Copyright or Copyleft?

I recently stumbled upon a concept called “copyleft,” a play on the word “copyright.” The term has been around for quite some time, but I had never heard of it.

Basically, I would use copyleft if I create a work and wish to give anyone else the right to distribute, modify, and share it. I also would insist that anyone who modifies my creation must agree to pass on the right to distribute, modify, and share the new adaptation that ensues. All versions that future adaptors create should also be made available for modifying and sharing down the line.

The goal of copyright, of course, is to ensure that the creator of the art, software, or literary effort will receive monetary gain in addition to recognition. Under copyleft, on the other hand, derivative works are allowed as long as their creators insist that other users who adapt and distribute the new works do so at no cost to recipients. The original creator may require that all future derivatives give credit to him or her, but monetary gain is neither required nor expected.

The term “kopyleft” was used as early as the 1960s, in Principia Discordia, or How the West Was Lost (1965), later revised as How I Found Goddess And What I Did To Her When I Found Her: The Magnum Opiate Of Malaclypse The Younger, Wherein is Explained Absolutely Everything Worth Knowing About Absolutely Anything. One of these original versions (I could not find out which one) contained a K in a circle followed by the words All Rights Reversed—Reprint What You Like.

The concept of copyleft was used by Richard Stallman, a software expert, as a result of what he perceived as a wrong. When Stallman was working on a Lisp interpreter and Symbolics asked to use his code, he provided them with a public domain copy, giving them the right to use his creation and modify it at will. Later, when Stallman asked them to give him a copy of the code they had developed using his software, they refused.

Stallman called this “system hoarding” and began working to prevent such tactics in the future. Around 1984 he created the first copyleft license. His goal was not to deny copyright as it is historically understood, but he believed that the creator of a work could allow others to revise the original as long as future revisers allow others to do the same.

Copyleft is often used for software. The creator gives anyone else the right to modify and share the code, as long as the recipient insists that the resulting software could be used and modified. Creative Commons provides ShareAlike, which uses a similar license.

Copyleft is still being used mainly for software; however, an amazing artist who supports copyleft is Nina Paley. She gives anyone the right to distribute and adapt her work as long as the adapter allows the same rights down the line.

Currently, there are four levels of permission. Copyleft can be divided into “full” and “partial,” and different countries have different laws for copyleft. At this time the backwards C in a circle has no legal significance; instead, the copyleft terms should be stated in words.

I recently attended a workshop held by a lawyer who is an expert in intellectual property rights. She said that many young people believe that all works should be free to everyone with no restrictions on copying or revising the original.

What are your thoughts?

NOTE: If you click the “follow me” button and provide your email address, you will receive a link to my new blog entry every month. Your email address will never be shared or sold.

Five Reasons I Hate Facebook

5. It is too enticing, like a siren’s song. I love following my friends, family, and fellow writers. I can easily spend all day returning to it over and over.

It’s too much like the time I made a pecan pie one day. My husband and I each had a piece for dessert. The next evening after dinner, he said, “I’d like another piece of pie.” I hung my head and said, “There isn’t any more.” I started nibbling on the pie in the morning, left a fork in the pan, and kept returning to eat a little bit more all day. Facebook is like that pie.

4. Facebook makes me cry. I am a big softie, and I can cry at almost anything. One day, I was passing through the TV room, and someone was dying on the screen. I started crying as I walked. My daughter said, “Mom, that’s Al Capone.”

“I can’t help it,” I said.

“He’s dyyyying.” I told you I am a softie.

3. Facebook has lots of political lies, such as when a posting made the rounds that said President Obama had the flags across the nation put at half-staff after the death of Whitney Houston. Actually, it was Republican Governor Chris Christie who made that announcement for his state alone. I wonder how many people never learned the truth. I have even been guilty of reposting something I thought was true, only to have Snopes tell me I was wrong. Heavy sigh.

2. Every time I see a recipe, I want to try it. If I see someone’s enticing meal in full color, my mouth waters and I want to head for the kitchen. I think Facebook is bad for my diet.

1. Facebook is ruining (or may have already ruined) one of the old, useful rules for punctuating titles. Once upon a time, we English teachers taught that titles of short works (short stories, short poems, chapter titles) should have quotation marks (“The Trouble with Tribbles,”) and titles of longer works (novels, epic poems, series) should be underlined or italicized (Star Trek).

Since Facebook does not allow underlining or italics, however, people could only use all caps for titles of longer works. Some writers on FB used all caps for a while, which makes sense because we are supposed to use all caps for our novel titles when we submit a query letter to an agent. Other writers just omitted any punctuation at all for titles on Facebook, perhaps because we associate all caps with shouting.

