Sunday, September 29, 2013

VERSE, FOR A CHANGE



September 30, 2013

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Though I am a newspaper writer -- editorials and essays mostly -- I do verse from time to time. So, this week, with not much else to ponder about, I’ll offer three pieces, the last of which  is song verse. Thanks for reading.

#1: A GLIMPSE

I saw a love
of long ago.
She moved swiftly
between my dreams
and reality, appearing
clearly, although
the facts were otherwise.
I reached out,
grasping for a moment
never realized.
She looked at me,
then left so quickly
that I knew she was
never there. Nor was
the moment.

#2: ARMCHAIR GENERALS

War drums begin, the old come alive.
Visions of battles never fought.
Now the chance to march 
from the safety of a desk.
Young go to fight, marshaled 
by the marshals of battle,
exacting in righteous allegiance 
to what they insist is just.
Old men who pick up no weapon
beyond pen and phone 
to issue this order or that.
Great destruction is their right,
these old men say, for the fight
is to save us all. Trust demanded.
Mistakes by command cannot 
be undone. Limbs, psyches torn asunder, 
continual dying for the lifetimes 
of the once young.


#3: GONE

I locked the door last night, though it never had a key. You are gone, and I must forget.
Forget the soulful moments, the depth we reached without a word said.
Forget you in my arms, fitted like a glove, your heart in mine, my soul with yours, facing eternity.
Forget our plans together, though I never cared for detail as long as you were here.
Forget your eyes were blue and magnetic, that looking into them made me feel weak but so warm.
I locked the door last night, though it never had a key. You are gone, and I must forget.
Forget the calm we were at, our silence speaking for us. 
Forget that being together was a book of understanding. Forget I came upon old doubt and could not trust real emotion. I left the embrace and could not return. Now I have locked the door, and there is no key.
You have gone away, and I must forget.


The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@hotmail.com. His work can be republished at will, in any form, with credit given.

Monday, September 23, 2013

CHALLENGE FOR NEWSPAPERS



By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@hotmail.com


     If true readers were the only people newspapers and Internet information providers had to be concerned about, there would be little reason for my essay. They are hooked on the news, educated and brought up and matured to understand the value of a free press in a free society, warts and all. An imperfect world, but what would be the alternative? Therein lies a great danger, because such readers are becoming rare, especially among younger people.
     Since printing began and the first sheets of paper brought news to individuals, private companies could count on people to buy enough dailies and weeklies to keep the print profession going; to support advertisers; to hold circulation stable. Now there are too few of these readers. 
     The Computer Age and the Internet, the IPhone, video games and the many morphings of television all snatch concentration time away from people, who seem busier than ever with seemingly endless schedules. There are fewer lunches spent with a newspaper; fewer evenings after dinner in an easy chair with the editorial page or columnists; fewer open pages of The Daily This or That spread across the kitchen table.
     Now it’s the constantly-on computer and Google. In milliseconds, much information appears --  too much, too quickly. News is read in headlines and short paragraphs, barely digested. Photographs and other images steal viewer time, reducing the brain's word count.
     This means fewer print readers and fewer newspapers sold, putting some out of business. What were once cash-cow businesses that left the newsroom to do its job without interference are profit-driven companies that enact cuts everywhere and which call their papers “products” which require front-office managing by non-newspapermen so as to guarantee the bottom line. Once the city room was a church of sorts, an information sanctuary, left unsullied by businessmen who could never understand news people anyway. But they made money for the bosses. Now they don’t make enough.
      More than ever, newspapers are decided by profit, and that affects what to cover; how deeply reporting goes; how thorough the editing is; and whether the traditional “who, what, when, where, how and why” of journalism will continue as creed or whether one or two of the pillars of fact gathering fall to cost-cutting, thereby weakening the story and journalism itself. And democracy.
     The Computer Age, with its great but flawed ability to offer “facts” and commentary so quickly; to spread such information around the globe; and to keep it in reference form that eventually can out the wrong-doers presents an opportunity to add to individual knowledge and so empower him or her to self-educate. And since education leads to questioning, the hope is that the Internet’s ever more vast store of words, data and images will make our younger people more like the newspaper readers of other years -- those who question, those who think.
     The challenge for newspapers is to present Internet information in such a way as to make the reader interactive, to want more details, to then ask questions in e-mail letters, in Internet forums and blogs.
    There will always be a thirst for information. Humans have craved news since the first of us scrawled something on a rock wall. And businessmen will always want to make a profit. If they can do that in the information delivery business, fine. Might even make some of them feel a lofty goal is being met. 
     What we all must do, whether we are the kind who grew up with three newspapers a day in the house seven days a week or if we are online perusers of news, is to support information delivery. Buy newspapers. Read them. Turn on the Internet but truly seek information and understand it, and then question. The “who, what, when, where, why and how”  still must be satisfied.  We must read, in print or online, then question, then react. And most of all, if there is no “why” or “how,” if any key word in the pursuit of a free and open press is missing, we must let the bean counters in the media know.
     Otherwise, the free press will lose the ammunition it needs to keep us safe from individuals and groups seeking to control the information flow for their own anti-democratic, greedy purposes. They would rather not have the media watching them.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at ahgunther@hotmail.com  ahgunther@yahoo.com or 845 548 7378.

