Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Year In Review

Near the end of each year, many newspapers publish stories about the “biggest news events” of the preceding twelve months. To produce this, editors devote many hours of research, planning, analysis, and review, poring through 52-weeks worth of clippings.

I thought I’d try to present my own version of “the year in review”… but frankly, I just don’t have the time to do all that research (since I’m actually writing this column on Christmas weekend, and I also have to start my gift shopping.) So, I’ll just have to try to give you my annual recap from my own personal recollections.

(Here’s one problem: My memory doesn’t always extend back a full year anymore… so my wrap-up of the year might seem more like the highlights of the last six or eight weeks… or maybe even the biggest news items from late-December!)

Anyway, here we go, with my own personal version of “The Year in Review”:

-- The race for the presidency. For the first time since Eisenhower, we have a truly “open” race for the presidency, with neither an incumbent president nor vice-president seeking election. Additionally, we have a reasonable likelihood of electing either our first female or first African-American president. Also, although overshadowed by the Hillary/Obama contest, we also have a chance to elect our first: a) Hispanic; b) Morman; c) Mayor of NYC; d) Baptist preacher; e) OBGYN doctor; or f) former POW. And -- let’s not forget Dennis Kucinich – our chance to elect: g) our first President who believes he has talked to space aliens. The primaries and elections are actually in 2008, but the campaigns here in South Carolina have been center-stage all year long.

-- I lost 35 pounds, and was runner-up in a weight-loss contest. While this probably doesn’t qualify as a big news item of the magnitude of electing the next president, bear in mind that these “top stories” are coming from what’s left of my own memory.

-- Gas is expensive. Most of the year, we paid up around $2.50 - $3.00 per gallon, meaning the cost to transport all goods are higher, and therefore, the prices we pay for all goods are higher. The price of gas spiked suddenly right after Hurricane Katrina, supposedly due to the interruption of Gulf Coast refineries. That was nearly two-and-a-half years ago, and the prices are still high. I may start riding a bicycle.

-- The economy is in rough shape. Well, duh-h-h! (See “Gas is expensive” above.) And I would guess it doesn’t help any that: a) we have now exported MOST of the jobs we once had in America to other countries; and b) the emerging industry in our nation now seems to be lending people money that they probably can’t afford to pay back, ranging from pay-day and title-loans, to sub-sub-prime mortgages, to billions in foreign aid from the federal government. And now you say our economy is struggling? Huh! Go figure!!!

-- Sanford-gate. The world’s most nearly-perfect living human being, our own Governor Mark Sanford, sort of got caught with his hand in the public cookie jar! Well, not exactly. He wasn’t stashing taxpayer cookies into his own pockets… but he was secretly slipping it to his rich and powerful buddies, to help promote their mutual “Lifestyles of the Rich and Powerful” agenda. Stay tuned, I’m sure, as the $101,000 transfer from the Governors Conference to his buddies was just the tip of the iceberg.

-- In Entertainment News for 2007: Marie Osmond fainted on Dancing with the Stars; Brittany’s too-young sister is pregnant; and the Hit Movies of the Year were: “Walk Hard” and “Charlie Wilson’s War”. (I gotta be honest… I haven’t seen either movie yet – they were both just released last week -- and I don’t know if they’re hits or not. They’re just the only movies I can recall, mainly because they’re new and still being advertised heavily. And while I’m being honest… I didn’t even know Brittany had a sister. The only entertainment news I can really remember from the whole year is Marie fainting… mainly because they showed it over and over and over and over.)

-- Al Gore won an Oscar. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, and, I think, an Emmy. I’m happy for him. It suits me fine if they let him win every prize and award given – a Grammy, a Tony, Major League Baseball’s MVP, the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, etc. – as long as he doesn’t ever win any more elections!

-- The Internets. It’s doing quite well in 2007. Let’s give Al Gore a special award for inventing it.

-- Sports Highlights of the Year. They big sports news story of the year is most likely the annual rivalry collegiate football game between the USC Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers. But, as I mentioned earlier, I’m relying on my own personal memory for this “Year In Review”… and I can’t for the life of me remember back far enough to recall the outcome of this year’s contest. Oh, well… let’s just turn our attention to next year!

-- And the biggest story of the year: Monks no longer selling eggs in the Lowcountry! The animal-rights activist group PETA has succeeded in thwarting those sinister monks who live in their monastery on the banks of the Cooper River in Berkeley County. Selling eggs is cruel to chickens, PETA said. So now the monks have announced they will no longer sell eggs, which was their only means of supporting themselves. No eggs! I feel bad for the monks, I really do. It’s not enough that they devote their entire lives to their faith, and do without the things we all take for granted. They don’t have TV. They don’t have Al Gore’s Internets. They don’t dance. While we’re all New Years Eve Parties, they’ll be fasting in silence. And, of course, no sex. In short, they do without almost everything. And now PETA is taking away their eggs.

So, that’s the way it was in 2007.

Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you a safe and prosperous 2008, and the opportunity to build upon the experiences of 2007… the year PETA took eggs away from the monks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The New Traditions of Christmas

I was thinking to myself the other day: What Christmas really needs is a few more traditions.

Of course, I was thinking satirically. Because really, the LAST thing Christmas needs is more traditions or symbols.

There seem to be a gazillion of them. Let’s try to count:

Santa Claus. Christmas Trees. Parades. Parties. Reindeer. Holly. Mistletoe. Gifts. Shopping. Decorations. Manger scenes. Wreaths. Stockings. The North Pole. Elves. Sleigh bells. Jingle Bells. Silver Bells. Toys for the kids. Snowmen. White Christmas. Blue Christmas. Silver and Gold. Candy Canes. Fruit Cake. Caroling. Egg Nog. Yule Logs. Holiday Movies. The Fireplace and chimney. Cookies and milk. Grandmothers House. Rudolph. Scrooge. Holiday Sweaters. Silent Night. Holiday Break. Turkey and dressing. Shepherds watching flocks by night. The Naughty and Nice list. Candles. Icicles. Sugar Plums. Joy to the World. Secret Santa. Top-hats and scarves. Sounds of the Season. Green and Red. Chipmunks. Dogs Barking Jingle Bells. The Gifts of the Magi. The Grinch. Christmas Pageants. Nutcracker. Holiday Lights. The Little Drummer Boy. Gift Exchange. Christmas Cards. Toyland. The Christmas Cantata. Deck the Halls. Gift Exchange. Ribbons and Bows. Figgy Pudding. Tiny Tim. Santa’s hat. Three wise men. Toys for Tots. The Christmas Ham. Gift Wrap. Garlands. Chestnuts roasting. Poinsettas. Ornaments. Jolly Ole St. Nick. Star of Bethlehem.

Okay, maybe not a gazillion… but lots. And those are just the ones that came to mind while I was sipping my hot chocolate with marshmallows.

We seem to add new holiday customs every year. (Mostly fueled by “the commercialism of Christmas”, I expect.)

As long as we’re going to keep adding new symbols and ceremonies to help celebrate the season, I thought I’d try to slip in a few I’d like to see.

So, just in time for YOUR holiday enjoyment, here are the Top Ten New Holiday Traditions I’d like to suggest:

10. Newman, the Nuclear Reindeer. This is my idea to replace Rudolph. Rather than the out-dated, rather-cliche glowing-nose, Newman would be a “glowing-all-over” reindeer, for cutting through the really dense fog certain to be brought about by global warming. Also, a nuclear powered reindeer could help solve the perennial question of all first-graders: “How can he make it all around the world in one night?” With a nuclear reindeer, the question practically answers itself.

9. Holiday Hum-a-longs. Face it. When’s the last time you went Christmas Caroling and actually knew the words to the carols? Oh, sure, maybe Jingle Bells or O Christmas Tree. But not the actual carols, like Good King Wenceslas. You don’t know the words. No one does. My solution: Hum-a-longs! And what’s the perfect complement for humming? Christmas Clogging!!!

8. Putting up the Grafitti Tree. It’s not unlike the traditional Christmas Tree. But instead of ornaments, garlands, and the ever-troublesome strands of lights, we’ll now just turn an inner-city kid loose with a few cans of spray paint. If you want to show off, add a can of Silly String. And to make it really glisten in the light, finish it off spraying on a light coating of PAM.

7. Nogzilla, the Destroyer. This is my idea for the next big Christmas villain, to go along with Scrooge and The Grinch. (As a writer, I have this notion that everything should come in threes.) The mythical Nogzilla follows St. Nick around on Christmas Eve night, destroying all the toys left by Santa, and leaving a cup of spoiled nog in its place. (There is a happy ending, of course -- just like Grinch and Scrooge – when all the nog magically turns into Peace and Goodwill.)

6. Jingle Bell piercings. I’m not a big fan of facial or body piercing… but some of those grungy kids would love it, I’ll bet. I’m guessing the “grunge” community is somewhat disengaged from the whole Christmas thing, and giving them their own new tradition – jingle bells dangling from various parts of their faces – would help pull them back into the spirit. Plus, for the rest of us, it would help give us early warning when they’re approaching, so we can leave.

5. Christmas Resolutions. Sort of a warm-up for New Years Resolutions, but they would only last a week. It could be a good way to test out our resolutions on a trial basis. Let’s say you want to break the habit of eating straight peanut butter with a spoon out of the jar every night before bedtime. If you can go a week without it, maybe you could give it up for good. I can even envision a new holiday TV show: “Dr. Phil’s Christmas Resolution Special.”

4. The Christmas Cat Exchange. It’s a cross between exchanging gifts and sending Greeting Cards to friends. I haven’t quite got the details of this one worked out, but I think it could work.

3. The Airing of Grievances. Full disclosure: I stole this from the TV show Seinfeld. It’s part of the annual celebration of Festivus, a holiday for the rest of us. For the record, I do not subscribe to the celebration of Festivus. But I’m perfectly willing to hijack their very noble tradition: The Airing of Grievances during the holiday season. And, it could help steer the conversation around the Christmas Dinner table away from “you wrapped up WHAT for her Christmas gift?!!!”

