Friday, October 31, 2008

Our Absolutely Unqualified, Highly Conditional Election Predictions

Nobody shells out money for us to be pundits, so you get what you pay for. In that spirit, here's your no-risk, no-guarantee, absolutely bipartisan nonpartisan gaze into the crystal ball from our staff and the two guys hanging out by the Dr. Pepper machine.

* If Barack Obama wins, expect disillusioned GOP'ers to talk about moving to Canada. Sarah Palin becomes the party's Bette Malone.

* If John McCain wins, expect disillusioned Democrats to talk about moving to Canada -- and actually do it this time until they remember quitters never win.

* If Obama wins, people will wake up Wednesday morning swearing the sun is brighter, the grass is greener, and the earth's magnetic field is more harmonious.

* If McCain wins, people will wake up Wednesday morning and many mornings after saying, "is Johnny Mac feeling alright?"

* If Obama wins, southern Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva will go into work each morning with fresh self-confidence, now that the bills he authors actually have a shot at making it into law.

* If McCain wins, Arizona's Democratic delegation will be saying once again: "Bipartisanship. Ick."

* If Obama wins, Republicans will exploit rumors of election fraud.

* If McCain wins, Democrats will exploit rumors of election fraud.

* If Obama wins, Sen. Hillary Clinton will begin forming exploratory committees for 2016.

* If McCain wins, Obama will be getting a 3am phone call from Sen. Clinton. Several of them, in fact. Federal law prevents us from wiretapping, but we imagine the conversation will include the words, "Shoulda picked me, you lout!"

* If Obama wins, Big Oil will start hiding profits in the Cayman Islands to avoid a potential windfall tax.

* If McCain wins, Big Oil will hide money in Sarah Palin's closet.

* If Democrats achieve a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, expect Nancy Pelosi to sing "Nanny-Nanny Boo Boo."

* If Alaska Republican Ted Stevens holds onto his seat, expect pundits to speculate about brain freeze.

* If Al Franken wins in Minnesota, expect nobody to be surprised anymore in the state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor.

* If Obama makes it to the White House, expect Dick Cheney's man-sized document safes to disappear. Mysteriously.

* If McCain takes over the Oval Office, expect portable defibrillators to be installed in every hallway.

* If Sen. Joe Biden wins the number-two office, Secret Service chemists will develop a special "gaffe-away" spray.

* If Gov. Sarah Palin is the victor, Tina Fey will work undercover as a body double.

* If Barack Obama wins, Rush Limbaugh will gripe for the next 8 years about the nation's liberal tilt while secretly thanking the senator for giving him job security.

* If John McCain wins, El Rushbo will chortle about liberals being on suicide watch.

* If Obama wins, Hollywood leftists will say, "Okay, now what?"

* If McCain wins, they'll say, "Well, Obama was too hype for the job, anyway."

That's it. Now go vote and prove us wrong.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reel To Reel: Fireproof

A serious case of heartburn.

How It Rates: ***
Starring: Kirk Cameron
Rated: PG
Red Flags: One scary scene involving a rescue from train tracks

Fireproof is not a movie but a marriage seminar with a plot. Its writing has as much nuance as an ABC Afterschool Special, and it preaches at times. But let's be clear: this film is not designed as forgettable escapism. The producer, Sherwood Baptist Church of Georgia (which also made Facing The Giants), is using film as a ministry to reach people who aren't connecting with God. No doubt this picture will become an element of Christian marriage-counseling classes. And even with a meager $500,000 budget and faint star power, it still makes an emotional connection many Hollywood films don't. At least it did for me, and I'm not married.

Kirk Cameron -- yes, the one-time kid star from Growing Pains -- plays firefighter Caleb Holt, a frustrated lifesaver with a crumbling marriage. He can't understand why his wife doesn't appreciate what he does or why he wants to buy a boat. Catherine Holt (Erin Bethea) has the explanation on her fingertips: he's constantly away from home, he doesn't help around the house, he doesn't show her enough respect, and he's looking at that "trash on the Internet." Caleb twists his wife's criticisms into a lack of appreciation. Before the first reel is over, Mrs. Holt decides she wants a divorce.

