Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Goes On Here?

Strange things are afoot at the home of The Painted Possum. Christmas is almost here, Santa is scrutinizing the girth of our chimney, hoping for a successful ingress and egress, and everybody seems to be acting a bit wacky.

Let me introduce you to some local characters, who truly make a house a home.

I believe this is Inspector R.D. Agan and his handy sidekick, Inspector Clouseau.

They have no doubt been pursuing their favorite passtime, searching for clues.

Does this picture kinda make you think of Bobby Horton?


And LOOOOOK! A purple dog named Duque!

Alas, time is up. I'll add to the mug shot collection tomorrow!

Now it's tomorrow, and here's Duque, sans purple coloring and quite obscure, with his new best friend, Buttercup.

Buttercup is a foundling who appeared at the front door of the library, and came home to live with us, having suffered dire injuries in what appears to have been an encounter with a car engine. She's thriving, but has lost the injured ear complete. This picture is before the ear fell off; we'll soon post a portrait of her as she now appears with only one ear.

And here's the little baby cat after the ear totally fell off the noggin. She's otherwise healthy and very active and getting a big fat belly. And she also loves to sleep in the Christmas tree.

Here's Buttercup in her favorite spot, the Christmas tree!

And here's Duque, who loves Buttercup so much, he had both his ears fixed just like hers!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Remembering John

We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it.
John Lennon

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Story of a Manatee

I just read a delightful book titled J. Rooker, Manatee, written by Jan Haley and illustrated with paintings by Paul Brent. This is a children's book, based on a true story about a Southwest Florida manatee who is injured, then rescued, rehabilitated, then returned to the wild. He is named J. Rooker because he was rescued near Rookery Bay National Reserve near Marco Island, Florida.

Manatees are marine mammals who can live in salt water or fresh water. They are docile plant-eating, air breathing animals, who communicate with each other with high-pitched squeals. They are socialble creatures who nuzzle each other and embrace with their paddle-shaped flippers.

Although a Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act was established in 1978, more and more of the manatees' natural habitat has been destroyed, and the slow moving mammals are often mangled by sharp boat propellers in waterways and lagoons. The death rate of manatees has outnumbered the birthrate for years.

The Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981. The Adopt-a-Manatee program is the major public awareness effort sponsored by SMC. Click on the link below for more information about the Adopt-a-Manatee program, a perfect idea for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Johnny Mercer, Happy Birthday!

Johnny Mercer was born November 18, 1909, in Savannah, Georgia. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and I've been humming Skylark all day long, one of the most beautiful, melancholy songs I know.

Skylark, have you anything to say to me?
Won`t you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist
where someone`s waiting to be kissed?

Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring
where my heart can go a journeying
over the shadows and the rain
to a blossom covered lane?

And in your lonely flight
haven`t you heard the music in the night,
wonderful music,
faint as a will o` the wisp, crazy as a loon,
sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.

Oh, skylark, I don`t know if you can find these things
but my heart is riding on your wings.
So if you see them anywhere
won`t you lead me there?

- Johnny Mercer

The movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, from John Berendt's book, was set in Savannah, and if you've seen the movie, you've heard a beautiful, haunting version of Skylark, performed by k.d. lang.

Mercer also wrote I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande! Now, that's an accomplishment worth noting!

And another haunting song, Moon River, which more or less served as the background music of my entire teenage and young-adult life, was composed by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini in 1961.

Back to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: I just discovered that on the sound track of this movie, That Old Black Magic was sung by Kevin Spacey, who is one of my favorite actors and who starred in the movie.

I think I'll have to watch this movie again! The only part I don't like is the weird fellow with bugs on strings tied to his head!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wolf 527

She was known as 527, but she was much more than a number. She was one of Yellowstone’s beloved wolves.

Wolf 527, pictured above, was beloved by wolf-watchers and wildlife biologists who chronicled her courageous life. Sadly, she was also one of the first wolves killed in October -- during Montana's first wolf hunt in modern times.

As a leader of the Cottonwood pack, 527 was known to be a master of survival strategies. For years, the movements of some of the members of this Yellowstone pack have been monitored by biologists and wolf-watchers equipped with radio tracking devices and powerful spotting scopes. As one of these wolf-watchers reported in the obituary, despite 527's "unbelievable survival strategies," this resilient wolf "was not able to outthink a rifle" and was killed on October 3 when Montana initiated its first public wolf hunt in modern times.

Since the public hunts began, 156 wolves in the Northern Rockies have been killed, and over the next year, more than 500 wolves could be shot to death by hunters and government agents ... reducing the region's wolf population by 40 percent.

If you want to speak out to save the hundreds of wolves in Greater Yellowstone, and beyond, that remain in mortal danger, go to this website and send a message to end the wolf slaughter.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Otter & Robot

©Ramey Channell 2009

Once upon a time there was an otter. This particular otter's name was Christopher, and he belonged to an otter tribe called The Others. Christopher had always wanted to do something no otter had ever done before in the history of otterdom. So, he decided to marry a robot.

