"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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking for a lead sentence

Looking for a lead for the new year...who knows, but as I consider an article for Oklahoma Publisher in a few days, Looking for great leads...I can think of five off the top of my head.

Number one--newswriting primer, put the most important thing first, use strong noun and action verb. Put time first only if it's the news-- "In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth (also answered WWWW ). Spent the rest of the book answering why and how.


  •  "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...." Talk about a great hook.
  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."--summary lead at its best, for last year's wrap up.
  • "When lilacs last int he dooryard bloomed, and the great star drooped...." same structure as number one, but more poetic.
  • "Dead. That's what (name) was...." James Thurber. Go for the drama.
  • "The last camel died at noon." Ken Follett. 
My question is always, "Would you keep reading?" which may also be why I'm so addicted to good headlines.

I know there are more. Give me your other suggestions. 

    A five-pound bag of flour

    This is five pound bag of flour, and my new symbol of success, or failure as I approach goals for a new year, and reviewing the past year.

    Friend Roy Kelsey commented to me about my recent weight loss this past few months--"Think of that in terms of bags of flour."

    For years I've had a goal of weight loss and exercise, and nothing ever happened, until I guess I got scared in late summer, and ashamed after seeing photos of myself where I looked pregnant. I had to buy new pants with bigger waistband  to start the school year. So we went to work on it--a combination of things--Jenny Craig diet, regular exercise, routine, and more. Blood pressure dropped, I felt better, even gradually looked better for a geezer.

    Now I've bought this five pound bag of flour to keep in a sack in my studio, next to my computer,  this coming year to look at every day. I've lost the equivalent of six of those, mostly from around my waist. I haven't weighed less than 200 pounds in almost 15 years. I've had to buy smaller, and my belt is too big.

    Scary isn't it, to think about carrying that around on your body, forcing your heart to work harder, getting out of breath lifting all that when you walk up stairs, etc.? No wonder you didn't feel good, blood pressure going up.

    Not all resolutions will be kept--and I have a new list this coming year. But at least one of them isn't to lose six sacks of flour, but just refrain from picking one up every few months and lugging it around the rest of the year.

    Now I'm going out in this great weather for a two-mile walk in Hafer Park right in our neighborhood.

    "Fiction is more real..."

    So wrote Tony Hillerman in his memoir Seldom Disappointed, which I recently finished, collecting a signed first addition on abe.com, to go with the collection I have of almost all his works set in my beloved New Mexico and Southwest
    Hillerman's http://harpercollins.com/authors/4488/Tony_Hillerman/index.aspx
    been dead more than 10 years now, and I'm not sure how I missed reading this, except it was prompted by two friends' recently published novels that got me out of my reading slump at the end of the year.
    How many books do you read and think, "Joe (or whoever) needs to read this"?
    Seldom Disappointed is that kind of book, except I know of three readers who will devour it. First section of the book, growing up in Depression Oklahoma, will captivate my father-in-law Jay Henry, who grew up not too far from Hillerman's home. The section on being an infantryman in WWII is perfect for my friend Jim Baker, retired UCO history prof and expert in WWII. Third section deals with Hillerman's life as a journalist, starting here in Oklahoma, mentioning people I know including Carter Bradley, Mary Goddard and Howard Wilson and others, lambasting higher education and more. I'm buying a copy for Ben Blackstock, and one for Baker. Jay can borrow my copy.  Fourth part is about his fiction writing. As a result, I've purchased his only novel I hadn't read, Finding Moon, about Vietnam, and he lavishes praise on it as a favorite.

    Back to the fiction. You only have to read Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to know that. My Okie friends' novels, have so much reality in them they demand  your attention, more than just that they're largely set in Oklahoma and you can identify so closely with the landscapes.
    I finished this week the works of two friends-- Kent Anderson's Cold Glory http://bkentanderson.com/books/cold-glory/and M. Scott Carter's Stealing Kevin's Heart. http://www.mscottcarter.com/ Kent grabs your attention as an Okie, with suspense and great detail about Oklahoma. I've got to get back to Fort Washita and see that Confederate cemetery. And his narrative of raising an autistic son is as powerful as his novel. Scott's book is tense--the kind that makes you want to not turn the page, but then have to. And how he gets inside a teenager's mind is astounding. His descriptions of Stillwater put you there. Both books can make you cry and laugh.
    The other book, The Paris Correspondent, by Alan S. Cowell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Cowellshows the reality of past and present journalism--journalism when it was alive and full of characters, and today, amid corporate layoffs and cookie-cutter blandness. Shades of A Moveable Feast. Thanks to discovering this new author at Full Circle, I see he's written more such fiction, about journalism.
    All of these books are the kind you want to underline passages in, because of the language craftsmanship and the healthy doses of reality. I restrained myself in Hillerman's book, since it is signed and first edition, and can't find the exact quote on reality in fiction, but if it's not exact, it is a paraphrase, and like fiction, a paraphrase of reality.

