Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Those Mysterious Monoliths and Arthur C. Clarke

From Arthur C. Clark’s 1951 short story, “The Sentinel,” part of the inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Nearly a hundred thousand million stars are turning in the circle of the Milky Way, and long ago other races on the worlds of other suns must have scaled and passed the heights that we have reached. Think of such civilizations, far back in time against the fading afterglow of Creation, masters of a universe so young that life as yet had come only to a handful of worlds.

Theirs would have been a loneliness we cannot imagine, the loneliness of gods looking out across infinity and finding none to share their thoughts. They must have searched the star-clusters as we have searched the planets. Everywhere there would be worlds, but they would be empty or peopled with crawling, mindless things.

Such was our own Earth, the smoke of the great volcanoes still staining the skies, when that first ship of the peoples of the dawn came sliding in from the abyss beyond Pluto. It passed the frozen outer worlds, knowing that life could play no part in their destinies. It came to rest among the inner planets, warming themselves around the fire of the Sun and waiting for their stories to begin.

Those wanderers must have looked on Earth, circling safely in the narrow zone between fire and ice, and must have guessed that it was the favorite of the Sun’s children. Here, in the distant future, would be intelligence; but there were countless stars before -them still, and they might never come this way again.

SO THEY LEFT A SENTINEL, one of millions they have scattered throughout the Universe, watching over all worlds with the promise of life. It was a beacon that down the ages has been patiently signaling the fact that no one had discovered it.

Perhaps you understand now why that crystal pyramid was set upon the Moon instead of on the Earth. Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive -by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle.

That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later. It is a double challenge, for it depends in turn upon the conquest of atomic energy and the last choice between life and death. Once we had passed that crisis, it was only a matter of time before we found the pyramid and forced it open.

Now its signals have ceased, and those whose duty it is will be turning their minds upon Earth. Perhaps they wish to help our infant civilization. But they must be very, very old, and the old are often insanely jealous of the young.

I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire-alarm and have nothing to do but to wait. I do not think we will have to wait for long.


From Wikipedia:

The story deals with the discovery of an artifact on Earth's Moon left behind eons ago by ancient aliens. The object is made of a polished mineral, is tetrahedral in shape, and is surrounded by a spherical forcefield. The narrator speculates at one point that the mysterious aliens who left this structure on the Moon may have used mechanisms belonging "to a technology that lies beyond our horizons, perhaps to the technology of para-physical forces."

The narrator speculates that for millions of years (evidenced by dust buildup around its forcefield) the artifact has been transmitting signals into deep space, but it ceases to transmit when, sometime later, it is destroyed "with the savage might of atomic power". The narrator hypothesizes that this "sentinel" was left on the Moon as a "warning beacon" for possible intelligent and spacefaring species that might develop on Earth.

The story was adapted and expanded upon in the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, made by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick and Clarke modified and fused the story with other ideas. Clarke expressed impatience with its common description as the story on which the novel and movie are based. He explained

I am continually annoyed by careless references to "The Sentinel" as "the story on which 2001 is based"; it bears about as much relation to the movie as an acorn to the resultant full-grown oak. (Considerably less, in fact, because ideas from several other stories were also incorporated.) Even the elements that Stanley Kubrick and I did actually use were considerably modified. Thus the 'glittering, roughly pyramidal structure… set in the rock like a gigantic, many-faceted jewel' became—after several modifications—the famous black monolith. And the locale was moved from the Mare Crisium to the most spectacular of all lunar craters, Tycho—easily visible to the naked eye from Earth at Full Moon.

Now a mysterious Arthur C Clarke-style monolith appears in ROMANIA after unexplained metal vanished from Utah – so who (or what) put it there?

·        Mysterious metal monolith has appeared in northern Romania after another vanished from the desert in Utah

·        The shiny triangular pillar was found on Batcas Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt last Thursday

·        One side of the structure, which is 13 feet tall, faces Mount Ceahlau, known locally as the Holy Mountain

A mysterious metal monolith has appeared in Romania this week after another similar structure found in the remote Utah desert was removed by an 'unknown party'. 

The shiny triangular pillar was found on Batca Doamnei Hill in the city of Piatra Neamt in northern Romania last Thursday.

It was spotted a few metres away from the well-known archaeological landmark the Petrodava Dacian Fortress, an fort built by the ancient Dacian people between 82 BC and AD 106. 

The peculiar find comes after a similar monolith was found in the Utah desert with no explanation, sparking wry speculation that it could have been the work of aliens, but is more likely the work of a prankster inspired by science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

In the book by Arthur C Clarke, later made into a film by Stanley Kubrick, a monolith first appears on Earth in Africa three million years ago and appears to confer intelligence upon a starving tribe of great apes to develop tools.   

