The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tonight's Dinner and Another Bessemer Farm

Eat at McAllisters in Homewood tonight.

Tuesday evening, March 31, from 5 to 8 PM, students from UAB School of Engineering will be serving you dinner at McAllister's Deli in Homewood (State Farm Parkway, Suite 104 that's near Lowe's).

Working to wait and bus tables, engineering students will raise money for their May 2009 and 2010 Engineers Without Borders (EWB) trips to Zambia in south central Africa. Students from the UAB School of Public Health will participate in the fundraiser too. The half-dozen student restaurant workers, who are scheduled for a three-hour shift, will keep 10 percent of McAlister’s revenues for the night as well as any tips. Simply put: more diners at McAlister’s that night means more money for UAB’s EWB trips.

Proceeds will help cover travel costs as well as expenses related to the infrastructure project the students will complete in Zambia for EWB. The student project will contribute to the construction of a facility that will serve as the African headquarters for the Alabama based non-profit organization SIFAT, which teaches skills that help sustain communities like water purification, malnutrition diagnosis and HIV prevention. A three-person UAB survey team travels to Zambia this May to lay the groundwork for the larger UAB team trip in 2010.

SIFAT is Servants in Faith and Technology, and is based in Lineville, AL. See what they do, and where, at

Be sure to check Bessemer Science and Nature if you are interested in the Birds and the Bees. Really. Bees. Some of the best pictures I have ever taken.

People Helping People Urban Farm is located just off of I-20/59 near exit 113. Just look for this guy. He was near the farm.

Or look for their totem pole.

Or look for this plot, being prepared to plant.

Their vision: The Urban Farm will be a productive garden that allows community members to help each other and feed the underserved.

Their mission: PHP Urban Farm strives to meet the needs of people by increasing their access to fresher, more nutritious food supplies, increasing the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and promoting comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.

Virginia Ward, the contact person for the farm, told me of the success the farm has had in helping provide for the community as well as educating youth in entrepreneurial skills and sustainable agricultural skills.

They have teamed with an impressive list of stakeholders to meet the challenges they face. Visit the web site and see.

Here some of last year's produce is being harvested.

Photo used with permission of PHP Urban Farm

Here is Virginia Ward with some of the children. Look at that produce behind them.

Photo used with permission of PHP Urban Farm

I will be writing more about this farm, as well as Fig Leaf Farm, during the year.

Gardens and Farms

Be sure to check Bessemer Science and Nature where yesterday I began to document the saga of a family of Robins, and today we travel to Mars.

There is a new sign in the Jonesboro Community Garden.

In case the photo is difficult to read, the Garden is giving thanks to Vulcan Materials, Bessemer City Schools, Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, Bessemer Rotary Club, Trey Tarrant and the Horticulture Students of Lawson State Community College, Building Science Department of Lawson State Community College, New Light Baptist Church, American Community Garden Association, and Alabama Cooperative Extension.

All of these groups have contributed in various ways to the Garden. The Garden is there for you to enjoy. If you want to bring a lawnmower...

There are also new directional signs as you approach on Owen Avenue.

Near Bessemer near McCalla is Fig Leaf Farm.

At Fig Leaf Farm, Joe and Sara use sustainable methods to grow fresh produce and flowers, some of which will be sold this year at Pepper Place Market .

Here they are preparing the soil for planting.

Click on the "Methods" tab in the site and see how they improve the soil, what amendments they use and how they manage insects and pests. There are many things those of us with gardens can do to improve our yields without harming the earth. Here's a quote from their site, "We firmly believe in the message behind the oft-quoted command Don't Treat Your Soil Like Dirt."

One neat thing is a link to this Web Soil survey where you can learn what type of soil you have using the USDA's Geospatial Data. For instance, Fig Leaf Farm's upland is primarily Tupelo silt loam and the bottoms are Sullivan-Ketona complex, a "loamy alluvium derived from sedimentary rock."

We are fortunate to have growers nearby who care about the land and are willing to share and promote sustainable use of the land.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An American Hero

Here's something new. I've created a new blog, Bessemer Science and Nature.

Bessemer Science is where I will be posting articles, information and pictures related to science and nature. This could be anything from reports on embryonic stem cell research or my thoughts about the solar system to my own pictures of Nature. Science encompasses a lot. You might be surprised what you see there.

Today, there are just some pictures I took yesterday and comments. A lizard, a bee and a flower.
Sometimes science will still make it onto Bessemer Opinions.

Yesterday Over the Mountain Democrats hosted American Hero Lilly Ledbetter and Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb at Samford University. While there, I couldn't help but notice the impressive pipes from which music flows in Reid Chapel.

Bobby commented that it could possibly have been the most democrats on campus in history, and I did notice that the program had a disclaimer on the back, "This event is not sponsored by Samford University."

Chief Justice Cobb spoke mainly about indigent representation and how Alabama is lacking in certain important aspects of that, and what she and others are doing to correct it

The highlight of the evening was, of course, meeting and hearing Lilly Ledbetter, who was the main player in the fight that led to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She got nothing out of this 10 year battle, but the country got a great deal. Fairness and equality of pay is just right. Plain and simple. That the executives at Goodyear could not see that makes me never want to purchase a Goodyear Tire again. That the Supreme Court could not see that makes me wonder about the quality of our judiciary (actually I have wondered about that since Al Gore got shafted).

She has become quite a hero and she said that at the signing of the bill that she had three people approach her and say they would write her a check that day if she would run against Mike Rogers (her republican representative who voted against the bill). She didn't say anything more about it, so who knows. Somebody certainly needs to run against him and beat him.

