My college friend Whit Trumbull has begun blogging at Spreading Shalom. She’s Christian, but Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year, seems as good a time as any to start a new blog, particularly one that I presume will be, like Whit herself, focused on matters of the spirit.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 6:11 pm
Monday, August 12, 2013 6:04 pm
I’ve not had much use for The New Republic ever since they published that crap that was reputed to have eviscerated Clinton’s health plan (and did nothing of the sort, not that I’m bitter), and to be honest, before today I don’t recall hearing of Julia Ioffee despite subscribing to The New Yorker, for which she spent time in Moscow. But — and speaking of evisceration — her takedown of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is one of the most righteously satisfying things I’ve read on a blog — or anywhere else, for that matter — since Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” If they ever find a way to turn this post into a movie, Morgan Freeman’s status as an icon may be in serious danger. Just go read the whole thing.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am
My friend and former co-worker Andy Duncan, about whom I’ve written a time or two, is what those of us who write for a living call a real writer. I mean, yeah, we’re good enough to put food on our tables with writing in some form or fashion, but we also stare at the work of Andy and writers like him, shake our heads, and mutter, “Daaaaaamn …” Writing is a craft, and a lot of people without any special gifts can become, like me, good, workmanlike writers. Lots of writing and rewriting for 30 years, with some decent editing along the way, can, indeed, allow you to wake up one day at the age of 50 and say to yourself, “Why, yes, I am a writer.” But as far as hard work can take you, you also need a gift to break the surly bonds of Earth and go out into space, where the stars and the nebulae lie.
Andy works as hard at his writing as anyone I know, and harder than most. So do I, for that matter. But Andy has the gift.
Andy’s fiction falls into the general area of sci-fi and fantasy, but much of it is as firmly rooted in the American South and its storytelling traditions as are the work of Faulkner or Agee or O’Connor. When he writes about a blues musician in Hell, Hell is the Mississippi Delta. When he writes a ghost story, it’s set in the Depression-era studios of WBT-AM in Charlotte, with painstaking details that match up with what that studio really was like then. And when an anthology editor got in touch with him once, wondering whether he might have a story on the shelf that involved someone having sex with a ghost, he reported, “I was both proud and ashamed to admit that I had three.”
Six times my friend has been nominated for a Nebula Award, the top prize given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for outstanding work. Six times he was the bridesmaid, not the bride. But 2012 was different: His story “Close Encounters” won the Nebula Award this past weekend for Best Novelette.* What kind of company does that put him in? Well, let’s just say you’ll recognize some of these names even if you’ve never read a sci-fi or fantasy work in your life (and although I’m generally not a fan of the genre, I freely admit that far too many people haven’t). I’ll let him explain the rest of it.
Congratulations, my friend. You are, now and forever, Nebula Award-winning writer Andy Duncan. You’re also a helluva great guy, although they don’t give out cool trophies with astronomical bodies embedded in them for that, more’s the pity.
*A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words. Anything shorter than a novelette is a story. Anything longer than a novella is a novel. You’re welcome.
Thursday, May 9, 2013 7:29 pm
For those of you who don’t know me well and have occasionally wondered what in the pluperfect hell is wrong with me — other than being a jackass, I mean — I have struggled with chronic, severe depression on and off since age 13 and continuously for about the past 20 years. (There have been some other issues, too, such as manic episodes, during which I spent money I didn’t have and behaved in risky and hurtful ways that haunt me to this day, and generalized anxiety disorder, more on which in a minute, and even a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder. But depression, like The Dude, abides.) So, if you’ll keep in mind that her experiences and mine are not identical but are alike in many, many ways, I invite you to read Allie’s graphic (which is to say that it includes not only details but also cartoons) explanation of her depression at her blog, Hyperbole and a Half.
Now, Allie kind of implies that what I’m about to say about myself is also the case for her, but I may be reading too much into what she writes. At any rate, for me, the difference between depression and GAD is that the former makes me wish I were dead but the latter makes me actively want to do something about it. GAD is a relatively new development for me, at least to this extent. When it got really bad for the first time, last fall, I had done enough reading at least to know what was going on. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time prescribed medication that is the exact opposite of what I should have been getting for the condition, so I fired his ass on the spot. (In my own mind. All he knows is that I haven’t been back or been in contact. Interestingly, his office has never once tried to contact me.)
