Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino…

To see images of the Portuguese Way – my last (2019) hiking adventure – Google Wikipedia

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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 him 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:

I’m putting together a new book, “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.”

I’ll describe some of my adventures, from back when it was possible to travel and have such adventures. I’ll end the book with my last overseas adventure, from September 2019. That’s when I hiked the Portuguese Camino from Porto “back up” to Santiago de Compostela. (I hiked and biked the French Way – from Pamplona to Santiago – with my brother in 2017.)

Which led me to the last post I actually did on the trip. Back in October, 2019, I posted   “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino.” But that post only got as far as Ponte de Lima: “We started out on the Coastal Route after Porto, then shunted over to the Inland Route. There – among other rivers – we crossed the Lima River at Ponte de Lima.” Since Google Maps has the distance from Porto to Ponte de Lima as 51 miles or so, and since they had the distance from Porto to Santiago de Compostela as 153 miles, that meant I only covered a third of the hike.

Which is why I ended the Greetings post with this: “I’ll be writing more about our Portuguese Camino adventure, but in the meantime: The good memories weren’t just limited to CruzcampoSagresMahou and Super Bock…” (Four Portuguese beers.) But I also wrote about the trip in my companion blog. I called it  Just got back – Portuguese Camino, and started off with the same “boy are my arms tired” schtick as the  “Greetings” post:

I just flew back from Lisbon in Portugal. “And, boy, are my arms tired!” But seriously, I did just finish a 160-mile hike* on the Portuguese Camino. I flew to Lisbon on August 28 and flew back [home] on September 25, and so technically was gone a full month.

I had some notes on flying into Lisbon and getting to my hotel room. “Another red-eye flight, just like the one I made to Tel Aviv and Israel last May.” I also learned early on that – as far as Lisbon goes – the internet lied about cheap Portuguese taxis. (Bonjour!)  Instead of a four-Euro ride to my hotel – as I’d been led to believe – it was more like 15 Euros. Which wasn’t that bad, for one ride anyway. But luckily I hooked up with the Lisbon Metro.

I took the Red Line Metro train from “Aeroporto” station and got off at Saldanha station. My “Hotel Alif” was right across from Campo Pequeno. It’s a famous bull ring togged out like one of our football stadiums, but with lots of restaurants open on weekdays. It’s circular, with the bull-ring in the middle, and all around the perimeter they have restaurants, along with stairs, restrooms and the like. Much like our football or baseball stadiums. (That first day I got yelled at for cutting through one of the restaurants, getting acquainted with the area. Next night I went back to that restaurant for dinner and got served by the same waiter. He seemed a lot nicer then.)

Also next day – Friday, August 30 – I did some touristy stuff, including a visit to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument to the Discoveries”). That’s been a lifelong dream, or at least it has been since 1979, when I made my first trip to Europe and couldn’t make it to Lisbon.

For a small fee I took the elevator up to the observation tower.

There I heard three young ladies talking, and I could actually understand what they were saying, mostly. (A welcome change.) It turned out they were from Australia. I also visited the Museu de Marinha (Navy Museum), a few blocks up from the Monument. I crossed through the Praça do Império, the city square and park between the two museums. There was a “Loja” at the Pavilhão das Galeotas, displaying “royal vessels.” This was across a square from the main entrance. They served beer at the Loja, so before going over to the entrance I stopped and enjoyed a “Sagres.” (Which became one of my four favorite Portuguese beers.)

On Saturday, the 31st, I took a train up to Porto, coming in at Campanhã station. I met up with Tom and Carol, who were waiting at the station. (Thankfully.) I unloaded my pack at a separate lodging, then we spent the next day and a half sightseeing. (I’d booked a room at the Oporto Brothers Hostel, Rua da Alegria 919.) For one thing we visited the Casa do Infante, with a historical collection in the house where Prince Henry the Navigator was born.

We also went to a wine – or rather “port” – tasting, but I was a bit disappointed. One small glass, and here I was ready to forego beer for the day. (They say, “Never mix the grape and the grain.”) And we took a cruise on one the the Rabelo boats that Porto is famous for. From the boat ramp beside the Ponte do Freixo out to the Atlantic Ocean, pretty much the same way – beside the river – that we’d be hiking the next day. As for some flavor of that first day’s hike:

We hiked west along the Douro River, on the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic Ocean and swung north. It’s the lesser traveled scenic alternative for the Camino Portuguese. Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.

On the plus side – aside from fat guys in speedos – I got a picture that first morning of two lovely young fellow peregrinos. One was adjusting the other’s pack. (I’m always interested in the gear my fellow hikers are packing. I might learn something.) Later I posted on Facebook: “First day’s hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.”

That last referred to the first day’s hike. It was a nice thought (“nothing too sore”), but turned out misleading. I learned – yet again – that it’s not the first day of hiking, or even three, that wears on the feet. It’s the pounding of day after day of hiking with a 15-pound pack. (They recommend no more than ten percent of your body weight.) And it’s my opinion that there’s no way to train in advance for that – except to do the same constant hiking at home, day after day. A long hike once or twice a week won’t do it. It’ll help, but you still have to go through the agony of getting your feet accustomed to constant pounding, day after day.

Incidentally, for this trip my brother had  a copy of A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino Portugués, by John Brierley. (I still have my copy of Brierly’s Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (French Way). I’m saving it for our return trip, hopefully next year, 2021, at which time I’ll finally be able to say that I hiked over the *&^%$ Pyrenees. See Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”,” and links therein.) The Brierly book had “all the information needed by modern pilgrims wishing to walk the unique route to Santiago that was used by Queen Isabel of Portugal.” 

