Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “America”

It’s Flag Day (and my birthday!)


Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the Betsy Ross flag design. It was much later in life that I realized that the flags all over town were not specifically in recognition of my birthday.

Leaf me alone, please.


A tree lover. An appreciator of their grace, shade, and mesmerizing swish when the winds converse with them; however, I am not a fan of the annual migration of downward accumulation.

This year my strategy of waiting for all the leaves to fall before raking backfired. We received an early snow and the leaves frisked about the snowfall, creating a decorative touch of color. A bit like sprinkles on vanilla frosting.

I was momentarily charmed.

Autumn leaves on snow - Stock Image - C013/9909 - Science Photo Library

But then the snow melted, the rest of the leaves fell within one week–somewhat of a follow the leader venue (is that snickering I hear?) and the momentous task of dealing with two towering aspens, a birch, a linden, and a maple tree. Certain evergreens wanting in on the game shed their dagger needles as well.

I contemplated leaving the leaves alone this year. Scientifically, don’t they mulch and return to the soil as the snow blankets them all winter? I image more time is needed than the four months of dozing under the snow would render them inert.

The yard must have started looking pathetic because I had a group of church kids stop by and offer to rake my leaves. Oh. That’s so nice. Do I look old enough where I can’t handle taking care of my yard anymore? I’m thinking they were being nice.

Okay, November is here. Snow is lurking down the pike. It’s a rousing 46 degrees and I’m going to do this.

A love letter for leaf piles - West Coast Landscape Professional
To leaf alone or not leaf alone.–always the question…

Leaf blower at the ready. Rake, snow shovel (it’s the best for leaf scooping), and wheelbarrow are standing by.

The Best Cordless Lightweight Leaf Blower [2020] | Archute
herding leaves is right up there with herding cats–they don’t always go where you want them to…

I managed to get the leaves in four or five major piles and then it’s always the dilemma of burn, mulch, tarp or ? This is the only time of the year when I am envious of city folk, who are only 7 minutes down the line, jurisdiction wise. They get to cart their leaves to the curb and have city garbage haul them away. While us county folk have to figure it out.

This year it’s the giant pile and tarp for a spring burn. It’s getting them into that giant pile.

Having been called away by a Mother errand (glasses needed tightening, and while we are out, she says, I need a pedicure and some new tops), I did not return until almost three hours later. My hopes of the leaves somehow Disney-like traipsing into “hi ho hi ho” parade and forming themselves into that desired leaf pile momentarily tickled me.

No such luck.

I will give full credit to my Hubs who managed to corral the leaves and tarp them. At least most of them.

Help is always appreciated when tending to leaves

“Thanks for doing the leaves.”

“You’re welcome.”

“What are your plans for the rest of the leaves?”

“What other leaves?”

“The ones over there.”

“Oh, I didn’t see those.”

Okay, he’s wonderfully managed to organize and tarp the leaves. Am I going to point out that there is still a significant amount of leaves left to deal with?

I ask you, readers, what would you have done?

Looking Forward to Looking Backward


A backwards glance takes a back seat for now

Today is the last day for the 2019-2020 school year and I officially begin my summer break. Usually I stay in “teacher mode” and work on lesson plans and revise units while it’s all fresh in my mind. I do this until June 30th and then allow myself to take July off and slowly ease back into school mode around the middle of August.

That’s the plan, anyway. This year the usual has changed. I am ready to embrace summer break without any hesitation, and will not give school much thought until August rolls around.

This year beginning mid-March business as usual changed. We scrambled to create distance learning curriculum and adjusted and adjusted some more as we rode out the school year. Who would have thought two months could feel like a lifetime.

School officially ended May 29th for our school district. Graduation took place in the school parking lot with families in cars and grads socially distanced. There was a reduction in pomp due to our circumstances. The ceremony ended minutes prior to a spring rain storm. How fitting.

I spent Sunday posting my grades from home and Monday will be spent wrapping up my classroom for the summer. I usually celebrate the end of the school year with reflective euphoria. I dwell on victories and successes of teaching and tuck away the ritual of student farewells.

I haven’t seen the majority of my students since March 18th and briefly said good-bye to a handful of seniors who ventured into my classroom. Sans hugs, I wished them a masked farewell.

This has been a weird end to a school year that started out with such promise. I look forward to looking backward on the 2019-2020 school year. Right now I am numb, weary, and a bit heartsick at not only how the school ended but how our nation is troubled by the pandemic and violent protests.

