"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, August 31, 2013

Crucifixion and rich beaches, 2 more countries

Readers in two more countries clicked on this blog this week, bringing to 117 the number of countries where readers have for various reasons, scanned these posts.
One country, Paraguay, is in the news because some fired bus drivers staged self-crucifixions with real nails in protest. Crucifixions
Now that's  a level of passion and freedom  rarely known in the western world. Paraguay, home of native peoples 1,000 years before the Spanish "conquest" in the 1500s, suffered under military dictatorships and poverty until 1989, when the government became more democratic. 
Since then its 6.6 million people have seen the economy boom. They take democracy seriously too, having impeached a president a few years ago. The South American country is just a little smaller than California.
Its flag is unique in that it has a different symbol on opposite sides--one is the coat of arms, the other is a map and name of the country in a circle.
The second new country is the Bahamas, the site of Colombus' first landfall in 1492, but the Spanish didn't settle it. The British made  the 700  islands a crown colony in 1718 to combat privacy. At the close of the American revolution, many American loyalists moved there with their slaves. When the Brits banned international slave trade in the early 1800s, the islands became a have for liberated slaves, and those who escaped from America.
The country gained independence in 1973 but retained Queen Elizabeth II as monarch. The country has almost no taxes, living off tourism, and is among the top five richest per capita in the world. Its flag symbolizes the aspirations of black people.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Continents apart, new blog countries

Every time I give up on gaining new readers in new countries, I'm surprised, as I was today with readers in two countries, on two continents, Asia and Africa.
For the first time, people in Bhutan in Asia, and Equatorial Guinea, in Africa, clicked on this blog. I have no idea why, but I'd love to meet them.
They mark the 114th and 115th countries to have readers clicking on this blog. Amazing. The global reach of digital media is beyond understanding.
First, Bhutan, a kingdom at the eastern foothills of the Himalayas, bordered by Tibet (China) and India, grabs my attention.
It has long been a kingdom, but became a constitutional monarchy in 2008. It's a Buddhist country, closely linked with Tibet, and many people from the country of Nepalese ancestry have been refugees to America. It's a small country of somewhere between 700,000 to two million people--depending on how you count-- in an area half the size of Indiana (which is smaller than Oklahoma). It's also a scenic country of valleys and mountains, and one of the safest in the world,  with a very low crime rate, especially for tourists.
Its flag, dating from 1947,  is based on Tibetan Buddhism and the Thunder Dragon of Bhutanese mythology. It's fascinating to me, because a student in my international media class at UCO, visited there this past year, and will report on its media.
The other country, Equatorial Guinea, in Africa, is one of the smallest in Africa, and an almost complete opposite of Bhutan. It's the only country in Africa where Spanish is the main language, following colonization, and it's very small, less than Maryland, and barley covering most of central Oklahoma.
What makes it stand out is that since the 1980s, it's one of the top oil producers in sub-Sahara Africa, the richest in per capita income,  but most of the population of more than 600,000 never see those benefits--typical of many countries in the world including the U.S.
The country has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and international press groups rank the president as "Predatory" in regard to press freedom. Sex trafficking for women and children and forced labor are reported.
The flag, adopted on independence from Spain in 1968, has been changed by dictatorial leaders, but carries the phrase "Unity, Peace, Justice."  Sure.
But whoever you are who has clicked on this blog in a free country--amid all its faults, welcome, and thank you, and free people honor your for your courage. And in Bhutan, thank you also.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blogvolution Blues

A good blog is always changing, always evolving, I've found. I call it "blogvolution." It changes with the author and times and  technology. Like life. No change, no life. I teach that to my students. It's always a matter of learning, experimenting, changing, growing.
But I an not pleased when I click on some item, tinkering to make small changes with an overall appearance I like-- and my  whole blog changes, as happened two days ago. Bear with me while I try to figure this out and improve the layout and typography. I don't know what I did, and I don't like it, and Blogspot, while easier than Wordpress, is not exactly non-computer-geek friendly. I considered changing to Wordpress, but since I teach a blogging class, Blogspot is just too beginner friendly to give up, even if it maddeningly obtuse. Some blogvolution is regressive. Or maybe it was just a sign that I was too stuck in my ways and need to change more.
So I'm out of my comfort zone and still tinkering, a little at a time. It will get better.

