"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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm global-ly astounded--countries and continents

This is a little ol' Oklahoma blog, one that continues to change as I learn more. It probably won't ever make much money because it's not a "niche" blog, though my goal this year is to develop it into selling my watercolors.

Cool graphic by first grade teacher
 Becky Laikos, teacher of the
year in Chesapeake, Va
But what astounds me are the readers. Sure, most of them are from Oklahoma, and America, but the hit stats from around the world are amazing, reaching 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica. I wish I knew who the people were and  their stories.

After the United States, guess where the most readership comes from? Germany, followed by Russia! Then, United Kingdom, Netherlands, India, Slovenia, Ukraine, France and Canada.

Wish I could explain those interests. But there are others that make me even more curious, though the number of hits are relatively low--Japan, Israel, Cosa Rica, Bangledesch, Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, Egypt, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovnia, United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Thailand, Philippines, Sweden, Latvia, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Chile, China, Columbia, Romania, Iran, Algeria, Turkey, Gabon, Hong Kong, Poland.

April Monuments

 The San Jacinto monument, taller than the Washington monument, for the April 21, 1836 victory of rag-tag Texican upstarts winning their independence, a year before Emerson wrote the poem honoring the rag-tag New England upstarts beginning their fight for independence on April 19, 1775.

I find it interesting that both my brother and I have granddaughters named after Emerson. Mine is Katherine Emerson Clark, now of Germany. Jerry's is Emerson Lauren Cave, of Dallas, Tex.

The monument at the bridge
with poem inscribed
"Concord Hymn"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City--a monument to a people and city's resilience.

The bounty of April

A woodcut showing April's bounty from William Caxton's second edition of the Canterbury Tales in 1483.
"WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,..."

The opening lines of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, surely written in a spring about 800 years ago in the late 1300s, could well describe Oklahoma as another month ends. The skies outside are humid, filled with shifting clouds dripping moisture. The drought of the previous year is over in all but the southeast of the state, and rains of the last two days and nights have only added to the greenery of spring with h most rainfall in four years.

April has been the fourth month on the Roman calendar at least since 700 years before Christ, getting its name from the Latin aperie for "opening," referring to the opening of leaves and blossoms. Our ancestors the Anglo-Saxons called it "oster-monath" or "eostur-monath" after the pagan goddess Eostre whose feast was in that month. Ironically, that's where Christians got the name of Easter for their feast and celebration.

April is ripe with more than crops, with many life-changing events. Just 620 years ago today, Columbus received his commission for his voyage of discovery. And on this day 209 years ago, what is now Oklahoma became part of the united States when Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
The month has been home to tragedy and triumph too. On April 19, 1775, a bunch of fed-up farmers started the Revolution by firing the "shot heard round the world," at the world's most powerful military at Concord and Lexington. From Emerson's 1837 "Concord Hymn":
    "By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
     Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
     Here once the embattled farmers stood,
     And fired the shot heard round the world."

Ninety years later, the American Civil War began and ended four bloody years apart in Aprils, 1861-1865. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and his Texican army defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, winning independence. We've just noted the 100th year of The Titanic sinking, April 15, 1912. On this day in 1945, Hitler and his one day bride committed suicide in Berlin. And in Oklahoma, we're all aware of April 19 for a different reason, the 1995 bombing.

Other April events underscore greatness. The Russians put the first man in space in April, 1961. The supersonic Concorde first flew in April 1969. Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth II's birthdays are in this month.  And finally, April oddities-- April starts on the same day of the week as July in all years, and January in leap years. April ends on the same day of the week as December every year.

April has also been a month of romance, especially in music. "April Love," and "April in Paris."

Gallery art

Two views of my watercolors hanging in Adelante Gallery inPaseo. Ready for First Friday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Minco, America

People who attack this country have no concept of how big it is, and even though diverse, so much American. You can't defeat this country by bombing Pearl Harbor, or attacking the World Trade Centers. America is too deep. I've seen American flags in the remotest parts of New Mexico. On 30th street in Oklahoma City, just east of Penn, there's a frame house obviously occupied by a Marine. In front flies the American flag, the Marine Flag and the POW/MIA flag.

