Monday, December 20, 2010

Yeats' Angst

W. B. Yeats is my favorite poet. His poetry touches the mystical and dreamworlds that I sense as well, and here, in today's The Writer's Almanac, is the explanation for his inner pain that gave birth to some of his best work. I feel this, knowing this about him. Find someone you love desperately, and she is there, just out of reach. The emptiness borne of her withdraw in this case gave birth to these famous, poignant, unforgettable lines. Here's the article:

It's the birthday of the woman who inspired this verse by W.B. Yeats: "Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, / Enwrought with golden and silver light, / The blue and the dim and the dark cloths / Of night and light and the half light, / I would spread the cloths under your feet: / But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

That's Maud Gonne whom W.B. Yeats (books by this author) was addressing; she was born in Surrey, England, on this day in 1865, just six months after Yeats was born in Dublin. They first met when they were each 25 years old. Yeats later referred to the day he met her as "when the troubling of my life began."

She was an Irish revolutionary, independent-minded, graceful, and reared in affluence. She was tall, red-headed, and exquisitely beautiful. In his Memoirs, Yeats wrote: "I had never thought to see in a living woman such great beauty. It belonged to famous pictures, to poetry, to some legendary past. A complexion like the blossom of apples, and yet face and body had the beauty of lineaments which Blake calls the highest beauty because it changes least from youth to age, and a stature so great that she seemed of a divine race." She wore long black dresses and she kept singing birds as pets.

He asked her to marry him over and over again. She refused, over and over again. She once told him: "You would not be happy with me. ... You make beautifully poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry."

In a letter to him in 1911, she wrote, "Our children were your poems of which I was the father sowing the unrest & storm which made them possible & you the mother who brought them forth in suffering & in the highest beauty."

Yeats wrote about her:
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gift from my student


Yesterday I picked up my 11 year old student, Allen C., and drove him to the Community Learning Center where we do our tutoring. I teach him reading and grammar. He is around the 3rd or 4th grade level, but very willing. He lives in a small apartment house with his 8 member family.

I brought him a little box of magic tricks and a cool 300 piece jigsaw picture puzzle. He likes those.

When he got in the car he handed me a little flashlight, about 2 inches long, with a keychain. You push a button and a bright little light comes out. He had three of these little plastic alien creatures also. He said he bought them at school that day. He was really proud of the little aliens. He said he bought the light for me. I know he didn't have any money. I didn't expect anything from him, and he was so proud to hand it to me, noting specifically it said "Dad." I didn't and still don't know what to think about that, but maybe I have become a father figure for him.

We had out tutoring lesson and then I showed him how to do some of the magic tricks. When he started to get out of the car, he stood by the door and then handed me the little plastic alien guy and said, "here you go.." I tell you I could not have been prouder of a new car than having this kid, with no money, give me one of his prize possessions. Wow!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

on punctuation


I love words, how words are arranged and lay on the page for my tasting and frolic among them. I am reading "Rose" by Martin Cruz Smith, who is a wordsmith as good as Tolkein or Peter S Beagle, and that is going some. Those little marks between the words are fun too. Read "Eats, shoots and Leaves," or put another way, Eats shoots, and leaves."

Here's a fun little poem I stole from The Writer's Digest, and am sharing with you.

On Punctuation

by Elizabeth Austen

not for me the dogma of the period
preaching order and a sure conclusion
and no not for me the prissy
formality or tight-lipped fence
of the colon and as for the semi-
colon call it what it is
a period slumming
with the commas
a poser at the bar
feigning liberation with one hand
tightening the leash with the other
oh give me the headlong run-on
fragment dangling its feet
over the edge give me the sly
comma with its come-hither
wave teasing all the characters
on either side give me ellipses
not just a gang of periods
a trail of possibilities
or give me the sweet interrupting dash
the running leaping joining dash all the voices
gleeing out over one another
oh if I must
punctuate
give me the YIPPEE
of the exclamation point
give me give me the curling
cupping curve mounting the period
with voluptuous uncertainty

"On Punctuation" by Elizabeth Austen, from The Girl Who Goes Alone. © Floating Bridge Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gumbo recipe


Chicken, Smoked Sausage and Okra Gumbo
Ingredients:
One large fryer
Three Yellow Onions
One bunch of green onions
One bell pepper
Three ribs of celery
Three cloves of garlic
½ teaspoons of parsley flakes
Two lbs of smoked sausage
Two lbs of fresh okra (or three bags of frozen okra) (cut up preferably)
To taste:
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Seasoned salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder

· Cut up the fryer and take the skin off. Wash the chicken and pat until only damp. Liberally put on the cayenne and black pepper with the seasoned salt, garlic and onion powder. Rub it in good.
· Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet and brown the chicken on all sides. Set the chicken aside.
· Using the same skillet or pot where you browned the chicken, make a roux. (pronounced “Roo, as in too.” (ask anybody from South Louisiana how to cook something and they will say “First you make a roux.”)
Heat half cup of oil with half cup of flour (preferably in a cast iron skillet) until it is deep golden brown. You will have to stir it steadily to keep it from caking up or burning.
· Cut up your vegetables and sautee’ them in the roux (may have to add a bit of oil) until they are softened. (They say melt the onions.) for two or three minutes. I usually take longer until they are no longer crisp.
· Add the sausage to the roux and veggies and heat for another five minutes or so. (In my last batch I only had a pound of sausage, but I could have used some more.)
· Add a can of tomatoes.
· I have a huge cast iron pot. I transfer the roux, veggies and sausage to the pot. (Try not to use an aluminum pot unless absolutely necessary.)
· Add 3 quarts of water, and then add the chicken.
· Bring to a boil and then set to simmer.
· Put some oil in a skillet and dump the okra in, and cook it until all the slime is gone. Try to cook until it is almost dry if you can without burning. You need to constantly turn it to get most of the liquid out. Some people object to the slimy effect if you put it in the gumbo without cooking it like this first.
· Dump the okra in the pot.
· Add seasonings of garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and about 1 ½ teaspoons of parsley flakes. I add a bay leaf or two.
· Simmer for a couple of hours. Some cook for less time. I like to cook it down a bit until it is soupy and thickened a bit and the chicken and sausage is well done. The chicken will usually shred and be scattered throughout. I sometimes take the chicken out half way through and remove the bones. This will give a good distribution of chicken.
· Taste as you go, keep an eye on the gumbo as it cooks and see if it needs salt or whatever. I like it hot and add Cajun seasoning like Tony’s or some other that gives a little heat and flavor.
· Serve over rice. I usually top it off with a bit of Tabasco or hot sauce to make damn sure it is hot enough for me.
· Gumbo can be frozen, and it tastes even better after kind of marrying up with itself for a time in the fridge.

For ambrosia: Cut up oranges, pineapple, granny smith apples, grapefruit, banana, walnuts, sliced almonds and pecans, tiny marshmallows, cherries, blueberries, and any fruit I can think of. It is a kind of fruit gumbo. Then mix in a bit of sour cream and a lots of sweetened shredded coconut. Mix it all up and it is good to go. Lasts a while in the fridge. Great for a snack. Leave out the marshmallows and put unsweetened coconut if you are feeling virtuous.

On holidays

It’s Friday after Thanksgiving
The world has pressed the pause button
Things are in neutral, except for frenzied shopping in the malls
A palpable calmness is in the air
Life takes time to breathe

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It is easy to begin, again.


It’s easy to begin, again.

There’s no yesterday

Nothing remains.

Except the insubstantial stuff

of memory

that I allow to claim part of my day.

Which is just dumb.

So I begin again every moment

to live, again, and again,

A new chance every moment.

Now, and forever.

Amen

Friday, October 8, 2010

Teaching Angelo



I have learned the reason that teachers teach.

For the past month or so I have been tutoring at the Clearwater Learning Center. One of my students is Angelo, a bright, cute seven year old Mexican boy. His mama is a single parent, can barely speak English, and he is raised in a home where only Spanish is spoken. She immigrated a few years ago, bought a tiny trailer in a trailer park with money she made cleaning houses and restaurants and has a powerful intention that her children (she has a three year old daughter) get an education and learn English. She is a proud American.

This was complicated by the fact that the school insisted on putting him on Ritalin because he was dispersed and didn’t concentrate!! The child is seven, energetic, bright, curious, and didn’t really have a clue about what was going on in school. Small wonder he was “distracted.” I could rage at this lack of humanity dished out in the robotic school system.

I have been trying to teach Angelo how the short “a” is used. Bat, Rat, Cat, Mat, Sat, etc. I finally, after two lessons got him to actually read these words out loud, but he would read down the line and get to Fat and say, “Sim,” or “Nin,” or something like that and he just didn’t get it. The “at” at the end of Fat, didn’t register as sounding like the others preceding, and he would look at me with those big brown eyes and not know. The lessons would be an hour or sometimes hour and a half two times a week on Mondays and Fridays after his regular school.

I would help him with his homework which was totally ridiculous. Totally out-gradient stuff that meant nothing. He would be given stuff to do and turn it in and never be told if it was right or wrong, for it wasn’t graded by the teacher or returned to him to know what he had done. And some of the questions baffled me. This is the modern school system. No wonder we will be a third world country soon!! And here was a child who was desperately trying to keep up and learn and having started out behind would stay behind unless he had some means, like a tutor like me, who could help him at least move in the stream and not drown in the eddies and log jams of misunderstood words and out gradient stupidities.

I had no idea how his mother Claudia got way across town to the CLC for Angelo’s tutoring, but I learned they had to take a bus and transfer once and walk a distance to get there. So I picked them up a week ago and brought them to my house and Claudia cleaned my house while I tutored Angelo in a long two hour session. She charged me $15 an hour for four hours and her work was fast and totally beautiful. Angelo and I had several breaks so he could look around, play and get exterior. At the end we got through the homework as usual, but still there was a blankness in his eyes when we went through the many words, examples, puzzles, etc., on the “short a.”

So last Monday, October 4, 2010, rather than make them go to so much trouble of bussing to the center, I tutored him at his home. It is a tiny trailer in a mobile home park. She was so proud of it. She said, smiling big: “I pay $5,000 for eet fi year ago.” The trailer had one bedroom, kitchen and little dining room, small room on the side with a sofa, and a screened porch. They are Catholic, and I am invited to his first communion soon. Pictures of the Holy Mother, Jesus, are on the walls and fridge along with little magnetic plastic capital and lower case letters stuck on the fridge door. We sat at the little dining table and went to work.

