Monday, June 26, 2017

A literary evening

Anyone who has stopped by here with any regularity over the past nine years knows I'm a reader.

As I've said before, I don't set goals about what I read. I just read whatever I might have heard about, or often, something Wife has passed on to me. She and I like most of the same things, although not always. She has never gotten into the Mitford series, which I love, and I'm not a fan of James Patterson (one of her guilty pleasure authors).

We both love John Grisham and we both have read all of his adult books. (I say "adult" because he has a children's series which we have not read.)

We love his legal thrillers and have also enjoyed when he has occasionally departed from that ("The Painted House," "Ford County," "Skipping Christmas" and his only non-fiction work, "Innocent Man.") We agree he is a master storyteller.

Grisham is sometimes slammed by literary critics who say he turns out books so fast that he compromises on quality.

And he's not losing any sleep over that . . . as he's laughing all the way to the bank. And maybe I'm just shallow, but his stories grab me from page one. There might be some I like better than others, but I am yet to read one that has not been a page turner for me.

Another favorite author of mine is Ann Patchett. A longtime Nashville resident, she's the author of such works as "Bel Canto," "Run" and, her book of essays, "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage," among others.

Ann gave the city of Nashville a huge gift a few years ago when she, along with a partner, opened Parnassus Bookstore, which has quickly become one of the more popular independent bookstores in the South. If you ever visit Nashville, and you're a reader, you definitely want to pay a visit to Parnassus.

And finally, I've become a fan of Jon Meacham, an author and historian who also now makes his home in Nashville. He is a former editor at Newsweek and contributor to Time, and today you can often catch him as a commentator on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He's a Pulitzer Prize winner and his most recent work is "Destiny and Power," about the Bush family, and more specifically George H.W. Bush, which I included in my top non-fiction list of 2016.

And the reason I am writing about these three authors today is last week I had the unique opportunity to see and hear all three of them. Parnassus Bookstore hosted John Grisham as part of his first book tour in 25 years for his most recent, "Camino Island." It was a ticketed event, and the the cost of the ticket included a copy of the book and the opportunity to meet Grisham and have him sign the book. He was extremely gracious and I thoroughly enjoyed the 90 seconds or so I got to spend with him.

After the signing, the three authors conducted a panel discussion that lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. It was delightful, and I am glad one of my good friends, a fellow reader, talked me into springing for a ticket. It was a most enjoyable evening.

Below, from left to right, are Meacham, Grisham and Patchett. I almost cut Meacham out of the picture but I was taking it from my seat, with my phone of course, and there was a pole right in front of me. (I am no photographer!)


Monday, June 12, 2017

Mild annoyances

I am the first to admit I have my quirks.

I'm not full blown anal-retentive, but I am mildly so. I might have gone all the way had I married someone that way, but I did not. While my spouse can be highly organized when it comes to planning -- whether it's her next day's activities, a party or a trip -- she's pretty relaxed when it comes to order and organization around the house.

And that is not in a bad way at all. She just does not get worked up over everything having to be in its place all the time. Our house has always been neat, tidy and clean, but when our children were young and one of them had a room that was messy over a period of time, she didn't sweat it.

This made her a great mom. She can look back and know she took time to be a student of her children and emphasize their strengths, and she did an incredible job. The occasional unmade bed or messy room didn't scar them for life.

I, on the other hand, was always the more nervous type. If I passed by one of their rooms and the bed was unmade, I would usually just stop and make it. And I might have picked up some clothes off the floor while I was at it.

I know, I know, I wasn't doing them any favors by doing that but it made me feel better, even if the room was otherwise a disaster, to see the bed made. I probably missed some great times with my children, taking time to make their bed rather than helping them to do it, or just forgetting it and doing something more meaningful with them.

Even today, I can't stand an unmade bed. If for some reason we have to get up in a hurry and run out to do something, and don't return until near bedtime (a rare occurrence, but it will happen every so often), I will make the bed before I have to unmake it to go to sleep. It's just one of those things.

I tell you to this introduce the main topics which are somewhat, but not completely, related.

The first is the shorthand people use in texting. Examples are "R U going tonight?" rather than "Are you going tonight?" "K" rather than "OK;" and "C U later" rather than "See you later."