That would not have been so bad, but then authors (AUTHORS!) stopped using any punctuation for titles on their own blogs, even though those sites allowed them to use italics or underlining. I wish I could convince everyone to use single quotation for novel titles on Facebook, but—alas—I am only one person. So I sigh whenever I see a title with no punctuation.

We can’t even tell whether we are looking at one or two novels when we see a sentence like this: I enjoyed reading Basted and Tasted. If we used single quotation marks, we could write: I enjoyed reading ‘Basted’ and ‘Tasted,’ or I enjoyed reading ‘Basted and Tasted.’ I know I won’t win this battle, so I merely move on and sigh dramatically.

I hate Facebook. It is the reason I have not finished my novel or my memoir.

I think I will just go see what my friends on FB are doing right now. They’ll understand my pain.

Bye. Sigh.

Note: If you click the “follow me” button and enter your email address, your name will be entered in a drawing for a $25.00 gift card to Amazon every month (or until you win). You will also be notified when a new funny post is available. Your email address will never be sold or shared. Thanks.


I prefer to proofread carefully.

I prefer to proofread carefully.



I recently ordered a porcelain cup that showed proofreaders’ marks on the left side, with examples of the marks being used in sentences on the right side.

When I opened the box, the first thing I saw was the slogan “Proof carefuly” on the side facing away from the drinker. Oops.

The other side of the cup listed eleven proofreaders’ symbols with examples for each one. Unfortunately, half the sentences used as examples were incorrect. The symbol was used correctly, but some of the resulting sentences were incorrectly worded or punctuated.

For the symbol denoting “Insert a comma,” the example sentence was
“A stitch in time, saves nine.”
The sentence violates the rule “Do not insert a lonely comma between a subject and its verb just because you feel like pausing.”

But wait. There’s more.

The better to see you with. said the wolf.
was changed to
“The better to see you with.” said the wolf.
but it should have been
“The better to see you with,” said the wolf.

The win dows (Two words for windows?) on the bus goes up and down.
was changed to
The windows on the bus goes up and down.
but it should have been either
The windows on the bus go up and down.
The window on the bus goes up and down.

“I’ll huff and puff” said the wolf.
should have been
“I’ll huff and puff,” said the wolf.


Some of my friends have suggested that perhaps it is a joke mug, but I think they would have gotten all the examples wrong if they had meant it to be funny.

I contacted the company that sold the mug and received a gracious reply telling me that they would refund my money. They also said not to bother sending it back. I’m not surprised. They are probably happy to get rid of one of them. I wonder how many more they have on their shelves.


(Note: All the names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Not long ago, I became Membership Chair of an organization I’ll call San Antonio Mystery Writers Association (even though it isn’t). Weeks went by before I was told that I needed to talk to the previous chair to get the box of materials so I could perform my duties. The chapter called it “The Membership Box,” but hereinafter I shall call it “The Box.”

“Rosa” had not been attending the meetings for quite some time, and I had never met her, so I asked the current treasurer for her phone number and email address. I phoned her, but the call went to voice mail, so I left a message asking for her to call me. I explained what I wanted so she would not think it was a sales call.

I also emailed her a request for the box of materials, even offering to go pick them up at her house, if needed.

A week passed and I did not receive a response, so I left another message and emailed her again.

Another week went by, so I asked the treasurer for her address. All SAMWA had was a post office box number. I told the president of the organization, and she said we would just have to wait for her to contact us.

Several more weeks went by, and I was asked to do some work with the membership forms.

“What membership forms?” I asked.

“The ones in The Box.”

I had only the forms for the people who had joined after I took office. The rest of the forms were in – you guessed it – The Box.

I went online and used a website to locate her address.

I was determined to track her down. If I can write about how a sleuth manages to find out information, surely I could do it myself.

I found three different addresses and a phone number that was different from the one I had tried. I dialed the phone number, but it was disconnected.

I found out from the Internet that she worked in one of the public libraries in town. When I went there and asked for her, the young man went into the back room and said she was not available.

“Will she be in tomorrow?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” He looked at me as though he thought I might be a collections agent or bounty hunter.


Would I receive the same answer every day? Perhaps he had been the victim of a bill collector or process server and did not want to help me find her. He even might become an obstacle in my caper.

I was now determined to locate The Box. My terrier instincts kicked in. If she wasn’t at work, maybe she was at home. I decided to try the first address on the list, 803 W. Aberdeen. (Don’t try to find it. I changed everything for this story.)

I went to that address even though it was 30 minutes from my house. The numbering system seemed not to be quite right, so I stopped at a McDonald’s nearby and asked what their street address was so I could work backward.

