Corrupt career politicians (that’s redundant*) strike again

Such amazing outrage today. Many in the military, supporters of the military, and celebrities who claim to support the military are angry that GOP senators voted against the Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Pact Act. The bill needed 60 votes to end a filibuster in the Senate. It got only 55.

And now, in Texas people are livid with U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Both voted against the bill. Someone emailed me today, and as I read the article, I wondered…do they realize how misplaced their anger is?

Military.com explains around the fourteenth paragraph down why some GOP senators voted against it–well, sort of. It mentions spending in the bill that has nothing to do with the bill’s purpose but doesn’t give dollar amounts. Military Times waits until the sixth paragraph to explain. The Hill reporter Brad Dress wrote this in the fourth and fifth paragraphs: “Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) said on the Senate floor that he didn’t support the bill because it would create $400 billion in unrelated spending, which he called a ‘budgetary gimmick.’

“‘My concern about this bill has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill,’” Toomey said. “‘This budgetary gimmick is so unrelated to the actual veterans issue that has to do with burn pits, that it’s not even in the House version of this bill.’”

In other words, they voted against the bill because it had LOTS of financial pork in it. Seems to be a common tactic.

The real enemies are the politicians who would rather sneak in wasteful spending at the expense of creating a bill that actually helps veterans.

Preaching to myself: whenever a politician votes against a well-meaning bill, you always have to ask, “Why?” Often, it’s more than meets the eye. Meanwhile, corrupt career politicians (that’s redundant*) act like they have a bottomless reservoir of money to spend.

*Credit for that phrase goes to Ed Suarez. Ed, a friend of Cuban ancestry, often likes to say this about his kids and fellow Cubans: Cuban sensation (that’s redundant).

Post comments here or email: fromatozowie@gmail.com

Responding to the ‘Fredericksburg Conservative’

When I first looked at the one-section newspaper in my mailbox, I thought, Does Fredericksburg again have a second newspaper?

This newspaper is the Fredericksburg Conservative, and as I read over it, I realized, no. A newspaper reports what happened that week, uses quotes, and has a section for editorials, opinion columns, and letters to the editor. It also has other sections, such as sports, lifestyles, business, and agriculture.

Instead, this publication seems to be more of a call for unified action against public schools and liberalism. Ostensibly, David Treibs published the Conservative because he felt the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post was too liberal. As a former reporter of the FSRP, judging by its editorials I would call it centrist with some columns that lean towards the left. A few lean to the right.

Yes, I’m a conservative, but the biggest disagreement this new paper and I have is in the flow of ideas. Months ago, a conservative group presented the Fredericksburg Independent School District trustees with a list of books they felt were inappropriate, unsuitable, and not fit for local public school libraries to carry or for students to read.

I support libraries carrying age-appropriate literature, but here’s the problem: if we decide certain books should not be carried, where does it end? Do atheists get to ask schools not to carry the Bible or the Left Behind series because they object to the Christian overtones? Can Native Americans also ask for western novels to be removed because of how it depicts their ancestors?

I am especially opposed to people deciding what books the high school should and shouldn’t carry. That’s the age when teens are transitioning to become adults so they can leave the nest, work and go to school, pay their own bills, and be responsible human beings. Sheltering them is not preparing them.

One book the Fredericksburg Conservative didn’t like was Judy Blume’s 1971 novel Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. This book reportedly is in the Stonewall Elementary School library, when I personally believe it really should be in the Fredericksburg Middle School library. Again, age appropriate. One of my sons, when he was 10, asked me if he could read Stephen King. I told him, “Not until you’re 13.”

The paper describes Blume’s book this way: “Unable to accept or explain his family’s newly acquired wealth, his growing interest in s*x, and a friend’s shoplifting habit, a thirteen-year-old finds the pains in his stomach getting worse and worse.”

I read this book when I was about 14. Here’s what it’s really about: Tony Miglione (the main character), deals with puberty and even experiences his first wet dream as his working-class family suddenly experiences wealth due to his father’s electrical invention. He undergoes many changes, such as seeing how the new lifestyle affects his family, having a crush for an older girl, his grandmother no longer being allowed to cook, and wondering if being wealthy really makes you better or content. Tony also realizes at the end why his friend Joel shoplifted: to get the attention of his wealthy father, who ignores him. Instead of dealing directly with his son to solve the problem, the father chooses to send Joel to a military school.

