Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Daytona Deco: Kress Building

Daytona Beach was the last stop on my way home from the Hope Institute in Ashland, VA.

The downtown area on the land side of the Intracoastal Waterway has been redeveloped to be more appealing to tourists. I ate lunch at a place with some natural foods, across from a park that runs along the waterway and next to the bridge over the Intracoastal.

This old Kress building preserves the Art Deco era in Florida architecture, my favorite. Note the classic deco details on the side of this fabulous historical structure. It is located a few doors away from the restaurant. There is plenty of metered parking to allow time to walk around the area and enjoy the park, shops, restaurants, natural beauty, and architecture.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Walterboro, South Carolina

A stop in Walterboro, South Carolina, was one highlight of my trip in July to the Hope Institute of National Communication Association. It was held at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. (You can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.)

I ate the lunch I'd packed at this pleasant rest stop on I-95, just south of the Georgia border. The arches are a nice rendition of the Spanish influence on south Florida architecture. I was fascinated by the clean Zen lines of these water fountain.

I stopped in Walterboro, South Carolina, a charming old town that is little more than some hotels along the highway. I found my way to the old town center and a nice restaurant. A car show was happening on the street outside. The next photos are of the vintage vehicles that have been lovingly restored. The last photo in the group is a Colby Cobra. Unfortunately, there was small sign in the plaza that prevented me from getting a good picture. Behind it was a large modernist waterfall wall that has not photographed well, either.

For car enthusiasts, the green chevy is a 1934.

The Walterboro crafts center had closed by the time I at dusk on the drive north. I made a special stop on my way back home to photograph this blue bottle tree, a modernist interpretation of an old Southern folk art. You can learn more about this uniquely southtern tradition at Bottletree.com. I would have bought this if I could have afforded it. The crafts center brings together the work of numerous South Carolina artists and artisans working in many media -- jewelry, painting, and fiber art among them. Behind the antebellum home are several slaves' cabins. This reminder of the past is never far away in the southern states. One appeared to be in service as artists' studios, and it appeared that others will be remodelled. The first cabin below was just room, with a very small stove and a bare bulb hanging from uncertain wire strung across the ceiling. I couldn't see into the second, but it probably has two rooms.Walterboro is a wonderful place to stop if you making a long trip north or south on I-95. Don't be content with the fast food joints at the on-off ramps. Take the time to drive into town and sample the sights and crafts.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

No EXPRESS AT AmEx, Just the World's Worst Service Ever

American EXPRESS -- nah. Try American as slow as the formation of the Grand Canyon and as responsive as rock.

First, the online ordering program for the rewards program wouldn't work. For hours. And hours. I tried from about noon til 4 p.m. When I finally got an order to go through, the screen for the gift address didn't come up. Then I tried to reach someone to correct the error. Big mistake. 45 minutes online, then I got transferred, and no one picked up after 75 minutes.

So I will have to trudge to the Post Office with its long lines and remail the package.

If you want to order online, stick with amazon.com or ebay. They know how its done.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Christmas Lexus: A Fable for Our Times

The Christmas Lexus ads are as widely loathed as they are effective.

Not just any Lexus,” as one of my graduate students said with just the right inflection for emphasis, “The Christmas Lexus.” We were performing a semiotic deconstruction of these illlustrations of American excess. But it doesn’t require the theory of Roland Barthes or Umberto Eco to spy and decry the haute bourgeoisie mythification of shopping for the glory of God.

As AdFreak headlines, Lexus is back with the usual Christmas downer. Adjab identifies the campaign as Ads We Hate and it tops the Yuletide peeves at The Daily Ping.

Jeremy W. Peters at the New York Times reports that the Christmas Lexus happens. The surest sign of flattery, other auto makers are airing imitations.

Those spoilsports over at Live and Learn Invest point out that the more likely response is “You did what?” than the happy smiles in the Lexus ads.

I knew a woman whose husband gave her a Mercedes Benz for their wedding anniversary. She’d left him after raising a family together but, like Janis Joplin, discovered freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. He was really glad to have her back. She was furious when he replaced her subcompact for the luxury Mercedes diesel. Ecologically responsible, she liked her peppy little car that handled like a top in traffic. How dare he trade away her car without consulting her, she fumed.

Then there’s this video of the 14-year-old girl who throws a tantrum because she received the gift of a $67,000 Lexus before, instead of during, her party. “My life is ruined,” she sobs. Or this spoiled teen who complains because her gift car is red, not blue.

