Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banner Waving

My son came up to visit and brought me a Trump flag/banner to display from my house up here in Buffalo, Texas.  He didn’t want to attach it to the house in Houston, fearing it might bring out the worst in some folks who lack civility at most any level.  Can’t say I blame him, having seen some of the nonsense that’s been going on in our country.

So here’s the Trump banner, proudly waving in the breeze as it’s wedged in between the top railing of my porch and the roof overhang.  

I’m not sure I like Trump as much as so many of his supporters; but at least he loves America and is doing what he can to expose the ugliness of the folks in Congress who keep trying to destroy this nation. 

Several years ago when Obama was running for the presidency, a good friend of mine, Terrell Hunt, (may he rest in peace), was backing Obama's candidacy and put up a huge ‘Obama for President’ banner to hang from the entryway to his house.  I was on my way home in the evening and noticed it; how could you not notice it? 

Terrell and I didn’t see eye to eye on most anything political; but we were brothers in the gospel of Jesus Christ and treated each other with the highest respect and love.  Lucy and I would go over and visit with the Hunt family regularly and joke about our differences, chiding each other here a bit and there a bit; but always knowing our friendship was more important than any political issue.

I decided to call Terrell in the morning to chide him about the ‘Obama for President’ sign.  When he answered the phone I explained, “Someone vandalized your house last night.” 

Terrell was a bit angry as he replied, “They sure did…they wrote nasty stuff all over my brand new ‘Obama for President’ banner.”  Turns out someone had actually ‘vandalized’ his home by spray painting across his political hero’s banner.

His response caught me completely off guard, and from the way he paused, let me know that perhaps he considered me the culprit since I knew about it as the sun was coming up.  I assured him I had no idea that someone had spray painted over his Obama banner; that I was joking with him for having put the banner up in the first place. 

Timing is a funny thing and it’s a shame Terrell passed away a couple of years ago; he was a true friend, and I can’t say that about too many folks who claim to be Democrats…

Terrell’s probably looking down from the Heavens at my house here in Buffalo, Texas, wishing he could call me on the phone, “Hey, Brother Stern, someone came by your house and vandalized it.”  Yes, I can see him laughing into the phone and wondering if I too have a sense of humor big enough to let him get away with such a line.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

An American in Paris - Gershwin CD

Being restricted somewhat from movement away from the house to a certain degree has permitted an extensive use of music playing in the background while accomplishing other chores.  We are blessed to have Pandora Radio going most of the time, with my favorite location, the Gershwin Station, a collection of similar music.

As I was going over recent Facebook entries I found my mind wandering as they had the American in Paris on, as found on the CD, Gershwin Plays Gershwin – The Piano Rolls .  The piano rolls were played on a “Yamaha Diskclavier, a computer-driven descendant of the player piano”.  The quality of these  performances is breathtaking.  (If you like Gershwin music I recommend this CD for your collection)

Now for a little piece of history on this particular cut; …how it was produced. I’ll copy the information as presented in the booklet provided when I purchased this wonderful recording. 

“The Last selection on this CD is Frank Milne’s 2 roll arrangement of An American in Paris, Cut in 1933, it is one of the most impressive and powerful roll performances of the era.  After the crash of the piano roll industry, the severely curtailed Aeolian Company kept Milne on as its lone roll editor and ceased using performing artists. 

According to Milne’s children, by that time and probably much earlier he was so skilled at arranging that he did not need a recording apparatus to generate the performance.  Much as a composer notates a score, he prepared roll masters by drawing lines on a roll of special graph paper which served as a template for perforating the holes. The roll of An American in Paris is identified, however, as being played by Milne and “Leith”.  We now know that “Leith” was one of Milne’s pseudonyms; to put an arrangement of this complexity forward to the public, it had to be represented as a 4-hand performance.

