Saturday, June 26, 2004

I can taste the dust. I feel it blister my eyes, and I have just finished the first chapter of "The Grapes of Wrath." I have never felt more a part of any story before. I actually have read about 3 or 4 chapters, and it isn't like I am reading a book as much as I am experiencing what these people are experiencing. Steinbeck has so completely captured reality and while the story is fiction, you feel like you are looking out a window on the life of the Joads and the rest of our country during this time period. The chapter where he talks about the banks being more than mere men is amazing in its power to describe what people felt then, and to some extent what we often feel today about government agencies and big corporations. I can't wait to read the rest of it, so I think I will go do that now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A character in a TV show tonight made an interesting comment. He said, "You make a choice and then you pay for it the rest of your life." He was speaking about his decision as a young gang member to take the rap for a killing of a member of a rival gang. He did not think about the pay back, and his younger sister was killed in an attempt on his life. In an age when taking responsibility for one's own actions is a lost virtue, this comment is a welcome ray of truth. Even when we refuse to take responsibility for our actions, there is a price to pay. We may mistake the price as "bad luck" or "everyone is always picking on me," but it is the often just the price we pay. Of course, too often the ones we love pay the price and , if we have a conscious at all, we will have to live with that and thus,our price again. My advice, think about what your actions BEFORE you do them!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Storytelling is an art I think. Some people are naturals. I have known some people who have been great oral storytellers. We all know grandfathers or old men who can spin yarns as easily as the rest of us recite phone numbers. Sometimes they are relating personal experiences, but the way they tell it captivates us. Then there are the storytellers who write their stories down. One of my favorites is Stephen King. He uses the English language with skill of a surgeon, knowing exactly the right instrument to employ to get the best result. You actually see the world he is presenting you with in detail. The final storyteller is the songwriter. I was listening to part of a concert with Paul Simon and John Myer. Listening to some of Simon's classic, you are immediately whisked away to the world he is showing you. I love music, all genres, but I guess my favorite types of songs are the ones that are telling me a story. If the story is well told, I am hooked, regardless of the subject matter.
I think storytelling in its varied forms is vital to a healthy culture. It helps show us lessons we need to learn or remember experiences we need to hold on to. But the most important thing stories do is make us take a minute or two to slow down and relax, and enjoy. Life should be enjoyed, not just experienced.
So the next time you have an opportunity to listen to a story, do it.

Friday, June 11, 2004

I wonder how many times the words "Ronald Reagan" appeared in chat rooms, blogs and bulletin boards this week. I am sure it is an astronomical number. I had decided that I was not going to post anything about him this week, but I feel the need to rant.
I have made the statement many times that people are never as bad or as good as "everyone" says they are. This statement has never applied more than this week. There have been people on the right who have spoken about President Reagan in such glowing terms that you would think that only Jesus Christ was a better person than he was, and that only by virtue of Jesus being God. Then we have seen people on the left discuss President Reagan as if he had been a plague on our country and that his death is to be celebrated like the eradication of AIDS.
The truth about President Reagan, like most truth, is more in the middle. I read an editorial today where the writer made reference to the President as a father. As I thought about it, I realized that is an apt description.
President Reagan was like a good dad for our country. He was there when we thought that life was hopeless, that all we could look forward to was more trouble. He was the dad that helped us see that life was not ruined , that there was hope and that the future would be a great place. He faced down the bully, told him, "This is where I draw the line and you will not bother my children anymore." and he beat the bully. He was the dad we could look up to, because he had principles and standards and he would not waver. He did not make up his beliefs based on what his fickle children felt were the right ones for that day. There was comfort in the knowledge that "dad" believed what he believed.
President Reagan was also like that good dad that we think sometimes, "just doesn't get it." He sometimes did not understand what we thought was important. Sometimes he was like the good dad that occasionally had favorites, sometimes overlooked one of the "kids." He had blind spots like any other dad, and he also made mistakes in his attempt to do what he felt was best for his children.
So my final thought is this: Thanks Dad. I did not always agree with you, and you were not perfect, but I am glad we had you in our lives and we are a better nation because of you. Go on to your just reward. Rest in peace, President Reagan.
I watched the coverage of the funeral procession in Washington of our 40th president. I have decided that news personalities make as many dumb statements as the rest of us, maybe more. Here are a few examples:
One commentator stated, "All these people who came out today, they are all here." Uhmm, yeah.
As the hearse rolled up to the plane to receive the president's coffin, the commentator said, "The hearse rolls up." Now, I am glad he told me that, because I wasn't sure what that black car
During the whole coverage, the commentators made it very clear that the hearse would take the coffin to a point on Constitution Ave and then transfer it to the caisson. It was repeated over and over again. When the hearse pulled up and the caisson moved into place the commentator said, "The president's coffin will now be transferred (pause)(pause) to the caisson. I am so glad he told us that because I was so worried about where they were going to transfer that coffin.
Now, the saddest comments were the attempts by the commentators to sound profound. One in particular sounded like he was actually covering the event for radio. Statements like, "the air is heavy in Washington today," and, "the scene is majestic." He would tell the viewers what was happening right in front of their eyes.
Another installment of "Did that sign really say that?"
There is a McDonald's near my home that has an electronic sign with two lines for information. I drove by it the other day, and I think they should have checked out what two lines they matched together because this is what I saw:
"Now hiring
biscuits and bagels"

Sunday, June 06, 2004

"The people have a right to know!" When someone says this phrase with the right inflection and tone of voice, and especially if the person saying it is a respected journalist, like Walter Cronkie, the phrase is powerful and compelling. Unfortunately, today, this phrase gets thrown around like a sitcom catch phrase. I have been thinking about the phrase a lot lately, and I keep going back to three basic questions. I don't necessarily have the answers to these questions, maybe you will.
First, where do we get this "right?" We have the right of free speech and freedom of assembly and religion, because our Constitution guarantees them to us. I have read the Constitution a couple of times and I don't remember the "right to know." Some of our rights are what we call "natural rights," like the right to life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, I don't think this "right" falls in this category.
Second, why do we have a "right to know?" Now I know that this question sounds similar to the first and it probably is connected, but what I want to know is why do we need to know, esp. all the things that the media claims we have a "right to know" these days. I can understand the public's need and right to know what our government is doing in our name. This makes sense, but I think the public is entitled to very little information, esp. about the personal life of people.
Finally, if we conclude that the people do have a "right to know." What exactly do we have a right to know? Is there no such thing as information that is not for public consumption? Do we really have a "right to know" that some man we don't know has been arrested for a crime? Would it not be more appropriate that we had a "right to know" that a man we don't know was convicted of a crime? Maybe, we don't even need to know that. Do we have the "right to know" the personal lifestyles of people we happen to see on the TV screen or the silver screen? Is there no aspect of an elected official's life that does not fall into the category of "the people's right to know?"
Maybe we should look at our own lives and see if we would like "the people to have the right to know" everything in your life.