I usually spend part of my summer break traveling and visiting friends and family. That won’t be happening. This saddens me greatly.

I am blessed to live in a small town, a tourist town. And yet, that brings its own set of concerns as the outside will permeate our little bubble dome of safe haven and possibly bring infection to our fair city.

With all the closures, hard times, and scary events clouding my daily life, I do have something to look forward to: the good news is the library is opening up a day after my birthday. Best present ever!

Any other teachers, parents, or students have reflections on the end of the school year?

What good news do you have that brings some sunshine to your cloudy days?

Why We Say: Spam—the case of canned mail


SPAM* in my day was not a Monty Python skit nor a designation in my email. Mom would fry it up and slab it between two pieces of mayoed toast. What do kids know about cuisine?

*SPAM is the official designation by Hormel.

8 billion cans can’t be wrong (image: Smithsonianmag.com)

The product SPAM is a meat product by Hormel and is a derivation of “spiced ham.” It became a popular food item around WWII, as its canned qualities meant it could be stored, shipped, and shopped easily. The US troops benefited from its convenience and it gave them something to joke about. There are odes about SPAM floating around.

On the other hand–

Spam is that annoying clutter that fills email boxes. It is electronic junk mail. It is not pretty and should not be glimpsed.

Unfortunately, one of my forwards was not appearing in my recognized mail box which meant I went searching. I took the plunge and went dumpster diving in my electronic trash. I found:

  • Keto ads
  • Loan enticements
  • Wine information
  • Online dating
  • Concealed weapon ads
  • Tinnitus info

And I found my lost forward. It looked a bit stunned and wasn’t worse for wear from the company it found itself in. I dusted it off and sent it correctly on its way.

As for SPAM…

Hormel originally objected being associated with the practice of unsolicited electronic mail. At one point it took legal action. Wired has an entertaining and informative article on the matter.

The real reason SPAM became spam was due to Monty Python. That explains it, doesn’t it? They created a skit where Vikings sitting in a tea shop would drown out any sort of decent conversation with shouts of “spam spam spam spam –wonderful spam”

Perhaps best seen to understand:

Monty Python “Spam”

Then apparently a blogger decided unsolicited electronic email was a sort of drowning out productive communication (like Vikings shouting in a tea shop), and the term “spam” arrived, which really hasn’t much to do with SPAM except Monty Python decided it was funny fodder for a skit.

There it is. From ham in a can to mail that gets a backhand to a one step above trash.

I’ll let you decide about the evolution of this product.

Movie Musings: Requiem for the American Dream


I’ve already watched this documentary twice this month: once for my own interest and once with my students. A third time might be in store to take even more notes. It’s a mesmerizing overview of the how and why the American dream is not the same one of our parents and grandparents.

This documentary is essential to share with students prior to their graduation.

Noam Chomsky, respected linguist, cultural critic, with a rep as an activist, calmly, succinctly, and convincingly provides viewers with insights about the tenets of the American dream. I now better understand why there is a disconnect to the expectation that a college degree is a main ingredient to achieving success by standards that no longer exist due to a system that is barely recognizable from the days of the fifties and sixties.

Listening to Chomsky is akin to spending time with a wise sage with spark and vinegar up his sleeve. It is a bit like if Grandpa Walton had graduated from MIT instead of the school of hard knocks.

The creative editing and dynamic musical score add greatly to the mood of intense enlightenment. I hope watching this documentary inspires my students to prove Mr. Chomsky wrong, even if he persuades us it all sounds so right.

Sage old dudes are a national treasure.

Shakespeare Knew Unrest


Peggy O’Brian, director of education, of the Folger, queries how former Folgerians are doing from time to time. Seeing the Folger is neighbors with many prominent Washington DC power sources, such as the Supreme Court, her question holds some resonance of consideration.

I paused and thought. How are we doing? The “we” for me being the school environment because school is a large part of my life and serves as a reflection of how the world out there is affecting the lives of present and future citizens: students. I will say this: there is unrest and concern.

Here is my partial response to Peggy’s question:

We are feeling the bite of unrest. Students are forming clubs that reflect their need to express their views. We have a club that celebrates the 50.5%, formed by young women (and young men). Another club is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, young men who want to explore what it means to be a male in today’s society. We also have Interact and Key Club, which reaches out with fundraisers to meet the needs of the community. The administration has a mentor class of student peers who lead discussion groups.

