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exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

How my novel, mapping Utah, came to be — and what it taught me

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In November 1989, I asked a remarkable woman to marry me.

That didn’t go well.

So I drank myself into a stupor deepened by self-pity and hacked away all night long at a Macintosh SE (Remember those? Two floppy drives?). In the morning, I had an evil headache, more questions about women than I could ever answer, and a 30-page short story.

Such was the sulking, ignoble, drunken genesis of mapping Utah.

That story lay dormant for half a decade, buried in a chaotic array of papers accumulated during study for my master’s degree. It emerged from hiding in 1994 during research for my doctorate. I’d just finished my course work and was supposed to be working on my dissertation.

As all doc students know, aptly timed and brilliantly executed procrastination is a requirement for a successful dissertation. So I procrastinated. (May my adviser, Trager, forgive me.) The short story beget a longer story, about 100 pages. That, too, slunk into hibernation among copies of mass communication research articles I never wanted to face again.

In 1998, the longer story crept unbidden out of a box I had not unpacked since arriving at St. Bonaventure University in 1996. Hmm, I thought. Beats grading the inept writing of freshmen. So, night after night, I wrote more.

Thus begat Lesson No. 1: Don’t over think it. I had written as far as Kara’s desperate flight on her mountain bike from a rest area just west of Green River. Noah had yet to appear in the sky above her unconscious body in his ultralight aircraft.

But I kept rewriting and editing this first third of the book. My logic: Have to get it just right. It had to be perfect before I could continue. My friend Greg Stene intervened: “Why?” he asked.

Greg knows me well. He pressed me: “Why haven’t you moved on to introducing these two people?” I admitted I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what Noah would or should say to Kara and what Kara would or should say to Noah.

“Denny,” Greg said, “You’ve thought about these people for years. Just put them together and get the hell out of their way.”

He was right. I did not write the last two-thirds of mapping Utah. Kara and Noah did.
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Wanted: Part-time job with $174,000 salary — and plenty of perks

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Pssst — have I got a few sweetheart jobs for you.

In one, you’ll only have to work 111 days in 2016. You’ll be off — yep, off! — for 150 days. There’s this job, too: You’ll only have to work for 149 days and get 112 days off.

I know — it sounds too good to be true, right? Well, get this: In either job, you’ll be paid at least $174,000. You’ll be able to earn about 15 percent more in “outside income,” too.

You’ll get an allowance of almost $950,000 to hire staff to help you cope with your arduous schedule. You’ll get money for office expenses and have postage for your official mail paid for you, too. You’ll get great health benefits (including an “attending physician” in case you need emergency care), a gym and workout facilities, and a terrific retirement plan.

And more perks: Free parking at D.C. airports. Your staff will have dedicated phone lines to airlines to make reservations for you. You won’t have to publicly disclosure your stock trades and any insider knowledge, too. Wow! You’ll get to fly back and forth for D.C. to your home state, paid for by taxpayers!
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Where there’s political smoke, there’s the oil and gas lobby

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CATEGORY: CongressWell, isn’t that special: Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill before heading off for a three-week holiday vacation. (You get that much time off?) Brinkmanship is avoided; threats to shut down the government over (this time) Syrian refugees or the Puerto Rican debt crisis are avoided (or, more likely, postponed).

But it’s a bad bill for any president serving in the next few decades. Those presidents, irrespective of party, will have to deal with the physical consequences of human-induced climate disruption as well as the political repercussions of not meeting the Paris accords.

That’s because provisions buried in the spending resolution hamper the ability of future presidents to cope with a warming climate. And that’s because your representatives caved (as usual) to the oil and gas industry lobby.

