French Open:Gorges Serena Williams to play Maria Sharapova in fourth round

The match between two of the sport’s biggest stars – with 28 Grand Slam titles between them, plus personalities and marketability which have helped them transcend tennis – was one of the most eye-catching permutations when the Roland Garros draw was made last week.

Source: French Open 2018: Serena Williams to play Maria Sharapova in fourth round – BBC Sport

What a surprise, I’m in a minority on Facebook in that I watch tennis matches, including the one this afternoon between Williams and Gorges. Williams seems to be getting stronger as the tournament goes on, but Sharapova is a tough competitor.

The older I get, the more I favor players who are “ancient” and still playing. Yet, when she entered the French Open, I thought Serena’s chances of winning the whole thing were a long shot. She’d been away a long time. But she looks good so far.

–Malcolm

Visiting the Vietnam War Memorial

“If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

“Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

“And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.”

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978
The Wall-USA

My wife and I see our reflections in the Vietnam War memorial last summer as I find the name of a high school classmate who died there.

I remember because it’s impossible to forget.

I remember that when Maya Lin’s design for the wall was unveiled in 1981, it generated a lot of controversy for it was nothing like any memorial the public had ever seen. I liked it immediately and was relieved when it wasn’t changed or belittled by the close placement of other statuary. The Vietnam War was nothing like any war the public had ever seen, in part because we saw it on television in our living rooms, tallied successes and failures in body counts, and reacted and ultimately protested when–after initially supporting Hồ Chí Minh’s fight against French colonial rule–the U. S. became in involved in a new North-South civil war that seemed to have no end.

The body count is displayed on this wall and cannot be ignored. The wall was dedicated in 1982 and has, in the years since, become a site that draws people to it, where people see the names of the dead whom they knew and simultaneously see themselves reflected back by the mirror finish of the black granite. The wall currently has 58,318 names on it arranged in calendar order to match their dates of death.

I finally visited the wall last June on a family trip to Washington, D.C. I knew one name on the wall, an old friend from high school. I didn’t trace the name as many people do. I couldn’t. As you can see in the photograph, Mike’s name looked back at me while I was taking the picture. Perhaps, if I read them all, I would find other names I know, but I can’t. My consciousness isn’t deep enough for such knowledge.

The wall’s impact was overwhelming.

–Malcolm

 

Polarized shouting matches won’t solve the school shooter problem

Yesterday, a friend of mine began a discussion of the school shooter problem with a measured status update that, rather than looking for simplistic solutions, clearly invited people to look at the culture and the nature of our society that are behind what might be called an epidemic.

While most of those commenting seriously tried to talk about why people with access to guns today are becoming school shooters when young people have, for years in this country, had access to guns (hunting, trap and skeet shouting, informal target practice) and–until recently–didn’t kill their classmates in mass shootings.

Other commenters didn’t like this approach for various reasons centering on beliefs that (a) so-called profiles of school shooters also described a lot of other people who “suffered the same problems” but didn’t become shooters, (b) the solutions–such as get the guns, arm teachers, put metal detectors at school entrances–were clear and, if approved, could be implemented before efforts at understanding today’s youth would get off the ground, (c) psychology is a “soft discipline” that most insurance plans don’t even cover, so how could it possibly be expected to solve what people believe is a law enforcement issue.

Some people said they thought the media–both news and social–helped fuel the problem by inciting copy cat killings, contributing to the so-called easy fix approach  through non-stop panels of experts, and by providing a fame of sorts to the shooters. Others speculated that non-stop texting and social media use made today’s youth more isolated while giving them the impression they were tied into a larger whole.

In his “Psychology Today” article “‘Profiling’ School Shooters,” George S. Everly states that  While the debate rages on gun control and is not likely to be resolved in the near future, renewed interest in “profiling” those who are at highest risk for committing violence has emerged. However, we must proceed cautiously as no predictive paradigm in behavioral science is perfect, especially “profiling.”

The emphasis here is not, I think, to come up with a formula that predicts who, amongst people suffering similar problems, will be the next shooter. To me, what’s important is considering conditions which appear to have impacted shooters to date and using them not as predictions but as issues to address in schools, families, and perhaps society itself.

