Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cats and Secret Service Culture

Cats and Secret Service Culture

By Meg Curtis

Does your cat mind his own business?  My cat Chopin decided from the beginning that my business means HIS business—and he means business.  Forgive me for using the same word four times in two lines, but this tuxedo cat could teach the Office of Homeland Security their entire business in just a night or two.

That’s exactly how long it takes him to secure my dwelling.  Since he took over, not so much as a gnat walks into this place without Chopin’s prompt notification.  He found one securing a foothold on the wall, and called my attention to this invisible invader immediately.  He signals by waving his white-tipped tail as he simultaneously digs into the molding.

Please notice the advantage that Chopin brings to the practice of his profession.  He doesn’t demand prostitutes.  He accepts the rule they can’t hang out here.  He doesn’t drink alcohol.  He lives onsite, and NEVER charges for airline passage.  He doesn’t fly—unless leaping from  counter to refrigerator counts.  He accepts Purina Fancy Feast as pay, and never complains. 

On the other hand, his coverage of security here shows a remarkable resemblance to the weaknesses of his human counterparts in the US Secret Service.  He’s not secret about his activities.  In fact, you can find him any time you want—getting into trouble.  He hangs out with my dog, and snatches any items not cemented to the counter as a treat for his buddy.

Chopin’s criminal history began with a light bulb.  I awoke to the sound of squeaking teeth on glass.  EEk!  That sound shivered my nervous system!  I turned to look for the source: The dog lay next to me working on his claim to a bright idea.  The more he gnawed, the more I wondered.  He couldn’t have climbed the shelves.  Some scavenger gave that dog a light bulb!

Chopin continues to scavenge through the trash.  He’s not out for garbage—just for plastic that crinkles when he carries it around like an extraordinary mouse, by the tail, of course. He could care less what I place in the trash unless it provides a toy he knows he shouldn’t request.  Then, he thinks economy:  Wouldn’t his tribe serve best where they ask for least?    

Should we call this behavior “Secret Service Culture”?  The two of them work hand-in-glove.  First, the cat identified the stopper in the garbage disposal as a trophy which the dog could chew without killing himself.  Second, the cat stole that stopper every stupid time I turned my back.  Third, the dog wouldn’t return this new benefit of his profession without a fight.

I restrained the dog, applying his choke collar.  I grabbed that stopper and secured it in a drawer which the cat can’t open.  There, I have also secured the dog’s talking ball toy, which won’t shut up until it’s still as a mouse which the cat hasn’t discovered—yet. Taken together, these two toys supply more than enough provocations for incidents which might draw neighbors’ attention.

Chopin’s latest trick involves chocolate—another South American no-no for creatures treated like pets.  He and the dog immediately dive into the groceries, which they check for poison the minute I drag the bags inside the door.  The cat waits until I place the chocolate milk containers on the counter.  Then he attempts to remove the caps—until I secure the contraband in the refrigerator, the Forbidden Land.

So, I know from experience that Secret Service Agents need supervision.  They’re dynamite on the enemy—when the enemy isn’t THEM.  All their skills mean that, at any moment, they can turn into double agents.  They can blackmail me for treats.  If I don’t supply them, you don’t have to worry about prostitutes.  Cats and dogs themselves will raise the roof!

Believe me, Janet Napolitano receives my sympathy in grappling with scandals involving US Security agents in the Homeland or God-knows-elsewhere.  Nevertheless, she doesn’t need to pay two-legged rascals when four-legged security experts go begging at Rescue Missions.  The latter work nearly for free, and know how to be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lil Red Riding Hood: Update

By Meg Curtis, PhD

The woman stared out of the advertisement at me:  I recognized her immediately.  Piercing eyes and a wicked smile dared me to write what I know about grandmothers and wolves.  The famous folktale drags Lil Red Riding to Grandma’s house relentlessly, where the child expects to find somebody waiting for baked goods—ill and helpless.

Before this story begins, please note that the current Queen of the United Kingdom—Elizabeth II—could brag if she wants about grandmother-hood. I haven’t seen it in the press, if she does.  What achievement does grandmother-hood represent, aside from adding her genes to a pool?  Her own mother—the Queen Mother—never waited for baked goods, so far as I can recall.

