Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Reunion “Oh for the life on the rolling sea”


The Reunion
“Oh for the life on the rolling sea”
by Loren Logsdon

Me father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
                                            He courted a mermaid one fine night.
                                            And from that union there came three
                                            A porpoise, and a porgy, and the other was me.
                                           Yo Ho Ho! The wind blows free
                                           Oh for the life on the rolling sea.!

            Bob Shaftoe and Iva Goodun had grown up together as best friends. They did everything together and were inseparable, almost as if they were identical twins. They fished together, played on all of the school's athletic teams, tormented their teachers, were attracted to the same girls, and vowed to be best buds to the end of their days.
            They were both wild and restless throughout their years of schooling, and when high school graduation came, they were not ready to do as their classmates did. They were not ready to marry young and start a family or to join the normal world of work or enlist in military service. They did not want to go to college because they had had quite enough of formal education. What they wanted was freedom to travel to the four corners of the world, sail the seven seas, and do battle with formidable adversaries. To the disappointment of their respective families, they became pirates.
            Life was much more simple in those days than it is now. If you saw a man wearing a three-cornered hat and a gold earring, with tattoos on his arms and a parrot on his shoulder, and he snarled “Narr,” “Yarr,” and “Arrgh,” you could be certain he was a pirate. Not so today in this fancy, frilly postmodern world. Today, such a man could be a wealthy rock star, a famous professional athlete, a movie star, an elected politician or even a college professor. The world has become incredibly complicated and confusing.
            Although the two friends were pirates, they went in different directions. Bob Shaftoe landed a position on a pirate ship that operated in the Indian Ocean while Iva Goodun joined a pirate gang who prowled the Sargasso Sea. The friends were so far apart in distance that they had not actually seen each other since the night of their high school graduation, 62 years ago. They kept up with each other through rumors and stories and sometimes via snail mail. They would on rare occasions exchange lengthy Christmas letters or maybe greeting cards on Blackbeard's birthday or Long John Silver's Walk the Plank Day.
            Their careers differed in quality also. Along the way Bob Shaftoe earned the nickname Shipwreck Shaftoe because he had survived 29 shipwrecks and seven keel haulings. Iva Goodun was given the simple nickname Swabby because his mates could not think of anything else to call him. He was popular because he knew how to use all the attachments on a Swiss Army Knife, but he never really did anything to earn distinction, and when the fighting became fierce he could be seen high in the rigging protecting the Jolly Roger. “Someone had to do it,” he always said.
            In the world of pirates and elected Illinois political leaders there is no mandatory retirement age and no limit to the amount of wealth one could amass, and so Shipwreck and Swabby plundered and robbed until they were 80 years old.
Where do pirates go when they retire? According to the legends of the sea, they go to a place called Fiddler's Green.
                        Fiddler’s Green is a place I’ve heard tell
                        Where sailor men go if they don’t go to Hell,
                        Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play,
                        And the cold coast of Greenland is far far away.

But Shipwreck and Swabby had other ideas. Fiddler’s Green sounded too tame for them.
In fact, Swabby had several options. During his long years of looting, he had buried treasures in seven different locations because he didn't trust banks or corporations like Enron, not to mention financiers like Bernie Maddov or the Keating Five. He had also had a main squeeze in every port, and from those unions he had seven fine sons. The sons refused to follow in their father's footsteps; instead, each one became a CEO of a multi-national corporation and practiced postmodern piracy. Swabby’s sons were financing a movie about his life, starring Johnny Depp and Lady Gaga, with a guest appearance by Kato Kaelin. Each son promised to provide a retired life of excitement and romance for Swabby. In his sunset years he could live anywhere in the world. All he had to do was choose the place.
            Not so with Shipwreck. He had nothing for his retirement. No buried treasure, no sons, no friends in high places, and no prospects for anything luxurious. He was, as his name implies, truly a shipwrecked man; so much so that even Chernobyl looked good to him.

                                                One night when I was trimming’ of a glim
                                                Singing a verse from the evening hymn.
                                                A voice from the starboard shouted “Ahoy,”
                                                And there was me mother a sittin’ on a buoy.
                                                Don’t be ridiculous! A boy is a juvenile male.”
                                                “No, a buoy. It guides the ships that sail.”
                                               
            Old pirates can become sentimental just like anyone else. After so many years of restless wandering, the two old friends felt a strong nostalgic pull to return to their boyhood home, even though Illinois had long ago been plundered and looted by pirates from Lake Michigan. But Shipwreck and Swabby came back to Illinois anyway and agreed to meet at the Slimy Squid Bar in Quincy. Swabby wondered if he would recognize his childhood chum after 62 years; and, indeed, he was shocked to see that Shipwreck, in his youth a handsome lad, was now sporting a peg leg, a hook for an arm, and a patch over one eye.
“Avast me hearty! Shiver me timbers and thar she blows!  Batten the hatches! Lower the topsail! Man the bilge pumps and scrub the Poop Deck! What happened to you?” Swabby asked.
            Sheepishly, Shipwreck shook his head slowly and said, “One hot day my mates and I decided to go for a swim and cool off. I was swimming and a shark came along and took off my leg at the knee. It isn't so bad. I got used to the wooden leg after a while,” Shipwreck explained.
            “What about the hook?” Swabby inquired.
            “Well, one day we were attacked by this other pirate ship. They tried to board us and the air was filled with smoke and shouts of 'Narr,’ ‘Yarr,’ and ‘Arrgh.’” All of a sudden I looked down and my arm was gone. A cutlass took if off at the elbow as clean as you please. I soon got used to the hook. Actually it's an advantage because you can do lots of things with a hook you can't do with a regular arm,” Shipwreck said.
            “And the patch?” Swabby asked.
            “Well, we were in port and the day was beautiful. The sky was blue and the breeze was cool and gentle. I was looking up into this perfect sky singing “We'll Pay Paddy Doyle for His Boots,” and a seagull defecated, dropping the whole load in my eye.”
            “But that wouldn't blind you,” Swabby observed.
             “I forgot about the hook,” Shipwreck said ruefully.

                                    “Tell me what has become of my children three?”
                                    Me mother then she asked of me.
                                    One was exhibited as a talking fish
                                    And the other was served on a chafing dish.

