Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"A good ol' gal." That's how one relative described my mother-in-law in a note to us shortly after her death just before Christmas. It's an apt description -- one that fits a patchwork quilt of memories I have of her.
But I can't write about my mother-in-law without writing about my own mother. After all, I knew them each for about the same length of time -- I was 45 when my mom died after a gradual, several-years-of-Alzheimer's decline, and my mother-in-law was an integral part of my life for almost 40 years.
Two women born less than six months apart, one in the Chicago suburbs and one in small-town Idaho, brought together by the unlikely -- or so some people thought -- pairing of their offspring.
Mary Katherine (I've seen it at least in one place written 'Kathryn') Wilson, born in September, 1920. Daughter of Viola Elva Boyd and Joseph Jerome Wilson who pretty much eloped because he was Catholic, Canadian, and six years younger than she, and she was a Protestant from Illinois. He was a house painter who settled with his wife in Lake Forest, Illinois where their four children -- two sons, two daughters -- were born. My mother-in-law.
Dorothy Louise Cutting, born in January, 1921. Daughter of Lulu Mae Williams, daughter of a Welsh-born Nevada mining engineer and his wife, and Ralph Philip Cutting, whose parents moved from Danville, Illinois, to the Dakota Territories to Montana where he met Lulu Mae and sat for his pharmacist's license. They settled in Weiser, Idaho, where their three children -- two sons, one who died as a youngster, and one daughter -- were born. My mother.
My mom, a late-in-life bonus baby, was born into a household run by two older women -- her mother and her mother's mother -- who, for whatever reason, didn't think it necessary or didn't have the patience to teach little Dorothy the domestic arts. No cooking, no sewing, no knitting or crocheting, no gardening, no canning or preserving. Instead, she got piano lessons, impeccable manners and a love for literature that probably came from my grandfather. She grew up as the small-town belle of the ball, went off to Whitman College where she majored in English, minored in piano, and filled her diary with notes of parties and outings and dates with half a dozen different young men.
My mother-in-law was taught how to have the house cleaned, the washing and ironing done, and a home-cooked supper on the table. After graduating from high school, she went to beauty school, as it was called back then, and learned hair styling. A professional photograph of Mary K. taken during that era and family talk suggest that she was approached about doing some modeling. If I recall correctly, her father didn't approve the idea. Somewhere along the line, she learned to tap dance and was part of a mass tap dance on the pier in Chicago.
By 1943, my mother, newly graduated from college, was working in Tacoma, Washington. As WWII escalated, however, she went to work for the American Red Cross and was stationed in Washington, D.C.
By 1943, my mother-in-law had met the older brother of her best friend and fallen in love with him. He was a radio operator on a submarine stationed at Norfolk, VA -- I think -- it was wartime, and so she took the train to Washington, D.C., where they were married. No family, no big wedding.
My parents didn't meet until the spring of 1952, after my mother had worked for a time at UC Berkley and lived in a boarding house in San Francisco, then come back to Boise where she rented a room -- people still did that in those days -- from my great-aunt-to-be. My father was the son of a mining lawyer and, a cousin tells me, Idaho "king-maker." My mother's wedding was more of an event.
Writing about my father and my father-in-law is more difficult. Suffice it to say that neither my mother nor my mother-in-law had an easy marriage. But because each had such a strong sense of loyalty, neither spoke much about it to anyone -- for good or bad. That doesn't mean they were saints. Just women coping the best they could under the circumstances, figuring that was part of life.
My mother-in-law and my husband taught me how to cook. My mother taught me how to read. My mother-in-law welcomed me into her air-conditioned home after our first child was born in the middle of a Southern California heat wave. My mother introduced me to music. My mother-in-law made lefse, krub, and rosettes -- foods she had learned to make for her Scandinavian-heritaged husband. My mother made supervisor of secretaries in the Orange County district attorney's office. My mother-in-law nursed her mother through terminal cancer, her father and father-in-law through their final days, and her husband through terminal emphysema. My mother became helpless and I nursed her until, for my family's sake, I had to let others take over.
Most of all, my mother and my mother-in-law became friends. They got together for lunch occasionally and stayed in touch with each other. Neither tried to tell us how to run our lives or raise our kids. Both were there if we needed them.
I probably didn't let either of them know enough how much they had taught me.
So here's to you both, Mom and Mom. I am who I am today because of who you were.
I thank God for each of you.
Monday, December 29, 2008
"I remember when you were little, your room looked like a library," he said. "Shelves of books -- and you'd read all of them!"
I looked around at the bookshelves lining my living room and office area and thought of the ones in our bedrooms. Not much has changed.
So when I came across this Web page with pictures of the world's 20 most beautiful libraries, I was intrigued.
One, the library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, I've actually stepped foot in. For a whole hour -- all that our tour itinerary allotted us. Ridiculous.
These magnificent libraries are works of architectural and visual art as well as repositories of the world's records. Incredible beauty encasing incredibly ordered words.
Maybe I'll make my own itinerary someday and include these among the stops. I assure you I'll allow more than an hour at each. Care to join me?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Jesus' birthday is obviously something to crow about -- that was Lee's comment as he unloaded his kiln and put these ceramic roosters in about the only available spot.
I had just finished packing up 50 -- count 'em! -- pots that had been sitting on the living room floor and shelves and there are still more to be packed away. My husband is one of those 'out of sight, out of mind' people, so things tend to stay out until there's no more room.
Not that I'm much better, mind you. But it was getting hard to walk around. And I wanted to put up our Nativity scene and, and, and.
We also put up a Christmas tree this year. First time in a long while. Too busy. No kids at home. No room. What's the point? But, inspiration struck. (Three guesses from where.)
So this is our tree this year. Pottery by Lee. Stained glass star by Pamela J.
