Wednesday, March 30, 2011
That's great. Even though the city - where John grew up and where I currently live - has been in the midst of an economic boom over the last decade, KCK could still use some good news. It's a city divided - everything east of I-635 is thriving, everything west of that line is run-down and depressed. A lot of it has to do with history. A lot of it has to do with race. A lot of it has to do with politics.
The news of Google bringing its Fast Network here could pull those two sides closer together, which would be terrific.
But I'm dubious about one thing, and it's this claim that the new internet service will be 100 times faster than current broadband service.
Really, Google? A hundred times faster? How can that be literally possible?
I remember the days when internet was dial-up. I remember sometimes waiting three, four, five minutes for a page to load. By the end of dial-up service, internet speeds were down to, I don't know, fifteen-second load times.
But in the broadband world, I can click on a link and I'm at that page almost instantaneously.
Is instant not fast enough for some people?
I haven't seen a single article about this announcement that questions the veracity of this "100 times faster" claim. But I would think common sense would come into play a little bit. If Google said, "Internet speeds twice as fast," then maybe I could get behind that. What kind of super-surfing are people doing? "I can't wait a full second for this page to load! I need it in one one-hundredth of a second, dammit!"
With speeds this fast, Google better be able to take me to a page before I even think about clicking on the link.
All hell is breaking loose in the world... we interrupt this program for an important announcement: Kansas does not win NCAA championship!
The world is in serious trouble. Budgets for education and health care are being cut dramatically. (What’s wrong with this picture?) Nuclear water 100,000 times more radioactive than normal ambient readings, is leaking into the Pacific Ocean. The Middle East is in turmoil, caught in a revolutionary wild fire.
And Kansas lost to VCU in the Elite Eight.
As I said, the world is in serious trouble.
OK, I knew Kansas was in trouble about two minutes into the game when, with a 6-0 lead, the camera caught one of The Twins exhorting the crowd to cheer. Six-zero does not indicate a significant moment in the game. The job ain’t done… the job has barely begun. Had a sense of entitlement set in?
Somebody needed to explain to the players the difference between entitle-ment and title win.
What followed was a disappointing evening for the faithful. Have you ever tried to strike wet matches to light a campfire? You just keep thinking the next one will spark up and you’ll get that tinder going and any minute now the flames will spread.
For a minute it looked like the sparks might catch on, but then a couple of defensive assignments were forgotten and the team with no entitlement came raging back.
Here’s the stunning part. The eight-graph Kansas City Star article – I’m still confused about why a sports writer at such an event could only squeeze out eight graphs before morning – garnered 94 pages of comments within two hours. Today it stands at 1,300 comments despite being retired from the front page of the Web site. Another Elite Eight story garnered more than 900 comments.
Which adds up to more than 2,200 instances of the most vacuous drool the human mind has ever produced.
Yes, the world is in serious trouble. Kansas lost in the Elite Eight. Fifty-six teams, including Ohio and Duke, went home first. And, by the way, pink slips went out in the Kansas City, Kansas school district -- 57 comments --, the Shawnee Mission School District is set to slash million from its budget, six nuclear reactors are in serious trouble in Japan, the United States is participating in a third simultaneous war, the Middle East has come unhinged…
Stay tuned for further developments ... on KU basketball.
--Lofflin -- and if you want to think more about "irony and outrage" read this fine story from today's New York Times (while it's still free...)
PPS: If I were a basketball coach I would put an immediate stop to this habit of raising the arms above the head begging fans to cheer. Everything about this all-too-common WWE-style practice is wrong. It absolutely shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening in the game. Are you actually saying, "Hey, we did something great here but you people in the stands didn't recognize it because you're too stupid?" If I were a coach, I'd tell my players -- let your actions tell the story. If you play well enough, the fans will cheer. If you don't (or if it is only two minutes into the game...) they won't cheer. Your focus is on the game -- or it should be. Let the cheerleaders do their jobs and you do yours.
Reed photo courtesy: http://www.stsnews.com/news-morris-twins-lead-kansas-past-texas-a/
Morris photo courtesy: http://www.kansan.com/staff/mike_lavieri/
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
As a college graduate, what is your responsibility in the world?
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
And, apparently, the situation warrants.
When the chairman of the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission warns Americans in Japan to take caution -- that Japanese officials are playing down the danger -- you get some notion of the scope of the disaster and of the veracity -- the lack of veracity -- of these corporate characters.
Yes, right, what we need to fear are terrorists with dirty bombs...
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Mike Burke or Sly James: Will either provide a new vision of city government or will it be the same old-school politics yet again?