2001: A Space Odyssey 

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction novel by Arthur C Clarke, later made into a film with the same name by Stanley Kubrick. 

In the book, a monolith first appears on Earth in Africa three million years ago and appears to confer intelligence upon a starving tribe of giant apes to develop tools.  

The monolith is used as a tool by an alien race to investigate worlds across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life. 

In the book, the tribe approach the monolith, and unknown to them, their minds were being studied and their actions controlled by an alien race.   

The great apes use their tools to kill animals to eat meat to end their starvation, and to kill a predatory leopard. 

The next day, the main character, Moon-Watcher, uses a club to kill the leader of a rival tribe of apes, leading to an awakening of intelligence and the development of humans. 

The book explores technological innovation and traces the development of humans from great apes. It considers the evolution that has led to intelligent life. 

When 2001: A Space Odyssey was written, humans had not yet set foot on the moon. The book offers a glimpse of Clarke's imagination of what space exploration might look like. 

The monolith is used as a tool by an alien race to investigate worlds across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life. 

In the book, the great apes use their tools to kill animals to eat meat to end their starvation, and to kill a predatory leopard. The next day, the main character uses a club to kill the leader of a rival tribe of apes, leading to an awakening of intelligence and the development of humans.

In Utah, the pillar, which protruded approximately 12 feet from the red rocks in southern Utah, was spotted last Wednesday by baffled local BLM officials who were counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter.  

However the three-sided structure was removed by an 'unknown party' on Friday evening, the Bureau of Land Management Utah said in a statement. 

News of the discovery in Utah quickly went viral online, with many noting the object's similarity to the strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Kubrick's classic sci-fi film '2001: A Space Odyssey.' 

In Romania, the triangular structure has a height of about 13 feet and one side faces Mount Ceahlau, known locally as the Holy Mountain.     

It is one of the most famous mountains in Romania, and is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of the country.  

Romanian officials still do not know who is responsible for erecting the mysterious monolith. 

Neamt Culture and Heritage official Rocsana Josanu said: 'We have started looking into the strange appearance of the monolith. 

'It is on private property, but we still don't know who the monolith's owner is yet. It is in a protected area on an archaeological site.'

She added: 'Before installing something there, they needed permission from our institution, one that must then be approved by the Ministry of Culture.' 

But many tracked down the co-ordinates and published them - leading people to drive many hours through the night to reach the 12ft aluminium structure. 

And it was revealed that a similar version appeared nearly 20 years ago on New Years Day in Seattle.

However access to the site involved a 45-minute off-road drive on a dirt track many miles from any major town at 10mph - and then a 15-minute hike up a dry stream bed. 

Across the globe UFO spotters and conspiracy theorists became obsessed with the shiny, triangular pillar. 

Officials suggest it could be have been constructed by an artist or a huge fan of 2001: Space Odyssey - the structure resembles the machines found in Arthur C. Clarke's story (pictured) 

Though the structure was only discovered by authorities this month, Google Earth images show it had been standing since at least 2015 or 2016.  

Lieutenant Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said it's possible the structure had been there for '40, 50 years, maybe more.' 

'It's the type of material that doesn't degrade with the elements. It may only be a few years old, who knows. There's no real way based on the material it's made out of how long it's actually been there,' he said on Tuesday.

Others pointed out the object's resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, an American artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.

McCracken was known for his freestanding sculptures in the shape of pyramids, cubes, or sleek slabs.

The monolith most closely resembles McCracken's plank-like sculptures featured at his exhibit at the David Zwirner art gallery in New York. 

On Tuesday a spokeswoman for David Zwirner said it was not one of McCracken's works, but possibly by a fellow artist paying homage.

However later in the day Zwirner gave another statement which suggested the piece was indeed by McCracken, meaning it had lain undiscovered in the desert for nearly a decade.

 'The gallery is divided on this,' Zwirner said. 'I believe this is definitely by John.'

Utah has a history of 'land art,' unusual installations that cropped up far from population centers in the 1960s and '70s.

The most famous, Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot-long coil by artist Robert Smithson in 1970 that's composed entirely of mud, salt crystals and basalt. 

Located on the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the jetty appears and disappears depending on water levels.

So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the monolith, though

Earthlings, It Seems, Not Aliens, Removed the Utah Monolith

A photographer said four men dismantled the mysterious shiny object that has captivated the country.