Christopher's mother, Oma, said she thought this was an utterly excellent idea, though unprecedented. Her exact words were, "No Other otter has ever married a robot. So, this will be the beginning of a new epoch in Other otter history."

"Cool," said Christopher.

Christopher's father, Otto, said it sounded like his son was moving up in the world, technologically speaking.

So, with these encouraging words spinning in his little otterly cerebellum, Christopher approached the automaton of his dreams, and popped the question.

The robot's name was Krysalis Two, she called herself K2, but everyone knew her as Kristi. She said "YES!" She was programmed to say "There is a loose wire in the sprocket of my head space." But, she said "YES" anyway.

There was tumultous rejoicing in all sectors of the universe.

And they lived happily ever after.

Friday, October 30, 2009

1948 Signing of the Garrison Dam Agreement

On June 11, 1953, the United States dedicated the Garrison Dam. For the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, the anniversary is not one to be celebrated.
In creating the dam, the federal government flooded 156,000 acres of tribal land, including the tribe's capital. More than 300 families and 1,700 residents -- 80 percent of the tribal membership at the time -- were forced to relocate, prompting the loss of an entire way of life, tribal members say.

The Mandan people -- who call themselves Nueta -- moved to an area called Twin Buttes. The language was slow to follow, its memory now nearly as flooded as the tribe's sacred sites. Tribal leaders opposed the project, suggesting alternatives to limit the impact. But it moved forward anyway, and George Gillette, the tribe's chairman at the time, reluctantly signed an agreement to give up one-quarter of the Fort Berthold Reservation.

"We will sign this contract with a heavy heart," he said in 1948. "With a few scratches of the pen, we will sell the best part of our reservation. Right now the future doesn't look too good to us."

Gillette can be seen crying in a photo taken at the event.

Along with the flooding of Elbowoods, the capital, the reservation's Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital there was destroyed. That brought Tex Hall, the tribe's chairman, and Fred Baker, chairman of the tribe's elders organization, to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on June 11, 2003, to ask the government to fulfill a 50-year-old promise to replace the hospital. Without a new facility, they said, lives are in danger.
"I blame diabetes on the dam," Hall said, quoting a tribal elder. "I blame cancer on the dam." Hall's grandfather was vice-chairman at the time of the 1948 signing and is also seen in the photo.

The sentiments were echoed by others at the hearing, held to consider a bill that would authorize $20 million for a new clinic. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the committee and one of the sponsors, said the "confiscation" of the tribe's land was one of the most "disheartening episodes" in history.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), another sponsor, called the dam a "bitter chapter of history that forever changed" the tribe. "That is something that is desperately needed," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) of the clinic. "It is something that is owed to the tribe."

Fred Baker, whose grandfather and uncle were at the 1948 signing, was born at the Elbowoods hospital. As one of the few remaining speakers of the Hidatsa language, he said it was a place where tribal members could go and feel welcome.

"With the advent of the Garrison Dam, our hospital at Elbowoods was closed, and we were forced to seek care at hospitals where we knew no one, everything was strange and different, and sometimes we were not treated very well," he said in his written testimony. "As a result, many of us, especially our elders refused to seek medical care and many died at home, rather than seek care at such a foreign place."
. . .

I believe the following information is current: In 2003, fifty years after the dam construction and flooding of the land, authorization was signed to provide a healthcare facility to replace the demolished Elbowoods hospital. The Minne-Tohe Health Center serves the members of the Three Affiliated Tribes. The two-physician center is four miles from New Town, ND. The center is an outpatient facility with specialty and dental clinics. Inpatient patient care is provided by contract with local hospitals including the Minot hospital. The tribes have a contract to operate two health stations, one in Mandaree and one in White Shield, which are staffed by a physician's assistant from Fort Berthold. The tribes also operate a Health Care Satellite Clinic in Twin Buttes which is staffed by a nurse practitioner.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Drac' is back!
Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew has published a sequel to the hair-raising classic DRACULA, first published in 1897. That's about when I read it the first time also! My sister and I took turns reading aloud from the book, cover to cover, when I was a pre-teen and she was a young teen.

Dacre Stoker's new book is titled Dracula the Undead. (I don't know how you pronouce the name Dacre; maybe we'll find out later.) Apparently this sequel takes up 25 years after the end of the original story, and looks like Count Dracula wasn't as dead as we all thought. Well, he crumbled into green dust! That looked pretty final to me.

That's Dacre with the bats.

So now we have something new to read, just in time for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Knows Why I Read This?

I just finished reading The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, originally published in 1948. The insightful book, written from the viewpoint of three soldiers: Christian Diestl, a German soldier, Noah Ackerman, an American soldier who is a Jew, and Michael Whiteacre, American actor turned soldier, brings to life the harsh reality of war.

I had seen the movie about a hundred years ago, but remembered very little about it. I remembered Marlon Brando as the character Christian Diestl, a German soldier who, in the novel, starts out as a pretty unextraordinary guy and ends up a dreadful and heartless product of the Nazi regime.

