‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 23, 2018, 10:45 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I fell asleep with the TV on last night, which is not unusual, and it awakened me this morning, when I wanted to sleep longer, because, in a semi-conscious state, I got irritated.

Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

He wasn’t the first to say it. Twain credited it to Benjamin Disraeli. He said it enough times and was suitably famous to receive credit for it, even though he didn’t actually try to take the credit.

Mark Twain (Pixabay)

What got me ruminating were references to football games. In the third quarter, according to the glib promoters of ESPN SportsCenter, Oregon had a 99.3 percent chance of winning the Ducks’ game against Stanford.

Stanford won, of course.

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The recent hurricane that weakened its way through the Carolinas to the point where it was a breeze when its remnants tottered through here was described by prominent politicians repeatedly as “a thousand-year rain event.” By the way, I don’t mean to downplay the suffering experienced by more than a million fellow residents of the Carolinas. It was a devastating storm. The crawl across the bottom of the Fox News screen said that 500 million people were without power. How that storm cut the lights out on parts of India and Brazil is beyond me.

Three years ago, in the Midlands of this state, hardy citizens (no doubt subsisting on hearty soup) experienced “thousand-year flooding.”

The silver lining is that we must be good to go for the next 2,000 years, at least.

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It’s a statistic. It must be true.

I really prefer descriptions of the poetic beauty of sports – whether it’s a ball (football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, etc.), a race car or a hard right cross – to descriptions of algorithms and sabermetrics.

Some people are obsessed with such numerical puffery. Many of them play “fantasy sports.” Somewhere there are fantasy weather leagues, I expect. (“I’m deactivating the Tropic of Capricorn this weekend because I’m playing a hunch on the Indian Ocean.”)

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I love baseball, but I don’t have a clue what all the acronyms and initialisms mean. (Strictly speaking, an acronym must be pronounced as a word, but an initialism or an alphabetism is just a collection of letters derived from the first letters.) “Scuba” (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) is an acronym. AFL (American Football League, or, American Federation of Labor) is not.

Some are used because they are deemed acceptable by society and the actual words are not. People say “that’s B.S.” because “bullshit” is deemed as too harsh. Why? It’s not actually cursing, apparently. Some people apparently think it won’t bring with it a demerit from the Almighty.

“A sign from above … on the wings of a dove” (Pixabay)

God knows. He (or She, or an omniscient spirit that transcends gender, or It, which would not be popularly accepted) probably doesn’t care. Oh, He cares, I suppose. He gave us this wondrous occupation of the universe, and if it brings with it enough rope to hang, well, I expect He/She/It is justifiably preoccupied with Syria, suffering, sunlight and many words that do not begin with “S.”

In college, I was always an essay-question, not a multiple-choice or true-or-false, kind of guy. Hence, today, many years later, I write essays.

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If the sons of bitches (SOBs would, of course, be acceptable to a God with a lot less sense) would just let us know what the letters mean by using the full name on first reference, then I might care. As it is, I am frequently assaulted by the confusion of all the new lies, damned lies and statistics.

“But, don’t forget, Elroy, Smithers ranks higher in PQX, TLZ, and BADASS than Bumstead.”

Right. Gotcha.

Sometimes, on assignment, I ask what an ASPIRE grant is. Or a QUIKSTART program. What, pray tell, do the letters mean? Invariably, the people who have been talking about it for five minutes haven’t a clue.

“Let me get back to you on that.”

I expect some people who spout statistics don’t actually know what they mean. Me? At least I admit it.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

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What do jury duty, a broken tooth, a peanut butter shake and Lindsey Wilson have in common? Me!

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 20, 2018, 11:40 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I had jury duty but wasn’t selected. Since every day, I put together arrest reports and talk to law enforcement officers about various crimes, I suppose this is hardly a surprise.

In this part of the state, Florence, which hit the Carolinas coast as a hurricane but staggered through here like a tottering drunk, luck was with us. My electricity didn’t ever go out.

Who ever broke a tooth while eating a soggy bowl of Raisin Bran? It happened while I was writing about a football game at 1 in the morning. My first thought was, I’m suing Kelloggs because there’s a human tooth in this box of cereal. Then I realized it was mine. Sorry, Kellogg’s. I only thought it for a few seconds. I’m not in pain. I don’t even bleed when I brush my teeth. It’ll be next week before my dentist tells me what has to be done about this.

