op potThe last couple of years have brought a sea change in attitudes about marijuana. I’m convinced pot will be legal in most of the U.S. within the next decade, and I think it will do a lot more good than harm.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a conservative tribe. Yet its Tribal Council voted two weeks ago to start drafting legislation that would allow marijuana to be produced on tribal land and prescribed for medicinal uses. Such a move would, of course, spawn a whole subset of economic development possibilities for growing and processing cannabis.

op coxMy wife and I like to host small parties or entertain our friends every three years or so, not because we love people so much as the discovery we made some years ago that throwing a party is the only surefire way to get us to clean our home.

op frI’ve been observing something for years — though recently it has snowballed  — and it has always struck me as hypocritical: the intolerance of progressive liberals toward conservatives who hold diametrically opposing political and social views. The hypocrisy, of course, is that progressives espouse a philosophy of tolerance and openness. Bring a climate change denier, an evangelical Christian or a supply side, free market capitalist to the party, however, and many of my liberal friends will write off said individual’s political and social commentary before they’ve tossed back their first IPA.

op 911Recently, a group of Waynesville Middle chorus students were at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, and when they tried to sing the national anthem, they were stopped mid-song by a security guard who told them they needed a permit to perform. Before beginning the song, they had received verbal permission from a different security guard.

op frIt’s not the 1960s in terms of political activism, but recent episodes at Western Carolina University and across the country do signal that young people today are willing to engage in important discussions about race and culture.

These are difficult topics that have bedeviled supposedly enlightened societies for centuries. Nearly every student of history has encountered one of those instances where juxtaposing the accepted social mores of an earlier time against today’s standards would have ruined the legacy of an otherwise prominent and honorable figure. Conventional attitudes and behavior change — sometimes at a glacial pace, other times too fast for comfort. This country, I think, is at one of those tipping points.

op merlefestAnyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a complete nut about music. There are people for whom music serves as a kind of soundtrack for their lives, so that certain bands and songs function as memory jukeboxes, instantly evoking specific times, places, and people whenever they come on, regardless of the circumstances.

op barbeeThere was a time when running was my saving grace. If I didn’t run at least four times a week, I could feel it in my body and in my mood. It was a must for me. I wrote about running all of the time on my blog. I participated in races all throughout the year.

op fr“I feel like a one-legged man at an ass kicking. They don’t care for me because I call them out. I try to inform the public of the truth, and they don’t like it.”

That’s the colorfully candid state Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, who is back in Raleigh this week as the General Assembly kicks off its biennial short session, which is traditionally devoted to making a few budget tweaks and perhaps passing some noncontroversial legislation.

op frWhen we reported that Mountain Discovery Charter School and Swain County commissioners were working together to hopefully build a gymnasium, the symbolism of that relatively small venture almost went unnoticed. 

Mountain Discovery was founded 15 years ago by an independent-thinking and hard-working group of Swain parents who beat the odds and started a school during the era when there was a 100-school cap on charters in North Carolina. Its leaders did not win many friends among Swain’s public school supporters and from county commissioners who provide funding to the school system.

op bryant“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

— Dylan Thomas

Maybe it is because I have followed his career since he was a teenager playing high school basketball at Lower Merion in a Philadelphia suburb. Or maybe it is because I wanted to pay my respects to a basketball legend, one of a small handful of the greatest players ever to play the game. Most likely, it is because I have also seen my “game” diminished by the ravages of time, and I wanted to watch Kobe Bryant play his last game in the NBA as a simple act of brotherhood.

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