While reading the book, I suddenly remembered Montgomery Clift as Noah Ackerman, a shy and gentle American Jewish boy from California who joins the army, leaving his just-married wife whom he cherishes. Having Montgomery Clift mooning around as the fine and sensitive discriminated-against Jewish guy, who just wants to do the right thing then get back to his family, is all you need for a truly heart-breaking movie.

The film also stars Dean Martin as the play-boy actor, Michael Whiteacre, who describes himself as "a likable coward," and befriends the intriguing Noah Ackerman.

Now that I've read the book, I think I'd like to see the movie again, since it has been many years and many lifetimes since I first saw it.

This is a very good book, and very long, and very bloody, being about World War II, with shocking details of war, slaughter, and concentration camps. As with many books that I read nowadays, I decided to read it when I happened across it on the library bookshelf. As with most realistic accounts of war, it's very eye-opening, leaving the reader to wonder how anyone survived the battle field.

Almost forgot to add, one of my favorite things about the book is a song that pops up from time to time, sometimes in a happy way and sometimes very poignant. The song is Are You Making Any Money? written by Herman Hupfield.

You make time, and you make love dandy
You make swell molasses candy
But, honey, are you making any money?
That's all I want to know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Books I Have Read & Recommend

Oil! by Upton Sinclair

Anyone who enjoys reading a vivid, first-hand account of Southern California life in the 1920's will love this novel. This is historical fiction at its finest.

Written in 1927, the plot follows the idealogical clash between an oil developer and his son.
Typical of Sinclair, there are undertones here of socialism and sympathy for the common worker. The novel basically shows how a self-made California oil baron, James Arnold Ross, and his son Bunny Ross are up against insurmountable odds in the oil business, with corruption all around, in the era of the Warren G. Harding/ Teapot Dome scandal. Sinclair's solution was dramatic: for him socialism was the answer; capitalism was too corrupt.

A film very loosely based on the novel was released under the title There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis. I found the movie to be perplexing, mostly boring and thoroughly dreary, although beautifully filmed. There is a visual clarity that would have been wonderful if the screen play had just followed the book. There is very little similarity between the characters in the movie and those in the novel.

Here's Upton Sinclair, writer, politician, journalistic crusader.
Oil! is a truly enjoyable, interesting and worthwhile novel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Everything I Ever Needed to Know ...

... I Learned From Bobby Horton

Sunday afternoon I went to see Bobby Horton performing Songs from the Civil War at The Leeds Arts Council Theatre. Bobby played various instruments, including a 19th century Washburn guitar, a Martin guitar, and a fiddle, harmonica and banjo. He told funny stories and trajic tales about soldiers from the South and the North.

It was a marvelous opportunity to see this multi-talented musician who graciously shares his wealth of talent, knowledge and humor with his audience. Bobby Horton is considered by many to be an expert in the field of historical music of the War Between the States. A gifted musician and brilliant individual, Bobby weaves a magic spell in his performances that transports the audience back to the years and the common folk of the 1800s.

Here's a good informal interview with Bobby.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's a Bilby?

The Bilby is actually a marsupial that is most closely related to the bandicoot. So this makes the Little Bilby a close cousin to the Precious Possum! Who knew?

There used to be two different types of Bilbies in Australia, but one of them has been extinct since the 1950s with the other surviving in limited numbers. The loss of the animals is due in large part to habitat loss, and the species is in competition for their place in the food chain with a lot of other animals. There is currently a protective plan in place that involves breeding Bilbies in captivity, closely monitoring wild populations, and helping to move the species back into areas where they once lived.

This species is generally only seen out and about during the night time hours. Generally the Bilby will not come out of its burrow until an hour after the sun has set and will go back down into their burrows at least an hour before the sun rises. Many conditions are known to keep the Bilby in all day and night and these include strong winds, heavy rains, and even a full moon.

Bilbies find their food, insect larvae, spiders, fruit, fungus, and bulbs, by digging in the soil, which the females do backward to avoid getting soil in their pouch. They use their long tongues to pull the food from the ground.
On the Save the Bilby website, you can learn more bilby facts, contribute to the bilby fund, and purchase chocolate bilbies, bilby toys and bilby t-shirts!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learning to Count

©Ramey Channell 2009

Learning to Count

Learning to count, one, two, three,
Counting my fingers is easy for me.

Learning to count, four, five, six,
Sometimes slow, and sometimes quick!

Counting each number, seven, eight, nine,
Just look at these fingers! They're all mine!

Learning to count, I finish with ten.
Then I start over and count them again!

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Memoriam - Vann Cleveland

Donald Vann Cleveland
December 7, 1945 - September 2, 2009

My sister Susan's dear husband, Vann, passed away Wednesday morning, September 2nd.

Here's Vann and daughter Amy.

Memorial Service Saturday, September 5, 11:00 a.m., at the Leeds First Methodist Church
Reception at the Church, following the Service

"Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life." ... Albert Einstein

Tluh dah chee

The Cherokees call this beautiful animal tlv-da-tsi, pronounced tluh-dah-chee.