                                    Then the phosphorus flashed in her seaweed hair
                                    I looked again and me mother wasn’t there.
                                    Then I heard a voice echoing out of the night
                                    “To the Devil with the keeper of the Eddystone Light!”

                                    Yo Ho Ho! the wind blows free
                                    Oh for the life on the rolling sea.
                                   

             


Friday, September 21, 2018

I Hear Versailles Singing


I Hear Versailles Singing
Loren Logsdon

            “Of all the wonderful faculties that help to tell us we are immortal, which speaks the sublime truth more eloquently than memory?” Wilkie Collins

            The title of my stroll down Memory Lane is inspired by a poem by Walt Whitman entitled “I Hear America Singing.” In Whitman's poetry, singing is the most appropriate way to celebrate life, and the above-mentioned Whitman poem pays tribute to the various occupations of Americans as they go about their work in their daily lives.
            Whitman's poem has stimulated me to reflect on my Versailles, Illinois, childhood and youth in terms of singing and the favorite songs I remember.  I will begin by acknowledging the first song in my memory, a song my grandfather Will Tarrant sang to me as a lullaby: “Let the Rest of the World Go By,” written in 1919:

            With someone like you, a pal good and true
            I’d like to leave it all behind and go and find
            A place that’s known to God alone
            Just a spot to call our own.

            Will and Nellie Tarrant had a Victrola in their home, and my sister Alma and I were given permission to play records on it. Thus, as a young child, I learned the songs of Harry Lauder and the famous Irish tenor John McCormack. I grew to enjoy Irish music, and today I have a large collection of Irish folk songs by the Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers. I also like the love songs of Robert Burns and the modern songs of my colleague and friend Paul Cioe, from our time at Western Illinois University.

When I was in school, there was Mrs. Ruth Turner, who came to Versailles Grade School once a week in the late 1940s to teach music. I remember two songs from those she had us sing. The first was

            Oh harken, oh harken, the south wind is chanting
            I'm sure 'twas the piping of Pan that I heard.
            The winter was long I'd forgotten how haunting
            The music that passes among the dead grasses
            And calls the returning bird.

            That song comes back to me every year near the end of winter, when I am looking forward to the arrival of spring. The south wind seems to bring strains of the piping of Pan to my ears, and I will tell my wife, “I think I just heard the piping of Pan.” Then, there was another of Mrs. Turner’s songs that stayed with me, a robust little number entitled “The Glendy Burk”;

            The Glendy Burk is a mighty fast boat
            With a mighty fast captain too
            He sits way up on the hurricane deck
            And he keeps an eye on the crew
            Oh, for Louisiana. I'm bound to leave this town
            I’ll take my pack put it on my back
            When the Glendy Burk comes down.

The above Stephen Foster song always reminds me of Mrs. Turner and Versailles Grade School and my friends Glen Childers, who lived over the hill from my house, and Glenn Barker, a high school friend from Mt. Sterling. .

            But I remember other people from Versailles for the songs they sang. The last three years of high school, I worked for Dwight Davis as a carryout boy in his Red and White grocery store. Dwight was always singing, but there is one song I heard him sing many times. It goes this way
           
Get your coat, don't forget your hat
            Leave your worries on your doorstep
            And direct your feet
            To the sunny side of the street.

Dwight was a virtual one-man “Your Hit Parade” because he knew all of the current popular songs and many of the old ones such as “Danny Boy,” “Maggie” and “Seeing Nellie Home.”  I'm sure he was fond of Dean Martin songs such as “Memories are Made of This” and “That Lucky Old Sun.”  I suspect the song he sang at a particular moment matched the mood he was in, but I considered “The Sunny Side of the Street” to be the Dwight Davis theme song.
            Another Versailles resident who impressed me with his singing was Dean Johnson, who managed the Hunter-Allen Lumber Yard. Dean sang “Old Man River” in the annual minstrel show in Versailles. As a youth, I was privileged to accompany my father, my Uncle Gordon Tarrant, and Dean on  numerous fishing trips on the Illinois River, and I would ask Dean to sing “Old Man River” to charm the fish. Dean built a cabin near the mouth of Camp Creek and also had a boat that my father and I would sometimes use. When the lumber yard closed, Dean and his wife Dorothy moved away. Later we learned that he had been killed when his tractor overturned on him.
            I remember Mrs. Turner taking our 7th grade class to the Versailles Methodist Church to observe the 8th graders practice for their graduation ceremony. I recall hearing Gilbert Perry sing

I have loved her ever since we met.
She is mine but doesn’t know it yet.

The Baker sisters, Bonnie and Mardalee, daughters of Everett and Georgia Baker, provided pleasant music, and we cheered for them in a music contest in Versailles. Despite our loud support, they lost to the Beardstown Women’s Kitchen Band. Margie Baker was in my class in school, and the Bakers were neighbors who lived just down the road from us. Our families celebrated one Fourth of July with a picnic at our house.
 I also remember that Barbara Wilson had a beautiful singing voice, but I don’t associate a special song with her. One of my favorite folk songs was “The Ballad of Barbara Allen,” and my sister Alma would tease me that I was in love with Barbara Wilson. I never admitted it, but I did have a crush on Barbara when we were in grade school. I recall hearing Barbara’s brother John singing at the Versailles Christian Church, and I remember thinking if I could sing like that there would be no stopping me.
            Growing up near Versailles, I enjoyed The Prairie Pioneers’ radio program out of Jacksonville. I listened to the WLS National Barn Dance and enjoyed Lulu Belle and Scotty’s “Remember Me” and Arky the Arkansas Woodchopper. Saturday nights I would stay up late to hear The Grand Ole Opry. Then I listened to Your Hit Parade with Snooky Lanson, Gisele McKenzie, and Dorothy Collins. Among my favorite songs were “Cry of the Wild Goose,” “Too Old to Cut the Mustard,”  “Dear Hearts and Gentle People,” “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later than You Think,” and “Mona Lisa.”
            By far the most pervasive musical influence on me was my good friend Jim Holler. Jim’s family had moved to Brown County in time for Jim to attend 8th grade at Versailles Grade School, where we became good friends in the course of that year .and have remained friends to the present. Jim played the harmonica and the guitar, and he was often singing when he wasn’t playing. There are two songs from early in our friendship that I associate with Jim. The first is about an activity I have enjoyed all my life:

            Well, I mighta gone fishin’
            Been thinkin’ it over
            The road to the river is a mighty long way
            It must be the season, no rhyme or no reason
            Just takin’ it easy, it’s my lazy day.