“Brierly” also had – as Carol wrote later – “maps, routes, directions, historical information, places for a break (coffee cups on the map), Albergues (which we never used), restaurants and highlighted points of interest.” Those “coffee cups” in the map book meant places we could stop and have a cool drink on a hot day, and usually something to eat as well. And on occasion those “coffee cups” were spaced way far apart, which meant a long session of hiking with no place to stop except the side of the path and some lukewarm water. 

As for albergues (or auberges), they’re a “shared dormitory-style accommodation.” Some people swear by them, saying that’s where the magic of hiking the Camino comes from. But Tom stayed in one back in 2017, when he started in France and hiked over the Pyrenees. That was enough. From then on – “even to this day” – he’ll book ahead for private rooms.

Anyway, in the Greetings post I talked about taking pictures with my cheap tablet, then posting them on Facebook to the folks back home. Posting pictures on Facebook with a tablet wasn’t that hard, but writing commentary was a pain. “For one thing I seem to have fat thumbs.” For another, the tablet’s “autocorrect” had a serious problem with foreign (Portuguese) names.

For example it kept changing the “de” or “do” in so many Portuguese city names to “Dr.” Every time. Here’s an example in an early Facebook post from Portugal:

Good morning from Cabo Dr Mundo. (BTW, autocorrect is having a hissy with these Portuguese names, plus my colloquialisms.) Ready for another 10 mile hike. Slept through the night. “Cozy quarters.”

That “cozy quarters” was shorthand for the apartment having one bedroom, which Carol got. Tom and I slept in the living room, me on the couch. But there was a nice restaurant nearby.

Which brings us way past the preferred number of words in a blog post. So I’ll be doing at least one more post in the near future on this adventure. I’m hoping to finish my “Old Age Adventure” book in time for Christmas. I’ll hand out the paperbacks for family gifts…

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“The Douro river and Dom Luís Bridge.” (That’s the one we passed heading out of town.)

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Notes:

First a note on images, or the lack thereof. I’ve discovered that with past e-books, and especially the paperback alternative versions, trying to keep the same photos as in the blog – even in miniature – wreaked havoc with page breaks. So for this and future books, and probably for blog-posts as well, I’ll forego actual images, at least for the original post. Instead I’ll provide a link like the one at the top of the page, by which faithful readers can view the image “on their own dime.”

Which leads to the caption of the photo at the top of the page: “A marking in a boardwalk of the Portuguese coastal way..”

Re: 160-mile hike. I’m not sure how many exact miles we hiked. Estimates varied. 153? 160?

Re: “Bonjour” See Bonjour State Farm – Image Results.

Re: Best length for a blog-post. Answer: “It depends.” See How Long Should Your Blog Post Be – The Write Practice. “Want more shares on social media? Aim for medium length blog posts between 600 to 1,250 words.” In other words, “longer is usually better for social shares and SEO whereas shorter is usually better for getting more comments.”

“Joseph Welch, dead at only 69? OMG!”

Joseph Welch, at left – “Judge Weaver” in Anatomy of a Murder – at the 1954 McCarthy hearings

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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 him 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:

AnatomyMurder2.jpgThe other night I started re-watching the 1959 movie, Anatomy of a Murder, starring Jimmy Stewart. (I should say, re-watching again. It’s one of those rare classic movies, like Casablanca, that I can watch over and over again. One law professor said it was “probably the finest pure trial movie ever made.”)

And one of my favorite characters in this classic courtroom crime film is Joseph N. Welch. He plays the judge presiding at the murder trial in Iron Bay, a resort town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (The regular “UP” judge is indisposed, so Judge Weaver – Joseph Welch – is brought in from the Lower Peninsula.)

Some background. Ben Gazzara plays Army Lieutenant Frederick Manion, who guns down a local tavern keeper, Barney Quill, an hour or more after Quill raped Manion’s wife Laura. (Played by Lee Remick.) Stewart plays defense attorney Paul Biegler, who used to be the town prosecutor, but lost the election to Mitch Lodwick. (Who feels that – due to the importance of the case – he needs to call in the help of state Assistant Attorney General Claude Dancer, played by George C. Scott.)

Incidentally, both the film and novel that inspired it were based on an actual Michigan case in 1952. There the defense used the concept of “irresistible impulse” – based on an obscure 1886 state supreme court holding – to win an acquittal “by reason of insanity.”

Two days after trial that defendant was judged to be sane by a psychiatrist and released. (Only to be divorced by his wife, also soon after trial.) In Anatomy, Lt. Manion is released as well, but then he and his wife skip town before attorney Biegler can get the lieutenant to sign a promissory note for $3,000. (The amount he agreed to pay Biegler while in jail awaiting trial. But note, a “real” defense lawyer would have gotten the promissory note well before that, most likely before trial but at least right after the verdict. That’s why the call it artistic license.)  

But back to Joseph Welch: Aside from playing Judge Weaver in Anatomy of a Murder, he was a “real-life lawyer famous for dressing down Joseph McCarthy” – left, with counsel  Roy Cohn – “during the Army–McCarthy hearings.” For some background on that

June 9, 1954. The hearings were in their 30th day, the result of Senator Joseph McCarthy‘s “aggressive investigations of suspected Communists and security risks” within the U.S. Army. (As well as a counter-accusation that Committee Counsel Roy Cohn – at right in the photo above – had pressured the Army “to give preferential treatment to G. David Schine, a former McCarthy aide and friend of Cohn’s.”)  

