Friday, October 27, 2017

What I Won't Learn from my Incessant Facebook NewsFeed

For most of history, probably more than 90 percent of the world population lived in extreme poverty, plunging to fewer than 10 percent today. 

Every day, another 250,000 people graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures. About 300,000 get electricity for the first time. Some 285,000 get their first access to clean drinking water. When I was a boy, a majority of adults had always been illiterate, but now more than 85 percent can read..... 

So let’s pause from our pessimism for a nanosecond of celebration about a world that is actually getting better. The most important historical force in the world today is not President Trump, and it’s not terrorists. Rather, it’s the stunning gains on our watch against extreme poverty, illiteracy and disease; it’s all those 12-year-olds out there who never catch leprosy and instead go to school.  Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, July 1, 2017 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

John Grimes

"Moonlight can take the sordid or the garish and clothe it in majesty.  Sometimes a person with a great soul can come upon a commonplace scene and effect an equal transformation." 

"If you find a mistake in this paper, please consider that it was there for a purpose.  We write something for everyone, including those who are always looking for mistakes." 

These lines are taken from a collection of work entitled "The Best of Grimes", a pamphlet published in the 1960s.  John Grimes served as the editor and publisher of 'The Microphone', the weekly bulletin of the Rotary Club of Oxford, New York.  

"The Best of Grimes" collects material from that weekly bulletin.  My Dad was a stalwart member of the Club, and I found a copy of this little publication while cleaning out my Mom's home after her recent death. 

I have large memories of John Grimes for one reason:  he was our 'shop teacher' in junior high school.  He was soft-spoken, erudite, and quietly humorous.  He was full of pithy sayings.  He was clearly a man who had lived a few different lives, had been through a great deal of travail and travels, and whose experiences lent him an air of life-wisdom to  impart to junior high boys. 

Mr. Grimes had an interesting way of assigning work in his shop.  We were supposed to rotate through different types of projects:  something with wood, something with metal, something electrical.  Problem was, there were more boys than tools.  Plus, Mr. Grimes could clearly recognize who had a modicum of skills with woodworking or metallurgy, and who had three thumbs and were likely to hurt themselves once a week. 

So I became a printer. 

The shop included a manual printing press and an extensive collection of print trays with various fonts and print styles.  We printed bulletins for school sporting events, assemblies, graduations, plays – and the occasional 'contract work' for things like Rotary Club bulletins.  There was no lack of work, thus the need for regular operators in every class. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Grimes would do the other projects for us.  I may have done the last sanding on that baseball bat, but he ran the lathe to make it look like a bat.  I probably ran the wire up the middle section of the lamp that I proudly took home to Mom, but I'm sure he hooked the whole thing together so that it would stand on its own and the bulb would glow when plugged into the socket. 
I had too many printjobs to set to be making bats and lamps.

I enjoyed every minute of it.  To this day, I will gravitate to the printer's building whenever we visit the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown. 

I wasn't the only one to learn this skill under Mr. Grimes' tutelage.  My brother Dennis was a printer.  I'm sure there are other classmates who remember inkstains on their hands while sitting in other classrooms. 

Since those days, I have heard other stories about John Grimes.  One story has him playing baseball in the minor leagues.  Supposedly, he was a teammate and close friend of the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, known as "Big and Little Poison" in the Pirates system. Part of the story is that Grimes played under an alias due to questions about some aspect of his past.   

I have no idea whether this is true.  I do know that John Grimes made a mark on my life (and he would have smiled at the pun), and he left behind many thoughtful words in a Rotary Club bulletin. 

"Some of us find happiness in toil, some in art, some in the open air and the sunshine.  All of us find it in simply being alive.  Life is the gift no creature would part with."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Baseball's New York City Genetics

A friend and I were discussing the baseball playoffs this morning.  I was lamenting the fact that I may have to root for the Yankees if they make the World Series.  The Dodgers have already claimed one dugout for the Series, and the Yankees lead Houston 3-2 in the AL Series. 

A Yankees-Dodgers WS has plenty of historical connection with their past days in New York City.  The Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees competed for fans, radio waves, and the back page of newspapers from the 1920s through the mid-1950s.  The Yankees were the dominant team, winning plenty of championships.  The Giants had their own small streaks, whereas the Dodgers struggled for winning records. The World Series was solely a New York City event in many an October The Dodgers and Yankees met seven times in the World Series as New Yorkers; the Yankees and the Giants played in six New York World Series.  The west-coast Dodgers beat the Yankees in 1981 in their only contest since. 

The Yankees still need one more win in Houston to advance to the other World Series dugout.  I do not relish the thought of actually rooting for the pinstripes, but my Giants genetic code will not allow me to cheer for the corporate Dodgers from down the California freeway. 

My friend says that he just won't invest much time in a Yankees-Dodger matchup. He shares my feelings about the Dodgers. If he cheered for the Yankees, he would have to revoke his Red Sox Nation membership card.  The NFL will beckon on those nights.  He compared it to the presidential election last year.  He hated Hillary, but couldn't vote for Trump.  So he just didn't vote. 

My brain double-clutched on that statement.  Half the country doesn't vote, and he joined the un-invested masses that left us with this mess. 

But that's a subject for another column. 

Go Astros.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Las Vegas

Gun violence at a music festival in Las Vegas. Over 50 dead, nearly 500 wounded.  A 64-year-old white man fires semi-automatic weapons from a room on the 32d floor of an adjacent casino hotel.  Over 22,000 country music fans, partially penned in by fencing, become a mass target.

The scene resembles much of the violence on television each night, and in movies at every cineplex across the country.  Stories that can seem easy to replicate, from the scenes to the props.

Society reflects what we see in the media, and the media reflects it right back to us.

This is not an all-encompassing explanation.  But if we begin any cause-and-effect list, it must be included.

Hopes and prayers abide.  For now.