In The Tall Grass

Stephan King, Joe Hill

I have no idea why this story appeared in Esquire four years ago, and it is written by more one author. It does not appear difficult to write; it is poorly conceived and not well written.

At the end as a throw away thought to fill the space, a character thinks, I bet all of Kansas looked that way before people came and spoiled it all. NOPE! Before people came to Kansas at least 5,000,000 bison went north and south over that state every year eating all the grass. When Native Americans came, they set prairie fires to make hunting and traveling more convenient. There was very little tall grass in Kansas before whitey showed up. [Note Native Americans also set forest fires east of the Mississippi River to make hunting and agriculture easier. Those lands became “park” lands.]

In The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper by Mark Twain, the critic itemizes many paragraphs involving characters in a novel which offend literary sensibilities. Likewise these authors fail [which one I don’t know]. At any time during a story, the reader should be able to guess what a character will do. Not in this story. That is an impossibility.

Man [Cal] and woman [Becky] have been friends since childhood. They grow up. She becomes pregnant, but the child is not his. They decide to cross the continent by car when they stop in Kansas. By accepting Becky Cal becomes the biggest protagonist sap in all literature.

They stop at dilapidated buildings. The story does not add mystery or unsettle the reader by noting that settlement is no longer on modern maps. They hear a voice beseeching help, coming from an adjoining field. Cal and Becky want to help. They each venture in, at different times, and each gets lost, I think. They chase Tobin, a native Kansan who easily makes his way around because he uses tunnels constructed by the mole people of whom he is related. Throughout the hike there are many statements: The grass is tall. Becky and Cal yell at one another but have no idea where the other is. They don’t know where Tobin is. In one sentence the voice sounds like it came from a Manitoba mine 1000 miles north. It is a poor simile. Having read to that sentence I did not care if they ever left the field, or if they found one another, in Manitoba or Kansas. Essentially, the authors are not writing about real or representative human beings.

I suppose there are items (a red rock) to use for metaphors, like Dorothy’s Ruby Red shoes in The Wizard of Oz. If any reader does not believe the ending of The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home,” no reader will be happy with the red stone derivation in this story.

There is no reason given why Cal or Becky decide to stop and follow the voice into the tall grass. Following the observations of each character the reader can guess: The characters are morons, idiots, imbeciles, retards and simpletons. Readers are exposed to one nonsensical action after another; none amounts to an effective novella. A big question arises: Do either Becky or Cal have search and rescue work as a life experience? NOPE. Never once is Tobin told to stay where he is and yell. Most search and rescue work personnel have an internal compass – north, south, etc. They would estimate the metes and bounds of the area to be searched and go no further, keeping track of how many footsteps (or time) have been taken in one direction. Most search and rescuers will not look in very dense vegetation, a natural setting sounding more like Vietnam than the prairies of Kansas. It also is reminiscent of the nineteenth century United States Army in very similar terrain trying the round up and placate the Native Americans in Florida.

Somewhere, there may be a great psychological twist in the story. I don’t know where it is, and I discount it as a contrivance.

REVIEW: NEW YORK TIMES

Delivered to the house was the magazine WIRED (March 2017). I’ve perused it and have comments.

On the cover is a photograph of A.G. Sulzberger, editor/publisher/owner of the New York Times. He appears to be middle age, is bald, mediocre posture of an undead person, and wearing dark clothes he is ready to conduct funerals. It looks very Nineteenth Century – pose, distant vision, presentation of person, but that’s it. None of that works today, 2017.

Inside Sulzberger says that everyone appear and be normal human beings. Nothing about Sulzberger suggests he is a homo sapiens sapiens. He looks like an android sent from another planet to scout out prospects on earth. He is less threatening than Arnold Schwarzenegger, but looks built by the same machine-owned firm that put Arnold together for those movies. Trying to soften Sulzberger’s image, they have him wearing eye glasses, circa 1935 frames.

There are many problems with the New York Times, the most basic ones are not identified in the article. Indeed, one paragraph in the article presents New York Times’ major flaws:

Four books after the election, Times chief executive Mark Thompson
told an industry conference that subscriptions had surged at 10 times
their usual rate. To Thompson, the likeliest explanation wasn’t that
the times did a bang-up job covering the final days of the election –
like everyone else, they failed to anticipate Trump’s victory – that that
readers were looking to hedge against fake news. He suggests a simpler
reason: “I think the public anxiety to actually have professional,
consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account
is probably bigger than all of the other factors put together.” In other
words, the president’s hostility to the press and the very notion of facts
themselves seems to have reminded people that nothing about The New
York Times – or the kind of journalism it publishes – is inevitable.