Caleb's father, a saintly figure who has fixed his own rocky marriage, urges his son to try 40-day emergency marriage repair kit called "The Love Dare." A handwritten journal instructs Caleb to change his attitude towards his marriage, one step per day. Day one: stop making negative comments. Day two: do something unexpected your wife will appreciate... and so forth. We're never told who originated the Dare, but we do know it's coming to a bookstore near you in 2009.

However, Caleb is instructed not to tell his wife he's doing the Dare, which is like trying to counsel a marriage with only one spouse present. Catherine doesn't know what to make of Caleb's intentions, but she's feeling something real in a doctor (Walter Burnett) who works at the hospital where she's employed as a spokeswoman. This is where the movie, perhaps by accident, stumbles upon the truth I see in the newsroom: paid communicators aren't always skillful communicators.

Fireproof lets us tag along for a couple of rescues, including a heart-stopping accident scene where firefighters must pull a car off train tracks. The sequence has an improvisational simplicity and believability Hollywood could only wish for. We also get the compulsory element of the big, dangerous house fire which adds a novel escape technique. A few other characters exist only to provide plot advancement and perspective, such as the devoted-husband firefighter and the hot-stuff rookie, people you might encounter if John Bunyan wrote Backdraft.

But again, I stress, this isn't a Hollywood picture. Even at its preachiest, Fireproof still has a way of drilling a way into your emotions and your beliefs, if you're willing to listen and think. This is a film you're supposed to see with someone you love, but I saw it alone and still took away this message: you can't go through life without God. A key scene involves Caleb and his father talking about this next to a cross erected for a youth camp. I know a lot of people might roll their eyes at it, but mine watered as I flashed back to getting right with God last year.

L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke, who's no evangelist, says Fireproof's independent success demonstrates mainstream Hollywood doesn't know how to make profitable Christian-themed movies. That's because with Hollywood, it's about making money off a demographic. With Sherwood Baptist, it's about giving people something they can believe in.

More on the Web:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kneeling Before Lute

University of Arizona head coach Lute Olson's resignation has Tucson divided into three groups: the people who love the basketball Hall of Famer and hate to see him go, the people ticked off at him for quitting just as the season was getting started (and just before Homecoming, no less), and those who really don't care.

I don't fit neatly into any of those groups, because as a TV news producer in Tucson, I'm supposed to care even if I don't.

Still, I have a lot of admiration for the man who turned a lackluster team into a national player and racked up an enviable win/loss record. Lute is the game's textbook gentleman, the polar opposite of Bobby Knight even though he still drives his players hard. Most people will also overlook that gripefest press conference he held last spring, where he dumped on several newspaper guys after coming back from a leave of absence.

Lute inspires awe in people, and he will continue to do that well into the future. He may not be a god of basketball, but there was this time that I ended up kneeling before him.

November 23, 2002: I'm helping the KOLD News 13 sports department grab some post-game interviews at McKale Center. The Wildcats are playing the same Saturday as the Tour De Tucson bicycle race and our resources are stretched thin. I've volunteered to help our sports director out while he cuts game highlights for a live shot on the 5:30 newscast.

The press room at McKale is a shark attack. All three stations are there, plus Fox Sports, plus a girl from KJLL radio and at least one other camera I couldn’t place. People crowd all over the small room to get sound from one player at a time, sticking mics wherever they can. Only a curtain separates the room from the locker area, and the guys shout trash in the background while you’re trying to get an interview.

Getting sound with Coach Olson is only slightly better. He has his own press room, but it’s still small. Juan the photographer and I set up there with a wireless mic on the table several minutes ahead of time, and everything looks good to go.

Coach Olson enters the room like a judge stepping up to the bench. A woman stands behind him and guards the door. He silently walks up to the microphone-loaded table, sits down, and starts reading from his stat sheet.

“Too much depth, and too much quickness,” he says, opening his statements on how the Wildcats just pummeled some non-conference team in the usual pre-season tradition.

Alarm creeps over Juan's face. Audio isn't coming from the lapel mic on the table, even though I’d tapped it to make sure it was working. We have to switch to a wired mic. Now. Juan quickly digs into his bag for it, plugs it in, and I sneak it down the narrow, reporter-lined aisle to the front, hoping I can daintily lay it on the table.

