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"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." That's how Fred Rogers opened his commencement address at Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT in 2001. I logged a lot of wonderful hours watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with my kids when they were little. Fred and his friends (real and make-believe) provided calm and balance to Sesame Street and Electric Company, both good shows we also watched. Fred, who died yesterday but lives on in his timeless TV show, was one of the greatest Americans of the second half of the Twentieth Century, greater by far than any politicians, whether of the executive, legislative or judicial kind. He combined the ministry (he was an ordained minister) with a commitment to teaching kids -- teaching them good values, love of music, love of imagination, etc., etc. I wish more people in TVLand and in Hollywood had the same sense of social responsibility that Fred had. When I was a kid, more entertainers did. When Gene Autry (1907-1998), a singing radio and movie "cowboy" star, was arrested for DWI, he "apologized to the youth of America." How things have changed. Now producers of network TV shows proudly proclaim that they are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable to network censors. Translate: more unneeded swear words, more gratuitous nudity, more sex outside the context of love and commitment. All the more one appreciates Fred. (BRH 02.27.2003)
Selling our kids. The Washington Post of 02.23.2003 carried a disturbing report out of Kandahar, Afghanistan by Marc Kaufman titled "Afghan poor sell daughters as brides -- Years of war, drought force some to give up young girls":
The practice has a cultural basis here in southern Afghanistan, where prospective husbands have long paid a "bride price" for their wives -- a kind of dowry that is traditionally set by the status of the bride's family and the resources of the groom's. But what was a custom has evolved into a market in which men can buy young girls from poor families. And with the country's legal system a shambles, there is nothing to stop them.
The idea of "selling" one's kids seems at once so foreign -- and so close to home. Every day we in America "sell" our children, only we're not "forced" to do so. You know deep down that we do it every day. How do we do it? Let me count the ways. Ah, but you don't need me to do that. You know very well how we do it. Mostly, we do it by the miserable examples we set. Daily we sell ourselves and our souls for the proverbial mess of pottage. Fred Rogers set a different example. Would that we would commit ourselves to follow his lead. (BRH 02.27.2003) More at BurtLaw's Law & Kids.
Benson boy makes good. President Bush today named "a nine-member commission to spend the next seven months looking into how to ensure the long-term viability of the U.S. Postal Service despite declining mail volumes." One of the two co-chairmen is my high school classmate and relative (we're second-cousins, once-removed), James A. Johnson. Jim is, inter alia,chairman of the board at the Brookings Institution, chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, former head of Fannie Mae, the federally-backed home mortgage organization, and former key aide to Sen. and later Vice-President Walter Mondale. More (Washington Post 12.11.2002). I think Jim's illustrious career demonstrates interestingly how sons and daughters creatively carry on and at the same time translate their family heritage and values in the careers they choose and the things they do. Jim's mother, Adeline Rasmussen, was an outstanding public school teacher and wonderful homemaker, and his father, Alfred I. Johnson, was in the real estate business for many years, was DFL representative from Swift County to the state legislature (of which he served as Speaker for two sessions), and late in his working life, in the 1960s, was both University of Minnesota Regent and city postmaster. Jim has made significant contributions on a national scale in all the areas in which his parents made contributions on a local and statewide scale. He is a good man. I was sorta hoping President Bush would cross party lines and name him Treasury Secretary. (12.11.2002)
Longtime courthouse janitor saunters into retirement. "There is a slowness and a deliberateness to Jenkins as he walks through the courthouse. His motions are not the slapdash movements of a man hurrying through his job, but neither does he move with the careless sloth of a man trying to avoid work. Jenkins walks with a proper southern saunter, and pays close attention to his appointed tasks...." From Closing Up Shop, a story in the 11.20.2002 Daytona Beach News-Journal on the retirement, after 30 years of mopping floors, etc., of Flagler County Courthouse Janitor Willy Jenkins, age 61. From high school onward, I've enjoyed the company of most janitors more than that of most of their so-called "betters" in my places of study or employ. Some of them, I've even found, are smarter or wiser or funnier or kinder -- or "all of the above." Back in the late '50's, when I was in secondary school, a piece of chicken bone became lodged in my windpipe as I was eating my "hot lunch" with friends in the northside school cafeteria. Not wanting to humiliate myself in front of any of the girls I had my eyes on in those days, I rushed outside, thinking I could cough it up gracelessly without anyone seeing me do so. Turns out I couldn't. Turns out I might have choked to death. Turns out none of my teachers or friends was observant and/or caring enough to follow me out and help. Turns out one of the janitors, Dick Jossart, was. He used the old-fashioned, pre-Heimlich, "Janitor Manuever," well-known in my hometown of Benson, Minnesota, pounding me on the back forcefully until the little bone that was out to kill me popped out. Dick Jossart, whose autograph appears next to his image in the photograph of the custodial staff in my copy of the 1958 Chippewa, the high school yearbook, did something no teacher or friend ever did for me -- he saved my life. (11.20.2002) For more on this topic, see, among my Secular Sermons for Lawyers & Judges, the one titled Justice Todd and the janitors of the world.
BurtLawQ&A - wherein BurtLaw asks questions of Dr. F. Lavoris Pusso, Ph.D., SuperNintendent of Schools. Excerpts:
Q - School is about to begin. What do parents need to know? A - Parents need to know we're looking out for the safety of teachers -- er, students -- and that that is our #1 goal, from the moment the kids board the school bus until the moment the bus drops them off at home, if they manage to catch the bus.
Q - Fair enough, let's start with buses. What about reports that school buses are unsafe and drivers unqualified? A - We're aware of the so-called scientific studies that diesel school buses pose a health hazard to the kids, of the hysterical campaign by some people to require seat belts on school buses, and of the attempts by critics to generalize unfairly from isolated instances of drivers caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Bear in mind, in this, as in everything else, we have to weigh costs against benefits and exercise discretion. However, we think, on balance, our bus service is excellent. When I was a kid in Nor' Dakota, I rode bus for one-hour each way -- and that was when the weather was good. I never complained. Now kids feel sorry for themselves if they have to ride for as little as a half hour. That said, the issues I mentioned are issues we continue to study. For example, would we prefer to have college graduates with degrees in child psychology, who vow to abstain from the use of alcohol and drugs while working, driving the buses? Sure. But we have to hire drivers from the pool of men and women who are available and willing to drive bus. One bright spot: we've noticed a sudden increase in applications by highly-educated people, primarily men, from as far away as Massachusetts and Texas, men with extensive hands-on experience in dealing with children. And we've had so many judges participating in the trendy judicial outreach programs -- judges who come and read books, give lectures, teach creative story writing, etc. -- that we can't accommodate them all. We're going to ask some of them to be substitute bus drivers on an on-call basis. If we provide them with U-shaped megaphones, they can lecture the kids on law while they drive. And let me say this: many of these judges are busy people who don't have time to attend their own kids' school functions, but they altruistically make the time to volunteer and help us out. You don't ever hear about all this, of course, because judges in general are modest and humble and don't like talking about themselves.
