Cuba 2015 | Old Car

Tourists to Cuba

Cuba 2015 | Old Car

My wife, Mim, and I are still energized by our January, 2015,  trip to Cuba.  We had signed up via Road Scholar early in 2014 and throughout the summer and fall eagerly awaited the mid-winter time when we would head south.  Then came December 17, 2014, when Presidents Obama and Castro announced their intentions to improve diplomatic relations.  This changed everything.  All of a sudden we were among the first United States citizens to make the trip in an atmosphere of  hope and optimism.  Devils are in the details, of course, and we don’t assume that things will work out quickly or smoothly, but the fact remains that our interest is ongoing along with that of millions of others.

As we prepared for our trip and went through an orientation meeting in Miami before the charter flight to Havana, we were told, “You are not tourists.”  That designation is not deemed proper – or allowed – under existing agreements that permit only some researchers,  scientists, and educational & religious groups.   So, for example when a friend and I swam in the Bay of Pigs, we were told (with a wink and a nod) that you are doing it for fun, it’s marine research.

Okay, but the fact is we were and still are tourists.  Curious ones who are still learning.  Please stay tuned.

Future site of US Embassy

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Discovering Beloit | Thomas Franklin Warren

Purchasing my newest book

My latest book Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True? can be purchased in Beloit, Wisconsin, at Turtle Creek Book Store (a Barnes & Noble affiliated operation) and at Visit Beloit.  On line it is available via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iUniverse.  Just type in the title.

I also have some copies of my own to sell and personally inscribe.  If you want a personalized copy for yourself or a gift recipient, let me know: warrent@beloit.edu or 608 364-4136.

Discovering Beloit | Tom Warren

Discovering Beloit, the novel. It’s out.

 

Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True?

A novel by Tom Warren

This tale takes place a few years into the future. It features a Beloit, Wisconsin, high school journalism teacher and his class. He is frustrated by the disappearance of investigative journalism that has accompanied the decline of traditional newspapers. They call this teacher Gov, like in Governor. Gov says,  “All around us are untold stories. Some must be allowed to rest in private. Others need to be told, and some must be told!”

 

Gov’s students dig up stuff that at first glance seems un-believable. Certainly, many readers will think these things couldn’t happen in Beloit . . . Could they?

Ex-convicts teaching at Beloit College?

Major league baseball here, in little ol’ Belwah?

Vibrant main-line churches?

Violence and love in Oakwood Cemetery?

A goofy new industry?

Motivated matrons?

A herd of old Buffaloes?

A world famous chef?

A death-defying turtle?

Love after death?

Spies snooping around?

 

They could and they do. Happen. And they need to be told.

Is this the Beloit of our future, or our present? Well, things change and things that stay the same become better known. In the meantime, endangered species try to hang on.

 

All profits are donated to non-profit organizations that support investigation or the community of Beloit.  Purchase the book it at the following places: In Beloit:   Turtle Creek Bookstore and Visit Beloit; On line: Barnes & Noblel, Amazon, or iUniverse.

The Catcher in the Rye | Recommendation

Books I am reading.

Here are some recent books that have interested me enough to mention them to you:

The Catcher in the Rye.  Yes.  The recent PBS  special on Salinger hooked me, so I bought the book by the same name (co-authored by David Shields and Shane Salerno) along with a new copy of Catcher.  I want to give some serious time to  Salinger and thought that a re-read of Catcher would launch me into the proper mood.  It did.  I loved it.  Moreso than my memory of past readings.  I had forgotten the humor.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This book is so contemporary what with the early 20th century effort to rein in private excess.  It gave me a deepened appreciation for TR and an introduction to WHT whom I had previously stereotyped as an overweight golfer – true, but there’s so much more.  The poignant part of the book for me was  the central role of investigative journalism.  I worry about its present decline, especially in small communities where subscription-based newspapers are dwindling in circulation.

Zealot   A fascinating look at the historical Jesus by a Muslim.   I have enjoyed discussing and learning from this book with friends in a reading group.

