Selections from Double Crossed, Ask the Professor: What Freshmen need to Know, 2.0, and Hey, it’s Presidential Trivia!
The woman sat quietly in her cubicle staring at her nameplate. “BRENDA ROLLINS – WEATHER LADY,” it read. How insulting. How sexist—wasn’t she at least a weatherperson? How…twentieth century. But there it was—her nameplate; her life now. She had been on the fast track to success as a newscaster. People in the know said she was the total package: beauty, charisma, and smarts. She’d been told this enough to accept it without question. But Brenda made a mistake in the eyes of the industry.
She had been a reporter for a local news show in Cincinnati. She was on the scene of a house fire—two dead children, one very distraught mother. Brenda was supposed to interview the woman live because the public had the right to know how a mother coped with having her two children die in fear and pain. Brenda Rollins, ace reporter on the fast track to stardom, was expected to offer an obligatory word of condolence then pounce. Tragedy equals ratings; tragedy plus tears equal big ratings. Everyone knew the equations.
The problem was that when Rollins started offering her condolences, she couldn’t stop. She could hear her producer suggesting then demanding on the receiver in her ear that she ask the woman how she felt. The producer wanted passion. His first choice was sorrow, but if Brenda was too soft to ask the woman how she felt about her kids, fine—Brenda could ask her if she blamed the fire department for not getting there sooner. Sorrow was ideal, but anger and recrimination would do in a pinch. Unfortunately for the ratings, Brenda Rollins stopped acting like an objective reporter for that one night.
Afterwards, her producer labeled her “soft” and the woman on the career fast track slowed down. After a year she seemed to fall off the track altogether; she had been marginalized, given a combination of stories that were usually either insignificant time-fillers or dead ends that she couldn’t breathe enough life into to get on the air. Finally, they moved her to backup weatherperson, no, backup weather lady.
Brenda was spending a lot of time these days contemplating the deeper mysteries of life and the possibility of real estate school. She was stuck in a tiny cubicle—getting re-assigned out of her office was another manifestation of her downward spiral. The cubicle was a depressing place on its own merits. Pictures refused to stay mounted to the walls, there was no good spot to put her trash can, and two of her male colleagues took full advantage of the easy access to her for their obnoxious flirtations. The knock on her cubicle wall was welcome—a temporary interruption to another dreary day filled with dreary thoughts.
“Yes, can I help you?” she asked with a smile, trying to hide how self-conscious she felt in her current accommodations. She found herself looking up at two men wearing the dress blues of the Army. The older of the pair looked to be in his mid 40s with the beginnings of gray in his blond hair. He was probably 6’1” and had a runner’s build. His brown-haired, dark-eyed companion was a good fifteen years younger, three or four inches shorter, and bulkier—but with muscle, not fat. His shoulders were noticeably wider than his waist and he moved into the entrance of Brenda’s cubicle with an almost graceful gait.
As near as Brenda could figure from their rank insignia, the older man was a colonel and the younger one was a major, but that didn’t seem right, given the younger man’s apparent age. She was either confused about his uniform, or he was some kind of extraordinary soldier who’d been fast-tracked through the ranks. She stifled the urge to wince as the phrase “fast track” went through her mind. She needed to focus.
The younger man’s expression was a mix of surprise and good humor. She decided that she might really like this guy—unless he turned out to be a jerk.
“Is something wrong?” she asked the younger man, before either of them had a chance to greet her. He obviously had something on his mind.
“Yes,” the older man said, turning to his companion. “Is something wrong?” Brenda noted that the older man wasn’t upset, but he did seem to want to hold his companion to some kind of standard.
“Uh no, Colonel, I figured she’d be…I just didn’t realize that Ms. Rollins was going to be so well-qualified for a visual media-type job, sir.”
The colonel looked back at Brenda, “It would seem the major thinks you’re pretty, ma’am.” The colonel’s flat delivery and neutral expression failed to indicate what he thought of the major’s assessment.
“Yeah, I got that. Thanks. Colonel, Major, what can I do for you gentlemen? I’d offer both of you chairs, but as you can see I only have the one extra one in my office. I’d let both of you sit, but that would be awkward.” She stood up, so she would be closer to eye level, smiling as she did so. Both men grinned back, the way men do when a beautiful woman smiles at them for any reason.
