Saturday, September 29, 2018

Left & Right Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Newspaper publisher Mark Guerringue again sits in the left chair.

Mark suggests Republicans don't believe America is great, or why the slogan MAGA or "Make America Great Again."

I say Obama tried to stifle hydro-fracking, but Mark claims he encouraged it. I credit Trump for today's booming economy; Mark credits Obama. We argue.

It's the day before the big Senate hearing on Kavanaugh. We speculate about whether his appointment will be ratified. I think maybe yes, Mark thinks no. We discuss the charges by Christine Ford. I don't believe them. Mark does, but this is before the hearing. Marks asks if I think Ford is lying. I say that's a different question. I ask Mark why Dianne Feinstein held Ford's letter off until the last minute when she had it in July.

Are Republicans trying to get to the truth about whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford? I suggest they are. Mark thinks that naive. I contend Democrats would destroy Kavanaugh and his family to preserve Roe V Wade.

Most of the rest of the show concerns the Kavanaugh hearings. We know now what happened there. My predictions were pretty much borne out when Kavanaugh went after the Democrats as on a "search and destroy" operation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Abortion Debate

At the Kavanaugh hearing
“Are you planning to debate abortion in class?” asked our new principal. We were standing in the hallway near my classroom in the early1980s.

“Yes,” I said.

“Don’t,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because…” She paused, seeming surprised that I would question her. “Because eighth graders are too young to discuss it.”

At the Kavanaugh hearing
“But we’ve debated it several times the past couple of years and they’ve handled it quite well,” I said.

She was new in the job, and the first principal I’d worked with who was a contemporary, both of us were in our early thirties. She was a bit overweight with short hair and she wore pant-suits or long dresses, usually with a brightly colored shawl over one shoulder. She declared herself a feminist and her mode of dress I afterward realized was a uniform for feminists of the time. 

“I invite parents to come in to observe the debates each year,” I said, “and many have accepted. Usually, four or five come to each class.”

“Why did you choose to debate abortion?” she asked.

“Students chose it,” I explained. “I’d announce that we were going to debate a topic from current events. Then we’d brainstorm a list of topics, and students would vote on them. Sometimes they’d vote for a different topic like gun control, but most classes usually chose abortion.”

“Eighth graders aren’t mature enough to debate abortion,” she insisted.

“Hmm,” I said. “But some eighth graders have abortions. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” she said, breaking eye contact and shuffling a bit.

“If they’re old enough to have abortions they’re old enough to discuss them, don’t you think?”

At the Kavanaugh hearing
At that point, her secretary walked up, excused herself, and handed the principal one of those pink message slips. She read it and said, “I’ll have to get back to you on this.”

She never did, and I went ahead with the debates.

First, we defined the terms. I asked each class if someone could define abortion for me and I had a good reason for doing this. Fourteen-year-olds have fully developed brains, but lack nuance. I’d call on a student whose hand was up and he/she would say something like: “Abortion is when a woman is pregnant and she kills the baby inside her.”

That plainly worded definition is typical of 14-year-olds. They’re refreshingly direct. Every year, in every class, the first student I called on would define abortion in almost exactly the same way.

“Does everyone agree with that definition?” I’d ask.

There’d be nods all around, and I’d write it on the blackboard. Then I’d go on to explain that people who supported abortion called themselves “Pro-choice” and people who were against it called themselves “Pro-life.” Pointing to the definition on the board, I’d circle the words “kill” and “baby,” then tell them that a seasoned “pro-choice” person would never utter those words when debating abortion. A pro-life person, however, would nearly always use them. “A definition like that,” I’d say, pointing the board again, “indicates a pro-life bias. I can tell what somebody thinks about abortion by the words they use to define it.” At this point, I’d look toward the student who gave it. “Is that your opinion? Are you pro-life?” Usually, he or she was, but not always.

Then I’d ask how a pro-choice person would define abortion. Students would ponder what I said and offer suggestions like: “It’s when a woman finds out she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be, so she goes to a doctor and he takes it out.”

At the Kavanaugh hearings
“Not bad,” I’d say. Eventually, I’d get one that sounded just like something out of NARAL literature, such as: “When a woman terminates her pregnancy,” which I’d also write on the board.

Often a student would ask my opinion at this point and I’d say, “I’ll tell you after the debate is over.”

Students chose which side they wanted to argue. If there were too many on one side or the other, I’d try to even them up by challenging some to argue the opposite of what they believed. Some of my best students would usually offer to do so.

