Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Greensboro's Marty Sheets - A True Hero and Inspiration

This is a remarkable portrait of my friend Marty Sheets, with Eunice Kennedy Shiver, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Marty, 60, will be enshrined in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, part of the hall’s 50th induction class, for his long participation in Special Olympics World Competition. He won more than 250 medals in local, state, national and world competitions. He won seven medals at six Special Olympics World Games, including the inaugural Games at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1968. 
Marty is a long-time member of First Baptist Church - Greensboro.  Tragically, in recent years, dementia has robbed Marty of far more than Downs syndrome ever did.
Marty's father Dave, long-time manager of Thalheimers in Greensboro, and tremendously effective with Marty over the years, says dementia will stop Marty from standing at a podium and speaking on induction day as he receives this high honor.  A stellar and productive member of the community over the years, having worked for 30+ years at Thalheimers himself, all of Greensboro should be immensely proud of Marty Sheets.  He is an inspiration, to say the least. 

April, 2013 Baseball

I could not be happier with April, 2013 baseball.  What a start, and there are 6 months left in the glorious season. 

I have seen the AAA Bulls play in Durham, with Will Myers in the line-up, the top minor league player in the country. I have been to the beautiful park on the Chapel Hill campus to see the nation's #1 college team, the Tar Heels, with Colin Moran in the line-up, the #1 college player in the country.

The Grasshoppers are off to a great start. I had a wonderful group of old friends in the owners box for a Hoppers game.  Jack McKeon has been around a number of times.

Above is a great shot of the downtown park from my seats.  Atlanta Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann is at the plate in the photo for the Rome Braves.  He was here with Rome for a 4-game weekend series rehabbing from shoulder surgery over the winter.

My Yankees are off to a good start, despite injures.  Justin Upton has 12 HRs in April for the Braves, putting on pace for a 60+ home run season.

Yes, it's been a great April on the diamond at the old ball yard.   

Monday, April 29, 2013

"The Big Apple"

Something mysterious, intriguing, even scary, about the big city for me.  Here, the Empire State Bldg. in the distance, with One World Trade Center further downtown to the right, at twilight today, April 29, 2013, taken from 30 Rock.

Beautiful Planet Earth

Picture of the Day

Venice, Italy

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Build It and They Will Come"

Some of us are so attracted to the great game of baseball.  There is something about the game which 'draws' we who love it.  Renaissance man and former commissioner, the late Bart Giamatti, describes it so well here

Pictured above is my collector friend, Winston, making a stop at the "Field of Dreams" in Iowa during a recent Midwest vacation he and his father took to historical sites, presidential homes, museums, and presidential libraries.  There would be no way to be in Iowa without a stop here, a place which so well represents the 'draw' of the magnificent game.

Chinese Ice Sculpture

Picture of the Day

Paris street on damp evening.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Concerns and Challenges Abound For America

I am generally a positive and upbeat person about our nation and the direction of our culture.  But lately, I am fraught with concerns.  While I am confident in the ingenuity, initiative, and creativity of the American people and in the system our forebearers layed out, it seems prudent to occassionally be constructively critical and to articulate problems we face.

I have listed below 10 concerns I have as we continue to move forward.  I recommend you consider your own list of concerns as well.  While much work, discussion, consideration, and focus must be brought around these issues, here, concisely, are my 10 biggest and most urgent concerns for America:

I.  Legislative leaders in America are not at all responsive to the people they purport to lead and represent.  They are controlled by, and responsive to, the special interests who finance the expensive re-election campaigns in which they engage.  "The people" must regain control of the system.

II.  America, and particularly the people in positions of power in America, do not exhibit any sense of urgency regarding climate change and the climate catastrophes which are resulting. We ignore this issue to the peril of our descendants.

III.  Organized religious institutions, critical to previous cultures, seem extremely stagnant, unresponsive, and unwilling to adapt to the faith and spiritual needs of a 21st century world.  The fault certainly lies as much with the flock as with the leadership, but it is a critical issue which the collective body of the church must address.  Faith, attention to that which is "greater and larger than ourselves", is essential.

