Thorny Issues


A couple of things have happened this last month that I really want to talk about. The first is the Brian Williams tumble from his prestigious anchor position at NBC News. The other is the release of the movie, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Brian made the mistake of enlarging some personal stories and being nailed for it.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” has broken every record for movie attendance and sparked every kind of comment and concern, from parents and church leaders, to those who say there’s a story beyond the sex.

About Brian. He made more of his personal involvement in incidents tied to actual news items than happened. (I remember him telling about the body floating below his New Orleans hotel window, and I was watching when he recounted the helicopter story. I was also watching the next evening when he apologized, saying he “mis-spoke.”)

Now he’s fodder for snide remarks by some who’ve forgotten that business about throwing rocks (Jim Carey, for one, former NY City mayor Rudy Giuliani for another. You remember the Biblical story about he who is without sin throwing the first stone?)

Should Brian Williams be held responsible for magnifying his personal role in major news stories? From my perspective, yes. Should he be villified? No. Enriching the ego seems a normal trait of human beings.

A more important question is did he ever distort the facts of a news story? Again, from my observation as a daily news viewer, no.

But here is the sticky wicket. Brian Williams has been an entertainment figure as well as a respected journalist. We’ve gotten to know him as a funny man, able to hold his own with the best of them, a story teller outside his role as NBC anchor.

When I watched him interact with David Letterman or Matt Lauer, I expected him to be entertaining. And when I watched him at his news desk, I expected truth and unbiased reporting.

So to the point: Can one person wear both hats? Should one person wear both hats? Are the corporate network leaders who bow to the ratings god responsible at all? Should journalists be kept in journalistic boxes instead of chasing an audience wherever it can be found? Seems to me that’s counter-productive and on a fast track to exactly where Brian Williams is, today. As to his future return to the news desk, I hope he does, though I don’t believe the network will allow it. Second chances and loyalty don’t seem to be part of their vocabulary.

And now to “Fifty Shades.” I admit, up front, I have not read the books nor have I seen the movie. Not because I’ve been told not to, but because I don’t want to. However, now that the movie is in theaters (bringing in more millions than any movie in forever) it has stirred a pot of controversy. Psychiatrists and psychologists are voicing concern about young people who see the movie and get the wrong idea about love, church leaders are advising congregations to stay away, and some parents have requested an age ban for those younger than seventeen.

I know the books were world-wide best sellers, and I’ve listened to some great conversations from friends who did read them and thought them worthwhile, not because of the eroticism, but because of the why behind it. The movie, however, has been panned by almost every critic who reviewed it, and by some outspoken movie goers, as well.

So, is this that tempest in the teapot, a worrisome thing that will go away as soon as people find another topic? Or will “Fifty Shades of Grey” develop a cult following among young adults still trying to decide what love is? And what happens when the second and third movies come out? (I’m assuming, here.) Repeat conversation?

Good grief. Maybe I shouldn’t even be talking about this until I read the books for myself and sit through the movie.


It’s All About Time

There’s a song whose title I don’t remember, but some of the lyrics go “Funny, how time slips away.”

Those words haunt me because, as a writer on the older side, time has slipped away. While I thought I had all these tomorrows to polish a novel or begin a new one, or learn about modern technology, or read those articles about today’s publishing changes, time just marched right up the road and left me behind at the crossroads of Dilly and Dally. Now I have to decide whether to catch up and get something done or give up and spend wasted hours wishing I’d been more productive in my younger years.

So I’ll catch up. The need to write is still strong and I believe writers are writers, wherever they rest on the age scale. I also believe writers write. They apply what they know, and learn what they need to know, whether they’re sixty, seventy, eighty, or beyond.

Of course, for us, the matter of marching time is a great motivator. We need to spend the words inside us. To that point, it’s a fact that older writers have a lot to say. Maybe it’s just to tell others how it feels to be on the upper side of life, so they might be encouraged. Maybe it’s that right now is the right time to write that family saga or fantasy novel. Past non-productive years shouldn’t matter any more. Today and tomorrow do count.

Time does slip away. And it is finite.

Today and Today and Today

It’s February. And why is the weather first thing on my mind when I begin writing? Don’t know the answer. Just know it’s rainy and gloomy with no speck of blue. Only gray. Gray. Gray. Or is it grey? I think – English sort of lesson here – gray is the color – like hair or dress. and grey is the what? just another spelling for color or mood? Hang on. I’ll google it. Aha! Different spellings of the same word. Our choice.

With that settled, there are things on my eighty-year-old mind. The first is, I’d like to start a business, a writing business, in partnership with an old friend who is still writing at my same age. She’s into non-fiction at the moment, writing a history of her former public broadcasting station, and, no, I haven’t approached her about this because I’ve no idea what kind of writing business. Blogging? (Is that a business?) Maybe on-line teaching? (Aren’t there enough of those?) Editing? (Never enough of those.) Book reviews? Okay, maybe it’s a passing thought.

It’s that it has been a very long winter. Not much snow. Not even terrible cold. Just days and days of no sun or sun but too cold to be outdoors. I know. There is nothing to gripe about compared to those in the West with flood and fire and those in the East with mountains of snow and ice. But being the hibernating sort, this is the time of year I begin to feel restless, feel the need to be outside doing stuff in the gardens, picking through leaves to find the first green of daffodils or crocus or anything that is first to appear. Even weeds.

Of course, as I write these things, I am amazed at the selfish me-state of my human nature. There are so many things to be grateful for – family – always first – friends (both two and fourlegged), warmth, food, health, space to do as I please, and Faith. (Hmmm…I think that’s where all this was going from the get-go – Faith and belief.)

So I’m thinking about growing things and the story of the mustard seed comes to mind. It was one of the first I remember as a very young girl growing up in a very Catholic, Italian home. It wasn’t my mother who told the story, it was a nun, one of the kind ones who taught in Catholic schools in the forties. Though I’m sure I’d heard it before as part of the Gospel read at Mass, it only made an impression when she (the nun) let us hold tiny mustard seeds in our hands and then showed pictures of the mature trees. Her version of the parable was a simple one, folded into a story our fertile minds could knead and hold onto. She told us the tiny seeds were like faith and that once planted inside us, would grow and grow, as long as we believed in God and His promise of eternal life. She didn’t tell us there would be stumbles and pitfalls along the way – that would come later in life – but she made us believe that small seed planted inside us was special and needed to be nurtured as only each of us could.

She was wise, that nun. Faith does need to be nourished. Prayer helps it grow. Trust and believing in God’s promises make it strong.

It sounds simplistic. Believe and Pray. And it can be done quietly and intimately. One on one with God. A little food. A little water. The seed grows. Easy-peasy.

Why is it, then, we see an increase of drug use, of abuse, disregard for human life? When did atheism become its own religion? How did disbelief in God become a norm for so many? Why has it happened?

When I read about the number of our young people who profess to be atheists, I pray for them. And I wonder – have those of us who do believe in God, in all the Bible lessons of both Old and New Testaments, failed somehow?

Do those who profess non-belief really believe there is no God? Or is it just unhappiness with structured religion? Or laziness because it takes effort to believe? Yes! It does take effort. Just like everything worthwhile takes effort.

Well, now that I’m thinking about it, all those unbelievers have risen to the top of my “pray for” list. Seems to me if all us believers did that, then the mustard seed planted in even those you-know-whos, will green up and grow.

So. The day is still gray. But do you know, I see some green at the base of the trees.

The daffodils are poking through.