Q - You say safety is your #1 concern. Is that behind your so-called zero-tolerance policies? A - Yes. We're very proud of those policies.
Q - But haven't you gone too far? You've suspended, even expelled, kids without a hearing and referred them to the juvenile court for things as seemingly innocuous as pointing a bright blue plastic Nintendo gun at another student, pointing a finger at another student and going "Kapow," carrying a sand-paper nail file, drawing pictures of explosions, writing imaginative stories about cops and robbers, making joke playground threats that no reasonable kid would take seriously, etc. If setting an example is part of teaching, aren't you setting a bad example? A - Not at all. We're just doing, in our own small way, what former Mayor Guiliani of New York did when he ordered police to arrest and prosecute people for so-called "minor" and "victimless" conduct such as public urination, jay-walking, littering, etc., conduct that in fact reduces the quality-of-life of the 99% of people in a big city who abide by the rules. Our attitude is this: if we don't tolerate the small stuff (the Nintendo guns, the drawings of explosions, etc.) we won't have to worry about the big stuff (the Howitzers, etc.).
Q - Mayor Guiliani didn't say the people shouldn't have a hearing, did he? A - He probably would have if he'd thought he could get away with it, but the ACLU is big in New York City. In any event, 09.11 changed everything. As President Bush's constitutional law experts, Gonzales and Ashcroft, have made clear, during a time of war -- which is right now -- citizens suspected of aiding the enemy don't have a right to a hearing or a right to consult counsel. I like to think that in some small way I'm a "commander in chief" here in the school district and that we're engaged in a war, too. And, by God, I'm going to win this war.
Q - How will students believe in "the rule of law" if the rule of law in school is basically dictatorial? A - BurtLaw, forgive me, but you're starting to sound like a bleeding-heart liberal. Justice Scalia has said that "the rule of law" is "a law of rules." He's also said -- correct me if I'm wrong, but I think at least four of his colleagues agree -- that students have no rights, at least while they're in school. If I want to tell a boy to piss in a cup so I can see if he's on drugs or to tell a girl to remove her bra as part of a weapons check, I believe I can do so. As I said, safety is our #1 goal.
Q - Can you at least give the kids fair notice of what is allowed and not allowed? A - We do so. This year we've sent every parent a checklist of supplies student should buy and bring with them. Everything else is forbidden. Paper, for example, is not on the list and therefore is out. It has a cutting edge which can be used as a weapon. When I was a kid a classmate made a pop-gun out of paper and scared me with it. No student should have to put up with such outrageous conduct. Three-ring binders are not on the list and therefore are out. They can be taken apart and the sharp rings used as assault weapons. Paper clips, pencils and pens are also not on the list. Crayons and felt-tip pens are on the list of permitted supplies.
Q - If a kid has asthma, can he carry an inhaler to use in case of an asthma attack? A - You don't see it on the list, do you? If it's not on the list, it's forbidden.
Q - How about soda pop? A - It's not on the list, but we sell it in vending machines outside every classroom at $1 a can. You want a music program? Art? Sports? Profits from the pop sales pay for these things. Cost-benefit, again. The kids pay, everyone benefits. (08.26.2002)
Benson's Kid Day. "The 2002 celebration of Kid Day in Benson is set for the weekend of Friday, July 19, Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21. This year’s theme is 'Tomorrow’s Peacemakers' and features a patriotic look...." More (Swift County Monitor). My hometown, Benson, Minnesota started its own signature day, "Kid Day," in 1931. The event, typically held in August, started out primarily as a two-part afternoon event. The first part was a parade up one of the two main streets, across the railroad tracks, and down the other main street. The parade primarily consisted of kids walking -- kids who had dressed up in various costumes, for which cash prizes were awarded. After the parade, the kids went from store to store carrying paper bags, which they filled with goodies given them by the merchants. Parade entry categories from 1936 tell something of the times: doll buggies, spark plug, military stretcher bearers, best old man, best old lady, clown, horse and buggy, California-or-bust, hobo, blackface, "Lappestad" (Norwegian for "patchwork place," the neighborhood in which our house was located -- so named for the neighborhood's patchwork quality, new houses in the front yard, old horse barns and shacks in the back), quilting bee group.
