Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

Opinion

Respect my art

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Having revealed several of my personal character flaws over the course of writing these columns, I’m going all in and devote a column to an even broader listing of them.

“Great, a thousand words of self-flagellation…how exciting,” you say? Hang in there, there’s a point in this. This is a warning and a plea.

I’m a terrible poet. I became interested in reading poetry when I was a teenager, and soon started writing it myself. Over the last 60 years I’ve published some poetry, done poetry readings, taken part in poetry slams (competitive poetry, if that even makes sense), and participated in online poetry forums. I write unrhymed poetry and am often accused of not being a poet at all!

After growing up reading every book I could get my hands on, I decided as a kid that I wanted to try writing myself. Thought it would be cool to be a novelist. Well, that didn’t work out very well because I’m terrible at writing fiction. I have trouble suspending reality and I hate the kind of constant plot twists, etc. that it takes to write good fiction. So, I switched to writing op-ed stuff and sending it to the local paper. And I found non-fiction as my thing. That seems to have worked out.  I was editor/reporter of the Tyler County Booster for years. Before that, back in the 1990’s, a friend and I published a couple of newspapers as a side hobby.

I love music. Music of most any kind. In 1960's, when I was 13 years old, and guitar infused Rock and Roll was becoming a thing, I had to have an electric guitar. I’ve now been playing guitar for over 60 years, even though I have no talent for guitar. I’m an intermediate guitar player at best, even though I practice guitar an hour a day. I should be well beyond intermediate after playing for 60 years. In fact, trombone was the instrument I went farthest with, playing with symphony orchestras when in college. I haven’t picked up a trombone since I was 25. Go figure.

A family friend who was a professional photographer noticed that the 10-year-old Jim was always carrying around a little Kodak Instamatic 126 camera and taking photos. I was obsessed with the photography in National Geographic magazine. So, he gave me an older, but real camera and taught me how to develop my own negatives and print photos. That led to an actual career benefit, as I’ve used photography throughout my working life. Yet, I’m not particularly talented in photography, I’ve just worked very hard to become technically very good at it. I protest to folks who argue otherwise that I’m not an artist. I just know how to pull the rabbit out of the hat. When digital SLR cameras became capable of shooting video back in the late 2000’s, I was in with video.

When computers became available for the common man, I was all in with them. Was a member of a computer club in the mid 1970’s where we built computers from kits. We had to wire up our own keyboards and, at first, used old Type 33 teletype machines for I/O. You had to learn to program, as initially there were no out of the box programs that ran on these kit machines. That also turned into a career writing the code to convert Minicomputer accounting and inventory databases to PC’s as that transition occurred and later as a database specialist writing database software. Now, I handle IT/Websites for Polk County Publishing Company.

Also, at 10 years old, I got hooked on HAM radio, got my license along with my mom and dad, and pursued that hobby for many years. I grew up hunting, was very interested in guns, and later competed competitively with handguns. Was obsessed with cars, as most guys of my age were, and got into restoring old Mustangs.

If you are a young person and are reading this, please do not think this is a roadmap to success. While I’ve had an amazing life, I consider the impulse that led me to it as a character flaw and have seen it destroy lives. It’s o.k. as a young person to explore possibilities. As a young person you are standing in front of many doors. Some will be locked because of circumstances beyond your control. But I believe you should at least open every door that will open, turn on the light, and look around. If you aren’t interested in what you see, though, turn out the light, close the door and lock it. And don’t look back.

Capitalism, having consumed all the physical world, has now made our attention its product. It has monetized our attention and turned us all into obsessive consumers of “content.”

Whether your vice is Facebook or YouTube or Instagram or TikTok or Twitter or Twitch or any other form of social media, these platforms exist for the sole purpose of making money. And they make money by capturing attention. They do not care about free speech, social or political discourse, or connecting family and friends. Their total concern is inducing you to consume more and more of their content, so they can constantly target advertising at you.

Don’t get me wrong. We live in a capitalist economic system. For media, advertising is essential. Producing any kind of media is very expensive, and the internet has conditioned many people to think all information and content should be free, which has destroyed the ability to survive with a subscription-based model.

The advertising model isn’t the problem or my point. It is that we are driven by this model to spend every free moment consuming, rather than creating. People making stuff built this country.

Most of those YouTube videos you consume while YouTube targets you with advertising so you will spend more money? The maker, the person creating that video, is not sitting around consuming YouTube videos. They are creating something new. It takes days to shoot and edit that 12-minute video you just watched. Creation is hard, but it is so much more rewarding both personally and financially than consumption.