The cord isn’t long enough. So I fall on my knees at the front of the aisle, my right hand extending upward. I hold the mic as close as I can to Tucson’s god of basketball while praying at the altar of audio. I can’t believe the sound is clear and loud enough to use on the air.

Coach O. barely takes his eyes off the sheet through the entire session. He didn't snicker or make light of my precarious position. He answers a few questions, and then he's gone.

That's my brush with a legend, one who probably didn't even notice I was there despite my unintended reverence.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Go Play In The Street

Two years ago, I took the Political Compass test and found myself mildly leftist and libertarian. That, however, was before my life and commitments changed significantly. So I took the test again. Not surprisingly, I drifted a bit to the right, but that puts me nearly dead center.

Economic Left/Right: -1.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.03

They say if you're in the middle of the road, you get run over. I can't stand wingnuts of either flavor, but moderates aren't known for their anger. We don't have a voice on cable news or talk radio. We're the people the politicians game for year after year -- that mushy middle -- but moderates just aren't entertaining. Sorry to disappoint you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reel To Reel: W.

Beating around the Bush.

How It Rates: **1/2
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Thandie Newton, Richard Dreyfuss
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Copious Texas-sized Beer Guzzling and Liquor Draining, Mild Language

For the record, I'm an Independent. I parted ways with the Republican Party after the Iraq war went sideways and when the War on Terror became a license for some to rip up the Constitution. I'm a tricorn-wearing patriot.

W. is not a partisan hit piece, thankfully, but rather an exploration of President George W. Bush's contentious relationship with his statesman father and his struggle to evolve from an overgrown Texas frat boy. The story cuts back and forth between Bush's rise to power and the run-up to the Iraq war as it attempts to explain W.'s country-boy politicking. Josh Brolin masters the president's cadence and mannerisms, nearly disappearing into the role by the end. Still, the film fails to completely answer how a boozy son from a landmark political family who can't hold down a job rises to baseball team owner, then governor, then president.

Our first snapshot of W.'s youth comes from a drunken Yale fraternity initiation in which Bush demonstrates a gift for networking, if not oratory. His taste for beer and munchies are unsatisfiable, and it seems drinking and snacking are the only things he can do well. "If I remember correctly, you didn't like the sporting good store," Bush Senior (Cromwell) points out during one of several confrontations. "Working for the investment firm wasn't for you either, or the oil rig job."

Daddy ends up bailing W. out of several messes and pulls the job strings until the young Bush quits drinking and finds God. George Junior wonders why he can't ever be good enough in his father's eyes and resents the attention paid to brother Jeb, the rising star of the family. Bush connects with his future wife Laura (Banks) at a Texas-sized barbecue, finding a woman he terms a "good listener."

Karl Rove (Toby Jones) spots Bush's folk appeal and gladly molds him into the kind of candidate people would "like to have a beer with," advising his ward not to swing at anything he can't hit. An early press conference during Bush's run for Texas Governor reveals an unsteady political novice, but still, W. wins the race. The film unfortunately leaves out a turning point in that 1994 election, when incumbent Governor Ann Richards surreptitiously referred to Bush as a "jerk," costing her crucial votes.

The film meticulously lingers on high-level meetings on whether to invade Iraq, notable for how little Bush speaks compared to his inner circle. The group struggles to determine whether or not there's WMD's. Vice-President Cheney (Dreyfuss) emerges as the picture's heavy, wanting to "drain the swamp" of terrorism in the mideast but more concerned with the region's untapped oil. Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) seems the lone voice of reason, asking if America can live with a pre-emptive strike policy. President Bush pipes up, speaking in generalities of "freedom" and "democracy," providing the selling point regardless of whether Saddam has the goods.

W. is a sympathetic picture to the chief executive in that it portrays him as not a brainless dolt but a Texas politico leveraging a good-'ol-boy management style onto a national stage. He deals in terms he can get his hands around, going by his gut and letting his underlings handle the rest. When he learns American forces haven't found the WMD they expected, I felt some sympathy for him, having to wriggle out of the hole bad advice and intelligence dug for him at the hands of his advisers. Many of us will also identify with the universal need to please our fathers -- and mothers.