Happy Birthday, Jesus! A great miracle did, indeed, happen back in the days of Judah Maccabee. Celebrate!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
"And a new book, The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet, called a journalist because he is a contributor to several magazines, including Harper's and Rolling Stone, and creator of a couple of blogs purporting to monitor "America's secret theocrats," suggests that this movie was a fundamentalist Christian group's deliberate attempt to sway public sentiment by making the monster a metaphor for Communism."
Mr. Sharlet left a comment earlier today on that posting, objecting to what he perceived as my questioning the validity of his title of journalist and refuting Nelson's article. I suggest that my thousands of followers read his comments and my response rather than my repeating them here.
However, Mr. Sharlet noted that he is more than just the creator of a couple of blogs and that he does more than just monitor a particular religious group.
In fact, Mr. Sharlet is the creator of two online religious journals: Killing the Buddha, "a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the "spirituality" section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God. It is for people who somehow want to be religious, who want to know what it means to know the divine, but for good reasons are not and do not," and The Revealer, "a daily review of religion in the news and the news about religion" published by the New York University Center for Religion and Media.
Mr. Sharlet writes about a number of topics in his blog, Call Me Ishmael. I read only the most recently posted one, dated February 3, 2008, about his book, The Family.
I regret not having explored the two sites before writing my post and for not including links to Mr. Sharlet's blog and the other two sites. As I wrote in the previous post: "Ah well. Read the articles for yourself. You decide. That's what a free, unbiased press is all about, right?"
But I should have given you the tools to do so.
And, regardless of my semantical struggles over the title "journalist" and regardless of any other opinions I may hold, Mr. Sharlet is a best-selling author and prolific writer about religion in America. I did him a disservice in suggesting otherwise.
My apologies to him and to you.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I'll admit it -- I'd never heard the Mozart Requiem before about two months ago.
But when Eckerd College sent an open invitation to alums and others to sing the work as part of the chorus, I was among their first responders. After singing Faure's Requiem, thanks to former Aldersgate UMC choir director Angel Vazquez-Ramos, and after singing Hadyn's Missa Brevis, thanks to Jacksonville State (Ala.) University's Calhoun County Civic Chorale director Dr. Patricia Corbin, I didn't want to miss the opportunity! Also, thanks to both directors, I had the confidence to make the attempt.
Dr. Marion Smith, choral director at Eckerd, arranged the concert, which included selections from Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte, as the finale to Eckerd's 50th anniversary celebration.
Soloists included professional opera singers and Eckerd alums Antonia Brown, Anna Tonna, and Chris Pedro Trakas, as well as Gregory Roman and Lothar Bergeest.
Our accompanists? Members of the Florida Orchestra!
I couldn't hog all this fun to myself, so I asked friends and fellow altos Pam Beyersdorf and Pat Freed if they'd like to sing, too.
Turned out Pat had sung the Requiem in high school -- and still remembered it! Which was a very good thing as it was full of 16th note runs and syncopated entrances and all sorts of tongue-twisting Latin.
It was also magnificent. Look for a recording, if you haven't heard it.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Tampa Tribune reports that, after 40 years of weekly publication, the St. Petersburg edition of The Florida Catholic is changing to an online news service. Six times a year TFC will mail a free magazine, to be called Gathered, to every registered Catholic family in the diocese. The article was not clear whether TFC would continue a print edition serving the rest of its multi-diocese circulation area.
Unfortunately, TFC's last front page and Bishop Lynch's comments both make it sound as though TFC is gone for good. Only in the sixth paragraph does Lynch add the words "as we have known it."
If journalism is to survive as a profession and as an industry, we MUST recognize the difference between "dead and gone," "gone for good," and "in transition." The more we use deadening words, the harder the transition to new, living forms.
BTW, the Tampa Tribune announced 18 more newsroom job cuts including a columnist and editorial editor.
And locally, the Tropical Breeze, Safety Harbor's monthly newspaper, stopped publishing a print edition with its October, 2008, issue.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Anyone out there remember what movie ended with the line above?
The year was 1958 and movie studios had discovered that horror movies made money. So Valley Forge Films, needing to fill the coffers for other, more esoteric films produced by its parent company, Good News Productions -- although IMDB (Internet Movie Database) lists the film company as Fairway Productions -- came up with this screamer.
Burt Bacharach and Ralph Carmichael each contributed to the music. The lead actor opted to take a $3,000 flat fee instead of $150 + 10% -- and the film ended up grossing millions.
In 2008, the film was nominated for TV Land's Best Movie to Watch at the Drive-In award.
And a new book, The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet, called a journalist because he is a contributor to several magazines, including Harper's and Rolling Stone, and creator of a couple of blogs purporting to monitor "America's secret theocrats," suggests that this movie was a fundamentalist Christian group's deliberate attempt to sway public sentiment by making the monster a metaphor for Communism.
There may be, however, just one or two tiny problems having to do with accuracy.
Rudy Nelson, associate professor of English at the University of Albany and "Third Assistant Director in Charge of Daily Script Revision" on the film in question, explores the discrepancies in Sharlet's article in his own article . . . but to put the name of Nelson's article here would give away the title of the movie.
Before I do that, here's what Sharlet emailed Nelson after Nelson emailed Sharlet with what Nelson says was a "low-intensity (and good-natured, I hope) correction of the misinformation, not really expecting a reply."
Nelson says Sharlet "thanks me for my message, offers apologies if he's misunderstood [the movie], and then goes on to point out, with several apt illustrations, that art can take on meanings not intended by its creators."
This is true to a point. As a dramatist and writer of fiction, I'm sometimes startled by what actors/readers take from my work.
But to charge intent is different from art taking on "meanings not intended by its creators."
I wouldn't think Sharlet can have it both ways.
Ah well. Read the articles for yourself. You decide. That's what a free, unbiased press is all about, right?
