As we get deeper into the weeds of the current election season, the din of empty rhetoric is deafening. Much of the blame goes to the Republicans’ darling of the moment, Donald Trump. I see Trump as the equivalent of cotton candy. It’s all puffed up, showy, appropriate for a circus and utterly void of meaningful substance. He’s all emotion, derogatory baiting and narcissism.
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With Thanksgiving now in the rearview, guests gone and belts re-buckled, I have realized a few things about my family’s annual observance. Of course there are the memories, both saccharine and sad. There are the traditions and stories to be told.
Two stories related to education sparked my interest this week. They both provide evidence that higher education in the United States is headed in the wrong direction. They also demonstrate that many Americans have their priorities backward when it comes to the purpose of colleges and universities.
My favorite movie is the John Ford classic, “The Quiet Man” (1952). It stars John Wayne as Sean “Trooper” Thornton, a disenchanted American boxer who travels back to his birthplace, Inishfree, Ireland. His co-star is the red-haired beauty, Maureen O’Hara, who plays a strong-willed Irish woman, Mary Kate Danaher. O’Hara and Wayne starred opposite one another in five films. They were a perfect pairing.
For a couple of years now, I have had the pleasure of working with an inmate program conducted by the Arkansas Department of Correction. The Re-Entry program, as it’s called, is designed to help inmates develop life and coping skills that will help them once they return to society.
Several years ago I was privileged enough to work on a project for the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. My team was asked to address some of the issues related to international trafficking of stolen art and antiquities. While this might sound pretty dry to the uninitiated, it quickly turned into an adventure involving Australian aboriginal tapestries, decapitated Javanese Buddha heads and French Impressionist paintings.
I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately. It’s not that good things don’t happen to me every day, but life’s little travails just seem to have come in a big pack in recent times. As I’ve gotten older, I deal with setbacks better than I would have a few years ago. It’s like picking out splinters — after you’ve done it a couple hundred times, you develop a technique, but you probably don’t want any more practice.
In the Broadway musical version of the Addams Family, Grandma tells a crestfallen Pugsley, “That’s life, kid. You lose the thing you love.” I saw this musical several years ago. For all the show’s silliness, this somber line is what stuck with me.
In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius near modern Naples, Italy, erupted, burying the city of Pompeii in a thick blanket of volcanic ash. As one witness to the calamity wrote, the dust “poured across the land” like a flood. Nearly two thousand people died; and the city was abandoned for the next 1,700 years.
Recently, I attended a meeting where an administrator from a small public university treated the audience to a review of his institution’s new “brand identity campaign.” There’s a lot I don’t like about the current direction of higher education in America. This is the thing I despise the most.
As I let the dogs out to do their morning business, I saw the first harbinger of spring. The row of quince beside my back gate has begun to bloom. The blossoms are a deep rosy pink. They’re always the first plant to suggest the coming end to winter’s cold.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the French government rounded up a number of people sympathetic to the horror unleashed on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. All told, French police have arrested or are investigating around 100 individuals for making comments that support or attempt to justify the barbarity.
Last week Islamic terrorists with historic ties to al-Qaeda stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper. In the ensuing melee 12 people were murdered.
It may seem an odd parallel, but there exists an interesting relationship between the judicial evolution of obscenity and changing sensibilities regarding police use of force. The comparison suggested itself as I read an article on James Joyce’s landmark tome, Ulysses. Eighty-one years ago this week, a federal magistrate ruled that the book was not obscene.
‘Tis the season for culinary exploration. At least around the extended Pate household, that’s when Mother and I usually trot out at least one “experimental” dish alongside the perennially prepared and preordained.
Over the last few months I’ve grown a big goofy handlebar mustache. I didn’t start out with that as the intended end product, but a slight end curl during the formative weeks kept suggesting itself.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately regarding the proper separation of church and state with respect to business practices. The most notable example of which is the fight waged between the conservative Christian owners of the craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, and the federal government over that company’s resistance to certain parts of the Affordable Care Act mandates for birth control coverage.
Since I was 16 I’ve worked in more than two dozen political campaigns. While most of my candidates have been Democrats, I’ve also worked in several Republican and Independent campaigns. I’m a registered Democrat, but some of my fellow party members might argue I’m not a very good one.
Last week I ran across Martine Rothblatt’s new book, “Virtually Human: The Promise - and the Peril - of Digital Immortality.” In this philosophically evocative tome, Rathblatt describes a not-so-distant future world where exact digital copies of humans which she calls, mindclones, co-exist with traditionally conceived (pun intended) organic beings.
Plants help form the enduring memory of my great-grandmother, Maggie Bryant. Everybody called her “Big Momma,” a quintessentially Southern endearment. She always had something rooting, blooming or growing.
As most regular readers know, I don’t often address issues that attract the bulk of commentary or punditry. This week is an exception. Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., demand a critical response. As someone who studies crime and social responses to it, I feel compelled to say something.
Woodstock Model 5N. This might not mean much to most folks, but this designation plays a significant role in American Cold War politics. It also has a special place in my life as a writer.
August 8, 2014
I must have been 8 or 9 years old when I met my first celebrity. The star was Burt Ward, best remembered for his role as Robin on the television series “Batman.” Our meeting took place a few years after the series’ 1968 final airing.
If you’ve taken or taught a college class in the last decade, you can probably attest to the changes brought about by digital technology. We have so-called “smart classrooms” where the technological interface is front and center; and even when it’s not in the limelight, digital technology is omnipresent.
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