Mallets Reforethought

From left: Steve Clark, Tom Rystrom, Dr. E. Vester Wolber, Kay Arnold, Jimmie Lou Fisher, Jo Luck Wilson. Mahlon Martin behind Clark (sleeve visible).

The story of the June 14, 1986, croquet match played by former Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark was so memorable to me I did not bother to check the facts when I summarized it last week. I had documents, I kept them in a file — a real manila paper folder, not an icon on a computer screen, so you know they’re true.


The folder has photocopies of my own write-up, now online. The humor column ran on the Voices, or op-ed, page of the Arkansas Democrat (no hyphen), Page 9C, a couple of weeks after the event. It mentions Tom Rystrom, about whom I forgot, and that needs correcting. I wrote the U.S. Croquet Association about the forming in spring 1986 of the Democrat’s croquet team Mallets Aforethought. The reply mentioned Tom and his Little Rock Croquet Club. Its members were young businessmen like Tom. Rystrom at the time was in real estate — leasing agent? — and while months later he left Little Rock, he and I organized the Arkansas Sesquicentennial croquet setup.

Next in the file are press releases. Tom’s and my role in planning is documented in a May 26, 1986, release from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The purpose of the statement was to encourage people to sign up to play. The Democrat, the Arkansas Gazette, even the alt-weekly Spectrum ran info from the piece, in a variety of spots, but on the day just the two clubs and the state VIPs showed up.

The most incriminating document I’ve kept is a photograph of the state’s team. It is Continue reading

Hey, Sweetie

As a youngster from the South, I thought cane sugar was the only kind there was. Then, four years at a California university didn’t change that. The Safeways of the area sold cane sugar in 5 and 10 pound sacks.

In my first job, a news producer at KFJM-FM and KFJM-AM, Public Radio for the Upper Red River Valley, I didn’t look at the label when I bought sugar for the apartment. It tasted and looked like sugar.

I soon learned it was beet not cane sugar, and the package said so. When North Dakota farmers didn’t grow wheat, they raised sugar beets. Reddish of course, but not the racquetball size lumps that define dinner-table beets — we’re just talking, kids, not forcing you to eat them — these seemed just a little smaller than soccer balls. The sugar you bought in Grand Forks was just as white and granular and tasted right. Cane sugar was not to be found anywhere in the upper Midwest!

Similarly but nationwide these days, we consumers cannot buy high fructose corn syrup, and that’s a shame, because if it’s good enough for Coca-Cola and Nabisco and General Mills and Kellogg, why not packaged in small portions for home baking, if not cereal sprinkling?

HFCS, as it’s called in the food biz, has been getting tainted with vague publicity. No one can find anything wrong with it, but its extraordinarily wide presence in common grocery items makes sensitive sorts suspect conspiracy. Continue reading

Green Machines

Hands up for all who’ll be watching any bit of the national party conventions. Yes, I’ll avoid it, too. None of them has been on the excitement level even of a State of the Union address. If there’s something huge, a stupendous announcement, or an election-risking gaffe, conventions or presidential addresses are rebroadcast so often any of us can catch it on cable TV or online.

The news gradually is filling with advance coverage. Today’s Wall Street Journal has a lengthy essay on how to reclaim conventions to have impact. It doesn’t really address how a couple of days of arguing about platform planks will excite cable TV viewers. (Ever notice how the platform never is heard about again?) That’s the business end of the convention. At night, well, will either convention approximate for the first time either a tent revival or an organized music fest? Or even the ennui of New Year’s Rockin‘ Eve?

A month ago the Journal poked fun at the Democrats’ attempts to hold an environmentally conscious meeting. Actually, this was a fairly neutral news article, but it made me cringe at some spots and gape at others. Liberals still have issues with Coors? The ecological angle is mined still, even this morning in a local paper (Denver’s): Aren’t offset exchanges unnecessarily complicated for a publicity stunt? In the meantime, the Dems might have some engaging Hollywood acts, but when they’re on TV producers return us to the booth for experts to chat to us. Imagine, falling back on C-SPAN for tunes.

How are the Republicans? Their official convention Web site has a page on its green impact. They’re not saying much about why we voters need to watch. The comic strip Doonesbury claims McCain’s party planners are stocking their show with has-beens and fuddy-duddies, but news sites with basic keyword searches show nothing confirmed. The cartoonist is having some fun on his own, perhaps. The GOP in the past has leaned toward country music, though lots of Nashville’s finest either avoid endorsements in either direction or are even … not conservative.

