It’s Busy-Time on a Gorgeous Day

That’s moi cutting a log the old fashioned way.
Coming soon to a sandwich near you.

Fun, busy day of work, play, photography, more work, and just enjoying the lovely spring day.

Got going this morning by sawing up a fallen tree in the back yard, but I discovered during the process that my electric chain saw’s motor and burned out. It happened before when I used a chord that wasn’t big enough and I should have learned something then. Sears replaced it the first time, but Sears is gone and so is my saw. So I pulled out the bow saw and cut up the wood in the low tech manner that’s probably better for my health anyway.

This Market gal grew the gorgeous daffodil.

Stopped down on the market (picking up tickets for Mill Mountain Theatre’s production of “A Chorus Line” in late April) with my new Canon D80 camera in tow and thought I’d give it a good run with my new 10-18mm Canon lens. Worked like a bright and shining charm. Love that camera. It feels so much more professional than my others. And it shoots like wondrous.

I wound up at City Cemetery over near the Rescue Mission to shoot some black and whites for a story I’m working on and they turned out very well, even though I shot them in the middle of a bright day.

Pictured here is some of what I encountered.

Nothing says spring like color.
This dude was serenading his cat and me.
These shoppers are warming up for veggie season.
I liked this lady’s pixies a lot.
An invitation to fat: deep-fried popcorn.
Onion sets awaiting the cool ground.
Ham and cheese sandwich (with tomato), anyone?
A nice day for a tan.
I fond this child’s headstone to be a smidge creepy.

Spring Keeps Edging Closer

March is nearly at an end and spring is on the edge of being here, so I thought I’d check the progress of the latter today. I found some color, some flowers and plenty of evidence that in the next couple of weeks, the mountains will be alive with an abundance we have to imagine right now.

Here’s some of what I saw outside.



The Impact of a Non-Reading Population

The interesting graphic above, making its way around the Internet, doesn’t surprise me at all, but it is depressing that Americans are such slovenly readers.

A website (here) called has considerably more information on just how weak we are as readers, ranking 16th among developed nations–which is about where our health care rates.

I’m one of those who has always had difficulty reading and didn’t read a full book until I was 25 (and had been writing professionally for seven years). My problem was attention and still is, but I manage to read quite a lot now because I want to, need to.

Here are some of the reading findings you may find illuminating:

  • 23 million Americans, 14 percent of all adults, are illiterate.
  • About 44 million adults–23 percent of U.S. adults–read below basic levels.
  • Women are slightly better readers than men.
  • 30 million of us can’t read at a 10-year-old’s level. and 63 million read between 6th and 8th grade.
  • Old people (over 65–my group) are the weakest readers.
  • Slightly less than 20 percent of high school graduates can’t read at basic levels.
  • 77 percent of children who are read to are more likely to read.
  • 21 percent of young girls with below average reading skills got pregnant; 5 percent of good readers did that.
  • 85 percent of kids who wind up in trouble with the law have difficulty reading.
  • 70 percent of adult inmates can’t read well.
  • 75 percent of those on welfare don’t read well.
  • Illiteracy costs the economy $225 billion a year and its impact on health care is $100 billion a year.

(Graphic: Vintage Books & Anchor Books.)





Facebook Ads Boost NRA $$$$

NRA ad for its “March for Freedom”

If you have any doubt whatsoever that the NRA’s stance on guns and teen killings these days has anything to do with the Second Amendment (the real one or the one the NRA imagines), think again. It’s about money. Money for the NRA and money for gun manufacturers.

Consider this, released today: “According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA received ‘twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors’ in the week after the shooting” in Parkland as it normally receives. During those weeks, the NRA has become the shrill shill we all know and love, blaming the victims, making outrageous claims about the victims being employees of the left and on and on.

The NRA’s spending on Facebook ads (where have we heard that before?) is thus: “$11,300 in the 24 days before the shooting. The group paused its ads in the four days immediately after the slaughter, but then resumed advertising ― increasing average daily spending on Facebook ads to $47,300 in the succeeding 24 days.”

Typical of the NRA’s claims is this: “Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.” I heard Rush Limbaugh yesterday (I can only take him in two-minute doses about twice a year) say that only about 10 percent of the people marching last week were kids who believed in getting a grip on guns. The rest, says the NRA, were nutjob lefties hell bent on taking the the NRA member’s guns away.

More claims:

  • “The freedom-hating left wants to take away your fundamental right to self-defense.”
  • “Never in our lives have we seen more dangerous and reckless attacks from those who despise our freedoms.”
  • “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous.”

