Hancher vs Hilton & life beyond politics?

Lately it feels like my life has been subsumed by overtly political concerns and activity. I look down the front page of this blog, and posting has been a bit more sparse than usual, but more significantly almost everything in recent weeks has been tagged “politics.”

It’s a presidential election year, and I’m reading too much about that. I don’t know if things were different decades ago, or if it’s more my personal feelings changing, but US presidential contests seem like they have become not only all-consuming but invariably near-apocalyptic. Good news, we seem more and more to have real choices; bad news, the nature of those choices combined with the growing power of the office make it difficult for me to say “oh it’s just politics” and turn back to “real life.”

I would probably be getting more actively involved already, if not for having already just about maxed-out my personal energies for Lakewood Hospital. After weeks of dithering, our city council has confirmed the November general election as the date for our referendum on their vote to close our community hospital. So, just under 35 weeks to go. ūüėź Then I can (maybe) have my life back! Certainly I could use more in my life than slow, tiring and usually dispiriting campaign hack work. As I’m not sure what else that is at this point, though, I’m doing a little stock-taking.

First, I have completed the manuscript for a third book, and at some point in the next year will present to the reading public Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

I actually finished the very earliest draft back in December, and announced that on Twitter. This is the first mention I’ve made here, though, so a brief introduction: Virgil Hancher and James Hilton were presidents of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, respectively, and engaged in a series of acrimonious battles in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I think this is interesting primarily because of the enduring rivalry between the two institutions, which‚ÄĒas this feud and its background demonstrate‚ÄĒis much older and about much more than sports than most people remember.

The battles of Hancher vs. Hilton include a good deal of entertaining sniping, but they were also debates over the appropriate shape of not only Iowa’s public colleges but higher education in general. I look forward to reintroducing these events and their principal contestants, neither of whom has received any biographical study yet beyond magazine-length features or single chapters within institutional histories. The “Hancher” arts program is a thriving presence in eastern Iowa, and depending on the performance of Iowa State’s basketball programs their home-court “Hilton Magic” touches on national consciousness, so as with my previous two books I feel like this is material overdue for a closer look.

I’m exploring options for publishing at present, though if it’s left up to me again Hancher vs. Hilton will probably issue in early 2017 just because of the campaign commitments that will occupy much of my time this year‚Ķ

That said, right now the project is kind of under review, and in the meantime it doesn’t feel like I have a lot else going on. I attended a fantastic performance by Diana Chittester last Friday, and that was fun though I’m not really a regular go-to-shows person. My travel plans in 2016 are rather modest for now. Perhaps too modest; next month I may take a long weekend trip to Canada, which is something of a bargain right now but I wonder if I should have placed more priority on the kind of novelty that’s more inspiring. As traveled as I am at this point, however, significant novelty is expensive, so‚Ķ

Lakewood Library has a great schedule of programs this year, and I’m planning to attend some. Um‚Ķ

It does seem like something’s missing, basically. I’ve noticed for a while how so much of our society, for various reasons, seems lacking in active personal interests and hobbies (as opposed to work, or experiences entirely directed by others e.g. television, or anxiety-promoting status competitions e.g. Facebook). Now, to some extent, I seem to be falling into the same phenomenon myself.

How to find something that isn’t tied to political battles that are important but mostly soul-crushing, yet still feels worth caring about. Hmmmm‚Ķ

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