Friday, May 25, 2012

Note to ballplayers and other humans: Stay on your feet at all cost...

The Superman...

...and the no-hander-lander
Scraped my elbow raw running to first base Tuesday night. More painful than my raspberry elbow is the admission I tripped over my own bat, laid down too politely on the fine rocks that constitute infield dirt these days.

I wonder what my Superman No-Hander-Lander looked like. My mind’s eye saw something graceful, something I might have done at 15 to spear a grounder in the 3-4 hole. But the looks on the faces of fellow ballplayers, the way everything stopped for a moment as they offered hands to help me up from the dust, the worried admonition of the hardboiled umpire to please throw the damned bat farther away next time, tell me this fall was more scary than graceful.

And, today, unlike the bleeding badge of honor I brought home to my wife Tuesday night, my elbow hurts ignominiously like I stupidly burned it on the stove. The lesson? Stay on your feet at all cost in this life. Gravity is your enemy.

--Lofflin, and you're welcome...

PS: Only a baseball announcer could say 'He's raised his average from .170 to .191' with such unabashed glee. But, of course, that's how the new Royal's announcer introduced Eric Hosmer, The Hos, tonight on the broadcast. Here's my take  from the week when The Hos reached .170.

Superman image courtesy www.studentsof; no-hander-lander image courtesy: The 2010 Project

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A flickering flame, a twittering twit asks 'what's left for the writer/photographer?' As Henry Miller once said, 'He's up shit creek, don'tcha know...'

In the flicker-ing of the twitter age, what’s left for writers and photographers? Is it time to fold up the tent and go home?

I’ve constructed several conventional novels and I enjoyed writing them. One almost sold big. Almost only counts in horseshoes and atom bombs and not, for damned certain, in novel writing. I’ve also almost won fellowships. And, I’ve almost given up.

Which led me to read through a few pages of a would-be novel from this time last spring. When school is out I always get the bug. Sometimes it lasts all summer. Sometimes, like last spring, it lasts a few hours.

I liked what I had written but I was not bitten by the bug to finish it, at least not in the form it was begun. First, I realized I had stolen the idea from another novel I had read. Second, I realized the only places with energy were places where I let go. And letting go seemed right though I’m not sure I would want my students or my dean reading those parts. Could I bring myself to write a novel that did not portray me in the way I wanted to be portrayed?

Ah, I thought. Exactly. I’ve constructed my entire life to portray me in a certain way… a certain boring way. A safe way. A wholesome way.  But, now, I want to write something that’s all energy and no regret. Something that isn’t about how I want to be seen. Something that takes more chances with the reader’s ability to understand the writing and the reader's willingness to give the writer a little slack.

A while back it struck me that photography is always trying to define itself. Better said, the photographer is always trying to define photography. The very nature of photography is to answer the question: What is a photograph? Ansel Adams defined the difference between a postcard and a photograph. Diane Arbus defined the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. Frank Hamilton found a photograph in an old door and the edge of two windows. Every successful photograph answers the question “What is a photograph?”

I’m as obsessed with technique and skill as the next guy with Dektol-stained fingers. But, I’ve come to realize, “Why did you make this photograph?” is a more important question than, “How did you make this photograph?”

A photographer stands poised with the camera, composing. The question he or she faces is always the same. Why pull the trigger?

This, it seems to me, is a dilemma particular to photographers. Surgeons and strippers don’t have this problem.

One photographer photographs a naked breast covered in goosebumps and droplets of sweat. Another photographs a garden trowel wet with rain. Each sought unconsciously to define the purpose of photography.

So it is with writers. Every writer, it seem to me, is trying to define writing by answering the question, “Why write this?” In a world exploding with words, this is not an easy question for any writer who isn’t a journalist to answer.

Maybe you are writing to be paid and if the reader will buy what you’ve written for her own purposes, her own entertainment, you have an answer.

Maybe, like me this morning, you are writing to write, because it feels good. You have answered the question.

Maybe you’re writing to work out your problems. The Santa Fe poet, Donald Levering, says writing makes lousy therapy. I agree. It also makes lousy writing.

Maybe you have something to say. Maybe you have some insight because you’ve been there or because you’re paying extraordinary attention. Either one answers the question.

But notice, none of this asks about the words, the grammar, or the plot. None of this asks about character development, feminist critique, modernism or paper stock. Photographers in the age of Flicker are going to have to define what a photograph is because their images will be swimming in an ocean of exquisitely colored tropical fish. And writers will have to define what writing is in the Amazon-dot-com era when suggestions of a dozen new stories whose algorithms fit your particular taste appear every morning in your e-mail basket.