As Bill Moyers and Michael Winship report, each $1 the oil and gas lobby spent in 2013 and 2014 returned $103 in subsidies. The industry spent $326 million to lobby Congress. In return it received $33.7 billion in government favors.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

For 2016, re-elect Andrew Shepherd as U.S. president: Fiction trumps the Republican reality

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In my favorite bad movie, The American President, Michael Douglas as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd confronts his Republican challenger’s claims about Shepherd’s character.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. … You scream about patriotism and tell them [who’s] to blame for their lot in life … [emphasis added]

Now remove Bob Rumson’s name and insert the name of any of the recent CNN main stage GOP presidential candidates (or even Wolf Blitzer, as he goaded them into ISIS hysteria). Each follows the Rumson playbook: Make us afraid. Blame ISIS. Promise to bomb the shit out of ISIS, even it means killing civilians — and children. Result: Radical Islamic terrorists are blamed and thus killed; fear ends; America emerges triumphant again as savior of freedom, democracy, and what have you.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 18, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What happened when I had a black boyfriend

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By one of my university students …

Progressive Culture | Scholars & Rogues

By Kailyn Jennings

I’m a skinny, knock-kneed, white girl from a small farm town in upstate New York. I have blue eyes, pale skin, brown hair. I’m quiet and usually buried in a book. I’m average.

Imagine people’s surprise when I began dating the 6-foot-7-inch Division I basketball player. The black one.

I can’t count the number of times people asked me what it’s like to date a black man. The only thing different about dating a black man is people asking me what it’s like to date a black man.

Those same people usually asked if I was okay, too. Am I okay? Not with people being blind to their own ignorance.

They may have been blind, but they certainly still saw color.

During a visit to my hometown, my boyfriend and I went to pick a friend up from a party. There, I hugged other friends I hadn’t…

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My brief, wonderful life without Facebook

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I caught a cold last week. So I missed several days of scrolling endlessly and mostly fruitlessly on Facebook.

fbthumbdownMy world, sans Facebook, did not end. The sky did not collapse upon me. Chicken Little became, for a few days, merely chicken soup.

I did not suffer from FOMO — that Millenial-dreaded “Fear Of Missing Out.” I don’t care that I missed so many things that so many others felt so important they had to be shared. I read books instead.

I probably missed birthdays and Facebook invitations to “send a message” to the honorees. Maybe I missed my brother reaching his biking mileage goal. (So I called him and asked. He’s close.) Surely numerous friends and former students posted more kid pictures. I missed, no doubt, hours of scrolling through auto-play videos, listicles, quizzes, cute (to someone) YouTube kittens and puppies, what (to someone) is newsworthy, screeds about morality and politics, and the “ten things you need to know now.” I didn’t learn what Shakespearean character I am or what my favorite color says about me or whether I can successfully identify hit songs of the ‘70s. My bout with a virus deprived me of screen loads of time-wasting crap.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

October 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What cute baby-picture posts may lead to …

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You know them — the social media parents.

They learn she’s pregnant with her first child. Joy consumes them. The announcement hits Twitter with abdominal photo or sonogram: “I’m preggers! #thefirst #babybump #joyful”

The author, ever analog ...

The author, ever analog …

Husband and wife create an email account for the unborn child. They send a book’s worth of loving messages for her to read years from now. Husband or wife (usually wife) creates a WordPress blog to chronicle the family journey.

Delivery room photos of happy husband and sweat-soaked wife holding the minutes-old child hit Facebook. Baby clothes choices choke Instagram.

The predictable follows, mostly with photos. Cute baby eating in high chair, face smeared with mushed peas. Cute baby’s bare butt. Cute baby sleeping blissfully. Cute baby in cute baby holder. Selfies (usually by mom) holding cute baby smiling, regurgitating, sleeping, crying (don’t bother to pick one; you’ll eventually see them all). Cute baby with family puppy or kitten.

Then it’s toddler toddling. Kid taking her first steps. First play date. First day of pre-school. Pre-school graduation. First day of kindergarten. Kindergarten graduation. Various religious functions (baptism, bris, first communion, bar mitzvah, aqiqah, etc.)

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 11, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

CNN’s ‘Courageous’ — recycling an idea that was bad decades ago

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Progressive Culture | Scholars & Rogues

Move along, now. There’s nothing new here. Really.

From the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Perlberg:

CNN is creating an in-house studio that will produce news-like content on behalf of advertisers, a move that reflects marketers’ growing desire for articles and videos that feel like editorial work.

CNN calls its foray into “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” by the name “Courageous.” But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Marketers know their ads generally compete with other content.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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