In addition there was a reception prior to the event where I got to talk to Terri Sewell who is running to replace Artur Davis in our district (Congressional District 7). Visit Terri Sewell for Congress and read her biography. You will be hearing a lot about her in the next few months.

Here is Terri talking with Lilly.

She received the Afro-American Studies Thesis Prize for her senior thesis entitled, “Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come.” Terri, I think you are right.

Upon graduation from college, Terri was featured on NBC’s Today Show as one of the “Top Collegian Women” and was chosen as one of the “Top Ten College Women in America,” by Glamour Magazine.

She has extensive background in public service including work in the under served areas of the Black Belt. She was born in Selma, but lives in Birmingham now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last Night and Tonight

You are invited to a great event tonight. Details below.

Yesterday the power kept going out in the late afternoon so I was not going to try to cook. It was a good excuse to go out to eat. Never mind that the stove is gas.

We were going out anyway, to participate in TAP Project. This week several restaurants in the area are collecting "$1, or more, for the tap water you usually enjoy for free to help UNICEF provide clean drinking water to children around the world."

900 million people (that's almost a billion, for those, mostly republicans, who struggle with big numbers) in the world lack access to safe drinking water, and 4,200 children die every day due to lack of clean water.

$1 provides safe clean drinking water for 40 days (and 40 nights).

World Water Week is this week. Here is a list of participating restaurants in Alabama. We chose Rojo. Oh, if we only had a restaurant like Rojo in Bessemer.

Or you can donate online.

Watch this site for a way to help those without water here in Alabama soon. Yes, here in Alabama there are people without safe, clean water.

Then we thought we might visit a charity BINGO hall near Bessemer. A recent article in the paper said all the bingo halls used paper bingo now, awaiting the city or state or somebody to give them the OK to use machines. But these sure looked like machines to me, with little leprechauns and four leaf clovers spinning around and lining up to return credits. And, they sucked your money in just like any machine. But I don't think they are slot machines.


Over the Mountain Democrats is proud to present an American Hero, Lilly Ledbetter, and an Alabama hero, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. This event is free and open to the public.

WHO: Lilly Ledbetter, pioneer for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb
WHAT: Telling their stories and taking questions from the audience
WHEN: 6:15 pm Thursday, March 26th
WHERE: Reid Chapel, Samford University
HOW: FREE and open to the public

We also expect (probable candidate for governor) Jim Folsom, Terry Sewell (candidate to replace Artur Davis), Priscilla Dunn (candidate to replace E. B. McClain) and others to be there.

You've probably heard this song by Chris Isaak, "We Let Her Down." I know that a video has been released, but I can't find it. Here's a live video, though, filmed at a concert in San Fran. Like most Chris Isaak songs, this is a good one to turn up pretty loud and sing along, even if your voice isn't smooth like his.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arlington School Saved

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column, which follows this post. It's about Public Health history and the current economic situation.

At the Bessemer School Board meeting last night the Board voted to pass the following item: "Approval of the sale of the Arlington School Property located at 1901 Arlington Avenue, Bessemer, AL to 'Housing for Birmingham, Inc.' in the amount of $75,000. Mr. W. David Nichols is president."

Of course, this is not a contract and although it seems from the conversation that the details have been worked out, they still have to be put in contract form and the transaction take place.

For those who are interested in details, board member Sam Morris made the motion and Hattie Aikerson seconded it. All the members with the exception of Christine Knight voted for the sale. Knight said that her no vote was because of her "passion for Arlington School" and that she knew the property would sell, and must sell. She indicated that the reason was because the board could not afford to restore the building. To me, "passion" for the building would mean making an effort to save it. But that's just me. She seemed happy with the sale and the knowledge the building would be saved.

Would you go in this building? Well now you don't have to. Take a tour here. A description of the building in the South Bessemer Inventory being updated for our Historic District project says "the entry-bay decorated Flemish-style parapet has been destroyed." That's not all, apparently.

This is the "jewel box theatre with a raked floor, proscenium stage, and horseshoe balcony" that was described as one of the treasured features of the building.

The balcony reminds me of the one in the church next door.

Of course the building, inside and out, is a reminder of what's bad in our society.

KKK members (or wanna-be's) were not happy so they vandalized the gymnasium about 18 years ago.

I wonder what these girls, identified as members of the Tutwiler Literary Society at the original Bessemer High School on Arlington Avenue would think if they saw the school today.

David Nichols plans to restore the building as a senior housing development. He told me this morning that he expects the project to take less than a year, once the sale is completed.

This is tremendous news, albeit belated, for the South Bessemer neighborhood. David and I spoke about renewing the effort for historical recognition. It's going to happen. Do you want to help?

In a day or two I will be posting some information about another historic building nearby, and what the plans are.

Western Tribune column March 25 2009

This is not really the column I had hoped to print this week, but **** happens. You will just have to wonder what that implies.


As the economic recovery continues we have to be mindful that hardship continues for some. As the stimulus creates jobs by helping some industries to thrive, others will be slower to respond and people may still lose their jobs.

Some will find other means of work although this often occurs at a lower rate of pay than they are accustomed to, so changes in their lifestyle may be in order.

But we hope that our government sponsored safety nets and charitable enterprises will keep those who are experiencing any degree of hardship from really suffering.

Some who read this experienced the difficult times of the Great Depression, and the rest of us probably heard about it from our parents. But even those tough times did not reflect true misery.