Again, however, the film paints an incomplete picture. It also strays into unnecessary surrealism, showing W. fantasizing making a outfield catch or sparring with his father in the Oval Office. Such is the world of Oliver Stone, but compared to what he could've given us, we got off easy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Aim And Amiability

I endeavour, Gentlemen, to always hit the mark in everything, whether it be sinking a French warship or leading a lady in the conventions of the dance floor at We Make History’s Pride & Prejudice Ball.

Adapted from the Journal of Lt. Christopher Francis of the H.M.S. Victory

Illustration by Lady Joy!

An odd lot, those Americans, our host observes.

They are enraptured with the upcoming election of ’08. Indeed, they have much to occupy their thoughts. Many speak of the response, or lack of such, to a great war an ocean away. Many grumble of the wounded and faltering economy brought about by the policies of the congress and chief executive.

The speculation is, then, who shall replace Jefferson?

We subjects of George III concern ourselves with greater dilemmas as presented ungraciously to us by that knave Napoleon who, to our amusement, still considers himself an emperor. Our duty is to drive him from those lands in his grip. The Portuguese require our assistance as of late, which leads to a moment of clarification.

“With that uniform, I would say you are close fit for a Portuguese.”

“I think myself British,” I correct with graciousness, wondering if the red, white and blue cockade on my bicorn is not large enough.

* * *

When the call comes for the procession, I find myself in a curious position. Usually one or more ladies are left isolated, odd, and without accompaniment as couples line up for the grand march. This time, however, I find myself the odd fellow, wandering about in search of a lone lady. The gentlemen, to be sure, are doing their duties as instructed and letting no lady walk alone. As I survey the hall, one does not need intricate explanation to deduce the reason. The men are dressed in a stylish black this evening, rejecting those flamboyant colors of the aristocracy for something of pleasing simplicity.

As my hope of finding a lady depletes, I find her. She too is wandering about, headed perhaps to the other side of the hall. Perhaps we shared the same thoughts before I bow to her, and we join hands.

I am a First Mate in the Royal Navy, I respond when she prompts me about my uniform. “I serve my country and my king.”

“And who is king?” she asks.

I regret to inform you, dearest readers, that this is where the reach of my mind overextends itself, as if it were sailing into a deep fog.

“I have been a long time at sea,” I volunteer. “I am not quite sure if it is a king or a queen. But I shall serve him or her!”

We step lively to the pianoforte and strings, greeting each other as the parade of couples separates and reforms into a long and weaving line of joined hands. We are warmed up for a set dance, but our host ventures something different.

A great number of newcomers fill out the ballroom, ladies and gentlemen with a great desire for social grace and the joy of dance but unsure of how to achieve it. The objective, therefore, is not to overwhelm but to gently lead them in, just as the gracious gentleman takes a lady by the hand and escorts her on to the floor.

The host introduces a tune named “I Care Not For These Ladies,” evoking the story of a man who once stood stupidly about instead of partaking in the revelry surrounding him.

We shall not make that mistake. Our host leads us through the basic figures: slipping to the right and then the left, setting to our partners and turning in place, turning by the right and left hands, and siding left and right. Elegance and simplicity will go hand in hand this evening in many ways.

I can comfortably gather my lady is unsure of some steps. The setting confuses her at first, as it does for several. The host and his lady demonstrate it beautifully, and the others quickly follow their lead. Having danced this dance before, I know it is customary to change partners as the tune progresses, but our host prefers us to spend more time dancing with a familiar partner. We do indeed care for our ladies… and gentlemen, too!

Such is evident during the first longways set dance. If our newcomers have seen the style, they are not familiar with the concepts of progression, or standing out one iteration of the dance when reaching the end of the set.

Again, our host graciously simplifies some figures. “We’ll skip this section.”

Still, some confusion arises as couples at the ends of the set attempt to dance and find themselves isolated or isolating others.

“I’m sorry ladies,” he apologizes to our trio of musicians, “but I have to stop you again.” He is determined, and so are we.

“We’ll get this right,” I say softly to the ladies and gentlemen around me. “We cannot fail.”