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.  The author’s book on Steven Jobs interested me enough to read it twice.  I am so impressed by Isaacson’s ability to dig into complicated topics and pass on his understanding to lay readers.  I have Isaaacson’s Kissinger and Benjamin Franklin on my to read list.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  A Righteous Gentile vs The Third Reich by Eric Metaxas.  I had recently read Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison and had to learn more about him from another source.  This worked, but I was surprised at how few biographies exist on this fascinating iconoclast.

One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game by John Feinstein.  I like his golf articles and thought this foray into several other sports might not appeal to me, but it did.  Now will Feinstein ever write a [definitive] probing, objective biography of Tiger Woods?

Flight Behavior: A Novel  by Barbara Kingsolver.   Her scientific background and creativity with words bring me back to her.   I’d put this book just a tad below the masterpiece, Lacuna.  Not a bad place to be.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks.  Like his Uncle Tungsten, this book explores a topic close to the neurologist’s heart while applying his diagnostic, scientific, and story telling skills.

Christmas | Tom Warren Family

Looking back … WAAAAY back

Here’s a sizable chunk of our annual holiday letter for 2013.   This year it’s easy for us to mix personal highlights with those acted out on a larger stage:  

Two thousand thirteen has been a noteworthy year for us highlighted by our fiftieth  wedding anniversary celebration, a delightful gathering with much of Mim’s family joining us up north.  Fifty years . . . Good grief.   The nineteen sixties don’t seem that far back into the past for us, but it must look like ancient history for many.   When we were married on June 29, 1963, fifty years back from then was 1913 – before World War I. . . . ancient history.  The older we get, the closer even those times are through the rear view mirror.   Interesting.

Nineteen sixty-three registered as a special year for us in other ways.  The JFK assassination was burned into our memories, and we relived the scenes in November this year as if it were yesterday.    And reliving the 1963 March on Washington made us thankful for progress but frustrated by the increasing gap between rich and poor.

Twenty-thirteen kept up our sweet rhythms of recent years: spending lots of time at our Lake Superior cabin, visiting our relatives in Chattanooga over Thanksgiving, and welcoming our English “brother” Mike Savage during late summer.  We also became better acquainted with the ancestral land and family history of Rachel’s husband, David Morrissey, during a fascinating visit to Ireland with his parents, Ann and Michael.  (They could be professional tour guides).

We stay active on various fronts in Beloit, and like what we see happening here.  Lots of new families have re-energized the place with their time and talents. Our favorite vocation is still occasional kid-sitting grandsons Jack & Will in Wheaton, Illinois.  That’s a bit of paradise.

 

Beloit College Buffalos

Discovering Beloit

Update on Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True?

I’m inching along.   Each sentence is a little challenge, and these days I’m eliminating or shortening many of them.

I share the latest drafts with readers, and they respond.  Always with meaningful advice or corrections.  I incorporate much of it, but the main task remains:  How can I tell a tale of troubled newspapers and diminishing investigative journalism while tantalizing people about Beloit, Wisconsin . . . a very interesting place.

I am constantly walking through the places I write about in Discovering Beloit . . . on the way to the “Buffaloes” on campus many weekdays at 10:00, inside college buildings, and throughout town.  Especially Oakwood Cemetery and the college playing fields.    I feel very close to the scenes that I am describing.   My challenge: make them seductive to readers.

The targeted readership will be present and past residents of Beloit along with people who have been associated with Beloit College.    The trick is to play on what these folks have experienced while sparking the interest of non-Beloiters, like readers from Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Wisconsin diaspora anywhere.

Please stay tuned.

Beloit College Chain Gang

Progress on my novel…

I’m inching ahead on a novel.  Here is some evidence:

Author Introduction to a pre-publication draft of

Discovering Beloit

Stories Too Good to be True?

This is a book of fiction with doses of fantasy.  It focuses on what I hope could happen to Beloit, to baseball, to old men and women, to religion, to turtles, and to journalism.  Especially journalism.  Let’s call the whole thing concern laced with whimsy.

