Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing and publishing fiction, as well as commentary on politics, cultural trends, book reviews and family.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why Small is Better

The argument against big government has always struck me as a red herring, just another way of saying we'd be better off without a common touchstone as a nation, rejecting the notion of collective concern for the common good.

For one thing, I've never believed state government was particularly more efficient, less corrupt or better managed.

But I have to admit a personal bias in favor of "small" when it comes to most things, and that includes corporations, schools, social groups and, yes, government.

It takes extraordinary management skill to run a big organization well.  If you doubt this, walk into any local outlet of a large corporation and think about whether the person helping you cares one whit about whether you ever come back, in spite of whatever catch-phrase-of-the-day they've been taught to recite as you check out.

The reality is that we are motivated tribally, and the bigger the tribe, the less likely we are to feel responsible for it.

Unfortunately the capital markets require successful businesses to keep getting bigger quarter after quarter, so that eventually even the best-run corporations are dragged down by the weight of this perpetual growth.

Think about our schools and the vast wasteland of massive urban high schools with thousands of testosterone-driven adolescents locked up together all day in institutional anonymity without any long-term commitment to each other or any sense of community.

True, we are a big, populous country and can't go back to a village economy.

But if we could break institutions into smaller units, maybe we could eliminate some of the waste and inefficiency, not to mention the loneliness and lack of engagement that all too many Americans experience in their daily lives.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Oxford American: Why Reading Still Matters

Strapped into my seat on a cross-country flight, I can indulge in the rare pleasure of reading something worthwhile.

The Oxford American, produced in that most improbable of literary headwaters -- the great state of Arkansas -- is packed with thought-provoking, beautifully written pieces that engage your mind and heart in a way that couldn’t be further removed from the drivel we are fed by the popular media.

My eye was drawn to this caveat by editor Roger Hodge at the beginning of the magazine:

“… if you are reading these words you have entered an aesthetic zone that is as free as possible from the hectoring voices of opinion merchants and professional manipulators of resentment and rage.”

Writing for its own sake?  Not trying to sell something?  What a concept.  In an age when news broadcasting has become cynically profit-driven, creating perpetual controversy for financial gain, and when serious fiction has been undercut by our stressed-out longing to read nothing more challenging than escapist action adventure, it is a sweet indulgence to spend a couple of hours with my nose in a literary magazine.

The Oxford American spotlights Southern culture – fiction, photography, music, the arts – beautifully laid out, with superb storytelling.

 Storytelling has been central to the way we human beings have understood ourselves and our world from the time man first walked this earth.   It is at the core of all the world’s major religions. It gives children a universe of experiences, thus enabling them to imagine the trajectories their own lives could take.  

If you enjoy the beauty of a well-turned phrase or the drama and pathos of Southern fiction or stunning photography of rural America, you’ve got to check out the Oxford American.