After thrice a false start, we are off and dancing, leading our partners between the other couples and casting off to the next position in the set. Not one to let anybody forget, our host steadily calls the figures. My lady, a different partner now, weave our way from the very top of the set to the bottom, a job well done.

“Thank you for a wonderful dance,” I say to her, bowing low and removing my bicorn.

* * *

I later notice a young lady in a puffy, light blue gown that was the height of fashion a few decades ago. Obviously the latest styles have yet to extend to some parts of the world, but her innocent charm infects me.

“Are you seeking a partner for a dance?” I ask her with a bow.

Her eyebrows rise in shock. “Me?”

“Yes,” I answer with a smile, and we join in a joyous round of “The Doubtful Shepherd,” that dance characterized by the ladies and gentlemen in sets of six circling about each other, and on this occasion, other sets. Our ladies would dash off to another set of gentlemen at the caller’s command, and we would have to seek them out like lost sheep at our host’s command. The young one is quite versed in lively dancing and her smile never leaves her face.

* * *

The gentlemen stand at attention, lined up in the Sergeant of His Majesty’s armed forces.

“About face!” our host commands.

Some turn in the proper direction to face the crowd of snickering ladies. Many do not. It is a comically frustrating moment.

“Turn back around,” he mutters in exaggerated disappointment, withholding his amusement. Just as with the first set dance, he will not be satisfied until everyone gets it right.

“About face!”

After three or four attempts, he is relieved.

“Fix bayonets!”

We feign the motion, showing our readiness for battle to the fair ones.

“Show them your game face!”

A pause. A few snickers.

“I mean your game face, not your Lucky Charms face!”

Finally, the order.


The battle-hardened burst from the line and dive into the pair of assorted ladies’ shoes, freshly removed from one foot. The emerge holding their prizes in the air, seeking their Cinderella for the next dance: “Well Hall.”

If I should ever happen to give advice as a dancing master, which I freely admit I am not, I would tell each student of the joyous art to never neglect the power of peering into your dancing companion’s eyes. They are indeed the window into the soul, and the ladies or gentlemen who do not labour to submit to the spirit of the dance denies the totality of peace and happiness that awaits them.

So I fix my gaze upon my lady as we cross back and forth several times in the set. I beg her in my heart to not avert her eyes from my countenance, but she is attentive to the steps she is making. Perchance she wants to avoid a humourous blush, and I will not fault her for that. But oh, how I wish she would join eyes with me more often when we cross each other’s paths in courtly fashion!

* * *

“What shall I give you now?” our host ponders, peering over the list of possible dances and the allotted time. “Christ Church’s Bells?”

“Aye!” I shout.

“Come, Let’s Be Merry?”


“The Fields Of Frost And Snow?”


“Rufty Tufty?”


“Duke Of Kent’s Waltz?”


He smiles. “The gentleman wants it all.”

“I shall not be satisfied with less!” I cry.

I approach two ladies in beautiful gowns of the latest style, hoping to take one as a partner. But they have already partnered up.

“Oh go ahead,” one says to the other.

“I do not want to interfere,” I add, hoping I would not be inconveniencing anyone. So she graciously accepts my invitation to dance, and we engage in “Christ Church’s Bells.”

“This is one of my favorites,” I tell her. I do not think she is familiar with it, but we learn as we turn, clapping hands and then clapping each others hands to the rhythm before casting off. She is a quick study and fleet of foot. She also realizes the value of eye contact.

“A fine dancer,” I say to her friend when I escort her back to the lady that accompanied her earlier. “Thank you for indulging me,” I add with a bow.

* * *

“You have three options,” I say to five ladies and gentlemen surrounding me. “Like this…”

I walk up the center of the set, one hand in the air with an imaginary lady, demonstrating a graceful, inwards-and-outwards waltzing step.

“Or this…”

I demonstrate a hesitation chasse, joining both hands with the virtual lady and slipping up the set.

“Or if you’re really adventurous…”

I show a spiraling waltz, twirling around with my lady of air to the top of the set.

The dance is another favorite of mine, “Come Let’s Be Merry.”

Another veteran dancer accompanies me in the set, and with the help of our gracious caller, we learn the dance nearly instantly: turning gracefully, casting down and leading up in three-quarter time.

