Countdown to Paris – 2021!

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be arriving in Paris – at De Gaulle airport – early on the morning of Thursday, next August 26. From there I’ll take the RER Train B to the Gare du Nord. (18 Rue de Dunkerque.) Then out the exit past the Starbucks, and take a left and onto Rue la Fayette. (Small world. I live in Fayetteville, in Fayette County, Georgia.)

From there I’ll hike a mile or so to my two-night’s lodging. (Before joining the trio I’m meeting on the 28th, at a swanky hotel near Notre Dame, before heading south to hike over the Pyrenees.) On that mile hike I hope to stop for my first iced coffee of the day, at “McDonald’s Stalingrad.” (So-called because it’s adjacent to the “Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad.”)

And by the way, all this is part of a plan to hike the Camino de Santiago yet again.

For the third time, actually. In 2017 my brother Tom and I hiked the Camino Francés, or French Way. Or Tom did, in the purest sense. That’s because the Camino Francés starts at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. (To Roncesvalles, in Spain.) The problem for me was that I’d had enough mountain hiking the year before, when we hiked the Chilkoot Trail, as detailed in the notes. And that trail – from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, British Columbia – is called “the meanest 33 miles in history.” And I found out why, the hard way.

And so in 2017 Tom flew into Paris, while I flew into Madrid, then took a train up to Pamplona to meet him. (After he had hiked over the Pyrenees.) And had a miserable time, partly because of some nasty weather but also because he opted – for the first and last time in his adult life – to stay in one of those dormitory-style lodgings the Camino is famous for…

But we digress. I was talking about flying into Paris, to join up with the trio I’m meeting on the 28th – “before heading south to hike to over the Pyrenees.” That trio includes Tom and his wife Carol. (With both of whom I hiked the Camino Portugués, or the Portuguese Way, in 2019, as also detailed in the notes.) But this time I’ll be part of a group of four, including Tom, Carol, and Carol’s brother Ray. (Who will be hiking the Camino for the first time.)

Which brings us back to the Pyrenees, as shown at the bottom of the page.

It’s bothered me, ever since 2017, that I didn’t have the nerve to hike up and over those daunting Pyrenees mountains. And so I now feel the need to finish that “unfinished business.” And that’s in spite of the 2010 film, The Way, starring Martin Sheen. The central premise of the film is that an old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor “goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route.”

And this old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor didn’t just go to France. On the spur of the moment and without a minute’s training or preparation, this Old Geezer decides to hike the entire 500 miles to Santiago. (I think they call that artistic license.) Which is another way of saying that interesting fictional characters do things no one in “their” right mind would do. (Like Sheen’s character in the film sitting on a bridge and taking off his pack, only to see it fall into the river below and float away. Or leave his pack unattended, to be stolen by a young gypsy.)

But then again, some would say hiking over the Pyrenees is something no one in his right mind would ever do. Which brings up the recent story, Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed as those of missing hiker Esther Dingley. “Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on Nov 22 last year.” The story added that there was “no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area … and the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.”

Which in turn brings up the old saying, “Never hike alone.” And I won’t be hiking alone…

Then again, I probably wouldn’t be flying over to Paris this year if not for Tom’s suggestion. Or Carol’s actually, since she hasn’t hiked the Camino Francés (French Way), but did get a kick out of hiking the Portuguese Way. (Starting in Porto, Portugal – home of Port wine – back up to Santiago from the south.) Which brings up another point.

Since I’ve hiked to Santiago twice now, and get nervous away from home more than a month, I won’t be going the whole way. I’ll hike over the Pyrenees, and get that off my List of Things to Finish. Then through Pamplona, over to Burgos, where I’ll part ways. As the rest of the group goes on for another 29 days of hiking – with days off at intervals – I’ll take the train back to Madrid. And spend some more quality time there, possibly visiting the Prado again.

But first comes Paris.

As I write this, I’m making a list of things to do in my four days in Paris. Two of those days I’ll be on my own; the other two I’ll join the group at a Swanky Hotel across the Seine from the Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Or what’s left of it.) But there is one place on the outskirts that I definitely want to visit. (Via Metro.) As I recently learned, Choisy-le-Roi is where Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations with Le Duc Tho to end the Vietnam war, in 1972.

But back in 1979 it was also home to a youth hostel, and on the grounds of that hostel I and a young lady named Janine camped in a little tent, between the Seine and Marne Rivers. With the moonlight shining through the tent flap… (Can you say, “romantic interlude?”)

Google Maps says that hostel isn’t there any more, and I’d like to find out what happened…

Some things ARE sacred, you know!

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Central pyrenees.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Paris City Of Love Image – Image Results. It came with an article, from “travelfeatured.com,” which for some reason I couldn’t latch onto. But you could search “paris city of love and lights.”

For more on the 2017 “French Way” hike, see Training for the Camino, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.

For more on the 2016 mountain hike, see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!” With links to two earlier posts.

For more on the 2019 Camino hike, see “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

Re: “Never hike alone.” The link is to 11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea, as opposed to “Never Hike Alone,” the Friday The 13th film created by Womp Stomp Films. (Never Hike Alone | Friday the 13th Wiki | Fandom.)

For more on the secret negotiations in Choisy-le-Roi, see KISSINGER MEETS THO FOR 4 HOURS – The New York Times, December 5, 1972. Or search “choisy-le roi secret negotiations kissinger duc tho.”

Re: My visiting Choisy-le-Roi. Google Maps indicate that I have a choice of Metro stations. I could get off at the Ivry-sur-Seine station, then walk due east across the Pont-d’Ivry bridge, toward the Gendarmerie Nationale. Then from that area – where the youth hostel used to be – head back west over the Port à l’Anglais Bridge. Unfortunately the whole area now looks extremely built up, with what appears to be an interstate-like cloverleaf where highways A86 and D19 intersect.

The lower image is courtesy of Pyrenees Mountains Image – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

On the Louvin Brothers – “spelled S-I-N?”

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Earlier this week – a Tuesday morning heading into Fayetteville for some shopping – I heard a song, “Cash on the Barrelhead.” The song, courtesy of my Sirius bluegrass station,* was by the Louvin Brothers, and I knew them from previous experience. That “brotherly” association brought back some bad memories. As it turns out, I’m way more familiar with another song the Louvin Brothers did, “That word broad-minded is spelled s-i-n.”

Which means that – to the Louvin Brothers – any good Christian has to be narrow minded. But that to me is perversion of the Gospel… 

But anyway, the Brothers recorded their “s-i-n” song in 1952. The lyrics read in part: “I read in my Bible, they shall not enter in. For Jesus will answer, Depart, I never knew you.” Which is a “Christian sentiment” that I’ve always found incongruous, if not ironic. Like when the song’s refrain repeats, over and over, “That word broadminded is spelled s-i-n.”

But just to clear things up, that “depart, I never knew you” quote came from Matthew 7:23. And Matthew Chapter 7 starts off with Jesus saying: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And Chapter 7 goes on to talk about the narrow and the wide gates, about true and false prophets, and about true and false disciples.

In turn, the sentiment in the “s-i-n” song could be one big reason why – for the first time since the 1930s – fewer than half of Americans belong to a church, mosque or synagogue. That is, because of false disciples either perverting the Gospel or creating God in their own image, not the the other way around. And as far as that “wide gate” goes, I’m thinking the people who enter that wide gate are the ones who turn way too conservative in their theology, especially as they get older. (Which is such an easy trap to fall into.) It’s much more difficult to enter the narrow gate by remaining – even in old age – independent and open-minded, like Moses and Jesus and Paul. (“Oh my!” To which I could add, “Me too!”)

Then there’s John 6:37, where Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And there’s Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And finally, for your “secular” consideration, there’s 2d Timothy, Chapter 2, which tells of “dealing with false teachers.”

[T]he Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil…

That’s from 2d Timothy, Chapter 2, verses 24-26. And speaking of devil-snares, Ira Louvin certainly had demons of his own to deal with. (But then, who am I to “cast the first stone?”)

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To get back on track, Charlie and Ira – the “Louvins” – were born Loudermilk brothers. “After becoming regulars at the Grand Ole Opry and scoring a string of hit singles in the late 1950s,” those brothers broke up as a duo in 1963. Mainly because Charlie grew tired of “Ira’s addictions and reckless behavior.” Or see the Wikipedia article on Ira:

Ira was notorious for his drinking and short temper. He married four times, his third wife having shot him multiple times in the chest and hand after he allegedly beat her. He died on June 20, 1965 when a drunken driver struck his car in Williamsburg, Missouri. At the time, a warrant for Louvin’s arrest had been issued on a DUI charge.

I first wrote about these brothers in a companion blog, listed in the notes. The gist of that post – from 2014 – was that there was a vast difference between Ira Louvin’s “public and private persona.” (“Do as I say, not as I do.*”) I noted that that difference “could be spelled ‘h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e,’” rather than “s-i-n.” (Then added, “but that would be a bit too snippy for this Blog.”) 

I ended up concluding, “Suffice it to say, Ira was merely human, like the rest of us.”

But then – being broad-minded rather than narrow-minded – I recently changed my tune a bit. I ended up feeling kind of sorry for ol’ Ira, mainly because of the web article, The Bloody Ballad of Charlie and Ira Louvin | PopMatters. It’s a review of the book Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, by Charlie Louvin, in association with Benjamin Whitmer.

As children … Charlie and Ira experienced their share of Hell on Earth. Their father, himself the son of a cruel drunk, turned his violence on his sons. Ira, being the oldest son, received the worst of beatings that used feet, fists, switches, pieces of furniture, logs — anything within reach if their father was angry enough — to put him within spitting distance of death’s door at least once.

Then there was the story of the “mutt puppies that resulted from the boys sneaking a bulldog in to breed with a prized bloodhound.” The cruel-drunk father told Charlie to “put them in a sack and brain them against a fence post to kill them.”

Which led to another dark note, of Louvin-Whitmer concluding that “the alcoholism and self-destructiveness that defines Ira seems inevitable, given his grandfather’s drunkenness, his father’s cruelty, and Ira’s mix of insecurity and rebellion.” Which led to another conclusion, that their music – their musical careers – ended up being the Louvin Brothers’ “only ticket out of a life of back-breaking work and abuse.”