My mom, Beaty, who graduated from high school in 1930, was active in the planning of every or nearly every Kid Day from the first one through the mid-1950's. She first worked in developing the doll buggy category in the parade, always among the most popular. Each year the organizers added new events and activities -- free carnival rides, penny-scrambles, nightime queen coronation ceremony with fireworks, etc. The 08.23.1940 issue of the Monitor contained a picture of Mom and a story about her making plans for the first Kid Day Queen contest. World War II did not stop Kid Day, but one year, 1946, polio did. That year Kid Day was first postponed, then cancelled because of a polio epidemic. (Polio was a serious concern many summers before Dr. Salk announced his development of his polio vaccine: I myself caught it that year and was temporarily disabled -- I still have the blue wooden kid's cane I used for a time in walking.) Mom always thought big. The 08.27.1948 issue of the Monitor contained a story about her drive to make Benson's Kid Day a national holiday. The 11.18.1949 issue of the Monitor reported that "tomorrow" was the "first national Kid Day." Alas, it was an idea whose time had not come -- and still apparently has not come. But Benson's Kid Day continued to grow and prosper. In 1950 Kid Day became an all-day event for the first time. And each year the event drew bigger crowds: in the 1930's the parade typically drew 1,000 people; in the 1940's, 2,000; in the 1950's, 3,000.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps to give boys the equivalent of the girls' queen competition, the organizers provided procedures for the calling of precinct caucuses of kids, boys and girls, to elect a Kid Day Mayor and Kid Day City Councilmen. I well remember the strategizing and organizing that preceded the caucuses and election. My brother was elected to the council in 1952 and the following year, at age 13, was elected mayor "over Jim Johnson, Paul Sanderson and Johnny Kellner." I vividly remember the scheming and planning that preceded the election. I also remember that to the victor went some of the spoils. My brother named me and other of his supporters to the "police force" (see picture -- that's me with the big ears looking tough in the white tee shirt wearing the Hopalong Cassidy double-holstered pearl-handled six-shooters). Frank Hughes was Chief of Police that year. As policemen (note the absence of girls), we had the authority to arrest businessmen caught not wearing a Kid Day button and take them before a kangaroo court, where they were put in a "pen" and not released until they bought a button. I don't believe any woman was ever arrested. That did not mean women were without power. My mom was active in state GOP politics and that year arranged for Governor C. Elmer Anderson to attend Kid Day and ride in the parade. The 08.28.1953 Monitor contained a photo of my bro with governor. The governor was a guest at our house from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., following the parade. Many people called there to meet him, but what I remember most was his long, black limousine being parked out front. That year was also the year the dazzling Kay Perrizo was named Kid Day Queen. The next year my classmate, Jim Johnson, who lost narrowly to my brother in 1953, was elected Kid Day Mayor. I was elected a councilman and I believe my friend Paul Lokken was, too. I'm not sure if that was the first year that a girl was elected to the council, but I do recall that my classmate, Gretchen Brockmeyer, was elected to the council that year. That some of us benefited from the experience seems pretty obvious in retropect: Jim Johnson later served as an aide to Vice-President Walter Mondale, later was C.E.O. of Fannie Mae, and now is Chair of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. and of the Brookings Institution; Gretchen has a Ph.D. and is not only a professor at a college out east but has served the college in an adminstrative capacity and is author of a book that is in its second edition.
Each kid who grew up in Benson in the 1950's has his own memories. Mine include: a) the so-called clown act furor that resulted in 1955 when several prominent businessmen rode in the parade on a float dressed as female hula dancers, each with two prominent coconut-shell-sized appendages on their chests. Even then most people were amused, but a few were offended and said so. b) Each year kids sold Kid Day buttons bearing a photo of the girl named Kid Day Queen for that year. In 1956 a kid named Delvin Martinson sold the most buttons and won a bicycle. Delvin's name is one of the thousands of names you'll find on the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on Minnesota's version in St. Paul. c) I recall one year, when my pals and I were at the high end of the category known as "kid," when we went into a local business with our paper bags to get the giveaways and the proprietor, a man who apparently disliked my family -- perhaps because my Dad was a small-town banker -- put something in the bag of each of my friends but nothing in mine, saying in a nasty tone, "You're too old for this, Hanson." d) And I recall one year, when I clearly was no longer a "kid" who went from store to store, throwing a water balloon at a friend standing by Randgaard's Cafe across the street from the Railroad Park as the parade was about to start, missing the friend, and drenching an attractive young woman seated at the curb. e) And I remember that most, perhaps all, of those years the chairman of Kid Day planning would be one of the prominent businessmen, who typically in turn would turn to women, including my mother, to do not just the sweat work but the creative planning, work that although not always uncredited, for the most part took place behind the scenes. It was an early lesson in the dynamics of gender, dynamics one can still observe in the upper echelons of corporate America. Small towns, you see, in many ways are microcosms. (07.15.2002)
The things a boy remembers - "The Splendid Splinter." When I was a kid, I had a couple baseball players among my several heroes. One was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. I recalculated his batting average, in my head, from day to day. I was reading parts of the Minneapolis daily newspapers every day before I was 10 years old. If I read that he went 2-for-3 the day before, I'd mentally recompute his batting average to take that into account. Ted got his start in AAA ball playing with the Minneapolis Millers before the Red Sox called him up. His dad previously played pro baseball in Minneapolis and used to take the train out to my hometown of Benson, Minnesota and hunt waterfowl and pheasants back in the days when Benson, with its proximity to "The Big Slough" and other prime hunting areas, was the choice destination for hunters, who'd ride the mainline of the Great Northern Ry. from places as far east as Chicago. Somewhere in my photo archives are good-quality 35mm color slides I took of Ted Williams (then manager of the Washington team), Bob Short (owner), Sandy Koufax (then an announcer) and others at Met Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota around 1970 or 1971. I also met Ted then when he autographed copies of his classic book on hitting at B. Dalton at Southdale. (Written 04.29.01 when Ted was in the hospital battling for his life.) Ted died today, 07.05.2002. I suppose it says something about me that among Ted's traits that I admired most were his independence, his aloofness & his integrity -- integrity as in refusing to sit out the doubleheader on the last day of the season in 1941. That was the year he hit .406 (the last player in the Majors to hit over .400). Ted's average before the double-header was .401 and sitting out the two games, as the manager advised, would have assured him an average of over .400. As Ted once said, "All managers are losers, they are the most expendable pieces of furniture on the face of the Earth." Instead of sitting out the games, he played and put his .400 average on the line...and got an incredible six hits in eight times at bat, raising his average by five points. Other links: Ted Williams quotes; Bob Greene on Ted Williams; Salon profile; Ted's stats; Ted Williams on conservation. (07.05.2002)
BurtLaw on BraLaw & Jockstrap Law. Each year the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) issues rules regulating high school competitions and tournaments. These WIAA rules cover matters such as "legal vs. illegal items." Rule 1.f., one of the specific rules governing track and field, deals with sports bras; it reads:
A visible sports bra under a school jersey is legal provided it is white, gray, or black in color and contains only a single manufacturer's logo/trademark no more than 2 1/4 square inches with no dimension more than 2 1/4 inches. Members of a relay team do not have to wear the same color of sports bra. Twisting/weaving the straps of the jersey with the sports bra is illegal and will result in the athlete being disqualified for wearing an illegal uniform.
Using the "find" tool on my browser, I searched for but did not find any rule relating to the color of or the wearing of a so-called athletic supporter or jock strap. I'm not sure of the relevance of that, but what the heck, anything for a cheap chuckle. :-) In any event, Rule 1.i. provides:
Individuals/relay teams competing in illegal uniforms/equipment, as defined by the National Federation Track & Field and Cross Country Rules Books, will be disqualified from that event. The disqualification may occur during or after the event.
