17 September 2013

Cousin Fred in Mexico makes a point

      In 1964 Hampden-Sydney College, in Southside Virginia, was fairly typical of American schools and particularly of the small, good Southern schools of the region: Randolph-Macon College for men in Ashland, co-ed William and Mary in Williamsburg, and Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg among others.
     H-S, as we called it, was entirely male, both as to students and professors. This had the great advantage that we could concentrate on the job at hand, as for example learning things, instead of pondering the young lovely at the next desk. These latter were available at Longwood State Teachers College (now of course Longwood University), seven miles away.
    Hampden-Sydney was not MIT. Average SAT scores were perhaps 1150 if memory serves. The students were chiefly drawn from the small and pleasant towns of rural Virginia, and would go on to become doctors, attorneys, and businessmen. Yet H-S embodied (and still does), by today´s standards, a remarkable philosophy of education, and showed that reasonably but not appallingly bright young can be educated. So did most colleges.
     It was then believed that higher education was for the intelligent and the prepared, for no more than the upper twenty percent, perhaps fifteen ore even ten percent of graduates of high school.
At Hampden-Sydney, “Prepared” meant “prepared.” It was assumed that students could read perfectly and knew algebra cold. There were no remedial courses. The idea would have been thought ridiculous if anyone had thought it at all. If you needed remediation, you belonged somewhere else. Colleges were not holding tanks for the mildly retarded.
    The purpose of a college, it was then thought was to turn college boys—we were then called “college boys” and “college girls”—into educated young adults. Part of this meant that we should act like adults, which meant as ladies and gentlemen. This concept, currently regarded as odd and even inauthentic, meant deploying good manners when appropriate, not dressing like the contents of an industrial dumpster, and avoiding in mixed company the constant use of sexual reference in words of few letters.

     Hampden-Sydney then provided a liberal education, which is simply to say an education, everything else being vocational training. A belief seldom stated but firmly held was that if you didn´t have a reasonable familiarity with literature, history, the arts and sciences and the like, you belonged to a lower order of existence. College should provide the familiarity. The faculty believed that teenagers, which most of us were, didn´t know enough to decide in what education consisted, or what we needed to learn, so there were a great many required courses. These varied between BA and BS programs,  but, for example, a student majoring in history took two years each of two languages, one of them ancient (Latin or Greek), surveys of philosophy, art, a math course, and two of the sciences.
   The latter were not Football Physics or Chemistry for Cretins. They were the same courses the science majors took.
   The students were then all white and so could be graded on their academic performance.  Rigor was considerable. I can still read French after two years with Dr. Albert Leduc who, judging by the workload he imposed, we suspected of being a sadist who spent his spare time pulling the wings from flies. Freshman chemistry amounted to P-chem lite, heavy on quantum theory and endless, endless, endless solution of laboratory problems of the sort encountered in the real world. It was hard. A remedial student would not have lasted thirty seconds.
    Such was schooling in 1964. Then came the Sixties, which actually started in mid-decade and didn´t have their full effect for some time. But everything changed. 
   A proletarian egalitarianism emerged across the country, urging that everyone should go to college. A tidal wave of the dim and unready washed onto campuses. To facilitate their entry, admission standards had to be lowered and, to keep them in, academic standards. Colleges, which began calling themselves “universities,” discovered that there was money in these un-students, and expanded to house more of them. (The students ceased to be college kids and became “men” and “women,” while increasingly acting like children.) To recruit politically desirable black students, affirmative action arose and, when these recruits sank to the bottom, “black studies” were instituted, having no definable standards and teaching nothing. “Women´s Studies” followed, allowing girls who lacked scholarly interests to enjoy indignation without suffering the unaccustomed pangs of thought. These quickly became departments of virtuous hostility to men and whites (for who is more sexist than a feminist, or more racist than a black?)
    Since these young generally lacked either the curiosity or acuity for genuine studies, they wanted to be amused. Courses entitled The Transcendentalists of New England or Europe from 1926 were too boring, assuming that the purported students had heard of Transcendentalism or Europe, so they demanded and got The History of the Comic Book in American Culture. Such courses amounted to Remedial Sandbox, but sounded like college courses. It was enough.
   These enlarged children were paying for college, or at least their fathers were, and they wanted value for money. That meant grades. Soon everybody was getting A's and B's. What they were not getting was an education but since they didn't know what one was, they didn't notice. They called themselves men and women, without behaving as such, but that was close enough. They attended a College-Shaped Place, so they figured they must be going to college, and they got great grades, so they must be learning something.
   Those in the Victims Studies departments rejoiced in extended adolescent rebellion against their parents while engaging in disguised indolence, thus joining the historically comic class of the pampered and bored who imagine themselves  as being in some vanguard or other.