And Jim loved to sing the old spirituals such as “I’ll Fly Away” and

            Farther along we’ll know all about it
            Farther along we’ll understand why
            Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
            We’ll understand it all by and by.

In addition, my favorite religious songs were “This is My Father’s World,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

            When our senior high school class would go on bus trips to attend events, Jim would play his harmonica to entertain us. Jim still plays and sings at Blue Grass festivals.
Then I remember that during my high school days every time we passed Jones’ Orchard, we would sing the words of the sign advertising the business:

            Apples Sweet Cider
Drive in, Drive in,
Apples Sweet Cider
Drive in.

Did I sing?  As much as I could, but not in public. My problem was that although I loved singing, I could not carry a tune in a bucket. So I sang only around family or when I was fishing or tramping through the woods where I would not be criticized by nature’s critters. I was especially good at imitating the song of the cardinal—the bird, not the baseball team in St Louis or the official in the Catholic Church.  Out in the woods I could sing at the top of my voice and whistle at a cardinal for as long and as loud as I wanted. Noise was not a problem. The bird would sing, and I would answer.
Then one day in my geezer years, after retiring from a long career in college teaching I was grilling hamburgers on my outside grill on a gorgeous afternoon, and I heard a cardinal begin to sing. I noticed there were no human neighbors in sight, so I answered the bird with my song. The bird replied. We kept up a concert for about 15 minutes when something miraculous happened. A female cardinal flew up and lighted in a small tree near me. In all my years of singing to cardinals, I had never attracted a female. Then along came the male cardinal that I had been singing to.  Apparently he thought the female he was courting had chosen me, and he wanted to check me out. When I whistled, they saw that I was an impostor, and so they flew off together. I would like to think the male bird flipped me the finger in triumph. I wondered, though, what was in my song that caused the female cardinal to choose me over her legitimate suitor. What had I promised her in my song? I began to consider that I was capable of song, that all of my life I had sold myself short. But then a birdwatcher friend explained to me that it was curiosity rather than love that made the female cardinal approach me.
When Mary and I were first married, I used to sing all the time in our apartment. Instead of remarking about how poorly I sang or asking me to be quiet, Mary said, “You really know a lot of songs.” I knew then that Mary and I would enjoy years of connubial bliss.  

           
           


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lancaster Markem's Response to Boone Fowler's Save Illinois!


Lancaster Markem's Response to Boone Fowler's Save Illinois!
Loren Logsdon

            My name is Lancaster Markem, and I was present when Boone Fowler explained his ideas for saving Illinois and turning things around in our beloved state. Indeed, I even participated in the discussion. Since that evening I have had further thoughts about his proposal, thoughts which I did not express at the time.  Boone is my friend, and I respect his right to express his ideas, but when you are in his presence you will find him to be a combination of Major Hoople and W. C. Fields. By that I mean that he bowls you over, overwhelms you, with his persuasive talents and his convictions. Boone could talk an ape out of a tree, persuade Colonel Sanders to give up exploiting chickens, and get a stripper to put her clothes back on. Thus, after careful thought I decided it was incumbent upon me to respond to Boone's ideas and to propose a solution of my own. Please know that I agree with him that the problems in Illinois require immediate and heroic action. But I think we need to explore as many possibilities as we can.
            My first response is a very practical one which Boone overlooked. Simply put, the people who can make the changes he proposes do not want them or won't allow them. For example, the people of Illinois want term limits, but the people in power will not allow the change. Also, some legislators have proposed changes in the pension system, but the court will not allow them.
            Boone can be forgiven for not realizing that people who have power do not want to give it up. On the contrary, such people want to keep their power and even want more power. That is why we need to heed Lord Acton's warning that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The best alternative to Boone’s proposal is to elect people who are trustworthy, people who can be counted on to use power wisely and responsibly for the common good. But that alternative has two shortcomings. First, it would take too long to replace the people who are entrenched. As Oprah Winfrey once said in exasperation about racially bigoted people who are unwilling to change, “I guess they just have to die.”  She meant a natural death of old age, not murder. But we need change now before it is too late. We can’t afford to wait for legislators to die a natural death, and we certainly cannot advocate murder. Second, I don't believe that people who seek power are evil in the beginning; I think they don't understand the nature of power: It corrupts gradually and subtly. It acts like greed but much worse because it blinds people and causes them to act in selfish ways they are unaware of.
            I admit that I do not have the answer to the objection I have just raised. I can only hope that the powerful politicians in Illinois will have a conversion experience like Scrooge in Dickens' “Christmas Carol” and do something about the problems in Illinois. I realize that hope is not a strategy, but it would be a miracle if legislators would wake up in the middle of the night and realize “Good God, I have to do something to turn things around.” I would ask them not to give up their power but to use it wisely for the good of the state and for the gratitude they would receive for restoring the state to financial health and respectability. I guess I would use the appeal Hester Prynne made to a spiritually paralyzed Arthur Dimmesdale in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter; “Write, preach, act, do anything save lie down and die.” 