    Turning the pages of 2011

    Only 10.
    So much for my goal of reading at least a book a month, something easily accomplished in previous years.

    But thanks to two writing, published friends, at least there have been 10. Back in October there had been just five, and  Kent Anderson and M. Scott Carter published novels, Cold Glory http://bkentanderson.com/books/cold-glory/ and Stealing Kevin's Heart.http://www.mscottcarter.com/

    That required trips to bookstores to get copies and authors' signatures. I'd already dipped into Kent's book, and then...Any visit to Full Circle Bookstore http://www.fullcirclebooks.com/ brings you surprises and discoveries, and before I left with Scott's signed book in my hands, I saw another on a shelf, The Paris Correspondent, A Novel of Newspapers, Then and Now, by New York Times journalist Alan S. Crowell. There's no way I--an old and proud journalist, can pass that up, and didn't.

    I started Scott's novel, but soon  immersed myself in the Paris book. Along came the Oklahoma Creativity forum in Norman, and I bought Gregg Fraley's small novel, Jack's Notebook, which while not as tense emotionally as Scott's, was a clever, if pedantic way of describing creative problem solving.

    Sometime after my trip to New Mexico in November to bury my uncle Mike, I turned again to Okie Tony Hillerman, found a signed first edition of his memoirs, Seldom Disappointed, which I had not read.
    In December, I finished all of these. Comments on Hillerman, Carter, Anderson and Cowel's books in the next post.

    For the record, the other five books included New Mexico photographer Craig Varjabedian's Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, http://www.craigvarjabedian.com/ about his dramatic black and white photos, coinciding with his exhibition at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Getting to meet and work with him, and a signed first edition is a highlight of the autumn. See earlier article on this blog.

    The other signed first edition was Hanging Men, poetry by fellow Oklahoma professor Alvin Turner, reviewed in august on this blog. Getting to meet him and have coffee was a bonus. Thanks to friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and Mongrel Empire Press http://mongrelempire.press.orgfor this opportunity. She's also responsible for me meeting Craig, but that's another story.

    I started the year in January finishing Simon Winchester's Atlantic, one of myfavorite writers, and obviously a journalist.  An earlier discovery at Full Circle was Mary Oliver's   poetry, Blue Pastures. I also ready Calvin Trillin's About Alice, about his wife.

    So while the middle of the year may have as been as dry in reading as the Oklahoma drought, at least the quality of these discoveries were welcome bookends to the year.

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    A year seeps away

    A little leak
    unnoticed at first
    but the monthly water bill
    soon registered an increase
    I couldn't explain.

    Peering down at the water meter
    I could see it clicking off numbers
    and hear a slight stream of current
    even though I thought
    the water was off

    A neighbor came
    to report water
    pooling in his yard
    downhill from mine.

    Beside the house,
    one of underground pipes
    for the sprinklers moaned
    and water bubbled up
    through the earth and decaying leaves.

    A plumber repaired it,
    "Good as new," he said.
    "No it's not," I thought,
    thinking about this year
    seeping away toward
    another birthday.

     But maybe I have it backwards
    Earlier years seemed to crawl by
    but now there's a flood
    of memories, and time rushing by.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Merry Christmas

    Old North in the snow, UCO, watercolor
    Merry Christmas
    Terry and Susan

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    The gift of teaching...

    I don't really like the ends of semesters, and can find them depressing, because, thought a time of success for those graduating, it's also a time of separation. Favorite students saying goodbye, wanting photos, introducing parents and husbands and wives.

    My reward is not instantaneous like the byline all us journalists live for. Instead, you develop friendships and relationships built on respect, and then savor their success in later years, keeping in touch with  the memorable ones, and they with you.

    I've been doing this so long now that I'm officially a geezer and curmudgeon, and I treasure having known these students.

    And every once in a while, one of them brings a gift. Some are trinkets or cards or photos, objects of mutual respect.  That happened today, but it was no small item, as you may have known if you follow me on Facebook, but I can't help repeat it.

    Here's what I wrote on Facebook:
    "The rewards of teaching...I'm stunned. A veteran comes in today while I'm grading papers. His A is already posted. He works full time, and is married and has the passion and skills to be a journalist. He thanks me for the several classes he's had with me, for making him think, "Twisting his mind," he says. He knows from several references some of my favorite books. Then he reaches in his backpack, and pulls out this leather-bound book, new. "I may be a broke-ass student," he says, "but I found it on ebay. Look inside." I open it to the first page--collectors' edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, signed with a signed certificate of authenticity! Just Wow. And thanks more than I can say."

