Friday, April 21, 2017

Typing with My Brain

So, here’s the thing, Facebook.

I don’t think in the way you think I do.

 Writing, for me, is more than mental action. It’s got a physical component. Whether I’m pounding out thoughts on a keyboard or writing them longhand with a pen on paper, there is a physicality involved there. Break that physicality, and my ability to write is diminished.

I know this anecdotally, of course. I’m no scientist. Heck, I’m not even a game-show host. I do know, however, if I’m in a group situation where writing is involved, if I’m going to be the one writing, I’m going to be the one at the keyboard or taking notes. There’s something in the physical act of writing that is tied in with the mental act of writing, and to take one from the other doesn’t work all that well.

Maybe it’s a crutch. Because it’s clear one can think faster than one can type – I manage about 75 words per minute, mostly error-free. I can go faster, but the error rate soars.
I could probably be trained to write without a physical aspect, of course. This old dog can learn a new trick or two.

But, for now, at least I’m safe inside my mind.

The Moon and Sixpence

Thing is, it’s hard to tell.

It’s hard to tell, watching this, whether the government Montag and Beatty represent is an oppressively conservative government looking to destroy books, or an oppressively liberal one looking to destroy books.

Neither conservative nor liberal can say they have clean hands when it comes to suppressing thought. History books, when they are written, are written by the victors.
Is the man who yanks the book from his little boy’s hands – what kind of thought is he protecting his son from?

The book he tosses, “The Moon and Sixpence,” is at best ambiguous. Does the government wish to protect the boy from the tale of a man pursuing his dream of becoming an artist, or to protect the boy from a ribald tale that shows a father abandoning a good job, wife, and family, for the hedonism of an artist’s life in Paris?

Is it, as the critic says, society is so busy “yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet,” or is society “charged with always want[ing] something else?”

I am an English major; I can go on for hours coming up with absurd interpretations.
Arguments can be made either way, I suppose.

But I like the ambiguity. It makes me more watchful.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hey Republicans: Shaddup

I want to thank the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee, Larry Lyon, and the IdaHope PAC for nudging me off the fence in deciding how to vote May 16 on whether to convert Eastern Idaho Technical College into a community college.

Thanks to their reasoned scaremongering over (horrors!) of a potential College of Eastern Idaho emulating the College of Southern Idaho in assisting refugees to settle in our community and the bugaboo of wildly unlimited tax increases which could see my taxes go up initially $13.77 a year and then (consernation and hubbub!) forty to fifty cents a year beyond that if the community college board so chooses, I can see only one way to vote.

I’m going to vote in favor.

I've got three kids, you see. They are already doing dual enrollment and whatever other college credit they can get while they’re in high school (well, one of them is in junior high and the other is only getting started with these opportunities, but you get the picture). My wife and I also teach part-time as online adjunct instructors for BYU-Idaho. We know, like Larry Lyon, that there are many opportunities for local kids to get a higher education, or at least a toehold.

If I have another opportunity to present my kids with another higher education option, whether it be online classes, dual enrollment, Advanced Placement courses and tests, or a community college that sees fit to educate its students on (don’t let it be!) the merits of helping the downtrodden to find a new home and a new life in a new country, I’m going to take it. And if all it costs me initially is $13.77 a year, well, that’s an expense I’m willing to take on. Even with the wildly exorbitant tax increases the Republicans fear will come. I won’t even have to eat out one fewer time a year to pay for it – because, you know, if spending an extra $13 a year is going to crash your budget, you’re planning things way, way too tight.

So I’m researching the issue, thanks to this fearmongering.

I’m finding some interesting things. For example, tuition at a potential College of Eastern Idaho is set to run at about $130 a credit hour, per the Idaho Education News. That’s compared to the $348 a credit hour Idaho State University charges. A College of Eastern Idaho is sounding better and better, considering the burden of student loan debt I keep hearing about.

