A Busted Economy

I did my Ph.D. at Ball State U in Muncie, IN, and I’m proud of my time there (whether the school is proud is another matter entirely, of course.) The first time I went to Muncie was in 1997, on a visit to BSU. Following the computer’s directions took me through some of the grungier sections of town, of which there were plenty. The city had been hit hard by the decline of manufacturing, and even the famous glass company (for whose founders my alma mater was named) had largely pulled out of the area by the time I got there.

However, we moved there anyway in 1998, and I look back on that half decade (four years for the Ph.D. and one as contract faculty at BSU) with great affection. Still, one didn’t have to get too far out of the campus area to see a city with serious problems. In particular, the South side of town was pretty grim, but since the school and the shopping district were on the North side, we wouldn’t have been there often in any case. Indeed, we hadn’t been there too long before we discovered a bypass that let us avoid that part of the city even when we were visiting family in Kentucky.

I’ve hoped Muncie would one day rebound, even though I haven’t been there since we moved to Mondoville. I liked the feel of the campus area and the convenience of things like movie theaters and shopping. But when I check the news for the region, I see little indication that it’s going to get better any time soon.

Of course, there’s bad, and then there’s really bad. Muncie may have moved into the latter category. Why do I say this? Well, let me answer your question with another question:

How bad are things when a city of 70,000 people can’t keep a topless bar in business? Seems like a lack of support in more ways than one.

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QotD: Cooke’s Tour Edition

So apparently when a Senator obeys a law with which he disagrees, it’s grounds for much chortling and gotcha-shouting. I reckon this is of a piece with the folks who believe that Ayn Rand’s receipt of Social Security stands as a refutation of her ideas. Now, I don’t plan to vote for Sen. Cruz, but I seem to recall that we’re supposed to obey the law even as we work to change it. I guess that’s oldthink.

Or as Charles C.W. Cooke puts it in today’s QotD, via Twitter:

But of course, the point isn’t consistency — the point is that conservatives are always Emmanuel Goldstein, and the Two Minutes Hate can never end. Particularly if you’re an uppity Hispanic.

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Peering at the Horizon

I spent a significant portion of the past weekend in Real City, visiting Flagship U with the Spawn and Mrs. M. Between a social for scholarship recipients on Friday night and “Accepted Students Day” on Saturday, we put some mileage on the cars and spent a fair amount of time on campus, and the Spawn remains pleased with her choice. If anything, she seems even happier with it than she had been. The place wasn’t exactly overrun with English majors that we could tell (Many of the scholarship kids seemed interested in Flagship’s highly rated International Business program), but I have no doubt she’s going to find her niche. And that’s a relief of its own.

After my folks were killed, the Spawn spent a few years straddling the line between introverted and withdrawn. She was by turns angry and fearful, and reluctant to engage with the world beyond absolute necessity. Color Guard was the single exception to that, and I’m very happy that she decided to do it and stuck with it for three years. But with the coming of college, she seems to be willing to blossom — she’s excited about several of the opportunities Flagship offers, both academic and social. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the kids in her academic echelon get slightly bigger dorm rooms.)

At one point, the three of us had peeled away from the larger group of parents and students, and were looking at a “Wall of Leaders”, where various students who have taken leadership roles are listed on a variety of plaques. “My name will be there before I’m done,” she said.

“Sounds good to me,” I replied, “If that’s what you want to do.”

It’s still a gradual process, however. She was definitely ready to go home by Saturday afternoon — after a swing by some stores to search for a suitable prom dress.

I think one of the charms of the transition to college is the opportunity to reinvent oneself, if that’s what one wishes to do. The Spawn seems intent not so much on a reinvention, but on the chance to reclaim some of what was taken from her almost six years ago. Flagship seems a good place for that to happen.

Posted in Education, Family | 1 Comment

Michael Brown, R.I.P.

Perhaps because I was an unusual kid, there are few phrases I find more distressing than “former prodigy.” Most obviously, it carries the notion of an already passed expiry date. As Harlan Ellison has observed in “The Cheese Stands Alone”, we probably shouldn’t know when the single greatest moment in our lives occurs or occurred — no one wants to find out that their finest instant was in a backyard baseball game at the age of eight.

