Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prize-Winning Weekend!

Wow! What a weekend this is shaping up to be. And it's only Saturday!

First off, we received word that my wife's Sunday School class (she teaches the elementary kids at church and has been for years) came in SECOND PLACE in a video contest sponsored by the Kentucky Waterways Alliance (KWA). Children (2nd to 6th grades) were invited create a video about Why We Should Love Our Waterways. They spent the last few Sundays brainstorming and then creating this video below, titled Every Drop.

For their wonderful efforts, they received Second Place in the contest! Woohoo! Way to go, Miriam, Lydia, Ellie, Laura and Katherine!! The winning three videos were played at an Environmental Film Festival today in Louisville and we just couldn't be prouder.

Then, we found out just this morning that a short video about homelessness - featuring my wife's voice-over, speaking on behalf of the social service ministry where she works (Volunteers of America of Kentucky) - has won a First Place award in a separate video contest. You can see that video, A Place to Call Home, here:

I just couldn't be prouder of my wife and all the hard work that VOA does in working with and for the down and out. You'd be hard-pressed to find two harder-working and more deserving non-profit organizations than VOA and KWA. Check them out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Donna and Dan - 15

Donna and Dan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began back in December. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

What do you want to do tonight?
Written somewhere in east Jefferson County, sometime in the summer of '97

Take time to swim in the faerie blue
of your eyes
A chance to watch elephant clouds dance
in the sky
Feel your fingers sliding baby smooth
in my hand
Some laughs and tickles and rolls
in the sand.

To waltz in poppyfields
'neath a grand willow tree
To delight in the moonlight
roll of the sea
To watch a sunset
steal the world's light:
This is what I want
to do tonight.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Straights in the Military

Turkey Vulture
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I recently posted some thoughts on removing the don't ask, don't tell policy in the military. I posited that we have no real world reasons to exclude gay folk from the military, only fears and worries about the supposed discomfort of some.

I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the real world evidence on the flip side of the coin: How are STRAIGHTS in the military behaving themselves?

As it turns out, too often they're not behaving too well.


One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world. The Pentagon released a disturbing report Tuesday on sexual abuse in the military, saying that more than 2,900 sexual assaults were reported last year, up nearly 9 percent from the year before. Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved rape or aggravated assault.

source (CBS News)

The analysis found 2,923 sexual assault "reports" in fiscal 2008, which is roughly an 8 percent increase compared to fiscal 2007.

source (Dept of Defense)

Clearly, SOME straights in the military have a hard time behaving decently. There is a documented real world problem there (one that the military at least says it's trying to eradicate).

How about the incidents of gay folk misbehaving in the military? Assaults or unwanted sexual confrontations? Any statistics? Any numbers?

I WAS able to find one report from back in 1993 of an assault by a gay sailor on a straight sailor. Other than that, not much.

When we're talking about gay folk in the military, I think reasonable people would want to know: IS there a real world problem or is it all a matter of feelings and worries and fears?

Lacking any evidence of any actual problems in the real world, I hope most folk would excuse us if we tend to ignore worries and fears that aren't based on anything other than worries or fears.

So, if we were looking strictly at the evidence, perhaps we could make a case that we ought to be more picky about the straight males we recruit into our military? I wouldn't go so far as to say that straights ought not be allowed to serve in the military, though. I'm liberal, that way.

After all, we ought to be concerned about actual misbehavior, not basing policy on feelings of discomfort. And MOST straight soldiers don't have a problem behaving, so why would we punish them for the misbehavior of a few?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

a boy and his dog

a boy and his dog
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My good friend, fellow nature appreciator, Jeff Streeter and Daddy, Kevin has recently introduced me to not one, but TWO great books. Part of what makes them great is that they're both 20 minute books. That is, you can read them in about 20 minutes, so if you're someone who has a hard time finding time to read, these books are perfect.

The first one he alerted me to is, Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. Kevin referenced this book in a sermon he recently preached and I read it while I was visiting his house for a Superbowl party (Lord knows I didn't want to watch the game - a portion of us had a literary discussion for the best part of the game...)

I suppose that Love That Dog might be considered a children's book, but it's one of the great ones that can be appreciated by folk of all ages. I don't want to give away too much, because reading it is a joy, but it is a book of poetry that tells a story through a series of poems. In the process, both the protagonist - a young boy - and the reader learns that writing poetry is not "just for girls," nor for people who like to write. Writing poetry is something that anyone can do who is willing to give it a try.

The story has a way of making reading and writing poetry accessible to everyone and does so in a joyful, poignant way. I highly recommend it. Creech has a second (much larger) book, Hate That Cat which I might have to check out, too.

