Jun 30, 2009


I thought I could manage a blog that was friendly, substantive and apolitical. That was foolish because I already knew the truth in Gloria Steinem’s now famous line, “Everything personal is political, and everything political is personal.” If you think you know of a fairly important arena of social interaction (or lack of it) that is apolitical—that is, meaningfully without political motivation or consequence—please create an argument that supports your view. Give examples.

Here is a questionnaire. I hope you will actually copy and paste your answers and send them along. I’d be very interested to see them, and I’ll most likely post them here if I receive more than a couple. Otherwise, maybe this is a useful tool for self-diagnosis or talking with friends or adversaries.

Though we might like to think we are as individual (and delicate) as snowflakes, and therefore too complex to be labeled, that is more or less, in general, on the whole, almost certainly, a delusion of grandeur. So listen to your heart and identify yourself politically as:

far left, left, center, right, far right

For each sentence below, provide the number (1 is low, 4 is high) that tells how strongly you agree with the sentence.

White Liberals are motivated by white guilt. 1 2 3 4

White guilt is neurotic and illogical. 1 2 3 4

Minority liberals hope to climb
the socioeconomic ladder the easy way. 1 2 3 4

Advocates for strong unions hope to climb
the socioeconomic ladder the easy way. 1 2 3 4

Liberals have a genuine interest in social justice. 1 2 3 4

Conservatives have a genuine interest in social justice. 1 2 3 4

Compared to Liberals, Conservatives are motivated by greed. 1 2 3 4

Compared to Liberals, Conservatives are more motivated by anger. 1 2 3 4

Conservatives do not care about a level playing field 1 2 3 4
in terms of social or economic justice.

The percentage of Conservatives who were 1 2 3 4
born into the lower or lower middle class
is significantly smaller than the percentage of Liberals.

Conservatives do not try to imagine the lives of those
born into a less empowered situation. 1 2 3 4

Liberals do try to imagine that, or actually were 1 2 3 4
born into a less empowered situation.

I have two or more friends significantly more 1 2 3 4
liberal or conservative than I am.

I have two or more friends whose race or religion 1 2 3 4
is significantly different from mine.
(Methodist vs. Presbyterian is NOT significant;
Methodist vs. Muslim IS significant)

This questionnaire was more fun than not. 1 2 3 4

This questionnaire was somewhat or very useful to me. 1 2 3 4

About leaving comments on this blog: Although I'm seeking conversation or debate in every post, pleasee remember that all visitors own what they say, and your comments are subject to state and federal law.
To leave a comment go to the end of the post and click the underlined word, "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear, where you can type in your comment. Below that, click "Name/URL" to leave a name for yourself (if you do not have a Google account).

Jun 29, 2009

yellow warbler

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch
Consider beauty a sufficient end . . .

Yeats, "A Prayer for My Daughter" 1921

Jun 28, 2009


Pic to the left: "Urban Scene"

Here are some random Sunday thoughts, some drifting clouds. Am I the only one who thinks about such things? The city and sports items come from the first Banjo52 post, back in March. I continue to think of those subjects as both fluff and heft, mind candy and soul meat.

Hey, those last metaphors are pretty good, don’t you think? Are they actually mine? As far as I know, they are . . . .

Let's say you can afford a long October weekend in only one of the following cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh. Which do you choose and why?

Consider sports as tribalism, or even nationhood. How many of the players have anything in common with you? How many—and who?—would you keep in your tribe? How many of the fans? And in case I need to say it: Why?

Do you care if a pro sports team somehow captures the character of its city? Or is winning the only realistic, reasonable concern? For example, should it be ordained that no matter how good their quarterbacks and receivers are, the Steelers shall be known for linebackers and tough running between the offensive tackles, while it's okay for the Cardinals, Seahawks, or 49ers to be passing teams—flashy and dramatic, frilly and inconsistent? They might as well wear pink.

About leaving comments: Although I'm seeking conversation or debate in every post, I must remind you that all visitors own what they say, and your comments are subject to state and federal law. To leave a comment go to the end of the post and click the underlined word, "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear, where you can type in your comment. Below that, click "Name/URL" to leave a name for yourself (if you do not have a Google account).

Jun 27, 2009


I feel trite being ga ga about cardinals and finches. But why not? Besides, I gave you an owl a few days ago, so be nice.