And as for fearmongering over “mission creep” leading to the horrors of a refugee resettlement center, bark up a different tree, please. You see, Mr. Lyon, Republican Central Committee, IdaHope, back in 1950 when my father, his brother, and their parents came to Idaho, thanks to a Mr. Lorin Andersen, who kindheartedly sponsored a Dutch family he’d never met to settle in Idaho Falls, there wasn’t a community-sponsored welcome wagon. Mr. Anderson helped my Dad’s family settle in, including paying train fare from Chicago to Idaho after their money ran out. The Greatest Generation saw fit to welcome my Dad’s family, who could have stayed on in The Netherlands after the horror of World War II but wanted to seek a better life and a farm of their own in the United States. Thankfully, there were people in Idaho Falls at the time who didn’t mind engaging in “controversial and divisive activities beyond the scope” of any mission, educational, evangelical, or moral they might have had. Lorin Anderson just knew a family in The Netherlands wanted to come to the United States, so he helped them.

So to tell me I should oppose a community college because they might emulate the Christian charity of another community college, that pushed me off the fence. I’ll vote yes on May 16, thanks to you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

We Deserve Crappy Leaders

I recently read two books about the Sixties. Both by serious men who lived through those tumultuous times. Okay, one of them is Dave Barry, who, serious-wise, can’t hold a candle to the other, Tom Brokaw, but both, I believe, make salient points about this decade that Baby Boomers beat the rest of us to death with.

I think the saddest thing I read in Brokaw’s “Boom! Talking About the Sixties,” comes from Tommy Smothers:

In April 1969, Brokaw writes, CBS cancelled the [Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour], a decision that the Smothers Brothers challenged in court, where they were awarded $776,300 in damages. While the case was pending, the show won its first Emmy for writing. Tommy says, “In the end we won, but it didn’t matter. I lost my sense of humor."

I’ve long loved the Smothers Brothers. To hear Tommy Smothers say he’d lost his sense of humor is crushing.

Brokaw, however, doesn’t follow up on that. What did it mean, for such a performer to lose his sense of humor? We don’t know, reading this book.

And that problem seems endemic throughout the book, where its breadth of subject matter, character, and potential isn’t equally matched by a depth in bringing more meaning to a challenging decade. Brokaw succeeds at getting a lot of people to talk. Maybe he should have focused on fewer people, or at least allowed his readers to spend more time with them, something akin to Richard Rhodes’ or Studs Terkel’s writing.

Rhodes and Terkel show you can accomplish such depth without having to write an encyclopedia.

I grew up watching Brokaw as the anchor on NBC’s Nightly News, back when the three networks seemed big to my na├»ve eyes. Now it’s rare that I actually watch a news broadcast, instead getting my news as most everyone else does: In snatches from bits and bobs seen on social networks, or, on occasion, skimming the headlines the Internet barfs up. There are no serious news broadcasters anymore; books like Brokaw’s are now being written by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Neither Stewart nor Colbert can approach the depth of Rhodes or Terkel either. But we now live in a world that shuns depth.

The second saddest thing in Brokaw’s book? It comes in an anecdote from Carl Pope, then leader of The Sierra Club:

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara visited Harvard in 1967 for a closed, off-the-record forum on the war, and the [Students for a  Democratic Society] decided that if McNamara wouldn’t debate his policies publicly, the group would physically prevent him from leaving the campus.

McNamara declined the invitation, so about a thousand students filled the space around Quincy House (where the forum was being held), surrounding McNamara’s limousine.

When the official visit was over, McNamara could have slipped away, but he chose to confront the protestors. He was escorted to his limousine by a small posse of Harvard conservatives. As the crowd closed on him, yelling, “Debate the war, debate the war!” McNamara got testy and challenged the crowd. “Okay, let’s debate the war. Who wants to debate?”

Still incredulous at the memory, Pope says, “And we didn’t’ have anyone to debate him.” So McNamara’s car began to drive away. Pope quickly organized a lie-in, positioning students in front of the car so it couldn’t move. That they knew how to do. McNamara got out and left through the basement.

Who looked more stupid here?

Seems nobody really wanted depth back then, either.

