Dear Parents: if your son goes to college, joins a fraternity and screws up, you could lose your home.
Do I have your attention yet?
How many times in my adult life have I heard this?
YOU were in a fraternity?
Doc Sammy, in another life.
Yes I was. Theta Chi, Gamma Omicron chapter, Wake Forest University. I know, I don’t fit the stereotype. Neither did my chapter. Sure, we had parties. We drank, sometimes more than was strictly healthy. We were appropriately hormonal for a pack of 18-22 year-old guys. We were noisy and obnoxious and occasionally rude, especially when singing a rousing round of “Roll Out Your Mother” during Parents Weekend football games.
But consider this. Theta Chi, during Spring Rush of 1980, was the first place in my life I ever heard anyone talk about diversity. Today, of course, diversity is a critical concept in corporations, in schools, in government, everywhere. We are becoming a more diverse nation that promotes equal rights and standing for people of all races, for women, and finally for the LGBT community.
I’ve been paid by large corporations to develop diversity training, in fact, and what a wonderful irony that my first introduction to the importance of the concept came in a fraternity. Continue reading →
Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of this use of Native American imagery. The man wearing the jacket was white, and at first he didn’t want me to photograph his design when I asked if I could. “I don’t want someone to steal my visual ideas,” he said.
After the rains, Brisbane is a drowning pool for baby rodents and all the teeming airborne insects normally fuelled by the sun. It’s an incidental, non-malicious cleansing which some say takes teeny animal souls back to various waiting rooms to wait for rebirth in some other Earthly form.
Corporate owners treat news as “product.” As a result, the industry is on life support.
by Patrick Vecchio
I can’t remember how young I was when I fell in love with my local newspaper. It started with a comic strip: Mandrake the Magician. I would wait on our front porch for the newspaper boy, spread the paper on the floor and read Mandrake on my hands and knees. As I grew older, my interest expanded to different sections of the paper. By the time I reached high school, I was reading it from front to back. I loved it.
I never left my hometown, and after studying journalism in college, I began working as a reporter at a tiny daily newspaper about 20 miles away. Continue reading →
Women – and men – in online dating communities are acting like goddamned sociopaths. This needs to stop.
Okay, not all of you. But some of you. Men, too – I’m guessing this isn’t just women. See if you recognize yourselves below.
On multiple occasions I’ve been talking to women I met through OK Cupid. Things going great, we really seem to be hitting it off, and then we agree to meet. The woman has even been the one asking me out, in fact. I say yes, then … poof. Gone without a trace. Never hear from her again.
This is odd behavior, especially when she just asked me out, right? Am I saying yes wrong? WTF? Continue reading →
Advertising may be evil, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.
Despite my exposure to what a colleague estimates is nearly 100 million advertising impressions as I approach seven decades of life, I am not taller, I am not more attractive, I am not thinner, and I sure as hell don’t smell much better than I did in the 1950s.
I teach in a journalism school in which more students aspire to be advertising and PR madmen and madwomen than journalists. So I think about advertising often — mostly with disbelief and frequent outrage (the righteous kind, y’know).
The disbelief: I watch an ad in which a pricey luxury sedan maneuvers at night through lanes illuminated by paper lanterns. Continue reading →
American businesses are anti-intellectual. American universities are anti-relevance. The gods help the overeducated schmuck stuck in the middle.
Hi. I’m Sam, and I’m a PhD.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have a doctorate. Communication, University of Colorado, 1999. Some days it’s the thing I have done in life that I’m most proud of. Other days I think it’s the worst mistake I ever made in my life. There are days where I think both things more or less at the same time.
As I age, I increasingly ponder loyalty. Most of us, I suspect, have an understanding of it. Perhaps it’s a feeling that we’d crawl through burning oil and run across broken glass because the person to whom we are loyal needs it. And that person never asks; we merely give unreservedly.
Lately, however, loyalty I have awarded (given? allowed? presented? What is the word that best presents bestowal of loyalty?) has been strained. Is it because I have come to expect something in return? A little quid pro quo? If that attitude has emerged in me, I am saddened. But I fear it has. I am human: I have done for others without marked compensation or gratitude for so long … but now, am I finally seeking a little sugar for my faithful attention?
I used to advertise my loyalty and I don’t believe there is a single person I loved that I didn’t eventually betray. ― Albert Camus, The Fall
Loyalty for me has always been freely given with no expectation of reciprocity. Either in an instant, or over time, I have become loyal to you. You owe me naught. But 70 years old is no longer a distant horizon. Has the erosion of physical ability or the emergence of emotional and intellectual insecurity altered that equation? Do I now need something, somehow, from an individual or institution that has received unqualified, unquestioned loyalty from me? Continue reading →
The brain updates memories to make them more relevant and useful. It isn’t trying to accurately remember what happened. So, what do you remember that’s wrong?
Science has long known that human memory is far less reliable than most people imagine. For fun, Google [memory not reliable] and when you get a few spare minutes work your way through the 89,300,000 results that pop up.
