Ewell Smith on Certainty

Bertrand Russell on Certainty

I always liked this quote, so a few weeks ago when I stumbled across it, along with the name of the person who said it, I googled a picture and, as a way of honoring the tasty quote, made a little meme to share on Facebook. Surprisingly, it triggered anger. I admit that part of my interest is the modern day political value of this quote from 1951 showing how these philosophical conflicts are nothing new but it was not meant to be insulting, its a quote from 1951.

I think it’s doubt that makes you strong, that makes you examine your thoughts as they exist in, and affect, your world, that potentially enhances your life if you are willing to change. It’s certainty and, maybe more importantly, the desire to force your certainty on others that has the more potential to diminish you.

I know we are taught differently in the modern macho world. So the angry person is no longer my friend and considers me a narcissist.

I’m not so sure about that but he is, I’m sure, certain

Ewell Smith (Friend of the RiverHouse)


Scott Proctor

So it has come down to this. People are finally finding success in writing hate and discrimination into the law. This is not religious freedom, this is religious fervor run amok.

I, for one, am done with this bullshit.

I am done with the people so concerned that their rights to judge others will be threatened by equality. With the people who are afraid they will have to sell something to someone they hate, that someone they hate might be able to rent an apartment near them. That fear the idea that someone they work with might be gay.

I am done with idiots who think that in order to protect them from their God’s wrath they should be able to kill anyone they think does not live up to their religious principles.

I have a gun in the house. Rick has a gun he carries. I am seriously thinking of getting one myself

so that I can protect my freedom to breathe at all times.

George Takei called for a boycott of Indiana which I will follow. Easy enough to do since I do not live there but, whatever. I look forward to seeing the looks on these smug hypocritical sonsabitches’ faces when their God sends them straight to hell.

What would Jesus do???


If this post bothers you, you probably believe in the right to discriminate in the name of God and, if so, I am not going to pray for your soul. I am going to pray you get your just rewards. I hope this does not include people on my friends list but I have my suspicions that it does.

I will rue your absence but I will not be a second class human being for anyone especially those who ‘have a lot of friends that are gay‘ but need to ensure they still have a right to discriminate.

M. Scott Grohocki-Proctor

Who’s got mail?

As I watched my mail carrier drive down the street below my office window, I was reminded of the days when that would happen, and I’d immediately go out to the mailbox to see what treasures awaited me.

Monday was especially bountiful, because with no Sunday delivery and Saturdays seeming to be only junk mail, plenty of real mail would travel over the weekend and arrive at my mailbox on Monday afternoon.

USPSWhat would it be? A CD I’d ordered? A book from Amazon? A bill to pay? (Yes, I do derive a distinct pleasure from paying my bills on time every time.)

That was then and this is now. These days I download my music and books, my bills come to me via email, and almost all my parcels — and there are a lot of them — seem to arrive via UPS, FedEx, or some other similar service.

That’s not to say that the USPS is dead to me. I still receive important items through regular mail. In fact, my Square reader arrived in my mailbox last week sometime, and small-scale entrepreneurs on tight budgets use the USPS to mail me packages, so I still look at the post office as the provider of a valuable service.

However, I no longer have the same sense of excited anticipation on mail days. Hell, sometimes when I’m out walking the dog, I even check the mail, if we stroll past the community mailbox … and leave it in there. Admittedly, though, most days I don’t bother to check it at all.

I know there are a lot of jobs — about 600,000 of them as of January, 2014 — depending on the post office’s continuing its current operations, but with the USPS bleeding money (it lost $5 billion in 2013), the status quo does not seem to make business sense. For me, mail delivery twice, maybe three times a week would be plenty, and I’m guessing many other Americans have the same feeling.

So why do we hold on to the USPS and daily mail delivery? Simple — because, like any relationship that’s run its course, it’s easier to stay in the relationship than to let it go. After all, the USPS isn’t abusing us — well, unless you go to my post office on De Zavala Road, where the service was so bad that I moved my paid mailbox from there to the UPS store across the street at three times the cost. It’s not cheating on us — well, unless you count its being in bed with both FedEx and UPS, providing final destination delivery for cut rates to those carriers.