This passage, page 53, like most most journalistic writing is overwrought. 1) It can be cut: ELIMINATE “In other words” and everything after it. 2) Another explanation (third line) is most likely: Democrats and anti-Trump persons believed they missed something, which The New York Times picked up. They ended subscriptions to other newspapers and started up with the gorilla on the block. 3) The admitted failure of The Times and everyone else to predict a Trump victory suggests a grave issue. The Times was believing its own press, it’s own sources, all its fans, it’s own wave. 4) Journalists are supposed to talk to the other side, which many people, Left or Right, have difficulty doing. One wonders if The Times talks to people on the right, or if their reporters have shut their mouths now that new immigration policies are being put into effect. Polls suggest those are popular measures among Americans. [Remember, don’t conduct any penetrating political polling in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before the election.]

Other than who is being talked to and reported, what are the facts – misstatements, misconceptions, pure truth. No knows what that is sitting in New York City wondering about an Internet site at the New York Times offices. [This segment is greatly shortened.] All journalism comes from excellent writing, and that is where the Internet and word processing becomes a hinderance. Everything is spelled correctly; words appear to be in the proper order. There are too many words – say eight words where two will do. The Internet has space to waste, not the usual newspaper adage. All those reporters who grew up and got an “A” in eighth grade English, have pyramided that excellence into a newspaper career. They’re still writing at middle-school levels, with the juvenile, horrifying reactions to the unusual, the absurd and the foreign.

Every immaterial, irrelevant reaction part of perceived fad-culture is presented in an article. That is not journalism. What may be journalism is the fact that people believe such temporary moments as important, where as in the long haul, they are not. Newspapers hire journalists for their perspective, but most journalists hooked onto the Internet truly believe in these cultural misunderstandings – it might be 5,000 people without tickets to a concert and they are disappointed. Time to riot. Let’s feel sorry for them? [Is the story about the 5,000 standing around outside waiting for the concert to end? What else is on their mind? Is this the best thing any of the 5,000 can do with time?]

Are journalists trained and do they understand everything? The easiest thing to do is hand them a straightforward story, and learn how many cliches are included in the proffered article. The more cliches, the less understanding.

Keep reporters away from the two-pager in Wired. How to grow your own pot. That will kill initiative, except to cultivate and smoke, and wither away brain cells the user never knew were present. It’s not called dope for nothing.

This final most significant point in the Wired New York Times article suggests doom for the newspaper. It’s not that the Ploughkeepsie Times is stealing advertising dollars. It is not competition from the ankle bitters like the Huffington Post take a few bucks. The big player in the room came in a few years ago, new to newspapers but forever familiar with the internet. Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post, lock, stock and barrel, and likely The Post does not have the Internet issues complicating life at the NY Times. Instead, Bezos must only work to cultivate writing and writers, the most important part of any newspaper. If the Internet is presenting a new way at looking at the world (needs color, illustrations, pictures, cartoons), do it! Recognize newspapers are competing against the Super Bowl, World Series, the Best Voice, Great Dancer shows, Wiccan Conventions and every musician to touch a fiddle.

CAMPAIGN 2016

The American people now see the pitiful results of the November election. Don Trump is a human being who lacks a sense of humor and a sense of the ridiculous. Thereby he missed last night’s Correspondents’ Dinner.

It was painfully obvious that humor, ridiculousness and folly were not the traits of human behavior that Hillary Clinton enjoyed. However, her wide exposure trained her to laugh and properly react on cue, however awkwardly. Her laugh occasionally soared uncontrollably, snapping me to attention. My ears were relieved when it ended.

I’ve never seen Don Trump laugh. It is senseless to expect the Presidency to change so basic a behavior. Like Richard Nixon, one can start digging, and no one will ever hear the screams.

TEN CENT HEAD

Yahoo is running a story about Julian Assange, courtesy of Pamela Anderson, once of the sunny beaches of Bay Watch. It is Oscar time in Hollywood; apparently Pamela Anderson doesn’t have much to do here. She is inspecting the sewers in Europe.

According to Anderson, Sweden is progressive. Scandinavians are returning to Viking ways. They are understanding about crimes involving sex. Rape is OK. Assange is rumored to be dating Anderson, who never gave ex-husbands so much time. Assange is innocent! Once a proponent against molesting children, Anderson’s new quest is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Other than committing acts making him a sexual predator in almost every state in the Union, Assange hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2015-16; he joined with the Ruskies to obtain and release emails from the Democratic Party. Every American, Left or Right, knows the email hacking and the release are unAmerican and illegal, except Pamela Anderson. She obviously believes no email hacking occurred; Julian told her so: Everyone has forgotten about the election including Assange’s hacking.