“Doesn’t matter,” said the colonel in reference to the seating problem. “We’re not staying.” She shot him a surprised look. “And neither are you. Don’t worry; we’ve cleared it with your boss. We need to go somewhere offsite and tell you about a trip you’re going to be making in the near future. I think I should tell you up front that for national security reasons you won’t be able to report on any of this.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. The colonel gestured for her to join them then turned around and started walking. He was clearly a man who expected to be obeyed. She felt a stab of irritation at that. Who was he to order her around? She pushed her response aside. He hadn’t ordered her to go with them; he had invited her, and he expected to be obeyed because in his job he usually was.
“Why take a reporter on a trip and tell her she can’t report about it?” Just because it was wrong to be irritated didn’t mean she was going to give these soldiers a free pass on common sense.
“Good question,” conceded the major. “I’m Logan Franklin by the way, and this is Colonel Thomas Galloway, United States Army. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?” Her expression told him otherwise. “Yeah, well, in some circles we’re quite well-known.” He might’ve sounded kind of pompous if he hadn’t been grinning all the way through his comments. He didn’t take himself too seriously—Brenda liked that. “Anyway, your name popped out of a computer, or you’ve got a friend in a high place, or something. Really, who cares? Bottom line: You’re on our team, and we don’t know why.”
That wasn’t acceptable. “What if I don’t want to be on your team?”
The colonel had a genuinely sympathetic look on his face. “I’m sorry, ma’am, refusal probably won’t be an option. But I promise when you hear what this is about, you’ll want to be a part of it.”
Once again, Brenda had to fight the impulse to be irritated. She looked at the major. Brenda was just sure he would have his two cents to add, and she wasn’t wrong. “You should trust him, Ms. Rollins; he’s really very wise. That’s why I have a poster of him on my bedroom wall next to Jackie Chan. I mean a Jackie Chan poster. I don’t actually have Jackie Chan hanging on my wall. That would be weird.”
Speaking of weird, the phrase popped into Brenda’s head, but she had the grace not to actually say it. She could say one thing for certain, though, if this trip was as interesting as these two officers were then they were right—she would have a hard time refusing to go.
Major Logan Franklin sat at the desk in his temporary quarters, grateful that the Army had provided such accommodations. The civilians assigned to his team for this operation would be sharing bedrooms, separated by gender of course, in a couple of converted lounge areas. But then they would not be expected to stay at these facilities for very long before their operation was to get underway. Franklin had already been here five days, not including the two-day trip to Cincinnati to recruit the lovely Brenda Rollins.
Currently, he was trying to pray. It seemed like a good idea in general and particularly now, given the mission. But he was distracted by his orders and the circumstances surrounding them. Franklin closed his eyes and re-focused his thoughts for probably the fourth time since he had started. He hadn’t gotten very far when he heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Franklin barked. He wasn’t mad, but the door was thick and he wanted to make sure his voice carried. He jumped to attention and saluted when his visitor entered. Franklin didn’t know the man, but he recognized a general’s uniform from across the room. The general was both taller and rounder than Franklin by several inches both ways. The general had a fringe of white hair around the sides and back of an otherwise bald head, and he sported an angry looking scar under his left eye. He was also fighting a losing battle with his waistline.
“As you were.” The general managed to convey a currently-benign-yet-potentially-fierce personality in those few words. Typical general, mused Franklin, brusque but not mean. “I’m General Mallory. You’re Major Logan Franklin.” It was a statement, not a question.
“That’s correct, sir. At least the part about me is. I don’t know you. Of course your name tag pretty clearly states that you’re who—”
Franklin stopped. Amusing himself was one thing; irritating a general was something else altogether.
“There will be no more of that. Understood?” asked the general.
This was not a man to be trifled with, Franklin decided. “Understood, sir. Probably pre-game jitters, sir. You know, big mission and all.”
“Major,” Mallory sat down on the corner of Franklin’s desk. The general pushed the desk chair out of the way with his foot and gestured for Franklin to sit back down. “I want to talk to you about this ‘big mission.’ I am not in direct operational command of this facility or your mission, but I can make things happen. Do you believe that, Major?”
Franklin pulled at his ear and pondered. This mission was huge and General Rhodes was in charge. What could Mallory gain by coming in and throwing his weight around if he couldn’t back it up? He’d just end up humiliated. “Yes sir. I believe you can make things happen.”