About leaving comments: Although I'm seeking conversation or debate in every post, I must remind you that all visitors own what they say, and your comments are subject to state and federal law.
To leave a comment go to the end of the post and click the underlined word, "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear, where you can type in your comment. Below that, click "Name/URL" to leave a name for yourself.

Jun 26, 2009


For today's photo, how about the title, "Size Matters."

Moving on . . .

Out my window, a little girl on a plastic Three-Wheeler just pedaled by on the sidewalk, her too-thin mom strolling behind her. The child was wearing a helmet. I cannot logically argue against such caution, yet it saddens me to see it.

Ditto for helmets on adult bicyclers and skateboarders. Double ditto when I see my reflection in the window, my helmet perched like a runt black turtle atop my buffalo-sized head. So much for dignity (which has always been overrated anyway).

To me, all this protection looks silly, unnatural, and wrong, even as I’ve become aware in recent years of the label, “closed-head injury.” It’s brain versus gut, and my gut is bigger.

Conversely, I silently rail at motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets. I expect to see their brains strewn across the pavement, and I resent having to live out my days with that image recurring in my brain.

Also, I expect that I’ll have to deal with the mess in some way. As a former smoker who was often reprimanded for the cost of my habit to other people’s insurance premiums and to taxpayers, I could also raise the issue of what Easy Riders do to my insurance rates and the portion of my taxes dedicated to medical care for the uninsured.

But it’s a pretty morning, and I won’t go there. We all do things that others will have to pay for. Shame on all of us.

Moving on >

According to Webster, an aphorism is a “concise statement of a principle; a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment.” Among the synonyms are: adage, axiom, rule, moral, truism.

Until I read the scholar-poet James Richardson’s book, Vectors a few years ago, I thought of aphorisms as the zippy, phony wisdom on most bumper stickers and fortune cookies. Instead, I’ve learned that there is an ancient tradition of aphorisms as legitimate forms of thought and expression, and Richardson’s own modern formulations are anything but simple (I highly recommend the book).

So in trying to emulate a writer I admire, I’ve come up with a few (dozen) aphorisms of my own. Sometimes I have a hard time staying serious about them. I’ll offer one or two per post for a very short while.

Re: “Daughters and Finches” on June 17:
My beagle can beat up your beagle.
Or, Wisdom is a house of mirrors.

Moving On again >

I’m opening a contest here, a competition for the best caption from any of you for any photograph on this blog (I’m the “photographer” for all the pics).

First Prize is the letter A, for Enormous Satisfaction. Ditto for Second and Third Prizes.

About Visitor Comments:

In every post, I'm looking for conversation or debate. To leave a comment after any of my entries, go to the end of the post and click the underlined word "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear for you to type in your comment. For your identity, choose one of the four options. If you do not have a Google account, the best choice is "Name/URL." There, you may create a name for yourself or use your real name. You may click "Anonymous," but complete anonymity makes the conversation much less interesting--how shall someone else address you? Also, complete anonymity might encourage irresponsible remarks, which I'll choose not to publish. Thanks for stopping in at BANJO52.

Jun 24, 2009


In today's paragraphs maybe I'm only adding a random footnote to the conflict between the Great Man theory of history and its opposite, the people’s history. However, it seems worthwhile to revisit the ways we look at past and current events, the ways we do and do not see or talk about certain subjects—ourselves, our heroes, turning points in their history and our own.

If there’s anything like a thesis here, it might be expressed in the conclusion of W. H. Auden’s poem, “The Unknown Citizen.” The lines are also worth re-reading in their own right for their ironic wisdom about regular folks—you and me:

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard

So, our notables in history: were they free? Were they happy? Is the question absurd? And what about the non-notables?

What do ordinary Americans think about today? Do we see ourselves as unknown
citizens? The explosion of blogs, Twitter, My Space (Mine, Mine, Mine—I have space; I have territory; I say who can come in; maybe you'll make the cut, maybe not), Facebook, and Face Lift (oops)—do these forms of communication amount to a need to be known, seen, and understood,especially among the young, perhaps?

And that might relate to history, our reluctance to learn it, or at least to learn from it. We're too busy studying ourselves in various mirrors to care about history, especially a history of ordinary people--after all, we're not ordinary, are we. What could be worse than being ordinary?