After that, I let them sit in their groups to prepare. My instructions were that they start recording their side’s strongest arguments on one list, then record their opponents’ strongest arguments on another.

“Why do you want us to list our opponents’ arguments?” they’d ask.

“So you can prepare counter-arguments to use during the debate when they bring up those points,” I’d answer. “It’s what opposing lawyers would do in a courtroom. You need to research all sides of any issue. As someone said once: ‘You don’t fully understand your own side unless you understand your opponent’s.’”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Be Yourself

Grandson Alex posing for his grandmother
Never do I ask people to pose for pictures. Sometimes my wife will request that I take certain shots of the grandchildren or other family members and I’ll oblige, but I much prefer candid photos. Some people love posing and others don’t like it any more than I do. Even when I’m looking at them from many yards away with my lens fully extended at 300 millimeters, they sense I’m focusing on them and turn their heads to look right back through the lens at me just as I snap the shutter. Pulling the photo up later on a bigger screen, I’ll see suspicion and a hint of annoyance on their faces.

Alex candid
At extended-family gatherings, they all know me as “the photographer.” While others may take pictures with their cell phones, I’m the one with the giant, full-frame DSLR hanging over my shoulder, and they’re accustomed to that. They’re usually at ease and I can move about shooting images of them, often from across the room.

Candid sunset on Kezar Lake
After a day or two of shooting landscapes and/or people, I look at the images on the camera’s LCD panel and delete the bad ones. Then I’ll download the rest onto my laptop, put it on full-screen view and go through them again. At that point, I’ll delete a few more. The rest will get closer scrutiny. With an editing program, I’ll sometimes adjust lighting, contrast, white balance, exposure, or color levels. Lastly, I’ll crop if necessary, but that’s rare because, with a zoom lens and enough time to frame the image while shooting, cropping isn’t needed — except to occasionally level the horizon if a lake or ocean is in the background.

This whole process offers me a closer study of my loved ones. Not only do I see and interact with them at family functions, I see still photos of them again and again while I go through the above-described process. I see aspects of their personalities that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. Just before Christmas, I go through them all again and save 400-500 shots onto thumb drives which I distribute to family members to whom I’ve previously given motion-activated, digital picture frames. My own frame is set up on a kitchen counter and it activates every time my wife or I walk by. A dozen or more candid shots of loved ones will present themselves — one every five seconds — until I leave the room.

When my twin grandsons were born five years ago, the obstetrician said they were identical. After a few months, however, we could see they were not but they’re still hard to tell apart. While they look very much alike physically, their personalities are as different as any two siblings — and those distinctions emerge in the many photos I’ve taken of them. After my wife allowed each twin to take a large frond from her hosta plants, one waved it around doing a happy dance while the other used it as a sunshade while in deep-thought mode. 

An old television show, very popular in the sixties, illustrated the appeal of candid shots. Appropriately called “Candid Camera,” it was charming because people didn’t know they were being filmed. They were being themselves — and that’s nearly always appealing. It’s true of kids in kindergarten, puppies, kittens, and almost every other organism. Genuine is endearing; disingenuousness isn’t and never was.

Some people, though, are as ease when a camera is pointed their way, especially if they’re genuinely happy about something. Others have a naturally happy disposition and nearly always look their best in photos. Still others are afraid of having their pictures taken for fear that whoever sees the images will be able to see what they’re really like. Then there are camera hogs who love to have their pictures taken. I’ve fallen into both latter categories at different periods of my youth and cringe sometimes while looking at old family photographs which are proof of how I used to be.

There are very few pictures of me from the past few decades though because I’m almost always the one behind the camera. I chronicle family history and what I’ve accumulated is invaluable. My children and grandchildren see pictures of themselves, their siblings, their cousins, their uncles and aunts every day, and it reminds them that they’re all part of an extended family.