The type of misery I am referring to is what Johann Peter Frank described in his address to the medical graduates of the University of Pavia in Italy in 1790. The situation in the Austrian Empire that year was somewhat like the situation here in the United States today. Great social reforms had been promised including impartial justice and equitable taxation along with freedom of thought and religious tolerance. The nobility and clergy felt threatened and the reforms were revoked by the leader who had proposed them.

Today the Republican nobility certainly feels threatened and many in the clergy disapprove of the religious tolerance that seems to be advancing.

The type of misery that Frank was referring to was a direct result of the extreme poverty that the laboring masses lived under, and which resulted in increased levels of crime and disease.

“The misery of the people” was described as “the most fertile mother of diseases” in his address. Certainly, live birth rates were markedly different from what we know today, and early childhood death was common. This resulted in part from forced servitude with little or no compensation and starvation was not unusual.

Frank proposed reforms in his address that would do away with servitude and allow for farmers to own the land that they tilled. Better nutrition and health would result, and misery would be expelled from the provinces.

The standards under which we live today would not let us even consider returning to such conditions. The safety nets will prevent such. But just as important, the compassion and caring attitudes of friends and neighbors will see us through. Let’s be sure our neighbors are taken care of during the upcoming months.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Amazing Race

I have never watched reality shows. Well, I take that back. Sometimes I get hooked on The
Real World, mainly to see how the cast responds to the gay (and now transgender...Katelynn Cusanelli in the current season) members, beginning with AIDS activist Pedro Zamora back in 1994, the third season.

Pedro, a film about his life, is being screened in various locations...not here...yet.

(Can you believe there have been 22 seasons of The Real World? It's the longest running series on MTV.)

Anyway, the promotions for The Amazing Race episode Sunday sucked me in. That plus we wanted to watch Cold Case, which due to the basketball games, which delayed Sixty Minutes and everything thereafter, would not start until 8:48. If we watched anything other than The Amazing Race our timing would be off, and we would either miss the end of a show or the beginning of Cold Case. And its not as if we could do something other than watch TV, like read, during that hour. No.

But The Amazing Race had its contestants in India, and so they drew on the interest generated by Slumdog Millionaire (again, if you haven't seen the movie, you should). I recalled that a few weeks ago I had learned that Mel White and his son would be on the show, and sure enough, they are still competing. Mel is the 68 year old gay rights activist/clergyman/author and his son Mike is a writer/actor.

Mel also wrote What the Bible Says - and doesn't Say - About Homosexuality . You can read it for free at that link. There are several readers of this blog who could learn from it. Then they could comment on a post that actually is about homosexuality rather than promoting their uneducated and ill-informed comments on posts that don't even concern sexuality (that refers to comments on the recent post about Arlington School and my family). I will ask, but don't expect compliance, for them to read the link before they post.

Anyway, Mel and Mike came in second on Sunday's show. Now I'm hooked, I will have to keep up, either by watching or checking online.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Time in Bessemer

The dwarf double flowering almond is one of the first things to bloom in our yard each spring, and it never disappoints. Except the flowers don't last long enough. But isn't that true of most flowers (and most other good things)?

In our little Zen Garden the maple tree is putting out blooms and leaves at the same time. People often comment that the leaves of these ornamental maples look like marijuana leaves. Speaking of (medical) marijuana, Loretta Nall had a great letter printed in the Montgomery Advertiser (although I can't link to it) about HB434, the Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act. Here is a link to the letter at her site.

I'm hoping my cousin or someone else can tell me what's going on with this leaf. I found it a couple of week's ago in the back yard while preparing to plant a grape vine. I searched around and did not see any others that looked the same. Plant virus? I don't know.

The first Jonesboro Community Garden workday of 2009 was held Saturday, and several members of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association showed up to dig and plant and gossip about those who were not there. Not really, you know we wouldn't gossip.

We planted a dogwood tree, a magnolia, four fruit trees and several vines and other plants. But gardening is not just planting. Here the old growth is being trimmed from some ornamental grasses, and crepe myrtles were trimmed as well.

Five camellias were planted. Notice a couple of things about this picture. Near the center, behind the camellias, is a redbud tree. There are several redbuds and pecan trees and nandinas along the fence that we are going to save to be part of the garden. But the fence will be cleaned up as well, and this has begun to the left. The old chain link fence is there because this was a school yard and it kept the kids in. Or the creeps out. We still want to keep the creeps out.

The Bessemer School Board will meet Tuesday, September 24, 2009 at 6:00 PM in the board room at their office at 1621 5th Ave N. The fate of Arlington School is on the agenda. Let's hope they save it, and let's be there in support. If they choose to destroy it, in a few decades will progressive neighbors be working to create a garden on the site, like in Jonesboro? We have enough vacant lots crying out to be tended as it is, and we think we can have both significant historic buildings and beautiful gardens.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Arlington School and The Past

Update: The Bessemer School Board will meet Tuesday, September 24, 2009 at 6:00 PM in the board room at their office at 1621 5th Ave N.

This is Arlington School. It was built in 1908 and was Bessemer's first high school. It sits at the corner of Arlington Avenue and 19th Street in Bessemer. It has been empty for years. Well, empty of students. Drug dealers and vagrants and rats have occupied the building from time to time. This picture was taken two years ago, the building looks worse now.

The School Board will decide next week what to do with the building. They have had offers from developers but have refused the offers. In the meantime, the building deteriorates. The city wants to get their wrecking ball out.