            My next point is that I believe Boone's ideas should be extended to the federal government as well as the state government. I believe that what is good at the state level should be good at the national level. Because of the sweeping changes made by technology, we need to have the best people in government to keep pace with the changes. By best people, I mean those of vision who understand the changes made by technology and how our government can adapt to those changes to make technology serve human objectives. We cannot control the technology, but we can direct it to serve human ends.
            My third point concerns the modal system Boone proposes for pay raises for legislators. I agree completely with him that if there is no balanced budget there should be no pay raise. I base this belief on the fact that the Illinois Constitution requires a balanced budget, and I believe in following the Constitution. However, I do not agree with the modal system for pay increases. That system was tried on faculty at Heliotrope University in the 1970s, and it was a complete failure because it was so complicated that few people understood it. Boone Fowler’s system seems to be so simple that even a child could understand it. On that basis I’m willing to try it, but I really have little enthusiasm for the modal system because it could turn into mere record keeping and be just another governmental bureaucracy.
            I have saved the biggest problem until last. In advocating a system of personal responsibility, Boone Fowler is going against the times. In other words, he is old fashioned in his thinking. While we live in a democratic political system, within that system is a network of bureaucracies. All of us have found ourselves entangled in the red tape of bureaucracy. The essential problem is that bureaucracies empower civil servants, minor officials, really, what a friend called “ career bureaucrats,” who are protected from any accountability. A career bureaucrat cannot be held responsible for his or her decisions. Thus to try to establish who is responsible in a bureaucracy is like Don Quixote fighting\windmills. If Boone’s plan can humanize bureaucracies and make them behave decently, then I’m all for it. But I believe he needs to think his plan through more carefully.
            Now I am going to propose my solution. I call for a nation-wide discussion on the nature of power. Such a discussion is timely because of all the examples in the news these days about the abuses of power by famous people in Hollywood, in government, in the TV industry, in the academic world, and in the medical profession. So many people have been harmed by people who possess so much power than they use it for their own selfish purposes. In fact, one could say that the abuse of power has taken on epidemic proportions.
            And, interestingly, since 1980 or thereabouts there has been widespread concern to empower marginalized people. The word “empower” has become a mantra with people asking to be empowered. I understand this movement to empower people. As John Russell said sarcastically to Dean Martin in Rio Bravo, “Every man should have a taste of power before he dies.” Yes, all people need to be empowered, but there should be a corresponding emphasis on the nature of power: its tendency to corrupt those who have it and use it and the evils that are promoted by it unethical uses. To empower people without educating them about the nature of power is to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
            I suggest you try this question out on people: Concerning power as it relates to people, what are the two kinds of power at our disposal? Be sure to say that you are not referring to electrical power, water power, steam power, or power from technology/. In other words, what two kinds of power are available to a human being, power you could call human? The two kinds of human power are political and spiritual. Political power is the kind that comes with a position that one has gained by appointment or election or has worked to achieve. Political power is used on other people. Spiritual power is a power that is used on oneself to improve one’s character through self-knowledge and knowledge of the world. Spiritual power is a mastery of self that is evident in the way one lives one’s life, respects the sacredness of the other, and views one’s place in the universe.
            But when people seek to empower others they fail to realize that political power needs careful understanding because of the nature of power itself, its potential for a wide range of abuses. The news today is full of those abuses.
Here is my proposal: that we use the present attention focused on the abuses of power to have a nation-wide discussion of the very nature of power itself. Yes, by all means we should continue to expose those powerful people who have abused their power and hurt other people, but at the same time we can discuss the nature of power to educate the newly-empowered people so they will use power in wise and positive ways to help others, not hurt them with abuse. Certainly the times are right for such a great teaching moment. And what great teaching we could do because we have the means, especially the technology, to accomplish a great good. We have the Internet, television, the newspapers, the radio, and of course the educational systems and the churches. With a united effort in discussing the nature of power, we can bring about a better world for our children and grandchildren. For as columnist Kathleen Parker once wrote: “The answer to every political question should be ‘What is best for our children.’”
             



