Positive Developments, at Gunpoint

Sign on Maple Street in the University of Arkansas, still up after Sept. 1, 2017. Ben Pollock photo

Shy of a Load: Guns, Memoir and Comedy

Sign on Maple Street in the University of Arkansas, still up after Sept. 1, 2017. Ben Pollock photo
Sign on Maple Street, University of Arkansas, still up Sept. 10, 2017.
Ben Pollock photo

It’s been nine days since guns became technically legal at Arkansas colleges and universities (and some other places) when carried by holders of enhanced concealed weapon state permits, and no one’s been shot on campus. That includes a major football game. Heck, professors already have assigned papers to write, books to read and problem sets to solve. Mixers have been held on weekend nights, and the hapless failed to, er, mix.

“Technically” is the key word.

Those folks need 8 more hours of “enhanced” training for campus concealed carry, in addition to the 6 now required for general carry. Good news: Training hasn’t begun, so no enhanced permits yet. The State Police began figuring out what’s to be taught Sept. 1, the same day the ASP was allowed to begin determining the other particulars of the new weapons laws. Better news: The officials have up to 120 days — that is, no later than Dec. 30, 2017 — to ink those regulations. Then people legally can begin wearing bulky jackets for another reason besides that it’s December.

Sign reading r'Asadink Tiddlywinks Stadium - Home of University Tabletop SportsFortunately, the Legislature added an examption to continue weapons bans at sporting events. This makes me bulletproof as I am declaring my academic office an athletic facility. I could be threatened from the door of my table sports arena, but the shooter would be in big big trouble.

I’m rating this good news, what with natural disasters and divisive politics. There’s more to praise.


Yeah, as if my praise means anything in the greater concept of the world. So let’s herald approximately three other bits.

Sherman Alexie this summer published his latest, the memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. A memoir generally is autobiographic, but the “you” her is his mom, Lillian Alexie, so the book circles around their relationship. Continue reading

Q: WTF? A: Hi-dee Hi-dee Hi-dee Ho

“Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House communications director, is making the rounds on TV next week. Scaramucci will be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. Then he’ll appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS on Monday.” — CNN.com

Treble clef symbolFolks, here’s a story about Tony the Moocha’
He was the red-hot Scaramucc(a)
The roughest, toughest gym-ripped male
Ain’t no way is he gonna end up in jail

(Call and response chorus)
Hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi (hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi)
Whoa-a-a-a-ah (whoa-a-a-a-ah)
Hee-dee-hee-dee-hee-dee-hee (hee-dee-hee-dee-hee-dee-hee)
He-e-e-e-e-e-e-y (he-e-e-e-e-e-e-y)

Anthony Scaramucci
Anthony Scaramucci, Wikimedia Commons

Mooch took the call, sold stocks, his wife just gone
Fame’s ahead — what could go wrong
Left the Street named Wall for an Office that’s Oval
Won’t bury Caesar, but he packed a shovel

(Call and response chorus)
Hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi (hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi)
(Similar scat improv for lines 3 and 4) Continue reading

Crystal Clear Strategy

DATELINE MIRTHOLOGY — “All it takes is patience, Ben. When you’re right, sooner or later the world sees things your way,” Crystal Britches said of Fayetteville.

I set up an interview to hear what she thought of the football stadium’s new clear bag rule.

We were sitting on the steps of the Walton Arts Center, just renovated after 25 years of hard culture. We’d walked our lunches over from food trucks. I wondered how she’d keep from marring her usual transparent plastic pants on the white concrete then saw she was sitting on a scarf.

She spotted my glance.

“You know it’s to keep the slacks from abrasion, not cush’ for my tush, honey,” the elder stateswoman of progressive locals said. “I’m never out of shape. I spend 15 minutes at the barre in my den every morning, then of course yoga and meditate.”

Illustration of bags permitted at University of Arkansas football games
“Each ticketed fan is permitted to bring in only one clear bag and/or a small clutch purse. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, know which items are prohibited and avoid bringing a bag, if at all possible.”
University of Arkansas NewsWire

On Aug. 4, the University of Arkansas announced in the “Clear Bags Offer Razorback Fans New Game Day Flexibility” news release that conventional sacks, purses, packs and the like would be banned from Reynolds Razorback Stadium allowing only see-through bags and not too large at that. This flexibility begins with this coming football season.

Crystal is a former ballroom dancing champion, from eons before the TV contests, which she mocks. Indeed her legs are her finest physical attribute. We began to bond, in an eccentric aunty to gentleman way, upon my reporting on her in the aughts. I had told her my mother felt the same way, proud of her gams into her 80s. Mom did dress far more traditionally, after all she was a Fort Smith girl.

This wasn’t exhibitionism on the part of Crystal Britches. She still expected and got admiring looks — from all ages and several preferences — when she strolled through the Farmers Market on the Fayetteville Square on most Saturday mornings. But she held on to the decades-old theory of humidity improving skin tone and overall health.

How’s that? Think steam baths.

She figured out how she could live in steam for hours with plastic jackets and slacks. I’ve been covering her since 2008 in the Chronicles of Crystal Britches. Continue reading

What’s the Deal, Dill

Soup, cooled, is a smoothie. A smoothie warm is soup.

