Two views of America's sporting life
I find America's devotion to spectator sports perplexing. I am not blind to the benefits of participating in sports, but too much time is wasted watching them.
Viewing sport events is a vicarious form of entertainment over which too many Americans obsess.
In addition to being a non-productive form of amusement, it fails to provoke thought or result in any substantial gain for the viewer. It offers instead only a moment's thrill that disappears in the succeeding play or at the conclusion of the game.
There are numerous ways to gain pleasure other than planting oneself in front of the television in an attempt to bask in the glory of an athlete's game.
One would do better to read a book, an activity which both exercises the mind and leaves a lasting impression, or learn to play a musical instrument or write a poem -- diversions that result in an important sense of accomplishment.
The bottom line is that viewing sports on television is futile entertainment, not a useful way to spend precious time.
I suggest that obsessive sports fans explore other options for pleasure, ones that require thought and at the same time produce results and a sense of personal accomplishment.
After admiring Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it seems unbelievable that only a few short years ago Camden Station stood alone, dilapidated and nearly forgotten.
Now there stands a stadium that envelopes one in an atmosphere of pure magic, a feeling of ages past when baseball was just beginning to win the heart of the nation.
Not only has the stadium at Camden Yards energized Baltimoreans' love of baseball and provided the Orioles a home that strikes admiration in all who visit, it also has rejuvenated the area surrounding it with thriving businesses.
In fact, all of Baltimore has benefited from the revenues produced by the increase in tourism that accompanied construction of the stadium.
Camden Yards has provided a new place for people of all ages to enjoy fellow Baltimoreans -- the real charm behind Charm City.
Escaping Baltimore and its problems
I am a 64-year-old disabled veteran from New York who has been trying to write and live peacefully here in Baltimore.
I live not in the inner-city but in what just a few years ago was considered a relatively tranquil, crime-free neighborhood near the Johns Hopkins University campus.
Two years ago I was robbed by an armed bandit as I approached my back door.
Yesterday, while I was in the back yard looking for my cat, I noticed three teen-agers who seemingly were going idly through the alley behind my place while bouncing a basketball.
I paid no attention to them until I realized they were throwing stones and taunts at me as they went.
Less serious but still commonplace occurances are neighbors' domestic shouting matches, sometimes accompanied by violence; foul-mouthed students (both male and female) whose shrieks, curses, and imprecations are heard far into the night along with the cacophony of their radios and stereos played at maximum volume, and the deafening sounds of unmuffled vehicles roaring along the alleys at potentially lethal speeds at all hours of day and night.
There are the gunshots in the night that leave one wondering what horror might be taking place a few hundred yards away. The sirens, klaxons, and alarms of emergency vehicles responding to these incidents are a necessary though irritating accompaniment to the clamor.
And then there are the occasional low-flying police helicopters and with probing searchlights.
If the weather is good, I usually eat lunch on my back porch while the cat plays in the yard. But now I keep a perfectly legal, loaded pistol within reach.
Of course if I were ever to shoot or even shoot at the kind of vermin who have seen fit to devil me with the sort of unprovoked attacks I have cited it probably would be me, not they, who suffered at the hands of our judicial system.
This is not my idea of the good life after 20 years as a soldier and 20 more as a student and teacher.
As soon as I can save enough money, I will move -- not merely out of Baltimore but out of the United States (since one city is pretty much like any other in America today).
Perhaps I will find the serenity I want in some foreign country. What else is there to do? Except for writing letters such as this, I am too old, tired and powerless to try to solve our endemic social ills.
I will miss my children and grandchildren very much, but I am sure they would prefer to think of Daddy, or Grandpa, safe in Switzerland or New Zealand rather than grieve over the possibility of my death, injury or, even worse, incarceration for taking the steps necessary to defend my life, property and dignity.
Say it clearly
One of the great contributions of the new Congress has been the seemingly insignificant requirement that the language about future budgets be changed to that which those outside government use.
They insist upon language in deliberations that says budget increases and decreases are not what we add or cut from proposed budgets for future years, but what we add or subtract from what we spent in the current year and previous years.
Bureaucracies and elected officials were not only allowed to use their own language about future budgets, but were allowed to use current-year figures that were greater than what was actually spent.
Sound bizarre? Unreal? Yes to both, but still true.
More amazing, when we stop to think about the whole matter, is that bureaucrats and elected officials were allowed to play what amounted to an inflationary game for so long without being called on it. It took a few trillion dollars in debt to bring us to our senses.
We talk about language a lot lately. What we are talking about in many instances is working toward common language.
We want increases and decreases to mean the same, whether we are talking about our family budget or the budget of the Pentagon. We are making considerable progress, but obviously are not there yet.
When The Sun said in its editorial of June 6 that the Baltimore County Council had made the deepest school budget cut in 19 years, it sounded as though something revolutionary had taken place.
Although the cut mentioned was less than 1 percent, it was a cut on an increase that was many times higher than that and an increase that The Sun acknowledges helps Baltimore County continue to spend more per student than its neighboring counties to the east and west, both of which are doing pretty well by their students when compared to Baltimore County.
I visited the Baltimore Museum of Art to see the photographs of Edward Weston and Robert Mapplethorpe. Though I did see a few very nice photographs, the rest were pure, hard-core pornography. I was embarrassed and sickened by these pictures. In my opinion, the museum really lowered its standards by having this unsavory display.
Is this art? Is this what I went out of my way to see? I don't think so.
It was with great sorrow that we read of the passing of The Evening Sun.
Its demise had been rumored for some time, so we were not surprised. But it has been our evening "together time" for 30 years, so we will miss it a great deal.
With consolidation comes the loss of some of the columnists. Please, please don't eliminate Elise T. Chisolm from your regular line-up.
She is a great favorite of mine, and I keep a file of her special columns -- "A War Bride Remembers," "Many Mysteries of a 50-Year Marriage," "Summer Son," "A Pet's Death," and, most recently, "T-Ball."
All of these have touched me personally. Her column is a mature commentary on so many subjects. Please be sure we continue to see her in The Sun.