Fathers on Friday, Friday, February 7, 2014

wpid-Photo-Feb-1-2014-1024-AM.jpgNo government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.” Alexander Hamilton

This is the first of a weekly series for the blog. It will feature, first and foremost, quotes from the Founding Fathers of our country. I think it’s always a good idea to go back to the sources of things, especially things we may think we already know or take for granted in other ways. Also, I will, from time to time, include quotes from the Fathers of the Church and the Desert Fathers, for the same reasons. I may also, much less frequently, quotes from poets and poetry, and other worthy sources. So often, these early sources provide a totally new insight into belief systems that, as I said, we tend to take for granted.


An Accountant Can do Anything

imageToday’s writing prompt from Word Press is: If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!).

When I first saw that, my own experience came to mind. I thought about all the different businesses I’ve worked in, including show business, and my response to the prompt was immediately obvious — I’d rather be the producer. I’ll have to say, it’s a coincidence that a few days ago, I became curious as to what a producer was. You see someone credited as the producer for every movie and TV show, some are famous. But I wondered, what do they do? I headed over to that most trusted of sources, the Internet, and learned that the traditional role of a producer is, more or less, running the business end of the movie or TV production. In other words, the producer handles financial and scheduling matters. I suddenly realized, been there, done that.

You need a little back story, so please bear with me.

Until I graduated from high school, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be a pilot; I had my private pilot’s license, I was beginning to build hours toward earning my Commercial pilot certificate, and also getting my first time in multi-engine aircraft, as much as economics would allow. However, upon graduation, it became clear that, since I hadn’t gotten into a university, sooner or later I would either have to enlist in one of the armed forces or be drafted into the Army. I joined the Air Force, went to Viet Nam with the Army and had to learn to swim. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

When I finished my tour, I figured it would be a little crazy to try to start flying again when I could go to college using the GI Bill. So, I went home to El Paso and started attending UTEP, majoring in history. As I got into it however, I soon saw the liklihood of getting a job with a history degree was less than zero; with so many people in college solely to avoid the draft and Viet Nam, liberal arts degrees were very a very popular choice, thousands of history majors were being churned out every year. My solution was to transfer to UT Austin and get a Pharmacy degree. A year of chemistry soon killed that idea and, by the end of the spring semester, I began to think about majoring in something else.

Just then, my father-in-law, who was a long time show business promoter, suggested my wife and I take a little time off that summer. He was producing a western US tour of The Royal Lippizan Stallions of Austria and had begun to set up tour in western Canada. He was tired of travelling and wanted us to travel with the show as the business managers. We would count ticket sales proceeds after each show, settle up with Canadian tax authorities who were ever present, making sure things went according to schedule between performances, and otherwise representing my father-in-laws interests. We were, in effect, the producers of the show and involved in everything. Towards the end, I even became the announcer for the show each night and had to scout talent for the small band that accompanied us. Now I know why producers are so well respected.

At the end of the summer we returned to El Paso and UTEP, I planned to major in Engineering and began taking math and other engineering prerequisite courses, but by the end of my sophomore year I knew that with the changes in majors, I risked not graduating before my GI Bill ran out. A feeling of desperation set in and I grabbed the UTEP catalog, wondering what I could get a degree in, in the shortest possible time. It was an Oh, #%@t moment. The best choice was accounting, the last thing in the world I wanted to do. It was true, coincidence, that one of the UT Austin requirements for a Pharmacy degree was at least 2 semesters of Accounting, which I suffered through but managed to finish while there, so I had a bit of a head start. There was nothing for it, I got in the car and drove down to the registrar’s office right then and changed my major to Accounting.

When I told my wife’s parents, the first thing my father in law said was something like, “Good choice, my boy, an accountant can get a job doing anything; every business needs an accountant.”

He was right. I had already worked doing accounting in Canada and could boast I’d worked in show business. Who knew what possibilities were out there? I pictured myself working for a movie production company or for an NFL team, even they need accountants, or I could go back to Detroit and work in the auto industry (glad I didn’t do that!). I could even start right away. Before I finished college, my father-in-law and I promoted (produced) performances by two or three traveling Broadway plays, including 1776 which was big at the time, and a famous Spanish guitarist, whose name escapes me now, and possibly one show of the Romero’s, also famous guitarists. We didn’t make a fortune on any of those shows, but my share was enough to help my wife and I financially while I finished college.