Halfbakery has the perfect response – the evil gift of a fake Lexus key that sends the recipient into the snow only to discover there’s no luxury auto with a bow on top out there.

My students did a fine job of deconstructing the sign –the Christmas Lexus– into its signifier (the photo of the car) and the signified (a gift that shows you care, a lot). The sign empties of its denotative meaning, as Roland Barthes has it, and fills up with connotation – wealth and prosperity, a surfeit of money so great that a $40,000 to $70,000 car is but a bauble for celebrating the holiday. A perfect home, a perfect family, even a perfect snowy night in at least one of the ads. What could possibly result but perfect happiness?

Those of us who regard a car as a large, utilitarian purchase for which we must budget – that is to say, most of us, the petit bourgeosie hoping for admission into the upper levels of the middle class – are hooked by the emotions depicted in the ad's images. Consumer capitalism is concealed and mythified. If you want really good analyses of these, may I direct your attention to:

Me, I’m off to buy a phony Lexus key.

For something cheerier, check out this fabulously creative and entertaining award-winning animation by Aaron Erimez. It's the story of a mischievous Christmas tree ornament and its adventures when the household is asleep.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jung Love Review: Kathrin Asper's Abandoned Child Within Deepens My Interest

Asper, Kathrin. (1993). The Abandoned Child Within: On Losing and Regaining Self-Worth. (Translated by S. E. Rooks.) New York: Fromm International Publishing.

Asper is the real deal -- a Jungian trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich,Switzerland. The book is out of print, so thank goodness for university libraries. When a book makes a deep impression on me, I copy long passages from it. That was the case with this book. I often had to stop to emotionally digest her words and examples. Writing out passages further helped me to make sense of this work.

Asper identifies a disorder she terms narcissistic self-estrangement. The analysand must first heal the wounds of this disorder before embarking on the Jungian journey toward integration of ego and spirit through individuation. According to Asper, this type of person invests a lot of energy in developing a persona that can get along quite well in the world. However, this person is not truly anchored in herself. When something happens externally that is upsetting, such as loss or disappointment, the person responds with
rage, resignation, or depression. Even when life is going well, they experience alienation and emotional detachment.

Asper writes, "There are two ways that insufficient mothering is expressed in adult behaviors -- clinging or a false self-sufficiency. People with faulty attachment behavior are extremely sensitive to separation and tend to be anxious about loss and to deal pathologically with grief" (p. 45). The narcissistically wounded person must learn to feel her feelings, instead of denying them or striving to do something about them, and thus remaining cut off from feelings. As in other emotional recovery programs, one must allow oneself to fully feel before one can heal.

Narcissistically wounded people must learn compassion for themselves and to celebrate their victories and joys. Of course, such awareness is good medicine for all spiritual journeys. My interpretation of Asper does not give full credit to the depth of her work.

This is a serious work of Jungian study, intended for professional analysts. It also is a revealing study that may resonate with many people for whom popular books about the abandoned child within have seemed simplistic.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

South Florida Is Home

It doesn’t seem that it should be so difficult for a lifelong writer and diarist to post once a week, which seems the minimum appropriate to have an ongoing blog. Yet, much of what I write is too personal to share, a voyage of self-discovery. Universal truths may be part of that journey, but each of us must discover and apply these for ourselves. That’s why the journey is personal.

I spent the past week in Fairfax, Virginia, and that was a real journey both in time and space and in inner discovery. As I grow older, I contemplate whether Florida is the best place to grow old. I believe it would be better to live in a city with museums and other cultural and intellectual opportunities, as well as with good public transportation. Baltimore is one such city, and it has the familiarity of a place where I spent 10 of the best (and sometimes worst) years of my life. But like many cities, it also has crime.

And, as the trip to Virginia illustrated, I already live in subtropical paradise. I arrived on a sunny, hot day, the end of an Indian summer heat wave. No one calls it Indian summer anymore; now its global warming and a sign of dire things to come rather than a respite from the cold and rain of winter. By the next morning, a cold front had arrived, and the rest of the time was spent with gray skies and rain of varying intensity.

The buildings, once charming to me for their federalist period facades of brick and stone, now seem hopelessly dated and dreary. Where are the clean white stucco exteriors, the sometimes Caribbean Popsicle colors, and the red tile roofs? Where are the palm trees and hibiscus?

I was happy to return to South Florida, to my messy apartment with its leak, my battle with the International Village condo association and the property manager to fix that leak, and the various trials and tribulations of ongoing life that we all experience. It is good to get away and better to come home.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jung Love Review: Estes' Classic Starts My Journey

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. (1992). Women Who Run with the Wolves. New York: Ballentine.