Ross Bernards took moonlit photographs of his friend Peter Jans atop the monolith in southeastern Utah on Nov. 27. Moments later they witnessed its removal.Credit...Ross Bernards

By Serge F. KovaleskiDeborah Solomon and Zoe Rosenberg

  • Dec. 1, 2020Updated 11:04 a.m. ET

It was, by most standards, a short stay. The pop-up metal monolith that became the focus of international attention after it was spotted in a remote section of the Utah desert on Nov. 18 was dismantled just 10 days later. Government officials continued to insist on Monday that they had no information about either the installation or removal — and possible theft — of the piece, which had been placed on public land.

The office of the San Juan County Sheriff at first announced that it was declining to investigate the case in the absence of complaints about missing property. To underscore that point, it uploaded a “Most Wanted” poster on its website, or rather a jokey version of one in which the faces of suspects were replaced by nine big-eyed aliens. But by the end of Monday, the sheriff’s office had reversed its position and announced that it was planning a joint investigation with the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency.

It was left to an adventure photographer, Ross Bernards, to disclose evidence on Instagram. Mr. Bernards, 34, of Edwards, Colo., was visiting the monolith on Friday night when, he said, four men arrived as if out of nowhere to dismantle the sculpture. Mr. Bernards had driven six hours for the chance to ogle the sculpture and to take dramatic photographs of it. Using upscale Lume Cube lights attached to a drone, he produced a series of glowy, moonlit pictures in which the monolith glistens against the red cliffs and the deep blue of the night sky.

Suddenly, around 8:40 p.m., he said, the men arrived, their voices echoing in the canyon. Working in twosomes, with an unmistakable sense of purpose, they gave the monolith hard shoves, and it started to tilt toward the ground. Then they pushed it in the opposite direction, trying to uproot it.

“This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert,” one of them said, suggesting that he viewed the monolith as an eyesore, a pollutant to the landscape, according to Mr. Bernards.

The sculpture popped out and landed on the ground with a bang. Then the men broke it apart and ferried it off in a wheelbarrow.

“As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, ‘Leave no trace,’” Mr. Bernards recalled in a telephone interview.

Michael James Newlands said he took these cellphone photos of four men dismantling the monolith in Utah on Friday night. “They just came in there to execute and they were, like, ‘This is our mission,’” he said.Credit...Michael James Newlands

“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” Mr. Newlands said.Credit...Michael James Newlands

He did not photograph the men who took down the sculpture, saying he “didn’t want to start a confrontation by bringing out my camera and putting it in their face — especially since I agreed with what they were doing.”

But a friend who accompanied him on the trip, Michael James Newlands, 38, of Denver, took a few quick photographs with his cellphone.

“It must have been 10 or 15 minutes at most for them to knock over the monolith and pull it out,” he told The New York Times. “We didn’t know who they were, and we were not going to do anything to stop them.” He added, “They just came in there to execute and they were like, ‘This is our mission.’”

The photos are blurry, but they fascinate, nonetheless. Here are images of several men working beneath the cover of darkness, wearing gloves but not face masks, standing above the fallen monolith. We can see its exposed insides. It turns out to be a hollow structure with an armature made from plywood.

The photographs are the only known images of the culprits who removed the sculpture; they may not have been the same people who installed it in the first place. Lt. Nick Street, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said last week that the monolith had been embedded into the rock.

In the past few days, artists had been casually speculating that whoever put the sculpture up probably had taken it down once it was discovered, as if aspiring to be anonymous artist-activists, the Banksy of the desert.

But art-world speculation had not yielded too many facts. Initially, the monolith was linked to John McCracken, a California-born artist who died in 2011 and harbored a taste for science fiction. David Zwirner, the New York art dealer who represents the artist’s estate and first identified the monolith as an authentic McCracken, stepped forward on Monday to tell The Times that he had studied photographs of it and no longer had any idea who had made it.

Almine Rech, who represents the artist at her galleries in Paris and Brussels, also contacted a reporter to deny that the desert monolith was a McCracken.

All of this leaves us not an iota closer to solving the mystery of the Utah sculpture.

On the plus side, the monolith that captivated the country over the past week, then disappeared as quickly as it entered public consciousness, continues to provide a pleasant sensation of uncertainty. Would it lose its aura and power if we knew who had created it?




Monday, November 30, 2020

A review of Violets for Sergeant Schiller by Chris Helvey

Chris Helvey’s excellent and moving historical novel, Violets for Sergeant Schiller, is a fast-paced story full of drama and adventure about WWI told from the point of view of a young German soldier, who is also  a poet. 