Pamela Anderson should know better, except she may be retarded – an imbecile – a moron – an idiot. Or is Anderson a Democrat so doesn’t remember what happened last week, last month, a year ago? Your choice – publicity or oblivion?

BLOOD ON THE STREET

This Charles Gasparino book is straightforward and accessible. It tells of the rise and fall of the major players involved in the dotcom, telecom bubble (1998-2002). The real persons presented are quiet unattractive, deceptive, dishonest, greedy and wholly unlikeable.

The book sets up facts and bits of law to attract prosecutors. The exact legal jeopardy each person is at different brokerage houses/banks is unclear; many persons are doing the same things. Superiors frequently drop into decisions with advice or comments; all that passes by.

What happens is adequately explained, but these actions will happen again. The major players, underlings who know nothing except how to talk and expertly to repeat what they’ve heard, come from nowhere, are given huge responsibilities and are allowed to do what they want provided their activities make money. They shoulder the ultimate responsibility, not the bosses.

It comes to an end. Outside political forces come in and make arrangements: HOWEVER, if X Brokerage cannot do business ever again, that’s the end of the American economy. Twice from 1999 to 2009 did brokerage firms almost crumble and cause an economic disaster in the United States. Those businesses remain in business today.

 

Continue reading

KNOCK DOWN DRAG OUT

Tonight, the TV show The Good Fight airs. The description of tonight’s program reads, Lawyers Maia Ricdell and Diane Lockhart join one of Chicago’s preeminent law firms after a financial scam destroys Maia’s reputation.

Only on Wall Street, in California, in Hollywood and on TV can anyone be promoted after the reputation is blown to smithereens. If an attorney’s reputation is destroyed by fraud or scandalous acts, they become private investigators or security people, unless they’re hired by Don Trump.

As the program airs look for gut-wrenching moments when the producers try to concoct Catch Me If You Can moments, plus Maia attempts to regain reputation by giving lollipops to babies or by helping previously scammed old ladies, cross the street.

AMERICAN INSURGENTS, AMERICAN PATRIOTS

While reading particulars of the American Revolution, I never thought much about the consciousness of ordinary Americans. The story of named Americans has been well told, but the men, families and small communities have been silent or neglected. Yet, today Americans can learn that revolutionary ardor and fervor was as strong, steadfast and certain in small places than that shown by Franklin, Adams and Jefferson.

These revelations come in T.H. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots, Hill and Wang, NY, 2010. Accompanying that history is an earlier one by Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution, Oxford, NY, 2001. The second book describes the economic forces Americans used against British merchants, and the organizations from 1765 to the start of the War. Insurgents drops to a personal level telling how people used social, political and economic pressure to support the accepted policy. Tories resisted but not for long; families and communities could be tainted by favoring British products, ways or ideas. By 1776 after the shooting began and before independence Americans had rid themselves of unwanted British ways. Indeed, in New Hampshire the British were forced to leave by January, 1775.

The idea of revolution supported by an outside oppressive force used a promise of future liberty, and an incorruptible government causing Americans to act or to rebel. It was not spontaneous or impulsive. It took ten years of work before 1775. The outside force never departed and insisted upon more coercive measures.

Seldom in American history have people gone to war with a single, simple goal: Britain should change the way it governs us. A year later the British had not acted, and the Americans change the way they were to be governed. Americans would have their own country.

Great movements in American history have not been as efficient or used war as the primary means to achieve all its tasks: Abolition (1830 – 1865); Prohibition (@1870-1934); Women’s Vote (1869-1919); Civil Rights (1946-1969). These prolonged issues over decades did not remain constant in goals or methods. Many of these movements had elements of impulse and spontaneity where individuals tried to capture the public’s attention. Many of them made small piles of money but contributed little to the final effort.

On the other hand, Breen has shown American revolutionaries proceeded methodically, taking each step as it came and rarely jumping ahead. The logical approach is required by proponents and supporters while they are taking abuse. Occasionally, named leaders found themselves a step behind the crowds and organizations at home. They quickly made the step. The steps are a logical progression without which Independence would have failed.

POLITICAL GAINS

Shared experience is a common idea flowing through American history. People came together originally first as a military force, next as a political force, followed by economic forces and understanding and tolerating social forces, all reflected during events of the eighteenth century. Before the French Indian War, 1754-1763; social/economic and political protests until 1775; the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783; and the Constitutional period, 1783-1789.