2. The Holiday Spam. Self explanatory, I believe. Need I say more?

1. A cell-phone which also serves as a holiday sweater. They can do every thing else, so why not a sweater? Leading up to Christmas, approximately every third TV commercial is an ad for a new cell phone which can take pictures, play music, send email, etc. They’re trying to make us believe a cell phone is THE perfect Christmas Gift. If they can make one that doubles as a Christmas Sweater, then it will, in fact, be the perfect Christmas Gift.

Well… there you have it: My list of suggested new holiday traditions. Of course, we could also go back to just celebrating that FIRST Christmas tradition -- the reason for the season.

Here’s hoping you have your best holiday ever: Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas… and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Blessings: Part Two

From Thanksgiving weekend until the Christmas Season, right through the annual fresh start afforded by New Years Day, most of us do a lot of thinking.

We think about our blessings. We think about our family and our friends. And we think about our lives, our careers, our future plans, and the improvements we should each make in our lives.
In my case, I try not to dwell too much on the “improvements” needed, because if I do, it ends up occupying all of my thinking time, leaving no time to think about the blessings, etc.

Fact of the matter is I could spend all my time counting the blessings: I have way too many to count. From time to time, I acknowledge some of them in this column – especially my family and friends – because I simply don’t take the time I should to show my gratitude otherwise.

This week, I need to add to my list of blessings: I am truly fortunate to have some of the finest people I know working each week to make this newspaper a reality.

As you probably know, our small enterprise publishes five different community newspapers each week. We believe these very localized newspapers are important to the communities they serve… giving local communities a forum for communicating local issues, allowing small businesses to reach their most-likely customers, and simply helping neighbors know neighbors a little better.

But this newspaper would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of a small, hard-working group of people. We depend on a few individuals who make this their full-time occupation, and a much larger group who contribute a smaller amount of their time and talents each week.

We have writers, reporters, columnists and editors who provide most of the content you read each week, and we have photographers who capture the images which help bring the written words to life. We have account executives who work with local businesses to provide the advertising while actually provides the income which makes the newspaper possible. We have graphic artists and page designers who create the ads, and transform the words, pictures, ads, and headlines into pages ready to print each week. And we have circulation specialists who insure the delivery of thousands and thousands of copies of the newspaper each week.

In addition to these paid staffers, we have dozens of volunteers who contribute news releases, columns, photos, or other creative offerings on a regular basis.

After carefully organizing all those elements together – like hundreds of pieces of a weekly jigsaw puzzle -- we somehow end up with a newspaper each week… a prospect which concerned us a bit when we embarked on this journey back in 1989!

It’s a lot more work than you would imagine could be done with a very small staff. But somehow, it gets done… every week… through rain, sleet or snow, just like the mail.

Probably the biggest key to successfully getting the job done each week is the fact that I stay out of the office most of the time. Years ago I discovered – much to my chagrin – that the business operated better without me than with me!

So, when I say “we somehow end up with a newspaper each week”, I should more appropriately say “THEY end up with a newspaper each week”.

I am blessed to be a small part of a great, hard-working group of people who pull together to provide something important for our community each week.

We will continue to try to improve each week to give this community the newspaper it deserves. And, as always, we ask for your continued help and support. Whether you contribute a neighborhood column each week, send us an occasional photo, use our newspaper to advertise your business, or simply thank local advertisers for supporting the newspaper, your help is appreciated.

And this holiday season, I’m thankful for you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Grab Bag

December has arrived. It’s the Christmas Season for real now. So I thought I’d share a few of my random thoughts about the holiday season.

First, though, I need to wrap-up one of my pre-holiday activities: The Great Weight Loss Contest of 2007, which concluded before Thanksgiving. Seventeen of each threw $100 in the pot, with the Biggest Loser taking it all.

And, for the third time in a row, I finished just out of the money: first runner-up to my business partner, Kirk Luther. This time, I lost a total of 35 pounds in three months… but Kirk lost 37! Barry “Fatback” Walker came in third, losing 27 pounds, and the other 14 contestants seemed to lose an average of 15 or 20 pounds each. I say “seemed”, because we don’t know for sure: most of them didn’t bother to show up for the final weigh-in. But those who did had lost 20 pounds or so… not a bad weight-loss routine for only $100.

Since both Kirk and Rod have each gained about half of their weight back already, I’m pretty sure the other candidates -- Brian Jeffcoat, Danny Frazier, Jake Knotts, Stan Bowen, Gerald Head, Andy Gobeil, Scott Malyerck, Douglas Adam, Ricky Wingard, Terry Campbell, Jim Miles, Angileigh Wingard, Tim Kelley, and R.J. Shealy -- will have another chance during the Great Weight Loss Contest of 2008, which will most likely begin right after New Years.

Sigh. It was fun being thin for a week.

Okay. On to Rod-Boy’s Random Holiday Observations:

-- Christmas parades remind me of trains. Parades have Santa at the end, just like choo-choo trains have cabooses… both of which are everybody’s favorite part!

-- Holiday air travel is always the worst, because that’s when “amateurs” fly. Business travelers know in advance to take their shoes off while they’re waiting to go through the security check-point; holiday travelers invariably think THEY might be the one passenger allowed to make it through without taking of their shoes. So the line moves a lot slower.

-- I’m not a big fan of Egg Nog… just because of the name. In my opinion, beverages should not have the words “egg” or “nog” in their name. It scares me.

-- I AM a big fan of the Gamecocks… but I’m delighted the football team didn’t get a bowl bid. I stated my position on this several years ago: Places like Shreveport, Louisiana are not appropriate destinations for Holiday Bowls. (Similarly, items like the “Weedwhackers” were never appropriate sponsors for a bowl.) And 6-6 is not an appropriate record for a reward. However, I’m still a Gamecock Fan, and I believe in Steve. He WILL have us playing on New Years Day soon.

-- I believe smoking cigarettes in America is declining due to the use of cell phones. (I’m not sure why this is a holiday thought; maybe because I see so many TV ads pushing cell phones as a Christmas gift idea.) My theory is simple: For years, cigarettes have been addictive. People smoked ‘em to make themselves look “cool”. And, of course, they gave the smoker something to do with their mouths and their hands. Now, however, cell phones are doing those exact same things. So people no longer have the need to smoke! (Or the opportunity, because you can’t smoke and talk on a cell phone at the same time!)

-- I’m betting that “Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” is one of the best known lines of any Christmas Carol…. for that matter, probably of any song, period. (It’s because there are no words… only short syllables.) The Van Morrison song, Brown Eyed Girl, uses some of the same syllables. These are great songs to sing when you have a hard time remembering lyrics… like I do.

-- On Thursday, December 20th, this newspaper will have its annual Christmas Drop-In from 4:30pm til 7:30pm. You’re invited. (The location is at our office is at 7595 St. Andrews Road in Irmo.) If you don’t get another invitation…. This is it!

-- As a special treat for you this year, I’m offering you a few of my personal recommendations of events and activities you should make a point to include in your holiday schedules…

There are two special Christmas Light displays which are great entertainment for the whole family. Riverbanks Zoo is presenting the 20th Anniversary of its “Light Before Christmas” display through Dec. 30 (Go to www.riverbanks.org for info); and Saluda Shoals Park is presenting “Holiday Lights on the River” until Dec. 31 (call 772-1228 for info). Together, these two displays combine for Eleventy-seven Gazillion brightly twinkling Christmas lights.

Two local churches present well known Christmas pageants. Union United Methodist Church in Irmo presents its annual drive-through Living Christmas Story from Dec. 6th - Dec. 9th (call 781-3013). Lake Murray Baptist Church presents its much-heralded “This Man Called Jesus” each weekend through Dec. 16th (call 957-1435 for info).

If you enjoy Christmas musical shows, I can recommend two: The Palmetto Mastersingers’ Christmas Show will be Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30pm at the Koger Center for the Arts; and a 31-year tradition continues as “The Elf Show” is presented by Christy’s School of Dance and Tumblebus on Saturday, Dec. 8th at 8pm at the Batesburg-Leesville Fine Arts Center (Call 364-1139 for info.)

On Dec. 8th and 9th, the Historic Lorick Plantation House steps back in time to Christmas season circa 1840 for the Annual Holiday Open House, presented by Capital City/Lake Murray Visitors Center. (Call 781-5940 for info.)

Village Square Theater in Lexington is presenting O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” one-act play weekends until December 9th. (Call 359-1346) And while you’re in Lexington, the Holiday House at Harmon’s Tree Farm is always a great holiday treat.

And finally… I hope you’ll all drop by our newest Christmas Tradition – Gatsbees Worlds Fair Soda Fountain – for holiday desserts after your favorite holiday events. And bring your out of town guests to visit our new tourist attraction. Gatsbees is open nightly til 9pm, located at 7585 St. Andrews Road in Irmo.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Remembering Earl Middleton

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, most of the daily newspapers in the state published articles noting the passing of former State Representative Earl Middleton of Orangeburg at age 88.

Most readers of the newspapers in which this column appears have not lived in the Orangeburg area, and thus may not be familiar with the name. But Earl Middleton was a friend of mine, and I wanted to take the opportunity to add a few thoughts… because Earl was truly a beacon of light for all of us.

The daily newspaper accounts covered some of the highlights from Middleton’s lifetime of achievements. They told of his four years of service to our nation during World War II as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, with rotations in the 4th Aviation Squadron, the 129th Port Battalion and overseas duty in the Pacific Theatre.

It was recalled that Middleton was born in Orangeburg on Feb. 18, 1919, the youngest of Samuel and Ella Middleton's six children. He received his elementary, high school and college education at Claflin University, graduating in 1942 with a B.A. in sociology. While at Claflin, he served as class president for each of his four years in college, and developed a life-long commitment to his Alma Mater. And he served on the board overseeing Charleston’s Middleton Plantation, where his grandfather had been a slave until the end of the Civil War.

