Jim Copp
Jim Copp

    Did playing the Jim Copp Tales record five million times make it a classic, at least in our family, or was there something about what he did?  More Americans love him and can quote his stories at length than have similar familiarity with Dickens, Twain, or Hawthorne.  That you can still buy that album on CD now fifty-one years later means something.  He is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard, believe it or not. 
    I don't remember the experience of playing that album.  I have no memory of the record player that labored so often over that disk.  But I know that on my death bed I will mystify everybody in the room by announcing that, "It was you, Jasper Jones."  The memory of those stories is retained not in my brain, but in my spinal column or, more probably, in my bones.  The same is true for people outside of my family.  My favorite testimonial about him was from the person who heard a Jim Copp tale being recited from memory by adults at a table near him in a restaurant.  He joined in.  Another said that his adult conversations frequently reference Copp's dialogue, as Tommy Kramer saying, "I never allow linebackers in my backfield.  Whoever you are, go away!"  And the sound of a desktop bell means only one thing to me: "Silence! Ding." Who was he, to touch the lives of probably millions of Americans so deeply?  The temptation is to say that his stories were a last gasp of nostalgia for an imagined halcyon past, but I'm not satisfied with that.  Maybe there is joy and simplicity in his stories that we all seek.  If a Harvard graduate can write and sing the Mr. Jiggs song and then drive around the country asking people to listen to it, then I can take myself a little less seriously.
    Like some other fans, had I known that he was still alive all the way up to 1999, I would have thanked him.

Jesse Helms
Jesse Helms

     A true American monster.  What else can you expect from an angry, egotistical, ignorant, white man from North Carolina?  Are my biases showing?  I am reading a biography of Helms right now with one specific objective: What happens to a person's personality and soul so that you can prevent the US from signing onto a treaty that prohibits the deployment of children as soldiers?  That's what Helms did.  Why?  I am simply not imaginative enough to see anything more evil that putting an AK47 into the skinny hands of a seven-year-old and sending him out into the jungle to kill people.  Just a smidgen less evil is the person who encourages that behavior.  No, it is more evil for a fat white rich man five thousand miles away, whose medical insurance is paid for, whose house is in a secure neighborhood, who will never have to worry about whether there will be food on the table for himself or his kids - it is more evil for such a man to encourage the use of children for soldiers than the man living an insecure and violent life in Rwanda or Somalia to do the actual arming and deployment of children as soldiers.  Helms had absolutely no security needs to justify that crime.  He did it because he was a mean-spirited, small-minded, evil, little man.  Too bad he is in the after life so far away from the innocent children who died because of his wickedness.  He might have learned something.