So we come to Lil Red Riding Hood skipping along through the woods. First, she’s wearing red to alert every hunter within shot-range that this tourist must not be confused with wildlife.  That’s still the practice, isn’t it, for tourists in wildlife preserves during hunting season?  Only this little girl takes no chances with camouflage—she’s covered from head to knee in the color of blood.

Now, let’s consider the back story villain:  Lil Red Riding Hood’s mother.  Why didn’t she go herself to visit her own mother?  Visits to relatives may be notoriously painful, but that’s no excuse for sending a granddaughter on a mother’s mission.  If this particular grandmother had been ill abed, that woman would have flown there, if need be—assuming Grandma loved her.

Aha!  We now discover the principle of the Double—the shape-shifting at work in both early and sophisticated narratives.  The German Doppelganger, an exact double of a person with usually sinister motives, waits in that bed for that little girl, who does not know what her mother knows.  Grandma may or may not be sick, but she also may be as wicked an enemy as Elizabeth I.

These two queens—Elizabeth I and II—serve as the perfect illustration of doubles.  Both exist over time, but the first proved to be the most powerful monarch in English history; the second preserves the monarchy by never showing her teeth.  Monarchs can be grandmothers, too—but, first and always, they function as symbols of national unity.  Bow or return home.

Skipping along with her basket of goodies, the child covered in blood has already met her future.  She expects to find a pleasant old woman in that bed, lovely with the grace of age.  Instead, Lil Red Riding Hood encounters the truth:  Ancestors rarely go gently into that good night, as Dylan Thomas reminds us in “Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night.”

In fact, Thomas prays that they don’t. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” he begs his father in his famous poem.  Children prancing around in the bewilderment of woods, though, do not expect to come smack up against the realities of death and age.  On the contrary, if they do a good deed, they expect reward—a cookie, maybe?—and gratitude—a smile, at the very least.

The famous folktale of Little Red Riding Hood survives because it offers a double perspective, as well as a doppelganger.  Prance down that wood-path with an immature mentality—and you’ll get the surprise of your life when you reach your destination.  On her deathbed and grasping for life, Grandma may be raging, all teeth and eyes.  The wolf has nothing on her.

Walk grimly down that same path with the knowledge of the adult.  Suddenly, Grandma must surrender to the hunter in green, the color always worn by those who remain unseen in woodlands.  He knows wolves, and he knows grandmothers.  Both can be subject to change in a flash from benign to malignant.  Threaten the succession of child to adult, and he appears.

A child like Little Red Riding Hood cannot proceed successfully through the bewilderment of maturity by believing that transformation does not hit us all.  The wolf’s ferocity signals she must change her expectations NOW.  Thus love takes the strangest forms when it wishes to warn us:  Grow up or grow down.  Pack that cape and pay the hunter.  He won’t lie about what you will discover.

For more on Little Red Riding Hood, archetypes, and the doppelganger, please see http://www. 

For sixteen different versions of the tale, please see media/english/ fairytales/lrrh/lrrhhome.htm

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Charlie Sheen Does Colombia?

Charlie Sheen Does Colombia?

By Meg Curtis

Was Charlie Sheen responsible for the Secret Service’s debacle in Colombia?  This question arises because this affair has Charlie Harper’s fingerprints all over it.  Two and a Half Men seems to have turned into Twenty-Three and a Half Goofballs—but that’s only counting through Sunday, April 22. 

During the final episodes of THM’s repetitive plotline, Ladies of the Evening, Afternoon, and Whenever paraded in and out of Harper’s domicile.  Even his nephew became numb to the double entendre and sleazage.  (a new word which blends sleaze and cleavage, as only Sheen/Harper can)

The agent who set off alarm bells in the Hotel Caribe followed Sheen’s favorite routine to the letter.  He advised everyone on everything—and then got into a go-round with the spitting image of his mom.  When will America admit that Charlie Sheen needs a better agent and a better act?  Even psychotics like Rose have their obsessive limits.