I first got him through his homework, and then tackled the short a. We went through the usual routine, and though he is energetic he was patient, and still baffled at what I was trying to get across. Now this is the fifth or maybe sixth session. I took the plastic letters down from the fridge and put down “bat,” then “cat.” He got kind of still watching me, and then I had him do “Fat,” all of a sudden his little hands got busy putting together all of the words, even making up three letter words with vowels we hadn’t even used. He was totally blown away to spell “Poo,” which always fascinates seven year olds. So now Pee and Poo were words he could spell in plastic. I felt a rising joy in me as he put word combinations down, and I knew he had it. He had the short a and evidently knew what we had been trying to do!!

I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced, outside of being an auditor and watching the amazing change in your preclear take place right before your eyes, but seeing Angelo cognite on the short a and spelling three letter words, now more and more I know, was nothing short of one of those soaring moments you will never forget that changes you too.

So if you want to have this, to know what I know, I guarantee there are hundreds of thousands of children out there that you can change by simply spending some time like I am with tools which the CLC has, and get after it. Sharon and Holly are angels in my opinion. They run the CLC and have an amazing amount of tools that can be used at every level of learning needs there and they will provide them and help you with the next step.

I also have been tutoring an 11 and 13 year old brother and sister team in grammar. We are on adverbs. There is a grammar kit that makes it simple and gradiently fun and they get it. I had to learn it myself!!

So give of yourself and teach a kid. You never know where it will lead. Like a pebble dropped into a pool the ripples of your action radiate out in every direction and every dimension and touch places you could never guess. All because you dropped a pebble. I love this little kid, and we have bonded. There is a depth of gratitude from Claudia that is almost audible.

I have changed for though I am only dealing with Angelo here, and the others later, even just having one under my wing is enough to know I am making a difference somehow. Angelo will be a man one day and he could even be President of the United States, and he will make a difference. All because I took some time. You can too. If you want to feel like a million, take some time. Reach out and touch someone and see how it feels if for no other reason than to feel like a king. You know you are changing the future when you help a child.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pay It Forward


Do you think that you are alone? Do you think that you do not make a difference? Do you feel that your actions are lost in the labyrinth of time and you are only a grain of sand on an infinite beach? You are part of the whole, take you away and the whole is not complete. Without you the fabric of reality could collapse.

What you do makes a difference, and every act or omission is like a pebble dropped into a still pool—the ripples move out in an infinity of directions, touching shores that you could never imagine, and every little thing, regardless of how insignificant you may consider it to be, affects others, as other acts affect you, directly or indirectly.

Smile at someone on a busy street, and that person then knows he or she is acknowledged for his or her existence, then that person feels better and smiles at another. Ripple effect. Did you see the little you tube video of the Russian subway filled with frowning, unhappy people, and the man began to laugh? People at first thought he was crazy, then the person in the seat next was caught up in the laughing---then soon the whole car was filled with rollicking laughter, people smiling at one another, slapping each other on the back, awakened to the fact that they were really one-they were brothers and sisters and a group.

He then gets off at the next stop, gets onto another sad, apathetic car, and does it again, and again. Can you do that just once, can you spare a smile?
I have been trying to say this, and did try to say it in my little quote I have in my emails ("This moment in eternity is as important as any other moment, past or future. What will you do with it.") But I didn't say it as clearly as this little two minute video says it.

http://www.butterflyeffectbook.com/miami

There is a new phrase in the English language abourning, "Pay It Forward." Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

“The expression "pay it forward" is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. In contract law, typically there are two parties but there is the concept of third party beneficiaries. Pay it forward merely applies this contract law concept so that third party beneficiary be a stranger to the creditor (or obligee). More specifically, the creditor (obligee) offers the debtor (obligor) the option of "paying" the debt forward by lending it to athird person instead of paying it back to the original creditor. Debt and payments can be monetary or by good deeds. In sociology, this concept is called "generalized reciprocity" or "generalized exchange". A related transaction, which starts with a gift instead of a loan, is alternative giving.”

In other words, do whatever good you do without expectation of return, but collect the debt as paid in full by having the debtor do something good for another.

I think if we live our lives with a "pay it forward" state of mind, we as a group, and we are a group whether we realize it and act like it or not, and what we do to and for each other impoverishes or enriches in proportion. Watch this video, and live today with this in mind.

L D Sledge

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Fisherman Changes His Mind


A Fisherman Changes His Mind

By L D Sledge

September 17, 2010

In my youth the still deep waters

Of a bay, a lake a creek

Tugged me to explore, to wonder and thrill at what

monstrous creatures lurked below the sunken logs

and deep, dark holes

yearning to see the sudden dip of the end of my pole

feel the tug on my line as I fought to bring him up and

see him, feel his living flipping slippiness in my hands,

my trophy my joy at having won not my dinner but

something more visceral and ancient in my blood.

Now that I am longer in the tooth I pass those placid ponds,

Or that shining bay and think of those old ones

Those who have seen days like mine,

Who have passed the days of fight

Whom I now salute as I pass and smile

And wish them well in declining years

Who deserve to lay low and sleep safe in their warm deep

And dream of beautiful fish

As I dream of girls beyond my reach.


A Woodcutter Changes His Mind

by David Budbill

When I was young, I cut the bigger, older trees for firewood, the ones
with heart rot, dead and broken branches, the crippled and deformed

ones, because, I reasoned, they were going to fall soon anyway, and
therefore, I should give the younger trees more light and room to grow.

Now I'm older and I cut the younger, strong and sturdy, solid
and beautiful trees, and I let the older ones have a few more years

of light and water and leaf in the forest they have known so long.
Soon enough they will be prostrate on the ground.

