a little higher off the ground. How far away do you have to be to think this is really a brick house?

Out back, old Blue's house is in about the same condition.

It was fun to poke around and take some pictures. This represents a departure from my "raisin". My parents taught me to respect other people's property. Not just refraining from taking what does not belong to you but staying off other people's property. We did not even cut across yards and my dad was quick to challenge those who came on his property uninvited. That was difficult for me to overcome when I began delivering mail in Capital Heights in the 1970's. Mailboxes by the door meant walking across EVERY yard and onto porches--even right past open windows. It tool a LONG time for me to feel comfortable with that and there were some embarrassing moments along the way. I am still respectful of private property and recognize that fences exist for a reason. My years and white hair have given me a look of trustworthiness that allows me to plunder within reason and I have the integrity to leave things as I found them. But I am becoming bolder about going places to look and take pictures. It is fun to me. This old house and its occupants will cross my mind several times over the next few days as I wonder what their life was like and what they would think about being in the middle of a fast growing city rather than out in the country. This morning I posted famous quotes. When I uploaded these photos to Facebook, I added a quote that will be famous some day; "If you never plunder or trespass, you are not a serious photographer." Remember, you heard it here first.

Groundhog Day

"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it."

-- Robert Heinlein, American Novelist

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Henry David Thoreau

"Do you ever feel like you wake up every day and it is exactly the same as the day before? Like nothing ever changes?"

Phil in "Groundhog Day"

Wow, nearly 37 years at the USPS is a lot like Groundhog Day. I've got to choose and define some goals before I die with my song still in me. Those who have heard me sing think that may be a good thing.

The more people I get to REALLY know, the more I realize how much courage it takes to choose a new direction and follow it with determination. And the more I respect and appreciate those few who do that boldly. So, I have to get off the computer now and go for a long run.