After finding 805 W. Aberdeen, I assumed the next house was 803. I did not find a street number, just a faded place on the curb where the number probably once was. The house I found looked haunted, with an unpainted exterior, loose boards on the porch, and yellowed lace curtains in the windows. It did, however, have four mailboxes on the wall beside the front door.

An electric bill peeked out from one of the mailboxes attached to the house.

Hoping it was not illegal to just look at a piece of mail, I pulled it up just enough to see the address, which turned out to be 801. That meant that 803 was the vacant lot between 801 and 805.

Well, perhaps it was E. Aberdeen. I drove there. It was now a doctor’s office, housed in a relatively new building.

I had another home address from the web, but one said “Oak Street” and one said “Oak Lane.” I found both on the city map, but they were both 30 minutes from my house—in different directions.

I decided to try the library again before I drove to those addresses. Just in case the guard dog (excuse me, her fellow librarian) was going to hide his friend from me, I used a little deception. I carried with me a brightly wrapped present. It was not for her, of course. It was just to get past the young man.

The next day, I went to the library, casually held the package in full view and asked for her again. He looked at the present and said, “She’s in the shelves somewhere.”

When I said, “Can you describe her for me? I don’t know what she looks like,” he looked puzzled, but he did describe her well enough for me to find her.

Once I located her, I looked around to make sure our discussion would not be overheard since I had a bad feeling about what she was going to tell me. I didn’t want to embarrass her.

First, I introduced myself and told her that we would really like for her to join SAMWA again. She graciously replied that she was too busy, with school and work.

I then asked if I could go to her house to get the box, or perhaps she could bring it to the library for me to pick up.

She said, “I threw it away. I had paid for everything in it anyway.”

“Even the lapel pins that cost three hundred dollars?”

“Little gold pins?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“I never had those.”

That was not what the president had told me, but I know a lost cause when I see one.

So I now have no membership box and no pins, but I did get my man. Er, woman. At least I did not have to go to the two addresses to find out The Box no longer existed. My task was finished. Unsuccessful, but finished.


My Book House Books

When Elmore Leonard died recently, I read his biography and was surprised to learn that he had enjoyed My Book House Books when he was growing up.

My mother bought the set of twelve books from a traveling salesman when I had two sisters: my twin Evelyn and our older sister Nancy. She was nine years old, and we were five. Dad was in the Army, and the books became our constant companions as we followed him to various bases and posts.

The books traveled with us from Waco, Texas to Tachikawa, Japan; Yokohama, Japan; back to Waco; then to Tokyo; back to Waco; then to San Antonio, Texas; then Lawton, Oklahoma; then Fort Richardson, Alaska; then Thornton, Texas; then Groesbeck, Texas; and back to Waco, Texas.

The set of books survived five more siblings: Susan, Sherrie, twins Bill and Phil, and Corliss. After my parents died, the books in the set were distributed among the children and grandchildren. Three of us have bought our own set in various states of disrepair. I was fortunate enough to find one that looked as though it had never been read. I gave it to my daughter.

Last week, I sat between my grandchildren and read stories from one of the books to them. I grew misty-eyed as I thought about the memories these books held for me.

Curious, I decided to research the background of the books and discovered that the first volume was published in 1920. Olive Beaupre Miller was a writer who became so wrapped up in her novel one day that she left her little girl, who was only a few months old, on the front porch in her carriage for two hours past her feeding time. Olive was so upset with herself that she gave up writing and burned the manuscript.

Later on, she found that she was unable to find many works appropriate for her to read to her child, she wrote Sunny Rhymes for Happy Children. The book was an immediate success, so Olive followed it with two more books of poetry for children.

As the daughter grew older, Olive found very little worth reading aloud. Many stories were unsuitable, and the ones that were appropriate were difficult to find because they were scattered and difficult to collect.

Her husband, Harry, had been a salesman for many years, and he suggested that she compile stories into a collection, beginning with stories for toddlers and continuing as the children grew older. Their daughter was six years old at the time.

Harry and Olive set up their own company to publish the books. In 1920 the first book was published, with the title In the Nursery, with black and gold binding. It contained stories and rhymes along with full-color illustrations. In 1921 the sixth volume was completed, and salespeople started going door to door. Olive traveled to Holland, France, Russia, Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Mexico, Guatemala, the Yucatan, Yugoslavia, Austria, German, and Japan to collect folk tales. She continued working for the company from 1920 until 1962, when she retired. She died in 1968.

The books are still in print, and now the set has twelve volumes. If you click the link below, you can see how wonderful the set is. I’m not selling anything, by the way. I am certainly keeping ours.



In the early seventies, I began a Master’s degree at UT-Austin. Back then, teachers did not have computers or even correcting typewriters at home or school, so we typed all of our papers on regular typewriters.