Which may be why their music turned out to be so popular; why that music struck a chord with so many people. As the “Satan is real” book review noted, the story of the Louvin Brothers was one of “a mid-century Southern gothic Cain and Abel,” who turned out to be “one of the greatest country duos of all time.” One newspaper called them “the most influential harmony team in the history of country music.” On the other hand, Emmylou Harris said, more succinctly, “there was something scary and washed in the blood about the sound of the Louvin Brothers.”

In short, theirs is a “raw and powerful story of the [country-music] duo that everyone from Dolly Parton to Gram Parsons described as their favorites.” Which reminds me…

A couple Christmas seasons ago, before Covid, I went to a concert at Saint Mark’s UMC – Atlanta, featuring the Trey Clegg Singers. They had a guest singer, whose name I can’t remember. But his performance reminded me of William Warfield singing “Old Man River” at New York City’s Lincoln Center in 1966. (I was 15 at the time.) Each time I remember thinking, “There was a lot of pain that went into making that voice so beautiful.” And so it was with the Louvins.

In the meantime, we all have our own demons to deal with…

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The upper image is courtesy of Making God In Our Image – Image Results. And by the way, the quote is attributed to other people besides Mark Twain. Another note. The ggogle search “making God in our image” got me close to six million results. Also, much of this post was gleaned from a May 2014 post on a companion blog, On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.” For more detail on the song itself, see Cash on the Barrelhead and The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.

Re: “Cash … barrelhead.” That was “on the way into Fayetteville,” Georgia. And it was the Sirius XM bluegrass station.

Re: “Broadminded.” See Louvin Brothers – Broadminded … SongMeanings.

The Van Gogh image is courtesy of Narrow Minded Image – Image Results. In case you can’t see it, the text reads, “It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.” It came with an article from AZ Quotes, with other Narrow-Minded quotes.

Re: Decrease in church membership. See for example Gallup: Fewer than Half of Americans Belong to a Church.

Re: Whose image? See Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image. (Not the other way around.)

Re: Moses and Jesus and Paul. (“Oh my!”) See Lions and tigers and bears oh my – Idioms by The Free Dictionary.

Re: “Do as I say,” etc. See also Matthew 23:3 “So practice and observe everything they tell you,” on the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, with the note, “they don’t practice what they preach.”

The St. Mark’s in question is at 781 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta. (Around the corner from the “Sivas Hookah Lounge.”)

Re: 1966 revival of Showboat. See SHOWBOAT LINCOLN CENTER CAST – COOK,BARBARA – 090266118229 | HPB.

The lower image is courtesy of Louvin Brothers Broadminded S-i-n Images – Image Results.

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Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down…

A lesson from the classic 1957 Bridge on the River Kwai: There’s “always the unexpected…”

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About that movie quote from 1957, “There’s always the unexpected…” Who could know? Who could know that such a thing as the COVID-19 pandemic was coming? Or for that matter, who could know that for a matter of weeks the Colonial Pipeline gas shortage of 2021 would take us back to the the Good Old Days of 1970s energy crises. (“The two worst crises of this period were the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis, when the Yom Kippur War and the Iranian Revolution triggered interruptions in Middle Eastern oil exports.”)

Maybe the Good Old Days weren’t all that great either

But seriously, I’ve been looking for a quick and easy new post. (Since I last posted on June 15.) I found On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down, from May 11, 2020. I wondered how things looked “way back then” – in 2020 – and what may have changed since. As part of this update I googled “what have we learned from the pandemic.” I got 181 million results. (181,000,000.)

But first, here’s a review of that “Week 8” post. It started with my definition of the first full week of COVID. For me it started the weekend after Thursday, March 12. That’s the day the ACC Tournament got cancelled, followed shortly by cancelling March Madness and the college baseball season, along with the NBA, NHL “and other major professional sport seasons.”

The American West: History, Myth, and LegacyI noted that even back then – early on in the pandemic – I managed to keep busy. For one example, I did things like watch a lot of lectures from The Great Courses Plus,* especially while keeping busy exercising. And one such course featured a quote on how “we” used to cope with such disasters in those Olden Days.

Like the Olden Days when Americans “conquer[ed] the American West.” (Put another way, how the “conquest and settlement of the American West transformed the United States from a regional republic into a continental power.”) That included a quote from Frederick Jackson Turner, who noted that the process developed key elements of the American character:

Domesticating the frontier … forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

Jackson added that Americans working to tame the frontier learned “to adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) He said that by such means as mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals, they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”

I was struck by Jackson’s words – like “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I could only say, “What the hell happened?”

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So what did happen? And what has happened to us over the past year of COVID? Beyond that, have we learned anything from it? And maybe even come out stronger and better?

This is from the University of Pittsburgh, One Year Later: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic – UPMC. From it I gleaned two valuable lessons: Lesson Two: Constant, clear and adaptable communication is key. And Lesson Number One: Be prepared but expect additional surprises. And that’s a lesson that pretty much ties in with that great quote from the 1957 film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, “There’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?” (You can see a short clip from the movie itself, with that quote: YARN | Yes, there’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?”)

And BTW, adaptable means “able or willing to change in order to suit different conditions.”

In turn, from the American Association of Retired Persons, I checked out 15 Lessons the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taught Us. Lesson 12: You Can Hope for Stability — but Best Be Prepared for the Opposite. (That is, “the opposite of stability.”) And that thought seems to mirror Job 5:7 “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”

And finally, there’s Important Lessons We Can Take from This Pandemic . (From the “tiny buddha” website. “Simple wisdom for complex lives.”) One such lesson? The power of stillness. “Our lives were put on pause, many were forced to work from home… With this, we were given the power of stillness and the opportunity to unapologetically slow down.”

Other lessons? Family and friends are important, and often taken for granted. “Our health is gold,” something else we too often take for granted. And “nature still thrives,” and may indeed be getting a much-needed break from too much travel and too much people-pollution…

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Which brings us back to my post on COVID’s Week 8.

Looking for answers about what a person can do in times of UPHEAVAL – “with elements of panic and destruction let loose” – I turned to Kenneth Clark‘s 1969 book Civilisation. He talked about how Europeans coped with the violence during the Protestant Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century. (Europe was “full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.”)

One short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” And that pretty much ties in with what Voltaire said in his 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. “We must all [just] cultivate our own garden.” Or “tiny buddha” put it this way:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.”

Good advice indeed. Thank you Voltaire! (And “Simple wisdom…”)

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 Voltaire … during a time of “destruction let loose…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Bridge On The River Kwai – Image Results. Also re: The Bridge on the River Kwai. See also the Wikipedia article.

Re: “Unexpected.” But see 12 People Who Seemingly Predicted the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Re: “Great Course Plus.” See The Great Courses Plus is Now Wondrium.

The “Job” image is courtesy of Bible Job – Image Results. See also Job (biblical figure) – Wikipedia.

Re: Nature getting a break. See Who benefits from COVID-19? Nature and wildlife – RCI | English. But see also Impact of COVID-19 on Nature – Conservation: “There is a misperception that nature is ‘getting a break’ from humans during the COVID-19 pandemic…”

Re: Upheaval. I first wrote “great upheaval,” but that terms seems redundant redundant.

The lower image is courtesy of Voltaire – Image Results. This particular image accompanies an article, “Rodama: a blog of the 18th century,” subtitled “Houdon: ‘Seated Voltaire’ at Les Délices.”

Here are some pictures of Houdon’s Seated Voltaire, the beautiful centrepiece of the Musée Voltaire at Les Délices in Geneva, which I was lucky enough to visit last Easter. This version is among the finest examples of Houdon’s famous statue, and is particularly unusual in that it is made of terracotta.

I added that I chose the image since “it seems most similar to what I might have looked like, had I gone through Voltaire’s particular trials and tribulations. (Instead of just my own.)” The full original caption: Voltaire, a new figure – the intellectual recluse – during a time of ‘destruction let loose…’”

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A reminder: Great politicians STILL sell hope…

PHOTO: Chris Matthews of MSNBC waits to go on the air inside the spin room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino after the Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chris Matthews didabruptly resign,” but his truth still remains: Great politicians sell hope…”

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I just got back from a lightning, one-week mini-vacation. First to Rockville Maryland for my grandson’s wedding, then to Pigeon Forge Tennessee for a family get-together. (Including a day-visit to Dollywood, illustrated at left.) I got back home late last Thursday (6/10/21), and over the course of a Recuperation Weekend, checked on my blogs. My last post on this blog – “(Some of) the music of my life” – happened back on May 20, 2021. So another blog-post is long overdue.

Looking for an easy past-post to review, I went back to June, 2015. There I found “Great politicians sell hope,” a post based on a 2007 Chris Matthews book, Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.

Unfortunately, Chris himself has run into some hard times since then. Some of the gory details are in the notes, but suffice it to say that even though he had to resign under a cloud, what he said in his 2007 book still rings true. The truly great politicians still sell hope…

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Now, about that idea that “Great Politicians Sell Hope:” When I first heard Matthews make that claim – back in 2015 – I thought, “What rock have you been living under?“ But in his book Chris noted that our best presidents – including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan – were able to “sell themselves” by giving Americans a sense of hope for the future.

So back In 2015 I asked, “What happened? What happened to those presidents who gave Americans a sense of hope for the future?” But since then one big thing happened. (And maybe two or three.) After four tumultuous years of Trump, Joe Biden’s election seemed to offer a glimmer of that hope. And despite ongoing conservative guilt by insinuation TV ads – that they were Socialists, creeping or otherwise – Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock painted Georgia blue.

But we digress. Back to the Chris Matthews book. The 2015 post told how I reviewed it, which led me to think this: “Maybe today’s politicians seem especially nasty because so many voters they’re trying to woo are turning nasty.” Maybe today’s politicians just reflect the “nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.” Then came this quote:

C. P. Snow believes that Western society has become an argument culture (The Two Cultures). In The Argument Culture (1998), Deborah Tannen suggests that the dialogue of Western culture is characterized by a warlike atmosphere in which the winning side has truth (like a trophy). Such a dialogue virtually ignores the middle alternatives.

