Tea, Careers and Calm

Shy of a Load

0512 brick logoCults, Conspiracies and the Twisted History of Sleepytime Tea” by Megan Giller may well keep you awake. Celestial Seasonings had somewhat predictable beginnings in the hippy movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But besides free love and illicit drugs, that period saw lots of spiritual explorations and offbeat theories.

The herbal tea founders were inspired by one called “Urantia.” It is definitely strange. And unsettling, the opposite of Sleepytime, which My Beloved and I have enjoyed a few evenings a week for many years. The story is in the online Van Winkle’s, an electronic publication about all matters relating to sleep, produced by the new online mattress company Casper.

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Next week, the Career Development Center of the University of Arkansas is hosting a “Media, Communication and Design Career Fair” in the campus union. It is posted in the emailed daily newsletter of University Headlines. The write-up, published today, lists “advertising, public relations, graphic and Web design, broadcast radio and TV, communication, editing and writing, marketing, recruiting and account management.”

Does anyone see “news” or “iournalism” in there? Maybe they’re implied, if you squint, but otherwise, nope.

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Roberto A. Ferdman posts his long-form Q-and-A in The Washington Post’s Wonkblog with Bill Marler, a lawyer who works in issues concerning food-borne illness. Marler is fascinating, and the question-and-answer format is perfect for  “Why a Top Food Poisoning Expert Won’t Ever Eat These Foods.”

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UA to Sportify Greek Theater

DATELINE MIRTHOLOGY — University of Arkansas trustees have approved expanding the use of the Chi Omega Greek Theater into an all-weather sports complex suitable for croquet, badminton and squash, the last using a glass-walled court on an elevator in the stage floor.

Greek Theater at the University of Arkansas. Credit Wikimedia Commons
Greek Theater at the University of Arkansas.
Credit, Wikimedia Commons

The proposal, bandied about by the nonprofit Razorback Foundation for nearly the entire 81 years the amphitheater has been in existence, was brought at the Jan. 27 meeting in Little Rock by longtime Trustee Crystal Britches, the Fayetteville philanthropist.

Although he invariably has supported Britches in all her projects, fellow Trustee and former U.S. Sen. David Pryor abstained on this project, estimated to take three semesters for construction and cost $16 million, a tenth of the expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium, plans for which also were tentatively approved, both on the Fayetteville flagship campus. A final vote on the stadium is to come.

The Fayetteville football stadium project will add 3,000 to 3,200 seats at its now open north end. Home games rarely approach sell-out status for its current 72,000 seats.

Britches in her motion said while a gorgeous landmark, the Greek Theater is never used outside of a lunch spot by at best a handful of students, faculty and staff. Hardier students had studied there up to a decade ago, but they found the bleached concrete bleachers (which can seat 2,750) cast an impossible glare on the screens of their electronics.

The annual sorority “Bid Day” does fill the stands. With the renovation, it can be a rain-or-shine event.

“I was horrified to learn that the Division of University Advancement was developing — under the table, per policy —  a parking lot proposal for the acreage,” she said, “You should’ve seen the look on their faces when I told them the Greek was on the National Register of Historic Places.”

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At the Barbershop

Shy of a Load

Illustration of traditional barber poleIt’s December, and for a month I’ve avoided writing about the state of national politics. Other blog-columnists are doing a good job. I’d do fine, but I have nothing to add that’s different.

Until today?

Yes, as it’s not me opining. This is reporting.

I was at my barber’s this morning. He and I were talking about the latest pronouncement of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, that as president he’d prevent all foreign Muslims from entering the United States.

The next customer for the barber’s chair had this to day:

“I don’t like him, but I’d rather see a man like Trump as president than a woman like Hillary.”

Pulling down a stranger’s comment like this should be unusual, as I ought to be quoting my barber of 15 or so years. I have never done so, as he’s been a very good guy to me and it would violate my being a civilian in his chair. Otherwise, I’d quote him often. He’s eager to be nonstop outrageous except when he’s spot-on common-sense or clever.

On hearing this guy’s statement, Eric just looked at me with the corner of his left eye and sighed. I was leaving, and he was escorting the fellow to the shampoo sink. The guy was casually dressed in flannel and jeans, but better quality materials. There was a little gray among his sandy locks. He looked to be in his 40s.

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My Facebook friends cover the gamut of my life, from grade school through senior year, college friends, Texas and Little Rock friends, and Northwest Arkansas friends. Also there are columnists from everywhere. They’re all over the map politically, economically and spiritually. None has said on Facebook he or she is supporting Trump.

Some of them must be: The mogul’s the front-runner for the conservatives. Is this sample uncomfortable to be out on Donald?