We have no evidence that Gershwin supervised Milne’s arrangement of An American in Paris but the arranger had previously worked with Gershwin on his late Duo-Art song rolls.  Milne’s version of An American in Paris ingeniously evokes not only the full sonority of an orchestra but also the vitality of a live performance.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Finding Treasure

A couple of weeks ago while doing some yard work I was scattering grass seed around the base of a large tree. While in the process of scooping handfuls of seed and dropping it on the bare spots I caught a glint, a reflection from something in the dirt.
It was a tea spoon from our silverware service that apparently one of my grandchildren had been digging with. My first inclination was to take a deep breath and remember that little children don’t see a piece of silverware as being valuable; only that it can be used to dig in the dirt. No telling how long this tea spoon had been lying there and, it’s something of a miracle that it hadn’t been destroyed by my mowing.
It pricked a memory from when I was a young boy digging in the dirt behind my friend’s house. At the time we lived on Long Island, New York where they were blessed with rich dark soil that was used for truck farms. As the area grew more populated, many of these old farms became what we now call Suburbia.
My folks bought a nice three bedroom house after my father returned from serving in the Navy during WWII. I think he paid $12,000 for that house under the G.I. Bill. That house was valued at $450,00.00 when my wife and I visited back in 2005.
As I mentioned, they had beautiful dark top soil and most of my neighbors had planted shrubs, trees and flowers along the back fences; a perfect place for kids to dig. We could hide in the shadows and day dream about most anything; hiding from Indians, the Red Coats or looking for hidden pirate’s treasure.
I found a piece of pirate’s treasure; at least that’s what my mind decided it must be. It was a knife, more precisely, a dinner knife that had been buried there for a hundred years. That it matched the same silverware service belonging to my friend’s mother was something of a coincidence. That didn’t discourage us from looking for more pirate treasure.
My mother understood the importance of little boys digging in the dirt and how imagination opens the door to a much larger world. She suggested we continue digging for more pirate treasure in our backyard while letting my friend’s mother keep the booty we’d stumbled upon. She was careful to hand us stainless steel spoons rather than her good silverware. Interesting how spreading grass seed sparked a simple memory.
Spinning the years forward to last October’s General Conference and a talk given by President Russell M. Nelson, Spiritual Treasures, he pointed out some important items relating to our search for spiritual treasures, those associated with the power of the priesthood.
“Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power.” (emphasis added)
That priesthood power isn’t reserved only for the Brethren; but extends to our Sisters when they are doing the Lord’s work.
“Now, you might be saying to yourself, “This sounds wonderful, but how do I do it? How do I draw the Savior’s power into my life?”
President Nelson was quick to point out, “You won’t find this process spelled out in any manual.”
In case you’re wondering about this glorious priesthood power, President M. Russell Ballard, in the April 2013 General Conference taught:
“Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection”.
President Ballard further explained:
“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife”. (emphasis added)
Returning to President Nelson’s invitation for Sisters to tap into the priesthood powers available to both men and women he added,
“Part of this endeavor will require you to put aside many things of this world. Sometimes we speak almost casually about walking away from the world with its contention, pervasive temptations, and false philosophies. But truly doing so requires you to examine your life meticulously and regularly. As you do so, the Holy Ghost will prompt you about what is no longer needful, what is no longer worthy of your time and energy.”
While it wasn’t specifically mentioned, how many times have we been taught to do the simplest tasks in order to have the Spirit in our lives? Daily habits that when followed, invite the Holy Ghost to participate in our lives like; daily scripture study, individual and family prayer, Family Home Evening, making use of the Come Follow Me home study manual, family history and genealogy work to find our kindred dead, temple attendance and ministering to those around us. Are we doing what is required to invite the Spirit?
When we are doing things the way the Lord would have us do them we are inviting the Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. And, while in this attitude of following the admonitions of the Spirit is when we’ll find the Spiritual Treasures that have been set aside for us, tender mercies and blessings that enrich our eternal bank accounts if you will.
“As you shift your focus away from worldly distractions, some things that seem important to you now will recede in priority. You will need to say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless. As you embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating your life to the Lord, the changes in your perspective, feelings, and spiritual strength will amaze you!”
President Nelson added some words of caution.
“Most certainly, the adversary does not want you to understand the covenant you made at baptism or the profound endowment of knowledge and power you have received or will receive in the temple—the house of the Lord. And Satan certainly does not want you to understand that every time you worthily serve and worship in the temple, you leave armed with God’s power and with His angels having “charge over” you.” (emphasis added)
Later in President Nelson’s talk he spent considerable time talking about the blessings found by attending the temple. Sisters working as Ordinance Workers perform these ordinances by using priesthood power, the same priesthood power that created this earth, the same priesthood power the Brethren use. Each time you present yourself as a patron or worker at the temple you become “armed with God’s power and His angels having “charge over” you.” These are the Spiritual Treasures we should be seeking as we find the joy in becoming more like the Savior.
Isn’t that always going to be the case? Satan wants you to be miserable like unto himself. The more you seek to follow the Lord, the more tricks and ploys Satan will use to act as stumbling blocks, hedging up the way before you.
“Satan and his minions will constantly contrive roadblocks to prevent you from understanding the spiritual gifts with which you have been and can be blessed. Unfortunately, some roadblocks may be the result of another’s misbehavior. It grieves me to think that any of you have felt marginalized or have not been believed by a priesthood leader or have been abused or betrayed by a husband, father, or a supposed friend. I feel deep sorrow that any of you have felt sidelined, disrespected, or misjudged. Such offenses have no place in the kingdom of God.”
President Nelson expects us to do our part while seeking these Spiritual Treasures as found while exercising the power of the priesthood.
“I entreat you to study prayerfully all the truths you can find about priesthood power. You might begin with Doctrine and Covenants sections 84 and 107. Those sections will lead you to other passages. The scriptures and teachings by modern prophets, seers, and revelators are filled with these truths. As your understanding increases and as you exercise faith in the Lord and His priesthood power, your ability to draw upon this spiritual treasure that the Lord has made available will increase. As you do so, you will find yourselves better able to help create eternal families that are united, sealed in the temple of the Lord, and full of love for our Heavenly Father and for Jesus Christ.”
While President Nelson’s remarks were mostly directed to the Sisters, he was quick to include:
“I hasten to add that I do not absolve men in any way from God’s requirement for them also to distinguish between right and wrong. But my dear sisters, your ability to discern truth from error, to be society’s guardians of morality, is crucial in these latter days. And we depend upon you to teach others to do likewise. Let me be very clear about this: if the world loses the moral rectitude of its women, the world will never recover.” (emphasis added)
It would seem our work is cut out for us. Satan and his minions will always be trying to ensnare us as we strive, diligently at times or barely striving when feeling lazy. The fact remains that Spiritual Treasures have been prepared for each of us as we follow the promptings of the Spirit during our probation here in mortality.
The gems you find, while they may not be as tangible as the silver knife found when I was just a boy, will be recognized as priceless gifts from the Lord. It is my prayer that we take President Nelson’s words into our hearts as we labor in His vineyard.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Springtime is here March 7, 2020