Class discussion topics for my AP Language class bring forth interests such as “fake news,” and how women are portrayed in the media. Students exchange ideas and debate views. We share. I remind them their voices can be heard. They march. They write letters and articles for the school paper. They are involved. I am fortunate to be part of their conscious desire to be the change they want to see in the world.

And in all this, I keep teaching Shakespeare. He saw injustice, corruption, love, hate, death, prejudice and he put pen to paper, and words became actions upon the stage. Students see that 400 years later we still have the same issues, even if they are expressed in a different manner at times. My students see that one man continues to have a large influence upon the world. Shakespeare truly is a man for all time.

Shakespeare is one way I illustrate how times of unrest are reflected through the arts. And it’s frightening to learn that funding for the arts is being threatened.

I’m hoping our voices will be heard up on the Capitol’s hill that the arts are important and the people want them to remain a vibrant voice.

We especially need our voices to be heard in times of unrest.

Dogs–the new cigarette?


When I was a kid, the family dog was in the backyard and cigarettes were found everywhere. Today, dogs are everywhere and smokers are banned to their backyard.

I’m not complaining. Just wondering how dogs have reached such a thumbs-up public approval.

Check out this New Yorker article in which the journalist trots a turkey, a snake, a pig, and an alpaca in public places.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/pets-allowed 

Now, before we get started. I need to state right up front. I like dogs. Our family dog taught me to walk (I grabbed on to him and he patiently led me along), and we were buds until he died at age of fourteen. I still miss him. Not that it’s a big deal, but I nearly died trying to protect our neighbor’s Cock-a-poo who had been attacked by dogs gone wild.  I have considered becoming a trainer for guide dogs once I finally retire from teaching. And just today I reunited two boys with their list Labrador. So–I do like dogs.

I just prefer dogs in the proper setting. Restaurants, hotels, the library, grocery stores, the farmer’s market, my local Home Depot, and the post office are not places I expect or desire to interact with dogs. I have no issue with true service dogs. They are trained and serve a needed purpose. The wolfhound blocking the sidewalk at the local farmer’s market (where it is posted “No Dogs in Park)–purpose?

Some communities are crazy for dogs. Oregon’s Hood River is such a place. San Francisco is another city gone to the dogs, and many of its citizens are wondering if they have gone too far in embracing doggy appreciation (3-1 said yes in a poll). It’s become so prevalent to see dogs when I go out to eat that I’m tempted to ask if there is non-dog section when going to a restaurant. True service dogs stay at their owner’s feet, they do not share their table, nor their lap. No fuss is made over them because they are on duty. They are well-behaved. They aren’t that noticeable.

Regular dogs and their owners–that’s a different matter.

Even though it’s posted at our local community park, where the local farmer’s market is held, that no dogs are allowed, that does not deter either the locals or the tourists from bringing their canine with them as they shop for garlic cloves and search for the perfect scone. I see the sign “Service Animals Only” posted on the door of most businesses, yet that request does not apparently apply to the lady with the Pekinese stuffed in her purse as she rolls out her grocery cart.

The value of a posted ordinance, rule, or request is only as good as it is enforced. The farmer’s market association says it’s the job of the city to enforce the ordinance. The police department says they will stop by the park if they don’t have other pressing duties. The store manager says they risk a lawsuit if they ask the person if their dog is a service animal. Clerks have developed a “we don’t ask” policy at the library and post office. The people I encounter in public places who do not have their dog on a leash, although it’s posted to do so, say “Oh, no worries. She’s friendly.” Maybe so, but I still don’t want that friendly nose snuffing my leg. There’s a set of teeth ever so close to that friendly nose that may decide otherwise. It’s happened. 

I’m wondering if society has replaced the cigarette, a selfish, noxious habit that can harm those in its presence with another risky habit. Whoa, C. Muse. Equating cigarettes to dogs is a bit harsh. Maybe so. There remains a deep-seated amazement that people seriously think I want to share my space with their four-legged habit. I am not the only one who is wondering about this new dog-permissive attitude.

David Lazarus of the LA Times decided to test the new doggy permissiveness. Even though there are health codes, he acknowledged, he took his dog Teddy with him one day, wondering why no one stopped him when he decided on taking his dog everywhere he went. Perplexed at being ignored by those around him he summed it up: “I have only one answer to that. It’s L.A., dude.”

I will expand on that answer: It’s America. Americans don’t like being told what to do. Americans like to celebrate their freedom. Americans like their dogs.