Problem was, the only way to get to see a new p-doc quickly was to go to the emergency room and thence to the local loony bin for a few days. That was bad, but not as bad as you might think if your only exposure is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” For one thing, the food was actually pretty good. For another, the staff was quite nice. And I did get to see a p-doc who referred me to a new p-doc out in the real world whom I could see reasonably quickly (more on whom in a minute).
The down side, and this really was a downer, was spending several hours a day in group. For one thing, I didn’t need group; I needed medication that would make my skin stop crawling and make me stop wanting to kill myself. For another, I am an introvert. For another, the dayroom TV was tuned to USA, which was running an NCIS marathon of which I only got to see bits and pieces. I love NCIS. and watching NCIS would have helped me a lot more than listening to the unrelated problems of a bunch of weird strangers whose problems weren’t like mine. Instead, they included everyone from recovering substance addicts to active psychotics, the kind of people who see sentient, carnivorous piles of Jell-O in the corners that no one else can see.
Me: “You know it’s not real, right?”
Him (not at all offended): “It’s not real to you, sure. And that’s OK. It doesn’t want you.”
(In hindsight, I sound like some of the people in Allie’s piece who were trying unsuccessfully and cluelessly to be helpful. But I actually asked the question out of curiosity; I was trying to understand. I neither knew nor cared whether asking would help.)
Long story short, the new p-doc got me on a pharmaceutical regimen that keeps both depression and anxiety in check. I haven’t been badly anxious but a time or two in the past couple of months; I haven’t been suicidal in many weeks, except once for, like, 20 minutes or so. I know I need adequate sleep, which I’m generally getting, and I know I need exercise, which I was getting up until I started grad school two years ago and will resume getting after comps next week.
Depression is kind of a big deal. In any given year, almost 7 percent of adult Americans have it, and of them, 30% have severe cases. No treatment works for everybody. It took me a year to find an optimum treatment, which worked right up until it didn’t; now, I’m on a medication that didn’t exist when I began taking depression medication more than a decade ago.
But, anyway, go read Allie’s story. Odds are, you or someone you know can relate.
Friday, February 22, 2013 8:41 pm
Finally, finally, finally, the owner of a newspaper has told the geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-dragging readers who masturbate to gun ads but can’t STAND the possibility that their local newspaper might publish a story about two happy people doing something that’s none of their damn business to take their whiny, misprioritized complaints and shove them north toward their tonsils.
God, I need a cigarette. And I haven’t smoked in almost 35 years.
Our story begins when Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven — yes, that’d be two people with ladyparts — got married in, believe it, Jones County, Missafreakingsippi, the left ventricle of Bat Country. The Laurel Leader-Call newspaper did a front page story, acknowledging the historic (albeit legally unrecognized) nature of the event, and then basically letting the protagonists speak for themselves and for each other — not an approach recommended for political coverage, but perfectly acceptable for a wedding story. (Bonus pathos: Craven has Stage 4 brain cancer.)
Well, Leader-Call readers freaked out. They called. They wrote. They virtually spat on the paper’s Facebook page.
So how did the paper’s owner, Jim Cegielski, respond?
Did he pretend there was no controversy? Or that if there was, it was OK to ignore it? Did he, God forbid, send an underling out to lie to people about his position or lack thereof instead of manning up and doing his job?
He stood up. He took responsibility. He told the people who were wrong that they were wrong. He told them to stop misbehaving toward his employees just because they’d read a story they didn’t like. And he told them that if they didn’t like all of the above, they could get bent. (If the link doesn’t go directly to Cegielski’s column, flip to page A5, where it’s at the top.)
And the horrible financial price the paper paid for this optimally competent exercise of its privileges and duties? Fifteen canceled subscriptions. Even in Laurel, Mississippi, that’s the equivalent of a few households going away for a long weekend.
