A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper personal column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 140 countries.-- My metaphor: "When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plains," song from TV show "Wagon train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Shoe leather politics

Bernie asked me for advice--I'd make a good vice-president, I said
Good journalists, good cops, good ad people, wear out a lot of shoe leather, not relying on the phone or internet, but meeting people, being on the scene.
I thought the same thing at the close of the Iowa caucuses. The upstarts in both parties had the old-fashioned "shoe leather" approach to politics...on the ground organization.
More evidence of that already today on the UCO campus. I walked into the Nigh University Center to my office, and there on the ground floor, were volunteers for Bernie Sanders.
Wow...that's how campaigns are won. So, for my Sanders' enthusiast friends, and family, I thought I'd put in a good word for you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa--where the tall corn--and more grows

I get misty when I think of Iowa.
This was my rant today on Facebook, in the wake of the presidential caucuses:
  "I am really getting tired of all the high techy, big city snobmedia and pundits looking down on their noses and making fun of the Iowa caucuses. Excuse me--they don't fit in your pigeonhole so you can stereotype the people as hicks and the system as archaic? Hey, they use pencil and paper, they get together civilly, vote in a true democracy where every vote counts, and dare to do it differently than any place else in America. You gotta problem with that? If American politicians and the system make a bigger deal of it than perhaps it should be, it's your fault. Iowans are glad you're gone. And besides, you ougtta have to come up here and suffer the winters if you're gonna be so uppity. They can handle it, if you can't."
Pardon me, but it's personal.
Three of my four children were born in that state, and my fourth child, and his family now live in Dubuque, on the northeast side, and "caucused" yesterday. Proud I am.
"Iowa, where the tall corn grows."
My wonderful wife Neysa and I  moved from Oklahoma to Hawarden, in Northwest Iowa on the South Dakota border by the Big Sioux River to teach high school English many years ago, following friends, "establishing" a church, renting a Seventh Day Adventist church, driving to Sioux City and Sioux Falls every once in a while.
I never saw so much green, so much great rolling rich dark glacial farmland, America's Mesopotamia, nestled between two great rivers...full of life, corn, soybeans,  tempered by brutal winters, but with great solid people who valued education and hard work. In northwest Iowa our first son was born, Vance Conrad. Story below.
From there we went to Iowa City to get a graduate degree in journalism, and then to southwest Iowa to be an editor of a semi-weekly paper, the Herald-Journal, in Clarinda, Iowa, where our second son, Travis Austin, and our daughter, Dallas Page, was born.
Then we moved back to Oklahoma to be near family, worked at the Duncan Banner and bought into the Waurika News-Democrat, where our fourth child, Derrick Rogers was born.
Since then there has been happiness and sadness, successes and failures, but Iowa remains, deeply a part of all of us. I can go on and on about its influences in our lives. I understand why it is the original "American Heartland."
Misty-- from an earlier post:

"We headed east over the rolling hills of northwest Iowa  years ago.

"The rising sun turned the mist from the corn golden, as we sped up and down the hills in a light green Volkswagen to the hospital 30 miles away in LeMars. My wife's contractions had started before daybreak, and we left the house shortly after 5 a.m.
"'Come in here, you're responsible for this,' said the red headed doctor O'Toole, handing me a gown and mask, and about noon, a baby boy was born.
"Those memories are still real, and I know his mother remembers even more, because mothers remember more than fathers do, including  more about the births of our other three children. 

"Years have passed and there have been lots of ups and downs since then for all of us. But we're blessed with our children and grandchildren. That boy is now M/Sgt. Vance C. Clark, USAF... ."
Our  other Iowans--
A chilly night 
Third time is a charm
My Iowans, Derrick and Naomi, ready to caucus!

God and professors--paradise without tenure, conversation

 (An earlier version appeared six years ago)
God:  "Welcome to Heaven. Sorry for the memorized formula speech, but we have to read you your rights. You've got your welcome packet, met the lawn crew, read the rules, signed consent and release of liability forms, signed up for health care insurance like Congressmen get, been assigned mansions just over the hilltop with silver fixtures and  streets of gold,  got pass keys to the stables of The Four Horsemen, know where the cafeteria is, gone through training to use the Help-Desk, got security clearance from IT, and have been issued always-clean-no-wrinkle white robes. Any questions?"

Professors: "When is fall break and what office hours do we have to keep?"

God: "Give Me a break. There is no work here,  no office hours. If you can sing, you can join the choir. For others, like Clark, we'll find something else to occupy your time, oops--no time up here either--to keep you busy."

Professors: "It seems we've filled out a lot of paperwork and useless forms."

God: "I figured you university types had lots of experience with that, so I wanted you to feel at home. Don't worry, the forms will soon change and you can do them over."

Professors: "How come the angels have different colored robes? We see some with gold, silver, bronze,  and ours are white?"

God: "The gold robes are for Full angels, silver for Associate angels, bronze for Assistant angels, and white for Lecturers."

Professors: "What? We're full professors. We don't even speak to lecturers."

God: "Up here, we have a real 'higher-ed' system. It's based on service, not snobbery."

Professors: "Service? We've all been on committees and task forces and faculty senates and  ..."

God: "Not that kind of time-wasting mediocrity. We don't have any time to waste. Literally. Up here, service means actually helping people."

Professors: "So what about research?"

God: "Just ask Me."

Professors: "Would you mind repeating that construct so we can dialog  with you as to the impact of this concept vis-a-vis our cognitive post-modern theses..."

God: "Stop it. No profanity up here."

Professors: "About research, God. It was more important that teaching or service down there, and we're specialists in analyzing minutiae so we can publish it in academic journals nobody  reads."