Monday, September 17, 2018

Save Illinois!


Save Illinois!
Loren Logsdon

            Lancaster Markem had just finished making out the brutal exam for his American Literature class, and he was looking for some way to put a top on the evening. He considered listening to his Woody Gutherie tape or maybe a medley of Harry Belafonte's songs, but instead he decided to go to the Tally Ho for a cup of coffee and chat with Paige Turner, an English major who was working her way through college by serving as the late night waitress at the famous eatery. Paige knew all of the gossip and political intrigue in the English Department, and she had saved Markem's life on several occasions by alerting him to dangerous situations in the department's turf and ego wars.
            When Markem entered the Tally Ho, he was surprised to see a group of citizens engaged in animated discussion. The center of the group was Boone Fowler, who seemed to be the loudest of the highly agitated group, which featured Phil McKavity, the Singing Dentist; Dr. Wanton Slaughter, Crusader against Post-Nasal Drip: Tug Armstrong, the expert mechanic at Poindexter's Garage known as “Bad News”;  Granville “Possum” Gwathmy, retiired farmer and storyteller; Grant Clements, Editor of Oops! The Journal of Medical Malpractice; Molly Turgent, Goddess of the Electric Griddle at Mom's Family Restaurant; Dr. James Canada, Chair of the Health Science Department at Heliotrope University; Sylvia Penn, AP English Teacher at Weeder's Clump High School; and August Provender, Manager of the local IGA. Markem wondered what had brought this impressive group of worthies together, and he didn't have long to wait for an answer.
            Boone Fowler struck the table a mighty blow and exclaimed, “I don't understand why the voters of Illinois do not march to Springfield, invite our legislators outside, and then gently escort them to the state line and thank them for the deplorable financial condition of our state and tell them not to come back, NOT EVER!”
            Sylvia Penn was aghast, “That’s not fair! There are some legislators who want to do the right thing and act for the common good. They are unselfish legislators who do not deserve to be included in a ‘throw the bums out’ approach.”
            Boone was quick to respond, “As a former patriot once said, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls.’ I would add ‘women and children’ to that remark because their souls are being tried as well. I appreciate your concern for fairness, but everyone has to go. We need a tabula rasa, a blank slate, as John Locke would put it. Have you seen any legislator suggesting a solution to the crisis in Illinois? No, I am not aware of a single voice crying out for change; it appears that everyone thinks we can keep doing the same things. We are at the mercy of a tyranny unwilling to take action to change the disastrous course our state government has taken. and Thomas Jefferson would no doubt say that we need a revolution. Check The Declaration of Independence if you don’t believe me.”
            August Provender asked, “Would you do away with our democratic system? If so, what would you put in its place?”
            “Good heavens, no. The fault is not in our democratic system; in fact, neither major political party can be portrayed as virtuous or evil because they share the blame for giving Illinois such a bad name. I would endorse democracy and the multi-party system and our state constitution. Indeed, I think a strong third party would make our democracy even better by giving voters more than an either-or choice. The more real choices we have, the better our democratic system.”
            Dr. James Canada asked, “What would you do to address the failure of the democratic system in Illinois—and we must admit that it has failed us. Just look at all the people who are leaving our state. For Rousseau, who had some good  ideas about government, that would be evidence enough that our state was not healthy.”
            “Yes, Boone, how do you propose to advocate a democracy and, at the same time, restore health to Illinois?” Molly Turgent asked pointedly.
            “Thank you for asking, Molly? That question indicates you are showing some real signs of leadership. I would begin by changing some features of our Illinois Constitution, especially addressing the issue of power and thus limiting its abuses. Please listen carefully and interrupt me if you have questions.
            “First, I would establish term limits for our legislators; they could be elected for two terms. That would limit the opportunities for greedy people to take advantage of their position. It would prevent legislators from becoming so entrenched that only their death would end their tyranny. I realize that some voters believe that lengthy experience will make legislators more capable, but the opposite is true in Illinois today. We have legislators who refuse to change to meet the problems of a changing world. Term limits give us the advantage of fresh eyes and the ability to meet new challenges.
            Second, we need to limit the power of present legislators who have arranged to have automatic pay raises every year. That would never happen in a business like Caterpillar where individual performance counts. I would establish certain conditions for the annual pay raise. In short, I would establish a merit system for all legislators.”
Grant Clements shook his head in protest. “A merit system? My God man, that’s insanity to even think of a merit system for elected politicians. Do you realize we would have a plethora of stupid, silly, and useless new laws every year.  It would be like having a perpetual full moon for the wolf man and the vampire..”
“Grant Clements, you are guilty of a hasty generalization and a false analogy in the same breath,” Boone laughed. “In my system, the passing of new laws would have nothing to do with the merit system.”
“Then why don’t you explain your merit system?” Sylvia Penn asked.
Yes, let’s have it, you postmodern Machiavelli,” Lancaster Markem urged.
It was the moment Boone Fowler was waiting for, a moment he had dreamed of for years. He savored it for a few seconds before speaking. “My merit system is based on three levels: Basic Merit
Modal Merit, and Extra Merit.
Here’s how that works. If the legislators agree on a balanced budget and forward it to the governor, then every legislator would qualify for Basic Merit, regardless of the governor’s action. No balanced budget, no merit at all and no pay increase. Thus we establish the basic importance of the balanced budget.
            “Second is Modal Merit, which is based exclusively on attendance at legislative sessions. Perfect or near-perfect attendance qualifies one for Modal Merit. Excused absences for illness or emergencies will be accepted. Frequent and numerous absences will disqualify the legislator from receiving Modal Merit.
            “The highest merit is what I call Extra Merit. To earn Extra Merit the legislator must be known for working with the crucial problems facing our state today, among which are the financial debt, the opioid crisis, education, the natural environment, homelessness, the abuses of power, the treatment of children, the elderly, and military veterans. Again, though, I emphasize that sponsoring new laws does not quality one for Extra Merit. One’s time and leadership in addressing one of the above problems in the legislature and in the public arena will qualify one for Extra Merit.
            “Thus, to summarize, the annual pay increase for our legislators will come about if there is a balanced budget, nearly-perfect attendance, and leadership in working for a major cause or problem. The reward for Extra Merit will be so lucrative that our legislators will be eager to devote their time to give the citizens of Illinois the very best government possible. They will take pride in being public servants and,. in turn, be rewarded for their efforts in earned pay increases and the acclaim of the ordinary citizen.”
            “Impetuous! Homeric!” exclaimed Possum Gwathmy, as he rose to his feet and saluted Boone. Then the Possum spoke his mind. “I think what Boone proposes will work because it addresses a central problem that has surfaced in our country: the abuses of power. This was the very problem the American revolutionaries faced in 1776. They had witnessed the severe, extensive abuses of power by the tyrant King George III. They had seen what those abuses had done to them , and they wanted to set up checks and balances to limit the possible tyranny of power.
            “Over the years since the American Revolution, we have forgotten how power can be abused. All of the instances in the news today are about how power has been abused by people who have power and insist on using it for their own selfish ends. The response seems to be to empower people who are marginalized or have no power, but what good does that do if people have forgotten what Lord Acton said years ago, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’.  What good does it do to empower people if they don’t understand the very nature of power? That merely perpetuates the problem we seek to solve. The best answer seems to be to limit power and prevent abuses. Another way to put it—and this is a delicious irony—is that our most important task today is to de-empower the people who are abusing it and hope the people who are being empowered will not abuse their newly acquired power. I must admit, however, a note of pessimism because I do not see any contemporary discussion of the responsibilities of power.”
            Tug Armstrong, who had remained silent throughout the discussion, removed his DeKalb seed cap and said, “I have to admit that I like Boone’s solution because we do not have to have a bloody revolution to solve our problems in Illinois. Through a few revisions in our Constitution we can make democracy work in Illinois. We can reverse the shameful image of Illinois and enable our elected legislators to have pride in serving our state. But we have to save them from themselves by reminding them of Plato’s idea that the best government is one in which the guardians have the common good, rather than themselves or their political party, as their highest priority.     

           
           

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

“Madison Avenue Has No Shame!”