“Good. I’m thinking of pushing to get Colonel Galloway out as military field commander of this operation. You want the job? It’ll still be a civilian-led mission, but the second things get out of hand, you would be the man in charge. Interested?”
For as totally unexpected as this was, it was the least weird aspect of the whole mission. Operation Meet and Greet, as it was dubbed, was known to only a handful of people at the highest echelons of power. Seven days ago, the President of the United States met with a foreign dignitary from across the galaxy. An alien from the Planet Katari informed the President that the Katarians had been observing Earth in secret for almost two hundred years. They had recently decided that the Earthlings had advanced sufficiently enough for the Katarians to make direct contact. The President was invited to send ten people through some kind of magical energy vortex thing the Katarians would create. This vortex would allow the Earth team to travel almost instantaneously across the galaxy/universe/whatever to Katari. Stranger than all of that, Franklin had been informed that the Katari had named three of the Earthlings that they wanted to make the trip. Each one was in the military—some young naval officer and, more importantly to Franklin, two members of the United States Army: Colonel Thomas Galloway and Major Logan Franklin himself. Why them? Who could figure out why aliens did what they did?
And now this mysterious general shows up and wants to replace the colonel? What was up with that?
“Is there something wrong with Colonel Galloway, sir? Is he okay?” asked Franklin.
Mallory leaned forward and down—hovering over Franklin—the general glared at him as if the major had just turned into a bug and landed in Mallory’s Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. “I am not in the habit of hearing subordinate officers answer my questions with questions of their own. Are you having some more ‘pre-game jitters,’ son?”
Franklin mirrored the general’s glare, though he somehow managed to do it without looking disrespectful. “General, Colonel Galloway was in charge of my team—at least that was the last I heard. If you’ve reassigned him, that’s your prerogative, but I thought both he and I were chosen for this mission.” It wasn’t just something he thought; Franklin knew Galloway had been asked for, but when it came to dealing with generals, sometimes diplomacy was the better part of valor.
“The presence of you two and the naval officer was requested by our new friends.” The general said the last two words distastefully, “but we’ll send who we please. Now, I’ll ask you for the second and last time—do you think you could handle being the military leader on this operation?”
“I think the colonel presents us with our best chance at success, sir.”
“Are you doubting your abilities, Major?” asked Mallory. He made no effort to conceal his irritation. This was not the answer he wanted to hear.
“No, sir” responded Franklin emphatically, “but I stand by my assessment. I’ve had the privilege of serving with the colonel on several missions. It doesn’t matter if things go as smooth as silk or it all falls apart. The colonel will get the job done. He’s relentless.”
“He’s reckless,” countered General Mallory.
“We’re in a reckless line of work, sir, particularly with the missions we’re asked to carry out. The colonel can get reckless when the situation warrants, but he’s never careless, sir.”
Mallory sighed, apparently not interested in trading adjectives with an inferior officer. He allowed an awkward silence to hang in the air before saying, “I thought you were the man for the job. I guess I was wrong.”
“I’m a company man, sir. I’ll follow my orders, but Colonel Galloway is the best man for this job. The thing I do best is help him.”
General Mallory got up and headed for the door. “All right then, Major, we’ll proceed with the original plan.” He spared a glance back at Franklin as he exited, “Pray we made the right choice.”
Franklin couldn’t help but wonder at the general’s choice of words. Were they spying on him here in his private room?
Ask the Professor: What Freshmen need to Know, 2.0
By Timothy D. Holder & Jason R. Edwards
The Most Reliable Guide
By Timothy D. Holder
Once upon a time, I went on a hike with Brian, a friend of mine who is an Eagle Scout, and as such he took us into some pretty rough country (or so it seemed to me).
As we walked along, I was talking about something utterly unimportant I’m sure, and Brian interrupted me with one word.
“Sidestep,” he said.
I distinctly remember thinking, Huh? Sidestep? Then I looked down and saw a big, black snake right in the middle of our trail. In fact, the snake extended between my feet, and its head was in the direction we were moving. Another step or two, and I would have been right in front of its venomous, gaping mouth!
I did what many of you would have done in such a circumstance. I yelled (it might have sounded more like a scream to Brian, but I’m sure there must have just been some kind of strange echo that affected the sound), and I jumped straight up in the air.
