Positive Developments, at Gunpoint

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.

He’s trying to tell us readers about his mom, a complex woman, and their relationship, loving but not easy. And his dad, siblings, friends, wife, and his his health issues, the role of his ethnicity (native American) and the dominant white culture.

Though I’d glanced through a handful of reviews I was surprised to find so many poems. Perhaps a third of the pages are verse.

This book is wonderful, and I highly recommend it. The reader will understand him better now through it and more clearly understand the past and current issues for indigenous Americans in general.

What is remarkable isn’t just this clarity of thought so much as how Alexie writes, his style, which maturity only improves. I can boil my praise to just one word, but it can be misinterpreted so please read through:

Both in verse and prose, Alexie writes percussively. I would say musically but that’s vague. The usual adjective is lyrical, but his phrasing is not consistently melodic. Percussive might sound like I mean the drumming nature of native American songs, which would be stereotyping, and besides, that’s not what I mean. I mean Alexie writes like the percussionist of an orchestra. The percussionist has mastered perhaps a couple dozen instruments in the back of the ensemble — both pitched and untuned devices — from drums to chimes to glockenspiels and the cowbell. The piano is a percussion instrument. That’s how Sherman Alexie writes.


A couple of weeks ago I streamed The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for the first time in a while. Now I plan watch regularly. I’ve never stopped watching clips online since the Jon Stewart days, but after the first weeks with Noah I quit watching whole half-hours.

The show, with Stewart, had just gotten too noisy — the strident theme music (which continues), the frequent hooting and applause, and in his last couple of years Stewart ranting more often than the other methods he delivered humor and insight. It was too stirred up for weeknight viewing.

Noah began hosting in September 2015. He is skilled, and wisely he began where Stewart left off. Both men lean liberal, yet both draw fire for criticizing the left when warranted, which is not infrequently. What Jon and Trevor both do best — along with their correspondents and writers — is call shots as they see them, no matter what, especially in their criticism of the media. When you’re insulted by something they said, often it’s their take on how the media has reported it in the first place.

So in late August I started taking in whole programs. Noah has developed into a consistently calm news anchor persona, with plenty of irony still. But there’s no yelling unless scripted into a bit. One can enjoy the humor, become more informed, and not get so worked up over the handbasket we can’t do much about anyway that you can’t go to sleep.

Its new correspondent Ronny Chieng performed standup at the University of Arkansas last Friday. My Beloved and I found the Union auditorium standing room only. I don’t know if Chieng will have the career of his predecessors like Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee, but Comedy Central does hire talented people.


More comedy relief can be had by checking out the Politico Gallery and clicking on its latest “The Nation’s Cartoonists on the Week in Politics.” Like all journalists, there are fewer editorial cartoonists, but those who remain are insightful and hilarious.

 

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