    I added that I meant mint condition, copyright and dated 11/8/98 by Bradbury himself.

    So take a look. I'm fortunate to be a teacher.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    A year of journeys

    I'm trying to plan a trip to Alaska for us in May, and it's not easy, unless you go to a travel agent and get stuck on one of those gargantuan cattle trucks called cruise ships, and I don't want that.

    So planning the trip will be an adventure too, and as I pour over brochures, scan books, contact friends and scour the Internet, I'm aware of the journeys, planned and unplanned, to places know and unknown, that have made this year memorable.

    First was a trip to Chennai, India, in February to SRM University for a conference. It was a trip of utterly new sensations, experiences and people.

    Then in March, I spent a week aboard the nuclear carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in the Pacific, thanks to a former student, the Public Affairs officer aboard one of the largest ships in the world, Lt. Cdr. Steve Curry. Much more first time living.

    In April I drove to the third Culp cousin reunion at my cousin Sarah Beth Foote's house in East Texas. Ten of us were there--only one barely known was missing--the children of my Mom and her three sisters and two brothers. A journey of mixed emotions of laughter and stories and good times, mixed with the awareness of passing time, and wondering if we'd ever do it again.

    May was packed. On Mother's Day, I met my brother Jerry of Lubbock, to spend a boring evening in Wichita Falls before visiting our Mom's grave in Waurika, for an emotional trip into memories. In mid-May, Susan and I went to Florida and Savannah and soaked up southern food and comfort and history.

    On Memorial Day, I visited grandkids Erin, Abby and Max and daughter Dallas and son-in-law Todd  in Amarillo and then on to Walsenburg to  my last uncle, Mike, in the veterans home. A happy,  and sobering trip, where the adventures are mental and emotional.

    On the Fourth of July, I flew to California to spend time with my son Vance, his wife Kerin, and granddaughters Katherine, Sarah, and to see the new baby, Neysa, for the first time. Emotional for sure, but also the adventures of touring Vandenburg AFB where they launch satellites.

    There were summer  trips on Oklahoma's back roads, including US 66, taking photos, exploring, and visiting friends at newspapers, and to Guthrie to show artwork there. There was a whirlwind trip to Vales Grande in New Mexico on roads I hadn't driven  before in early August--not much, but it helped satisfy a New Mexico attack.

    In October, we celebrated anniversary in Kansas City, and spent full days in Columbia, Mo., with son Derrick, daughter-in-law Naomi, and granddaughter Liberty Faye.

    Then in late October, a different journey began, when I received a phone call at night about the death of my uncle Mike. That journey isn't over yet for me, even though a resulting journey was burying him in the National Cemetery at Santa Fe, across from where he lived for-30 plus years. It was only my second trip to beloved New Mexico since a year ago when I had to move him out of that apartment that had become a second home to me in the last 10 years. I've traveled many places and miles in my mind as a result.

    Those are the out-of-town trips, not counting getting artwork in Adelante Gallery in Paseo and multiple trips to the frame shop and studio. Nor around town to visit in-laws, go out to eat, visit many museums, attend the press convention, go "boothing" with friends and colleagues,  attend parties, travel over chess boards,  move brushes over blank paper and words on blank computer screens, and at Thanksgiving, tour the city with myAmarillo grandkids.

    Then two days ago, my oldest cousin, Charles Rogers Lutrick, died in Beaumont, beginning a new journey for him and for those who love him. His funeral is tomorrow, and while Jerry and I are too far away to make it, his passing sets us off on another mental and somber journey contemplating passing life, a passing year and passing time.

    It's been a good year--I've seen all my children and grandchildren, spent time with cousins and friends and colleagues, and faced mortality.

    Although I'm trying to plan the Alaska trip, and also renewed my passport last month, I'm very aware that I really have no idea what the journeys will be this coming year, nor what kind of journeys they might be. I do know that Charles and Mike make me focus on my own journey, every day.

    Charles Rogers Lutrick
    Aug. 29, 1930
    Dec. 10, 2011

    Terry M. Clark
    Jan. 5, 1944

    Terror alerts--humor

    Friend David Bennett passed this along from an Army buddy. It's just too good not to share for a really good laugh.

    Subject: New Terror Alert for Travel

    Security Alerts for Travel in Europe by John Cleese
      The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
     The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya, and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance" The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.  The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards". They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.  Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides". 
    The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs". They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose".  Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels. The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish Navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish Navy. 
    Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be all right Mate". Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and lastly "The barbie is canceled". So far, no situation has ever warranted use  of the final escalation level. 
    -- John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    When a cousin dies

    Charles Rogers Lutrick, third from right, in April
    My cousin Sarah Beth  Lutrick told me tonight, via email, that her brother, Charles Rogers Lutrick, 80, died today. He was the first of the Culp family cousins, the son of Gladys Culp Lutrick, married to Clark Lutrick, my mother's oldest sister.

