"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Je suis canadien!

That's what we were prepared to say when we went to Paris five years ago. The U.S. was unpopular, and we were worried about the French response.

We were astounded...we were treated well, with respect--separate from the scorn for Bush. We didn't have to use that excuse....

Tonight, it is not an excuse...we'd all be proud to say, "Je suis canadien!"

Isn't it great to have good neighbors? Yes, it is. I'm glad they won the hockey game! Vive le Canada!

Grilling on the gridron...a review

It's been several years since I've attended the Oklahoma City Gridiron Show, so last night's performance in the new Lyric Theater in the revitalizing NW 16th Plaza neighborhood was a treat indeed.

The club started in 1929 and journalists of every "creed, color and quirk" (to quote Gay Talese in The Kingdom  and the Power) have since been spoofing, satirizing, slamming national, state and local pols and issues, raising money for journalism scholarships for college students.

Ancient proverb: "Friend, breathe this bit of aroma; Something always happens in Oklahoma."

This year's show "What Swine Flu? Take the Money and Oink!" or "Looking for the Gov... Where's Waldo?" may not have been the most sarcastic title ever, but "pork" was a constant theme, and the songs and jokes and characters were as entertaining and witty as ever.

My favorites? Bill Perry always could be mistaken for  Bill Clinton, this time advising Tiger "Bobby Jon" Woods on improving his stroke, and as local radio ego Mark Shannon. Billie Rodely is her usual smirking self as Hillary in character and song. Besides, she always greets me with a smile and a "Hi professor," and a hug. Other "old timers" who stand out are the head authors, Ellie Sutter and Bob Hale. I always enjoy Jim Campbell, Jon Denton, Sue Hale, Jim Palmer, and John Greiner--all who play a multitude of roles. These are journalists who are my age, or close, and have been honored workhorses in Oklahoma journalism, and the gridiron club for years.  Greiner, a giant of covering the Capitol, and always a gentleman  offered to buy me a drink.  No, I'm not leaving out Patrick McGuigan who can sing  with the best of anyone, and who, even as a staunch conservative, can play both sides of the spectrum. And you have to salute Darrell Morrow who has staying power . His portrayal of Sheriff Whetsel was good. His role as Henry Bellmon, complete with halo, brought out spontaneous applause...for Bellmon, as intended and deserved.

In addition to those people, who I've come to know and respect over the years, I found the Gridiron invigorated by "new blood," some newer than others--including at least four former students.
I discovered Beth Gollob--who will be Gridiron prez next year--can  sing and dance as well as she can write. And long-time friend Carol Cole-Frowe seems always involved, whether rocking as a supreme court justice, or singing in the chorus.

Then there was favorite Ashley Barcum, whose article on the City Rescue Mission earned an A+ from me, and Frosty Troy reprinted a few years ago, and has been a guest on our back  porch. She was perfect as Sarah Palin, from the dress to the "You betcha!" Her persistence helped get me there this year, and probably got me introduced with dignitaries, as the "director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame at UCO." Thanks Ash.

The surprise of the evening for me was Michael Cross, UCO broadcasting graduate who earned A's in my writing and editing courses. I didn't know he was in gridiron, and it was his rookie year. He rocks. Literally. You should have seen him singing a takeoff on Madonna's "Crazy for You::" "I've gone crazy, crazy on you," slamming Randy Terrell --in the audience--for his English-only bill and Sally Kern.  Sue Hale told me Cross was also the one who managed to get the whole masked  Gridiron crew, for the first time, choreographed and coordinated doing the Zombie Dance--a favorite of the crowd following a Michael Jackson segment.

Oh, Jackson...played by by Andrew Harris, was uncanny. And Jon Haque played Bernie Madoff and Jim Inhoff with lyrics and dancing that "knocked your socks off." I don't know them, but wish I did. Another was guest bluesman Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans, who sang a perfect Johnny Cash, "I've got a sore throat I'm not feeling fine....I'm short on time. I've got the swine."

Favorite song, for me was written by Ashley Barcum,  I learned later. Set to the Police "Don't stand so close to me," It was a spoof on the teaching lobby: "Our teachers the subject of budget fantasy.....Loose talk in the state house. To cut they'll try and try...."

Two other stars were Bart Vleugels and Cynthia Rozmaryn-Vleugels. Cnythia, who I've come to know because she teaches part-time for us at UCO in journalism and is an accomplished broadcast journalist, was MC as Gridiron president this year. Her husband, a newly naturalized citizen, starred as President Obama, complete with big ears and a perfect voice rendition. He had the choppy, speech down so much into character that he couldn't stop talking like the president  as he introduced Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala to the crowd, talking about being a naturalized citizen. Opala deservedly got a standing ovation. Another who starred was Susan LaVictoire as Sally Kern, pairing the "Crazy" song with Michael Cross. 