It is unfortunate but not beyond understanding how two debacles could occur like anniversaries. On April 3, 2011, Reuter’s David Rooney reported “Charlie Sheen bombs in Detroit debacle.” Rooney quips: “Call it tiger blood or Adonis DNA if you will. Just don't call it entertainment.”

Just one year and eleven days later, this headline appeared in globalpost on April 14, 2012: “Bombs, Secret Service mar Obama's arrival in Cartagena for Americas summit.” America now needs to recognize that, so long as the US Secret Service imitates Charlie Sheen, they can expect similar reviews and fans’ big-time BOOS.

For Reuter’s full rehash of Sheen’s failure, please see  http://www.reuters.comarticle/ 2011/04/03/us-charliesheen-idUSTRE72U7GJ20110403

Globalpost’s full report on Colombia is available here: regions/americas/colombia/120414/colombia-cartagena-bombs-barack-obama-americas-summit

Sarah Palin and Peter Sellers: Some Secret Agent!

Sarah Palin and Peter Sellers:

Some Secret Agent!

By Meg Curtis

042212 Where is Peter Sellers when you need him?  Can’t you just see him playing the role of a not-so-secret agent who posts his ogling routine on Facebook? Does it get any funnier than this? 

Sarah Palin didn’t think so, but she was the ogle-ee, not the ogle-er. 

Showing that leadership training which so many men doubted, on Fox News she simply said to that goofball:  "Well, check this out, buddy -- you're fired!"

Comedy writers attempting to spoof her response to a goofball secret agent have their work cut out for them. 

To find comparable material, they will need to return to the Pink Panther movies. There, pink didn’t stand for pretty, and it didn’t mean ditzy dame.  It immediately promised movie lovers more of their favorite Ditzy Dude, Inspector Clouseau. 

Ditzy Dude—Isn’t that the only reason a secret agent would post his eyeballing claims to fame on Facebook?

Ditzy Dude—Isn’t that the only reason a secret agent would also add his very own incomparable, original commentary on Facebook?  “I was really checking her out, if you know what i (sic) mean?"  [the agent]  wrote of his assignment guarding Palin, after a friend commented on the picture posted in January 2009.

How have we waited this long for another Pink Panther movie?  But this time, let’s get it out of Colombia, and out of the presidential campaign.  Let’s get it into the theaters where it belongs. 

With this new material and inspiration, the new one to come will surely top them all!   

Sarah Palin can play herself—if somebody can convince her this role is worthwhile.  She’s got the glamour, dialogue, and demeanor to put those goofballs in their place, just as Capucine did in the first series. 

For a list of the top ten Pink Panther movies, check here od/movies/tp/pink_panther_mo.htm.  Steve Martin starred in the tenth and eleventh Pink Panther movies in 2006 and 2009.

But you can vote here for another choice.  How about John Lithgow? 

Trending: The Dangers of Digital Journalism

Trending:  The Dangers of Digital Journalism

By Meg Curtis

042212 Patrick B. Pexton flashes a warning red light on digital journalism in “The Post Fails a Young Blogger.” Indicting his own publisher, the Washington Post, he reveals a world where journalists must function like computers, or hit the junk pile.
Bloggers appear to be in the forefront of this trend.  Pexton describes a young blogger’s work load as typically involving the production of almost six posts each day, with posts reaching a length, perhaps, of five hundred words.

According to Pexton, the young blogger’s challenge was not just length.  Plagiarism waited like a shark, ready to pick off the youngest and least experienced writers, who created aggregate articles for blogPost, the Washington Post’s own foray into covering news by blogging.    

Thus, without belaboring this second trend, Pexton reveals not only that traditional papers are under stress to meet competition from the Web, but, in fact, they already no longer exist.  Blogging has already transformed the way the Washington Post covers the news. 

Pexton’s dramatic quotations from Elizabeth Flock supply a much-needed reality check for all working journalists in the digital era.  He notes: ”She said it was only a matter of time before she made a third one [mistake]; the pressures were just too great.”

With this admission, this columnist suggests that journalism, as we know it, has already reached a dead end.  What should be a dream job turned into a nightmare. 

