"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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Questions for professional bloggers

My blogging class at UCO will have two guest speakers in the next three weeks, Dr. Kurt Hochenauer of the UCO English Department, and Mr. Dave Rhea, managing editor, digital products of the daily business newspaper in Oklahoma City, The Journal Record. Both of these bloggers have large followings.
 Kurt is a former journalist, and also teaches a blog class, as well as maintaining his blog, Okie Funk, Notes from the Outback, a liberal blog in very conservative Oklahoma.http://okiefunk.com/
 Dave is one of the bright media gurus in the state, a grad of the Florida journalism school, and a musician as well. His blog on Social Media and its impact on business in the Journal Record is an industry standard. http://journalrecord.com/category/Social-Media/

 I've asked the student to submit questions to them ahead of time. Here they are:
·      What are your favorite blogs to subscribe to and why?
What/who inspired you to do what you do today?
·      What have you hoped to accomplish through blogging, and how have you fared?
·      What are some of the challenges you've had in blogging?
·      What have been some of the breakthrough moments you've experienced during your time as a blogger?
·      Although content is the most important part of a blog, good content doesn't always translate into a growth in audience.  What advice do you have for growing an audience?
Dr. Hochenauer,
·      How important is it to format and design your blog based on your knowledge of what the viewer will like?
·      Is it important to be an individual and post material you like or should I find material my viewers will like?
Mr. Rhea,
·      How important is spelling and grammar in regards to the legitimacy of your blog?
·      Do you think it will affect your viewership if slang and improper sentence structure is used?
·      How's your life has changed since you started blogging?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer,
·      Where do your credentials come from, why are you qualified to blog about politics?
·      What are you trying to teach people with your blog? Are you trying to inform or simply bash people?
Mr. Dave Rhea,
·      Do you see any similarities in your music and your blogging style?
·      What is the most important thing when setting up a blog? 
Questions for Dr.  Hochenauer:
·       With the blog market saturated with entertainment-based sites,
what, in your opinion, can be done to stand out?
·      What do you see as the next evolution of citizen journalism after blogs?
Questions for Dave Rhea:
·      Were you able to balance your love of music and writing simultaneously?
·      With so many social media sites joining the fracas, how many
"links, likes and follows" is too much for a blogger/journalist any
·      In your own words, what is a "positive digital identity"
·      How would you describe your own personal identity.
·      what prompted this post about hate as an emotion?
·      How do you deal with the conflicting physiological feelings, emotions, etc... (do you read or count your breaths- pray?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer
·      Since Oklahoma is a mostly conservative state, did you receive and criticism once your blog became popular? or even before it became popular?
·      Before becoming a professor at the University what did you do?
Dave Rhea
·      Do you alone do all of the layout and design for your blog?
·      Other than being asked to be a media advisor for the Mass Communication, have you been been a media advisor for any other organizations ?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer,
·      Do you take a great deal of criticism due to your blog being liberal in Oklahoma's conservative political landscape?
·      What are your thoughts on the New Media movement out of Tulsa (This Land Press, etc.)?
Dave Rhea:
·      Do you feel any stress concerning audience reception when writing hot topic blogs?
·      Do you prefer writing opinion or news?
How successful was your band at its prime?  Did you play with anyone famous?
·      How did you get into media and blogging from being in a band?
Kurt Hochenauer –
·      How long have you been blogging and what are the positive effects from your blog?
·      What provoked your interest in blogging?
·      Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gifWith the blogging experience that you have as well as teaching a class on blogging what is the most important recommendation you can give to first time bloggers?
·       How big of an impact, if any, does social media have on blogging? 
·      How do you keep your subscribers interested in your longer and more specific posts?
David Rhea
·      How many people helped create this blog with you?
·      How do you advertise your blog?
·      Give us a quick overview of your career in the music business. How did your time there influence your writing career?
·      What are your top three tips for novice bloggers?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer:
·      Do you find it hard to stay objective in your political writing, especially with the upcoming election?
·      What/who influenced you the most to start/maintain your writing career?
Both: What do you see as the future of blogs? Why do you think blogs are so effective? How have blogs changed the future of journalism?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My kind of conservatism