I finished all the classes I needed to earn the degree, and all that was left was my thesis. We were told that we had to leave a margin of exactly one and one-half inch at the bottom of the page. That meant that if a footnote was just a little too long or too short we had to type that page over and over until we got it right. We would sometimes type the same page three or four times.

Erasable paper did exist, but we were not allowed to use it for the thesis.

“The professors used to just tell the students they couldn’t use erasable paper for the final thesis or dissertation,” the adviser at UT-Austin told us. “Now we tell them why. We had a student last year who ignored that requirement. He was a doctoral student, and he turned in a dissertation over 500 pages long. He had used paper that was so high quality we did not realize it was erasable paper, and we sent it off to the binder.”

The professor took a deep breath. “The binding process uses heat, and erasable paper has a plastic coating. His dissertation came back as a fused brick.”

It takes approximately a year to write a dissertation, and we did not have electronic backups back then.

I still wonder what happened to that doctoral student. Had he thrown away all his note cards when his document received its final approval? Did he still have a backup, handwritten copy, perhaps, that he could retype and resubmit? I certainly hope he did, but I was afraid to ask. They used to lock the tower at UT-Austin when grades came out. I hoped it was locked when he found out what had happened to his dissertation.

The reason these details are so important is that I, too, could not use erasable paper when I typed my husband’s 100-page Master’s thesis. If I did not have exactly one and one-half inches left at the bottom of the page, including footnotes, I had to type the page over and over until I got it right.

If you wonder why Wayne did not type his own final copy, I will tell you I found it easier to do it myself than to watch him type with two fingers while smoking nonstop and cussing vehemently. He wrote. I typed. We survived.

When Wayne started working on his Master’s thesis, the University of Missouri-Kansas City was using the current version of a footnote and citation guidebook colloquially called just “Turabian”.

We followed the rules precisely, and he turned in his thesis in August. His professor accepted the document and said he would read it during the school year and have suggestions and edits ready when Wayne returned for his final summer of classes.

That was when Wayne would enroll in the second half of Thesis 606, make the changes as requested, and turn in the final document as his last act for the Master’s degree. He did not mind that it would take that long for them to look at his thesis because he was teaching on the college level in Winfield, Kansas, and would not have time to work on it during the school year anyway.

The next summer, Wayne headed off to UM-KC, several hours away from our home. He enrolled in his final two classes and planned to finalize his thesis. He went to the professor and told him he was now ready to make any necessary edits so he could turn in the final document.

Wayne called me and said, “The prof can’t find my document. Do we still have my handwritten draft?”

My heart sank. “Yes,” I said. I knew better than to throw it away. I may still have it here somewhere, in spite of moving several times since then. I’m superstitious.

The next morning, before I began typing, he called again. “The professor found the document,” he said. “Not only that, but he had no edits or suggestions.”

“Wonderful!” I was ecstatic.

“There’s only one problem,” he said.

I held my breath. “What?”

“During the school year, the university adopted the newest version of Turabian, and the rules for footnotes and citations have changed. You’re going to have to type it over.”

I managed to keep control even though I wanted to scream. I was pregnant at the time, and the typewriter was getting farther and farther away from me as time passed. Either that or my arms were getting shorter.

That weekend, he brought the thesis back to me, and I spent days typing it over, following the new rules in “Turabian”. The changes were quite minor, such as no longer putting a period after “p” for page and “pp” for pages, but still I had to retype the whole thing. I don’t remember the other changes, but I remember that one. You will know why in a moment.

He took the typed thesis back with him to Kansas City. A few days later, he called again.
“Are you sitting down?” he asked.

“No.” I sat down. “Yes.”

“They decided to follow the new Turabian except for one change. They want to keep the period after “p” for page and “pp” for pages.

I said, “I’ll call you later,” then hung up the phone and cried. Over the next few days, I retyped the darn thing, and he took it back to the university the next Monday.

When Wayne came back the following weekend, he told me what happened next. “I turned it in on Tuesday and went back to the professor on Friday. He told me the document received final approval and I was to take it over to the Dean’s office and turn it in.”

The Dean’s secretary, in what Wayne called her habitual You-stupid-person, you-may-be-a-university-student-but-you-are-dumber-than-rocks, and-I-have-all-the-power-here voice, said “Where are the reader reports?”

“What reader reports?” Wayne asked.

She sighed dramatically. “You’re supposed to have a cover sheet with the signatures of the four professors who were on your committee and approved the document.

Wayne asked, “What committee?”

She rolled her eyes and shoved the thesis at him. “Go back to your professor and tell him you need reader reports.”

Wayne left the office and cursed the whole way back to his professor’s office.