VI.  The wealth, ideological, knowledge, and cultural gap in America continues to accelerate.  Unlike the past, we seldom interact with, listen to, or respect, those with attitudes, values, opinion, and beliefs different from ours.  There appears to be no discussion, and very little concern or recognition, of this dilemma.  The wealth gap and divide in America is becoming obscene.  This is dangerous and bodes very poorly for our future as a culture.

V.   The culture of inner city poverty, drugs, crime, violence, and hopelessness, a long-time problem, appears to have become an accepted way of life, with its own subculture.  This will, at some point, destroy our great cities and a large population of our people, if focus, hope, jobs, and resources are not more vigorously committed and forthcoming.  When any one of our people is in distress, most certainly we are all, collectively, in distress.

VI.  The issue of health care costs, quality, and access, while beginning to be addressed, will be a serious economic problem for America for the foreseeable future.  Our divisive approach to a solution makes successful resolution doubtful.  Cost and financing is the major challenge for the future.  Resolution will require major cultural change in attitudes toward the delivery and the consumption of health care.

VII.  The issue of debt for our nation, for all governmental units, and for our companies and families, continues to go unaddressed to any serious degree. We must come to the realization that we must spend less, be taxed more fairly, and be more productive as a culture.

VIII.  The issue of long-term care for the "baby boom generation" is a rarely discussed or addressed issue and dilemma, which is just around the corner.  The economic implications are enormous for America.

IX.  The obsession with, and the amount of resources dedicated to, the institution of sports in America (and I plead guilty as charged) reflects poorly on our values and keeps us from more effectively addressing more urgent cultural needs and challenges.

X.  Citizens of the world must take the time to focus on, and commit themselves to, the teachings of the great religious and philosophical thinkers, teachers, and leaders who have emphasized the principles of responsibility, industry, service, peace, courage, reconciliation, compassion, forgiveness, cooperation, sacrifice, hope, and love of one's neighbor as one's self.  A focus on the teachings and lives of Jesus, Gandhi, Lama, King, Wesley, Teresa, Calvin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, B. Graham, and other great philosophers, thinkers, leaders, and theologians, is critical. Only then will continued peaceful coexistence and growth be possible.  It is our great command and our obligation.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The President as "Head of State"

President Obama's words of comfort and reassurance to the families of the victims in Boston, and to the people of Boston today, were spot on.

"We come together to pray and mourn and measure our loss," Obama told the crowd at Cathedral of the Holy Cross in downtown Boston, "but also to spread the message that the spirit of this city is undaunted and the spirit of the country shall remain

The role of the President as Head of State, as opposed to Head of Government, is such an important one.  My son and I have often discussed this.  My son is quoted nicely in the USA Today to that point.  I continue to be proud of my son....... and of Barack Obama, a great "Comforter-in-Chief" for America, among his many other roles.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Joe Dittmar - September 11, 2001 Survivor

Today, ironically, the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, I had the privilege of hearing, firsthand from Joe himself, the story of 9/11/2001 survivor Joe Dittmar.  He was inspirational and powerful. He was motivational speaker at the NC Association of Health Underwriters Annual Symposium in Winston-Salem.

On 9/11/2001, Joe was attending a normal business meeting with representatives of various commercial insurance carriers at the NYC offices of Chicago-based AON Corporation, on the 105th floor of Two World Trade Center.  One of only seven survivors of the meeting of 54 insurance executives, Joe's sharing of his experience of that day gave informational, historical, and inspirational insight into one of the incredible incidents in U. S. and World History. 

Joe's eyewitness account of the sights, sounds, and scenes from inside and outside the World Trade Center on that infamous day presented an intriguing and gripping perspective on what really happened before, during, and after the attacks.  His presentation, for which he takes no compensation, had the audience spellbound and moved. 

He opened with a moment of silence for the victims of yesterday's Boston attack.  I felt honored to hear and be in attendance for his extraordinary presentation on this day, April 16, 2013.  Thank you, Joe Dittmar.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

William Jennings Bryan

Just a stunning group of Bryan's which I had to post.  Belonging to a friend (I have some nice Bryan's), these are superior.  
A great early 20th century member of the Democratic Party, Bryan stood three times as its candidate for President of the United States (1896, 1900 and 1908), never being elected. He served in Congress briefly as a Representative from Nebraska and was the 41st United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson (1913–1915), taking a pacifist position on the First World War.
With his deep, commanding voice and wide travels, he was one of the best known orators and lecturers of the era. Because of his faith in the wisdom of the common people, he was called "The Great Commoner." Bryan's participation in the highly publicized 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trail" served as a capstone to his career, as he was opposing counsel to legendary Clarence Darrow.