  • Rule One--Is it easy to read? If not, nothing else matters--that involves quality content, interesting and good writing, and appropriate typography.
  • Rule Two--Is it attractive and well-organized to help achieve Rule 1? If not, make it so.
I'm working on rule 2 at the moment, without much success. I may have to hire someone to get it where I want. Suggestions of any sort are welcome.

Breathing the West in Oklahoma

"To walk inside Woolaroc's doors is to breathe the Old West."
Those words of mine introduce the article "Keepers of the Frontier," which I wrote for the latest issue of the state magazine, Oklahoma Today, its Cowboy issue.
For that article I toured four museums--Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Gilcrease at Tulsa, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and The Fred Jones Jr. Museum at OU in Norman.
It's not an article about the museums though. Editor Steffie Cocoran wanted a story on the importance of Western Art in Oklahoma.  I discovered that those collections, containing about 75 percent of the great Western art in the world, make the state the epicenter of such, a crossroads of Western Art and history.
Each of the museums is different, has a different atmosphere, and different approach to two subjects dear to me--the West, and art. While Woolaroc is rustic, Gilcrease is sedate, the National Cowboy reflects our automobile world, and Fred Jones is ultra modern on the outside.
I've been to all the museums before, but something happened on these trips and journey of writing. It's a great job where you can walk through those doors, spend time talking to curators, and try to weave a story about the art and its importance in our state. It was a difficult story for many reasons, and that first sentence was a long time coming.
I fell in love with the spirit at Woolaroc. I am subdued and inspired at Gilcrease. I am awed at the size of the art at the Cowboy. At Fred Jones Jr., especially in the Southwestern art, I am just at home.
I'm aware that no words can do justice to the art, or the emotions and stories involved. I'm not an art critic, but a journalist and observer who finds himself in these places. They enrich me and Oklahoma. They help tell the stories of who I am, who we are.
It's not by accident I think, that fellow blogger Alan Bates of Tulsa recently posted a lot of photos of Woolaroc on his blog, "Yogi's Den." Check out his post from Monday, Our World.
If that doesn't inspire you to go this weekend or sometime soon, I don't know what will. And go pick up a copy of Oklahoma Today, look at the photos of the art, and read the article. And the rest of this issue is stunning.
I could show you other photos, but instead, here are the four websites.
National Cowboy
Fred Jones Jr.

Go, and breathe the West.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shakespeare and more, 'In your lap' in OKC

Opening set at Reduxion Theatre's production of "the women."
A vital part of OKC's renaissance, making it more than just a frontier boom town, has been an explosion of arts of all kinds--music, galleries, art shows, poetry readings, cooking, museums, funky shops,  renovated neighborhoods and theaters.
One of my favorite is Reduxion Theatre on 16th and Broadway in Oklahoma City, a non-profit theater -in-the-round that brings four plays a year to town, including at least two Shakespearean plays, set in contemporary times. The website includes photos and more. Twitter is @ReduxionTheatre, and it is on Facebook.
What grabs me about the place is that the stage is only about six inches off the floor, and you sit right next two it, where the actors interact with you. It is indeed "In Your Lap" theater, sometimes literally, I've found in the past. ; )
But the real trademark is how the directors, Tyler and Erin Woods and their staff, put together plays using only a few actors playing multiple roles. It is astounding to me who these professionals manage not just to change costumes, and memorize different lines, but so get into their characters.
The current production of Clare Booth Luce's 1930s play, "The Women," is one such example. Twelve actors play 30 different rolls in this swashbuckling, cat-fighting, catty, tragic and humorous play involving an all female cast.
The rest of the season
Yes, we went Friday, having bought season tickets last year. The play will energize you. Next weekend is the last performance, Aug. 29-31. Go.
The remainder of the season includes Cabaret, Oct. 25-Nov. 16; As You Like It, Feb. 7-March 1; and Henry V, May 9-31. Reduxion is supported generously by Chesapeake Energy, the Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and many local firms and people. You can even sponsor a square foot of the stage for $26.
The company has also performed in area libraries and has started "Classics for Kids," 45-minute productions designed to introduce children to the classics.
One of my favorite lines from the play when young woman sniped at one of the older women, 
"Get your chin up...both of them."