I wrote about the school here and here (and several other places) and Alabama Heritage magazine described the property in this way: "A fine example of classical revival school building from the turn of the last century, the Arlington School, built in 1908, was Bessemer's first high school. Its most distinguishing features are the decorative brick and stone facade, interior sky-lighted basketball courts, and an auditorium in the form of a jewel box theatre with a raked floor, proscenium stage, and horseshoe balcony. Once a part of a thriving middle class neighborhood, the Arlington School was abandoned in the early 1980s. Now dilapidated and out of use, the school's state of disrepair is indicative of the decline in the surrounding neighborhood..."

The next picture was taken yesterday of West End High School in Birmingham. The school is being demolished. Just to the right of the frame was written West End High School 1930, I assume that was the year it was built. Don't let this happen to Arlington.

This is my dad. He was born in 1916. He went to Woodlawn High School.

In 1930 my dad would have been around fourteen years old, so he may not have been at Woodlawn yet, where he became a football star. But he had football in him long before he entered high school. He probably played against West End while at Woodlawn. Maybe they even played against Arlington.

Later he married his sweetheart. Weren't my parents a good looking couple?

They later ended up with us four boys. Guess which one is me?

See, I feel connected to my parent's past, even though I wasn't around. And the people of Bessemer feel connected to Arlington School. When I was campaigning for City Council the subject of the school came up with many residents that I spoke with, and they all wanted the building saved. Many of the people who attended that school are no longer with us, but their children and grandchildren are. Hopefully they will let the school board know that the building needs to be saved. The Board of Education meets Tuesday night. When I find out where and what time the Board meets, I will post it on this blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bessemer Politics...too early, and Kevin Richardson

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column from yesterday's paper. It's about our AG, Troy King, and you can find it just below this post.

At least twice a week someone asks me if I am running for City Council next year.

There is no doubt that I believe Bessemer is lacking the kind of leadership it needs in critical areas. This includes elected positions like mayor, city council and school board.

But instead of focusing on City Council district 7, let's think about mayor.

No!!! Not me, even though...well I won't go there.

But how about Anthony Underwood? It's just a thought, not an endorsement. I am just interested in getting business minded new blood into these positions.

Here's an article about Anthony that was in today's B'ham News. He owns West Lake Mall, where Food World is closing. The article describes various possibilities for development, including a flea market (yawn!) or a discount outlet mall (?).

Ok, enough of boring local politics (it will get juicier next year...or next week if you count Louise Alexander's trial).

In the news...have you seen this guy, Kevin Richardson, aka Lion Whisperer? Does he not watch other news stories about humans interacting with wild...that's WILD...animals?

"Every job has its risks," he says. OK.

Now don't confuse him with former Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson. He probably has more sense.

Western Tribune Column 3-18-09 Troy King

Just so you know what I am talking about in the column, this is the article and picture that appears to the left of my column in The Western Tribune.

Here's my column:

It appears AG wanted by more than us

For months it seems that to the left of this column has been a picture of Attorney General Troy King with the bold headline “Wanted” just above. That layout could take on a whole new meaning in the near future as an investigation of the attorney general himself is underway.

Not much is known about the investigation, other than it is being conducted by U. S. Attorney Alice Martin and that questions have been raised with the grand jury about King’s position on gambling and about an investigation of Tuscaloosa City council member Jerry Plott.

The Plott investigation may have been triggered by Stan Pate, who is familiar to the people of Bessemer as a real estate developer. Pate says he gave information about Plott to both Alice Martin and Troy King.

Sometimes these investigations move very slowly, and sometimes there is much surprise and fanfare when someone is indicted.

For reasons unrelated to the current investigation I would like to see King removed from office. His reluctance to allow DNA testing in cases involving a man sentenced to death and his insistence on trying to get the death penalty for a man who didn’t kill anyone after an appeals court commuted his sentence to life in prison are two of many reasons.

Then there is this. Most of the time an investigation by the feds does not leave any stone unturned.

In a story that didn’t quite make it into the main stream media last year King was accused of a dalliance. When questioned about it during a radio interview with WVNN’s Dale Jackson he refused to answer, saying “I don’t discuss rumors.” The radio host said his response, in the context it was used, was a “very damaging” statement and made King look guilty.

The rumored activities, if true, may not carry the weight of federal charges. But if federal charges are forthcoming, you can bet that the U. S. Attorney’s office will use anything they can find to undermine his character.

In order for his weekly photo to be removed he could do one of three things: his job, be removed from office or be defeated in a rematch, hopefully with John Tyson.

I like to think that I keep better company than Troy King and I am tired of being pictured next to him.

Tyson would make a better attorney general and might actually do his job.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Redbuds and Scott Avett

Redbud trees are blooming. I know I probably say this every year, but they were a favorite of my mother. To her, they were a signal that spring was, indeed, here.

Look at the flowers closely. Often we just see a splash of pink along the roadside or at the edge of the yard, but never take time to notice the intricate details of the things that we appreciate.

There will be a workday at the Jonesboro Community Garden on Saturday, March 21 beginning at 9:00 am. We will be planting some new things, trimming some old things, and just getting the garden ready for Spring. come and join us. Look for an announcement soon of an Earth Day event at the Garden (maybe).

I keep hearing this song by the Avett Brothers, so I guess its time to post the video.

Singer Scott Avett is also an artist. Here's a link to his work. Scott was born in Wyoming but raised in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Scott has been described as an "Artist Hobo, for his methods of collecting subject matter, inspiration, and time to work, expresses his ideas through multiple artistic mediums. These mediums include illustration, printmaking, painting, sculpture, songwriting, recording, and performing."

"Conceptually, Avett’s work involves self critical analysis and awareness of one’s mental strengths and weaknesses such as phobia’s and talents, fears and courage."