"The Woodcutter Changes His Mind" by David Budbill, from While We've Still Got Feet: New Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2005. Reprinted without permission.

(I am a subscriber and admirer of The Writer's Almanac, by Garrison Keillor of The Prairie Home Companion. I receive the Almanac daily, which contains a poem and a bio of some artists or celebrated historical character. This morning, September 17, 2010, I felt a resonance with the poem about the woodcutter, for I once was a hunter and zealous fisherman, and I no longer hunt for I see no sense in killing any creature that contains life unless it is contra-survival such as flies or roaches or termites or rats, and have lost the burning desire to catch the biggest catfish or bass in the lake. So I wrote my poem about the fisherman changing his mind.

The image of the fish is by James Christenson, fantasy artist.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Guggenheim and art



In 2003 my son Tom and I went on a 3 week trip to France and Italy. I wanted to go to Italy to see the art, and there was plenty of it. After two weeks I stopped turning around to see another statue, though they were fantastic. We took an overnight train from Paris to Venice, and on a shuttle I met a lady who was the manager of the Guggenheim museum. She invited me to the museum, with perhaps a coffee or a glass of wine. She was attractive but I was married and thought this would only be an adventure in art. So Tom and I visited the museum, which backed on one of the large canals.

What impressed me was that Peggy Guggenheim had to be blinded by the personalities of the artists she took to her bosom, (and from what I see she held a number rather close to it), for the art at that museum consisted of smudges of paint on a canvas. There were a few pieces that had some aesthetic appeal, and I like modern art, but I remember one huge canvas with a small black brush mark in the upper left corner with a huge price tag. The only one that made sense to me was this picture I took of the horse and rider which was outside on the deck by the canal. I saw a copy of it in the Getty museum in LA as well. Not sure what it says, but art is of the soul, not of this earth, and needs no definition for it stands alone. I kinda understand this rider's problem, but art is to be felt, not understood. Right? I think it is funny, and compared to the other totally ridiculous stuff I saw in that museum is really not bad.

What started this was the article in this morning's (August 26, 2010) Writer's Almanac which follows:

It's the birthday of memoirist and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, (books by this author) born in New York City (1898). Her father died on the Titanic shipwreck, and at the age of 14 she inherited nearly half a million dollars.
She moved to Europe to live a Bohemian lifestyle. She had an affair with Samuel Beckett, as well as several other artists.
Back in her native New York City, she opened a gallery called "Art of this Century" on West 57th Street. She became the patron of an unknown abstract painter by the name of Jackson Pollock, supporting him so he could be a full-time artist, and she held a one-man show for him at her gallery, one of his first. Soon he was famous.
She wrote some memoirs about her affairs with the rich and famous and artistic, including Out of This Century (1946) and Confessions of an Art Addict (1960).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Responsibilities of Patriotic Americans


My Dear Friends:

I am forwarding this*, not because I am forwarding negative things, but as a note of pride as an American and perhaps with a view that we can make a change in the way things are happening and even in how we think about today's confusions.

A giant of a man, Patrick Valtin, (www.M2-tec.com) is my partner in co-writing The Business Owner's HIRING BIBLE, a manual to help small business people walk through the minefield that exists today in negligent hiring, discrimination lawsuits, etc. The judgments against business are incredible and shocking. We are writing this book, followed by seminars and consultation in this area, to help the floundering and even baffled businessmen and women through the maze of potential liability by hiring the wrong person, and helping them hire the top players. My partner is one of the top business consultants in all of Europe.

He tells me that while he was growing up in Belgium, America was considered an honest country that stood tall in integrity and ethics. It was the promised land. He says the viewpoint is now different, in doubt, and there is deep suspicion of what we are really about after all.

I almost weep when I think of how those who first saw the noble lady standing in the harbor and they knew of these words:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
So how do we handle and live with those "yearning to breathe free" from the south of here, who evidently are a different class and viewpoint of need than those who first kissed the earth at Ellis Island years ago, and came here through open door that still exists?
We are confused, hurt, and angered at those who do not respect the concept and reality that is the home of the free and the brave yet violate the law to come here and enjoy the fruits of our toil and soil. We own this place. So how do we, as a nation of freedom loving men and women, cope and deal with this?

My partner says Americans love freedom (which we take for granted) and that is one thing we will not give up. We just assume our freedom is free. Europeans and other cultures do not have such. We just don't appreciate it for we have never been without it in our memory. When he told me that Americans love freedom, I was surprised for that was a “given” in my mind, not a gift but some kind of free license. Hey, it exists here but nowhere else!!!

The wrong thing to do is to do nothing. If you are sailing on the ocean and you are not steering your boat, you will crash on the rocks or someone else will steer for you and you better like the direction he is taking you. Don't just squat on the deck and bitch. Join a group that you know is enlightened who can direct, as a group with an enlightened and intelligent leader and leadership, to a true patriotic goal of restoration of respect and constitutional order. Not a teaparty of cussin' wild gun toters (I am a gun toter and proud of it) going in all directions at once. I want to hook up but don't know what to hook up with.

I am investigating Dr. Richard Davis, MD (www.PatriotStorm.com( (www.SUEtheFED.com). The stats are remarkable and the purpose good. I only know that I must do something, and not sit on my behind and groan when I get such things as I am forwarding here. I have vowed not to forward such if there is nothing that can be done, when forwarding only causes us more grief.

