Monday, July 25, 2005

The Steve Bentley article July 25th

While my stuttering work on my book continues, I've decided I've ignored Slapinions for far too long.  Here's a sample of some of my old work: expect some new stuff (relatively) soon.


I wrote this in or around 1994 while enrolled in a journalism class at UWM. The instructor, a longtime sports reporter named Gregg Hoffman, graded on a simple scale: an A indicated work that could be printed as-is at a newspaper with minimal tweaking, a B meant it was in need of at least one solid rewrite, etc. As I recall A's were few and far between from the man.

This article earned me an A and a "Great Job!" in the margins. Naturally a yahoo who earned a C (in need of major revision) managed to get his version printed, courtesy of some connection at a campus paper.

Ain't that just the way life goes . .


Like most of the 2.8 million American's who served in Vietnam, Steve Bentley looked much the same when he returned home in 1969.

He had no wheelchair, no physical wounds, no Purple Heart. The wounds he carried home were buried inside, but their effects were just as long lasting.

"I used to use (rape) as an analogy for (what happened to) Vietnam Vets," Bentley said in a speech Thursday at the UW-Milwaukee Lutheran Campus Ministry.

It has been a quarter century since Bentley left Vietnam. Middle-aged, with a graying beard and soft spoken manner, it is easier to picture him as an uncle or father than a young man at war. Upon hearing of his accomplishments, it is just as hard to imagine what negative effect the war had on him:

- Masters in Education in Rehabilitation Counseling

- Recipient of the 25th Gamaliel Chair, a Lutheran award for community activism

- author, television producer, lecturer

That is, until you hear him speak about what his biography doesn’t mention.

"When I got home I went through a litany of drug addictions, alcohol addictions, and hospitalization," Bentley said. "I went through 16 to 20 different jobs, I slashed my wrists, I overdosed . . "

"I felt I failed the manhood test (in Vietnam)," Bentley said.

Bentley volunteered for the Army in 1967. He served two tours in Vietnam as a Rome plow operator in the 599th Combat Engineers, 1967-69. It was, even for Vietnam, a dangerous occupation.

Sent out alone to clear jungle for future Special Forces camps, the plow operators often were easy targets. "You can’t tiptoe through the jungle on a 25 ton bulldozer," Bentley said, "and they know where you are everyday."

"In one . . . four month period I lost three assistant operators. One was blown apart by a rocket propelled grenade, one was blown apart by an anti-tank mine, and one was captured," Bentley said.

It wasn’t long before he realized the myth of his father "singlehandedly winning WWII" was an illusion.

"The ground was pulled out from under me," Bentley said. One of the reasons he volunteered for a second tour was his realization of how deep the war had affected him.

"There was no delayed stress. I went cuckoo real fast," Bentley said.

It wasn’t until years after his return that he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to Bentley, some 480,000 Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with the disease.

Unfortunately, according to Bentley, for too long the government has denied vets treatment on the basis of pre-war problems.

"If (that’s true) then they should be obligated for stamping us A-OK and sending us there," Bentley said.

A half a lifetime away from the war Bentley has spent years speaking to high school and college students about his experiences. "(Kids respond) really, really well. That’s why I keep doing it."

"You can’t take 45 years of experience and in an hour give that to a 16 year old, but what’s incredible is how many connect," Bentley said.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Short Post

I see my absence from the web has been terribly mourned [snicker].

Anywho, I'm taking a wee break from my book to announce the launch of a brand-new AIM blog written by my eleven-year old nephew.

It's called Jonah's Wail, and aside from one line blatanly stolen from his gorgeous Uncle's blog, it's all his own.

It'll get prettier as time goes on, but if you have a moment stop by and say hello.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Sad news from the world of fiction July 7th

I know I haven't posted much lately, but between big events at work and a cracked tooth that picked the holiday weekend to flare up (God forbid I have a dental emergency when offices are open) I've fallen behind.

Even so, work continues - er, has resumed - on my novel, and maybe I'll post a taste of it here on or on my other AOL blog, The Season.

Meanwhile the search for gainful employment outside my current field continues . .

But sad news today demanded at least a short post. I know this seems insignificant in light of the terrorist attacks on London, but writer Evan Hunter - better known to millions as Ed McBain -  died today at the age of 78.

The news rocked me as McBain is one of my favorite writers and the author (under his true name) of one of my top 10 books of all time, The Moment She was Gone.