So here’s a suggestion to people who want to run newspapers that both make money and bond with with their communities in ways that make long-term profitability even possible: Do your jobs. Be right. And when you are right, take no shit from those who are wrong, particularly when it’s aimed at your underlings. Even most of those who disagree with you will respect that; wanting your boss to have your back is a nonpartisan policy goal in and out of newspapers.
I’m sure Warren Buffett’s BH Media already has some decent ideas about how to dig the News & Record out of the hole it has dug for itself in the past five or so years (not all of which, I hasten to add, is local talent’s fault). But I’m betting that sending someone to Laurel to buy Jim Cegielski lunch and listen to him talk for an hour would not be a bad strategy at all.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 8:31 pm
I’ve never met John Cole, the proprietor of the blog Balloon Juice. But this much I know: I never want him to become my enemy.
Rush Limbaugh has been an enemy of Cole’s for a while, but his baseless attacks last week against Sandra Fluke have made Limbaugh Cole Enemy No. 1.
I don’t often say this (12 times in 10 years of blogging, in fact — this is the 13th), but, seriously, go read the whole thing. Not only is it a serious contender for Blog Post of the Year, it also is an encapsulation and indictment of just how thoroughly debased, divorced from fact and context, and vicious (in the older sense: vice-ridden) our public discourse has become, and how few consequences there are for severe, serial social deviance therein.
And that was on top of this public challenge to Hot Air (sorry, I ain’t linking to them) proprietor Ed Morrissey:
For those of you who can not watch videos, here is a .pdf of the transcript. At no point anywhere in her testimony did Sandra Fluke make any mention of her sexual activity. Never.
I challenge Ed right now — show me where she talked about her sex life in that testimony, and I will write a check for $1,000.00 to the RNC [Republican National Committee]. She simply didn’t make her sex life the topic of discussion, and Ed is lying out his ass. You could watch that video or read the transcript, and as far as you could tell, Miss Fluke might very well be a virgin.
Ed is lying. The people who made this issue, which was about medical health, into an issue about Sandra Fluke’s sex life are Rush Limbaugh and all the amoral cretins like Ed who decided that just like Graeme Frost, anyone who goes against what the right wants RIGHT NOW, is a target who needs to be destroyed.
So take the challenge, or apologize for lying, Ed. $1000.00 to the RNC the moment you can show me where she discussed her sex life, you lying sack of [excrement].
In a sane society, people like Limbaugh would live in locked, padded rooms, and whatever Cole is doing, we’d find a way to incentivize him to do more of it.
Friday, February 24, 2012 7:26 pm
My friend David has figured out a way to get rich the Romney way. I am in awe:
Based on the two main things I have learned from Mitt Romney as a bishop in the Mormon church and CEO of Bain Capital, I have stumbled on a sure fire, high profit business model. A paradigm shift in investment grade financial instruments which can make us all filthy rich, but will NOT damage the environment, or break any existing laws.
My plan is simple:
We sell Mormon souls to the devil.
Hey, I know what your first question is going to be, “But David, you can’t sell someone else’s soul to the Prince of Darkness.” Silly commie liberal, you don’t understand the business concept of “leverage” or other modern investment strategies like those used by Bain Capital.
You NEVER invest your OWN money in a business venture, you invest OTHER PEOPLE’S money.
In this case, why sell our own souls, when we can sell other people’s souls?
Of course, anything that can be monetized also can be collateralized, and such financial instruments must be rated for investors. David’s way ahead of you: “Obviously souls of politicians and Mormon Elders would not be investment grade.”
If S&P or Moody’s were rating them, I bet they would be treated as investment grade, but I think the regulatory authorities in this field have many more teeth than does the SEC. Not to mention claws.
Thursday, December 15, 2011 6:30 am
John Robinson — my longtime boss, editor, co-conspirator and friend — left the News & Record recently after 27 years, almost 13 of them as the paper’s top editor. He was among the nation’s first and most prolific blogging newspaper editors, and although the project ultimately fell victim to a resource crunch tied to the Crash of ’08, his leadership on the N&R’s Town Square project got national attention not just in the industry, but also in such general-interest publications as the The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.