Speaking of art, I just got permission to use an author's photos of petroglyphs from Nevada in a project I am working on with UAB. This is gonna be fun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


“Family life is changing … Welcome to the new era.”

IKEA Family Live in Poland's 2009 publication presents 12 families, one of which is Ian and Steve. Steve is a stonemason, Ian is a chef. At the link, go to page 54 to begin the entry, which looks like this.

The Catholic Church in Poland was not happy, and urged members to send letters expressing their opposition.
IKEA responded with the following statement:
"Homosexuality is one of the essential elements of living in contemporary society."

Photo from jockohomo

This picture is not from IKEA, but it does play off of the graphics used in the catalog. cute, huh?

This is not the first time IKEA has been attacked for being pro-equality. IKEA is headquartered in Sweden, however, and they don't bend under pressure.
If only I liked their furniture. I might go for some of their kitchen stuff, though.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bessemer's Southside...happenin'

A few days ago I wrote about improvements on Bessemer's south side and mentioned the planned police substation. Seeing is believing.

This building at 2703 Dartmouth Avenue is being converted to the much needed police substation. One advantage in having the substation is faster response time. And not just because of distance. Both police and fire responders can be slowed down because of trains, although there should always be police on this side of the tracks. But if extra units are needed, they could be delayed. (Such was the case during the fire that destroyed my neighbors house...a train delayed the response...who knows what may have been saved if that were not the case).

Here is what the sign says.

The Bessemer Neighborhood Association called for this before our association was even formed, if that makes sense. It was one of the things brought up in our initial discussion, and at several meetings that followed.

Gip's Place

Also on Bessemer's south side is a place that many of my readers have visited, but until this past weekend I had not. Gip's Place, a juke joint just blocks from my house, has been described as a site for underground blues, and one author says it reminds him of the 60's underground joints.

That's sort of the feeling I had as I saw people of every description gathered for one purpose: Good Music. Not that I was visiting too many underground joints in the 60's, but...I got around a little more than people might suspect.

We didn't set out to go, but after learning Saturday night that Ray Cashman would be there, we decided to brave the rain and go. Heck, it's just around the corner, practically.

Of course there's dancing and food that must be very good (we had already eaten and just couldn't take in any more) judging from the way it was being devoured, even to the extent of seeing one person licking the aluminum foil wrapper that had contained what looked like a polish dog. And beer, strictly on a BYOB basis. There are house rules, but you have to be there to learn what they are.

Here, at Gip's Place myspace page you can hear some of Gip's music and music of those who have played there.

Gip's about 87 years old and has been doing this for decades, and the place has gained quite a reputation in the world of blues.

Check out Gip's personal myspace page for more of his music.

Here's a video I took, the quality is terrible (Blackberry) but you can get an idea of the place. Gip's in the blue coat and white hat.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Michael Steele...Keep Talking

Michael Steele is such a misfit for the floundering Republican Party, and floundering is so entertaining to watch. I'm sure that everyone is aware of his conflicting statements on abortion and choice. Frankly, I understand his confusion, not because I agree with him, but because I realize what a difficult issue it is for some, and that it is not a black and white issue. That is precisely why it is an issue of choice. But I'm not here to write about that.

The remarks people are talking about come from a GQ interview.

But also in that interview was this:

GQ: Do you think homosexuality is a choice?

Steele: Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water just can't simply say, oh, like, "Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay." It's like saying "Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black."

That's what we've been saying all along. Thanks, Michael.

So he is not exactly following the party line when he takes these positions. In fact, does this sound like your typical straight republican (also from the GQ interview)?

GQ: Did you watch the Oscars?

Steele: I did! I love the Oscars. Despite what Mr. Shales said in his review in The Washington Post, I liked it. I thought it was: [claps]. And the host! Who knew?

GQ: Did you watch the red-carpet stuff, too?

Steele: I did. I’m looking for who’s got what dress on, you know? I’m looking at the dresses. I’m lookin’ at what they’re doing with the hair. I’m lookin at the fellas. Now, you know, guys are wearing black and white, and I get that, but there’s some style points I could share with some of these brothers out there who just ain’t gettin’ it together.

"I thought it was [claps]." Is that not just a little...? Well, he seems really, really interested in the star's dresses and hair, too.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but...

There is something wrong with this:

That picture was taken in front of the California Supreme Court building last week when the hearings were going on regarding Prop 8. Dan White, if you don't know, was the San Francisco Supervisor who assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978.

It's because of people like the person holding this sign that we need hate crime laws. But even more important, we need to educate people. This person probably does not understand the humanity of LGBT persons. Or, this person is so deep in the closet and so self loathing that they would carry a sign like this, condemning themselves.

In either case, the person has a lot to learn.

That is why blogs like this continue to expose the hypocrisy and false assumptions surrounding the issues of sexuality. And slowly, a little too slowly it sometimes seems, but slowly, people are learning that gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender men and women are just as much a part of the human equation as they are, and that all people deserve respect and rights.

It's really quite simple. It's really quite constitutional. And it's really quite Christian.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Better Boys, Spring Break, and Bessemer Improvements

My Better Boys have sprouted. This is the first time I have grown tomato plants from seed. These will remain in these peat pots for several weeks, till its time to transplant them to the garden. The package describes the fruit as smooth and firm, and they should be ready to pick in 70-75 days.

I tried to convince someone that with the Palm Trees the deck was just like Key West.

It was pointed out that something was missing:

These "better boys" are smooth and firm too, and appear ready for harvest now. Actually they were on the Florida beach a couple of years ago, but you get the point.