Joseph Welch served as Army counsel, and on June 9 challenged Cohn to give his alleged list of “130 security risks” to the U.S. Attorney General. McCarthy responded that Welch should “check on Fred Fisher, a young lawyer in Welch’s own Boston law firm.” Fisher had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, in what Welch considered a youthful indiscretion. McCarthy insisted it was a “Communist front.” When McCarthy continued his attacks Welch responded:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who … came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career… Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr… It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.

JosephNWelch.jpgMcCarthy tried to renew his attack on Fisher, but Welch interrupted. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” McCarthy tried to attack Fisher yet again, but Welch would have none of it. He refused to discuss the matter further, said that if there was a God in heaven it would do neither McCarthy nor his cause any good, then prompted the chairman to call the next witness. “At this, those watching the proceedings broke into applause.”

For one thing, I’d say we could use a lot more “Joseph Welch” in today’s political arena…

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But what also struck me – as I watched Welch preside over the “Anatomy” trial – came when I started wondering how old he was when he did the movie. “I’m guessing, what? 80? 85?

I did some research, and learned that when Welch died he was way too close to how old I am now. Born in 1890, he played in Anatomy of a Murder in 1959, and died not long after that. “Sixteen days before his 70th birthday, and fifteen months after the release of Anatomy of a Murder, Welch suffered a heart attack and died on October 6, 1960.”

Which leads to a personal note: I just turned 69, and 16 days before my 70th birthday will be next June, 2021. So again: OMG! On the other hand, I’m guessing that Judge Welch didn’t exercise seven hours a week like I do. (Including yoga, weights and hour-bouts of stair-stepping, with a 30-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights. See also my 2018 post, A Geezer’s guide to supplements. For my part, I want to live to at least 120, like Moses.)

But I’m not the only one “of a certain age” these days paying lots more attention to good habits, exercise and nutrition. That Christie Brinkley still looks good too – at a “mere slip of 65…”

My how times have changed!

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Christie Brinkley at age 65 – in 2019 – and “Times have indeed changed!”

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The upper image is courtesy of the Joseph N. Welch link in the article, Anatomy of a Murder – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Welch (left) being questioned by Senator Joe McCarthy (right) at the Army–McCarthy hearings, June 9, 1954.” See also Joseph N. Welch – Wikipedia.

The poster image is also courtesy of, Anatomy of a Murder – Wikipedia. The “teaser” at the top of the poster reads, “Last year’s No. 1 best-seller … This year’s No. 1 motion picture.”

Some notes on Fred Fisher (1921-1989). After the Army-McCarthy hearings, he went on to become a partner at Hale and Dorr, Welch’s firm. In 1973–74, he served as president of the Massachusetts Bar AssociationFisher died in 1989 in Tel AvivIsrael, where he was lecturing. In his New York Times obituary, Fisher was referred to as a “McCarthy target.” 

Ironically, G. David Schine – who the Army said got preferential treatment because of Cohn’s pressure tactics – also died “young,” at 68 in a plane crash. He started life as “the wealthy heir to a hotel chain fortune,” and after the Army-McCarthy hearings went on to a career in Hollywood, most prominently as a firm producer. Also a musician, he once “conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra in place of Arthur Fiedler at a concert,” at which some members of the orchestra refused to play. One musician commented later: “That man ruined my father’s life. No way I was going to play for him.”

The lower image is courtesy of Christie Brinkley 2020 – Image Results. The image accompanies an article from the UK Home | Daily Mail Online, “Christie Brinkley, 65, reveals major cleavage in breezy outfit as she is joined by daughter Alexa Ray Joel, 33, for star-studded Polo Hamptons Match & Cocktail Party.” Note: The article and photo were dated 2019, when she was actually 65. 

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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 “270 to win” – August 2020…

The Making of the President 1960 – or is this the year to be “the unmaking of the president?”

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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 him 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:

One thing that surprised me – greatly – about the 2016 election was the disconnect. That is, the difference between pre-election polling and what finally happened. (In other words, “so many forecasts were off the mark.” In further words, I wasn’t the only one surprised; see the notes. )

In plain words there was huge “disconnect” between pre-election perception and reality. (“What actually happened.”) For example, one friend said confidently a day or two before the election that Trump would end up conceding by 11:00 p.m. election night. On the other hand, many state-by-state polling – while showing Clinton ahead – were well within the designated margins of error.

Heading in to Election Day 2016, I kept track of the polls “religiously.” (After all, there was a lot at stake, wasn’t there?) All that summer and into the fall I kept tracking. And to be honest, I drew some comfort from polls showing Clinton leading. But I wasn’t nearly as confident as my friend about when – and if – Trump would concede. (Remember the hubbub about his saying he wouldn’t accept the results if he lost?)  In fact I was so surprised – on election night and many days after – that I was reluctant to start keeping track again for this time around. (See jinxing.)

But here we go again… This time I want to keep track of pre-election polling – In black and white – so that if there is another “foul up” I may better understand why, and “what Happened.” (But I’d much rather enjoy the celebrating, the fireworks and the dancing in the streets.) 

But seriously… For starters we can recognize that national polls are meaningless. The president is not elected by popular vote. What matters is the number of votes he (or she, eventually) gets in the Electoral College. For example, I remember reading Ted White‘s book, The Making of the President 1960. It mirrored what Wikipedia called a “closely contested election.”