     Thus died American education. A few outposts remained, and remain, but very few. Men and women of my age are the last fully schooled generation.  What are we to feel other than contempt for these intellectually bedraggled victims, not of their beloved sexism and racism but of a demented egalitarianism that thinks that pretending that everyone is educated is better than allowing those capable of it to be so. How much sense does this make?

Pictures of My Arizona

Montezuma's Castle (cliff dwelling) in Northern Arizona
Cholla (pronounced Choy Ya) blooms

The Santa Cruz Valley just south of Tucson

A yucca in bloom

11 September 2013

The Pavarotti of the Plains

     I heard a song on one of the "e-Radio" stations I listen to on my computer about a singer. It piqued my curiosity and I looked him up on iTunes and downloaded some of his songs. He is (was) a great singer and is, by far, the BEST yodeler I have ever heard. He has a lot of yodel tunes and country standards, but you should here his versions of 'Danny Boy' and 'Rose Marie'.  His name is (was) Don Walser. He was known throughout the world as 'God's Own Yodeler'. I looked him up on Wikipedia and found this article. Check his music out if you get a chance, it'll be worth your while.

   Don Walser was born in Brownfield, Texas. A roots musician since he was 11 years old, He became an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. He started his first band, The Panhandle Playboys, at age 16, and shared bills with another aspiring Texas singer, Buddy Holly.
   As rock'n'roll began to skyrocket in popularity, he opted to stay in the Texas Panhandle, raise a family and work as a mechanic and later as an auditor for the National Guard, rather than move to Nashville and pursue a recording career. As a result, he had little following outside Texas for the first part of his career. However, he never stopped playing and became widely known in Texas. From 1959-61 he had a group called The Texas Plainsmen and a weekly radio program. For the next three decades he was always in bands and played a heavy schedule. He wrote popular original songs such as "Rolling Stone from Texas", which received a four-star review in 1964 from Billboard magazine.
  He kept alive old 1940s and 1950s tunes by country music pioneers such as Bob Wills and Eddie Arnold, and made them his own in a style that blended elements of honky tonk and Western swing. He also was known for his extraordinary yodeling style in the tradition of Slim Whitman and Jimmie Rodgers. 
In 1984, the Guard transferred Walser to Austin, a center of the burgeoning alt-country music scene. He put together his Pure Texas Band and developed a strong local following. Walser opened for Johnny Cash in 1996. In 1990, Walser was "discovered" by musician and talent scout T J McFarland.
    In 1994, aged 60, Walser retired from the Guard. Able to devote himself fully to music for the first time in his life, he was immediately signed by Watermelon Records and released the album Rolling Stone From Texas, produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. His extraordinary vocal abilities earned him the nickname "the Pavarotti of the Plains" by a reviewer for Playboy magazine. Because of his Austin base, he attracted fans from country music traditionalists, and alternative music and punk fans. His band later became the opening act for the Butthole Surfers.
   Don Walser was voted "Best Performing Country Band" at the Austin Music Awards, was voted top country band of the year by the Austin Chronicle in 1996, and received an Association for Independent Music "Indie" Award in 1997. He also received recognition in mainstream country, and played the Grand Ole Opry on October 30, 1999, and again in 2001. In 2000 he received a lifetime "Heritage" award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he and the Pure Texas Band played at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 
   In September, 2003, Don Walser retired from live performances due to health issues. Three years later, Walser died due to complications fro diabetes on September 20, 2006, six days after his 72nd birthday.