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I had a checkup on Wednesday. I’ve lost 12 pounds. I felt about the same way about the scale that I did about the cereal, but I’m glad whatever I’m doing has worked. Sweaty football sidelines must have something to do with it. I celebrated on the way to Lake Greenwood (to shoot a video) by enjoying a peanut butter shake on the way. Thus have I probably lost 10 pounds now. I’ve never understood how a person can gain more weight than what a fattening food weighs. I don’t doubt the science. I accept climate change, too.

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West Nile Virus has appeared in the county at both ends, in the southern (“Southeast Quadrant”) end by a person and in the northern end by a dead bird. They’re spraying the pusher mosquitoes who spread the poison. West Nile cannot be spread by human contact, so I don’t have to worry about falling in love, which has happened as recently as a decade ago.

Tonight there’s a candidates’ forum for those who seek to join the school board in District 55. My plan is to stop off at Clinton Middle School, which is here in District 56, to shoot a few photos of the high school tennis match, on the way.

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I’ll miss the Presbyterian College football home opener because it conflicts with the NASCAR race in Richmond, which duty calls me to watch on TV. I’ll get another shot next Thursday night, when a school in Kentucky called Lindsey Wilson College plays the Blue Hose as a replacement for Stetson University. PC’s scheduled game with the Hatters was doffed by Florence the Rapidly Diminishing Storm last Saturday.

The opponent this Saturday night is Bluefield (Va.) College, which is across the state line from Bluefield State (W. Va.) College. The team venturing here is known as the Rams. The team arriving Thursday night is known as the Blue Raiders. Lindsey Wilson College is named after the late son of Catherine Wilson, whoever she was. The school has been around since 1903 and started requiring four years to graduate in 1986.

I hope Lindsey Wilson brings Blue Raider Bob. He’s the mascot, according to Wikipedia.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 13, 2018, 1:55 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Florence is coming to town. In fact, it looks like it’s going through Florence (the city) on the way.

Not Florence Nightingale. Not Aunt Florence. They are both no longer with us. Hurricane Florence is very much alive, but I hope it’s on its deathbed by the time it reaches here.

It’s apparently going to go crazy near the end. The best “prediction” – hah, it wasn’t too long ago it was going to churn up through the Atlantic without hitting land – is that it will hit the North Carolina coast, catch its breath, hemorrhage energy as it staggers across the state line, turn inland (thus bringing havoc to its namesake), wrap around Columbia and totter just a bit west of here before returning to the Tarheel State via the mountains, and leave its crooked path of principal destruction in the Carolinas.

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I’m still hopeful it won’t be too bad. If it is, oh, well. Oh, hell.

I had a busy day doing the same thing over and over on Wednesday. Presbyterian College’s football game was first moved to Deland, Fla., home of its opponent, Stetson, and then canceled. Rather than switch location, the high schools switched days. Laurens District High School was first and most decisive. The Raiders’ game against Wade Hampton moved to tonight at 7. Laurens Academy announced it would remain on Friday. I spread the word on GoLaurens.com. Then I got an email asking me to delete this because now the Crusaders were thinking about switching to Friday. Then I got an email that they were going to move to Thursday at 7 p.m. Clinton High School stuck with Friday until about dusk on Wednesday, then moved to Thursday at 7:30.

Multiply this across golf, tennis, volleyball, cross country in varsity, junior varsity and middle schools, not to mention events of other kinds, businesses, classes, and God knows what else.

(Monte Dutton photo)

This meant, for a while, that I was writing about Laurens football tonight and Clinton tomorrow. This is no longer the case for I have the excellent excuse of being unable to be two places at once. It will be a busy night, though, and tomorrow night I won’t know what to do.

Georgia State is at Memphis. Hum, baby. Who am I kidding? The Red Sox are at home against the Mets. The Odd Couple is on TCM. The picture will be frozen on DirecTV.

Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do. Then again, my walls have no flowers.

I’ve got new batteries in my flashlights. I hope that storm loses a lot of starch. I hope enough people hang around Clinton to keep the electricity running or restore it without much loss of contact with the outside world.

But I really can’t do that much about it. My house is on a hill. It’s not going to flood. A tornado? Uh, hope not. I hope my only exposure to the wind is hearing it howl.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Bumping Along in a Crazy World

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 6, 2018, 1:15 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Not much of me has been literary in recent days.

Oh, there has been beauty in my world.

The Red Sox’ seven-run eighth-inning rally and Brandon Phillips’ ninth-inning home run against the Braves was, as Dennis Eckersley is fond of saying on TV, “a beautiful thing.”