This blog in recent years has focused more on food. Those mainly have covered recipes. A few posts have explored the thinking, how my preferences developed.

Pureeing soups as a trend began the decade before last. They’re still hard to avoid. I like to see then eat a multitude of colors, textures and shapes. Can’t tell the carrots from the broccoli when you whiz everything down to pulp.

There are exceptions, like potato-leek soup. Both were among the first homegrown produce available at the Fayetteville Farmers Market weeks ago. Leeks pack a lot of onion flavor with little bite. Yet even the tender white part of the stalk is fibrous. Whirring up helps. Cooking in red lentils or adding canned white cannellini beans hide plant protein with a minute of an immersion stick blender, add creamy body, too.

Served at room temperature or cooler it’s called vichyssoise, oo-la-la. I spruced up leftovers with kale, simmered then re-pureed. That’s when I beheld a vegan green power smoothie.

I had been mocking smoothies all this time. I did enjoy Tropical Smoothie last year,  been meaning to go back.

) ) ) )

Jar of pickles illustration from openclipart.orgWhile no pickle freak, a jar in the fridge is handy for snacking. Finally finished that jar a while ago. It and the one before that though just weren’t as tasty, and they were from top companies, too.

Puckery cukes are tricky to find in my city’s new Whole Foods Market. What look like them are labeled “fermented cucumbers.” This no doubt is due to renewed interest in the benefits of kraut, kimchi and the like — as opposed to brining in salt or soaking in vinegar. But I sought a regular affordable reliable pickle.

Continue reading

DJT (Say Digit) Smooths on Emollient Clause

Being acrimonious about acronyms is a worthy goal. Presidents used to be known by abbreviations. Now there are calls for the new president’s term to be abbreviated by impeachment or the 25th Amendment. My suggestion as a longtime editor would be shorten by language.

Now having worked a year in academia, acronyms surround me. That I expected. What’s been surprising is the shock of campus veterans that their abbreviations are not always understood, even at times within the same classroom building. So I find ways to compel the spelling out of these confusing shortcuts. But like cliches, acronyms have their place

One nostalgic spot where initials were great was in headlines about political leaders — FDR, HST, JFK, LBJ. They’re also smooth to say out loud, which is a key to my editing style. Eisenhower had the easy-to-speak “Ike” so never did we read DDE. In Arkansas, WR was the way the copy desk wrote single-column-wide headlines for Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller in the late 1960s. Nixon fit in narrow columns, the “i” being one of the “l-i-f-t” half-count letters. RMN did not glide on the tongue, and Nixon was only a 5-count, Ford 4 1/2.

I guess the style fell out of favor in the Jimmy Carter years, no JEC.

Last year saw the potential for the return of a need for an leader name abbreviation. Hillary Rodham Clinton would’ve been perfect for headlines in any media as HRC to distinguish instantly from the previous President Clinton. HRC fell, though. The Republican nominee won. Yet I cannot and have not said or written Donald J. Trump in the same sentence after the.

I won’t say the proper noun in the same sentence after the word “president.”

DJT though I’ve used. Don’t need “president,” the letter trio signifies the executive position. Besides, djt is best pronounced as “digit” as in finger. As in, “Did you see what DJT (say Digit) tweeted overnight?”

Continue reading

Created Bill in ’88, Met Him in ’99

Here’s a funny thing about these B.Y.O.E. events, that is, Bring Your Own Eulogy: So much of the time those anecdotes are maybe a bit more about the speakers than the, er, guest of honor. If you’re in a down mood today — and a memorial generally is NOT a happy hour — you could say that once again here’s another example of the me-me-me 21st century. Yet, how can you tell stories about another person without you as the narrator, you as the re-actor or even you as the “inciting incident”?

Perhaps more than other people, one part of William Mayes Flanagan‘s artistry is how he brought out the life spirit in others. This Happy Hour has begun.

In 1988 I created Bill Flanagan. In 1999 I met Bill.

In 1988 I was in Little Rock, responsible for national and international news at the Arkansas Democrat. On the side, I began a humor column. It was published in a weekly mailed edition of the newspaper. Being a student of the genre, my humor pieces went all over the map — essay, satire and narrative. The last really is a form of “flash fiction,” as in ultra-short made-up stories.

Illustration by Vic Harville of "End Time Finally Comes for Mister Hapgood," a Mirthology column by Ben Pollock, published Sept. 21, 1988, in Mid Week Magazine, a publication of the Arkansas Democrat.
Illustration by Vic Harville of “End Time Finally Comes for Mister Hapgood,” a Mirthology column by Ben Pollock, published Sept. 21, 1988, in Mid Week Magazine, a publication of the Arkansas Democrat.

That fall 29 years ago I introduced a character who was middle-aged; opinionated; encouraging and happy; a groundskeeper and a watercolor painter. Indeed!

Now, a few weeks ago, days after Bill passed, I ran into Emily Kaitz in the parking lot of Ozark Natural Foods. I told her this anecdote, that it was not authentically, obviously about our friend Bill Flanagan. Also, this has a clairvoyant, ESP quality to it, and we’re rationalists. But Emily disagreed. She advised that this is the story I need to tell. Because she feels it. She can empathize with the deja-vu-ness of it. Continue reading