Today in Minco, I found the town's Veterans Memorial, an Oklahoma Centennial project, listing the names of all Minco area residents who have served in the military from WWI to Vietnam. The names fill the front and back of six large granite pillars. Behind the pillars fly the flags of the different branches of the military. At the bases are the names of the people, including a Pearl Harbor survivor and a Korea vet,  and companies that donated to the monument. In the middle, flies the American flag. In front of the flag are the names of those residents killed in action.
And down the street

Hey, Hay, Hey!

Besides wheat, there's another main crop in Oklahoma fields right now. I've never seen so many round bales in today's backroad trip southwest of Oklahoma City.

The waving wheat

It's not white yet, but it's turning...wheat in a field near Union City today. Looks like a bumper crop.

 “Behold, the fields are white unto harvest.”
I think He must have been talking about the prettiest crop I know--wheat.
You don’t have to be in Oklahoma long to realize how wheat graces the landscape for three seasons of the year.
It’s not by accident that the state song poetically sums up the crop’s impact on Oklahoma: “The waving wheat sure smells sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.....”
I don’t know of another crop that compares. I’ve lived in Iowa, and the tasseled ears of corn undulating over the hills is beautiful--for one season. Some crops are occasionally pleasing to the eye--peanuts, soybeans,  alfalfa. 
Wheat is different.
In late fall and winter, it provides a green lawn accent to much of Oklahoma--standing bright and fresh and rich against the bare branches of the trees.
A favorite place of mine is a wheat field along Interstate 35 just north of the Cimarron River. In the early mornings in late winter and early spring, mist rises and envelops the highway and scenery, except for the bluffs along the south bank. But in between the trees, cut by creek banks and the river, is this wheat field that often draws a herd of deer, peacefully grazing just before the sun comes up.
In those first few months of the crop, up through early spring, you’ll also see the fields punctuated with grazing cattle, and the red and white Herefords sprinkled over the green pastures are especially picturesque.
Then as spring deepens into summer, the wheat heads out, and becomes a waving grain, rippled by the Oklahoma wind. The green softens a little, but as the crop blankets our rolling countryside, it seems to flow across the terraces and fields, pushed by breezes. It gives texture to the land, even as the nearby trees bud out and take on a brighter green.
With summer at hand, and the rest of the foliage turning verdant, the wheat changes, gradually, sporadically, unevenly, to light green, golden brown, yellow, almost white. 
As the Oklahoma wind brushes over the tops of the rich grain, it seems to move like the surface of the ocean. From a hilltop, you can trace the path of the air across the fields. 
In winter, it gave beauty to the drab landscape with its pastoral green accent, emphasized by the backdrop of dark branches. In spring and summer, those same branches, now deep green themselves, accent the rich, honey blond and gold of the adjacent wheat fields.
With harvest, the giant bugs of combines and trucks, often working late into moonlit nights, cut swaths through the crop that has defined much of Oklahoma’s year. The crop provides much more than just economic sustenance to our people. Its beauty sustains our spirit.
“Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” 

Near Tuttle

Saturday sightings

The back roads, wind generators on the rural horizon.
What stories are behind this sign on an old building
in Union City?
You just have to get out of the city as often as possible, and today's trip was southwest of Oklahoma City.
I call it going to Front Porch country, where older frame houses in the towns being swallowed by urban commuter sprawl still have porches and knickknacks and flowers galore in their yards, the opposites of the cookie-cutter subdivision house surrounding them.
Alas, I didn't take a photo of a front porch, but in visiting Mustang, Union City, Minco and Tuttle, you don't have to travel far before the city is behind you.

Three other photos I didn't take: Just outside suburban Mustang I saw a rooster and hens out in a green yard. And in Union City, a guy was sitting on his porch in a swing, enjoying the morning. In Tuttle, there was an old swing hanging from a big tree.

Outside Minco
Most of the trip was up and down the Old Chisholm Trail.

Flowers and flags
In Minco, there's an impressive veterans memorial I'll post about later. And flowers on Main Street and lots of flags.