For a long time -- since 2004 -- ideas had been burbling around in my head about women, creativity, and building a new identity in later life, in a society that doesn't value post-menopausal females. Reading Estes in February 2007 was part of my probing; I didn't know that it would start me off in a new direction, nor that, come autumn, I would barely have scratched the surface of my hero's journey.

Estes deconstructs old fairytales and folk stories for the wisdom they contain about how social forces dismember women's psyche, creativity, and central soul identity. The points that most impressed me in this book are:

  • The wild female nature is creative and connected to spirit. Estes schema is that soul is a universal force that incarnates physically to know itself. Spirit inhabits the body and is the messenger between ego and soul. But ego is limited, afraid, and selfish. It sees the light of soul and entraps spirit, wanting to be close to it.
  • Entrapment includes trying to be the good girl/woman, behaving to please others, giving up art for money and things, a marriage and children.
  • Eventually, one must connect to the wildness within to be whole.
I recommend this book to any women who wants to know herself better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bad Newscasting

A new low for standards for television journalists was reached yesterday when a CNN anchor blithely admitted to a weather reporter, out in hurricane Flossie, that he didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the Hawaiian town from where the report was coming. I can hardly imagine Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntley or Brinkley, or any of the venerable newsmen of the past admitting – on camera – that he hadn’t done his homework. I can’t even imagine as a newspaper reporter of far lesser renown having gone out on an assignment without doing my homework.

Another egregious instance was when the Palm Beach Post, in the late 1990s, assigned a reporter to the fashion beat with no background in fashion – a deficiency she joked about in her columns. In a letter to an editor, I complained about how hard it is to teach young journalism students to do research when this is the role model they get. I also pointed out that the Post serves Palm Beach and Wellington, two of the most fashionable locales in the United States. Its readers contribute to a multi-billion-dollar fashion industry. Finally, I asked if the paper would dare send someone with no knowledge of football to report on a game and publish a lame article about how the reporter noticed that there were a bunch of guys tossing a funny-shaped ball around and bumping into each other – and that’s about all he could tell us about it.

The fashion reporter wasn’t on the beat for long, but the lame CNN reporters, with their pretty hair and superficial questions, have been around far too long.

Dan Rather, onetime CBS anchor, rails against the “dumbing down and tarting up of the news.” Pundits have been bemoaning the poor state of network and cable news, but it doesn’t do any good.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Carl Jung, Intrepid Traveler

Inspired by my brand-new Carl Jung action figure, I decided to take out my toy and give it a whirl. Here are the results.


CARL JUNG LIKES FLORIDA. He is overdressed. I suggest that he change into a Hawaiian shirt.

CARL JUNG CELEBRATES A VICTORY AT THE RACES. I wonder if Dr. Jung visited the gambling casino on the same property as the trotters' track in nearby Pompano Beach.

CARL JUNG ENJOYS SOME GARDENING AND LOSES HIS PIPE. The world-famous psychiatrist and reknowned egghead appears to own only one suit.

CARL JUNG RETIRES TO A CRUMBLING CHATEAU IN ZURICH. Being a world jet-setter is hard work. Now it is time for Jung to return to his research. I hope he makes enough money to buy another suit soon.

Jung Love Review: Caroline Myss on Archetypes

Myss, Caroline. (1995). Exploring the Archetypes for Life's Lessons: Victim, Prostitute, Saboteur & Child (Audio Cassette). Great Lakes Training Associates.

This four-cassette audio set presents the four archetypes that Myss believes are part of every individual’s components. She also takes an unusual approach by relating these to a structure similar to the houses of astrology. Co-author C. Norman Sheely doesn’t add much to the exploration of archetypes as tools for understanding life’s journey and goes off on what are to me some wild bio-physiological tangents. One of the devices he recommends sounded a lot like putting a tin foil hat on one’s head to keep out the brainwashing of space aliens.

The notion of archetypes derives from the work of Carl Jung, who is not credited by Myss. They are larger than personality and illustrate grand, cross-cultural themes in human life. I am sure that we have encountered someone whom we have identified as playing the role of victim or perhaps someone who inevitably sabotages him- or herself, or others. The archetype of the prostitute is rife in our material culture. The inner child has become quite celebrated in recent years with books obliging us to honor these innocent, creative impulses or to heal the wounding of our abandoned child within.

