Monday, May 31, 2010

Roadtrip: Oklahoma! – Lunch in Paris!

I tried to have lunch in Paris today, but I could not find anything open. Yep, I stopped off in Paris, Texas.

How can you not like a city whose tag line is... "Second Largest Paris in the World." Following a tradition of American cities named "Paris", a 65-foot (20 m) replica of the Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1993. In 1998, presumably as a response to the 1993 construction of a 70-foot (21 m) tower in Paris, Tennessee, the city placed a giant red cowboy hat atop the tower. The current tower is at least the second Eiffel Tower replica built in Paris; the first was constructed of wood and later destroyed by a tornado.

My favorite is that it the city is rated Risk Zone 1 for earthquake potential, the lowest rating possible! I like that fact, very much.

Roadtrip: Oklahoma! – Showman's Rest and Bull Rider's Reprieve

Okay, back to the macabre. A bit out of the way, but still on my way home to east Texas, I stopped in the small town of Hugo, Oklahoma. Hugo is the termination point for a goodly number of circus folk. The town, once known as Circus City, USA, is winter headquarters for two different shows: The Kelly-Miller Circus and the Carson and Barnes Circus. Those who do not rise to make the next spring's journey are laid under in Mt. Olivet Cemetery's designated Showmen's Rest.

The rectangular area is marked off by granite posts, each topped by a small elephant statue. In the center is a large headstone with a carving of a performing elephant up on two feet. Underneath is etched "A Tribute To All Showmen Under God's Big Top."

In the nearby Bull Rider’s Reprieve section I found the grave for Bullriding legend Lane Frost. Young Lane always wanted to be buried next to his hero, Freckles Brown, and when a bull killed him in 1989, at age 25, he was. Frost was the 1987 World Bull Riding Champ. The flower urn on his grave reads, "Lane Wasn't Perfect, But He Knew Jesus."

Source: Roadside America

Roadtrip: Oklahoma! – The rest of Oklahoma City

What else did I see in OKC? Oklahoma City is an important livestock market, featuring one of the top livestock markets in the world. Oil, natural gas, and petroleum products are major products of the economy, as the city is situated in the middle of an oil field, with oil derricks even on the capitol grounds.

The city was founded during the Land Run of 1889, and grew to a population of over 10,000 within hours of its founding.

Since the time weather records have been kept, Oklahoma City has been struck by nine violent tornadoes, eight F4's and one F5. On May 3, 1999 parts of southern Oklahoma City and nearby communities suffered one of the most powerful tornadoes on record, an F-5 on the Fujita Scale, with wind speeds topping 318 mph (510 km/h). This tornado was part of the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art. The museum features visiting exhibits, original selections from its own collection, a theater showing a variety of foreign, independent, and classic films each week, and a restaurant. OKCMOA is also home to the most comprehensive collection of Chihuly glass in the world including the fifty-five foot Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower in the Museum's atrium.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum wshowcases more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts. The facility also has the most extensive collection in the world of American rodeo, photographs, barbed wire, saddlery, and early rodeo trophies. Museum collections focus on preserving and interpreting the heritage of the American West.

Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roadtrip: Oklahoma! - The Oklahoma City National Memorial

The Oklahoma City bombing was a bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 by Timothy McVeigh, an American militia movement sympathizer who detonated an explosive-filled truck parked in front of the building. McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, had assisted in the bomb preparation.

It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. The bomb was estimated to have caused at least $652 million worth of damage.

Motivated by his hatred of the federal government and angered by what he perceived as its mishandling of the Waco Siege (1993) and the Ruby Ridge incident (1992), McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deaths at Waco.

The museum includes a reflecting pool flanked by two large gates, one inscribed with the time 9:01, the other with 9:03, the pool representing the moment of the blast.

On the south end of the memorial is a field of symbolic bronze and stone chairs—one for each person lost, arranged according to what floor of the building they were on. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims' families. The seats of the children killed are smaller than those of the adults lost.

The memorial left part of the foundation of the building intact, allowing visitors to see the scale of the destruction.

Part of the chain link fence put in place around the site of the blast, which had attracted over 800,000 personal items of commemoration later collected by the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation, is now on the western edge of the memorial.

On a corner adjacent to the memorial is a sculpture titled "And Jesus Wept", erected by St. Joseph's Old Cathedral. St. Joseph's, one of the first brick and mortar churches in the city, was almost completely destroyed by the blast.

More than 5,000 hand-painted tiles, from all over the United States and Canada, were made by children and sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing.

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Roadtrip: Oklahoma!

Welcome from Oklahoma, where I decided to spent my Memorial Day weekend.