All this sounds considerably like those far right, fundamentalist Christian preachers who support people like Trump in direct conflict with the teachings of their texts and traditions.

The Facebook posts, of course, have prominent pauses to raise money with gifts and NRA memberships, all in the name of protecting “our Second Amendment rights,” which they don’t even understand.


Roanoke Theater Cooking in April

“Chicago” at Hollins was a huge hit nine years ago.
Williams at Off the Rails.

For those of us who enjoy the richness of live theater in the Roanoke Valley, April is shaping up as a blockbuster month, one with traditional hits headlining.

The month kicks off with a classic: Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” at Off the Rails’ June McBroom Theatre at Community High in downtown Roanoke. It runs April 5-8 and 12-15

Off the Rails Theatre opens its 10th anniversary season with a production of “The Glass Menagerie” on Thursday April 5th at 8 pm in the June M. McBroom Theatre at Community High School.  It’s directed by Michael Mansfield and his wife, Amanda Mansfield, perhaps Roanoke’s best actor, stars as Amanda Wingfield.

MMT’s “A Chorus Line.”

The play introduced Tennessee Williams to Broadway in 1944 and has been a celebrated classic since.

Evening performances are at 8 and matinees are at 2. (Thursdays are $10 and “pay what you like” nights.) The show runs April 5-8 and 12-15. You can get tickets at 540-676-1415 or

Hollins University’s production of the huge hit “Chicago,” which was an Academy Award-winning movie,  runs April 12-15 and 18-21. This is a revival of the Hollins production (I saw the first one and it was a smash) featuring all the corruption of Chicago in the 1930s and a musical score that that stops the show often.

Chicago tickets cost $10.

Mill Mountain Theatre will present the blockbuster “A Chorus Line” April 25-May 13. This one is the classic theater inside the theater production, featuring the stories of 17 hopefuls trying out for the chorus of eight in a production.  The songs and dance in “A Chorus Line” has kept people coming back for decades.

Tickets cost $20-$38 and can be bought online at or by calling 540-342-5740.

Showtimers, which finished its run of “Heathers” in early March, features “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” April 19-29. “Picasso” is a 1993 play, written by comedian

Showtimers features “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

Steve Martin, featuring Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso at a Paris Cafe. I’m not a huge fan of the Off Broadway hit, but you might like its humor.

Finally, Theatre Roanoke College will present its spring production, “An Evening of Albee” April 11-14, 7:30 at the Olin Theatre. Tickets are $7 and $5 and can be bought at 540-375-2333 or at

Albee’s evening will feature “American Dream” and “The Zoo Story,” a couple of one-act plays, the former a dark comedy and the latter a drama about a confrontation in Central Park.

Roanoke College’s theater arts program is not as well known as that at Hollins, but its productions are often entertaining and creative–and certainly good for a test drive.


Getting Rid of the Noise on Facebook

For about eight years that I have participated in Facebook discussions–often political–I have allowed people of a wide variety of beliefs to weigh in on issues, so long as they did so with a certain level of civility and didn’t get into constantly repeating themselves.

My patience has finally worn too thin to hold on to those people, so I have jettisoned almost all of them. I retain a few conservative friends because I respect both them and their arguments, which teach me. The people I have dumped echo Rush Limbaugh and Fox News with absolutely no thought of their own. The ones who remain are smart, dedicated and they listen as well as they talk. They will always be welcome.

But those who argue for argument’s sake are not welcome. And the friends they bring with them, people who are not “friends,” are not welcome in the first place and they almost always wind up insulting people I like. When every disagreement comes down to guns and abortion, I simply grow tired and don’t want to tread that worn out ground any longer.

So, there you have it. If it is an echo chamber on my FB site, then so be it. Those who accuse me of being against the First Amendment for taking this stance might want to consider my FB page as my living room and I don’t want you spitting on my floor.



A Close Look At Our Macro Snow

Snows come in all forms and formations and the two most recent Roanoke snows have been what I term “macro snows.” There’s not much to them, so you need to get close to show their personalities.

Yesterday’s snow began at about 3 p.m. at my house and continued the rest of the day and well into the night. Still, we got an accumulation of only about an inch. A lot of it was ice, but much of what fell melted quickly on hard surfaces warmed by March’s daytime temperatures. We were left with quite a bit of snowfall, but little accumulation.

Here’s what the snow looks like this morning, up close and personal.


Nazis and Trump: An Historic Perspective

German-American Bund gathering in Madison Square Garden, 1939. Real Nazis in America.