“Madison Avenue Has No Shame!”
Loren Logsdon

            Those were the words of a friend when I told her about the new image Madison Avenue has dreamed up for Mr. Clean. I think she thought I was spoofing when I told her that old baldy was now a rock star. She viewed the new commercial for the first time and could not believe her eyes. I told her that if she thought the new Mr. Clean was bad she needed to see the new Colonel Sanders, whom I have always referred to as Colonel Chicken or the Chicken Colonel, depending on my mood at the time.
            So what's wrong with the new Colonel Sanders? First of all, they have made him decidedly younger. He still has white hair, the white suit, and that famous white goatee, but he is a much younger man than we are used to seeing. In fact, the new Colonel has a nice suntan as though he has just left a beach party of fun-loving, beer-drinking young people to tell us about his crispy fried chicken. In the recent commercials Colonel Sanders is now young enough to cut the mustard. Women and chickens need to watch themselves at all times in his presence. No Cialis, Viagra, or Enzyte for this Colonel.
             Second, the new Colonel Sanders has absolutely ruined the word crispy by over using it. Crispy is a wonderful word, a special word like opine, egregious, and cogent. But like the Swiss Army Knife overuse dulls it. For example, when I would announce that I was giving a quiz to my students, I would quickly add, “Please don't get crispy with me.”  That expression seemed to disarm the students. And they took the quiz without protest, arguments, or snide remarks. Similarly, sometimes when my wife has sent me to the store, and I have forgotten something she has told me to get, I will say, “Please don't get crispy with me, Light of Love, but I forgot the garbanzo beans.” She will roll her eyes, sigh heavily, and shake her head. She never yells or screams at me, never even raises her voice. Over the years crispy had been a magic word for me, but the new Colonel Chicken has turned the word crispy into a mantra.
            The question to ask is why would Madison Avenue change the image of these two products, especially since they have established themselves so firmly in the minds and hearts of American shoppers and diners? Procter & Gamble enshrined Mr. Clean several years ago by holding a nation-wide contest to give him a first name. I had no idea what name had been selected until I used the Internet and found out what it was. Mr. Clean’s first name is “Veritably.” However, the company didn't use the name that won in their commercials. He continued to be Mr. Clean. Why? Have you ever known anyone named Veritably?  Even more important, I think that a first name would make Mr. Clean too familiar and maybe too ordinary, destroying his mystique. .
            Despite all of the hoopla about Mr. Clean, apparently the product is effective because it has been around for many years. In fact, it became the leading selling cleaner shortly after it was introduced. My friend also questions the connection between music and the new Mr. Clean. She sees no meaningful connection. She does admit that sometimes she listens to music when she cleans, but she doesn't connect the cleaning with the music.
            The change in image for Colonel Sanders is also puzzling. Colonel Sanders’ chicken has been around for a long, long time, made popular by a secret recipe of herbs and spices that make the chicken a dish fit for a king and a toothsome viand for ordinary people as well. Millions of people around the world love Colonel Sanders chicken. Personally, I have never cared for it myself. When I was growing up, we had fried chicken so much that I had my fill of it. Another friend expressed my sentiments perfectly when he said, “As far as I'm concerned, every chicken can die of old age.” And my own granddaughter, from a very early age, has refused to eat chicken, saying, “Chickens are my friends.” These are exceptions. The main point is that Colonel Sanders fried chicken is a well- established product. The Colonel Sanders image does not need to be changed. At least one would think not.
            What is Madison Avenue up to with these images?  The advertisers have discovered the need to sell products on the basis of youth. Notice the beer commercials; they all picture young people laughing, drinking, and having a great time. You don’t see a geezer in a beer commercial. Actually, Madison Avenue has discovered the fountain of youth and will sell it to the world in any number of products, from beer to food to cleansers. Mr. Clean and Colonel Sanders must appear to be young. The geezer image must go. Americans want to stay young as long as possible.
America is and always has been a nation of extremes. On the one hand, we have the mythic Rip Van Winkle, who managed to find the good, happy life as an old man. His escape to the magic mountain enabled him to avoid a good portion of his adult life and reach an old age where he could “loaf with impunity.” The other extreme is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Benjamin, equally mythic, is born old and gradually becomes younger and younger until he dies as a baby.
Clearly, Madison Avenue has chosen the Benjamin Button myth. Youth is the watchword. Youth is what sells. Don’t be surprised if Mr. Clean leading a rock band and singing “I Just Want to Be Your Man” and Colonel Sanders becomes Lady Gaga’s main squeeze.
 
              

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Clarification for Professor Markem's Sentence Building Kit: A Free Bonus Device is not the Same as a Dangling Modifier


A Clarification for Professor Markem's Sentence Building Kit:
A Free Bonus Device is not the Same as a Dangling  or Misplaced Modifier
Loren Logsdon

            Back in the day and several posts ago on this blog, Professor Lancaster Markem advised writers to consider the advantages of writing a sentence using a Free Modifier Bonus. Since then a few readers have inquired about the possibility that the free modifier might be the same as the dangling or misplaced modifier. No, they are not the same, and Professor Markem has delegated me to clear up any confusion by using examples to explain. The dangling or misplaced modifier is clearly a sentence error and must be corrected and then avoided in future writing. The Free Bonus Device is a legitimate writing strategy that affords the writer a stylistic diversity..

All of the following ten sentences contain a dangling or misplaced modifier  and need to be corrected:

  1. At the age of fifteen my grandfather took me to Ireland to visit the Blarney Stone and kiss the statue of Molly Malone.  Correction:
When I was fifteen, my grandfather took me to Ireland to visit
the Blarney Stone and kiss the statue of Molly Malone.

  1. Standing at the stoplight the traffic rushed by at an alarming speed.
Correction: As I stood at the stoplight, the traffic rushed by at an
 alarming speed.

  1. From the center of the bridge, the Big Sleazy River looked cold and
deep. Correction: As I stood at the center of the bridge, the Big Sleazy
River looked cold and deep.

  1. Reeling in his line the bait was still on the hook. Correction: Reeling in
his line, he saw the bait was still on the hook.

  1. To enjoy a fishing trip the equipment must be adequate and in good condition.
 Correction: To enjoy a fishing trip, one must have adequate equipment
in good condition.

  1. After spending the night at the mouth of Chinquapin Creek, the boats took usto the dam on the Big Sleazy River.  Correction: After we spent the night at
          the mouth of Chinquapin Creek, the boats took us to the dam on the Big
Sleazy River.

  1. After flunking three straight Western Civ quizzes, the professor asked if
I was reading assignments from the right textbook. Correction: After I
had flunked three straight Western Civ quizzes, the professor asked
if I was reading assignments from the right textbook.

  1. Taking Viagra every day the doctor had Uncle Biff at the top of his golf game. Correction:  Following the doctor’s orders by taking Viagra
every day, Uncle Biff was playing golf at the top of his game.

  1. After 60 days on Cialis all the women in the neighborhood ran frantically in the opposite direction when they saw Uncle Biff approaching.
Correction: After Uncle Biff had taken Cialis for 60 days, all the
women in the neighborhood ran frantically in the opposite direction
when they saw him approaching.

  1. By shopping at Menards big money was saved every week
 Correction: By shopping at Menards, we saved big money
every week.

All of the following are sentences are examples of the Free Modifier, and they are correct. They do not contain dangling or misplaced modifiers.

1, Eileen Overton helped Bulgy Hypotenuse pass Professor Fissure’s
Geology 105 class, hoping she  could use her charms, cast a spell over him,
win his heart, and one day lead him to the altar.