I'm fascinated by old bank buildings which used to be the most substantial and first brick buildings in the new towns. 

Union City


Out in the country you see all kinds of things, including the divided boulevard west of Tuttle in the middle of a prairie leading to Braum's Dairy main plant. And lots of new wind generators on the horizon. Plus an old windmill that I just had to stop and take a photo of. Talk about school spirit.

These are the kind of roads and places where you can drive at 45 or 55 mph with the window town, enjoying the spring air, hearing the meadowlarks, looking at the changing wheat, and new hay bales, the red roses and other flowers booming in profusion. Too soon, it is time to turn back toward the city, rolling up the windows, speeding up for the Interstate madness of everyone in a hurry. 

At least, so far away is so close to get there, to breathe deep the open spaces.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Journalism Hall of Fame tomorrow

Ready for the crowd of more than 200 tomorrow at the 42nd annual Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame ceremony, on our campus. The banner is up at the entrance to the campus.

Another semester ends--Introspection

They filed out my classroom door for the last time this spring. Next week is finals, and graduation, and since most of my students are juniors and seniors, many of them won't be back in the summer or fall.

Walking across campus today is sobering, thinking back on the changes I've seen since I first came, and the students who have come and gone. The campus looks like a campus, rather than the gravel parking lots that used to ring many of the buildings. Some of my students have been children of former students. Looking at the plaques on the wall listing the graduates, many names and faces fade, and yet others are alive and kicking in memories, and more are still in contact.

I suppose I've had more than 3,500 students in my career at OSU and UCO, and putting names and faces together gets more difficult as the numbers pile up and my mind gets fuller and older. Yet many of those who are memorable are cherished as friends. Facebook has helped reconnect with several.

The years have had another effect--I'm much more laid back in teaching now than when I started, wearing a sport coat and tie to every class, demanding strict standards from students. I'd come from the deadline-focused world of journalism into higher ed, and thought my students' success depended on my type-AAA personality.

Time has taught me that most of their education is up to them, with me encouraging, prompting, challenging, helping them think, challenge and focus. A tie is rare now--except on first-day-of-the-semester-intimidation-day. I'm looser in what I allow in the classroom. The standards are there, but I have learned much of what I thought was important is not so much that any more. That's why I don't like micro-managers--they're consumed by the need for control and a lack of trust in others. I'm free of that need, and treat students as adults. I'm rarely disappointed, and enjoy life more. I continue to hate grading, because those are artificial standards that don't evaluate personalities and individuals. The downside is that my grading is not as precise as it needs to be. Grading is a necessary evil, and I tolerate it because I have to, though it doesn't have much to do with education.

What hasn't changed--as my hair has grown thinner and my midsection thicker--is the continuing sense of loss, of passing time and people, as the classroom door closes for the last time every semester.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Fit to Print"...the first lines

"Every Tuesday, a silver-haired woman in her eighties enters the Sayre Record & Beckham County Democrat and plunks down seventh-five cents for the latest news."

That's my lead for the article in the new issue of Oklahoma Today, a story about Oklahoma's weekly newspapers.

I interviewed people at Sayre, Cherokee, Madill, Sallisaw, Oologah and Oklahoma City to try to tell this story about more than 150 small newspapers  that affects people in every county of the state.

Print ain't dead. Neither is this journalist.

Student comments

This is the last day of blogging class for my students. Their assignment--suggestions for improvement.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame honorees

Thursday, we honor ten more men and women in the 42nd annual ceremony at the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. It's my privilege to work as director of the hall, following founder Ray Tassin and colleague Denny Hall. 
IMeanwhile, here are their brief bios.

 JIM ELLIS (1953- ), sports editor of the Miami, OK, News-Record since 1977, also covered sports for the Sequoyah County Times in 1975-77.  Born and raised in Miami, he is a 1971 graduate of Miami High School, a 1973 graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and a 1977 graduate of Northeastern State University. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Eight-Man High School Football Hall of Fame in 2011, and is a member of the Oklahoma Press Association Quarter Century Club. He was a member of the organizing committee of the Oklahoma 8-Man Football Coaches Association All-Star game held in Miami, and still serves. A virtual one-man sports department, he covers more than six high schools plus Northeastern A&M and also assists with page design, photography and feature stories, as well as news coverage such as the Joplin tornado.