    We fortunately had a reunion in east Texas this April, of all but one of the Culp cousins, and he was there, not in good health, but there, along with the rest of us.

    Mortality...thy sting is personal, and though I didn't know him well, all my kin folks --the aunts and uncles--always thought of him as the golden boy, and I'm sure he was. He was pleased when we named my youngest son Derrick Rogers Clark--and we didn't know the connection.

    I have another picture as a baby, of Charles with me on his shoulders. Granddad Ezra Thomas Clark is in the background, and cute redhead Sarah Bath is just to my right.
    I think the two cuties in front are Charlotte and Carolyn Gee.

    Thanks, Charles, and God Bless.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    The flag is at half mast

    I wondered why as I walked across campus this morning, and saw the American flag at half-staff in front of the UCO ROTC building.

    Then I picked up a copy of the New York Times and saw the date--Dec. 7.

    Seventy years ago, Americans died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

    I can't find my photos of my visit to Pearl several years ago when my oldest son was stationed there in the U.S. Air Force. But I saw the the 50-caliber machine gun bullet gouges in the concrete of the buildings and seaplane ramps.

    I took the ferry ride to the memorial over the ruin of the U.S.S.  Arizona. Ironically, both English and Japanese language was prevalent in the visitor center.  And at least half of the visitors on the ferry ride were young Japanese. The card on my ticket featured a young sailor who died there--and he was from Oklahoma.

    We arrived at the solemn white memorial straddling the remains of the battleship. Everybody was deathly quite--only whispers were heard. The names of the dead were on the walls. Oil still oozes from the sunken ship, where more than 1,000 sailors are still interred in water and rusting  steel.

    A white buoy marks where  the bow of the ship would have been, and beyond, the  U.S.S.  Missouri, where the war ended four and a half years later in Tokyo bay, rests in final berth.

    And the oil still oozes from the ship, still the tomb for more than 1,000 Americans.

    And thankfully, the flag still flies at half-mast.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    December moon

    5" by 7"" watercolor

    December rain

    6 1/2" by 9" watercolor, 300 pound Fabriano Artistic paper

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    "In the Panhandle..."

    "It's coming," the neighbor said, as we talked about the mild weather today, sunny, a little breezy, whisps of clouds in and out.

    We both had heard the forecasts...rain, then maybe sleet and some snow, and mainly, cold, northwest winds.

    "In the Panhandle, it's already... ."

    The Oklahoma Panhandle, three counties in the former No Man's Land lopped off from the Texas Panhandle because of the Missouri Compromise--a panhandle that looks like a panhandle, one that's largely ignored by Oklahoma and especially the politicians.

    I love that place, especially since I don't have to live there. County seats--Boise City in Cimarron County--closer to Denver and Santa Fe  than OKC; Guymon, in Texas County, biggest city in the Panhandle, home of a good former student, a growing Hispanic population and swine production area; Beaver, in Beaver County, where the North Canadian River is renamed the Beaver River. Other small towns--Kenton, at the tip, in Mountain Time zone, not far from the footprints of the Santa Fe Trail's Cimarron cutoff and the footprints of dinosaurs at Black Mesa, the state's highest point; Hooker--my favorite, where Sheila Blankenship bravely publishes the newspaper, The Hooker Advance; Goodwell, home of tiny Panhandle State University--with a rodeo team; and others, with little more that schools, like Keyes, and Forgan and Hardesty. My favorite, only a crossroads and a store, is Slapout. A friend once wrote a book, titled A Rancher from Slapout, and I have a photo, of the road sign, somewhere.

    These are hardy people. They have to be to survive out here, and you have to love open spaces, which is why I like it. I recommend the book, The Worst Hard Time, which describes the Dustbowl that ravaged this area and the Great Plains 80 years ago. But with few people--less than one percent of the state's population--you can see a long way, and at night, the stars will blind you. It's not by accident that the Oklahoma Astronomy Club schedules trips out there, where you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky without help.

    It's a long way, 166 miles across the Panhandle from east to west, and only 34 north to south. At the tip, you can stand in three states--Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico. South is Texas, and for most of the northern border is Kansas. It's served by one main highway, State Highway 3. If you don't speed, it'll take forever. If you do speed, the tickets can pile up. It's a statewide joke, denied but believed, that the Oklahoma Highway patrol sends misbehaving troopers there for punishment.

    Oklahoma's Siberia?

    It's feeling like that there now, as the first winter storm of the year sweeps down from the Rockies. We know that here in Edmond, 327 miles from Boise City, and I've put the firewood on the back porch.