Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Join the "Shatter the Silence" walk Sept. 10 in Cheyenne

Join Stop Suicide Cheyenne, the VA Center, Prevention Management Organization, and Grace for 2 Brothers for the World Suicide Prevention Day Silent Walk on Wednesday September 10th. This event begins at 11:45 a.m. at the Depot Plaza in Cheyenne with keynote speakers to talk about suicide prevention. A silent walk will take place up Capitol Avenue to the Capitol Steps where there will be recognition of those lost to suicide.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Hemingway found a clean. well-lighted place to write in Wyoming

Me sitting at Hemingway's writing desk at Spear-O-Wigwam in the Big Horn Mountains.
Ernest Hemingway found something in Wyoming.

A book, or a way to finish a book. He wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms in Arkansas and Kansas and Sheridan, Wyo., eventually finishing it in a log cabin in Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains. Hemingway was a globetrotter back when it took a long time to get anywhere. You crossed oceans by ship and continents by rail. Travel was measured in days and weeks rather than hours. The author sojourned in Paris, Spain, Cuba, Africa, Canada and all over the U.S.: Chicago, Kansas City, Key West, Sheridan, Wyo. and Sun Valley, Idaho, to name a few. He hauled his typewriter and manuscripts along with him. After he became a successful author, he travelled with 26 suitcases, according to Valerie Hemingway, who served as Hemingway's secretary in the 1950s.

It's odd to think of a peripatetic author and war correspondent traveling with 26 suitcases. That's just one of the odd Hemingway facts you discover when hanging out at the Spear-O-Wigwam Mountain Campus near Sheridan with Val and other Hemingway fans. We were there to start the planning process for a 2018 Hemingway celebration. Why 2018? Since much of a A Farewell to Arms was written in Sheridan and the Big Horns, a 90th anniversary celebration is in order. The idea was hatched by Sheridan College's Susan Bigelow. Our August planning session coincided with the Spear-O-Wigwam presentation by Ms. Hemingway. More than 100 people traversed the rugged Red Grade Road for her afternoon talk.

A Farewell to Arms is based on Hemingway's experience as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. If you didn't read the novel during one of your college survey courses, you may have caught up with it as an adult. Perhaps you saw one of A Farewell to Arms movies. Gary Cooper as Frederic Henry in 1932 pursuing Nurse Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes). In 1957, Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones were the ill-fated couple. There were stage plays and radio plays as well.

After A Farewell to Arms was published in 1929, Hemingway was a success. He wrote one best-seller after another. He accumulated residences and books and suitcases. Other writers began to copy his spare style, which Gord Vidal called "the careful, artful, immaculate idiocy of tone that has marked Hemingway's prose." "Idiocy of tone?" What's Vidal mean by that? Is the accent on "idiocy" or on "tone?" Not only has the author been copied -- badly -- but satirized, too, by Alan Coren and Woody Allen. There is the annual Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, with winners announced at the annual Hemingway Days in Key West, which also holds a Hemingway Look-Alike Contest and marlin fishing tournament. There are Write like Hemingway and the Six-Word Hemingway Story competitions.

Some of these tourism-themed events may seem excessive. But think about it? How many writers are celebrities these days?   Not just those celebrities who are famous for fame's sake, but those who actually have been engaged with the world and pioneered a new writing style in the process? I can't think of any contemporary writer who's done what Hemingway did. Wyoming's own Mark Jenkins is a globe-trotting, mountain-climbing adventurer and a fine writer. As far as I know, the only people calling him "Papa" are his two daughters. Sebastian Junger has written of adventure on the high seas and in the Afghan battlefields, and he's considered a hunk, but he's not Hemingway. Montana's Jim Harrrison and Tom McGuane can be considered celebrities in the writing world, but I'm not sure if your average person on the street would recognize those names.

Hemingway was bigger than life and he liked it that way. He made a fine living as a writer and it enabled him to travel the world. Alas, he did have to find time and a place to write. In 1928, he tried sequestering himself at the Sheridan Inn before it was the Historic Sheridan Inn and just a hot and crowded hotel. So he rode up the mountains to Spear-O-Wigwam, sat down at a desk in a rustic cabin and finished the book that would make a splash over the next decade.

Hemingway killed himself -- did I mention that? He was bigger than life but in the end was felled by depression and a family trait. When Margaux Hemingway killed herself in 1996 in Santa Monica, she became the fifth generation of Hemingways to do so. We talk a lot about suicide but still it continues, by gun and rope and pills.