CHRISTY GAYLORD EVEREST (1951- ) became chairman and CEO of the Oklahoma Publishing Co. in 2003, the third generation of the Gaylord family to lead The Oklahoman, until its sale in 2012. A director of Opubco since 1975, she was named president in 2002, having served as corporate secretary and vice-president.  Extremely active in the community, she is a past Chairman of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and past trustee and Chairman of Casady School. Inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004, she is a past recipient of the Governor's Arts Award, and the Casady School Distinguished Graduate Award. She’s served on numerous boards for art, education and health organizations. A trustee of the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation, she’s a member of the Advisory Committee of the Inasmuch Foundation. She is a driver for Mobile Meals, a weekly tutor at North Highland elementary, and Chairman of the OU Cancer Center Leadership Council.

 GERALD C. GREEN (1939- ), city editor and employee of the Clinton Daily News since 1982, is widely known for his accurate and fair reporting. He led the paper to numerous OPA and AP awards. His career began at the Austin American-Statesman as a sports deskman while attending the University of Texas, where he graduated in 1961. As a captain in the U.S. Air Force, he was a base and wing information officer; news officer for the American Forces Korea Network; and Minuteman missile crew commander. In 1968 he became editor of The Ord Quiz in Nebraska, and in 1977 copy editor for the Dallas Morning News. He started The Leader at Clinton in 1978, winning the OPA Sweepstakes Award for the state’s 37 largest weeklies. He is a member of the Clinton Kiwanis Club.

WILLIAM “BILL” C. MORGAN (1930-2012) began his 62-year career in journalism at Oklahoma A&M University at the Daily O’Collegian. After graduation, he returned to his hometown of Bartlesville to work at the Bartlesville Record. In the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Army Press Corps as regional editor for the Stars and Stripes in Tokyo.  In 1954, Morgan joined the Henryetta Daily Freelance. In 1957, he bought the Wetumka Gazette, renaming it The Hughes County Times. Morgan also published The Calvin Chronicle and Oklahoma Peanut and eventually acquired The Weleetkan. He won numerous awards from OPA and other organizations for layouts, columns and editorials on wildlife, soil and water conservation. Morgan worked on the campaigns of Henry Bellmon and Dewey Bartlett, serving as a delegate to the 1968 Republican National convention. Always outspoken and opinionated, his "In Our Times" column was looked forward to by all readers whether they agreed with his viewpoint or not.

  NEAL KENNEDY (1949- ) began his radio news reporting as a student at KCSC-FM in 1969 at then Central State University, graduating in 1971.  He also worked at The Oklahoma Journal, at night in 1969-70, and at WKY radio until 1974. He worked for KRMC News in Oklahoma City in 1974-75 and at KVOO News in Tulsa in 1975-1999. He reported for KRMG News in Tulsa from 1999-2008. His news work earned the Edward R. Murrow Award, and numerous AP and UPI broadcasting awards. He is past president of the AP and UPI broadcasting associations, past president of Oklahoma Sigma Delta Chi, on the board of the Tulsa Press Club, and in the Tulsa Press Club gridiron cast from 1977-1997. He taught broadcasting at Tulsa Community College and Rogers State University, was a KVOO Explorer Post 1170 leader, and an announcer at the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in 1977-2007. He was born in Hawaii Territory.

ANTHONY SHADID (1968 –2012) was foreign correspondent for The New York Times based in Beirut. He won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004 and 2010 for coverage of the Iraq war. From 2003 to 2009 he was Islamic affairs correspondent for The Washington Post. He also worked as Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press in Cairo, news editor of the AP Los Angeles bureau, and for the Boston Globe. His 2005 book Night Draws Near, covered the war’s effects on Iraqi people, Ridenhour Book Prize. He won numerous awards, including Overseas Press Club and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Shadid was a 2011 recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the American University of Beirut. Born in Oklahoma City and a graduate of Heritage Hall High School, he was a 1990 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He died from an asthma attack covering the turmoil in Syria.     