But it wasn’t really “close,” even though – as both White and Wikipedia emphasized – Kennedy “won the national popular vote by 112,827, a margin of 0.17 percent.” (And some say Nixon should have been credited with the popular vote victory, because that “popular vote was complicated by the presence of several unpledged electors in the Deep South.”) But – as happened in the 2000 and 2016 presidential election – the popular vote didn’t matter in 1960. It didn’t matter who won what has now become a near-worthless consolation prize.

Where it counted – in the Electoral College – Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.* Or you could say 84 more Electoral votes. In plain words, Kennedy won with 38 percent more electoral votes than Nixon, not “0.17 percent.”

And so it may be in the 2020 election. Which means I started researching four websites that track state-by-state polls in the Electoral College. First, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. Next, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map – Electoral Vote Map. That’s a product of Political Wire, founded by Taegan Goddard and “one of the oldest left-wing and most influential political blogs and news aggregate sites on the internet.” (See also Political Wire – Wikipedia.) A third site is ElectoralVote(Electoral-vote.com, and yes it can be confusing.)

As of August 29, ElectoralVote – the third one – had Biden with 388 electoral votes, Trump 132 and 18 “ties.” (I’m assuming the “ties” are in the most recent polling.) That includes 213 “strongly Dem” and 90 votes “likely Dem,” which puts Biden over the top with those two alone. “Likely Dem” votes include Wisconsin’s 10 with Biden leading the polls 50-41; Michigan’s 16 split 50-42 Biden; Pennsylvania’s 20 split 49-43 Biden; Florida’s 29 split 49-43; and Arizona’s 11 split 47-38.

And for purposes of comparison, as of August 29 Trump had 81 electoral votes “strongly GOP” and 39 “likely GOP.” So his combined “strongly” and “likely” total of 120 is about half – 56% – of Biden’s “strongly Dem” standing alone. But again, that’s according to ElectoralVote.

According to Goddard’s left-wing Presidential Election Interactive Map, Biden has 320 electoral votes to Trump’s 125, with 93 “toss ups.” But Goddard has ElectoralVote‘s Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona all solidly Democrat, while ElectoralVote has those states “likely Dem.” And incidentally, Goddard’s map is “based on the consensus” of forecasts, including but not limited to Cook Political Report, and Inside Elections, along with “the latest polling data from FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics and Electoral-Vote.com.”

Then there’s 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. That site has Biden with 278 electoral college votes to Trump’s 169. But it includes a proviso, “Democratic candidate wins in your scenario. No combinations remain for Republicans to win.” The problem is I clicked on some of the states, thinking that might give better information about percentages, and that may have messed up some of the figures. That is, it’s not my scenario that I’m interested in. I’m interested in the reality of what’s happening in each state, as that affects the electoral college vote. So the fact that it’s Interactive – and that I interacted with it, though inadvertently – concerns me a bit.

Then there’s a fourth website, Biden vs Trump: US presidential election 2020 poll tracker. I found it much more user-friendly because it listed the solid, leaning and toss-up states by name, not on some “stupid map.” Further, it listed and/or ranked those states in order of the number of electoral votes each had, with California’s 55 leading the list. And that website showed – as of August 27 – Biden with 203 solid and 95 leaning electoral votes, while Trump had 80 solid and 39 leaning votes. And 121 “toss up” votes.

So even if Trump won all the “toss-ups” – according to this site – and Biden held his 203 solid and 93 leaning, Biden would still win. And in four of those toss-up states – Florida (29), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) – Biden has a polling lead of five points or more.

So the Electoral College polling math definitely favors Biden, regardless of what national-polling figures may show. For example, August 29th’s New poll shows Biden’s lead over Trump shrinks.

It led with a note that right after the Republican convention, Biden’s “lead” dropped from nine points at the end of July to six points after the convention. But check “yougov’s” website and you’ll see the lead thought, Explore what America thinks | YouGov. But again, it’s not what America thinks as a whole that matters. It’s not a “national popularity contest.” What matters is what Americans think in their individual states. Further, that article added:

The new Yahoo News-YouGov poll shows that nearly every voter in America has made up his or her mind, with 96 percent Biden and Trump supporters now saying they have decided how they will vote — up 2 percent from when the same voters were surveyed in late July. Only 8 percent remain undecided.

And it looks like Trump will need every one of those “eight percenters” to vote for him to get re-elected. (But then even that may not be enough.) But still it’s only the end of August, and there’s a little over two months left before the election. Meanwhile, I’ll keep tracking state-by-state Electoral College polls, looking for any major shifts.  It’s called prognostication

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Another prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil: How will Phil feel this next February 2?

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The upper image is courtesy of Book Making Of The President – Image Results. The image is part of an ad in Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts: “Find things you’ll love. Support independent sellers. Only on Etsy.” The caption: “Collector’s [Edition?] The Making of the PRESIDENT 1960 Theodore H White Illustrated American Past Book of the Month Club Collectible Book Decor Table.” See also The Making of the President 1960 – Wikipedia. The book “recounts and analyzes the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States.” Further:

The book traces the 1960 campaign from the primaries … to the conclusion of the general election contest against Richard Nixon. Much of the narrative is written in an almost novelistic style, describing politicians’ looks, voices and personalities. But it also contains thought-provoking discussions of various trends in American life and politics.