That quote came from a link in the post, and seems as good an explanation as any, and especially the part about ignoring “middle alternatives.” Today’s politics do seem to trend to the extreme, and in the process avoid any middle or compromise alternatives. On that note, the Amazon blurb for Tannen’s book said “in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and influence our thinking. We approach anything we need to accomplish as a fight between two opposing sides.” Rather than the traditional American spirit of compromise

Former President Ronald Reagan (right) talks with House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) in the Oval Office of the White House in November 1985. | AP PhotoHowever, not that long ago even great political arch-enemies Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan – at right – could meet over a drink when the day’s battles were over. And Ted Kennedy could do the same. Even though the two were political arch-enemies, Kennedy admired the fact that Reagan “knew how to manipulate symbols for his causes yet could sup with his enemies:”

He’s absolutely professional. When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do… He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself… He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it. There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth. And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

Which is another way of saying O’Neill, Reagan, and Kennedy all personified that traditional American spirit of compromise: “If politics is the art of the possible, compromise is the artistry of democracy… In a democracy, the spirit of the laws depends on the spirit of compromise.”

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Which brings us back to that 2015 “hope” post. It went way long – almost 2,000 words – and talked about things like George Wallace repenting his racism, and how Harry Golden handled the troubled years between 1942 and 1968. (Years which included McCarthyism Vietnam War protests, and the Civil Rights Movement.) And how through it all, Golden “kept a sense of hope and a sense of humor.” And how Carl Sandburg once wrote that it must have been someone like Golden who was “in the mind of the Yankee, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote:  “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” (Words that I try to live by…)

And finally, that 2015 “hope” post started and ended with the wisdom noted in the cartoon below, that in “bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small, in response than to complain about the situation.” And to the article, Better to light a single candle. And that great bloggers – like great politicians – should also work harder on “selling hope.”

Which is just what I’ll keep trying to do…

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The upper image is courtesy of Chris Matthews abruptly resigns from MSNBC following controversial comments, with the subhed, “The anchor apologized for sexist remarks before unexpectedly signing off.” See also Chris Matthews resigns from ‘Hardball,’ apologies for inappropriate comments. (Both from March 2020.) The gist of story is summarized in the Wikipedia article, including:

In October 2016, political journalist Laura Bassett appeared on Matthew’s program to comment on sexual assault allegations against then candidate Donald Trump. In February 2020, Bassett alleged that prior to that program, Matthews made inappropriate remarks about her makeup, clothing, and dating life. As she was having her television studio makeup applied, Matthews purportedly asked her: “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” Bassett claims that when she laughed nervously and said nothing, Matthews followed up to the makeup artist with: “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.” 

All of which seems pretty tame these “A.T.” days (After Trump), compared to both comments and actions by recent politicians. (And tame as well to some comments I used to make when I was young and obnoxious.) The article added, “Following his resignation, Matthews garnered well-wishes from professional colleagues in the news media and others, including from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who noted Matthews’s willingness to “criticize the neocon pro-war agenda.”

Another note: In researching this post I temporarily got Chris Wallace mixed up with the Chris Matthews, the actual author of “Great politicians sell hope.” In the process I discovered recent stories about Chris Wallace, including Fox News’ Chris Wallace Confronts Mike Pompeo on Trump Admin Not Being Tough on Russia, and Chris Wallace Challenges Pompeo: You ‘Had Almost a Year’ to Prove Lab Leak Theory. Which means I may be doing a new post on Wallace himself…

Re: “argument culture.” The full title of Deborah Tannen‘s book is The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. Tannen wrote an earlier book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (1990). According to Amazon, in that earlier book “Tannen showed why talking to someone of the opposite sex can be like talking to someone from another world.”

The lower – “stupid darkness” – cartoon image is courtesy of You Stupid Darkness! | Kurtis Scaletta’s Site, with links to comics.com/peanuts, “one of the most amazing but little-known Internet resources.”  See also lightasinglecandle.wordpress.com, and The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time.

See also Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness – Quote, and Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness | Psychology Today. The former noted the saying may be attributed to numerous sources, including – but not limited to – Eleanor Roosevelt, Confucius, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, and/or Charles Schulz. The latter offered three ways to overcome anxiety and find greater hope: “As we face the COVID pandemic, political unrest, economic challenges, and multiple crises, many of us are feeling anxious, uncertain, lost in darkness.”

On “(Some of) the music of my life…”

Short answer? “No, I can’t!” For that matter, “I wouldn’t want to try life without music!”

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As noted in my post from April 4, 2021,* I’m working on a new E-book:

The tentative title is “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” One chapter will be “On the music of my life,” and how important it’s been to me. (Like making those long Camino hikes – illustrated [below] left – more enjoyable, as well as those endless hours of canoe-paddling, [say] on the “Rideau Canal Adventure?”)

So here it is, one post on “(some of) the music of my life.” (And maybe “the importance thereof.”)

For starters, a lot of the music that I listen to – mostly on my iPod Shuffle* – brings back a bundle of memories of good times from long ago. (Very pleasant, like when I’m on one of those “long Camino hikes,” or enduring hours of butt-numbing canoe-paddling, like “on the ‘Rideau Canal Adventure?’”) But sometimes it works out the other way around.

Like the one memory I had from visiting London back in the summer of 1979.* That memory brought to mind a song few people know, “on this side of the pond.”

You can hear the song at George Formby – I’m a wanker – YouTube, with one note from the guy who uploaded it: “Not many people have herd [sic] this song by the old George Formby, so i thought i would upload it.” (To put it delicately, the song concerns a practice which had been described as “heinous,” “deplorable,” and “hideous.” However, “during the 20th century, these taboos generally declined.”)

Anyway, another group I like – and that few people seem to know – is (are?) The Blind Boys of Alabama. Per Wikipedia, it’s an American gospel group, made up of blind Alabama black men. “The group was founded in 1939 in Talladega, Alabama and has featured a changing roster of musicians over its history, the majority of whom are or were visually impaired.” Their song that I like best is Down By the Riverside. You can hear it on YouTube, and you’ll no doubt notice it’s the “real thing.” The soulful version, as opposed to the lily-white, pasty-ass Lawrence Welk version.

Although I will add that ol’ Lawrence and his band kicked ass with his 1960 – or ’61* – song Calcutta. You can hear that instrumental at LAWRENCE WELK – “Calcutta” (1960) – YouTube. (When I listen to it I can just imagine the Lennon Sisters cutely singing “la-la-la-la-la-la” in the background.)

Note too this was “a chart hit, the most successful of Welk’s career.”

So you could say my musical tastes are eclectic. (As in my liking music from a “variety of sources, systems, or styles.”) Which can lead to jarring moments, listening on my iPod Shuffle… Like when I hear Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra naturally – and that song is followed immediately by the cackling, maniacal opening to Wipe Out.

That’s the 1962 instrumental by The Surfaris. (Hear it on YouTube, and if you keep listening you can hear the “drum cover by Sina.”) Note too that this instrumental is not to be confused with Pipeline, also from 1962, to wit: the “instrumental surf rock song by The Chantays.*

Another instrumental I like is Java, recorded In 1963 by Al Hirt (1922-1999), famed trumpeter and bandleader. “He is best remembered for his million-selling recordings of ‘Java‘ and the accompanying album Honey in the Horn… Hirt’s recording won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist with Orchestra in 1964.” You can hear that song at Al Hirt – Java – YouTube; and if you have a pulse at all, it’ll get your toes tapping.

Then there are some songs I used to do on Karaoke, the “interactive entertainment usually offered in clubs and bars, where people sing along to recorded music using a microphone…”

One of my biggest signature songs was You Never Even Called Me By My Name, the 1975 song by David Allan Coe. Not only was it a favorite chorus-singalong at karaoke, it was also popular at “my” family events, like weddings, graduations, and some 50-year-anniversary-get-remarrieds. In the same vein there’s Farewell Party, the 1979 song by Gene Watson. For some reason I found that I could do a great job with the last note (“g-o-o-o-o-o-n-e!”) long and loud. (Loud enough for people to cover their ears.)

In a different vein, I used to do a kick-ass version of John Lennon‘s 1971 song Imagine. (The link is to the original demo version.) From late 2016 to early 2019 – just before the COVID hit – I used to sing that song every once in a while, just to tweak a large part of the audience; mostly old, mostly white and mostly conservative, most nights. (And – need I say it – way too many Trump supporters?) Along with Well Respected Man,* the 1965 song by The Kinks. (“Doing the best things so conservative-leeee…)

And in a way different vein, from time to time I also liked to do Bob Marley‘s tribute to the “black U.S. cavalry regiments, known as ‘Buffalo Soldiers.'” (You know, the ones that “fought in the Indian Wars after 1866?”) Needless to say, in the mostly old, mostly white and mostly conservative audience (most nights), that song usually went over like the proverbial “disagreeable nuisance or source of irritation.”

However – to borrow a phrase from Big Chill, the 1983 film – “The heck with them if they can’t take a joke.” Or, a phrase from Hunter Thompson, that noted iconoclast,*  “Something, anything, to give the Right-wing Whackos a jolt!”

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Photograph showing just the head of a man with a serious expression, aviator sunglasses, a full head of medium-short hair, and a visible collar of a leather jacket

Hunter S. Thompson, the prototypical gonzo Karaoke singer?

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The upper image is courtesy of The Importance Of Music In Our Life Image – Image Results. It comes with an article, The Importance of Music in Our Daily LivesSee also 8 reasons why music is important to us — Mitch de Klein, and Why is music so important? | SiOWfa15: Science in Our World.

Re: The post I did on April 4, 2021. See Revisiting March 2020

The Wikipedia caption to the “Camino hike” photo: “A pilgrim near San Juan de Ortega.”

Re: My iPod Shuffle. That’s the “discontinued digital audio player designed and formerly marketed by Apple Inc.” Unfortunately I had to move on to a variety of the SanDisk Sansa model music player, because – being now defunct – I couldn’t buy a replacement “Shuffle.” And personally I found the iPod Shuffle much easier and better to use. Sometimes, it seems, “progress isn’t really progress.”   