Gov. and Mrs. Brad Henry were in the audience, spoofed for always being late, and recognized on stage for this being their last time to suffer the Gridiron barbs. So was gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Drew Edmondson, with two of my former students--sisters from Marlow--on his staff. One member of the old-timer cast whispered to me at intermission that the show was a little heavy on the "right wing" side of things. And nationally that was true. But I told him, that's OK, the Dems are the party in power and they deserve most of it. I'd like to have seen a little more spoof of the GOP voting against everything--perhaps something built around "Just say 'No.'" But the Tea-Party spoof song was pretty good, including tea bags hanging from their hats. But that's show biz.  At the state and local level it was balanced, equal barbs for equal folks. Someone worried about certain pols being in the audience during a couple of biting segments. I thought about Will Rogers, and thought, "If they can't take the heat, and the humor, they're in the wrong business." The Gridiron club's loyalty is to the voter, journalism, and future journalists. And having fun.

This club puts in long hours--old timers like Don Schmidt, and new members as well getting ready for this show, raising money for a profession we all believe is critical to the freedoms and country and state we love, regardless of political views.

I don't know all the members who starred, especially who played the Edmondite in one scene, but she was perhaps my favorite. Affected speech, affected clothes, affected importance, affected and out of touch, and the crowd roared. Truth is humorous and healthy for freedom, and the closing "Oklahoma," crowd and actors singling and clapping two different versions--one serious and one a little irreverent, shut the house down..

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Something smells in Oklahoma...."

That quote from opening lines tonight,

Coming soon,

A review of the Oklahoma City Gridiron Club's annual political spoof...attended tonight by Susan and I with Jill Kelsey. New blood, fresh blood has added to the singing, the dancing and the vigor, appropriately mixed with old timers' considerable talents.

Oh yes, I have at least four former students now acting their way across stage, and saw several others attending at the new Lyric Theater. Fun. And a first, I was introduced to the crowd as the director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame at UCO. I think I know which former student to blame. She's a knockout Sarah Palin, and has had wine onour back porch. Who are they?

More  tomorrow. This is one of those times it's good to be an Okie.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jesus denied tenure--a conversation

A conversation between God and the professors of American "Higher Education."

God:  "What is this? My boy was denied tenure. Even the Jews called him "Rabbi," a universal--and I should know--term of respect for a good teacher."

Tenure committee: "Ur, God, there's more to getting tenure than just teaching."

God:  "I thought you were 'professors"?

"God, that's true, but actually, teaching isn't that big a part of getting tenure. In fact, a lot of bad teachers get tenure every year."

God: "How can that be"?

Tenure committee: "There are several reasons. One is that many places are afraid of being sued. Another is that some whacko will start shooting people. Another is that the professors don't have enough service and haven't done enough research and publication. Or they don't have a terminal degree."

God:  "Service! Excuse me, my boy excelled in service--he healed the sick, made the blind to see, calmed storms, created wine, fed thousands. I mean he literally walked on water to help people...."

Tenure committee: "Ur, God, that's wonderful, but helping people is not the kind of service that counts in "The Academy."

God: "Then what does?"

Tenure committee:  "Well, you know. Serving on committees that draft long reports or study campus issues. Or being elected to the faculty senate. Or working to improve the faculty handbook to assure some form of shared governance. Or getting grants from large corporate sponsors for research or buildings. Things like that."

God: "You mean sitting in long meetings, talking forever, forming other committees, never getting anything done? Sounds like Hell to me."

Tenure committee: "God, it makes us feel important."

God: "What about the students"?

Tenure committee: "Only junior faculty, lowly assistant professors and lecturers usually work on committees involving students. It's not all that critical, especially for senior faculty."

God: "Now what about this research and publication stuff?"

Tenure committee: "Professors must do research in their disciplines, discovering new knowledge that contributes the The Academy. The research must be original, supported by strong statistical analysis, and then published in a book or our refereed academic journals...."

God: "Wait a minute, wait a minute. My boy literally wrote an entire book--a best seller...."

Tenure committee: "Ur, God, frankly we saw his submission, but  it was ascribed to several other authors. He can't claim other people's work. And further, there were no footnotes nor statistical analysis. Its sources were   vague and only roughly qualitative at the most--nothing quantifiable. All that material would have to be attributed.  How could he honestly call it "New"? And really now, the "review of the literature" leading up to that book? Come on God--citing the entire Old Testament won't do. No footnotes to all those previous quotations, no verifiable research that can be cross checked. Even historians question its validity. And frankly, his dossier was pretty thin. Just three years of what he called 'field research' That wouldn't even qualify for a Master's thesis."

God: "His students called him Master, for God's, uh, My sake! Refereed? God kno... uh, Myself knows, I vouched for his work.You're telling me that quoting ME isn't a good enough source"?

Tenure committee: "God--er, Youdammit, we have to follow the standards of the faculty handbook to assure the reputation of The Academy and all our hard work through the years. And frankly, there are a lot of professors who seem to doubt your qualifications.
"And besides, there was his nasty incident in the Temple of throwing out the money changers. God, we can't afford to alienate corporate donors and stakeholders."

God: "Stakeholders? Stakeholders? My boy can tell you something about stakes!

