Deal…or No Deal?

My Favorite Domer, home for the Thanksgiving holidays, somehow managed to find time to read a book.

Now this wasn’t just any book. It was a challenge, more or less, a carrot-on-a-string, and you’d have to know that MFD really doesn’t like reading to understand what a huge deal it was.

A few days before the holidays, a BIP (Big Important Person) came to one of MFD’s classes, bringing with him a stack of books. BIP spoke to the group and announced that he was giving away said books to all students wanting to read them. BIP even promised his company would donate mucho-dinero to the college, matched by his own contribution to the university itself, if every student taking a book would read it and e-mail him by a certain date, speaking about what he/she had gleaned from its pages.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Ah, but we’re dealing with human beings here, young adult human beings, for whom nothing is simple.

So MFD took one of the BIP’s books, hauled it home, and read. Pretty interesting stuff, he told me.

Returning to campus, MFD e-mailed the BIP and received a very nice response. However, of the 200 or so students participating in the class, only about half actually agreed to take a book and read it; of that number, just half actually read the book and e-mailed the BIP.

Thus, no monetary donation.

MFD was bummed when he told me this. Bummed he’d spent all that time reading when he could have been working on the multitude of other projects on his plate. Bummed his fellow students would take BIP’s book and not live up to their end of the deal. Bummed the college and the university lost out on all that free cash.

I don’t see this as catastrophic as MFD does. First, no time spent reading a good book is wasted. Second, MFD proved to himself and to BIP that he, at least, is honorable, a man of his word. And third, he doesn’t have to live with the stigma of being one of the students who caused the college and university to lose out on a potential donation.

It’s a good lesson in human nature, too. Too often, we take the easy way out, maybe having good intentions but letting other things get in the way. Then we convince ourselves that somebody else can pull the load (or in this case, nobody else would rise to the challenge anyway).

As Vince Lombardi once said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

Don’t be Pigs, People!

I don’t know if it’s the season or my small town or what, but there’s just something wrong with people these days!

Take yesterday, for example. My Favorite Domer agreed to accompany me to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, at the movie theater here.

Don’t laugh. We’ve read ALL the Potter books and watched ALL the movies to date, so we weren’t about to miss the final installment!

Now he’d seen it just a few days previously and pronounced it a good show, but that was all I got (other than a warning there was more “death” in this one). He knows better than to ruin my experience.

Unfortunately, the guy sitting catty-corner behind us with his date (wife?) didn’t. All through the movie, Mr. Big-shot is carrying on a running conversation, explaining what just happened, revealing what’s about to happen, pointing out ways the film differs from the book, repeating portions of the characters’ conversations, etc.

I was half tempted to whirl around and demand he shut up! Okay, I did whirl around a few times and give him the “mean-ole-mommy” glare, but it went for naught. He must’ve been a kid who’s mom didn’t glare (if there is such a creature!).

And another thing. What possesses strangers to belly right up to others in a movie theater? I mean, this show had been out a whole week already, and most people had seen it who wanted to see it, so it wasn’t exactly crowded. We got there early, chose seats away from those already sitting, and thought we were doing fine. But as new people came in, they did their best to box us in, leaving whole rows empty in favor of sitting close to us. Go figure.

And what’s with the people who ignore the movie ratings? Somebody came in with about a dozen small children (hey, I have nothing against kids — I have one of my own — but this movie was rated PG-13, and these kids were clearly under the age of 10). They led the kids right to our area, and we were “treated” to rattling sacks of candy, crunching sounds from popcorn, sucking noises from sodas, and inappropriate nervous giggles for the rest of the show. These must be parents who like to traumatize their kids with dark horror; otherwise, they’d have stayed home, saved the admission cost, and rented it when it came out on DVD (where they could fast-forward through the dicey spots).

As the credits finally started to roll and people began leaving, MFD and I looked around and couldn’t believe the mess. People are pigs, he commented. Many of them didn’t bother carrying their trash out (despite having a waste receptacle right beside the door); they left sodas in cup holders, squashed popcorn on the floor,and unused napkins strewn about. Didn’t they realize they weren’t in their own living rooms?

Who’s teaching basic niceties like consideration of others these days???