The main action takes place a few years into the future.   The plot focuses on a Beloit, Wisconsin, high school journalism teacher and his class.   He is frustrated by the disappearance of investigative journalism that has accompanied the decline of traditional newspapers, but he has some hope  via his students  They call this teacher Gov, like in Governor.   Gov says,

“All around us are untold stories.  Some deserve privacy forever; Others might be worth telling, and some [Gov almost shouts] must be told BY US JOUR­NALISTS!”

His students dig up stories that might be considered unbelievable. Certainly, many readers will think these things couldn’t happen in Beloit, or could they?

  • Ex-convicts teaching at Beloit College?
  • Major league baseball here, in Beloit?
  • Vibrant main-line churches?
  • Violence and love in Oakwood Cemetery?
  • A goofy new industry in town?
  • Wild old women?
  • A school in Africa with its roots in Beloit?
  • A herd of old Buffaloes?
  • A world famous chef?
  • A death-defying turtle?
  • Teachers that are subversive?
  • Spies?

Is this the Beloit of our future, or our present?  Well, things change and things that stay the same become better known. Fiction can be truer than what we think is happening.

In the meantime some endangered species  hang on for dear life:

• Hand held newspapers

• Mainline churches

• Big animals

• The national pastime that we used to call baseball

• Old professors

• Investigative journalism

• Service clubs?

and

• Stories that need to be told, but aren’t.

 

Here are some words from the preface

Well into the second decade of the new century Beloit’s ren­ais­sance hit a snag.  Things had been moving in the right direction for years.  Just the word Beloit elicited thumbs up signals through­out the state.  Reversing previous statistics, crime rates and un­employment were down, and parents from surrounding townships were choosing Beloit schools for their children.  Executives and scientists who took jobs in the expanding bio-industrial park lived within the city limits be­cause of its newly appre­ciated ambience.  And baseball was, well, successful beyond any Cub fan’s wildest imagination.

These accomplishments along with a solid reputation for gov­ern­men­tal rea­sonableness had brought national atten­tion to a city that for years had been scorned by much of Wisconsin.  Beloit was hot.

And then came an incident called the glitch, along with its cover-up.  It wasn’t a big deal in the arc of local history, but news; something to excite those who like to poke at the little city.  Print and blog headlines called out, “What’s hap­pening?” …  “Say it isn’t so, oh Gateway to Wisconsin”….  and “Whither thou goest, Belwah?”

A respected New York Times columnist had written about Beloit’s ascent in 2015.  He followed up with this comment in the spring of 2016 using the Wisconsin city to illustrate a broader concern.

… Had local investigative journalism been alive and well in Beloit, what happened in Oakwood Cemetery would have been de­scribed dif­ferently.  The truth would have been discovered and shared.  That didn’t happen.  Speculation and gossip filled the vacuum.

The op-ed piece continued.

Here are some facts that bother me:  the Beloit Memorial High School news­­­­paper no longer exists (it used to be the oldest one in the state).  The Beloit College newspaper no longer exists, and the venerable Beloit Daily News now comes out only once a week in hard copy under a new name.  Some say websites replace these insti­tu­tions, but the beating heart of print journal­ism – investigation – is miss­ing in Beloit.  The same is true in countless American com­mun­ities …

This warning caught the attention of an anonymous Beloit angel who had once been tempted to put her money where her heart was.  She established an endowment at a local charter high school to fund the salary for a teacher of investigative journalism.  In  describing the gift she said, “Cover-ups that seem useful at the time hurt in the long run, and this one has given me pain.”

Her idea was well received by the school’s governing board. One of them said, “Why not talk to Bridlington, that guy who used to teach jour­nalism at the College?  He might like a part-time gig.”

And it happened.  That Bridlington guy was hired.  He designed a class called Issues in Newswriting and started teaching it in the fall of 2017.  However, truth telling about the glitch and its prin­cipal player stayed covered up for a long time….  as if it never happened.

Discovering Beloit by Tom Warren

Discovering Belwah

I am plugging along on my book called Discovering Belwah: Stories too good to be true?  The end is starting to come into sight and hopefully it will be available as an eBook as well as in print format during  2013.  In the meantime, here are some preview questions and comments:

Who might read and enjoy this book that is set in Beloit, Wisconsin in 2017?