Re: “Visited London back in the summer of 1979.” My lady friend at the time – Janine, who is undoubtedly a grandmother by now – attended Eckerd College, while I worked at the old St. Petersburg Times. She did a semester abroad early 1979; I took three weeks vacation to visit her in London, after which we toured “the Continent” via Eurailpass.

Re: “Wanker” song. See The Winker’s Song (Misprint) – Wikipedia

Re: Welk’s “Calcutta.” From the Wikipedia article: “This article is about the 1960 song performed by Lawrence Welk… An instrumental version by American bandleader and TV host Lawrence Welk on the 1961 Dot Records album Calcutta! was a chart hit…”

Re: “Chart hit.” The link is to Hit song – Wikipedia, with a subsection on “Chart hits,” with two paragraphs on the various charts at issue, such as the Billboard Hot 100: “a single is usually considered a hit when it reaches the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 or the top 75 of the UK Singles Chart and stays there for at least one week.”

Re: The instrumentals “Wipeout” and “Pipeline.” See also Surf music – Wikipedia

Re: The Kinks song “about conservatives.” Hear one version at The Kinks – A Well Respected Man lyrics – YouTube, but that version is way faster than the one I used to sing. I liked to draw it about a bit, and especially the final, “Doing the best things so conservative-leeee…” And add an occasional word of explanation, like “He likes his fags the best (cigarettes)…” 

Re: “Buffalo Soldier.” I just learned the song “did not appear on record until the 1983 posthumous release of Confrontation, when it became one of Marley’s best-known songs.” Marley died in 1981.

Re: “Give the squares a jolt.” The allusion is to Hunter Thompson‘s book on the Hell’s Angels, infra. See How The Hells Angels Became America’s Notorious Black Sheep, at bottom:

By kissing one another the Angels proved that they were way more far out than the people watching them… In Hunter S. Thompson’s book, he explained that when Hells Angels were kissing each other full force on the lips they were doing it for shock value because the act “is a guaranteed square-jolter, and the Angels are gleefully aware of the reaction it gets. The sight of a photographer invariably whips the Angels into a kissing frenzy.”

See also Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1967). I first bought the book in the early 1970s. I thought it a superb example of what can best be called experiential journalism:

Mother Jones (magazine) recently had a piece about life as a prison guard, one of the very best examples of experiential journalism which I have ever read. The reporter became a prison guard without alerting his employer [the prison] that he was a reporter… They are a shining example of the reporter’s obligation as an experiential journalist to dig deep, to be acutely aware of his or her own psychology and thought processes, and to observe the internal impacts of an external reality which is far from the life ordinarily lived

Emphasis added. See also Experiential Journalism – MR. RESTAD. And just for the record, I thought – and continue to think – that Truman Capote did an equally good job of experiential journalism in his 1966 non-fiction novelIn Cold Blood. Which is pretty much what I try to do with my “ADVENTURES IN OLD AGE” BOOK, and my next book, on “Turning 70 in 2021 – and loving the sh– heck out of it!”

Re: “That noted iconoclast.” See also my March 2015 post, On Pink Floyd and “rigid schooling.” It quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Whoso would be a man, must be a noncomformist, and it’s worth both a re-visit – in a near-future review – and a bit of re-editing.  

The lower image is courtesy of Hunter Thompson – Wikipedia. The caption: “Self-portrait photo of Thompson c. 1960–1967.” Wikipedia said he founded the “gonzo journalism movement. He first rose to prominence with the publication of Hell’s Angels (1967), a book for which he spent a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle club to write a first-hand account of the lives and experiences of its members.” Gonzo journalism is said to be a “style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story using a first-person narrative.

The word “gonzo” is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article about the Kentucky Derby by Hunter S. Thompson, who popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire…

And finally, for future reference on later post I’ll do on other important music in my life, these early notes I wrote for this post: “1) Roxanne [The Police]. Lousy karaoke song. 2) Devo. Crack that whip. 3) Hanky Panky, reminded me of ‘Sgt. Sjoberg, CAP encampment,’ circa 1966-67.” To clarify, the actual title of the Devo song is Whip It. (See Wikipedia.) The “Hanky panky” song was by Tommy James and the Shondells. At the 1966 or 1967 Civil Air Patrol encampment in Orlando, Sgt. Sjoberg was in charge of my barracks and loved to sing the song, apparently because he had a young-lady friend who was also at the encampment. And “Roxanne” is a lousy karaoke song because of the chorus:

(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light, oh

If only one person is singing the song – as Brie the waitress tried on one karaoke night – all she can sing is “Roxanne” at the end, over and over again. She really needed a partner for the “put on the red light” counterpoint, as that term is defined by Merriam-Webster: the “use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (such as a drama),” or a karaoke song.

On “Re-living the Florida life-style…”

 

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For some reason this April 2021 post is now a main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” The notes give more detail, but there is a newer post,Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down, above right. I’ve tried working on the problem, but without success. In the meantime, this glitch* seems to be something I and the reader will have to live with…

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(Another note: In the original post I had a photo that I took, along with a caption describing a big part of my recent visit to Florida: “Can you say cheek by jowl? Except for the undeveloped lot…”

*   *   *   *

Two weeks ago I drove “back” down to Florida…

Specifically, “back” down to the Kissimmee-Poinciana area. My “brother from Utah” – who now lives in Massachusetts* – went down to check out some investment property. So, he and his lovely wife rented a condo for a week, and they invited me to come down and join them for a visit. (Along with my brother from Peachtree City and his lovely wife.)

The thing is, I lived in Florida for 54 of my soon-to-be 70 years.* And didn’t realize how much I would not miss living there until I finally left. (With “strong urging” from my ex-wife.) Which means I got a chance to “re-live the Florida lifestyle.” And for me, four days was enough.

Which brings up cheek by jowl… That refers to the property my brother and sister-in-law inspected on Wednesday morning, April 14. They’d made a tentative offer* on the place and wanted to check it out. (I was scheduled to leave for home that very day, after lunch, having arrived the previous Sunday evening, as described below.)

The four days’ experience gave me a strong sense of “deja vu all over again.” To ee what I mean, go to Google Maps and put in “poinciana fl Secure Connections.” That’s a security business in the area, and if you focus a bit you can see what I mean by “cheek by jowl.”

That is, you’ll notice the streets in that area of Poinciana all have “themes.” In this case, lots of bird names like Hawk, Pelican and Parrot. You’ll also notice there are very few undeveloped lots in the area. The one shown above left is an anomaly. For the time being anyway…

Then you can go to “RJ Automotive Repair Shop,” at 12201 Seminole Boulevard, in Largo, Florida. That’s the area I grew up in – and lived in – those 51 of almost-70 years.* You’ll see the same “cheek by jowl” set of ticky-tacky houses all jammed together. (On the other hand, when we first moved down there in 1956, the area was mostly orange and grapefruit groves. That is, the area north of 12210 106th Street, and from what is now 105th Street down to that big lake; Lake Seminole.) For that matter, each house lot in the block – back in 1956 – had three grapefruit trees in the front yard and another three in the back…

But we’re digressing here. The point is that by the time I left Pinellas County, in late 2009, the area was a nightmare of traffic, not to mention the crowded living and “hot muggy weather.”

But I’m not alone in feeling that way. See for example, What is Living In Florida Really Like – Moving To Florida. The article describes three phases, or sets of feelings of people who move there. First comes the initial “honeymoon period,” which can last from three months to two years. Then comes an in-between period, from four months up to five years. Then finally comes the third phase, realizing “what living in Florida is really like.” (From people who’ve lived there “for many years.”) There are some unanticipated negatives “never mentioned in the glossy promo brochures.” They include: 1) learning to live mostly indoors “to avoid sunburn and the hot muggy weather,” and 2) having to maintain your pool, because otherwise “the Florida sun will turn a pool into a thick pea-green soup in days if maintenance is not kept up:”

At this point you are either in the group that has avoided or stopped doing things you loved outdoors altogether because of the hot muggy weather and will eventually leave the state … or you’re stuck because there’s no way you can afford to move out.

Or unless you are “forced” to leave the state as part of a nasty divorce proceeding. (Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Thank you Jesus!” And I really mean it.)

laketohoBut to be honest, in April – at least – some parts of Florida aren’t too bad. I ended up doing three kayaking trips on Lake Tohopekaliga. (At right.) I set out for my  first kayaking – 90 minutes or so – from Big Toho Marina, on the north end of the lake. I wrote later, “It’s a big-ass lake, some 22,000 acres, about the size of Lake Oconee in GA, and four times the size of Lake MacIntosh” in Peachtree City. “Fortunately the locals refer to it as ‘Lake Toho.’ As in ‘Big Toho Marina,’ where I finally found a boat ramp.” (It took awhile to find a put-in that first early-Monday-morning.)

The next day – Tuesday, April 13 – I did two trips. The first was out of the Big Toho Marina, again. Then after a snack and bladder break, I went out for a second kayaking, this time out of the Granada Public boat ramp. (South of Kissimmee and about at mid-lake of “Lake Toho.”)

Then on the way home – Thursday, April 15, after a traffic-choked drive heading north by west over to Chiefland – I kayaked an hour or so on the Suwannee River. I had planned to put in Friday morning at the free park right by the water in Fanning Springs, but here’s a traveler’s alert.* That “free park” is now closed; to put in there I’d have to go next door into Fanning Springs State Park, which charges six dollars “per vehicle.” So I said the heck with that, and – with the Google app on my phone – I found the Log Landing public boat ramp. It’s 14 miles and some 20 minutes north of Fanning Springs, via County Road 341. And had a pleasant paddle… 

*   *   *   *

So all in all it was a pleasant four days. it was nice being with family again, exchanging memories from long ago, and occasionally hearing a family secret I didn’t know before. And the kayaking itself was a great change of pace from the three kayakable lakes around Peachtree City. Still – and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote – “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The question is, what happens when you don’t want to “go home?” When you don’t want to go back and revisit all the trials and tribulations you had to go through to get where you are today? When right now you’re “turning 70 in 2021* – and still think the best is yet to come?”

Besides, who’d want to exchange the cheek by jowl living-in-Florida for your own private God’s Little Acre, amid the piney woodlands 20 minutes east of Peachtree City? And where you have your own private mini-herd of deer, coming through your yard in the mornings?