JR believes in sharing credit, and he backs his people to the hilt. Any good reporter from time to time will have to write unflattering things about powerful people with thin egos, thinner tempers and the resources to make life difficult if they choose. Any good newsroom employee, regardless of discipline, also, in this day and age, must spend time looking around corners for what the next important thing in the news business might be. I did a lot of both, and slaying those dragons was much easier knowing that no matter the stakes, as long as I was prudent and ethical, JR had my back. He took a lot of crap over me, and he never once complained to me about it. And during my dad’s final illness, when I spent the better part of a month bedside in an ICU 100 miles away, the only thing he said was, “Do what you need to do. The office will still be here when you get back.” That’s not just the mark of a great boss. That’s also the mark of a great friend.
I mention all this because, now that he’s shed of the News & Record, JR has started a new, personal blog, called “Media, Disrupted.” (I’ve added a link to it in the blogroll on the lower right side of this page, to0.) Go check it out. And keep an eye on him. Even if he wanted to retire, which he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure Susan wouldn’t let him. So I’m betting that shortly after the new year, he’ll be into something new, different and very much worth watching. And he’ll still be tweeting (@johnrobinson).
Saturday, September 10, 2011 2:24 pm
… (and I would not blame you if you don’t), then spend time instead with this piece by Mike Lofgren, a recently retired GOP congressional staffer. His 28 years of service include 16 on the GOP staff of the House and Senate budget committees. In every important respect, what he says comports with what I observed in 25 years of professional Congress-watching, particularly since the rise of the Gingrichites in 1994. Key points (and keep in mind that this is a career GOP operative talking):
- “To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.”
- “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.”
- “Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students. This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don’t want those people voting.”
- “Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?”
- “The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. [Emphasis in original -- Lex] The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.”
- “If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.”
Go read the whole thing. The kicker is that this guy retired because he figures that given what the GOP plans to do to the federal retirement system, it was better for him to be a current retiree (and thus grandfathered in) than a future one.
Thursday, September 8, 2011 7:52 pm
… I’m pointing them to this.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:06 pm
“On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans.”
Those pointy-headed academics, always messing the narrative up with their pesky facts:
Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.
Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right. …
Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant. …
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
Obviously, not every self-identified Tea Partier fits this profile. But this research is long, wide and deep — and it strongly suggests that federal officials without large, self-identified Tea Party segments in their electorate are vulnerable.
Read the whole piece. It also strongly suggests that those of us who have dismissed the Tea Party as an artificial phenomenon, equal parts big-money GOP artifice and stupefying levels of Teh_Stoopid, were correct. Yeah, I’m gloating. Suck it.
Thursday, July 14, 2011 8:25 pm
Because some blogger named Elizabeth Stevens at The Awl sucked me into a long essay on the subject of art and the Muppets, two subjects I don’t even care that much about, and kept me there for more than an hour.
Damn bloggers. Get off my lawn.
Monday, June 27, 2011 8:48 pm
My friend the Rev. Mark Sills has retired. Fortunately, Mark, who has spent a lot of years looking after the kinds of Greensboro people whom Christ called “the least of these,” has no plans to be retiring. Indeed, he has started a blog. Y’all hit it.
Monday, March 14, 2011 5:39 am
Each year I have to lead two of Hooper’s Cub Scout den meetings. And each year I dread it.
To get an idea of why, read my friend Ed Williams’s account of leading a merit-badge session this past weekend. Ed is both literally and metaphorically an Eagle Scout, and if anyone knows from “Be prepared,” he does. And yet:
And I’m falling flat, reliving a nightmare since college, the one where I’ve failed to attend class for an entire semester, or cracked a book, and now it’s final exams. God, that dream gives me the willies. And still it comes back, even into my 50s?
Only now, I’m the teacher, standing before a whole class room full of … me. …
It’s 8:25 a.m. We break at noon. I’m looking at three-plus hours to fill.