Returning to Orangeburg in 1946, Middleton began his business, first as a barber, and later, selling insurance from his shop. Eventually, he entered the real estate business as well, and became a respected business fixture in Orangeburg for decades. In 1974 Middleton was elected to the South Carolina legislature, where he served for 10 years, becoming the county’s first black elected representative since Reconstruction.

It was there that I first met Middleton. In 1983, an acquaintance introduced me to Middleton, who was planning to run for State Senate against one of the most senior members of the Senate, the late Sen. Marshall Williams. At the time, I was still in my 20’s, and an as-yet unproven political consultant… or actually more of a political-consultant wannabe. But Middleton asked for my help in his campaign. I joined his campaign team, and embarked on one of the most memorable times of my life.

For sure, we were an odd couple: Middleton, a senior African-American Democrat from Orangeburg County, and I, a white, wet-behind-the-ears young Republican from Lexington County. But we had an immediate friendship and mutual respect. And I learned much from this gentleman.

For me personally, Earl’s campaign allowed me to break the color barrier and the party barrier. It was the first time I had directed a legislative campaign for an African- American or a Democrat. And, in so doing, I learned that we had much more in common than in contrast. Working hand in hand with Earl Middleton and hundreds and hundreds of his African-American friends and supporters gave me a perspective that most of my political colleagues never had the opportunity to gain.

Earl also gave me a bit of historical trivia that most others never knew. In the early 60’s, Middleton and two other African-Americans had been chosen as delegates to the Republican National Convention. Unfortunately, the slate of delegates which included Middleton was displaced by a second slate, and he was never seated as a delegate. A decade later, as he embarked on his trail-blazing political career, he ran as a Democrat, and became a leader of his party. But for a twist of fate, history might have been vastly different. It was then that I first realized how unimportant labels could be.

In the 1984 Senate race, another twist of fate came into play. That year, the State Senate for the first time was being elected from newly-formed single-member districts. The district in which Middleton was running against the incumbent Senator Williams had an African-American population of 51%, which favored Middleton. In the spring of that year, however, veteran Senator Marion Gressette, Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, suddenly died. Marshall Williams was next in line as Chairman, a position he used to halt the upcoming election, and quickly redraw the lines of his district to reduce the percentage of African-American population.

In the end, we lost the race by about 600 votes. Middleton and Williams remained friends, with residents complimenting both on the positive, gentlemanly campaigns they had run.

And for me, although I was not successful in winning the race, the Earl Middleton campaign has endured as one of my proudest achievements of my life. Though we only spoke on infrequent occasions through the next two decades, we remained friends. And the lessons I learned from Earl Middleton have been an important part of my life.

Last week, South Carolina lost one of its true heroes… quiet, unassuming, respectful and dignified. But, the thousands of lives he touched along the way will assure that Earl Middleton’s beacon of light will continue to shine for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Time for Thanksgiving

Since it’s Thanksgiving Week, I though I would do what virtually every columnist in America (plus a lot of bloggers) will be doing this week… tell you about a few of the things for which I am personally thankful.

First and most obvious, I’m thankful my three-month Weight Loss Contest is over… just in time for Thanksgiving. (Someday, I may tell you who won. Or not.)

I’m thankful for my Mom & Dad. I was blessed with good ones. To paraphrase Lincoln, all that I am, I owe to my mom and dad. Dad’s no longer with us, and that leaves Mom to shoulder the blame alone. But she never complains.

I’m thankful for my wife and kids. Again, I’m blessed with good ones. Two sons and a daughter who make me proud, and a wonderful wife who puts up with me… which surprises me! And I’m thankful for the rest of my family. Altogether, they not only provide me with comfort and joy, but also with a high degree of entertainment value. (It’s actually better than TV – somewhere between Reality TV, Day of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and The Beverly Hillbillies.)

I’m thankful for our Democracy. If you ask me in mid-January, after we’ve endured about 10 weeks of the non-stop TV ads for the presidential campaigns that we’re getting ready to endure, I’ll probably seem a little less thankful.

I’m thankful for my friends. I have a lot of ‘em, and I know they’re true friends. Sometimes, you’re not sure if a person is a true friend… or just interested in your money. Fortunately for me, I never have to question whether my friends or genuine or not.

Which reminds me…

I’m thankful to be free of the burdens and responsibilities of great financial wealth. (In the political world, that’s what we call “putting a good spin” on something.)

I’m thankful to be 53 years old. There are those who didn’t think I’d last this long. By all rights, I probably shouldn’t have.

I’m thankful to live in South Carolina. It’s a great place to live. Now, I know we’re ranked last in the nation in education, health care, income, and lots of other things… and I suppose that should make me less happy to live here. But, somehow, it’s still a great place to live. Statistics or not… I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

I’m thankful for the people I work with: co-workers, associates, clients, employees, suppliers. Lots of good people -- better than I deserve -- hard workers who care about their performance, and generally try to do the right things. They make me look good… at least for a while, until I come along and do something to mess things up.

I’m thankful for my health. Looking at me from a distance, you wouldn’t think I’d be that thankful, given the condition I’m in (and from up close, you’d be even more surprised.) But, in the big picture, as old and out-of-shape as I might be, I’m healthy. I can see and hear, I can walk and talk… and there are lots of people in the world who can’t do those things. So, yes, I’m thankful for my health, as feeble as that may be.

I’m thankful Steve Spurrier is our Head Ball Coach. He’s a great coach. It really gives me hope for next year, even while our Gamecocks are tumbling like drunken sailor down a flight of stairs in a snowstorm. I believe in Steve. Things will get better.

I’m thankful for my readers… especially those of you who have made it this far into my column. You’ve probably already had to jump from the front page to a page somewhere near the back of the newspaper, and it may have taken a lot of time and effort to find the right page. To top that off, if you’re a regular reader, you probably know that my columns tend to run a little long, and sometimes start to fade near the end. Plus, you undoubtedly know that they are usually just random thoughts hastily strung together a few minutes before weekly my deadline, typically with not much rhyme or reason, and very little literary, entertainment, or informational value… and yet, YOU are still here reading…. and for that, I am thankful… and surprised.

I’m thankful for electricity. I think electricity is a good thing, and it’s taken for granted. I take it for granted, too. And I’m not really that passionate about being thankful for it, but I was thinking… there will be hundreds of columns like this written this week about “Things I’m Thankful For” … and nobody else will mention electricity. So I thought I would.

I’m thankful for Random Thought Patterns. Without them, I would not have been able to write this column every week for almost a year.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a Joyous Holiday Season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dirty Money?

Long before Jake Knotts became a State Senator, he was doing detective work to track down criminals for the City of Columbia Police Department. Now, as a member of the General Assembly, the ex-cop has occasion to put his skills as an investigator to work from time to time.

Over the last few months, Knotts has been tracking a governmental paper trail which is now raising some serious questions about Governor Mark Sanford, and his continual, very-public battle with the legislature.

Since the beginning of his political career, Sanford has played the role of uncompromising outsider battling the status quo. As a member of Congress, he relished those issues on which he could be on the losing side of a lop-sided roll-call, often being one of only five or six congressman to vote “no” against more than 400 voting “yes”. At least once, he was the lone dissenter against every other member of Congress, which he believed proved his political courage. While his posturing made him popular politically, it also made him irrelevant as a member of Congress: He readily admits accomplishing nothing during his six years representing South Carolina’s First District.

As Governor, Sanford has continued his “anti-government” approach to government, picking fights with his own legislature so he could continue to claim to be an outsider. His posturing has kept him politically popular, but has made him ineffective as governor. The State of South Carolina had the largest government spending increases in history during Sanford’s years as governor, a fact he blames on the legislature. Never mind the fact that HE is the elected leader of the state, and should be its most powerful official. He is the one person who could have prevented the budget increases if he were anywhere near as effective as former Governors Campbell, Beasley, Hodges, Riley, or Edwards… each of whom found ways to make a difference for the state without the gubernatorial powers or partisan advantages enjoyed by Sanford.

In recent months, Sanford’s feud with the legislature has led his office to develop a “hit list” of legislators marked for defeat at the hands of his allies. The governor announced a special political fund-raising organization – called ReformSC – which is soliciting contributions to use in campaigns to defeat those targeted members. And Sanford’s political allies have already begun an orchestrated effort to damage the reputations of those named on the “hit list”.

And, a couple of months ago, they “fired a shot” at Senator Jake Knotts.

But they missed.

Allies of Governor Mark Sanford published an untrue rumor targeting Knotts on an Internet website read by many political insiders, citing only anonymous sources as the basis of the rumor. It was an outrageous rumor, designed to damage Knotts politically.

Shooting at a cop is always a bad idea, even if the cop has been retired for more than a decade, and the “shot” is only an Internet rumor.

Knotts’ detective instincts took over, and he immediately started asking questions. He found the individual who owned the libelous website, and quickly determined the source of the rumor. And he kept asking questions.

What Knotts found is a network of people who appear to do Sanford’s dirty work… and a hidden paper trail of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars which is being used to finance the dirty deeds.

The central figure in the network may be Chris Drummond, a former news reporter in Charleston who also served as Sanford's chief spokesman for the first few years of his administration. Drummond left the Governor’s office to enter into private business, but apparently did not cut his ties to Sanford.

It was Drummond who anonymously fed the libelous smear about Knotts to the website which published it, according to the website’s owner, who also said Drummond had been using private investigators to try to “dig up dirt” against legislators..

But why would the Governor’s ex-employee spread untrue information about one of the Governor’s fellow Republicans, Knotts wanted to know.

The answer was easy to guess: Drummond was being PAID to try to smear certain Republican legislators. The 2008 campaign attacks had already secretly begun, and Drummond was being paid to discredit the names on Sanford’s “hit list”.