"Speaking of that. This terminal degree nonsense. He certainly had a terminal degree--literally! And besides, you gave tenure to Muhammed--another of my favorites, a step-son really, even if he does call me 'Allah'"

Tenure committee: "Ur God, that was really the final straw . Muhammed has a law degree. It's only a J.D., sure, but it's close enough to a Ph.D., that we can count it. Your boy barely finished grade school."

God: "Pardon me--no, you can't do that--but you guys have a Hell of a system working for you."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Deeper into my soul....

I am not a poet most of the time
except that I feel, I see, I live.
I write poetry when I am raw
in grief, love, lust, learning.
And images and originality
don't come  unless
my heart is touched.
So I am astounded
when I read those
who seem to find the muse
more deeply than I,
whether Whitman, Eliot
or Hall or Gilbert....
I wish I could see,
could feel so deeply
and express it in words.
But I cannot, and
that makes their words
dig deeper into my soul.

The Planet of Antiquity

I have finished Unpacking the Boxes, a memoir of Donald Hall, poet laureat.

The last two chapters..."The House of Grief" and "Planet of Antiquity."  Both of these speak to me. House of Grief is his account of losing his second wife to leukemia, a former student he  loved and married. The last is a recount of the slide into old age...important because I face it myself, and with my uncle in Santa Fe.  This is what it must be like to get old, when younger folks, including my students,  see you as old, but your mind isn't. When they see wrinkles and infirmities, but your mind and passion is still as fresh as it was when it was 20. Where everything is still present tense...where there is no past tense. And to dream of young loves.

I've watched my uncle in the last few years decline steadily, from the times when he propped himself on a shopping cart in a grocery store, slowly moving from one aisle to the next. In the parking lot, they saw an old man. I see a young sailor, a bachelor stud, and traveler, a teacher, a lover, with a passion for life earned from combat in WWII and Korea, from dirt poor in Comanche, Oklahoma, in the Depression to teaching around the world and living in Santa Fe. He may be aged, he may be getting feeble, but that's not who I see. I hear stories and living and loving.

He has saved me in difficult times, and with coffee in the morning and chess in the afternoons and "Cuba Libre"--rum and coke and lime--in the evenings--I have learned and enjoyed much about what and who is important.


Universities and ourselves, exposed

"Decisions at all universities are ultimately financial."--Poet Donald Hall after teaching at Michigan, in Unpacking the Boxes.
 One more chapter read, as Hall compares teaching and universities in America with England. He hits me in the forehead with his truths about teaching a long time. One more quote:
"I became aware of colleagues around me who were burned out, suffering boredom compounded by tenure."
More tomorrow. I'm two chapters and 45 pages from the end...and he tells us much about teaching long term. My challenge is always to keep up-to-date, and effective in class. 
 Higher education is antithical  (What a great academic, inflated, but still very appropriate word) to that. Poets speak truth. I'm thankful for the young teachers on our faculty and that I know..they're full of vim, vigor, "piss and vinegar" as my old partner Don Morrison used to say. New ideas, new blood who haven't been soured by the system...yet.
He doesn't just expose universities, but professors, and teachers, and me.
He also writes, "Every now and then something that appeared to be dead comes gradually  to life. Often it dies again." Personally, that is the most disturbing idea in the book, and depressing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Through a glass darkly"

View from the dining area 
"Everything looks better in black and white"--Simon and Garfunkel

Sarah Beth!

Granddaughter Sarah Elizabeth Grace Clark
--photo by Vance Clark

The pages of February and life

The cover read
"Unpacking the Boxes"
"A memoir of a life in poetry."

It was sitting in a pile of books by the bed, where Susan keeps a bunch she intends to read, or is reading (she reads every night before going to sleep). After my reading splurge in January, I'd barely picked up a book this month, and needed something to refresh the soul. A couple of other attempts were travels to the edge of the desert--one or two pages, and then aridity of interest.

But when I saw the title, I thought of my column on "Momma's glasses." I'm also moving from one office to another--the third move in seven months. I've packed and unpacked and repacked. Now that I'm moving into smaller, more public quarters in the university center for the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the book also grabbed my attention. I've sifted through books and notes and  mementoes that made my office in the old journalism department a nest. Most of it won't fit, and perhaps isn't appropriate with a new life. Identity is changing, like the contents of boxes. So six or seven of those boxes are now at home in the garage. I've discovered, just like my closet that is full of clothes I rarely wear--my book shelves were full of books I rarely use at work.

Most of the stuff I've kept can fit into about four boxes, and much of that is installed on shelves now. There's still things to hang on the walls, other books and idea food to come. But I've unpacked boxes again. It's theraputic, because the books and stuff all carry memories, and identity. 

So here is this book by Donald Hall, poet laureate of the U.S.  in 2007-2008. He's 16 years older than me, and he gets his title from moving to his parents New Hampshire farmhouse after his mother dies. I'm halfway through, but anyone who writes poetry, or writes, or goes through life change, should read this personal prose from a prolific poet.