Relics--an old tree, and granite at the top of Mount Scott...very old mountains.

In Meers--my first car was a Stude.
What is it about relics that grab my attention? The word relic comes from Latin, meaning "remains" or "something left behind." It has also come to refer to religious items, even body parts of saints. 
I guess as I get older, I'm aware that, while I'm not saint, perhaps I am becoming a relic of previous times. Thus the attraction of these relics on a trip to southwest Oklahoma recently.
I think I can afford this home in Medicine Park

Remember these relics--in Meers
A relic, but alive--Liberty Theatre in Carnegie

The greenest Oklahoma August

Green, as far as you can see, from top of Mount Scott, looking southwest
Green and August are opposites in Oklahoma, or they have been as long as I can remember...until this year.
One view from inside the visitor center
Instead of a scorched countryside withering under more than 30 straight days of triple digit temperatures, most of the state has had lots of rain, the temps have reached only into the 90s, and there is green everywhere.
A recent trip to the Wichita Mountains near Lawton brought that home even more. In a view from the top of Mount Scott, there was green everywhere. The farm ponds were full. 
It had been years since I'd been there, and I can only remember searing summer temperatures. This time the trip was pleasant with cool temperatures and green vistas.
Medicine Park street sign
The village of Medicine Park is artsy and humorous. A sign offered swimming for $2. The new wildlife refuge visitor center is  spacious and interesting, with artifacts, educational exhibits, a stone mural, and bit windows to look out at the countryside and herds of longhorns. The 97 percent-lean longhorn beef Meers burger is delicious, flavored with rustic decorations, old mining gear, non-nonsense cash-only service.
Coming home on back roads, there were green valleys surrounded by trees that made me think of Wisconsin, or some well-watered place. But no, it's Oklahoma, in the greenest August I've seen.
Part of mural in visitor center

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Boomtown, Oklahoma, energy icon

I heard somewhere that more than 5,000 people a month are moving to Oklahoma City in the past three  months, thanks to the job market, especially in energy. Boomtown. Perhaps not since the Run, or the 8os oil boom. Don't know.