One of the joys in life is watching nature, simple and glorious at the same time.  Take for example the promise of springtime that follows winter as trees, bushes and grasses remind us to be grateful for the beauty supplied by our Creator.

We have a tree that just began flowering; becoming more spectacular each passing day.  It last for about a week as the white petals are then replaced with lush green leaves.  This happens before our pecan trees give any sign that winter is over.  Today that tree is nearly covered with white blooms and the evening sun gave it the impression of being on fire.

I thought of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 6, where the Lord teaches his disciples to seek after the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  More specifically, He’s teaching all of us to appreciate and be grateful for life itself; not worry about things too much since He’s in charge.

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Monday, February 10, 2020

Addressing Contrary Strangers

We’re supposed to be kind and loving to everyone; but…

There are some folks who enjoy being insulted, going out of their way to extend or prolong a conversation that should have ended before it ever started. These folks are often found on social media forums such as Facebook or Twitter. I’d have included conversations on elevators; but that in and of itself violates a Cardinal Rule of remaining silent while the doors are closed.

The problem, at least as it has presented itself, arises when you read something which runs contrary to your opinion, an opinion based on a lifetime of experiences, feelings, prejudices with an occasional fact thrown in just for fun. These type of contrary comments beg for a snide reply and, (pausing to inhale) they most often are found in comment threads belonging to someone listed as one of your ‘Friends’.

Of course, (I read somewhere that you’re not supposed to start a sentence with Of course; but I like to live dangerously), where was I… there are others who’ve specialized, even made careers out of insulting others. “ Don Rickles earned the nicknames “The Merchant of Venom” and “Mr. Warmth” for his poking fun at people of all ethnicities and all walks of life.”