Aggregate sites like the Drudge Report and Slate Magazine have grown even while The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have struggled to survive.  But at what cost are the aggregates driving the traditional hard press out of business?

Pexton does not lay this contradiction at the door of technology, but this writer will.  It may be marvelous to gape at internet resources now; nevertheless, if the result is too many work products for anyone to create or enjoy, what have we done?

Without blinking an eye, the industry is killing off its up-and-comers.  It is confusing people with machines and giving machines the leadership role which belongs to humans.  When machines can read what machines write, the loop will close.

Whether humans currently stand inside or outside that mechanized communications circle may baffle even those supposedly in-the-know.  If the literacy rate keeps falling, will anyone play the blame game and keep score?  Machines: 1  Humanity:  0    

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trending: Women Riding to the Rescue

Trending:  Women Riding to the Rescue

By Meg Curtis

042112.  Within the past two weeks, two women have stepped into the American limelight, challenging the assumption that the rodeo stars men, and women wait quietly for trouble to begin.  In these misadventures, men have gotten themselves into trouble, it seems, and women had to step into the roles of the cavalry act.  Rodeos need the best Rough Riders they can get.      

First comes Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to sort out conflicts in the Trayvon Martin case, and send it to a grand jury, or decide charges. 

Next comes Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid, based in Miami, who yanked Secret Service agents out of Colombia, after a fight with a prostitute foolishly went street-side. 

Both women may remind readers of their famous forerunners, who pulled pans out of the fire when things got too hot for the men to handle previously. Then, too, the cowboys had to call upon the kitchen sex to rescue them.  These legendary females include Annie Oakley, that All American Girl, and Joan of Arc.  Sometimes male historians have called the latter “crazy,”  but not when they needed her unique brand of leadership skills.    

The back-story of the Trayvon Martin case appears here: 251911/19/Prosecutor-in-Trayvon-Martin-case-wins-re-eleection .  Special celebrations are now scheduled for the Special Prosecutor who, on April 20, won re-election. 

The details of the Colombia dustup appear here; news/s_791434.html .  Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid also enjoys the reputation of a “rising star.” 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Death by Swan

Death by Swan

By Meg Sonata

A wing span eight feet wide?  Is this the creature that courted the Leda in Ovid’s rendition of “Leda and the Swan”?  The story in the Los Angeles Times never refers to the classical myth of the great swan who was Zeus in disguise, but the proportions of the bird stun the reader.  Wings twice as wide as the bird’s height!  For all of its four feet from foot to head, it only weighs 30 pounds, on average, according to that article.   

The title announces the inevitable outcome when man takes on swan:  “’Killer’ swan attacks Illinois caretaker until he drowns.” 

Who should wonder that this animal can kill if it chooses?  Those magnificent wings transform into shields, clouds, and waves at the drop or shift of a feather.  They harbor cygnets, plow the deep, and then shift into daggers aimed in any direction.  No wonder, too, that the most famous ballet in dance history consists of a tribute to this awesome beast.  Comparing the statistics, it becomes clear:  This creature is almost all wings. 

It was this reader’s distinct privilege to grow up in the company of these birds.  On the tiny lake at the center of Cassadaga, New York, these mythical animals turn up the minute the snow releases them from their winter residence.  The impression created by their return is that they have come from the snow—and will return to it when winter overwhelms the village.  They are the snow, in all its killer capacity—and beauty, too.

The village next door, Lily Dale, New York, even reenacts the grandest ballet for residents every time they walk down Dale Drive.  At this next settlement, the swans swimming on a second lake are black, black as the most perfect top soil—and the perfect foil to the white of winter.  Think of obsidian in one location, and pearls in the next.  Then, imagine both being available to the traveler on foot who can span the distance without even overworking the imagination.

Then think of the poor human who got into a conflict with this bird in the LA Times report.  What chance did he have, fighting for his life?  Whole boats at amusement parks take the form of this creature.  On carousels, you may mount one and ride, if you wish.  The better part of wisdom would be:  Don’t even try.  They belong to the realm of Art, where artists compete to render them in oil, marble, and everything but feathers, because, who really understands feathers?

