Monday, September 19, 2011

19 SEP 11: Circus Mark's-imus

The weekly Columbus siren test went as scheduled over the weekend. And this time I was awake at 12:00 noon to hear it. It's not that I'm keeping score, mind you - I think that's part of the reason why Riley Land still has a city job.

But moments after Saturday's siren test, the phone rang - and it was completely unexpected. Muscogee County School Board member Mark Cantrell was calling. I'd only mentioned him once in this blog since mid-May [26 Aug] - and I really don't keep a scoreboard, when it comes to jokes about elected officials.

"I've been reading your blog for about a year," Mark Cantrell told me. "And you seemed like someone who's never been to a circus, so I want you to come as my guest." This past weekend was the annual Shrine Circus, of course - one of Cantrell's big causes. In fact, sometimes I think Jeremy Hobbs and Cantrell are in a race to have more big events each year.

But Mark Cantrell's presumption was incorrect. I've been to circuses before. A few times, in fact - and I'm not counting utility board meetings which got out of hand.

One Sunday long ago, my mother came to me asking if I wanted to go to the circus. I said no. I quickly learned my mom was NOT asking multiple-choice questions.

I don't remember now what I wanted to do on that Sunday. But I was a rebellious five-or-so year-old who didn't want to go to the circus -- and especially didn't want other people telling me what to do. I could stop here and draw conclusions about half-a-dozen big local news stories, but I won't....

My nine-year-older brother then pulled an ingenious stunt, by pulling out the family Stratego board. If he won a game, I could stay home. If I won, I had to go to the circus. Trouble is, he put the flag of victory in his front row - and I knocked it over in about two moves. This is why I haven't played my brother in Monopoly in decades.

(I told my older brother about this moment Sunday night, and he didn't remember it. This surprised me a little - because he beat me in board games so often that a loss ought to stick out in his mind.)

So feeling a bit scammed (even before I knew what a scam was), I went with my family to the Kansas City Police Circus. The only real memory I have from that trip is how hard it was to follow acts in three rings at the same time. Yet you never hear people connect circuses with attention deficit disorder.

If police officers were part of the Kansas City Police Circus, I don't remember them. This was in the 1960s - long before officers might show up with an arrest warrant, to haul away lion tamers for animal abuse.

The last circus I attended was an unusual one during college. The Royal Lichtenstein Quarter-Ring Circus set up shop in the middle of campus around finals week -- a parody more than anything. I didn't sit around long enough to realize it was a form of street ministry. I left when the ringmaster uttered his rhyme: "The faster you put your money down, the sooner we'll be out of town."

So yes, I've been to the circus. But when Mark Cantrell made his ticket offer Saturday, I quickly turned him down. For one thing, it was the seventh-day Sabbath -- and I had an afternoon worship service to attend. If Cantrell is free next weekend, I'll be singing a song which might remind him of the circus. Only it mentions lambs along with lions....

Yet I didn't mention to Mark Cantrell a second reason why I turned down his offer. Even though Cantrell probably called wearing the fez of the Shriners, he's now an elected official - and the rules of good journalism say all gifts from elected officials should be declined. Whether this blog qualifies as "good journalism" obviously is a matter of dispute.

Blogging admittedly has become a gray area, in terms of whether or not to accept favors. Some "mommy blogs" have accepted products from businesses, using the explanation that they were for rating and reviewing. I haven't gone after any such gifts, and no one had offered me any until now -- which in part explains why I drive a very old car.

While I appreciate Mark Cantrell's generous offer, I would have bought my own ticket if I wanted to review the Shrine Circus. That's what I did in March, when I attended the Winterjam concert at the Civic Center. And I'd like to thank Georgia Tech for scheduling Saturday's game against Kansas for midday, so I wasn't tempted to buy a ticket to watch that debacle.

By the way, did you notice we're now in the "busy season" for Columbus activities? The Shrine Circus occurred on the same weekend as the annual Harris County rodeo. So why don't these two events merge? It would be fun to watch cowboys try to rope and tie down elephants.

The Shrine Circus weekend may have had a bad influence on some spectators. I drove down Victory Drive for dinner Saturday night, and found two people sharing a bicycle - pedaling west in the eastbound passing lane. Imagine if those people knew how to climb to the top of a telephone pole.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have a new regular correspondent, watching downtown Phenix City -- complete with a camera....

you have your way of fishin' - they have theirs.

Of course, the construction equipment in the Chattahoochee River is due to the whitewater development that.... well, wait a minute. I'm assuming that's why the equipment is there. Then again, they've pulled three abandoned cars out of West Point Lake this year.

Let's dig up other news from the weekend....

+ WLTZ reported Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor raised money for the United Way by letting himself be dropped in a "dunk tank." Please do NOT spread false reports about this. Taylor did NOT appear ready for a drunk tank.

+ The Opelika-Auburn News reported Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller plans to seek a third term. He sent an e-mail to all city councilors, expressing hope they'll also be reelected. I can't wait for Fuller to hand them souvenir rubber stamps.

+ The pastor of Saint Luke United Methodist Church presented a sermon called "Jesus: Human, Worldly and Liberal." Does he plan to repeat that message outdoors next weekend, when the picketers from Westboro Baptist Church show up?

+ CNN showed Georgia Governor Nathan Deal throwing a metal skillet at a competition in Quitman. He would have thrown the pan farther, except for two things. He wore a coat and tie [true] - and no Democrats were standing at the other end of the field.

+ Auburn dropped out of the college football poll, after losing the national championship title to Clemson 38-24. WTVM reports some fans want defensive coordinator Ted Roof fired. After only three games?! Some fans seem to be confusing college football with Survivor.

+ Alabama remained undefeated by nullifying North Texas 41-0. The visiting Mean Green were penalized on one kickoff for putting two players on the field with the same number. This was startling to me - because it indicated North Texas was prepared to have dozens of players get knocked out with injuries.

+ Instant Message to the U.S. Postal Service: My older brother assures me he has NOT moved. So why did the birthday card I sent him come back marked, "Return to sender, no such number"? The address was absolutely correct. Has the staff lost its vision benefits due to budget-cutting already?

TEN YEARS' LAUGHTER/19 SEP 01: Saddam Hussein dared to suggest the Tuesday of Terror might be completely an INSIDE job -- pulled off by U.S. residents, not Afghanistan. OK, who made Iraq's President a member of the American Civil Liberties Union?

Saddam Hussein accused U.S. leaders of trying to develop "a clash between Christianity and Islam." That doesn't seem quite accurate. The last time we saw so many Muslim and Christian ministers together in the U.S., they were handing out tracts side-by-side at the airport.

One of the strangest sights we've seen since the skyjackings was on local TV news last Friday. A grade school class was shown watching the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service in Washington on television. Who let this happen? If the children prayed aloud themselves, there would be lawsuits....

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