But what about the common everyday Smart-Alec who doesn’t make a living insulting their friends, strangers or people who didn’t check with their mothers prior to commenting in an open social media forum? What’s the average Joe/Jane supposed to do when he/she enters a conversation only to find the other individual is never going to ‘get it’, what then?

This is a modern day challenge. In the past you’d simply shake your head and leave; but in our day of omnipresent communication abilities, there really isn’t a way to exit without appearing cowardly or uninformed. All those years of schooling, indoctrination and prejudice can’t be ignored or wasted; no, you have to get your Two Cents in.

Of all the folks I know and consider associations, some reaching close enough to be classified as Friend, I try to weed out those who ‘will never get it’. This saves time and energy; but it limits the number of times I’ll have to apologize to the Lord for yet another human frailty, another sinful act on my part…remembering that we’re supposed to be kind and loving to everyone.

I really do try to be open-minded, giving others the opportunity to admit that they are mistaken and could use a healthy dose of my insight. Those who are unable to benefit from my exhaustive library of information; well, it’s their loss and good riddance to bad baggage. Some people have never learned to enjoy sarcasm, considering everything to be on the level.

The Onion and BabalonBee take great pride in killing off these weaklings, often leaving their entrails scattered across the internet as a warning to others. Their message, have fun laughing at the ridiculous because most of the time it can’t compare or compete with what’s really happening.

All of what I’ve written to this point, this nonsense, is a set-up, a way to introduce my latest slam-dunk reply to someone who just won’t let a comment thread die. I have no idea who the individual is; and don’t figure on inviting them over for lunch to find out other areas of life on which we don’t see eye to eye.

After a prolonged exchange, (that’s when you never actually exchange ideas or convince anyone of anything), their final ‘insult’ to my intelligence was, “You watch Fox news too much”. I’m sure that must be important to some folks; but is it really an insult?

I sent the following, “I get my most important information from a Ouija Board; but since most of this data comes from dead people I must assume they are Democrats.”

Do you think this individual will request being my Friend any time soon?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Quid Pro Quo Flea Circus

What is all the fuss about whether or not the President of the United States did or didn’t use Quid pro quo via his position to obtain answers from the Ukraine?  Wouldn’t it be important to understand what the previous administration did, especially after Joe Biden was captured on video bragging about holding the Ukraine hostage?

The history of our nation is based on the timely use of Quid Pro Quo.  A little arm twisting here and there along with the promise of a mutually beneficial gift of taxpayer’s money goes a long way in greasing the skids.  If you turn a blind eye to this reality then you don’t understand how government works.

“Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase used in English to mean an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other;...” (

Every time you turn around you hear folks wondering if President Trump committed the unpardonable sin of Quid pro quo, as if all of the sudden using the power of the Oval Office to obtain leverage on the world stage is something to be frowned upon. 

If you were serious about defining how things work, and too many folks have no clue; but if they were serious, then it would be easier to separate philanthropic actions as compared to those in which something was expected in return.  You see, a philanthropist has everything he/she needs already and so giving to those in need requires nothing in return.  Oh, perhaps the philanthropist might expect the recipient to say, “Thank you”; but even Christ healed the Ten Lepers and only one of them actually thanked him.

Let’s make a list of some items that were obtained via Quid pro quo…

Military Bases around the globe in countries that are strategically important to the United States fall on this list.

The destroyers-for-bases deal was an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom on September 2, 1940, according to which 50 Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson class US Navy destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions.”

“[President] Roosevelt used an executive agreement that did not require Congressional approval, but he came under heavy attack from antiwar political elements. The agreement violated the Neutrality Acts.”  You won’t find a record of any impeachment hearings against Roosevelt for taking credit for this action.

Oil and pipelines that deliver that oil are high on the list.  All you have to do is look at the world wide use of oil and these pipelines that travel from one country to another to understand the complex trade agreements that were made at the highest levels of government.

Any and all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other nations are based on agreed upon deals, some give and take from both sides. 