Hmmmmm…. Maybe it is time to break up with the USPS. It’s a mess, and, I mean, really, who’s got mail anymore, anyway?

WAIT! My April issue of MAD Magazine just arrived. In my mailbox. I know that paper magazines were supposed to have been dead by 2014, but I’ve tried electronic versions of magazines. You know what? I stare at a screen all day at work, and I enjoy a break from that. Plus, I know many of you do it, but I’m not taking my tablet into the bathroom with me. I still consider that to be “ew”.

Okay, so, howzabout we reconfigure the USPS into a magazine and greeting card — I don’t send them, but I know people still do — delivery service. Well, hold on, if you toss junk mail and cheap parcels into the mix, I guess that pretty much covers the primary functions of the USPS. If that’s the case, then delivery 3 times a week is more than adequate, and they can step it up around major mailing periods, you know, as if they were a real business.

So what’s the problem? Simple. While the USPS has not used taxpayer dollars since 1982, it is still controlled by Congress, and Congress does not seem to want to allow the USPS to run itself efficiently. Of course, we could ask for some common sense from our legislators, but I suspect that as long as FedEx and UPS continue their lobbying efforts — both are classified as “Heavy Hitters” by OpenSecrets.org  — the USPS will remain hamstrung.

Until then, we may not want or need it, but, yup, we’ve got mail.

–Steve Circeo

Theft or righteous indignation?

I had a meeting this morning. The meeting venue and a CVS (a pharmacy chain) share a parking lot, and, as usual, I arrived early, so I decided to pop into CVS to pick up a case of water.

I walked in, noticed a line, muttered the usual “fuck me” almost under my breath, and proceeded to the drinks aisle.

When I returned to the front with my water, the line had not moved. The same two people were at the cashiers, one doing something with coupons, and the other engaging in what appeared to be, but could not have been, some kind of complex banking transaction.

Not being a patient person, I stood in line, presumably looking exasperated. After a minute or so, I pulled out my phone, checked the time and saw that I had 7 minutes to get to my meeting.

After standing in line for another couple minutes, I was about to give up. The same customers were still at the registers, and, although “Marge” had called for backup, there were no new cashiers in sight.

As I was deciding whether or not to leave, the young lady a couple of people in front of me in line walked out. Understandable, but I noticed that she took the item she was going to purchase with her. The buzzer went off when she went through the detectors by the door, but she just kept on walking. And you know, what? I don’t blame her. What’s more, none of the store employees seemed to blame her, either, because they never even looked up when the alarm sounded.

About 30 seconds later, when the line still had not moved, except to fill the gap left by the righteously indignant thief, I put down the case of water in the middle of the floor and walked out, too.

I could never bring myself to take anything the way that young lady had, but it’s not a moral thing. Oh, now, my moral code would not allow me to simply steal items from a store, but in this case, I think both the young lady and I would have been justified to feel a bit of righteous indignation, and that deserves compensation.

What the thief’s compensation was, I do not know, because I never saw the item clearly, but surely a $3.99 case of water is not too much to ask for CVS wasting 5 minutes of my time, is it?

Fwiw, I went back after my meeting. The case of water I’d left in the middle of the floor had been moved, so I suppose the CVS employees are not totally apathetic about their jobs. There was no line. I purchased my water.

What kind of world is this, though, when we feel the need for immediate satisfaction? Difficult customers can jam up a line — that is perfectly understandable — and yet, I felt, as did apparently the young thief, that I deserved some kind of consideration for suffering through the jam.

I am struggling with my feelings about this incident.

–Steve Circeo

Charlie Barnes, Sr.

