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Our Two-Convention Year

Some of us were lucky, by virtue of geographical location, to attend two major amateur journalistic conventions during 1981 and thereby enjoy the company of two completely different sets of delegates. Only the Bonds and Roy Lindberg were present at both Baltimore and Tampa.

Much has been written about the Baltimore convention, and of course each person retains his own special memories. We found the city’s downtown to be a colorfully crowded place of friendly people, topped off by the enormously popular Harborplace, to which thousands streamed to eat or browse or just mingle.

We enjoyed a Sunday visit to the Basilica of the Assumption, an historic cathedral of 175 years. One day we enjoyed lunch with the Williamses and the (Indiana) Lewises at Haussner’s beautiful restaurant. Another day we ate hamburgers at McDonald’s with Willametta and Ruby. And there was a Chinese evening with the Moitorets.

Mencken or not, we were disappointed with the Baltimore Sun papers. Is the quality and quantity of American journalism and publishing deteriorating except for the New York Times and a few others? We found it hard to find the newspapers, for one thing, there being no newsstand nor sundry shop in that vast and luxurious Hilton lobby.

The Lexington Market was just a short stroll from the hotel but well worth seeking out to inhale the tantalizing aromas of the incredible array of food displayed there. We had never seen any place quite like it.

The convention even had some overseas glamor, as provided by George Hamilton and Sunny Ndem. And there was enough “young blood” on hand to keep the old folks on their toes. It was a good convention….

AAPA conventioneers in Tampa also had a fine time, with no business meetings and no elections conducted. Instead, daytime hours were spent in organized discussions and prepared seminars. J. Ed Newman spoke on writing for the hobby, Picot Floyd outlined what can be done with a personal computer, June Prance talked on art in amateur journalism and passed out samples of her own work; Dave Tribby discussed AJ politics.

The People Watcher is aptly named, for at convention parties Gehry quietly sits, takes a few pictures and mainly watches people.

The silver-haired Iowa gentleman can talk about old radio days, early big bands, Bix Beiderbecke (of Davenport), print shops, and Verle Heljeson, among other subjects. We’d like to coax him back to Florida next July.

Fred Liddle is always wondering in his papers if his readers are old enough to have remembered this or that. We wonder if Fred remembers when kids in grammar school had a season for everything – not just football or basketball, but kites, spinning tops and marbles.

In the early 1930’s yo-yos were introduced and swept schoolyards by storm. But I never see any of these minor “sports” being enjoyed any more except for an occasional kite flying in the air. These modern kids don’t know what they are missing, not collecting all those aggies and cat’s eyes!

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Basically, You Know, Right On

Although I am not always in accord with the political punditry of columnists James J. Kilpatrick and William Safire, I do enjoy those articles which they are both writing with increasing frequency on words, expressions, and language in general.

Kilpatrick occasionally strays from all these worldly irritants and turns out a column datelined “Scrabble, Va” wherein he waxes lyrical about the mountain and apple country of Virginia, its beauty and other bucolic delights. He is also the guy, you recall, who used to tangle weekly with liberal opponents on the “Point Counterpoint” segment of the weekly 60 Minutes show, a feature which was eventually abandoned in favor of the funny sessions with Andy Rooney.

Kilpatrick recently devoted a whole column to deploring the widespread and time-worn use of the expression “It remains to be seen.” He concedes that the use of this phraseology is not endemic to any particular group or individuals. It seems that newspapers, the weekly newsmagazines, as well as senators and presidents are guilty of falling back on this classic cop-out. Yet, however distressed the purists may be over the almost universal use of this expression, I don’t hold much hope for the campaign to eradicate it.

Better that these word worriers turn their attention to some of the real weaknesses of verbal communication which are daily corrupting the airwaves on news programs, talk shows and interviews especially with young people in show business and sports.

I’m talking about the injection of “you know” to the extent that it is breathlessly uttered at least every ten words and will drive you crazy if you let it. I have observed that not only frightened and inarticulate youngsters being interviewed are guilty of the “you know” syndrome, but also more educated and successful people who ought to know better.

I’m also talking about other prefixed words which you may not have been as conscious of as the prop “you know,” but which are nevertheless also being hopelessly overworked and are somehow apparently being used as a crutch for the speaker to peg his thoughts or statement on. These words are “basically” and “actually.” Listen to any of the talk show hosts interview their show biz guests and you will hear these words employed to an irritating degree.

Of course, none of us is without sin when it comes to language. Many years ago as a young salesman of health insurance I would get up in front of employees for what we called a “group talk” and show off by spouting a lot of medical terms and words like “utilization” and “ancillaries.” Later on I realized that I was only confusing my audience with all this gobbledegook and might just as well simplify my presentation by saying “use” and “extras.”

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The Southern Amateur No. 8 is published for the NAPA and AAPA by Jack W. Bond, North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33710

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