The actor? Steve McQueen.
The movie? The Blob.
Nelson's article? "The Blob and I" in the most recent issue of Books and Culture, published by Christianity Today.
The last line of the movie? Let's not even go there. At least not in this entry.
Note dated December 17, 2008: Corrected grammar in paragraph six.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Yes, there are more than two candidates on the ballot -- 13 in Florida! -- ranging from an Alaskan representing the Prohibition Party to a Nicaraguan representing the Socialist Workers Party to the ubiquitous Ralph Nader representing, no, not the Green Party -- that's Cynthia McKinney on the first all-woman-of-color ticket -- but the Ecology Party.
Friday, October 24, 2008
It's not too late to volunteer. I just found out about the organization on Tuesday (Wednesday? the days are a blur) and I'm signed up as a Kids Voting Tampa Bay poll worker for this Saturday -- as in tomorrow -- and next Saturday at a mid-county election office.
Yesterday I met the director of Kids Voting Tampa Bay at the polling place to get the materials and instructions. A steady stream of early voters filed through the doors and lined the hallways.
This on a Thursday two weeks before Election Day!
Should be fun -- look for an affiliate in your area.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
It was 1972 and my husband and I, with our infant son, had moved to this bustling town of 1,000 people (in the summer) the previous fall. Pinedale is county seat for Sublette County, population 3,000 at that time, and Falers' General Store, which I remember as an IGA but which I can't verify at the moment, was the largest grocery store in the county.
IGA stands for Independent Grocers Association. This one was owned by Harold Faler, a local resident and -- yup -- independent grocer.
Most people, then as now, struggled to make their paychecks stretch. Toward the end of the month, the grocery baskets coming through the check-out counter weren't quite as full. Payment sometimes included lots of coins scrounged from various hiding places.
When the money ran out, people signed the slip.
Coming from the megalopolis of Southern California, I was taken aback by such trust.
Bank loans, I'd heard of. But they were hard to come by and you didn't take one out to cover everyday expenses. You got a second job instead.
Charge cards, I'd heard of. We even had a JC Penney card that my husband had obtained after being steadily employed by an aerospace company for a number of months.
Gas cards, I'd heard of. Shell, Texaco, and others were fairly common by this time.
Cards for each individual company.
But signing a grocery store receipt as a promise to pay it back -- WITHOUT interest -- when the next paycheck arrived? All I can say is that more than one Sublette County family had Harold Faler to thank for not having to go to bed hungry back then.
So what was the difference between Faler's extending credit and today's creditors selling credit?
Stay tuned for Part 3.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Took five months and a ton of perseverance, but the article I began last May during my internship at Poynter is front-page posted!
High School Journalism Classes Threatened in Florida
And you can read one of my fellow Fellows, Jennifer Cox's, take on the article at 78 Picas -- her blog as a UF doctoral student. Way to go, Jen!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Other than Adam and Eve wanting to keep up with the Lucifer Jones's, of course.
Last Sunday's Tampa Tribune ran an article written by Patrick May and originally printed in the San Jose Mercury News.
The article, "50 Years Later, How the Credit Card has changed America," told how ... well, here. Read the first two paragraphs for yourself:
"Fifty years ago this month, Bank of America mass-mailed to nearly every home in Fresno a small piece of plastic called the BankAmericard. The credit card had arrived, a shiny corkscrew for each recipient to unbottle thousands of dollars in spending money that hadn't existed before they ripped open those envelopes.
That first taste went right to Fresno's head. By the second year, cardholders had racked up nearly $60 million in purchases. BankAmericard morphed into the Visa powerhouse. And a half-century later, as America embraced and then exported the concept of buying things with money folks didn't necessarily have, the whole world has gotten tipsy."
Let's see. The U.S. Census estimates Fresno's population in 2007 to be 407,508. In 1960, according to the U.S. Census, Fresno's population was 131,595, having grown from its 1950 population of 91,669 -- a 43.6% change.
If we figure an average of four people per household, that's 32,898 households -- give or take a couple.
In two years -- TWO YEARS -- those 32,898 households had, in May's words "racked up nearly $60 million in purchases." That's about $1,824 per household.
$912 per year.
Doesn't sound so bad, does it? But . . .
In 1958, the average household annual income was only $4,650.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Knotty Problem
Part of the Dr. Seuss for President exhibit currently at the Syd Entel Gallery in Safety Harbor.
("I like your town," my middle grandson said. "It's got neat stuff in it -- not like ugly nothing." This after we toured the one-room exhibit and the adjoining Susan Benjamin art glass gallery, walked out onto the local pier, played by the marina fountain with bronze birds in flight, visited the massive Baranoff live oak and an artwork of bronze children playing in a mosaic stream -- all within three blocks of each other.)
Back to Dr. Seuss, the nom de plume of Theodore Geisel who started his career as a political cartoonist.
Not coming to your area? Click on the link to the Dr. Suess Art Web site so you can browse for yourself. Sorry -- no pier or glass gallery on the Web site. You'll just have to come and visit sometime!
Monday, September 22, 2008
I came across this paperback while cleaning out cupboards and closets this past week. I don't remember how it got in the laundry basket full of yard goods -- and, no, that doesn't mean potting soil, cultivators, and petunias -- shoved in the back of my clothes closet waiting for desire and opportunity to merge under the needle of my sewing machine . . . which is shoved under the bottom shelf of a bathroom closet.
Nor do I remember how I acquired Herriot's book. No matter.
Suffice it to say not as many closets got cleaned out as intended. Instead I savored Herriot's stories of colicky horses and persnickety cats, of staid farmers and eccentric assistants.
Mainly I marveled at how neatly Herriot told his stories. Swift incision inserting the reader immediately into the scene, exploratory rambles among the inner relationships between man and beast, then out the same way as in, stitched neatly closed with a pithy observation or tug-at-your-heart thought.