My experience was uncanny with Myss’s use of experiential houses or aspects of life into which to place our archetypes. She asks us to pick four numbers out of the air, intuitively. As she described the archetypes, I was able to interpret a work experience I was going through to see how I was evidencing the victim, saboteur, and wounded child and what life-stage was represented. As a result, I was able to choose more mature behaviors and see my folly.

Myss is an engaging storyteller with a good sense of humor who fleshes out her ideas with plenty of human interest examples, including self-deprecating anecdotes from her own life. I recommend this set as a good starting place for an exploration of archetypes or Myss’s work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tiny snail

This tiny snail was in some laundry, curtains that I took off the patio to wash. I thougt it was a pretty little spiral shell that had come loose from an arrangement of airplants on driftwood. Imagine my surprise when it poked out its wee antlers and started oozing along the inside of my plastic laundry basket. It is so small, perhaps an half-inch long, with a beautifully patterned cone-shaped shell.

When I went to France in 1972, I was avid to eat snails in a cafe, a dish of which I'd only heard. In Spain, however, there were many snails stuck to the glass doors on the patio. They only came out of their shells when it rained. Then, their transparent bodies would slide gracefully along the window, tiny antlers twitching in the moisture. I've never been able to enjoy eating snails after that; it's too much like eating pets.

I thought snails came with round shells. I did not know that they also came with shells shaped like ice-cream cones. I returned this tiny fellow to the porch and hope he finds a place to survive.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Obsolescence Foils Frugal Shopper

Planned obsolescence has been on the social critics’ agenda since Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders was published in 1957. Yet, 50 years later, our society is a card house of credit debt and endless shopping.

Recently, my frugality has run plumb into planned obsolescence. I needed to reconfigure some wall shelves, including the purchase of new boards. Even though the shelving is less than two years old, RubberMaid has stopped making the honey pine veneer. A Home Depot representative reassured me that the new color, natural, is the same. It is not.

I priced custom-made shelves, but that was too expensive. A home decorator suggested that I create a belly line of shelves in the center, or perhaps a top and bottom accent line of shelves in a different color. He saved the day.

I visited every Home Depot from North Miami to South Palm Beach. I sorted through board after board, finally managing to round up three honey pine shelves. That was enough to make a belly line in walnut possible. The darker color coordinates with some darker wood furniture. Blond wood is all wrong for my room, so the natural veneer was impossible.

My new quest is for a small hot pot to boil water for morning tea and, more importantly, to take with me when I travel to use in motel rooms. The nice metal one I’ve had for many a year has burnt out. New models are plastic. I even saw one with a plastic plug. I am not sticking little plastic feet into the wall.

I've also been on an endless quest for a special kind of hinge that folds flat in both directions to build a folding screen. "Like Mae West used to stand behind if a man was in the room and she was changing clothes," said a nice man named Bill at Grove Hardware -- a store I highly recommend. He called suppliers, including one that was importing the hinges from China. Apparently these hinges aren't being made any more. So what do manufacturers use for folding screens sold retail?

I'm doomed to these quests for products that are discontinued and nonexistent as long as planned obsolescence is the motor that keeps the economy running. So is everyone else who wants shopping to be simple and for good products to stay the same.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Handy Baskets Organize, Add Texture

Baskets are an inexpensive way to add texture to a room, as well as providing storage. Often, they can be found for a buck or two at a thrift store, rather than buying them new.

I use baskets on my wall unit of shelves.

These two baskets are larger than they look. The wicker basket, right, is a lunch box with a lid with clever handles that lock shut -- perfect for a quiet lunch alone in a park. A subtle diamond pattern woven into the front of it is too subtle to capture on camera. It holds computer program CDs and instruction booklets for computer electronics, such as this camera.

The red one hides an entire Leggoes box that I use for a classroom demonstration activity. There is a close-up below.

The next basket on the wall shelves holds music CDs. Lighter and darker reeds are interwoven to create an interesting pattern.

These three baskets, below, are grouped against a small wall for the time being.
The very large picnic hamper holds my sewing supplies. I've placed a tray on top of it -- you can see the blond wood rim -- to create a flat surface, so the other baskets don't sit askew. The square basket and pale reed basket with a graceful kidney-shaped top edge are being re-purposed as I reorganize my living space.

This use of a basket as a lampshade, below right, never worked out; it always sits lopsidedly. It currently resides in a corner behind my recliner that is a holding pen as I decide what to put where in my clean-up. I'd forgotten about the large round basket until I noticed it in the background. As you can see, it is a trash basket. It is not usually overfilled and serves more discreetly as my circular file. It is roughly brushed with white paint in a shabby-cottage effect.