2. In July of 1968, at the peak of the counterculture movement in America,
long before the days of Political Correctness, Dr. Molten Magma became
president of San Andreas Fault State University, realizing that he would have
to learn to say “You know” in every sentence and wear bib overalls to work.

3. Sometimes Dick Bumpass had an odor about him that reminded people of
an athletic sock that had died a horrible death, illustrating the truth that you
can take the college athlete out of the locker room, but you can’t take the locker
 room out of the college athlete.

4. Professor Orville Korkoff entered the classroom and announced that the
brutal exam he had scheduled for the day was being called off, causing
students to complain and threaten to report him to the Board of Trustees.

5. Driven to succeed and willing to work long hours in the biology lab,
Dick Bumpass was determined to be a World Class research scientist.

6. As Billy the Id watched Paula Pulchritude and Suds Guzzle emerge from
 the Malthusian Church and get into a car marked “Just Married,” he was
overcome with a profound melancholy, knowing that Mr. Death was calling
muster on him and he had better do a carpe diem because we only go around
once in life and we should grab for all the gusto we can.

7. Despite several disappointments, my good friend Mooker G. Tondouri
is constantly alert for the perfect woman, convinced that she does exist and
is waiting for him to find her

8. Dr. Wanton Slaughter brought two friends with him to work at the Weeder’s
 Clump District Hospital, persuaded that a successful medical facility should be
staffed with dedicated r\experts.

9. Famous for saving many people from drowning in the Rock River, Xavier
Bunz was a med tech who was somewhat nonchalant, known for his laid back
demeanor, his cool savoir faire, and his refusal to panic in an emergency.

10.  On the other hand, Seymour Pipes, the x-ray expert, was a nervous
wreck, haunted that he would one day be sent to a place so remote
from civilization that the people thought a snow removal crew was
fifty people with lighted matches and a pest control officer was an
old geezer with a fly swatter.

Please Note: I hope the above ten-sentence exercises will illustrate that the Dangling or Misplaced Modifier and the Free Bonus Device are not the same. If there are further questions about this matter, please direct them to me or Dr. Brian Sajko and we will consult Professor Markem for assistance in responding.





Friday, September 7, 2018

Sometimes Cupid Can Use All the Help He Can Get A Story of Love in Postmodern Times


Sometimes Cupid Can Use All the Help He Can Get
A Story of Love in Postmodern Times
Loren Logsdon

            Mimsy Livingood didn't know where to turn. Since the beginning of the year, she had been trying to get the attention of Bulgar Feldco, a handsome lad of pretty parts who was friendly to her but gave no indication he desired anything beyond a smiling countenance and cordial greetings.  Mimsy was absolutely convinced that her happiness in this life depended on securing Bulgar's love. She tried all of the tricks that Postmodern young women have to win the heart of their Number One. She tried the vast array of beauty aids such as shampoo, perfume, deodorant, toothpaste; she made certain that she didn't have post-nasal drip or toenail fungus. She experimented with all kinds of decolletage, swim suit wear, and foot gear. She projected that breathless come-hither invitation as well as that sullen, underprivileged look. Nothing worked.  Clearly, she needed help in the worst way.
            The September carnival was in town, and Mimsy was strolling through the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens when she was visited by a divine inspiration. Although Mimsy was generally not given to talking to herself, she said, “Why not a fortune teller?”
            That evening Mimsy went to the carnival to visit the fortune teller, a scary old woman who advertised herself as Madame Clair Voyant.
            “I need help with my love life,” Mimsy said, spilling the beans immediately.
            Madame Voyant frowned and said, “I don't do that kind of work. If you will give me 25 dollars, I will tell you the name of a friend who lives in Rushville who can help you.”
            Disappointed but still hopeful, Mimsy paid Madame Voyant the money and was given the name and address of the friend in Rushville, “Whatever you do, don't call her a witch. She considers herself a scientist. You can start off on the right foot by calling her doctor. She loves that title though her degree is honorary. Nevertheless, I'm sure she can help you.”
            The name on the paper was Maggie Dunwich, along with the street address and the telephone number.
            The next day Mimsy drove to Rushville to the address on the paper. She expected the house to be somewhat eldritch in the style perhaps of Poe or Lovecraft, but it was a mansion, with a pair of stone gorillas guarding the driveway and a blue Cubs’ W banner flying on the flagpole. It was a palace the Kardashians would be pleased to own. “Maybe Boone Fowler is right in believing that the upper class in America live in Rushville,” Mimsy muttered to herself. Then she realized that she had been talking to herself a lot lately. But then she quickly added, “Soon, though, I will have my one true love who will hang on my every word.”
            The lady who answered the door was a thoroughly modern Millie who reminded Mimsy of the witch in the Jim Beam TV commercials. “What is wanted?” she said.
            “Dr. Dunwich, I have been advised to consult you about a serious problem I have. I wrote to Dr. Phil, Oprah Winfrey, and Dr. Oz about it, but they don't have time for me. In fact, they brushed me aside as if I were a pesky insect. I hope you can help me.”
            “Come in, please and tell me your problem. Would you like a glass of dandelion wine?”
            “Why, yes, thank you. We only go around once in life and we should grab for all the gusto we can,” Mimsy answered.
            “That sounds like a TV beer commercial, but what is your problem?
            “I am in love what this wonderful young man, but he won't notice me. He doesn’t even know I’m alive. I have tried everything from decolletage to perfume, but nothing works.”
            Maggie Dunwich winked and said, “You have come to the right place. I have several potions and magic spells, and you don't have to pay me until one of them works, Now, without further adieu take down these details. This potion is somewhat radical, but from the desperation in your demeanor I think it is the place to start. Ready? Here we go:
            “Capture a bat and drain the blood from it. Be sure you get all of the blood. Mix the bat’s blood with the powdered tail of a white rat. Find the place where a dove has been nesting and collect as many droppings as you can. Mix these droppings with Wheaties....”
            Here Mimsy interrupted, “Weenies?”
            “No, Wheaties, the breakfast food. The breakfast of champions?”
            “Would cornflakes do?”
            “No, it has to be Wheaties. Wheaties are the key ingredient in this potion because the lad in question is your Champion, your Knight in Shining Armor, your Number One, your One and Only Main Squeeze. 
            “Now, to continue, mix all of these items thoroughly and add a tincture of pokeberry wine. Then slip this potion into your desired one's beer and see him transformed into your perfect love slave—either that or he will become pale, keel over, curl up his toes, and sing songs from Mama Mia.”
            Mimsy rolled her eyes and said, “”That sounds complicated and dangerous.”
            “Well, I told you it was radical. Now make the potion, use it, and come back in a week to report. I fully expect to see you as happy as a little sea cucumber in a gently rolling sea.”