Sanford, of course, is far too smart to get caught paying people to do his dirty work. That’s why there are a number of new political “organizations” which have been formed in South Carolina during the years Sanford has been Governor. In addition to the newly formed ReformSC, there are groups named South Carolinians for Responsible Government, CIO, Club for Growth… all with close ties to Sanford. It is these groups which funnel money to try to defeat candidates who oppose Sanford’s positions on issues. But the money can never be traced directly back to Sanford.

As Knotts went searching for payments which Sanford or his allies might have directed to Drummond, he came across three stunning discoveries.

First, he discovered that when South Carolina hosted the National Governors Conference in 2006, Drummond received $27,000 from the funds used to pay for the event.

Next, he discovered that part of the $1.2 million used to pay for the conference for 50 state governors was actually taxpayer’s money: $150,000, to be exact, which Sanford obtained through the Competitive Grant fund of the State Budget & Control Board. Ironically, Sanford has repeatedly criticized the Legislature for the existence of this fund, calling it “pork”.

Most stunning of all is this: Knotts discovered that, after the conference was over and all the bills were paid, there was $101,524.14 left over. Did that money come back to the taxpayers? NO! Instead, Sanford’s office quietly directed that the entire balance be given to a Charleston-based group called “Carolinians for Reform, Inc.”… a group which was not even registered with the Secretary of State’s office until after Knotts started asking questions (on October 2nd, two months after they received the check in August!)

Little is known about the “Carolinians for Reform” which took $101,524.14 that should have come back to the taxpayers. Is it related to the “ReformSC” political group for which Sanford is raising money? Is it a political group? Are Drummond or others being paid from this group to do more of Sanford’s dirty work? Because non-profit corporations are not required to disclose recipients of funds, we may never know.

The only information required to be made public about the group are the names of at least three members of a Board of Directors. Interestingly, all three of the names – James K. Kuyk, Frank Zanin, and Tim Reese – can also be found listed as large donors to the Sanford for Governor Campaign.

Knotts has collected a file folder full of copies of checks, documents and correspondence which raise serious questions that deserve in-depth answers. Emails from Sanford’s staff directed the funds to the little-known group without any further explanation of why.

As an ex-cop, Knotts is accustomed to collecting evidence which is eventually used to make a case against the bad guys. In this case, Knotts is planning to turn over his findings to a Senate committee to determine whether any action is warranted.

But, action or not, Knotts has done his state a service by uncovering an questionable practice of which the public was unaware. With election year coming, the public deserves to know what kind of hidden political operations our governor is really up to.


Rod Shealy, Sr. is Publisher of The Lake Murray News and four other weekly newspapers. Additionally, he serves as an advisor to a number of political candidates and officeholders, including Senator Knotts. His column appears each week, and is intended to reflect only his personal views, not necessarily the views of the newspaper. All readers are always welcome to submit other viewpoints, which are published on a space-avialalbe basis.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I’m On Vacation.

I’m on vacation this week. Truth is, by the time these words are actually published in the newspaper and read by you, I’ll probably be back from vacation.

You’re probably expecting that I’ll use “vacation” as an excuse not to write a column for this week. (In fact, you’re probably hoping.)

I guess most columnists, facing a week-long family vacation, would take the week off… but not me. To the contrary, the typical Shealy-family sojourn provides me some of my best material.

When I speak of the Shealy family, mind you, I’m talking about Momma’s family. Her entire family! That means five young’uns (me and my siblings), our spouses, our kids, their spouses, and – the latest addition – their kids. As of the latest family census, the estimated total is now 32, although that total seems to bounce up and down a bit for various reasons. For the record, only about half of the group was able to make it on this particular week in Florida. When the whole gang shows, the scene is not unlike a cross between two childhood poems: “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children she didn’t know what to do” and, “As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives, each wife had seven…. etc., etc.!!!” It’s a mob scene… but always an adventure.

As I was growing up, Mom and Dad took the family on many vacations. But, as a Baby Boomer in the Leave-it-to-Beaver 50’s, I recall vacations being much simpler. No cruises. No airfare. No vacation packages. Not even any interstate highways. Just a station wagon with a luggage rack on top. Two adults and three kids would pile into the car and start driving in the general direction of a chosen destination. Gas was 19-cent a gallon. We drove until Mom and Dad decided it was time to stop. Then we looked at roadside motels until we found one with three important ingredients: 1) a pool; 2) a vacancy sign; and 3) a manager willing to drop his price to whatever Mom was willing to pay.

By the time I was twelve, I had visited Florida, Maine, California, and a total of 30 states in between.

Lunchtime meant we found a roadside park with a picnic table and pulled over. Vienna sausage sandwiches with mustard were the typical meal.

At some point during our years of travels, we graduated to eating in restaurants, upon which Dad instituted the dollar rule: Each child had a budget of $1 per day for food. We could order anything we wanted from the menu up to a buck for the day. If we didn’t spend it all, he gave us the difference as spending money. (I averaged pocketing about a quarter every day!)

In a way, this trip has been reminiscent of those vacations from decades ago. Mom (Elsie), wife (Pat) and Yours Truly, Your Publisher, Rod-Boy, piled into a vehicle and headed south. (The rest of the family was on their own: I think there was a total of three mini-vans and eight airplane flights.) Just like trips of decades gone by, we played the “A-B-C” game and “I Spy”… although this time we each had to repeat ourselves three or four times on each clue, because none of us can hear very well anymore.

Our destination this time was Club Med near Port St. Lucie, Florida. (This incidentally, is NOT a good place to spend a week during the final month of a $1,700 weight loss competition.)

I am confident that this vacation will provide a lots of good material for future columns. You’ll be hearing about it for months!

But, for now, I’m just going to leave you with a few observations from the 10-hour drive down I-95:

-- Ike was a visionary. He gave us the interstate highway system. Turns out, it was a good idea. As Presidents go, Eisenhower may well have left us with the most lasting legacy of any recent Commander-in-Chief.

-- Bikers don’t look like they used to. Now they look like me: old, overweight, and out-of-shape. And they dress funny on purpose. (There were a lot of bikers heading down I-95 toward Daytona.)

-- When you enter Florida and visit the Welcome Center, nowadays they give you a choice of orange juice OR grapefruit juice!

-- Did you know they now make “Just Married” car magnets, so Honeymooners no longer have to drive with white shoe-polish or soap on their cars?

-- Say what you will about our state’s own South of the Border. It still has the most entertaining signs on I-95. Other have tried to duplicate the impact… but no one else has succeeded.

That’s all for this week. I’m going to lay in the sun.

MIA: Fourteen Fat Guys

Missing in Action: Fourteen Fat Guys!

As regular readers of this column know, I have been engaged in a fierce weight-loss battle with sixteen friends for the last twelve weeks. Starting back in August – the 14th to be exact – the seventeen of us have been competing to determine who could lose the most weight in three months. To make it interesting, we each chipped 100 American smackers into a pot (or in my case, an IOU for $100, since I was a little short that day) with the winner(s) taking it all at the end of the contest. That’s $1,700 worth of weight-loss incentive, plus the promise that I would provide regular public pressure in this column.

The whole lot of us started off strong. At the initial weigh-in we tipped the scales at an enormous 4,528 pounds. That’s more than two tons. During the first few days of dieting, we were all on a roll. (As a matter of fact, it was reported that, during that week in August, the rotation of the Earth varied ever so slightly, due to the shift in the gravitational pull.) Weight was dropping like footballs thrown by USC quarterbacks during the Vandy game.

Twelve of the thirteen weeks have now elapsed. The final weigh-in is this Tuesday, November 13th.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish-line. We lost 14 of our contestants.

Or, at least, we haven’t heard from them for a while.

At the beginning, there was trash-talk spewing on a daily, even hourly basis. Emails back and forth every day. Boasts. Bragging. Dares. Side-bets. Even some hyperbole thrown in.

But, then came the first weekend.

Weekends have a way of doing things to a dieter. We lost about a quarter of our contestants on the first weekend.

As the weeks dragged by, the trash-talking disappeared, and the emails rarely got returned.

I hate to say it, but I think we lost about fourteen of our fat guys. I think they’re even going to skip the final weigh-in.

So, one more time, I’m going to apply a little pressure by publishing the whole list – along with their starting weights. And if you happen to bump into one of these guys, ask them how the weight-loss contest is going. (You’ll know it’s them because they’ll probably be casting a shadow bigger than a water tower.)

Here they are. The contestants, as we enter our final week of dieting and humility – with their starting weight along with MY personal guess at their current weights:

Irmo Town Councilman Barry "Fatback" Walker -- starting weight 331; estimated current weight 311;

Hizzoner Brian Jeffcoat -- starting weight 316; estimated current weight 316;

Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier -- starting weight 312; estimated current weight 312;

Senator Jake Knotts -- starting weight 302; estimated current weight 302;

Stan "The Man" Bowen -- starting weight 292; estimated current weight 292;

Transportation Pro Gerald Head -- starting weight 285; estimated current weight 285;

ETV’s Andy Gobeil -- starting weight 279; estimated current weight 279; GOP

Heavyweight Scott Malyerck -- starting weight 273; estimated current weight 274;

Design Guru Douglas Adam -- starting weight 264; estimated current weight 264;

Econobug’s Ricky “Rubi” Wingard -- starting weight 263; estimated current weight 263;

Yours Truly, The Publisher -- starting weight 245; estimated current weight 198;

Insurance Veteran Terry Campbell -- starting weight 237; estimated current weight 238;

Former Secretary of State Jim Miles -- starting weight 235; estimated current weight 234;

Reigning Champ and Okra Strut Chm. Kirk Luther -- starting weight 234; estimated current weight 254;

Anonymous A. L. Wingard -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 215;

Retired Humor Writer Tim Kelly -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 224.9;

R.J. Shealy (that’s Rod, Jr.) -- starting weight 210; estimated current weight 210.

That’s it for my weight-loss update... with a little trash-talking on the side. We’ll give you a report on the winners and soon as the polls are closed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Making a tough decision

On November 6, District Five residents will cast a vote that will determine the future of our schools and our entire community.

