Ashton, the guy with the voice

It excites me much more than it should that I've found him after all these years: Ashton Smith. You know, the guy. The guy with the voice. The guy with the voice that narrates over almost every movie trailer, commercial, television show promo, and network news teaser that we see/hear. I didn't think it was possible that it was all the same guy, but it is. Ashton instills solemnity and foreboding into every word he speaks. And yet, he has the tender inflection that can make us rush out to spend money anticipating the best love stories of summer films. Ashton, send me a CD of your greatest hits! Better yet, do my voicemail greeting?

Bits and Pieces from Vacation

A few bits and pieces: I've recently returned from a great vacation. I took some of my time off to explore a few Richmond-area touristy type things that I haven't gotten to see yet, including a thorough tour of the Wayne County Historical Museum. They have quite an impressive collection, and I learned a lot I didn't know about this community. As a result I had one of those great moments of cosmic unity: I'd enjoyed reading about the history of the Wayne Corporation which was headquartered here in town. On Thursday, I was in North Carolina climbing onto a converted school bus for a whitewater rafting trip with the Nantahala Outdoor Center and thought to look at the bus's manufacturer label, and sure enough, it said "Wayne - Richmond, Indiana". Cool! (BTW, if you're ever looking for an awesome place to vacation in western NC, check out Earthshine Mountain Lodge - amazing place, people, and food.) And just a few months ago I was touring the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago, and noticed that the metal winches used to open and close the glass panels were labeled "Quaker City Steel Works - Richmond, Indiana." Wowsers - this place really made a name for itself. Speaking of Chicago, I did several other museum tours there this time around, including a nice walkthrough of the Adler Planetarium (though the show "Stars of the Pharaohs" was minimally fascinating) and the Chicago Historical Society's exhibit Without Sanctuary, a visual history of lynching in America. The images of communities - men, women, children - laughing and smiling as they gathered to celebrate death were indescribably haunting. And finally, to end on a note of humor, if you haven't already, check out the June 22, 2056 edition of The Onion - hilarious.

Speaking opportunities

I've been doing more and more public speaking over the last few years, and find that it's something I enjoy immensely. There was a time when I was younger when I considered a "career" in it (as a minister, even), despite my introverted nature and the nervous shakes I'd always get right before beginning a talk. I'm still introverted and I still get the shakes once in a while, but I really appreciate opportunities to be a part of group learning and educational sessions, especially when I have something valuable to contribute and/or unique ways of contributing it. Lately I've been getting some good feedback on my approach to these opportunities and my ability to engage an audience; I've also found more and more sessions that fit well with other projects I'm pursuing. So, I've created a page on this site about speaking opportunities and requests, in hopes that it will lead to more of these. If you're involved with a group or event that might benefit from this kind of contribution, please let me know!

The Customer Can Always Write

I get the sense that I tend to spend an unusual amount of time exercising my "right" as a consumer to provide feedback to the companies and organizations from which I buy products and services. The general trend in "consumer action" these days when a company is providing poor customer service or substandard products seems to be cursing a bit under one's breath, perhaps having a tense exchange with The Manager, but otherwise letting it go...and usually returning again soon to patronize the same business without a memory of frustrating experiences of the past. Whatever the reason might be for this trend - reduction of our shopping choices, general consumer apathy, or something else - it's exactly what many businesses are counting on from all of us so they can keep their bottom line where they like it. I have a different sense about how we should act in the face of poor service and products.
Continue reading The Customer Can Always Write

Pal-Item Misunderstands Nature of Protest

The Richmond Palladium-Item newspaper seems to have multiple personalities when it comes to characterizing the nature of civil protest. In Friday's editorial, they so nobly say "It's our right to stand up for our beliefs, tell our elected officials we disagree, share our viewpoints with neighbors, family and friends, strive for the betterment of our country as a whole. That right brings with it a responsibility to respect others' ideas, hear out their concerns and try at the very least to understand our differences." The article then proceeds to condemn any protest that violates the law, indicating there is some concept of "vital" and "proper" protest, of which illegal acts are not a part. I suppose, then, that they would have had to condemn the entire U.S. civil rights movement, the actions of fellow journalists who disobey the law to protect sources, and a slew of other "improper" protests throughout the history of our country. (Perhaps they misunderstand that sometimes acting improperly is, unfortunately, the only way to draw attention to a cause, for better or worse.) But surely, then, the above statement means they do support and respect legal and peaceful acts that share viewpoints, encourage dialogue about our beliefs, and work to change our communities for the better, right? Like a written petition, maybe? Apparently not - they would call such actions "misguided" and "desperate" and "an affront to civic fair play", and go on to equate those actions with physical assault.

Wow. If I understand their position correctly as derived from their various published statements, the only kind of disagreement that is proper or fair is no real disagreement at all. It's sad and scary that a local institution that is theoretically so much a part of facilitating free speech and dialogue about the community - even when it involves acts of protest - seems to so manifestly misunderstand those opportunities, and the vehicles available for engaging in them.