A deer hunter sitting in a tree shot and killed a panther in Troup County, Georgia, last year. Because there are no wild panthers in Georgia, authorities weren't too concerned. After all, they thought, a nonexistent wild animal can't be endangered or protected. They thought wrong. Take action for America's wild cats >> This month, DNA testing revealed that the animal was actually a federally protected Florida panther that had wandered hundreds of miles north of his namesake state. (Florida panthers once ranged throughout the southeastern U.S., but now survive in just 5 percent of their original territory.)

Save Critical Habitat for the Florida Panther
Target: Secretary of the Interior Ken SalazarSponsored by: Sierra Club

No protected habitat exists for the Florida panther, the only big cat east of the Mississippi. And fewer than 100 individual panthers remain, making the Florida Panther one of America's most endangered species.
Scientists conclude that the panther's existing habitat is the bare minimum needed for the remaining population to survive. Seven panthers have already been killed on south Florida highways this year, with an additional 24 panthers killed by vehicles in the preceding two years. This situation must not continue.
The Interior Department has the ability under the Endangered Species Act to protect the remaining habitat now. Urge Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther today!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

They Say It's Your Birthday!

My BIRTHDAY was July 27th! Oh, well. that was a little over a month ago. But having been trapped in a time warp, I'm just now reporting on the bon vivance of the occasion. I'm not sure that bon vivance is a real word, but if not, I'm inventing it. Definition: the life experiences of one bon vivant.

Here I am with grandson Reed, blowing out the candles.

Looook! Here's my cake. Yum, yum! Made by the sweet folks at Whole Foods, and consumed with glee.

Birthday cake is one of my favorite foods. And, as it turns out, it's also one of Reed's favorite foods. So we get along like peas in a pod.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, there was a moocow coming down along the road, and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named Baby Tuckoo...
His father told him that story.

So begins the story of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, written by James Joyce, first published as a serial in The Egoist in 1914 - 1915. This strongly autobiographical novel chronicles the life of young Stephen Dedalus, the oldest of ten children in an Irish Catholic family at the turn of the century. The book opens with a stream of consciousness narrative written from a child's perspective, with sensual imagery and words approximating baby talk.

Throughout the novel, the Dedalus family makes a series of moves into increasingly dilapidated homes as their finances dwindle. As a very young boy, Stephen enters boarding school at Clongowes, but soon is forced to withdraw because of his family's poverty. The family moves to Blackrock, where Stephen takes long walks with his Uncle Charles and goes on imaginary adventures with boys from around the neighbourhood. When Stephen is a bit older, the family moves to Dublin, once again because of financial difficulties. There he meets a girl named Emma Clere, who is to be the object of his adoration right up until the end of the book.

As Stephen matures, he struggles with feelings of isolation, sexual fantasies, association with prostitutes, spiritual confession, then religious fanaticism. As this period of religious obsession passes, he becomes increasingly frustrated with Catholicism. Influenced by works of Aquinas and Aristotle on the subject of beauty, the young man develops his own theory of aesthetics concerning beauty and art.

He has come to regard Ireland as a trap, and realizes that he must escape the constraints of nation, family, and religion. Stephen imagines his escape as something parallel to the flight of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who escaped from his prison with wings crafted by his own genius. The book ends with Stephen leaving Ireland to pursue the life of a writer.

I first read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a sophomore in high school, and have returned to it many times, feeling the mixed emotions associated with a return to a childhood home.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Maniac

Here's me, not in Ireland but in euphoria!
I'm wearing a pale yellow dress with white collar and brown smocking, made by my mother. The expression on my face pretty much reflects my general state of baffled happiness, then and now! This is my first grade picture, and even then, as now, my motto was "Smoke 'em if you got'em."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of the artist and young man, James Thomas Owens, who introduced me to James Joyce.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What do Custer, The Flu Epidemic of 1918, and Dumb Asses have in common?

I'm in the throes of extreme incredulity over a thoughtless statement in a non-fiction book I've started reading. It's titled "The Great Influenza", about the 1918 flu epidemic.

So here's my gripe.

John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza, published by Viking: 2004 Chapter One, page 11:

"The nation was then ... engaged in different wars simultaneously... In the Dakotas, George Armstrong Custer had just led the Seventh Cavalry to its destruction at the hands of primitive savages resisting encroachment of the white man."

My objection is the casual use of the term "primitive savages" used in the introductory pages of a lengthy book whose subject is the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Did the author and the editor and the publisher never wonder if this particular racial slur and misrepresentation of a culture have any business in this particular book? Did they assume that no Native American persons would EVER read this particular book; no medical doctors, no professors, no high school teachers, no students? I'm not personally suggesting that John M. Barry, his editor, nor his publisher (Viking) should be "politically correct." I'm stating emphatically that the use of this terminology is inaccurate and a blatant misrepresentation of the people who were struggling to protect their homes, culture and families against violent attack.

Let me interject a quote from another book I've just finished reading:

Joseph M. Marshall III, author of The Journey of Crazy Horse, published by Penguin-Viking (same publisher of both books) 2004 Afterword, page 28:

"...the "an Indian is an Indian is an Indian" view of indigenous cultures... They know nothing of the reasons Indians fought so hard to protect their lands and their lives."