            The next week Maggie Dunwich welcomed a disappointed Mimsy Livingood. It was obvious at first glance the potion hadn't worked.
            “What happened? Couldn't you get the ingredients?”
            “Well, I had some trouble getting the Wheaties. For some reason the IGA was out of them. I had to go to Peoria to get them. But finally I was able to mix up the potion.”
            “Well, what happened? Why didn't it work?”
            Crestfallen, Mimsy said, “It's my fault. I put it in the wrong beer.”
            “Saints preserve us! How could you put in in the wrong beer?”
            “Well, it was the right beer, but Bulgar was distracted momentarily and put the beer down when Ian Happ struck out with the bases loaded. Then he picked up the wrong beer and drank it instead of the one containing the potion.”
            Horrified, Agnes asked, “Who drank the beer with the potion?”
            “It was Maurice Shrub, Bulgar's best bud,” Mimsy said.
            “What happened to Maurice Shrub?”
            “He became violently ill. They took him to the hospital and were able to save his life. It was touch and go for a long time.”
            Maggie then said, “I should have warned you about that. If the potion is taken by the wrong person, that person usually dies. It was a miracle Maurice survived.”
            Hoping for a second chance, Mimsy asked, “Should I try the potion again?”
            “No, it will work only once. It won't do you any good to try it again.”
            Oh, thank goodness! The IGA might still be out of Wheaties. But what do we do now, Dr. Dunwich?”
            Maggie Dunwich sighed, heavily, took a sip of dandelion wine, and said, “We need to go back to the drawing board, return to square one. Now be sure to take all of this down.
            “Ready? Here we go?
            “It's very close to the Halloween season, so I want you to try this one out. Get a few hairs from your desired one's head. Take the hairs and put them on a silver dish in your bathroom. Stand in front of the mirror and comb your hair with one hand and eat an apple with the other hand. Repeat your desired-one's name 20 times, then look over your left shoulder and you will see your desired-one's face in the mirror. Once his face appears he will be yours forever.”
            “I like this one, Mimsy said. “It's simple compared to the first plan.”
            Maggie looked askance and said, “Don't be over-confident. Be sure to get hair from the desired-one's head. Can you do that? You can't just use any old hair.”
            Mimsy laughed and replied, “Just watch my dust,”

            A week later Mimsy Livingood, on the verge of tears, was at the door of the Dunwich mansion.
            Standing with arms akimbo, Maggie asked, “What happened this time?”
            “Well, I did everything you said to do. I made sure I got hairs from Bulgar's head. I followed the instructions. I combed my hair with one hand and ate an apple with the other, I said Bulgar's name twenty times, looked over my right shoulder, and Dr. Pillow's face appeared in the mirror.  He looked at me and said, 'You look like you need a good night's sleep.' Then he explained that people needed a good sleep and that My Pillow would provide the best sleep they could ever get. He even told me where My Pillow was manufactured in his home state of Minnesota. Now every time I use the bathroom Dr. Pillow's face appears in the mirror, importuning me to buy his magic pillow.”
            Maggie furrowed her brow in thought. Then her eyes lighted up and she said, “You looked over your right shoulder?  You were supposed to look over your left shoulder. No wonder the plan failed. Young woman, you simply must follow directions.”
            Ashamed of herself, Mimsy asked, “Can we try this one again.”
            Maggie shook her head and said, “Only one to a person. For you, the magic is gone and cannot be summoned back. We have to think of something else. “
            “I am so glad you haven't given up on me. I promise to follow instructions carefully this time,” Mimsy declared with a solemn look on her visage. .   
            “Well get ready to take down what I am about to say. After you do, I will look it over to see if you have it right.
            “First, does your desired one wear a hat or a cap?”
            “Yes, he wears a DeKalb seed cap. He is seldom seen without it.”
            “You must steal that cap and remove the band. Fashion the band into a garter and wear it high on your right thigh. Then follow the lad secretly and mark the ground he has walked on. Dig up enough of that ground to fill two large pots. In one pot plant marigolds; in the other, place religious relics on top of the dirt, thus making it sacred holy ground and an object of worship. You need to worship the ground he walks on, but never treat him like dirt. After two weeks of sincere worship, take the garter and re-fashion it back into a hat band and replace it in the DeKalb seed cap. Return the DeKalb seed cap to the man of your dreams and voila he should be yours.”

            Four weeks later, Mimsy Livingood appeared at  Maggie Dunwich's mansion, bursting with happiness. “Bulgar Feldco invited me to attend the Asian Carp Festival and Prime Beef Pentathon with him, When he dropped me off at home, he asked me to attend services at the First Malthusian Church with him. Since then we have seen each other every day. I think he loves me. I can't thank you enough. Now how much do I owe you?
            Maggie certainly didn't need any money, so she thought a moment and said, Fifty-nine dollars would do.”
            "Don't cheat yourself. I will give you sixty dollars,” Mimsy said.

            Weeks later, as Mimsy and Bulgar were shopping at the IGA, Mimsy said, “What made you become interested in me? I wanted you to ask me out long ago.”
            Bulgar answered, “I have always been interested in you, but I thought you were too far above me. I have been wanting to ask you out, but the fear of failure gnawed at me like some hideous reptile. Now, I could kick myself for all of the time I wasted.”
“What finally enabled you to overcome your fear and approach me? Was it that I found your DeKalb seed cap and returned it?”
Bulgar laughed and answered, “No, it wasn’t that although I am grateful you found the cap. I had given up hope of ever seeing it again.”
Mimsy was fatally self-determined, and so she had to satisfy her curiosity. “What was it then?”
Bulgar Feldco looked lovingly into Mimsy’s eyes and said, “You won’t believe this, I’m sure, but I received an anonymous letter from someone in Rushville telling me you would be amenable to my overtures of affection.”