I grew up as a conservative, and much of that influence came from the great Russell Kirk, who combined theory and idealism with practical policy.
Kirk, 1918-1994
In the current political hate- and fear-filled atmosphere, I'd forgotten about him, and am thankful a conservative pundit referenced him recently, bemoaning the current state of affairs.
Having re-read his 10 principles of conservatism, I know why. This is conservatism as a philospophy as it should be, not of extremes, but of rationality.
Here they are:

international media class

One of my classes this fall is International Media, studying media around the world. It has become a great class, thanks to the students. More later.

Here are three recent assignments, (We are so fortunate to have the New York Times free to students every day--it's a real textbook of thinking) also posted on the class blog, Clarkinternational: http://okie-prof.blogspot.com/

Digital global media

Here's a link about how digital media is changing global media:

Comment in comment section below by Thursday, Sept. 27.

Why do you think this person is right or wrong about media?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Punctuation Day?

Yes, that's what the post from the Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas J-School said today. This struck me as important for two reasons.
I'm a Bremnerite. He taught the editing class I took at the University of Iowa years ago. He was not long out of the priesthood and on his way to becoming the editing terror and guru of the English speaking world. We loved him, and he influenced my method of teaching as much as he did my passion for editing and effective writing. He taught me how much words matter, and the way we write them. The editing center offered these free punctu-icon sets.
Here's the link:  http://www.facebook.com/BremnerCenter
There's another reason. One of the pleasures of my life is writing a monthly column for the Oklahoma Publisher, for the Oklahoma Press Association. It goes to all the newspapers in the state. This helps me keep in touch with "my people," Oklahoma journalists. It also keeps me "published," and working as a journalist. The column, "Clark's critique," has two parts--the first about general journalism subjects of interests, and the second, a quick review of what the state newspapers are doing in term of content, ideas, etc.
Just this month, guess what I wrote about? Punctuation. Since it's already in print, and on the web for The Publisher, here's the first half of my column this month. I know, this just shows my anal side, but this stuff matters when you deal in words.

"Broadcasters pronounce better, but newspaper people punctuate correctly," joked Mark Thomas at one the Journalism Hall of Fame ceremonies. 
After looking at some of our stories, I'd have to add, "Sometimes." I also know that many of my students have not had grammar since they were in eighth grade. As an old English major who repented and turned to journalism, I know the Gospel of Correct Punctuation may have been amended some for us heretics, but the basics are the same. Correct punctuation is essential for accurate writing. 
So here is the Revised Version of the Gospel of Punctuation, also known as Clark's Easy Reference Punctuation Guide for Journalists.
Let’s start with our “problem children,” the ones we have the most trouble with. Clip and put it near your computer. 
The apostrophe--We have an apostrophe catastrophe in this country.
1. Contractions, possessives. It's and its are the most misused in the country. Its is comparable to his and hers (a pronoun). It's is a contraction for it is. There is no its'. I saw a sign once that read "Deliciou's Apple's.
2. With plurals:
  • With regular singular nouns ending in s, "Mark Thomas's job is to lead the  OPA.
  • With regular plural nouns, add only an apostrophe, "The Thomases' children…."
  • With irregular plural nouns, add an apostrophe s,  "The children's
  • Never add to a noun that ends in s if there is no possessive. Wrong: "These word’s…"
  • If it's a compound noun, only the last word gets an apostrophe: The editor-in-chief's job…..
  • Compound possessives, only on the second noun, Lewis and Clark’s journey…