Because I grew up in a sheltered home where my parents considered sex a private matter and finally had “the talk” with me when I was 16, this book answered many questions I had at the time.

Finally, on a page where the Fredericksburg Conservative publishes excerpts of many “inappropriate” books (did they get permission from the book publishers to do so?), the paper even quoted a letter I wrote to the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post last spring, regarding the book removal issue. Here’s what they printed:

“…let them enjoy that freedom.”

Huh?

Here’s the full letter I wrote, with the snippet the Fredericksburg Conservative took out of context underlined so you can see the context.

As a 49-year-old parent of three grown sons, I’m mystified: why do some people think it’s their duty or their business to decide what someone else’s kids shouldn’t read?

If you don’t want your child to read a school library book pertaining to sensitive or controversial subjects, that’s your prerogative. However, kids are very curious, so have an open discussion with your child. One of our most important jobs as a parent is to prepare our children for the real world.

But, if you try to lobby the school to remove books like that from its library, that’s where I draw the line. If someone had ever told me my sons shouldn’t be reading J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, or Paul Zindel, my response would not have been printable here.

The next time a parent tries to dictate what books a library can and can’t carry, they should instead read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury once said about his dystopian novel where books were banned and then burned: “I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.” Trying to mandate what others can and can’t read is straight out of the playbook of places like the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

Many of us like to read books to delve into fantasy or to learn more about the world. If a book’s content bothers you, you don’t have to read it. But for others who don’t share your scruples and aren’t afraid of new ideas, let them enjoy that freedom.

Let me reiterate: I think school libraries should contain age-appropriate literature. But I don’t support removing a book solely because it offends a group. And high school students need exposure to real world topics as they transition into adulthood.

Richard Zowie is a parent, writer and reader. He learned how complicated growing up can be when he read S.E. Hinton’s That Was Then, This is Now when he was 15. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Terrible movie, possibly terrible singing

March 13, 2022 Leave a comment

Saw the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, the one on Netflix that was released this year. Terrible. It’s a shame they chose to make a “sequel” when the actors originally playing the main protagonist and antagonist, Marilyn Burns and Gunnar Hansen, are both deceased. What makes it worse is that, the way Hansen described the financing and how producers wanted him paid at union scale for the first sequel, the two likely never got paid what they deserved.

And once again, we have a predictable horror movie where the undead villain never seems to make any mistakes, and where, just when you think he’s dead—Surprise!—he comes back for more mayhem.

There’s more to say about this movie, but it’s not worth it. Ninety minutes of my life gone forever…

…A sixty-something lady at church today said to me, “You sing really well.”

It’s always nice to get a compliment, but despite thanking her, I had no idea what to make of it.

I have a deep voice, my natural range is probably upper bass. I’ve sung in two community theater musicals, and the music director once told me my natural singing range is upper baritone. Often when I sing, it’s natural to go upper baritone, but I often try to sing lower.

The results are mixed.

When doing sports play-by-play and singing during soundcheck, my engineer Steve would often politely ask me, “Richard, please stop singing.”

Paraphrasing a quote from the late Liberace when he lampooned his lacking acting skills, I often tell people: “I was in the chorus for A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum and Little Shop of Horrors. I have since decided to make my greatest contribution to musicals and stop auditioning for them.”

Maybe with some professional training I can be better at it. Or maybe I’ll just have to stick with singing in the shower and just realize that sometimes God gives us the desire but not the talent.

Richard Zowie lives in Fredericksburg, Texas, where he works as a broadcaster, blogger and fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at: fromatozowie@gmail.com

Time for more of ‘Richard’s Ramblings’

March 12, 2022 Leave a comment

There will be a Major League Baseball season after all.

Am told that in 2023 we’ll see bigger bases, automatic strike zones, and a ban on shifts. I guess not enough batters had the discipline of Wee Willie Keeler to “hit ’em where they ain’t.” This year, new rules include a draft lottery to prevent terrible teams from tanking (deliberately losing games to get a better draft position), and the National League now using the Designated Hitter rule.

My alter ego, J.R. Zowie, who is the sports reporter for Kerrville, Texas-based Ranch Radio Group, is excited. It’s always better to have too much sports to report than not enough. And though I’m a Houston Astros fan, I sincerely hope the Texas Rangers are better this year. Last year, there were college baseball teams (Vanderbilt and Mississippi State come to mind) that could’ve won a series against the Boys From Arlington.

Still, a part of me thinks, “So what?”