Those rewards are what drove me to learn to do so many things over the years. Consuming words as a reader wasn’t enough. I wanted to write, to produce those words. Listening to music wasn’t enough, I wanted to produce that music.  Running programs on computers wasn’t enough, I wanted to write those programs, looking at photos in Nat Geo wasn’t enough, I wanted to take those photos. The satisfaction wasn’t in the consumption, it was in the creation.

If you want to look at it financially, as a bottom-line item, that YouTube “Influencer” with a million subscribers, is, between ad revenue and sponsorships, pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (and for many a month) in income. And if you talk to them they will tell you they have little time to watch YouTube videos.

It is far more rewarding to be a creator than a consumer. Been there, done that.

Make something!

  • Hits: 885

A disturbance in the Matrix

Write a comment

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While several midterm races remain too close to call at the time I’m writing this column, and a runoff looms in December in the Warnock/Walker Senatorial race, there are a few general observations about the midterm elections that seem safe to speculate about. What should have been a Republican earthquake turned into a mere disturbance in the Matrix, and those of us who are news junkies all have an opinion of why.

Numerous Republican politicians and Right-Wing Media celebrities were quick to address the gorilla in the corner during the lead up to the midterms, the former President’s influence on the election outcomes. The sharp knives came out almost immediately, and most were aimed straight at Donald Trump. It’s hard to reach any other conclusion than that inserting himself into the campaigns was a drag on many of the candidates, for a couple of reasons.

Many agree that the quality of the candidates, or lack thereof, was one factor. Trump backed several candidates who clearly under performed in elections they should have won easily. And those still locked in close races. Trump, of course, is blaming others, including his wife, for steering him toward endorsing unelectable candidates. While he takes credit for over 200 winning candidates, these were primarily candidates in safe races who would have won regardless of his endorsement. The losses tended to be in consequential races. Races that should not been close for the out of power party in a midterm election.

Other Republicans have pointed out that voters other than the MAGA faithful have moved past relitigating the 2020 election and Trump’s grievance driven rehashing of old, now irrelevant feuds. His unending rallies supposedly held to support Republican candidates focused primarily on himself and raised money that mostly went into his own pocket, not those of the candidates.

But Trump was only one factor in the disappointing for Republicans midterms. Several court decisions restricting personal liberties drove many Democrat voters to the polls. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, throwing decisions about abortion back to state legislators, was an earthquake among Democrats and Progressives. Realizing that the SC was willing to undo 50-year-old decisions on a whim convinced a lot of folks that Democracy itself iis under threat. The efforts by Republican state legislators to restrict voting rights also set off alarm bells. Attacks against LGBTQ+ individuals also raised the perceived threat level to democracy.

Voters seem to have tired in general of the politics of hate and division, voting for more rational candidates who at least pretended to want to move the country forward, rather than burn it down.

I hope that we’ve turned a corner and will move beyond the us against them politics of the Trump era. Trump’s star seems to be descending. Perhaps that’s a good sign. 

We are probably heading for at least a couple of years of gridlock. I had a good friend that frequently said that gridlock in government is a good thing, because maybe they won’t be able to steal from us for a while! I hope that will not be the result of all of this. We face too many serious problems in this country to do nothing for the next two years.

If you voted, thank you, thank you, thank you. Maintain your vigilance. The threat to democracy is real. 

  • Hits: 510

House committee charged with criminal jurisprudence

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Trent AshbyAs the month of October has come to a close, sportsmen and women across the state are counting down the days until the upcoming hunting season. With white-tailed deer and duck season just around the corner, I want to remind all of my fellow hunters to make sure you’ve purchased your hunting license and federal duck stamp before heading to the field. I’d also like to encourage you to consider downloading the Texas Outdoor Annual App, where you can access information about hunting season dates and bag limits for your county, find public hunting lands nearby, and review various hunting regulations, even without internet service. You can also access your hunting and fishing license on your device and even purchase your hunting license through the app. For more information, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges.

House Interim Charge: Criminal Jurisprudence

The next stop on our tour of House Committees is the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. With nine members, the Committee has legislative jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to criminal law, penalties, criminal procedure in the courts of Texas, and revisions or amendments to the penal code. The Committee also oversees two state agencies, the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

During the interim, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will monitor the implementation of policies enacted during the 87th Legislative Session and ensure the measures and outcomes are working as intended. For instance, HB 1540 made much-needed changes to human trafficking laws by strengthening protections for victims and adding additional investigatory resources for prosecutors. While the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force has made significant progress in combatting human trafficking offenders, this bill serves to bolster our efforts by providing additional resources to the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

The Committee will also study reentry and integration programs and make recommendations for reducing employment barriers for certain people with a criminal record. Reentry programs are designed to assist returning citizens who have served their time and are motivated to “reenter” society by competing for a job, attaining stable housing, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities. The study also reviews the length of time certain criminal offenses remain on a defendant’s record and considers the impact of expanding the offenses that qualify for an order of non-disclosure.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will also study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that enhance recovery and safety for victims of violent crimes. Additionally, committee members are charged with making recommendations for streamlining the grant administration process and improving access to community-based services in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and for victims of violent crimes.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

 

  • Hits: 435

Hug a veteran

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Way back in the day, something along the lines of 30-ish years ago, I was a pup learning the editor trade at a small Eastern New Mexico daily.