I don't have stats or time or wherewithal to start my own, so I am looking for the star to hook my wagon to, and then rally others to ride the wagon. Maybe Davis is the answer. It is to be seen. Meanwhile I am sure there are others, but his seems pretty cool. I will report. There is a meeting on September 7 in Tampa. I will give more details when I get them.

Consider this as a positive, not a negative forward, for I want you to look at what you can do. The Mexican exodus is only a symptom of a much greater problem, and the source of the bleeding must be found and not just bandaided, but fixed for good, not replacing one batch of SOBS for another batch of SOBS.

Let us not flush ourselves down the drain by inactivity, by apathy, by undefined anger and wasted energy by striking out in the wrong direction. Get a direction and move on it, put some money and energy to it, and then ride.

If you have any creative ideas, share, and I will disseminate. I am tired of getting this kind of forward without answer. I get this all the time from my friends who should know better. If you have a bellyache, don't tell me about it. I have a bellyache of my own. Fix yourself or shut up. But stop whining by forwarding things that have nothing but frustrating bitching, true or not. Be positive, where are you on the tone scale by sending this without a positive answer to it? Think about it.

You will hear more about this, count on it. Meantime, wake up, take responsibility, do something!!

Much love to all of you

L D Sledge

*Pictures of those who first came to Ellis Island and then pictures of Mexicans degrading America and our Flag.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Truth About the McDonaald's Coffee Burn Case


Friends, as a courtroom trial lawyer for 43 years, juries became less and less friendly as the insurance companies propaganda became more and more effective. For example the celebrated lie promulgated by Travelers (I think it was). They said they had to settle a case for a huge amount for a man who tried to cut his hedge with a lawnmower and injured himself. This was all over the news. This and other constant bombardment by PR smeared lawyers and lawsuits with propaganda constantly. I felt like I was in a war, for I had to confront juries with their arms folded with that look on faces that said, "come on scumbag, lets hear what lies you are going to tell us."

This culminated in the McDonald's case, which I have cited below from Wikipedia. There is a part of a trial called "voir dire," in French meaning to see and to hear, wherein the lawyer asks prospective jurors in the "selection" process, how they feel about things.

"Who has heard of the McDonald's coffee burn case?" Every hand went in the air. "Mr. Smith, what do you think about that?" Mr. Smith would say it was outrageous. So would Mr. Jones, Mrs. Thibodaux, and Mrs. Boudreaux. I would have to take another tack, and ask them if they could erase that case from the book I was going to read from and start with a clean white bright page with nothing written on it, no McDonald's case in the pages, and consider it free and clear of any other case? Some would say yes, and some say no. I would strike the no's, and there was always some vigilante who said yes and as a sleeper he would be negatively influential.

So the McDonald's case was murder for me as a trial lawyer for the remaining years I was in the business as a courtroom plaintiff lawyer. Here is what really happened, as per Wikipedia. (BTW, the anatomical part that was scalded was a very personal part to Mrs. Liebeck, rendering it scarred and traumatically affected for her love life.)


Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants also known as the "McDonald's coffee case," is a 1994 product liability lawsuit that became a flashpoint in the debate in the U.S. over tort reform after a jury awarded $2.86 million to a woman who scalded herself with hot coffee she purchased from fast food restaurant McDonald's. The trial judge reduced the total award to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided. The case entered popular lore as an example of frivolous litigation; ABC News called the case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.

Liebeck's attorneys argued that McDonald's coffee was "defective", claiming that it was too hot and more likely to cause serious injury than coffee served at any other place. Moreover, McDonald's had refused several prior opportunities to settle for less than the $640,000 ultimately awarded. Reformers defend the popular understanding of the case as materially accurate, note that the vast majority of judges who consider similar cases dismiss them before they get to a jury,and argue that McDonald's refusal to offer more than a nuisance settlement reflects the meritless nature of the suit rather than any wrongdoing
Lawsuit

Facts

On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, ordered a 49¢ cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald's restaurant. Liebeck was in the passenger's seat of her Ford Probe, and her grandson Chris parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. She placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants; they absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin as she sat in the puddle of hot liquid for over 90 seconds, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds (nearly 20% of her body weight), reducing her down to 83 pounds. Two years of medical treatment followed.

Settlement offers

Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald's for US $20,000 to cover her medical costs, which were $11,000, but the company offered only $800. When McDonald's refused to raise its offer, Liebeck retained Texas attorney Reed Morgan. Morgan filed suit in a New Mexico District Court accusing McDonald's of "gross negligence" for selling coffee that was "unreasonably dangerous" and "defectively manufactured". McDonald's refused Morgan's offer to settle for $90,000 Morgan offered to settle for $300,000, and a mediator suggested $225,000 just before trial, but McDonald's refused these final pre-trial attempts to settle.

Trial

The trial took place from August 8–17, 1994, before Judge Robert H. Scott.[13] During the case, Liebeck's attorneys discovered that McDonald's required franchises to serve coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C). At that temperature, the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Liebeck's attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140 °F (60 °C), and that a number of other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald's. Liebeck's lawyers presented the jury with evidence that 180 °F (82 °C) coffee like that McDonald’s served may produce third-degree burns (where skin grafting is necessary) in about 12 to 15 seconds. Lowering the temperature to 160 °F (71 °C) would increase the time for the coffee to produce such a burn to 20 seconds. (A British court later rejected this argument as scientifically false. Liebeck's attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns. McDonald's claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee; the high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip. However, this claim contradicts the company's own research that showed customers actually intend to consume the coffee while driving to their destination.

