The Edmond Sun


January 31, 2014

HEY HINK: Fighting doesn’t decide fact; it's just entertaining

EDMOND — A news item appearing in the Jan. 29 issue of “BBC’s Internet News” reminds me of my years as a bouncer in a rock ‘n roll bar.

Let me set the stage.

The question to be answered when the Broncos and Seahawks take the field on Sunday will be a simple one. When time expires, which team will have the most points on the scoreboard? There may be a host of secondary questions; offensive/defensive statistics, individual performances, the importance of officiating in the outcome of the game, the role of intangibles, etc. But as for who won this year’s Super Bowl, we’ll know when the game is over.

Likewise, in certain winter Olympic events, the question at issue will be settled at the finish line. If the object of the exercise is to determine which athlete completes the course in the fastest time, the digital equivalent of the venerated stopwatch will tell us who wins. End of story.

This brings me to the subject of barroom brawls. (I’ll get to the BBC item in a second). I’ve seen fights bust out over such things as who was the greatest rock ‘n roll band, who was the most beautiful Miss America, who was the greatest of the singing cowboys and are professional bowlers really athletes? No matter how the fight turned out, none of the above questions produced a definitive answer. The common denominator in all these macho discussions was the belief — magnified by the effects of alcohol — that a fist fight could settle the issue. Don’t get me wrong here, there are times when a good head bustin’ is just what the doctor ordered. But, that’s for another column.

So here’s where the BBC comes in. According to the story, last week in Russia a couple of friends were sharing a few drinks and discussing the relative merits of prose versus poetry. Though this is not a topic I overheard often in the rock ‘n roll bar business, it has been the subject of intellectual dispute for centuries.

No need to offer an exhaustive summary of the arguments here, it’s enough to present some snapshots.

Hemingway says, “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the age of Baroque is over.” W. Somerset Maugham insists, “The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.” H.L. Mencken says, “Poetry has done enough when it charms, but prose must also convince.”

Edward Young counters with, “There is something about poetry beyond the prose logic; there is mystery in it, not to be explained but admired.” As you see, plenty of horsepower on all sides of the argument.

No doubt, our Russian friends covered some of the same ground. Evidently, the discussion turned really hot. One of the debaters, a 53-year-old former teacher, insisted on poetry’s superiority. His 67-year-old opponent held out for the honor of prose.

The article doesn’t say whether both men were armed but poetry’s adherent, for sure, had a knife. A fight broke out and prose’s defender was stabbed in the melee. Poetry’s proponent fled the scene. He was ultimately apprehended and charged with homicide. He confessed. The BBC article is silent as to how he plans to argue in mitigation of the possible 15-year prison sentence.

Obviously, this tragedy is subject to a number of possible interpretations. Statistically, we can say that 100 percent of the time when a knife fight breaks out between debaters of the relative merits of prose and poetry, the poets win. Does this settle the issue? Does it even suggest that poetry’s adherence are better knife fighters? Would the outcome had been different if one of the contestants had not been Russian? Can we draw any meaningful conclusions from this dispute at all?

We might chalk this up to a bizarre oddity unique in the world of news. But the BBC article reports in another Russian city back in September a fight broke out between two men debating the merits of the philosophical ideas of philosopher Emmanuel Kant. There was no fatality, but one of the disputants was injured when he was shot several times with rubber bullets.

So here’s what I’m thinking. There’s no way a knife fight can settle the issue of whether poetry or prose is superior. Rubber bullets won’t clarify Kant. But contestants could take a hint from the Super Bowl and Olympic speed skating. Instead of knife fights and rubber bullets, they could try a round of paintball. They won’t decide whether prose or poetry is superior. But they will have a winner and there shouldn’t be fatalities. May the best paintballer win.

I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.

Text Only
  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results