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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In Memoriam

Reverend Dr. Frank Cates

We left Saturday for Nebraska to visit MIL. I turned off my cell phone as the only one who normally calls it is grinnygranny. We arrived Sunday night and on Monday I went out to golf and turned my cellphone back on. I had a voicemail. It was a message that Reverend Cates had passed away. The call was sent Saturday. I called Mom and let her know. I don't know how Dad will take the news it's sure to hit him hard especially not being able to be there for the funeral. Telling the story of what Dr. Cates meant to me will be rather lengthy.
I left for College in the fall of 1972. Dad was teaching 4th grade and that school year he team taught with Josephine (Jo) Cates. A marvelous African American woman. She found out Dad was a licensed Baptist minister and introduced Mom and Dad to her family. Frank was associate minister at New Hope Baptist Church at the time. He was finishing up his military career in the Air Force and was working on his Doctorate in Theology. They became close friends from that time onward. Even discovering they were born on the same day.
When I came home for Christmas after my first semester at Wayland we went to their church for Christmas eve services. The Cates had five daughters. Maria was a little older and attending UNM, Queenie was a senior in high school, the twins Debbie and Brenda were sophomores and Annie was still in elementary school. After services the girls wanted to know if I'd like to see the Christmas lights with them and in total ignorance said yes. I entered the back seat of the car between Queenie, Debbie and Brenda. While driving they discovered I was ticklish. I never laughed so hard or had such sore ribs in my life by the time we got out. Debbie started writing me letters and I would reply. It was nice getting letters from home while you're away, and she could show off the letters of her college man at school.
When the school year ended and it was time to come home I was a little disappointed. I had applied to numerous places as a summer missionary and didn't get accepted. I got a phone call from a little church in Rio Rancho. The pastor knew someone who knew someone who knew someone that recommended me to help them out that summer. The church today is bursting at the seams and is huge, but back then it had one little building and an average attendance of maybe 25 on Sundays and no one played piano.
I was there for Sunday services and took over the Sunday school class for the three teenagers in the departments. I also set up a bible study for Wednesday evenings and planned some Saturday events. When looking for someone to help on those Saturday evening I needed a piano player and Mom said call up Queenie that she was a good piano player. So I did. Wound up spending a week helping out with their church's vacation bible school, but I had a piano player.
She played for me as I sang a number of solos over that summer. It was the summer of Andre Crouch. Everybody was singing My Tribute, and naturally so did I. While singing that particular song Queenie noticed on the high notes I was going flat, so being the excellent piano player that she is raised half a note higher on the piano. Over thirty years later whenever we meet she always reminds me about that because she knows my answer is always “She only did that because she wanted to see me turn blue.”
There was an eight year old girl in their church that summer in the hospital and Jo asked me to come along with her to visit. It was hard seeing a child that age suffering, and her funeral was the most traumatic I've ever attended. Sickle cell anemia is a truly horrible disease. Afterwards as we were driving I heard the girls talking about how they were all afraid of getting the illness and being on constant alert for the symptoms. It was an eye opening experience for what it meant to be African American apart from what I'd seen on the news or read in books during the struggle for civil rights.
Towards the end of that summer there was a Logos Festival at the convention center. It was three days from six in the evening until ten with numerous Christian bands, but the big name was Andre Crouch and the Disciples on that Saturday. I got tickets for the teenagers at my church and for all the Cates girls. That was a lot of tickets. I remember picking them up in my '64 Oldsmobile and driving up to Rio Rancho, getting everyone in the church van and driving back to the convention center all three nights. Talk about nearly causing accidents on the road. Just try being the only white guy in a car with five black women. Some of the drivers that drove by us must have gotten whiplash.
The last night Andre Crouch was supposed to perform at ten, but they were late. The promoter kept dragging the other groups back on the keep everyone there. Andre's bus didn't get in until eleven thirty and they had to set up. They didn't start until midnight. By this time almost everyone there was getting really tired. When the curtain came up and they started singing Thank You Lord it was like someone had thrown a switch and the past six hours never happened. The energy was amazing. They only sang three songs, but everyone left more than satisfied. I didn't get them dropped off at their house until after two in the morning, but on the drive they were live wires so excited to have actually seen Andre.
They all came out to the church in Rio Rancho just before I left to go back to college and the pastor graciously allowed me to preach. I didn't know it at the time, but it caused quite a stir for Frank. Brenda heard me preach, and I don't know how or why, but she decided that she wanted to become a preacher too. I went back to college unaware of this. A few years later Brenda was ordained as a minister and Frank told me that when she approached him about it he studied the Bible and everything it said on the matter and came to the conclusion that there was nothing in it against a woman preaching. She came to be a great help to him when he left New Hope to pastor Mount Zion Baptist Church on the west side of Albuquerque.
Meanwhile Dad started teaching middle school art and Jo kept teaching elementary students. When grinnygranny and I married during our first year Mom insisted we go with them to Frank's church. Whenever there I was always Reverend Prescott, and they insisted I sit up on stage with all the other Reverends. Grinnygranny wasn't too sure about it, but it was and still is an honor to be up on that stage even if you're not the one preaching. Maria and Debbie had moved out of state, but Queenie, Brenda and Annie were still there. They had formed a singing group with some others in the church and toured the state singing in other small National Baptist churches. It was good to see everyone again. All of them were mothers and had boys. Frank may have fathered daughters, but he had lots of grandsons to play with. Brenda was nine months pregnant and was leaning up against everything in sight. She kept saying that the baby could come at anytime and none too soon.
I started teaching Jo was teaching at a feeder school to the middle school where I taught and I'd see her at cluster in-services where she'd catch me up on what everyone was doing.
Mom and Dad moved to the west side and they didn't like the church's there so they joined Mount Zion. Frank let Dad preach from time to time, even ordaining him which greatly pleased Dad and occasionally he called me and asked me to fill in for him. It was always a pleasure. You never saw anyone more proud than when he was with his daughters.
Jo passed away a few years ago and they couldn't hold the services in their small church. The respect for her in the African American community was tremendous. It was good to see all the girls together again, and hard to know that in my mind's eye they are still teenagers though now grandmothers. I wish I could be there for the send off they'll have for Frank it's sure to be something. The African American community of Albuquerque has lost a truly great leader.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Good news