But something is quite odd. Only the first and third couples are progressing to the top to be head couple. What about myself and my lady? Will we ever get to go through the motions?

I quickly realize we have skipped a figure somewhere.

“Do not worry,” I tell the others. “We shall fix this.”

We soon find the missing element: a cast-off to the center of the set necessary to complete the progression. All is proper and we dance on, enjoying the time like nothing had ever gone wrong. Perfection is our mission, but patience our tonic. Both are in abundance this evening.

* * *

I share one last waltz with another beautiful lady. As has been the rule this evening, I venture only a simple two-step. No boxes or anything fancier than she would be comfortable with, other than the occasional twirl. I can tell she is a bit uncertain.

She is looking about. But my eyes remain fixed on her.

Could I be a burden to her? Is my dancing that monotonous?

Will I ever stop worrying about this?

* * *

I wait for my companions outside a local inn.

“The British are coming!” shouts a man from a modern-day carriage.

“They’re already here!” I reply.

For those who insist on more pictures to accompany the words, kindly click here.

This was my 25th Ball with We Make History in Arizona! Thank you, everyone, for 25 unforgettable nights of happiness. When I first stepped into the historic ballroom, I had no inkling of how much my life was about to be transformed. All time now is measured as time between balls, and all of you who have shared a dance with me have helped to make that happen... especially the ladies. God Bless All Of You! Never stop dancing!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Defend The Plantation!

History by full immersion with the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry and the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.

From the battlefield journal of Pvt. Christopher Francis, 1st Virginia

Our Corporal smiles as he watches the new recruits suit up. In front of him, some two dozen men are putting on the trousers and sack coats of our newly formed Union regiment. He's not alone. A dream is coming true for us, watching the birth of a fighting force. They are a proud and devoted group of men. They look handsome in their dark blue uniforms and slouch hats with the shiny brass bugles encircling a 1.

"It's a shame we have to shoot at them," I think to myself.

Our Colonel advises us to spiff up. We're not the most handsome unit in the war anymore.

Putting on the garb of a soldier starts this osmotic process. It instantly takes people to another level, transforming a dismissible human into somebody with dedication, purpose and courage.

We teach the Yanks how to form up in columns and march. They take to it right away. Then comes another big moment -- putting rifles in their hands. I lend a new recruit my Springfield, since I technically shouldn't be carrying one at all in my still-healing arm.

The commanders line them up again and teach them weapons safety, the rules of engagement. Our recruits ask no questions. They already have much respect for a gun. We put them through the manual of arms -- "attention," "shoulder arms," "order of arms," "right-shoulder shift," and "trail arms." They watch the veterans go through the motions and absorb it into them. The Sergeant makes some corrections, but only a few.

They pass their first major test of battle, a skirmish in the woods. Filled with confidence and brimming with enthusiasm, we move on to a scenario of fancy.

* * *


History forgot it, but recently uncovered documents reveal the Federals occupied Flagstaff. If you wore sandals and Birkenstocks, you were for the Union. If you wore cowboy boots, you were a Confederate sympathizer.

Fresh from their victory in the woods against a superior enemy force, Union commanders put a small company on a special assignment to march to a plantation deep in the woods. Rumors say a sizable deposit of gold is hidden there, in addition to much food and livestock.

On this day, a beautiful lady is celebrating her 15th birthday with the ladies of Virginia in their finest hoopskirts. The ladies enjoy punch on the porch as the children skip rope and sing a song of the "banks of the Rapphanny."

Her father the Corporal joins her at the party, flanked by a small detachment of 1st Virginians. Inside the plantation, a "poor, wounded soldier" recuperates from a Union musket ball that shattered his right hand.

The Federals march in
and immediately confront the detachment in front of the plantation. The ladies, scared and screaming, watch as the federals pick off the guard, only sparing the Corporal.

"Run inside!" the women shout as the melee heightens and the enemy marches onto the property.

Shrieks accompany musket fire as the Union force closes in. Their colonel walks up to the ladies.

"Where's the gold?"

They don't know about any gold. One suggests he might find it at the end of the rainbow. Unfazed, he asks about livestock.

