Over the years I’ve done a few “brief” introductions to this column, but more outros once I moved away, or early on in the history of Inspection when I was about to graduate and it was the end of the school year. What you will read here is a rewrite of a 2005 edition I wrote when the website I was on went dark and the owner of another site told me he wanted my weekly Inspection column on his site.
So I thought maybe the best way to start my regular editions in 2016, since 2005 was the last overview, was to reintroduce my column. Why? Because Inspection has spread far beyond its once limited net home in 2005.
Inspection is a column I have been writing, off and on, for over 40 years. The first edition appeared in The Marplot Stamp, a publication of Mohawk Valley Community College. The year was 1972. Still a conservative at the time I had an idea for a more local: Utica, NY, version of William F. Buckley’s column On the Right. Since then it has appeared in various publications including, but not limited to, publications at Plattsburgh State, Belmont University, an occasional newspaper. Usually it would be a special one off edition: sometimes labeled Inspection, sometimes not. I wrote Inspection under my own father’s column name several times: From the Hermitage, when he was in a burn unit in Syracuse. I kept my own format, other than the name.
What would I have missed if I hadn’t boldly gone where this Ken Carman had never gone before? Well, I would have missed annoying the hell out of many of the severely anal enforcers of what can only be framed as “overly politically correct.” That’s left and right.
If I hadn’t walked in that day I would have missed my editor begging the manager of the local Dominos not to sue us. Dominos used to be a very small chain: not nationwide, and there was one in Plattsburgh. A certain columnist, in a column about college life, complained about the “free quart of soda” promised that never arrived at the student’s doors in my dorm. No, that wasn’t the problem. That I would have understood: despite overwhelming anecdotal evidence, and many students agreeing with my assessment, I wouldn’t have been able to prove no soda ever arrived with any one order.
The problem, according to my editor, was my comment after that: “But who cares about glue-like cheese, cardboard-like crust and a sauce to rival Chef Boyardee? Some dare call it ‘pizza.'”
The manager told my editor, “Why would I sue you? I’ve had more people come in to try pizza since you published that than before.”
Damn! Am I responsible for Dominos still selling something marginally more like pizza? Curses, tinfoil-like crust foiled again.
Since then, I have to admit, it has improved. It’s no longer that bad. Not quite. Maybe close, but not quite. Let me get out my molecule measuring ruler.
I did wonder, at the time, had my editor ever heard of a food, or restaurant, critic?
As I changed, and shifted, politically, if I had stopped writing the column I would have missed the outrage at my support for Ted Kennedy’s candidacy. To be honest I had issues with Carter at the time: most specifically the phony Rose Garden strategy. He should have come out and talked health care as once promised, instead of hiding. Carter really could be his own worst enemy, unlike me.
But this was minor compared to the bigger than solar flare hot, hot air-based, anger over another comment. Having just moved to Tennessee I wrote about how much I loved my new home, I just really wished public works would pick up all the dead, run over, rotting in mid-day sun, dogs. Then I added that “driving over smeared schnauzer offers terrible traction.”
WOW! The “how dare you damned Yankees come down here and lecture us!!!!!!!”-based anger was so over the top you’d think supporting a New England liberal was an impolite fart, but complaining about paving our roads with rovers was heresy punishable by crucifixion.
I suppose it didn’t help that we published that in a paper sponsored by a somewhat hard shell Baptist college.
Maybe it was both my ragging on Frisbees posing as pizzas comment, and my creamed collie critique, that helped me realize there are sidebars to issues: weird, yet important, observations; unseen, under the rocks of controversies we face in life. “Observations” that are at least as important as those tired, old, debates that no one side will ever really, completely, win. That’s why, yes, while I write what we commonly call “rants,” I almost always look under the rocks. And sometimes pretty much all I write about is what’s under those rocks.
I would have missed writing about dreams and what they mean about the complexity of the human mind, about Albert Payson Terhune: a collie author at the turn of the previous century, religion, faith… the last two by no means the same topic. So much I would have missed if I had just dropped the column after college.
These columns usually offer at least some tie in with more current, political, social or faith-based issues. For everything is connected. Politics, religion and society are intertwined, inseparable. Every time we insist on putting a wall that says “No trespassing” between the two, we miss so much.
I have been writing this column so long I even have a few stalkers, like a certain grammar Goebbels who manages to lecture me every once in a while about, well, grammar: usually in childish, insulting, terms. He rarely, if ever, talks content, and when he does it’s usually obvious he hasn’t really read the edition, or has a severe problem understanding content.
Not surprising. It happens.
I must admit, My writing has always had a casual approach, to a certain extent. As I wrote once, “Too many of today’s English teachers and professors are standing on the tracks and the train is coming: the ever moving English language. They yell, ‘STOP!’ but syntax runs them over and the train keeps moving. Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least attempt to subtly shift the tracks towards a better destination?”
I firmly believe English teachers and profs; even regular folks who are concerned, have that power. Instead we rag on each other while changes run us over anyway, and instead of managing changes English remains what I once called, “A stagnant, slimy swamp.”
So, hopefully, as you read, you’ll be entertained, amused and maybe, hopefully, you might see what you couldn’t see before, or see something in a different light. I also always write to help myself see things in a different light, and as I compose I find myself learning, and sometimes learning, what I’ve forgotten.
Those are just a few of the most important reasons why I write. I certainly don’t write just to convince folks I’m right.
And as long as any of that happens I have achieved all I hoped for in when I walked into the offices of The Marplot Stamp in 1972 and asked if I could write a column called Inspection.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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