As a result, the pages of this newspaper are full of letters, articles and advertisements trying to persuade readers to vote for or against the bond referendum.

It is the policy of this newspaper to try to allow all sides of issues to be presented through letters to the editor, which we always try to publish… whether we agree with the position or not. We believe that’s the proper role of a community newspaper. (In some cases, advocates or opponents of an issue feel strongly enough about it to purchase additional advertising space to make their case.)

Invariably, several things happen.

First, there are usually more letters for one side of an issue than the other, which sometimes leads readers to believe the newspaper supports the side with the most letters. That’s not the case: we just happen to get more letters from one side than the other, and we try to print them all, space permitting. (That’s why many people believe this newspaper has opposed all past bond referenda.)

Second, there are usually many letters written by key supporters or opponents, but signed by other names. This is done to create the appearance of widespread support or opposition to the issue. We know it happens in our newspaper, just as in every other newspaper. We don’t try to police it, because the signer of the letter always consents to have his or her name used in this way.

Third, many of the letters contain statements or statistics which are designed to confuse, mislead, or distort. If you’re shocked, don’t be. That’s the nature of campaigns: well-meaning people trying to win a majority of the votes… invariably believing that the end justifies the means.

As you read through the pages of this paper, you’ll see examples of all of the above. Understandably, you’ll be confused.

Which is why I have decided to try my best to offer you an honest, unbiased opinion about the tough decision we must make on Tuesday. (Hopefully, free from the confusion.)

First, let me clarify my position. I am NOT involved in any campaign -- neither for nor against the referendum. I have many, many close friends working both for and against the bond referendum. In the past, I have generally opposed bond issues, usually out of distrust for the school administrations at the time. Also, like the majority of the residents of this area, I am a fiscally-conservative Republican, and am therefore inclined to always want taxes as low a possible.

This time, however, I will be voting “YES”.

And there is a very simple reason I will vote yes: We need the schools.

As a newspaper publisher, I’m forced to keep up with the growth in our community. But even if I was not in the newspaper business, I could tell that our growth rate is staggering. All I have to do is ride around. Thousands of new homes have sprung up in recent years. We are one of the fastest growing areas in the Southeast.

We need more schools.

If I were trying to defeat the referendum, I could easily provide statistics that seem to demonstrate that we don’t really need new schools. And I could probably make you believe it… unless you opened your eyes, looked around, and used your common sense.

I could also pick apart the proposed plans for our schools, and find some part of those plans I personally don’t like. I could probably use that to incite you to vote against the entire thing. But that would be like deciding to oppose a strong military for our nation just because you think we pay too much for spare parts for tanks.

We’re a fast growing community, and we need new schools.

If I was trying to defeat the referendum, I would try to confuse voters by raising so many questions, some voters would simply say: “I’m not really sure, so I’d better vote no.” Confusion is a tried and true political tactic.

Frankly, all political issues seem complicated these days. Can we ever really know for sure about any issue?

That’s why we have a rather unique system of government in America. We elect our neighbors to study complicated issues to make tough decisions for us. And that’s where we in District Five are very fortunate: We have a school board which thinks like we do.

Although school board is a non-partisan position, the majority of our board has made no secret about the fact that they are solidly conservative Republicans… just like me… and just like the vast majority of the citizens of Irmo, Dutch Fork and Chapin. From the very beginning, they joined the school board for one key reason: to watch out for the taxpayers. For the last three years, that majority has worked diligently to make sure we were getting the best value possible for our tax dollars.

If our tight-fisted, fiscally-conservative school board majority tells us that we MUST build new schools, then we must. They have NOT been taken in by distortions and confusion. They know the truth about our growth, and our needs, and the millions of dollars which will be wasted if we delay the schools we need.

Like me, some of those conservative, Republican board members voted “No” on the last bond referendum, because they were not convinced. This time, however, we understand we must vote “Yes”… not just for our schools, but for our entire community.

It’s a tough decision… especially for those of us who are conservative Republicans accustomed to voting “no”. Voting "yes" is a tough decision.

But this time, it’s the right decision.

Fall Back…. Laughing!

This weekend marks the end of another installment of America’s longest running practical joke.

The joke is so wildly successful, we’ve even given it a name. We call it “Daylight Savings Time”.

Not by accident, the joke has begun each spring… shortly after “April Fools Day”. What classic timing! Every comedian will tell you that timing is one of the key elements of successfully delivering any joke. I’ve always felt that the timing of the “Daylight Savings Time” April Fools gag is sheer genius. (It would be far too obvious if the annual escapade began each year ON April 1st. Hold it a week or two… just to catch all of us off guard. Brilliant comedic timing.)

It’s a hoot every year to observe the mischief caused by this prank. For days after the stunt, folks are showing up late for work, late for school, missing their bus, and rushing about trying to adjust. Some clocks go for months showing the displaying the wrong time. And then, when somebody takes the time to reset them, invariably a few of them get cranked in the wrong direction. Two hours off!!! What a great hoax!

Starting this year, we’ve added some new wrinkles to the classic gag. Now, we’re actually starting Daylight Savings Time three weeks early – before April Fools Day – and ending one week later each year. This year, the prank ends the first weekend in November – which happens to be this weekend!

But, next year, the end of DST moves a week later, and then even a week later the following year. Now, they’ve made the practical joke confusing to everyone. Sooner or later, we’ll all fall for it.

Here is my favorite part of the whole joke: It has been passed into law by 50 state legislatures and by Congress – not even realizing it’s a great big giant April Fools Joke. They think it’s a real law!!! They probably even list it among their major end-of-the-year legislative achievements!

April Fools!!!

Next week, after we all Fall Back at 2am/3am on Sunday morning, witless victims will be showing up early for their breakfast, their work, their classes, and even their dentist appointments for days to come.

And, of course, farmers across the land will also be spending the entire weekend -- and possibly the first few days of next week -- adjusting the schedules of their cows and chickens.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You Heard It Here First!

Each week I sit down at my computer and write about whatever suits my fancy on that particular day. Some days, it seems, nothing particular suits my fancy. On those days I write about… well, actually… nothing! I just sit down at the keyboard, and whatever comes out, comes out. It’s a column about nothing… sorta like the Seinfeld TV show used to be. Actually, it has been pointed out that those “nothing” weeks outnumber my “something” weeks about 10 to 1. Ten weeks of nothing, then one week of something.

This, however, happens to be one of the something weeks (if you count politics as something.) I have something to write about, and here it is:

I believe our Governor, Mark Sanford, may well be the next Vice President of the United States.

I should quickly point out that, even on the weeks like this when I write about “something”, it’s typically just my personal opinion… which is the handy thing about publishing your own newspapers. You can write whatever you want. (Publisher’s note: Since we know a lot of people who do NOT own newspapers, we let them write about their opinions, also. It’s called a Letter to the Editor, and anyone can write one about anything at any time… and we’ll print it!)

But I digress. Back to this week’s topic: Vice President Sanford.

Now, it’s no secret that, in addition to publishing a handful of small weekly newspapers, I also dabble in politics (which I regularly try to disclaim so as to avoid conflicts of interest.) So I get to hear a lot of the “inside story” from time to time. My conjecture that Sanford will be the next VP, however, is not based on inside info, but purely on my political instincts, and the various published reports I’ve read. Here’s how it goes:

First, let’s look at the likely GOP nominee for President. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the current front-runner, and frankly, should emerge as the winner, because the whole point of the 2008 Presidential Election should be to choose the person best able to lead America through the next eight years of our long-term battle against terrorism. Rudy is the candidate who seems to have “proven” himself on this front, with his handling of his city post-9/11.

If any Republican can beat Rudy, it may be Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Why Romney? Simple: MONEY. He has lots of it, and can afford to pay to get his message to the voters with TV ads.

If either Romney of Massachusetts or Giuliani of New York becomes the nominee, they’ll be looking for a Southerner to put on the slate to “balance” the ticket. They’ll be looking for a running-mate with solid conservative credentials. And they’ll be looking for someone who is NOT in Congress, because the approval rating of Congress is currently at an all-time low. That pretty much leaves southern Republican Governors to choose from.

Of the handful of southern Republican governors – seven to be exact -- they’ll end up with Sanford.

First, he’s an economic conservative, more than a social conservative, which means he would not be in conflict with his running mate. (They’ll be looking for economic, rather than social, conservatism. The Republican base vote – the religious right – which they’ll need to be highly energized for the November election, will already be extremely motivated to “Stop Hillary”. So, there’s no need to put a social conservative on the ticket.) Second, he’s safe: no major scandals in his background (the product of a silver-spoon lifetime)… although the minor controversies will come out if he becomes the nominee. And third, he’s a FORMER member of Congress, which neither Romney nor Giuliani have on their resume. Voters want either their Prez or VP to have a little bit of congressional experience.

But reasons number four and five are the real clinchers.

Fourth is this: The VP nominee needs to be a southerner to help deliver the Southern states to the Red column in November. Any southern state will suffice. The most important “swing” southern state, however, is Florida... as we all know from the 2000 election. And as soon as he gets the VP nomination, Sanford can start claiming his home state of Florida again. Florida is one of the states around which national campaigns must build their strategy. Sanford can help deliver it to the GOP.

And reason number five: The South Carolina Primary!!! Our state’s early primary has a history of choosing the eventual GOP nominee. Every time since our first Republican Presidential Primary in 1980, the winner in the Palmetto State has gone on to become the nominee, because of the enormous momentum gained from winning only three days before other, bigger primaries. Winning South Carolina is the key to winning the nomination… even more so for a couple of Yankees like Romney and Giuliani.