I also forgot about this nifty harlequin basket, below, until I wrote about the other trash basket. I keep dashing off to take more photos as I write. This jaunty harlequin serves as a petite trash container in the jungle room half-bath. It cost a buck at the dollar store and is one of the few that I purchased new.

The little rope basket, below, holds extra hand towels in the jungle room. The two sides with their scallops resemble seashells. The spokes and handle are wicker.

The next two photos show my file-tray basket. In a one-bedroom apartment, I hide my printer behind a lamp in a dark corner of the room. Even the "end table" on which it sits serves a storage purpose; it is my cedar chest for woolens that we so rarely wear here in Florida.

Baskets are great for stashing paper -- bills, receipts, and mail offers about which I'm undecided. Two are shown below and in close-ups. I like the way rattan has been twisted to form a rope that was woven to create the round basket.

Notice how a rough brown twine has been woven into the center section of the long, thin basket, below.

This rustic basket is a refugee from Christmases past. It is woven of a flat bark or reed about an inch wide to form a diamond weave. These have been faintly brushed with red and green that does not show unless you are very close. It is a brittle wood, so I can understand why the maker didn't get the bottom quite flat. It must have been hard to work with this material. It holds everything I need next to my recliner -- eyeglasses, nail kit and hand cream, calculator, bookmarks, you name it.

Spray-painted gold years ago, this basket belongs in storage until the winter holidays. I threw a modular kusudama in for the picture, but the pink and yellow paper is too light to photograph well. Notice how the graceful rounded bottom is centered with a flat coaster-like circle that is woven right into the work so that it will sit right. How clever and practical!

This little basket is the right size to hide a small plastic flower pot. It has a large handle (extends out of the photo), and once hung from a wire plant hook on my patio, until the plant died. Plain rough brown twine forms the X pattern on the body and gold twine accents the top and bottom rims.

This wide variety of baskets adds (I hope) texture yet unity to my main living area. Wait, we're not quite done. There are still the scullery maids in the kitchen.

Once upon a time this lime-green basket accented a tiny bathroom trimmed in that color. Now it holds vitamin pills in the kitchen. Perhaps it's time to repaint it.

Last, these hanging copper wire baskets cost a few dollars at Wal-Mart. Every kitchen should have some, don't you think?

I almost forgot this pair, below. Set on an angle to each other, they contain bathroom clutter in a minuscule space with no storage. Less than four inches wide and 13 inches long, they are a tough rope fiber on wire frames.

In conclusion, you can see that I love baskets. They help keep my clutter in control. I like the way they look, and the price is right.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Biking to the Caribbean

Biking to the Caribbean may seem impossible. Because of the rich cultural diversity of Broward County, the Caribbean is almost as close as my doorstep. Want to join me on a bike trip to the Post Office?

This is the road just beyond the gate of International Village. I stay on the narrow sidewalk. Inverrary Drive is a two-lane road with lots of speed bumps, so I am pretty safe here. You can see a faux English Tudor structure on the left. The cinderblock apartment buildings are identical, except for the Disneyfication of the exteriors to vaguely resemble various European architectural styles – Marseilles, Bordeaux, Inverness and so on. A lot of these details blew off when hurricane Wilma came through in 2005, but the exterior repairs go on and on.

The ride gets dicier at the intersection where Inverrary Drive meets Inverrary Boulevard. When we find a name we like, we go for it around here. It’s kind of like Atlanta, where at least half-dozen streets seem to be named Peachtree.

Inverrary Boulevard is a four-lane thoroughfare with a grassy median. Cars mostly ignore the 30-mile-speed limit. There is a bike lane, but knocking down bikers is good sport in Florida. Our state took high honors for greatest number of bicyclists killed by cars in 2005, 124 out of 784 nationwide, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics reported in the November 21, 2006 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Three bicycle riders were killed during a three-week period at the time of that report.

The bike lane ends, but a sidewalk lies just beyond this entrance to another Inverrary subdivision of small homes with garages. Residents can have dogs there, which I would like to do.

This water feature, pictured below, with its rocks and flowering plants add a note of serenity to the ride. It’s a popular spot for newlyweds to have their wedding photos taken. The clever landscaping hides a major intersection just a hundred feet or so away.

