Archive for the ‘Life Elsewhere’ Category

Go ‘Chokes! Go Pickles!

Most of the time, college sports teams name themselves something that evokes strength, virility, or athletic prowess — Lions, Knights, Bears, Vikings, Panthers, and whatnot.

But some teams go in the opposite direction…

The Banana Slugs — The University of California at Santa Cruz. Adopted when students rebelled over the chancellor’s choice, “The Sea Lions.”

Sammy the Slug.

The Fighting Pickles — University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.

The Fighting Blue Hens — University of Delaware, Newark.

The Dirtbags — California State University – Long Beach. Men’s baseball team only.

The Fighting Artichokes — Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Arti the Artichoke.

The Trolls — Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois.

The Geoducks — Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington. Pronounced “gooey-ducks.” Refers to the world’s largest burrowing clam. Their fight song: “Siphon high, squirt it out, swivel all about, let it all hang out!”

The Evergreen State Gooey-duck.

The Student Princes — Heidelberg University, Tiffin, Ohio. Very Germanic.

The Jumbos — Tufts University, Medford/Somerville, Massachusetts. Named after P. T. Barnum’s star circus elephant. Barnum gave Tufts a lot of money.

The Lemmings — Bryant & Stratton College, Cleveland, Ohio.

The Fire Ants — University of South Carolina Sumter. Ouch.

The Fighting Okra — Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi. Formerly “The Statesmen.”

The Fighting Okra.

The Stanford Tree — Unofficial mascot of Stanford University in Stanford, California. The actual team name is “The Cardinal” — the color red, not the bird. That’s too abstract for the student body, so they ignore it and have adopted a redwood tree.

The Tree.

The Hustling Quakers — Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

The Gorloks — Webster University, Webster Groves, Missouri. Named for the intersection of Gore and Lockwood Avenues on the university campus. The Gorlok mascot you see dancing on the sideline has the paws of a cheetah, the horns of a buffalo, and the face of a St. Bernard.

The Fighting Camels — Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina. The team mascot is Gaylord the Camel. The women’s teams are, of course, the Lady Camels.

The Flying Fleet — Erskine College, Due West, South Carolina. (See Comments for details.)

The Eutectics — St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis, Missouri. Eutectics is a chemistry term relating to the solidification of alloys, which I don’t understand at all. The team mascot is Morty McPestle, a werewolf in a lab coat. Morty isn’t a wimpy mascot like okra and lemmings, but he seems to belong on this list.

Morty McPestle.

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Here is some first-rate chuckle material: a selection of retractions and apologies published by various newspapers.

Naturally, most of these are from the British press, the British being peerless in the sensational allegation/solemn apology department.

The Mail on Sunday published stories claiming that TV news presenter Jon Snow had an affair with a writer called Precious Williams, and that they smoked cannabis together.

There is no truth in these allegations. We accept that, in fact, Mr. Snow never had any relationship with Miss Williams, and that the allegation of drug-taking was unfounded. We are happy to set the record straight, and we apologise for the embarrassment caused.


Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms. Blair’s representatives told us that she was friendly with, but never had a relationship with, Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article.

They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms. Blair “has never shared a shower with Ms. Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms. Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms. Caplin.”


We should clarify that the stir-fried morning glory recipe featured in Observer Food Monthly last week uses an edible morning glory, Ipomoea aquatica, found in Southeast Asia and also known as water spinach. This should not to be confused with the UK Ipomoea, also known as morning glory, which is poisonous.


An article about Lord Lambton (“Lord Louche, sex king of Chiantishire,” News Review, January 7) falsely stated that his son Ned (now Lord Durham) and daughter Catherine held a party at Lord Lambton’s villa, Cetinale, in 1997, which degenerated into such an orgy that Lord Lambton banned them from Cetinale for years.

In fact, Lord Durham does not have a sister called Catherine (that is the name of his former wife), there has not been any orgiastic party of any kind, and Lord Lambton did not ban him (or Catherine) from Cetinale at all. We apologise sincerely to Lord Durham for the hurt and embarrassment caused.


In an article in Monday’s newspaper, there may have been a misperception about why a Woodstock man is going to Afghanistan on a voluntary mission. Kevin DeClark is going to Afghanistan to gain life experience to become a police officer when he returns, not to shoot guns and blow things up. The Sentinel-Review apologizes for any embarrassment this may have caused.