"What about chickens and pigs?"

Their answers do not matter. His men will take what they want, crashing the party in a most disrespectful fashion as possible.

The Union colonel swipes a glass of punch from a lady.

"Thank you!" he chortles, chugging it down as if he were in a common saloon, leaving the lady scolding him in desperation.

Having heard the commotion outside, the wounded solider creeps to the second floor window. He has seen the bluebellies shoot down his comrades. But disrespecting the ladies is too much for him. His right arm may be useless, but his left can still squeeze a pistol trigger.


“Get away from the ladies you Yankee scum!” he shouts, sticking his head through the portal. “That was a warning shot and you’re out of warnings!”

The commander barks at his men, ordering them upstairs to seize the rebel. The Confederate ducks back inside and heads for the stairs. Harried ladies’ voices float up to him. He knows capture is inevitable, but he still has five rounds left.

He reaches the top of the stairwell only to discover two Yanks climbing toward him, with frightened ladies crowded behind the aggressors.

“You’re not getting me alive!” he cries, gun outstretched in his uninjured hand. “Don’t move a step further!”

The Yanks freeze at the foot of the grand stairwell, armed but cautious. Their antagonist could kill them both before either had a chance to load. But as the Confederate holds them at will, the occasional, mysterious shooting pains from his injured arm return at precisely the wrong moment.

“My arm, my arm,” he grimaces before collapsing.

The Yanks move in and wrestle the pistol away. The barrel points to the ceiling before the soldiers grasp it.

His arm still throbbing, the two aggressors take him by the arms and begin leading him away. They counted on resistance, but they did not count on the ladies of Virginia, who quickly surround them and begin fighting to regain possession of their defender.

“Take their guns!” the Confederate yells. “Get their guns!”

At least a half dozen women pull and tug at the bluebellies and their rifles, screaming to free their friend and compatriot. The entire mob inches down the hall as the invading soldiers push against them. Finally they free their prisoner from the ladies and their voluminous hoopskirts.

They drag him outside to the pen
for the hounds as he spits words of disgust. “You aren’t gentlemen! Bringing dishonor to these ladies!”

He worries for the ladies scattered about the lawn, horrified at the invaders occupying their property until he spots two columns of grey-uniformed soldiers to his right.

It seems the bluebellies made a grave tactical error, attacking the plantation, not knowing the 1st Virginia lie encamped a short march away. They were unaware the Corporal would attend his daughter’s soiree while staying within reach of his men.

The Yankee captors stand engrossed in shock as the lines advance. The ladies bubble with expectation. The wounded Confederate prisoner and a fellow hostage sense an opportunity. With nary a thought and without a struggle, they dash from captivity to join their comrades.

He knows he has no weapon, but he loads and primes a make-believe weapon. He figures the motions shall serve as adequate intimidation amongst a strong line of battle-seasoned recruits.

Muskets crackle and Yankee slugs tick off a man to his left and right. He wishes for the handgun as a man to his side falls and leaves him in the front rank unarmed. Unafraid, he marches with them, daring the enemy to take him down. Another volley unleashes the ball that slices through his left arm, and he crumples to the ground.

Pain infects him as the ranks advance. He labors to breathe. Unable to rise, he cranes his neck toward the gunfire, attentive to the smallest hints of victory or defeat. A few more exchanges and his worries fade amidst the cries of wounded Federals and the ladies’ cheering.

He settles back into the grass and collects his strength. Before he can rise, a circle of ladies surround him.

“My other arm,” he grimaces. “Get me a nurse.”

The women of Virginia help him to his feet. A young lass with medicinal aspirations wraps his wounded limb with speed. They lead him back to the scene of the spoiled party, now a celebration again.

“I want to thank you for your bravery,” he tells the ladies who have gathered, taking note of their stand in the hallway. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. You are strong. You are Virginia women!”

He offers a bow and a traditional cry of joy with his healing arm raised to the sky. “HUZZAH!

HUZZAH!” they answer in unison.

* * *

The time is so perfect and beautiful. We sit on the ground outside the plantation, Union and Confederates, friends in history, offering prayers and praise to God as rays of the setting sun burst through to illuminate the clouds.