I also detest the acronyms such as "IDK" (I don't know), "LMK" (Let me know) and those silly ones like "LOL" and "LMAO."

I don't know why this so annoys me, but it does. I just don't understand why you would not take the second longer it takes to spell something out. I'm trying to get better about not letting this bother me, but with limited success.

The other topic is related, I guess, because it also deals with technology. Maybe this has not arrived where you live. It was pretty common in Europe and Canada, I believe, before it got to the U.S.

It's little tablet computers that are used as cash registers. I am seeing them used increasingly in walk-up restaurants and even sometimes in ones where you order from the table. The restaurant employee will hand it to you and it will show the amount owed. If you are paying with a card, you have the opportunity to choose the amount of the tip.

This is all fine until it comes to the signature. You have to do with your finger and it's virtually impossible, for me at least, to write legibly. It's just a scribble, and that drives me crazy.

What's the big deal, you might be thinking, since most folks just scribble their signature anyway.

Well, not me. When I have to write my name, I write it in longhand and it is legible. I don't just write the initials and draw a line from there.

It's that mild anal-retentive thing again, and I just don't see it going away.

I'm sure people behind me in line are annoyed when I try to write my name legibly with my finger, because it sure takes longer, but they are going to have to deal with it.

So far, I have not required therapy for these quirks and my family members still seem to love me.

And as I said, I don't see this changing at this stage of the game.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Calling 'em as I see 'em

If you have read this blog since its inception nearly nine years ago, then you have likely noticed I have relaxed a bit when it comes to politics.

If you have only been reading the past couple of years, then you probably know I am an independent voter who leans toward the right, with a healthy dose of libertarianism (which is how I voted in the last election).

I like to think I have an open mind and even though I hate the word because it has been watered down by its overuse and inaccurate usage, I also like to think I am tolerant of others' beliefs and opinions.

I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion are values I hold dear. Although these days I will generally keep my mouth shut if/when a political discussion begins, I don't do as well when people begin to criticize the media in general.

Even though I'm afraid our press corps has lost much of its objectivity, I will still be its ardent defender. God help us if our news organizations are ever run by the government.

As for freedom of speech and religion, it's just a no-brainer to me. I might not agree with what you are saying or the form of religion you are practicing, but I strongly believe in your right to speak as you wish and worship as you wish.

But here is what makes my blood boil: those who would hold themselves out as believers in free speech, religion and the press, and blabber the word tolerance as if they invented it, but have no intention of being tolerant themselves.

My first example of this is Anderson Cooper on CNN. During a recent interview with Kellyanne Conway from the Trump administration, he ROLLED HIS EYES. That's right. He was so put out with what she said, he rolled his eyes. Right on camera.

Unprofessional? Rude? Babyish? Choose your adjective. Should he have been reprimanded by CNN? Absolutely. Maybe even suspended or fired.

The second example took place in South Bend, IN on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Vice President Mike Pence was the commencement speaker and many students and their families walked out in protest.

So here's what it comes down to for these people. If Anderson Cooper, who in some life might have represented himself to be an objective journalist, agrees with you and your point of view, he will be polite and professional. But if your point of view happens to conflict with his, he will roll his eyes in disgust and treat you in a rude manner.

It's similar for those folks at Notre Dame who walked out on the Vice President of the United States. They were rude. They would preach tolerance, but tolerance only for their point of view. If Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren had been speaking, they would have been fawning and hanging on every word. These people are hypocrites, pure and simple.

I sat through three lengthy college graduations for my children. At one, a member of the Obama administration was the speaker, an administration with which I disagreed on numerous points.

What did I do? I listened respectfully. I applauded at the end.

I would have no more thought of walking out while he was speaking, nor endorsing my children doing so, than I would have considered any other practice that is rude and disrespectful. I was raised better, and so were my children.

One account I read about the Notre Dame graduation quoted a mother who walked out alongside her daughter, one of the graduates.

This parent is a hypocrite, and has raised a hypocritical daughter. She is also rude and ill mannered, and she has passed these character deficiencies on to her daughter as well. Shame on both of them.

It's time to call these people out for who they are. Although my forum here is small, consider this my very small effort at doing so.