October 2010

Birthdays are often bitter-sweet: we tend to remember with Joni Mitchell. that ‘Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day”. I wonder whether memories become like that old pair of running shoes that you look at and say, where did the soles go. I remember buying them, I remember the tracks on which i wore them. but how have they become old?

And then you discard them and they become you gardening shoes and stare at you from the bottom of cupboards, accusingly, as if to say, you have no respect for the aged. This will be you someday. Have you forgotten Karma?

I’m actually a recovering pessimist, and today is a celebration, I think, not just of one person’s half-century, but of the hope that we have as human beings on this whirling ball. Ross reminded me that, in fact, I am just commemorating the fact that I am half way to the Queen’s telegram. It might be something other that a Queen by then, if the republic takes hold.

I like to think of my life as a stone dropped in a pond — actually, I think I am just a pebble. But when the ripples from my life intersect with those of of others — my friend and family that have been kind enough to gather tonight — surprising things happen. I am fortunate to have fallen by accident into a professional where we celebrate the growth and needs of each person in our little communities, and that colours my view of every encounter, every conversation, every heart to heart, as we might say at Chev.

So thanks to each of you: this is more about you than me. So much of my life is represented in you: family, school, uni, places I’ve worked, chance encounters that have blossomed. you’ll forgive me if I reflect on just a few:

  • My parents
  • My brothers and sisters
  • My children (Madeline and Dominic, Liam and Aidan)
  • Paula
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I feel as if life has only begun, that there is much to do, to say, to celebrate. Instead of delaying it with more formalities, perhaps I will will leave the last word to Rabbi Ben Ezra, Browning’s wonderful character:

Rabbi Ben Ezra

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

I hope he will forgive me for quoting this in full: I have to do the prayer at staff briefing next week and this is perfect!

The Old Scout

Garrison Keillor’s weekly newspaper column.

A Parent’s Prayer

June 29, 2010

A perfect shiny summer day and a crowd of jittery children in clusters on the corner, about to board a yellow bus, their backpacks in a pile, their mothers giving urgent last-minute reassurances, and I stop and stare at this Large Life Event. Kids from nice homes being abandoned by their mothers in broad daylight and sent off to summer camp and God Knows What. The sweet fragility of the kids, especially the gawky boy with glasses. And the elaborate cool of the college kids in charge. The vast love of the mothers, who are on the verge of tears, watching their pups board the bus. (Do the brakes work? Who is the driver? Is he licensed? Sober? Might he be carrying a pistol? Are the wheels securely fastened to the hubs? Two days from now, will I think back to this moment and wonder, Why didn’t I go around and check the lug nuts?)

There is more drama on this corner than on the silver screen, and I see it from three angles at once: I am the geek (when I was 12, I imagined the word was meant for me personally since my initials are G.E.K.), and I was at one time the cool camp counselor with the shades and the enigmatic smile, and now I am a parent and quite familiar with trauma.

Three protagonists in the play and I am each one of them. In my geek years, I was a solemn boy with pipestem arms, wire-rim glasses and a homemade haircut, and attended summer Bible camp where we learned about the total depravity of man and then came home and picked potatoes at a nearby truck farm. I assumed I’d grow up and live alone in a tiny room over the bus depot and earn my living by walking around with a sandwich board (EAT AT THE BANDBOX CAFE).

Instead, I went to college, became a cool counselor, and once took 18 young boys in canoes across Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota in a major thunderstorm, along with another counselor who had smoked dope that morning and basically cut his ties to earth and lay in his canoe singing “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as lightning tore the sky and we plowed across a mile of whitecaps. I yelled at the boys to steer into the storm and keep paddling no matter what. We made it to shore and pitched four tents in a downpour, and then the boy who’d been constipated all week because he couldn’t bring himself to drop his drawers and grab hold of a tree and squat, went tearing into the woods and crapped, and then was too embarrassed to come back for paper, and wiped himself with leaves, and chose the wrong ones. Of all the leaves that God provided in the forest, these were the exact ones God didn’t intend us to use for that purpose. And of course it was the fat kid. I made him come down to the lake and wash his butt with a special soap and anoint himself with lotion. His crack was neon red. He tried to be brave but he desperately needed his mother and I was not her. I woke up that night to hear him weeping.

I can still hear him and the trees dripping and Roger sitting by the fire exploring the frontiers of consciousness, though years have passed and I have a 12-year-old daughter, who can go through exaltation, hilarity, despair, all in the space of a minute, and when I send her off to school in the morning, I say, “Lord, have mercy. God, have mercy.” Over and over. It is a parent’s prayer.

