The American Dream Reconsidered: The Outsiders (1967)

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/3319626950

14-year-old orphan Ponyboy Curtis lives with his older brothers Darry and Sodapop in a city somewhere in America. They are part of a greaser gang which means they smoke, they fight, they swear. The author was only 16 when her novel The Outsiders hit the bookshelves and disturbed America’s sense of decency. Afterwards, Susan Eloise Hinton’s life was never the same, and the attentive reader might wonder if the opponents of The Outsiders feared something more than improper manners.

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Apollo 11 – An Alternate Universe

By Sibylle Machat

No, this blog post is not about conspiracy theories connected to the Apollo program, Apollo 11, or the moon landing. Instead, it is about an alternate universe in which the first moon landing had a less fortunate ending, a “there but for the grace of god” in reverse.

The day: June 20, 1969, around 6 p.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin have successfully landed on the moon, completed their famous moon walk, taken photographs, collected about 20 kg worth of lunar rock and soil samples, and have finally re-entered Eagle (as they named their lunar lander). They’ve slept for a good seven hours, and, now that they are both awake again, the time has come to lift off from the moon, to get back into lunar orbit, rendezvous with Columbia, where their crewmate Michael Collins is awaiting their return, and to, ultimately, head back to earth.

So Armstrong and Aldrin fire the Eagle’s engine.

And … … … nothing happens.

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Banking Amish-Style

By Sabrina Völz

When my colleagues and I started this blog, I would have never in a million years thought I would be writing about a bank. But nearly five years later, here I am. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this story ends up as a case study in business textbooks around the globe.

Prior to the Amish Conference 2019 on Health & Well Being in Amish Society held recently at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, I went on the Amish Enterprise Tour which introduced conference participants to Amish businesses in the area: Ruth Anna’s Gluten-Free (wholesale) bakery, DS Stoves, and The Bank of Bird-in-Hand.

“The Gelt Bus” Photo credit: Sabrina Völz

Today, farm land in areas, such as Lancaster County, heavily populated by various Amish groups, is hard to come by and quite pricey. With an average of 6 to 7 children per Amish family, farming is no longer an option for everyone. Thus, more and more Amish, including women, are opening up their own cottage industries and small businesses. Apart from religious considerations that need to be negotiated with their church leadership, Amish entrepreneurs have encountered similar problem to those of many people in mainstream society while starting small and mid-sized enterprises. Branch banks founded in other parts of the country often do not seem to be interested in small loans and fail to understand the local people and their ways.

In order to meet the needs of this segment of the population, 15 people, 10 of whom were Amish men, decided their area needed a community bank. So they did like the Amish do. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The Bank of Bird-in-Hand is the result of the joint venture between Amish and non-Amish investors as well as professional bankers. The Gelt Bus (Pennsylvania Dutch for “Money Bus”) was only one of the adjustments to traditional banking that had to be made.

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“Memories of Government Springs Park”

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Government Springs Park was once the pride of Enid, Oklahoma. During my childhood, government was considered a good thing, so we often used that full name in admiration. Today it’s usually called simply Springs Park. Every school child knew it had been a camp site on the old Chisholm Trail, the best known of the routes used to drive cattle from Texas to the Kansas railroads after the Civil War.

Photo credit: Bill Robinson

It was a perfect campground: hills overlooking the flat land where the cattle grazed and, most important, the drinking water from natural springs that fed the lake. These things also made a perfect park for children: the flat land – then punctuated with unsafe but exciting wooden swings, hand-operated merry-go-rounds, and seesaws – was great for running. We could drink from the springs, at that time corralled by a pipe. I’m sure the water was less than pure, but I never knew anyone to get sick from it. We could climb the gentle hills to the swimming pool, and, on special occasions, my father would spring for a quarter to rent a rowboat to take us on the lake.

It was a child’s paradise except that we could never climb the steeper hills on the south side of the lake. That was reserved for the “colored people,” as the other two-thirds of the park was reserved for whites. I was curious, as children are about anything forbidden, but never dared to go. I understood my parents didn’t agree with the law, but it was the law, and arguing was not permitted.

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Introduction to Literature: Robert Coover’s “A Sudden Story”

By Sibylle Machat

Introduction to Literature. Fiction. The session on narrative perspectives – something that teachers often love, but first year literature students just as often dread (close to the horrors of metrical feet in poetry). Nevertheless, the syllabus calls for a discussion of either Franz Stanzel’s narrative situations, Gerard Genette’s narration and focalization, or both.

What can we do to make all of this at least a little exciting?

Sibylle Machat’s personal copy of Robert Coover’s “A Sudden Story.” In: Robert Shepard, Ed. Sudden Fiction. American Short-Short Stories. Gibb M. Smith: Layton, 1986.

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