Thursday, June 04, 2009

(Sort of) Summer!

Sure, there's a couple of weeks before summer arrives on the real calendar, but most of the graduation speeches are given, the leaves are back on the trees and the mowers are in operation. Close enough.

I'm not a listener, but the Roman Catholic Church has used Vatican Radio to help put out the message to the faithful for almost eighty years now, around the world, all commercial-free. But that last part is about to change, with the guys in the hats recently deciding it's OK to start selling ads on VR. Someone will doubtless be in charge of making sure all the sponsors are above reproach. Still, I can't help wondering. If it's true that "sex sells", and I have no reason to disagree with that, then what's the marketing power of "NO-sex"? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Stereotyping people, even whole nations, is not wise. It restricts our ability to see new possibilities. We never think, for instance, that such things as Mexican professors of English, French-Canadian NASCAR drivers, Argentine baseball players, slender Japanese sumo wrestlers, Mongolian comedians or Serbian country fiddle players could ever exist. The stereotypes keep us from considering them. Here's another, and this one's true. I'm a big tennis fan who is nonetheless surprised by the success of a Swedish player in this year's French Open. He may not win the whole thing and you may never hear his name, but he's proof that there is at least ONE "fiery Swede" out there, loud, demonstrative and as in-your-face as any American, Spaniard or Russian, competing with the best in the world.

We just returned from a short trip to Iowa, mainly to see family. We had no plans to see others, but on one day, we bought a local paper. The wife turned to the obituaries and immediately saw the obit for a woman we had known for decades as a local church member. She was in poor health when we left, but that was four years ago. Passing through the local airport we were again surprised. A man we had known a long time as the church's custodian had retired, then chose in retirement to go to work checking baggage at the airport, doing his bit in what had been known as the Global War on Terror. He even checked the wife's bag of cocoa powder to make sure it wasn't something more potent!
We saw several towns on the trip. Most are doing fine, but we were saddened most by Cedar Rapids. Overall, it's a nice enough place, but it's not one you'd pick for its natural beauty. The river (Cedar) flows right through downtown, and last year's flood left some nasty damage. Whole neighborhoods were depopulated, and loads of messy stuff remains. The survivors are displaced to FEMA trailers on the edge of the city. They even lost a hundred year-old railroad bridge, but they've also found a new trade printing large OPEN FOR BUSINESS signs for the hard-core hangers-on. Good luck to them.


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