Also about that 2016 election: I read an article of interest, Polls Versus Reality in 2016. Numbers: The Good and the Bad. Some conclusions: 1) “[T]hat so many forecasts were off the mark was surprising, given the increasingly wide variety of methods being tested and reported via the mainstream media and other outlets.” (So I wasn’t alone.) 2) “Most national polls had Clinton winning the popular vote by a fair margin, and that turned out to be fairly accurate.” (But irrelevant, as noted.) And 3) the “Shy Trumper effect… Voting for Trump is considered socially undesirable by some people… they don’t want to admit it either to an interviewer on the phone or to pollsters … and then when they get in to the voting booth, who they actual vote for is not the same person they told pollsters they were going to voter for.” (Ellipses in original.) Though it’s hard to imagine “shy Trumpsters” this time…

Re: “Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.” For math majors and others of that ilk, that totals 522 electoral college votes, not the current 538. As to what accounted for the “missing 16,” I researched the issue but was unable to find a definitive answer, as of press time mean.

The lower image is courtesy of Prognosticate – Image Results. it was accompanied by an article, “Spring is coming: US groundhogs prognosticate during polar vortex.” (Washington Examiner, February 2019.) See also Groundhog Day – Wikipedia, on the American tradition based on the “Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.” 

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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 67-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.

“The intelligent Southerner … you seldom meet…”

Atticus Finch: A quintessential “intelligent Southerner” – of a type now Gone with the Wind?

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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 him 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:

1651350My last post – An early post-mortem – started with a note about my brother and I just finishing a four-day, 115-mile canoe trip down the Missouri River. (From Sioux City to Omaha, on July 12.)

But then I went on to take a look at “this time last year.” As a result of that, I did a combination-post using three draft projects I started a year ago. (“This time last year.”) That is, I combined those three draft-posts into Early post-mortem, to make one long post on those long-forgotten projects. (Plus the canoe “early post-mortem.”) Those three draft posts were on: 1) Gerrymandering, 2) humor as a weapon, and 3) – briefly – an ongoing book-project I’m working on, “My Adventures In Old Age.”

And why did I do that? Mainly because a “full postmortem account” of the canoe trip would “take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.” So here’s another delay in doing that full post-mortem.. But as it turns out, this project led to a “foreshadowing” post that I did about an earlier canoe-trip adventure…

To explain, once I got back home I started re-reading American Home Front: 1941-1942. In doing so I found a great quote for these challenging times. I’ll get to that quote later, but first want to note that two years ago I also started a review-post of the Home Front book. And in reviewing it I found some notes relating to my recent canoe-trip. Plus some good historical tidbits.

I wrote this first rough-draft paragraph for that review-post back in September, 2018:

For my recent long drive up to Canada – for my “Rideau Adventure” – I borrowed a book-on-CD from the local library: The American Home Front: 1941-1942, by Alistair Cooke(Most people “of a certain age” know Cooke for his America: A Personal History of the United States. I have both the book and DVD version of the 13-part BBC documentary television series first broadcast in 1972.)

And today, aside from having both the book and DVD version of Cooke’s “Americadocu-series, I now have the book version of his American Home Front. (Published in 2006, two years after his death.) And as noted, I started re-reading it again, once I got back from my latest canoe trip. In doing I found the following particularly relevant passage. It’s particularly relevant to me anyway, and I suspect to other people as well. People who may wonder “where did that guy go?”

The intelligent Southerner gives an impression you seldom meet elsewhere in America of having his own standards and of respecting you as a mature stranger while he keeps his own reserve.

“Intelligent Southerner?” “Respecting you as a mature stranger?” “Keeps his own reserve?”

Those phrases don’t come readily to mind today, whether after a session on Facebook or viewing a host of bumper stickers with sentiments like “Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder.” (To which you might reply, at least rhetorically, “Of course the only thing worse is a grumpy, bloated old white man threatened by change in the world.”) Which brings up Cooke’s comparison of that intelligent Southerner to most of the civilians he found around Louisville, the nearest big party town to Fort Knox – illustrated above right* – in March, 1942.

Cooke compared his intelligent Southerner (now mythical?) to the swarms of young people he saw as civilians in Louisville. And to the swarms of soldiers around town, from nearby Fort Knox. He said the civilian high-school boys he saw were “gawky and lifeless,” while the faces of their female companions were “innocent of any flicker of intelligence.” But to his credit, Cooke admitted – of this American town – that this was “an atmosphere that  no European need feel strange in. For it is the seeping seediness of English provincial towns.”

And just as an aside, it seems to this Old White Man – old but not grumpy – that way too many Americans these days have chosen that “seeping seediness.” But as for me and my house – or at least for me – “I will choose the way of the Intelligent Southerner.” Or try to anyway.

Nope, this “Georgia Wasp” still gets a kick out of life. And from now on I’ll cling to my own standards, while at the same time keeping my own reserve, and also trying to respect other all Americans as mature strangers. That’s going to be the hard part…

But getting back to my “Rideau Adventure.” Here’s a quote from the notes:

Another note: For the next canoe trip I’m getting a bigger tent and a cot. (No more sleeping on the ground for me.) But that trip won’t happen until at least 2020, as next summer my brother, his wife and I plan to hike the Portuguese Camino

Which turned out to be right on point. The next canoe trip did happen in 2020, and it happened despite the fact that I fully intended – this summer of 2020 – to either join my brother and his wife on another Camino hike in Spain. Or – if that didn’t happen – to fly back to Israel to Walk the Jesus Trail. Of course neither overseas flight-plus-adventure happened this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But who could have seen that coming, back in 2018?