Those of you (and me) who are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s similarity to the philosophy employed by the Nazis in the 1930s are often criticized for overstating that parallel.

Problem is that anybody who reads history knows the parallel is entirely relevant. Many Americans have had fascist leanings throughout the history of the country. The birth of the Republican party was achieved in 1912 when a group of far right-wingers decided that Theodore Roosevelt was too liberal (pro-union, pro-environment, etc.) and cast him aside. Through the 1920s and ’30s that segment of the GOP grew and the House (about 100 of its members) and Senate (a few) at the outbreak of World War II had a number of Republicans who were open Nazi sympathizers.

Table flag for Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, AV, the American Bund.

Probably the most famous Nazi group in America during the ’30s was the  German-American Bund, which at one point held a rally in Madison Square Garden that attracted 20,000 screaming Nazis or Nazi sympathizers. The FBI, whose director J. Edgar Hoover was probably a closet Nazi (among other closet activities), estimated the Bund only had 6,000 or so members, but the Bund claimed 200,000 and even the American Legion estimated 25,000. And that was only one official group. The Silver Legion and the Friends of Progress were significant fascist, Nazi-admiring organizations. Those with no official official Nazi affiliation numbered quite a bit more.

Sentiment against Jews in America was strong. FDR was often called “Roosenfeld” and Hitler insisted Roosevelt’s grandmother was a Jew (she was not). There was considerable hatred of the British, as well. My guess is that if there had been an Internet in 1939, somebody like Trump would have risen to lead these American Nazis, but World War II diminished their numbers–without erasing them.

Many Nazi sympathizers were famous: Henry Ford (who was presented the Grand Cross of the German Eagle), Charles Lindbergh, Huey Long, Joseph Kennedy (the father of JFK), Norman Chandler (L.A. Times publisher), Jason Joy, Hans Peters and Henry Noerdlinger (three prominent in the movie industry) and UCLA founder Ernest Moore (along with a number of college professors). Chandler once said American journalists unfairly criticized the Nazi regime: saying they “peddled nothing but lies about National Socialist Germany.” (Fake News is born.)

Nazi salute in Charlottesville.

Arnie Bernstein’s Swastika Nation gives you an idea of the extent to which Americans sympathized (and still do) with Nazis. Politico, in a recent story comparing the Nazis at Charlottesville to the Bund’s 1939 mass rally, quoted Bernstein as saying, ““I don’t see much of a difference, quite frankly, between the Bund and these groups, in their public presence. The Bund had its storefronts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles — today’s groups are also hanging out in the public space, but in this case, they’re on the internet and anyone can access their ‘storefronts,’ or websites, and their philosophy, if you can call it that, is essentially the same.”

But it is more than Trump rallies, Charlottesville violence and the myriad other public displays of the unthinkable. Look at Facebook and Twitter and follow some of the hard right rhetoric. It is remarkable similar to that of Nazis during the growth years. Now we have a cadre of warmongers surrounding the president, considering their nuclear options.

If you didn’t believe the Nazi comparisons before, you might want to re-consider.

(Charlottesville photo:


Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings (Thanks, Mom)

Lunch: Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings.

Probably the most appreciated skill my mother left me was cooking. I was in the kitchen at 5, stringing beans and helping in other small ways, learning just what creative satisfaction means.

Mom never really cared for recipes and she left me with that, as well. I consider a recipe to be plagiarism (two recipes is research). A few years ago, I gave my son a French cookbook that had not a single recipe in it. He said it was the best cookbook he ever had because the book taught concepts. As mom often said, “Just tell me what’s in it. I’ll do the rest.”

Mom left me with a number of her favorite dishes, among them chicken and dumplings (she even taught me to say “dumplings” with the “g” on the end). That’s what I’m eating for lunch today. It’s easy to put together, takes about 25 minutes. And it’s wondrous on an early-spring day when snow is in the forecast.


To Hike or Not (Hint: Hike)

Remnants of the last snow waiting for the next snow.
Rocks are rocks in black and white or in color.

This was not a picture-perfect Saturday for a spring hike, especially with snow looming in the late afternoon (when the hike would be enhanced), but the option was not to hike. So I hiked.

Went up the back side of Tinker Mountain and found exactly what I expected: a lot of brown and gray, considerable ground water, a deep chill (even though temperatures were in the low 40s), and not many signs of life. In fact, no spring signs at all.

But a hike is a hike and it is to be enjoyed for what it offers. This one offered exercise and some leftover snow. And, of course, peace. Lots of peace.