For some reason when I wax eloquent no one leaves comments. I guess most of my readers roll their eyes, say he's on his soap box again and click return.

Anyway there is really good news from Penni. Her blood count is down and for now she's in remission and doesn't have to go through any more chemo, at least for now. Click on her link on the side and read her report.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Glory of War

I was a little surprised that it was the women in Southwest Writers that were praising 300 Spartans. Mostly about Gerard Butler. Since it was based on a graphic novel you would think it would appeal mostly to overcharged testosterone guys. The fact that at the box office it has taken off is not due to men, but women are getting the word out and it's turning into a date movie -- who would have thunk it.
As a cartoon based on a graphic novel it works well. It is not bloody, there is plenty of stabbings, beheadings, etc which would be expected in battle scenes, but there's no spraying or dripping blood.
Some of the bloggers are trying to make this movie into some type of analogy to what's going on in Iraq. The only analogy that I can see is not the this is like that. The Spartans are the brave American Soldiers, the Persians are the Iraqi insurgents. Doesn't wash. Spartans were defending their territory against a larger empire. The analogy works more the other way around. The other charge is that it's racist. Well the Spartans were white men, but who are they really fighting in this movie? Nigeria? Sorry if anyone should be upset it's the Persians being depicted as coming from Africa instead of West Asia. Much different racial group.
Yes it's a cartoon, but if your going to be so realistic in showing the power and ability of the Greek Phalanx why bring out a drooling giant more reminiscent of a Troll in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter? The idiot masks on the Imperials -- for some reason they play that part up in the advertsing, but it's a battle not a fancy dance. Still it was good entertainment -- but I would be wary of making it go any further than that. It is not intended to have a deep message like Arthur Miller's The Crucible, or Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World.
What both the novel and the movie present is that war is glorious. That is what the movie is selling. That there is much to admire in the Spartans who became immortal by staying and dying when the cause was lost. Very much like Brad Pitt's Achilles in Troy. He has the choice of staying and living a long life, but no one would ever remember him or go to war and die, but be remembered forever. Leonidas could have retreated when the Persians found a way around them and lived to fight another day, or stay and die, but be remembered forever.
There seems to be great glory in dying for nothing. The Spartans at Thermopolae, the idiots who wouldn't listen to Sam Houston and get out of the Alamo, Custer getting all his men killed because he wouldn't wait one day for the other troops to arrive.
There are always those that get caught up in the glory of war, but by and large that has not been the American way. As the British Military Historian John Keegan says in his book Field of Battle: The Wars for North America that is what has set America apart from Europe and Asia. The way we look at war. They have built empires and fought countless wars for glory. We look at war as just another job to do. We get it done and go back to the real pursuit of America -- Trade.
His analogy holds up until Korea. From that war on we seem to have forgotten how to get the job done. In order to get a job done you have to use the right tool. A conventional military is not the right tool to fight an idea like Communism, or criminals like terrorists.
World War I produced heros like Eddie Rickenbacker and Black Jack Pershsing. WWII had Audie Murphy, Patton, Eisenhower, McArthur. Korea sees McArthur fired in disgrace and a stalemate. Vietnam left on the impression of Westmorland totally out of touch with reality trying to win a conventional war of attrition in Asia. Then 4 years of carnage before Nixon signed a peace agreement that he could have signed his first day in office.
To a certain extent though Korea and Vietnam are understandable. The cost over the years of keeping South Korea out of the nightmare of Communism very few Americans regret. In Vietnam there was the Domino theory which was only debunked until we left and low and behold the Communists didn't expand like a virus until we were the only country that was still Capitalist.
But the debacle in Iraq right now breaks the mold for why we wage wars. This isn't a land grab like the Mexican American War or even the Spanish American War (we grabbed the Phillipines). We weren't responding to an attack like WWI (unrestricted submarine warfare), WWII (Pearl Habor), or even our incursion into Afghanistan which most Americans still support and wish we could focus on, or to defend another country that has been invaded like Korea and Desert Storm. Iraq is war fought for the glorification and financial gain of a few megalomaniac politicians and greedy corporations.
What a dream if all the chickenhawks that manipulated us into this war had the guts to stand in a narrow pass surrounded like Leonidas and be willing to die for their immortal glory instead of sending everyone else's child to die so they can strut around on an Aircraft Carrier or hide behind legal slight of hand agreeing to testify, but not under oath.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Career day

