A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper personal column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in more than 130 countries.-- My metaphor--Sunrise on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Saturday, June 6, 2015

OKC Gridiron Goofiness

The OKC Gridiron Club has been raising funds for college journalism scholarships since 1928, putting on an annual show that spoofs, pokes and parodies national, state and local politicians and events.
This year marked a big change for Gridiron and show. It's traditionally been held in downtown Oklahoma City, during February, luring state politicians into the audience. This year, seeking better facilities and more parking, we moved to historic Mitchell Hall on the UCO campus, but we had to do that in summer because Mitchell is booked during the year with college productions. In addition, our 20-year-plus band director Larry Pierce died earlier this year, and we've dedicated this show to him. We also came to hook up with the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in its mission, and UCO is now in its 125th year.
Tonight is the last of three shows, and we'll all be glad its over, exhausted from more than a month of rehearsals, but proud of the club and its purpose.
The script is written by several, so that all--or most--of the lines rhyme, and songs are written parodies of real songs--You are My Sunshine, Let's Talk About Me, I'm looking Through You, Supercalifagislistic--and many more this year from various musicians. We've got a lot of very clever writers, and many excellent singers (of which I'm not one).
The club does get desperate at times, and that's how they elected me president this year. And we desperately need new members--with about 25 of us carrying the load this year, plus the band.
We were fortunate to have US Senator James Langford (R), US Representative Frank Lucas (R), and gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman (D) attend last night. Regardless of politics, these are good people and we respect and honor those politicians who have the guts and humor to laugh at good natured-jibes and support the efforts of the club by showing up.
Here's member Patrick McGuigan's article on the show in his paper, The City Sentinel. 
All the members play several roles--Hillary, Biden, Obama, Sally Kern, Fallin and others have key roles--and tonight's performance is the last.  Here's who I spoofed: Sen. Inhofe, Bil O'Reilly, a downtown bum, and the anti-pot Nebraska AG, suing Colorado along with Oklahoma's AG.
Here's a video of the closing number, during Wednesday's tune up and family night, with "Mary Fallin" in red jacket in center.
Seats still available. Show starts at 7:30.
And, here's my Gridiron Rap, during my introductions at the start of the show:
Now it's time to set the trap
how about a little gridiron rap
I can't sing, and can barely dance
Want to leave? there's no chance.
Don't care what you sez,
I'm up here as Gridiron's prez
It may look like I'm in the dark
Whaddy'a expect, my name's Clark
We make it easy  to act like a fool
We  just hope  you'll  think it cool
You've heard the rumor
this show's all about humor
We try to cover the news
But the jokes improve with some booze
We're gonna poke lots of fun
with lines and songs about everyone
There's no room to be uptight
Our best jokes  have some bite
We'll do our best to make you laugh
If we do, get an autograph
You may think this little ditty
Is a little short of being witty
But it's writ to set the tone
and urge you to  turn off your phone.
Now we've come to UCO
Hope you're ready for a really good show.
So at last here's the truth
Thanks for coming, and forsooth!

D-Day's blood

Some of the American dead, killed on D-Day at Normandy, June 6-1944
I think it is probably impossible to write anything original any more about D-Day, but I hope we never forget the blood and bravery of June 6, 1944. I've written about it many times, here on the blog and elsewhere, reminded that I was five months old, snug in my safe crib in Dallas, Texas, when so many died so I would grow up as a free American.
White crosses and flags at half staff march across the American cemetery at Normandy now, and bring tears, but it is good to be reminded of the real carnage, the real human cost. 
Almost 5,000 men died that day, 2,499 of them Americans, many on horrible Omaha Beach. Our allies lost 1,914. While it doesn't match the carnage of our Civil War, nor the horrible losses of  WWI, or of Russia losing nine million people in the entire war, these men are the symbol of war's terrible cost.
Here's an excerpt from War Correspondent Ernie Pyle's visit to the beach that puts that tragedy better than any writing has:
    "The strong, swirling tides of the Normandy coastline shift the contours of the sandy beach as they move in and out. They carry soldiers’ bodies out to sea, and later they return them. They cover the corpses of heroes with sand, and then in their whims they uncover them.
    "As I plowed out over the wet sand of the beach on that first day ashore, I walked around what seemed to be a couple of pieces of driftwood sticking out of the sand. But they weren’t driftwood.
    "They were a soldier’s two feet. He was completely covered by the shifting sands except for his feet. The toes of his GI shoes pointed toward the land he had come so far to see, and which he saw so briefly."