For Rudy, winning South Carolina would stun the world and virtually guarantee smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Sanford, enormously popular among most of the Republican faithful (who love his non-stop bickering with the legislature, oblivious to the fact that his eight years of failure to cooperate is leaving our state exactly where it was when he took over: the status quo guaranteed by his unwillingness to sacrifice his own anti-establishment persona for the sake of accomplishing anything) is in a unique position to deliver a win to either Romney or Giuliani. With several viable candidates – McCain, Thompson, Huckabee and the two Northerners – none of whom have yet “pulled away from the pack”, Sanford’s endorsement in the weeks before our primary could probably deliver a win to either candidate. That is likely why Sanford is carefully courting each of the candidates, but focusing on Romney and Giuliani, the two who might need him on the ticket. Of late, he’s focusing on Giuliani, believing him to be the likely nominee, and the most likely to choose him as Veep.

My guess: Watch for Sanford to endorse Giuliani, and help him become the nominee, for which Giuliani would logically add him to the Number Two slot. (No, I’m not suggesting they would make a deal… more of an understanding.)

Of course, the hard part would be in November, 2008, when Giuliani would be called upon to defeat Hillary Clinton in order for Sanford to actually become the Vice President.

There you have it. Vice President Sanford. And you heard it here first.

The rest of the story, of course, is that our long-time friend, Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, would suddenly become Governor Andre Bauer.

And we’ll write about that another time.

Spring Cleaning in the Fall

It’s time once again for my semi-annual Spring Cleaning. One of my twice-yearly cleanings occurs in the Spring, and the other one, awkwardly, occurs in the Fall. Unless, of course, I forget one (or both).
For me, “Spring Cleaning” AND “Spring Cleaning in the Fall” are both comprised of the same activity: emptying my pockets, glove compartments, desk drawers, and assorted boxes, to find the little scraps of paper on which I have scribbled notes about ideas for future columns.
Most of those ideas don’t ever make it into my weekly column, primarily because I never see the scraps of paper again… until Spring Cleaning. By this time, the moment has usually long-since passed. Whatever inspired thought I had at the time has faded into oblivion.
Additionally, I suffer from ADHD: Attention Deficit Handwriting Disorder. I frequently lose interest in mid-sentence… occasionally in the middle of a word… and sometimes even in the middle of a letter!!! (You may think that’s impossible, but trust me… it’s not! Say for instance, you’re trying to write “Aren’t you witty?”, but lose interest before getting back to cross the “T”s. Now you’ve written “Aren’t you willy?”, which is totally different than what was intended, and makes it pretty near impossible to recall what the subject was on which I had once intended penning a column!!!)
So, between not being able to read my own handwriting, and not being able to recall exactly why I scribbled the word “banana” on a napkin, very few of my most inspired thoughts ever make it to my keyboard.
Out of the few sniplets which remain, however, I usually am able to string together some of these leftover thoughts into a “Spring Cleaning” column… or in this instance, “Spring Cleaning in the Fall”: a collection of random thoughts from the last few months, or perhaps, last few years. So here goes…
-- I can’t remember names…. but I’m no longer embarrassed about it. I’m old! Absent-mindedness is not such a bad thing, after all, now that I have a good excuse.
-- Many years ago, the comic strip character Pogo, said: “We are faced with insurmountable opportunities.” It was true. We were. And, we still are.
-- In the ninth grade in high school, I had to choose between taking Latin or Typing. All the college-bound kids were encouraged to take Latin. I just couldn’t see how that was going to do much for me, so I opted for Typing. As it turns out, I once knew how to make good decisions…. apparently in the ninth grade. Typing has come in very handy for me, like right now for instance. Had I chosen to other option, you would now be reading a column written out in long-hand… in Latin.
-- Do you get tired of being put on “hold” for what seems like hours at a time whenever you call a toll-free “customer service” number? I do. We have no choice but to wait, because it’s usually the only way to resolve our problem. But here’s an idea I came up with: After you conclude your important business, but before you relinquish the call, put THEM on hold for a change! When they ask, “Can I help you with anything else today, Mr. Turnipgreen?”, you reply, “Yes, can I put you on hold for one moment, please?”… then proceed to the kitchen to make yourself a sandwich, read your mail, and wash your car before returning to the phone. It will make you feel much better.
-- If I ever appear to be staring at you sort of sideways, there’s a very good reason: I wear contact. Not contacts… contact. Only one of them. I’m supposed to wear both of them, but when I do, I can’t read small print. Wearing one contact works well for me, except occasionally I appear to be staring at people a little sideways. (Also, I sometimes don’t recognize people… which is okay, because I probably can’t remember their names, anyway.)
-- At my house, exercise machines make good clothes racks. Especially the stationary bicycle.
-- I hope you’ll patronize our advertisers. I really do. I don’t say it often enough, but this newspaper could not exist without the support of the business which advertise on these pages, and our community would not be as strong as it is without a community newspaper of its own. So I hope you’ll remember to do business with those businesses who support us with their advertising dollars… and maybe even tell them thanks for doing their part to keep the community strong.
That’s it for this year’s version of “Spring Cleaning in the Fall”. Now I can throw away the scraps I used. (I’m still hanging on to the illegible ones, clinging to the possibility that some day they’ll make sense to me again.)
See you next week.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Return of the Duck

The Return of the Duck

I know this is hard for you to believe, but Yours Truly, Your Publisher is now in his 19th year of publishing newspapers.

“How can this be?” you are undoubtedly asking yourself, marveling that Rod-Boy must have begun publishing at the tender age of, say, ten years old. “Certainly,” you are thinking, “he couldn’t be much older than that, could he?”

But alas, it’s true. Yes, your publisher is slightly over 30 years old.

Back in 1989, there was only one newspaper, and Yours Truly was not only the publisher, but also did most of the writing, editing, designing, advertising, filing, bottle-washing, and floor-sweeping. (But NOT the headline proofing or speell-checcking! No one did.… a tradition that continues to this very day!)

A few days ago, while I was glancing through a copy of our little gazette from October, 1989, I came across some of my earlier writings. Back then, it seems, I personally penned so much of the weekly newspaper, that I took to writing some of my columns under pen-names. One such pseudonym was “Dr. Red Duck”.

Dr. Red Duck wrote a weekly column for a year or so, under the heading: “Dr. Red Duck: Weather Forecasts, Medical Advice, and Waterfowl Commentary”.

And, since it’s now again October, albeit 18 years later, and the State Fair is approaching, I thought I’d share a little vintage nom-de-plume newspaper writing with you… if only to make you appreciate my current colums a little more, from an “it-could-be-worse” point of view.

From October, 1989, I’m pleased to present the Return of Dr. Red Duck with a segment from his weekly advice column entitled “It Just Ain’t Fair”:

It's that time of year again. Time for the fair. But actually, it should be called the UNFAIR because it is unfair to ducks.

How is a duck supposed to enjoy such an unfair event? Is there no justice in the world? First there are those ridiculous rides. How is a duck supposed to ride on of those horses on the merry-go-around? And what about the rides that go round and round and round and round and round... I get dizzy just thinking about it!

And then there's the Midway. The most crowded mass of humanity imaginable. Quite unpleasant if you are an 18" tall duck.

And fair gunk! How would you like it if you had half-eaten candy apples, partially dissolved cotton candy, grilled onions, egg roll innards, polish sausage, pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, ice cream, hot dogs, and all other kinds of sticky goo oozing between your webbed feet - not to mention the latest horror - chocolate covered elephant ears! It's disgusting!

And how about the poultry judging? What a disgrace! Beauty pageants for people are nothing compared to this pathetic parade of pompous poultry. So much as a feather out of placeand its everything but your head ona silver platter.

Of course, there are a few things that are average and acceptable. Alright, I'll say it…a few things are FAIR.

The best, of course, is picking up ducks. Many fairgoers enjoy the game of "picking up ducks". But as a duck, it's more than just a game!

And I'll have to admit the poultry pageant had some pretty cute chicks. One really cute chick has a great pair of drumsticks – mama-mia!!!

The flower exhibit is also great. Great, that is, if you like to eat flowers. Begonias, daisies, petunias, rhododendrons, roses, sunflowers, poppies... it's pure t-heaven!

And finally there are the sideshows. The Amazon Duck Women -- you gotta see them!
My advice for the week: When you go to the fair watch your step. If you're a duck you might step in some fair gunk; if you're a person you might step on a duck!

I'm Dr. Red Duck

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Game of Inches

New Orleans was not kind to me last weekend.

I traveled to the Bayou State with a planeload of Gamecock fans for the USC versus LSU football game.

I only really asked for two things out of my trip: 1) A South Carolina upset victory over the Tigers; and 2) to stay on my diet.

I was sorely disappointed on both counts!

At least the Gamecocks kept it respectable. They didn’t get blown off the field by the #2 rated team the way all previous opponents had. The LSU squad even resorted to trickery during the game… an indisputable sign of respect.

I know this because I had a great view of the game from a very soft couch in front of a TV in a fancy Bourbon Street hotel… 100 miles from the stadium in Baton Rouge!!!
Yes, I traveled on a football junket to New Orleans, and then opted to watch the game on television. I’m old. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I survived the airplane trip, but 100 mile bus trip seemed like a bad idea, because The Weather Channel showed green blobs heading in that direction.

So I stayed in downtown New Orleans, the home of Cajun Cooking and Southern Gourmet, to test my diet willpower versus the Many Tempting Good Things to Eat.

I lost. The Many Tempting Good Things to Eat won.

Here I am, approaching the halfway point of the Great Weigh-Loss Contest of 2007, and I GAINED two pounds over the weekend. Oops.

But, perhaps it’s just as well, because about half of the other contestants are missing in action.

For the last few weeks, you’ve possibly been following this little weight-loss contest in which I am participating.

Six weeks ago, sixteen Substantially Sized Somebodies joined me in a wager to see which of us could lose the most weight in a three month period. We each chipped $100 buck into the pot, and the Biggest Loser(s) will become the Big Winner at the end of the contest.

Back on August 14th, when the whole Gang of Gargantuan Guys was gobbling a last meal at the Sunset Restaurant prior to the initial weigh-in, we decided we would meet approximately each month for an unofficial weigh-in and progress report.