I’m the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Anyone? Anyone?” …
I ask about first names. “Christian, where does your first name come from?”
“My Mom named me for a Disney character.”
“I don’t know.”
I get a lot of that this day. Anyone? Anyone?
“Gage, that’s an interesting first name. Where does it come from?”
“My Mom named me for a character in ‘Pet Sematery,’” he says.
And on break, I Google to see that, indeed, there is a demonic, back-from-the-grave, character in Stephen King’s thriller novel named Gage who goes on a killing rampage.
This leaves me disturbed. But everyone else is loosening up.
Nonetheless, little progress toward a merit badge.
In the past 30 years I’ve done presentations, given speeches and moderated dialogues in front of political bodies, committees of professors, boards of trustees and some of the most talented journalists in the world. And in no case, none, did I ever feel as nervous and unprepared as I did in front of the kids.
Monday, March 7, 2011 9:32 pm
From the Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall; temporary, I believe):
In our darkest moments, when our students have taxed us beyond taxing, when an outburst or a threat or a student stunt has rattled us, we who teach in community colleges will joke privately—only as a way to vent and find some perspective: Well, at least I don’t have an ax murderer in my class. In other words, whatever has happened, it could have been worse.
But now a suspected ax murderer was one of my students. What should I do?
The issue wasn’t just that a young man suspected of — but not charged with — patricide was on the rolls. The issue also was that in this course on short stories, everything on the syllabus addressed in some way themes related to crime, parent-child relationships or both. To add to the tension, the case had been and continued to be big news in the community, and the professor could gauge from class comments — or the lack of them — which other students in the class knew that the prime suspect was sitting at second row center.
Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” found us discussing whether tension between fathers and sons is inevitable, and the lengths to which some people will go to get what they want, if even for the short time of a flower’s “one splendid breath,” as Cather puts it. Through Tobias Wolff’s “Smokers,” we looked at the airs that some private-school students assume and how and why young people strive for a life different from that of their parents. We looked at theft and at lying as measures people routinely use to get to where they want to go. Only one student would risk discussing the inextricably dark nature of Arnold Friend, the presumed killer and rapist in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” But all appeared electrified by the real-life details of the serial killer Charles Schmid, the “Pied Piper of Tucson,” Oates’s inspiration for the story. No one floated the term “sociopath.” But it took no imagination to connect the dots between the issues examined in the fiction and the reports emerging in the news media that semester.
And so it went, day after day, story after story. Why do people lie? What happens when people act in anger? What lurks beneath brother-to-brother conflict? The stories hit it all. A “bloody hatchet,” for us a sick double entendre, even surfaced in Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation.”
The nature of students’ comments told me right away which students were aware that an alleged ax murderer was in our midst. Class discussions are generally free-flowing, dynamic, open. That semester we ground forward with the help of a few students who must have been in a blessed news blackout and a few others with exceptional courage and heart. Some struck me as frozen in place—always in class but never wanting to engage with the horror of the outside world that had found a physical and emotional presence in our classroom.
As for me, I did not hold back. I taught as though my life depended on it, and I had to believe that my life did not. My students needed those stories and the subsequent discussion and reflective writing. I needed to help them understand that, through literature, they were experiencing life in all its darkness and all its light, without suffering any of the consequences. Literature was fulfilling its best purpose, as I see it now.
The essay is a little gem, as tense and intense as Hitchcock. If the paywall’s still up when you read this, keep checking back.
Monday, August 23, 2010 5:55 pm
… but Zero Hedge guest poster Gonzalo Lira does. I find his how more plausible than his why, and I agree with him that IF it happened, some sort of dictatorship likely would be in our future. But he hasn’t sold me on the notion that hyperinflation before the end of 2011 is inevitable or even likely.
That said, read him for yourself and see what you think.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 8:00 pm
Everyone has to follow his/her own path to racial reconciliation. A few of us, I think, may, by the grace of God, already be there. Some of us haven’t started. Some of us have and, lucky ones, know exactly where we’re going. And many of us have started and, while having no idea which direction to choose, keep faith that the path is there, that we will find it and that the journey will be worth the candle.