… Anyone interested in the decrease in investigative journalism that accompanies a decline in local coverage of news.

… Beloiters:  people who have lived in this stateline town or attended Beloit College and want to learn more about it while smiling and thinking.

… Cub fans.

… Anyone who realizes that things aren’t necessarily as they seem. They will experience some familiar things becoming strange.  At the college, in the sporting scene, and at Oakwood Cemetery.  In churches.  In neighborhoods.  In people.  In turtles.

… Anyone who realizes that everyone (!) has a story to be told, and that the stories are too often kept secret.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

Overview Draft #1:  Five bright Beloit high school students get more than they expect when the enroll in a journalism class taught by an old guy called Gov. He is frustrated by the loss of investigative reporting as newspapers diminish and disappear. The class responds with stories waiting to be uncovered.  In Beloit.  Some of them are unbelievable.

#2:  When subscriber-based newspapers diminish and disappear, investigative journalism goes too. That is the sad tale that veteran newsman John Marshall Bridlington tells his class of high school students in Beloit, Wisconsin.  But he has a plan: help them discover stories that must be told.  Help them discover some of the unbelievable secrets of this dynamic little town.

#3 One of them is the irrepressible Californian daughter of a visiting professor at Beloit College.  Another is a farm kid from east of town.  A third knows more than anybody about the move of the Chicago Cubs to Belwah.  A fourth is the offspring of the teacher and privy to some of his secrets.  And then there is Frank.   These five students enroll in the journalism class of John Marshall Bridlington, a retired reporter who is concerned about the diminishing practice of investigative journalism.  Together they dig beneath the surface to uncover stories about Beloit.  Some of what they find is unbelievable.

#4  It’s 2017.  The decline of print newspapers has continued a decades-long trend.  Financial circumstances are used as an excuse to diminish investigative reporting in Beloit, Wisconsin, and everywhere.  Stories are not being told.  Enter John Marshall Bridlington, a retired Chicago reporter who teaches at Turtle Creek Charter School located on the Beloit College campus.  He sends his little class of “newswriters” out into the community to snoop around.  “Things may not be what they seem,” he says.  “Look for the strange in the familiar.”  They discover that stories are everywhere waiting to be told.  Some of them, unbelievable.

#5 Belwah.  What a place: mysterious, challenging, and on the move.  Full of tales that could keep Beloit College alums and townies up late reading about them.  The problem: the stories seldom get told.John Bridlington’s journalism class sets out to do something about it.  His students become investigative reporters.  What they discover about Beloit, Wisconsin, is informative, eye-opening, and in some cases downright unbelievable.

#6 Major league baseball in Beloit?  Ex-cons on the College football chain gang?  Hi-jinxes in Oakwood Cemetery?  Big news on the turtle front?  Good grief, what’s happening to this place we call Belwah?  Could it all be true, sorta?  And what about the Buffaloes and women who read a lot?

 

Discovering Lake Superior and the Upper Michigan Peninsula | Tom Warren

Beloit Daily News-Article

I am delighted by the book review that Debra DeHart-Jensen of the Beloit Daily News wrote on Tuesday, November 16 regarding my latest effort Discovering Lake Superior and the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Most of the publicity and sales have been in the Western UP.  The BDN and Debra have helped to spread the word in this Wisconsin-Illinois stateline area and the response has been delightful.

For the full article “Between the Lines”

Tom and Mim Warren

Welcome!

Dear friends:

This website is an attempt to share some of my activities, images and thoughts.   Blatantly,  I am pitching my latest non-academic books.  Some of you are aware of them; others don’t even realize I do this sort of thing.  In any event, I hope you take some time to explore this site.

I find endless fascination in some topics that have resulted in or are planned to become books or presentations.  They include Beloit (Wisconsin), golf, Lake Superior,  journalism,  spirituality, and must recently, Cuba.     I’m also interested in toy trains, travel, Roy Chapman Andrews (the explorer), Cameroon, crossword puzzles,   photography, and grandfatherhood.  I am still a learner in all of these pursuits.