I sat at that desk in Hemingway's cabin. He wrote in longhand before breaking out the manual typewriter to do the finished draft. He'd do the revising on paper before getting down to the QWERTY keyboard. Wonder if the other guests at the ranch heard Hem's tap-tap-tap on the keys. Sounds like that writer fella -- says he's working on a novel about the war.

That was a small act by a big man. Left a lasting impression on the world. I think it's only right that the folks of Sheridan County want to celebrate it.

But how? There's the rub. And we have four years to figure out how to do it.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Human Rights Campaign holds reception in Cheyenne

This announcement comes from Wyoming Equality: 
HRC Wyoming: Cheyenne Community Reception 
Sept. 18, 6-8 p.m., at The Suite Bistro, 1901 Central Ave, Cheyenne
We are excited to invite you to an upcoming community reception with the Human Rights Campaign in Wyoming. You are invited to join us in Cheyenne for a community gathering with brief remarks from HRC Director of Programmatic Development, Brad Clark, followed by a reception including complimentary hors d'oeuvres and beverages. 
We hope you can join us and ask that you please RSVP in advance. Go to http://action.hrc.org/site/Calendar/2118893071

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Satire is in the eye of the beholder

I love good satire. Problem is, readers don't often get it. Good satire is usually presented as a straightforward news article or opinion piece that can often be mistaken for your run-of-the-mill newspaper story. In satire, the subject is taken to an extreme, an exaggeration for what the writer hopes is a comic effect. Since there is so much craziness on the Internet already, it's hard to pick out satire unless it's labeled as such. This is why it is so helpful for Andy Borowitz to label his "The Borowitz Report" pieces in The New Yorker as "news satire." Here's a recent brilliant example:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Across the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons. 
“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”
Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree. 
“Many Americans think it’s a terrible idea, but others believe that with the correct supervision, it’s perfectly fine,” he says. “Who’s to say who’s right?” 
Similar, he says, is the national debate about using a flamethrower indoors. “There has been a long and contentious national conversation about this,” he says. “It’s another tough one.” 
Much like the long-running national debates about jumping off a roof, licking electrical sockets, and gargling with thumbtacks, the vexing question of whether children should fire military weapons does not appear headed for a swift resolution. 
“Like the issue of whether you should sneak up behind a bear and jab it with a hot poker, this won’t be settled any time soon,” he says. 
Get news satire from The Borowitz Report delivered to your inbox.
If this appeared as a standard news article in the local paper, I can easily see my neighbor, Tea Party Slim, reading it over his morning java and nodding his head in agreement. "Yes, children shooting automatic weapons is an extremely complex issue." Slim also reads loads of stuff on the Internet, as do I, where it is possible to mistake satire for another example of human weirdness -- or vice versa. Each of us carries baggage from our political POVs. I see Borowitz's piece as a terrific satire on our gun nut culture. Slim sees gun ownership and the firing of automatic weapons as a God-given right via the Constitution. He can't laugh at this because he'll be laughing at some of his own deeply-head beliefs.

Are there conservative satirists? P.J. O'Rourke comes to mind. He pokes fun at me and my fellow Liberals and I admit it gets under my skin sometimes but it is funny. Tom Wolfe made hay satirizing the hippie culture, the Black Panthers and the New Left back in the 60s and 70s. Ann Coulter is too heavy-handed to be an effective satirist, but sometimes I've found humor in her Liberal-baiting columns.

There must be some contemporary conservative satirists I haven't read because, frankly, I'd rather poke fun at the other guy. That's my God-given right under the Constitution. However, if a person can't laugh at himself, well.... that's really absurd.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Maybe Gov's new science panel may negate some of the damage done by the legislature

Democratic Party Gubernatorial candidate Pete Gosar was bemused by Gov. Mead's announcement of the selection of a panel to improve science education at our only four-year public university. This from Gosar's Facebook post:
The current administration appoints a panel to upgrade science at the University of Wyoming, but just a few months ago censored science for Wyoming students in K-12. Let's hope this panel puts in a full complement of remedial science courses at UW to ensure that our students can learn after graduation what they were denied before graduation.
It's difficult to live down the embarrassment of the legislation from last legislative session that banned schools from adopting national science standards. Gov. Mead signed off on the legislation offered by Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) who, thankfully, lost his primary challenge and will no longer darken the halls of the legislature with his Dark Ages approach to book larnin'. 