I first encountered this body of research – not all of it, of course – as an undergrad at Wake Forest in Dr. Jerry Burger’s Intro to Psychology class, and then we studied it a bit more when I later took him for Social Psych. Utterly fascinating was the research on eyewitness memory in criminal investigations. We all imagine that if we’re sitting in a room watching a lecture and a guy bursts in and beats up the professor, we could probably give an accurate enough description and pick him out of a lineup a few minutes later, but it turns out that this isn’t the case nearly as often as you’d imagine. Continue reading →
In November 1989, I asked a remarkable woman to marry me.
That didn’t go well.
So I drank myself into a stupor deepened by self-pity and hacked away all night long at a Macintosh SE (Remember those? Two floppy drives?). In the morning, I had an evil headache, more questions about women than I could ever answer, and a 30-page short story.
Such was the sulking, ignoble, drunken genesis of mapping Utah.
That story lay dormant for half a decade, buried in a chaotic array of papers accumulated during study for my master’s degree. It emerged from hiding in 1994 during research for my doctorate. I’d just finished my course work and was supposed to be working on my dissertation.
As all doc students know, aptly timed and brilliantly executed procrastination is a requirement for a successful dissertation. So I procrastinated. (May my adviser, Trager, forgive me.) The short story beget a longer story, about 100 pages. That, too, slunk into hibernation among copies of mass communication research articles I never wanted to face again. Continue reading →
Nelson Mandela emerging from Victor Verster Prison, 11 February 1990, Reuters
Sunday afternoon in 1990. 11 February in Port Elizabeth. The height of summer, just after schools have returned for the start of the year. The wind howls as the air tears down South Africa’s long coast.
That day was calm. The country held its breath.
Thousands gathered at Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, about an hour outside Cape Town. They were waiting for the unhoped-for release of one man: Nelson Mandela.
I, 16 years old, poised in front of the television with my camera on a tripod. I knew it was probably futile trying to catch an image, but I wanted somehow to hang on to this moment. Continue reading →
Yes, I know precisely where I was when someone murdered John Fitzgerald Kennedy. No, I do not want to hear where the hell you were. Nor do I want to read or watch any “retrospectives” on his assassination. Nor do I want to read or watch orations on what might have been had the shot or shots missed. I’m only concerned with what the hell actually happened in and to America since Kennedy died.
A half century has passed since my infatuation with Camelot. Fifty years have passed since the naïveté of my youth promised me wars will end, peace will reign, and society will be equitable. Even after the brutality of Daley’s thugs disrupted the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Camelot sang as my siren. Even after gunfire from the National Guard killed four students at Kent State, I still believed in what the precisely cultivated mass mediations of JFK presented to me while he lived. Even after Nixon and his protect-me politics of Watergate, I had faith in process, politics, and people — even some politicians. Continue reading →
A passing motor yacht, Dacozy Resort beach, Moalboal, Philippines
Since Friday. It has been a journey. I have written more than 16,000 words in three days. 66,900 words for the first draft. The last coming out in a cleansing burst. As my heroes suffered, I was balling my eyes out. Continue reading →
Cover, I Met The Walrus by Jerry Levitan (Courtesy, Goodreads)
I’ve wandered off the list again. A visit to a used bookstore over the weekend (always a dangerous idea for a book nut) ended with a new book joining the 2013 extended reading list. This is another in one of my favorite “genres,” the rock and roll book. Jerry Levitan’s I Met the Walrus recounts the author’s nearly unbelievable story of, as a 14 year old, not simply meeting but interviewing John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Toronto “bed-in” for peace in 1969.
Levitan, a self-described “aficionado” (in the Hemingway sense of the word) of The Beatles, especially John Lennon, Pierre Trudeau, and Jerry Lewis (don’t ask me why – but Levitan mentions that Lennon liked him, too) is one of those kids who are always “in the know.” He gets copies of the hippest new record albums before anyone else, and, in a prelude to his meeting with Lennon, he visits New York during the 1968 Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon and somehow meets Jerry Lewis. Continue reading →
The small child was perched under a shelter, upon the wall of a square enclosure. “You want buy pig?” he inquired.
The author, being as he was on his way back from diving, demurred.
I can see why folks dive at Pescador Island – a small atoll only a few minutes boat ride from Panagsama Beach – it is simply beautiful. I was, for reasons known only to itself, adopted by a remora which became the surreal highlight of my dive. Oh sure, there were all sorts of colourful fish, nudibranches, sea horses, soft and hard corals, and snotty-looking things, but every time I reached for my pressure gauge, I would grab a handful of Romy (that was her name).
The giggling probably reduced my downtime a bit, but I still got an hour in. Continue reading →
The only way to take a month off is not to take a month off. Today was a work day. Tomorrow is a diving day. So writing resumes on Saturday.
Still, the ocean is just over the lawn and I saw a ray leap out of the water a few metres out.
Words completed: 20,969 and 5,482 written on Wednesday, including a re-edit of work to date.
Some influences for this work include Italo Calvino (If on a winter’s night a traveller), Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) and Alan Paton (Cry, The Beloved Country). They’re an odd mix for a near-future science fiction story. I love the tone of Paton’s book, the timbre of the conversation. I love the gentleness of McCall Smith’s work, the care people have for each other. I love the post-modern exuberance of Calvino, the patchwork-quilt that is a story.
I don’t have any books with me. I haven’t read a fictional work in months. Clearing my head. That doesn’t mean I’m not reading, but I’m taking care to keep an aesthete’s approach to fitness.