No doubt I'll post a proper appreciation for the man in the days to come, but I wanted to spread the word.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novelist Evan Hunter, better known to many readers as the Ed McBain who wrote the 87th Precinct novels, has died of cancer at the age of 78, his agent said on Thursday. Hunter wrote more than 100 novels, short stories, plays and film scripts during a period of 50 years and under different names, selling more than 100 million books worldwide.As McBain, Hunter is credited with pioneering the police procedural genre with the 87th Precinct series that includes more than 50 titles.Hunter helped Alfred Hitchcock adapt the screenplay for the 1963 film ``The Birds''.. . He won the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement in 1986.
Evan Hunter was 78.


 I'll miss his work.  

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Billboard Pics July 2nd

A few months ago I posted a picture of one of the many ads that were painted on the side of brick buidlings in the Cream City.

I said I wanted to photograph as many as I could before they disappeared, but as always seems to be the case with me I dillie dallied too long.

There was a great, colorful advertisement that took up the side of an old building near Miller Park. I saw it, told myself I'd return to take the pic, and forgot about it.

A week later it was gone, covered by a layer of insulation and fresh siding.

So here's a brief stab at making amends - a survey of some ads I photographed while driving my wife's friend home. All lie within a half-mile of one another on or around a single south side street.

This first shot is that of an old dry-cleaner sign on a building that appears in the process of being converted to a residence.

The more things change . .  While the original business is gone, the building is now occupied by another bakery.

This business is still going, though the beer they advertise is long gone.

A relatively recent ad, also with the business still going.

The ad still applies to the entertainment provided in the building, though the terminology certainly has changed. I don't think it's the original business either; odd how so many buildings seem to draw the same type of company decade after decade.


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How Ronald Reagan and Joe Mcintyre were both victims of bad voting July 2nd

The Discovery Channel recently unveiled their audience's pick as The Greatest American of all time - Ronald Reagan.

Now I know it's just an overhyped publicity stunt by a cable channel, with all the moral authority of the blasphemous Dancing with the Stars voting that cast aside Joe Mcintyre.

(may that British judge rot in Hades!)

But still, Ronald Reagan? I'm sorry, there's no way The Gipper should have won the honor.

And remember, that's coming from a devoted Republican. I can't remember the last time I crossed party lines.

[That's an exaggeration - for example, in local elections I have no choice but to vote Democratic, and I may have once voted in a Socialist for class President. But in my defense, she was darn cute and loved animals]

[personal confession: I grew up in a solidly Democratic family during the Reagan era. Thus, there's a smidgeon of my being that still registers Reagan as 'the enemy', but I try not to listen: it's the part of my mind that said the same of dentists, and look where that got me.]

If you have to pick a politician for the title, why not one of the Founding Fathers? Not only did they accomplish the impossible by building a working democracy, a few still retain brand-name status, like Washington and Jefferson.

If the issue of slavery clouds their resume for you, how about Discovery Channel runner-up Abe Lincoln?

Not only did he preside over the end of slavery, the master orator held the nation together through a devastating, unpopular, and initially unsuccessful war.

If it was up to me, I'd skip the residents of D.C. altogether. I wouldn't have shed a tear if Thomas Edison had got the nod, or the Wright Brothers. They changed the economic, social, and industrial course of this nation - of the world, for that matter.

Or, if you really want to be obscure, how about that nameless Confederate that dropped Lee's battle plans at the battle of Antietam? His butter-fingers allowed the Union to blunt Lee's advance, saving the day and eventually, America itself.

'Course, I suppose the title implies a certain love of country, so scratch that idea.

I guess I shouldn't complain. All in all the top twenty-five vote getters reflect a pretty accurate view of American life.

Most of the folks I mentioned made the cut. So did at least two immigrants, Einstein and Bob Hope, and business innovators like Bill Gates and Walt Disney.

Some clearly deserve to be that close to the top - Martin Luther King, for example. I can also see why entertainers like Elvis and Oprah deserve to be mentioned; I might not agree, but I can see why they're there.

Others, not so much.

Lance Armstrong? Uh, no.

Hey, I'm a big fan of Dubya but I think it's a teensy bit early to put him in the top 10. As for Clinton, tell the truth: even if you're a fawning devotee of the man, you have to admit that his Presidency - through no fault of his own - was devoid of any truly historical events.

After all, FDR without the Depression is just a no-name President with a nifty monogram.

In the end what may have pushed Reagan over the top were the nostalgic memorials that flooded American airwaves after his death.

A great man and a good president? Yes. The Greatest American ever? No.

Call me hokey, but I like to think that the person who deserves that title hasn't even been born yet.

That way America's best is yet to come. 

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