Devon Tower, seen from The Womb, symbol of OKC's energy growth
But I do know an incredible amount of energy seems to sizzle from the place, a far cry from 20 years ago when downtown was dead, and the state was languishing. The transformation since the Murrah Federal Building bombing is nothing short of miraculous.
I can refer to many trends and incidents, and books have been written about this Dust Bowl, oil bust poor fly-over state changing. Yes, the state is more conservative politically than ever, but there's an undercurrent of energy different from oil and gas that bubbles toward the surface of young people and will change the state even more. 
Sure the conservative politicians brag about our independence, but the downtown transformation was a tax-supported effort, not free-enterprise. And the state still sucks heavily at the Federal teat , with Tinker, FAA, Altus , Enid and more...all of which they ignore, like the current mayor in his national speeches.
If there is one icon of the new energy I see-beyond revitalized Paseo, Plaza District, avant-garde new restaurants, excellent museums, The Thunder, The Devon Tower, and more--it is The Womb, owned by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips,the weird, stereo-type knocking band that even makes the Neanderthal legislature nervous.
We recently attended the reopening of  this physcheledic gallery off Broadway, thanks to invitations by Jake Harms (future-son-in-law--artist and partner of cool step-daughter Alexx Reger) who manages it and who helped paint much of the  jarring exterior
Look at this place...it is not your stereotype of Oklahoma. Energy oozes from this place like oil and gas from Audrey McLendon's and Cheaapeake's fracking, to the more respectable towering influence of Devon energy's new dominating skyscraper...but it doesn't cause physical earthquakes...just cultural ones.
Me, at entrance of The Vagina, Photo by Susan
As and old-guy, I don't necessarily "like" the art inside, thought a drink inside the "Vagina" is, well, juicy and enervating  and fun. But it doesn't matter. You should see the young people (those under 40 at my advanced age) attending things like this.
This is the kind of energy that is revolutionizing Oklahoma, once old white guys have gone the way of drab buildings. You had to go inside the red-lit "Vagina" to get a drink. It was an adventure, and most of all, fun, because the people think life is supposed to be fun, not uptight.
Art and energy like this is infectious, impossible to ignore, among all the ho-hum or negative images of Oklahoma. Oklahoma's real energy industry isn't under the ground, but above it, in people who demand difference. It's not about being cool, I think, though many do. I think it's about creativity, pushing the boundaries--which is the real pioneer spirit--and having fun.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday simmering

A stressful week ends with a Saturday of simmering intentions, but they've not come to a boil.
The blog has wilted it seems, between the start of classes, the death of my first mother-in-law, brief visits with three of my children, surgery on my father-in-law, and my computer getting ready to die.
Only the pressure to keep blogging, as the teacher of blogging class, and watching my monthly blog traffic wither as well, pushes me to the keyboard.
Good news  comes in small packages, including the kids' visit and seeing four of the grandchildren. The a friend writes that she's seen my story on Western art in the new issue of Oklahoma Today. It's a story I sweated over, and enjoyed, but I haven't seen it yet. There is nothing like a byline. And the managing editor of Oklahoma Today writes about my latest story, liking it, and asking for revisions.
There is nothing like a byline. One former students comes up to me this week, just bouncing with joy. "Dr. Clark, Dr. Clark, I'm getting hired by The Vista."She is so thrilled to write and work for the student newspaper and can't wait to tell me This young woman is a successful blogger and can write really well. So much excitement and passion. I need that.
Early this morning, I go to the farmers market, where the crows and produce are dwindling with summer. But the sweet ripe smell of a cantaloupe, porter peaches, some sweet corn for the grill help brighten the day.
There's so much to write about, that may never see the pen, from the horrible Oklahoma murder to the Manning case, to faculty gathering at a watering hole Thursday to laugh the first week away.
And the blogs I follow, including Yogi's Den,  Turtle Rock Farm, Okie Funk, Really Most Sincerely, Red Dirt Ramblings and Santa Fe Daily Photo prompt me, give me ideas and the urge to write, to travel and to photograph.
Tonight we will go see "The Women," the play at Reduxion Theatre , a cool theater in the round in Oklahoma City. That will prompt even more ideas. A New Mexico attack is also infecting me...it's been a year since I've been there, and a long weekend is coming up. 
Maybe these items will turn up the heat and bring the blog back to boiling.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Grammar test