Which brings up an email exchange shortly before we both left home to meet up in South Sioux City. (My brother from Utah, me from the ATL.) He reminded me of things I needed to bring, including a tent. He then added, “There would also be room for a folding cot…”

I wrote back: “A folding cot would be nice, but I only have that small two-person tent. Of course I could get a bigger tent, what with my stimulus check and all, but I’m wondering how many more canoe trips we’ll be doing. (Cost-benefit-wise.)” He answered, “I too wonder about how many more canoe trips. But I would imagine we’d be able to canoe great distances longer (age-wise) than walk great distances. The question is, is the interest still there.”

Just for the record: First, that was a good point about being able to canoe great distances longer than walking great distances. (At our age.) And second, the interest is definitely still there. That combination of Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot and Ozark Trail 6 Person Dome Camping Tent made all the difference in the world. (Measuring 8-by-12 feet, instead my old 7-by-7 feet “two person” tent.*) That larger tent came in very handy on Saturday night, July 11. That was the night after my brother’s tent got destroyed by an 80-mile-an-hour windstorm…

But more on that in a later post!

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This gives some idea what happened at 1:10 a.m., early July 11…

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The upper image is courtesy of Atticus Finch – Image Results. Which leads to the question: “Why don’t we see more Southern Gentleman like him anymore?”

The “intelligent Southerner” quote is at page 40 of the Grove Press paperback edition of “American Home Front,” first published in 2006 “by the estate of Alistair Cooke.” For a New York Times review, see The American Home Front: 1941-1942, “Alistair Cooke’s America, Explored in Wartime,” or The American Home Front: 1941-1942 (Smithsonian.)

Re: “Fort Knox … above right.” Wikipedia caption: “A tank driver at Fort Knox in 1942.”

Re: Walking the Jesus Trail. A hike offered by Saint George’s College Jerusalem:

This course, new to St. George’s College in 2020, offers an exciting opportunity for pilgrims who wish to experience the land from an entirely different perspective: walking. The course will spend five days following segments of the Jesus Trail in the Galilee [(www.jesustrail.com] from Sepphoris (Zippori) near Nazareth to Capernaum, staying each night in a guest house or hotel along the way. Walkers will only carry day bags; luggage will be sent to the next guest house via the bus.

The lower image is courtesy of Windstorm In A Tent – Image Results. It was said to be accompanied by an article in the Kathmandu Post, “Storms compound lives under tent.” But when I clicked on “View Page,” I was advised, “Sorry, the page you are trying to access does not exist. But maybe the search gods can help you find what you’re looking for.” So I typed in the “storms compound” headline and got kathmandupost … storm-compounds-lives, from May 23, 2015. The subhead read, “High winds and thundershowers on Saturday evening added to the hardships of people taking refuge in tents in open spaces after the April 25 earthquake displaced them.” I’ll explain the differences in the two situations in a later post, but for now let’s just say that our situation involved only my brother and I, two people in two separate tents. But the photo does give you some idea what we went through, from 1:10 to 1:50 a.m., that Friday night/early Saturday morning, July 10-11, 2020. (Also, note the alternate spelling, “Katmandu | Bob Seger.”)

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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 67-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.

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For some reason I put this note from a “president unfit” search in an early version of this post: “I got to that article (3/30/20) in The Boston Globe by starting to Google ‘a president ignored,’ based on a Washington Post article I’d just read. (See A president ignored: Trump’s outlandish claims increasingly met with a collective shrug.) But right after I typed in ‘a president’ the Google-phrase ‘president unfit for a pandemic’ came up. That led in turn to a number of media outlets reporting the Globe’s story; I saw 34,800,00 ‘search results’ from the Google-phrase. (Incidentally, the subtitle to the Globe article: ‘Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.'”

I’m not sure what I originally intended that quote to relate to. (Freudian slip?)

An early post-mortem – and “a look at last year…”

Independent voters try to keep the Ship of State from keeling over – here, ‘too far to the right…'”

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My last post was On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, back on July 5, 2020.

Canoe on Manitou Bluffs regionMy “Adventurous Brother” and I completed the trip. (115 river miles down the Missouri River, from South Sioux City to Omaha, Nebraska.) We left South Sioux City at 2:30 the afternoon of July 9, and got to Omaha at 5:00 the afternoon of July 12. In between – and before, for that matter – there were distractions, complications and near-disasters. (An 80-mile-an-hour windstorm for one.) But we came through, “Mission Accomplished!” The only problem is that a full postmortem account will take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.

So, I decided to take a look at “this time last year.”

What I found was three year-old draft-projects that I never finished, so here goes. One project was “On partisan gerrymandering,” on the then-just-released Supreme Court case, Rucho v. Common Cause. (Of which more later.) The second unfinished project was the start of a new book – composed of a series of posts herein? – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” Of which the recent Missouri River canoe trip was an example. Meanwhile, the original title of this post was supposed to be “Wanna beat Trump? Laugh at him!” And it featured the “Independent voters … Ship of State” lead image and caption at the top of the page.

That unfinished post was based in part – and was a partial review of – a book, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, by Sean McFate. (“82nd Airborne veteran, former private military contractor, and professor of war studies at the National Defense University.”) 