But wouldn't Key West be a great place to spend Spring Break? Many people have cut back on Spring Break travel plans...we sure don't have any.

In Bessemer

A great story in The Western Tribune about plans to improve the Hillside Homes community, a public housing project in Bessemer. This is a $2.9 million project, a grant that is part of the Recovery Act. Here is what HUD says about the Recovery Act and the portion from which this project is derived. (Emphasis is mine)

"The Recovery Act includes $13.61 billion for projects and programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 75 percent of which was allocated to state and local recipients on February 25, 2009 – only eight days after President Obama signed the Act into law. Recovery Act investments in HUD programs will be not just swift, but also effective: they will generate tens of thousands of jobs, modernize homes to make them energy efficient, and help the families and communities hardest hit by the economic crisis...

These investments are powerful vehicles for economic recovery because they work quickly, are labor-intensive, create jobs where they are needed most, and lead to lasting neighborhood benefits. Many will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save Americans money by retrofitting housing to make it more energy efficient.

Public Housing Capital Fund: $4 billion invested in energy efficient modernization and renovation of our nation's critical public housing inventory."

A very important and satisfying part of this announcement is that a police substation will be included in the plans. The Western Tribune article mentioned the four murders that occurred nearby two years ago and neighborhood reaction. Read about it here, on my post about the rally after Josh Hughes' murder . This was back during the time when a local TV station declared Dartmouth Avenue "the most dangerous street in the state." Neighborhood residents were livid at the response by the city. Read it.

From the Western Tribune, "Hillside will be a totally different neighborhood in no more than three years."

That may not be all that is different within three years. Bessemer has elections for mayor and city council next year, in 2010. I'm just suggesting...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Ecology of Bessemer Litterbugs - Update

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column which follows this post.

On October 11, 2007, I published a piece titled The Ecology of Bessemer Litterbugs. I feel it is time to revisit the issue, to see if the habits of the species are changing. Please refer to the original post (for a good laugh and to see how this relates to my education).

Once again I have analyzed the litter picked up along the street on our corner lot. As in the past, no living creatures were sacrificed in this effort, although it was suggested previously that eradication of the litterbugs should be a goal, so sacrifice (for stomach content analysis) might be an acceptable method of data collection for the future.

Contrary to the last collection period, no evidence of mating was found. This could be due to the change in season, as the mating season of Bessemer litterbugs could be confined to the fall of the year. No evidence of male enhancement drugs or safe sex novelties were found this time, as opposed to last time. This may have led to safer driving, it is hoped. The lack of soiled diapers (or a diaper package) which last time was used as evidence of successful mating, this time leaves the question unanswered.

As for diet, there seems to be some consistency. Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bar and Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips seem to be a perennial favorite (although the preferred brand of chip has changed from Lay’s to Golden Flake).

No evidence of real food was found this time. No Church’s Chicken or Krystal wrappers. In fact, the only evidence of meat was two empty Vienna sausage cans. The litterbugs may have been fooled however, thinking that animal crackers were actual animals, as a wrapper for those cookies was found. "Washpot Type" Pork Cracklins, is that meat? I’ll have to consult with a nutritionist.

Other food item paraphernalia found indicate consumption of a "25% Larger" Lance Peanut Bar (the "25% larger" descriptive on the package may have confused the litterbug into thinking this was an enhancement item, since the males have been known to use the supplements in the past), a Fortune Cookie, Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels, a Snoopy Bubble Gum filled Pop, Doritos Cool Ranch Chips and a Little Debbie Snack Cake.

Bud Light and Popeye’s Chicken (Louisiana Kitchen) drinks were equal in popularity, and non-alcohol drinks far outnumbered the alcohol drinks, a positive sign for Bessemer. Of the alcohol drinkers at least one litterbug is a high falutin’ Haffenreffer Private Stock drinker, the one time favorite of Wilt Chamberlain (“Nobody does it bigger”) and Notorious B.I.G. (“Smokin weed and Bambu, Sippin’ on Priviate Stock”). Here’s a picture of a typical Private Stock drinker from another biome, and a quote.

“It's available in NJ but not within easy grasp for me... I wish it was though; this brew should be part of a balanced diet. That's right - I'd drink it every day.”

Yeah I bet you would, because I found your Youtube channel where there are 94 videos of you drinking 40 oz beers. Gee. Get a life.

OK, back to the study.

Pepsi, Fanta Orange, Nestle Water, and generic Fruit Punch were also consumed.

There was a Valentine gift bag, but no evidence of what someone was giving to their lover. Possibly that is what the 40 oz Haffenreffer came in? Can't you just see the guy in the picture, "Happy Valentine's Day, Hon."

A "Car Freshner" Tree (Morning Fresh) with some scent still remaining was found. I took this and hung it in my truck...(Not really – gross - but the trash bag smells really good).

There was one Cherry Peppers Phone Card Game Piece (win up to $7,777.77). This is an interesting find, because I would be willing to bet that had the inner message been “You’re a winner” rather than “Sorry no winner” that the piece would not have been found.

A torn newspaper clipping with a picture of a Bassmaster Classic winner holding a fish up (the name of the winner had been torn off) was found. It is possible that the litterbug who discarded this item was interested in the fish, and kept the name in order to track the raw food item down.

No items were found that related to tobacco use. Last time the Black and Mild cigars, Newport and Marlboro were common findings. Another positive indicator for Bessemer.

All in all, analysis shows that the population of Bessemer litterbugs is shrinking. Data is inadequate to determine if this is due to a change in reproductive habits, seasonal migration or other reasons.