He speaks to me, and I'm enthralled by listening him write about days at Harvard and Oxford, and I see some common ground -- his family  drove Studebakers and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers Fan, and watched the 1955 World series like I did when they finally beat The Yankees, on a small black and white TV.

I teased you with a couple of quotes yesterday.  Here are more:

"For weeks I unpacked boxes, releasing the beginning decades of a life...."
"In childhood nothing happened."
"A father who weeps is a gift to his son."
"My imagination of school was identical to my imagination of heaven."
"Losses make even stronger memories than transgressions."
"I think she was a victim inside herself of a war of two landscapes and two cultures."
"In her profound attachment to family, she needed to keep two worlds separate--so she lied, she lied and lied."
"The usual threesome by daylight, we entered the underside at night. Duplicity, and my concurrence with the duplicity, fed my appetite for the wicked and extraordinary."
"I kept a record of what I read, not for anyone else's eyes, but with a greed of acquisition."
"Poetry was secret, dangerous, wicked and delicious."
"...war was the weather everyone walked in."
"I loved it that I was an alien; it was more agreeable being an alien among adults than among school mates."
"'Do you write poems?' he said. 'Yes. Do you?' He hesitated a moment, out of drama, not shyness. 'It is my profession.' I had never heard anyone speak so thrilling a sentence."
"Walt Whitman was distantly and dimly behind them...."
"The city was an aphrodisiac."
"WhenI had finished a paragraph he would rip it out of the typewriter and dispatch it to composition. He wore a green eyeshade."
"Let us rejoiced to inhabit a province of clones in a country of sarcasm."
To a visitor from the planet of antiquity, the Exeter of our moment does not resemble its ancestor."
"Every enormity is performed for  the good of its victim."
"It is students, not teachers, who make any class memorable."
"I determined that I would work on my poems until the blood boiled in my veins."
"I was old enough to know that publishing a book, or being praised, does not mean you are good."
"I  stayed in my single room, in love with silence and solitude, in love with writing poems."
"I was a 'solophiliac.'"
"There was one English teacher--is there always one teacher?"
"If you come from the South you are dumb; if you come from California you are a kook; if you come from the Midwest you are boring, naive and a Republican."
Chiardi--"...two afternoons a week he plunged like a fullback intot he classroom." "He became his money's victim....a caricature of greed."
To a coed: "I walked all through you."
"The war was the landscape of our senior year."
England--"...emperialism hanging from its shoulders like a moth-eaten cape."
"At Oxford, poetry was an attitude, not an art."

Note: K. Lawson Gilbert, online friend and poet in Pennsylvania, you probably know all about him, but if not, you'll love this book.

Oklahoma morning

Watercolor--5 x 7
300" Artistico paper

When the world and the day is new--A wedding present for a favorite former student

Unpacking the Boxes

"Unpacking the boxes in 1977, I mostly recovered Connecticut."
"For years I looked forward to reading, which is what grownups did."

Prose as poetry... the pages of February, book notes coming soon

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Perhaps a Verb--a theology

"The fact is I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three."  --U.S. Grant, shortly before his death.

For a Southerner to quote U.S. Grant, it must be special. It is. When I first read this a few years ago, I gained new respect for the man, the man whose armies kept the Union together. The Constitution does not prohibit secession. Grant's armies did.
But that's not what grabbed me. I write and I teach writing--or try to--and it's my privilege and passion to  study how others write and teach this craft that is so much of my life and others'.

In my studies and teaching, I've learned to appreciate more and more the creative force of The Verb in the quality of writing, of living.

This explains the quotation at the bottom of this blog that has become my theology of writing: "En El Principio, era El Verbo, y El Verbo era Dios." --San Juan 1:1 

I have rudimentary, survivable Spanish skills, growing up in Nuevo Mexico. What's taught in Spanish class is not what's spoken on the streets of Albuquerque, which is a mixture of Spanish, Indian and gringo. And fluent Spanish speakers leave me almost clueless, because they are so fast, and can switch from English to Spanish in the same breath. I still have to think. I envy and admire them.

But I know enough, and that led me to a theological revelation about writing.
I ask my classes, "Quien agui habla Espanol?" I get a few hands and then I ask, "Que es 'the word' in Espanol para 'word' in Engles"?

The answer of course, is the the Spanish word for word is "palabra." Female gender. "La palabra."

Accordingly, you would think, as I did, that if you were translating The Gospel of John, into Spanish, that Chapter 1, verse one, "In the Beginning was The Word, and the Word was God...," the translation would be something like "En El Principio, era La Palabra, y La Palabra era Dios...."

But as you already have seen, that is not the translation, besides the sticky problem that The Word is masculine, not feminine.

I discovered that almost 20 years ago in the Perkins, Oklahoma, Church of Christ, sitting next to a robust, muscular young farmer who spent his winters in Mexico. He always had in the pew beside him a Spanish New Testament, having taught himself the language.
The Gospel of John is my favorite New Testament book, the most literary, well-constructed and written--in my opinion. So one Sunday, bored with a sermon, I reached down and picked up his New Testament. I leafed through the pages till I game to San Juan.
I expected to find the word "Palabra" in the first verse.