Rarely do I take video, but I have taken some when they grandchildren were little. I’ve spliced and edited some of that and distributed results to family, but video requires another whole skill set of which I have only a little. Preserving all this digital imagery is daunting, and I’m glad tech companies are producing portable, affordable hard drives with storage capabilities measured in terabytes.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Left & Right September 3, 2018

Mark Guerringue again defends the left. We begin with the McCain funeral. Mark was a big fan of McCain and thought the funeral was inspiring. My take is that it was overdone, that it seemed to go on forever. That leads to a discussion of the 2008 campaign where Obama defeated McCain and I suggest that the media liked McCain when he criticized Republicans, but not when he opposed Obama. Mark disagrees. From there we again discuss leftist media bias which Mark still denies and I still insist is rampant -- and a big driver of the Mueller investigation. I make the case that Trump is right when he calls it a witchhunt. Mark says the Mueller indictments prove there's something to it. We discuss further developments in South Africa with government expropriation of farmland from whites and their murders by roving hordes of bandits. I point to a Gallup poll indicating that a majority of Democrats now view capitalism unfavorably and socialism favorably. Mark says Democrats don't want socialism. Bernie Sanders was a socialist before he said while running for president that he was a democratic socialist. I ask what is the difference between democratic socialism and socialism, but Mark doesn't know. The producer prints out definitions for each but, while the definition of socialism is clear-cut​, that for democratic socialism is very vague. It seems no one does. We discuss Democrat support for abolishing ICE. I say it's a dog whistle for open borders. Mark insists the Democrat Party is against open borders.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Buck

Never did I see a whitetail buck act that way. Not that I ever saw too many of them over the years — I didn’t, especially not in the woods. Driving up Hatch’s Hill Road as I do several times a week, I got a half-second glimpse of a six-point buck out my passenger-side window. Rather than slow down, I went to the top of the hill and turned around in a driveway to go back and see if he was still there. “This is dumb,” I said to myself while executing the turn. “He’ll be long gone by the time I get back,” but there he was, looking right at me from behind a tree.

He’d climbed a steep bank and hopped a stone wall, but he stuck his velvet-antlered head up and looked at me without a trace of alarm. Still seated in my truck, I took out my camera, unlocked the lens, and took a few shots as he casually turned around and walked deeper into an overgrown field and out of my sight. I pulled to the side of the road and set my brake, got out, and climbed the steep bank after him to try for more pictures. Sure enough, there he was again standing broadside to me and munching on some shoots. I took several more shots.

All the while, I’m thinking: “This is not a game farm. I’m twenty feet away from a healthy, whitetail buck in the wild and he’s not a bit afraid of me.” At that point, he assumed an undignified posture and began urinating while I continued snapping pictures.

When he was finished, he just sauntered away, casually biting off more shoots as he went along, occasionally looking back over his shoulder at me. I continued snapping pictures.

Never once did he raise his tail in alarm to show the white underneath. That’s the part we humans usually see as those aptly named whitetail deer jump away from us. That was usually all I saw when I hunted them; by the time I got my gun up, they were gone. Whitetails were generally safe when I was in the woods but I was always excited to get out there again every year as November approached — until about twenty years ago, that is.

I’m not sure what changed, but the urge to hunt left me. My brother(s) would call and I’d tell them I wasn’t going out. “What?” they’d exclaim. “What’s happening to you?” Maybe it was remembering all the energy I expended hiking up and down hills all day and not even seeing a flag — that’s what we called the white tails we’d see on deer bounding away through the woods away from us. Maybe it was because I’d think of how much wood I could have split and stacked in the woodshed before snow fell instead of spending the entire day in futile pursuit of the elusive whitetail. Maybe it was because my testosterone levels were diminishing and my inner caveman was subduing itself commensurately.

Even after I’d become more prosperous and could afford to burn oil instead of wood, the hunting urge didn’t return. Something basic had changed in me and I haven’t gone deer hunting since. I still shoot squirrels with my .22 and chipmunks with my pellet gun because they’re both troublesome rodents who damage property. I still shoot porcupines and groundhogs. I still trap mice and flying squirrels because they all invade the properties I manage and my own as well. But I don’t hunt deer anymore, and I think the buck I photographed sensed that. He knew somehow that I meant him no harm.

Squirrels, however, know I want to kill them. When I step out of my truck with a rifle they run. They don’t just climb a tree either. They run along the ground into deep woods where they’re safe — and they don’t stop long enough along the way for me to get a bead on them. This year, there are more squirrels than I ever remember and it’s harder to keep the population under control.

Shooting them guarantees they won't return
For that matter, there have been more cones on the white pines — and more needles fell from them this year as well. More seeds fell from ash trees too. Never have I seen so many. Many things go in cycles and I guess I’m no different; I’ve rotated out of my hunter phase. I eat more vegetables because my wife insists, as long as there is a serving of meat with them. I don’t have to kill it though. I’m content to buy it at Shaws or Hannaford. If I couldn’t do that, I’d be sufficiently motivated to resume the hunt.