“The US and China have reached a 10-point trade deal that opens the Chinese market to US credit rating agencies and credit card companies.”  Is that a good deal for us? Only time will tell; but consider some of the shady deals made by folks in that haven’t been made public, at least not officially. reports: Schweizer detailed how Hunter’s firm made a $1 billion private equity deal after the father and son were on a trip to China in 2013 when the vice president met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Other business deals with Chinese entities were also struck, benefiting the younger Biden’s company while affecting U.S. national security.”

How is this not important to the American public?  If you fell off the turnip truck, yesterday, and had no idea what Quid pro quo meant this would look rather suspicious, wouldn’t it?  Then there’s Biden and his son involved in yet another Quid pro quo issue.

In his own words, with video cameras rolling, [Vice President] Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.”

That’s enough, you get the picture; …or do you?  There’s been a mass hysteria promoted by the Democrat Party and major news media outlets turning the country upside down as it claims President Donald Trump violated his constitutional authority and used a Quid pro quo to leverage the Ukraine into investigating possible crimes committed by a contender for the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate. 

Quite frankly, had Trump not inquired about the possibility that then Vice President Joe Biden committed a felony which sent lots and lots of money to his family via his son’s monetary windfall, then we’d have to wonder if Trump was the one who fell off the turnip truck. 

Lastly; the President has the authority to check on such illegal behavior; whether or not he exerts official leverage via a Quid pro quo deal is irrelevant.  This has all been nothing but a Flea Circus put on to entertain and distract the public.

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Baseball Hall of Fame and Sour Grapes

With winter comes the inevitable doldrums while awaiting Spring Training.  In only three short weeks pitchers and catchers from every team will report to get things going as the 2018 season promises to bring a smile back on our faces.  We can only watch so many repeats of The Natural, For Love of the Game, Major League, The Rookie and of course The Pride of the Yankees; couldn’t leave that one out, before we go stark raving mad.
(Image courtesy of MLB via Wikipedia)
I noticed on one of the social media forums an interest in who should or shouldn’t be considered as candidates for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Everyone has a favorite ball player and reasons why each deserves that highest of honors; but then again there are just as many who would argue, some vehemently, that because of ‘this, that or the other’ certain players should never be considered (Sour Grapes?).
A few names come to mind on the ‘this, that or the other’ list of players; those who’ve done something unforgivable, an unpardonable sin against the game which banishes them into outer darkness; well, maybe not quite that far; but certainly keeps them out of Cooperstown.
Start with everyone’s favorite bad guy, Pete Rose, who committed the unpardonable sin of betting on baseball games.  Never mind that he might well be one of the best players to ever put on a uniform…that’s not to be considered; he violated a rule so that’s it, he’s out  (Sour Grapes?).
A couple of others stick out; Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.  Their names are sullied due to the ‘alleged’ use of banned substances that may or may not have lifted their natural abilities to such an extent as to make their careers stand out.  In the case of Bonds there was also his use of a specially designed arm hinge which ‘may’ have assisted his ability to lift the ball at just the right trajectory to get it over the wall and out of almost any stadium.  So if you mix that with physical enhancement steroids you can become a home run junkie (Sour Grapes?).
Then there’s Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire; both could knock the cover off of a baseball; but was it their own strength or was it due to steroid use?  Sosa also got caught with a corked bat when it snapped in half during a game (Sour Grapes?).
I’m sure the list could be extended with lots of names; ball players who for one reason or another ‘fell from grace’ with a portion of the public.  These individuals will never get the 75% of votes required as they appear on the ballot form.
Here’s my solution; a way of honoring the dishonored if you will.
Create a special room at Cooperstown, call it the Asterisk Room (that’s a joke, I say, that’s a joke… in honor of the 61* attached to Roger Maris by those who couldn’t stand his hitting one more Home Run than Babe Ruth; …but of course he did have more games to do it in).
In this Asterisk Room (Sour Grapes Room) we could identify the great players who totally screwed themselves from being in with all the other truly great players.  Custodians responsible for cleaning and maintenance are going to love the new annex as they clean spit off the glass more often; some folks never forgive or forget.  That said; these players deserve a place in Cooperstown.
I got through the entire article and never once mentioned the hair brained idea of speeding up the game to keep fans interested…oh please; don’t get me started.

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.