I Hate Being Confused: You Too?

February 15, 2010

During the heyday of my stay at what was then Pembroke State University,  I served on a number of faculty committees and was active in the American Association of University Professors.

One of the same generation of academics as I,  a Professor of Physical Science who had a Bachelor’s from Harvard and a Ph.D. from U-Cal at Berkeley,  one evening at an informal party (we were talking about some current bones of contention in faculty matters),   said in his ponderous and definitive way,  “A confused opponent is a dangerous opponent.”  I found that interesting and also insightful,  and it has often solaced me,  for it came in handy at times when confusion seemed to be running rampant in my alleged mind.

I also at times find myself being confused by some odd circumstances found in what I read or listen to.  Here are several examples:  An “Ethics Commission” has (in the aftermath of the worms and insects left squirming on the ground by the Easley administration) been formed to deal with matters threatening integrity and what is now termed “transparency.”  Both are considered good things.   But I am somewhat bemused and distracted by the name of the Chair  of this Commission.  His first name is Lester,  his last Merritt.    It seems to be that a chair of such a worthy group would do better if he were known as “More” Merit. . . .

Another matter that bothers me is comprised of two sentences I came across today as I was reading the current issue of Up and Coming Weekly.   One sentence appeared in a story by a FSU/formerly PSU Art Professor who was reviewing two local exhibitions (neither being the Salvador Dali exhibit, which I have plans to see before it departs).

The reviewer compares the nature of one exhibition to the other, noting a key difference between them but concludes, “The difference attributes to the overall aesthetics of each exhibition.”   Can you help me out here?                                      The second sentence I came across that confused me even more was in a story about a production of Snow White by the Fayetteville State University Theatre.  The reviewer points out that this play is a “twisted” version of the Disney production of yore.  The Director of Theatre at FSU is quoted as saying this about it:  “. . . this version of the beloved tale of enchantment features not only a jive-talking mirror, but also a ‘band of happy minors,’ Hall said [naming all seven] . It has a slightly different spin than Disney’s version.”   What kind of dwarves am I expected to see on stage?

My final confusion today,  and it has struck me in similar ways quite often, has to do with the topic of “capital punishment” and the term “death row.”  The “Today in History” feature in today’s paper notes the attempt on FDR’s life on February 15, 1933.  Roosevelt escaped any physical harm, but his host,  Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak,  was fatally wounded.   And “gunman Guiseppe Zangara was executed more than four weeks later.”  Must have seemed like a lifetime for poor Guiseppe Z.  In the same issue of the Observer came a story of the death of Viva Leroy Nash of “natural causes,” we are told, in an Arizona prison.  Nash is headlined as the “Oldest U.S. death row inmate.”  Born in 1915, he was first sent to prison in 1930;  an appellate lawyer is cited as saying that, in effect,  Nash had spent nearly his entire life in prison,  the last 27 years on death row.                                                                                          I am confused.  How could our judicial system work so quickly to execute Zandara, even if “more than four weeks later,”  and take 27 years to discuss and review and continue to appeal Nash’s death sentence?  If his lawyers were worth their salt, it seems to me they should have gotten Mr. Nash freed under a Constitutional ruling that he was the victim of “cruel and unusual punishment,” having to live all of these years in a hardcore,  lonely environment, with fear and uncertainty always torturing him.  “Unusual” at least ought to apply. . . .   Shouldn’t it?

RJR

Advertisements

An Unpublished Letter: Moore County Law Enforcement?

February 15, 2010

 I may expect too much from the several professions that characterize and dignify–or perhaps tarnish–our communities and bring into question the integrity of our legal system.  But I don’t think so.

All established professions have transcendent and enduring values to uphold and defend.  The words that convey and express these ethical standards are unvarying and immutable.

In medicine the mantra is (as old as Hippocrates in Ancient Greece),  “Do No Harm.”

In teaching it is “Good Instruction and Fair Evaluation.”

In those alliances that we trust with our property and our lives (such as Fire and Police Departments and publicly-funded hospitals),  the overriding values are “To Serve and Protect.”