In the May 25 Explainer, Michelle Tsai asserted that an eight ball is about 10 lines of cocaine. While the size of a line depends on personal preference, most users would divide an eight ball into more than 25 lines.


A photo caption on Saturday misspelled the name of the Pakistani capital. It is Islamabad, not Islambad.


The Australian incorrectly stated that Ms. Van Tienen had been found guilty by the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority of trafficking drugs and was banned from participating in weightlifting for two years.

Ms Van Tienen has never been charged or convicted of drug offences, has never been banned from the sport, nor has she ever been involved in a drug ring. The Australian apologises unreservedly for any hurt or embarrassment caused to Ms. Van Tienen by the publication.


ON April 3 we published an article entitled “The hangers-on who are dragging Prince Harry into the gutter,” which was accompanied by a photograph of a young woman we identified as Annabel Ritchie.

We now accept that the young woman photographed was not Annabel Ritchie. We also accept that Annabel Ritchie is not part of any so-called “hangers-on.” We apologise unreservedly to Annabel Ritchie for what we published about her.


In an article about Tom Sykes, a freelance journalist, we mistakenly included a photograph of Tom Sykes, a digital TV consultant and his family. We wish to make it clear that the latter is not a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, and we apologise for the error.


A front-page article yesterday about the role played by Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, in his presidential campaign rendered incorrectly a word in a quotation from Valerie Jarrett, a friend of the Obamas who commented on their decision that he would run.

Ms. Jarrett said in a telephone interview, “Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about this decision before they made it” — not that they “fought” long and hard.

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The Prince of Seborga

Obituary from The New York Times, December 12, 2009…


Giorgio Carbone, Elected Prince of Seborga, Dies at 73

Nestled near the beaches of the Italian Riviera and the snow-capped Alps sits the tiny principality of Seborga, a place that floats on legends. Over the centuries, plagues and earthquakes have struck the region and missed Seborga, or so the stories say. Some insist that knights took the Holy Grail there.

But the true miracle of Seborga may have been the 46-year reign of Prince Giorgio I, the constitutionally elected royal ruler of its five square miles and 2,000 people, about 350 of whom are enfranchised citizens.

Prince Giorgio, a bewhiskered grower of mimosa flowers from a family of mimosa growers, was seized by a glorious vision: that Seborga was not part of the surrounding Italian nation. It was an ancient principality, cruelly robbed of its sovereignty.

After convincing his Seborgan neighbors of their true significance, Giorgio Carbone was elected prince in 1963. He gracefully accepted the informal title of “His Tremendousness” and was elected prince for life in 1995 by a vote of 304 to 4. Voters then ratified Seborga’s independence, which, by the prince’s interpretation, it already had.

Prince Giorgio established a palace, wrote a Constitution, and set up a cabinet and a parliament. He chose a coat of arms, minted money (with his picture), issued stamps (with his picture) and license plates, selected a national anthem, and mobilized a standing army, consisting of Lt. Antonello Lacala. He adopted a motto: Sub umbra sede (“Sit in the shade”).

But the principality’s future has suddenly turned cloudy. Prince Giorgio I died at his home in Seborga on Nov. 25 after suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the principality announced. He was 73. Succession plans are uncertain.

More than 20 countries have recognized independent Seborga, in one fashion or another. Except Italy. The Seborghini pay taxes to Italy and vote in its elections. Some Italians mutter that Prince Giorgio’s true goal was to create a tourist attraction at a time when the flower industry was migrating to the Netherlands.

Tourism indeed rose, but Prince Giorgio ridiculed the Italian government’s claim that it was his motive. “The government are imbeciles!” he told The Daily Telegraph of London in 1999. “Tourists? Pshaw!”

Doubters perhaps did not grasp the history that the prince had so painstakingly reconstructed. In the year 954, local counts ceded Seborga to Roman Catholic monks, and in 1079 Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV elevated it to the rank of an imperial principality of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1729, the Savoy dynasty bought Seborga, but did not register the transaction, a failure that invalidated the sale, Prince Giorgio contended. The error was compounded when Seborga was not mentioned by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, nor in the act of unification of Italy in 1861, nor in the formation of the Italian republic in 1946.