The book is reminiscent of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front (1928), sometimes acclaimed as the greatest war novel of all time. That’s a bit like being compared to Shakespeare perhaps, but both books do describe the horror and suffering of German soldiers, their enemies, and civilians during the “war to end all wars,” including how the survivors’ lives are forever changed.

Readers may wonder why an American writer like Helvey, a Spalding U. MFA grad, would choose such a daunting and seemingly unlikely topic—the bloody trench warfare in Europe that ended over a century ago—for his fifth novel. Perhaps it was the challenge of humanizing the enemy soldier, or the need to remind us of the staggering destructiveness of a war that produced some forty million military and civilian casualties.

In any case, Helvey does both quite well. It is an earnestly told tale, occasionally leavened by protagonist Karl Schiller’s ironic humor about war’s absurdity, and also by a few lines of his moving poetry.

The story begins with the introduction of  the popular poet who is in Paris at the war’s outbreak. Schiller soon finds himself in the Kaiser’s army and thrust into battle at the front. Hardly a stereotypical bloodthirsty Hun, he is rather an idealistic soul with a strong sense of duty who becomes deeply scarred by the death and destruction he faces continuously. Gradually, he becomes aware that he is no longer the man he was at war's outset.

The novel gains momentumalong with Schiller’s transformationwith the German army’s headlong rush through Belgium. Cut off from his unit and seeking shelter for the night, Karl discovers a likely looking barn. Concealed inside it is a frightened, angry widow named Sanne, who is hiding from the marauding Germans ransacking her farm and the entire countryside. The tense romantic scene that follows could easily have become farcical, but it does not, a tribute to the writer's skill.

For the rest of the novel, Schiller thinks about Sanne and the unlikely prospect of someday returning to her. She might not even want him, he thinks, but that hope keeps him going through his darkest moments.

As they advance swiftly, the German soldiers are confident—overconfident, as it turns out–that it will all be over soon with the capture of Paris, which will knock France out of the war. Of course, that does not happen. Instead, the advance stalls and the soldiers wind up in horrible trenches for months. Schiller’s companions—including his three brothers—are wounded or killed until he is among the few remaining “originals” still fighting.

Eventually wounded, Schiller is hospitalized. He mends, only to return to combat once more. He dodges artillery blasts and machine gun enfilades, occasionally engaging bravely in fierce hand-to-hand combat—all of it rendered with admirable realistic detail and tautness. The fighting goes on and on until the by now combat-hardened veteran sergeant is captured by the British. Freed by fortune, however, he decides it is time to make a separate peace.

Schiller attempts to return from France to Belgium and Sanne, if she is still alive and will have him. His long flight from battle is both suspenseful and grueling. Along the way, his encounters with the enemy demonstrate their mutual humanity and prove the futility of their undertaking. All this feels completely genuine and ends with a release of emotion that is deeply affecting.

Violets for Sergeant Schiller is a triumph for Helvey, who has also published two short story collections and edits Trajectory Journal. 

Published by Wings ePress, Newton, Kansas, 2020, www.wingsepress.com

Chris Helvey's short stories have been published by numerous reviews and journals, and he is the author of the novels Yard Man and Dancing on the Rim, Snapshot, and Whose Name I Did Not Know, plus the short story collections One More found and Claw Hammer.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Long Overdue Appreciation of Kentucky Writer Walter Tevis

If you’ve been enjoying “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, you may be interested in knowing where it came from. The answer is the 1983 novel written by a now mostly forgotten until recently Kentucky author named Walter Tevis, whose books were the source for three other well-known movies, as well.


Tevis’ life mirrored that of his chess prodigy in many ways. Like his character Beth Harmon, the incredibly talented child was abandoned and became addicted to phenobarbital at the orphanage, where he also learned to play chess. Later, he developed a similar obsessive interest in pool and became a wildly out of control alcoholic.


While living in Lexington as a young man, Tevis took a writing course at UK from Pulitzer Prize winning–novelist A.B. Guthrie Jr. A short story he wrote as a class assignment, “The Best in the Country,” was bought by Esquire magazine. In 1959, the novel version was published as The Hustler.


In 1963, Tevis, who felt like an alien himself in Lexington, published The Man Who Fell to Earth, a science-fiction novel about an alien who winds up in Kentucky. For a time, his short stories were much in demand. But many years of drunken failure ensued. In 1984, he followed The Queen’s Gambit with The Color of Money, a sequel to The Hustler. Tevis died shortly afterward from lung cancer at age 56. Two years ago, he was finally inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.