Therefore, it galls me particularly when local law enforcement is conducted (as in the case of Mr. Hoffman and calling on two of my own experiences) at times in Moore County,  North Carolina.

Here is a letter that I  sent on January 17 to our daily paper.

Editorial Page Editor                                                                The Fayetteville Observer                                                     P.O. Box 849
Fayetteville, NC 28302

I am  pleased but disheartened to read the complaint  about police “protection” in Moore County.  Twice victimized by police officers in Moore County’s “legal system,” I agree with Andy Thomas’s observations [in the Observer several weeks ago]:

With little else to do, these lawmen are experts at writing tickets for questionable offenses which, in other communities, would occur without incident or at most with a warning.
They thrive on older folks who may exceed the speed limit by a mile or two and other similarly “serious” offenses.
It’s time for Pinehurst police to represent the community they serve with better judgment and more realistic performance of their duties.

Both times I was pulled over and cited, I was caught in a “speed trap.”  The second time we knew that the speed cited was inflated. Just beginning a trip to Missouri [to visit my ailing mother], we did not need a long delay.
I later talked to a Moore County lawyer.  He said that the young women who cited me were typical “hires.” They made a minimal salary and needed to write citations. Complaints from retired residents were frequent, and pressure was put on the agencies to “do something about it.”
It is a sorry day when “serve and protect” begins to mean “harass and intimidate.”   I am increasingly fearful of local law enforcement. . . .  And I become more and more incensed as I contemplate what “real criminals” or scofflaws they could be arresting.  Finally, I  wish I could tell such “honey bears” (second son’s term) as these two to find some honest, worthwhile employment.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond J. Rundus

An Invitation to CCEF’s “Gala” Fundraiser

February 15, 2010

Got your plans made to attend the “Winter Gala” fund raiser for the Cumberland County Education Foundation at Highland Country Club on Saturday evening, March 6?  It promises to be a grand evening with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and with music by “Sleeping Booty,” a lively band that has fronted or performed with a number of well-known bands.  And for a most worthy cause as well: your contributions will help fend off the Tax Man as well as support the several worthy enterprises for Cumberland County education that the Foundation funds and champions.
One of the Board Members has gone so far as to vow to donate the tickets he is purchasing ($75 each) to school principals and/or teachers who otherwise would not be able to attend.  Lou challenges the other Board members to consider following his example. . . .
In a more modest way:   I will pledge $15 of my own toward purchase of any of the four advance tickets Board members that were issued at our last meeting.  And I will donate my own ticket to a worthy teaching or supervising principal in the Grays Creek area.  If you want more information or want to order tickets on your own,   call Cindy Kowal, our Executive Director at 910.221.8800.

RJR

You can also reach me at rjrundus@infionline.net

Today’s Generation Speaks a Different Language

February 11, 2010

 Here’s an appropriate reply to my posting just previously,  which included an anthem for the “Silent Generation” of the fifties.

If you can access the VIMEO video (a typographical poem by Taylor Mali with animation by Ronnie Bruce) you will experience a great treat or maybe will want to throw it all in the first empty toilet.  I owe Cousin Bob– of Champaign fame (he’s  a bit older than I, quite a bit)–a “thank you” for sending this to me.

Mali describes his peers as part of “the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along you know since a long time ago.”   That’s a great ironic statement,  no?  The visual part of this (one term for it is “concrete poetry”) can become quite addictive.

Let me know what you think.  (Most of us aren’t yet quite old enough to feel. . . .)   Maybe you’ve got something you’d like to share in the way of a great declarative sentence or perhaps even a poem that you like,  one that would probably not be familiar to many, if any,  of the ill-fated contributors to this blog.  You may even have composed it yourself . . . .

Cheers!

RJR

http://vimeo.com/3829682

Anthem for the “Silent Generation”: 1945-1963

February 11, 2010

Thanks for the memories,  Bob Hope and all who gave us hope and change in the immediate Post-World War II era.  A Cumberland County Commissioner discovered somewhere on line the following ditty.  It offers us old fogies a nostalgic look at the days of our youth. . . .