The bigger question is this. To what use should writing be put? This is the same as the photographer’s question. To what use should the camera be put? What can the camera do that still needs to be done? We have enough novels, poems and short stories to last us several lifetimes. We certainly have enough photographs, especially in the era of iPhones and Flicker. Exactly what should we use these tools for in our short time on the planet? What can we do that hasn’t been done? And, done to death.

--Lofflin… for a set of photographs that test these questions  check this out...

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Great Hos falters and the fans want to see Clint... Kansas City fans get the team they so richly deserve

You knew it had to come.

It was inevitable. You waited for it like the other shoe.

Fans of the Kansas City Royals are as dysfunctional as their ballclub.

Just two years ago they were crying and whining to see Eric Hosmer out of Omaha and into a Royals' uniform. One fan went so far as to curse Billy Butler for hitting .300. That's a fact, hard as it is to believe. Butler's crime, other than reaching base every third at bat?

By hitting .300 he was holding back Eric Hosmer, keeping the first baseman/savior of the franchise in Omaha.

Or, as the fan put it, 'Keeping us from seeing what Hos can do.'

Hey, it's ok to call him 'Hos.' You're a fan. Almost a buddy.

And, finally, the Royals' brain trust brought The Hos up. The Hos delivered. Last year he looked like the real deal.

But now? Well... now The Hos is hitting just .170, though the apologists see .170 as mere statistical illusion given he is raking the ball, but raking it, unfortunately, right into defenders' gloves.

So, it had to happen and today it did. Fans started squirming , getting agitated, whining, about The Hos because now he is holding back Clint Robinson, keeping him in Omaha. "Time to see what Clint can do," one brilliant baseball mind posted beneath today's game story in the Kansas City Star.

Kansas City fans get the team they deserve.


Photograph courtesy MLBi.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President's brave stance on gay marriage

Photo courtesy

President Barack Obama today told the world he is now a supporter of gay marriage. My first reaction to the news was, Why did it take an apparent "gaffe" by Vice President Joe Biden to get the president off the fence on this issue?

Upon further examination, though, I can understand the president's hesitancy on gay marriage. A straight man coming out in favor of homosexual rights can be as difficult as a gay person coming out of the closet.

President Obama used to say he was against gay marriage, and later he said his position was "evolving." I don't think either of those statements are true. I believe Barack Obama has always been in favor of gay marriage. His hedging in the past was in part a political strategy to avoid taking an unpopular stand with voters, but it was also a technique used by straight men, consciously or not, who don't want to be painted as "gay-friendly." It's a macho thing, and I get it.

Obama's statements today could also be viewed as political (and of course those intentions can't be avoided during a campaign year). I can't quote chapter and verse, but I heard about a recent poll which stated the majority of Americans now favor gay marriage, a huge change from the past, and a hell of a good reason for a politician to change positions on an issue.

But politics were not the only factor. There's a difference between answering an anonymous question from a pollster and what President Obama did today. Think about it: the President of the United States told the world he supported the rights of homosexual couples to get married, a view that would have meant certain political death just a few short years ago. How amazing is that? Barack Obama's actions today may be the bravest thing I've ever seen a president do.

I don't think I've ever had occasion to say these words before, but I'm proud of my president.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book recommendation: "Blue Monday"

I stumbled upon a little gem in the Half Price Books clearance section recently, a novel called "Blue Monday" by a Missouri author named Harper Barnes. Although Barnes is from St. Louis, "Blue Monday" is all about Kansas City, baby, when Kansas City was the place to be - the mid-1930s.

The novel gives a fictionalized account of a real historical event, the suspicious death of band leader Bennie Moten, who died on an operating table in KC during a simple tonsillectomy. The main character is a white reporter at a third-rate Kansas City newspaper who frequents in the African-American wonderland that was 18th and Vine, where Moten and other jazz legends, including Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner, Count Basie and dozens more, cut their teeth. The book also takes place during the time of gangster Johnny Lazia, developer J.C. Nichols and Senator Harry Truman, who all contribute to the back story, and hanging above it all is the ever-looming presence of Tom Pendergast, who pulls the strings from City Hall to Ward Parkway to 18th and Vine and all points in between.

I've tried to read the Pendergast biography "Tom's Town," but I couldn't slog through it. (I bought it for nearly forty dollars to try to impress a girl. I guess it worked. We've been married almost nine years. That's a story for another time.) Maybe I'll pick up "Tom's Town" again down the road. But for now, "Blue Monday" is giving me a realistic and vivid insight into Kansas City history.

If you can find a copy of the short-print novel, published in 1991 by a local press, buy it. The link above is to the Amazon page for the book. Here's a good start to a soundtrack for your reading experience.