You say you've already read them?
Oh, go ahead. Read them again. Some things are just as good the second time around.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Here are a couple of entries I posted recently to the Poynter Institute of Media Studies' Journalism Education blog. Poynter, a non-profit organization that owns the St. Petersburg Times, is a resource center for journalists.
Florida J Classes May Lose Practical Art Credit Status
Indiana J Programs Get Major Boost
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Today I can still say I AM a Knight Fellow in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama and The Anniston Star.
Tomorrow the verb changes to WAS. Grades have been posted (4.0, thank you very much)and the diploma gets mailed next month.
Already I've been shut out of the UA electronic library system. That hurt.
Yes, I left Alabama almost three weeks ago. Turned in the final version of my master's project (Title: Community Journalism and the Community's Youngest Readers: A Study to Determine the Extent of Newspaper Content Directed toward Readers in Grades 2 through 8) on July 24, packed up, shipped off, yard-saled, and gave away the rest on the 25th & 26th, and left on July 27. Took a side trip to North Carolina and arrived home on August 3.
It was a really good year.
But now it's over.
Today's StoryPeople story reads:
I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now, & then I asked is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there's no laughter, I know they're not for me.
So now I'm listening for laughter, ready to start any time now.
Anyone need a journalist out there?
Monday, August 4, 2008
But then titles can't be copyrighted, so technically I'm OK.
And it's a really good title, one that I'm not sure I really understood until now. Because now it really is all over ... but the shoutin' on August 9 when Pomp and Circumstance plays for the gazillionth time and capped and gowned scholars parade past capped and gowned pedagogues and pay homage to Wisdom.
I, however, shall participate in spirit only.
So what did I learn this past year?
I learned that trying to define the profession? craft? art? trade? of journalism is like trying to define the boundaries of the oceans. Much depends on the tides, the shifting sands, and whether you're on a boat or on shore.
There are very good reasons for not describing too precisely who is and who is not a journalist -- the Associated Press lists only a high school diploma in its requirements for reporters -- and there are equally compelling concerns about an 'anything goes' rumor-mongering that passes for journalism when the definition becomes too fuzzy.
I learned that most news organizations are three-headed monsters pulling in separate directions, mainly because the business? industry? service? manufacture? of journalism is equally muddled. Financial accounting in the world of journalism is neither strictly based on goods produced nor on services provided. Instead, it's a hybrid. And if you talk to employees in any of the three separate, but supposedly equal (yeah, right) departments -- newsroom, advertising, circulation -- you'll hear three different visions for the company.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Fransisco among cobblestoned hills and cable cars. I left mine -- at least a piece of it -- between Cheaha and Piedmont among the kudzu-covered foothills of Calhoun County, Alabama. In particular, in Anniston.
The last paper has been written and turned in. The last presentation has been given. The last, the last, the last.
It's been more than a good year. It's been a gift.
I mean, how can you not have a good year when you've been given an all-expenses paid master's degree?
Oh sure, we paid in brain cramps from more than a few long nights reading academic studies and then writing, writing, writing.
But, all in all, it was a marvelous gift.
I gained new respect for journalists and academics alike. I learned to navigate a new community quickly. I made new friends.
And then there was the music.
From being stretched by singing with the Civic Chorale to learning shape-note music singing ... and the sung liturgy of the church I attended and learning that William Levi Dawson was actually from Anniston -- a second marvelous gift.
Now it's over.
Now the Knight Fellows go their separate ways.
Now I move on.
I don't know what the future holds. But I know Who holds the future.
And that it's about the Giver more than the gifts.
Friday, July 4, 2008
George Washington used this chair for nearly three months of the Federal Convention's continuous sessions. James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin saying, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I... know that it is a rising...sun."
Made by John Folwell in 1779
Mahogany, height: 153.5 cm, width: 77.5 cm, depth: 58.2 cm
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Information and picture courtesy of ushistory.org
Before The Star Spangled Banner's "Land of the free and the home of the brave," written during the war of 1812.
Long before America the Beautiful's "spacious skies" and "amber waves of grain," written in 1895.
Even longer before Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle Dandy had us waving straw hats and soft-shoeing our patriotic sentiment.
Before all of those, there was this, written most likely in three-part, shape-noted harmony -- four parts apparently a more recent concession to changing times. And I sang this today with a group of a hundred or so sacred harp singers of all ages -- probably age 7 to age 90 -- from around the country who had come to Anniston, Alabama for two weeks of singing camp.
They opened the singing to the public today -- four hours of one-after-another a cappella songs resounding throughout a wooden-floored church much the way they must have sounded 200 and more years ago.
Including this paean to the young America -- remember that a half-sun was carved on the chair George Washington used during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 -- generally accepted as the turning point in the young country's development. Haven't quite figured out the 'Science' part, but it was, after all, the Age of Reason and humanism is not a new invention.
Didn't notice if the two singers attending from Great Britain
joined in the singing on this one . . .
Ode on Science
by Jezaniah Sumner, 1798
The morning sun shines from the east,
And spreads his glories to the west,
All nations with his beams are blest,
Where’er the radiant light appears.
So science spreads her lucid ray
O’er lands which long in darkness lay:
She visits fair Columbia,
And sets her sons among the stars.
Fair freedom her attendant waits,
To bless the portals of her gates,
To crown the young and rising states
With laurels of immortal day:
The British yoke, the Gallic chain,
Was urged upon our necks in vain,
All haughty tyrants we disdain,
And shout, “Long live America.”
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Calhoun County overrun with strays -- from the October 15, 2007 Anniston Star.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
"Once upon a time, there was a community nestled against the foothills of the mountains of northeastern Alabama.
The community had a long and varied history.