The second new book, Kevin loaned to me while I was at the aforementioned Superbowl party and I quickly read it and loved it. The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, is the story of Elzéard Bouffier, who devoted his life to reforesting a desolate portion of Provence, in southern France. That's the whole plot, and there's little to the story beyond that. But it is a simple story, told elegantly, of the difference one person can make.

It's written in such a way that it seems to be based on a true story, but it's not. Nonetheless, it is a great inspiration and written in beautiful prose. The version I read was illustrated with delightful wood engravings by Michael McCurdy, which added to the stark beauty of this small but great story.

The Man Who Planted Trees (or L'homme Qui Plantait des Arbres, in its original French) has also been made into an animated short film which can be found online here.

You could do much worse than to pick up these books at the library and devour/savor them one day soon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Donna and Dan - 16

Snow Thistle
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began a few weeks ago. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

An Unexpected Snow

And your love has fallen upon me
like an unexpected snow

As if I'd fallen asleep to
a lifeless gray and brown landscape

Only to awaken to find
A field of gentle snow
bright, soft, cleansing, wonderful

Turning my ordinary
into magic

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Donna and Dan - 17

Dan and Donna
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Another post in the countdown to Dan and Donna's 25th anniversary this coming June, which I began a few weeks ago. It is my plan to post a story, remembrance and/or poem once a week for 25 weeks leading to the big date.

Shortly after that beautiful, awful (for me) Thanksgiving visit, I managed to arrange a visit to see Donna at her parents' house. I imagine this was probably sometime over her Christmas break from college, maybe January of 1984.

The weather was seasonally cold, but we decided to take a visit to nearby Columbus-Belmont Park, to take a hike and have some quiet conversation time.

Although Donna still had a boyfriend-in-waiting, I think she must have begun to suspect that I was feeling sweet towards her again.

When we arrived at the beautiful park (it overlooks the Mississippi River down near the southwestern corner of Kentucky), it was fairly isolated, we had the park to ourselves practically.

We had enjoyed pleasant conversations at her house and on the drive to the park. Still, I had not raised the suggestion that I just might quite possibly still be in love with her.

We got out of the car and, being a cold day, I suggested perhaps it would help if we held hands (smooth, huh?). She was okay with that.

As I recall, the conversation came to an abrupt halt. I believe she may have been thinking, "What?? What's this? Holding my hand?" If she hadn't suspected that my interest had been rekindled, she knew now.

I believe I was just thinking, "She's holding my hand! She's holding my hand! She didn't say no! There's a chance - at least a slight chance! - that she may not hate me for how I treated her!!"

We walked around the park like that, holding hands, enjoying the frigid scenery, hearts pounding, sweat building, in spite of the cold weather.

Eventually, carefully, the conversation started up again. Still just light topics, casual conversation to distract our mouths while we each tried to figure out what in the world was going on.

After a while, we got cold enough that we had to return to the car, back to her house. Still, the hand-holding - and all that implied, whatever it implied - passed without comment.

Returning to the house, I'm sure we made some small talk with her parents about the park and the weather. We then excused ourselves to Donna's room for some private conversation.

After seeing their beloved daughter spend weeks with a broken heart following our break up, I imagine Mr and Mrs Helton were wondering what was going on, too.

We had a seat in her room, tension rising. I had no idea what Donna was thinking. She had forgiven me, I'm sure, for breaking up with her. We were friends now, but still, could she possibly be willing to take a chance on dating me again? After the pain I had caused her?

Not knowing how to broach the topic, I just quietly asked, "Donna, may I kiss you?"

There. The question was out there. She would know now without a doubt that I was hoping to have a second chance. But what would she say...?

After the briefest of pauses, but what seemed like an eternity, a sweet, tentative smile came to her face and she said, "yes."

She said "Yes!!"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gays in the Military

Honey Locust Thorns
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I've seen/heard this question arise lately...

Most guys would be uncomfortable living openly with males who might be producing this sexual tension. So, where would we HOUSE gays in the military??

What do we do if "the gays" are openly admitted in the military? Deal with it. Be adult. Expect professionalism.

As we all know, gay folk are already in the military. Always have been.

Those who think "most guys" would be uncomfortable living with gay guys may be projecting a bit too much of their own worries. Gay folk already are in the military, does that make them uncomfortable?

Maybe it does for some folk, but if so, they just need to move on, get over it. Be adult. Be professional.

If I were in a room of 20 guys and one of them was gay, the thing is, I'm not interested in him, not being gay myself. So, there's not really a likelihood of an affair developing or it being a problem for me. Right?

If the guy is not a sexual deviant, then there's not a chance of him wanting to force himself upon me. Agreed? (And if he is sexually deviant and inclined to force himself on others, then it's his problem, straight or gay.)

