Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Social Psychology Best Left Unstudied?

Is love fair game for science? Or, is it a sacred mystery that we should not try too hard to understand?

Read by the author:

Is Social Psychology Best Left Unstudied?

The late U.S. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin criticized the work of two prominent social psychologists when he stated that, "Americans want to leave some things in life a mystery, and right at the top of things we don’t want to know is why a man and a woman fall in love." Are there some things in life best left unstudied?

Proxmire, pork, and passionate prudishness
With all due respect, Senator Proxmire was a windy old curmudgeon who bragged that he was fired from his first job for impertinence and was fondly eulogized as being a maverick. His personal integrity, however, was reflected by a record 10,252 consecutive roll call votes across twenty-two years of public service. Proxmire took pride in lampooning wasteful “pork barrel” government spending and was notorious for giving “Golden Fleece” awards to many pork appropriations (with the notable exception of dairy supports in his home state of Wisconsin). The quotation, above, refers to his very first Golden Fleece, which went for $84,000 given to the National Science Foundation in 1975 for the study of “Why a man and a woman fall in love.” He should be forgiven a little hyperbole.

Under the circumstances,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Crow and the Cowboy’s Shiny Buckle

The Crow and the Cowboy’s Shiny Buckle
A Short Story by David Satterlee
One day, a rodeo cowboy, a real dirt eater, came to Dayton, Iowa. Now, you expect to see cowboys in Texas, but most people wouldn’t think that you would see one in Iowa, especially in Dayton, which is first-rate, but kind of small. But, Dayton loves its horses and wranglers. Always has, still does, because that’s just the way Dayton is. These days, lots of cowboys come to Dayton, but our story is about one particular cowboy and, lacking any better information, we’ll call him Bill.
Local history has it that, back in the hot old days before air conditioning and slushies, families would gather down by the banks of Skillet Creek and have a picnic and a nap on the cool grass under the shade of the old oak trees. Back around 1937, three young friends, all local boys, learned to twirl cowboy ropes and would go down to the park and entertain anyone who was there. I’m guessing they picked up a few pennies and the occasional ham sandwich for their trouble.
The show started to get serious when it was moved to Porter’s pasture in 1942. The boys passed a hat and collected nineteen dollars and seventeen cents, which became the prize money for a “real rodeo.” Well, it just kept growing from there. The Dayton Labor Day Rodeo is a first-rate Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event and draws top wranglers, riders, and ropers from all over. They have “Kids” night, “Bring a Date” night, and even raise thousands of dollars for breast cancer research on “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night. Don’t worry, I’m getting to Bill.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Praise of the Public Sector

In Praise of the Public Sector

Read by the author:

I'm in a particularly grumpy mood this morning as I think about the almost-completed water tower maintenance in our small town and the inconvenience that came with it. Today's newspaper had several critical letters to the editor.

I have a more-appreciative attitude. We should be grateful for the wisdom and courage of our Mayor and City Council to undertake a very necessary project that they knew up-front would bring out a lot of complaining. The fact of the matter is that the temporary inconveniences were an entirely unavoidable part of the job. It’s where we needed to go and what we needed to do. We ought to be thanking our public servants instead of giving them grief.
Sometimes we forget that government, the widely-despised “public sector,” is really us – you and me and those of our neighbors who, for some deficit of sanity, feel compelled to render an extra measure of service to their communities. And the thanks they get? A general unwillingness to grant them the resources and cooperation they need to fully achieve the many responsibilities we demand of them.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Short story: Smiting Sinners

Good vs. evil vs. minding your own business in the Blue Ridge mountains. Can a respected preacher-man succeed in calling a wayward brother to repentance? And, is anybody ever going to do something about "Uncle"  Ralph?

Scheduled for publication in Life Will Surprise You in the End: More Short Stories by David Satterlee (2004)

Smiting Sinners
By David Satterlee
Just below Brown Cemetery, Wiley Roy was joined by the Reverend Pastor Bobby Thrasher from the Johns Creek Churches. You know the place: right where Johns Creek joins up with Caney Fork. Most of Wiley Roy’s friends didn’t go to the Baptist church there. Wiley Roy mostly didn’t go to the Methodist church across the road.

