Communication Ethics: a lengthy, belabored prologue

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You know the book is going to be labored when it has four headlined sections in the preface. You could never get away with that in a fiction book (well, perhaps I shouldn’t say that, but it would have to support something really special), but in my most recent text book that is exactly what I got.

Here is the book, in proper bibliographic listing:

Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M. H., & Bell, L. M. (2008). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Sage Publications.

The class is on communications and leadership ethics. I am sure I will find it quite interesting. I’ve had the professor before, and he kept a very good dialogue going.

Which is perhaps a good segue into talking about this book, since “dialogue and difference” is part of the title. My intention is to write up observations I have about the book, chapter by chapter, and since the preface has 4 sections, I think I can get a whole post out of the preface!

The four sections of the preface are:

1) The Pragmatic

2) A Minimalist Era

3) A Narrow Ridge

4) Communication Ethics Praxis in an Era of Difference

The preface talks about the need to “meet the perennial question of how to work out our differences in productive ways.” The modern era, the authors assert, is more willing to learn from alternate points of view, challenging previously unchallenged perspectives of the dominant group.

If you have heard the term Postmodern, this is what the author means by it: the time where the dominant worldview is being challenged and we are entering into dialogues of understanding with people of opposing viewpoints.

The Pragmatic section points to the opportunity to learn, to listen, instead of to perpetuate the universal ideals of the dominant group. We listen to the challenges of opposing views of what “the good” is.

The Minimalist Era section is a conclusion of the pragmatic, that instead of trying to find multiple points of agreement, we reduce down to the most minimal needed to peaceful coexistence, and live and let live.  We learn from others, instead of judging when they say something that doesn’t fit the frame of our idea of the good.

A Narrow Ridge talks about the dangerous obstacles that this method has to navigate between: Relativism on one side, Objectivism on the other.

We acknowledge the public presence of multiple competing goods, and we assume the importance of the first principle of communication ethics— learning that seeks to attend to the face of another, negotiate difference, and locate minimal agreement— permitting persons to function in the public sphere with those of differing maximal positions.

Arnett, Ronald C.; Fritz, Janie; Bell, Leeanne M. (2008-08-04). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference (Kindle Locations 333-335). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Communication Ethics Praxis in an Era of Difference finally gets to outlining the book, instead of laying the foundation.  The book has three sections:

  • Communication Ethics Approaches
  • Communication Ethics in Contexts
  • The Pragmatics of Communication Ethics

What I intend to find interesting about this approach, is the use of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables to illustrate the main points of each chapter.They are going to use the novel as a “Humanities Case Study”.

Now, as a writer, I understand the use of story and metaphor, and think this is a great idea. My one concern is that it isn’t really a “case study” but one persons belief of how people might react. The more true it is, the more likely it is to be believable to people, but it isn’t an actual study, but a story. I am curious to see how well I think they use this literary form. Do they treat the literature correct, or twist it and treat it a science? We will see.

Starlight’s Mary Poppins: Magic and Puppetry

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(Note: Potential spoilers ahead in this theater review.)

We attended the Thursday evening showing of Disney’s “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical” as put on by Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre. It was a show well worth seeing — so like, and yet so unlike the Disney movie of the same name.

You will recognize many familiar songs, and might even be tempted to sing along, but you can’t. The tempo, words, and arrangements are all slightly changed, so just as you think you know it, you don’t. Yet it is artfully done, a great weaving of the old and new, creating one new tapestry of song.

Bert plays an expanded role from the movie, as both beau to Mary and singing narrator of transitions. The plot owes as much to the original books by PL Travers as it does to the movie version by Disney. Several characters in the original books, but not in the movie, make a return visit.

During the first act of the movie I was enjoying the plot, the unexpected twists, the way that the storyline was taken up a notch from the movie with the subtle dramatic weavings of old and new, the creation of greater dramatic tensions.

My enjoyment of the drama was somewhat decreased in the second act by the more obvious way that Mary moved the plot — using magic to treat people almost like puppets when necessary. I overstate my case. but in the movies, and in the books, Mary Poppins always denies that she did anything, that anything happened (though Jane and Michael have some small sign that it really did happen). The Mary in this production makes her actions too obvious to deny at points.

That is probably as good as any segue to my comments about the actors themselves.  While I think that Mary in the plot was a little too heavy handed, the actress for Mary Poppins was just right. Analisa Leaming, who played Maria in the KC Starlight production of Sound of Music last summer, was an excellent pick for Mary Poppins. Practically Perfect, as the saying goes.