“The dean’s secretary said I had to have readers’ reports,” Wayne told him.

The professor picked up the phone, clicked the speaker button, called the secretary, and said in his most haughty tone, “This is not a dissertation. It is a master’s thesis. No committee is needed.”

“I tried not to smirk,” Wayne said, “when I went back to her and turned it in, but it was hard. She pretended to be very busy trying to figure out what was wrong with her stapler. I think she was just avoiding having to look me in the eyes.”

That was in the seventies. He earned his Master’s degree, and in the eighties we moved to Texas, where we both began teaching at New Braunfels High School. When the library installed 30 computers, I took my students there and taught them to prepare their essays on the new Macs. I wrote an instruction sheet with ten steps for the students to follow. Step one was “Reach around behind the computer and turn it on.”

Step two was “Insert the floppy disk.” It was the eighties, remember. I had the students use colored folders with three brads to house their disks and documents. We also used the folders as their mouse pads since the library had not ordered any yet. I spent one week teaching the seniors how to use the Macs.

At that time, I often muttered under my breath about how much easier life was for them. No typewriters. No faulty margins requiring the entire page to be retyped. Not only that, but the abbreviations “op cit.” and “loc cit.” were no longer used. All they needed was “ibid.”


“Them young ’uns have things too easy,” I thought. “They’ll never get to experience the bad ol’ days of typing pages over because they did not leave the exact one and a half-inch at the bottom. They don’t know how lucky they are. These newfangled inventions make ’em lazy.”

When my son started his doctoral work, he showed me the program that would allow him to enter the author, title, publisher, etc., on one screen. The program would then create the footnote, properly punctuated and with the proper margin at the bottom of the page. Not only that, but the program created the entire bibliography (even automatically alphabetized), with absolutely no effort from the student.

I seethed with anger and envy. When he submitted his doctoral dissertation in 2010, he didn’t even have to worry about getting the periods and commas correct in the footnotes and bibliography. The computer did it for him.

Had I been born too soon? Or too late? Is it better if students can focus on what they have to say rather than whether there will be a period (or not) after the abbreviation for “page”?

I think students definitely are better off today. They can now concentrate on what they want to say rather than the mechanics of typing the footnotes and bibliography exactly right. It is a brave new world, and I am glad I am in it. I was just born too soon.


Why I Hate Santa Claus

Since I was born in 1946, I did not see a television until I was in third or fourth grade. Back then, it was relatively easy for parents to pretend Santa Claus existed, especially since we were living in Fort Richardson, Alaska, at the time. On Saturday mornings, we would go down to the basement and sit around the radio while we listened to children’s shows, such as THE TEDDY BEAR’S PICNIC.

We had no mall Santas. We had no malls. Parents didn’t have to explain why the Santa at Penney’s smelled like cigarettes and had gray hair while the one at Sears—at the other end of the mall—smelled like Old Spice and had white hair.

We had the Army Post Exchange. Period. Even then, we children never got to go shopping with Mother. There were seven children at that time, and the twin boys were still in diapers. Mother wisely chose to go the store without any children in tow. She went alone and stayed a long time.

When Christmas came around, all the girls in the family received dolls. I was sure I would receive an excellent, outstanding doll because I had tried to be extra special good for Santa. My twin and I, however, received very plain dolls. So did two other sisters. Very plain dolls.

Our younger sister received one that wet and talked.

I knew my twin and I were good girls, at least as good as our younger sister. Santa didn’t love us as much, apparently. I tried to figure out why.

That night, after my bedtime prayers, I asked Santa what I was doing wrong. I would just have to try harder to be a good girl, I thought, so Santa would love me more. I had a whole year to convince him.

Then when we got back to school after Christmas break, I found out about all the goodies the Mean Girl received. She got a new dress. And new ice skates. And a small motion picture machine that projected Mickey Mouse movies on the wall. All I got was a doll that didn’t even wet, much less talk. Santa loved her more than me.

A few days later, my mother caught me in a lie. Mother was a good old farm girl, who had ridden to town in a buggy pulled by horses when she was young. She believed in corporal punishment. Lots of people did, back in the fifties.

When she caught me in that lie, she used a switch on my legs until I was doing the ouch-ouch-ouch dance. I know people today are appalled when they hear of such a thing happening, but it was more accepted back then. “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” was often quoted by my devout mother.

It was only a couple of days later that I caught my mother in a lie. I heard her say into the phone, “I’m sorry, but we can’t come over after all. Marilyn is sick.”

I am? I don’t feel sick. Maybe I’m sick and don’t know it. No, I haven’t been to the doctor since we moved to Alaska… Mother told a lie! I don’t believe it.