Does our our lack of interest in history boil down to this obvious, icky point: as young people, we were, or are, too hyper, horny, and self-centered to care about days of yore, possible explanations of how things came to be the way they are, and where each of us and each culture stand in relation to history's stream of events?


But there’s also the fact that for a long while, family, church, and school suppressed unpleasant information and sugar-coated or flag-coated the tales they did tell. It was a good time for the Great Man theory.

Were parents and institutions trying to avoid getting the kids riled up or scared poop-less? In the 1960s and 1970s, television coverage of the U.S. war in Vietnam and our Civil Rights movement took care of that, as mass media came closer than ever to revealing hideous events in almost real time. Mirrors were everywhere. The world refused to let us fail to see ourselves and our culture-- as imperfect and vulnerable, among other features.

I hope it’s old news by now that history courses and polite conversation “back in the day” could be labeled “History as Headlines”—centered on “his-story,” as “told by the winners,” which translated to adventure, invasion, war victories, treaties and politics. Those are probably some of the deficits of The Great Man theory of history.

The day-to-day lives of ordinary people of all stripes weren’t newsworthy. No one seemed to be asking, for example, about the young Americans who were not called to combat in World War II. Nobody asks, "What did you not do in the war, Daddy." Only recently did I hear about the number of non-combat military personnel—the unknown citizen-soldiers—required to sustain one soldier in combat. The figure was somewhere around 16 to 1, and I think I've heard that the ratio was similar during our war in Vietnam. Was it a vacation in the sun? Does no one want to know what life was like for a military mechanic or cook in the Philippines?

On a more everyday, domestic, but still heroic note, TV series like Lonesome Dove and Deadwood were too realistic to appear until fairly recently (they surely would not have appeared in the 1950s). Although there was still some nobility, some heroism hanging around, especially as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall, who knew that the great American cowboy was so devoted to whores and whiskey? On the other hand, how could we have failed to guess it?

About Visitor Comments: Although I'm seeking conversation or debate in every post, I must remind you that all visitors own what they say, and your comments are subject to state and federal law.

To leave a comment go to the end of the post and click the underlined word, "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear, where you can type in your comment.

For your identity, choose one of the four options. If you do not have a Google account, the best choice is "Name/URL." There, you may create a name for yourself or use your real name. You may click "Anonymous," but complete anonymity makes the conversation much less interesting—how shall someone else address you? Also, complete anonymity might encourage irresponsible remarks, which I'll choose not to publish. Thanks for stopping in at BANJO52.

Jun 23, 2009


In every post, I'm looking for conversation or debate. To leave a comment after any of my entries, go to the end of the post and click the underlined word "comments" or "post a comment." A white box will appear for you to type in your comment. For your identity, choose one of the four options. If you do not have a Google account, the best choice is "Name/URL." There, you may create a name for yourself or use your real name. You may click "Anonymous," but complete anonymity makes the conversation much less interesting--how shall someone else address you? Also, complete anonymity might encourage irresponsible remarks, which I'll choose not to publish. Thanks for stopping in at BANJO52.

Before I hit you with even more page-turning, cop and robber action today, here are a couple of nuts and bolts items.

1. If you see any inaccuracies about matters of fact or information, I hope you’ll let me know. I’m mainly concerned with bird identification or historical information, but I'd also like to correct anything else that’s factually wrong.

2. Has anyone out there tried both AT&T and Comcast for HD TV? If so, which is your choice?

Now, on with the show >

Yesterday I wrote the following to the blogger at Ohio River Life: Do you know the source of your interest in “Somewhere, Ohio” and life “Back in the Day?”

The subject of daily life in the somewhat distant past or off-the-beaten-track present has grown much more interesting to me over the last decade or so. Many people middle-aged or older say they feel the same way. Still, it bothers me that I didn’t especially care about history in my 20s and 30s—unless an elder was telling a good story in an entertaining way.

I’d like YOU to offer a brief story or an entertaining, seemingly original expression from life before 1960, probably from a parent or grandparent or great aunt.

Does it at least vaguely imply an interesting aspect of local or national history that we’d probably never find in a textbook?

Here’s one from one of my mothers-in-law: “He’ll be all right if we can just get him over Fool’s Hill.”

Here’s another—a bit crude—from a small-town man who would be 92 now. The expression, in italics, roughly means “skillfully, deftly, adroitly”: And that boy ran that ball down and caught it over his shoulder, just slicker ‘n snot on the barn door.