For that matter, Matthew LaBanca is equally excellent as Bert. I previously mentioned his narration role — which is excellent — but his hints of amore with Mary, his interactions with the children, his accent, the way his acting ties the plot together as much as Leaming’s , is excellent. You may call him the unsung (except he sings quiet well) hero of the show.

So, my rating, good for the plot, excellent for the casting.

I could go on about various other cast members (The children are superb) but think I will end my review now. Several plaudits to the writers for their adherence and homace to both the books and the movie. Several plaudits to the actors (and actresses), for excellent portrayals of their roles. I didn’t get a feeling of “breaking the fourth wall.” I saw the character, no the actor, for each of them.

All in all, Kansas City did its usual, excellent job of staging its own production of a Broadway musical. They should be proud. You should go see it. And the writers should think again about the heavy-handed way they had Mary resolve some of the plot elements in Act 2 (but plaudits for the excellent ways they weave elements of the books back into the plays!).

The Cure to California’s Water Woes: “Star Wars”

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The water situation in California is getting perennially severe. I have read several different stories and commentaries about possible solutions, and how popular or practical they are.

The most obvious solution is also the least politically possible. The state is along the shores of a limitless supply of ocean water. Yet the potential costs, in money and environmental impact, continues to hold it back. The most practical energy source for the desalination process would be atomic, but that carries too great an environmental stigma. Other energy sources have carbon problems, or other costly environmental impacts.

Another suggestion is “toilet to tap” — recycling sewage water for drinking water. Phrased that way it is unappealing, but for all practical purposes it is actually cleaner than what most people drink. Most sewage effluent is treated and then fed back into nearby rivers and streams, where cities draw their water into their water treatment plants. the “toilet to tap” water would go through more treatment than other effluent before getting blended with the rest of the tap water.  Still, the solution isn’t very popular, despite the crisis.

And then I saw it in the movie Star Wars — the moisture vaporators — are the solution to California’s water problems. Pull the water straight out of the air.

Yes, I know, go ahead and laugh at a solution out of science fiction. Back in the 1980s they mocked the Star Wars missile defense system that way. The thing is, we are already using moisture vaporators — we just don’t recognize it!

Here in Missouri we have a dehumidifier for the basement. During the summer it generates around 5 gallons of water a day out of the air. We have a small room air conditioner for the upstairs dormer. It generates 5 gallons a day too. We haven’t figured out how to capture the water from the main heat pump in the house, but it obviously must generate more.

Our culture uses air conditioning, which rips moisture out of the air as it works, and all of it goes uncaptured. How much water could be gathered from homes, from stores, from offices, that goes wasted? The water is already being vaporated, it just needs to be collected. Politicians think big, but maybe people need to think small. Done properly, it won’t even use additional energy. How much more green could you get?

Alas, it is probably as out of date as the rain barrel, and so nothing will likely come of the idea.

Re writing (wrestling) history

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The purveyors of a sanitized past, in their attempt to ensure the entire past be seen only through the lens of the current age’s political correctness, have decreed that anyone who oversteps the bounds of their correctness be erased from history.

Such it seems is the reaction of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) in the case of Hulk Hogan. They are apparently afraid that any mention of Hogan, related to any of his past of current achievements, will taint them with the current controversy about what he may have said of a racist nature in a private conversation that got taped and released.

The moral of this story is, no matter what good you may have done, if you offend the mores of current social justice, none of it matters, all of it should be erased, its impact negated.

The other option, of course, is to not be erased, but to be totally vilified for the social justice offense, and have all your good achievements forgotten.

In both cases, we fail to learn from history. The good someone does shouldn’t erase the bad, or the bad the good. The bad might mar the good, corrupt it even, but we should still recognize its existence.

I will go very extreme. Perhaps the most “all bad” character in our cultural history today is Adolf Hitler. I will not make light of his evils. But he couldn’t have been so evil if he hadn’t also had some good, some virtues, some strengths, to bolster and support his evils.

Have any of you read Mein Kampf? It has been years since I have, yet I was able to recognize the amazing amounts of good mixed into the book, good that made the toxic portions go down easy.

The good wasn’t totally corrupted either. Hitler’s economic policies created a resurgence of Germany’s economy and many social goods. Yet to even suggest such a thing, or that we could learn from them, is considered anathema today.