[Rather than] assume the existence of political collectives, {this book] asks
how such a diverse population generated a sense of trust sufficient to sustain
colonial rebellion. It explores how a very large number of ordinary
Americans came to the striking conclusion that it was preferable to risk
their lives and property against a powerful British armed force than to
endure further political opposition.
Mobilization on this level did not come easy. Neither luck nor providence
had much to do with the story. Over a decade of continuous experimentation,
American colonists discovered a means to communicate aspirations and
grievances to each other through a language of shared experience.
(p. Xlll, T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution, New York, Oxford, 2004)

It came to pass that during the Sixties provided a language of shared experience. Many youth and some older Americans understood the vocabulary. Shared experience and the language were the primary strengths of the time; the political opposition was weak or inept.

But unlike 200 years earlier there was no discipline; there was no overbearing common enemy or foe; there was no trust especially among the educated students and hangers-on. Issues such as diet – brown rice or purely vegan – separated individuals. Music became very segregated – not just Motown but Heavy Metal, rock and roll and women’s music. Economic Boycotts: Coca-Cola and God knows what else. No one could trust anyone who did not believe exactly in the perfect filtered life. People could do their own thing; they just could not do anything that wasn’t sanctioned or approved. 
And each so-called leader was a “miraculous character…the sort of brilliant leader not seen for a very long time.” (Ibid, p. 9)

The primary difference between general revolutionary circumstances 200 years earlier, and the 1960s were individual Americans were economically secure in the Twentieth Century. Name recognition mean commercial opportunities – speaking fees, books, lectures, panels, TV appearances, advisory positions e.g. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin. Most of those people began their commercial roll while trying to motivate Americans to revolution: Tom Hayden wrote two or three books during the 1960s; David Horowitz kept apace with his writing plus magazine work. No one in the 1760s or 1770s were participating to make a name or money.

Neither man was capable of writing anything authoritative or definitive. Each would have to be honest. They were street leaders, plotters, protest-arrangers and in some cases drug suppliers. In essence they filled the sorts of role that Samuel Adams had 200 years earlier. But after Independence and a successful war, Sam Adams was neglected. Other people wrote books, pamphlets and newspaper articles.

At the demise of the Sixties not many people could write about the decade: There were too many insights and sights, too many odd people, too many influences intense or disturbing, and as the decade lengthened many events crashed into the younger generation. The so-called leaders lost control. No one could capture it all for one city, for a region, or a decade.

Americans are left with TH Breen’s The Marketplace of the Revolution, an excellent book about the political staging of the colonists before the American Revolutionary War. It seems natural that the war did not solve political problems between and among the thirteen states. After the War Americans acted appropriately and properly.

But the language of the shared experience from the Sixties, left Americans with people purportedly writing memoirs, and most of those are not pretty. No one tells much truth in an memoir or in an autobiography. But don’t mind the liar. Don’t mind the whiner. Don’t mind the writer aggrandizing himself: I was a hero at this event. I spoke last. I turned the tide against the pigs during that riot. It’s all entertainment. Hope you enjoyed it, because I was able to propagate the myths and make the buck.

NO FREE SPEECH

The big issue coming to people’s attention is there is no free speech at Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement. Everyone who is familiar with Berkeley, knows there has been no Free Speech on campus for 50 years. Berkeley was not the first American campus to contest Free Speech rights of students in October 1964. In his book Campus Wars, Kenneth Heinemann, recounts events leading to free speech on a mid-west campus a year before Berkeley started up.

Speech [is[ essential to maintaining a healthy “civil society.” Without open access to information…how could a citizen begin to comprehend “the advancement of truth, science, mortality and arts in general. Even more important …the ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them was the means by which oppressive offices are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just models of conducting affairs… T.H. Breen, American Insurgents and American Patriots, Hill and Wang, NY, 2010, p. 235.

Admittedly, the passage above refers to “freedom of the press,” but speech is just as appurtenant. It is doubly so because the protesters at Berkeley, February 2017, had a course open to them. Write and criticize. Does the speaker use oratory tricks and relay no substance? Not in writing. It is said Hitler was an excellent orator, but the substance of his speeches was trash. His writing was pitiful.

No one will ever know what the Berkeley speaker would have said, and there is no criticism of it. No one would ever know what the speaker would have communicated. He apparently is unable to write. And generally, political writing by the Left and by the Right is ordinary or extremely mediocre. Most of the writers believe they only have to hook themselves up to a dictaphone and talk an essay onto a page. It’s about as unique and insightful as a Bill O’Reilly history – thousands of those volumes make their way to paper recyclers primarily because political writers, Left and Right, are eager to get to emotional issues: crying babies, crying mothers, crying cops. They never understand and tell substance.

Late news reports state that an outside group, wearing black – perhaps pajamas like the Viet Cong – came on campus and did all the damage. They did wear masks like ninjas. (There have been too many Ninja Turtle movies.) Given the totality of the circumstances it may be Berkeley has it right. There is no Free Speech on campus because no one, Left or Right, has anything noteworthy to say. SO SHUT UP!