A Rose by any other name…

This past Fall Break, I was puttering around the kitchen while My Favorite Domer was watching one of the sports channels on TV.

All of a sudden, I heard the announcer speak a familiar name. Whirling around, I declared, “Hey, that guy’s my hero!”

MFD turned a puzzled face toward me and asked, “Who? That guy?”

“Yes!” I screamed, repeating the man’s name.

“You’re kidding,” MFD said. “How do you know him?”

“I don’t know him,” I said. “I know his name. It’s the same as the name of my hero, the one in my book.”

For those who don’t know, I’ve been working on a novel for the past few years. I’ve basically finished the writing portion; now I’m in the editing/polishing stage and soon will be ready to pitch it to prospective agents (say a prayer, okay?)

“You used the name of a real guy for your book?” MFD asked in a rather horrified tone. “That was dumb, Mom. You should’ve Googled him first.”

Duh! I guess I should have.

But who would have thought the name I’ve been “living with” for this long would turn up on a real person?

In all fairness, my hero isn’t an athlete (an athlete who’s managed to get himself in a bit of trouble with the law, to boot), but he hails from the same U.S. state, and that’s just too much of a coincidence for my comfort.

So I decided to re-name my hero. It’s easier to find another acceptable name than to face possible legal consequences.

But doggone it, those few seconds put me in a tailspin. With as many people as there are on the planet today, it’s not easy finding a good name that hasn’t already been taken, and I was rather fond of the one I’d chosen!

So I did a bit of research into what other writers do when naming their characters. They:

  • Browse telephone directories
  • Buy character naming books
  • Use online random name generators
  • Thumb through baby naming books
  • “Steal” names from spam e-mail
  • Traipse through cemeteries
  • and even “borrow” names from their friends and families

Interesting, huh?

Naming characters isn’t easy. You’ve got to find a name that fits the type of fiction you’re writing as well as the period and place it’s set in; you’ve also got to “live” with the name for a while and see if the character accepts it.

Does anybody else have other “foolproof” naming resources? I’d sure welcome them!

Slow Down for Turkey-Day!

Does anybody else think we’re rushing Christmas a bit more than usual?

The day after Halloween, I noticed one of my neighbors had already hung his outside Christmas lights. Not only that, but our city has erected Christmas decorations, the shopping mall has its holiday trimmings up, “Jingle Bells” and such are playing on the radio stations, and some people even have their Christmas trees glowing from inside their windows.

Excuse me, but don’t we have another holiday to fall between Halloween and Christmas? Thanksgiving, remember?

Sure you remember. That’s the “feast” day — bring on the turkey, the trimmings, and the pumpkin pie! Loosen the belt buckles, watch football until your eyes grow weary, allow yourself the luxury of a nap.

It seems like The Food Channel is the only one talking about Thanksgiving these days!

With the nation’s economy in the pits, it’s no wonder merchants are pushing HARD for business, but some were even advertising Black Friday sales at the beginning of November.

That makes me kind of sad. I look forward to the urgency of those day-after-Thanksgiving sales, when throngs of people line up outside stores in the wee hours of the morning (stars still out and everything!) to await the opening of the doors, the mad rush inside, and the frantic grabbing of sale items!

Every year seems to have its hard-to-find, must-have item. Remember Cabbage Patch dolls? How about the Nintendo GameBoy, Razor Scooters, or Tickle Me Elmo? They practically guaranteed pandemonium when reports announced such items were in short supply.

I recall racing through a store one Black Friday to get a DVD player My Favorite Domer had to have! Funny how the “getting” of such items far surpasses the actual pleasure of “having” them.

But life’s like that, isn’t it? Too often, we relish the chase more than the prize itself.

Which brings me back to Thanksgiving.

Rather than trying to skip over this holiday in a mad rush to get the Christmas preparations underway, shouldn’t we simply enjoy this special time for what it means — faith, family, feast, and much thanks?

The Never-Ending Pit

I’m really furious with my neighbor!

This guy is apparently obsessed with fire. He comes home from work and immediately starts his fire pit. Now I’m not talking about the traditional fire pit that’s kind of a metal bowl with a screen.

Nor am I referring to an outdoor fireplace or chimenea.