It had music and art. It had hiking and biking trails.
What it didn't have was a lot of high-paying jobs.
It used to have Industry. But then times changed, and the foundries and mills and factories shut down and moved to a place called Out Source."
So begins my editorial series, published in today's Anniston Star.
What you won't see reading it online is the layout. Full front page of the Insight section -- wow! Pardon me for a moment while I turn a cartwheel or two -- figuratively speaking, of course.
This wasn't just an assignment to me. As I've spent the greater part of a year here, I've heard wistfulness in people's voices ... a yearning that Anniston, and many of its surrounding communities, could somehow regain its former "Model City" status. I've heard more about the area's problems than its potential.
That's not to say there aren't problems. But every community, every person, has problems. You can let them consume your life, or you can develop your assets and trust that the problems get resolved in the process. Mostly they do.
Calhoun County, with Anniston as its heart, has so many assets on which to draw. Maybe they've just been taken for granted -- like heirloom silver service being used for everyday breakfast but never being polished up and used to serve company. Maybe my outsider's eyes will help this area see that "what might be" might be even better than what once was.
I thought of this as my gift to a community about which I've grown to care a great deal. They've helped me make a home away from home, and I'm grateful.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Kudos to ESPN for broadcasting the 2008 Scripps Spelling Bee -- loved the play-by-play! The kids amazed me ... I'd never heard of any of the words in the final round.
Pardon me while I go read my dictionary.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
In my case, the host organization was the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg. This non-profit organization that teaches journalists around the world how to be better journalists, owns the St. Petersburg Times ... and also Tampa Bay Newspapers, for whom I wrote.
They were gracious hosts indeed -- gave me my own office with telephone, Internet access and use of the copy & fax machines and of their extensive library. Provided coffee and an assortment of teas. Even a meal or two or three.
More important, they provided friendly interest, probing questions and expert guidance as I explored elementary, middle, and high school newsrooms in the area. My focus, I thought, was going to be on how the high school programs were changing. It ended up being slightly different, and that is a subject for a different post.
In the meantime, here are two videos I produced at two of the high schools I visited. Hillsborough High in Tampa is home to The Red & Black, Florida's oldest high school newspaper, first published in 1899. At Palm Harbor University High School in Pinellas County, publishers of The Eye, I focused on yearbook journalism.
But I'll get to that in a separate posting.
First, I must beg pardon of all my faithful followers of the BAMA BLOG (or M'Lady's M'Log). I promised to keep you apprised of my academic adventures in Anniston, Alabama.
Instead I have digressed.
I've chatted about "chemical weapons incident" sirens and about singing with the Calhoun County Civic Chorale. I've bragged on my husband's pottery and have shared my observations on revival in Obama land ... and have given equal time to the Snoopy candidate.
Granted, I have shared some of my 'Grand Rounds in Community Journalism' videos. Viewers learned how to bake lebkuchen and experienced the beauty of Anniston awakening to Spring. And I posted an editorial about the proper punctuation of President's Day ... er, Presidents' Day ... I think.
Weighty stuff, right? For this I move 563 miles away and leave my family and friends for a year?? This is graduate school???
Allow me to make amends.
Besides Grand Rounds, which is a one-credit lab class, we studied Editorial Leadership, Media Management, and Research Methods. A slightly lighter load than last term's five classes, but we also were expected to begin work on our individual projects due later this summer. Here's a recap of each course:
Editorial Leadership -- Lots of writing in this one beginning with a lengthy op-ed column (mine was on the negative personal savings rate in the U.S.), several unsigned editorial board editorials (everything from the aforementioned punctuation piece to one on abortion), a letter to the editor (on who's really to blame for pharmaceuticals entering our water supply), several personal columns (observations about life), several reviews (the play Copenhagen, a choral concert, a middle school entrance, and Jon Stewart's America: The Book), and a 5-part editorial series written after we had organized, publicized, and held a public forum (decent attendance ... about 25 people showed up and we had a good discussion). This class gets the award for most readable textbooks -- four of them.
Media Management -- Lots of field trips in this class, both in-house -- think delivering papers at 3 a.m. to learn about independently contracted carriers -- and as far afield as Montgomery. We visited the headquarters for Southern Living (sweet, and not just as in cookies) and the offices of the Daily Home (circulation about 2500, although they have several publications). We learned about every aspect of the news business -- accounting, production, advertising, broadcasting, radio, online -- and attended legislative sessions and visited with AP reporters. Only two writing assignments for this course. Here's the intro to my final paper:
Turkeys Can Fly and Other Disastrous Circulation Assumptions
Mention the Great Thanksgiving Day Turkey Drop and those of a certain age immediately think WKRP in Cincinnati, the 1978-1982 CBS sit-com set at a struggling radio station. The turkey giveaway, station manager Arthur Carlson’s idea, involved dropping live turkeys from a helicopter to patrons at a shopping center. Needless to say, the event was a disaster – both for the turkeys and for the shoppers.
“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly,” Carlson said later in the show.
As God is our witness, we in the newspaper industry have tended to think newspapers can sell themselves.
“We’ve depended on the fact that we put this product out 365 days a year and that should be enough,” said Dennis Dunn, circulation director at The Anniston Star, a 30,000 circulation Consolidated Publishing daily in northeastern Alabama. “We’ve been a little naïve in that our attitude has been, ‘We’re ‘The Newspaper’ and people should beg to buy us.’”
Research Methods -- Actual exams in this class -- ones where we had to memorize terms like prestige bias, intercoder reliability, cohort analysis and explain how they related to other terms. Lots of analyzing of experiments as to whether they were reliable and/or valid. As a class we did a content analysis of 200+ newspaper Web sites to determine how many attempted to convey newsroom ethics policies to readers. And our final assignment was a paper/presentation proposing our master's project. Appropriately researched, cited and with every step laid out before the committee, of course. Mine is titled:
Community Journalism and the Community’s Youngest Readers:
A Study to Determine the Extent of Newspaper Content
Directed toward Readers in Grades 2 through 8
There you have it.