   Colons--Avoid. They stop the reader's flow in the sentence. They always come at the end of a complete sentence: He bought five vegetables: cukes, tomatoes, corn, okra and radishes.  Do not use it in the following manner (as in this sentence): He bought the following: cukes, tomatoes, corn. Rewrite both. He bought cukes, corn and radishes.
   Exclamation marks--Avoid! Especially more than one at a time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They show you don't know how to write for emphasis, and cheapen your writing like all those ads in the inserts that put exclamation marks after every item: "Hair Dyer”! Two speeds! Black or brown! Wall mount!  Etc. You should use it in a quote only when clearly called for. “Don’t use exclamation marks!” Clark yelled.
   Quotation marks--In America quote marks always, always, always go outside the period and comma. Question marks and exclamation marks depend on context.  This includes single quotes: “I told you he said 'I quit,'" Clark yelled. With question marks, quotes go inside if the quote is a question as in "Are you cold?" he asked. But outside like this, Did Clark say, “Question marks go inside quotes”?
   Commas--the most debatable. Best rule--Always use for clarity, and according to AP style on addresses, etc.  Other than that, try omitting or rewriting to avoid as many as possible. 
1. Use with a non-restrictive clause or appositive (one that's not essential). Clark, who grew up in New Mexico, lives in Oklahoma. vs. The man who was bleeding from the wound died in 20 minutes. Try to write around it and cut the words. Clark grew up in New Mexico and lives in Oklahoma. 
2. In a series, omit the comma before the last item: He loves tomatoes, iced tea and jalapenos. Your English teacher and others would insert a comma after iced tea. That's called the "Oxford comma." Oxford is in England. This is America. Journalists don't use it except in rare cases where needed for clarity.
3. Setting off introductory clauses and phrases, In the beginning, God created….  Or Although the city council met for five hours, it took no action. It's usually better for us to rewrite it and get to the point first. After five hours the council accomplished nothing. No comma because it's essential to the meaning, it's shorter, and easier to read. Get to the point.
Always ask yourself if you have a question about punctuation, “Why do I need this?” or “Why am I using this?” Most grammatical problems can be cured with short sentences. (Lots of periods) Next month—Periods, question marks, virgules, dashes, ellipses and parentheses.


"Gate to High Lonesome," 14 by 22 watercolor, sold.
Western gates fascinate me. I don't know why, except perhaps they hint of paths not taken, of mystery, of places to explore. I find myself including them in paintings. One of my favorites was by my Dad, of a cowboy opening a gate in the middle of a wile landscape, his horse waiting. He called it "Heading to High Lonesome." the painting is lost, but not the memory.
It's not by accident that I've painted several such gates, including "The Gate to High Lonesome."
The gates beckon to be opened, opening the imagination.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Losing a friend

I watched the vet insert the needle into the catheter, and begin depressing the plunger.
My friend lay heavily sedated on the table, his breathing shallow. He wasn't in pain, but he'd been losing weight steadily and was barely eating.
It hurt to watch him walk, as he got weaker and more shaky. He was spending more and more time sleeping, between getting up to sip water and consider food. He knew he was sick, and why he was getting the special attention of treats and more attention. But he'd still stop and look you in the eyes, never wavering.
My friend Max
For years he had greeted me when I came home, loudly demanding attention, a "Hello," a head rub or ear scratch. In the evenings, he'd jump up on the couch or bed when I was reading, and doze off.
He could be quite annoying, as good friends often are. He'd loudly wake me in the mornings sometimes, just talking.  If we tried to go on a trip, he was likely to curl up in the open suitcase on the floor. As he got older, he reminded me of myself as he shed more hair, and sometimes couldn't keep his food down.
But you could count on him to be there, to say "Hello," to share affection. His grace and agility matched his genuine loyalty, affection and intelligence.
So I kept my hand on his head, gently talking to him, watching his breathing lessen and then stop.
The house seems empty. I feel empty. Good friends are hard to come by, and losing a friend reminds  how much we share precious and interconnected life, and the certainty of mortality.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deadline assignment for blogging class

Find something in today's New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/pages/todayspaper/index.html that is of interest to you, preferably on a subject related to your blog, and post a 150-word comment about it, including the link to the article, and a related image, if you can find it.
Like this:


Due by 10:45 today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday meandering