Other documents obtained from McDonald's showed that from 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald's coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000.[4] McDonald's quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 °F (54 °C) constituted a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to warn about. The plaintiffs argued that Appleton conceded that McDonald's coffee would burn the mouth and throat if consumed when served.[16]
Verdict

A twelve-person jury reached its verdict on August 18, 1994. Applying the principles of comparative negligence, the jury found that McDonald's was 80% responsible for the incident and Liebeck was 20% at fault. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck US$200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. In addition, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The jurors apparently arrived at this figure from Morgan's suggestion to penalize McDonald's for one or two days' worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000, three times the compensatory amount, for a total of $640,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald's and Liebeck in December 1994, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who is Really Responsible for the Oil Spill


I must put in a word about the BP oil spill.

Who is responsible?

We are.

We Americans insist on gas guzzling vehicles, air conditioning always set on freezing, appliances that gobble energy, and a lifestyle that Julius Caesar or the Pharoahs would have thought to be paradise. This lifestyle requires more gas, which demands more oil, which pushes exploration into new and untested areas. If it can happen, it will happen. And it happened, finally. Inevitable.

In June, 1967 an almost identical incident occurred in the gulf at 200 feet of water when the IXTOC (spelling), a Mexican well blew out with 30,000 barrels of oil a day spilling into the Gulf.

Watch this youtube interesting newscast

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHmhxpQEGPo

It took six or eight months to finally shut it down with about the same amount of oil now gushing into my beautiful Gulf of Mexico at the hand of British Petroleum. They tried everything that BP has tried, and not worked, except BP has 5000 feet of water. Finally the pressure in the Mexican well was reduced by offset drilling. I think they drilled two wells into the same shaft or something and reduced the pressure enough to cap it. I am not sure if BP has the technology to do that at a mile down.

In other words, the greed of oil companies push beyond their ability to repair at the expense of the environment. They had no way of knowing how to fix this if it should happen, and it happened. It is like walking too close to the edge and falling with no safety harness. It is just going to happen. That is the way things work on this planet and in this universe. If it can happen, it will happen.

This time it has the potential of destroying the fishing, shrimping, crabbing, oyster fishing, sporting, and the beautiful pristine estuaries of my wonderful old fishing grounds in the marshes and coastline of Louisiana. There are things that can be done to repair, such as using friendly oil loving microbes by people like my friend Mark Gould, which would eat the oil and leave no harmful residue. But do you think they will buy it? Lets see what will happen.

The point of this writing is to put responsibility where it should be. We, the energy sucking Americans, let the dogs out, and the dogs here are companies like BP, who with bravado ventured out beyond reason at our expense---not their expense mind you---for they have money beyond counting. And they could give a damn less about what happens.

And who really owns BP? It is rumored that the Rothchilds, those who make and break presidents and control the lives of everyone in the Western world and possibly elsewhere. Do you think they give a damn about Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida? Don’t be silly.

Don’t be too hard on BP because of its vile stupidity. Had we insisted on alternative sources or energy, rather than let the Rothchilds and Rockefellers and their ilk run our lives, this would not have happened. If we weren’t so damn selfish and self-centered, we would have never allowed the oil people to control our economy. Hey, we like it as long as it is going well, don’t we, except for the prices which we bitch about.

I think we got what we all kind of expected would happen sooner or later. But as humans, and that is not saying much, we cannot take the blame or handle responsibility, so lets kill BP and the politicians, etc.

There I’ve said it and I am glad. Humans, please get it right for once.

Monday, June 7, 2010

psychiatry is an ass





"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, "the law is an ass---an idiot." (Charles Dickens-Oliver Twist)

In the case I am about to cite, and quote verbatim from headlines of the June 5, 2010 issue of the St Petersburg Times, the law is an ass or worse. My experience with psychiatrists in forty three years of practicing law taught me they are just the opposite of the Hippocratic oath they took: "first do no harm." I was no "sit in the office and notarize papers or talk to high falutin' corporate clients". I was in the trenches, representing people in court, going to their homes and work sites, helping those who couldn't help themselves. So I have seen life and the law from the bottom up.

I asked "what is man?" After ruminating on this a bit, "Dr." Curtis Steele, a Baton Rouge shrink, said "an isolated and random occurrence in a chaotic universe." In other words, an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters would eventually type the U S Constitution. An accident. Here goes the article. Decide for yourself who is the ass.

STATE PAID REKERS DOUBLE
The state used him to defend its ban on gay adoptions, despite attorney's objections.