In recent years, I’ve become more of a fan of high school and college-level sports. High schoolers and many college players don’t seem to have as much of an ego.

One person Twitter said the possible strike was about making sure players get more of their fair share. Perhaps. Owners invest money, but players performing is what brings fans in. On the other hand, the MLB minimum players salary is a little over $570,000…

…Saw on an NBA forum that there are whispers that New Orleans Pelican basketball player Zion Williamson erred in going pro after just one year in college basketball (Duke). He reportedly doesn’t like playing in the Big Easy, and supposedly he and his teammates don’t get along well. Apparently, longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt he wasn’t ready physically or emotionally to play in the NBA but should’ve gone to the big show’s developmental league instead. If New Orleans wishes to trade him, perhaps they should send him to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the Jazz name…

…I may have to downsize or get rid of my DVD collection. It’s becoming an obsolete format, and my new laptop doesn’t even have a CD drive. Remember the days when CD ROMs were all the rage? Jump drives and “The Cloud” are all the rage. Makes you wonder what’s next. Maybe each person can store critical information in their own private dimension?…

…So thankful to have weekends mostly off again due to working at a non-profit 8:30 to 5:30 during the week and then doing freelance writing and broadcasting on my own time. Retail? Gone. I’ve often thought retail is the Baptist equivalent of purgatory. You really have to have a special mentality for retail. Customers will gripe endlessly about corporate policies but then go passive aggressive and say “No thanks” when you gently tell them how they can contact corporate to voice their opinions. And then there are those who buy lotto nonstop. One moment you hear people griping how they can’t make ends meet, but then you see them spend enough money on lottery to buy their family groceries for a week or two…

…Yes, I would love to see clean forms of renewable energy become the normal, but in the honest discussions I’ve had with friends in the energy business, practical, reliable, affordable renewable is still too much science fiction and not enough reality. One friend says it’ll take smart people in the future to figure it out.

In the meantime, limiting oil production and driving gas and oil prices through the roof is highly counterproductive. My late father, who worked in the oil business and mostly a libertarian in his thinking, told me we have plenty of oil here. We don’t need it from OPEC or from Russia…

Post comments here or email them to: fromatozowie@gmail.com

Looking for Genevieve Christy Riddell Simmons

January 17, 2022 Leave a comment

I am looking for someone I served with in the Army.

Her name was Christy Riddell, and after she married she became Christy Simmons. She had a son sometime around 1997 or 1998. If memory serves correctly, her full name was Genevieve Christine Riddell. She was medium height, blonde, from Maryland. Often bit her fingernails. Loved to read romance novels and seemed to read several per week. Social butterfly.

Admittedly, we didn’t get along well at first. Far from unusual, when you consider my personality has often been a natural form of birth control. I’d complain about her constantly to another soldier I knew. Christy would say what she thought, a trait I now greatly admire in people but resented at the time. When the radio was on, I preferred talk radio. She preferred Green Day.

We were in Chinese class together. My Chinese name was Zuo Ruicha, and hers was Li Guijin, if I remember correctly. Christy, noticing how high strung I was, would do things to make me laugh. Often, it meant doing impersonations of other people, particularly of a certain teacher who was so energetic she even had a nickname that even non-Chinese language students seemed to know: Turbo [Last name withheld for her privacy].

Christy was an extrovert who seemed to like trying to coax me out of my shell. One day, when I returned to the schoolhouse after lunch, I recognized something on the red paper cover of my Chinese textbook. Scribblings in her handwriting.

“Relax!” “No worries!” “Hakuna matata!” were among them.

I was approaching 24 when I saw that, and instead of being upset at her writing on my book, I thought for a long time about what she’d written.

Was I indeed a person who needed to relax and calm down?

Absolutely.

Life isn’t over if things don’t turn out as planned, I thought. And at that point, I was struggling with Chinese and would later transfer into Russian.

She and I started getting along better, and now, almost 30 years later, I wonder frequently where she is now.

Christy, if you happen to be reading this, drop me a line. I would love to tell you how you turned out to be one of my fondest memories of Defense Language Institute. God used you to help further pull me out of my shell.