My longtime friend and colleague Susan Ladd, in a speech adapted from her master’s thesis, discussed her own path recently at the Diversity Forum Breakfast, which was sponsored by The HR Group Inc. and the News & Record:
There was a time when I was in love with all things Southern. When I really believed that “Gone With the Wind” was a wistful epic of a more fine and genteel era swept away by the dirty Yankees. I think I may actually have believed the unstated premise of “Gone With Wind” — that the end of slavery actually made things worse for black people, severing them from what had been a benevolent patriarchy.
There was nothing romantic or genteel about the racial landscape of my childhood. Blacks and whites lived in two separate worlds, and the worst thing you could call somebody was a nigger-lover.
These were fighting words, an insult of character that surpassed all other character flaws. It was often spat in anger, like a hard slap. Or it was said in a sneer of loathing by people who considered themselves self-respecting Southerners. Of course, it wasn’t really about love. Just showing kindness to a black person was enough to earn that designation in those days. Actually loving one was unthinkable.
We have come far. We have far to go. God willing, we will get there, all of us, together, free at last.
Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:28 pm
Found while searching for something else: A C-SPAN program from 3 years ago featuring Elizabeth Brown Pryor, author of Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, a book based on previously unpublished Lee letters, manuscripts and records. In the transcript, scroll to about the 0:50:00 mark and click; the video will start there. Listen to about 10 minutes’ worth; you’ll see that Lee was just fine with slavery, no matter what the Texas school board or other revisionists might think.
h/t to Balloon Juice, which has been running a fine series of posts this month on the Republican Party’s efforts to sanitize and rehabilitate Confederate history. Unfortunately, they’re not all housed in one place; the best you can do is look at Balloon Juice’s “Good News for Conservatives” category and look for the posts with the GOP elephant logo emblazoned with a Confederate battle flag. It starts with this post, which takes note of the fact that Pat Robertsonite Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell omitted any reference to slavery from his proclamation regarding Confederate History Month and that fellow Republican Haley Barbour defended McDonnell in the subsequent uproar, saying, “To me, it’s a sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant, that it’s not a — it’s trying to make a big deal out of something (that) doesn’t amount to diddly.” There are several other posts after that, touching not only on Lee but also on the fact that Mississippi never ratified the Constitutional ban on slavery and one with some historical perspective on how slavery was just one of many ways to steal another’s labor, a widespread practice of employers seeking to keep costs down and profits high.
Go check ‘em out.
Monday, April 19, 2010 8:59 pm
You’ll need a Facebook membership to see it, but my friend Ed Williams’s essay, “Baggage,” is worth the effort to find, particularly if, at any age, you’re a college student.
… that is, the one that really exists and really matters.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 8:08 pm
Paula Marantz Cohen revisits The Merchant of Venice and finds that today’s students look at Shylock, and at the good and bad of interpersonal relationships, in a way different from that of her students of a generation ago … and that neither generation really gets it right: “… if we want a happy ending, at some point we must draw a line and close our eyes to the injustices that it entails. We must accept accommodation to oppression and, in some cases, to evil itself.”
And now, having read this, I’m giving myself my first literature assignment in a generation: Compare and contrast Merchant with Better off Dead, emphasizing the parallels between Shylock and the paper boy.
Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:02 pm
ReaderofTeaLeaves offers an interesting piece at The Seminal, basically drawing a distinction between commodities (e.g., cars, shoes, diamonds) and such noncommodities as health and wellness. The gap in the piece is where he/she doesn’t examine the spot on the spectrum between where providing medical services equates to other kinds of service businesses and the “end product” (i.e., health/wellness) that the consumer is supposed to wind up with.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:56 pm
Like Willie Sutton said, you rob banks because that’s where the money is: And if you want to cut the deficit, you also go where the money is:
Health-care reform: Nate Silver has 20 questions for people who want to kill the health-care bill, and Jon Walker has 20 answers. Go read this. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait. Because this might be the best combination of comprehensive and clear that you’ll find on whether or not the current Senate bill deserves to live. Kudos to both bloggers.