Has anyone else noticed the new dog permissiveness? Are dogs as prevalent as cigarettes once were in public places? Dog gone it, I just don’t understand why society wants to have such dog day afternoons. 

 

 

The Art of Nap


I believe in naps. One of my dream projects is to create a coffee table photo fact luxury edition of the history, cultural significance, and medical conclusion of The Nap.

Dagwood would be the centerfold feature. Clothed, of course. Nude napping is not discussed on this family friendly site.

I have long held the belief that napping is a necessity and should not be deemed as a guilty pleasure. 


However, naps get a bad rap. Just ask any toddler. The stigma starts at four when naps are viewed with derision instead of anticipation. Fast forward to high school and napping is once again embraced. I could devote an entire post to napping styles among my students.

Seriously, napping is important. It’s so important that The New York Times ran an article about the need for the twenty minute sleep.

Damien Léger, a French doctor who runs the sleep-research center, believes the following:

  • 20 minutes is rejuvenating, anything longer causes grogginess
  • every worker should be given a nap period in the afternoon–it should replace the coffee break
  • napping is healthy, both physically and mentally 
  • the best naps should be in a safe spot, should be noise and light free–they don’t have to be lying down, but a pillow is recommended 
  • there is no shame in admitting to needing a nap 

   In Europe, actually most non-USA countries, recognize the need to nap. Then again we Americans get a lot done while we are awake. Was it Thomas Jefferson who coined the phrase, “You won’t catch me napping.” I would have said Benjamin Franklin, but he strikes me as a napper. After all, he did spend a long time among the French.

So I say we get a petition going and get corporate to install quiet rooms for workers. Take out the coffee lounge and just lounge. 

“Get Down With Napping.” Hmm, I’ll keep working on a rallying motto.

POM: April 4


Nikki Giovanni is a poet who knows how to capture a moment, a feeling, an event. She is a poet of note. This poem, never no matter it’s about Tennessee, gets me itching for summer. Summer and its treats is summer regardless of the state. Summer is a state all its own.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Nikki Giovanni, 1943

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep

Bond vs Solo: challenge post


Eli over at Coach Daddy asked me to write a comparison of two well-known heroes: James Bond and Han Solo.

Hmm, is what I said at first and thought it would make for a good post. He said he would match my post. Okay, challenge on.

First of all, I have grown up watching James Bond. As a kid I remember waiting for the clean version on television because there wasn’t any way my parents would have taken me to the theatre to see Sean Connery in all his bomb and bombshell glory. For me, Sean Connery remains the definitive Bond: suave, swagger, skilled, gentleman, although a bit chauvinistic, but hey, it was the 60s. Two years ago I had more to say on the Bond Birthday post, when Bond turned 50. Check it out.

Switch over to my college years and we have Star Wars on the screen. That I did get to see on my own. And I did so several times. Stars Wars was amazing! My dad loved westerns, especially John Wayne, and I immediately recognized that Han Solo was a bit of John Wayne in space. He played the rogue hero, the one who knew everyone, had a bit of reputation, knew how to get in trouble and get out of it. And he gets the girl. It was no surprise that Harrison Ford became the BIG star after his gig as Han Solo.

But to compare them, Eli? Seriously? Bond to Solo? That’s apples and oranges. I think they are best left to stand on their own merits. Spy Wars and Star Wars are two different categories. Although it is interesting that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford became allies in that mash-up genre movie Cowboys and Aliens. Bond and Han made a pretty good team, come to think of it. I couldn’t see Connery slugging aliens, but he did play the Green Knight early in his career, and that’s pretty close to being an alien.

The real problem with this comparison is that there have been so many Bonds, and only one Han Solo. Each Bond played the role differently (again note past post). Han is Han: braggart, lovable rogue, a bit of a McGyver (Harrison even rocked a mullet in the 80s trilogy), a mercenary with a golden heart. Even with his mullet gone gray in the latest Star Wars movie, Harrison is still Han.

So–I’m not seeing much to compare. An apple is an apple next to an orange. I like both, but when it came to choosing which movie to watch in the theatre, I instinctively plunked my ticket down for Bond. Why? Craig has honed his Bond down to perfection, at least Skyfall impressed me. I’m not all that eager to see an aged Han Solo. Dude, who wants to see a hero age?
update: I did see the new Star Wars and was not impressed. I remain a purist. And it’s funny that Daniel Craig managed to get a cameo role. 

Okay, Eli. Your turn. Are Bond and Hans comparable, or are they stand alones?

Bond in space? image: 8bitnerds.com

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