In the end, cable television allows for greater convention coverage while at the same time tempts everyone to find dozens of other programs to watch. The enthusiasm is such that you can hear a balloon drop.

A Little Magazine

For decades, The New Yorker arrived 52 weeks a year, on the same day, must’ve been Tuesday, in Mom and Dad’s mailbox in Fort Smith. Rarely, it came on Wednesday. A little while before it dropped to 47 issues annually, the regular day ended, annoying Mom to no end. It might be at the bookstore before she received it at home. So on Thursday, July 17, my mailbox received the infamous July 21, 2008, issue, while it hit newsstands and the Web back on the 14th.

I didn’t mind. This is one of the “little magazines.” Big magazines have generally brief, vaguely sourced articles written with patronizing triteness. Little magazines have larger pieces using longer sentences and paragraphs, with bigger vocabularies. Some cross over, like most of Vanity Fair and parts of Esquire. I wanted this little New Yorker in both hands, not some low-resolution Internet image of the jacket, and time to think.

The cover, by Barry Blitt, is titled “The Politics of Fear.” Blitt has drawn a number of covers, as seen in this online selection, and all are topical and pointed. This time, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. and his party’s presumptive presidential candidate, is shown wearing Arab garb in the Oval Office, bumping fists (fearmongers call it a street gang or al Qaida greeting, because aren’t they all in it together, to get us?) There’s his wife, Michelle, topped by a foxy Afro with an automatic weapon slung on her back. A portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs above the fireplace in which the U.S. flag is burning.

Yeah, it’s satire. Look it up. Satire — usually some form of communicating the opposite of what is meant — isn’t always ha-ha funny. It’s not necessarily a New Yorker “mild-chuckle” funny. It can be a short gasp of recognition, of getting the point, yet finding irritation not humor. Let’s be clear:

I say it’s spinach, Continue reading

Mallets Aforethought

Copyright 2008 Ben S. Pollock

The race for mayor of Fayetteville seems to have a full roster although the filing period is Aug. 6-26. A surprise candidate or two would be welcome, especially if they’re capable sorts. All of the announced candidates could be competent. While this is no endorsement — though a pooh-bah I do not do those — there’s nothing wrong with an early evaluation, is there? It’s not a question of wicked or whacky so much as wicket.

Little has been reported on Adam Fire Cat, an activist, and consultant Walt Eilers.* They have not been elected officials or much in the public eye otherwise for information to be readily accessible. What text there is shows both are running just on proposals for the future and critiques of the past.

Lioneld Jordan is an alderman — Ward 4 making him one of my two city reps — and by career a labor union leader affiliated with the University of Arkansas. I have met him several times, and he’s a good guy and seems to be a good councilman although I disagree with him a good third of the time. Jordan is a good listener, and people I respect support him, Yet it is hard to picture him toughly toe-to-toe with property speculators (they like to be called developers) to sort and to protect Fayettevillians’ contradictory interests.

Dan Coody has been mayor for two four-year terms. He has proven he can talk the talk with tycoons, visionaries and everyday sorts. He has a sensitivity to Fayetteville’s activist side, its greeny aspirations, that he backs up with action. e.g. the foot/pedal trail system and improvements on the larger trails favored by motorists. This is what can get him re-elected. But Coody could outstay his reputation, with issues caterwauling out of control by his familiarity, during a third term. That would discolor the previous two. I’d thought he’d run for the U.S. Congress, not this.

Steve Clark is the remaining announced candidate. Likely all of the previous hopefuls have had parking tickets or similar run-ins with the law. Clark, a popular attorney general for the state, was convicted of credit-card fraud, after which he blamed alcohol and renounced both. Though he is rather new to the city, he is a more-than-capable administrator. Brick has given this a brief look.

Fayetteville voters still should be told of Clark’s wicket ways. Continue reading

Roger That 404

When you click from one Internet page to another and you get a message saying “we were unable to find” it, sometimes including the phrase Error 404, there’s a problem, Houston.

Brick is having just that issue. Please bear with me, and WordPress, while I try to figure it out, or get them to fix it promptly.*

*Update. Most links work.