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Ritter: Benton can do better by its businesses
It's bewildering that leaders wouldn't try to support the local economy at every possible turn -- and, in exchange, collect the taxes for services rendered.
By Geoffrey Ritter
Mar 2, 2017 8:46 AM
Matthew T. Mangino: Rhetoric fuels increase of hate
The number of hate groups in the United States increased last year. Nationwide, researchers found a 3 percent rise in groups that advocate and practice hatred, hostility, or violence toward primarily members of a race, ethnicity, nation, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
Matthew T. Mangino
Feb 17, 2017 10:58 AM
Book Notes: Scratching out a living
"Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living" Edited by Manjula Martin, founder of Scratch magazine. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2017. $16. Coal miners. Fishermen. Factory workers. Lumberjacks. These are among the professions that will, most likely, continue to recede from the front lines of our labor force. Add writers to that list. Yes, of course, they're still at it. But when and if they do get paid, it's usually at some small fraction of the product's value. And because they're not dealing in a scarce or potentially harmful resource like cod or coal, respectively, their struggles aren't as noisy. And they just keep pivoting. You don't have to know anything about publishing to get hooked by Manjula Martin's compilation of essays written by journalists, essayists, novelists and agents titled "Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living." For one thing, their problems are like your problems. The 99 percent aren't earning what they should. Their labors -- the blood, sweat and tears they put into their efforts -- are increasingly devalued. Second, because the people presenting these personal essays about work are writers, they turn their troubles into affecting, funny and rousing stories you can gobble like Hershey kisses. Note -- there will be heartburn to pay, at least for the compassionate reader. Martin organized her book into sections to give a feel for what writers experience at different stages of their careers, from Cheryl Strayed, the author of the bestselling memoir, "Wild," explaining the sad realities of a first big book advance to Jonathan Franzen's impassioned critique of the Internet that now figures so prominently in the circumstances of a writer's impoverished lifestyle. We read about the ghostwriter, Sari Bottom, in "Ghost Stories," whose client, a multimillionaire founder of a major cosmetics company, lies to her about all the research he'd done in advance. She signs the contract with the assurance that the work will take just a couple of months. "The job seems like it will never end," writes Bottom. "It ends up taking nine months, monopolizing my life, and leaving me nearly broke." She doesn't even get the deep discount on cosmetics he'd promised because he sells the business. The trend seems to be that the wealthier the client, the less they want to pay, she writes. Novelist Jennifer Weiner, whose father walked out on her family and left them prey to hostile bill collectors, makes up her mind to make money. And she does earn a living as a writer, but without the comfort of critical approval. It takes time and effort for her to move beyond "worthless" in a career where public dismissal by critics keys into old wounds. And Martin herself asserts that whatever a writer does to make money is, in fact, the "Writing Life." "Today I make a living from a mix of freelance writing, copywriting and copyediting, and consulting work. I live paycheck to irregular paycheck, but I never go hungry. Do I have a day job? Honestly, I'm not sure. I do know that I work all the time. Sometimes with a capital W, sometimes without." Colin Dickey writes, in "The Mercenary Muse," that once he learned that Charles Dickens was paid by the word, that "once we'd been introduced to the economy of writing, everything was tainted." He tracks the history of writing for money, back to the Greek poet Simonides who "put money above all else." Aristophanes describes him as one who would "put to sea upon a sieve for money." Poets are not known to be earners of money, even today, and Simonides became "a stock figure for greed." Jonathan Franzen is outspoken about "the Internet's accelerating pauperization of freelance writers." He says, "I think the tech corporations are like the 19th-century coal magnates, and the freelance writers are like the people slaving in the mines, the only difference being that the tech corporations can't stop congratulating themselves on how they've liberated everybody … Why should Apple shareholders be getting rich while working journalists are getting fired?" Many writers who contributed to this book expected to make money as writers and, because they know they're smart and talented and well-trained, they expected to publish. They write about teachers, like Annie Dillard, who counseled students on ways to make money through writing, and they write about the books they write that wind up in a drawer because they weren't good enough. The proverbial "day job" -- the balancing act -- is both honored and bemoaned here. The art of making a living is always evolving, writes Martin. "What the authors in 'Scratch' have in common is that they are creative professionals navigating and expanding the relationship between art and commerce every day." In other words, they pivot. And pivot. And pivot. -- Rae Francoeur is a freelance journalist and author. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rae Padilla Francoeur More Content Now
Feb 15, 2017 10:34 AM
Lost in Suburbia: Rip Van Doesn't Sleep a Winkle