The people who "fought so hard to protect their lands and their lives," and their culture, were definitely not primitive; the Lakota were one of many nations on this continent whose entire way of life was based on religion, philosophy and art, and who had, among other myriad attributes, an extensive history of the understanding and use of a pharmacopoeia of medicines and medical practices.

The irony that I happened to be reading these two books concurrently is worth noting. As the Lakota say, "Life moves in a circle." Everything is connected. And if you're planning on using an outdated racial slur, don't slip it into a book published in the 21st century.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Alabama Writers Conclave 2009

On Sunday, July 19th, I attended the last day of Alabama Writers Conclave 2009. We met in Birmingham, which was just fine with me. I had no trouble locating the location!

Last year, the 2008 Conclave was held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I, being the intrepid traveler not unlike Dangermouse himself, wisked away to Auburn, Alabama with Nina, an unsuspecting side-kick not unlike Dangermouse's right-hand-hamster Penfold, really. We arrived all agog, and casting our eyes all around Auburn, we soon perceived that there was no Alabama Writers Conclave meeting to be had in that fair city. Well, duh, it was in TUSCALOOSA!

But this year I successfully located the Conclave, which is something like a cross between a coven and an enclave, and accepted with grace, and something approaching dignity, the two awards they slapped on me. My free verse poem Calling Up Magic, and my children's story Uncle Earlie Batson and the Biscuit Angel, each won an Honorable Mention. As my daughter Buffy says, it's always good to be mentioned honorably.
As soon as time permits, I'll post Calling Up Magic here. And as soon as I get my illustrations done, Uncle Earlie Batson and the Biscuit Angel is bound to be published to rave reviews, and on sale at your local bookstore!
Calling Up Magic

I remember the mountain
where mountain trees are tall and wild
with glittering leaves like jewels in blinding sun.
Deep shadows abide beneath those towering trees;
somber shadows where secrets rest,
half-remembered, long-enchanted.
Scattered there are ancient odd-shaped stones,
covered over with moss and willful vines
like strong, possessive arms entwined.

The old dirt road curves along cool, shadowed places,
beneath wild cherry, sweetgum and hickory branches,
emerging into sunlight’s blazing blast;
red sand soft and warm underfoot.
Huge sandstone boulders, summer-hot,
perfume the mountain air with fragrance like no other,
and the smell makes my mouth water,
and the air moves around me, gently caressing
like mountain spirits whispering blessings.

A rough-barked tree shimmers, engulfed, heat laden,
its gnarled exterior shredded and tattered
by a bobcat whose sharpening claws,
over time, have left deep enduring scars.
Birds trill, noisy in the bushes, and
insects hum like a choir of tiny whirring machines.
They are calling up magic, singing incantations
of mysterious joy as dark clouds gather
out of the heavy, languid grip of Alabama summer.
© Ramey Channell

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sept choses que j'aime.

On her blog, Blackberry Creek, my sister Susan chose The Painted Possum to receive this nifty Kreative Blogger Award, which I receive with glee! Now I must list seven things I love. The dificulty lies in narrowing down my choices.

1. Possums... all and sundry. I never met a possum I didn't love.

2. Lightning bugs. The First Lightning Bug Night is one of my favorite celebrations each spring.

3. Fresh cut lumber. Love to smell it! I love waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh wood and the sound of hammering.

4. Rocks. I dig in my yard a lot just to see what kind of rocks may be unearthed. My house is full of rocks of every size and description. I have mysterious rocks, rocks I've stolen, rocks I've painted, rocks people have given me, rocks I've fought over, rocks I've lost.

5. Turtles. I find turtles to be enigmatic and amazing.

6. Marbles. Just as the rocks, my house is full of marbles of every size, age and description. I have mysterious marbles, marbles I've dug out of the ground, marbles I've stolen, marbles I've won, marbles people have given me, marbles I've fought over, marbles I've lost.

7. China dishes. Can't ever have too many sets of dishes. Once my daughter, Buffy, told my best friend, C.J., "Mama has dishes all over the house. She even keeps them under her bed." and C.J. replied "Well, of course she does!"

Now, if I could just locate some dishes with possums on them!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who Do You Love ?

Bo Didley said that! I must give credit where credit is due. Bo wrote and recorded Who Do You Love in 1956, and it is one of the great rock and roll songs in the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence.

Do you want to see some 50s or 60s era preteens throwing themselves around in an ecstatic frenzy akin to a religious paroxysm? Just throw Who Do You Love on the turntable, and stand back!

In other news: On her blog, Sourwood Mountain, my sister Joanne posted this request: If you love somebody, or some pet, who most likely never existed, I invite you to post it on your blog, and to tell why you love him or her. Joanne's "somebody" was Lancelot.

I think quite possibly that Lancelot really did exist, in one form or another. And the first person who popped into my mind as someone I have loved who was almost fictitious, and definitely mythical, is Alexander the Great. No doubt about it.