“Even Mussolini did not consider Seborga to be part of Italy,” the prince said in a 1996 interview with The Globe and Mail, the Toronto newspaper. He did not explain.

How Mr. Carbone came to see himself as royalty is fuzzy, but the process had clearly started when he took up a horse and carriage. And really, who was he to protest when the Seborghini hailed him as prince, after he had so lucidly persuaded them that they lived in a principality?

Since the Middle Ages, Seborga’s sovereign had been elected, so the princely plebiscite that elevated Mr. Carbone was a return to tradition. He took to the throne with panache, wearing sash, sword and large rosette medallions as he held court at the Bianca Azzura bar. He traveled in a flag-bedecked Mercedes-Benz that was briefly impounded by the Italian police because of its Seborgan plates.

Prince Giorgio’s dedication was so total that he forsook marriage, telling People magazine in 1993 that he loved his female subjects equally. He left no immediate survivors.

Early in his reign, the prince, a heavy smoker, passed a law to encourage smoking. His uneasy relationship with the elected mayor of Seborga improved as the mayor counted the tourists the prince attracted, and the prince realized that the mayor did the boring work.

Prince Giorgio sent many letters with the principality’s stamps to officials in Rome, and he gloated that none bounced back marked “Return to sender,” The Riviera Times reported. Not that any were answered.

In 2005, he made a rare television appearance on the BBC program “How to Start Your Own Country.” His only political challenge came in 2006, when Princess Yasmine von Hohenstaufen Anjou Plantagenet mysteriously materialized to claim the throne with the intention of returning it to Italy. The Seborghini responded with indifference, and that was that.

Prince Giorgio accepted no salary, although it is not clear he was offered one. He daily availed himself of ham and cheese from the village shop, a royal perquisite.


The story of Giorgio Carbone is delightful in its own right — to grow flowers for a living, to proclaim one’s hometown an independent nation, to be declared royalty by your neighbors.

But credit the Italian government for allowing it to happen. Giorgio received no warnings, no threats, no cease-and-desist orders. No soldiers marched on Seborga. For 46 years, he and his town were left alone.

We all have fantasies. How refreshing when the world steps back and allows us to enjoy them.

The late Giorgio Carbone, Prince of Seborga.

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Scratching the Itch

My first trip to Grand Canyon was in 1994, 15 years ago. I may have mentioned that I was quite taken with the place and  have been a regular visitor ever since.

Over the years, I’ve squeezed in trips to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Arches and other parks, but Grand Canyon has been my Numero Uno vacation destination.

I can’t explain the appeal, exactly. Millions of people visit Grand Canyon, stay for half a day, one day, two days, and are never compelled to return. Why did the Canyon bug bite me?

The closest I can get to an answer is this: every time I go to Grand Canyon and take in whatever panorama is before me, I am overwhelmed. It’s like a religious experience.

No, I don’t hear choirs or anything. But whether I’m hiking, rafting, walking, or gawking, there’s something about Grand Canyon that is both supremely gratifying and deeply humbling. I don’t get that feeling anywhere else.

Normal people don’t understand the appeal. They see a long, deep canyon in the middle of nowhere — impressive, yes, but nothing more.

Pretty regularly, friends and relatives politely inquire why I keep going back to see the same hole in the ground again and again.

I don’t lay the religious experience thing on them. I just reply that Grand Canyon is so big and so multi-faceted that no single human in a single human lifetime could possibly experience all of it.

I tell them I’ll probably keep booking trips until (a) I get tired of it or (b) I’m too old and decrepit to continue.

Coincidentally, I departed the South Rim of Grand Canyon just this morning.

I spent two delightful days there taking photos, walking great distances, observing the menagerie of foreign tourists, taking photos, shopping for souvenirs, dining lavishly, and taking photos.

I also paid a visit to the mule barn and, when no one was looking, harvested several samples of dried mule dropping. These trail souvenirs will be lovingly boxed and given as special gifts to a few select persons on my Christmas list.

But I digress.

When you add up all the river trips and hikes I’ve done in Grand Canyon, I’ve been to the place 20 times. Not bad for a dude who lives in Georgia.

In all candor, I assumed that, except to a few friends and family members, nobody knew that I’ve been here 20 times.