Every’s list of primary factors, includes:

  • Males who were students or former students at the school–that is, they were part of the target school’s population.
  • Anger and revenge from people who had been bullied or felt they had been treated unfairly.
  • Individuals who were socially awkward and had few friends.
  • Media contagion as a motivator to frustrated and angry individuals.
  • Dysfunctional family situations.
  • Individuals who expressed frustration/anger through social media posts or some form of “art.”

My list oversimplifies the article, so I encourage you to read it. Whether or not such indicators are within the purview of school counselors is not for me to say. I suspect they are already overworked with a career-choice focus. Parents and parent associations might discuss these in relation to their own children, though we don’t expect a dysfunctional family to have a family meeting and vote to become functional.

Those who think rooms full of youths who are all texting others who aren’t there rather than interacting with those they’re sitting next to certainly have an issue to study. Why do kids do this? Does it isolate them and/or cripple their social skills of dealing with people more directly?

The legality of looking too closely at these indicators might pose problems, such as muzzling a free press, stifling free speech, or the school’s intrusion into emotional issues that parents think belong within the family’s discretion.

As a former journalism teacher, I think there is much the press can do to act with greater caution and restraint in its reporting. “Sitting on a story” for hours and hours during periods when no new information is available not only gives rise to inaccurate reporting and reliance on the opinions/speculations of experts, but ignores other news around the world. For shooters who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame, this endless coverage gives them more fame than they ever dreamt of.

Santa Fe school system photo

We saw how the Ferguson, Missouri violence was fueled in part by the lies told–and perpetuated by the media–about the Michael Brown shooting by people who claimed to be witnesses who weren’t even there. A lot of violence occurred based on those lies, and even after they were proven false, many people continued to believe them. A network I won’t name was taking phone calls after the Santa Fe, Texas shooting from people that did not appear to have been vetted who claimed to have been there. Were they really there? The network took their comments as gospel, something no good reporter would ever do. In this approach, the network wasn’t a news organization but another cog in the social media spreading viral information that could only incite more incorrect views on causes, and perhaps our next shooting.

Addressing these so-called indicators isn’t a quick fix. Personally, I am more interested in knowing what in society has changed that has allowed/facilitated this epidemic.  Some people think “getting the guns” is a quick fix, yet they seem to have no idea that much of the prospective legislation bandied about so far wouldn’t have stopped many of the shooters and/or would be unconstitutional. Trying to repeal or alter the Second Amendment is a process that–even if Congress starts the procedure–would take years and would probably fail. Not a quick fix. Others suggest metal detectors at school doors  which, of course, would have to be manned. So far, the costs appear to be higher than school system budgets. Not an easy thing to do even though it seems so obvious.

I don’t have the answer. And, it might be possible that even if we knew exactly what had changed in our society to create this problem, it might include a slough of so many things it would be hard to address. However, what doesn’t help, is intruding into a civilized Facebook post that’s looking for reasoned discussion with a single-quick-fix solution and then slamming those who don’t agree with it.

If this Facebook thread mirrors society as a whole, we’ll never stop the shootings. Meanwhile, as one survivor of the Santa Fe, Texas, shooting said in an interview, “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too.”

Let’s hope public policy doesn’t become fatalism.

–Malcolm

A friend of mine has continued some helpful resources:

The School Shooter: A Quick Reference Guide
HOW WE TALK ABOUT BULLYING AFTER SCHOOL SHOOTINGS CAN BE DANGEROUS: EXPERTS
Are mass shootings a white man’s problem?

Saturday Natterings: Yard work, Diagon Alley, NPR poetry, and Melinda

A selection of stuff for the blog today because my bad cold makes me too tired to write an exciting post. However, we will be speaking of magic again soon.

  1. Parked in the garage this week.

    The yard is out of control. If you have a yard, you know what this means. My wife and I planned to rein in the unruly grass and encroaching weeds even though we hadn’t yet recovered from our one-week trip with family to Disney World and Universal Studios. But then it rained. Dang, we had to postpone our yard work. Several days ago, somebody didn’t secure the pasture gate and we found our yard full of cattle. Not the first time this has happened. They ate some of the grass before we chased them back into the pasture.