Now, jumping was good because it got me away from the snake. But the problem with jumping straight up is that you tend to come back straight down. I had to jump two more times, landing first on one foot then the other, before I had pulled myself together enough to jump to the side.
I pushed Brian to a safe distance from the snake (mostly because Brian was in my way as I was trying to get off the path). We walked several feet through the rough before getting back on the trail. I looked at Brian with my eyes as big as I don’t know what (just try to imagine my eyes opened very wide). I was breathing like I was in labor.
Brian looked back at me quite calmly and said, “That was seriously funny.” Now I know that “seriously funny” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, but two things need to be said in Brian’s defense. One, we were not the overeducated, serious-minded scholars we are today. And, two, the word “seriously” was the adverb of the weekend. It was “seriously” hot; we were “seriously” thirsty. You get the idea.
Anyway, I replied, “Funny?! I could have been killed!”
Brian, the completely relaxed Eagle Scout, said, “That snake wasn’t poisonous.” He had only alerted me to it because he didn’t want me to step on it or scare it.
It has occurred to me that my life in general is a lot like the trail I walked on that day. I go about my business with my petty little concerns, and all of a sudden, I’ll be confronted by the unexpected. I panic and try desperately to regain control.
On the trail, if I had simply followed Brian, my guide with the wisdom of an Eagle Scout, I could have dealt with my problem calmly.
The Bible can be like an Eagle Scout in my daily life. A lot of the problems that I encounter can be handled calmly if I simply trust what the Bible tells me. The more familiar I am with the contents of this Book, the more help it can give. Sometimes stuff comes up in life, and there is not an answer from the Bible that just jumps out at us. Sometimes it’s confusing (but that doesn’t spoil my analogy—sometimes Brian is confusing, too). And even when the passages in the Bible seem clear, at times life is still pretty difficult. But the Bible is a tremendous gift from God, and the truths that it contains are amazingly useful in our daily lives. The Bible is not nearly as dangerous as some people would think. People have used it to promote hate, but really the central messages are about love, forgiveness, and second chances. When you think about what we go through in life, don’t things like these sound pretty wonderful?
College and the Movies
By Jason R. Edwards
If you are reading this book, I can guess at least two things about you: 1) You have not graduated from college; and 2) You have seen a college movie. By “college movie” I merely mean a movie where the setting is a college campus and/or dominated by youthful college-aged characters. I know those two things about you because if you have already graduated from college and are reading an advice book for people about to go to college…well… um…let’s just say graduation standards are getting too low. And, I know you have seen a college movie because that is what American teenagers do. They go to movies and many of the most popular offerings (and perhaps the most numerous) are college movies.
These two “fun facts” lead to a serious dilemma: you have the wrong idea about college. Admittedly, you may proudly retort that you know that the movies are just movies, but the influence the movies have had on college is real and it is dangerous.
Many students (including perhaps yourself) are first-generation college students. Where are these folks supposed to get a realistic understanding of what college is like? Even if you have family members who have attended college, the dominant image in most minds is Hollywood’s.
Certainly you can “know” that Hollywood provides a fictionalized ideal but this ideal is nonetheless determining your expectations and desires regarding your college experience. Since this fictional ideal is pervasive through the culture and is determining your thinking and that of your peers, it is imperative to understand the movies’ version of college so that you can succeed in a real one.
In any college movie, you can set your watch by the fact that three things will play a significant role in the story; these are: the Big Game, the Big Party, and the Big Romance. The MPA ratings will tell you how crassly each of these will be portrayed but rest assured that the majority of the movie will be taken up by people at the game, partying, or “romancing.” So much time is taken up with these things that many people assume that these three elements must define college life.
There’s a name for students whose college experiences are ultimately defined this way–they’re called drop-outs. Sadly, at most universities, the majority of students who start never finish a degree and this undoubtedly arises in part because the students entered with a false understanding of what college life would be like.
So, why should you believe me rather than all of those movies you love? Their images of college life certainly look more attractive than the one I’m likely to describe. The reason is that I am right and the movies are wrong.
Most of the people who make movies are college graduates and know that they are providing a false image. Why do they do it? Simple: they have to; and that fact is the essential knowledge for you to understand.