STAN STAMPER (1953- ) began his journalism career at age 11 as sports photographer for the family-owned Hugo Daily News, becoming printer’s devil the next year. He graduated from OU in seven semesters with a journalism degree, where he worked as a staff photographer at the Norman Transcript and also earned his private pilot’s license. He returned to Hugo as advertising manager in 1975. In 1980 he and his wife Judy bought the paper, becoming the youngest daily newspaper publisher in America.  He also publishes the Choctaw County Times, and has written two aviation novels. The new Hugo airport was named after him in 1983, and he was named Oklahoma Aviator of the Year in 1997. He was chairman of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, and has served as officer and member of several local and state organizations. Named Hugo citizen of the year in 1994, he’s also won many awards for writing and photography.

JAMES D. WATTS, JR. (1961- ) has covered the arts for the Tulsa World since 1992, winning awards in arts criticism from the AP and the Society of Professional Journalists, the Governor’s Arts Award for media in 2001, and a 2008 Pulitzer nomination in criticism. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, he was valedictorian of the H.H. Herbert School of Journalism in 1983. He began his career at the Broken Arrow Ledger in 1983 as reporter and wire editor. From 1984-1986 he was editor of the monthly Lost Treasure Magazine, and joined the Continental Heritage Press in 1986 as editor of three magazines. From 1987 to 1992 he was fine arts report and critic for the Tulsa Tribune. He won the Harwelden Award in 2006 for contributions to the arts in 2006, and was a participant in a national institute in classical music and opera in 2004 in New York City. .

FAITH L. WYLIE (1953- ) was bitten by the journalism bug in high school where she was yearbook editor, worked in the educational TV studio, and met John Wylie. She and John purchased the Oologah Lake Leader in 1984, where as co-publisher she handles all layout and design work, including the newspaper’s pioneering web site. The paper has won 14 OPA Sequoyah Awards and eight first place honors from the NNA. OPA presented both she and John the Beachy Musselman Award in 1993. She earned a BFA in graphic design from the University of Kansas; was production artist at Sun Publications in Johnson County; Kansas; graphic designer for BR Johnson Studio in 1976-1978; and was art director at Old American Insurance Company in 1979-1984. She has served as president of the Oologah Historical Society and was named Chamber Citizen of the Year in 1985.     

JOHN M. WYLIE II (1953- ), co-publisher of the Oologah Lake Leader since 1984, is known for award-winning investigative journalism. His career began in 1972 as correspondent for the Des Moines Register and UPI and news director of KDIC-FM while a student at Grinnell College. He joined the Kansas City Star in 1974, becoming its first full-time energy and environment writer. He was part of the Star team that won a Pulitzer for coverage of the Hyatt disaster in 1982. At Oologah, his investigations for the Leader and national and international publications of McGraw-Hill have concentrated on energy regulation, attracting national attention. His reporting has earned more than 200 writing awards. The Leader has won 14 OPA Sequoyah Awards and eight first place honors from the NNA. OPA presented both he and his wife Faith the Beachy Musselman Award in 1993. Active in numerous journalism and community groups, he was named Oologah Citizen of the Year in 1991. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thirsty Country, watercolor

Thirsty Country, 17 by 22 watercolor, inspired by my trip to the Oklahoma Panhandle. $650.
Me and Abe at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards "Jingle Jangle Mingle" in OKC last night. Photo by Susan. We get to go free because I'm one of the judges of the non-fiction book category.
You wouldn't believe the boots, hats and get ups in the crowd. See my earlier posts from April 2010
 for some photos of previous years.  P.S. Me and Abe--one of the select Yankees and Republicans I like.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Doors at Taos Pueblo

Arab Spring, democracy in America

Michael Slackman, the deputy foreign editor of the New York Times, was on our campus this week, part of the American Democracy Project, one of the great programs at UCO.