According to David Hill, writing this month in The Ringer, “The pool player Rudolf Wanderone, who was known in the world of pool as New York Fats, famously changed his name to Minnesota Fats and convinced the world that he was the inspiration for the Minnesota Fats character in the book, despite the fact that Tevis invented Minnesota Fats from whole cloth. “A lot of people ask me, ‘When did you first meet Minnesota Fats?’ And I feel like Walt Disney being asked, ‘When did you meet Donald Duck?’” https://www.theringer.com/tv/2020/11/9/21555790/the-queens-gambit-netflix-book-walter-tevis

Monday, July 6, 2020

100 Words: Speed Bump is the smartest comic of all

Creator Dave Coverly’s one-panel comic strip is the most brilliant ever at portraying life’s absurdity: 1) One wolf with cell phone to another: “You can save a lot of huffing and puffing if you hack into the pig’s security system.” 2) Chipmunk to birds and bees conversing in next diner booth: “Hey, we got kids here. Do you mind talking about something a little more appropriate?” 3) Two bewigged gentlemen in 18th century coffee house studying scrolls: “Sure, WE hold these truths to be self-evident, but we’re, like, really smart.” That’s how Speed Bump makes me feel, too.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

100 Words: Garfield’s creator knew what he was up to

Perhaps cat lovers enjoy Garfield because the strip mirrors their own cats’ aloofness and misbehavior. But portraying social awkwardness, gluttony, and cat-worship does not seem like cutting-edge commentary. Maybe it is, though. Garfield is a cat who craves lasagna all the time and develops a rebellious streak against societal rules. Sound like anyone familiar? In 1982, Garfield’s creator Jim Davis admitted that the strip was a conscious effort to create a good, marketable character. “Snoopy is very popular in licensing. Charlie Brown is not.” Davis, now 75, has a net worth of $800 million. I’d argue that was no accident.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

100 Words: Analyzing Garfield’s Appeal

I asked readers to analyze the enduring popularity of cartoonist Jim Davis’ Garfield. If you did, thanks. I appreciate it. I know why I read Pearls, Dilbert, Speed Bump, and Peanuts. But Garfield? “We live in a time when we feel guilty about not exercising and over-sleeping and over-eating, but Garfield’s cool with that. I think that is what people really appreciate about him,” Davis told the Washington Post. A Thai researcher who analyzed 624 “Garfield” strips found that the two most frequently occurring themes were 1) Jon’s silly ideas or actions when dealing with women and 2) Garfield’s gluttony.

Friday, July 3, 2020

100 Words: Here’s what happens when you have too much time on your hands

I analyzed “Garfield,” Jim Davis’ comic strip created in 1978. Why analyze it? See headline. Also, curiosity. For that matter, why read comics at all? Maybe because I crave narrative. And a picture truly is worth a thousand words. Comics provide easy entertainment value and sometimes insight. But Garfield? In my research, I discovered the strip, which is syndicated in over 2500 newspapers, makes an estimated $750 million to $1 billion annually on merchandise. What do you think makes Garfield so popular after all these years? Tell me and then I’ll give you the right answer. (Just getting into character.)

Thursday, July 2, 2020

100 Words: Comic commiseration for rejected writers

I love re-reading Peanuts, a comic strip that I liked as a child but got away from as I “matured.” Now I see its wisdom more clearly. A favorite is the one where Snoopy, who fancies himself an author, gets a rejection slip in his mailbox: “Dear Contributor, We are returning your stupid story. You are a terrible writer. Why do you bother us? We wouldn’t buy one of your stories if you paid us. Leave us alone. Drop dead. Get lost.” Lying on his doghouse, Snoopy thinks, “Probably a form rejection slip.” A real writer most certainly wrote that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

100 Words: Two reasons for hope

One-The only way to return to normalcy is by providing a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus. We are about a third of the way there, according to a USA Today vaccine panel designed to offer readers an objective, nonpartisan understanding. ‘The brightest minds in the world are in this fight, and they are moving with an incredible sense of urgency.” Two: a recent newspaper poll finds that most Americans support reforming law enforcement to reduce police brutality against African Americans. Favored reforms include weeding out bad cops, focus policing on serious and violent crimes, and stop buying military gear.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

100 Words: Self-aware comic strips

I love newspaper comic strips. I especially adore the “meta” approach sometimes found in Pearls Before Swine. (Meta, of course, is when something refers back to or is about itself, like a book about books. It's seeing the thing from a higher perspective, like being enjoyably self-aware.) In one recent Pearls strip, Neighbor Bob buries his face in his hands. Sob Sob Sob appears above him. Rat says, “Hey, Neighbor Bob. Are you crying or calling someone a you-know-what?” “Crying,” Bob says. “So hard to tell in comic strips,” Rat comments. This kind of whimsical absurdity transcends the comics.