I’m not sure how much history we can glean from my examples, but they’re certainly more rural than urban and maybe more southern than northern. Is anyone else familiar with them and their regional or historical sources?

I’m now breaking this post about history into two separate entries. Tune in over the next few days to see if anyone responds to that invitation—and to hear more riveting commentary from yours truly at Banjo52.

Jun 21, 2009

Father's Day: Egret or Owl?

Is every father one or the other? Both? Another kind of bird or animal? Shouldn't you have to vote for one? Or write a mini-essay about your choice or why you cannot choose, including the possibility that the assignment is dumb.

Happy Father's Day.

Jun 20, 2009

PARENTING, Especially for Parents of Adults

What does it mean to be a parent once the kids are grown and gone? How do you do it? I heard someone say you have to woo ‘em or lose ‘em. True or False? For I've also witnessed scenes that seem to say, "Keep right on bossing. Guilt 'em, spy on 'em, keep 'em guessing."

Step-by-step accounts or actual instructions in a specific situation would be great, but general ideas might be helpful too.

In case you want to know who’s asking, and for context, let’s say my own daughter and son are in their late twenties, each with a kid or two, and we all get along. That’s close enough to the factual for me to feel comfortable presenting these issues.

1. Define “adult.” I read somewhere that professionals (I guess that means shrinks) now define adolescence as roughly the ages of 11 – 32. I hear more and more commentary, including groans from all involved, about children in their twenties still living in or returning to their parents' homes—for reasons that might be only partially financial.

2. Do you ever see grey-haired people (say, your friends or your siblings) still parenting their adult children?—that is, giving orders, or pressuring, doling out more than enough unsolicited advice and instruction? Does it work? I ask because I try hard to avoid sticking around as the boss (as if I ever was), but I’ve seen it appear to work for others with offspring in their twenties, thirties and up. I don’t trust that to be healthy; I wonder what goes on behind the scenes and within the skulls of all involved.

3. If you’re too young for this question, feel free to turn it around. How have your parents succeeded and failed in being a helpful presence, more than a meddlesome boss or an indifferent absentee? Give examples of when they sensed the right time and right ways to step in to help or back off and allow you to struggle through an important situation or life lesson on your own.

Jun 18, 2009


OK, now I see that I have a few visitors, but the cats have apparently got all their tongues. I sure would appreciate some idea of who's out there knocking, what you'd like to talk about, and what it is in Banjo52 that you're finding good, bad, or in-between. After yesterday's windy tale, you may raise an eyebrow when I say I'm a good listener, but that's what I've been told.

In recent years, I've grown more and more interested in notions about groups and boundaries. I had a minor epiphany a few summers ago as I watched some birds fly across the Ohio-Indiana border. I'm fairly sure they had no idea they were changing jurisdictions, Buckeye to Hoosier, but I was amused to find myself wondering where and why the birds might detect a meaningful change, or a destination, or a reason for flying.

The implications of this for humans fascinate me. Look at our identification with alma maters, hometowns, neighborhoods, symbols (the flag, the cross, the star of David). Where are the borders that tell us how those places may or may not affect us years and decades after we've left?

One day I'll hold the podium on the importance of school colors and team uniforms. I used to be embarrassed to realize I knew a fair amount about this apparent trivia; then I got to wondering just how trivial it was. If school colors and nicknames can rile us up, how far are we from the volatility of similar, but much larger phenomena and issues of culture, race, gender, career, religion, landscape? Who and what own me? Can hills own me? Or the colors "maize and blue"? Why not yellow and blue? How much do I care? How free am I to change how much I care?

I'd guess we speak too freely (smugly?) about tribalism in New Guinea or Afghanistan. Maybe we are plenty tribal right here, but with different ways of experiencing and expressing it.

Jun 17, 2009


Recently I suggested to some guests on another blog that the visitors needed to offer some specifics to support their rather definite, blaring opinions. Though I doubt it had anything to do with my urging, specifics began to show up over the next few days. Both the phrasing and the logic were sometimes awkward, but a few folks were tossing out information and websites while clinging to their penchant for insults. Maybe it was innocent fun, like barroom banter; maybe it was the most we can hope for. I don’t know if anyone’s understanding or opinions were changed, but at least some opportunities were born.