Monday, September 16, 2013

THE APPLE DROPS




By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@hotmail.com

     About this time of year comes the memory of the apple smell, sweet fragrance that for me opened the door a bit to Heaven when I was a child at my grandmother’s house. She made apple pies, as many nanas did and do, from scratch as my friend Elaine does as well in the present. And she is a grandma, too. My grandfather would peel the apples, quite slowly and deftly, within a few millimeters of the skin so as not to waste anything. I never have had the patience for that, my own pared apples probably about two-thirds of the original product. My gramps sat on an upturned apple crate to do the job, outside, of course. And that is where the apple fragrance came from.
     Making an apple pie brings its own wonderful, delicious smells, especially when the spices are added to the mix and, of course, when the pie is baking. And, then, oh then, when that pie just seems to sit forever on the windowsill awaiting our tasting. But the real eau d’apple came from the drops, those decaying, over-ripened, never-picked discards from my grandfather’s small tree. The drops always landed near his 1900s garage, its old, wooden floor soaked with the car oil of decades gone by. The garage, particularly when it was warmish, offered its own beckoning smell -- of automobiles, wrenches, human labor, all a promise of what was to come for a future motorist, even at age 5.
     When I visited my grandparents, a few miles from my own home, the whiff of the garage in fall made me feel extra welcome, not that it was difficult to achieve at that house, at that home. And when I also smelled the drops, all was extra sweet, and my fingers almost crossed that my grandmother was making a pie.
     She usually was, and on those days, at that time of year, even without introduction to any of God’s religions, I knew there was a Heaven.