I fell in love with Alexander the Great in about 1976 when I read the novels The Persian Boy and Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault. Renault seemed to capture the personality and spirit of her subject in a way that actually made him seem totally real and believable. I was captivated and intrigued by some of the amazing and romantic facts or legends or myths regarding Alexander.

1. His mother claimed that the king, Philip, was not Alexander's father, but that a god impregnated her. Sounds unlikely, but aspects of Alexander's character, life and death seem very much super-human.

2. After conquering an enemy force, Alexander gave full citizenship and freedom to all those who would swear allegiance to him.

3. After each battle, Alexander kissed each soldier in his army, and this honor was so treasured that anyone who didn't receive a kiss was thrown into inconsolable grief and despair.

4. Alexander's love for his best friend, Hephaistion, was so intense that when Hephaistion died, Alexander built an enormous and beautiful tower as the funeral pyre, placed the body on the summit of the elaborate structure, and burned the whole thing down.

One famous event after the battle of Issus (autumn 333) gives us an idea about Alexander's and Hephaistion's friendship, when Alexander had captured Darius's throne tent and all the royal contents, including Darius's mother, Sisygambis; his wife, Stateira; and his harem.
When Alexander and Hephaistion went to meet Sisygambis, she prostrated herself at the feet of the most kingly figure. She chose by mistake the taller Hephaistion! Alexander is said to have responded rather pleasantly: "Don't worry mother, he is Alexander too."

5. And, Alexander loved his wondrous horse, Bucephalus, so much, he had a giant statue of the horse sculpted, and made the horse a general in the army!

So, while in the throes of this amorous affliction, I wrote an amorphous poem about Alexander. The dictionary tells us that amorphous means without definite shape, and I think that describes my poem, which is more emotion than form.

Alexander of Macedonia
You have left us;
by night we hunger for your voice
still, at this great distance, we hunger
and thirst for the taste of you.
Memories and haunted dreams
like fires, like jewels,
burn across the dark until
your voice awakes the seamless night.
Then I see your face, that aching
long-remembered beauty, loved by others long ago
and now so close to me
I feel your breath against my skin.
You come and go, appear then fade.
Please stay, please stay longer here
in this time and place, so far, so far
from that world you knew before; those days
of gold and fire and battles fought
for kings and kingdoms and promises
never lost, and worlds invented in your eyes,
worlds invented, conquered, then redeemed
by you and your beautiful eyes.
You rode across the earth, called it your own,
then gave yourself, body and soul, to those you conquered,
those you possessed and who would possess you;
soldiers and slaves who cried for your kiss.
Lovers and warriors whose every waking thought
was of you, whose destiny was in your hands
and whose blood fueled your fires; those are the ones
who touched you and were changed forever by your touch.
Those are the ones I envy, the ones who knew you, the ones
you built towers for, towers of flame and honor
and desire and sound. The sound of sacred flame
echoes from your past, a holy noise around you.
Still, I hunger and thirst for you,
and I watch for you in vacant dreams.
Silence drifts like smoke across the starless night
waiting to be filled by the sound of your voice
and the touch of your breath.
At dawn, the fires still burn, and you will go again
to find that distant world you knew.
That other world awaits you still.
Alexander, Alexander,
take me with you.
© Ramey Channell 2001

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Homage to a Sweet Friend

Looks like I'm all blogged out for the time being. Today my brain is a vast and empty COSMOS.

My beautiful Mr. Humphreys has passed on to Kitty Heaven. The rest of us mourn.

Here's his beautiful face.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blues in Birmingham

Oh, wow! I just found out Jonny Lang will be at City Stages in Birmingham on June 20th!

Here's Jonny doing Good Morning Little School Girl from his 1997 album "Lie to Me." Lang was 16 years old at the time of this video. (Sept. 9, 1997)

Lie to Me is an absolutely fabulous CD. I believe all songs on the CD are Jonny Lang originals except Good Morning Little School Girl, written by Sonny Boy Williamson around 1937, and Matchbox, written by Ike Turner.

There is also another Matchbox, written by Carl Perkins: "I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes." I think the Beatles recorded this, along with other earlier artists. I always thought the words were, "I'm sitting here worrying, with a matchbox hole in my clothes." I always wondered if a matchbox hole was a hole as big as a matchbox!

Of his recent album, Turn Around, Lang says "With this album I want to focus, more than ever before, on my purpose in life. I've been so incredibly blessed. My wife and I just had our fifth anniversary. I get to do what I love for a living. But it wasn't so long ago that I was spiraling downward in a lot of ways, until God touched my life and set me on the right track. I feel a huge debt to give glory back to Him for everything He has done for me. It's the least I can do."

"I understand that not everybody believes as I do," Lang says, "which is fine. I just want to sing about what's going on in my life and let people make up their own minds about that."