Here ‘Tis!


Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot, Before the days of Dylan,
or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born, Where navels
were for oranges, and  Peyton Place  was porn.

We learned to gut a muffler, we washed our hair at dawn, We spread our
crinolines to dry in circles on the lawn.

We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince, And Eddie Fisher
married Liz , and no one’s seen him since.

We danced to ‘Little Darlin,’ and sang to ‘Stagger Lee’
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and three was one too many, And only boys
wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see A boy named George with
Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon , Annette was oh, so nice, And when they made a
movie, they never made it twice.

We didn’t have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three, Or Rocky-Rambo
Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp, And Reagan was a
Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn’t talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had our share of heroes, we never thought they’d go, At least not Bobby
Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be, And Elvis was forever
in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead, And Airplanes
weren’t named  Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees, Madonna was
Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars, And babies might be
bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and ‘gay’ meant fancy-free, And dorms
were never co-ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We hadn’t seen enough of jets to talk about the lag, And microchips were
what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea, And rocket
ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Buicks came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks, And bathing
suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee, And Castro came to
power near the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no  Hill Street Blues, We had no
patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea Or prime-time ads for those
dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill, And fish were not called
Wanda, and cats were not called Bill.

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three, And ancient were our parents
in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we’ve heard them say, And now instead of
Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We’ve come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans, And wonder why
they’re using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children’s children of the way it used to be, Long ago and
far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

FOOTNOTE FROM RJR:  If you liked this,  no doubt you would enjoy the (fraudulent) song that Julie Andrews supposedly sang at an AARP Convention: to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”  I’ve stashed it away someplace but might resurrect it for your amusement. . . .

Who Dat Said Dey Can Beat Dem Saints?

February 7, 2010

3:05 to go in Super Bowl XLIV,  and dem Saints are ahead 31-17.

It’s gonna be a hot time in Jackson Square and on Bourbon Street for a good while.

Drew Brees showed his character as well as his prowess as an NFL Quarterback.

The Colts have nothing to be ashamed of: for their season or for the results of this game.

“Who Dat”?  Well, the City of New Orleans as well as the team.  Both took the other to their hearts in the aftermath of “Hurricane Katrina.”

RJR

Put Your Thinking Caps On

February 6, 2010

Fellow mortals!

By now some of you know enough about the peculiarities of my mind and its attachments to understand that I believe in certain undying principles or ideals.

These derive  ultimately from the ancient philosophers Socrates/Plato and Aristotle, with side tours of folks like St. Augustine, Dante Alighieri,  Thomas More,  John Henry (Cardinal) Newman,  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill,  Alfred Korzybski,  George Orwell,  and the whole gamut of the Old and the New Testaments.

I have particularly been keen on the Trinity of early philosophy and rhetoric, with sidebars on the literary essay and literary criticism.    Somewhat akin to the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity (Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost) the classical Trinity presents (especially in the Platonic dialogues featuring curmudgeon and stickler Socrates) three enduring values or “goods” (compare to the “bigs” in a basketball game),   which have both distinctive traits and provide support to the other two qualities.

The roots of all human philosophy have grown from these three trunks:  Ethos (that which is morally good),  Logos (that which is rationally good), and Aesthetics (that which is well-crafted or beautiful).

The syllogism was employed by Socrates (as presented by his most famous pupil,  Plato) to argue with others about the most pressing issues of the day in Athenian society.  In his “Apology,”  for example,  he takes on the indictment of his fellow citizens of the charge that he has corrupted the youth of Athens. He does, of course,  lose the case (while winning the argument and gaining more enemies) and chooses death over lifetime exile.

A syllogism is built upon two premises and a conclusion;  if either premise if factually erroneous or if the syllogism is badly constructed, the conclusion is erroneous.   Here is the eldest perhaps of these:

Major Premise:   All men are mortal.

Minor Premise:   Socrates is a man.