     Contact this retired newspaperman at ahgunther@hotmail.com

Monday, September 9, 2013

BACK TO SCHOOL/2013



By Arthur H. Gunther III

     ANYWHERE, USA -- It’s back-to-school, and while many cliches can be uttered about that, the fact is this is like spring planting. The renewed hope is there that the new field of fertile, young minds will see germination in gained knowledge, reasoning and a healthy outlook on life. Hope they have fun, too.
     Teachers will tell you, and you will recall yourselves that each school year and each collected class is different. The feeling is not last year’s, the classroom is physically apart from others, the mix of students may have been altered and the teacher is probably new to the group.
     And the world has changed, and the individual student’s self and environment, too. Likes, dislikes, friends, needs, desires, what has happened over the summer, how the community has morphed, and the state, the nation, the world -- all this bears on the back-to-school moment of any particular year.
     This means some students will fare better than others, and some will do very well, others not and probably the majority will be fine. The chemistry of the new school moment will help decide, though free will, as free as it may be, can turn the tide, too.
     Nationwide, school budgets continue to be slammed. Inflation in supplies, health care and other benefits, utility charges and the costs of this program or that seems 50 to 100 percent against the  recorded U.S. rate (August) of 2 percent. Doing more with less is yet another challenge for teachers, students and parents in this back-to-school moment.
     And then there are the tests, the push to have students meet some sort of standard, though those who set them do not seem to agree on what they should be. In-the-trenches teachers will cringe at lost time “teaching to the test” and will wonder why so many non-educators, or those so long out of the classroom, decide on the test. Yes, standards are required, goals must be in place, but the best teaching comes from teacher to student and  student to teacher. Too much gets in the way -- parental over-managing, distracting environment at home and in the streets,  extra-curricular overload,  too hands-on administration. Teachers should be trusted more to teach and given the support to do so.
     Good luck to those going  to school 2013, particularly the ones just beginning the journey in kindergarten. When you first get ready to sow a field, you till the soil well and then you fertilize. You don’t simply cast seed willy-nilly on hard pack. In this nation of the growing rich, the accumulating poor and the disappearing middle class, not enough attention has been paid to preparing schools and our young for the first years. Will the crop be what the children need, what the nation requires?

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be e-mailed at ahgunther@hotmail.com

Monday, September 2, 2013

OUR GOVERNMENT -- WE ARE IT



By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@hotmail.com

     America’s Labor Day has morphed beyond the usual public time off -- picnics and other respite -- that recognizes all workers. Now it is also 24 hours of heightened uncertainty. There is worry over whether the job you have now, if you are working, will be there next year. And if the part-time spot will ever turn into full time. And if health benefits will continue, if they exist. Pensions? Forget them -- they have largely disappeared. Instead, you go it almost alone with a 401K, without much help from employers, and you will probably deplete that long-term investment to pay bills along the way. Retirement may mean poverty.
    Yet past Labor Days have been tough, too. The Great Depression brought extreme unemployment, and some men held no job until they were drafted for World War II. That conflict ended the economic malaise, and America, not battle-ravaged Europe or Asia, was ready to restart civilian goods factories. Times boomed and prosperity brought us suburbs, super highways and a large middle class. Enduring the deep, dark hopelessness of the Depression and a number of recessions in every decade since were part of the trudging journey. 
     Today, just a few years after the nation narrowly avoided another depression in the irresponsible greed of the mortgage/banking crisis, our jitters, the undermining of confidence in the American Dream, are bone-deep. We trudge again.
     The light at the end of the tunnel is remembering that America, our great America, began long before the Boston Tea Party, Lexington and Concord and the Revolution. It grew from the footsteps of those men, women and children who landed at Plymouth Rock and in the Virginias and then spread in every direction, especially west, which metaphorically is our never-ending frontier. The self-reliance, independence and  ingenuity, the can-do, survival, make-it-happen attitude set us apart from old Europe. Our Declaration of Independence celebrates all this in stirring, inspired language that sets the ground rules for government of the people, by the people, for the people.
    Yes, we must admit to terrible racism, the horrors of the Civil War, mistakes like the World War I Sedition Acts and the 1940s internment of the Japanese, and, most of all, the long-ago forced relocation of the only people in this nation who should not need a Green Card -- our Native Americans. But the instruments of our success, the Declaration and the Constitution, have in time righted many wrongs while others await remediation. 
     It is in America’s greatness, in its original intent, derived from the DNA of its peoples, native and immigrant, that our oratory can steer us straight once again. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech were born of us all.
     So, on this workers’ holiday in our great America, we recall the beginning and know our source of strength, purpose, direction. This is a worrisome Labor Day, with a disappearing middle class and all that means for economic stability and progress; with the threat of more war; with so much debt from others; with Washington polarization seemingly set on party ideology but truly well-directed by greedy, even sinister special interest as puppeteers can move mouths. We Americans must again be revolutionary and demand of the government that is us that it truly be us once more.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.