The Bronx native lived in Berlin and Moscow, and then Cairo for eight years before returning home this past year, and he spoke to our students and then an evening crowd. The ADP is a national effort at more than 250 public universities to build civic engagement in young people, and the Times is an essential partner. As a result, we have The Times on campus for students five days a week, and we get to bring journalists in about once a year to speak.

Slackman's visit with political science and journalism students were conversational. His evening speech to a crowd of more than 200 on the Arab Spring prompted a lot of thought on my part. You can read more about the speech from this article in The Oklahoman, written by a former student of mine, Vallery Brown.

Democracy and tribes
Most of all, Slackman is a storyteller, and his speech was full of anecdotes about individual people in the Arab world, showing how the "Arab Spring" a year ago had affected them.

I thought many of his comments had parallels here in this country. Quote: "I learned more about democracy in the Middle East, than growing up in the Bronx."

"In authoritarian states, people are not citizens, they're subjects. They become tribal for protection."

"If you ask them who they are, they answer  by their religion, then Arab, then nationality. It's their tribal identity first. "

"Police states have two speeds--patience and violence. To survive in a police state, you have to go along."

The need for dignity
"You can't underestimate how much people want dignity. What set the revolutions  into action were people who acted because they'd lost their dignity." It started with a Tunisian man who had lost everything because of the government and set himself on fire. Slackman said, referring to Syria and other areas, "The area's still burning."

Subjection of women
He said the way to understand what happened was the treatment of two groups--Christians and women. Female genital mutilation is common--90 percent are "circumcised" and the men consider this a way of controlling them.
  • In terms of loss of dignity and individual rights,  I couldn't help but think of current efforts in this country to force women  to have invasive medical procedures--all pushed by white men in the name of religion. In Egypt, with 424 members of parliament, only eight are women.
Christian standoff
He said Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population and the mistrust between them and Muslims  was kept in check by a "social contract" between the dictator and the Catholic church. When that broke down with violence against churches, the Christians had nothing to lose.

"For 18 days, all of them put aside their tribal identities and became one people. The most remarkable thing was I saw Christians protecting Muslims praying. But after it was over, in a country with no rule of law, they reverted to their tribal identity," he said.
  • I couldn't help but think of the religious intolerance in  this country--the mistrust of a Mormon candidate by evangelicals who say he's not a Christian, for instance.
What makes democracy
I was most taken by his comments on democracy.
"Democracy isn't voting. Voting is the result. Democracy is values--the values of diversity, the tolerance of that diversity and the willingness to compromise, without which nothing happens."
  • How can you not apply that to America today, I thought? There seems to be a complete lack of tolerance of diverse views, and the willingness to compromise. Look at Congress, and political and religious extremists.
He praised UCO and the ADP for working to improve  America, for linking the press and democracy, telling a story of meeting with American military. "We both protect democracy, but in different ways. Our job is to help inform the electorate."

A favorite quote: "In the sweep of history, individual decisions are just as consequential as the big events. That's what the Arab Spring was, individual people making history."

Another note on diversity and tolerance. "Islam is not terrorism." He said in spite of anger at the US for its support of Israel and invading Iraq, he was always treated courteously in the Mideast, because people understand that governments and individuals are separate. He added that even if people didn't  like their governments, they didn't necessarily want a revolution.

"Revolutions take a long time to work out. One Iranian told me, 'Revolutions are the east part. What you build after that is the fundamental issue."

If you'd like to read some of his articles, click here:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Red dirt, blood, titles and words

There are two new books out by Oklahoma poets that will stir your blood and brains, but in different ways. The common ground is Oklahoma and  pain.

"Subterranean Red" by Kathleen Johnson combines some old black and white photos and stories of Oklahoma people and the landscape; and "Red Fields" by Jason Poudrier of Rush Springs, a young Iraqi war vet now in Lawton, links Oklahoma and the war.

Both are recently published by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish of Mongrel Empire Press http://www.mongrelempire.org .

Johnson, an Oklahoma Cherokee-Scot-Irish, lives in Santa Fe. The book is all Oklahoma, from its section on "Mixed Blood Memories" to stories from the "Cimarron Breaks." You're traveling into deep Oklahoma in these pages.