Conclusion:          Socrates is mortal.

Thus, using syllogistic or Socratic reasoning can help enhance one’s ability to think deductively.

An “enthymeme” is a kind of syllogistic reasoning in which one of both premises may be inherent in the conclusion.    Here is an example:  A few years ago, while heading back to Cumberland County from UNCP,  we passed two young men,  dressed neatly, and riding bicycles.  Rudy says,  “Well,  look at those two Mormons. ”   Me:  “How can you tell what their religion is just by looking at them?” Here is how the implicit parts work:

Major Premise:  All young male Mormons are  expected to do missionary  work,  wear white shirts and dark trousers,  and either walk or ride bicycles on their mission.

Minor Premise:  Here are two young men who are dressed well and riding bicycles.

Conclusion:  These young men are Mormons.

I will conclude by saying that I don’t consider the “syllogism,” as some do,  to be a literary term as such.  It is rather of staple of classical rhetoric,  a device to improve one’s success as a thinker and as an essay writer or a debater.

The “tropes” of classical rhetoric and many and diverse.  It was Edward P.J. Corbett’s book from the early 1960s,  “Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student,”  that made me aware of the diversity and usefulness of the “trope,”  particularly in reading and understanding much of the European Literature of the “Age of Reason,”  from about 1660 to the late eighteenth century.

Maybe the following syllogism is such that you can solve it with a conclusion or reject it on the grounds of a faulty (untruthful or invalid)  premise  Let me know what you think:

Major Premise:  Nervous people chew gum.

Minor Premise:  He is chewing gum.

Ergo:

RJR

How Will We Live in a “Post-Racial” Society?

February 2, 2010

I’ve become quite puzzled lately by the increasingly frequent uses, in speech and in print of the term “post-racial society.” Our President has even, I think, used that phrase. I am not sure,   but it seems as if the connotations here are overriding the denotative values.  If one is seeking honest and reasoned discourse,  then here is a problem:  if someone objects to the term or believes that achievement of such a state could not be possible,  he or she, even if well-intentioned, is likely to be cast aside and ignored.

If such a possibility as a “post-racial society” is to be entertained or as seriously considered as much as a “Post-It Note,” we will need more rational approaches and a heightened sense of proper decorum in our discussion forums.

I think most of those who use the term intend to signify a society in which prejudice and discrimination are in effect eradicated, and thus no one will be treated unfairly or criminally because of their ethnic characteristics:  in particular, facial color and features. Maybe even dress,  and sometimes these days,  maybe even tattoos.

But I get puzzled because the term “racial” is and should be most commonly and effectively used neutrally:  to signify that the world’s population (or perhaps more narrowly the population of a nation, or a particular city or community) can be divided into specific subcultures with visible or tangible features that will identify their members by certain specific features.

If the speaker or writer wants to speak about a future time when all the members of a particular population entity have intermarried and bred to such an extent that they all share the same identifying features and abilities,  then I would prefer that “post-racist” or even “post-racialist” (the latter being sometimes labelled as “Chiefly British”)  be used.   Who can oppose or would oppose such a Utopian vision?

If our country would become “post-racial” in the sense that I usually understand it,  then I would expect that all Americans would be able both to jump as high and to swim as well as those with similar athletic abilities, thus leveling out these contemporary, stereotypical characteristics.

As early as the first half of the last century,  an anthropologist, anatomist, and humanist  was pressing hard the thesis that “race” was a nonsensical term.  See especially Ashley Montagu’s 1942 study,  “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth:  The Fallacy of Race.”  As a student of Alfred Korzybski,  Ruth Benedict, and Franz Boas,  Montagu (1905-1999) was also a well-trained and skillful semanticist. In our present culture many more job applicants are resisting the filling in of the application form’s query about one’s “race.”   Tiger Woods (did he need a new job, and some feel he soon could) might write in “Cablinasian,”  another has written “100-yard dash,”  still another “homo sapiens”   and so on.