08 September 2013

Photos, Bourbon and other nonsense

   It is a nondescript Sunday morning and I am recovering from a long semi-sleepless night full of disturbing,(though non-nightmare type0 dreams. Those types of dreams come around rarely, although I dream nightly, but the semi-sleepless / cannot rest nights are becoming all too frequent. I am not sick today, but I really don't feel as I should ... old age is a bitch at times.
   Hilda is still resting, she had a long Saturday. I am still trying to figure out how to get the Nissan Quest repaired, but that will occur in time I guess. No banks handle title loans on vehicles you already own, and those Auto Title Loan places charge usurers rates.
   Today is the first Sunday of the NFL season. Hilda's two favorite teams ... the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers ... play each other in the afternoon, but we shall not be able to see it as they will be overshadowed by our cable provider in order to play the Arizona Cardinals game for the locals.
  I thought that I would send along three of my cloud photographs ... I am fascinated by clouds and have taken many pictures of them.

    When I am feeling down or ill, I tend to go through my older pictures and listen to music on my computer. Just heard a song on Rebecca Creek Radio called "Wild as the Turkey on the Bottle" ... a tribute to wild living and Wild Turkey (that good old Bourbon from Jimmie and Eddie Russell up there in Lawrenceburg, KY) ... that is pretty cute. " ... I'm living my life full throttle, and I'm wild as the turkey on the bottle ... ".
   Side Note: Some of my acquaintances were arguing the other day in the VFW about what can and cannot be called bourbon. I had to set them straight, and I'll let you guys know. Some people think it has to be made in Kentucky to be called bourbon ... FALSE! Let’s get one thing straight ... all bourbon is whiskey, but all whiskey ain't bourbon. Bourbon tastes stronger and sweeter than many other whiskeys. That’s because it’s distilled from a key ingredient: corn. Bourbon is held to many different, and some say, much higher quality standards than other whiskeys, from what goes in to how long it’s aged. Bourbon (and moonshine) are America’s only native spirits, and although 95% of it comes from Kentucky, it is made in other places.To be bourbon by federal rules, the following must apply:
  1) It has to be distilled from at least 51% corn
  2) It has to be aged AT LEAST 2 years in NEW, CHARRED, OAK barrels
  3) It cannot have anything added but distilled water ... nothing that adds color or flavor can enter
       the bottles
   Jack Daniels (and lesser known brand, but one that is just as good, George Dickle) charcoal their whiskey by running it through beds of charcoal which makes it NOT a bourbon ... but this process is supposed to make it mellower ... all a matter of taste I guess.
    Wikipedia (wrongly) calls Tennessee Whiskeys straight bourbon whiskeys, but they are way off base.

    05 September 2013

    Goings On, and minor opinions

    We went to Booth-Fickett School this evening (the Commander, the Men's Auxiliary Commander, Hilda … the Ladies Auxiliary President …, her Senior Vice President, and her Youth and Americanism Chairwoman). The Ladies presented them with some backpacks for students who cannot afford them, and they presented them with a NEW State of Arizona flag for their flagpole. I was along to drive Hilda and to take pictures. The Post 549 paparazzi … that's me. I missed the first quarter of my game, but that comes with the territory. I have to get up early tomorrow to help Perry Hardee of ValuPlus Vending move some vending machines so I may not see all of tonight's game. At the beginning of the 2nd half … the hated B-More Blackbirds lead 17-14. Update: The Broncos are now leading 28-17

    These are today's ACTUAL Top Stories on Google News (I read it twice a day):
    1) Syria, main topic at G20 Summit
    2) Senate panel backs Use of Force against Syria
    3) Egyptian Minister warns of terrorism
    4) Ariel Castro death not a happy ending for victims
    5) Dollar climbs against Euro
    6) Scarlett Johansson is engaged
          Really !!! Scarlett Johansson getting engaged is in the TOP 6 stories in the news ???? People, what are we coming to in this country? A (albeit sexy) movie star of somewhat doubtful talent snares a man and that is "Stop The Presses" news? O.K., have it your way … where can I go to read news that is news. Cannot get it on TV or the radio … newspapers are liberal jokes, so what is left?