Oklahoma (oʊkləˈhoʊmə/) is a state located in the South Central region of the United States. With an estimated 3,687,050 residents in 2009 and a land area of 68,667 square miles (177,847 km²), Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people", and is known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State.

Formed by the combination of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was the 46th state to enter the union. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City where I plan to spent the next two nights, before looping my way to Texas.

My first oddity for this trip was to pay homage to the giant Muffler Man at Steppin' Out Western Wear in Wynnwood, OK. This is my second sighting of a Muffler Man, the first being one in Amarillo, TX a year or so ago. Steppin' Out owner Harold Marcum says he bought the cowboy from an individual who leased it to the film company that produced the movie Twister. Marcum says the cowboy (approx 22 ft tall) was placed in a pond at Garvin County Lake for a scene in the film that was not used in the final production.

They're big. They're scary. So what is it with these muffler men, and where did they come from?

Today's owners, often three or four times removed from original purchasers, have little or no information. Were they fashioned by "some company in California," or dozens of dead and defunct fiberglass makers?

Enter Steve Dashew, whose company, International Fiberglass, turned out thousands of commercial statues in the 1960s and 70s. International Fiberglass took a single statue mold created for a cafe and parlayed it into a roadside industry.

Standing approximately 20 feet tall, the first figure was a Paul Bunyan character designed to hold his axe. Derivatives of that figure were widely used to hold full-sized car mufflers, tires, or other items promoting various roadside businesses.

Okay, now on to Oklahoma City!

Source: Wikipedia and

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American Cultural Observation 225 : The Pavilion Sale

I went to a little pavilion sale in my hometown of Mount Sylvan this past weekend. Rummaging around I spotted this beautiful vase. I always wanted one but could never afford one, so first thing I did was to look for an artist mark.

China has been flooding the market with cheap knock-offs. So, I nearly dropped the vase when I spotted it was from the Rosetree Studio in New Orleans. I have seen the artist's (Mark Rozenbaum) work before in New Orleans, but never could afford it, as his work sells for a few hundred dollars. Here I was holding an original one for $25 - discounted to $23. I am now the proud owner of a hefty vase standing 14.5 x 8 x 3. Very proud.

Artist - Mark Rosenbaum - Rosetree | New Orleans
Artist Statement

"It is through twenty years of working with glass that I have gained an understanding of the dialogue that is established between artist and material. A lapse of concentration can ruin a piece, but a controlled flick of the wrist or light breath through the blowpipe can give the piece a subtle curve or movement that makes the piece extraordinary.

It is this controlled spontaneity that makes glass so magical. I know that the weight from the additional glass bits on the side of the piece will stretch the form. But by using centrifugal force and holding the piece at the correct angle and speed, I can create a composition with the glass that allows both the glass and artist some influence on the final piece.

Glassblowing is much akin to a dance; the artist moves with respect and knowledge of the partner. Each has an important contribution to the final piece, but only one will lead - the artist. The dance, when completed, yields an object that was only conceived in one's imagination or on paper, a tangible work as a result of collaboration between artist and material."

-Mark Rosenbaum


Saturday, May 15, 2010

American Cultural Observation 221 : Jury Duty!

The oddest thing happened to me… I got a summons for jury duty in the mail. Now keep in mind that I am a South African and thus not a citizen of the fair shores of the US… It made me realize that a) surely I am disqualified from serving on a jury and b) I have absolutely no knowledge of how a jury works apart from what I have seen on TV. Like a friend of mine said when I told him… “God help us”.

The reason I don’t know much about jury duty is because back home the lowest level of courts are known as Magistrate courts. The whole of the territory of South Africa is divided into approximately 350 magisterial districts, with each district having a District Magistrate's Court. These courts can hear civil cases where the value of the claim is no more than R100 000, and in criminal cases can impose a sentence of up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to R60 000. The magistrates districts are arranged into regions with each region having a Regional Magistrate's Court, which handles more serious criminal cases and cam impose a sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to R300 000. All is this is lorded over by a magistrate who is both judge and jury.

So, back to being a prospective juror… According to Wikipedia, a person who is serving on a jury is a juror and a jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to judge whether an accused person is not guilty or guilty of a crime. (There is no such verdict as 'innocent').

The old institution of Grand Juries, which are now rare, still exist in some places, particularly the United States, to investigate whether enough evidence of a crime exists to bring someone to trial.

The jury arrangement has evolved out of the earliest juries, which were found in early medieval England. Members were supposed to inform themselves of crimes and then of the details of the crimes. Their function was therefore closer to that of a grand jury than that of a jury in a trial.