 That very afternoon, I found out there was no Santa Claus. The Mean Girl told me. At first I refused to believe it, but my older sister told me the truth.

No Santa Claus? They had been lying to us all these years? Not just lying. Oh, no. Blackmail and bribery went along with it.

“You’d better stop doing that. Santa Claus will bring you coal.”

“If you don’t help clear the table, Santa Claus won’t bring you anything.”

I’m sure you have heard similar statements on the days–if not weeks–before Christmas.

Ever since that day, the jolly old elf makes me want to punch him out. Or at least take a switch to his legs.

I also worry about what little children think who live with their parents in cars or under bridges. Do their parents tell them that Santa forgot them or just that he could not find their house?

When my children were young, I told them right up front that Santa Claus did not bring their presents. Call me mean. Call me resentful. Call me bitter. I can take it.

I told them about the legendary Santa Claus.

Nicholas, who lived around 280 A.D. in what is now Turkey, became St. Nicholas because of his legendary kindness. History claims that he gave away the wealth he inherited. He also traveled around, helping the poor and sick. One popular tale states that he gave money to a father of three girls to keep him from having to sell them into slavery.

I found out later that on St. Nicholas day, December 6, families who follow the tradition present gifts to their children in his honor. I had to add the part about December 6 when my first-grader came home, hands on hips, and told me that many students in her class received a present from St. Nicholas that morning when they sat down to breakfast. In New Braunfels, a town with a strong German heritage, a St. Nicholas present was quite common. I never forgot another St. Nicholas Day.

When I originally told my children about St. Nicholas, I also told them to never tell other children who still believed in Santa that he was just an old tradition. Unfortunately, my son told all the children in his day care center that Santa was dead and that he had died long ago.

I still cringe when I remember the irate phone call from the day care director, followed by phone calls from the parents. I think they wanted to take a switch to my legs.

My daughter now has two children, and the first-grader still believes in Santa Claus. The fourth-grader now believes in Grandma, which is fine with me.


It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s a Band Director.

In the eighties, Wayne and I and our two children were living in New Braunfels, Texas. It was August, and I had put the children in day care so I could make preparations to start the school year teaching at the high school. I was still at home, but I was planning to go to the high school in a few minutes. Wayne was already there that day since summer band practices had already started and, like most high school band directors, he always put in sixteen-hour days every August.

Paul, one of Wayne’s private lesson teachers, called me at home and said, “Wayne’s fallen, and you need to come up here.”

“Well, tell him to get up,” I said, before realizing that this must be more than a mere tumble.

I drove to the school, which was only five minutes from our house. I saw the ambulance as soon as I got to the asphalt parking lot, which also served as the band practice field. Beside the ambulance stood the track timing tower. Since the band did not have a tower for the directors to watch band practice from high up, they hooked a chain to the tower and dragged it back and forth, as needed, from the track to the band practice field and back.

Beside the ambulance stood the superintendent and the principal and Paul.

“He fell off that?” I asked Paul.

“From the top,” he said. “Face first. Two band parents and he were hooking a chain to the tower so they could drag it back to the track. He was bending over the edge when a weld snapped, and he went over.”

The superintendent said, “You should go knock on the door of the ambulance and ask them how he’s doing.”

“No,” I replied. “I don’t want the EMTs distracted in any way. I want them to concentrate on Wayne.”

As we waited and waited, I thought about what was probably going on inside the ambulance. I had watched enough TV shows to know that they would always stabilize patients before transporting them. It seemed like 15 minutes or more before the ambulance finally pulled away. I drove behind it, and the two administrators followed me in another car.

At the emergency room, I gave my name and sat down to wait. The superintendent and principal waited a couple of hours with me before telling me to call them as soon as I heard something. Then I was alone.

After some time, the doctor came out and said, “He has a broken arm, and his four front teeth were knocked out. He’s stable now, but he’s holding his teeth in with gauze. As soon as we release him, you can take him to his dentist. We called Dr. Willard, and he’s expecting you. We’ll call him again when you leave here. You can go back and see him now.”

When I bent over the bed and saw Wayne’s battered face, I realized that I was so close to tears that if I said anything kind, I would lose it. I can cry for hours once I get started. Red eyes, runny nose, can’t catch my breath. You get the picture.

So when he opened his eyes, I smiled down at him and asked, “Well, did you try to fly?”

Wayne had a great sense of humor. He chuckled and said, “I tried.”

At least I think that’s what he said. It’s hard to talk when you are holding your four front teeth in with a piece of gauze.

Wayne’s assistant director, Mike, hurried in.

“Wayne, I heard what happened,” he said. “What should I do about band practice tonight?”

“I’m going to try to make it,” he said, through the gauze.