I’m talking about plain old bricks set in a circle on top of the driveway and belching smoke like an old-fashioned locomotive.

This goes on winter, spring, summer, and fall, weekdays from about 5 o’clock until 10 or 11 and weekends practically 24/7.

When the wind is coming from his direction, we can’t open our windows to take advantage of cooling breezes, we can’t hang clothes out to dry, and even the dog rushes back inside sneezing after doing his business.

Our community enacted a ban on leaf burning several years ago. The city fathers agreed with petitioners that burning smoke is hazardous to people’s health (especially those with asthma and other breathing problems).

I was glad to see that since I’m particularly allergic to leaf mold.

But fire pits weren’t included in the ban.

“There aren’t that many,” someone at city hall told me when I called to complain. “Besides, they’re only used for short periods of time.”

Really? Maybe they ought to move in with me and see!

On the news tonight, the announcers advised us to curtail outdoor burning until weather conditions improve. We’ve had a really dry fall and the winds have been kicking up.

But has my neighbor quit burning?

Of course not. He’s outside as I write, trying to coax the flames higher and doing a bang-up job of polluting the whole neighborhood.

Some people really make it hard to “Love thy neighbor,” don’t they?

Ole Miss’s new mascot

For those who haven’t heard, my alma mater Ole Miss has a new mascot, a black bear.

bear mascots

A bear? In Mississippi?

Yes, or so they say. Biologists estimate the number of black bears in Mississippi at 50 (max). This, despite the high density of black bears a century ago — witness Teddy Roosevelt’s “saving” a black bear while hunting in Sharkey County.

The bear is also a reference to native son William Faulkner’s short story of that name — but Faulkner’s bear has a ferocious and growling personality when black bears tend to be shy and easily frightened. Great, just what Ole Miss needs — a scaredy-cat mascot.

The rest of the SEC must be trembling in their boots.

And personality is just one of the problems with this mascot “election” and “selection”. Here are some more:

  • The Administration says the bear was chosen by vote of students, alumni, faculty, and staff. However, only 13,000 or so votes were cast, meaning most either didn’t like any of the options or refused to have anything to do with a “rigged” contest. Col. Reb (the school’s mascot since the 1930s) wasn’t even one of the choices!
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb was too representative of the “Old South.” However, it’s really a stretch to see any of the three contestants — bear, land shark, and two “Muppet-like” creatures to be known as Hotty and Toddy — as prototypes of the “New South.”
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb made recruiting of African-American students difficult. However, even as far back as 1996, the Ole Miss faculty was 20 percent black, and in 2002, black student enrollment totaled nearly 13 percent, mirroring that of the nation itself.
  • The Administration says Colonel Reb is offensive. However, historians say the Colonel was modeled after a black man, Black Jim Ivy. Ivy was a fixture on the campus from 1896 until his death in 1955.
  • The Administration says the monikers “Ole Miss” and “Rebels” will remain. However, there is growing sentiment that they, like Col. Reb, will be brought to a slow (or swift) death. As one student was quoted, It doesn’t make sense to call ourselves the Rebels and have a bear mascot on the field.

The backlash against this change has already started (and only threatens to increase). A “Save Col. Reb” petition is out there, as is a “Save Col. Reb” Facebook page and a Colonel Reb Foundation. One alum has posted his plea on YouTube; a Col. Reb is My Mascot tribute video is available as well.

Count me in! Whatever it takes, we need to stand tough together to STOP this brick-by-brick eroding of our traditions. Without our nickname, our songs, our mascots, our flag, what’s to differentiate Ole Miss from any other public university in the nation?

Who’s the mascot for anyway? The students. And if the students are so solidly behind Col. Reb, so be it.

I don’t think any of us can count on the suggestion that, if the black bear fails to garner support, the Administration will have to reinstate Col. Reb. More likely, they’ll simply leave us mascot-less, the way we’ve been for too many years already.

But why should we force the students to fight this battle alone? Perhaps it’s time for alumni to join in — and, in this age of shrinking state funding, hitting the university in its wallet via a cutback on donations is the best way I know how.

So what do you think, Rebels? ARE YOU READY???

Col. Reb, Ole Miss

Save Colonel Reb!