True, that story is 30 years old. But, it seems to me a man’s relationship to his father never ages. My father was a union man. He was a Republican then the war in Vietnam made him a Democrat. He had a very strong view on loyalty. He also had strong views on Las Vegas and those who spent their money there. He had strong views on the Methodist church and who should sit in the front pew (us!). He couldn’t sing a lick but he believed everybody should sing hymns loud as they could.
He had an incredibly strong view on responsibility. “Son, if you don’t signal that turn, the guy behind you will slam on his brakes, the stupe behind him who is not paying attention will slam into the back of him and two kids in the backseat may die… all because you were two damned lazy to signal.”
So, I hear his voice in my head all the time, even if I don’t want to.
Now, I’m not trying to guess what Mike Burke, one of the candidates for mayor, hears in his head. But, if he hears his father’s voice, and if my 30-year-old story was accurate in relaying his father’s voice, then my guess is he is guided by some of these principles.
I might venture the notion that he is probably committed to development, the way his father apparently was. I see him as a person who considers development a key element in the health of a city. His father’s work was mostly north of the river, where undeveloped land could be purchased – I would guess his focus might return north of the river as often as possible.
One thing we tend to see in politicians is they tend to be formed by their first political successes.
I think this old article might point to the idea that he is well connected. And, I don’t mean connected to Tom Pendergast, as his father was. I just mean connected to the business and political establishment – as his father was. In that way, his roots run deep in the way things have been done in the city across decades. My guess is a vote for Mike Burke is a vote for political stability. It’s up to you whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing.
For me it’s a bad thing. I’m willing to try almost anything in Kansas City as long as it isn’t the same as what’s been going on since Emanuel Cleaver left office.
On the other hand, I like what his father had to say about Pendergast. In the article, his father allowed that the Pendergast years, “were the greatest growth period in Kansa City history.” Now, I’m not in favor of boss politics but I do think it is good for a mayor to keep in mind what made boss politics work – and it wasn’t always muscle. Sometimes it was the fact that people worked which made boss politics work.
My guess is neither candidate has the background to suggest he will provide something new in the mayor’s office. And if there is one thing the city needs, it’s something new.
Because the old school ain’t working.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
In the meantime, I wanted to share this video, which I found at literary agent Janet Reid's blog:
Sunday, March 6, 2011
James E. Burke, the would be mayor's father, and Tom Pendergast... a classic Kansas City story I wish I could remember
Kansas City Star reporter Eric Alder had been working on a piece about mayoral candidate Mike Burke and he needed some information about Burke’s father James E. Burke, a Kansas City lawyer and real estate developer, for the profile. Alder called me because he found a reference to an article I had written about James Burke. I couldn’t find the magazine or my notes in my pack rat boxes – it was 30 years ago – so I went down to the Missouri Valley Room in the Kansas City Mo., Public Library last week to find it and send him a copy.
Turns out I wrote the piece in 1981 for a business magazine called Corporate Report: Kansas City. I was wet behind the ears, having spent just 10 years in journalism, and it was a very long piece, typical of those who are wet behind the ears. Here’s the strange thing: I remember almost nothing about it. Frankly, reading it at the library was like reading somebody else’s words. This other guy, I might add without enough humility, was a darn good writer.
As I read it, some of the situation and the interview came back to me, but not much. Alder and I agreed I should not be considered an expert on James Burke.
Nonetheless, the article is pretty interesting. (I feel like an athlete talking about himself in the third person…) I tried to remember why I went to the 24th floor of the Commerce Towers to interview the elder Burke, who was 73 at the time, and -- I found out from Alder’s article -- died the next year before another birthday. Two reasons for the article emerged: One was his relationship to the World’s of Fun property and to the Hunt Midwest Cave. He once owned that land with partners Lamar Hunt and Frank Carswell. Several months earlier I had done an article about Hunt Midwest which included the intriguing notion that an underground World’s of Fun might be built to keep the park going all year long and to assuage rainy summer days.
The second was Jim Burke’s relationship to Tom Pendergast. Like all green feature writers in Kansas City I was enamored of anything Pendergast. Jim didn’t disappoint. He served as the boss’s attorney near the end of his political career. He recalled the Good Friday he and a bulldog lawyer named John Madden ushered their powerful client down the hall of the fifth floor of the Federal Building after Pendergast had been indicted for income tax evasion.
It was the first time, the elder Burke said, that he had met Pendergast. He was also, on that Friday, placed in charge of Pendergast’s corporations while one of the last of the big city bosses served his time.
The story included an extraordinary excerpt from a speech the elder Burke made in 1976 at the Shepherd’s Center at 5144 Oak. I have no idea, at this distance, how I came upon the excerpt because I probably didn’t attend the talk. It’s likely Mr. Burke gave a copy of it to me during the interview.