Monday, June 29, 2020

100 Words: Which newspaper comic strips do you like and why?

I love newspaper comic strips. My tastes have changed over the years along with the strips featured. Pearls Before Swine, Dilbert, and Speed Bump all offer wise philosophical commentary disguised as silliness, of course. In a recent strip, Dilbert says, “I can’t tell the difference between good ideas and bad ones. There are smart people on both sides of every idea. What rational process do you use to determine who is right?” To which cynical lay about Wally replies, “I label the people who disagree with me ‘idiots’ and call it a day.” Who doesn’t do that? Guilty as charged.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Another 141 Words on Breonna Taylor’s death and what can be done to keep this from happening again

I must hasten to add that in praising the Metro Council’s revolutionary proposed police budget that I am in no way suggesting that it could ever make up for Breonna Taylor’s appalling murder by LMPD. No innocent person should ever have to die because of police violence. Like all decent human beings, I wish it had never happened and I grieve for her loved ones and oppressed people, especially African Americans. But at least now it seems possible that Breonna’s death may have a transformative effect on her city. The revolutionary police budget proposal unveiled today, according to Councilman Pat Mulvihill, is a “paradigm shift,” that would prioritize recruiting a diverse police force that lives in the community and training on using force, de-escalation and implicit bias. If this happens, perhaps such future tragedies can be averted. I fervently hope so.

248 Words: Praising Louisville’s revolutionary police budget proposal

You would never know it from today’s CJ headline—"Metro Council unwilling to defund police department”—but I believe the council’s proposed police budget is about to revolutionize justice in this community and turn Louisville into an international model for sound policing. Yes, you read that right. Of course, the devil is always in the details. But if you read the details in this story, this conclusion is inescapable. In my opinion, what the council wants to do is incredible, taking the most positive step in our city’s checkered history of criminal injustice. According to the newspaper, “state and federal forfeiture funds would go toward police recruitment, training and exploration of co-responders, like behavioral health specialists, over equipment. It also proposes setting aside more than $750,000 for a civilian oversight system, an independent body to investigate the police department.” It doesn’t end there. “Rather than using the dollars on police equipment or other law enforcement purposes, it would send the roughly $1.2 million to explore ‘deflection,’ the idea of moving people away from the criminal justice system and toward a behavioral health model, which could include assigning co-responders with police. That might look, for instance, like a case manager assigned to respond with police to help people get connected to treatment, housing or other services.” If adopted and implemented faithfully and fully, policing in Louisville will be changed forever for the better. I have never felt prouder or more hopeful of our local leadership than is this moment.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

100 Words: A few more about “The Eddy” on Netflix

I loved this moody, uncompromising eight-part miniseries, which is unlike anything else on TV this summer. Reviews have been mixed, with criticism centering on the show’s hazy, improvised story line rather than following a more traditional dramatic structure. Nevertheless, “It was a show with scenes that moved me as much as anything on TV” (Roger Ebert). Filmed in a struggling Paris night club, it was “visually rewarding” (LA Times). The original jazz numbers composed by Glen Ballard are sensational. The music is performed by magnificent vocalist Joanna Kuligac and a cast of accomplished musicians, many in their first acting roles.

Friday, June 19, 2020

100 Words: “The Eddy” on Netflix is challenging but so worth it

This is my favorite TV show of the summer. The eight-part miniseries follows AndrĂ© Holland’s struggles to keep his Parisian jazz club afloat during terrible times. The murky plot is complicated further by lines mumbled in English, French, and Arabic. But brilliant musical scenes dominate. They’re filmed “in loving detail,” with “incredible solos and moments when the whole band comes together to form something almost transcendent” (Roger Ebert). To critics who panned it: “Sometimes you have to be careful to avoid criticizing a series for not being what you want it to be, instead of what it is” (LA Times).

