My latest book. Click cover.

My latest book. Click cover.
My latest book. Click cover

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT I MEANT


On the morning my column runs, I can't wait to see what I meant when I wrote it. Some of the interpretations given – most, by anonymous newspaper readers, never cease to amaze me. I am apparently so diabolically clever that I can give a different message to a dozen people with the same 600 words, give or take a few.

When I sit down to see what I actually meant with a particular commentary, I’m always reminded of a story told in a book called “God Caesar: The Writing of Fiction for Beginners” by Vardis Fisher.

It seems a young author had published a book, at some time before 1953 when Fisher wrote about it. The author thought he had written a simple love story, a romance if you will, but a critic for a New York newspaper saw it differently.

The critic, never named by Fisher – in fact, he never gave the book title, either – wrote a sterling review in which he told his readers that novel he had just read was obviously a story of love between two men, disguised as a simple love story because the author didn’t dare tell the real story.

When the author read the critique of his novel, the one he considered to be a simple man-woman romance, he tried to call the critic who refused to speak with him. The author began to write the critic demanding a second review.

After the second or third letter, the critic finally sent the young writer a letter that said something along the lines of, “I won’t redo the review. You are not the first author who wrote a better book than he knew he was writing.”

Maybe the entire matter can best be summed up in this quote from Irish writer, Brendan Behan:  Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.”

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

THERE'S A REASON YOU DIDN'T SEE IT HERE



Very often on social media sites, this sentence will pop up:  “You won't see this in the mainstream media.”  This will be followed by a link to a story.   

Out of curiosity, I sometimes check the sources of the story.  Very often, the only source will be a political blog that gives no sources.  When there are no sources, reputable journalists who have to produce sources for the editors watching them, can't write a factual piece about something they cannot prove. 
 
Once in a while, I do find the source of a story and when all the facts are known the real story has little relationship to what turned up on a political blog.  For instance, such a story turned up on FaceBook last year about a minister who had been arrested for preaching the gospel and asking people to sign a petition to stop the persecution of Christians. 

Eventually, I tracked the story down and a Christian minister had been arrested -- but not for preaching the Gospel.  He had built a church in his back yard, which was in a subdivision, even though he was warned repeatedly with citations that it was a violation of  local building codes and the area was zoned only for single family dwellings. 

He ignored all the citations and started holding services. Eventually, his parishioners grew in number and every time the church met, the cars parking on the streets shut down the traffic flow and prevented people who lived in the subdivision from getting in or out of their own driveways when meetings were in session. 

At that point, neighbors complained and the preacher began to receive citations for blocking the traffic.  After months of ignoring summons to court, the police did what they do in every case of a failure to appear in court – they arrested him and he had to make bail.   

There was no persecution, the man broke the law, even though he knew he was doing it.  None of us live in a vacuum. What we do affects other people. The city government had no choice but to enforce the law. I never did the research to see how it ended, but no further calls for help in defending the minister ended up on any of the social media I keep up with. 

The implication about the “mainstream media” is that the media are all under a central committee and all news outlets must run everything printed or reported by the committee.  In cases such as the one I cited if I'm able to confirm the story by tracking it to a local paper,  it means the mainstream media did report it because that's what local papers and the television news are about. 

Even local editors must pick and choose what to report because there's always more going on than space and time will allow.  Nationally, the media goes for stories that will bolster their ratings and bring in more money.  Public demand is responsible for ongoing stories.

Is there bias in the media?  Yes, and we all know where it, and it's in the news, it's commentary. But the mainstream media consists of the reporters and columnists all across America. Thousands of people contributing small parts of a big picture.

 

 

 

Monday, March 10, 2014

THE NONEXISTENT LIBERTARIAN REPUBLICANS


Television talking heads often mention the “Libertarian branch of the Republican Party.” As one who delved deeply into the Libertarian movement in the early 1980s, I can say unequivocally that there is no such branch of the Republican Party.

The following principles emerged in early American Libertarianism: 1) Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. 2) No action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime. 3) Laws on voluntary sexual relations, drug use, gambling, and attempted suicide should be repealed. 4) All forms of censorship, whatever the medium involved, are wrong.

These rights were the core principles of libertarianism. “No action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime” meant what it said. Without giving an opinion on the individual issues, the first principle would eliminate laws concerning marriage, abortion, drug use, any form of promoting a religious belief by color of law and discrimination against gays and other minorities, period.

“Libertarian” comes from the word liberty and applies to everyone. Those who are not willing to accept that they cannot oppose any personal action that does not harm them as individuals, by definition are not Libertarians. It’s a nice sounding word but means nothing unless it is practiced.

I can call myself tall, dark and handsome, but the reality will remain that I am short, sort of mottled and ordinary looking.

Just thought I’d mention this.

 

 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

AIN'T WE GOT THE POWER


State Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), the primary sponsor of a resolution against "Sex Week" activities at the University of Tennessee (currently in progress), was recently quoted in the Chattanooga Times as having said: "If those people who organize this thing want to have it, hey, let them get off campus. They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the Sex Week they want."
 
One might think Floyd was comparing human sexuality to bestiality if one didn't know that he is a conservative Republic with impeccable family values and a squeaky, clean mind, above such trash talk. Knowing these things about him, I can only assume he was advocating fresh air and outdoor recreation and not that other thing.
 
"Sex Weeks at the UT-Knoxville features such serious and timely subjects such as women's health, abstinence and the prevention of sexual violence. On a less serious but entertaining note, there will also be an aphrodisiac cooking class, a poetry slam, a drag show and a "Sexy Oscars Party."
 
More than likely, if the organizers had called the event something along the lines of “A Program for Abstinence Induced Procreative Good Health and Fitness,” they would have been assured no students would show up and the Republican conservatives would never have noticed and felt obliged to make an issue of it. 
 
 Of course, when the word “sex” pops up in a sentence, alarm bells go off if there is a conservative within 15 miles.
 
To a group of people dedicated to the proposition that sex education induces carnal thoughts in adolescents they would never have had without diagrams and teachers, it's hard to let go even when those children become adults and attend university.
 
Republican lawmakers are framing the matter as a simple issue of spending public money for a program many taxpayers find offensive. Of course, their recent nonbinding resolution that calls Sex Week “an atrocious event” clarifies that the money to fund it is from “student fees and grant monies.”
 
 It is not tax revenue over which the Legislature has control, anyway – though of late those conservative ladies and gents have decided that the state should be able override any local jurisdiction about just anything they please – because to paraphrase Cornelius Vanderbilt when his lawyers told him he couldn’t legally have something he wanted.  “Aint we got the power?”