(Incidentally, if you’d like to see a video clip of that Famous Last Meal, you can see it at: www.doingthefirst.blogspot.com )

Now, however, it seems most of those contestants don’t want to show their faces, undoubtedly utterly ashamed of their own dismal failures as dieters. Therefore, we have no choice but to publish the ESTIMATED weights of the contestants as we approach the halfway points.

Here, then, are the contestants, with their official starting weights, and my best guess at their current weights after six weeks of competition:

Irmo Town Councilman Barry "Fatback" Walker -- starting weight 331; estimated current weight 321;

Hizzoner Brian Jeffcoat -- starting weight 316; estimated current weight 302;

Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier -- starting weight 312; estimated current weight 312;

Senator Jake Knotts -- starting weight 302; estimated current weight 282;

Stan "The Man" Bowen -- starting weight 292; estimated current weight 282;

Transportation Pro Gerald Head -- starting weight 285; estimated current weight 270;

ETV’s Andy Gobeil -- starting weight 279; estimated current weight 270;

GOP Heavyweight Scott Malyerck -- starting weight 273; estimated current weight 274;

Design Guru Douglas Adam -- starting weight 264; estimated current weight 244;

Econobug’s Ricky “Rubi” Wingard -- starting weight 263; estimated current weight 248;

Yours Truly, The Publisher -- starting weight 245; estimated current weight 227;

Insurance Veteran Terry Campbell -- starting weight 237; estimated current weight 235;

Former Secretary of State Jim Miles -- starting weight 235; estimated current weight 225;

Reigning Champ and Okra Strut Chm. Kirk Luther -- starting weight 234; estimated current weight 214;

Anonymous A. L. Wingard -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 215;

Retired Humor Writer Tim Kelly -- starting weight 225; estimated current weight 224.5;

R.J. Shealy (that’s Rod, Jr.) -- starting weight 210; estimated current weight 205.

As you can see, in weigh loss competitions, as in football, anything can happen. It’s a game of inches, and it’s not over til its over. It’s halftime, but a lot can still happen. The fourth quarter will tell us a lot.

So stay tuned for the Upset of the Century. We’ll be right here to bring you all the action.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm for Reagan

Dateline -- September 17, 2007

For the next four months, we in South Carolina are going to be deluged with messages from a lot of people who want to be the next President of the United States.

We’ve already seen them quite a bit, but we’re going to be seeing them even more. The reason is that our state’s Presidential Primary election is considered one of the most important primaries in the nation. Ours is the first primary in the South, and it sets the stage for others, creating enormous “momentum” for the Palmetto State winner.

In fact, since the creation of the SC Republican Primary in 1980, the candidate who won our state has ultimately become the standard-bearer for the Republicans in every single case… and winning South Carolina is considered to be a major catalyst toward that nomination every single time.

The state’s Democrat Primary, established four years ago, is considered equally important in choosing that party’s nominee.

I, myself, have a little history with our primary over the years. I’ve directed a couple of presidential campaigns in our state (neither of which actually resulted in electing a President), and have been peripherally involved with others. And, back in the mid-80’s (back when I was much younger and “involved” in our state’s Republican Party, I was the “Chairman of the Rules Committee”, a position which, in my own mind, was at the same level as, say, Director of the CIA, or the Commissioner of Baseball), I inserted a new rule which created our state’s primary as the permanent fixture it has become.

During the last year, I’ve had very pleasant conversations with most of the GOP candidates or their campaigns, and some have even made generous offers for my “professional assistance”… despite the fact that my track record of electing Presidents is an astounding 0-and-forever.

As it turns out, I like them all, and frankly, haven’t yet decided which one I like best. I HAVE decided, however, that I’m too old to be directing anybody’s presidential campaign, which is a very demanding, time-intensive, all-consuming way to make a buck. Especially when you have to drop everything else and devote six or eight months to it.

Sooner or later, I’ll probably weigh-in on my personal choice, and let you know why I’m doing so. In the meantime, I’m watching and listening, like the rest of the Sandlappers, to try to cut through the political clutter and make my decision as to which of these individuals is the best choice to be the next leader of the free world.

Last week, while going through some old files, I came across a document that might help me make my decision. I’m not sure where I got this, but it’s a list of some of President Ronald Reagan’s most memorable quotes.

For me, these quotes sort of sum up exactly who Reagan was, what he stood for, his sense of humor and ability to communicate, and how he became the greatest president of the generation by restoring a nation which had lost its way to greatness.

I’m going to keep reading these quotes from time to time over the next four months, to help me keep in my mind the qualities I’m looking for in our next President.

You may want to, also.

"Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose." - Ronald Reagan

"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
- Ronald Reagan

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so." - Ronald Reagan

"Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong." - Ronald Reagan

"I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress." - Ronald Reagan

"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination." - Ronald Reagan

"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." - Ronald Reagan

"The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program." - Ronald Reagan

"I've laid down the law, though, to everyone from now on about anything that happens: no matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting." - Ronald Reagan

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
- Ronald Reagan

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
- Ronald Reagan

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards; if you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book." - Ronald Reagan

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."
- Ronald Reagan

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan

I hope you’ll be paying attention for the next four months to help make a good decision when our primaries roll around next year. Your personal decision will help determine the winner of our state’s primary…. our state’s choice will very likely help determine the next President… and our next President will very likely determine the kind of world we leave to future generations.

Let’s choose carefully.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Remember September 11th

This week marks the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America.

Though the passage of time has begun to cloud the collective consciousness of our nation, it is important that we not forget that we are still engaged in a war to protect our homeland against terrorism.
Four days after the attack in 2001, I first published the following article. I am reprinting this column this week in hopes it helps remind us of the challenges which are still faced by our nation and all Americans, and the efforts we must ALL put forth to win this war.

Eleven Ways Every American Can Help Win This War

In addition to my role as a newspaper publisher (and occasional writer), I have also spent much of my adult life as a political campaign manager and consultant. In virtually every political campaign, there are supporters who ask, “What can I do to help?” Over the years, I have learned to reduce campaign strategies to a list of simple tasks which any individual can do to help.

Since September 11th, I have heard that same question being asked over and over: “What can I do to help?” This time, however, it is not a political campaign, but a far more serious matter. All Americans seem united in their desire to help. We ALL want to do something to help with the relief efforts and to avenge this cowardly attack on our nation. But we are frustrated because there seems to be little we can do.

Indeed, our President and military leaders have a difficult job ahead as they choose the correct path to fight our hidden foes, some of whom may well be living among us. The war ahead is unlike any war history has ever recorded, and the objectives are still unclear. But, even as our nation’s military strategies are still unfolding, there are ways every individual American can and should help to win the war ahead of us. Here are my suggestions:

1. Give. Give money, give blood, and give food to the relief efforts for the victims of the first attack of this war. Donate to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or any of the hundreds of other relief efforts which are collecting needed money or supplies. And keep giving when future needs arise, as they most surely will. This war we must fight to prevent future attacks on America will be long and costly. Every American must be prepared to give.

2. Help keep our nation’s economy strong. Continue to make purchases as you normally would. Continue to invest in the businesses which are the economic backbone of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Hold the investments you already own, and wisely invest in those industries which have suffered temporary setbacks due to the September 11th attack. America’s air transportation, travel, financial and insurance industries will bounce back strong… and our confidence in them will help them regain their strength even faster.

3. Conserve fuel to weaken our enemies’ economy. If we conserve fuel, their oil industry will suffer. We in America have the inventiveness to develop power sources which can eventually make their oil unneeded. We already have the technology for alternative power sources, and now we will certainly develop them. In the meantime, we should cut off our enemies’ money supply by no longer using their oil.

4. Fly the flag. Flying the Red, White and Blue is more than symbolic support. It helps boost the morale of our entire nation. More importantly, displaying our unbridled patriotism and determination sends a strong message to the world that could help sway “neutral” countries to support our cause. The world must understand that all America is united, and the sleeping giant has been awakened. Every American can help by proudly showing our colors.

5. Wear a confident smile… and offer an encouraging word to everyone you meet. Attitude is infectious, and it is important that our national attitude remain positive, even in the face of depressing news. During World War II, Churchill’s “V for Victory” and Roosevelt’s pre-war words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, boosted our attitudes and made a difference in the war effort. In the days following the September 11th attack, a counselor friend of mine described incidents of “misplaced anger” between acquaintances. A cheerful comment to a friend or a total stranger will help alleviate the tension, frustration and anger that all Americans feel inside.

6. Help make America more productive. Work a little harder or a little longer at your job, or find ways to be more efficient. Every little bit of extra effort makes your company more productive, which increases our national output. When our national output, productivity and profitability are increased, there are more tax dollars available to support the war effort. If every American increased his or her daily productivity by just15 minutes, our government would have many billions of extra tax dollars to help win the war.

7. Volunteer in your community. Even if your volunteer activities don’t seem related to the war effort, they probably are. Most volunteer activities help solve local or national problems. When these problems are handled by volunteer efforts instead of by government, tax dollars are saved. So when you volunteer to pick up litter, help in the schools, raise money for cancer research, feed the homeless, shelter stray animals, or help with any other volunteer activity, you are making it easier for the government to devote tax dollars to the war and relief efforts. As our nation prepares for war, it is more important than ever that we give our volunteer efforts to strengthen our communities and our nation.

8. Pass along your patriotism. There are many, many young people who do not understand patriotism the way we do, because they were not taught the way we were. The abundances of our great nation have distracted us from teaching our children how that abundance is possible. Our younger generation needs to understand the greatness of America to fully appreciate the blessings of liberty. Let us teach our children patriotism, and instill in them the values which will give them strength to endure a war which they may someday be forced to help fight.