TALLAHASSEE: Disgraced psychologist George Rekers was labeled a "right-wing, religious-based" expert witness and rejected for months by state attorneys defending Florida's gay adoption ban.
But when they couldn't find anyone else to replace him on the witness stand, Attorney General Bill McCollum overuled his trial attorneys, quickly hired Rekers, and paid him his agreed upon contract with no questions asked, according to documents released this week by McCollum's office.
Rekers, a psychiatry professor at the University of South Carolina has been stripped of his credibility after reports surfaced that he hired a male escort from rentboy.com to give him nude "sexual" massages and accompany him on a recent European vacation.
The adoption ban has been ruled unconstitutional and the state is appealing. The state paid Rekers more than $120,000 to testify on the "negative effects" of gay parenting. (comment: go figure)
Rekers' fee was almost a third of what the state has spent on the gay adoption ban lawsuit to date--$383,000. Half the cost has gone to attorney's fees; the rest to general expenses, including $120,000 to Rekers.
Meanwhile, records obtained by St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald show that despite repeated objections from the Department of Children and Families, the attorney general agreed to advance Rekers $60,900 to get him to take the case and another $59,700 a year later as the case dragged on.
The payments included $9,000 for 30 hours of searching journal articles and books, $27,000 to "read the relevant publications since Sept 2004 and evaluate and critique the "methodological quality". A year later he charged nearly 30 hours for reading the same materials again.
McCollum said he wouldn't hire Rekers again knowing what he knows today, but he defends the expense. "The only problem we had was the expert, and the amount of money, and the credibility of the expert" Bob Butterworth, the then Secretary of the agency said.
McCollum's staff asked for the first check to be expedited because they feared losing him before their deadline to submit the expert witness list.
Rekers asked for the money up front so that his fees would not be contested, as had happened in previous cases in which he testified. McCollum said he was aware that Rekers was not considered as credible in Arkansas as he had been in a previous case in which he was used in Florida, "but he was qualified. There was never any dispute over his qualifications."
Hannah, the Attorney General handling the case, acknowledged they hired Rekers to bolster their case."If you haven't hired the experts to help you win the case, then you're bot doing the job. You can't sit and rationalize over the expert or later even over his personal life," she said.

I have seen some really insane things happen in court, but this takes the cake.

I had a childlike faith that the law would always be based on reason and the truth would eventually be revealed. It was the catalyst of two opposing elements, forming during and as a result of the conflict, the truth. Not!

The American legal court system works well enough, in spite of the fact that the courts accept experts to give opinions to bolster the position of one side or the other, and the only expertise accepted by the courts in the area of mental problems are the psychiatrists who haven't a clue. All experts are paid for their opinions. The court or jury will buy one over the other, based on varied criteria---from personality to the number of degrees and certificates held to the amount of statistics that can be rattled off convincingly. Many times it was a race between the other lawyer and I to get to a particular expert because he was good. He usually managed to rationalize my position over the other side. Many are what may be referred to as whores. Some are honest, and credible. But if you want to win your case, do you really want to know the implicit truth? That is why they say lawyers all go to hell. I didn't play that game during the last twenty five years of my practice. And there are some good lawyers who won't play that game either. The idea is to seek them out if you wish. Most people want a junk yard dog when it comes to taking a case to court. And the lawyer makes the moral decisions on how to prosecute the case.

Rekers is a good representative of and just a speck in the mass of nastiness that is psychiatry. But he will survive, believe it or not, and continue to keep his license and continue to "do harm" wherever he goes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sushi



Sushi
By L D Sledge

Sushi made of little fishes.
Eat ‘em raw on little dishes.
How they make that funny rice,
stuck together neat and nice.
Wrap around that eel so tasty.
Eat it all so none is wasty.
OO wowie, that stuff is hot,
what you call it, wasabi what?
When it hit you, it start biting,
make you feel like kung fu fighting.
Little leaves of pinky ginger
send me off on fishy bender.
Wash it down with vase of saki.
Hit me like a puck of hockey!
Full of fishes, fried they not.
Rice and ginger, wasabi hot.
Can’t believe how much I ate.
Started early ended late.
Oh my God look at that bill!
Was it worth it for the thrill?
Help me get up from this chair.
Carry me out to cool night air.
I’ll be back tomorrow night.
I don’t care if wrong or right.
Little fishes every day,
make me troubles go away.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

IS THIS OUR MANIFEST DESTINY?

Struggling in the Straight Jacket

Are we in extremis, the final struggle to keep life in our amazing Republic, attended to by the high socialist priests-executioners giving the final rites to a dying dream?

Two hundred thirty four years ago, in 1777, brave patriots wintered in Valley Forge in one of the worst winters in history without blankets, shoes, or food, then marched through the snow unshod and freezing to fight for the freedom we have had until recently. We broke free of the yoke of tyranny through their sacrifices and the courage of those few men who dared and risked their lives and fortunes to rebel. And they won.

Their faith in the basic goodness of man grew and lived on through that dream and built the greatest nation on earth in two hundred short years.

This country was built on the ideal that man should and could be free to pursue liberty and happiness. This was the great experiment in hope that the ideal would flourish, prosper, and live on. We stepped forward in an unrelenting cadence of confidence and optimism through the years, as if it would last forever. We conquered those faraway blue mountains, reached the sea, expanded north and south without any thought other than being the best was our manifest destiny. We knew we could reach as far as we could see and dream. And we did, for we were individuals with integrity and the idea of no limitation.

I know of no other country which has survived this long with such far reaching aspirations intact. We have spent two hundred years in a wild howling charge over the ramparts of this idea that nothing is impossible as individuals, for no real creation has ever been achieved by a bunch of people. It has always been individual genius that pushed the crowd out of their comfortable little boxes and over the edge into betterment.

So where are we now? What has happened to us to punish our individuality by tax and rewarding the crowd which produces nothing with our energies and productivity? We are following the down spiral of the economic history of every great civilization. Is this the manifest destiny of man on this planet? Is this the eventual destiny of America? Are we to become one governmental entity of peoples north and south, giving our energies to support those who have no energy? Is this right?