Oakland Park Boulevard, left, is a six-lane divided highway with right-and-left turning lanes, thus eight lanes in most places. Run for your life! I mean it. Drivers are so mean that the traffic lights are calibrated to show you how many seconds are left to get across the road, like an electric-chair countdown. I walk my bicycle across intersections, my parents’ voices ringing across the decades.

I have to cross one intersection from the north to south sides of the road, and this one from the east to west side. See that little piece of white cement at the other side of the road? Look closely. Yep, there it is. It’s a sidewalk. Despite the heavy traffic on Oakland Park Boulevard, I will be able to finish the trip on this sidewalk and relatively safe access roads. I do not have a death wish. But maybe I should wear a helmet. There are maniacs out there on these roads.

Here is the strip mall that houses our little local post office. Not Caribbean enough for you? What about the Creole Diner and Juice Bar? The little store that specialize in island music? The ten-buck nail salon? Or how about the seafood restaurant where the men cook blackened fish on grills made from oil drums?

I stop at the So Loved Market before heading home to buy a bottle of water. Click on photo to enlarge to see sign. Amazingly, I see someone I know at the laundermat. Last summer, in brutal heat, I gave an elderly woman at the supermarket a drive to her apartment because she is nearly blind. She is such a sweetie pie, and I haven’t seen her since. She peers into my face but remembers me quite well. Her vision may be going, but she is still sharp as a tack.

There are two waterfalls and a small pond at this entrance to the subdivision, directly across Inverrary Boulevard from the pond I shot earlier. It is another great favorite of brides and grooms for their photos.

I am almost home. Once I turn on Inverrary Drive, a head wind combined with the slight incline is too much for me. I walk the bike for a while, until the ground levels. My packages are mailed, I’ve gotten some exercise, enjoyed my trip to the Bahamas, and had a nice chat. Mission accomplished.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Culture of Fear

I remember when thunder storms came, and people got out of the rain. Now, thunder storms are a national emergency, with warnings from the National Weather Service streaming across the television screen. People state that the weather is worse now than it used to be, but I expect that’s not the case.

Not so many years ago, an Associated Press wire report about eight people dead in a tornado in Alabama would have been buried on a back page of the New York Times in a few paragraphs. Many local newspapers wouldn’t have had space to run such a report. Now the 24/7 news cycle places cameras at the scene within minutes.

Yesterday, eight children died in a school in Enterprise, AL, in just such a weather event. But it’s not Armageddon, and we don’t need to cling to our radios in desperate fear of the weather. Scared populations trade freedom for the illusion of security.

Authoritarian leaders have no need to impose dictatorship on the U.S. people. All they have to do is give them Ipods and plasma televisions and keep them hypnotized by streaming disaster news and amused by escapist programs with lots of whoo-hoo screaming. Then, the sheep gladly trade liberty for the prison of safety.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mark Bowden: Bravo for Success Earned the Old-Fashioned Way

Mark Bowden, author of the best-selling Black Hawk Down, was interviewed by Chris Matthews on Crossfire on Feb. 15, 2007. I worked with Bowden many many moons ago, when we were young.

I felt proud to have known him. Bowden pursued, without much support from his newspaper, the story of a Black Hawk helicopter that went down in Somalia during the Clinton administration’s foray, U.S. airmen dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The book also became a popular film, and Bowden has his pick of assignments these days.

He answered Matthews’ questions without the emotional histrionics to which TV news personalities are so prone – no shouting, no talking over the other person, but quietly telling his truth, refusing to be backed into corners or to allow what he had to say to be twisted and turned, exploited or misrepresented. He looked rather handsome (men age so much better than women), quietly confident, a man comfortable in his own skin.

Bowden’s view is that the Islamic terrorism threat has been overestimated and exploited by the administration. He was unphased by Matthews’ aggressive journalistic style designed to catch guests in the “crossfire,” as he styles it.

Bowden stayed in newspaper over decades when newspapers have continued to go out of business until finally, now, their existence is in question. Newspapers may not even survive the age of the internet. But Bowden survived the News American, where we once worked together, a newspaper that celebrated its 200-year run before being crowded out of the Baltimore market by the Sun. He went on to pursue his craft at the Philadelphia Inquirer. It can’t have been easy raising a family on a newsman’s salary. But he did, building his reputation word by word, lead by lead, story by story, mastering his craft the old-fashioned way. It is so gratifying to see a hard-working man achieve fame and fortune, and that it can come relatively late in life, after it has truly been earned. Success doesn’t seem to have turned Bowden’s head and that, too, makes me proud to have known him back in the day.