    President Obama is trying to get congressional approval before we attack Syria. And if that works, there’s talk we might even consider bringing back the rest of the Constitution. ~ Jay Leno

    Today during the hearing on Syria, John McCain was caught playing poker on his Smartphone. I was like, "What? John McCain knows how to use a Smartphone?" ~ Craig Ferguson

    Some of my favorites … just because.

    MY NFL Editorial

    Denver Broncos  VS.  Baltimore Ravens

        Tonight is the first game of the 2013 NFL season ... cousin Dean's Ravens against my Broncos. I think we will edge them ~ about 24-21. Should be a good game. Come'on Peyton, kick some butt !!

        Now, let me climb gingerly up onto my soapbox ...
                                                                     ... and off I go !!!

        Thursday's NFL opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos launches Roger Goodell's eighth season as commissioner — it features an arrest rate of more than one per week over that time period. Since the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, NFL players have been arrested or charged with crimes at least 37 times, including 10 players accused of driving drunk and a murder indictment for ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
        In Goodell's seven years on the job, NFL players have been arrested or charged with crimes at least 395 times, including:
        107 drunken-driving arrests
          43 domestic-abuse cases
          34 cases involving guns 
          84 cases involving fighting or disorderly conduct 
                     (usually at bars or nightclubs late at night)
        I think this is inevitable ... because you are giving very young men (many times from an extremely poor background) incredibly obscene amounts of money and huge amounts of adulation ... being told constantly "how great and extraordinary" they are. This is the same reason that most lottery winners are broke within 5 years (or less). They have no idea how to handle the money and attention and they give in to "stupid that they haven't used yet". If you have had nothing, or close to nothing most of your life and all-of-a-sudden ... boom! you are a millionaire  a couple of times over ... this would play tricks with any one's brain and/or conduct. I am not condoning what they do or the the fantasy-type lifestyles they lead. I mean ... seriously, what 23 year old needs a $4-$5 million dollar house. They're playing football from August to January and the rest of the year they're partying while trying to stay in shape for the following year. The people who live in their houses are merely hangers-on and pseudo-friends. The thing that really makes me feel sorry for them is their quest for trophy wives ... models and movie stars and singers ... who are as emotionally bankrupt as they are. Don't get me wrong, beauty is nice ... but it is not the basis for a happy, meaningful, lasting relationship. But ... they'll be 45, crippled and broke before they figure that out. There are a lot of broke former players out there. There are a few who invested well, got other careers and are happily married (usually not to a model/singer/movie star) ... but I fear they are exceptions.

    02 September 2013

    Labor Day 2013

    We are told ... NOT TO  judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics
     ... BUT ... 
    we are encouraged TO judge ALL Gun Owners by the actions of a few lunatics.

                                      Is this right ???

    One picture today:
       it is a local monastery that always catches my eye as I drive past.

    I have not been on the Blog much ... I have been working on a new web page for our VFW Post 549 ( you may see it at www.vfwpost549.org ). It is a work in progress (forever ... as websites are), but I think it is starting to show some promise. Speaking of Post 549 ... we were there on Saturday relaxing (Hilda played SLINGO), on Sunday we were there while she worked SLINGO, today there is a lunch (she made lots of brownies) so we'll be there for a while. We have one more episode of the Father Dowling Mysteries [The last season] on CD to watch tonight. We have been surprised at how well the show holds up after all these years. Then we start on George Gently ... one of our BBC favorites. She has a doctor's appointment on Thursday with a specialist in immune systems (they're still trying to control her hypoglycemia unawareness).