Charlie BarnesAt my Mom’s place today, she pulled out a photo of my father (he passed away in 1981) that I had not seen in 30 years. Talk about an emotional body slam! As soon as I laid eyes on that picture I remembered, like it was yesterday, the frame the picture had been in, where the picture had been displayed in the house, and even who took the photo.

Wow. It took me ten minutes to regain my composure. Those of you that knew my Dad, know that this photograph pretty much shows the man. He was serious, yet very friendly. And if you were his friend, he would move the world for you. Above all he had his WORD. He never made excuses…he just always kept his word.

Charlie Barnes Sr

He knew EVERYBODY in Williamsburg. In this picture, like always there was no place he could go where he was not leaning out of the truck window talking to someone, sharing a laugh or giving advice, offering a ride or offering a hand. He has been gone 32 1/2 years and, damn, I miss him!

– Charlie Barnes

How to have a good time at South by Southwest

It’s that time of year again here in South-Central Texas — time for the South by Southwest, or SXSW, as it’s now known, music festival.

The two weeks of SXSW — which includes film and interactive media components — are a perfect time for residents of Austin, Texas, where the festival is held, to get the hell out of town. If you are one of the Austinites who stays in town, you will notice that the streets are even more congested than usual and your neighbors are more likely than not to have some strange-looking temporary houseguests.

I live about an hour south of Austin, in San Antonio, and, although I am a huge music lover, I have always endeavored to avoid Austin during SXSW, even when my small company decided to help out a few of our favorite local bands by sponsoring a showcase for the past few years.

However, this year my new position as COO of Medina River Records is propelling me into the human traffic snarl that is SXSW.

But, wait! There’s a way out! I can make an appearance at a southtown venue where one of our acts, Rod Melancon, is performing. It should be less crowded and more accessible. Perfect. I can put in some facetime, see Rod perform, and then head back to my cozy hovel far away from the madness.

I wrote all the above before I attended the Grand Ole Austin showcase at Maria’s Taco Xpress, lovingly presented by KG Music Press, Matt Farber Productions, and Carolina Chickadee Presents. I’m back and, I have to say, I can’t wait until next year, because that was probably the best day of music I’ve had since I came to Texas in 2003.

First let me explain about Maria’s Taco Xpress as a music venue. You have to understand, Maria’s is in Austin, which claims to be the “live music capital of the world” (that’s Austin’s official motto — you can argue with the city council about it, if you like). While “Taco Xpress” implies a rather small, dive-y restaurant, maybe even a drive-through place, I know from my experience with Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio that venue names can be deceiving. Maria’s is, in fact, a beautiful spot to hold a one-day festival. There is plenty of good food available, ample parking, a large covered patio area with a cool stage. The bar is fairly fully stocked (alas, no Jameson) and the seats are comfortable enough.

Secondly, I should mention that I have a notoriously low tolerance for music that hurts my ears. By way of example, Terry Allen is a Texas icon and I had tickets to see him for the first time several months ago. I looked forward to it for weeks. However, on the night of the show, the opening act was so atrociously outside my music-I-can-tolerate boundary that I left before Mr. Allen took the stage. That’s how I roll.

Not having been to Maria’s before, I went up to Austin very early to beat the traffic. I grabbed a drink and plunked my butt down into a table at the front — I figured I might as well try to enjoy myself while I waited for Rod and his band to take the stage.

Sergio Webb and David Olney
Sergio Webb & David Olney

The first act (I’ll say “act”, because some were bands, some were duos, some were solo acoustic) was okay. The second was pretty good. The third — Sergio Webb and David Olney — blew me away, and that set the stage for the rest of my day.

I had long been a fan of Olney, and knew of Olney and Webb because of a superb live album (Live at Norm’s River Roadhouse 1) from a few years ago, but sitting a mere 10 feet away always makes live music better for me. The set was truly magical. With only 25 minutes to perform, the duo worked their way through their best songs and left me wanting more.

After that, I found myself sitting and enjoying each act, even when the music was not to my taste (i.e. traditional country).

