Archive for August, 2013

Whereto Publishing?

A lucid presentation by my KPU colleague Ross Laird, PhD: “The Future of Form (Or, The Death and Persistence of Books).” I always learn so much from Ross.

John Glionna Reporting from Olympia

John Glionna, writer for the Los Angeles Times

John Glionna

My old buddy John Glionna was up in the Olympia area recently doing research on a couple of stories for the Los Angeles Times. It was great to see him: John is perhaps the most wide-awake person I have ever known, and he’s been a stalwart friend to me over many years.

John’s a brilliant and truly tenacious writer, now based in Las Vegas after a long stint working out of Seoul, South Korea.

In Olympia he reported on a private club over Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill (not too far away from where I’m staying this summer):

“Tavern owner Frankie Schnarr takes a long draw from his bottle of Coors Light and scans his sports bar, listening to billiard balls rattle and a pinball machine explode with points. … Suddenly, there’s that smell: musky-sweet, skunky yet somehow pleasing, an odor traditionally fraught with illegality. …’You get used to the smell — it’s like the mold at your Mom’s house,’ he says, motioning for another Coors. … At Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill, firing up a ‘fatty’ or a ‘blunt’ is not only condoned, it’s welcomed. Last fall, Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, allowing people to smoke the drug in private, but not in public places such as bars. Schnarr, 63, has found a way around that: He’s using a space in his bar he says is private, not public.”

As they say on the Internets, read the whole thing.


While in the area, John also interviewed Chuck Cox, the father of Susan Powell, “the 28-year-old Utah stockbroker and mother of two whose disappearance in December 2009 made national headlines.” The mood of this piece is altogether different, of course; the last line gave me shivers.

Thinking about editing …

… over at No Contest Communications.




As a young man, if I had to sum up my essence into a single quality, I would have said, “I hitch-hike.” Nothing meant more to me.

I was obsessed with the communications interaction hitching a ride provided:  Standing on the roadside with my thumb out, I could assume that the very next person I saw would be (1) a stranger and (2) somebody who wanted to talk with me.* Situations in which both such things would be true simultaneously seemed otherwise rare in my experience. Conversations brought into being by these situations enthralled me. I doubt I could discern the lies from the truth, the earnestness from the BS, any better than I can decipher these things now. But I could always count on being surprised by the words I heard; I could always count on feeling grateful and lucky. Indeed, hitch-hiking made a virtue out of loneliness; receiving a ride seemed a holier blessing.

I was indeed aware that one could not make a good living out of hitchhiking. One could and did, however, scrape by. Drivers were by and large pretty generous. (One desperado spent his last dollar buying me a hamburger. And a lady from Florida once gave me a pillowcase filled with grapefruits.) Making a living *writing* about hitching was not an option; that genre had lived and died by the time I hit the road, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady having left us in 1969 and ’68, respectively.)

It hadn’t occurred to me, though, that I could aspire to becoming a “professor of hitchhiking.” That would have been the perfect job. (Curriculum: “We will study the styles, methods, and rhetorical forms of ‘the hitch’; the road and the law, throughout history and across cultures; etc.”) But that gig doesn’t exist, so far as I can tell. If it did, I would be doing the next best thing, though, teaching communications to wide-awake and sometimes way-out-there students where I do. But since that particular gig doesn’t seem to exist, I’m doing the best thing *period*, with what I have to offer.


*There were exceptions: You might run into people you knew on oft-travelled routes, and sometimes drivers’d pick you up so that you could take the wheel while they napped shotgun.


Addendum: Mencken

Perhaps it is hard to publish again, eagerly, after reading a lot of Mencken. Here are some representative passages of his prose given to us on back-to-back pages of Fred Hobson’s delightful biography:

On Warren G. Harding: “He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.”

On Abraham Lincoln: “The varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting Abe into a plaster saint. … There is an obvious effort to pump all of his human weaknesses out of him, and so leave him a mere moral apparition, a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost. … In point of fact … until he emerged from Illinois they always put the women, children and clergy to bed when he got a few gourds of corn aboard, and it is a matter of unescapable record that his career in the State Legislature was indistinguishable from that of a Tammany Nietzsche.”

On what Hobson describes as “the American penchant … for rites and rituals, medals and ribbons and orders”: “Rank by rank, [Americans] become Knights of Pythias, Old Fellows, Red Men, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Knights Templar, Patriarchs Militant, Elks, Moose, Woodmen of the World, Foresters, Hoo-Hoos, Ku Kluxers – and in every new order there were thirty-two degrees, and for every degree there was a badge, and for every badge there was a yard of ribbon. The Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, chiefly paunchy wholesalers of the Rotary Club species, are not content with swords, baldrics, stars, garters, jewels; they also wear red fezzes. The Elks run to rubies. The Red Men array themselves like Sitting Bull.  … There is a mortician in Hagerstown, Md., who has been initiated eighteen times. When he robes himself to plant a former joiner he weights three hundred pounds and sparkles and flashes like the mouth of Hell itself. He is entitled to bear seven swords, all jeweled, and to hang his watch chain with the golden busts of nine wild animals, all with precious stones for eyes. Put beside this lowly washer of the dead, [General John J.] Pershing newly polished would seem almost like a Trappist.”