Serving on a jury is normally compulsory for those individuals who are qualified for jury service. Since a jury is intended to be an impartial panel capable of reaching a verdict, there are often procedures and requirements, for instance, fluent understanding of the language, or the ability to test jurors or otherwise exclude jurors who might be perceived as less than neutral or more partial to hear one side or the other. Juries are initially chosen randomly from the eligible population residing in the court's jurisdictional area (unless a change of venue has occurred). Jury selection varies widely; in the United States, some form of organized questioning of the prospective jurors (jury pool) occurs—voir dire—before the jury is selected (impaneled).

A head juror is called the foreman or presiding juror. The foreman is often chosen before the trial begins or upon the beginning of deliberations. The role of the foreman is to ask questions on behalf of the jury, facilitate jury discussions, and sometimes to read the verdict of the jury. Since there is always the possibility of jurors not completing the trial for health or other reasons, often one or more alternate jurors are nominated. Alternates hear the trial but do not take part in deciding the verdict unless a juror is unable to deliberate.

Source: Wikipedia

Friday, May 14, 2010

War will never be the same anymore...

Ever wondered what soldiers do to let off a little steam on deployment? This is a couple US soldiers located in Afghanistan, who did a re-make of the music video of Telephone and Just Dance by Lady Gaga.

Prepare yourself for a fantastical journey.

source: malibumelcher/Bosphotomans/YouTube

Monday, May 10, 2010

American Cultural Observation 215 : Local Music Festival

I love the Texas Rose Horse Park (more info HERE) as it is one happening place!

They hosted the Southbound Sound Music Festival this weekend with the likes of Todd Snider, Old 97's. Joe Ely and Great American Taxi. Seeing it is less than 4 miles from my house it became a must do!

I arrived just as Todd Snider has started his set. It was his birthday and he seemed to be having a blast! I found a very conveniently placed (horse jumping) log to perch on seeing I forgot to bring a chair as usual... but it turned out to be a good spot to do some some great people watching.

The music was a mix of Alt Country, Americana, and Folk and it was all about social issues drenched in sarcasm. You had to listen carefully between the lines to get the message and I admit I gave up after a while. Instead I settled down to catch some sun, perched high up on my log, just like a lizard!

The crowd was smaller than expected and an odd mix of younger hip weekend rednecks mixed with harder exec type dressed in jeans a t-shirt crowd. Much higher gene pool than I expected. Quite a few were well pickled and seemed to be having a blast! It was fun to watch them rebel for a few hours. The crowd grew a bit larger as the sun went down but still stayed smallish.

Every once in a while I had to dodge a beer clutching insane woman on a golfcart. Gosh, she was on a mission to mow the population down! Thankfully the cart was loaded with a group of women so it was easy to dodge as they were shrieking like crazy everytime she hit a pot hole.

A good entertaining outing all in all.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What do I do?

Incase you ever wonder what I actually do... this is one of my many monthly projects. Every month, with the help of a small but highly gifted team we produce a digital segment for Mercy Ships that updates anyone interested on the happenings within the charity.

Connections: A Mercy Ships Update! In this month's webisode, our host, Dr. Andy Rosson, continues to bring us news from the unique world of Mercy Ships. He talks about the Presidential visit to the Africa Mercy, find out more about the Academy staff's odyssey to Kenya to attend a conference and ask visiting US Congressman, Louie Gohmert to share his impressions after his visit to the Africa Mercy.

To see last month's webisode, click HERE

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finding past pleasures... Fawlty Towers

I spent a wonderful weekend reminiscing and enjoying episodes of Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom produced by BBC Television and first broadcast in 1975.

The setting is the fictional hotel Fawlty Towers in the seaside town of Torquay on the "English Riviera" (where the Gleneagles hotel that inspired John Cleese was situated). The show was written by Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom played main characters.

In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers placed first. It was also voted fifth in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" poll in 2004.

Watch as John Cleese reminisces on the character of Manuel (played by Andrew Sachs), taking his reference from waiters working in London at the time. A cheap employee who doesn't speak English makes for hilarious misunderstandings, especially when Manuel gets his own back with the rat incident!

Cleese said in 2009 that the first Fawlty Towers script, written with then-wife Connie Booth, was rejected by the BBC. At a 30th-anniversary event honouring the show, Cleese said,

"Connie and I wrote that first episode and we sent it in to Jimmy Gilbert," the executive "whose job it was to assess the quality of the writing said, and I can quote [his note to me] fairly accurately, 'This is full of clichéd situations and stereotypical characters and I cannot see it as being anything other than a disaster.' And Jimmy himself said, 'You're going to have to get them out of the hotel, John, you can't do the whole thing in the hotel.' Whereas, of course, it's in the hotel that the whole pressure cooker builds up."

THANK YOU John Cleese!

Source: Wikipedia and Youtube