I haven't heard Turn Around yet, and can't wait to do so! One of my favorite musicians, Buddy Miller, accompanies Jonny on the song On That Great Day. Buddy and Julie Miller are indescribably talented artists. The first time I heard them perform was at City Stages a few years ago.
Guster will also be there, and if we're lucky, they'll perform All the Way Up to Heaven, the sweetest song you'd ever want to hear. This song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it, and so far everyone I ask has had the same experience.
So, let's all go to City Stages this year!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fifteen Books in Fifteen Minutes

My sister tagged me to list 15 books that will always stick with me--but I'm supposed to do it in 15 minutes. I'll give it a try. I'll list them as they come to mind, not in any kind of best-to-worst order.

1. Firmin: the Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, by Sam Savage
2. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
3. A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
4. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, by Peter Matthiessen
5. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah
6. Ghosts of Tsavo, by Philip Caputo
7. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, by Richard Farina
8. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
9. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
10. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
11. The Peaceable Kingdom, by Jan de Hartog
12. The Book of the Hopi, by Frank Waters
13. Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt
14. Ishi, the Last of His Tribe, by Theodora Krober
15. Karla Faye Tucker Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Row, by Linda Strom

I didn't time it. I think this took me more than fifteen minutes. I recommend all of these.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Wedding in Birmingham: A Good Story for Summer

Voltus Electricalus and Strata Illuminata

They were married. The wedding march ushered them briskly out of the candle-lit church into the ecstatic sunlight. Rice and birdseed were thrown. Brown sparrows and gray doves skittered along the warm sidewalk amid the feet of exuberant guests. A solitary squirrel ventured down the trunk of a massive oak tree to peer at the festive crowd, as Albert Slater led his bride to the car parked at the curb.
That was on Saturday. Now it was Wednesday. Marissa was still trying to get used to the fact that she was Mrs. Albert Slater. She thought she might never get used to the fact that she was Mrs. Albert Anybody. Albert was such a difficult name to get used to; so old fashioned and stiff. She would have preferred a Daniel, a Greg, or a Jason. Albert was a stuffy, dusty sounding name.
But here he was. Thank goodness he didn't look like an Albert. They stood together on the hotel balcony overlooking the endless view of mountains piled one over another into the blue distance. Sun struck his clean thin face, causing him to squint as he smiled at her. She could see scattered prisms of refracted sunlight in his hair. Suddenly the thought struck her that he seemed to actually emanate light. That's it, she thought. He looks electrical.
She continued to watch him, the sunlight firing off his face, his eyes, his red hair; then she had to explain why she laughed.
"It's because you look electrical, Albert, like a volt of electricity. Like a watt. Like a million watts. Like a bolt of lightning tearing across the sky, like the king of all lightning and electrical impulses."
Albert had no objection to being the King of Electrical Impulses, and since it amused her, he let her fashion a costume for him out of coat-hangers, plastic dry-cleaner bags, shoulder pads snipped from articles of clothing, a clear plastic belt strapped diagonally across his chest.
"Wild King of Electricity," she addressed him that night inside their institutionally impersonal honeymoon suite. "Your name henceforth shall be Miraculous Voltus Electricalus!" And she laughed and laughed.
And he laughed too, watching his new bride apply red lipstick lightning streaks to her fresh just-married face and along both arms from shoulder to wrist. He pranced about the room, uninhibited for the first time in his life, striking poses he deemed to be thoroughly electrical, as she continued drawing red zig-zags of lightning from her thighs to her ankles and from her breasts, downward across her stomach and abdomen.
She moussed her blonde hair into two huge spikes that actually looked quite like horns, and she sprayed them with hair spray until they radiated stiffly from her head. Then she fashioned a costume for herself, folding many sheets of white writing paper into fans which she tucked into her bra and under the straps and around the elastic of her bikini panties. Then she encircled herself with a long, heavy-duty extension cord which she ripped from the lamps on each side of the king-sized nuptial bed. From this, she dangled her curling iron, her hair dryer, his electric razor.
"My electrical darling!" he exclaimed, as if he had recognized her for the first time.
"Yes," she answered. "I am known as Strata Illuminata." And she danced for him, a frantic, twitching pavane with many starts and stops, like an electric light switch flipped on and off.
Thus, when they came back from their honeymoon, they possessed a private world, inhabited entirely by electrical lovers of wattage. No one else guessed that there was such a world, and that of course made it all the more amusing. When in the company of relatives and friends, often they looked shyly at each other when anyone mentioned power surges, or they winked furtively across the table when someone predicted an electrical storm.
They felt, even more than most young married couples, special, set apart, conspirators. Mythological.
They had a nice little home, a renovated 1940s bungalow on Southside. There were tall trees in the back and thick, luxurious green grass in the front. The young couple enjoyed lying on their backs on that verdant green carpet at night, watching the stars and talking of the distant electrical galaxy from which they came. Soon they began wrapping themselves in long strings of Christmas lights, augmenting their electrical costumes with thousands of tiny luminous bulbs. His were multicolored; hers were clear.
They purchased more and more extension cords, stringing them together end-to-end, so that the two glowing, frolicsome beings of enlightenment could run about across the lawn each night, sparkling and volatile, dancing dances of astonishing incandescence on the dark summer grass.
Strata Illuminata teased and tempted her mythological hero, Voltus Electricalus, as she romped across the dew covered lawn. The fescue glittered under her feet, reflecting the brilliant beams cast by thousands of tiny lights adorning her otherwise naked body. V.E. laughed lustily and gave chase.
"Come to me, my flashy seductress!" he called, pursuing his flickering loved one. "Illuminata! Illuminata!"
She squealed and threw herself into his arms, giving little thought to the crackling of tiny bulbs. They bought only the kind that would continue to burn if one burned out.
The thunder of the approaching storm was muffled by the shouts and laughter of the radiant lovers who were now entangled in their multiple extension cords as they thrashed about in fervent embrace. The immense bolt of lightning ripped out of the turbulent sky and made contact with their many-lighted bodies.
And that was the end of that marriage.