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The “fuller story” on the glitch is below, at the bottom of these notes. 

I took the photos for this post, of which one survived. In the original post I added, “Hopefully they’ll stay in this post,” but it was not to be. The platform photo gallery somehow lost or deleted my uploaded photos. (The photo at the bottom of the main text showed “my” herd of deer recently grazing in the front lawn, captioned, “It was so good to get back to my God’s Little Acre in the Georgia woods.”) Which means I’ll have to do some tweaking…

Re: Brother “who now lives in Massachusetts.” He’s the one I have travel adventures with, like on 2019’s “Camino” trip. (Click on the Travelogs link at right.) He recently moved to Massachusetts – at the strong urging of his lovely wife – to be nearer to their new grandson, “Little Ben.”

Re: “54 of my soon-to-be-70 years.” The family left our chicken farm in rural Bucks County PA in 1959, when I was five. I lived in Pinellas County for all but three of the next 59 years; I spent three years going to law school (1981-1984) in Tallahassee.

Re: Tentative offer. The seller accepted the offer. Which meant that after driving back to Massachusetts at the end of the week, my brother and sister-in-law packed up their fixer-upper tools, then drove back down to Florida to get the property ready to rent out. 

Re: You Can’t Go Home AgainWikipedia noted the title is reinforced in the novel’s denouement:

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” (Ellipses in original.)

Re: “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” That’s the title of my next e-book. (Which I have to finish soon, since turning 70 is like losing your virginity. “You can only do it once!”)

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Re: The “foul-up” or glitch resulting in this old (March 2021) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Then too, the problem seems to be more of a “bug” than a glitch. See Wikipedia:

A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: “‘bug’ is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while ‘glitch’ suggests something more mysterious and unknowable…

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…

For other more-recent posts, click on the highest-up link under “RECENT POSTS,” above right. 

Revisiting March 2020…

Could we too learn there is more to admire than despise in our fellow human beings?

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I’m working on a new E-book. The tentative title is “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” One chapter will be “On the music of my life,” and how important it’s been to me. The tentative title is “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.”

One chapter will be “On the music of my life,” and how important it’s been to me. (Like making those long Camino hikes – illustrated at left – more enjoyable, as well as those endless hours of canoe-paddling, say on the “Rideau Canal Adventure?”) But that project is turning out to be more complicated than I thought. And it’s been awhile since I last posted. (March 20, and this is April 4, Easter Sunday.)

So in the meantime, I’ll paste together this quick review from last March, 2020.

It seems I only did two posts last March: On “Mad Men” – Revisited, March 11. 2020, and – on March 26, 2020 – Meditations on “the new plague.” But to get back to the beginning of that “new plague,” I need to revisit On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down, from May 11, 2020.

There I explained that, to me, the pandemic hit full swing – “the ‘stuff’ hit the fan” – on Thursday, March 12, 2020. That was the day the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled. Then the whole 2020 college basketball “March Madness” got called off, along with the college baseball season. And the NBA, NHL and other major pro sport seasons all cancelled as well. (Though Major League Baseball did have a shortened season – 60 games – starting July 23, 2020.)

So my definition of the “First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic” has it starting Sunday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 21. (Meaning we’re actually starting the ninth full week of the pandemic.) And that pandemic shows no signs of abating, which means we need to continue adjusting to a “New normal…”

On that note of “weeks of Covid,” this Easter Sunday – April 4, 2021 – will mark the start of the 56th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic.* (That’s 14 full months.)

So now, back to “Mad Men” – Revisited and Meditations on “the new plague,” from March 2020.

Note that I posted “Mad Men” on March 11, 2020. The day before “the pandemic hit full swing,” according to my reckoning above. (The day before “the ‘stuff’ hit the fan.”) So in a way, looking back was kind of like the night before Kennedy was assassinated. My family – I was 12 in 1963 – watched a TV special the night before. It showed Wally Cleaver – Tony Dow as the older brother in Leave It to Beaver – getting a girl pregnant. That was quite a shock, standing alone.*

Then came that afternoon of November 22, 1963. Which brings up the idea of “knowing what’s going to happen.”

Suppose you could go back to that morning of November 22, 1963, and know what was going to happen that afternoon? But you couldn’t change it, and you would have to relive the pain you felt that afternoon – and the following long weekend – all over again?

Strangely enough, doing that “Mad Men” post was – to me – similar to being able to see into the future… And how that “gift” might not be such a great thing to have. (I knew the “Mad Men” future because I watched the episodes out of order.)  For example, knowing that “the lovely ‘Midge'” – shown above right – would end up turning into a skinny, emaciated heroin addict.

That’s a tantalizing topic I may wish to explore at length in a future post. In the meantime, we’ll  move on to the next post from March 2020, ATC’S’HTF. (After the “Covid ‘stuff’ Hit The Fan.”)

As noted, Meditations on “the new plague” came some two weeks after “Mad Men:”

Last March 12 [the day after “Mad Men”], I went to the local library and checked out a copy of The Plague by Albert Camus(In light our new Coronavirus pandemic.)  Which book, incidentally, I cannot now return, because that library and all others in the area are closed… At the same time I checked out a copy of What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills, for a bit more uplifting reading. And I also started researching more on this “plague” business.

That post noted the difference between epidemic and a pandemic, and adjusting to the new normal, kind of: “No more dine-in lunches, or dinners, or stopping by a local bar for a beer or two before Wednesday-night choir practice. And no more choir practice, or church on Sunday either for that matter.” And I found a review of “The Plague” which gave some perspective:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

From that I gleaned a lesson – back in March 2020 – that the “current pestilence might lead” to a change in our national life, “and especially our national political life. That is, “the present ‘Coronavirus‘ might lead to a general and sweeping American ‘softening of the heart.'”

I suppose the jury is still out on that question…

In the meantime, there are now some places where you can have a sit-down, dine-in lunch, or dinner. There are some bars open for business, but no more visits before Wednesday night choir practice. (No more choir.) On the other hand, just today my local Episcopal Church opened up for a 10:00 a.m. in-person service, and about 90 people showed up. (While some other denominations have been open for crowds a long while, “my” church has taken a more cautious approach. See Episcopal churches offer a mix of in-person and online worship options.)

One other bit of good news? At least we didn’t have to get to this point:

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“Their headgear was particularly unusual…” 

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The upper image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. See also ‘There is more to admire in men than to despise’: The Plague is essential reading for a pandemic. The “fuller story” is below.

Re: “Camino hikes.” My brother and I hiked the “Camino Frances” in September-October, 2017. We hiked the “Portuguese Way,” from Porto, in September 2019, joined by his wife, my sister-in-law. “The Way” was marked by the yellow-and-blue scallop shell. The caption from Wikipedia reads: “A stylised scallop shell, the modern sign post of the Way.”

Re: The ACC tournament, March Madness and college baseball. For what those sports mean, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”) Or Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football?” (From my companion blog.)

Re: “New normal.” Referring to social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds. Which brought up the question: “What did people do in the Olden Days when disaster struck?”

Re: Full weeks of Covid. My day planner has weeks starting on Mondays and ending on Sundays. So for me the 56th full week of Covid will start on Monday, April 5, and end on Sunday, April 11, 2021.

B wally02.JPGRe: “Wally Cleaver, getting a girl pregnant.” The TV show in question was “Dr. Kildare” Four Feet in the Morning (TV Episode 1963) – IMDb, which aired November 21, 1963. (Thank you, Internet!) 

A pregnant teenager is admitted to Blair with signs of food poisoning, the result of an apparent attempt to induce abortion. Meanwhile, the father of the baby, getting little help from his bickering parents, struggles with his responsibility…

The caption from Wikipedia reads: “From the CBS television series ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ showing main character Wally Cleaver (Tony Dow).”

Re: Knowing the future but not being able to change anything. I remember reading about that in an old book by Bonnie Prudden. She had the idea: If you could go back in time for a “do over,” the catch would likely be that you couldn’t change anything and you would have to go through all the pain you experienced “all over again;” the same pain you felt when it “just happened.”

The lower image is courtesy of Plague Beaked Mask – Image Results. See also Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks, from a web article that is apparently now defunct:

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease… [T]hey covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… Plague doctors wore spectacles … and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils…” Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

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Re: The “foul-up” resulting in this old (April 2020) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. For another more-recent post, click on An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements…’ Meanwhile, I’ll work on fixing the problem.

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An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements’

It’s a marathon not a sprint!” (From age 70 to maybe 141. And – “Is that a sunrise or sunset?”)

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For some reason this March 2021 post is now the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” The notes give more detail on this glitch* but there are newer posts, like Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down, above right. I’ve tried working on the problem but without success. In the meantime, that problem seems something I and the reader will have to live with…

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I’m working on a new E-book. The title will be “Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking The Best Is Yet to Come.” This post will be a chapter in the new e-book, and it’s based on two posts I did back in July 2018: A Geezer’s guide to supplements and A Geezer’s guide – Part II. See those two posts for all the gory details on my dietary supplements, but here’s a short summary…

But first a word about “maybe” living to 141. My ancestor William Bradford – who came over on the Mayflower – lived to the equivalent of 141 years old in today’s years. (Age 67, at a time when average life expectancy was 36 years.*) But whether I live to “141” like him, or 120 like Moses, or just one of the “seven times as many people over 100 by the year 2050,” I’ll have to pay attention to my diet. Which led to my interest in dietary supplements.

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I first became interested in supplements when I flew home – from Newark to the ATL – in the summer of 2018. (After a week-long family visit, first to Pennsylvania’s Poconos region near the Delaware Water Gap. From there on to New York City, in part to “see a few shows.”) Flying back, the Southwest in-flight magazine had a full-page ad for M-drive. (A “daily supplement designed specifically for men.”)  And since I had just turned 67, the ad “piqued my interest.”

Long story short, M-drive wasn’t my cup of tea. But it did lead to some Googling. which led me to The Top 10 Supplements for Men – menshealth.com.* I ended up adding six of the ten recommended supplements to my routine. (I get Chromium and Folic Acid in my multivitamin, I opted out of Creatine, and already took Glucosamine Chondroitin, as noted below.)