God: "I repeat, if you want to find something out, or do research, just ask Me. I know the answers, all of them. Quantum physics? Philosophy? The name of Shakespeare's dog? --Yes, Shakespeare had a dog. Never would have found out that would you?--Why Conan was really fired?  How the so-called Religious Right's synapses misfire in their brains and the chemical analysis of that?  Literature? Did you know there's a lower level of Hell that Dante forgot about? The one reserved for micro-managing  administrators and poor teachers.
"Name your discipline--such a silly term for knowledge--and I can give you all the answers, and the statistical calculations and chi-squares, immediately.Where do you think 'Rain Man' got his talent?  I am a know-it-all. No brag, just fact. Nope, no need for 'research' up here, sorry.
"And publishing? That is so 18th Century. Nobody reads those 'journals'  anyway, much less understands all that obtuse academic jargon. They just gather dust.  I'm not interested. Now if you've written something for Mad Magazine, I might be, or if you have an I-phone ap for Mad, cool."

Professors: "Then why are we here?"

God: "Good question. I wonder that Myself. Well, you all must be pretty good teachers. Your dossiers show you actually liked students--even Freshmen. You helped them learn,  weren't boring, didn't talk down to them, learned their names, mentored them, didn't mind being disagreed with, kept your doors open for them, weren't rude or arrogant, kept your office hours, were on time, were usually prepared, had a sense of humor and were secure in challenging them and being challenged."

Professors: "So how do we get to move up to Full Angel. What about 'shared governance' and when do we get tenure?"

God: "I've got a lot of people who need a lot of help. Lists everywhere. Get busy."

Professors: "Uh, about  faculty senate and tenure...."

God: "There ain't no faculty senate or tenure up here. I don't 'share governance.' That's why I'm God. Don't have to. Satan has a faculty senate--meets  and talks forever and never gets anything done...modeled after your systems."

Professors: "No tenure in heaven. Why we thought...."

God: "Ever hear of the fallen angels? No. Hmm, I thought you were educated. You did know Milton plagiarized in 'Paradise Lost,' didn't you? Check out his source, an old book among many I recommend. I've got it on a podcast if you want visuals. It might be apocalyptic for you.

Professors: "Godda...er, Youdammit, God. Tenure...why that guarantees our academic freedom...."

God: "MeDammit. Look, If you want tenure, you can go to Hell. Never have to leave. Never will."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A year ago, time and mortality

At Dad's grave long ago
A year ago, I posted this, and cousin John Clark reminded me of it on Facebook today. Click this link:  Time and Mortality continue. 
This was obviously before 1975, probably in 1974, when she died, and is now buried in Oakwood cemetery in Whitesboro, Texas. We lived in Waurika, Ok. She outlived her husband John Worden Reasor--1886-1967 by eight years. 
Her first husband, Erle Thweat Clark, was our grandfather, parents to Terrence, Lewis, Rex, Mike and Champ Clark, parents of about 16 of us cousins, scattered to the winds. Dad and Erle are buried side by side in Fairlawn Cemetery in Comanche, Ok., the town where Dad and his brothers were born.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The blog at 140 countries and landlocked!

A reader in the African nation of Zambia clicked on this blog this month, marking the 140th country and territory to have read Coffee with Clark.
That followed two readers in two other first time countries in December--Kyrgyzstan and Botswana. That means there have been readers in 22 African Countries and 24 Asian counties.  All three of these are land-locked.

Why and how, I don't know. I've added a translation button to the blog so visitors can read it in their own languages, but the story behind those readers remains a tantalizing mystery to me. 
The flag counter on this page is also not quite accurate--having been added this last year, and sometimes it's slow to update.  But as the blog reaches its seventh birthday May 3, it's come a long way, and reached people and done things I never dreamed back them.
Now, for the record, he's a little about each of those "newcomers" which makes them even more interesting. I'm thankful for my readers--you help keep me going.

Zambia--Formerly British Northern Rhodesia, it gained independence in 1964. It holds regular elections and has a population of 14.5 million, and is the location of the spectacular 354 foot Zambezi falls in the  Victoria falls, the world's largest.
In 2010 the World Bank named the country one of the fastest economically  reformed countries.  

The flag is notable in that its design is not focused on the middle: colors represent green for the flora, red for the struggle for freedom, black for the people and orange for the natural resources. That's a Zambia fish eagle.
Botswana--Formerly the British protectorate  Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent  in 1966. Since then, it has maintained a stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections.
Botswana is  flat, with up to 70 percent  being the Kalahari Desert.  Its border with Zambia to the north is poorly defined but at most is a few hundred yards,
With just over 2 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world. Formerly one of the poorest countries, it is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The flag was designed to contrast with the flag of South Africa, since the latter country was ruled under an apartheid regime. The black stripe with the white frame symbolized the peace and harmony between the people of African and European descent. 
Kyrgyzstan is farther from the sea than any other individual country, and all its rivers flow into closed drainage systems which do not reach the sea. The mountainous region covers over 80 percent  of the country (Kyrgyzstan is occasionally referred to as "the Switzerland of Central Asia.")
It gained independence from the USSR in 1991. Most of the 5.7 million residents are Turkic, non-denominational Muslims. Thirty four percent are under age 16. It is a parliamentary republic but with lots of political and economic instability.
The 40-rayed yellow sun in the center of the flag represent the 40 tribes that once made up the entirety of Kyrgyz culture before the intervention of Russia. The lines inside the sun represent the crown or tündük of a yurt. The red portion of the flag represents peace and openness of Kyrgyzstan. National sports reflect the ancient culture of horse riding.