Jan 132014

Campus Reports news update:
Spanier the Movie opened during the holidays to once again attempt to portray Spanier, not the kids, as Sandusky’s victim. The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) added “guidelines” for participation on the listserv as in follow the guide and toe the line or you will be silenced by the Jeri Pollock, the list Syclla and Charybdis with absolute authority to act as language judge, jury, and executioner for any participant in any culture. But it wasn’t ex post facto justification of censorship. No. Of course not. The listserv promotes the open “exchange of ideas.” More or less. ASLE, not Greer, is the victim.

An excerpt from “Notes from the Academic Underground” by Barry Roberts Greer:
Head note: One common trait of the academic personality is the inability to understand that humans on campus act like those off campus, no matter much or little formal education. First published by not too long after Bush the Younger launched Gulf War II: Sins of the Father.

cover_undergroundThe local NPR affiliate last week ran a three sentence story on a 19-year-old who was killed in a motor vehicle accident. For some reason, she lost control of her Toyota pickup, it careened across the highway, smashed into a grove of trees, and burned. The radio announcer blandly ended the story by saying dental records had to be used to identify the body. No one marched to protest this one death or the other 35,000 that take place each year in vehicle accidents. It is rare to see graphic footage on the evening news of the dead and dying in vehicle crashes. No shock and awe.

My wife was on death watch years ago when her art professor was dying of cancer. Professor Krause had reached the point in her illness where nothing could be done for her. Her last two days were spent sleepless in a hospital bed as she bleed to death internally, her heart racing faster and faster as it pumped harder and harder to keep up until it simply quit from exhaustion. My wife was one of those who stayed with Lavern as she died, which was the only thing anyone could do. Just be with her. No one protested the hundreds of thousands diagnosed with cancer each year. The evening news never broadcasts footage of those dead and dying of cancer. No shock and awe.

War, of course, produces dramatic footage and wordage. Shock and awe in living color is easy to be against, to take a principled stand against, especially if you have never been the victim of a tyrant. If you have never been fired by an English department for something you wrote, if you have never witnessed union busting by a university, if you have never seen the callous disregard for human life exercised by a tenure committee when it knowingly and willingly ruins careers, then you do not understand why tyrants must be killed. And if we can’t remove all the tyrants on the planet, then why not one? If we cannot change all misogynistic cultures in the world, why not this one?

Frank Stahl, retired university professor and MacArthur Foundation genius, stood squarely against war in Iraq, but when asked about the character assassination used to force the termination of a young professor, Stahl’s answer is that tenure decisions can get “a little rough.” Stahl even had the arrogance (of power) to add that sometimes he and his cronies were wrong when they destroyed careers.
When asked why his university allows voting rights to some faculty and denies them to other, macho man Stahl became evasive and wondered why his work on “university governance” was not mentioned. Apparently he needs to do more work, or perhaps giving the vote to all of his colleagues, full and part-time, would mean the loss of privilege for Stahl and the ruling party.

“The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition.” I think it is arguable that Saddam Hussein would not qualify for a grant and that his removal opens the possibility for improvement of the human condition in Iraq where, unlike research university campuses, the potential will exist again for freedom, human dignity, and universal suffrage for those left alive.

Once democracy is established in Iraq, perhaps American academe will be next.

Jan 112014

1954 SeagraveBarry Roberts Greer’s “Seven Two: A Firefighter’s Story” is a triptych based on personal experience, partly autobio-graphical, but jazzed up to make a story. . . . Thanks for the book, Barry Roberts Greer, provocateur. Fire belly. Things may change.” Mary Scriver, Unitarian minister and former firefighter

“Greer is old-fashioned. One piece [in North Sister Protocol] describes the advice of an old-fashioned editor telling a beginner to read all the best nature writers and then find his own voice. Today few editors would understand the concept of ‘best’ being a matter of the quality of writing, nor would they spend time counseling writers. They want books to pass the ‘test’ of high sales potential, as demonstrated by previous performance. Ground-breaking loses money. And they want to buy books already edited, proofed, indexed, footnoted, illustrated and supplied with blurbs.’ Mary Scriver, Montana