This is the grammar test I gave to 23 students in Media Writing class yesterday. The average grade was 74.3 percent, about 22 right. How well can you do?
(Note: punctuation rules according to American usage, not British).
Choose the correct versions
 1.        a.   There are four boys on the team.
b.   They're are four boys on the team.
c.   Their are four boys on the team.
2.         a.   There team is losing
b.   They're team is losing
c.   Their team is losing
3.         a.  There not very good
b.  They're not very good
c.   Their not very good.
4.         a.   Your in deep trouble if you flunk.
b.   You're in deep trouble if you flunk.
5.         a.   Your grades will flunk you.
b.   You're grades will flunk you.
6.         a.   The effects of flunking are disastrous.
b.   The affects of flunking are disastrous.
7.         a.   Flunking effects your entire life.
b.   Flunking affects your entire life.
8.         a.   The team played very good.
b.   The team played very well.
9.         a.    It's possible you will flunk this.
b.   Its possible you will flunk this.
            c.   Its' possible you will flunk this.
10.       a,   The dog bit its owner
b.   The dog bit it's owner.
c.   The dog bit its' owner.
11.       a.   Its' going to be a rough day for the class
b.   It's going to be a rough day for the class.
c.   Its going to be a rough day for the class.
12.       a.   He was laying on the beach.
b.   He was lying on the beach.
13.       a.   You and me will go to the game.
b.   You and I will go to the game.
14.       a.   The gift was for you and I.
b.   The gift was for you and me.
15. Pick the active voice
a.   The student flunked the test
b.   The test was flunked by the student
16. Pick the passive voice
a.   Obama won the election
b.   The election was lost by Romney.
17.  Pick the linking verb
a.   He is a hard-studying student
b.   He studies hard as a student.
18. Noun-pronoun agreement. Which is correct?
a.     The team held their meeting.
b.     The team held its meeting.
19. Subject-verb agreement. Choose the correct sentence ending below.
More and more people are attending college, but the cost at the country’s elite institutions
a.     have gone up so much that fewer and fewer families can afford to pay tuition without some aid.
b.     having gone up so much, fewer and fewer families can afford to pay tuition without some aid.
c.     going up so much, fewer and fewer families can afford to pay tuition without some aid.
d.     has gone up so much that fewer and fewer families can afford to pay tuition without some aid.
e.     in going up so much, fewer and fewer families can afford to pay tuition without some aid.
Which is punctuated correctly?
20.       a. "You're going to flunk," yelled Clark.
b. "You're going to flunk", yelled Clark.
c. 'Your going to flunk," yelled Clark.
      d. "Your going to flunk", yelled Clark.
21.              a. Clark said, "Stop that right now".
b. Clark said, "Stop that right now."
22. Which is a simple sentence?
a. The boys and girls went to the game, but the parents stayed home.
b. The boys and girls went to the game, although the parents stayed home.
c. The boys and girls went to the game without their parents.
d. None
e. All
23. In this sentence which word is the verb? The streaking Thunder lost their last game of the season.
a.     streaking
b.     Thunder
c.     lost
d.     game
e.     of
24. In this sentence which word is a preposition? The streaking Thunder lost their last game of the season.
a.     streaking
b.     lost
c.     last
d.     game
e.     of
25.Which sentence is guilty of a comma splice?
a.     When I go to a game, I always drink beer.
b.     I went to the game, and I always drink beer.
c.     I went to the game, I drank beer
d.     None
e.     All
26. In this sentence, which word is the adverb? The Black cats howled and scratched ferociously throughout the night.
a.     black
b.     howled
c.     scratched
d.     ferociously
27. While dining at night, the lights along the Baja coastline created a romantic atmosphere perfect for our first anniversary.
a.     Correct
b.     Incorrect
 Select the correct sentence.
28.       a. From one of Aesop's lesser-known fables comes the question, "Who's going to bell the cat?"
b. From one of Aesop's lesser-known fables come the question, "Who's going to bell the cat"?
29.       a. The forest contained over 4,000 acres.
b. The forest contained more than 4,000 acres.
30.       a. The meal consisted of the following: bacon, eggs, hash browns and coffee.
b. The meal consisted of : bacon, eggs, hash browns and coffee.
c. The meal consisted of four items: bacon, eggs, hash browns and coffee.
d. All
e. None

Answers: 1 a. 2 c. 3-4 b b. 5-6 a. 7-8 b. 9 a. 10 a. 11-14 b. 15 a. 16 b. 17 a. 18 b. 19 d. 20 a. 21 b.  22-23 c. 24 e. 25 a. 25 d. 27 b. 28 a. 29 b. 30 c.