Monday, July 20, 2009

Idaho resident captured by Taliban in Afghanistan

This much we do know: US Army PFC Bowe B. Bergdall became a captive of the Afghani Taliban on June 30. He was a member of an infantry regiment based at Ft. Richardson in Alaska and had joined the Army last fall. Before joining the military, he had been working as a barista in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, where he was also active in ballet and fencing.

What is unclear and has not been officially clarified by the Defense Department is the circumstances surrounding his capture. His appearance on a Taliban video released two days ago confirmed his capture. Any comments about how he allowed himself to be captured must be considered to be conjecture at this point.

With this blog post I extend my thoughts and support to his family and friends. I join with them in begging the media (and other bloggers) to PLEASE respect their requests for total privacy during this difficult time. Now is not the time for the media to pressure family members for comments or interviews. Indeed, right now the best thing for the media to do is investigate whether it can help the Army secure his safe release and rescue in a reasonable time frame. In other words, for once, I would like to see the media working with, not against, the US military in the Islamic Middle East.

For my fellow bloggers and newspaper website story reader comment authors, I urge you to also respect the family’s request for privacy until they are ready to comment publically. In addition, please keep rumors, sarcastic and unfounded speculation and other negative comments to yourself. Such negativity only serves to increase their stress and pain, and the stress and pain felt in the Wood River Valley.

For those wanting to do something to help, well, if you are religious in some way, please include him in your prayers. One thing everyone can do is hope he is rescued sooner rather than later. To wax musical for a second, what else can be done? Well, "tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree" is a healthy place to start.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite, the last of a dying breed of news professionals in America, has passed away

A consummate professional. A true gentleman, generous and slow to criticize, except when criticism was justified. An icon from America’s troubled twentieth century. A broadcasting professional once names “America’s most trusted man.” Walter Leland “Uncle Walter” Cronkite, Jr, a dentist’s son, was all of this, and more. Last night, July 17th, he passed away at his New York City home at the age of 92.

I read CNN’s very nice news report on his passing through tears for his news broadcasts formed a large part of my younger years. I still remember his straightforward and almost low-key coverage of the early US manned missions in space. He conveyed the sense of drama and history in the making without turning to sensationalism or spin like current news flacks seemingly can’t avoid.

Reflecting on his broadcasting career at CBS truly leaves me feeling old. When his nightly television news broadcasts began in the early 1960's, they lasted 15 minutes, were in black and white, and, on occasion, relied on day old news footage. On Labor Day, 1963, his broadcast expanded to 30 minutes, with an interview of President Kennedy as the broadcast centerpiece.

It was his coverage of JFK’s assassination three months later that likely did more than any other story that endeared him to the country. While seeking to remain professional in his tone and approach, still, his emotions crept in to his voice, and, while they weren’t copious, still, on camera, he did shed some tears while reporting the sad news. During that weekend, when Jack Ruby gunned down Oswald on national TV, again, his approach used an entirely appropriate tone devoid of editorializing, fluff or spin.
Indeed, his signature broadcast sign-off became part of the American vernacular while he was still on the air. I doubt that anyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s will fail to recognize his unique way of summing things up with “And that’s the way it is . . . this is Walter Cronkite, good night.”

So now Uncle Walter has signed off for the final time in this life. He was one of a kind, a newsman who took accuracy in reporting very seriously. Perhaps more importantly, he kept news reports and editorial comments clearly separate, the way they should be. At times he could be a difference maker without becoming the focus of the news, unlike current news hacks.

Indeed, in 1968, he traveled to Viet Nam, to report from there for a change. What he saw led him to editorially criticize the war as “mired in stalemate.” This criticism led then President Johnson to remark that “if I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” A few months later, President Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election as President. Johnson was savvy enough to realize that, without the support of Cronkite, re-election would be impossible to achieve. Such was the influence that he quietly amassed.

So yet one more high profile American has passed from the scene, joining Paul Harvey, Ed McMahon, Bea Arthur, John Updike, Michael Jackson, among others, who are now no longer with us. Each in his (or her) own way will be missed by those to whom they either were important or mattered.

As for me, well, “every man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of all mankind. And send not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” (John Donne)

And that’s the way it is, Saturday, July 18, 2009. Good night, Walter Cronkite, good night.

Mea Culpa to my readers, but I’m back

I have been away from this blog for way too long. For my absence, I do apologize.

Earlier this year, I encountered an interesting discovery, and learned some valuable new insights about the nature of my creativity in the process. Unfortunately, this blog, as well as my other two blogs, suffered as a result.

In March I participated in the NaNoWriMo follow-up called the National Novel Editing Month (EdMo for short). The goal here is to invest 50 hours of editing activities on one fiction manuscript during the month. I reached that threshold on March 22. Thus I needed fewer days to win EdMo than I did WriMo last November. Since I had some month left, I set my own advanced target: 100 hours for the month. I met that personal goal by logging a total of 101.5 hours of editing activities by the time March ended.

A lot of people wonder: is EdMo harder to win than WriMo? Yes, it is in the sense that any form of editing requires a higher level of intellectual effort than writing. With the latter activity, words can initially be slung onto the page (or screen) as they arise in the mind, without regard to correctness of grammar or spelling. Editing, on the other hand, requires close attention to the rules of spelling as well as the rules of grammar in order to render what has been written intelligible by others.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to give Script Mania a try in April (goal: 100 pages of either a properly formatted stage, radio, screen or television script in 30 days.) Big mistake. In April, I totally flopped at script writing. In fact, I never succeeded in even getting started. To me, this is a clear indication that script writing is a form of writing that my intellect is not suited for. Prose, most certainly. Poetry, quite possibly. Scripts? Nope. Am I bothered? Nope.

However, for some reason, this discovery, coming on the heels of the success of March triggered a fiendish, protracted bout of writer’s block that began in April and is only now beginning to ease off. That it is easing off definitely feels like a huge relief. Now I can get back to blogging on something approaching a regular basis.