In the speech, Jim Burke talked about a request Tom Pendergast made. He was fresh out of prison and still on probation by my account, still in prison by Alder’s. Here’s how Burke described the encounter in the speech:
“He reached into his pocket and drew out an envelope and said, ‘On this envelope are the names of 12 men. They’re the blue blood of Kansas City, as you’ll recognize when I read off their names. They are prominent in civic and banking and various fields. I want to give you in detail my relationship with those men over the years, how I helped them grow in whatever their business was.
“'When I get through, I’d like you to go to each of these men and tell them that I’m intending to apply for a pardon, and I’d like them to write a letter on my behalf. Tell them that once I let go of those letters… they might see them on the front page of the Star.'”
I was probably pretty excited at this point in the interview. I was probably putting little asterisks everywhere in the margins of my notes to be sure I didn’t miss the good stuff later when I started to write.
The elder Burke said he finally secured all the letters. It took four months, the president issued no pardon, and Pendergast died before he could finish the sentence.
I picked out one particular story from the speech for my article. Burke apparently told the audience J.C. Nichols had been one of the men on the list. He said when he went to the pioneering developer and made his request, Nichols told him he didn’t care if the letter appeared on the front page of the Star and to simply tell his secretary what to write and he’d sign it.
“There, in my opinion, was a great man in Kansas City,” Burke told the audience.
I’m not sure how, or if, any of this helps anyone understand candidate Mike Burke. I quoted several prominent Kansas Citians in the article with exceptionally good things to say about his father. Most mentioned how much the elder Burke liked working for the city under the radar. From here on, that won’t be possible for his son.
If you want to read the entire article you will find a PDF of it here.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Mickey Mantle should never have farted in that 8-year-old girl's face.
Farting in her face instead of signing her program was probably the biggest mistake the great Mick ever made in a life full of mistakes because she grew up to be a fearless journalist and relentless researcher. Then she wrote "The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the end of America's childhood" which delivered the unexpurgated story of the ballplayer who was, for many of us, second only to our father as hero and role model.
It’s hard to imagine Jane Leavy left out even one sad, disgusting, tragic story about the boy from Commerce, Okla., but she probably did. Maybe the Mick should not have hit on Leavy when she came to one of his golf tournaments late in his life to interview him for the Washington Post. Or maybe the Mick shouldn’t have passed out with his head in her lap at the table in the restaurant at the end of the evening.
I won’t say it. OK, I will.
Actually, I’m trying to be funny because sometimes it is easier to laugh than to cry. I’m not implying that farting in her face when she was a child or resting his hand on her thigh when she was a woman is why she told his story so honestly. She didn’t go after Mickey Mantle. She went after the truth about Mickey Mantle.
And, if the truth is uncomfortable to a man who grew up with Mickey Mantle on his wall, so be it. I had a hard time finishing this book, to be honest. One reason is I’m nearing the same age Mick was when he died and I’m more than a little uncomfortable with reminders of mortality.
Part of the reason I thought about quitting the book several times is Leavy destroyed the myth I had built around Mantle, who always represented the rebel, the unrepentant man who refused to grow up and put on a necktie, who farted in the face of Yankee brass, not little girls who want autographs.
I needed Mickey Mantle to be my example of raw power, the guy who said of Charlie Hustle, if I’d wanted to dunk the ball in over the second baseman my whole career I’d have worn a dress. I needed Mantle to be my example of triumph despite flaw. I needed him to represent those of us who have problems with authority.
I needed a hero who was so gifted he could live life exactly the way he wanted and still win. That is the myth, really, of Mickey Mantle for me.
And, I needed the poetry of his swing. I needed the image in my head of the guy who never got cheated at the plate, who went all out every time, who never seemed to be calculating what to do but went, not for the fence, but for the street every time.
I can close my eyes right now and watch that swing. I have gotten through more than one deadly boring meeting watching that swing over and over behind my eyes. I’ve been in trouble, sitting across from a fuming dean of students as an undergraduate and across from a fuming college president as a professor, and watched that swing to steady my nerves. That swing was magic.
I needed Mickey Mantle to be the last boy… and for that to be ok.
But, I’m not sure he was the end of America’s childhood. In fact, I’m sure he was not the end, if I represent any significant part of America. He wasn't the end; he was the last glowing ember. What Leavy should have said in the title is after you read this book America’s childhood will be over for you.
This is tough stuff. This is the stuff of tragedy. All of Shakespeare is like a "Saturday Night Live" skit compared to this. If you cherish your Mantle myths, as I did -- if you cherish your childhood and you’ve tried to prolong it into your sixties, as I have – better not open the cover.
If you have the stomach for the truth… it’s somewhere inside.
Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle #311 courtesy The Golden Age of Baseball Cards.