It's history now.
Monday, May 5, 2008
And I'm wearing 2" heels today.
Just finished a rereading of Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie, and a first reading of the recently written sequel, Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean (2006).
Does this mean I'm growing up after all?
Friday, May 2, 2008
But...the papers and presentations are finished. No more near-drowning in a deluge of reading material about such dead-weight subjects as statistical regression and market demographics. No more all-nighters at the Star with Sandra, Cassandra, Andrea and Christina putting the finishing touches on our term papers. (Yes, at my age -- can you imagine?!) No more field trips to Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Talladega -- fascinating bright spots in our journey that I haven't written enough about.
And my gig with the Calhoun County Civic Chorale has come to an end.
Directed by Dr. Patricia Corbin, and part of Jacksonville State University's music department, the Chorale is comprised of JSU music students, for whom this is an actual credit-earning class, and anyone from the community who wants to sing.
I discovered the CCCC last fall when I was casting about for something to do with my free time. Choir in one form or another has been part of my life since I was old enough to read, but I wasn't ready to join a church here. That's another story I haven't told. Suffice it to say, I figured JSU, as do most colleges, would probably have a civic group ... and I was right.
They even have an Opera Theater, folks, which says a whole lot about the strength of their music program.
So Monday evenings for most of this past academic year have been spent ten miles north of Anniston in JSU's music building with a mixture of ages (my guess is 19 to early 70s) and races and working backgrounds (can't even assume all are professionals in the strictest sense of the word).
For our December concert we learned Haydn's Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (yes, in Latin), Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols, Mendelssohn's There Shall a Star Come out of Jacob, an a cappella arrangement of I Saw Three Ships, and an arrangement of In the Bleak Midwinter that uses a melody I've never heard before.
Wonderful selection and challenging.
I didn't know what challenging was. Those, at least, were somewhat familiar territory.
This spring's concert was loosely dedicated to thoughts of "love lost, love found" and was comprised of the most difficult and eclectic works I've done. We started with Londonderry Air (if you don't distinguish the words carefully it sounds as though you're singing about the queen's bum ... to use the British term), a Brahms work, Nanie (based on a Schiller poem), three madrigals based on texts from Shakespeare's plays, Erev Shel Sho Shanim (sung in Hebrew, text from Song of Solomon), Pinkham's Wedding Cantata (text also from Song of Solomon), Laughing Song (based on a William Blake poem), and If Music Be the Food of Love (also adapted from Shakespeare).
I need to write more about Nanie.
And also about the song we sang after it called Homeward Bound. But I think I'll save both for separate entries.
Suffice it to say, the no-longer-lithe lady has sung. This term is all but over.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Did this for one of my classes -- some of the quality is lost in posting to the Web, but you'll get the idea. Enjoy!
P.S. The answer to the quiz/poll about Lee's pottery titled "Pegasus Triad?" The name refers to the use of horsehair and feathers in creating the design -- Pegasus being the mythical winged horse and there being three pots in his display.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Birds (look right to see fine feathered fellow outside my door the other day) and bees ... and first lawn-mowing of the season occurred yesterday.
It's April in Anniston, which means only four more months remain of this program. And when I think of the work I have to do in that four months -- yikes!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Lee won second place in the student division of the Students - Members - Faculty Show at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center! Cash prize ... and people showed up at his raku workshop the next day.
The trio was titled Pegasus Triad -- not sure if the judges got it, so I thought I'd see how many of my faithful readers get it. Quiz/Poll is on the right side. I'll post the correct answer in a week or so.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
No, I'm not partying in some hotel on Clearwater Beach or Treasure Island. No chug contests at wherever the current hot spot is.
I'm home in Safety Harbor. Taking one set of grandkids to the park and going to see another set dance at the Pow Wow Festival. Fixing corned beef and cabbage and watching my hubby smoke pot.
That didn't sound right. How about watching him raku fire some of his pottery, which involves placing the red-hot pots into trash cans filled with shredded newspaper which ignites the paper. Then you cap the can with the lid which creates smoke ... hence the smoking pot.
'Bout as wild as it gets around here. Even on spring break. Which, by the way, is a first for me.
And I promise: No wet t-shirt contests either.
Monday, March 17, 2008
So I'm compiling and posting and figuring it all up. And sorting through bills and papers so everything for 2007 gets put away neat and tidy for posterity.
Part of the process is putting all my published or produced writing for the year into a binder. And this year of 2007, I've discovered, was a bit remarkable for me as my work was published in four different genres and in six different publications, including three different newspapers, a children's magazine (short story), a literary review (poem), and an anthology(worship services). Also did some advertising copy writing and learned to write historical research -- a different style than regular academic work, which I also did this year.
I can remember reading a "How to Be a Writer" kind of book in the Pinedale, Wyo., library when I was barely 20 and thinking, "I can do this." I can remember taking a Journalism class and a Literary Magazine Production class at St. Petersburg Junior College's Clearwater Campus a few years later and thinking, "I'd love to do this."
But making a living at it was another matter -- or at least I thought it was -- and so instead of making books I kept them (the financial kind) and, and, and.
And kept writing a little bit at a time. School newsletters. Letters to church vestries and politicos and writers I disagreed with ("Not another letter," my husband would say. "I feel sorry for whoever's getting this one." They were nice. But they were forceful and to the point.) Church skits and plays.
Until here I am 30 years later getting paid to go to school and write!
"I alone know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 ... a combination of Today's English Good News Translation and the New King James Version.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
We sit up a little straighter -- but not much because, after all, has there ever really been an emergency when it was used? Mostly we just wait, in varying states of impatience, for the announcer's no-nonsense voice telling us it was "only a test."