©Ramey Channell 2004

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier has recently applied for a parole hearing. That hearing is scheduled for my birthday, July 27, 2009.

Leonard Peltier was an activist in the American Indian Movement who had gone to help the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in June 1975 when a shootout occurred with FBI agents. Accused of the murder of two agents, Peltier fled to Canada, believing he would never receive a fair trial in the US. In February 1976, the FBI knowingly presented the Canadian court with fraudulent affidavits, and Peltier was returned to the U.S. for trial. In a controversial trial in which evidence was fabricated and witnesses threatened and coerced, Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

Facts and details of Leonard's case can be read at the following site:

While in prison Mr. Peltier has won awards for his work and support of humanitarian causes and twice has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although limited by the prison environment, Mr. Peltier has emerged as a master of Indigenous Art. Leonard’s artwork reflects his beliefs and commitment to Native American culture. It is The People’s struggle to survive and his desire to portray their cultural beauty that inspires Peltier to paint. Art professionals marvel at the number and quality of the paintings Peltier produces.
By donating his paintings to the Leonard Peltier Charitable Foundation, he was able to supply computers and educational supplies such as books and encyclopedias to libraries and families on Pine Ridge Reservation.
This is one of Leonard Peltier's beautiful paintings.

Leonard Peltier has been widely recognized for his efforts and has won several human rights awards, including the North Star Frederick Douglas Award, Humanist of the Year Award, and the International Human Rights Prize.

If you would like to sign a petition for Leonard Peltier's release, you can do so at this website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh! Oh! Oh!

So, did everybody watch American Idol? I'm just too excited! If there is anyone alive and breathing who didn't see American Idol let me tell you, the two finalists are two of the most talented and likeable fellows you could imagine. Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are fantastic!

Kris Allen is the winner of the competition, and a superb musician and singer. He's an accomplished pianist and guitarist with a strong, unique voice. And cute? Even ol' Simon Cowell said Kris was truly the most likeable contestant ever on the show. And he has that special ability of connecting with the audience that makes his performances heart-stopping and magical.

Adam Lambert, a dynamic singer with a remarkable stage presence came in second.

Can't wait to hear more from these two guys!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Looking for a Few Good Movies ...

Here at The Painted Possum, from time to time I'll talk about some REALLY GOOD MOVIES. If anyone out there wants to make suggestions for future posts, or has comments about my selections, let me know.

Places in the Heart (1984)

Truly one of the best movies ever, a flawless classic. Set in 1935, Waxahachie, TX, Edna Spalding is alone and financially destitute, after the accidental shooting of her Sheriff husband. Living on a small farm in the middle of America's Great Depression, she is helped by a wandering cotton farmer, Moses, and a blind border, Mr. Will, who teach her how to appreciate life, despite tragedy and hardships.

Reasons why I love this movie?

Places in the Heart came out in 1984, and at that time my daughter, whose nickname had been Possum since her birth in 1979, was five years old, about the same age as the "Possum" in this movie.

Danny Glover ... need I say more? He always brings a touch of magic to any film he's in. He's one of the best.

Sally Field, of course, is always funny and believable. She makes the characters she plays seem real.

And John Malkovich ! This was the first time I had seen John Malkovich. His acting was so superb, I was stunned. And I thought, "How wonderful that a blind person can become a great actor!" That's how convincing he is in this role.

(Many scenes are too violent for children)

Crimes of the Heart (1986)

Crimes of the Heart is the story of three eccentric southern sisters, who have all reunited one hot summer at their family home after the youngest, Babe, has shot her husband, and the grandfather (Old Paw) of the three woman is succumbing to old age.

Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton, and Sam Shepard unite to make this movie hilariously funny, touching, and most memorable. I love the humor. One unforgettable line is Jessica Lange complaining about Sam Shepard's "Yankee wife and his little half-Yankee children."
(Southern gothic drama)

A Family Thing (1996)

Starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones, this is one of my favorites. Two middle-aged men, one white, one black, suddenly discover that they are literally brothers.

Any other writers handed this premise would probably play it for cheap laughs, but Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson made an earnest drama out of it, one lightened by a few affectionate laughs and much heartfelt sentimentality.

The movie is about the ways Earl Pilcher (Robert Duvall) and Ray Murdock (James Earl Jones) slowly, grudgingly, come to terms with this news and open themselves up to each other.

Funny and sincere.