Is this the idea of the greater good? Smother the productive to give to those who do nothing but consume? Give power of decision and choice to a government of self seekers who run it with robotic bureaucrats and give the profits to cronies? Is this the greatest good for the greatest number?
Now we are really no longer a Republic, handing such massive control over to the burgeoning, pregnant, fat and useless bureaucracy of political patronage and political payback for votes and favors. Who really controls this country now? It isn’t run for, by and of the people any more.

Witnessing the recent larceny and theft of the rights of the majority of Americans, even while the huge majority was screaming “no” they stole a huge sector of American rights away, without due process of law unless you call the recent congressional convoluted legislative trick process of law.

We have stopped being the steely eyed individual, gazing across the blue mountains to a future lying beyond, knowing that we can go just as far as we want. Now we are wary of saying what we think, doing what we want, for there are laws that wall us away from that freedom, and taxes that kill our incentives. We have found the enemy and they are us, my friends. We are totally responsible for the condition we are in.

So where do we go from here? Nothing? Lie back and be comfortable, the government will take care of us? Is this our ultimate manifest destiny? Seems so.

What can you do about it? The worst thing you can do is do nothing. Start a movement in the area where you live. If you love your country and remember how good it was before we drifted into this dead welfare zone, then get with some friends and start something. Everything big started small. Do not tolerate rabble rousers or hate mongers. Qualify your people as Patriots only, those who are not afraid to stand and be counted. Not a Tea Party necessarily, but a small group growing to a large group, grow to town meetings, then county then state and do something!!!

Get yourself a constitution and rules to follow, with goals and purposes and policies to follow. Get paid members who will work. Be vocal. Follow your own goals and be true to them. Read the Bill of Rights and the constitution of this country and make sure you understand it and stick with it. You will get results. The dark side cannot win if you shine the light of the U S Constitution in their eyes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I BEEN THINKING


I been thinking.
Like my old buddy and law school roommate Martin Smith would say: “It’s a good life, if you don’t weaken.” I reckon that’s about right.
After another decade of marriage, and then a year or so after the divorce from Amelia—--I am gradually, and resistingly, receding into the life of a single man living alone. Tonight I came home after being with my buddies at the Artist In Action meeting in Clearwater with all the ruckous from “Fourth Friday on Cleveland Street", and things were just where I had left them. It was quiet; so quiet that I could almost hear it. And I felt like somebody was here, in the other room, and I was not alone. That is probably so, but I kept expecting in some part of my mind to have her, or someone, call my name or say something and appear through the door.

So when one finally terminates a relationship that almost was, there is a vacuum, and not so much guilt for not having done enough, or having done too much, but there is a feeling that maybe I could have made the difference if I had just known how. After four trips down the aisle, I think I know how to handle that now, but do I? I was selfish every time. I have enough tech under my belt not to let it run out and dry up and die on the vine for lack of putting 1000% into it with the fertilizer that makes such grow and bloom.

I guess that some things are unworkable when the music just never harmonized enough to make both want to dance together regardless of how much they want to or try. Two good people on the edge of the abyss of lonliness—wanting more--. We are no longer “us” except as friends, and good friends. Damn. Oh well, it’s done now, and it just hit me as I came home tonight that it is a done deal, and there is no looking or going back.

I have been working with a lady named Ingrid who is helping me with ethics, finding my purpose in life. Mr. Hubbard says that one knows one’s purpose in life by the time he is two years old. I had forgotten mine.

I began to look, and after going down a bunch of dead ends, saw(in my mind) a painting I did while I was in college. I took up oil painting—never took any lessons—just played with it and should have never gone to law school but should have pursued art for I was good and could have made a great and fulfilling career painting. Instead I had to go to law school for that was the thing and was commercially feasible—so I was told---and that was true---I was damn good, but always unhappy.

As I meandered trying to find that concept, that thought, that bright spot in the far corner of my past that was covered by so much debris, I suddenly turned a mental corner and there it was. It was a painting of two old men, Mexicans I guess, sitting against a dark umber wall, with hats down over eyes as in siesta, with guitar by one, and the light was just right. It was mostly black and umbers and whites. Boom, I realized what a major thing I had done when I painted it---it was perfect---. I had let myself go while painting it with no worry of the outcome, and something happened. She asked me about it, what was special about it, and it hit me!!! I had put myself into it!

This is a thing that I had abandoned on my way down that winding trail to here and now. I had failed to put me into what I was doing, and had become random, bored, just playing, not serious, not real, having spent forty three years as a lawyer doing something off my purpose line, and had never had fulfillment in achievement, regardless of how much money I had made or cases I had won. I remember settling the biggest case ever, quite a few million dollars with a fee of more than a million. My staff was ecstatic. I was bored. It was kind of "so what"? It was more money than I had ever dreamed of having. I had never put myself into it or whatever I was doing. I had left behind the thing I loved most—painting—like abandoning my one true love to marry a rich widow I didn’t really care for that much.

So now, I will put myself fully into anything and everything I do without reservation. If I am headed through the door, I am going through that door. Like Amanda Ambrose once said in a song, “If you don’t like me walking on you, well get up offa the floor.”

The discovery of this within me came at the right time. I can devote my time to production. I am co-writing a manual with the genius and most remarkable man I know, Patrick Valtin, and that is going to contain “me” for I will put me into it—and it will be amazing.

It has been a long time since I have written a personal blog, and coming home to this empty house required that I document this moment in time for things will not be always so desolate, unless I want it. It is damn fine to be in charge again. It is not so lonely with me here as my best friend.