Further studies are indicated and will be performed at appropriate intervals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Western Tribune Column March 11, 2009

Last week I was in conversation with a woman who is interested in moving from Hoover to Bessemer. One of the questions she asked was whether we walked (for exercise) and whether others in the neighborhood walked as well.

Like many people, I understand the benefits of walking for fitness, but again, like many people, I find plenty of excuses to refrain.

But with the economy in a tailspin, we all are looking for ways to save money. Walking as exercise is absolutely free.

Of course one can make it expensive buy buying fashionable attire and special shoes. Add a pedometer, a heart meter and an Ipod and you’ve used a whole paycheck.

But most people already have adequate shoes and clothes and many have an Ipod so they are ready to go.

Daylight Savings time began this week and there is daylight in the evenings; the weather is just right to enjoy a stroll.

In addition to the physical benefits of walking there are other benefits as well. Many find themselves glued to the news when they are at home, and the constant bombardment with sour news about the country’s fiscal crisis adds to the stress of daily living. Getting out of the house and walking through your neighborhood can help relieve that stress. While walking you can spend time in prayer or meditation of sorts and focus on the positive things in your life.

You can meet your neighbors and see old friends. Don’t stop to talk, though, tell them you will call them later. This will get you back in touch with your community and community involvement will result.

I hope that things come together so that my friend and her partner are able to move into our community. They are both politically minded and involved in community advocacy and Bessemer would certainly benefit from their presence.

The fact that people from outside our city are recognizing the real estate bargains that are to be found here is good. There is an overabundance of homes for sale in Bessemer, and hopefully these will be purchased by buyers who want to move into the community, like my friends, rather than those who just want to be landlords.

As new people move in let’s make sure they feel welcome. Invite them for a walk. And enjoy the extra hour of daylight.


Two separate conversation in two counties this past weekend focused on manure. The virtues of such, you know, the stuff that is cleaned out of barns or feedlots, when applied to a garden, were extolled. Large watermelons and an abundance of potatoes would be the result.

With no livestock at the farm, we have no source of fresh manure for our garden, neither here nor there.

The only manure I have access to is the recycled kind that is transmitted along radio waves and cable lines.

Like yesterday when the world fell apart because President Obama was lifting the Bush ban on embryonic stem cell research, which will allow federal funding to back such research.

Among the things the right wing is saying to try to skew people's knowledge and understanding:

The moment a sperm impregnates an egg, and the resulting cell divides, it is a human being. Sometimes they even say "living, breathing human being." Bull Crap. First of all, the cells don't breathe. Respiration goes on, at a cellular level, but that is hardly breathing. Second, if the embryos are "human being," capable of all the human emotions and feelings as they claim, then isn't it cruel to keep them frozen for indeterminate periods of time. I mean, you wouldn't put a real live baby in the freezer, would you? But you claim these embryos are babies, I don't get it.

Barack Obama is a demon. In a cartoon she received before the election, Obama was morphing into a demon, a woman said. Now she knows it's true, and its not funny anymore. In fact, she and others said that Barack Obama was destined for Hell because of the signing of the documents yesterday. He would be solely responsible for millions of deaths. Horse Crap. Well, these embryos are frozen and later discarded like medical waste, so who is responsible for those embryos' deaths? Are they going to Hell also? Nice job of being God's gatekeeper, lady.

This is Brett Dennen's song "Heaven," and this seems like an appropriate place for it. The maker of this youtube vid had this to say about the picture: "The picture used is unrelated to Brett or the song. I took that picture with my Macro lens of the bottom of the fire pit at camp. Yes, that's what burning wood looks like. Beautiful, isn't it?"

I chose this version so your mind could create its own images during the song.

This move will require millions of embryos to be created and destroyed to supply the demand for research. Malarky. They used terms like "embryo farming" to describe the scenario they envisioned.

The Catholic Church was throwing out plenty of manure too. I accidentally landed on EWTN last night, and there was a talk show on. The conversation shifted from embryonic stem cell research to abortion, and they were trying to say that one third of all U. S. hospitals will be forced to close if FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) is passed and signed into law, (they are claiming that 1/3 of all hospitals are Catholic Hospitals, which might be true), because if the hospitals refuse to perform abortions that Kathleen Sibelius will order them closed. She's Catholic, by the way. Of course she would also close Baptist Hospitals and any others that refuse, so the health care in our country would crumble even more. What a crock. That is not what the bill says or supports.

See, I can't take anything the Catholic Church puts out seriously. I mean, here, at The Wild Reed, is one example why. A ways down in that post is this:

A third example - one that is making international news: Time magazine is reporting on the outrage among Catholics in Brazil about Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife (pictured above) who recently announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. According to Time, the Church has also “excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well.”

Keep reading and you will learn that the rapist was not excommunicated. Another writer is quoted:

[Many are] furious with the Church [for] not excommunicating the girl’s stepfather. The truth is the stepfather has not engaged in an excommunicable offense. In fact, raping his stepdaughter is actually seen as a more moral sexual act than having sex with his wife if they were using birth control. Raping his nine-year-old stepdaughter is a sexual act open to procreation. According to the Church, God’s law favors rape over birth control. God’s law is sure tough on women and nine-year-old girls.

Rape is procreation, they say, so that's OK? How can anyone support a church, created and run by men, that has such a policy? Give me a break.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rollin' On: Progress

Could it be spring? Oh, I know that spring doesn't really begin for a couple of weeks. But the weather sure was spring like this past weekend.

