A day consumed by good work


View 757 Wednesday, January 09, 2013

I had eye exams today and that used up not only the day but most of my energy, which was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t think I tire that easily. I did get more done on the California Sixth Grade Reader, including some important notes on what I will have to say in the Introductions. Two introductions, actually, one to parents or teachers or who will be ‘assigning’ this to students, and one direct to the students who didn’t ask for this and will, if my memories of my reactions to such things has any relationship to the modern world, wonder why they are being stuck with this thing full of long poems and stories written a long time ago. Who the bleep cared about this stuff?

To which the only real answer is, maybe you should. If you can learn how to get both pleasure and some wisdom from tales and poetry, you’ll have a lot more fun in life. Learning from your own experiences is better than not learning, but learning from stories told about other people is even better than that. It’s not painless – that is if you do it right, some stories will be painful – but emotions experienced from reading prose and poetry are a lot less painful than if you’d made the same mistakes or had been dealt the same bad hand by life. And, by gollies, sometimes you have fun. Sometimes it can be pleasurable. But until you know something of the rules and have some experience at it, you won’t get much from Horatius at the Bridge, or The King of the Golden River.

Since most – not all, but most – of the kids who will find themselves reading this book will be smart, I can talk to them. I grew up smart. And I didn’t learn as much as I could have. Neither will the modern students, but you can at least be aware that people just like you, smart, understanding how to ace things at school without working, can wish they had the chance to get more out of their educations than they did. Not that I haven’t done pretty well over all, what with best sellers and having been in on some pretty important stuff; but I could have done better, and had more fun at it while I was doing it.

And I can still recite a bunch of long poems from memory, and you’d be astonished at how good it can make you feel to realize you can still do that.

Anyway, that’s out of my notebook from my hike and I’ll try to turn it into talk from a Dutch uncle. Maybe someone will listen.

I’m also making notes on why parents should care about old stories written long long ago, and big old poems that take forever to get the story across. Like The Courtship of Miles Standish, which has in fact a whacking good story and a real romance as well told as any Harlequin Romance ever was, and why Longfellow chose to use so many words to tell it can’t easily be explained – but once you see why he did it that way, you’ll know. I didn’t see that when I was first exposed to this in 5th or 6th Grade out in Capleville. After all, I could read all of the thing in a day or so, and remember just about all of it; but it took me years to realize why good poets take so long to get to the point, and I’m not sure I can explain it to anyone. I can say there is a darned good reason, and you’ll be a lot happier for knowing it.

Once again notes, not the essay.


I need new glasses, of course – especially since my fall flat on my face a few weeks ago scratched my Photo-gray Trifocals – but with the new ones I’ll be back about as good as I was on distance, and plenty good enough at computer distances. Can still drive without being a menace. And while they will do the full exam with drops next week my cataracts don’t seem to be growing much. I’m glad of that. I confess sheer terror at the thought of cataract operations. My late friend Bob Bloch couldn’t drive at night after his, and really didn’t want to drive in the daytime. That was my gain, in that I tended to drive him places, such as to the Studio Grand Opening of Star Trek, and yes, that was a long time ago. We came out after seeing it for the first time (in company with a lot of other writers and Hollywood people) and Bob said “They used ever cliché in the book, and made them all work.” So I went home and set my alarm clock so I could get up and get my broker on the phone to say “Buy me some Fox.” Which turned out to be a good investment at the time.


School non-massacre

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — An armed man was fatally shot by deputies Monday at an East Tennessee high school after he went inside and pointed a gun at the principal’s head, a sheriff said.

"There’s no doubt in my mind he went there to kill someone today," Sheriff Wayne Anderson said at a Monday afternoon news conference hours after the gunfire at Sullivan Central High School. "I don’t know who, and I don’t know why."

WJHL-TV reported that Anderson said a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will likely determine the motive.

No students or teachers were hurt and school was dismissed at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

Anderson said Thomas Richard Cowan, 62, of Kingsport confronted a security officer Monday morning after entering the school about 9 a.m.

Cowan entered the school with a .380-caliber semiautomatic and a .25-caliber handgun in his back pocket, Anderson said. The sheriff said that after Cowan grabbed the principal, Melanie Riden, and pointed the semiautomatic at her head, student resource officer Carolyn Gudger pulled her gun on Cowan and moved the principal to safety.

Anderson said Gudger moved Cowan down the hall and away from the cafeteria to a science pod. When Sullivan County deputies arrived, they ordered the gunman to drop his weapon, and he allegedly pointed it in their direction. He then pointed it back toward the school resource officer, prompting deputies to fire, Anderson said.


John Monahan

Another instance of the proposition that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have some good guys – or women — with guns.


And now back to work on the Reader. I am well aware that I owe you several mail bags. They’re pretty good, too.







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