Glenn Greenwald says Obama is getting the health-care bill he really wanted. I find it hard to disagree.
But it isn’t the health-care bill WE wanted: 63% of Americans say they wanted Medicare expanded to cover 55- to 64-year-olds; only 33% disagree.
It isn’t the health-care bill doctors wanted, either: UC-San Francisco physicians explain, among other things, why the patents-forever provision is such as bad idea.
Indeed, health-care reform is JUST LIKE the Holocaust: Hey, if Laura Ingraham says it, it must be true, right?
Matthew Yglesias on Time magazine’s choice of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as Person of the Year, for the win: “[I]t demonstrates a very specific class skew — extraordinary intervention into the market place just long enough to fix the situation from the point of view of asset-owners while leaving wage-earners holding the bag. But the owners and managers and editors of Time Magazine and the companies that advertise in it probably don’t care so much about that.”
What could possibly go wrong?: Western military leaders are seeking additional support in Afghanistan from … wait for it … Russia.
But … but … but … Republicans believe global warming is a myth!: A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to have visited a fortuneteller or to claim to have seen ghosts or talked to the dead. (Interestingly, whites, blacks and Hispanics all reported having seen ghosts at about the same rate.)
“One more such victory and we are ruined”: The Pentagon actually wins a Gitmo detainee’s habeas-corpus case … but comes out looking like dirt.
And the fun doesn’t stop with health care: John Cole of Balloon Juice observes, “The best thing about health care reform is that it is a primer for Banking and Financial Regulation. We get to look forward to watching the House bill get neutered down by the conservadems, the GOP will be aligned in unison with industry against, and then when the final bill is not up to Howard Dean’s standards, the progressives can sink it because it isn’t good enough, and noted liberals like Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, and Russ Feingold will be labeled sellouts to the cause just like they were with health care. Also, I’m sure this will all be Rahm’s fault.”
John Cole was right: Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., indeed is getting ready to screw us over some more on bank bailouts. His 2010 re-election already is in serious jeopardy. Good.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:18 pm
I know that in many ways, large and small, it’s still a man’s world.
I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on.
My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .
It wasn’t my skills, it wasn’t my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn’t?
One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn’t want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.
My life changed that day
Instantly, jobs became easier to get.
There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.
Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate.
And I was thankful. I finally stopped worrying about how I would feed my girls. We were warm. Well-fed. Safe. No one at school would ever tease my kids about being poor.
* * *
Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I was applying in the same places. I was using the same methods. Even the work was the same.
In fact, everything was the same.
Except for the name.
The answer was plain. Without really thinking much about it, I tried an experiment when I chose my new pseudonym:
I became a man (in name only)
Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.
No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.
Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.
Maybe I’m overly cynical, but the first thing that came to my mind when I read this was, “Surely you had telephone conversations with clients. Did they not pick up on the fact that you were, like, female?”
But whether this particular story really happened is immaterial, because I saw this happen to some pretty talented women in my years in the newspaper bidness. I’m sure a lot more of it went on that I simply wasn’t perceptive enough to notice, particularly at first.
I saw enough that when I got in a position to do something about it, I did: I pushed the women who worked for me just as hard as I pushed the men who worked for me. And when I say “push,” I mean two things: “motivate/train/hold high expectations for” and “promote” (in the sense of talking them and their work up to my fellow editors when their work merited it).
I’m under no illusions that I did this as well and thoroughly as I should have. But at least I knew going into management that this was a significant blind spot in management, even at a company that worked as hard as ours did at “embracing diversity.”
I didn’t do this because I’m a saint, or even because I’m a particularly nice guy. I did it because my mother, my wife, my sister, my sisters-in-law, my daughter and my nieces are all bright, talented women who deserve to reap whatever benefits their skills, energy and persistence would otherwise entitle them to, without the market distortion of an estrogen discount.
Go read the whole thing.
Saturday, November 21, 2009 5:06 pm
… from the evil done in Your name.