We can crush feathers, preen feathers, and sock them together in a bed.  Not once has humankind created a bird out of these elements which could span eight feet and kill a man, if it took it into its head or neck to do so.  The necks of such birds are used in combat between males, of course, and for attacking, if they choose.  But combine that lethal garden hose with shields of wings and a rampant beak—what can a man do but go under?

And let him go under the waves.  What will he do there against paddling feet that can stand, grasp, or mount an assault upon the air?  The white flash we see as these creatures mount the air should serve as a warning, which the classical authors of mythology got right:  We charge into their territory—and they are infamously territorial—at our peril.  The lake belongs to them, the winter and summer, too.  What remains for us to do but shiver in their reflections? 

For great works of art on this theme, as wells as a historical overview of swans rampant, see

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bill Maher and Body Parts

By Meg Curtis, PhD in English

Since Bill Maher’s vocabulary specializes in four letter words, here’s one to fit his fix:  JERK.  He also applied a three letter word to a portion of Ann Romney’s body which she slung into a saddle while struggling with MS and cancer.  And here’s another four letter word which identifies the body part of Bill Maher which he needs to remove from his oversize mouth right under his oversize nose:  FOOT.

Once he does that, maybe he can explain exactly how he graduated from Cornell University.  First, may we assume that Freshman English professors at that august institution still teach levels of diction?  As in, when he is addressing the next First Lady of the United States, it is unseemly, Bill, to refer to parts of the anatomy which he has never encountered, since she is too polite to put her foot you-know-where.

Second, he really should stop referring to the former governor of Alaska with despicable terms, too.  He does know what “despicable” means, doesn’t he—even if it contains TEN letters?  OMG!  This rant—another four letter word!—is turning into a vocabulary lesson for poor Bill, who could benefit from extending his diction to five letters, as in TWERP.  Who is he to attack Palin when Bill hasn’t even been elected governor of late night TV?

Well, maybe he has to do something to make viewers forget he probably struggled with Geography, as well as Freshman English, at good ole CU.  A four letter word vocabulary doesn’t allow a student to learn much about Alaska, which, for Bill’s benefit, this writer must note is larger than Texas, and filled to its gills with oil and gas reserves.  Now, who would trust Bill Maher to oversee such resources, when he can’t even get his diction together for a little chit-chat about housewives?

Furthermore, another lesson he avoided in Freshman English was good ole rhetorical fallacies.  These occur in chapter two of a standard reader in that class.  One of the most famous happens to be excessive generalizations, as in what does Bill know about housewives anyway?  He lumps them all together because he’s never been around a single one of them when they cleaned the toilets, where he left his diction. 

Obviously, he did master the Red Herring, as in, this is what a student talks about when he’s failing the class, first, because he didn’t do his homework on Alaska, and, second, because he never understood that this is an error—he’s not supposed to model rhetorical mistakes for the guys in his fraternity who expect to find every word he says funny.  Bill, the words that any self-respecting writer cannot spell out on this website are NOT funny.  Bill needs to take notes so he won’t forget.

Third, and most critical, Bill, the ad hominem attack is out of line, as in the student fails Freshman English every single time he uses this device.  It means that the speaker doesn’t know the issues from a hole in the ground, so he attacks his opponent instead—by calling her names.  The names he needs to remember are these:  Ann Romney, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann.  These women possess outstanding vocabularies because they passed English while some Bill or another was playing puppet for some king of his sleazy fraternity.  

Need a Test for Teachers?

By Meg Curtis, PhD

The first time my son came home with illiterate comments on his school papers, I gasped.  How was he supposed to learn correct lessons if his school work revealed his instructor’s ignorance? 

Little pitchers may, infamously, have big ears, but little eyes absorb—and copy—every image they see, too.  In fact, they magnify those images because they come with grades for THEM.

Thus, the first test for teachers appears right in the margins on every student’s papers.  Take that dictionary down, and check the instructor’s spelling.  Fact-check that work like an editor.

No need for argument exists when the proof comes right into parents’ hands. Create a portfolio of the student’s work, which will be valuable for all concerned.