First off, I read about “Boron,” which especially piqued my interest. It’s said to be good for a healthy prostate, and my brother Tim and father had both gotten prostate cancer. In turn:

The site said men with high boron levels are “65 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men with lower levels.” It added that American men on average have one of the lowest boron intakes in the world. The site recommended 3 milligrams (mg) a day, and added that it “doesn’t just fight cancer: USDA researchers found that this is the best dosage to improve memory and concentration.”

I figured I could definitely use all the help I could get for my memory and concentration.*

Number Two on the list was Calcium.* The article said American men generally get only a third of the calcium they need, and that “men with the highest calcium intakes weigh less on average than men consuming less calcium.” (And at this time in my life I’m going more for the “Lean and Mean” look.) I got enough Chromium – Number Three on the list – from the multivitamin I was already taking. Number Four – Coenzyme Q10 – helps manage the body’s energy. But for us older folk the only way to “get back up to youthful levels” is a supplement:

Recent studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may fight cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, and may thin the blood to help prevent heart disease. Q10 is also packed with free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which can slow the signs of aging.

One problem? You can’t get this in just a vitamin supplement or daily food. But I lucked out and found GNC’s Triple Strength Fish Oil Plus CoQ-10. (“Two for the price of one.” See below.)

I opted out of Number Five – Creatine – as “too body-builderish,” as shown below left. (It’s for younger men who want to “bulk up” by doing high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work. I.e., it’s for those interested in Bodybuilding: Focusing “on physical appearance instead of strength.”)

I got enough of Number Six – Folic Acid – with my multivitamin. Folic acid (or folate) helps blood flow to the brain, and minimizes the risk of both blood clots and Alzheimer’s. Number Seven was Glucosamine, “to grease your joints.” I had already started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin in the form of “soft chews” long before 2018. Here’s what it’s good for:

You don’t have the same amount of cartilage in your joints that you had at 19. To reverse the damage and actually rebuild cartilage, take glucosamine, made from the shells of crabs and lobsters.* How much? 1,500 mg a day. Brands that combine glucosamine with chondroitin are fine. [As noted, I take two instead of three, and so get 1,000 mg a day.]

Number Eight on the list is OMEGA-3, “to protect your heart.” As noted, I got a “two for one” deal in the form Triple Strength Fish Oil Plus CoQ-10. At 44 cents a day for a three month supply of both CoQ-10 and Omega-3s, that was a pretty good deal. And beneficial as well:

Omega-3 fatty acids keep blood pressure and triglyceride levels low and the heart beating regularly. They make blood slicker, reducing the risk of clots and blocked arteries. Studies show that men with the highest omega-3 levels have the lowest risk of dying of heart diseaseHow much? For healthy guys, 1,000 mg a day. Those with heart problems may need 2,000 to 4,000 mg. But too much can increase your risk of catching a cold.

Another tip from Menshealth: “Take Omega-3 with meals so you don’t burp up a fish scent.” Which leads to a side note. I take the Omega 3 – by way of “fish oil” – in the morning. (These days a breakfast of basically a “kale and spinach omelette.*”) And still get fish-scent burps.

Number Nine on the list was Selenium, “to fight off cancer.” And not just any one cancer. As Menshealth said, “No other single nutrient appears to prevent cancer more effectively than Selenium…  It basically forces cancer cells to self-destruct.”  Further, some studies link increased selenium intake with a “decreased risk of cancers of the prostate, colon, and lungs.” As to how much, the article said 200 mcg a day, and “more when you’re sick.”  And here’s the good news:  “Nature’s selenium supplement is the Brazil Nut, which measures 100 mcg per nut.”  So I get my daily dose by eating two Brazil nuts every morning.

And last but not least, Number Ten on the list is Vitamin E, which the Mayo Clinic says is “important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin.” Menshealth added that Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and “may help reduce the risk of certain eye diseases, heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer’s.” The article added that some studies show that “E” also reduces “muscle damage after exercise.”  And – finally finally – it said  that most people “get just a fraction of that [Vitamin E] from their diets.”

As to why I bother with all these supplements: “Simply put, I want to live long enough – and if only metaphorically – to ‘dance on my enemy’s grave.‘” Or maybe just live to the year 2092, when I hope to be a sprightly 141 years old, with “undimmed eye and vigor unabated!

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At 120, “His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.”

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The “fuller story” on the glitch is below, at the bottom of these notes. 

The upper image is courtesy of Alone Marathon Runner – Image Results. With a page (“Jooinn?”) and caption, “MAN RUNNING ALONE AT DAWN.” The link It’s a marathon not a sprint is by someone who actually ran a marathon. To him the saying was an overused cliche: “the statement has far more significance than just time horizon.” Here’s how he summarized:

A marathon isn’t easy, in fact it’s pretty awful at moments. However, the process of learning to train, having patience and pushing through dark times have made me resilient in areas of my life I didn’t expect. The saying [has] more meaning to uncover than what we initially assumed. Committing to a goal is difficult, but seeing progress is something we can never regret.

In the same way, life can be “pretty awful at moments,” but spiritual progress is the prize…

For related articles see This is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Understanding Reactivity, on “strategies to stay well in the long-term in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” and What Does Life Is A Marathon Not A Sprint Actually Mean? “Instead of satisfying yourself with short-term goals and happiness, you start seeing things in long-term mode.” And that running a marathon – metaphorically or otherwise – “requires a strategy, devotion, willingness and balance.” 

As to the question, “sunrise or sunset?” (In the caption.) See Benjamin Franklin’s Rising Sun < Topics < Government 1991, about Franklin being 81 and feeble as the Constitutional Convention ended:

On the final day, as the last delegates were signing the document, Franklin pointed toward the sun on the back of the Convention president’s chair [and] went on to say: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Re: The not-up-to-date main page. Here’s the original note, when April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp, came up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. For another more-recent post, click on An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements…’ Meanwhile, I’ll work on fixing the problem.

Re: The Top 10 Supplements for Men – menshealth.com. I just re-checked and it’s now “the Top 13.” And the article I read in 2018 has changed; the 2021 version is all about “protein and whey.” I checked an alternative, The Best Supplements for a 60-Year-Old Male | Livestrong.com. It included a section on the benefits of Omega-3, but otherwise I’ll rely on my notes from the 2018 article.

Re: Calcium, “Number Two on the list.” The morning after I posted this – Sunday, March 21, 2021 – I made an interesting discovery about my calcium intake. I’ve been getting way less than I thought! According to the July 2018 post, I got 500 mg a day – of the recommended 1,200 – with “soft chews.” But at some point in time they went off the market, so I switched to GNC Calcium Citrate 1000 mg, in caplet form. Apparently I figured each caplet had 1000 mg as well, so for years now I’ve been cutting each caplet in half, per day. (Thinking to get “my” 500 mg.) But this morning, switching an empty to the new store-bought one, I saw the fine print. The fine print said the serving size was four caplets! 

Which leads to another side note. Starting back in July 2018, I took less than half the recommended 1,200 mg. For one thing, I figured half would be plenty, and that I could get other calcium each day through cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. But I also didn’t want to risk a kidney stone, like what you can get taking calcium phosphate. (See Calcium Phosphate Kidney Stones – Causes: “A high calcium diet may also cause high urinary calcium levels.” The article also made a strong case for “staying hydrated,” to prevent such stones.) But the point of all this is that for years now, instead of getting what I thought was 500 mg of calcium citrate, I’ve been getting a mere 125 mg! Which figures out to a quarter of what I intended, and about 12 percent of the daily recommended. So from now on I’ll start taking two of the GNC recommended four caplets. (Even though I have to cut them in half to swallow, and even then sometimes have to crunch them with my teeth to get ’em down.) Which will still be four times as much as I’ve been getting, via failure to “read the fine print.” Another note: The 2018 post recommended “half in the morning, half at night, to maximize absorption.” Which I will also start doing. (And finally, I also found it this morning that the GNC calcium caplets were Kosher.)

Another side note, on “staying hydrated.” See Stay Hydrated This Summer: Kidney Stone Season is Here. (From “WakeMed.”) “With the number one cause of kidney stones being dehydration, summer in North Carolina is prime time for kidney stones.” An interesting article, and a little nugget of wisdom I hadn’t fully appreciated until now. Live and learn!

.Re: My ancestor William Bradford and maybe living another 70 years. See the February 9, 2021 post from my companion blog, From two years ago – “Will I live to 141?” That post includes a note about projections that there will be seven times the number of people over 100 by 2050.

The “memory and concentration” image is courtesy of Image Results. It came with an article that has since been removed, but I Googled “music as an aid to memory and concentration.” I found 5 Powerful Ways Music Can Improve Your Memory, including these thoughts: 1) There is a Vivaldi Effect. “According to the studies, listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ can boost both attention and memory.” 2) Pop music “appears to decrease errors in spell-checking” by 14 percent. 3) Music can minimize stress, improve your mood, and help you think more clearly. And just as an aside, one of the chapters in my new “Turning 70” e-book will be about “the importance of music in my life…” 

Re: Glucosamine Chondroitin. The Men’s Health article recommended Glucosamine – alone – to “grease your joints,” but the ad for the “gummies” said “Both Glucosamine and Chondroitin are components of cartilage and can be found in the body’s tissues.”

On a related note, re: “glucosamine, made from the shells of crabs and lobsters.” At some point in the recent COVID pandemic, Walmart no longer offered Glucosamine Chondroitin in the form of “Spring Valley Glucosamine Chondroitin Soft Chews.” I had to search for alternatives, some of which – in the liquid form – were rather disgusting. Eventually I settled on Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin Msm capsules, since they didn’t have to be refrigerated after opening. But eventually the soft chews made a come-back, and so for the time being the capsules can “supplement the supplement.” 

Re: The “kale and spinach omelette,” and still getting fish-scent burps. Those fish-burps are usually gone by my second cup of coffee. And technically an omelette is “a dish made from beaten eggs” – plural – “fried with butter or oil in a frying pan (without stirring as in scrambled egg).” But I figured I had to “dumb it down,” like Moses and Jesus had to do, to get a point across. So: I breakfast on one egg, which I scramble in a glass bowl, along with portions of kale and spinach. (In frozen packages from Walmart, at a dollar apiece.) I add to that some wheat germ and flax seed, with “dots” of brick cheese, usually pepper jack. But I no longer add a link of turkey sausage…

Re: “Undimmed eye and vigor unabated.” The link is to Deuteronomy 34:7. In the English Standard Version: “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” See also Live until 120 – Wikipedia, about the Jewish blessing said to come from Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.'” Which I didn’t know about until I did this post.

