Thursday, April 29, 2004

Big Fish 

Forty or so years ago one of my German teachers at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama remarked that he thought Southerners should speak a different language. He was a tall, lanky yankee, puzzled by Southern culture, and he was right. Without a foreign tongue to alert you, you are likely to be disoriented when you hear Southernspeak, the language of this delightful movie about a genuine southern phenomenon.

Southernspeak is a language in which you joke without announcing, as my little brother invariably did when he was knee-high to a grasshopper, "This is a joke." "This is a joke," was his way of coping with a culture in which his older cousins described their visits to doctors who gave shots with foot long hypodermic needles and in which he was not always sure how to interpret what he heard.

My little brother coped with his, "this is a joke." The son of the protagonist of this movie apparently coped by moving away from the south and waiting for his father to see the light and turn into a Yankee. Hmmm....

Now, Yankees do have their own versions of Big Fish tales - take Paul Bunyan, for instance. Of course, when you hear the name Paul Bunyan you have been forewarned - you know it just ain't so. In Southernspeak none of those kinds of cues are slipped in to do the job for you; it expects you to be able to puzzle it out for yourself.

Hope that is helpful. I loved this movie because the young father looked and dressed like Uncle Kink's sons and told tales like Uncle French and Aunt Jeanetta's boys. It took me a while to get over the Yankee mindset the popular culture has endowed me with and just enjoy it. And did I!

If you decide to see Big Fish, I suggest relaxing and letting it flow over you. And don't forget to employ your intelligence. It'll help.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


This is an Iowa Voices commentary that was aired over WOI AM-FM in Ames, Iowa a number of years ago. The media doesn't seem quite as maddening as they were back when but not to greive; political parties have stepped into the void, adopting Slampaigning as their campaign strategy of choice.

The text is laid out just as it was for reading over the radio.


Now that primaries and conventions are over
political candidates and their advisers
are quietly devising campaign
or should I say
- slam-paign -

word seems to have gotten around
that /slamming/ opponents
is the way to win elections.
Slam-paign tactics range
from the most unflattering pose
that can be stilled from a video of an opponent
all the way to charges of serious wrong doing
if true
should certainly be addressed
but probably not
in 30 second tv sound bites
by an angry political rival.

Some folks seem to have the impression
that office seekers and holders
are candidates for sainthood
and so they pound away at these people
like a Vatican lawyer arguing cannonization.

Tell me now -
are the bad guys really
the ones who are plastered with mud
when the mud slinging is done (?)
or are they those folks
out there slinging that stuff(.)?

When you see the everyday ordinary president-baiting
when you remember how /Robert/ was Borked
don't you wonder
how anyone in their right mind
would be willing to run for political office
or serve in a prominent government position?
The prerequisite would seem to be a psychological makeup
/free/ of all of those qualities that make us sensitive to the opinions
and actions
of others...
A sociopath

It would be easier for us voters
to handle this slanderous and quasi-slanderous political wrangling
if we didn't have that sense that
- we -
are /ultimately/ responsible -
to each other
to the world, even.

If we could /only/ stand on the sidelines
from somewhere in - Canada
say (?)
as though it were a game
or a dance
- limbo, for instance.
We could cross our arms
and lean on the railing
with an amazed smile on our faces
watching in bug-eyed wonder
as the voice sings
"How LOW can he GO."

I long
for what we used to call a statesman
or woman.
Someone who will refer to an opponent
with dignity and courtesy,
who values the welfare of the state,
the nation
and the world
over self interest
or that of their party<
who will simply tell us why we ought to vote for them,
and what they plan to do in office,
so we can determine whether we want them to represent us or not.

I don't
want somebody there who will
vote my way,
I want someone I can

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