Theology lesson. I make this point to my classes, noting they don't have to agree with it, but it's a background needed for teaching writing. The theology--not just Church of Christ but in Christendom--behind the first chapter of John is about the Pre-Existent Christ--"He" --Greek "Logos"--was in the beginning with God, was with God, was God, and he was the "agent" of creation--the "Power" behind  God's "Let there be light," etc. " Note that "The Word" is capitalized. Note later, it says "The Word became flesh (the incarnation)."

What does this have to do with writing?  Everything. Most of my students, even at a state university, know some of the Bible. Many are fundamentalists. They understand what I'm saying, though they're amazed that this old liberal geezer knows The Bible better than they.
Understand too that the Spanish version was not translated from English--but from the Greek and Italian. I understand that the Latin for "word" is "verb."

Here's my point--The Verb is the Power of the sentence, the most important word in the sentence, the power of writing. Master verbs and you'll be a powerful writer. In journalism, it's simple, to quote Clark: "No verbs, no news."  For instance, "Five men yesterday in Edmond." No verb, no news. Add a verb and you have news: "died," "choked,": "graduated," etc.  I think this comes from years as a copy editor, and loving headlines--but I can remember when my old newspaper partner  at the Waurika News-Democrat Donald J. Morrison and I would argue over verbs in a headline. They're that important.

All good writing is built around verbs. They're the locomotive for the entire train, the box cars of nouns and adjectives and more; the accelerator for the sentence.
The writer Victor Hugo said it this way, "Le mot est le Verbe, et le Verbe est Dieu."  I can't even pronounce it, but in  English, it is: "The word is the Verb, and the Verb is God."

Which brings me back to Grant, and my blog, where I identify myself as kinfolk to that bulldog Yankee, as "perhaps a verb." It is my theology of writing. Verbs matter. I hope I do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Perhaps a Verb

Coming soon..for a hint, read the quote at the bottom of this page!

Excitement? Sure.

My wife often asks if I'm "excited" about such and such, and you know old journalism geezers like myself, we don't get "excited," or at least admit it.

But today, I'm excited. Winning the Best Writing category in the Okie Blog Awards made my day. I didn't even know the awards existed when I started this scree 10 months ago. The last time I won a journalism award was back in 1996 for a second place headline in the SPJ contest for a headline I wrote when copy editing at The Oklahoman: "Feds Prop/Won't Stop/Buck's Drop." 60 point, 2 col head on business page.A masterpiece on deadline! A rimrat's byline!

You are not a journalist to win awards. You are a journalist because you "bleed ink," to quote a favorite journalist. Winning an award is affirmation from your peers of excellence, an award to your ego and self esteem.

That's why we always entered the OPA Sweepstakes Awards at the Waurika News-Democrat. My "old-school" partner, Donald J. Morrison, didn't have time to enter, but I believed it was worth my effort to enter since we worked so hard. I knew quality when I saw it, and Morrison embodied that in his demands for excellence in a small weekly newspaper in a small Oklahoma County Seat. I'm proud of the fact that in my 12 years there, we won first place in our circulation category seven times, and second several times. Those old trophies are gathering dust somewhere in Waurika, or have long since been trashed. But I'm just as proud that Jeff Kaley  (one of the wittiest, best writers in the state who Morrison would have really liked) has returned the News-Democrat to the winner's status, first place last year, second this. He deserves the credit for hard work and excellence, and I am proud as a grandfather, I guess.

So today, to learn of winning the blog award for writing, I felt the old charge, and the tinge of respectability that came in congrats from students, ex-students, friends, fellow journalists. Content still counts, and journalism ain't dead, and I ain't a dinosaur. I'm still a journalist, and proud of it.

Thanks for the comments and kudos. I "only" have 38 followers on my blog  and my ego wants more, naturally. Journalism is an ego business...bylines and awards are the pay for hard work and talent. I've had up to 200 hits a day, but usually much less. Today was over 100! But that's not why I write. It just seems to come oozing out of my pores, along with watercolor and photos, unthinkable in the old days when I wrote a weekly column, "Trail Talk," at Waurika (on the Chisholm Trail). This is a discovery business. I'm still learning the technology and will make more changes this year, with the help of son Travis and colleague Zach Nash. 

I rarely dip into politics in this blog, because there's enough of that...until someone tramples on my rights as this past week. I think there's a lot of good and beauty in the world, Okies are good people whose stories need to be told, and thoughts that need to be shared. I'm thankful that this blog has helped me rediscover journalism and provide an outlet for creativity and new friends and ideas. Encore!

And tonight, wife Susan, who is also excited by the award,  is preparing  from the recipe of Mosca's in New Orleans,  Chicken a la Grande, with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, oregano and white wine. Plus a large tossed salad. Plus white wine. 


I'm excited.



Now the pressure is on to write something good.

Ok, I'll quote another blog winner. My UCO colleague, English prof and repentant journalist (I'm a journalist and repentant English major), Kurt Hochenauer wins again with his "liberal" (sorry for the obscenity, facebook fascists) Okie Funk.