By the time Rod Melancon and his band took the stage, I was ready for greatness, and I got it.

Oh, oh, oh, wait, let me back up. Did I mention that I only had 3 hours of sleep the night before? Loving the day as I was, I was running out of gas around 3:30. I asked the woman sitting at my table — I had a steady flow of strangers-as-table-guests that day (what am I, approachable now?) — if she knew of a coffee shop around. She was in from L.A., so, no, she didn’t, and I didn’t, so I grabbed a cup of Maria’s coffee. A large cup. It was slightly old, but not terrible, and it did the trick!

Anyway, Rod was on stage with his band. He’d picked up one of my favorite Austin guitar players, Eric Hisaw, for this gig. Rod plays good old rock-n-roll, and Hisaw does that beautifully. As I said, the set went great. Here’s a video I shot with my phone.

As Rod’s set ended, that was my cue to go ahead and leave, but I found myself hanging around. How could I leave, really, when Blackie and the Rodeo Kings were due up in an hour or so and Charlie Faye would play just a bit after that?

I won’t bore with you any longer with all the details, but, suffice to say, I’m happy I stayed to the end of the Grand Ole Austin showcase. It showed me that SXSW can be really cool, but good music is only part of the equation. The music has to be presented in a decent place with a reasonable crowd that actually allows you to hear what’s happening on stage. The Grand Ole Austin showcase at Maria’s Taco Xpress filled that bill nicely!

– Steve Circeo

Questions asked and answered. One man’s opinion on another man’s life.

M. Scott Grohocki-Proctor who writes on various issues for the Riverhouse Chronicles put a series of questions to Randy Rhule about his attitude toward homosexuals. Our hope is to start a civil conversation so that both sides can get a better understanding about the other outside of the rancor and partisanship. Randy is an old friend of mine from back in high school. He is a jeweler, a self-identified Conservative and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His thoughtful and respectful comments are important to hear and understand. I want to personally thank him for taking the time to answer Scott’s questions. We will try to have more features like this.
– Eliot
Scott ProctorScott:    You stated that if homosexuals were less in everyone’s face perhaps that would lead to them being less uncomfortable in life. I am interested in where the line is drawn. Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to kiss in public? Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to hold hands in public? Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to use a term of endearment for their partner in public (i.e. Honey, Baby, My Love)? Would it be offensive to you to see a man with flowers in his hand greeting another man at the airport? If a homosexual were seeing off his partner, a soldier going overseas for a year, would it be appropriate if they hugged? Cried? Told each other that they love each other within earshot of others? If a partnered man has a hyphenated name such as I do, and they are asked by a coworker why they have a hyphenated name, should they be honest or lie?
Randy:  No problem with any (of that).
Scott: Do you think it should be acceptable for a homosexual to have a photo of their partner on their desk at the office? What about a flag or other expression of their homosexuality?
Randy: Personally, I can’t put a flag of heterosexual on my desk. I would not even if I could. What is the “norm” in a society is often left out in that sense. I don’t mind it in a parade, but on your desk, in the work place where others can see it and be upset or angry, to me, is a bit of the in your/my face kind of things which I think are not necessary for you or for me. If it is there with the blessing of all of the other employees then that would be an exception. Think of it like me displaying on my desk a flag or poster of a verse from the Bible which denounces same sex relations. Maybe a black man with a black power flag. Or a white man with a white power (flag) or swastika flag or confederate flag. Not something anyone needs at work. Keep them at home.
Scott: Do you think it is acceptable for a homosexual to beaten/fag bashed just because he/she is a homosexual?
Randy: No.
Scott: Do you think it would be acceptable for a homosexual to be beaten if they mistakenly flirted with/came on to a heterosexual?
Randy: No.
Scott: Do you think homosexuals should be able to live wherever they wish or should they be limited to gay neighborhoods?
Randy: Anywhere.
Scott: Do you think employers should be able to fire a good hardworking employee if it is discovered that they are homosexual?
Randy: No
Scott: If my partner, a paramedic, were severely injured at work, should I be able to visit him in the hospital?
Randy: Yes
Scott: If my partner were dying in the hospital, would it be acceptable for me to hold his hand and tell him how much I love him? What if a Christian nurse came into the room?
Randy: OK by me, I don’t know, obviously about the nurse, but I would think that if she/he is in the nursing field, she/he knows that there will be different situations and scenarios that will present themselves and it goes with the territory.
Scott: If my partner were to pass away, should his family be able to come into our home and take half of our stuff away?
Randy: I think there would need to be a decision beforehand about that. I would think that a will would uncomplicate that sort of thing.
Scott: Is it ok for a heterosexual child to be beaten up because they have homosexual parents?
Randy: Of course not.