From "The Apothecary of Minerva Best: "I know home.
It is as red a place, I remember
... .
"So I find solace in sunsets,
dying embers of a fire,
the mud beneath my feet."

Another, "Three Generations of Cherokee Women: A Portrait," is biographical beside an old photo of the author, her mother and grandmother. Choice lines:
"...But her hands look like
they've wrung a thousand chicken necks;... ."
"...My mother, as always, tries
to look pretty--and succeeds, as always,
though squinting into Oklahoma sun."

From "Spring Pilgrimage to Tahlequah":
"...I listen hard  for
stories never told.
All I hear is

From "Dust Bowl Diary" comes my favorite image, even before seeing Ken Burns' documentary this weekend:
"...After a while, everything
seems the color of vermin,
the color of moths--
dirty wash pinned to the clothesline,
... .
This spring, no lilacs;
no luster left in Mother's eyes."

This is a book for Okie travelers seeking the Okie spirit, including poems on the Freedom, Oklahoma rodeo; Alabaster Caverns, Tornado warning: and movement into the city, Yukon and Warr Acres.

And perhaps the most haunting is "FFA Jacket," about her father, intensely personal and painful, concludes with these lines about the onetime national FFA president:
"...Dad standing in the middle of it all,
looking as he always has,
so utterly alone."

That ought to hook you to get the book.

 A red fedora and attitude

I can't get away from the Dust Bowl, and we can't escape either. I heard this next author   read at the First Sunday Poetry Reading at Beans and Leaves Coffee shop http://www.facebook.com/BeansandLeaves April 1, thanks to fireball and pistol Dorothy Alexander--a poet with a red fedora and attitude.  Alexander's books of poetry include "The Dust Bowl Revisited," "Borrowed Dust," and "Rough Drafts," and her most recent poetry book, "Lessons From an Oklahoma Girlhood". http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=250972279998 

Passion and pain
Poudrier's writes about a different dust bowl--Iraq, and his poetry comes in three parts, "Post Theater","While We We Waiting" and "Welcome to Iraq." Some sound routine, like "Fort Sill's New Housing Division," and "Black Angus Watermelon," which proves you can write poetry about anything if you have talent and passion, and he does. PTSD saturates the book like Oklahoma humidity. Included are black and white snapshots from Iraq.

From the poem about watermelons:
"The flies cover the bodies
on the Iraqi fields like the backs of black Angus,
but their muscles never jerk,...."

From "Red Fields":
"My feet sink
into the Barnesstilled soil
of my father-in-law's
Oklahoma land
reminding me of times
before I met his daughter
when I drove along
in a tank convoy
towards Bagdad
at the same pace as a tractor
over an unplowed field."

Others are more haunting, like "A Corpse Walked into the Bus Station Today."
"His arms swung his clenched fists
with purpose as he marched in,
stomping his left, dragging his right,
surrounded by ash.
He hadn't been dead long;"

One of my favorite phrases is  from "Convoy": "At ten miles an hour on a beach with no ocean...."

He also shows the human cost of war on the civilians, from "Iraqis":
they are not terrorists.
They stare at our convoy,
with food,
without home,
with hollow,

This is a courageous, disturbing book, telling stories that need to be told for Oklahomans and Americans and Iraqis. It should gather national attention, for showing the truth of war in its toll on those involved.

Hennessey, Oklahoma--the coolest prom

Capitol Thunderstorm

Irony...Just before the Ken Burns Dust Bowl documentary screening at the Oklahoma History Center, we treated him to an Oklahoma downpour.

Here are three views of the State Capitol.

Dust Bowl, P.S.

I should have mentioned in the post on Ken Burns' documentary about the Dust Bowl, "The Worst Hard Time," by Timothy Egan. http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2006_nf_egan.html.