Post comments here or email them to: fromatozowie@gmail.com

A few musings…

January 9, 2022 Leave a comment

I often think about how I’d love to go back to college and get another degree. Perhaps even a few more. Among the subjects that intrigue me: English, History, Chinese, Russian, International Studies, Anthropology (particularly the branch that focuses on linguistics). Perhaps someday I can boil it down to something more manageable and then just read books and encyclopedias to educate myself on the other areas. Ray Bradbury said he got his education from wearing out books at his local library. I tell my sons wherever I live, it MUST have a good library. Otherwise, I’ll have to get on Ebay a lot to buy books. In the meantime, I look at the college catalogs of UTSA and University of Houston and dream.

…Watching the show The Queen’s Gambit. I love to play chess, but Beth Harmon is far beyond me. She’s a prodigy who lives and breathes chess. If she’d ever had kids, possible names might include Rook, Bishop, Knight. 

I love to play the game and look forward to learning it the way the serious players do. Opening movies, strategies, forks, planning several moves ahead, defenses, end games, and my current search for the perfect board. You have to study the great games and see what moves were made and why, and why some moves were disasters that would’ve made the Cleveland Browns’ decision to trade back into the first round to draft Johnny Manziel seem brilliant by comparison. In 20 years, with any luck, I’ll be much better than I am now. 

One person told me that two of the great players with impenetrable defenses were Armenia’s Tigran Petrosian and Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik. I’ll never forget learning the name of one particular style: Fried Liver Attack. 

And, of course, something I’ve yet to master: you have to be able to see several moves ahead…

…I have one Russian friend. I have told her that I am taking my Russian language skills seriously and from now on, will text her only in Russian. If we meet, I will probably try to speak Russian to her as much as possible. My goal someday: be fluent in Russian, Chinese, and Spanish. And to know some words in German and Hebrew…

…When you deal with Asperger’s, you often wonder: what are the weirdest thoughts I can have and can they somehow become something publishable? As a writer who lives to write thrillers and horror, I say: each story begins by going down two roads: a road with a nightmare that I’m lucky to write down and capture, and road where I simply ask, “What if.”

Post comments here or email them to: fromatozowie@gmail.com

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Arnold ‘Rusty’ Pouch, aka ‘Big Al’, in memoriam

September 29, 2021 Leave a comment
Arnold “Rusty” Pouch’s reaction to seeing an alien spacecraft in Flight of the Navigator was priceless. RIP, sir.

A science fiction movie I enjoyed as a teen was Flight of the Navigator. Someday I’ll buy it on Ebay, when I can find a new special edition that includes commentary. It had time travel, space exploration, and it was also hilarious.

There was so much to remember about this movie: the witty comments of space ship commander Max, played by Paul Mall (nom de plume for Paul Reubens). The time travel aspect of David, a Bee Gees fan, going from 1978 to 1986 and having to learn that the band Twisted Sister was not a she or he, but rather a they. Scientists studying David and learning of technology they could easily spend decades studying before even having an elementary understanding.

And then there was Big Al, the owner and self-proprietor of Al’s Gator City gas station.

Played by Arnold “Rusty” Pouch, who apparently preferred working behind the scenes and would go on to work primarily as a gaffer, Al sees the spaceship at his gas station and then reacts the way many of us would upon seeing something extraterrestrial for the very first time.

He freezes, easily passing for a statue.

I imagine this was a tough task, given the multiple takes likely required. The only time he noticeably moves is when he gives David change for the phone and when he moves his head up to follow the ship as it leaves. He only speaks at the end, noting that the boy just wanted to phone home.

Even though I’ve seen the movie several times, his scene almost makes me not just laugh, but get teary eyed.

And now, I have reason for a few more tears. Pouch, according to his Facebook page, passed away in 2019.

IMDb lists three acting credits for Pouch. I wonder if he knew how much laughter and joy he brought in that role. If he didn’t, I like to think he does now.

Rest in peace, Rusty.

Post comments here or email them to: fromatozowie@gmail.com

More random ramblings

September 27, 2021 Leave a comment

A few random ramblings, something I love to do…

…Been bingeing Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. The cases are fascinating, and some of the characters, not so much. Meredith sometimes is self-centered and boring, and Izzie too often seems shallow…

…Major League Umpire Joe West is retiring. Good riddance. With any luck, he’ll take his terrible calls with him. Jose Altuve’s home run comes to mind…

…It’s a Texas state law that school districts, cities, counties MUST balance their budgets annually. Why can’t we hold the federal government to the same standard? If we did a thorough forensic auditing, I’m sure we’d find plenty of wasteful spending to eliminate. If the feds managed my finances, I wouldn’t have a bank account: no bank within a 50-mile radius would give me a checking account due to all the overdrawn fees and statuses…