In other words, there's no such thing as "harmless error" in the enforcement of the bra rule. If a participant wins but is later found to have violated the rule, the participant is disqualified and loses her medal. That is what happened on May 23. Kara Tauchman of Stevens Point High School was one of the four members of a relay team that won a sectional meet, thereby qualifying for the state track meet, but the team was disqualified when officials discovered Kara had worn a bra that was white with black trim rather than a solid color "white, gray, or black" bra. As I've said before, if you're a kid who's been wrongly disciplined, it helps to have parents who are willing to stand up for you. (See What would John Adams say about this?) The girls on the relay team did have such parents. They took the WIAA to court, seeking injunctive relief -- and God bless them for doing so. Their complaint argued that the rule was ambiguous and, moreover, that it was not appropriately gender neutral since it applied only to undergarments worn by girls (boys apparently have been free to wear any color undergarment under their uniform). According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the WIAA reversed its decision "about one hour after the parents asked [the court] to hear their case." More.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was once anchor of a high school relay team. That's me above, receiving the baton from Verlyn Olson, who, last I heard, was piloting big jets for NWA. I must confess, I was wearing nothing (not even a Seinfeldian bro or manssiere) under the tank top and my jock strap (a Rockin'-Rand-design polka dot model) clearly would not have conformed to any Minnesota State High School League rule if there had been a rule. BTW, who is it who inspects the undergarments of fleet-footed young thinclads, and how and where and when is it done? Is a warrant needed, or is consent to search implied? (05.31.2002)
"Mistakes-may-have-been-made" department. A young mother, possibly wanting to be perceived as "cool" by her daughter and her daughter's friends, went with a sex-education theme at her daughter's birthday party. Her fun lesson plan included a) doing "jumping jacks" in the nude, b) learning how to do lap dances, and c) practicing "French kissing" and fellatio on bottles and other objects. More (St.P.Times, 05.21.2002 via MetaFilter). Read on...
Of wax jobs, pornography and child sex abuse. "Why, I wanted to know, in a society where pre-pubescent girls are encouraged to pretend that they are grown-up, are their mothers and big sisters going to such lengths to ape the silky-smooth little girls that they will never be again? ...My suspicion is that devotees of the Brazilian, Hollywood and Playboy waxes are pandering to one or both of two tendencies: the paederastic and the pornographic...." From Bush whacked by Rachel Johnson (UK Spectator 05.18.2002 via A&L Daily).
Zero-tolerance nonsense. The stupid and cruel "zero tolerance" approach taken by primary and secondary schools across the country is but one of the results of the politicization of the issue of crime control by politicians. Sadly, courts across the country not only have provided little or no resistance but in many instances have participated enthusiastically and uncritically. Among the more glaring Minnesota cases, see, In the Matter of the Welfare of S.G.V. (Minn. App. 9/17/98), petition for review denied (Minn. 11/17/98) (affirming determination that 12-year-old seventh grade boy committed delinquent act in pointing a bright blue plastic Super Nintendo computer game "pistol"at a girl in his class). The zero-tolerance nonsense kept our attention on dangerous 7-year-old boys with small toy guns and girls with nail files when it could have been fixed on keeping 19 adults with box-cutters from hijacking four jets. Does a policy that has failed in our schools work in other contexts -- for example, as a solution to the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests? Alan Wolfe does not think so. In Priests and the Hypocricy of Zero Tolerance, a provocative opinion piece in the New York Times today, 04.27.2002, he opines that "zero tolerance is not about crime; it is a way to make ourselves feel that we have done the right thing while actually allowing wrong things to continue unimpeded. It is the lazy person's response to serious social problems...." (04.27.2002)
Circumcision - female bad, male o.k.? "About 6,000 girls a day undergo genital mutilation, often willingly, and up to 115 million African women have already had it, US-based development agency World Vision said on Thursday...." (Yahoo/Reuters 03.08.2002) The "party line" these days is that female circumcision is bad -- it's often referred to by reformers as "genital mutilation" -- and I don't doubt that it is. But, as in so many areas in which feminists have raised hues and cries, no one speaks up for the boys. Fact of the matter is, many medical professionals believe male circumcision is equally barbaric -- you just don't hear as much about it in the press. One can only speculate why. Circumcision Information and Resources Pages (CIRP) present, inter alia, a library of information, including a succinct, accurate and revealing History of Circumcision. In America the medically (and theologically) unnecessary practice of male circumcision was promoted, along with corn flakes, by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg -- promoted as a "cure" for masturbation, which Kellogg passionately believed was sinful and even harmful to the psyche. See, Porn Flakes - Kellogg, Graham and the Crusade for Moral Fiber. In an article on the "treatment" of what he termed "self-abuse," Kellogg wrote: "A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision...The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind...In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement." Id. Human progress is always slow, and never steady. And it varies from culture to culture. Alas, it's worth noting that for more than a century most of the doctors in my hometown have been ahead, at least in this respect, of their supposedly more scientifically sophisticated urban colleagues in the profession, rejecting Kellogg's brand of snap-crackle-&-pop medicine. (03.08.2002)
"Plan to make snacks last through opening credits fails." That's one of the headlines in the latest Onion, linked to a "story" with a dateline of Eden Prairie, MN, not far from where I live. The story begins: "Despite his best intentions, moviegoer Brad Schuyler failed to make his snack supply last beyond the opening credits of Monsters, Inc. Monday. 'The Harry Potter trailer came on, and I guess I just got excited,' said Schuyler, 26...." That reminds me of my own candy-eating strategies when I attended movies in the 1950's at the Demarce Theater in my hometown of Benson, MN. Next door to the Demarce was the Pederson Variety Store. The store had the best candy selection in town. It was all set out tantalizingly on tables at the front of the store. My friends and I typically visited the store before going to see a Saturday night "Western," and we usually took considerable time making our selection of what then was called "penny candy." Until we reached a certain age (12, I think), a movie ticket cost us 12 cents; thereafter, until we were adults, I think it was 20 cents. If the ticket cost 12 cents and your parents gave you a quarter, then you had 13 cents for candy. For that, you could fill a small paperbag provided by the store with enough candy to make it through the movie. Three sticks of "Chum Gum" cost a penny. Add some black licorice sticks (the harder and drier the better), some root-beer barrels, maybe a 5-cent "Seven-Up" bar (a candy bar with seven different tasting segments to be eaten one segment at a time), a couple rolls of Smartees, maybe a bag of "Lik-m-ade," a Tootsie-Pop or two, and maybe a Slo-Poke (because Slo-Pokes lasted awhile), and you were set -- if you timed your eating well. Being able to plan ahead and being able to postpone gratification are, I believe, two of the classic "middle-class virtues" identified by sociologists. One might add that learning to spread gratification out to last over a period of time, say a couple hours, perhaps should also be elevated to the level of "middle-class virtue" -- it is a "virtue" that is particularly useful in amatory matters. Little did we know at the time that -- while we were strategizing in buying our candy and while we were timing our eating of it to last the entire movie -- we were actually learning how not just to be good, law-abiding middle class zombies but good lovers. That is something the fictional "Brad Schuyler" perhaps needs to learn. :-) (11.14.2001)
