Parade of Light

_C1_1613The solstice and astronomical beginning of winter is a month away, but we’re as impatient as ever to get into the spirit of the season. One northwest Arkansas radio station, usually featuring music from all over the past 50 years, has been playing solid Christmas music for weeks. The stores, freshly cleared of leftover Halloween candy, have shelves of Christmas decorations. So far I’ve resisted, but last night Fayetteville held its Lights of the Ozarks lighting ceremony and parade, kicking off the holidays with lots of people, lots of selfies and 400,000 lights. I had to go.

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_C1_1622I’ve never seen so many Christmas lights on trees with so many of their leaves still attached, as if to highlight how much we want full-fledged winter to get going already. No matter how screwy the mix of lights and leaves seems, the effect can be striking.

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_C1_1786I shouldn’t be too hard on us; snow flurries fell around here this morning, and temperatures are forecast to fall below freezing tonight. Maybe nature’s ready for winter, too.

Thanks for looking!

Dan

Bird’s Eye

IMG_6570On a clear day from an airplane 7 miles up, the horizon is more than 230 miles away. That’s a view no human had until a few decades ago, and there’s a lot to see out there. I was looking through some old photos and found some old shots from plane windows, mostly between the Midwest and Arizona via Dallas. They make an interesting set; most of them showcase the large-scale power of water even in places with hardly any.

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The multilayered windows and sheer distance distort details and colors — the bluish tinge makes them look like 1970s film photos to me — but the scenery is surreal and striking enough on its own. I have no clue specifically where most these canyons and rivers are. I get lucky searching on Google Earth every now and then; the first photo up there is Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks, for example. Otherwise, I’ve never seen them twice.

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Thanks for lookin’.

Dan

Lakeside

IMG_1592Fall’s winding down from its peak around here. Most of the sycamore and oak leaves are brown and crunchy, and Wednesday’s rain and 40-mile-an-hour gusts blasted so many of them off of their trees that they blanketed the ground and clogged the streams and coves around Lake Fayetteville. But there were still splashes of color out there. I had the day off because of a crammed work schedule this week, so I went for a walk through some parts of the lake trail I hadn’t seen before.

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IMG_1608It’s a good trail right next to uptown Fayetteville: a relaxing way to spend a Veterans Day and a piece of peace in a world that has been a little crazy these past few days. I hope you have some peace where you are, too.

Dan

The Life and Times

_C1_1448I like to joke that a journalist’s conversion to public relations – becoming a spokesperson for The Man, whatever form he takes – is like going to the Dark Side. Many give in to the temptations of better hours and pay and reputation among the general public. What losers, right? We might need to consult with our Dark Side brethren, though, because journalists these days aren’t doing very well in the public relations arena.

Presidential candidates one after another score points by bashing reporters’ questions and motives. Facebook and Twitter commenters every day lament that only a dozen or two dozen real journalists are left in the whole country. Activists in Columbia, Missouri, pushed reporters away from public and freely available spaces on Monday. And at the Veterans Day parade in Fayetteville this weekend, a Vietnam veteran speaker called it unfortunate that correspondents were embedded with the troops during that war. They sapped the United States’ will to beat its enemy, he said, by broadcasting photos of girls burned by napalm and men about to be executed or by reporting massacres.

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_C1_1456Journalists have slunk into undisclosed bias and have made mistakes, some of them fairly huge. We all absolutely should examine and criticize the news media and what they do and why, and I’m not grasping for sympathy. I’m not personally involved with any of those examples above and don’t know everything about them. The past few weeks just have been challenging and stimulating for me, a local newspaper reporter, to watch.

Here in town, Sunday’s parade was different from all of the others I’ve seen in the square – smaller, quieter, shorter. At least a hundred or so people came to show their support for veterans past and present. The light was slanted and sharp. The crowd cheered for a little lady who wore a red, white and blue knitted hat and served in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War II. The high school marching band marched in and made me nostalgic for my trombone days.

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_C1_1517That speaker Sunday raised a significant point about how war has changed under the media’s watch. Around 4,500 Americans have died in Iraq in the last 12 years. About the same number of Allied troops died in a single day of WWII. I don’t know if we will ever again accept that kind of loss, and I dislike trying to imagine what it would take for us to lower our bar.

Our new conflict calculus seems at least partly to come from how we see every one of those deaths in photo and video and print and on the nightly news. There’s room for improvement in how we take care of veterans at home and how much attention we pay to other countries’ losses, but in the battle itself, there are few abstractions left. We learn about our men and women’s lives and loves and hopes. We see a little more of war’s cost.

Journalists don’t have a right to everything, but I like to think seeing and discussing where we as a people are going is worth our poking around. It’s an interesting coincidence that as reporters take so much flak, a movie showing what the job is all about comes out and earns critical acclaim. The best journalists are there to find and show what a war really means, and to ask where public figures came from, and to explore why people say and do the things they say and do. Reporters do important work every day. I hope we can prove it. I hope others can see it. Otherwise we reporters might all end up in PR.

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_C1_1557Thanks for looking, and happy Veterans Day.

Dan