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July 25, 2015

Volunteer Group Helping Make Arboretum A Magical Destination For Visitors


Today will be Leilapalooza, a 6 outdoor stage, 35-music band festival rockin, rollin, jazzin on the 85-acres of Battle Creek's  Leila Arboretum. Located near downtown on W. Michigan Avenue.

Almost to the day last year, I published a blog about a group of Leila volunteers called "The Tuesday Group," which puts in hundreds of hours almost weekly to not only make Leila's front entrance  extraordinarily beautiful, but also to help on events like Leilapalooza; and the first-ever incredibly successful Fantasy Forest Art Competition several weeks ago, which drew close to 6,000 visitors.

(I ran across the following blog this morning -- there are more than 200 blog posts on my site from the past 10 years at ragstorichmond.blogspirit.com.With about 6,000 readers each month.)

But in all my years of working with volunteers (and being one), never have I seen a bunch like The Tuesday Group,  dedicated, hard working, persistent, fun and funny... who are not only central to maintaining the Arboretum, but helping it expand and transform itself into the "nature, arts, education and recreation campus" that Mrs. Post envisioned when she donated the property nearly a century ago.

I've worked a couple days a week at the Arboretum for 3 years, and I get to casually watch these volunteers, in the way I watch everything after nearly 50 years as a newspaper columnist, writer and author.

So, here's a link (below) to my story about The Tuesday Group. You'll be amazed at what they do.

And come on out today to the Leilapalooza music festival!

I'll be pouring beer from 6 to 9:30 at the Fragrant Hill Pavilion, up on the overlook.

As they say down south, "Just stop and say 'hey'!"


July 22, 2015

Firing of School Superintendent Symbol of Civic Leadership Gap



First: I agree generally with Commissioner Helmboldt.

(See link: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2015/07/21/frustrations-bubble-wake-hicks-resignation/30481031/)

The problems didnt start with School Superintendent Hicks and wont end with her departure.

Enquirer photo.jpgThey are systemic. I did not know Hicks. But I had occasion to watch how she (mis)treated her staff during the setup for a BCPS building principals meeting. She was unsmiling, rude, dictatorial, near abusive. You can tell a lot about how a CEO treats his/her people at all levels.

Of course we need school district consolidation. 

A friend lamented to me recently that there are 500 students at Battle Creek Central, in a building that used to serve 1,500 (and now not including 9th grade), and questioned why voters approved a $68 million building expansion.

All of the districts have rushed pell mell to building new high schools--as if trying to make sure they are the last one standing, if and when consolidation occurs.

Seems closing schools is the equivalent of getting dealt the "death card" in Tarot, if you are a school superintendent. Facing that prospect, a school superintendent should start looking for a nice retirement home in Costa Rica.

And most of us thought charter schools were such a "swell" idea. We should have spelled it s-w-i-l-l.

None of this is funny. Is is extremely sad and discouraging.

Change will not occur until we have another crisis like the City/Township merger or we-will-take-our -marbles -and -leave -home that occurred in the early 80s.

Ain't gonna happen.

Times change. Kellogg Co is treading water. See anyone there with Bill LaMothe's guts and leadership (on both the profit and community sides)?

A Kellogg Foundation program staff person is harder to reach by phone than Vladimir Putin. Some of us remember the days with the WKKF CEO answered his own phone and you could get 15 minutes with him to talk about almost any local, serious issue or problem.

Things are not all bad, all doom and gloom.

I feel the breeze, a rising wind of change in Battle Creek -- for the good.

It will not be painless. A few weeks ago, a Lansing friend and I had dinner and then walked through downtown."Oh, this is so lovely. Much nicer than Lansing!," she exclaimed.

But the really tough issues of disparate educational access and opportunity, of poverty, of largely ignored Northside neighbohoods....the list goes on.....remain.

I understand lots of private sector money is going into "planning" on how to deal with these issues. At Barnes & Noble, S.W.O.T. lists and flip charts sell faster than hotcakees at Ritzee's.

I'd rather see a few real leaders with guts and resources step forward.

Maybe that will happen.

It happened once-- long, long ago Virginia. Maybe it will happen again, and not just for a day at Christmas time.

July 20, 2015

Part Caine, Part Abel?

Part Caine, Part Abel?

Are we all part Caine, part Abel? caine and abel.jpg

Certainly I've been over a lifetime. Some of us are like milk: skim, 2%, 5%, whole Caine, little Abel. 

It's 3 a.m.., my body hurts, and I leave to drive to Chicago in a couple hours. But I have fed the cats...who are chasing each other around the apartment. And I am looking forward, later today, to seeing a friend from 40 years ago. 

But for some reason I have laid awake, consumed with the Caine and Abel analogy -- The following story on Bill Cosby is, in my book, about a man more Caine than Abel. 

Yet we held him up as Abel, as Jesus-like on the tv screen for decades and consumed his public morality statements. How can ANYONE be such a wolf in sheep's clothing?

But there are the true Abels among us. 

For decades, I've disliked and distained President Jimmy Carter, even while several of my friends near Deify the man 

In a long PBS interview recently. he explained the options presented to him by hs military leaders at the time of the hostage taking. ALL recommended destroying, wiping out Iran. 

Looking back, one can still argue whether that might have been the best choice. 

But Carter chose another less violent option. -- I believe the Abel option. And of course has paid the price for doing so, the rest of his life.

Carter was a mediocre President at best. But he has been a wonderful spokesperson and"doer" for peace and for helping others since leaving office. 

But supporting, advocating for this world of evil and random violence only begets violence and evil. And we need role models; people who choose to be Abel over Caine.

Caine will always be walking in our shadow. And we can't let him consume the world....like Iran, China, North Korea and others are still doing today, even if that requires maintaining and using our own military strength. 

but we can try our best to be more like Abel in our lives and toward others. 

On the phone last night, I told my son that I'm working on that..... as I near the end of a wonderful life.

Still it is difficult to do, especially if we lack self examination and self awareness, as we have sadly learned with Mr. Cosby: 


July 10, 2015

Lucy and Ethel in the Candy Lane


Did you know we spend more time watching porn on the Internet than reading The Bible,The Big Book, checking FACEBOOK and all the other combined books, all the other words in print? 

Of course, I (capitalize that "I") have never, never, never watched any porn. 

AND I know YOU have never watched ANY porn on the 



So who are all these people? 

Could Uncle Al be watching porn? 

GOD FORBID, as disgusting as it seems, could Dad or Mother or Father Tim be watching porn?

Could President Obama AT THIS VERY MOMENT be watching porn instead of finishing that 13 inch briefing book on whether the European Central Bank is going to again provide emergency liquidity assistance for the Greek drachma?

JUST THINK. If we all stopped watching Internet porn, we'd probably have time to solve the world's greatest problems.

In the course of full disclosure, let me ADMIT I've watched a little Internet porn in my day. 

But I keep looking in the girls' eyes and seeing thinly veiled pain, shame and the very worst kind of abuse we can inflict on each other as human beings.

Maybe some people just can't get enough of it.

For me personally, watching Porn very quickly is like watching Lucy and Ethel in the candy production line. 

Without the candy.
SEE NETFLEX's hour long documentary and interviews with young women who find themselves caught up in the porn production business.