Going the extra mile -- is it so bad? Some sixth grade teachers, mostly math and English teachers, in the Syracuse, N.Y. school system, concerned about poor student performance on standardized tests, possibly resulting from large class sizes, voluntarily started providing extra remedial classes, at no extra pay, at the end of the school day. A state PTA spokesperson has described it as "going the extra mile" and said that other teachers throughout the state are doing the same thing because they want to help struggling students. But teacher contracts limit teachers to five classes a day, and a Syracuse teachers' union recently filed a complaint against the school district that "effectively ended" the extra efforts by the sixth grade teachers. My ex-wife and I were lucky enough to be financially able to send our two kids to a very good private college-prep school here in the Twin Cities. Many of the teachers there, with the support of the administration, "went the extra mile" for the kids. One year my daughter's French teacher was a French native, Nelly Trocmé Hewett. One day she told my daughter and several other students that she'd be willing to come to school early on a regular basis and help them prepare for the annual French competition. That year my daughter not only "took state" in her age division but placed third nationally. It was only later that I learned that Mrs. Hewett was the daughter of Andre Trocmé, the famed French Hugenot (Protestant) pastor in the farming village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during the Nazi occupation of France. This is what the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust says about Pastor Trocmé and his wife, Magda, and the people of Le Chambon : "The town's overwhelmingly Protestant population responded to the call of Pastor Andre Trocmé to extend aid to fleeing Jews and sheltered them in private homes and outlying farmsteads, as well as in public institutions in Le Chambon and nearby localities. Pastor Trocmé, who with his wife, Magda, initiated and presided over this vast rescue operation (with the help of interdenominational organizations), has been described as the 'charismatic leader' and 'living spirit' of Le Chambon, and his wife as the 'motor' of the large operation. Trocmé always responded to calls for help to hide Jews in danger of detection by the German police, even if this jeopardized not only his own life but those of his wife and children and members of his community. Refugee Jews were housed in public institutions and children's homes or with local townsmen and farmers, for various periods of time. Then, with the help of others, such as Pastor Edouard Theis, director of the College Cevenol, some were taken on dangerous treks through French towns and villages and under assumed French names to the Swiss frontier. They were surreptitiously smuggled across it and into the waiting hands of other Protestant supporters on the Swiss side (the Swiss authorities invariably drove Jews back across the border and therefore had to be avoided)...Daniel Trocmé, a cousin of Andre Trocmé, directed the children's home Maison des Roches at Le Chambon. He was betrayed, reportedly by a German officer staying at a military convalescent home in Le Chambon, and was arrested on June 29, 1943, and taken to Moulins for interrogation. He readily admitted his role in the rescue of Jewish children, and was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he perished in April 1944...Andre Trocmé was also arrested, by Vichy authorities, but he was released, although he refused to sign a statement agreeing to desist from further aiding of Jews. It is estimated that some three thousand to five thousand Jews found shelter in Le Chambon and its environs at one time or another between 1941 and 1944...Asked about his motivations in extending aid to Jews, one Le Chambon resident responded: 'We were doing what had to be done...It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.' Pierre Sauvage, born in Le Chambon to Jewish parents who were refugees there, produced a documentary film, Weapons of the Spirit, about the rescue operation. Andre Trocmé, Daniel Trocmé, and Edouard Theis, as well as thirty-two other residents of Le Chambon and its environs, have been recognized by Yad Vashem as 'righteous among the nations.'" Mrs. Hewett, my daughter's teacher, was a teenager in Le Chambon when her dad and mom were busy translating the Gospel into practice. She later translated her father's "tales" for children. They were published in 1998 in a book under her father's name, Angels and Donkeys: Tales for Christmas and Other Times. And, I like to believe, in "going the extra mile" for my daughter and her other students, she also "translated" her father's and mother's and community's "spirit" into English. It's too bad that the teachers' union in Syracuse was able to stop the sixth grade teachers in Syracuse from "going the extra mile" by voluntarily working a little harder than they are required to do in order to help some struggling kids. I don't doubt the union has its reasons and believes they are valid. Maybe the reasons are valid. (For a nonjudgmental, objective, "scientific" sociological approach to understanding what may be going on in Syracuse, I refer you to an interesting abridgement in Broom and Selznick's Sociology of Roethlisberger and Dickson's classic study of the workers in the "bank wiring room" at Western Electric's Hawthorne plant in Chicago in the late 1920's and their observations and conclusions of how group norms controlled and regulated the workers' behavior, including output.) (11.06.2001)
The perils of ignoring our boys. Last week the novelist, Doris Lessing, delivered a "give 'em hell" speech that attacked the vitriolic, hot-air brand of feminists who seem to think something is gained by dissing men in general. She warned about the effects of this nonsense on the psyches of both men and boys, as well as the effects on society. Richard Morrison, writing in The Times of London, does a good job of expanding on Lessing's comments. He says, in part: "Preoccupied with the task of creating a 'level playing-field' for girls, we have fatally ignored the problem boys. And 'fatal' is not too dramatic a word in this context. In the 15-to-24 age group, males are five times more likely to attempt suicide than females, four times more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, and nine times more likely to be sleeping rough on the streets. If they also happen to be black, badly educated and from poor homes, the scales of life are weighed even more cruelly against them." It seems to me that the situation in the UK parallels that in our country in many ways. At one point Morrison says, "It’s as if the very qualities that differentiate boys from girls are being suppressed by offical diktat." Doesn't that ring a bell? [more]
Doris gives 'em hell. The "'em" refers to the vitriolic, hot-air brand of feminists who seem to think something is gained by dissing men in general. "Doris" is Doris Lessing, renowned author of the feminist novel, The Golden Notebook. She is the latest feminist to say, in effect, "Enough is enough." In a speech at the Edinburgh book festival she said that constant sniping at and rubbishing of men by nasty fundamentalist feminists has left men "cowed and crumpled." "The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests." Recounting a recent visit to a primary school, she said, "I was in a class of nine and ten-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men. You could see these little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives. This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place." [Links: This Is London, BBC, Guardian] (08.14.2001) I spell out some of my views elsewhere on this page. And see BurtLaw on Fathers & Kids.