…Here’s something I see zero logic in. Former President Donald Trump is off Twitter, but the Taliban and the Ayatollah Khamenei are still on there. Make sense to you? Me neither. I wonder how American liberals would react if we had the equivalent here in America? You know: a super-duper, ultra-ultra-conservative minister who, whatever he says, generally goes. Last time I checked, the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie has never been rescinded…

…I appear to have an unusual talent: I speak just enough Spanish to make Español speakers think I’m fluent. Maybe my accent is too good. When I speak Russian or Chinese (again, nowhere near fluent), the reaction I get tends to be a non-verbal “Wow! An American who can actually говорить по-русски / 说普通话!”…

Post comments here or email them to: fromatozowie@gmail.com

The Grateful Dead ‘songs’

April 21, 2021 Leave a comment

Of all the rock and roll bands out there, one I’ve never followed is The Grateful Dead. Nothing against them, just never got around to it. Perhaps I’ll try after posting this blog entry. All I know about them is that Jerry Garcia played guitar and that Bill Walton, the former redheaded NBA star who now works as a basketball broadcaster who enunciates every single word he speaks*, is not only their biggest fan, but possibly demonstrates this by wearing tie-dye t-shirts that are so loud and bright, they could be seen from earth, without a telescope, as they orbit Pluto. 

Knowing nothing about the musicians who are thankful to be pushing up daisies, I know absolutely none of their songs. Zero, zilcho. 

If I had to guess, here are some titles I imagine:

It’s Really Dark in this Coffin

Crematories Make Me Grateful for Air Conditioning

Jerry Wants to Shave His Beard

Bill is REALLY Tall!

I’d Rather Be Living

Buy This Single! My Electricity Has Been Disconnected

The Song With No Name

* Didn’t Walton major in word enunciation at the University of California at Los Angeles?

Post comments or your favorite Grateful Dead song at fromatozowie@gmail.com

Pondering Prince, posthumously

March 31, 2021 Leave a comment

Relax, if you’re a member of the crowd that says, “We haven’t cared about Britain since July 4, 1776, so why should we care about Prince Harry, Meghan, or other British dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Earl, Sir Loin of Beef or Sir Osis of Liver?” This blog post isn’t about Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, but about Prince Rogers Nelson, the late American musical genius.

Prince wasn’t my favorite musician, but he was one I highly respected. Personally, I’d group him with Frank Zappa as one of our generation’s greatest musical thinkers and innovators. Highly prolific, as evidenced by all the unreleased music he left behind. If “When Doves Cry” sounds unusual, it’s because the Minneapolis-born and raised Prince chose to remove its bass track. He changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, not because being weird was his trademark, but to protest something far too uncommon in the music business: unfair recording contracts. And only Prince could write a love song “Raspberry Beret” where he says about his girl that while she knew how to give a kiss, she “wasn’t too bright.”

Alas, despite that comical line, Prince apparently was not known for having a sense of humor–particularly self-deprecating. He consistently turned down “Weird Al” Yankovic in his efforts to parody Prince songs. Al once mused in an interview, “I check with him every 10 years to see if he’s gotten a sense of humor yet.” Not only did Der Purplemeister dislike Weird Al doing musical parodies, but he also sent Al a telegram forbidding him from staring at him during an American Music Awards ceremony.

Parody ideas I’ve heard that Al supposedly pitched to Prince: Acid Rain for Purple Rain, Little Red Book for Little Red Corvette, When Pigs Fly for When Doves Cry. Al did say that when he was writing the script for UHF, he envisioned the Beverly Hillbillies parody to be a spoof of Let’s Go Crazy. The Weird One apparently wanted to do a parody of 1999 also but was able to take a subtle jab at it in Amish Paradise with the line, “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1699.”

A friend who was briefly a houseguest of Prince’s described him as strange, which, in fairness, is hardly a ground-breaking accusation against a musician. But what is sad about Prince is while he seemed to have much foresight regarding his music, not so much his finances. Worth an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars when he died, Prince left behind no will. I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is things get messy enough when you DO leave behind a will (one person I know died in a secondary state of residence, and her will was stuck in probate up there). And now, according to a tabloid, Prince’s family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. I have told my sons, I may not have much money when I die, but I WILL leave a will behind. Expect it to have a few jokes in it, unless my lawyer drawing it up happens to have Prince’s sense of humor.

Post comments here or email them to fromatozowie@gmail.com