Au contraire, mes amis.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the mammoth corporate entity that handles the Grand Canyon visitor services — they know.

I found that out yesterday afternoon when I checked in at the Bright Angel Lodge front desk.

“Last name?” said the clerk.


“First name?”


After a long pause, she looked up from the computer screen and said, “Well, you’re quite the frequent visitor, Mr. Smith. How many times have you visited Grand Canyon?”

“Well actually, this is my –”

“No, Don’t tell me — I’ll look it up.”

For several seconds, she focused intently on the screen.

“My goodness!” she said finally. “This is your 20th visit with us!”

When she informed me that the Xanterra computers had that information, I instantly thought about all of the malevolent corporate entities conjured up by Hollywood.

You know — Umbrella Corporation, Cyberdyne, Tyrell, Weyland-Yutani. You would expect those guys* to be keeping an evil corporate eye on you.

Chances are, Xanterra isn’t evil. And I have nothing against them. They’ve never messed up a reservation or given me a hard time. Plus, their computers seem to keep very accurate records.

But it spooked me a little bit to know that someone — anyone — has kept tabs on me for the last 15 years like that.

“Wow,” I said to the clerk. “I had no idea you guys were keeping track of me like that.”

She laughed heartily and said, “Me, either!”

When I arrived at South Rim yesterday, I ate dinner at the Arizona Room, which is a steak house overlooking the rim. I mention it because of the woman who served me. When she seated me, she said I looked familiar; had I been to the canyon before?

I told her I was a regular visitor, to the tune of 20 trips.

“Well,“ she said, “I’ve worked here for 30 years, so the odds are, I’ve served you before. No wonder you look familiar.”

In other words, after 20 trips to this place, someone here finally remembered me.

And that brings up a point that had not occurred to me until now.

It’s true that most people can’t relate to this Grand Canyon thing that has taken hold of me.

But when I visit the place, I know I’ll be in the company of others who’ve also been infected with the Canyon virus.

When I go to Grand Canyon country, I can I.D. the real Canyon people — the kindred spirits — immediately. It’s sort of like gay-dar.

Never mind that there are a thousand tourists for every true believer. I can spot my people every time. On most trips, I’ll cross paths and chat with 10, maybe 20 people about past hikes, raft trips, and future destinations. Very gratifying, indeed.

This morning, with no small amount of sadness, I checked out of the Bright Angel Lodge and paid my tab. As the clerk was adding up the charges, he said pleasantly, “So, was this your first trip to see us, Mr. Smith?”

His name tag read Tony — Nebraska. I told Tony I was a regular. I’d been to Grand Canyon quite a few times.

Then, as an afterthought, I said, “I thought the only people who knew that were family members. But I’m told that Xanterra knows it, too.”

Tony cackled and said, “Oh, you must be the fella from Georgia who’s been here 20 times!”

The front desk at Bright Angel Lodge, a unit of Xanterra Corporation.

* Those guys are the thoroughly despicable companies featured in the Resident Evil, Terminator, Blade Runner, and Alien movies. But you probably knew that.

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Amy and Mel

I’m on a road trip right now, driving from Georgia to California and back. I’m spending Thanksgiving with my son Britt and his family.

Cross-country trips are always an adventure, and they invariably yield an interesting story or two. When I left home, I wondered how long it would take to encounter something blogworthy.

Not long. By the morning of the second day, I was making notes for a post. By midday, I had what I thought was an embarrassment of material.

But you can judge for yourself.



Weatherford, Texas, 7:00 AM.

The evening before, I had checked into a motel in Weatherford and, after a quick supper, crashed for the night. I deserved it. It had been a 600-mile day. I slept well.

Having retired early, I was up at 5:00 AM, anxious to roll. I was sick of Texas already. I wanted to get moving, maybe cross into New Mexico by nightfall.

I showered, packed, loaded the car, and went to the office to check out and partake of the complimentary breakfast, whatever it was.

To my chagrin, the lobby was jammed with Rvers. They were the loud, silver-haired kind, apparently traveling in a pack. They were like a chattering flock of magpies and probably had picked the breakfast bar clean anyway. I spared myself the aggravation and departed.