Ernie Pyle 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Freelance whirlwind of advice on twitter and more

@HeideWrite in #clarkclass. Photo by @Adamropp
#clarkclass, my two-week intersession class on twitter for professionals, has concluded another session. It's a highlight of my teaching because I  bring in a bunch of successful professionals to share their experience and advice.
Students love it because it's practical and relevant, and the speakers are younger and bring fresh ideas.
After each session we debrief, all students recount something that impressed them, that they learned. Then we post them on the class blog, #clarkclassUCO. You can see all those briefings there if you wish.
But one speaker I must share here is my former student Heide Brandes, @HeideWrite, who charges into a classroom--a whirlwind full of caffeine, energy and advice--about much more than twitter.
Twitter has been huge in this UCO grad's success as a freelance writer, but most of her comments to #clarkclass were more about living and writing. 
Still, she told the class that her goal was to " to travel for free, make a ridiculous amount of money to do it, and I will use Twitter to do it." Someone tweeted that, and before the day was out she tweeted that the universe opened with a glorious opportunity, just from that tweet.
Before taking the risk to live on freelance writing, she has worked in PR and in newspapers considering community journalism the best there is.  Now going on three years as a freelancer, she has a retainer from Reuters, and has been on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for covering the Moore tornado. Most of her work though is smaller and she said last year she wrote about 500 articles. Hard work in addition to all her other activity, including running a belly dancing school.
Here are the class debriefing remarks, recorded by @SydOKC: 

  •  “She has got over 100 jobs from tweeting.” 
  •  “Talent is as common as raindrops so you have to beat out the other competition through hard work.”
  • “Interesting that she uses twitter to connect with people.”
  • “You have to start today. One day will never come."
  • " You cannot wait for things to come to you.”
  • “When you have to succeed you will. She seemed driven.”
  • “We spend a lot of time thinking about what others think. Do not waste your time. Be yourself.”
  • “Don’t be someone’s bitch.”
  •  “As a writer, you need to be reliable.”
  • “She had a balance between business with social and fun side with belly dancing.”
  • “In regards to being personal, tone down, but stay genuine.”
  •  “Don’t let fear stop you.”
  •  “Have value in yourself. Don’t cut yourself short.”
  •  “Beat the deadline.”
  •  “Don’t settle with just meeting deadline.”
  •   “In general, she inspired us to go on.”
  • “People's opinion doesn’t count unless it pays your electric bill.”
  • “Don’t meet the deadline, beat the deadline.
  • “Be confident in what you do with your work.”
  •  “Don’t write for free unless it helps you."
@okieprof tweets:

  • "I discovered that twitter could change my life.
  • "I'm no longer in twitter high school or twitter college."

Prowling rural cemeteries

Prowling cemeteries on the backroads, I find all kinds of stories that should have been told. 
You can tell the years when a flu or other epidemic hit by the common death dates. You can find how hard life was for early settlers by the large number of infant graves. You can discover segregated graveyards, across the road from each other, and determine races by the poverty or richness of the gravestones. You can find the immigrants graves by their ethnic names. 
On my drives through the country, away from suburban traffic and noise, I've found five rural graveyards within less than 30 minutes of Edmond. I'm sure there are more.
I always stop and walk through them, drawn to the veterans' graves, impressed that after many years, even in neglect, some relatives still decorate them. On this Memorial Day weekend, they bear silent witness to service, and love.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Decorations and stories amid the gravestones

Santa Fe National Cemetery, the Sandias in the distance
Today there will be American flags on thousands of veterans graves in America and around the world.
Santa FE Cemetery
Cemeteries beckon me inside their gates, especially National Cemeteries and small rural ones. When I'm traveling backroads and see one, I invariably stop, get out and wander through them, reading the names, the dates, wondering about the stories. I don't think I'm morbid, though as I get older I'm more aware of mortality, but that's not why I'm so fascinated.  They are emotional experiences that prompt my imagination, curiosity and wonder.
And on this Memorial Day, originally Decoration Day, I'm more aware. I've visited six national cemeteries--Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Fort Smith, Arlington, Punchbowl in Hawaii, and Santa Fe. On my bucket list is Normandy, on D-Day. I hope next year. I've also visited Confederate cemeteries at Manassas and Vicksburg. As a Southerner, I'm in awe at all of them.
I'll admit a special fondness for Santa Fe, where we buried my late favorite uncle, Michael Henry Clark, almost four years ago. Wish I was there to put a flag on his grave.
Unusual grave of a Spanish American war vet at Santa Fe.
Unfortunately, I can't find my photos of Gettysburg, or even Vicksburg, but they remain vivid in my mind. The past is not dead in those places, but talks to you.. 
As I travel the backroads just around here, I've come across many graves of veterans, of black and white  Americans who served their country in many wars, including scattered graves of Confederate veterans. These add to my sense of stories lost and untold.
So here are photos. Listen and you can imagine taps being played, caressing each grave. Next, the private cemeteries.


ConfderateVeterans Rest, Vicksburg, where only 1,600 of 5000 graves are known
Union unknown at Gettysburg National Cemetery
Santa Fe

And here are the concluding lines of "Thanatopsis," by William Cullen Bryant, that I memorized in high school long ago. Seems fitting. Salute those flags today.

"So live, that when thy summons comes to join   
The innumerable caravan, which moves   
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take   
His chamber in the silent halls of death,   
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,   
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed   
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,   
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch   
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."