Nonetheless, it’s a term I’ve heard applied to Michael Brown (ne Lookofsky), who met a garage band called The Left Banke when he was 16. The band’s demos failed to attract interest, but when their vocals were added to a track Brown had written about the bassist’s girlfriend, the result (released on Smash Records) lived up to the label’s name.

The band had a follow-up hit with Brown’s “Pretty Ballerina”, but the complicated arrangements (marketed as “baroque and roll”) were difficult to reproduce on the road, and Brown wasn’t that interested in touring anyway, preferring a Brian Wilson-style writing/recording existence. As a consequence, he departed from the band during the making of their second album, and really, both he and the band drifted into separate lanes of obscurity.

Mr. Brown died yesterday. He was 65.

I’d like to take a few minutes here to add two of my favorite compositions by Brown. The first is a Left Banke tune that occasionally gets played on Little Steven’s Underground Garage:

The other was from an East Coast group called Montage, with which Brown hooked up soon after departing The Left Banke. This track is a haunting mixture of twentieth-century dissonance and poignant lyrics, and although it has been compared to “Eleanor Rigby,” I think it may be significantly more adventurous.

Goodbye, Mr. Brown. Thanks for the songs.

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As I’ve mentioned a few times here, I’ve got a story coming out in a new anthology, edited/curated by Lawrence Block. Some of the other authors in the collection include Thomas Pluck, Robert Silverberg, Parnell Hall, and S.J. Rozan — as the saying goes, it’s an honor just to be nominated, but to actually be in the same volume? That’s beyond cool.

Anyway, as part of the promotion for the volume, the nice people at Three Rooms Press have taken lines from each of the stories and turned them into memes. This one’s mine:


However, you can find the rest of them (including the ones from real writers) here.

Posted in Culture, Literature, Pixel-stained Wretchery | Leave a comment

Forms for Thee…

So now it seems that there’s no record of Hillary! having signed the State Department form certifying that a departing State Dept. employee has surrendered all relevant  communications to the government upon departure. This is convenient, as a signature would have meant that she had perjured herself when she waited two years to turn over e-mails.

So perhaps there’s that favorite Clinton-era schtick of “no controlling legal authority” at work. Whatever. But what I find delightful is the following exchange between ventriloquist’s dummy State Dept. spokesperson Jen Psaki and AP reporter Matt Lee:

AP reporter Matt Lee pressed Psaki, asking why the department had previously intimated that the form was “required” and if Clinton’s non-signature violated any rules.

“It’s not a violation of any rule, no,” she said, saying that signing the form may not be a common departure practice and that “there are differences between regulations and, certainly, recommendations.” “The form exists, certainly,” Psaki said. “Beyond that, I don’t have more statistics on what percentage of State Department employees sign on departure from the building.”

“Yes, the form exists, and it exists for a reason,” Lee replied. “It doesn’t exist simply because someone thought, ‘Hey, let’s have a form that someone has to sign!’ It exists for a reason, and probably a pretty good reason, right?”

“Well, there are probably hundreds of forms in the federal government that exist — thousands, tens of thousands of forms that exist,” Psaki said. “So I don’t know that I would over-emphasize the existence of a form.”

Awesome! I think I’ll forego paying taxes from here on out, and when the Feds tell me that they haven’t noticed any 1040 returns from the Mid-Century Mondohaus, I’ll ask them why they’re overemphasizing the existence of a form.

Let’s see how well that works.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

Quid Est Veritas? Don’t Ask The Schools.

There’s a must-read piece at the NYT site.  Prof. Justin P. McBrayer is a philosopher at Colorado’s Ft. Lewis College, and he takes a look at lower ed’s concepts of “fact” and “opinion.” And then he looks at the consequences:

[…A]t the outset of the school year, my son brought home a list of student rights and responsibilities. Had he already read the lesson on fact vs. opinion, he might have noted that the supposed rights of other students were based on no more than opinions. According to the school’s curriculum, it certainly wasn’t true that his classmates deserved to be treated a particular way — that would make it a fact. Similarly, it wasn’t really true that he had any responsibilities — that would be to make a value claim a truth. It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.

And that’s how the road to relativism gets paved.

Go read the article.

Posted in Culture, Education, Faith, Politics | Leave a comment