And here they are, on one street corner, the three great strands of life — Defenselessness, Cluelessness and Helplessness — and now the innocent children are on the bus, it swings out into traffic: Oh God, no seat belts!! Have mercy.

Some people believe that God has revealed Himself to us and not to the others, the barbarians, and it is His Will that our tribe vanquish the others and rain death and destruction on them. Others believe that our understanding of God is incomplete but that He has bestowed this beautiful world on us, and other gifts, which should be shared, and we should walk softly and praise His Name. I walk softly to the cafe and order a large mocha and pray for the forgiveness of incompetence and for mercy to children. And thanks for the day, which happens to be perfect.

© 2010 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.


I can’t believe that the USA can continue to function as a nation and allow this level of public debate. Pundits keep saying that most of the tea party types are just disaffected and not extremists, but you have to wonder when this sort of thing goes on!

Christine O’Donnell Faux Pas


While many have depicted the Republican candidate and Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell as ignorant of the US constitution, conservative commentators say otherwise. It’s not that O’Donnell did not know that the First Amendment prohibits the federal establishment of religion, they say, she was just disputing its interpretation while debating her Democrat opponent, Chris Coons, this week.

Just kidding . . . Christine O’Donnell at the Delaware debate with Chris Coons. Photo: Getty ImagesO’Donnell: You have just stated that you will impose your will over the local school district and that is a blatant violation of our constitution.

Coons: To be clear, Ms O’Donnell, I believe that creationism is religious doctrine and evolution is broadly accepted.

O’Donnell: And what do you think of intelligent design?

Coons: Creationism . . . [and] intelligent design are religious doctrine, evolution is widely accepted, well-defended scientific fact and . . . public schools should be teaching broadly accepted scientific fact, not religious doctrine.

O’Donnell: Well, you just proved how little you know about constitutional law and the theory of evolution, because the theory of evolution is not a fact. It is a theory and if local school districts want to give that theory equal credence with intelligent design it is their right . . . The reason we are in the mess we are in is because our so-called leaders in Washington no longer view the indispensable principles of our founding as truly that, indispensable.

Coons: One of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state.

Christine: Where in the constitution is the separation of church and state? [Audience laughter]

Coons: . . . I . . . think you have just heard from my opponent in her attempt at saying ‘‘where is the separation of church and state in the constitution’’ [which] reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our constitution is, how it is amended and how it evolves. The First Amendment – the First Amendment – establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish any religion, in decisional law of the Supreme Court over many, many decades.

O’Donnell: The First Amendment


Coons: It clarifies and enshrines there is a separation of church and state that our courts and our law must respect.

O’Donnell: So you are telling me separation of church and state is found in our First Amendment?

Coons: It is important in modern times to apply the constitution as it exists today, and as it is interpreted by our justices, and if there are settled pieces of constitutional law like the separation of church and state, like the individual right to reproductive freedom that Roe versus Wade represents, that we have lived with and have lived under for decades, in my view it is important to know whether you have on my side a candidate who believes and supports these things and on the other side a candidate who does not believe it and who does not support these things.

O’Donnell: Let me just clarify, you are telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?

Coons: It bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.

O’Donnell: That is in the First Amendment?

Coons: It is.


We couldn’t agree on just one song, so we chose the top three ‘meaningful’ ones. There are some horrendous omissions: where is Pink Floyd, for instance. Any, good for listening and discussing.