As I pulled out of the motel parking lot, I spotted a homey-looking diner across the street. Perfect. I pulled into the parking lot and went inside.

The diner was a classic place, pretty much as I had pictured it. Only a half dozen customers were present, most of them truck drivers. I figured I would get a fast, tasty breakfast with lots of hot coffee, and I did.

My waitress caught my attention immediately. She was a melancholy girl of about 20, very sad and distant. Clearly, her burdens were great. She struck me as painfully tired and vulnerable.

In spite of the state she was in, she carried out her duties professionally. She was polite and attentive and took good care of me.

As I ate, she puttered behind the counter, busying herself with unseen tasks.

Moments later, the busboy passed my table, stopped his cart next to the waitress, and began to chat her up.

It was a one-sided conversation. The waitress continued wiping down the counter and studiously ignored him.

The busboy was a muscular, tattooed fellow in his late 30s or early 40s. He wore a tight-fitting knit cap (a tuque, a la The Edge from U2) and thick glasses with heavy rims. He was a somewhat rough-looking sort.

My table was about 20 feet away, and I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying. All I could hear was a deep mutter as he spoke quietly to her.

The waitress never looked at him or responded. She kept her eyes down and continued working. The man kept speaking to her.

I studied her a little closer. She was of average height and weight, not quite pretty, not quite homely. Her hair was medium length, brown and straight. It looked as if she had stepped from the shower, combed it flat, and left it to dry that way. She was painfully sad. I couldn’t imagine her smiling.

The busboy continued to drone on in a low voice. It was clear he wasn’t giving up or going away.

Finally, without looking up, the girl said, quietly, with feeling, “No. I can’t.”

Even though she spoke softly, I heard her clearly. It was a bit of a surprise.

The tempo of the man’s muttering increased. I couldn’t make out what he said, but his meaning was clear: Why not?

“I can’t,” she repeated. “You know I can’t.”

The man droned on.

“No, I won’t,” she said, eyes averted.

There was a brief silence. She looked up at him at last.

“How can you ask me that?“ she said. “How can you ask me that after what you did?”

The man stopped speaking. He turned without a word and disappeared into the kitchen with his cart. The waitress continued wiping the counter.

I don’t know what the man’s transgressions were, and I don’t care to know. But clearly, they were awful. I wanted to cry.

By then, I had finished breakfast. She brought the coffee pot, warmed up my cup, and asked if I were ready for the check. I said I was.

The bill was a little over $8.00. At the top, next to “Your server is ____,“ she had written “Amy.“

I placed $20.00 on the table and left.



Big Spring, Texas, 1:30 PM.

By lunchtime, exhausted from listening to the news on Sirius all morning, I stopped in Big Spring for a lunch and fuel stop.

Next door to the gas station was another of those anonymous small-town cafés, the kind I much prefer to a MacDonald’s or a Wendy’s.

Like my breakfast stop in Weatherford, this place was small and well-worn. It featured one waitress and a meat-and-two menu. Only four or five other customers were present. I found a table and sat down.

The waitress appeared. She was tough and brassy, fully capable of whipping anyone in the place. “What are ya drinking, sugar?” she asked.

“Iced tea, please, unsweet.”

She disappeared into the kitchen, and I scanned the menu. I had a choice of meat loaf or chicken-fried steak. The veggie selection looked good.

When she returned, I posed the question: did I want the meat loaf or the steak?

“The meat loaf,” she said. “Sometimes the steak is tough.” I ordered meat loaf, black-eyed peas, buttered jalapeno potatoes, and cornbread.

A lone cowboy came in and sat down at a nearby table. “Hey there, Mel,” he said to the waitress.

“Hey, Bill.”

“Things aren’t too busy in here,” he said. “Why don’t you and me get out of here — go to my place for a couple of hours.”

“You don’t want to do that,” she said. “I’d hurt you. And I don’t mean your feelings.”

“Okay, baby, but the offer stands.”

The telephone rang. Mel answered it.

“Oh, hey. Did you go to the grocery store? Good. You what? God dammit, you dumb-ass! I told you we need to cut back! I don’t care! I told you what to get! You are such a dumb-ass! I gotta go — I‘m busy!”

She hung up in disgust. “Dumb-ass,” she spat.