Yesterday I shot a video on, of all things, football games while standing in front of Horseshoe Falls on the Enoree River. The games involved Laurens County teams, but that side of the river is either in Union or Spartanburg county. I’m not sure which. They come together right about there.

(Pixabay photo)

I just took a break to play my guitar. I’ve already edited several obituaries, advanced the Touchdown Club meeting and written a NASCAR column. I deserved to play Roger Miller songs for 15 minutes. “Dang Me.” “Kansas City Star.” That and figuring out a song by New Riders of the Purple Sage.

I reckon there’s probably some beauty in purple sage.

(Pixabay photo)

Last week I bought some new sneakers, so I didn’t have to make a decision about whether or not I was going to buy Nikes. I don’t have any to burn. I’ve just never had luck with Nikes. The last pair I liked were given me by a track coach nearly 40 years ago. They were silver and lavender. At that time, I wouldn’t have dared do anything but run in them. It’s obvious how long ago it was because I then ran.

But, you know, I might have just bought a pair of Nikes for the hell of it. I don’t have anything for or against Nike but the University of Oregon’s football uniforms.

That was not as fate would have it, and I like the Skechers.

Soon I’m going to buy a kind of camera that has probably, sometime, somewhere, somehow been used to take a photograph of Colin Kaepernick.

Bottom line: I’m buying a camera. I bought some shoes.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Words and Lyrics and Titles and Tunes

(Photos courtesy Pixabay)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 26, 2018, 2:42 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I listened to a Johnny Cash song that had slipped my mind.

“See Ruby Fall.”

I feel I know exactly how Cash wrote it. He was in his tour bus, heading through the country, probably in the mountains of the Appalachian chain, and he saw an old barn with “See Ruby Falls” painted on the roof. He picked up his guitar, started strumming a familiar, easy chord progression and crafted himself a simple story about a fallen woman.

This may be untrue. I didn’t read it. It just makes sense that this was how he wrote it. It reminds me of another extemporaneously written Cash tune, “San Quentin,” which he wrote the night before he taped a famous album there.

Cash I ain’t, but I’ve written songs that way.

“No matter where you go, there you are” came from the sign-off message of a country D.J. “I Got Cash Money (and I’m Workin’ Steady)” was based on my exasperated reply to a fellow in a New Hampshire general store. “Furlough Blues” is a considerably exaggerated account of when all my fellow newspaper employees and I had to take a furlough back when the end of the business was just beginning.

It’s a similar process to the way my novels get named. I never have a title when I start. At some point, while writing it, one comes along. In fact, several come along, and pretty soon I settle on one.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

I think the one I’m writing now is going to be The Latter Days, but there’s still plenty of time for it to change. My life has grown busier in recent months, and I’m writing it very slowly.

It could be this is a good thing. By the time I sit down to write another chapter, I’m well prepared for where it’s going to go. I’ve thought it through. I’ve taken the required “mulling time.”

Or, quite possibly, this could be a rationalization.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

The Audacity of Dope occurred to me shortly after I read Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. The 44th President of the United States had no influence at all on the story. It was about an unlikely hero who had no desire to be one. His desire was to write songs, play them in small bars, and smoke weed. Riley Mansfield wouldn’t let himself be pushed around. Like it or not, he was a hero. He had the audacity of dope.

The Intangibles came from the slogans on a high school locker room wall. It was set in a time even more tumultuous than this one. Set mostly in 1968, it’s about high school football at the center of general upheaval in the South. It was a time when young people questioned everything, and for good reason, but the intangibles were their anchors, keeping them from straying too far.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Crazy of Natural Causes was about a man who lost everything and had to rebuild himself from scratch in ways of his own design. The conclusions drawn by Chance Benford were based on his untutored reactions to upheaval. It was the most original and offbeat of my eight novels.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses was the tale of a bad politician and a good cop and the impossible odds faced by the latter, Hal Kinley, in stopping the former, Denny Frawley, from being elected governor. Frawley exploits the law, covers it up, and surrounds himself with thugs, some of whom are in his family. The law Frawley exploits is all that can stop him.