So, from my point of view, I'm not uncomfortable being in a barracks-style room with a gay guy. I don't know of any studies that indicate that "most guys" would be uncomfortable with this situation. I sort of doubt that, given that it's been the reality for a long time. But even if that's the case, that seems to be their problem, not the gay soldier's problem.

Now, the greatest problem that I can think of is for the gay guy (or lesbian gal). And in that case, perhaps it's a legitimate question to ask: Are they the sort who would be unduly distracted and "turned on" by the notion of sleeping around a bunch of guys/gals who aren't attracted to them?

The word I hear is, no, they would not be.

Think of it this way: If you were tending to a bunch of young children, changing the diapers of both boys and girls, is that a problem for you? No, of course not. Or at least not for me. I'm not attracted to children, so that's not like there's any temptation there.

From what I hear, it's more like that (slightly different situation, of course, but in the ballpark of being like that).

Yeah, some times, a gay guy might joke around about how "hot" Brad Pitt is or a lesbian might drool a bit about some straight woman. But from what I hear, it's sort of like that whole gaydar thing - if there are no "gay vibes" coming from someone, there's not that much of a problem setting the straight group aside as "untouchable." They aren't interested in someone who's not interested in them, as a rule.

That's what I hear.

Now, of course, there ARE some more lusty gay and lesbian types out there. Folk who are turned on by anything that's breathing and the same gender. Of course, that's true for straight folk, too (except, of course, lusting for the opposite gender - but by my anecdotal estimations, the problem is largest with young straight guys, am I right?)

But we expect our doctors to be able to examine men or women without it being a problem - we expect professionalism from them. The same is true for our soldiers. We expect professionalism. And, if an individual soldier has a hard time being professional around whichever gender he or she is attracted to, then that's a problem that specific soldier has and they need to be weeded out, probably. Gay or straight.

But as long as our soldiers, like our doctors, can be professional about it and compartmentalize their sexual urges (and I see no reason why they can't, in general), then this is not going to be a problem.

Speaking as a non-gay person, that has been my impression. I have not seen anyone writing firsthand about the situation, but that's my impression, for what it's worth.

Anyone out there seen anyone writing/speaking with more firsthand knowledge on this topic?

Monday, February 1, 2010


Barbwire Pole
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is in the news, today. According to CNN...

“The only time [the Obama] administration ever cites the previous administration for a precedent is to mention that there were some terrorists tried in U.S. courts,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Sunday on State of the Union.

“We now know that was a mistake,” declared McConnell. “That was a mistake by the previous administration. The other mistake they made that shouldn’t be replicated by this administration is letting too many people go from Guantanamo.”

Instead of giving alleged terrorists civilian trials in federal court, McConnell said the administration should use the system of military commissions set up by Congress “for the specific purpose of trying foreigners captured on the battlefield.”

“They ought to be tried in these military commissions. They also ought to be detained at Guantanamo,” the Senate Minority Leader said.

The Obama administration has missed its own self-imposed one-year deadline for closing the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were a number of suspected terrorists have been held after being captured. Last week, the White House also began to signal that it was rethinking its plans to hold a high-profile trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, in Manhattan federal court not far from Ground Zero. The turnabout on the Obama administration’s part regarding the trial came after elected officials and business people in New York City raised concerns about security and the high costs of protecting the city during such a large-scale event.

“What we need to do is to deny these people a show trial,” McConnell also said Sunday in a reference to what some observers believe would be a media circus if Mohammed is tried in an open civilian court. “We need to proceed to interrogate them,” McConnell added.

“This is really dangerous nonsense,” McConnell said of the Obama administration’s policies regarding treatment of alleged terrorists. “We have a way to do it, John,” McConnell told CNN’s John King. “Interrogate them. Detain them and try them in military commissions offshore at Guantanamo from which no one has ever escaped.”

My question for McConnell and anyone who agrees with him is, why? He has an awful lot of "ought" statements in his argument. We ought to interrogate them. We ought to try them in a military court. Why? Says who?

If a person from another country were to steal something, I imagine we would try them for the crime of theft. If a person from another country killed someone, we would try them for the crime of murder.

Why are these attempts by individuals (or even groups of individuals) different? Who says we ought not just treat their crimes as the crimes they are? Attempted terrorism. Murder.

The only reason McConnell cites is that it makes it (in his opinion) a "show trial." What does that mean? I think SHOWING the world that the US is a nation of laws and that we abide by laws would be a good thing to show.

I don't think I've ever heard of any good reason why terrorism ought not be treated as any other crime, just that it "ought" to be. Says who?

The only reason I can think of would be in relation to possible "military secrets" (whatever that may mean) that we don't want released to the world at large. But, if I'm not mistaken, that kind of information - if it exists - can be kept from public airing, even in a civilian trial.

I'm sorry, but McConnell simply saying it "ought" to be done a certain way is not enough for me. Does anyone know of any real reasons?