A happy anniversary for a critic’s work

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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,

as-I-get-around-to-it basis.

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

readers.

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

who sacrificed.

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

Middle East.

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

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