  2. While in the Orlando area, I was lucky to finally meet

    Melinda Clayton of Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

    my publisher whom I’d worked with on line for quite a while but had never met in real life. Great times at a cool restaurant in Sanford. Her husband, my wife, my brother and my brother’s wife were there as well.

  3. Speaking of my publisher, Melinda will be happy to know that I finally ran out of excuses and have added new scenes to Lena, the upcoming third book in my Florida Folk Magic Series. The series begins with Conjure Woman’s Cat.
  4. NPR wants you to fill Twitter with “your haikus, tankas, limericks and the nonsensical, and we’ll feature some of our favorite bite-sized verses online and on the air.” Learn more here.
  5. FROM MY FACEBOOK AUTHOR’S PAGE: Napoleon Hill’s statement that “Whatever The Mind Can Conceive And Believe, The Mind Can Achieve” separates, I think, those who succeed from those

    Original cover. The 1902 book is still in print.

    who don’t–this depends on how one defines “succeed.” Or, as James Allen wrote many hears ago, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” Everything I know about magic can be based upon these and similar statements. Whether one is talking about magic or the processes of daily living, many people limit these statements because they either don’t see that people are more powerful than they know or because both statements force a person to acknowledge his/her responsibility for his/her “lot in life.”

  6. Photo from the trip: Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. There were long lines, of course, but it was fun seeing this re-creation as well as my two granddaughters’ reaction to it. They each bought an interactive wand which, if you used it just right, made things happen in many of the store windows.

Have a good week.

–Malcolm

Sunday Clatterings: magic to tennis to spring

When stuff falls on the floor, it (the stuff) clatters. This is what happens when people try to spring forward into daylight savings time when they first wake up. Florida’s trying to stay on daylight savings time. I’d rather see the whole country standardize on standard time instead of the “extra sunshine” nonsense. I love the sound of clocks hitting the floor: doesn’t everyone?

The day before the hard freeze.

  • Several days ago, I was convinced spring had arrived. Rain had jump-started this year’s crop of weeds in the yard. The buds on the Japanese Magnolia were about to zap into full bloom. Then we had a hard freeze and flowers everywhere got ruined. Then it rained again. At least we’re not living in East Glacier or Browning, Montana where February was a record snowy month.
  • Better vision today after going back to the ophthalmologist Wednesday so he could use his lase to get rid of the cloudiness in my right eye and, while I was there, touch up a few missed spots in my left eye.
  • For reasons unknown, everyone’s eyes glaze over on Facebook whenever I mention I’ve been watching tennis and/or that I’m happy that the Williams sisters won their matches at the tournament in Indian Wells, California. I guess most people don’t like tennis or are unaware that the Williams sisters have dominated women’s tennis for a quarter of a century. I thought I’d mention this in today’s post so your eyes would glaze over, too.
  • I pre-ordered my Scots language copy of the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane. Amazon was proud of itself for saving me 5 cents because pre-orders lock in the price; then they had to apologize for delivering it late. It was supposed to arrive on the 8th and it’s still not here. If th’ book isnae ‘ere by Tuesday, a’m aff tae speil bagpipes in th’ amazon affice.
  • It’s comfort food week compliments of my wife’s dentist. He extracted a compacted molar several weeks ago. Things seemed to be going well with her gum healing up until the bone spurs appeared. (Think of chewing food with a cactus in your mouth.) So, we were back to the dentist two days ago so he could make another incision and grind down the spurs. That means soft food: mac & cheese, ravioli, ice cream.
  • I’ve been thinking about Angi Sullins’ comment in the introduction to her book Doorways and Dreams. She (and I agree) doesn’t see real magic as the stuff out of Harry Potter. Instead she says that it’s a “more-ness shimmering behind our everyday reality.” It shimmers in our dreams and meditations and sometimes in things one sees out of the corner of his eye. I figure that has long as it’s there, it’s a practical energy we can use to better understand and create the reality going on around us. If you’ve read my books, you’ve seen how it works.
  • If you like mystery/thrillers, see my review of Jane Harper’s Force of Nature. If you like satire, see my latest Jock Stewart post about hoodoo workers hexing Congress.

