Mark Howell's - "View From the Hill"
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Check it out on YouTube: At last Monday night's televised Tea Party debate, a question arose concerning the fate of a young man who was unemployed and without health insurance.

Asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "Congressmen, are you the saying that society should just let him die?"

The majority of the Tea Party audience was seen to cheer and clap at this, shouting, "Yes!"


U.S. taxpayers will spend $700 billion this year on defense (i.e. war) rather than on healthcare, education, environmental protection, alternative fuels and other real aspects of national defense.


Homebuyers across China are learning the facts of supply and demand: too many cars and too few parking spaces.

In the city of Xi'an, the price for a reserved parking space has hit a record of 400,000 yuan, or $61,963.


The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates this month sent President Obama a letter urging him to reject the proposed 2,000-mile pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries in Texas.

Known as the Keystone XL, it will, warns the letter, "endanger the entire planet" through the massive quantities of global-warming pollution unleashed.

Said the head of the Oil Sands Developers Group, "We are being outgunned in the PR arena - I can talk to 20 universities and not have the impact of a letter from the Dalai Lama."


Joan Crawford's daughter Christina is developing a one-woman show in which she will reveal new secrets about her life with Mommie Dearest and screen never-before-seen home movies of the movie legend in the nude.

Christina says that when she discovered her mother's blue movies, she couldn't believe the control-freak star never destroyed them. "I remembered her telling me about her married lover, Charles McCabe," she confesses, "but I never saw photos of him until the home movies taken on a canoeing trip in the Poconos."

Christina cannot forgive her mother for the childhood she endured, which included being beaten by wire hangers. "Forgiveness is a two-way street," she says, "and Joan never took responsibility for her behavior." Proposed title of the road show is "Surviving Mommie Dearest."


Christina Crawford was once married to producer, marketer, real-estate broker and Key West resident David Koontz, today and for many happy years the husband of local publicist Carol Shaughnessy. During his Los Angeles days, from 1972 to 1985, David handled the film rights and was executive producer of the movie "Mommie Dearest," made from Christina's bestselling book. He also managed public-relations and promotion campaigns internationally for the book, boosting sales to more than 10 million.


The Rum Barrel has added webcams to its menu at 528 Front St. Launched in 2006 by former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce, the Rum Barrel not only has the aura of a 17th-century pirate hangout but is undoubtedly the southernmost Philly sports bar.

Fans at the local hotspot for all things Philly can now view game-day action live at the bar's Rum Cam while out-of-towners can check out the club's nightly performances on the quarterdeck's Deck Cam.


Ty Symroski has written us a note regarding the contribution by the late Brooks White (see memorial photos this page) to recovery efforts immediately following Hurricane Andrew in late August, 1992:

" Brooks used his skills and creativity to help the people of Florida City with three editions of a newspaper, The Recovery Messenger, in English, Spanish and Creole.

"The Messenger contained a map with locations where people could get assistance, news of the recovery, a prayer plus puzzles and games for children.

"He also ordered and delivered hundreds of blank campaign signs that we filled in with street names to replace the destroyed road signs. These efforts were exceptionally helpful and lifted the spirits of the victims of the hurricane."

The Spanish translation in the paper was by José Menendez, the Creole by Edouard Leon. The production was donated by Solares Hill.

Additional details of that immediate recovery effort include a number of road trips from Key West to the mainland made by Jan Howell, Siena Leon and Mimi Stafford within 10 days of the storm to deliver 30,000 maps to rescue workers, who had no other means of finding their way around since road signs and many landmarks had been obliterated.

Hurricane Andrew caused $26 billion in damage.


The New Yorker edition of Sept. 11 features critic-at-large Adam Gopnik (who attended the most recent Key West Literary Seminar) with an essay titled "Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat: Is America Going Down?" It starts on a high note:

"'Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling me back again,' Paul McCartney sang on June 14, 1965, a memorable high-water mark in musical history, when, on a single day, he recorded that first bluegrass-rock standard, 'I've Just Seen a Face'; the throat-shredding early-metal model 'I'm Down'; and then, in dulcet tones, the most-covered song ever written, the ballad 'Yesterday' -- all within a few hours, with a little help from his friends. Some of us think there hasn't been as good a musical day since.

"How do such good days happen?

"What makes the bad days come?

"Why do we fall, and who calls us back, if anything can?"


The following 9/11 memory arrived from local activist Mike Mongo too late to include in last week's special issue:

"It is impossible for me to put 9/11 in a context yet. For better or for worse, crisis and tragedy are experiences that create character. On September 13, 2001, in Maderia Beach, Fla., I went into Walgreen's to buy some shaving razors. From working on the water at the time, I was very tan. I had a beard. At the cashier, the man standing next to me in line said quietly, 'I hate Arabs.' The man then said, in my direction and with unbridled hatred, " I've always hated Arabs." I was speechless. He thought I was Arab! Others in the line began agreeing with him. Without even looking at them, I slipped away, went back home and shaved off my beard. When the U.S. declared war on Iraq in 2003, I left the country for Canada. I didn't come home again the end of 2005."


The attribution for the final entry in last week's Soundings dedicated to 9/11 was inadvertently dropped. The quote was by First Lady Michelle Obama.

On the Kudos page last week, it should have read that the Wolkowsky family has been resident in Key West since the 1880s (not 1980s).

We regret the errors.


Quote for the Week:

I decided one morning to test sobriety,

to waken at dawn to sparrow chirp and dark clouds,

to inhale the particulates and write nothing,

to face the world as it was. Everything

was actual, my utterances drab, my lies formulary and unimaginative.

For the first time in my life I believed

everything I said. Think of it: Simple words

that speak the truth and no more, hour after

hour, day after day without end, a life

in the kingdom of candor....

--Philip Levine