A few more minutes passed. My tea glass was half empty, and Mel topped it off. She set the pitcher on the counter and went to the swinging doors that led into the kitchen.

She pushed the door open and yelled, “Hey, what’s the hold-up in there! Get a move on! My little man wants his lunch!”

A muffled, but equally sharp reply came from the kitchen. Mel walked back to the counter, picked up the tea pitcher and a coffeepot, and made the rounds of her customers.

Soon afterward, someone yelled “Order up,” and Mel brought my lunch.

The meat loaf was pretty darn good. The buttered jalapeno potatoes were even better.


Later, back on the road, I turned off the radio and rode across west Texas in silence. I thought about the contrast between the two women.

At that moment, if I’d had a wish, I would have returned to Weatherford, collected Amy and everything she owned, and driven her to Big Spring. I would have taken her to Mel’s café and left her there.

Mel would watch out for her, by God.

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Gone to the Dogs

A place like this had to exist.

Kents Hill School, a 230-student college prep school in Maine, is noteworthy for allowing dogs virtually unrestricted access to the campus. They’re everywhere.

At the school, faculty members are encouraged to bring their dogs to work with them. Students aren’t allowed to have dogs, but at the moment, 33 dogs owned by faculty accompany their masters to class every day.

According to the school, the presence of the dogs adds a community feel and a sense of normalcy to the campus.

Said one student, “It gives a homey feeling to life at school.”

Said another, “When you have a bad day, it’s nice to come back to the dorm and relax with a friendly dog who is always there for you, who listens to you, who doesn’t argue with you or judge you.”

Well said.

The pooch policy is the idea of Rist Bonnefond, the headmaster. He has allowed canines on campus for the last 19 years. At present, his yellow Lab Ranger is one of the more popular dogs there.

Among the 33 canines are 11 Labs, two Dachshunds, two Weimaraners, an Akita, a whole bunch of mutts, and one Leonberger, whatever that is.

Although the school’s sports teams are nicknamed “the Huskies,” no member of that breed is currently on campus. Headmaster Bonnefond noted that one could arrive any day.

The head of Sampson Hall, the main dormitory, said the presence of the dogs is especially good for new students, who might be shy at first, but will always stop to play with the dogs. She called them “the ultimate icebreakers.”

And after the students graduate and move on, will they be able to look back and fondly remember their doggy pals as well as their classmates? No worries. Every edition of the yearbook has a section devoted to the pets.
Kents Hill-1

Kents Hill-3

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Night and Day

This is a traditional story of the Chemehuevi people of eastern Arizona and southern California…


There was a time when the tribes of the earth did not get along, bickering and fighting all the time. It got so bad that Creator decided to punish them by taking away the light. The world was plunged into perpetual darkness.

The people sent messengers to Creator to plead for the return of the light.

They sent a hawk, but Creator just sat there, wrapped in his robes, and refused to look up.

The people sent an eagle, and the same thing happened.

Then they sent a group of hummingbirds. Still, Creator kept his head buried in his robes and would not listen.

Then the hummingbirds began to peck at Creator’s robes — peck, peck, peck, peck — all over. Finally, Creator looked up.

The hummingbirds asked Creator what the people could do to get the light back.

“They know what they need to do,” Creator answered. And that was all he would say.

The hummingbirds reported back to the people, and the people understood. They quit their fighting, and Creator gave light back to the earth.

But this time, he kept part of each day dark, like it is today, to remind the people to behave.

And on a clear night, when you look up into the sky, you can see the holes that the hummingbirds pecked in Creator’s robes.


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In case you missed it, we now have a religion based on the mythology created in the Star Wars films.

It’s the International Church of Jediism, headquartered in the UK. It’s all about belief in “the Force” — the one that binds the universe together.

The Jedi Church claims to have half a million members, with chapters in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, and, of course, California.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. Some of these folks might be really and sincerely into it, like teens playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Or they might be more like the crowd at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Odds are, it’s probably a helping of both.

Anyway, check out this recent item from the news and judge for yourself.


Bangor, North Wales — The founder of a religion inspired by the Star Wars films was thrown out of a supermarket recently for wearing his distinctive hooded brown robe.

Daniel Jones, 23, founder of the International Church of Jediism, was told that wearing his hood was against store rules. He was ordered to remove it or leave the supermarket.