Why do they have to? Well, movies are a visual medium. The reason that the big game, the big party, and the big romance dominate the movie screen (while reading and studying are conspicuously absent) is that the game, party, and romance are visually exciting (while reading is not).
Contrast games, partying, and romance to reading, which is really what college is about. Reading a book can be incredibly fun, interesting, and rewarding. Reading some books can literally change your life. Some folks like me even believe that reading a book can save your everlasting soul.
So why don’t movies show this? Because even if a person is having their entire life changed by what they are reading, it is boring to WATCH them do it–they’re just sitting there barely moving in a chair! So, there is no argument over what college is truly like (it will require reading and studying) and there is no Hollywood conspiracy to deceive; the movies simply provide the images they must in order to sell tickets.
Selling tickets is, of course, the reason that so many college movies exist. America’s youth are perhaps the number one purchasers of tickets and DVDs and their natural interests run to actors and stories that they can relate to. Of course, games, partying, and romance (exciting visual images) do take place on college campuses so it provides an ideal setting for Hollywood to capitalize on.
Likewise, college campuses are filled with youth, which again provides Hollywood a legitimate reason to parade out its visually-appealing stars. In other words, a college campus is an ideal movie setting.
Proven box-office bonanzas, college movies will only continue to further distort expectations and images of collegiate life. This fact really needn’t cause hand-wringing, but it does need to be understood–particularly by those headed off to college. By all means, have fun at the game, enjoy time with friends, and perhaps even find the love of your life; but leave time for the reason you are actually there: to learn. Go to class, do your work, and read. Perhaps then one day you’ll even be the one making the movies rather than sitting in your pajamas on your mama’s couch munching Cheetos and watching them.
From Hey, it’s Presidential Trivia!
#1 George Washington
- In public, he only prayed while standing up, even if those around him were seated or kneeling.
- Washington never chopped down a cherry tree as a child, nor did he confess to his father, saying, “I cannot tell a lie.” The story was invented by a biographer who thought school kids needed a role model. In other words, the biographer told a lie because he wanted to encourage kids not to lie. How’s that for irony?
- Though he is called “the Father of our Country,” Washington never had biological children of his own. He helped raise Martha’s kids from her first marriage (her first husband was deceased), but that was it. Maybe this book should be called Hey, it’s Presidential Irony!
- Washington is sometimes listed as a Federalist, but he never joined that or any other political party. In fact he hated political parties because he thought they were divisive. The reason some call him a Federalist is because he increasingly favored Federalist policies over the course of his time in office. Nevertheless, he would have felt that it was an attack on his honor to link him with a political party after he publicly asserted his independence from them.
- During John Adams’ term as President, high-ranking Federalist Alexander Hamilton urged Washington to come out of retirement and serve as President again in 1800. Washington refused, which was for the best since Washington actually died before the 1800 election anyway.
- Washington’s false teeth weren’t made of wood.
- In his younger days, Washington was an exceptionally strong man, physically speaking.
- For as great a man as he was, Washington was also very concerned about his image. It really upset him when newspaper commentators said unkind things about him.
- Washington considered serving only one term as President. He was tired and relatively old. And he wanted to see the constitutional process work without his unifying presence to hold the country together. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the leaders of the two political parties at that time, urged Washington to serve for another four years for the good of the country. Imagine the most popular Republican and the most popular Democrat of today both agreeing on who the best President would be. George Washington was one of a kind.
- His wife, Martha, was quite disappointed by George’s decision to serve four more years. She wanted him to retire.
- As President, Washington never shook hands with people. He felt that as President of the United States, he should be more formal than that. He bowed instead.
#8 Martin Van Buren
- He is the only other President besides Thomas Jefferson to have also served as both VP and Secretary of State.
- Also like Jefferson, Van Buren entered the White House as a widower.
- He was the first President not named Adams to serve only one term.
- Probably the biggest reason for Van Buren’s failure to be re-elected was the terrible economic depression that ravaged the country. Depressions and recessions have occurred periodically throughout American history.
- Van Buren’s nickname was “The Little Magician.”
- He was also called “Martin Van Ruin” because of the depression he presided over. I thought that was pretty cold.
- In 1848 Van Buren ran for President as the candidate of the Free Soil Party.
- English was not his primary language (and he is our only President for whom that is true). Van Buren grew up as a Dutch-speaker.