I love a good yarn about a man’s frontier being fenced in. Cowboys Come Home, set at the end of World War II, is an unconventional, modern western. A pair of Marines come home hoping they’ll never have to use all they learned in the Pacific. They couldn’t be more wrong. The world has changed back in Texas.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

I wrote two 2017 adventures – they’re my only novels that are linked to each other – about Barrie Jarman, a stock car racing phenom who is the modern equivalent of the moonshine-running hellions who built the sport. Barrie is a charming rogue with an adventurous spirit and a taste for forbidden fruit. FASCAR, the fictional ruling body, hasn’t seen his like in thirty years and isn’t at all ready for the figurative Lightning in a Bottle he brings to the sport.

Barrie’s life is no longer but a dream in the sequel, Life Gets Complicated, which was inspired by the words of a Statler Brothers song.

Life gets complicated when you get past eighteen / But the Class of ’57 had its dreams

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Then there’s this year’s release, which is my most ambitious, most abandoned and revamped, longest, and most complicated so far and likely ever. From the time the term became popular in reference to gays being allowed to serve in the military, it occurred to me that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applies to much more than that narrow issue.

Incredibly, little that has happened since I wrote it makes the novel less plausible. What starts out as a bleak depiction of a laid-off journalist turns gradually into the story of people trapped in a web of international intrigue involving politics, corruption, assassination, Russian collusion, and marijuana trade.

Current events damned near make it believable.

Whew. That’s why the next one’s about baseball.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Don’t Even Try to Put All This Together

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 23, 2018, 10:11 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Two days ago, I ate at KFC for the first time since the horrible commercials started. I bought a three-piece, Original Recipe, Big Box Meal. It was all dark meat. I like white meat.

I deserved that.

Why do I hold silly commercials against restaurants where people work hard to make a modest living?

I’m still not quite ready to go to Sonic again. I feel badly about it.

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When I’m on assignment, I’ve grown fond of taking notes on small notepads. I think it’s because, early in the morning, I watch too many Columbo reruns. I use a pen instead of a pencil, though.

That Barney Rubble. What an actor.

The only baseball team in the big leagues that has not lost at least four games in a row during the season is the Boston Red Sox. Last night they clobbered the Indians at Fenway to stop the bleeding at three. The lead over the Yankees is nine again. All is well, at least until the getaway afternoon game today.

Monte Dutton photo

I won’t belabor this point because many people do not root for the Red Sox.

As you may have suspected, I do on account of my late father, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Lee, Fred Lynn, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Jim Lonborg, Dwight Evans, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Mike Timlin, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi.

At least.

One reason the Red Sox won last night was undoubtedly the fact that Yaz turned 79. Undoubtedly.

Here in town, it’s the Clinton-Laurens game. Up the road, it’s the Laurens-Clinton game. My policy is writing the home team last, so, this year, it’s the Laurens-Clinton game because it is at Wilder Stadium.

It’s Friday night.

Both teams made the playoffs but not much else last year. Neither looked like a juggernaut in preseason scrimmages.

For a night, it won’t matter. The old grounds will be packed. I played in this game when they were new grounds. Was that only yesterday, or was it 43 years ago?

It depends on how you measure.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 17, 2018, 10:54 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

This morning I learned about the wet-bulb thermometer. So enriched was I that I moved on to wet-bulb temperature.

Am I a man of boundless curiosity? I’d like to think so, but the short-term answer was that I was trying to figure out why Clinton High School’s first football game is going to start at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30.

A wet-bulb thermometer is one in which a wet rag, draped over a thermometer and engulfed in air, enables the apparatus to measure the air temperature, based on wind, humidity and solar radiation.

Presumably, it is more accurate than a regular thermometer. Surely, it is more complicated than wrapping a wet wash cloth around a standard thermometer. In fact, it costs from $100 to $500, and every member of the South Carolina High School League is required to have one, so that athletes are not allowed to practice when it is too hot.

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When Laurens visits Clinton on Aug. 24, it is likely that the wet-bulb temperature will be greater than 82 degrees at 7:30, and thus did the school’s officials conclude it would be prudent to shoot for 8. The school’s state championship relay team will receive rings at 7:30 because receiving rings do not qualify as “regular activities” in an athletics sense.

This is fine. I’ve no interest in writing about heat prostration. I worried I was experiencing it while taking pictures of seven-on-seven games of throw-and-catch earlier this summer. I can’t afford a wet-bulb thermometer of my very own.

Knowledge is good. The way it is processed is sometimes bad, but in the medical community, the people who process it are still the ones who are trained to do so.

For now.

Even I am torn.

One side makes the inevitable lament of the aging. Back in my day, when men were men and brains were damaged …

The other side, though, is the sigh of relief. How in the world did any of us survive?

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.