Have a great week.

–Malcolm

Sunday Platterings: from Kim and Krumbles to ‘Frankenstein’ and horses

My trusty spell checker has informed me that “platterings” isn’t a word. Well, it is now, due to an ancient law that if a writer uses a combination of letters intentionally, that combination becomes a word. The word means “the skill and technique of plating and serving foods (or anything else) on a platter.”

  • This week, I’ve enjoyed reading (re-reading, I think) the original 1818 version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.” What a heart-breaker, and so much better than any of the film adaptations. I don’t mind the introduction in this 2016 reprint, but have found the annotations to be mostly unnecessary and when they ramble on, quite irritating and superfluous.
  • The blurring vision in my left eye has been much less blurry ever since undergoing the painless YAT laser procedure several weeks ago. This coming Wednesday, the ophthalmologist will fix the right eye. If things go well, I can not only say goodbye to the blurring vision, but the eyestrain that creeps in after a day with books and the PC.
  • I seldom know why people suddenly find old posts and start reading them. Lately, it’s been my memory lane post about a former Kellogg’s cereal called Krumbles. It was my favorite cereal when I was growing up; that means that Kellogg’s got rid of it as soon as the company found out I was addicted to it.
  • Weeds, brought on by evil spirits and/or a lot of rain, suddenly showed up throughout our yard. So, I went to the nearby CITGO station and filled up the gas cans for the mower. You know what happens when you do that: more rain, with minor flooding in various places around Floyd County, Georgia.
  • When the movie “Picnic” came out while I was in high school, I wondered whether Kim Novak–introduced in that movie–might go to the prom with me and then consider marriage. I thought of her again when my wife and I saw the movie on TV the other night. My wife thinks my long-ago crushes on Novak, Suzanne Pleshette, and Natalie Wood are amusing. I think of them as the ones who got away. <g>
  • If you buy a lot of books on Amazon, have you signed up for Amazon Smile? When you do, Amazon makes a small donation to the charity of your choice every time you purchase a book. So, my personal reading addiction is helping a nearby horse rescue farm called Sun Kissed Acres. We heard about it when our neighbor across the street went out to look at a horse advertised for sale and found it on death’s door due to lack of even minimal care. He bought it and immediately contacted Sun Kissed Acres where the staff brought the horse back to life and named it “Miracle.”

I hope you discover a few miracles of your own this coming week.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a herd of books, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Sunday Flatterings: a smorgasboard from radicchio to Muriel Spark

I don’t normally flatter people because some of them, and some who see me doing it, think that flattering is the same as sucking up to. I’m of two minds about that assessment: (1) So what? (2) I don’t care.

  • Thank you to one of my psychologist friends on Facebook who posted a video about the stigma people face who need psychiatric medications. I won’t mention her name, but you can find more on the subject at The Mighty.
  • The Olympics and the dedication of the competitors have been an wonderful respite this week from the more distressing news and the polarized political machinations resulting from that news. Many hours of enjoyment here even with sports I don’t usually follow.
  • My novel Eulalie and Washerwoman has been on sale for 99 cents throughout the weekend thanks to the efforts of my publisher Thomas-Jacob’s promotion of books by every one of its authors this past week. You can learn more about our upcoming sales and new releases by signing up for our newsletter here.
  • As a writer and a reader, I enjoy the reviews on BookerTalk, the most recent being a look at Muriel Spark’s first novel The Comforters: “She went on to write a further 21, gaining a reputation for blending wit and humour within darker themes of evil and suffering.”
  • The local tire store for patching and remounting a tire that picked up a nail. The tire was one of four I bought from them within the last six months, but without the expensive hazard insurance.
  • To the local Publix store that tossed a head of radicchio into my grocery sack for free when neither the cashier nor her supervisor could find it on the cash register display even after I spelled it out.
  • The pair of eagles at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, who have once again presented the community with a pair of brand new eaglets.
  • My ophthalmologist for using a YAG laser capsulotomy procedure to fix the blurry vision in my left eye on Wednesday. The blurriness occurs within a small percentage of those who’ve previously had successful cataract surgery. Now my vision is almost as good as an eagle’s vision. <g>

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of all kinds of stuff.