Since then, I’ve owned part of a local El Paso newspaper, and worked in the construction, real estate development and defense industries; I’ve had quite a varied career and having an accounting degree made that possible. You see, an accountant can do anything.

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Monday’s Miscellaneous Musings, Monday, February 3, 2014

I started to read an article I found on the Arts & Letters Daily web site about Shakespeare and how ideas from modern astronomy show up in his plays, modern ideas like, for instance, infinite space. I say I started the article, so you probably guessed I never finished it; you’d be correct. The article was describing how, not only was Shakespeare a great writer and poet, it appears he was also a great scientist to boot and somehow knew everything we know about astronomy, despite having lived in the 16th century. Maybe the writer didn’t go that far, but that was the gist of it. Such ideas are interesting to the extent they show how quickly ideas and scientific information spread, even in the 16th and 17th centuries, but that’s it. Yet somehow, the desire to make Shakespeare one of our own just won’t go away.

In the past few years there have been books by Catholic and other writers trying to prove that, despite any real records supporting the claims, Shakespeare didn’t write the plays, or Shakespeare was a Catholic or was not a Catholic, or was or was not (a Marxist, feminist, pot smoker, fill in the blank). Sometimes, I lose patience with such blathering on about how nicely Shakespeare fits in with our favorite ideas and causes. The the truth is, for most of these things there’s little or no substantial documentary proof. Even if there were, I’d still have to ask myself, what difference does it make? The plays attributed to a man called Shakespeare are great plays, so great that every school boy or girl should be thoroughly familiar with them. They are a foundational part of what makes, or made, us a great civilization, and great fun to see or read as well. Nothing within our fantasy filled conjectures about unsubstantiated history can or should take the place of that. So my advice to writers and rewriters of history is, get over it.

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I’m thinking about starting a monthly feature on the blog, “Books I Never Read.” It would be about books considered great, famous, books everybody’s read, but that I never got around to. I might even make it a bi-weekly feature, now that I think about it. I have to admit that to do this, I’d have to get something like Cliff Notes to use to help me stay aware of what’s going on in the book and to help me remember what it was like to read a novel in my high school and college English class. The series would be about reading those books and what I learn, or don’t learn, from reading them.

Going back to reading literature in high school and college, I have to admit, I loved those classes. If you knew me back then you might never have guessed that because of all the griping and complaining I did; I desperately wanted to be the tough guy, and cool on top of it. It was a “real men don’t read that kind of thing” act I put on. But deep down, I looked forward to each and every class. I even did (most) of my homework. Recently, I looked back at my university transcript and was astounded that I had completed18 hours of English classes. I’d completely forgotten that.

Anyway, thanks to my high school English teachers, I read many books I probably would never otherwise have read, books by Dickens, things like, Moby Dick, and The Scarlet Letter (!). Still, there are so many books I should have read but never did. The list would include books like, Don Quixote, Ulysses, almost anything written by William Faulkner, and on and on and on. When I think about it, I’m appalled. It makes me realize the lack of both breadth and depth in my reading life; now that I have time, I must correct the deficiency.

I hesitate to announce such a series because I’ve done blogs before, and announced series ideas before, and utterly failed to follow through on all those ideas. Time will tell if I do any better with this one.

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Treasure IslandAnother article from Arts & Letters Daily that I read more of was how geography can be so prominent in literature. Think of Thoreau and Walden Pond, or Robert Lewis Stevenson and Treasure Island, or from British TV, think of Midsomer Murders where the author conceived and mapped out an entire region of England. I can think of Wendell Berry, Tolkien, so many more writers who have gone down that path (sort of pun intended).

I wonder if that’s not some sort of inner yearning that we all have but aren’t able to live out in real life. I was born and grew up in Michigan, lived most of my life in Texas, and now live in the mountains of Colorado. Even though I consider myself a Texan and lived there for 30 years, I’m not there now. Colorado feels like a new place, unfamiliar and strange; after 15 years, you’d think I’d have settled down. Maybe I have, but I don’t feel it. It makes me wonder if, these days, it’s even possible to be so throughly anchored to any one place. I’d feel better if that were the case, I know that inner yearning is alive and well within me for sure.