Something of that nature took place today in Anniston.
The emergency sirens (or si-REENS, as one new friend says in Alabamese) went off and the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency conducted a simulated "chemical weapons incident" at the Anniston Army Depot. That's where workers are systematically destroying part of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons -- some dating back almost half a century.
If this were an actual emergency, as the announcer would say, you probably would not be reading this. That's because I haven't a clue as to what I'm supposed to do. Hold my breath and tape up the doors and windows, I think.
And tune to the emergency broadcasting frequency.
And hope they had gotten their doors and windows taped.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
No wonder we can’t figure out complicated problems like health care and Social Security. We can’t even figure out how to punctuate Presidents Day.
Northerners of a certain age remember making stovepipe hats out of black construction paper near February 12, eating cherry pie on February 22 and having two days of no school.
Pity our children and grandchildren. The Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 moved Washington’s Birthday, as it had been called since 1885, to the third Monday in February. One holiday instead of two.
Side note: George Washington might not have minded the switch. A change in calendar systems during his lifetime shifted his birthday from February 11 to February 22.
The 1968 bill also proposed renaming the holiday “Presidents’ Day” (apostrophe after the ‘s’) to honor both Washington and Lincoln. But that part of the bill got lost, and it wasn’t reinserted in 1971 when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed.
President Nixon proclaimed it “Presidents’ Day” in 1971, in honor of all presidents, but a presidential proclamation is not the same as an executive order.
Technically, we celebrate one president’s birthday (apostrophe before the ‘s’) because the holiday is still listed in Federal statutes as Washington’s Birthday. State statutes are another matter.
In Alabama, for instance, on the third Monday in February we officially celebrate George Washington’s birthday and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday – although Jefferson was born in April. Alabama Department of Archives and History officials were stumped as to why we honor Jefferson, saying only that it “slipped into the code” in 1907.
“Presidents Day” (no apostrophe) has become the officially preferred designation, in an attempt to honor all presidents, even though “President’s Day” is the p.c. – punctuationally correct – version and even though the Chicago Manual of Style and many dictionaries prefer “Presidents’ Day.”
And even though, officially, it’s still just Washington’s Birthday.
With the latest round of presidential candidates riding into their respective Jerusalems so convention delegates can raise the palm branches and shout ‘Hosanna!’ we should acknowledge the peculiar combination of destiny and drive that has drawn fewer than 50 people – very different in parentage, in education, in religion, in character, in conviction of what was best for this country – to occupy its highest office.
We should also acknowledge that we among the nations of the earth can most truly say to our children that any of them might grow up to be President of the United States.
We should not take either of those peculiarities for granted, regardless of whether we agree with the current occupant of the office or not.
It’s time to make it official. Presidents Day.
No apostrophe. Honoring our past. Keeping faith with our future.
If we can do that, maybe there’s hope for resolving health care and Social Security.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I did this cooking video for one of our classes. Also did a man-on-the-street -- or,in this case, people-in-the-park -- video which The Star tried to upload it to its site in time for Valentine's Day, but it kept hanging up at the third frame. C'est la vie.
Videos that run on the Star's site include an upfront ad -- currently the ad is for a local Cadillac dealership.
Ads, of course, being how a news organization keeps the bills and the staff paid. The Internet has changed how businesses advertise, so one of the current issues is how to make the Web site draw revenue in ways that print used to. Voila!
And, because I say the recipe is available on 'our' Web site, here it is:
1 c. honey warmed over low heat
3 c. flour mixed with 1/2 tsp. each of baking soda and salt, plus 1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
8 oz. finely chopped candied fruit -- Add the fruit and nuts to the flour mixture
1 egg and 3/4 c. brown sugar mixed together in a large bowl
Add 2 tsp. lemon peel and 1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice and the honey
Mix in the flour-fruit-nut mixture
Roll on floured board and cut into shapes OR spread in a lightly greased 15"x10" cookie sheet. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 12 min. or until light brown. Cool.
Glaze with 1 c. powdered sugar mixed with 3 Tbsp. water (for a thicker frosting increase powdered sugar to 2 c. and add a few more drops of water.)
Store in an airtight container. The cookies harden when they cool, but the frosting softens them again. The longer these sit, the better they taste. Enjoy!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Two weekends ago, Sandra Martinez and I drove to Panama City Beach, Fla., for the American Journalism Historians Association's Southeastern Symposium. Jennifer and Jeremy Cox, fellow Fellows, drove down separately ... er, together, but in a separate car. Sandra came to cheer on the three of us as we presented papers we had done in our Media History class for Dr. Julie Williams, professor of Media History at Samford University in Birmingham and our professor through UA.
The conference was fun and informative. Feminist and ethnic perspectives on historic media tended to predominate; our papers were unique in that regard: Jen's focused on how the media reported the deaths of two blonde bombshells 70-some years apart, Jeremy's was a look at sports journalism focusing on the controversy the last time the Cubse. won the World Series, and mine told of the beginnings of medical journalism.
We walked the beaches and bought trinkets and met new friends. On the way home, we stopped in DeFuniak Springs, Fla, which was just winding up their 13th Annual Assembly at the Florida Chautauqua Center. What an event! Civil War/War of Northern Aggression reenactors, art shows, horse & carriage rides, music and scholarly speakers from various disciplines. What a great idea! Go to www.Florida-Chautauqua-Center.org for more info.
But pictures are more fun, so here you are:
Sunday, February 3, 2008
For a sense of what each said that weekend, go to www.annistonstar.com and scroll down to the videos. Compare and contrast style and content, etc.
The comment? "I assume that because you went to see Obama on Sunday, that's where your persuasions lie."