Listen when teachers speak at meetings and conferences, too.  Are they speaking nonsense?  Ask permission to record presentations and lessons when parents are allowed to visit classes. 

As the costs of education increase, parents can accept responsibility for ensuring their hard-earned dollars accomplish school districts’ stated objectives.  No lesson is more important this this:  Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Check those textbooks, too, pulling out as many dictionaries and encyclopedias as needed.  Texts with political agendas CANNOT replace those famous THREE R’s:  Responsibility, Responsibility, Responsibility.

Parents who do not stop illiterate teachers in their tracks must accept the bill for the failures to come.  Employers cannot afford to accept apologies, either.  It’s NOW OR NEVER for them.

College instructors CANNOT redo twelve years of mistakes.  They CANNOT even begin to teach students who come to them without an adequate foundation in Math, Reading, and Writing.

If responses to questions about inadequate teacher preparation consist of indignation and excuses, yank that kid out of that school ASAP.  It is NOT the parent’s responsibility to keep teachers happy.

So, overseeing homework means much, much more than helping Junior or Sis with projects.  In fact, if a majority of a student’s assignments consist of pictures and collections, that class is already off the Math, Reading, and Writing track.

This task of oversight need not be overwhelming.  Just set aside time on weekends, right along with time for sports and entertainment.  Families thrive when they learn together, and the time for learning is ALWAYS NOW.

In my son’s case, the next step was interviewing the principal at another school.  She couldn’t believe her eyes when he pulled out his paperback copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.  

He looked sheepish, since he carried it in his jeans’ pocket, where it had suffered considerable damage.  She turned to me with a steely glare.  This one wasn’t going to get away, it said. 

“Are you looking for a school or shopping?” she asked me.

“Can you keep him safe and give him honest grades?” I asked her.

Since I declared that shopping was not on my schedule that day, she agreed that a school cannot function otherwise.  That principal and my son set off down that hall fast, afraid that Mom might change her mind.

We kept our bargain.  Never did I have to consult with her about illiterate comments on papers.  Never did I see projects in place of papers and math problems and as many books as my son could carry. 

Neither one of us expected to be popular in this mortal life.  She was the disciplinarian at her school.  My son was mad for a considerable period of time about switching schools.

What can I say?  Better well-read than dead.  She kept him physically, intellectually, and spiritually alive.  Both of us considered our duties a sacred calling. 

The only time she smiled at me occurred when I purchased a bee-hive candle for her.  THAT was my son’s going-away present when he left for high school.  Some make it, and some do not.  I assume she planned, as usual, to maintain the light. 

So we succeeded at more than we bargained for.  At his high school, one of his teachers used my son to correct other students’ papers.  He became a lawyer.  Perhaps, teaching never seemed to him an honest game.    

Should Dogs Wear Clothes?

By Meg Curtis

The first time I saw a dog in pajamas, I stood dumbfounded.  Why would anyone torture a canine that way?  The dog hated those flannel sleeves and legs.  He even hid under the bed!

Worse yet, nobody had asked him his preference in fabric patterns.  A little boy doesn’t belong in pastel pink with ribbons!  What’s the matter with dog owners in this country, anyway?

Nevertheless, the burgeoning American canine accoutrement industry doesn’t care what I think, and numerous dog owners don’t, either.  Aisles upon aisles of dog clothing loom before us.

Parties for dressing up pugs—with those monkey faces—are just the beginning of a nation gone mad, I concluded.  MY pug didn’t need gray flannels and a navy blazer to prove he was a man!

Then, of course, I purchased a cockalier, who has ideas of his own.  This dog cannot wait to don the latest apparel for his clan—so I bought him a tartan shirt, and he won’t take it off!

His wardrobe now includes the following:

A Harris tweed overcoat for winter (so ice won’t clog his fur)

A cable knit sweater (because he likes those Celtic designs)

A hooded parka vest (which he prefers to wear sans hood)

A leopard print sweat shirt (for those chilly spring and fall days)

A full cat-suit of pajamas (He HATES two-piece pajamas!  He also LOVES cats!)