One of my favorite images in Yeats's poetry occurs in “A Prayer for My Daughter: “an old bellows full of angry wind.” It’s probably directed at the love of his life, Maud Gonne, who had rejected him—in part because he was not the fervent Irish nationalist that she was and wanted him to be. He speaks of Maud as once great beauty that has “bartered” itself for opinions and become transmogrified into “angry wind.”

The poem has been called a sentimental and sexist prayer, a plea for the daughter to be not just other than Maud, but also to become a submissive air-head, not a plea that any father would issue for his son. I see the basis for that criticism, but I cannot dismiss the gorgeousness in many of the poem’s lines and phrases, as the father prays that his child will have only the beauty that arises from modesty, courtesy and a good heart. I hear him longing for all that’s gentle, harmless, loyal and self-effacing—that kind of beauty.

In our own time, here and abroad, multitudes worship at the Altar of Roar—from fundamentalist clergy to oppositional journalists and politicians who know everything to family, friends, next-door neighbors and bloggers who know everything. With all that omniscience hanging around, who needs a god to pray to?

In the U.S. in 2009, is it wrong-headed to stand—tentatively, conditionally—with Yeats, hoping a daughter’s thoughts will be like the linnet, a finch, a small, sweet singer but one which can apparently cling fiercely to a tree in a storm off the Atlantic. May we be permitted to choose for our daughters and ourselves modesty and innocence over “an old bellows full of angry wind,” created by “an intellectual hatred,” a politically fixated mind that’s become cemented against all that’s courteous, delicate, understated, generous?

Almost certainly, we need politically hardened idealists, or there will be no decisions, no action, none of the progress in intellect, courage, or moral strategy that can save people. Note, however, the potential oxymoron: can the same person be both hardened and idealistic? Isn’t there something inherently soft, young, hopeful and naïve about idealism? Is idealism gone once it begins to harden—into dogma, propaganda, strategy, slaughter? And an even more sweeping question: can morality exist as a conscious strategy or is it a state of being, a sensitivity, from which conscious operations might or might not develop?

An American version of the linnet might be the purple finch or house finch in today's picture. Is he idealistic? Listen to his song. Would you choose it over just about any sermon or speech?

But we must have hardness in order to create and sustain conditions like liberty and justice for all. We offer to hardened idealists such titles as Founding Father, or martyr, or visionary. They deserve the honors they receive . . . if their cause is just. And who determines that? Who knows whether the pilot--while he's at the helm--is George Washington or Napoleon?

If you listen to the squawk, everyone knows—and can’t wait to tell you. How many times have you been taught a lengthy lesson you hadn’t asked for, on a subject that bored or offended you?

And based on all this knowing, everyone sounds ready to go to war—that is, to send the neighbor’s kid to war—because everyone knows the cause is just, often because someone’s god told him so, according to some middleman with a divinity degree.

How come I’m never the one who knows? Every time I start spewing and spouting, voices arise in my head—from the recent or distant past, from the left, middle or right, and they challenge, “But what about this? What about that?” Ignorance in the name of thinking hard—how quickly the inner life becomes an hallucinogenic burden.

On the subject of knowing, remember again the truism that America’s Founding Fathers were committing treason against their nation’s government and near-genocide against the people whose land they had invaded. And how could they have known they were right, in any sense beyond—and loftier than—their own immediate needs? Hadn’t they been told it was the king, not they, who had a direct line to the Lord and therefore to Truth?

So I’m astonished at how cheap omniscience has become. Everybody and his uncle’s got the damn stuff, and pretty soon you won’t be able to give it away.

Well, even if we all know a lot, most of us are in no danger of becoming heroic. Sometimes it seems, however, that we also give up on the linnet’s song and other quiet beauty available to us because we’d rather opine, crank up the volume, and mute all evidence counter to the tilt of our intellectual hatred--which is, therefore, not very intellectual at all.

Jun 14, 2009


If you’re the bus driver taking a Dexter City, Ohio team to a Friday night game in Hannibal, Ohio, which route do you choose? Why? What if it’s a Saturday afternoon game?

Aside from a walk or an actual drive in good country, is there something better to do, or wonder about, on a weekend morning?

On a more practical note, would it be crazy to choose Rt. 30 west to east across northern Ohio to get from Toledo to Marietta? Google Maps makes it about a half-hour longer than the more obvious choices of the Ohio Turnpike to I-77, or Ohio Turnpike to Rt. 250 to I-77, or I-75 to Findlay, OH, then Rt. 15 and 23 toward Columbus and east on I-70, possibly avoiding Columbus on Rt. 37 east out of Delaware, OH.