Picture of the Day - "42"

I am so excited about seeing "42".  Jackie Robinson was important to baseball and he was important to the integration of America, to soul of America.  The scene shown above where Pee Wee Reese comes over and puts his arm around Jackie in an early game just after his arrival, was a very simple, yet, oh so poignant, powerful, and important gesture.  I have heard about that gesture all of my life.  Brian Piccolo famously did the same thing to Darryl Hill, the first black ACC football player who played at Maryland, to quiet down a rowdy crowd at Wake Forest on Hill's first visit to Winston-Salem. 
I am so happy with the many wonderful reviews I am reading from friends.  John Pierce, an Atlanta Braves season ticket holder, said, "it exceeded my high expectations, was inspiring, convicting, and engaging."  John is a native of Chattanooga, where most of the movie was filmed with the old Engel Stadium serving as Ebbets Field.  John is a wonderful ordained minister, and Executive Editor of the national moderate Baptist publication, 'Baptists Today', and a great baseball man whose opinion I hold in the highest regard.
I think I am subconsciously holding off seeing it to continue enjoying the great anticipation.  Jackie Robinson was a true, true baseball and American hero.  I can't wait. 
(Update:  I have now seen the movie.  It exceeded my very high expectations as well.  It was moving and emotional for me.  The movie revolved around the themes of baseball, race, and faith, three of life's most engaging issues for me.  It was very historically accurate.  The actors fit the actors wonderfully.  Harrison Ford will get an Academy Award nomination, in my view.  It was a wonderful movie about humanity and the great game of baseball in the 20th century.  It will be a classic).   

Theodore "Teddy, The Rough Rider" Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States.  He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity.  He was a leader of the Republican Party and founder of the first incarnation of the short-lived Progressive ("Bull Moose") Party in 1912.

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became President at the age of 42; he remains the youngest president. He was elected President in his own right in 1904. Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party (GOP) toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses.

The above pictured TR political buttons belong to a friend and are a wonderful grouping.  I like TR buttons very much and own one a number of them, but few of the beauty and quality as those pictured above.  Enjoy.  TR was a worthy early century leader and character.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"The People" Have Lost Complete Control of Our Representative Democracy

For those of us who love, revere, and cherish our representative democracy and process, this video is as good as it gets.

It is very coincidental that I saw this video today. I was thinking the following: The American people are SO far ahead of the politicians, whether it is on the issue of immigration, gun control (registration in particular), gay equality, debt reduction, climate change..... so many other urgent issues of the day.

The fact is, "the people" have lost total control and influence in the process. This is not at all what the founders envisioned.  Clearly, it is the entities which provide funding to campaigns and politicians to which politicians respond. 

Today it takes more money than ever before to run a successful campaign due to the numerous media outlets and methods of campaigning.  But campaign dollars beget campaign dollars in our competitive system.  And the answer has become, of course, a reliance on the super-wealthy and the super-pacs which have come to control the process. 

The extent to which money to has come to influence and control our democratic system is rendering the system unresponsive, irresponsible, and downright deplorable.  Please listen to Professor Lawrence Lessig for clarity.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dr. King Was Killed 45 Years Ago Today

Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther King's last speech in Memphis, the night before his death on April 4, 1968.  I recall it like it was yesterday.  I was in the hospital recovering from injuries resulting from an auto accident returning from playing college baseball.

NC A&T erupted, riots and curfews ensued around the country, shock, grief, sadness, outrage prevailed.  Two months later, nearly to the day, Bobby Kennedy was killed.  I was living, and playing baseball, 15 miles from the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport at that time.

1968......what a time.  What a leader of men, what an example of a human being, what an orator, what a preacher Dr. King was.  Oh, he could 'bring it'..........and what a difference he made in America.  RIP Martin Luther King.....45 years later. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

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