Tag Archives: Opinion

Books and Thoughts

If you’ve happened upon this post – Thanks for visiting. Normally, I post poetry because this is a convenient outlet for expression.

If you’ll indulge me, I don’t feel much like writing poetry today, so I think I’ll just write…

Books I’ve read/am reading

I just finished An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I bought this second-hand on my birthday over a year ago. It is an ambitious novel, and the premise is intriguing – to tell the story of a crime from multiple points of view. The story is filled with twists, perspectives, unreliable narrators, and Dickensian description and dialogue – this aspect which made it difficult for me to engage (which is why it took me so long to finish it). The ending was worth the effort. And in thinking back on how the story was told and the details that the author integrated into each account of the tale, the work was well done.

As I tend to read books in batches to find one that latches my interest, the next book I finish could be among these: A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin, A Killing Term, by Robyn Sheffield, Bloodline, by James Rollins, or The Shack, by William Paul Young. My reading interests are diverse. 🙂

What to do about Confederate Statues

I find the debate of what to do about statues to confederate civil war icons (note I did not say heroes) and symbols both troubling and cathartic. I will state upfront that I am a southerner, born and raised, though I have live much of my adult life in the midwest. During my childhood, I was enamoured with the romantic view of the south (Antebellum plantations, the Lost Cause, Civil War history). As a young reader, one of my favorite books was the Robert E. Lee biography in the “Who was” juvenile biography series ( along with JFK and The Wright Brothers!). My continued experience and education has helped shape a more well-rounded view of these events. I still have an interest in Civil War history and writers of that period, but do not hold such a romantic view of the South’s intentions and reasons for seceding. Nevertheless, I consider it an important part of our country’s heritage and growth.

Statues are reminders of history and should be contextual in their placement. I think it is impossible to not have statues of some of these figures of history, even if they were on the wrong side of the Civil War. Exclude those explicitly guilty of war crimes (You don’t see statues of Nazi leaders-and rightfully so- for this reason). Statues of Robert E. Lee and others are appropriate in certain locations – war cemeteries, battlefields, museums – but less so in other places – every deep south courthouse or public park (what is the historical significance?). I don’t understand why there are statues to Lee in Montana or Ohio. There is common sense that could be applied by local governments. Confederate flags should not be on display at public buildings, but are appropriate symbology at confederate battlefields and cemeteries (It’s probably OK at NASCAR races, too, because I don’t want to antagonize THAT many people) 🙂

What is troubling is the amount of time being given to extreme viewpoints and attempts to legitimize them, when their only goal is to disrupt peaceful discussion and incite hate and violence. Further, they have taken the iconography of confederate civil war symbols and combined it with the message and symbology of nazism and white supremacy. This is not American, nor does it reflect the context of our history. They don’t get to abduct this part of our history and manipulate it for their ends. Our nation was founded on principles of compromise and civil discourse. There are differences of opinion, and there are cracks in the foundation because we are human. These groups don’t get to weasel in between the cracks and put up walls to divide us. As Americans, we should not stand for hate or divisiveness. We’ve already fought over that and learned good, albeit painful lessons.

American history is rife with right and wrong, and lessons to learn. And too often, I think we place our 21st century perspective on events of the past without first seeking to understand the past. What is most important is how well the history is recorded. I see history as way to learn (as a society) from mistakes as well as point to moments of success together. Is there equal balance in books and essays and can the information be taught to succeeding generations so they have a good perspective of the issues of the past, the philosophy of the era, and what was learned from it. We should never aspire to go back to the way things were, but we need to shoulder our history and learn from it ways to improve moving forward. As long as we have books, and we teach and discuss the historical subjects openly and without bias, our history won’t vanish (as some of our fear-mongering ‘leaders’ have implied). Statues without stories give us nothing to keep the historical perspective and invite bias. Bias invites extremism and silos of isolation (people who think like ‘we’ do), along with walls and media outlets that fuel and inflame. And if we continue to build walls around (literally and figuratively), all we will accomplish is division. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about divided houses.

We are all engaged in telling the story of America much in the way I tried to describe the book I just finished. There are events that are observed and experienced by different people who bring different perspectives. The different stories can be skewed by personal motives, some are unreliable and others rooted in fact. America is still a young country by global standards. Yet, we fight battles as old as civilization itself – and it is important to remember -prejudice and hate have no place in our discourse. Don’t be fooled by prejudice disguised as patriotism – Our history defines our path very clearly on this.

Climb the mountain

So by now, (if you enjoy pop culture events) you either watched Lady Gaga’s performance at the Academy Awards live or caught up with it on the internet. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to go find a link and listen.

I am not necessarily surprised by the talent she displayed in performing selections from The Sound of Music. I knew she was super-talented. I’m not a big fan of her pop persona, though I recognize her talent and abilities as being among the leaders in her industry. No, what amazed me was the solid…Solid….versatility she displayed in performing not only the Julie Andrews part of the catalogue with sensitivity and confidence, but also Climb Every Mountain … which is written for a dramatic soprano and requires different vocal skills and range.

She nailed it.

If you watch her facial expressions during her (well-deserved) standing ovation, there is a flash of disbelief on her face. It is almost as if she couldn’t believe that she had done that.

The question that popped in my head after watching that was, “Why the schtick?”

With all that talent, and considerable versatility, she has ability beyond what most of the viewing audience realized. So why did she/does she cling to this pop persona of hers? Or better yet, why did she develop it in the first place?

The answer to that is frighteningly simple…image sells.

In the entertainment industry, there is no shortage of talent, pretty faces, and even versatility. If you want to set yourself apart, you need to create an image that people will remember. History shows this again and again. The Beatles clean cut business suit image, fashioned by Brian Epstein, was designed to appeal to older record executives and wary parents who thought Rock & Roll was a passing fad. The KISS make-up and rock image was designed to give people a visual memory of a heavy metal band when there were a lot of other bands around. Madonna’s image seemed to be fashioned to keep people talking about the entertainment – when (albeit early in her career) her singing skills were limited. It seems as if Gaga’s flamboyant stage presence was designed to keep people talking – as if her talents wouldn’t be good enough to be remembered on their own.

I think she just blew that out of the water. It will be interesting to see how she moves forward and if she simply lets her talent and ability do the entertaining.

If there is a takeaway from this, it is to never underestimate your abilities. Always keep yourself grounded in something you do well and love doing. If you keep working and applying your skills to the things that you love most, there will come a moment, a pinnacle where you perform to your very best. At that moment, you will break through into something you never anticipated… and a manufactured image is rendered irrelevant.

Passion for what you do is the best marketing strategy.