9. Prepare yourself. Make yourself a better, stronger person. Prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally for a war we cannot predict. This is a different kind of war -- unlike any war we have fought before – and we cannot rely on the military alone. We have already seen that the enemy may be among us. EVERY true American must be prepared for the unexpected with stronger, healthier minds and bodies. The battles in this war could be fought with computers, or with hand-to-hand combat, or with biological warfare, or tactics not yet conceived. Every battle is won before it is fought. When we prepare ourselves, we help win the war.

10. Meet your neighbors. And get to know them well. One of America’s greatest strengths is our cultural diversity. It is critical that we not let that diversity divide us in this time of crisis. We can best protect ourselves from divisiveness by becoming closer: Meet your neighbors, especially those who may seem “different” than yourself; communicate with them and get to know them; and understand that their love of America is the same as yours. And, by communicating with our fellow Americans who share our patriotism, we will help officials isolate those few who do not.

11. Reaffirm your faith. Pray. Pray for our President, our nation and our world. The September 11th attack was aimed not only at our nation, but also at our faith. The war we must now wage is more than a battle of nations: It is a battle of good versus evil, a battle to stand up for the Judeo-Christian beliefs which formed the basis of our nation. We must reaffirm that faith as individuals and as a nation. With God, we cannot fail; without God, we cannot succeed. The power of prayer can defeat any foe.

And one more special thing you can do to help win the war….

Be a leader. In every war, leadership makes the difference. In this new kind of war, we cannot rely totally on military leaders or government leaders. We must have leaders throughout our land to inspire our nation. You can be a leader in your community, your church, your workplace, or your classroom. You can be a leader on your block or in your home. When you inspire others to do the 11 things listed here, you are a leader, and your leadership will help us win this war.

By Rod Shealy, Sr.
first published September 15, 2001

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Food for Thought

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about food lately. Not eating it. Just thinking about it.

Since I’ve been in a weight-loss competition for the last few weeks, almost EVERYTHING is off my diet…. and it sure looks good!!!

For those who have not been keeping up, there are 17 of us Blubber Boys who are engaged in a 3-month competition, and each of us has put $100 in the pot as an incentive.

The winner(s) gets the money. I’m planning on that being me.

In the meantime, however, I’m getting hungry.

It doesn’t help any that my friends… excuse me, former friends… seem to take great joy taunting me with jelly donuts and the like… just to add to my misery. I expected words of encouragement, and instead, I get taunts and jeers.

“Hey, Rod-Boy…. Would you like a slice of steaming hot PIZZZZZAAAA?! Yummmm.”

I’ve also gotten a lot of emails concerning my quest for a sub-40 inch belt-size, mostly because these people don’t have time to taunt and jeer in person.

A few readers have actually tried to offer helpful advice, such as Chris Carney, himself a successful dieter, who gave us a few pointers on how to make it happen. But not before zapping us with this observation:

“It was such a glorious irony to hear that your newly found club-for-dieters held it's initial meeting at a restaurant,” he wrote. “Of all places...not a public park or an exercise facility, but a restaurant.”

Then there were other who passed along their attempts at humor via the electric email.

Steve Jarrell told us of a medical study he had recently come across, which reached the following observations and conclusions:

1. Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. Africans drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Americans.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

An E. Shealy in Lexington passed along this exercise plan which seems promising.

It’s called “Exercise for Older Adults”:

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 5-lb potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. Each day, you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer. After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato sacks. Then try 50-lb potato sacks and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. (I'm at this level.) After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each of the sacks.

Thanks, Mom.

Then there were a couple of other weight loss and fitness tales emailed (which I will protect the identity of the senders to protect them from being locked up for “No Sense of Humor Whatsoever”.)

A woman walked up to a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch. "I couldn't help noticing how happy you look," she said. "What's your secret for a long happy life?"

"I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day," he said. "I also drink a case of whiskey a week, eat fatty foods, and never exercise."

"That's amazing," the woman said. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-six," he said.

And then there was this little weight loss humor, which frankly, seems a lot more like a blonde joke to me:

A blonde is terribly overweight, so her doctor puts her on a diet. "I want you to eat regularly for two days, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for two weeks. The next time I see you, you'll have lost at least five pounds."

When the blonde returns, she's lost nearly 20 pounds. "Why, that's amazing!" the doctor says. "Did you follow my instructions?"

The blonde nods. "I'll tell you, though, I thought I was going to drop dead that third day.”

"From hunger, you mean?" asked the doctor.

"No, from skipping."

And, finally, there was this “humorous” offering from a wiseacre who I frankly think went too far. He went beyond weight loss humor into medical humor, and I’m not sure if he was sending me a message or not:

A patient is at the doctor’s office to get results from recent tests. The doctor walks in and says, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news”.

The patient replies, “Give me the good news first.”

The doctor says, “They’re going to name a disease after you.”

So thanks to all of my former friends for the encouragement during my weight loss competition. (Not you, Mom.)

And now, readers, I’ve got some good news and some bad news: I’ll be back with another column next week. (And I’ll leave you to figure out whether that’s the4 good news or the bad news.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fifth Week of the Month

Often times, when we publish a fifth issue of the month, I use the occasion to publish random thoughts, isolated ideas, and tidbits on various topics. (We publish this newspaper on Thursdays, you may know, which approximately four times a year causes us to have a month with five issues. It’s a great opportunity to do a little clean up.) This is one of those times.

Earlier this month, I offered my idea of changing the name of the month of “August” to “Elvis”. I think it’s catching on… I’ve heard chatter. Watch for congressional action any day now… or, at least, a petition-drive from “the people”. (I’m a little surprised the drive hasn’t already started spontaneously across the land. It’s just such a good idea.)

If we’re going to rename a month, someone suggested, shouldn’t we also update the names of the days of the week? I think that’s another fine and useful idea: We should rename some of the days of the week, especially those that begin with the same first letter.

“Tuesday” and “Thursday” both begin with letter “T”. How confusing is that? Couldn’t we just give one of them a different name, maybe something that starts with a “V” or a “J” (both very fine letters, but vastly under-used).

“Saturday” and “Sunday” also both start with the same letter, but since it’s the weekend, they could probably stay the same, because the weekend is really like one long day anyway.

If anybody wants to undertake the mission of renaming the days of the week, here are a couple of other suggestions:

1. Why not start completely over, and arrange the names alphabetically, which would help when computer programs are trying to sort by day of the week.

2. Why not sell names, like sponsorships of sporting events. Corporate America would pay BIG BUCKS to have a day of the week named for them: Billions. Can you even imagine how much The Donald would pay to have “Friday” renamed “Trumpday”? It could lower the national tax rate.

Those are my suggestions, but someone else will have to take up the mantle on this campaign, because I’m devoting my efforts to the month of “Elvis”

Now on to the weather… Has it been hot enough for you?

Our recent string of 100+ degree days has left a lot of people scratching their heads, wondering if it’s the effect of global warming. Here’s the answer: Yeah, the globe is warming. However, I still seriously doubt that we humans have made much of a dent on Mother Nature. (Truth is, in the big picture, we aren’t that big of a deal... we humans.) It was probably going to warm up regardless, kinda like the Ice Age managed to come and go without us.

Still, I do think from time to time about The Rainbow from Noah’s Ark. After the Lord washed most of humankind away to start over, he promised “never again”… but he was referring specifically to a flood. Overheating us out of existence is still permissible, because of that loophole. And if the Lord took a look around these days and decided he wanted to wipe out the human race, who could blame him?

I suggest we each say a little prayer that this is not what’s going on here with this heat wave.

But it has been HOT! Too hot to do anything. I’m thinking that’s why nobody has started knocking on doors with the “August to Elvis” petitions yet.

Random Topic Number Three: My weight loss competition.

I’m proud to report that I dropped eight pounds in the first week or so. I know this because my pal Jim Miles dropped in last week, and we held a mini-weigh-in. He was down seven, I was down eight, based on the Ronco Scale-a-Matic that we were using.

The contest is, of course, a three-month weight-loss competition between 17 local hefties, each of whom put $100 in the pot, with the winner(s) taking it all. We are now beginning week three of the marathon.

Last week, I announced an award for whomever guessed closest to the total combined weight of the 17 contestants in the weight loss competition. I’ll announce that winner next week.

But I also want to give you another chance to win a $25 Gift Certificate with another contest. I want to see who can come the closest to matching up the 17 contestants with their 17 beginning weights.

Following are the 17 weights, in descending order, followed by the names of the 17 contestants, in semi-alphabetical order (dyslexic version). How many can you correctly match up?

The beginning weights:

Four of ‘em topped 300 pounds: 331 lbs., 316 lbs., 312 lbs., and 302 lbs.;
Six were in the upper 200’s: 292 lbs., 285 lbs., 279 lbs., 273 lbs., 264 lbs. and 263 lbs.;

And the remaining contestants weighed in between 200-250: 245 lbs.; 237 lbs., 235 lbs., 234 lbs., two at 225 lbs., and 210 lbs.

Now, here are the contestants, in no particular order:
Former GOP Executive Director Scott Malyerck; Insurance Magnate Terry Campbell; State Senator Jake Knotts; Stan "The Man" Bowen; Ricky “Rubi” Wingard of Econo-Bug and LHS Roundball fame; R.J. Shealy (that’s Junior); former Secretary of State Jim Miles; Leesville Transport Professional Gerald Head; Irmo Town Councilman Barry "Fatback" Walker; ETV’s Andy Gobeil; Judge Brian Jeffcoat; Douglas Adam; A. L. Wingard; Kirk Luther, my business-partner; Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier; copywriter supreme Tim Kelly; and Yours Truly, your publisher: Rod-Boy.

Simply send me an email guessing which weight matches up with which of these
Colossal Contestants. Send it to RodShealy@aol.com. Whoever gets the most correct wins the prize!!!

Incidentally, since we’ve now published each of the seventeen individual weights, it’s too late to enter your guess in the “Guess the Combined Weight” contest – except for Clemson fans. (Y’all can still keep trying to guess.)

Hey! It’s football season. Go Cocks!