On to Dave Barry who doe s a better job summing up the Sixties than Brokaw when he says this in his book “Dave Barry Turns 50”:

I learned of the [Martin Luther] King assassination while walking across the Haverford College campus. The guy who told me about it was one of our campus radicals; almost every campus had some, by 1968. These where guys (most of them were guys, anyway) who thought that capitalism was a terrible idea and all cops were “pigs” and Chairman Mao was a swell person. The campus radicals believed they spoke for, and thought for, The People. They were always talking about what The People wanted, and what The People needed, although it seemed as though the only actual people the campus radical spent any time with were other campus radicals. They had spent several whole semesters thinking about what was wrong with America and they had concluded that the only solution to our problems was for The People to rise up in violent revolt against The System, after which we would set up a new, better society, according to the wise principles laid down by campus radicals.

So anyway, this campus radical came up to me, very excited, and said: “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?” I asked.

"Martin Luther King was assassinated!” he said. He was smiling, He was happy about this.

“It’s gonna happen now!” he said. “The blacks are really gonna riot now!"

This is when it began to dawn on me that there was a serious competition going on in America to see who could be the biggest group of assholes: the right-wing assholes who thought that the Vietnam War was a good thing, as long as they personally did not have to go over Vietnam and get shot at; or the left-wing assholes who thought that what we really needed was for more people to shoot each other here at home.

It seemed as if both sets of assholes were winning in 1968.

And what goes around comes around. Lots of people marching for The People. Just not actually talking to them.

We’re still a nation of followers. No wonder we get such crappy leaders.

Friday, April 14, 2017

So . . .

A while back, you may recall me writing about an idea that came to me about Doleful Creatures, and about how I needed to fix it and how it was going to take a lot of effort to fix it and how I was thinking I'd blow it off.

Well, it won't go away.

So here goes.

24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

“That,” the voice said, loud in the dark, “is what comes.”

“That,” it said, and the sound echoed as whiskers twitched and eyes gleamed; ten thousand eyes in the black, “is what we must stop.”

“Dominion. We have seen it. We know what it will mean. Seed and herb for meat. But soon,” the voice paused and there was no sound in the chamber save the drip of distant water, “meat for meat.”


“They’ll eat us?” A small voice from the congregation.

“Yes,” the voice said.

“But we’re so small.”

“Does size matter when the flood comes?” he shouted, and the congregation ceased breathing. “Does size matter when the lightning strikes? No, it does not. All drown and die. With them, the giants, with them comes misery. And death.”

“We can’t stop it,” another voice said, and tiny mouse voices in the dark began to wail. “It is part of his plan.”

“His plan,” the first voice said. “Not ours. Not ours to die in misery, to slink in the corners, to bring poisoned food home to the children!”

Shouting from the congregation, louder now than the wailing.

“What can we do?”

“Nothing! We let the plan, the Master – “

“Not nothing. We have an ally.”

The wailing slowly ceased.

“Not her,” the second voice said. “Not The Lady.”

“Why not The Lady? She sees the perfection of the world in which we live. She knows of the coming misery and would save us from it! All. Of. Us. Not one missed. Not one chewed and spat out. Not one.”

“And what does she gain?”

“Love,” the first voice said.

“I’ve seen The Lady’s love,” the second voice said.


Who knew I’d grow up to be Professor Hinkle?

I mean, I listen to him say, “Sorry to lose and run, but I’m going to be busy, busy, busy writing!”

In his case, he had to go home and write “I’m sorry for what I did to Frosty” a hundred zillion times in order to maybe, just maybe mind you, get a new top hat from Santa.
I don’t even want a top hat.

Busy is good, I will admit. Busy helps the ten-hour work days go by faster. I could kinda wish, however, that the busy would end at the end of the work day and I’d have time to get other stuff done.

I sound familiar. Oh yeah:

And, inevitably, this is going to play a role somehow.

Because, obviously, there is no pressure. Viz:

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”
He continued: “I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.”

I do not know what to cut. Facebook. But no. That’s a social outlet, one of the few I have.
I need more hours. More hours.

I have a book on its 17th revision. Maybe I’ll finish it this year. Been saying that for three years now.

Where does the time go?

And why couldn’t I be the fastest “belly-whopper” in da woild instead?