Raising teens: what the researchers agree on. The folks at the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health have released a 101-page report titled Raising Teens: A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action. The report "pull[s] together current research on the parenting of adolescents and distill[s] from it key messages for the media, policy makers, practitioners, and parents." The Report puts "particular emphasis on identifying those conclusions about the parenting of adolescents about which there is widespread agreement among researchers and practitioners." It identifies "Five Basics of Parenting Adolescents, with a list of strategies for each." and lists "Ten Tasks of Adolescence...delineat[ing] the main aspects of adolescent development that parents and other adults need to be aware of and support." You can download it or order "one" free copy here. More and more
What would John Adams say about this? The AP reports [click here] that high school Principal Jane Modoono in Hopkinton, MA -- i.e., John Adams Country -- is going to "send a strong message" to students by suspending them for up to five days if they "smell like smoke." One's first reaction is to laugh once again at the idiocy of school administrators as they try turn each school into a miniature version of a police state. My second reaction is to recall an incident that occurred when I was a junior in high school, in a small town in western Minnesota. I left school at 1:55 p.m. everyday and worked as a rock'n'roll deejay from then until the station went off the air, which varied depending on the time of year. The man who ceded the control room to me when I arrived smoked cigarettes. I'd hang my coat in there & sit down right after he finished the hourly news and start spinning platters. That was the year I quit the varsity basketball team because I didn't like the crew-cutted coach, who, among other things, kept trying to get me to cut my not-very-long hair real short (I guess so I'd look like him). It was also the year the best guy on the team, a lifelong friend of mine and the most natural, all-around athlete I ever knew, was caught smoking in the movie theater by a teacher who coached another sport and was ruled ineligible. If we both had remained on the team, the team might not have been great but it would have been better than it was (or so I think). Anyhow, one night I went back to the school after signing off, after playing the obligatory recording of Perry Como singing "The Lord's Prayer" (I'm not kidding) and some band playing our National Anthem, and after closing up the station. I was wearing my smoke-saturated jacket when a coach of one of the several team sports (not the varsity basketball coach), a coach I'll call "X," grabbed me gently by the arm and asked in an accusatory tone if I'd been smoking. No, I said. But he persisted, trying to get me to confess to something I hadn't done. I'm an honest guy and if he'd asked me if I'd smoked in the bushes along a country road not far from my house back when I was 8 years old, I'd have said yes. I'd probably have added that the brand I'd smoked was the brand sophisticated folks liked, "Parliaments," in the flip-top box. But I hadn't been smoking and I persisted in denying I had been. (Interestingly, this coach was the same guy, whom I'd liked, who'd chastized me for truthfully answering a basketball referee's question -- "Did you touch the ball?" "Yes" -- a year or two earlier in a non-varsity game against a team from another school.) Teachers and coaches come to know that they can only go so far with certain kids, the ones who are lucky enough to have strong, active parents who give a damn and will fight for their kids. Faced with my denials and knowing full well I had strong, active parents who gave a damn, Mr. X could only do nothing -- nothing but train his investigative eye on someone else or, better yet, go back to coaching and otherwise being a nice guy, things at which he was fairly skilled. But back to my question: what would old, tough, fair-minded, gloriously-rebellious John Adams say to or about Principal Jane Modoono? Damned if I know. But I know what I want to say to her: boys and girls have memories. They remember kind teachers who teach and motivate and encourage. And they remember ones who don't. (07.02.2001)
Cracked baseball bats and the lessons they taught. A couple NY pols want to ban the use of aluminum baseball bats in games played by kids under 18. Although you never can tell these days, presumably they wouldn't criminalize the mere possession of such bats by minors. And presumably passage of their proposal wouldn't change existing practices of school administrators, who undoubtedly consider the bringing of any baseball bat, wooden or aluminum, into a school an imminent threat to the safety of all, requiring immediate suspension (or even expulsion) of the outrageous transgressor. But I jest. Perhaps the idea is not only one worthy of consideration, for their reason or other reasons, but one that doesn't go far enough -- perhaps we should entirely ban the use of aluminum bats in organized play, even when adults are involved. First, their reason: there apparently are studies showing that balls hit with aluminum bats travel at significantly greater speeds, thereby giving defensive players, particularly pitchers, less time to react. There apparently are studies showing an increase in injuries by players on defense as a result -- broken eye sockets, broken teeth, head injuries, even deaths. But there are other reasons: sound, for example. Some folks who live near ball fields can tell you what it is like to have to listen for hours on end to the ping or ding (or is it clank?) sound that emanates when a pitched baseball makes contact with a swung aluminum bat (or is it the other way around? -- a philosopher's conundrum indeed). Personally, I don't even like thinking about the sound made by aluminum bats. But then, I'm a traditionalist in matters like baseball. I spent many a summer morning playing backyard, neighborhood sandlot, and organized baseball in my hometown in western MN, all in the glory days before 1970, when the first aluminum bats were introduced. One of the regular pleasures of a lazy, hot summer afternoon, after finishing a round of golf, was going to Paul's Sporting Goods Store or Amlie-Strand Hardware with my friend, another "Paul," and picking up the various wooden bats -- Adirondacks, Hillerich and Bradsby's Louisville Sluggers, etc. -- and giving each of them a slow-motion swing or two, and deciding which one we would buy, if we were to buy one. Occasionally I did buy one. One always did so with a mixture of hope and fear -- hope that it would be just the right one to improve my hitting performance, fear that the damn thing might not last long. I had one that cracked the first time bat met ball. You might think the tendency of wooden bats to crack is an argument in favor of aluminum bats. But aluminum bats cost lots more. And cracked bats taught us that things we care for, like people, can break -- and require tending and mending. Most broken bats, you see, can be mended, with the aid of some thick black electrical tape. And broken bats formerly owned by pro and semi-pro players are artifacts little boys could dream about or beg for. I've had a few in my day. And I have one now, one that I got from a former Twins player of little reknown, back in the days when kids (including big overgrown ones like myself) could get close enough to the players during pre-game practice on a summer afternoon out at the old Met that they might be able to talk with a player from a distance of 5 or 10 feet, and ask for, and beg for, and grovel for, and maybe come home with a broken bat. (06.30.2001)