The real issue is that all public figures have feet of clay somewhere, and our hyper social media doesn’t allow anyone of a public nature to have any real privacy on these things. And then when they do go viral the feeding frenzy begins and the mobs start screaming for the person’s head. No sense of balance, no sense of justice, no sense of  fair play.

Anyone offense gets sent to the metaphorical guillotine. We have rule by the social mob, ruled over by a sense of social justice that will eventually devour even its own, as did the literal guillotine.

So, can we learn from this? Yes, never erase the past, no matter how uncomfortable, or how uncomfortable that person now is in the present.

As the old cliches go, we need to stop sowing the wind, or we will reap the whirlwind. Those who fail to learn from the past will live to repeat it. Who knows, perhaps even with a literal guillotine.

A Blast of the Past #16: Christmas in Missouri. circa 1997

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The above picture is probably the iconic family picture from Christmas 1997. Here Carly isn’t quite a year, and sits so sweetly with the M&M candy cane held in her hands.

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That was a year where we had a live tree, as you can see above. The big wrapped packages were the parts of the new full-sized crib we had ordered for her, and waiting to be assembled. See some of the assembly below:

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This Christmas also had a very iconic (I seem to like that word) present — the Spinning Pooh Walker. That toy had many miles put on it by at least 4 of the 5 cousins back in the day.

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It was also a time when Papa was there, making 4 generations of the Warner family.I’m not finding a 4-generation picture, but the below two pictures show all 4 generations with Papa.

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Case Closed (practically — the technical term is “suspended”)

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Just under a month ago I wrote a post about my experience in being run off the road while riding my bicycle. In that time I have heard nothing about what the police have done to investigate, and whether or not they located the perpetrators, or simply closed the case.

The officer who took my statement gave me a card with a case number, and said it should take a couple of weeks for the detectives to investigate and if I didn’t hear anything from them before that I could call and get a report on my case. At least that is what I understood him to say.

So today I called the number on stub I got with the report number, learned a case report had been filed, and that I could get a copy by stop by any police station. So I decided to detour by bicycle trip home and stop by the Shoal Creek Patrol to learn what they had filed.

I got there after 6 o’clock to be second in line. The first person was somebody who had some sort of report or ticket (I was unclear which end of the issue they were on) issued by the country sheriff’s department, who thought they could get it resolved by talking to the city policy department. Took about 5 more minutes of explaining before I was able to get to the window.

I passed my stub and explained I had been told my case report had been filed and I wanted to learn what they had found out.

“That will be 11 dollars,” I was told.

While waiting I had read the sign about arrest records being $11 each. But I didn’t want an arrest report, I wanted the information on my case report.

The officer on the desk then asked why I wanted it. “To find out what they learned when they investigated.”

“The only thing is here is the report we got from you.”

So I biked up in 90 degree weather for a report that hasn’t even been completed. As far as I know at this point, nothing has been done on my case.

The officer gave me another number I could call, for the unit that should be investigating.

Obviously I have the wrong expectations here. I decided to call the number and find out what I should have expected. Was I supposed to receive a call, or will I receive a call when they finish the investigation? How much success can they have investigating an incident that occurred a month ago?

So I made the call last night. Was told by the officer on the phone that the case was suspended due to lack of leads. Vehicle was registered in Joplin. But unless they get additional leads, someone coming forward with a tip, people to put in a lineup, it won’t progress anymore.

I’m going to guess I could have found that out two weeks ago if I had known the right number to call. But it will probably never show up on my case number — 15-044769.

My memory is not perfectly clear on the surroundings when I was run off the road, but I don’t think any other vehicles went by during that time. Certainly there were no vehicles behind the pickup truck when I pulled up to it at the stop sign.

The police officer mentioned two males. I told him there were three people in the truck, that appeared male to me. So it looks like the report started off with an inaccuracy. And I am certain I mentioned three people in the truck — at least two with afro-type hairstyles — to the original officer.

One of the possible conclusions to this story is, if you want to go on a spree, don’t do it in your own hometown. It looks like the police aren’t able to effectively contact or investigate people who do something in a vehicle that is from a community some distance away. If you are from Joplin, go to Kansas City to cause your havoc, if you are from Kansas City, go to Joplin.

I also got the impression from the conversation that I would have had more luck with the case if I had been injured.  So I guess I’d rather be whole and have an unsuccessful conclusion to the investigation of my attempted assailants, than to get injured and have them catch the perpetrators.