How many science panels and commissions does it take to negate one piece of boneheaded legislation?

Difficult to know. Word travels fast in this cyber-age. I read the bios of those appointed to the panel and was impressed. They are supposed to make some recommendations to the Gov by Nov. 1, just four days before the election. One of those recommendations should be: "Repeal the legislature's anti-science footnote and keep Republican legislators as far away from education legislation as humanly possible."

Then maybe we can get back to the business of being a player in the 21st century instead of a bystander.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Equality State Book Festival showcases the art of the book

The Equality State Book Festival marks its fifth anniversary Sept. 11-13 in Casper. It offers a great line-up of authors, as always. Nina McConigley of Casper (now Laramie) will deliver the keynote on Saturday. Nina's book of short stories, Cowboys and East Indians, is getting rave reviews and earned her the 2014 PEN Open Book Award. Other presenters: include best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson (gods in Alabama, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty), flash-fiction writer and social media guru Meg Pokrass, writer and founder/curator of the Handmade/Homemade book exhibit Deborah Poe, Jackson poet Matt Daly and many others. One of the themes of this year's bookfest is book arts. Poe's book arts exhibit will be on display at the Casper College Visual Arts Building and the University of Utah Book Arts group will be conducting a workshop on Saturday. Make your own book! You still have to write the innards, though. Can't get away from that.

This is the fifth statewide book festival (held during even years) and it gets better with age. I'm a bit biased as I serve on the planning committee, the only non-Casperite in the bunch. Kudos to the committee's co-directors: Laurie Lye and Joseph Campbell. Laurie came out of retirement to help out this year when former co-director Holly Wendt decamped to a new teaching job in her home state of Pennsylvania. Thanks to Laurie. Have you ever organized a three-day arts event? It takes time and effort and attention to a dazzling array of details. Think about all of the fairs and festivals held throughout Wyoming each year. Your friends and neighbors do that work, often for no pay but for the joy of putting on a show.

Get more info at http://www.equalitystatebookfest.com/

Saturday, August 16, 2014

As I begin my tenth year of blogging liberally and locally and snarkily...

Not sure why, but old friends are finding me via my blog. Maybe my analytics are peaking after nine years on Blogger. My first couple years in the blogosphere were spent trying to figure out what to write about 3-4 times per week. I called it "hummingbirdminds" after a quote in Wired magazine from hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson. Nelson was asked about his severe case of Attention Deficit  Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He said that people with ADHD have "hummingbird minds." That seemed to fit. My wife and I raised a son with ADHD and we got to see a hummingbird mind up close and personal. His attention could flit to more places in five minutes than mine did in a day.

At first, I thought I would blog about ADHD. I was working on a book based on our experiences with our son. I figured that I would put excerpts up on the blog, editors and publishers would discover me, and soon I would be dreaming of ways to spend my five-figure book advance. That didn't happen, mainly because  my own short attention span wandered off-topic and I began writing about writing, politics, life in Wyoming and other fascinating topics. Much to my chagrin, I was not a one-topic blogger like some of my more successful friends on the blogosphere. A romance novelist. A knitter. A diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan. A high-altitude gardener. All were making hay online, especially the gardener. Their blogs engendered readers and comments and numbers. My posts earned a smattering of visits and an occasional comment. 

Leading up to the 2008 elections, I began focusing on politics. As my blog's subhead says: "Blogging Liberally and Locally in Wyoming." The "blogging liberally" term I borrowed from Drinking Liberally, a great idea and a great site. "Locally," of course, I got from the local movement that has been sweeping the country and making a big difference in our politics and in business. I try to act locally and shop locally. 

My political blogging earned me a trip to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, a scholarship to Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis and a mention as Wyoming's top state liberal blog by Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post's "The Fix" blog. Good experiences. Good times. 

What's next? More politics. More wise-ass comments. I plan to self-publish another book of short stories by the end of the year -- beware of marketing posts about my book as self-publishing means self-promotion and lots of it. When I first began to blog, I heard that shameless self-promotion on your blog was gauche. It just wasn't done. Then along came social media and self-promotion became the rule rather than the exception. It's as American as apple pie. So I will post snippets of my work and even stage a book giveaway or two. 

But I won't totally leave off of politics. I'd be afraid that my old conservative friends wouldn't find me online. There is nothing like old friends....