Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Licenses, guns & The Sacred Harp

The new driver's license, renewed on the old one's last legal day, came with yesterday's mail. I do this every time --- put off renewal, then put it off again. If I outlive this license, most likely it'll be the same in five more years.

In Iowa, you've got 60 days from your birthday expiration date to renew; after that, you're illegal and can be ticketed for driving with an expired license; after a year, the penalty most dreaded by forgetful people kicks in --- you've got to start from scratch with a permit, written test and driving test.

For one thing, I'm a procrastinator. For another, I've been technically blind in one eye, a condition that lenses cannot correct, since birth. There never have been discernible vision problems, however, nor difficulty passing the driver's license or any other vision test.

But the vision-check machine intimidates me. I figure I'm going to walk up to that sucker, look into it --- and not be able to read a thing. So I drive around in the days before the trip to the courthouse becomes absolutely necessary, reading the fine print on roadside signs for reassurance. Do the same while driving to the courthouse on the dreaded day --- then pass the test with flying colors. Go figure.

There was one glitch this year. Forgot to take a checkbook along. Then I read the sign on the counter listing plastic the treasurer's office wouldn't deal with --- Visa, most notably. What's up with that? All my plastic is Visa. There was a note that a Visa debit card (but not credit) might work under some circumstances. So the debit card did work --- for a $5 fee.

The most peculiar thing was --- and it's a sign of the times that this didn't even occur to me: I could have paid in cash.


Speaking of mysteries, what's up with those yahoos in the Lone Star state --- members of Open Carry Texas? In case you've missed it, members of the organization have taken to showing up in groups at resaurants and --- over the weekend at Home Depot in Fort Worth --- toting semi-automatic weapons and other long guns. Just because they can.

Such goings on tend to intimidate customers --- and irritate business owners. Even in Texas.

The National Rifle Association is not amused --- and OCT-types reportedly are cutting up their lifetime NRA membership cards after being chastised by the organization for obvious open-carry stupidity.

Americans generally are fairly broadminded about guns, resistant to calls to tightly restrict and regulate possession even though the majority probably doesn't feel too strongly one way or another. But of course that could change --- in terms of public opinion, legislative action and court decisions.

Proponents of everything the NRA fears couldn't pay for more effective advocates than those dumb-ass Texans.


Also in the odd and outrageous category --- an East Coast auction house had planned to sell, until Monday, the skull of an apparent Civil War fatality and related artifacts found during 1949 near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The combination of artifacts, part of a private collector's creepy display, suggest the skull might belong to a Confederate soldier with ties to Louisiana. Pre-auction estimates ranged from $50,000 to $250,000.

The National Park Service and others were not at all amused by this and apparently considerable pressure was applied --- the sale apparently was not illegal, just disrespectful and stupid.

So now the owner has turned the human remains over Gettysburg National Military Park and it seems likely burial with appropriate honors will follow --- if the collection turns out to be what it seems to be.

Again, what in the world gets into people?


On a brighter note, I'm a big fan of shape-note singing; have even been known to fantisize publicly about trying to arrange a demonstration some summer in Otterbein Church --- on the museum campus.

But I have trouble explaining to the uninitiated just what shape-note singing his. So here's a video that turned up yesterday --- of a shape-note gathering in the meeting house at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine. Those assembled are singing "Africa" from The Sacred Harp.

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