Spent the day at a rival high school talking to kids about being a published author. It was nice that my principle authorized professional leave for it. Southwest Writers looked kind of puny next to all the fancy displays everyone else put up. We didn't offer free pens, rubber balls (I'm sure the teachers across the school really appreciated that giveaway to students), rulers, or candy. I think next time I'll take some candy along. Talked to a few kids interested in becoming writers. I had two other authors with me and we tried to encourage the students to start writing and getting their work out on the net. A number of teachers came and seemed interested in joining the group.
I thought when it was done I'd head out to the golf course, but the clouds came up. It started spitting rain and we had 30mph winds, so I just came home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Captain's Log

Stardate 031907.0815
When in the course of acting upon my civic responsibilities, and contemplating the numerous candidates my associated political party is currently fielding, I have come to these thoughts so far:
1. The news media always follows the money and that translates to Clinton and Obama appropriately reflected in the polls. Still too early to tell, but with the rush by the Governator and other big electoral states to early primaries may make big money the winner. Seems silly to have a party convention in the summer when the candidate will be known by March! It also takes all the drama, passion and fun out of the process.
2. New Mexico media is understandably following Bill Richardson's bid, but so far he's not getting much notice in the Polls.
3. Then I came across this op/ed piece by Richard Reeves concerning John Edwards, running third in the polls and considered the dark horse candidate:
So, he pledges government-financed universal health care to the tune of $90 billion to $120 billion a year. He advocates immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 American troops from
Iraq and complete withdrawal within 18 months. He says he made a mistake in voting to authorize the war and continuing to support it through 2004.
His Iraq lines drew applause, of course, but that was not enough for some in this West LA crowd. A number of chapters of Progressive Democrats of America have sprung up around here. When Edwards said that "everything is on the table" if he becomes president, the chairman of one chapter rose to attack "the permanent war economy" and asked him to pledge to bring home all American troops around the world.
"You want me to bring all American military home?" he said. "Are you serious? No. We can't do that."
There were boos. Edwards said: "You want me to tell you what you want to hear, or what I believe?"
Wow what a breath of fresh air -- of course he can afford to be candid right now since he has nothing to lose. If he does gain traction and starts to challenge the front runners will he still be as plain spoken and forthright remains to be seen, but he's got my attention for now.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My favorite day

Well top of the mornin' to ya.
Got up and walked 9 holes -- even had three pars -- one of them without mulligans.
Hope everyone else is having a good day too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Good News

Received an e-mail from publisher. On April 1 my novel will be returnable. A major distributor is picking it up. Now I can get some book signings going.