The dew lies heavy on the grass this morning, before the sun rises. In mid-September, the leaves on the oak and black jack still have not begin to change, except for those long dead in the summer heat. There's no wind, and light cloud cover  colors the skies a quiet Confederate grey.
Silence is the main sound for a walk in Hafer Park. Yes, there's the muffled rumble of pre-rush hour traffic, and the moan of a diesel locomotive two miles distant, but only a few people venture onto the paths. The deeper in the woods you get, the more hushed the human sounds, the more you hear the chirp of a Robin or the call of a Cardinal. At the pond the ducks are stirring and muttering a little, but not in the raucous manner of the afternoon.
It's a great time to walk and think, to look at the leaves and the few remaining flowers, to see the seeds on the weeds and grasses.
A  couple of older joggers go by, nodding as they pass. A young woman with blond pony tail swishing from side to side breezes past, lost in an iPod and thoughts. The few walkers include men and women with dogs on leashes, out for a morning walk--a bulldog, a couple with labs, a few others. The dog people make eye contact and say "Good morning."
It is indeed.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The delicious taste of memories

The package fit snugly in the mailbox when I opened it the other day. The Texas postmark gave away the sender.
Inside the box that I hurriedly opened in the house were two small Ball canning jars, with a colorful label on the side and the firm, handwritten word, "Figs."
How long it has been... . Fig preserves from deep east Texas, but more than just east Texas. I opened one can, took a fork and put two of the figs and sauce in my mouth, awakening flavors I'd forgotten, and memories of times long past. And these figs are especially sweet to my taste and past.
Yes, in the past few years I'd managed to find fig spread in some stores here, and a few restaurants carry limited fig appetizers. I'd forgotten when I liked them so much.
Years ago when I was a kid, we'd make the long pre-Interstate drive from arid New Mexico to humid East Texas to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins. My mother came from a large family, three sisters and two brothers and more than a dozen children. We were the only ones who lived so far away, and thus our summer vacations were family reunions.
Thus the taste of figs. My mother's sister Gladys, her husband Clark Lutrick, and my cousins Charles and Sarah Beth lived in Houston where Clark worked for "Ma Bell." I was always fascinated by their neat brick house, surrounded by that thick-bladed and always green St. Augustine grass, which wouldn't grow where we lived.. And in the back yard was a fig tree. Barefoot I'd try to climb the tree and taste them if I couldn't reach one on the limbs, or if I couldn't reach them, uncle Clark would pick one for me. And inside the air-conditioned house (another novelty to us desert dwellers), there would be home-canned jars of fig preserves.
"Larrupin good," as my Dad would say. Cousin Charles was the first of the clan of cousins, and grown by the time we visited, but my cousin Sara Beth, her sassiness matching her red hair, was there and she'd find ways to tease my brother and I.  Those who know me today now know where my attraction for redheads comes from.
Over the years, we lost touch, as families spread out, like creepers on ivy, jobs and children and marriages and funerals leading in all different directions. But several  years ago, some of cousins suggested a cousin reunion, down on the Gulf Coast. As the only cousin living outside The Republic--following the genes of the other side of the family--I traveled the farthest. As we aged, the idea caught on, and we've had two or three more reunions now, and that has reawakened friendships and memories.
The most recent was just over a year ago at the home of my cousin Sarah Beth and her husband Bob Foote, near Plum Grove, Texas. All but one living cousin were there, and we had barbecue and photos and laughs and memories and more. I've started sending watercolor cards and gifts to some of the cousins, including Sarah Beth.
More than 20 years ago, her father brought a sprout in a gallon bucket  from that long ago Houston fig tree  and planted it on their place in rural East Texas, amid the St. Augustine grass. It has flourished, reaching more than eight feet in height. This year Bob pulled down those branches to stuff more than four gallons of figs into bags. Sarah has put up nine of the jars from one of the gallon bags so far and expects many more.
Since that reunion a year ago, Charles Lutrick has died. I'm so glad we made him get out of the car before leaving to take a group photo. I was thinking about that, among many more memories, when I ate some canned Lutrick-tree fig preserves on toast this morning.
Culp family cousins, 2011. Charles Lutrick and Sarah Beth Lutrick Foote third and second from the right, back row.