Red plums in early June. Plums in early June are to me what madeleine cakes dipped in linden tea were to Proust. I can't eat one without instantly being transported back to a day in early June when I was not yet 10 when I found my way to the little (and I mean little -- about as big as a large living room) Red & White grocery store in my hometown, Benson, MN, and bought a tart red plum for 3 cents. The plum tasted so good that I went back for another -- and another and another and another, making the eating of each into a ritual. The ritual consisted of walking to the railroad park drinking fountain half a block away, washing the plum, then sitting on a park bench and eating it, slowly. At some point, the checkout lady called my mom and explained what I was doing, checking to make sure it was o.k. (Ah, the benevolent, loving forces of social control in small-town middle-America in the '40's & '50's.) My mom, of course, said it was fine. I like to think it was experiences like that, that helped me to develop a poet's sensitivity to the sensuous beauty of everyday things, including tart red plums in June (and sour crabapples in July and tree-ripened peaches in August). Here are links to two fine poems -- This is Just to Say and To a Poor Old Woman -- by William Carlos Williams, the famous doctor-poet, about, among other things, the enjoyment of plums in June. The first one is in the form of a note left on the refrigerator by Williams to his wife, Flossie. It well illustrates how one can make a poem out of just about anything. Interestingly, one of my other favorite poets, Wallace Stevens, the great lawyer-poet, wrote some poems in which plums play a "role." In Sunday Morning, Death, "the mother of beauty...causes boys to pile new plums and pears/ On disregarded plate...[and] maidens taste/ And stray impassioned in the littering leaves." And in "The World Without Imagination," part I of The Comedian as the Letter C, he speaks of "The imagination" being unable to "evade,/ In poems of plums, the strict austerity/ Of one vast, subjugating, final tone." More "plum poems": Mary Herbert, A Song for Astrid: William Carlos Williams's Horse; Annette Bostrom, Black Plums; Ralph Hodgson, Eve; Chinese Book of Songs, Ripe Plums Are Falling. (06.10.2002)
Is Jenna'n'tonic old enough to drink? In-depth analysis. Dennis Prager of the Wall Street Journal thinks so: "The disproportionate and often unseemly media attention given to the president's daughter, Jenna, cited twice for underage drinking, may have at least one positive effect -- forcing the country to rethink its drinking laws. You need to have a pretty hard heart to believe that a 19-year-old woman deserves to be reported to the police and punished by a court -- not to mention nationally humiliated and publicly psychoanalyzed -- for ordering a margarita." [more] If Jenna, at 19, is old enough to drink a margarita, as Prager believes, the question becomes, "Just when is one old enough to drink alcoholic beverages?" Prager seems to say one should be 18, but he undercuts this argument by saying "it is morally confused" for society to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to drive cars and 15-year-olds to have an abortion without parental permission but not to allow 20-year-olds to have a margarita. Justice Scalia, who thinks the proverbial "Rule of Law" implies a law consisting of clear rules, presumably would insist that lawmakers settle on a particular age, say, 18 or 21. The trouble with this approach is that it is always subject to the kind of critique Prager makes. Unlike the prosaic literalists of the Scalia School, Frankfurterians (named after Justice Frankfurter) are inclined to more general, even poetic standards, the applicability of which depend on the individual and the totality of the circumstances. For example, a Frankurterian might well be satisfied with a standard tied to other developmental events and factors. For example, if a 13-year-old boy has been "bar mitzvahed" (i.e., become a man in the Jewish tradition), that would be a strong factor weighing in favor of allowing the boy-man to drink alcohol under certain circumstances, e.g., at his wild bar mitzvah after-party. Similarly, a 13-year-old girl probably should be allowed to get drunk at her older sister's or brother's wedding dance, provided her parents are present to keep an eye on her and she's willing to clean up after herself. When I was a small-town rockin' radio deejay circa 1959-61, there was a platter released in 1959 by The Playmates that I occasionally played titled What is Love? The song, which contains more wisdom per line than the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, lists a number of elements that together go to define "love" or, as I like to say, "luv." These factors focus on "the girl" and include her being five feet tall, having a ponytail, swaying with a wiggle when she walks, having the bluest eyes, having a pretty smile that shows a dimple when she talks, being angelic, having the capacity to make the guy lose sleep over her, making and breaking promises, and somehow encompassing heaven in her five foot bod. Also Frankfurterian in its statement of the "standard" is the immortal When a Girl Changes from Bobby Sox to Stockings, sung by Frankie Avalon, which was on the flip side of the equally-immortal A Boy Without a Girl. "Bobby Sox" posits the common-sensical notion that a girl is old enough to give her heart away when certain factors are present, e.g., when the girl changes from bobby sox to nylon or silk stockings, when she starts showing more interest in boys than in her baby toys, when she reaches the developmental point of wanting to be kissed rather than cuddled, etc. With these songs in mind, it seems to me that the Frankfurterian answer to the question whether a particular person is old enough to drink an alcoholic beverage is that it depends on all the surrounding relevant facts and circumstances, including those set forth in aforesaid songs and others, such as, Can the person spell the name of the drink he/she is ordering. Under this sensible approach, ordinarily not even a middle-aged woman would be allowed to order a d-a-i-q-u-i-r-i unless she could spell "daiquiri" and give a recipe for the daiquiri in question (e.g., the recipe for a Hemingway Daiquiri); however, "the man" accompanying her could order one for her if a) as presumably would be the case, he could spell it, pronounce it, and give the recipe, b) she were at least five feet tall, and c) she swayed with a wiggle when she walked, had the bluest eyes, etc. Under the same test, former Vice-President Dan Quayle, despite being 54, might not be allowed to drink any alcoholic beverage when he's on his own, given the totality of the circumstances, including his inability to spell not just hard words like "daiquiri" but ordinary words like "potato" and "lousy" and "beacon." But his bright wife, Marilyn, could order one for him. Similarly, the President, given his inability to pronounce not just hard words like "daiquiri" but ordinary words like "subliminal," might not be allowed to order one directly. But his bright wife, Laura, could order one for him if he weren't on the wagon. (06.08.01) For Reason's take on the issue, click here.