Jun 11, 2009

Short Story Anthology, ed. Joyce Carol Oates

I just bought a new short story anthology, Contemporary American Short Fiction, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, and I'd appreciate any suggestions on which authors or stories I should read first--it's a very fat book. Palahniuk's "Escort" wowed me in the store--in spite of some liberties with syntax and grammar that struck me as unnecessary. D. Eisenberg's story, "The Girl Who Left Her Sock on the Floor," intrigues me, but I haven't yet put all the pieces together.

FYI, a few of the other authors I know and expect to love again are: Bass, Baxter, Bender, Dybek, Ford, Hempel, Jones (Edward P.), Lahiri, and Wolff (T.).

I also got Best American Essays 2008, and would appreciate the same kind of info on it if you happen to know its contents or authors.

All for now.

Jun 8, 2009

Jerusalem Hate Video, Day Two

Now that I’ve had a day to live with my visceral reaction to those bitter young humanoids on yesterday’s video, I realize that I pretty much belabored the obvious. I could have even added fuel to the fire if anyone had been listening.

Although I still wonder if ignoring the whole ugly episode would be the most effective response, here are some further, calmer responses, which might more sense.

Who is the filmmaker? What led him to these kids? What is his interest in exposing them and their . . . “views”? Was there any attempt to engage any of them, one at a time, in a meaningful conversation, with coffee, the next day?

I have a feeling the filmmaker supports Obama’s willingness to sit down for discussions with our real and potential enemies—in the hope that conversation and debate can prevent mass murder. Is that the mindset of the filmmaker in this video? Is he only trying to stir up hatred, or is he trying to expose it so that we can plan on how to deal with it—soothe it, resist it? I’m honestly not sure, particularly after looking into the matter just a bit.

If you google Mondoweiss, you’ll get some tentative answers, though I found these two sites a bit more informative. (Max Blumenthal’s credentials surely sound solid).



As I tried to say yesterday, we’re all probably angry or even enraged about various wounds. So I wonder—does anyone else?—how one to learn the inner workings of hate-filled minds like these. Is there a way to massage them and lead drunkenly tilted little lambs to some peaceful interest in exploring issues and other peoples?
Isn’t that what the president hopes to do in cases like Iran and North Korea? Or does hate just feel too good to forego?

Of course, if these were Israeli kids, the whole matter would be at least somewhat understandable. I’m not about to speak for people exposed to the sounds and sights of war on a regular (daily?) basis.

However, most or all of the kids in the video seemed to be American. One of the comments on the http://maxblumenthal.com site (above) says that American Jews voted 77% to 22% for Obama. If that’s at all accurate, who are the kids in the video, what’s got them so worked up, and how concerned about them do we need to be?

Their rage comes from somewhere, and their unearned hatred for the president or African Americans in general is surely a smoke screen for what actually troubles them. But how does a journalist or shrink or mentor or parent or parent surrogate guide them through their rage (whether real or imagined, rhetorical rage), beyond their oversimplifications, to discover the source of their hurt?

Still, I wonder, has anyone tried to sit down with each of these kids and genuinely listen? I’ve never resented the money legitimate shrinks make, listening without judgment for hour upon hour to other humans groping for and maybe speaking their irrationalities.

As listeners, most of us can’t last five minutes. American conversation has become a shouting match, a competition. Maybe that’s a topic for another day—someone, please feel free to start that conversation.

Then again, how much time can we afford to spend trying to figure them out, assuming that that’s possible or useful? Coaxing out and treating real causes may be impossible; maybe all we can do for such children is to watch and control as necessary, as we now do with some cancers.

Finally, how does one learn what portion of American youth are this enraged about something—and this inarticulate? Their inebriation is only a partial answer, and we need to know how concerned we should be. Even in the present economic crisis, the question keeps surfacing: are we a proud mosaic? a melting pot? Or are we a chaotic mess of factions, ready to lash out at each other—without really knowing why?

