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George Gurley

Opinion: Verbal offense hard to avoid
December 7, 2014
Trigger Warning: This column may contain material offensive to persons of precious sensitivities. Correction: It will probably offend even the most churlish, boorish, ill-bred lout. How could it be otherwise? You can’t open your mouth today without uttering some word that will cause pain and discomfort to someone else.
Opinion: Terrorist killing not worthy of opera
November 2, 2014
Back when I was writing a column for the Kansas City Star, I got a call from a woman who had a story idea for me: A widow had buried the ashes of her late husband — an avid golfer — by his favorite hole on a local country club course. The woman thought the story had humorous possibilities. Desperate for something to write about, I took the bait. I called the son of the widow and in describing my plan, I became vaguely aware of what a pointless and un-amusing story I was pursuing. At some point, the son interrupted me and gently said, “George, surely you have something better to write about.”
Opinion: Talk not always so cheap
October 4, 2014
Once upon a time, people got rich by making stuff — cars, railroads, skyscrapers. Even silly stuff such as Silly Putty, the Hula Hoop, the Pocket Fisherman, the Inside-the-Egg-Scrambler still had the hallmark of being “stuff.” But today, it’s enough to have an idea, the more inane the better. All it takes is to come up with some idiotic “app” and the money starts pouring in. No need for an assembly line. All it takes is a room filled with nerds.
Opinion: Rhythms of nature reassuring
September 7, 2014
Two spiders have hung their webs just beyond my kitchen window, one directly in front of the other, between a juniper tree and a bird feeder. You’d think that with the vast outdoors available, they would have staked out individual, exclusive territories. But what do I know about the ways of spiders?
Opinion: Development pendulum swings
August 3, 2014
I was talking to a perceptive observer of Lawrence, Kansas, when we got onto the subject of the roadwork that has turned the town into a bewildering maze.
Opinion: Technology hard to duck
July 6, 2014
No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “Nibbled to death by ducks.” Perhaps you think it’s kind of cute or funny. Let me tell you: It’s not cute, it’s not funny. Being nibbled to death by ducks is a hideous way to die. Day after day you watch helplessly as, little by little, they nibble away at you. Then all of a sudden — poof! — you’re gone. I honestly think I would rather be ripped apart by sharks or sharp-toothed jackals than to be nibbled to death by ducks.
Opinion: Obama short of expectations
June 1, 2014
The pendulum swung: From Attila the Hun and self-proclaimed “Decider,” to President Hamlet, the professorial equivocator. From the inarticulate blurter of malapropisms (“misunderestimated,” etc.) to the orator who thinks he can change the world by giving speeches. After the belligerent, reckless Bush, we were bound to get a cautious, indecisive introvert who retreats from the global arena under the banner of “leading from behind.” From phantom weapons of mass destruction to phantom lines in the sand. To act without thinking or to talk without acting, that is the question.
Opinion: Prairie fire asserts its power
May 4, 2014
A thick fog of smoke filled our valley, drifting eastward from grass fires in the Flint Hills. It was a tribute to the magnitude of that annual enterprise, a tradition that goes back to the days of Indians and buffalo and is in conflict with today’s concerns about pollution and global warming. When we began restoring native grass to our farm over ten years ago, we were warned that the day might come when burning would be forbidden. The practice is supposed to revitalize the grass and knock back invasive weeds and trees. But unruly fires and noxious smoke are at odds with the priorities of encroaching suburban settlers.
Opinion: Exulting in Mardi Gras excess
April 6, 2014
Some irresistible need must make members of our species attempt to escape from the prison of their skins. I was standing at the corner of Frenchman and Royal streets in New Orleans, and towards me flowed a stream of human beings magically transformed: A penguin, baboon, zebra, sea horse, alligator, gorilla, bear — the entire animal kingdom usurped by intoxicated women and men.
Opinion: More equality, more mediocrity
March 2, 2014
Inequality is in the news. Inequality has been declared the crisis of our times. Ingenious politicians have made the startling discovery that some people have more stuff than others. And they are promising to do something about it.
Opinion: Trip spurs musical memories
February 2, 2014
I stopped in Memphis, bound for New Orleans, with a U-Haul filled with stuff in tow. The clerk at the motel gave me a dinner recommendation. “They’ll pick you up in a pink limousine,” he said. The significance of that detail escaped me until I noticed that most of the stores on our route displayed signs evoking Elvis. At last it dawned on me. I was in Memphis, home of “The King.” The pink limo had to figure in the Elvis legend. It wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that Elvis tooled about in such a conveyance. If I remember correctly, he wasn’t famous for his refined taste.
Opinion: Government oppresses more than serves
January 5, 2014
An enterprising journalist recently unearthed a remarkable statement made by Hillary Clinton during her attempt to nationalize health care in 1993. According to Clinton, if we Americans are allowed too much discretion in how we spend our health care dollars, we won’t spend wisely and won’t get the care we need.
Opinion: N.D. fracking: Boom or bust?
December 1, 2013
For the first time in some 40 years, I didn’t open the pheasant season in Kansas with the same group of friends. Such traditions are painful to break, but the dearth of birds in drought-stricken Kansas and divergent commitments trumped nostalgia. So I struck out for South Dakota, where pheasants are plentiful. Then on to North Dakota, where I met up with a friend who’s moved his contracting business there to take advantage of the fracking oil and gas boom.
Opinion: Scotland ponders independence
November 3, 2013
“You say tom-ay-toe, and I say tom-ah-toe” and according to the song, the remedy for such lovers’ quarrels is to, “call the whole thing off.” From breakups and divorces it’s but a short distance to riots in the streets, schisms, world war, genocide, and Apocalypse. So it goes – from fists to cudgels to spears to muskets to hydrogen bombs. People gather together for mutual security and, when the threat of invasion by aliens passes, they begin to discover irreconcilable differences among themselves. The next thing you know, the word “We” is forgotten and the community divides itself into “Us” and “Them.”
Opinion: Memories of a bygone Mideast era
September 29, 2013
The first time I heard an opera was at a school where I was teaching in Beirut, Lebanon. The year was 1963. I had stopped at Tom Weaver’s door to listen to this gorgeous, poignant music that was floating from his dormitory room. He invited me in, and we both listened without speaking a word. I had no idea what the characters were singing, about but their voices kept me on the verge of tears. The opera was La Boheme.

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