“So are you yearning for Ed Abbey? I’ve got another writer for you. He might also please fans of Martin Murie’s eco-mysteries, but Martin was a kinder, gentler guy. [The North Sister Novel] is tough stuff. Good clean prose, Machiavellian plotting, and a bunch of dangerous women who speak Spanish. Apocalyptic enviro stuff. When reviewing previous work by Greer that he insists is satirical, I’ve complained that his satire is too realistic for me to see he is mocking. This is different. It responds to the times, man, by going over the top. . . . J.J. Abrams had better get an option on this story.” Mary Scriver, Montana

“I enjoyed [The North Sister Novel] even though the premise was a bit ‘out there,’ but after all, aren’t cults usually ‘out there’? Action is non-stop and the details make everything believable. I’d recommend the book to adventure and mystery fans who like realistic set-ups.” Mr. Wizard,

“I love this book. I don’t think I’ll ever give up this book [Pipe Nozzle]. I hope to get more in the future. . . . Awesome. I know a lot of my friends would love to read Seven Two. And all of your other books.” Tyree Thomas, Philadelphia firefighter

“Pulls no punches; true grit narrative.” Richard Ornberg, retired Illinois career firefighter.

“Great read. Good stuff. Can’t wait to read more.” Tiger Schmittendorf, Deputy Fire Coordinator in the County of Erie Department of Emergency Services (Buffalo NY).

“I like your work.” Ron Chamberlain, Boston, Massachusetts public safety professional.

“I’m glad you have described the firefighting effort in terms that will speak to members of the profession, because the FDNY’s response to the tragic fire was a brave and splendid display of courage and competence.” David Von Drehle, Time Magazine

“Great read! Check it out.” Tommy Hark, Firefighter, Austin, Texas

“Good piece.” Damon Campagna, Executive Director, New York City Fire Museum

“It’s all good.” Mike Meyers, Chief, Battalion 9, FDNY

Barry Roberts Greer’s collection of witty, pithy and sometimes prescient essays is a pleasure to read. “Notes from the Academic Underground” illustrates the wisdom inherent in taking the long view of history, even those painful portions which trap us at their center. In Greer’s clear-eyed snapshots of injustice in the halls of academia, readers also glimpse gems of wisdom more commonly found in Greek tragedy. Perhaps, [as in the case of Graham Spanier detailed in these pages,] “a man’s character is his abiding fate” after all. Jean Anderson, author of “In Extremis and Other Alaskan Stories.”

Only in oblique hints do we learn that Greer has survived cancer and near-blindness, for he never seeks pity from his readers. Instead he takes us on challenging journeys, hiking in the wet snow of late spring, jogging up a minor and under-rated peak, slogging through the wet fenland trails that we never see in Eddie Bauer ads. Greer’s stubborn, rugged individuality reminds us of Henry Thoreau and Edward Abbey, of John Muir and Jim Harrison; loners who sacrifice comfort and security to celebrate wild places and “empty” spaces, the sort that developers want to clear and fill all too swiftly. Henry C,

I’ve been a fan of Barry Greer ever since he started writing for The Climbing Art magazine back in the early 1990s. North Sister skillfully blends social commentary with a suspense-filled plot, and is considerably enriched by Greer’s sharp eye (and deep love) for the landscape of the Oregon Cascades. It remains as timely now as it was when it was first serialized two decades ago. David Mazel, Adama State College

Greer is a writer “blessed with many gifts, especially moral passion. He bears down hard on ignorance, apathy, greed, and calumny, and often his writings have offended those less willing to take the higher road. But he is not rigid or stiff-necked; about his work there plays a witty, rueful tone that conveys his appreciation of the human carnival.” William Howarth, Princeton University

“A fusion of the deadly serious with high satire.” Scott Sanders, Indiana University

“I enjoyed your piece about Steens Rim, having just been up there in January when it was snow-covered and remote.” Ann Zwinger, author of “Beyond the Aspen Grove”

“Everyone here loves your writing.” Gordon Hardy, Appalachia Journal

“It is his fiction that impresses me most: his dry, acerbic wit and masterful descriptive technique are not only a pleasure to read, but a further indication of the extraordinary depth of this competent and talented individual.” Lincoln Kesler, University of British Columbia

“Uniformly excellent.” Rob Phillips, Oregon State University

“A sheer delight.” Audrey Salkeld, Sierra Club Books

“I sat down last night and read it, missing the meeting I was supposed to go to tonight . . . . And I thought it would make a really successful film.” Suzanne Clark, University of Oregon

“A good piece.” Jon Franklin, Pulitzer Prize-winner

The North Sister Novel is a good read–full of suspense and some unexpected twists.” Penelope,