So,  I hope some of the readers of this blog will help me (1) to understand what is intended just now of the term “post-racial” society,  (2) to estimate whether it can be arrived at via new laws or the studied interpretation of existing laws, such as the “Bill of Rights,”  and (3)  to help me understand why such a society would be desirable to all citizens in our republic or democracy.

RJR

Who Let Dem Saint Bernards Out?

January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010

Some random notes from and about the passing scene. . . .

1.   Excitement builds as Super Bowl XLIV approaches.  Interest in this sporting event will probably overwhelm the interest in the Winter Olympics being held in British Columbia.  I have been to British Columbia in recent years and much enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the international flavor of Whistler, BC, where a number of the Alpine events will be staged.  But I do admit that we will likely be more absorbed in the Super Bowl.  We’ve been to New Orleans–twice–and to the Miami area several times, and got lost several years ago while attempting to travel from Indianapolis (home of the Colts) to Champaign, Illinois.  So we have some scattered impressions of the venues involved in the annual extravaganza.
We will be backing the underdog Saints because we know one of the former Saints players, who was a safety on the team (when it became, unfortunately, the “Aints”) during most of the 1980s.  His parents became good friends of ours in Neodesha, Kansas, in the early 1960s and still are.
Besides who can resist the appeal of the call to arms that the Saints fans have adopted: “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”   “Who dat” will doubtless appear on a vast number of souvenir items, especially if dem Saints overcome the odds and win dat game!

2.   My immediate past posting about gaffes in the spelling of words (excellance/excellence, pubic/public, and Henry Gibson/Henrik Ibsen) was in part illustrated once again in a problem with a word in Sunday’s “Local and State” section.  Here is the complete sentence, about an artist who has found spiritual satisfaction in his wood sculptures (original column by Catherine Kozak of the Virginia-Pilot out of Norfolk):   “What began as an offer by Outer Banks artist Glenn Eure to create wood sculptures depicting the cruxification of Christ for his church turned out to be an emotionally wrenching marathon that tested his mettle and deepened his spirituality.”  Your two tasks: (1) identify the problem and (2) offer a correction, plus any exculpatory rationale that might in part get the reporter and the editors of our daily newspaper off the hook.

3.  Elder son offered to me this morning this interesting contribution, heard on WRAL-TV and spoken by a weather reporter, who observed that the problem with icy conditions would be around for “quite a little bit more longer.”   You betcha.

RJR

Oh, The Agony!

January 27, 2010

Once again, late this morning,  it came to my attention, unavoidably and perhaps inevitably.

Why?  Why do I keep coming across mistakes in spelling or malapropisms that could be or probably are an embarrassment to the publisher as well as to the intended audience.

In the late morning as we were coming into the “Country Fish Fry” in Hope Mills for our lunch,  the headline in the current issue,  just out today,  caught my eye and prompted a groan.    The front page’s cover pictured impressively the retiring President of Methodist University and had for a title this groaner:                        A LEGACY OF EXCELLANCE                               As James Thurber used to scrawl in the hallways of The New Yorker where he worked for several years,  “TOO LATE!  TOO LATE!  TOO LATE!”  Too late to correct this issue’s misspelling on the cover, for it was clear that distributions of  Up and Coming Weekly had already occurred. That a respected University’s heritage was the topic only made the gaffe that much more agonizing for all involved,  including the publication’s readers.

I was reminded of a couple of boo-boos of similar provenance and like embarrassment that took place on the campus of what is now “The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.”  One of these was seen in posted announcements not too long after the Chavis Student Center had been dedicated and put to full use:  “No Smoking in Pubic Areas of the Student Center.”   Aaaaaaarghhhhhh!

Another occurred in an announcement of tryouts for a play by a famous Norwegian playwright,  and it went something like this:  “Tryouts For A Doll’s House by Henry Gibson Will be Held [on such and such a date at such and at time]. ”  I believe that Henry Gibson was actually one of the actors in a satiric TVweekly series of that time: “Laugh-In.”

In sum,  somebuddy has to be carful about making carless misteaks!

RJR