A side note: The context of this blessing from Genesis 6 is the “Wickedness in the World,” involving Nephilim, “mysterious beings” said to be large and strong, and certain “sons of God.” They “saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” The passage on “their days will be a hundred and twenty years” came after that passage in Genesis 6:2. From there Genesis 6 went on to describe Noah and the flood that destroyed all but eight people in the world. Which may explain why that blessing is now considered a fixture of Jewish humor. Like the story of a man who said to his noisy neighbor “May you live until 119,” then said to the neighbor’s wife “May you live until 120.” When the husband asked “why only until 119,” the man said the neighbor’s wife “deserves one good year.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Moses 120 – Image Results. it came with an article, Parashat Vayeilech: Summary | My Jewish Learning, by Vayelech” is Hebrew for “then he went out,” referring to Moses; a link in Book of Deuteronomy – Wikipedia, has more information on Chapters 31–34. Greenfield discussed God’s telling Moses that he was about to die, which raises a whole ‘nother host of questions.

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Re: The “foul-up” or glitch resulting in this old (March 2021) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Then too, the problem seems to be more of a “bug” than a glitch. See Wikipedia:

A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: “‘bug’ is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while ‘glitch’ suggests something more mysterious and unknowable…

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…

For other more-recent posts, click on the highest-up link under “RECENT POSTS,” above right. 

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The Summer of ’96 – Birth of conspiracy theories?

One of many conspiracy theories… This one from the “Summer of ’96,” on TWA Flight 800

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I’m working on a new E-book. It’s another novel about Florida State University football. (This one is on its current fall from grace.) It includes a chapter on the 1996 college football season. (You know, the one ending with a heart-breaking FSU loss in the national championship game? To their hated arch-rival, the Florida Gators ?)

In the process of doing research for the new book, I came across a scene from an earlier book (a novel) that I did on FSU football. It talked about that “Summer of 1996” noted above, and it may explain where and how our current raft of conspiracy theories all started.

Here’s what I wrote about that summer of 1996, as remembered in January 1997:

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My first wife Karen* and I had our grandkids visiting, along with some other child-relatives as well. (Seven or eight altogether.) At the time I owned a 28-foot Coachmen Class C Motorhome, and so for a week we took them “camping” at an RV park in Indian Rocks Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (At least Karen did. I visited from time to time, but “had” to stay home at night, so I could go to work in the morning.)

Naturally – as the week progressed – the dweeby pre-teen male cousins tried to scare the wits out of their female cousins. And they did a pretty good job of it, mostly with tales of omnivorous aliens and treacherous UFOs. Until finally, our granddaughter Heather came up to me at the campground pool. She asked, very serious, very worried, “How can God protect us from UFOs if He doesn’t know where they come from?

At first I thought it was a pretty naïve question. Then I started wondering: “What does the world look like to my grandkids?” For one thing – and judging only by the relative coverage on TV [at the time, 1996] – it would be only logical for them to think that aliens and UFOs are more powerful than God.

They certainly get more media coverage.

Then it struck me. Like Heather, most people today are slaves to some fear. They live in fear, and because they live in fear they never really live…

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At this point I said the novel I was then working on might teach a message from God. Like in the form of a parable? (Maybe a parable of a college football team and its fans; maybe even one “moonbeam” fan?) I included a cite to Matthew 13:34, then continued:

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If there is a common emotion today, it’s fear. Everyone is afraid of something, and much of it comes from TV shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium. The common premise is an impending takeover by aliens, or a massive government cover-up, or that someone besides God has power over your soul. (No wonder kids today are so messed up.)

On the other hand, these are scary times. We “of a certain age*” survived the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War, but we still have the Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800. So if there’s a need today, it’s to be freed from slavery to fear.

*   *   *   *

And now a note from the future: All that was even before “9/11” – the September 11 World Trade Center attacks – and all the other disasters that we’ve come through since 1996. (For a full list of those trials and tribulations see 21st century – Wikipedia.)

But getting back to the Summer of 1996…

As noted, one popular show back then was the X-Files. It featured such slogans as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe:’

Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories … as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

And now it seems that those conspiracy theories – and that public distrust of government – have both grown exponentially. As to why – and maybe as to where it all began – consider Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary.

As noted, the mysterious crash of TWO Flight 800 happened way back in 1996. But then in June of 2013 came an update, a “new Truther documentary,” which started with this:

Remember the ’90s? Snap bracelets? ‘N Sync? Friends? Accusing the Navy of taking down a U.S. passenger plane with a missile? That’s right – our favorite ’90s conspiracy theory is back, thanks to a new documentary purporting to show “new evidence” that TWA Flight 800 crashed because it was hit by a missile.

The Truther Documentary review noted that TWA Flight 800 has been the focus of numerous “rumors, alternative explanations, and conspiracy theories.” And that “’90s nostalgia is big right now,” mostly because of the internet. And finally that, “Like most conspiracy theories, TWA 800 is search-engine optimization gold.” Which is another way of saying that those conspiracy theories and that public distrust of government “have both grown exponentially.”

That is, those rumors and conspiracy theories were fueled by “speculation among conspiracy nuts, especially on message boards on the newly popular internet.”

Which leads to the subject of “Truthers.” For one definition of such people, see Truther | Definition of Truther by Merriam-Webster: “one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.”

That definition included a warning that – to most people – it was “not flattering” to be called a truther. And further that the term originated, “as far as anyone can tell, to characterize people who embraced alternative explanations for the Sept. 11 attacks.” (See also Urban Dictionary: Truther, or Google the term.) But then there’s the definition from truther – Wiktionary. Aside from the definitions noted above, it includes this one: “Someone who tells the truth.”

Imagine that…

The Wiktionary site included some “see alsos,” on what seems to be the more generally accepted definition. “See alsos” include anti-vaxxerbirtherdenier and flat-earther. An anti-vaxxer “opposes vaccination, as for its purported dangerous effects.” A birther is someone who believes “the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (2009–2017), was not born in that country.” A “denier” – aside from being an old French coin – is someone who “denies.” (Things like the the existence of AIDS, Global Warming, or the Holocaust.)  And “flat-earther” has two definitions.

One is of a person “who believes or advocates the theory that the planet Earth is flat.” The other is of a person “who believes or advocates an outlandishdiscredited theory; a person who refuses to acknowledge the truth despite overwhelming evidence.

All of which seems to be part of the ongoing problem. For myself, I believe that people who deny reality end up having it bite them in the ass. (An idiom which means being punished “for one’s poor judgment.”)  See also Denialism – Wikipedia, referring to the choice “to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.” Motivations and causes for such denial include a defence mechanism “meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally disturbing facts and ideas.”

All of which translates to: The truth is indeed still out there, but more and more these days it seems that finding such Truth is like searching for “diamonds in a dung-heap.”

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Twa Flight 800 Conspiracy Theory – Image Results. It comes with the article, Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary, dated June, 2013. 

The first link in the caption is to List of conspiracy theories – Wikipedia. That article includes a link to Wikipedia’s List of political conspiracies.  

The first image in the main text is from the Wikipedia article on FSU, captioned: “Florida State and Miami first met in 1951 and have played each year since 1966.”

Re: “My first wife Karen.” She died in 2006. 

Here’s the full quote of what I wrote, about a possible message from God: “Maybe that was one message God wanted to teach. If that’s true, what better message than by way of a parable? (Maybe a parable featuring one college football team and its fans, and maybe even one “moonbeam” fan.)  “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.  So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables…” (Matthew 13:34 NIV, emphasis added, and Mark 4:34, citing Psalm 78:2.)

“…shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium.”  See the Wikipedia articles, including this:

The X-Files “originally aired from September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10) to May 19, 2002 (2002-05-19). The show was a hit … and its characters and slogans, such as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe,’ became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s.  Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories and spirituality as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Sliders was a science fiction series that ran from 1995 to 2000. It followed “a group of travelers as they use a wormhole to ‘slide’ between different parallel universes.” Millenium was an American TV series “created by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files,” and ran from 1996 to 1999.  The series followed the investigations of ex-FBI agent Frank Black, a consultant “with the ability to see inside the mind of criminals, working for a mysterious organization known as the Millennium Group.”  While the first season dealt mainly “various serial killers and other murderers,” the second season featured “more overtly supernatural occurrences … with Frank often coming into conflict with forces that appeared to be apocalyptic or even demonic in nature.”

Re: “Of a certain age.” See Idioms by The Free Dictionary. Strictly speaking, my generation didn’t survive the Great Depression or World War II, but we heard about those events from our parents, and grew up watching movies and such about them.

Re: Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800.  See the  Wikipedia articles, starting with saying the Oklahoma City bombing was an attack in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995; “It would remain the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks.” The blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children, and injured some 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. There was an estimated $652 million worth of damage.  Within 90 minutes, Timothy McVeigh was stopped for driving without a license plate and arrested.

The Olympic Park bombing occurred on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, during the Summer Olympics. Two people died, and 111 were injured. Trans-World Airlines Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off New York on July 17, 1996, 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 230 people on board. Although a terrorist act was at first suspected, “the government” found no evidence of such a criminal act, after a 16-month investigation.  (See the X-Files note above, re: “public mistrust of governments” and/or “conspiracy theories.”)

Re: “Diamonds in a dung heap.” See Thomas Jefferson’s observation that – to him – “Certain teachings in the Bible are as diamonds in a dung-heap.” Or see Diamonds From the Dung Heap : The Life and Morals of Jesus. The latter refers to a book by Jefferson – often referred to as the Jefferson Bible – but which was apparently originally given the title “Diamonds from the dung heap,” but later simplified. “This edition is named after the first reference President Thomas Jefferson gave to this compilation, that later became referred to as the Jefferson Bible.” 

The lower image is courtesy of X-files – Image Results. The image is for an 11×14″ poster available from Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts, but with a note, “Sorry, this item and shop are currently unavailable.”