And that dynamite tartan all-purpose tartan shirt (He’s SO proud of that masculine collar!)

The first time I took him outside in that shirt, he barked as usual at a delivery man.  The poor worker had to ask:  “Will he bite?” 

To which I answered:  “No, he’s just so happy in his new shirt!”

The man didn’t even blink.  He just slobbered:  “Awww!  Isn’t he ADORABLE?”   

So much for American culture.  It’ll get you in the end.  A nation of dog-nuts, that’s what we are.  And our dogs think they’re human, of course.  Mine prefers brown sugar Pop-Tarts to dog treats.  He eats raw carrots, too, because he’s heard they’re good for him.

I can’t even bring myself to apologize for his attitudes.  Every time he barks, I know he’s on the job.  He’s never heard of unemployment—and wouldn’t believe in it, if he had.

He lies at the door—in his shirt, of course—with his nose to the crack of air.  He’s tracking the scents coming from down the street and across town.  He doesn’t trust anybody except me.

He’s the best security system in the world.  If I’d been born in another country, I wouldn’t know this, but I do because I am a 100% patriotic American dog nut, just like the rest of my fellow citizens, who keep dog clothiers in business. 

My dog’s relatives have served in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even down in local swamps where children sometimes escape to drive their human parents crazy.  He and his associates converse under their breath all night while we sleep soundly.

He doesn’t have a retirement plan.  He has no social security whatsoever.  So, if he wants to eat Pop-Tarts while wearing his favorite shirt in my living room, I will sit right beside him, and yip, “Your name is Loyalty—when it’s not Babe Ruth!”

Politicians come and go.  Babe Ruth STAYS.  He even shakes on command.--and not just because he’s determined to get dirt out of his wardrobe.  He takes this woman seriously.  He takes every cry and moan he hears seriously—even from way over town.

So, I understand now.  He wears clothes because he’s joined the human species.  He EARNS his Pop-Tarts, too.  He NEVER takes down-time unless I’m down, too.  The rest of the time, he makes me laugh because, as a ball-player, he won’t quit anymore than Babe Ruth.

Richard Scarry Still Takes The Cake!

By Meg Curtis

Parents seeking ways to divorce their kids from that computer need look no farther.  Just plug them into Richard Scarry’s books.  Begin with I Am A Bunny at age one or two, and that child will learn to read along with the best friends in the world. 

His classic works continue the artist’s rendering of human character through animals, made famous by Aesop.  Scarry’s imagination extends this menagerie to worms and pie-rats.  His drawings not only illustrate his stories, but also illustrate how to draw, focusing on lines. 

These books also tempt that child into the outside world, where s/he must learn vocabulary.  In addition, they convey the sense of community.  Truck drivers and fire personnel whiz down the streets of his residence, which always carries the address Busy Town.

What better way to keep that child busy, too—instead of screaming outside or punching noise-makers which drive the neighbors bonkers?  His classic treatments of equipment, vehicles, and words lend themselves easily to related activities—drawing, exploring—walking and walking.

If that child doesn’t make it outside, s/he won’t know it exists.  Scarry brings the outside inside, and never lets his audience forget interaction.  Characters function in ensembles here, illustrating, too, the very nature of friends and family.

I Am A Bunny demonstrates how this interaction begins before a child can even make sentences.  Here is Amazon’s brief synopsis:

I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.

In the spring, Nicholas likes to sniff the flowers, and in the summer, watch the frogs in the pond. In the fall, he watches the animals getting ready for winter, and in winter, watches the snow falling from the sky. This beautifully illustrated, gentle story is one of Golden’s most beloved titles.”

Community begins with a sense of humanity’s interaction with Nature.  Every flower, frog, animal, and snowflake lives in the same world children do.  Cherish books which teach this lesson first.  They supply the foundation which yields compassionate and responsible citizens. 

But cherish these books, too, because they don’t preach or indoctrinate.  They just invite a child into the wonder of a world too curious and fantastic to ignore or misunderstand.  Humor arises naturally here, too—the result of the author’s sly eye when he knows children like his very own.