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Scott Lax Blog

Reviving the American Economy the Old Fashioned Way

Given that our corrupted economy - courtesy off banks, Wall Street, and manufacturers that have outsourced most of our jobs, agribusiness, and the politicians that enabled this plunder of farm and factory alike - is in shambles, I still think there is hope.

You probably already read blogs about local farming and organic food, and that's a good thing, but not always possible. We can all try to buy local food; if we can't, we can't. Local food is terrific, but canned orange juice and Dinty Moore's Beef Stew aren't the reason our country is screwed up. That's just elitist nonsense. If you can't afford food, now that's a real problem.

I'm talking about lots of products... real American made products. Toys that are simple and made of wood or cloth and made by Americans; good clothes that last, made in America; and so much more. I'll post some of those products on occasion, because I believe, as a former industrial salesman (though a liberal that believes in sustainable, environmentally sound food and manufacturing) that "Made in America" is the one thing that can save us from a Depression - one that is inevitable if we unemployment continues apace.

I like Chinese people. I like Mexican people. I like French people, and generally prefer their wine, though not exclusively. I like people from all over the world, and there are products that we need to import, from Central American bananas to Italian suits (and French wine). But if we don't do more to reclaim our industrial and agricultural foundations, we'll actually become that Third World country that The Huffington Post writes about. We need to make things, including energy producers (like wind farms), and alternative transportation (like trains, those things that move the masses around the world, which we can't seem to get right.) We need to sell things -from cutting tools to clothes to local farm-raised food to toys -that are made by artisans, craftspeople, farmers, vintners, brewers and manufacturers that are in the USA. People need jobs, and for there to be jobs, companies have to make things. That's how we solve unemployment. Read More 

A Fearsome But Grand Vocation

With millions of new writers these days (given that blogging, not to mention tweeting, is by nature writing), I think that Reynolds Price, the prolific and accomplished poet, novelist, essayist and professor, had it right years ago, before blogging and tweeting. He's talking about teaching writing, but this can hold true for all aspects of the art and craft of writing, I suspect:

"American writing teachers are much too kind generally, too kind to the point of perjury. Flannery O'Conner, in her sidewinder way, said a dead-true thing: 'Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.' She apparently meant more or less the same thing that I mean by saying 'Quit if you can. Don't take this up at all lightly.' If the person persists and starts sending me his or her published books, then I'm often interested and try to like the work and say that I do. Writing is a fearsome but grand vocation -- potentially healing but like wise deadly."

Great writers like Reynolds Price are not accidents, nor are they glib and amateur bloggers, of which there are many. What's wonderful about the explosion of amateur writing on the Internet is that people are writing. That's good enough. But it doesn't make one a writer necessarily; it makes a blogger someone who writes. Reynolds Price is a writer. That's an altogether different thing from one who puts words on a page on a blog.

Which leads me to my conclusion: Read good writers, not just bloggers. If you're an aspiring writer, you need to read those who are professional and developed, like Reynolds Price. Read More 

The Wine Column Debuts

THE FATHER LIFE - the men's magazine for dad's - published my first wine column today. (You can read it by clicking the logo to the left.)

I'm excited to be writing about something I enjoy and respect - wine and the wine-making world. I hope you have a chance to read it.

Honoring Our Veterans

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."
- Dwight David Eisenhower (American 34th President, 1953-61; b.1890; d.1969)

When honoring our veterans - including my dad, who served during World War II, and three of my cousins who served in Vietnam - I think it's important to avoid jingoism and theatrics.

War is hell - only those who have fought it or been inside it can truly know that fact. President Eisenhower knew it, for he saw it as a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. He was one of those who helped to save the world from the most dire threat we've ever known, from the insanity of militarism and fascism and hatred. What Eisenhower and others accomplished in World War II is one thing I honor. They are the reason I can write this now.

Yet he hated war, so much that he believed you did all you could to avoid it. Eisenhower was no Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or George W. Bush -- all chicken-hawks who avoided service but like to thump their chests and play soldier.

This post is to honor those who really served and sacrificed. As for those who are more than willing to send others off to war, this day is not for you.

Thank you to my dad, and to my cousins, and to all of those who gave so much. If you want to read a brilliant book about the inside of a war, read the novel, THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien, the great American author and Vietnam Veteran. Read More 

David Denby's Good Example

A good example of what I wrote in my previous posting is in David Denby's review of "Fair Game," the feature film about Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the Bush Administration, which stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

Here's an excerpt from Denby's review: "Watching this movie, we think, Did it really happen? Yes, it did: the United States went to war without a good reason. Wilson and Plame, husband and wife, are minor players in his disaster, and the movie doesn't make them out to be anything more, but it's faithful to what they endured at the hands of an irrational and dishonest White House."

That's not exactly a politically objective piece. But it's moral, because Denby is showing us what he believes, and using it as context for part of his review. It's a review, not reportage, so he has a right and maybe even a responsibility to do that.

Many of us writers have stayed silent too long, worrying about offending readers, clients or whomever. Meanwhile, the lunatic fringe of the right wing are amassing power. Liberal and progressive writers: I hope you join me in speaking out. If you have political beliefs, but are hiding them behind your food or reality show recap blogs, or whatever your literary form is, you're ceding the political landscape to those who couldn't care less what anyone thinks. It's time for liberal and progressive writers to grow a pair or two and speak out. Don't let the wing-nuts take over our country. The "founding fathers" those wing-nuts are fond of misquoting, or quoting out of context, were intellectuals. It's okay to be an intellectual. It's okay to be liberal in your thinking. And it's good to be a real American. Let them know that we're real Americans, too. Read More 

Jean Paul Sartre and Me - on Writing and Politics

"A writer who takes political, social or literary positions must act only with the means that are his. These means are the writer's words." - Jean Paul Sartre, on refusing the Nobel Prize.

I think at last I understand this. While I am somewhat active in social and civic causes, I've found - often to my frustration - that I am far more effective at trying to effect change or express a viewpoint through writing than any other activity.

I'm not a politician, though politics affects my life and I feel deeply about what I believe to be right, and to be wrong in this country. A barbaric and cruel health care system, for starters; an educational system that is so systemically flawed as to be caving in upon itself, for another; a disturbing movement of frighteningly ignorant Tea Partiers that are in danger of dismantling national civility and progress. On the other hand, we are the land of a lot of compassionate and creative people.

I'm not a true civic leader, though I lend my limited abilities to causes I believe in. I'm not a business leader, or motivational speaker, though I speak to many groups. If I motivate them, good; if not, I'm not going to use glib techniques or gimmicks to try to get people to write everyday, for example. People will do what they will; all I can do is share my experience with them, and if that resonates, they'll act on it. If it doesn't, they'll go have lunch.

After all, I am just a writer. I have learned to embrace this, for I realize it's what life has given me to use. My only truly effective means to effect change or people's ways of looking at things - or to entertain - are through my written words. Read More