Chuck Colson is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. He has published a temper tantrum screed called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” Colson, the Watergate-conspirator-turned-Christian-Nationalist, has produced a manifesto of Christianist jihad, a mishmash of factual and contextual errors and distortions, gross misreadings of history and other documents, and an utter betrayal of both the Constitution and what Jesus stood for. The word “conscience” shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of this piece.
Chuck also badly needs an editor.
Because I have some personal experience with Colson’s — to be polite to the point of self-censorship — disingenuousness, I was going to fisk the thing, and I expected that that fisking was going to take days. Fortunately, instead of starting last night, I went to bed sick, and when I woke up this afternoon, I found that tristero had done the job for me, addressing everything from the factual inaccuracies to the not-so-subtle comparison of Obama and the Democrats to Hitler and the Nazis.
I’m not entirely sure what Chuck Colson is, but I can give you a quick list of things he is not: Telling the truth. Well-meaning. Changed in any meaningful way from the thuggishness of his Watergate days. A patriot. A Christian. Anything but evil.
UPDATE: Fec’s wife’s stepmother’s son … um, I guess that would make him Fec’s stepbrother-in-law … shows Colson how it’s done.
Friday, September 4, 2009 11:46 am
Jon Talton: If the Democrats aren’t screwed, they deserve to be:
The Democrats deserve to lose big in the mid-terms. They are operating on two fatal misconceptions: that they can gain the favor of the economic royalists that have apparently truly taken over the government, and that the liberal base will stick with them. Oh, and one more: That the Republicans are so discombobulated and off-putting that they can’t come back quickly. What the Republicans lack in sanity or truthfulness, they make up for with discipline and a true alignment with the corporate masters.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:34 pm
The American Association for Justice, a professional association of trial lawyers (i.e., people who sue for a living), has named what it calls the Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America. Although this comes out at the height of the debate about health care, this paper is looking at insurance coverage in general, not just health insurance:
To identify the worst insurance companies for consumers, researchers at the American Association for Justice (AAJ) undertook a comprehensive investigation of thousands of court documents, SEC and FBI records, state insurance department investigations and complaints, news accounts from across the country, and the testimony and depositions of former insurance agents and adjusters. Our final list includes companies across a range of different insurance fields, including homeowners and auto insurers, health insurers, life insurers, and disability insurers.
Who’s No. 1? Well, let’s just say those hands you’re in may not be as good as you think.
Obviously, trial lawyers aren’t exactly the most unbiased source of information on this subject, and although the gathering of information and documentation might have been scrupulously factual, “worst” is still at least partially a judgment call. But take a look at the report and see what you think.
Of the four companies that handle our family’s various insurance needs, only one is on the list, I’m happy to say.
Sunday, August 9, 2009 1:52 pm
Fred Guttman, rabbi of Temple Emanuel here in town, blogs on the dangers posed by some of the rhetoric surrounding the health-care debate:
We are living during a very difficult time as far as health care costs are concerned. It is important for us as a nation to find a solution to this problem if we want our nation not only to have better health care, but to be economically competitive in the coming decades. Finding this solution will necessitate not only a lot of creative thinking, but will also require a lot of civility and respectful debate. Perhaps most important, it will require a lot of prayer, for we will need God’s help as a nation to take us from where health care is today to the place where it ought to be, a place wherein all of us, as holy manifestations of the Divine, will have access to high quality and affordable health care.
Thursday, July 30, 2009 5:33 pm
Timothy Snyder calls for a broader, deeper and more nuanced understanding of the mass killings of mid-20th-century Europe — an understanding that places the genocidal center of gravity well east of where Westerners tend to think it belongs, and that would puncture some of the Russian martyrdom claims. Because of that, Medvedev’s Russia may try to make such an understanding a crime.
Sunday, June 28, 2009 9:20 pm
… and I’m only half-joking. One of the many things I learned while covering religion is that the Church of Scientology does not suffer gladly those who would publicly criticize it, and the Times is opening up a three-part case of whupass.
I know that the government already has ruled Scientology a “real” church for tax purposes. What I don’t know is why.