There was a time when I was a world-class sleeper. I would go to bed at midnight and I wouldn't emerge from my darkened cave until noon the next day. Alarms couldn't wake me up. Firetrucks couldn't wake me up. If there were an Olympic event for sleeping, I would have won a gold. I am sleep woman. Hear me snore. That was all, of course, before I became a mom. Once the kids arrived, so did the sleepless nights. There were years of sick nights, nightmares, monsters in the closets, monsters under the beds, and the really skinny monsters that lurked in the air conditioning vents. For some reason, I was always the one they would wake up when there was a problem. Maybe it's because my bed was closest to the door. Or maybe it was the sign my husband slept with around his neck that said, "Don't wake me. Wake mom." Either way, I was the parent of choice. After 10 years of this, I became an extremely light sleeper. If someone scratched their nose in the next room, I was up. The good news was, eventually the monsters all disappeared and the kids started sleeping through the night, and then they left the house altogether. The bad news was, after too many years of sleepus-interruptus I had become a terrible sleeper. "How'd you sleep," asked my well-rested husband one morning. "Not so great." "How come?" he wondered. "I woke up when you sighed at 3 a.m. and then I was up until 5." "When I sighed?" he asked incredulously. "Yes. You sigh in your sleep. It woke me up." "Are you kidding me? My sigh woke you up? I sigh that loud?" "No. But I heard it," I complained. "And then I couldn't get back to sleep." He shook his head. It was beginning to dawn on him that he was married to a sleep-freak. It wasn't just the noises though. If he rolled over in the bed, I woke up. If he pulled up the covers, I woke up. If he breathed, I woke up. He was actually a pretty considerate bed partner. Unfortunately, I had the sleep patterns of a fruit fly. Since he was stuck with me, though, he volunteered some suggestions to help me with my sleeping issues. "Warm milk?" "I'm lactose intolerant?" I countered. "Keep a pad of paper next to the bed?" "I tried that," I responded. "I wrote for an hour." "Boring book?" "I found it interesting and read all night." He threw up his arms. "Sorry, Honey. I'll try to blink quietly tonight." Finally, I consulted the sleep experts and learned that I was in a bad sleep habit. They said what I needed was a few nights of uninterrupted sleep to retrain my brain. I thought I probably needed a few years of uninterrupted sleep to retrain my brain. But I decided to take some steps to see if maybe I could turn my sleep issues around. That night, I covered my eyes with a sleep mask, covered my head with a pillow, closed all the blinds and snuggled into bed. But at 3 a.m., I jerked awake to the sound of a buzzsaw nearby. It was so loud, it sounded like it was in the bedroom. And then I realized … it was. "Hey." I poked my husband, "You woke me up with your snoring." "No, I didn't," he said. "Then what was it?" "Snoring." "But you just said you weren't snoring." I replied. "I wasn't," he said. "You were." -- For more Lost in Suburbia, follow Tracy on Facebook at facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage or on Twitter at @TracyBeckerman.
Tracy Beckerman More Content Now
Feb 15, 2017 9:55 AM
Breaking Bread: Coming spring sprouts tales of presidents, dad's wisdom
My personal calendar -- which marks winter as January, February and March -- tells me that the dreaded season of dark and cold is officially halfway over today. Hooray! (Sorry, winter-sports enthusiasts.)
Lisa Abraham More Content Now
Feb 15, 2017 10:13 AM
Dr. Elaine Heffner: Sibling stories
Recently, I came across a personal reminiscence someone wrote about her relationship with her two male siblings. At a function they all attended, they were asked what the secret was of their close attachment. Her brother responded with tongue-in-cheek, yet seriously, that the secret was the bitter divorce of their parents.
Dr. Elaine Heffner More Content Now
Feb 14, 2017 9:54 AM
The Mom Stop: Pen, paper ready for kids quips
There's a common saying that "kids say the darndest things" -- in fact, there was a TV comedy series by the same name during the late 1990s, where children were asked questions and their comedic answers were aired. It's a show concept that first appeared in the earliest days of television, on "Art Linkletter's House Party" from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Lydia Seabol Avant More Content Now
Feb 14, 2017 9:33 AM
Suzette Martinez Standring: Vietnam: The healing effect of anti-war protest
I am in Vietnam where Americans are warmly welcomed. Odd. I'm 62 and I recall TV images of brutal jungle warfare. From 1964 to 1973 about 2 million tons of American bombs were dropped. As a teenager, I learned about napalm and Agent Orange. Most of all, I remember the anti-war protests. Apparently, so do the Vietnamese, and it has gone a long way toward healing. I traveled from Hanoi to Danang to Ho Chi Minh City (It's still "Saigon" to locals) where Americans are regarded well. Puzzling. Is it because a younger Vietnamese generation has forgotten? In Hanoi, a 32-year-old tells me her grandparents spent years in a "re-education camp" after the Americans left. Near Danang, another knows a child who is deformed from Agent Orange. In Saigon, an older man nurses his father, long disabled from torture. The war is not irrelevant.
Suzette Martinez Standring More Content Now
Feb 14, 2017 10:39 AM
Shayne Looper: Living with courage, dying with dignity
What does it take to die with dignity? If one looks at the website of the "Death with Dignity National Center" and "Death with Dignity Political Fund," one will assume that a death with dignity involves certain standard components, among them: The absence of debilitating pain, the ability to care for one's personal needs, and the ability to avoid placing a financial and/or emotional burden on family and friends. I believe that euthanasia laws are wrongheaded for a variety of reasons, but that is not my concern here. As a pastor and a former Hospice Spiritual Care Coordinator, I'm bothered by the idea that a person's death will lack dignity unless she short-circuits the dying process by artificial means. The implication is that people who die in great pain and those who live without the ability to handle their personal care have lost their dignity.
Shayne Looper More Content Now
Feb 14, 2017 9:45 AM
Mark L. Hopkins: Why did the U.S. Constitution need the Second Amendment?
This preoccupation with the Second Amendment began a few months back when I wrote a column entitled "Guns don't kill people. Really?" The amount of interest in that topic directed me to do additional research on the subject and every avenue pointed back to the key question. Why did we need a militia/gun amendment added to the Constitution? As is true with most momentous decisions in the life of our country, to fully understand why something was done we must study the times in which such decisions were made. The "why" of the Second Amendment in the 1780s is very different from answering that same question in 2017. The United States was a very different country in the years following the Revolution than it is today. When President Washington first took office two key challenges faced him and the leadership in congress.
Mark L. Hopkins
Feb 13, 2017 10:10 AM
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