Jun 7, 2009

Young and Vicious in Jerasulem

I guess I have to thank the Ohio River Life blog for making me aware of this nauseating piece of anti-Americanism, though it's done nothing to cheer me. Are these Yeats’s rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem to be born? (Forgive any literati pretentiousness there). Out of concern for bandwith, I'll let you copy and paste:


I’m working on “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Therefore, in an effort to restrain myself, I ask, “When I was young and drunk, or just young and stupid, did I say anything this vicious and brainless?” I’m as sure as I can be that the answer is no.

I wonder about the actual, personal causes for their inarticulate rage.

I wonder: maybe we could keep Gitmo open for brainless little nightingales to sing such wisdom.

They seem unaware that rage begets rage. Here's one response to the video above:


What if the way to stop all this is to ignore it, and I'm doing just the opposite?

Happy Sunday

Jun 3, 2009

Road Trip, Northern Ohio, NW Pennsylvania

We’ve recently returned from a road trip—some fine, mostly two-lane roads through NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania. Left, right, and straight ahead were fields, woods, and hillsides of one lit up shade of green after another, plus a few flowering trees. May and October are the times to travel.

Ohio Rt. 87, Newbury through Middlefield was very nice. Yoder’s Amish restaurant was too crowded—a happy accident because Linda’s, downtown, seemed to be a local lunch hangout where “English” and Amish farmers gathered in apparent harmony, while Yoder’s came across as a more touristy haven for middle-class retirees. The food at Linda’s is just okay, but the atmosphere made me want to stay a few days and try to get more sense of life in the area.

Rt. 6 into PA was pleasant, though a bit busier than I’d hoped. I saw it lying between two east-west interstates (I-80 and the new I-86 across southern New York state) and thought it might be a once-important two-lane that was now a lazier, more liesurely and local road. My guess was only somewhat right. Give it a B for effort and good intentions.

PA Rt. 77 north from Meadville to Corry and then Rt. 6 again, east toward Warren, were also good. 77 was better than 6, because it was less crowded and had the feel of a back road in hills and mountains, without the work of a lot of hairpin curves.

On Rt. 62, southwest from Warren, PA to Oil City and Franklin, PA, along the Allegheny River, was the best stretch of the trip. One might complain about too many pockets of modest houses, along with fishing and hunting cabins, but the scenery was still first-rate, there was very little traffic, and the bends in the road were gentle. The Allegheny is a beautiful river up there. Do I want to know about what's upstream, the purity of the water?

Little Rt. 666 west to east could have been even better than 62--certainly more remote; but the pavement was in such poor repair that the drive became somewhat of a labor. Still, with most of the road following the Tionesta River, the route was quietly gorgeous, and the potholes forced us to take our time and appreciate it.

The villages of Tidioute and Tionesta, on Rt. 62, are worth a stop. We had lunch in Tionesta, at the pleasant little T-K Dinor (note the creative spelling), where pierogies were the typical side dish, if not an entrée.

Two or three lunch spots in Tidioute looked inviting, but we were there too early.

About lodging in northern Ohio and Pennsylvania, here are three places to consider: back in the Toledo area, Maumee Bay State Park has renovated its lodge, which was much more agreeable than the last time I visited a couple of years ago. Also, I like its restaurant better than any of the others in Ohio State Parks. The grounds include some Lake Erie shoreline (new jokes only, please) and some nice walking on a boardwalk through a marsh. If you want still more birding, the terrific Magee Marsh is about 15 miles east.

East of Cleveland, the tudor-style Punderson State Park lodge, near Newbury, Ohio, has a green, tree-lined approach and an impressive Tudor-style exterior. However, we found the rooms and interior common areas claustrophobic, and the restaurant menu was limited and pricey. Also, these state park lodges, run by Xanterra, need to drop the $10 per day charge for in-room internet service (which operated at elderly turtle speed, after the ten-dollar insult).

The Warren, Pennsylvania the full service Holiday Inn was one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in—and I’ve been in more than a few, lured by supper on the premises, never mind how mediocre or overpriced it usually was. After a day of driving the issue is comfort more than fine cuisine. In Warren, the food and service were good, there was a selection, and the prices were more in line with comparable restaurants.

We had a pleasant after-dinner walk to the city park about a quarter-mile south of the hotel. Two fast-pitch softball games were going on, with four more teams waiting in the wings, and the high quality of play impressed me--a lot of 20 - 40 year-old talent for a town of about 9,000 people.

So there you have it—American travel in Corndog world at Corndog speed.

Lovers' Lane