After a meeting with my boss one day, he tasks me to write an editorial about Veterans Day. Since I had never written such a thing before, I countered with my best puzzled/frightened look.

My editor saw this and offered a bit of advice: “If it helps, we’re for it.”

It didn’t help, mostly because I already was for it. I plugged away and was able to toss out a respectable piece, and that ended up running in the three newspapers that were part of the group.

Flash-forward 30-some-odd years, and I’m still for it, and I’m betting most if not all of you are as well.

My father, who still lives in Eastern New Mexico, is a veteran, having served 20 years in the Air Force. His brother served in the Navy, and currently is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My mother worked in numerous capacities with the military, and even became the first civilian leader of a Social Actions office at the air base. Myself, I was 17 years a dependent, meaning I followed a lot of the same rules (I actually told my dad that because of that, I already served, and didn’t want to enlist. There were other reasons, but that’s not important right now).

One of the things our government mostly gets right is creating a military to protect us from enemies. I say mostly, since one of the government’s enumerated powers is to raise and maintain a military force, but most would agree that not every one of their uses in the last 246 years has been sensible (again, an argument for another time).

The making of the military as one that is for the most part all voluntary is an exceptional development, and even though when the need arose, our fearless leaders (RE**s, as the lingo was) instituted a draft, and to this day, 18-year-old males still are required to register with Selective Service.

But that is for dire circumstances. The volunteers, and even those who were drafted, that served our nation right or wrong deserve all respect.

Imagine the dedication and even love of family and country that was necessary to enter military service. While the idea of free or mostly free food, lodging and later education, retirement, life insurance and medical care may have been the motivating factor, it was a decision born of love, since at any time the military will be called in to conflict.

Even today, deployments overseas into Asia, the Middle East, and Europe have these heroes away from family and country, serving the country despite the risks — death, pain, maiming, PTSD, all manner of maladies notwithstanding.

I have been enchanted to see that in the last few years appreciation for the military has grown, given that after Vietnam, the military was vilified. Even then, though, they served.

Now that they’re home, they continue to serve their communities through charitable endeavors. So on Friday, raise a flag, salute your friends who served, and be thankful they sacrificed to keep our way of life safe.

  • Hits: 465

House Committee focuses on legal matters

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Trent AshbyAs the month of October comes to a close, sportsmen and women across the state are counting down the days until the upcoming hunting season.

With white-tailed deer and duck season just around the corner, I want to remind all of my fellow hunters to make sure you’ve purchased your hunting license and federal duck stamp before heading to the field.

I’d also like to encourage you to consider downloading the Texas Outdoor Annual App, where you can access information about hunting season dates and bag limits for your county, find public hunting lands nearby, and review various hunting regulations, even without internet service.

You can also access your hunting and fishing license on your device and even purchase your hunting license through the app. For more information, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges.

The next stop on our tour of House Committees is the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. With nine members, the Committee has legislative jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to criminal law, penalties, criminal procedure in the courts of Texas, and revisions or amendments to the penal code. The Committee also oversees two state agencies, the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

During the interim, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will monitor the implementation of policies enacted during the 87th Legislative Session and ensure the measures and outcomes are working as intended.

For instance, HB 1540 made much-needed changes to human trafficking laws by strengthening protections for victims and adding additional investigatory resources for prosecutors. While the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force has made significant progress in combatting human trafficking offenders, this bill serves to bolster our efforts by providing additional resources to the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

The Committee will also study reentry and integration programs and make recommendations for reducing employment barriers for certain people with a criminal record. Reentry programs are designed to assist returning citizens who have served their time and are motivated to “reenter” society by competing for a job, attaining stable housing, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities.

The study also reviews the length of time certain criminal offenses remain on a defendant’s record and considers the impact of expanding the offenses that qualify for an order of non-disclosure.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will also study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that enhance recovery and safety for victims of violent crimes.

Additionally, committee members are charged with making recommendations for streamlining the grant administration process and improving access to community-based services in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and for victims of violent crimes.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, soon to be District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

  • Hits: 488