He is one of the sources for the documentary, and his award-wining book is invaluable non-fiction journalism. I recommended it on this blog before when writing about the Panhandle, back in December. http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/12/in-panhandle.html

You can read an interview with him at this link: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/readers_guides/egan_worst.shtml

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'll fly away

I didn't know an Okie wrote this favorite song, until last night, when Theresa Black talked about it and sang at the Oklahoma History Center Ken Burns shindig. Forgot the name, but he was from Spiro, and while it fit the Black Sunday, and perhaps today's tornado scare, it's still a favorite. Here's a clip. Before you click on it, scroll down to my "ipod player" and click the bottom of the circle to mute the blog music.

Ken Burns' Dust Bowl premiere

People with grit
Seventy-seven years ago was "Black Sunday" when the worst dust storm of the Dust Bowl devastated the Oklahoma Panhandle and adjoining states. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=blacksunday

Black Sunday, 60 mph turning day to night
Ironically and appropriately, we attended the first screening of famed documentarian Ken Burns' "Dust Bowl" film at the Oklahoma History Center last  night. It was pouring rain when we arrived.
Burns speaking
last night
Burns, producer of the Civil War series, National Parks, and other documentaries, is on a promotional tour, and OETA http://www.oeta.tv/ and the Oklahoma Historical Society    http://www.okhistory.org/  teamed up to bring him here.  We watched five segments of the four-hour-long program which will air in Nov ember on OETA , and it brought tears and pride and stunned astonishment.You can see some clips of the film on his website: http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/

We got to go thanks to former student Ashley Barcum who is communications director for OETA. There was a huge crowd, including politicos.

It was typical Burns' excellence. He and his team interviewed hundreds of people and did extensive research. Some of the photos and videos had not been published before. But it's not dry history, it's part of the emotion that makes Oklahoma what it is.  Burns and his crew went to Guymon today--leaving at 5 a.m., to show the clips and give copies of entire interviews with many of the people who were in the film. He sadly noted that four of those have already passed on.

More astounding was the fact that people in the audience knew the people in the film. One woman was from Hardesty and lived through it with her neighbors. Another said, "That's my mother." The stories kept rolling, and Burns quipped that he felt like the story wasn't done yet. Here's a clip of some of his comments. 
Listening to Burns talk made me want to get out my notepad and take notes. OETA newsman and friend Dick Pryor had a 45 minute interview with him that will air in November also. Dick said Ken almost talks in poetry. 

Here is one comment that stood out: "Memory is not past tense. It's present tense. So is history." If you doubted that, it wouldn't last. Someone asked to see the hands of the people in the crowd of about 200 who had been through the dust bowl and knew someone who did...Most of the hands in the room went up.

Seeing this work makes you proud to be an Okie. This was all the more real to me since I recently returned from Black Mesa, Boise City--heart of the dust Bowl and prominent in the film--and Guymon. 
The Oklahoma Historical Society says Associated Press staff writer Robert Geiger coined the phrase "dust bowl" in an article the day after the April 14th storm.  He and photographer Harry G. Eisenhard were overtaken by the storm six miles from Boise City, and were forced to wait two hours before returning to town. He wrote an article that appeared in the Lubbock Evening Journal the next day, which began: “Residents of the southwestern dust bowl marked up another black duster today…” Another article, published the next day, included the following: “Three little words… rule life in the dust bowl of the continent – ‘if it rains’.” 
Much of that area is still almost desolate, and sparsely populated. The people who live there have real "grit," and not the kind that they survived in the Dust Bowl. Here are a couple of shots I took when passing through, in addition to those windmills I've been painting.
Boise City, Cimarron County Courthouse

Gone and forgotten

Vacant land

At the end of the presentation, History Center head honcho Dr. Bob Blackburn presented a Woody Guthrie poster to Burns. Guthrie is in the film. It's appropriate that Guthrie, whose 100th birthday Oklahoma is celebrating this year, wrote about Black Sunday:  
“A dust storm hit, an’ it hit like thunder;
It dusted us over, an’ it covered us under;
Blocked out the traffic and blocked out the sun,
Straight for home all the people did run,

So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-getting’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.”

Before the presentation, a volunteer, Theresa Black, entertained the crowd with her guitar and singing, including this Guthrie song.

Here's another person's You Tube program.