With this Shy of a Load series, I normally have several briefs linking to background stories, separated by dot-dot-dots, on the Web. Today, this soon-to-be barbered fellow just might be speaking for all those who incredibly support Donald Trump.

It’s clarifying.

Never Meta Trump Like This

Shy of a Load

"Saturday Night Live" logoThe Nov. 8 Saturday Night Live, hosted by magnate Donald Trump, was more significant than hilarious, although it was lots funnier than most weekend pundits claim.

A scan of website headlines shows mine is a minority view. I have not read their texts yet to prevent their influencing mine.

The first review for me to read will be that of my friend Gene Seymour at CNN.com, “Trump on SNL: The Ultimate Implosion of Reality.” Gene’s certainly will be a full write-up and thoughtful. Below contains impulsive impressions.

There’s making fun of yourself, self-deprecation (not necessarily funny) and destroying-then-reconstructing your image. Trump may well have deliberately gone for the last. When political candidates have appeared on SNL, as recently as October when Hillary Rodham Clinton played a phantom bartender, it’s for a single skit or a walk-on with line. Politicians thus can be seen by the youthful audience, appear hip and control the message. Clinton used it to claim she was self-aware, relaxed, competent and a few shades warmer than her cool reputation.

As host, Trump appeared in most of the sketches in the 90-minute program. It’s live: The room for misspeaking and other errors is huge — HUGE — especially for amateurs. He’s been on camera for thousands of hours but not as a professional comic performer.

This is at a time when Republican candidates including Trump are reconfiguring debates to increase their control.

Why did Trump take this risk? My take is that he doesn’t want to be president, unless we just hand it to him. What Trump proved Saturday that he really wants is to improve the candidate selection process by warning the American people to watch what they ask for, they might get the likes of him. Continue reading

Draft Beer? Maybe Draft Gore

“Forget Biden, drop HRC & Bernie. Maybe we need a Draft Gore for ’16 movement. Maya Lin’s enviro concerns inspired that impulse.”

Al Gore 2009
Al Gore in 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas — The above was my Facebook post from just after a lecture Monday night by artist-architect-environmentalist Maya Lin (the descriptives are hers). Mind you, Lin said absolutely nothing about politics nor former Vice President Al Gore.

My social media comment got one “like.”

Lin of course is best known for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which she designed as a contest entry in 1981 while still a student at Yale. With that as a first (in more ways than one), she’s had a tremendous career in sculpture, four other memorials and still the occasional design for a home or other building.

Our Crystal Bridges of American Art commissioned her for an artwork. “Silver Upper White River, 2015” will be unveiled soon on a wall of the North Gallery Bridge. It’s similar to her other water sculptures that follow topographical maps of the identified streams. She crafts them from silver — recycled silver, mind you — for three reasons: Water from a distance looks silvery, schools of fish can appear silver from above and silver’s a precious metal, she said during her program Oct. 19.

Other sculptures resemble the mountains that islands really are. Mount Everest isn’t the world’s tallest mountain, Hawaii is, Lin said in Bentonville.

As a reflection on her genre, this month the publisher Rizzoli released Lin’s book Topologies, an oversize, illustrated book with several co-authors including John McPhee and Dava Sobel. (It lists at $75 but is far less expensive online.)

A number of her three-dimensional works plowed the audience over, almost literally. She has redesigned fields to resemble waves. After a lot of bulldozing work then resodding, these lands have become green-bladed seas.

What she calls her last memorial is online, a collection of short videos from Lin and her friends and allies as well as contributed by regular folk — crowdsourced art. It is WhatIsMissing.net, about how humankind (she called the people of Earth “mankind”) is destroying the planet and its life forms.

Lin showed the large crowd in the museum’s Great Hall one of the videos, “Unchopping a Tree.” It’s below, just 3:14 long. Music is by Brian Eno.

Where does Albert Arnold Gore Jr. fit into an evening of remarkable contemporary design and art?

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Biden Exeunts, Fox Guards the Geo House

Shy of a Load

Joe Biden appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday, in the show’s debut week.

Seal of the Vice President of the United StatesMost main media reports and commentaries seemed to agree this morning that the vice president was favoring not running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but that his decision was not set. As an example here’s NPR’s report “Emotional Biden Still Doesn’t Sound Like A Candidate.”

As he’s said before then again Sept. 10, the vice president’s loss of a son (former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden) to cancer earlier this year has rocked his plans for what he does after he’s downsized Jan. 20, 2017.

I saw the interview and heard Biden say strongly but indirectly he remains too distraught to campaign then serve as an effective president.

Joe said he is not running, with sufficient clarity.


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