He's acerbic, witty, and a voice crying in the wilderness. Today he wrote:

"One thing I always enjoy about the award contest is clicking through the list of the winners. Oklahoma has a vibrant and diverse blogging community that enhances the culture here, and it’s only going to get better in the years to come."

I agree. Blogging is a new adventure for me, an adventure in discovery.  Contrary to popular perception, journalism is alive and well in this state. 

Now I've got to figure out what to write. Shoulda had this up so all those 100 or so who've checked on this site today would become followers. Please do, it's easy, on the blog in the right hand column, click follow.

Thanks again to all.

Best Writing!

"Coffee with Clark"  won the Best Writing category in the statewide Okie Blog Awards for 2009.

 Thanks folks. I guess the old geezer can still write.

In addition, UCO grad and former student  Zach Nash, won the Best Photography blog.  http://zachnash.com/blog/

Link to the awards:


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Powell urges compromise

Check out this link on utube

It's on facebook, but someone will find it offensive and keep you from seeing it.


facebook Fascists

Book burners--watercolor
7 1/2 x 11 300# Fabriano Artistico paper

How dare intolerant Nazis cut off my right of dissent, my ability to read, to think, to speak, and then not even have the ethics and guts to take responsibility for such totalitarian acts?

They did. American book burners are back in business.

It happened last week when I posted a link to a NY Times story on the Tea Party movement on this blog and  facebook. Within two days, facebook blocked the link  because some people found the article "offensive." No one had to take blame for that viewpoint--which is allowed under the First Amendment--but there was no recourse against facebook. From now on, it's facebook, lower case--or caste--for me. I understand the need to police pornography, child pornography and other legal items. That's far different than squelching freedom.

But to forbid political discussion because some right-wing wackos don't want another viewpoint published? This smacks of the Inquisition, The Nazis, the Soviet purges, the Red Scare of the 1950s, the oppression and violence of the Civil Rights movement, the legalized terrorism in present day China  and Iran when books were burned, people blacklisted, or simply hauled off in the middle of the night because someone had reported they were Jewish, or people who dared question or oppose authority.

These extreme right-wingers are no different if they can't tolerate differing views and work to silence them

In fact, this anonymous auhoritarianism shows its "true colors," and they're not red, white and blue. Their colors are the colors of tyranny of thought, of conformity, of shouting, of bigotry, of religious intolerance--refusing to e to compromise, to listen, to consider other ideas, even if disagreeing.

These tea partiers are trying to destroy the very freedoms they enjoy--for those who don't agree with them. This action proves they would repeal the First Amendment that gives me the right to think, to speak, to write this blog, to worship when and where and if I want, to gather like they do.

I don't mind argument and dissent...it makes us who we are. John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty summed up the basis of our freedoms. Dissent and disagreement, and free publication of all ideas, is essential for freedom. He believed that we were rational beings and truth would rise to the top, like cream, echoing John Milton's "free marketplace of ideas." Those who try to stifle dissent and refuse to consider other ideas are not, alas, rational. They're fearful, insecure, bigots. They're  the same fearful, narrow-minded bigots that stole my campaign yard sign.  These people are not conservatives--they give conservatives a bad name. Real conservatives want to conserve individual freedoms, not destroy them.

These are the people who have driven Sen. Evan Bayh from the Senate. These are the people who are trying to unseat Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison of Texas. These are the people who have brought Congress to a standstill. Perhaps the last time there was so little compromise in national politics was right before the American Civil War. Will the country come apart again? I think it already has.

I'll post a link to this scree on facebook. Wonder how long before the facebook fascists disagree, report me as "offensive, and prohibit you from reading it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Five Panhandle Bells


Five more reasons I love the Texas Panhandle
Todd, Dallas, Erin, Abby and Max Bell!

Panhandle skies...home of storms

Watercolor-- 9 x 12
140# Kilimanjaro paper

It's wild out here, on the ground and above it...wild and free and terrible and violent and beautiful  in imagination and weather and life and landscape. A few people and thousands of cattle occupy the Texas panhandle, but they don't really own it, even if they claim it, any more than the Comanche or the buffalo did. They are tough and individualistic, or they couldn't survive, but they're only here for a little while, at the mercy of the elements. Their footprints are shallow and scarce and will soon be memories, just as the pre-historic Alibates flint quarries. But the hawks and eagles, the deer and coyotes, the bobcats and snakes and other wildlife will endure, along with the eternal wind and storms of the Llano Estacado and Caprock.

My previous painting was too tame, too muted, too flat in color and emotion. You can see that "devil's herd" "a plowing through the ragged skies and up a cloudy draw," without me trying to paint it, can't you? If you watch those skies and listen to the wind and scan the vast horizons, you can't miss them. 

For more on the pre-historic flint quarries north of Amarillo, copy and past this link:

Tea Party On!

Check this link for a great, well-written article on the "tea-Party" phenom. Regardless of your politics, this is well-crafted, excellent journalism, and important politically.

I like rebels...of course, I'm a Southerner!