“I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey…”

“Quiet, shy, moderate, nicey-nicey?” That doesn’t work in the face of armed insurrection

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I started this post back before the January 6 Capitol riot. That pre-riot post started, “Now that the Trump Era is almost over.” Which apparently isn’t quite true. Given the events of January 6 and after, we may be hearing a lot more – from or about – “the Donald.” (And maybe for a good long time to come.) But the quotation-and-link actually referred back to a post I did even before then. That is, on December 7, 2020. And early in that 12/20 post I added this:

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. 

The post went on to talk of “Year-End Reviews” and how helpful they can be. For one thing It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially at this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning.”

Donald TrumpAs to going back, I noted a post from November 8, 2016, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. (With the image at right.) I’ll get back to that one, but there was another from November 13, 2017, This time last year – 11/8 and 11/13/16. And believe it or not, the latter started out: “It’s mid-November [2017], and so time to start taking stock of the year just past. (And what a year it’s been!)”

Which was pretty much what I planned to say when the year 2020 finally came to an end. (And in hindsight, 2020 was more “a crazy-ass year” than 2017.) But getting back to 2016, here’s what I wondered, back in that long-ago November, right before Election Day 2016:

I wondered if Trump might “evolve into something neither his ardent supporters nor his rabid opponents expect.” I also wondered if “Showman Donald Trump” had actually played his “far-right conservative” supporters “like a piano.” And finally, I wondered if – given “Donald Trump’s chameleon-like shifting political positions” – he would “eventually be seen as an ‘effective elected official,’ or a funhouse showman?”

I supposed that the jury was still out on those questions. But four years later, “to be honest – I’m one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.”  (And that was even before the January 6 Capitol riot.) I was – some months ago – “ready for it to be over.” And now it is over – more or less – so I’ll focus on some good thoughts, from some past posts…

Which means getting back to Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian.

To finish that thought: It’s been a long haul, but over the last four years I’ve evolved, from being a “moderate” (all “nicey-nicey”), to a Contrarian, and from there to an Independent. (Used in a sentence, “Why would anyone not want to be an Independent, like Moses and Jesus and me. (Oh my!)”)

By the way: I never would have said anything like that four years ago. Which is another way of saying that over the last four years I’ve grown more outspoken. Which was part of the process of struggling with how to deal with Trump supporters. Especially since one of them was “Mi Dulce,” now an ex-BGFE with whom I am now still in regular contact. (And using the term “girl” loosely.) As I often ended up saying to her – trying to get a word in edgewise – “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!*

I.e., I had to learn to speak up and speak out with her, if only to get a word in edge-wise.

Which is one big benefit of Trump’s four years as president. (Along with making George W. Bush look like a frikkin’ genius, and making Obamacare popular again. As opposed to the arch-conservative plan, “let ’em die!”) Not mention proving how strong we are as a nation. (Like, we can elect someone totally unqualified as president, and not only survive but prosper… Well, aside from all the mass-shooting deaths,* not to mention a fumbled COVID response.)

But we’re digressing. Back to my personal development, based on four years of Trump. The point is, “No more ‘quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.'” At the beginning of that journey, I found out that calling myself a moderate ended up sounding too wishy-washy. (As in “average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.”) So I tried calling myself a Contrarian, in the mold of Ralph Waldo Emerson. (“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”)

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpgOr this: As someone who “takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be.” But that didn’t sound quite right either. I wasn’t always opposed to popular opinion. (For example, look at the “popular opinion” of 81 million American voters in the last election.) So eventually – over the last four years – I ended up changing from being a Contrarian to an Independent, “just like Moses and Jesus.” (See July 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter),” featuring the image above right. And which included a note that – to me – the word “Contrarian” translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”)

Meanwhile, back to where it all started, with Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump making me an Independent. That post from November 2016 started, “It’s the eve of Election Day, 2016, and thus a time for reflection.” I said that no matter who won the election, the “’war for the soul of America‘ will go on. It will continue largely unabated.” As we have discovered.

I added some words of explanation: For one thing the Internet says Mi Dulce is Spanish for “My Sweet,” and that’s what I called “the lady I’ve been ‘dating’ some time now.” (As well as after we parted ways for good, at least “that way.” Example: As of November 2016 she had “broken up with me at least 10 times,” in part because of her “ardent conservativism.” (A more polite term than “Trumpie,” “Trump-humper,” Trumpanzee,” or “right wing wacko.” RWW for short.)

Getting back to Mi Dulce: When we first met, I was “moderate and nicey-nicey.”  (Like Aristotle.) I used to say – or at least think – things like, “Let’s not rush to judgment!”  Or, “Let’s wait until we get all the facts before we say anything that might be taken the wrong way!” However:

The problem is that in my neck of the woods – especially with … Mi Dulce – that moderate, reasoned, common-sense approach will get you nothing but bowled over. [As in] hearing something so “whacked” that you are rendered temporarily speechless with disbelief.  

And I learned one more thing about RWWs. They tend to use the 8-track mode of public discourse. If you’re under 65, you probably don’t remember this “magnetic tape sound recording technology,” popular in the U.S. from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. (That’s when “the Compact Cassette format took over.”)

The thing about 8-track tape-recordings was that they never stopped. You never got to the end. They used a “continuous loop” system. That’s why they didn’t have a rewind option. As long as you played the tape, you got the same thing over and over again. The same “data,” the same songs played in the same order over and over again. Which I thought was “pretty much like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a right-wing wacko…”

Which I thought at the time should make it easy to figure out how to best an RWW in an argument. (In the good sense, as in a “form of expression consisting of a coherent set of reasons presenting or supporting a point of view.” Note the operative word, “coherent.”)

But I was wrong. Those RWW’s never cease to amaze me. Like if I get stuck watching some FOX News – ordering my morning iced coffee at a local McDonald’s – I find myself thinking, “Do you guys ever get tired of lying?” The answer? Apparently not. See for example, Donald Trump Has Told A Truly Disturbing Number Of Lies Since Taking Office, and since the 2020 election as well. And his attorneys have taken up the “creative lie” method as well. See Trump’s Impeachment Defense: One Long String of Lies (Broken Up by Madonna Clips.) With one note, “In fairness, their client is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, so they didn’t have much to work with.”   

Which means the rest of us have to adapt or perish. The good news? We – the “rest of us” – already know how to adapt. As Darwin said, it’s not the strongest or smartest people who survive. It’s those who can best adapt or adjust to a changing environment. Which spells bad news for Trumpies, Trump-humpers or Trumpanzees. They are the people least able to adapt or adjust to changing circumstance. (For example, refusing to wear masks at mass rallies.)

All of which could be great news for the rest of us! 

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on the January 6 Capitol riot

Another note from “the eve of Election Day, 2016… Whatever the outcome tomorrow, we’re in for more turmoil.  The “war for the soul of America” will go on. It will continue largely unabated… [W]hoever becomes the next president, he or she will face rabid hostility from close to half the American population.  Which means in turn that he or she will face the prospect of impeachment, or at least a realistic threat of impeachment.” Emphases in original.

The “lions and tigers” image is courtesy of Lions And Tigers And Bears Wizard Of Oz – Image Results.

Re:  “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!” I used the vernacular improper English for emphasis.

RE: “W” as a genius. See Bush says Trump ‘makes me look pretty good’ by comparison.’

Re: Mass shooting deaths. See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, with numbers updated on August 20, 2019. (“BC,” or “Before Covid.”) The post noted a total of 652 mass shootings in Trump’s first two years, “four times greater than Obama’s eight years, in one-fourth the time.” (Four times as many mass shootings in Trump’s two years than in Obama’s eight years.) Which brings up another benefit: Thanks to Covid the number of mass shootings went way down in 2020.  

Re: War for the soul of America. I noted that Googling “war for the soul” got me 13,400,000 results.

Re: “Adapt or perish.” The link is to Adapt to Change or Perish. Because those are your only options. The full Charles Darwin quote is below, but the article added the saying by H. G. Wells“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” The full Darwin quote:

“It is not the most intellectual or the strongest species that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to or adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

It’s a pretty good article on the constancy of change, something “we” need to be reminded of. (Especially those of us turning “the Big Seven-Oh” next July.) With added thoughts like: “Progress keeps picking up speed…the complexity of our world keeps on increasing…and the rate of change keeps on accelerating.” And “Let’s just accept the fact that our careers will be lived out in a state of constant transition.” And that we should therefore “prepare for a work environment that is fluid, fuzzy, and fast.” And finally that we will “forever be surrounded by uncertainty and instability.”

Which is why I love blogging. “It’s so frikkin’ educational!”

Re: Trump supporters not wearing masks. See Trump supporters say masks are harmful, would wear if Trump said so. Or ‘Magically protected’: Why hardcore Trump supporters won’t wear masks at rally: “‘It’s not going to touch you at the rally,’ author Jeff Sharlet says of hardcore Trump supporters’ belief in the divinity and ‘spiritual protection’ of a Trump rally against coronavirus, ‘You’ll be sort of magically protected.’” Some people have said that’s “God’s Way of Thinning the Herd,” but I would never say anything so inappropriate. See also Urban Dictionary: Thin the herd

As for that “great news for the rest of us” comment. It was a joke. See 11 times Trump’s offensive comments were ‘just a joke.’ Including “Trump floats injecting disinfectent as coronavirus cure,” “I am the Chosen One,” and “Obama is the ‘founder of ISIS.'”

The lower image is courtesy of Trump Fatigue Syndrome | National Review:

A large part of the country suffers from Trump Fatigue Syndrome. This is related but not identical to Trump Derangement Syndrome. The sufferers of Trump Fatigue aren’t driven mad by the president. They are just tired of having to wake up every morning to another of his sudden attacks, reversals, exaggerations, and boasts. They want the show to end.

As to that fatigue, the link in the main text is to Trump fatigue is setting in hard at the worst moment for his campaign, posted two weeks before the 2020 election. But see also the thoughtful piece from November 8, Democrats counted too heavily on ‘Trump fatigue,’ to explain why and how “former Vice President Joe Biden’s expected landslide turned into a grim, nail-biting election.”