A couple of years ago this spring, a woman
stopped at the News-Record office, announced
that she had moved to Lindsborg and would
like to write for the paper – “reviews,” she said,
“I’m interested in performances, what’s happening
locally.” It would be a cousinly arrangement,
informal, with the reviews submitted on a casual,
Lois Carlson has been around to it a lot these
past two years, covering concerts, recitals and
much of the abundance of artistic talent in the
Smoky Valley. The News-Record is far better
for her effort and its readers are more informed
because of it.
Lois is the consummate observer, her reviews
nailing a critic’s essential mission: providing those
who attended an event or performance with even
finer details and hidden highlights they may have
missed, and for those who could not attend, a vivid
account of what they had missed.
Lois’s work elevates the content of this newspaper,
and it’s not a leap to say that her talent
matches, even surpasses, that of other critics in this
part of the country.
Lois was born in Lindsborg, divided her growing-
up years between here and East Africa, graduated
from Bethany College and, over the years,
maintained connections in and around Lindsborg.
Since then, she has met a delicate challenge
with the touch of a master. Much of the visual
and performing arts in Lindsborg and the Smoky
Valley are excellent, often riveting and compelling
work; nonetheless it is the work of amateurs, in
the sense that most are students or have day jobs.
Their efforts stem from a passion for art and love
of community. The local reviewer is challenged to
keep this in mind, but at the same time not mislead
Lois reminds us that the arts are a footing of life
in Lindsborg and the Smoky Valley, and that local
artists add to the texture and hue of this community.
Her reviews explain the need to appreciate their
work, bringing color to our world when so much
of it seems consigned to black and white.
For Republicans, a president’s
failure is guaranteed
When Barack Obama was first inaugurated six
years ago the new president promised, with clarity
and passion, that his administration would restore
public faith in government as a force for good in
our lives. Our reliance on war as a foreign policy
mission would end; at home he would revive a
long-standing, if forgotten, promise in our savage
political culture: that in a modern industrial
society, all individual effort must be braced by
a government that guarantees opportunities for
those who want to work, food for those who would
otherwise starve, pensions for the old and medical
care for the sick.
At each turn, opposition in Congress has stiffened.
In recent years the filibuster became a
primary parliamentary force in the Republicans’
mission to ensure the president’s failure, no matter
his objective, no matter public sentiment, no matter
the desires of a citizenry.
The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell in
the Senate and John Boehner in the House, long
ago announced the party’s fundamental goal: that
President Obama fail, no matter the policy at hand,
no matter the intent or purpose of legislation, no
matter any risk. The good of the country seems to
them of little importance. Obama must fail. The
Republicans proudly declare their primal urge to
prevail, and no matter the costs.
So it comes as no surprise that the president
once again is marked as a dud, his POW-prisoner
exchange with the Taliban now at the top of critics’
lists of unpardonable offences; and this follows a
Veterans Administration scandal, another yoke for
the president’s bearing. The fundamental cause
in this case – Congressional incompetence – is
ignored: The VA has for decades been denied the
funding for doctors, nurses and equipment it needs
to meet surging patient rolls as the Congress and
preceding presidents pack generations of soldiers
off to senseless, futile wars; and on their return,
the maimed and injured find no one available to
treat them because Congress insists on bragging
rights for cutting budgets, denying help for those
So what? The Republicans’ goal, a country
divided and a president failed, is on track. The
good of the nation is subordinate to the good of
a political party, its overriding lust for power.
Barack Obama is blamed for the VA, blamed for
health care reform, blamed for our fragile stature
abroad, blamed for our weak economy, blamed for
our imbalance of trade with China. He is blamed
for embracing cap and trade, originally a GOP proposal;
he is skewered for the Affordable Care Act,
wholly patterned on Mitt Romney’s successful
reforms in Massachusetts. He is even blamed, in
Kansas, for the state’s looming, enormous budget
deficit, its sour economy, its emaciated bond ratings,
its failure in school finance.
The Republicans have offered no plans in foreign
affairs, no destination for domestic policy,
no rational resistance or alternative for, say, the
Affordable Health Care Act or the president’s
transportation budget, or his Medicaid expansion,
or his foreign policy initiatives in Europe and the
They don’t have to.
They know that they will win and the president
will fail. This is because Barack Obama cannot
hope to do the one thing that would please
Republicans most: change the color of his skin.
Ball games: the good, the bad
and the obscene
It has been a delight to watch the NCAA softball
championships. Thanks to Title IX, we long ago
erased the myth about boys being the overall superior
gender – genetically or otherwise – in competitive
sports, especially at this advanced level.
As the basketball championships concluded, we
were shown once again that women overall are
better shooters, more sophisticated team players,
and far more skilled in clutch situations. Put simply,
they’re smooth. They don’t panic. They make
shots when they’re supposed to, especially and
nearly always at the free throw line.
Back to softball: These women can play. And
they look good; their uniforms are tidy, their hair
or visors (or both) are clean and in place, and they
handle their overall appearance with pride and
assurance. These are signals that they appreciate
the opportunity to compete.
Now hit the remote: Major League Baseball,
major league slobs. Our impression is that most of
these men haven’t shaved in at least a week, and
who knows when any of them last bathed? Their
uniforms are worn with all the pride of a Battery
Park derelict – pants hanging half-off, cuffs dragging
in the dirt, shirts unbuttoned, shoes flopping,
shirttails flapping in the breeze.
When these men are not in a dugout spitting,
they are on the field spitting – great gobs of library
paste, long strings of tobacco juice, the ceaseless
splatter of sunflower seed shells. And they scratch
themselves everywhere, constantly “adjusting”
themselves as though they had fleas.
Major leaguers have perfected the single-handed
nose-blow, an especially vibrant spectacle while
trotting along the outfield track or during those
idle moments while pitchers are fiddling with a
rosin bag or a hitter is busy at the plate scraping
trenches in the batter’s box with his cleats. All this,
before fiddling with their batting gloves or pulling
at elbow pads or shin guards, or countless other
shields, braces and guards. (For baseball? Hitters
wouldn’t need all that body armor if pitchers were
severely punished for throwing at hitters, rather
than to them.)
Baseball players have also treated us to more
ways to chew gum than Mr. Wrigley ever dreamed
– especially the chomp-and-dangle, hanging great
long wads of the stuff from their teeth, then slurping
it up for another chewy round.
Score another one for Title IX. The (amateur)
women not only play like professionals, they look
and act like professionals. Major leaguers could
take a lesson; if they can’t act or play like pros,
they could at least look like them.
– JOHN MARSHALL