Marion (Morf) Morford

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B.A. The Evergreen State College, 1977
M.A.T., University of Washington

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M. 'Morf' Morford, Contributing Writer 

Biographical Note

I am currently a guest columnist for The News Tribune. Besides that, I have mostly been a teacher in unlikely, if not ridiculous situations.

I've taught at standard community colleges a little, but mostly at other places; The Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation, The Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Tacoma Rescue Mission, the Pierce County Jail and, currently Clover Park Technical College.

I generally teach English and writing, but have been known to drift across disciplines.

I have had some of my jail and China stories published online.

Publication Type

Journalism

Latest Publication Title

"Those weren't the good old days, and neither are these"

Publication Excerpt

I graduated from high school in 1970. In some ways, life has changed beyond recognition, but in more subtle ways, life in America has barely moved.

1970 saw the first Earth Day, we were immersed in seemingly endless war, there were protests in the streets, the economy was sluggish and we had a “generation gap” – later known as the “culture war.” Perhaps, in 2010, only the names have changed.

The media of 1970 were classic mass media: radio and TV. For young people, it was probably the golden age of radio, but television was for old people, even then.

When I tell young people what radio was like back then, they can hardly believe it. They are accustomed to demographically marketed and prepackaged radio with completely predictable programming. There are few, terribly few, independent radio stations where you can hear what you aren’t expecting.

On a typical radio station of 1970, you might hear jazz (Dave Brubeck, for example) folk music (like Peter, Paul & Mary or Joan Baez) rock, comedy routines (Bill Cosby), crooners (like Frank Sinatra) and Broadway or movie show tunes, with news, sports and weather thrown in – by a living, breathing DJ. Call-in contests were common as well.

TV in 1970 was, for the most part, awful and painfully predictable. There were two shows that stood out: “All in the Family” used the sitcom formula to address social and political issues, and “The Smothers Brothers Hour” used satire and humor to raise and clarify issues a generation before Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

In 1970, we had “The Whole Earth Catalog” (which Steve Jobs described as the Web in paperback form). In fact, it was my generation that conceptualized (in various forms) global networking.

It might be fair to say that, if you took away the Web and electronic devices, not much has changed in 40 years.

In the years leading up to 1970, several visionary, idealistic leaders were killed. It was, and perhaps always has been, dangerous to hope.

One group I never expected to see again was the John Birch Society. Its particular brand of paranoid, hateful and blatantly racist conspiracy theories horrified me back in the ’70s. To see the Birchers emerge as sponsor of a conservative conference (CPAC) in February of this year and to see its cynical rantings defining the political agenda for 2010 is beyond belief.

As in the ’70s, the streets are full of protesters. Many are against the wars or for or against climate change legislation. Then there are the older white people who “want their country back.”

One must ask, back to what or from what? Back to some mythical, idealized utopia? Back to the ’70s perhaps? Or is it the ’60s, where people of color “knew their place” and presidents were white?

Every graduation season should remind us that life is always in motion and full of choices.

How did Evergreen help you in your career?

At Evergreen I learned to be (relatively) comfortable with the crazy messiness of the writing process. Many of my ideas for writing take on a life of their own. I might start out with an intended direction, but at my best, the writing makes more interesting convolutions and inversions than I could come up with.