We had testing the last two days. It actually gave me time to do some editing on Human Sacrifices.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Rather disappointed

I received a letter from my royalties account. I have a ballance of 0.00. Not one book of Optimus has been sold through a bookstore. The booksigning I had was with my books, Hastings didn't buy any. I tried to get a booksigning at Barnes & Noble, but they won't buy any books seeing as PublishAmerica has a no return policy, and they won't purchase any that can't be returned. Borders hasn't called me back, but they most likely have the same policy. I do have a booksigning at B. Daltons for April 7. Of the fifty that I bought I have five left. I'm planning on buying another 10 or 20. If I keep plugging away at it maybe six months from now I might actually get a royalty check.
I signed up for a seminar Saturday at Southwest Writers on the business side of writing. I've talked to some of the other authors who have had numerous books published and they have yet to make a profit. I guess I can take some consolation in that.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shame shame shame

An American citizen is arrested at an airport and accused with serious crimes. He is held in solitary confinement for years without formal charges or access to an attorney. Three and a half years later he is finally charged with a crime, but ones completely different from the reason for the arrest. The young American claims that he has been kept in dark rooms and tortured. The authorities admit they stood on his bare feet in combat boot while placing shackles on him. His attorneys claim he has been so physically and mentally abused that he is unable to assist them in his defense, but the trial will proceed anyway. Would we not rise up in righteous indignation as a nation against the country perpetrating such a blatant miscarriage of justice? Would we not label the government that would do such a thing as Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, or Nazi?
Why we would cut off trade relations, reduce foreign aide, stir up public opinion demanding the young man's release. The news media would be in a lather like they were when a young American was caned in Singapore.


This is from the New York Times today:

The Jose Padilla Trial
Published: March 1, 2007
There were so many reasons to be appalled by President Bush’s decision to detain people illegally and subject them to mental and physical abuse. The unfolding case of Jose Padilla reminds us of one of the most important: mistreating a prisoner makes it hard, if not impossible, for a real court to judge whether he has committed real crimes.
Mr. Padilla is a former Chicago gang member whose arrest in 2002 was touted by the Bush administration as the disruption of a high-level plot by Al Qaeda to set off a “dirty bomb” in the United States. Mr. Padilla was held without charge for three years and eight months in a Navy brig, his windows blackened, his every move watched. Then, rather than defend its actions before the Supreme Court, the White House declared a year ago that Mr. Padilla was no longer an illegal combatant, transferred him to civilian custody and filed conspiracy charges that have nothing to do with dirty bombs.
Yesterday, Judge Marcia Cooke of the Federal District Court in Miami ruled against Mr. Padilla’s defense lawyers, who argued that his abusive confinement was so traumatic that he could not assist them in a trial. They had wanted to send Mr. Padilla to a hospital for treatment first.
That still leaves the far bigger question of whether Mr. Padilla was tortured, as he has claimed. For there to be a trial, Judge Cooke will have to rule that Mr. Padilla was not tortured, and she made a point of saying yesterday that her ruling on his competence was not a judgment on the torture claim.
At one point in the mental competency hearing, a prosecutor wanted to introduce what he said was a Qaeda manual instructing captured operatives to claim torture even if none had occurred. Judge Cooke refused, pointing out that there was no evidence that Mr. Padilla had ever heard of the manual, much less studied it. The government has yet to show evidence that Mr. Padilla was even a member of Al Qaeda.
The government’s arguments at the hearing sounded ridiculous and shameful. Prosecutors said Mr. Padilla always seemed fine to his jailers, but it was his jailers who did things like standing on his bare feet with boots so they could shackle him. The brig psychologist testified that he had spoken to Mr. Padilla only twice, once when he was first detained, and two years later — through a slit in his cell door.
When a psychologist testified for the defense that Mr. Padilla was “an anxiety-ridden, broken individual,” the prosecution said her tests were invalid — because the jailers had kept Mr. Padilla handcuffed throughout.
We will probably never know if Mr. Padilla was a would-be terrorist. So far, this trial has been a reminder of how Mr. Bush’s policy on prisoners has compromised the judicial process. And it has confirmed the world’s suspicions of the United States’ stooping to the very behavior it once stood against.