Up until that point, I had been a rock of fortitude. The following week, the principal even commented on how calm I had been. “You acted like it happened every day,” were his words.

Well, he did not see me when Wayne said that he was planning to go to band practice that night.

I went over to the doctor, who was putting a cast on someone’s arm in the next curtained-off examination area. I was almost incoherent as I said, “I want you to go in there and tell him he is absolutely not allowed to go to band practice tonight.” I think I was screeching.

The doctor looked up at me and said, “Don’t worry. After the dentist finishes the four root canals, your husband is not going to want to go anywhere.”

I don’t know what Mike did about band practice that night, but I know Wayne was not there.

After the doctor dismissed Wayne, I took him to the dentist. When Dr. Willard came out to guide Wayne to the treatment room, I said, “I’ll go home and get you a dry shirt.” I didn’t want him to come back out into the waiting room wearing a bloody one. If any children were there then, they might run out screaming.

When I returned to the dentist’s office, I sat in a chair. About an  hour later, Dr. Willard came out and said, “We think we saved the teeth. Time will tell. I’ll bring Wayne out in a few minutes, and you can take him home.”

I forgot to give Dr. Willard the clean shirt. It came in handy because, for the first time that day, I cried. I sobbed. I was really noisy. I was glad the receptionist had called the other patients and told them not to come in, so no one saw me crying in the waiting room.

The receptionist walked over and handed me a box of tissues. I handed her the shirt, and she headed back toward the treatment room.

Dr. Willard and the dental hygienist helped me get Wayne to the car. As we headed home, he said, “This shirt’s wet.”

“Sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t have a tissue.”

That night around 9 p.m. the air conditioner at our home went out. Wayne was so miserable already that I insisted we go to a motel so he would be more comfortable. We went to the local Holiday Inn. Around midnight, the air conditioner in the room went out. We did not want to wake the kids, who were sleeping soundly, so we dozed off and on until morning. When we told the person at the desk what had happened, he said there would be no charge for the room. That helped a little.

Not long after that day, one of the band parents, who was a welder, made a band tower so they would not have to drag the track tower back and forth.

Weeks later, his teeth were fine, the bruises went away, the cast was off his arm, but the bloody stain on the asphalt practice field stayed for months, even after the rains came.

That night was the only band practice Wayne ever missed. The next day he was back, broken arm, loose teeth and all.

More Memories of STAR TREK

This is the third installment of my blogs about STAR TREK. If you have not read the others, please read August 2012 and September 2012 first by clicking the dates on my website.

My son was a junior in high school when I had one of my several encounters with STAR TREK trivia.

Andrew had a habit of turning up the radio to full volume as soon as I left for work.

One day, he thought I was already gone, so he turned the radio up and stepped into the shower. As I was leaving, I heard the radio announcer say that the station was running a contest to give away dinner for four at Olive Garden and four tickets to a rock concert. All the listener had to do was name the episode of STAR TREK that was the basis for the new WRATH OF KHAN movie. The year was 1982, and neither Google nor Wikipedia had been created yet, so we could not look it up on the Internet.

I knew the answer, and I pounced on the opportunity, so I put down my purse and briefcase and picked up the phone.

The announcer said the phone number of the station so fast that I was not sure what it was. It sounded like “777-KZET.” I tried that number, but no one answered. I didn’t want to yell to my son through the bathroom door. I knew, however, that the last three letters ended in the “ee” sound, so I started dialing several combinations. Since nine letters end in that sound, I tried many variations.

No luck. Eventually, I assumed someone else had won the prizes, so I stopped trying. I again grabbed my purse and briefcase.

At that moment the song ended and the announcer came back on, saying, “We’ve had lots of calls, but no one has gotten it right. Please dial 777-KZEP.” He sounded disappointed, if not desperate.

After several busy signals, I finally got through. A voice full of resignation said, “Yeah, what is it?”

“Space Seed,” I said.

“Hey, guys!” he shouted. “Someone finally got it!”

The other callers had probably all said BOTANY BAY, which was the name of the derelict spaceship in that episode. Dictator Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, and his genetically modified fellow tyrants were in sleep mode on the prison ship when the ENTERPRISE crew discovered it adrift in space. Khan was looking for a new world with inhabitants he could rule.

Khan eventually attempted to take over the ENTERPRISE but was subdued by Kirk using a club from engineering since Khan had almost supernatural strength.

When Kirk finally banishes Khan and his followers to Ceti Alpha V, a planet “inhabitable, although savage, somewhat inhospitable,” Kirk states that the original members of Botany Bay went on to conquer all of Australia. Kirk asks Khan, “Can you tame a world?”

Khan asks Kirk, “Have you read Milton?”

Kirk smiles. “Yes, I understand.”