God and professors--paradise without tenure

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."

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 autocratic 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, February 14, 2010

New blog I've discovered

I've listed it below, From the Faraway, Nearby.

Fantastic photography and work from an Okie. How have I missed all this?


Through the ragged skies

Watercolor, 140# Kilimanjaro paper

" ...Plowin' through the ragged skies, and up a cloudy draw...."

Few would describe the Texas Panhandle as beautiful. Terrible is a more apt word, in isolation, vastness, winter or summer, or the vagaries of spring and fall.
But I love it and saw this today, heading home from Amarillo, immediately thinking of Ghost Riders in the Sky.

It was written in  1948 by Stan Jones from Arizona, but I somehow think he must have seen the Illano Estacado and Caprock of the Panhandle.

The song tells of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever "trying to catch the Devil's  herd across these endless skies." Jones said that he had been told the story when
More than 50 performers have recorded versions including Vaughn Monroe, Frankie Lane, Marty Robbins and my favorite, Johnny Cash. Some say it inspired the doors song "Riders on the Storm.

I have loved and cursed the Panhandle's long stretches of road, the endless skies, the heavy I-40 traffic, the lonely back roads, the brutal winter,  spring and summer weather. Few people. Ranch country, Comanche Country. Buffalo country. While many may call it boring, I do not. There is room for imagination here.

"An old cowboy went ridin' out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw
Plowin' through the ragged skies, and up a cloudy draw
Their brands were still on fire, and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the riders comin' hard, and he heard their mournful cry
Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred their shirts all soaked with sweat
They're ridin' hard to catch that herd, but they ain't caught 'em yet'
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire, as they ride on, hear their cry
As the riders loped on by him, he heard one call his name
"If you want to save your soul from hell a riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today, or with us you will ride
Tryin' to catch the devil's herd, across these endless skies"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Night thoughts

To dip a pen in indigo ink
and scribble on a piece of paper
scratching symbols from my brain,
I think I might  understand
Poe as he talked to a raven
by candlelight and loneliness.

The ecstasy of the sound
of  the nib on paper,
the feel of the pen in my hand,
the glow of flickering flame
in my pupils, aware

of the sensuousness of writing
and the connection between
thought and fingers...

"What is life but a vapor."

It's that kind of weather...a pinon fire going in the chiminea. Huddled on the back porch watching half rain, half snow drizzle down, a glass of wine, a cigar, friends. Inside the ticking and gong on the pendulum clock marks the passage of time and the flames and coals create new energy.  Only a photograph can stop time, and then it will decay also.
"What is life but a vapor."

Tuareg wannabe?

My friend and interpreter in Mali, Assoumane Maiga, and  the Tuareg veil he gave me, and taught me how to tie it. That was before I learned I was supposed to cover my face too. Most people prefer I cover my face.  I have been blessed to eat on the rooftop of his house in Bamako, and he has visited and dined in our house in Edmond. He is now a doctoral student at OSU, fluent in French, English, Bambara and other tribal languages. 
In reference to my previous posts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fresh coffee and new blends

We're always looking for new, better coffee, knowing that there is still much to be discovered in flavor and taste. So it is with this blog. I keep finding new blends, new flavors I hope enrich its taste.

I've added some of those to the right sidebar, under Coffee Cups.

They're links to other sites I consider robust offerings for thought and pleasure. I hope you'll sample them soon.

To perk your interest, consider:
  • The Algonquin Roundtable at the hotel in New York City is the kind of place every artist and community needs  to survive. It was my pleasure to stay in the hotel a few years ago, thanks to the Dart Foundation meeting. The Hotel just oozes thought and creativity.
  • If you want to write, or do write, you just have to read Bradbury, especially his little book, "Zen and the art of Writing."
  • My favorite writer and book are Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness. This Polish writer learned English and became a master of prose and storytelling, in haunting tales of the sea and humanity.
  • The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma I have a long, happy history with, dating from the Oklahoma City bombing. It's dedicated to helping journalists cover traumatic news in an ethical and sensitive way to protect the victims, and the journalists. I have met terrific thinkers, movers and journalists thanks to these people. This is a rich site.
  • Shelby Foote wrote prolifically about the Civil War. A true Southern gentleman made his fame in the Ken Burns series on The War. Note: He wrote all his books in longhand, with a fountain pen. He said it gave him time to consider each word. My wife Susan has a signed letter from him, written with the same fountain pen in elegant penmanship. It hangs on the wall with a photograph of one of her Confederate ancestors.
  • My favorite living writer is John McPhee, whose non-fiction resounds with detail and style. He also teaches at Princeton.
  • Natalie Goldberg does what I want to do, live in Taos and teach writing there. Her books on writing are very influential and good. I steal a lot of her ideas, especially from Writing Down the Bones.
  • Ron Ranson is a one-eyed English marvel who I was privileged to study watercolor with a while back in a week long workshop in Taos. He is famous for Watercolor Fast and Loose, a book and style. Most of his paintings are completed with just three brushes. Yes, I bought one of his paintings, and his famous Hake brush.
  • TED is a site full of ideas and creativity. Often humorous, always provoking. 
  • The Waurika News-Democrat, my old newspaper, where I got my real education, and passion for community journalism.
  • Eudora Welty has such grace and power and poetry in her prose. You should read One Writer's Beginnings.
  • Walt Whitman--of course.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The blue men of the desert--men cover their faces, not the women. The veil is one long piece, often dyed indigo, and wrapped around the head to cover it and the face.