Puh-leeze. Shouldn't we be listening to as many candidates as possible? Anyway, in the interest of equal time (in terms of Republicans vs. Democrats -- remind me again what those terms mean?), I offer this video found on YouTube.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I thought I'd be missing church this past Sonday.
Fellow Fellow Cassandra Mickens had e-mailed us info about presidential hopeful Barack Obama speaking in Birmingham with a noon start-time, which meant leaving Anniston no later than 10:30 or so. Great! I thought. In all my 50-something years, I've never heard a president or candidate speak in person--although I missed George W. Bush's unscheduled stop in our little town of Safety Harbor because I turned right instead of left one day. But that's another story.
Obama's visit sounded like the perfect opportunity to cross an item off of my bucket list. Not that I have one, and if I did I'm not sure this would actually qualify, but you know what I mean.
So other fellow Fellow Jeremy Cox and I drove over. We had gotten a last-minute e-mail saying that while the doors opened at noon, Obama wasn't actually speaking until 2. We almost decided to leave closer to noon, but it's a good thing we didn't. We parked just a couple of blocks from UAB's Bartow Arena and then stood in line for almost an hour.
We chatted with folks around us -- the middle-class black family behind us said they were undecided at this point. The man, who was close to my age, said the only thing he cared about was that his Social Security would be there when it was time for him to retire. The woman spoke about Kerry having a "heart" like Jimmy Carter's, so she didn't think he'd ever get elected.
Finally got in, and found decent seats facing, but at the farthest point from, the stage. Cassandra, on the other hand, arrived right at 2 and slipped in with no line, but had to hike up to the uppermost seats on the side.
Then the service began.
Welcomed by the pastor emeritus of a Birmingham church (1st UMC, I believe). Confession of sins (he called himself a "recovering racist") followed by an opening prayer to the "God of all the spirits of all flesh" that He would turn the "hearts of all the races and families of this earth toward Yourself" and "unite us in the bond of global peace," that He would "transform our political system and bring real glory to Your name. Amen."
Supporters started the "O-ba-ma" chant and then a mixed choir from area churches got the crowd clapping and urged them to "lift up your hands and praise."
We lift our hands and give You praise for the rest of our days.... Somebody say 'Change!' Change! We can believe in! We can believe in! Yes, Lord, for the rest of our days. C'mon, clap your hands! Like the dew in the morning, gently rest upon our hearts... Lord, I lift Your name on high Lord, I love to sing Your praises I'm so glad You're in my life I'm so glad You came to save us . . . We're gonna have some real church, some Alabama church Somebody make some noise in this place! All of my problems I put it all in His hands . . .
There were testimonies from a couple of young college types in jeans and t-shirts (he wore a jacket over his, she didn't). "Change begins with each of us."
There was an altar call, 21st century techie style. "Everybody bring out your cell phones and text in 62262" which would tell them what your cell phone number was so they could call it with updates and reminders.
There was an offering requested. "Four hours is a small price to pay for your future, the future of this country."
With the lights down low except for a spotlight on the "Change We Can Believe In" banner and the flashes of cameras and cell-phone cameras, He descended from heaven . . . oops . . . wrong savior. Although it looked like he was going to descend. Right under the CWCBI banner were steps leading from the seating area and, from my vantage point, it looked like Obama would make his entrance down those steps to the stage. Instead, he came in mortal-style from the side.
"There's a new South, ladies and gentlemen. And it's not a new South waiting to be born. To the consternation of some, it's done messed around and got here already."
Jeremy tells me it was his boiler-plate speech, so you've probably heard it before. You can read Jeremy's take on it and see some more photos and actually hear a bit of Obama's speech at his blog: The Fourth Estater. Get a "20-something word-herder's" view to put along side this quirky quinquagenarian's take on the event.
No coffee and cookies in the parish hall afterwards. Darn.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Lee and I drove back up January 6, then he flew back. Classes began Wed, Jan 9 . . . but this term our classes are Monday (Editorial Leadership in the morning and Grand Rounds in the afternoon), Tuesday (Research Methods), and Wednesday (Media Management). So we had one class on Wed the 9th, then four days off. Then three classes and a Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon w/economic report on Friday. Then Monday off (MLK day), class on Tuesday, and then attend the Public Research Council meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday with all kinds of state officials and those who want their attention.
Tomorrow we go to class in the morning as usual. Then we get up the next morning at @ 2 a.m. and go deliver newspapers with the contract carriers. When they say we'll learn all phases of media management, they're not kidding.
We're also working on a bit of primary election coverage. And doing LOTS of reading . . .
This coming weekend three of us will be presenting papers we wrote for our media history class at the American Journalism Historians Association symposium in Panama City.
Meantime, check out my video (below) I did last term on municipal sewer systems. Watch for a slide show to be posted tomorrow from the Barack Obama rally in Birmingham that I attended with fellow Fellow Jeremy Cox.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Our assignment was to find out what people thought about the communities they lived in -- why they lived there, what brought them there, why they stayed there, what they thought their community needed and what it would take to make that happen.
I had three small communities in Calhoun County, two of which did not have municipal sewer systems. Many people said they'd like to see more businesses come into their areas, but that the lack of a sewer system kept that from happening.
So I looked at Calhoun County's largest city, Anniston, and its sewer system, as well as my third community, Piedmont which did have a sewer system, but which had just had one of their major industries pull out.
The challenge was to tell about these two different types of systems in under two-and-a-half minutes. In order for me to post this to my blog, I also had to pare it to under 94 MB. Blogspot says videos can be up to 100 MB, but I've had difficulty uploading anything over 95 MB.
I also produced two print articles of @ 1000 words and took still photos, including 37 mug shots of the 40 people I interviewed (some people didn't want to be photographed). One article told about the three communities and the other explained septic and sewage systems in more detail than this short video could.
But the article didn't have music.