After Khan and his followers have left the ship, Scotty says, “It’s a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it, but I’m not up on Milton.”

Kirk nods and says, “It is a statement Lucifer made when he fell into the pit. It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”

Montalban reprised the role in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. One of his memorable lines was also from PARADISE LOST: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

Khan paraphrases a quotation from MOBY-DICK. (Yes, Melville used the hyphen.) He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s FLAMES before I give him up.” Khan substitutes places in outer space for the worldly places Melville used.

Later, as Khan is dying, he says, “From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee,” a line said by Captain Ahab near the end of MOBY-DICK.

STAR TREK is and always shall be one of the most literary of television shows and movies.


The Night William Windom and an Inebriated College Student Had Dinner in My Home

This is a continuation of last month’s post “The Night I Met Gene Roddenberry and Heard Spock Swear on Film.” If you missed it, please click the August link and read it first.

So many actors on television and in film are pretentious and petulant when offstage. I was lucky enough to meet one who was not.

When my husband looked at the list of acts that he could invite to perform at his college, he noticed that William Windom was available to present a dramatic rendition of James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” from memory. Ironically, I was teaching “The Secret Life” to high school sophomores at the time, so I was excited to learn he would perform the story on campus. From the time I studied it in high school, “The Secret Life” had been one of my favorites.

Windom was an incredible character actor. Previously, he had starred in a television series entitled “My World and Welcome to It” based on the Walter Mitty character. For his role, Windom won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series in 1969.

Windom had other memorable parts. He played a space captain in a STAR TREK episode in which his starship was devoured by a tube-like structure that pulled it in using a force field. My husband always referred to it as the giant turd in the sky that ate a starship.

Captain Decker, played by Windom, was in charge of the U.S.S. CONSTELLATION, whose crew was wiped out when the Doomsday Machine (aka giant turd) consumed the ship. Norman Spinrod, the writer for the episode, said he based his storyline on MOBY-DICK. (Yes, that is the way Melville spelled the title.) It is interesting to compare the storylines. Windom said he based his character on Captain Queeg from THE CAINE MUTINY, played by Humphrey Bogart.

Windom also played Pam’s drunken, shiftless father on the original DALLAS series. He later played Dr. Seth Hazlitt on MURDER SHE WROTE with Angela Lansbury. In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Windom played the prosecution lawyer opposing Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

I was excited to be able to see so skilled an actor in person. Windom’s performance that night was impressive. Find a copy of “The Secret Life,” read it again and imagine memorizing it and then standing in front of an audience to recite it. Stage fright would have overwhelmed me if I had tried it. He never stumbled.

You may remember Walter Mitty as a henpecked man tormented by his overbearing, abusive wife. He regularly escapes into a fantasy world in which he performs miraculous and heroic acts. In one imaginary scene, he saves a patient on an operating table when other doctors have given up. Later, he manages to singlehandedly pilot a plane that normally requires two people. At the end of the story, he faces an imaginary firing squad while refusing the blindfold. Mitty’s wife was walking toward him.

That evening, when Windom finished his performance, the audience gave him a standing ovation. As soon as the show ended, I hurried home to make the last-minute preparations for the meal.

Since there were few good places to eat in our small town, I had invited Windom to come over for dinner after his performance. I also invited David and Lisa, friends of ours, because they were fans of the actor.

When the doorbell rang, I assumed it was David and Lisa, but it was Christine, one of my husband’s college band students.

She was quite inebriated.

“I can’t go back to the dorm,” she wailed. “My boyfriend broke up with me, and I got drunk, and if I go back tonight I’ll get expelled.” She sobbed into a wadded tissue.

“Come on in, Christine,” I said.

Because this happened back in the seventies, I don’t remember any of the dinner conversation, so I can’t tell you about any of those. Just Christine’s appeal for help.

When my guests arrived, the six of us sat down to dinner. I gave Christine half my steak, half my baked potato, and half my French onion soup. Luckily, the salad and dessert were easier to divide.

Every time Christine reached for her water glass, I flinched. I had purposely given her water rather than tea in order to save Windom’s clothing in case of an accident. Windom smiled at my obvious embarrassment, but he never said a word. I remember he had a knowing grin.

Looking back, I should have just stuck her in a bedroom with a sandwich.

That evening, however, did give me a fond memory of Windom. He was a true gentleman. He died this year at 88.

P.S. If you are a teacher, have your students read “The Secret Life,” and then ask them to write a short story in which they deal with mean bullies or mean teachers by escaping into a fantasy world. If you send me the best one, I will publish it on this website. If Spinrod can borrow the plot of MOBY-DICK, students can borrow the plot for “The Secret Life.”

This is the second of three posts on STAR TREK.