Number 1 Band Number 2 Band Number 3 Band
1960 Peter Gunn Theme Blues Brothers Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport Rolf Harris California dreaming The Mamas and The Papas
1961 Stand By Me Ben E. King Hit the Road Jack Ray Charles Let’s Twist again Chubby Checker
1962 I’ve been everywhere Lucky Starr Working for the Man Roy Orbison Sherry Four seasons
1963 She Loves You The Beatles Return to Sender Elvis Presley I want to hold your hand Beatles
1964 You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ Righteous Brothers Under the Boardwalk The Drifters Hard Days Night Beatles
1965 Nowhere to Run Martha & the Vandellas Satisfaction The Rolling Stones She’s so Fine Easybeats
1966 God Only Knows Beach Boys Friday on my Mind Easybeats Spicks and Specks Bee Gees
1967 Light My Fire The Doors Respect Aretha Franklin Brown Eyed girl Van Morrison
1968 Revolution The Beatles I Heard It Through the Grapevine Marvin Gaye Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival
1969 Feelin’ Alright Joe Cocker Suite Judy Blue Eyes Crosby, Stills and Nash Venus Shocking Blue
1970 Layla Derek and the Dominos Moondance Van Morrison Love the one you’re with Steven Stills
1971 Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin Tupelo Honey Van Morrison Eagle Rock Daddy Cool
1972 Superstition Stevie Wonder Dirty Work Steely Dan American Pie Don McLean
1973 Bennie and the Jets Elton John Time Warp Rocky Horror Picture Show Rubber Bullets 10CC
1974 Sweet Home Alabama Lynyrd Skynyrd Living in the Seventies Skyhooks Free Man in Paris Joni Mitchell
1975 Born to Run Bruce Springsteen Bohemian Rhapsody Queen Mamma Mia ABBA
1976 More Than a Feeling Boston Dancing Queen Abba Hotel California Eagles
1977 April Sun in Cuba Dragon Only the Good Die Young Billy Joel Se and Drugs and Rock and Roll Ian Dury
1978 Sultans of Swing Dire Straits Oliver’s Army Elvis Costello Khe Sanh Cold Chisel
1979 London Calling London Calling My Sharona The Knack Shape I’m In Jo Jo Zep
1980 Don’t Stand So Close to Me Police You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC Boys light up Australian Crawl
1981 Talk of the Town Pretenders Shake it Up Cars Shake a Tail Feather Blues Brothers
1982 Town Called Malice The Jam Rock the Casbah The Clash Down Under Men At Work
1983 Every Breath You Take Police Sweet Dreams Eurythmics You Can’t hurry love Phil Collins
1984 Boys of Summer/Dancing in the dark Don Henley Science Fiction Divinyls Throw your arms around me Hunters and Collectors
1985 Walking on Sunshine Katrina and Waves Fortress Round Your Heart Sting Out of Mind, out of sight Models
1986 Don’t Dream it’s Over Crowded House You can leave your hat on Joe Cocker Addicted to Love Robert Palmer
1987 Walk Like an Egyptian The Bangles Beds are Burning Midnight oil To her door Paul Kelly
1988 Your Town Go-Betweens Better Be Home Soon Crowded House Run to Paradise Choirboys
1989 I want to be seduced Leon Redbone Love Shack B52s End of the line Travelling wilburys
1990 Forgotten Years Midnight Oil I go to extremes Billy Joel I Don’t Wanna Be With Nobody But You Absent Friends
1991 Losing My Religion R.E.M. One U2 Mustang Sally The Commitments
1992 Holy Grail Hunters and Collectors Friday Im in love The Cure Hold on my heart Genesis
1993 Afternoons and Coffeespoons Crash Test Dummies The Last Word Billy Joel Cats in the Cradle Ugly Kid joe
1994 Last Goodbye Jeff Buckley Cornflake Girl Tori Amos All About Soul Billy Joel
1995 In the Valley Midnight Oil Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman Bryan Adams Kiss from a Rose Seal
1996 Back 2 Good Matchbox Twenty Ironic Alanis Morissette Right Hand Man Joan Osborne
1997 Selfless, Cold and Composed Ben Folds Five Building a Mystery Sarah McLachlan Bitter Sweet Symphony Verve
1998 Aida Sarah McLachlan Semi-charmed life Third Eye Blind Iris Goo Goo Dolls
1999 Here with me Dido Can’t get enough of you baby Smash Mouth Smooth Santana
2000 Teenage dirtbag Wheatus Beautiful Day U2 These days Powderfinger
2001 Cherry Lips Garbage Drive/With arms wide open- creed Incubus What took you so long Emma Bunton
2002 The Rising Bruce Springsteen I’m a believer Smash Mouth Not pretty enough Kasey Chambers
2003 Crazy in Love Beyonce Zebra John Butler Trio Are You Gonna Be My Girl? Jet
2004 White Flag Dido Fell in love with a boy Joss Stone World on Fire Sarah McLachlan
2005 Wish You Well Bernard Fanning Photograph Nickelback Wisemen James Blunt
2006 We’re all in this together Ben Lee One Crowded Hour Augie March Stupid Girls Pink
2007 20 Good Reasons Thirsty Merc The Albatross Sarah Blasko Suddenly I see KT Tunstall
2008 Viva la Vida Coldplay Opportunity Pete Murray How far w’ever come Matchbox 20
2009 Single Ladies Beyonce Im Yours Jason Mraz
2010 Both Sides Now Joni Mitchell Soldier of Love Sade

Interesting article:

I’ll upload a comment on this later, but it is a great extract.

09 Oct 2010