The book offered ten “new” rules for victory, and Rule Five is “The best weapons do not fire bullets.” And one of those non-bullet new weapons was – humor. There’s more on other such weapons in the notes, but the key point came in this set of observations:

Google “humor as a weapon,” and you’ll get sites like Humor is a weapon – so you better learn how to use it. Which offered the following quotes:  “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter,” by Mark Twain. Also “Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.”  (Michel de Montaigne, the French writer (1553-1592) “one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight.) Then there’s this full quote:

Authority is a natural target the world over for comics. Remember it, cherish it, use it. People all around the world hate their leaders, their systems, the powers they have to labor under.  This humor is nihilistic – no one is too powerful or too pure to be beyond reproach. Just remember lots of people have sympathy for the underdog, so direct that hostility upwards.

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Now about that draft post – from a year ago – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” It had links to past posts on such adventures as my canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, and into the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as hiking the Appalachian Trail (in small part) and the Chilkoot Trail. In toto, that is, all 33 of the “meanest 33 miles in history.”

For the full set of links see the notes below, but I wanted to focus on one link I found. It’s on the adventures of other people in Old Age, The Top Ten Late Bloomers Of All Time | Psychology Today. And from which I draw inspiration. (Heck, I just turned 69 years old. Or young!)

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And finally, the third draft post from a year ago had to do with “SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (Rucho v. Common Cause). The main question: “Is North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander?” The Supreme Court basically punted, saying the issue was one for state courts. I concluded in turn that the net holding was not to allow such partisan gerrymandering in all cases. It merely “kicks the issue back to the states.” (“Much as would be true if the Court overrules Roe v. Wade,” which remains to be seen.)

And – I wrote – some states were beginning to do just that. (Outlaw partisan gerrymandering.) I cited Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida: “In its majority opinion Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court referenced Florida’s Constitution in asserting that states have the ability to solve this issue themselves.” I also cited Another View: Florida’s amendments thwart partisan gerrymandering.

Which made me thankful that our 50 states are now just the “laboratories of democracy” that may yet save this country. The phrase was popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932). The phrase describes how “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” See Wikipedia.

It springs in part from the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “all powers not delegated to the United States … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That is, the 10th Amendment “assigns most day-to-day governance responsibilities, including general ‘police power,’ to the state and local governments.” One positive result? Because of the “diverse patchwork” of non-federal governments, the several states and/or localities are free to try different public policies to solve problems. In turn, ” If any one or more of those policies are successful, they can be expanded to the national level by acts of Congress.”

Now, if we can just get a state to kick COVID‘s ass. Or get those Feds out of Portland

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Did the 2016 U.S. presidential election create a  monster? Time will tell…

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The upper image is courtesy of Yachting Keel Over – Image ResultsAccompanied by an article “Real-life Bond performs daring boat stunt off the Isle of Wight.”  See I’m 007 and I won’t keel over! Real-life Bond performs (March 2012, but also ‘Show-off’ businessman caused Isle of Wight boat crash, BBC News, from March 2017).  Click on I’m 007 and I won’t keel over!  Then the “Read it” icon.

Re:  Ship of State. See Wikipedia, noting the “famous and oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato [circa 400 B.C.] in Book VI of the Republic (488a–489d).”  But which can also be traced “back to the lyric poet Alcaeus (frs. 6, 208, 249), and it is found in Sophocles’ Antigone and Aeschylus‘ Seven Against Thebes before Plato.”  Sophocles appeared to be a relative contemporary of Plato, while Aeschylus and Alcaeus (“c. 620 – 6th century BC”), appeared to predate him by 100 to 200 years.  

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Re: “There’s more on other such weapons.” Here follows – down to the next four asterisks (****) – a lot of notes on McFate’s book that may confuse a reader or lead him astray – if not set off by the aforementioned asterisks. But note too that the next set of notes, including the source of other images, will begin with the next set of four asterisks. 

First, for our purposes, McFate noted the “declining utility of force” (as in Russia’s Putin “weaponizing refugees rather than threatening firepower,” indirectly, by bombing Syria, which drove tens of thousands of refugees into Europe and “stoking anti-establishment policies across the continent…  Right-wing nationalist parties, once shunned as neo-Nazis became popular … for the first time since the 1930s”.) Then McFate moved to “Warriors of the Mind.” As in, Get a Mac – Wikipedia, and Case Study: “Mac vs. PC” Advertisement Campaign – Hannah’s Media Leap BlogThe campaign had a huge impact, tripling computer sales and becoming iconic “to this day.” How did Apple do it? “The secret is simple: denigration. Going negative is powerful, but the trick is to make the target look like the wrongdoer… It’s beautiful ridicule, highly manipulative, and it works.”

From there McFate spoke of the “humor” weapon against ISIS, and others:

ISIS and its successors would shrivel like the Wizard of Oz if the Muslim world could belly laugh over them…  Putin’s cult of personality would whither [sic] under the power of denigration.  In fact, he’s easy pickings, given his naked bear-riding habit…  This works especially well against autocracies because they are often built on a cult of personality and the infallibility of leadership.  Make such leaders fallible.

He went on to note that one key is gaining information superiority, first through monitoring (“know your enemy”) and second through discrediting:  “pinpointing fake news, alternate facts … false narratives, viral memes and negative frames, and then exposing them.  Myth-busting must happen, otherwise people may start to believe the spin.  This task is especially critical for democracies…” And finally, counter-attacking, “and this is where Western countries grow weak in the legs.” (For that matter so do “polite” liberals and moderates.) Again, the prime method of counterattack is denigration, while looking like the good guy, conveying empathy, aligning with “preconceived knowledge” and being “funny but not stupid.”