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

100 Words: So, this is what opening back up looks like

Had my first (unavoidable) in-store experience since the plague began yesterday and was appalled by the number of people who were blundering around without masks. What is wrong with these people? According to current news accounts, leading U.S. infectious disease experts are warning the coronavirus will continue making life difficult for the foreseeable future. Why? Because so many refuse to take the persistent threat seriously. But the virus is not going to rest, according to the CID director. I sincerely hope no one has to die because of this, but if someone does then I know who deserves the nomination.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

100 Words: A Final Trump Reminder: He’s No Nixon (NY Times)

The 50th anniversary of the Kent State massacre passed with little notice. Now Nixon era echoes are heard as Trump deliberately invokes Tricky Dick’s legacy, tweeting on “law and order” to exploit white backlash for political gain. But Trump isn’t Nixon — he’s much, much worse. Nixon was cynical and ruthless, but also smart and hard-working. Trump spends his days tweeting and watching Fox News. Trump on Covid-19 threat: denial, then frantic efforts to shift the blame to others for his own sham ineffective policies. So, Trump is no Nixon.” (Paul Krugman, NYT). My question: How different is the country Trump’s trying to “dominate?”

Monday, June 15, 2020

100 Words: A Trump Reminder for This Fall (as reported by USA Today)

The upcoming presidential election “continues to be largely a referendum on the incumbent. The initial reaction to ongoing racial unrest in the country suggests that most voters feel Trump is not handling the situation all that well” -- Monmouth U. poll. George Floyd’s death has made Americans more pessimistic about the state of race relations. 61% say race relations in the USA are “generally bad” while 57% of Republicans believe race relations are generally “good.” --CBS News survey. Monmouth says if the fall election, still five months away, were held now, Biden wins over Trump by 56% to 41%.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

100 Words: A Trump Reminder for Now (as reported by USA Today)

“President Donald Trump is now one of only three presidents to be impeached, and the only one impeached in his first term. Why Trump? On Inauguration Day, he had already confessed to grabbing women’s genitalia, stoked bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims, encouraged fans to “knock the crap” out of protesters, bilked Americans with his fraudulent “Trump University,” mocked a disabled reporter and lied in a way that appeared pathological. Now Americans are unhappy with Trump’s response to George Floyd’s death, his handling of ensuing protests, and his handling of race relations in general, according to four polls released this week.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

100 Words: A Trump Reminder (as reported by USA Today in Dec. 2019)

“Trump has never lived the life he deserved. In the 1970s, the Justice Department sued him for refusing to rent apartments to African Americans. Still, he became a billionaire real estate developer. He bragged about sexually assaulting women, reduced presidential politics to name-calling, and invited a foreign adversary to hack his 2016 rival’s emails. Still, he was elected president. He stocked his administration with crooks and cronies, used the presidency to further his financial interests, bribed a foreign ally for personal gain and hired a morally bankrupt attorney general. Still, he has good odds of winning reelection.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

100 Words: Who’s to Blame for Our Failure?

There’s been enough international success dealing with the plague to leave a clear sense of how to beat it: impose strict social distancing long enough to reduce those infected to small fraction of population. Then test, trace, and isolate--quickly identifying outbreaks, finding and quarantining everyone exposed until danger passes. It worked in South Korea and New Zealand, but  must be strict and patient, staying the course, not giving in to temptation to return to normal life with virus still widespread. Alas, America’s impatience and unwillingness to do so runs much deeper than any one man.—Paul Krugman, NY Times

Thursday, June 11, 2020

100 Words: Living in history

“Just because it was historical, I don’t treat the characters as any different from characters in a contemporary setting. That’s important or it will feel stilted rather than real and naturalistic. These characters aren’t aware they are living in history, to them it is what their life is. Walking around with ironware and swords was the norm for them, they are living in the now. And they were very similar to us in terms of love, friendships, relationships, laughter. Humor is really important to me. It brings you into their world.” --Writer Stephen Butchard, “The Last Kingdom” (seasons 1-3).

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

100 Words: How’s This for Crazy?

One definition of insanity: keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome. How’s this for crazy? Four in five registered voters in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll feel “things in the country are out of control” as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approaches 110,000, unemployment remains at a level not seen since the Great Depression and protests continue across the U.S. Just 15% of voters think matters in the USA are under control. The sense of chaos and economic pessimism did not have much effect on the job approval rating for President Donald Trump.

100 Words: It’s the people in the car chase

“It’s the characters who make it relatable…. If people can’t buy into the characters, then it just becomes a series of events. I always use the example of a car chase – if you don’t care about the people in the car then it means nothing. You only care about the outcome if you care about the people.” --Stephen Butchard, screenwriter (“The Last Kingdom” seasons 1-3). Incidentally, when Martha Hillier replaced Butchard for season 4, plotting suffered and Uhtred became impulsive rather than brilliant. Another factor: Netflix took over production from the BBC and Carnival Films (“Downton Abbey”) season 4.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

100 Words: Tracking Inspiration … for a change

England remains a seafaring nation and loves its nautical traditions. I, too, love the great seafaring historical novels by C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, and Bernard Cornwell (50 or so novels altogether). “The Last Kingdom” author says his own ancestral roots gave him the idea for Uhtred, the half-Dane warrior who helps King Alfred unite Britain. Cornwell grew up loving Forester’s Napoleonic War novels featuring Horatio Hornblower, and later revered the Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series. Forester inspired Cornwell to write his own series about the Napoleonic wars, only on land, featuring fictional rifleman Richard Sharp. Sometimes, inspiration is easy to track.