We set out three peach trees, three apple trees and helped with 50 pounds of seed potatoes. I told you the garden space was huge.

But remember, it was just a week ago we were playing in the snow. Watch this video of the snow in Auburn, sent by Jim and by the folks at the University.

On to the news:

While understanding that the economy is and should be the main focus of the president and congress, the world does continue to turn and other issues are being addressed.

For instance, today the president is expected to reverse the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, using "science - not political ideology" to guide his administration. Scientists now will be able to apply for federal money for research, and have "eight years of science to make up for," according to Curt Civin, founding director of the University of Maryland Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

On the LGBT front, many are anxious for an indication that President Obama's promises to move forward on the issues will be fulfilled. Some of us are being very patient without worry, and an article in the recent Advocate backs up this feeling.

Joe Solmonese, executive director of The Human Rights Campaign, was quoted in the article.

“You could just wander around the first floor, anywhere you wanted to go,” he adds later, and so he idled through the hushed,high-ceilinged rooms until it was time for President Barack Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first major piece of legislation to pass Congress after Obama took office. Solmonese recalls that during the ceremony, “I turned around where I was sitting and I looked into the eyes of so many of the staff people, like David Axelrod and Rahm [Emanuel], and all of those people had tears in their eyes, and it filled me with a renewed sense of hope about changing things for GLBT Americans.” Solmonese, who speaks in sleek, rapid-fire sentences, is wary of sentimentality -- “It sounds hokey,” he says -- but still he goes on.

After the bill signing, Solmonese says, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile asked him, “ ‘What are you thinking about?’ And I said,‘I’m envisioning this moment for the GLBT community and watching the president sign a bill that will bring this measure of equality to our community.’ As if on cue, a number of White House staff people came over and said to me, ‘We look forward to working to make sure that this happens in pretty short order for the GLBT community.’

We've got plenty of time, and we are patient (although at times it may not seem so). Remember, I gave the president a year , saying:

Barack Obama may not immediately grant all of our wishes, but I would be willing to bet that the first legislation that mentions sexual orientation to be passed
and signed by a president will occur within the first year of his administration.

And then we will be on the way to a nation that values each of its citizens.

in this column from The Western Tribune.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Truth About Rush and the GOP

Today one of the best letters ever to the Decatur Daily was printed (the best might have been mine, printed a couple of years ago. I might dig it up someday). It's from Mick Hubbard of Hartselle. Way to go Mick, email me if you want to contribute on Bessemer Opinions from time to time.

His letter:

To: The Daily

While watching the CPAC convention and the new Republican Party leader, Rush Limbaugh, one thing that was proven last week was their motto really is “We Know What’s Good for America.” Yet during the entire week, Limbaugh and his fellow travelers remained in total denial of the fact that the GOP caused (yet another) great GOP recession.

Thus for the 21st century to date the GOP has:

  • Supported communism by selling out the American economy to the threat of control of American capitalism by communist China.
  • During the last three elections the GOP proved continuously that its dominant cultural values are defined by its core constituency that still practices a culture of hate.
  • For the better part of this decade, GOP leaders such George Bush and Dick Cheney and Republican congressional leaders used lies about weapons of mass destruction and promoted government surveillance and control with increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. When a hospitalized and morphined John Ashcroft wouldn’t even sign the permission slip to allow this sort of thing, the Bush administration went ahead with it anyway.

So today, the newest GOP leader Limbaugh is promoting a CPAC ruling elite dedicated to wielding total power over America by continuing to practice Adolf Hitler’s motto: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

For all of the talk from Republicans about how the conservative agenda got away from the leadership, these same people were complicit and apologetic while it was going on.

It’s time the Democratic National Committee got back to “Fighting Like Hell for the Living” or the GOP will produce “1984” at last — a course the Bush autocracy set America upon, which Limbaugh’s GOP is dedicated to perpetuating and a continued destruction of the middle class, much less the least among us.

Mick Hubbard


Friday, March 6, 2009

Early Spring Gardening

The early spring garden has been planted. Onions, lettuce, collards, mustard greens and cabbage plants are in the ground. More on gardening later.

I'm not going to write about the idiots today, although there are plenty around.

But if you read and watch that, then also accept this.
Obama Birth Announcement from Honolulu Advertiser Sunday August 13, 1961.

And this:
Obama Birth Certificate

And read this from which answers all the stupid questions that these racist, xenophobic, America-hating bigots are raising.

And let me say, that I will not post any comments about the above that are negative or even questioning about our president.

Now, on to gardening. I will post comments on this.

At Lowe's you can by these little soil test kits.

I tested three areas and learned that the pH of the areas is fine but the soil is deficient in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. The raised bed, pictured above, was slightly better in nutrients than the other areas I tested, probably because of this.

That is a Nature Mill Automatic Indoor Composter. I put all of our scraps (except bones and celery) in it, and within a few days I have compost. You can include meat, shrimp shells, egg shells, coffee grounds, pasta, stale bread, leftover lima beans...everything. Every few days I get a little load of compost and spread it outside. So far all of the compost produced during the winter has gone on the raised bed. That's one of the neat things about it, it produces compost all year. And it uses minimal energy and recycles all the scraps.

This is where my tomato seeds are planted.

We still have plenty of canned tomatoes from last summer (Disclaimer...the canned tomatoes came from the farmer's market, not from out garden). This year we hope to produce a bumper crop.

You can see last year's collard plants in the garden photo, still producing fresh young leaves. Remember I cooked some on Super Bowl Sunday? I picked about all the leaves that day, and now look, I can get another meal out of them.