My "felonious" past. I grew up in the '50's in a small town on the eastern end of the Great American Prairie. It was a wonderful time and place to be a boy. My friends and I pretty much had the run of the town. (Our dogs did, too.) Everything was less regulated then. Some of us did things, minor things really, that if we'd been caught, we might have been taken before the juvenile court. The judge of juvenile court was a man named C.A. Larson. He may have been the best judge ever to preside in the Swift County Courthouse and he wasn't even a lawyer. If any of us had been caught doing something wrong and taken before Judge Larson, odds were he would have handled it informally, equitably, leniently, and kindly -- more with the discretion of a wise father than that of a judgmental judge. But I don't recall any kids I knew ever getting taken before Judge Larson. Things were handled informally, extrajudicially. If a kid got caught shoplifting, the owner of the store would call up the kid's parents and they'd handle it, intrafamilially.
Most of us guys carried pocket knives in the summertime. We used them often. In playing "stretch," in whittling, in making willow whistles, in carving initials on trees. I know of no instance in which any of us ever used our knives in any fights. And there were fights. If two guys fought, they usually wound up wrestling in the dirt, with one guy eventually "giving up." It never dawned on me in any of my fights to pull out my pocket knife and use it as a weapon. I don't recall carrying my pocket knife to school, but if I had it would have been absolutely unthinkable that I would have been subject to adverse consequences for doing so.
I was "big" on practical jokes. I could (and someday may well) write an essay on all the practical jokes my closest friends and I played on people -- sometimes on adults over the telephone, other times on peers, in person. Some of these jokes were ones I bought. Others were ones we created. The Bible of "bought" practical jokes was Johnson Smith & Co. of Detroit, MI, still in business today. One could buy "jokes" then that one cannot buy today, for instance, the "Voice-Tester," the "joke" of which was that when one's poor unsuspecting "victim" was "suckered into" quickly pressing the button to hear his voice, a sharp pin would prick his thumb, causing it to bleed. Each "victim" was temporarily irked with me until I suggested he help me find another poor unsuspecting fool. Did I get in trouble doing this sort of thing? Unthinkable.
Times change, places change. When I was in college at the U. of Minn. in the early '60's in a class in juvenile delinquency I sat in on a nonpublic juvenile court hearing in Minneapolis involving a very young boy, from a poor African-American family, who was caught stealing some pop. I was stunned -- and quietly enraged -- when the judge ordered the boy removed from the custody of his mother, who cried and pleaded with the judge not to do so. That, of course, wouldn't have happened to most kids then, even in Minneapolis or other urban areas.
But, as I said, times change, places change, attitudes change. Today, well, we all know about today. Our society just ain't the child-friendly and family-friendly society it used to be. Today, it seems, just being juvenile -- just being a kid -- can get you into trouble. Justice Frankfurter once said, "There are, as you know, periodic newspaper crime waves in the United States," adding that "Popular feeling is excited to fluctuate between being sentimental and being harsh." Felix Frankfurter, Of Law and Men 84 (1956). Presidents Nixon and Bush (Sr.) both proved there were votes to be had by politicizing crime, and, sadly, the Democrats followed suit and soon each party was trying to appear tougher than the other. The stupid and cruel "zero tolerance" approach taken by primary and secondary schools across the country is but one of the results of the politicization of the issue of crime control by politicians.
Sadly, courts across the country not only have provided little or no resistance but in many instances have participated enthusiastically. Walter Olson, who is one of the saner voices in the legal community today, has collected a number of the more glaring examples of the punishment of children for innocuous noncriminal conduct in school in a section called "Annals of Zero Tolerance"at Overlawyered.Com. Among the more glaring Minnesota cases, see, In the Matter of the Welfare of S.G.V. (Minn. App. 9/17/98), petition for review denied (Minn. 11/17/98) (affirming determination that 12-year-old seventh grade boy committed delinquent act in pointing a bright blue plastic Super Nintendo computer game "pistol"at a girl in his class).
Fortunately, I think more people are starting to see through the politicization of crime, particularly juvenile "crime," and the horrible consequences of that policy.
More on this subject when I have the time and the inclination.
Even adolescent male elephants need "mentors." Stated differently, without the big guys around, they become elephant versions of our juvenile delinquents. Is anyone surprised? [more]
A war on boys? We've heard lots about the views of Jane Fonda's pal, Carol Gilligan of Harvard, on how hard it is to be a girl these days, and I know it is. But, hey folks, if you don't think it's also damn hard being a boy, read Christina Hoff Sommers' The War Against Boys ("This we think we know: American schools favor boys and grind down girls. The truth is the very opposite. By virtually every measure, girls are thriving in school; it is boys who are the second sex") , from The Atlantic Monthly, and the subsequent letters pro and con, including one from Gilligan, and a response by Sommers. Methinks Sommers is correct.
Stealing green apples and "swinging" (the old-fashioned way) in the dark. Do you ever wish they made "swings" for adults? Some of my fondest childhood memories are of swinging on the old-fashioned giant iron swings at the old Southside School Playground in Benson, MN, two blocks from my home. The swings had the now-illegal hardwood seats. Two girls (perhaps in Freud's latent lesbian stage of development?) sometimes would stand on a single swing seat, facing each other, and pump the swing up in tandem, then sit down one on top of the other and swing on. We guys didn't do that. :-) We'd stand on separate swings as we pumped as high as we could, till the swings almost did 360's (and I'm not exaggerating). Then we'd sit down and enjoy the ride, keeping it going the way kids do now. Sometimes we had "baling out" or jumping contests, to see who could jump in mid-air the farthest. Once I landed so hard, so far away, I felt a jolt up my spine. Sometimes we'd just sit on the swings and talk. On a few occasions we went there on late summer nights in the days before daylight savings time was instituted and we sat in the dark and ate vegetables (dirty carrots, typically) or apples we'd stolen from nearby gardens or trees. Ah, the risks we took for comradely fun, education perhaps for later taking risks in love. Here's a great little poem on swinging, one of many great poems in Robert Louis Stevenson's delightful book of poems for adults to read to kids (and to themselves), A Child's Garden of Verses and Underwoods:
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside --
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown --
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
-- Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:
It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.
We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.