These are the nomads of the Sahara, often considered bandits, certainly  wild ones who are almost independent of nations and borders. In northeast Mali they have a rather loose confederation with the Muslim democracy centered in the capital of Bamako 500 miles west and pretty well live their own lives from Timbouctou north and east. 
As I have written, my friend and interpreter Assoumane Maiga, now a doctoral student at O.S.U., gave me one of these veils. The minute I put it on in the midst of other Malians, one said, "Ah, the Taureg."

Three years ago I was getting ready to go to Mali with a group from OSU on a state department grant to bolster the free press in this very poor country that is Muslim, and a U.S. friendly democracy. The two week trip changed my life in more ways than I can tell.
This sketch is just part of the memory. In the next month I will share some of my journal writing from there, and the photos I took.

I admire people like the Taureg... . they remind me of the American Indians who tried to withstand the so-called white civilization. But the Taureg have not succumbed. As Berbers from north Africa, they come from different genetic stock than most Malians, and their territory includes not only Mali, but most of southern Algeria, Niger and parts of Libya...in the Sahara lines on a map defining national borders are largely meaningless.  Unfortunately Al-Quaida is using southern Algeria and Northern Mali these days, crossing paths with the Tuareg. But the Tuareg, who have a caste system and even slavery, are not terrorists. 

I wore my veil and made a blue robe for a Halloween costume--you've seen the photo in an earlier post. I was immediately asked by someone if I had a bomb under it. The Tuareg wouldn't use a bomb. They'd slit your throat with some of their fine cutlery.  These people spilled a lot of blood from the French Foreign Legion before the Europeans gave up and went home. So actually they have a lot in common with our American colonists fighting Redcoats. They've been featured and stereotyped--like American Indians-- in several movies, including Beau Gest.
These people are freer than most of us ever imagine, I think.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blog vote please

Help bloggers! Vote now in the Okie blog of the year contest. Coffee with Clark is a finalist in new blog and best writing, Zach Nash is a finalist in photography and design, and Erudite Redneck is a finalist in liberal leaning political. Please vote for us. To vote, go to Okie blog for the ballot. You must vote in 12 of the 24 categories...and be an Okie blogger

Vote deadline is this week, please by Feb. 14

Here's the email address for the ballot: http://2009okieblogawards@gmail.com

You must put your URL for your blog on the ballot

It's an honor to be included in the lists of finalists twice.  Each category has about 9-11 finalists. I didn't have time to look them all up, but chose enough so the vote would count. You can go to Okieblog home for the ballot categories if you wish. http://www.blogoklahoma.com/


 Here are my recommendations:

Best Overall Blog
The Pioneer Woman
Best Arts/Crafts Blog Tater Tots and Fire Hoses
Best Business-Related Blog
Third Degree Creative
Best Culture Blog
The Apache House
Best Blog Design
Zach Nash
Best Family Blog
Yogi's Den
Best Food Blog
The Pioneer Woman
Most Humorous Blog
Miss Wisabus
Best Kept Secret
Scissor Tales
Best New Blog of 2009
Coffee with Clark
Best Photography Blog
Zach Nash Photography
Best Political Blog (Conservative)
McCarville Report
Best Political Blog (Liberal Leaning)
Erudite Redneck
Best Representation of Oklahoma
The Pioneer Woman
Best Rural Blog
The Pioneer Woman
Best Single Topic Blog
Oklahoma Writers and Authors
Best Veteran Blogger (5+Years)
McCarville Report

Best Writing
Coffee with Clark

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Serendipity? coincidence? or ?

A few days after I wrote "Moon Memories" with a watercolor attempt to portray my thoughts, my fellow word traveler and poet K. Lawson Gilbert posted this photo "Snow Moon," on her blog, with her poetry.  Isn't art amazing?  For more of her work, click on "Old Mossy Moon," her blog listed among my favorites.

Both reprinted with her permission.


My eyes are getting milky
from staring at the moon –
the snow moon that hangs
on the ice encrusted limbs
of flesh, muscle, and bone.
I was a young girl, once,
staring at a snow moon
out my bedroom window.
Its soft glow got inside
of me that night and somehow
I was able to carry the light
for a time. And the snow?
It melted inside my veins
and ran like sap in a maple,
clear and sweet and slow.

The Black Dog

The Black Dog--watercolor
8 x 12 140# Kilimanjaro paper
Mistah Kurtz -- he dead. 
A penny for the Old Guy
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
... .

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
... .
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot 

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Watercolor--9 x 12
140 # Kilimanjaro paper

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


9 x 12 140# Kilimanjaro paper