Remember when we had to remember things?

CirceoI woke up this morning, and, as always, I looked at the clock. It displayed the correct time. That is not so astonishing, because the primary purpose of a clock is to display the correct time. But, wait, daylight saving (not “savings” — how does that even make sense?) time kicked in last night.

In years past, people would end all conversations the week before the arrival of DST with a cheerful “Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead this weekend!”, and we’d do it, usually before going to bed the night before, to ensure all the clocks in the house were accurate on the designated day.

Now my primary clocks are cable boxes, and my primary watch is my phone, so there’s no need to remember when DST starts or ends — my devices automatically update and tell me.

In fact, there’s hardly a reason to remember much of anything any more.

I used to have a friend who was the go-to guy for music answers. He was the person who could remember who had a hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” or “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows”. Other friends of mine were living repositories of trivia in such categories as movies, baseball, and history. Their services are no longer required.

Remembering has become passé. Well, maybe we should still keep our boss’s wife’s name or our home address inside our brains, but knowledge of trivia is a dying art, because — as long as we can get a cell signal (you did switch to Verizon, right?) — we have all that information available at our fingertips.

We don’t need to remember phone numbers (they’re stored in the phone), how to get anywhere (we have GPS), who sang which or acted in what or played for whom … nothing. We can simply look it up.

Albert Einstein rather famously did not know the speed of sound when he took the Edison Test. His response was that he did not bother to remember such information, because it’s readily available in books. I’d heard that story as a child, and Einstein’s explanation made sense to me, so I’ve always applied it in my life. Why bother to remember something I can look up?

That’s all well and good, but as we rapidly approach a time when we can look up just about anything, will the art of remembering simply fade away? Remembering facts was once a requirement for getting along in life, and even a claim to fame for some, but will we reach a point where remembering is derided as a waste of brainspace?

As I age, I am grateful for needing to remember less and less, and I truly believe that, with all the resources of the internet available to me, I actually know more and more. I know it was The Tokens and Edison Lighthouse who sang the songs I mentioned earlier. I know that Einstein story is from the May 18, 1921 edition of the NY Times.

But, yes, I do remember when we had to remember things. I bid those days a fond farewell.

– Steve Circeo

The New Jim Crow

ImageSo I know the hate did not begin with Chick-Fil-A and it won’t end with Arizona. It also isn’t really about gays, it’s about fear. When gays started moving out of the little enclaves that had been set aside for us in the big cities and moved into the suburbs, we crossed a line. We insisted on being accepted as “normal” refusing to stay in the box “good Christians” had begrudgingly allowed us. When we stood against Chick-Fil-A we crossed another. We showed that we would act as a group and demand to be heard. By wanting the right to marry, we crossed yet another line. We demanded recognition of who we are and legitimization of our relationships and our families by society. We became uppity. That’s right, like the blacks of the 60’s, we dared look our former oppressors in the eye like we are their equal!! Nothing will put fear into the heart of a bigot more than that. “Uppity Fags thinking they are as good as me!”

The Arizona law is a sad, but expected, backlash against our temerity. The question is whether society will embrace Jim Crow or whether we will embrace the American ideal of “all men are created equal.” Time will tell!

– M Scott Grohocki-Proctor