Men talk about how God has blessed their lives, some in unusual ways. A child offers a simple but humble sentiment: “I’m glad that my arm isn’t hurt any worse.”

We sing of being washed in the Blood of Christ. We think about our lives enriched by God’s love. I think about our new recruits, how they have stepped into the uniforms and picked up a gun with little or no experience. We saw them molded into soldiers in an afternoon’s time, fighting passionately and yet honorably.

A miracle has happened here. A great miracle of fellowship, one our Confederate and Union ancestors would have loved. Somewhere, they are seeing it, and perhaps they are giving us tribute.

Another recruit stands to tell of his blessings. The sun is just over his shoulder, painting the clouds with a bright orange glow. God’s favor is undeniably with us.
I know I am not the only one with watery eyes. I let the emissions of thanksgiving roll silently down my cheeks, and I am not afraid of who knows it or even if they understand it. My heart lies naked within me.

Many times I wonder why God has put me here, but the answer is less ambiguous now.

More images of this wonderful day here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Right To Bear Arms, Again

Highlights from this morning's visit with the doctor:

* I am healing very quickly, and very well.

* I am now encouraged to start picking up significant weight with my right hand.

"Try 5 pounds, and if that's all right, then go to 10."

"Can I carry a musket again?" I asked, catching my physician mildly off guard. I explained I was a historical re-enactor. "It weighs about 8 pounds."

He gazed towards the ceiling and processed the request for a moment. "Yeah, 8 pounds should be all right."

So I shall be fully armed for the American Heritage Festival in November. HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!

* Physical therapy begins next week. I have great motion in my fingers and palm, but my right thumb still doesn't want to curl all the way. It's gradually increasing its dexterity, but some things could be helped along.

* X-rays show new bone has filled in all the way along my arm (and the plates that hold it). Old bone fragments remain, but they will dissolve away.

* I should be out of my arm brace by mid-November, three months after the break. I will truly have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I can't say this enough: THANK YOU for all your prayers!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

GOP Memo To Gov. Sarah Palin

EXCLUSIVE: The Lightning Round has obtained this highly confidential, super-secret hush-hush memo sent from the Republican National Committee to Gov. Sarah Palin on the eve of her big debate with Sen. Joe Biden. (Don't ask me how we got it. I quizzed Leopold Grumley, our ace investigative reporter, and he mumbled incoherently about some guy he met at the Red Planet Diner in Sedona.)

Dear Governor Palin,

We shall skip all boilerplate greetings and offer our best wishes for Thursday night's debate in the form of a simple commandment: Please don't muff this up.

As you are well aware, you were not the first choice of Senator John McCain. He first proposed his old friend Joe Lieberman. When we finished catching our breaths and our sides ceased aching, we counter-proposed Mitt Romney. Sen. McCain told us he would rather French-kiss a javalina, yet he graciously took the offer under consideration. A few weeks later, he announced his decision to us merely as a courtesy. One of us swears his middle finger was raised.

We have gone to great lengths to support you, Governor, as your sheen has worn off. We have tried to insulate you from the liberal media culture as best we can. We thought Katie Couric's spiraling career path would outweigh any answer you could give her, but unfortunately, we assumed wrong. While our polling data suggests a great many good Americans don't give a flip about your knowledge of the Supreme Court or choice of reading material, a significant number indicate you could easily be replaced by Tina Fey's caricature and nobody would know the difference.

At this moment, we are making a pre-emptive strike by tagging Gwen Ifill as a liberal to give us a convenient post-debate talking point. Our efforts shall be fruitless, however, if you answer a question on the readiness of Iraq to defend itself with the words "have to get back to ya on that one, sweetie!"

The stakes could not be higher. In fact, we've started our own office pool and the line is currently Biden by 8. Costing us money is not an option in these economic times. We kindly ask you to take all necessary measures to sharpen your intellect. Pharmacological solutions will not be frowned upon. We point to the example of that great American W.C. Fields, who did some his finest work while soused.

Your words Thursday night shall make a lasting impact upon the nation. To this end, we close with the inspiring words of Judge Judy Sheindlin: "Beauty fades. Dumb is forever."

The Republican National Committee