The Tesco supermarket chain established the policy because security cameras cannot see faces if hoods are up.

The International Church of Jediism has some 500,000 members around the world. The Jedi Church Handbook dictates that heads be covered in public places.

Jones, who also goes by the Jedi name Morda Hehol, a Jedi Master, claims he was victimized and humiliated by Tesco.

“I told them it was a requirement of my religion, but they just sniggered and ordered me to leave,” he told reporters. “I walked past a Muslim lady in a veil. Surely the same rules should apply to everyone.”

He said he will advise church members to boycott Tesco if it happens again. “They will feel the Force,” he said.

A Tesco spokesman said, “Jedi are welcome in our stores, but we ask them to remove their hoods.”

“Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Luke Skywalker all went hoodless without going to the Dark Side,” the spokesman said.

“If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they’ll miss lots of special offers.”

Jones has made an official complaint to Tesco and is seeking legal advice.


The church’s website is here. I note that there is no fee to join, but you may purchase a certificate of membership for only $20.00 US.

On a related note, please enjoy “The Jedi Song.”

Church founder Daniel Jones / Morda Hehol.

Church founder Daniel Jones / Morda Hehol.

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Ding Dong

REDWOOD CITY, CA — A San Francisco man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he rang doorbells while naked and fled from sheriff’s deputies while wearing only tennis shoes.

Peter Allen Steele, 38, who is 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds, entered the pleas Tuesday in San Mateo County Superior Court. He is being held in lieu of $60,000 bail.

At least two residents in the area reported seeing Steele standing naked outside their homes after he rang their doorbells, said Steve Wagstaffe, deputy district attorney.

Sheriff’s deputies spotted Steele in a car after receiving the residents’ reports and tried to stop him, but he sped away onto Interstate 280, Wagstaffe said.

Steele got off at Sand Hill Road, where his car hit the curb, flattening his tires. Steele continued to drive on the rims until the car stopped, Wagstaffe said.

Wearing only tennis shoes, Steele fled from the car, ran through a local residence, and entered a wooded area, where deputies caught him, Wagstaffe said.

When Steele continued to struggle, a deputy shocked him with a Taser. The weapon did not subdue him, so another deputy shot Steele with a bean-bag gun. He was arrested and taken into custody.

Steele is on parole for a felony assault in San Francisco and has earlier felony convictions for stalking, making threats, and evading police.

Tennis shoes

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When I was in my teens, Dad was in the Air Force, and we lived in Stuttgart, Germany. My school, Stuttgart American High School, was populated by American military dependant kids.

Like all high schools through the ages, SHS had a well-defined pecking order. It ranged from a stratum of royalty at the top to the usual untouchables at the bottom.

During my sophomore year, the king and queen of our royalty were a brother and a sister, Tom and Judy Gautschi.

Tom was a junior, co-captain of the football team, an All-Europe player. Judy, a senior, was Student Council President and the Homecoming Queen.

Tom and Judy were terrific kids — exceptionally pleasant and likeable. And they were benevolent rulers. Handsome, charming, academic stars, beloved by students and faculty alike.

But there was a peculiarity about the Gautschis that was recognized by all, acknowledged by none. It was this:

Tom pronounced his last name as you would expect: “GOW-Chee.”

Judy, on the other hand, unable to make peace with the name, called herself, and insisted that others call her, Judy “Guh-SHAY.”

And everyone did. Such was her position of influence at the school.

I can remember school assemblies in which the principal referred to “Tom GOW-Chee” in one sentence and “Judy Guh-SHAY” in another. With a straight face. With no snickering from the audience. That would be rude.

New students who transferred to SHS always had a “what-the-hell?” reaction to this, but after someone explained Judy’s idiosyncrasy, the new kids fell in line. I assume the same thing happened with arriving faculty.

The Gautschis left SHS at the end of the school year. Their dad, an Army general, was transferred to England.

But throughout that year at SHS, I never heard a single person, student or faculty, publicly pronounce a Gautschi sibling’s name the wrong way, or make fun of the fact that we did it.

Privately, of course, everyone thought it was hilarious.

The Stuttgart Stallions, forever galloping through the fountain in front of SHS.

The Stuttgart Stallions, forever galloping through the fountain in front of SHS.

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