Monday, June 8, 2020

100 Words More: How About A Change of Pace?

Internet down, no classic rock tv channel to watch while working out, so I switch on FM radio--a country music station sans commercials. One song writer says he’s no good at anything else, but he sure is good at drinking beer. Brad Paisley supposedly laments the plague with the refrain, “There ain’t no ‘I’ in beer.” He mentions the beer by name. Bud Lite. Is he being paid to? That’s not even an American beer anymore. I like beer and Willie Nelson, too. But ye gods, is this really what passes for clever lyrics down in Nashville these days?

100 Words: Kentucky’s Shame

100 Words:  Kentucky’s Shame
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act passes the U.S. House 410-4 (with Ky. Rep. Thomas Massie in opposition). Now Ky. Sen. Rand Paul ties up the federal antilynching bill for the flimsiest of reasons. “I will be excoriated by simpleminded people on the internet,” Paul says. Possibly by some not so simpleminded, as well, Rand. Newspaper columnist Joe Gerth calls Paul a laughingstock for preventing the lynching of an African American from becoming a hate crime. He’s right, but it’s worse. Paul, Massie, and Ky. Senate czar Mitch McConnell (“Medicare for All will never happen on my watch!”) shame all Kentuckians.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

100 Words: Kennedy’s 1968 Speech On ML King Assassination

Recently a NYTimes writer recalled Robert F. Kennedy’s speech announcing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I watched the video and found that
RFK’s speech remains as tremendously moving and powerful today as it did the first time I heard it on TV back in 1968. Not hatred, division, and violence but love, wisdom, and unity. Yes, it would be wonderful. Perhaps even possible, if we had such a person in the White House today. Of course, we don’t. But there’s a remedy for that in November and at the moment Trump is falling, falling in the polls.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

100 Words: Pouring Gas On The Fire

100 Words: Pouring Gas On The Fire
The U.S. faces three intertwined crises: the pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 lives; the resulting economic crisis leaving over 40 million unemployed; and now the policing crisis that has triggered the largest wave of urban unrest since the late 1960s. Each disaster disproportionately harms people of color. Each feeds off the other. The pandemic spawned the economic free fall, and mass protests over the death of George Floyd a week ago in Minneapolis are likely to accelerate the pandemic. Exceptional leadership is needed but will not come from Donald Trump who pours more gasoline on the fire (USA Today).

Thursday, June 4, 2020

100 Words: Will desperate Trump suspend fall election?

In 1968, Nixon handily mobilized law-and-order sentiment against urban disorder by pinning all the insurgencies, troubles and miseries on Democratic leadership. In 2020, no one but Trump leads the dominant political party. He runs against conditions that he himself has wrought. He has to run against himself (USA Today). The outcome is getting more likely  by the day. Trump trails Biden by 10 points (53-43) in the latest polls. His response:  Justice Dept. wants to suspend civil liberties during pandemic and “other emergencies,” including indefinitely holding people without trial (Politico). If Trump anticipates losing, will he suspend the fall election?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

100 Words: CEO, flight attendant bond over race talk (USA Today)

She has no idea who he is. She points at his book and asks, ‘How do you like that book?’ He says it’s fantastic. She says, ‘It’s on my list to read and I saw you bring it onboard and I just wanted to talk to you. …’ And then she starts to cry. He tells her that the book talks about how white people are horrible at talking about racism and that what we need are real conversations. She agrees. He tells her he is trying to learn and through tears and a mask, she says, ‘So am I.’”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

166 Words Today: Very scary

Okay, so I was offline for four days until Spectrum came out and fixed the problem. No computer (couldn’t save files), no TV, no land line. During that time, some allegedly 3% human being lynched Gov. Beshear in effigy on the capitol lawn and threatened his life, 100 protesters--aka a mob--banged on the mansion front door, and swanned around with automatic weapons like some third world goons out to overthrow the elected government. State police officers stood around watching, apparently doing nothing. Why? I would like to know who these 100 are, and if they are the same 100 every time, and if they are being paid and by whom. If people are not reacting to this outrage (not politicians) it must be out of fear. Just remember this: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Very scary.