It didn’t much matter. The early risers, and anybody who still were in want of waking up, usually went to the Baptist Church. The late risers, and those in the mood for a kinder and gentler sermon, went across the road to the Methodist. Some years back, the Baptist Reverend Bobby had agreed to also preach the Methodist sermon while their Pastor healed up from a broke leg. The leg turned to gangrene and the Pastor died, so Bobby became the Reverend Pastor Thrasher some years ago and it just stuck.
Besides, serving both congregations paid enough to let Bobby make it his full-time calling. The arrangement worked out well for everybody involved except for faithful Carl Henson, who put up a fuss about it being sacrilegious or something. But, within three months, Carl and seven of his sheep drowned in high water. Everybody decided that God had smite him for being such a poor shepherd and blessed Bobby for being such a good one.
One afternoon, Wiley Roy Quinn was walking down Ragged Mountain, heading towards his cabin up Johns Creek. There was plenty of time to get there before dusk and he wasn’t hurrying. Fact of the matter, Wiley Roy never did like to hurry — all the more so now that he was toting a bushel sack of corn.
“How you doin’ Reverend Bobby?”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Essay: Targeted drone killing

A new technology, which reduces the incidence of occupation forces and civilian casualties, extends into a gap in the continuum between law enforcement and war.

This was first published in the Dayton Review on February 20, 2013. It is scheduled for publication in Chum for Thought: Blood in the Water (2014).

Targeted drone killing
We don’t seem to have a problem with missile-armed drones here in central Iowa, but there are those among us who are worried about black helicopters coming for them in the night. However, people in villages in other places watch armed drones circling overhead every day. Somebody (and anyone else near them) is probably going to get blown to bits pretty soon. There is no safe place to hide and there is no safe place for your children to play. That has got to get on your nerves.
The rise of global terrorism has required governments to develop new policies and procedures. This is unlike any war that has ever been and it’s not easy to wrap our minds around how things are having to change. Lethal actions are no longer taken exclusively against nation states, but against widely dispersed and diverse groups and individuals.
Terrorist groups often gravitate to parts of the world that have inadequate rule of law, such as effective law enforcement and extradition treaties. Still, they may pose real dangers to the security of the United States, its citizens, and to others that have the support of the United States. Further, available technology has the capacity to multiply the massive damage that even a small terrorist organization can produce.
Historically, military responses have required

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blasphemy Incorporated

All opinions expressed herein by the author are offered without undue depths of rancor, malice, irony, or satire; only reasonably-balanced depths are intended. I name names and offer opinions but, any errors of fact are unintentional and sincerely regretted.
Rubber Ducky Jesus Nativity
Today, I received several items in the mail, including a magazine subscription offer and a specialty mail order catalog. Both traded on themes of religion — especially Christianity. You have to believe that neither company felt any need of remorse for their marketing choices. At first I was tempted to simply discard the pieces as simple junk mail. However, considered together, they gave me cause to think about the nature of commercialism, American values, and blasphemy.
The first item was an advertisement for “sinful savings” on subscriptions to Free Inquiry magazine (oriented toward the scientific examination of religion). I have a reputation for thinking (and writing) about such controversial subjects and wasn’t surprised to be targeted by their mailing list. The envelop featured red blood splatters and the message, “Blasphemous! Look inside at your own eternal peril.” They enclosed a “Special Introductory Offer - For Blasphemers Only.” Also, “Your salvation isn’t guaranteed… but your satisfaction with Free Inquiry is!” Their come-on letter starts,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fergus Scores Again

Fergus Scores Again

A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations
[Published in Life Will Surprise You in the End: Short Stories by David Satterlee (2014)]

What brings us together so urgently in times of tragedy or triumph?
[Note: Contains sensual imagery and non-explicit accounts of sexual activity.]

Fergus Johnson’s steady girlfriend, whom we need not name, was upset with him about something and refused to come to the big game. Fergus was afraid that this would distract him from performing at his best. Nonetheless, Fergus scored the winning goal of the final soccer game that season. Emotions ran high as his friends and fans flooded onto the field. His teammates were elated at their victory and continued to celebrate in the dressing room. Shortly afterward, still flushed with the thrill of success and a sense of unbounded power, Fergus found that several girls were enthusiastically waiting for him at the stadium exit.

A girl named Cathy left the group, ran to him, and jumped into his startled embrace. She felt like she was floating as she melted into his strength; her feet were actually six inches off the ground as he held her. Fergus had seen Cathy around. He had been watching her and she knew it. Cathy was infatuated with Fergus as well, which he was now discovering. He was aroused by the swell of her breasts pressed into his ribs, the smell of her hair, his grasp of her rump as he lowered her to the ground, the pulse of pheromones wafting in the air, and the surge of oxytocin coursing in his blood. Cathy was feeling pretty good as well.

They stood together looking at each other and