For other reviews Google “the new rules of war sean mcfate.” Of particular interest: The new rules of war. Sean McFate – The Junior Officers’ Book Shelf, and Reviewing The New Rules of War – The Strategy Bridge (“A critical reader might also find inspiration here. As McFate presents them, however, the new rules are a starting point and far from the last word on victory or how to get there”).

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Re: “For the full set of links see the notes.” The first one listed in this post was Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.) That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015. See also On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I and On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II, on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve written about my Okefenokee adventures in several posts: Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17). And see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The lower image is courtesy of Laboratories Democracy States – Image ResultsThe image is accompanied by an article, If States are the “Laboratories of Democracy,” Then Young Frankenstein Runs California. The article was from Legal Insurrection, “one of the most widely cited and influential conservative websites… Our work has been highlighted by top conservative radio personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.” But see also Legal Insurrection – Media Bias/Fact Check: “These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.” Note the article was written before the “Covid,” so for an alternate view see California coronavirus: What the state is doing right – CNN

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And finally, the original “laugh at him” post contained notes from an apparent “cultural elites” file. It was about those “cultural elites” that Trump supporters love to hate. The notes below are in rough form, include some personal observations, and are included solely for purposes of completeness:

acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites

sending ” those damn media types into a tizzy”

a given act is actually praiseworthy and brave if it draws condemnation from the despised left-wing media.

just another handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.

Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark

That portion of American society that has pretty much ruled America during the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well, up to Election Day, 2016.

Since the end of World War II, the rest of the world has looked at America as that “city on a hill” it has claimed to be since the beginning.  And America has responded – by and large – by accepting the mantle of world leadership.  And because America is a land of such promise, people from other countries keep trying to come here.  But – by and large – they are no longer white, English-speaking and mostly European.  Which frightens a large segment of American society.

Aside from that the mantle of world leadership is heavy.  It means not going off half-cocked.  It means being responsible, and thinking through what we say and do.  And many Americans seem to think we should act more like Russia, imposing our will on the rest of the world by sheer force.  Which – from all accounts – is what we used to do in the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

And it could be that the Americans who support Trump would love to see a return of a bit of American imperialism.  (On the other hand, if that’s true, why did Russia try so hard to get Trump rather than Hillary elected?)

Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump …

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.

Trump’s dislike of — and desire to be a part of — the ‘elite’

Trump has since made a name for himself — in New York City and, more unexpectedly, in Washington. As he reminded his Minnesota supporters, he won the presidency — which by one definition automatically puts him among the elites: “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.”

By all accounts, Trump supporters – or as Hillary called them, “the deplorables” – exercise the major share of authority and influence within the Republican Party, which is the governing party in the United States. The group’s values on racial issues, the economy, immigration and other cultural issues has a louder and bolder advocate in the Oval Office than at any other time in recent history.

But perhaps the reason it is difficult to embrace that definition is because Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

Elite – Wikipedia  a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the “elite” are “those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type

a relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers

Why a lot of Americans resent the cultured “New York City elite.”

I think this feeling was shared by some of the voters who went for Trump – as well as Brexit beforehand.  Trump, a masterful populist, has manipulated this very real bitterness, raising his 18-carat pitchfork against “liberal elites” for his own political gain.

a cultural elite may be disliked for reasons that are as not particularly economic: college professors, experts, NGO staffers and psychotherapists are not corporate titans, after all. It’s a new variation of an old-fashioned populism that is anti-intellectual and anti-expert.

Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they are, of course, preposterously upscale, living in Trump Tower, attending expensive private schools, flying about in private jets (now with in-flight Secret Service) and dining in five-star restaurants.

Republicans are benefitting from the cultural resentment of their non-elite electorate. They also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in “flyover” states.

On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip…

I just heard the Lower Missouri River near Sioux City was pretty low. Could it be this bad?

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This just in! My brother-from-Utah – the one I have all the travel adventures with – just came up with a great idea. A canoe trip down the Missouri River, from South Sioux City, Nebraska, down to Omaha. (Depending on the current, it should take five to seven days.) 

Which – I suppose – will also depend on how low the water is in that stretch of the Missouri. As to the question “could it be this bad,” the answer is: “That’s why they call it exploring!”

Canoe on Manitou Bluffs regionOn that note my Google-searches got me: 5 days on the Missouri River. Sioux City to Omaha – YouTubePaddling the Missouri River | Missouri River Water Trail, and Canoeing and Kayaking – Missouri National Recreational River. But first a post on some preliminary preparations.

Google Maps says it’s a little over 1,000 miles to Omaha from my home in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. I’m supposed to be there by a Tuesday afternoon, which gives me three days to get there, leaving on a Sunday. As for routes, I decided to start by going  up I-75 through Atlanta. (On a Sunday morning the Beltway traffic shouldn’t be too bad.)

Then I’ll head northwest on I-24, up through Nashville and on to Clarksville, Tennessee, to stop there for the night. (Or late afternoon, since I’ll gain an hour crossing into the Central Time Zone.)

That’s as opposed to heading west on I-20, then up through Memphis (TN) and Missouri. That’s the way I went last December-January for my mid-winter trip to Utah. (See On my road trip out to Utah, from January 20, 2020, noted at right.) And by the way, all this – the canoe trip – is an alternative to flying back to Europe this upcoming September, to hike on the Camino Frances. (With all the Covid travel restrictions, that isn’t likely to happen. As to our September 2019 hike, see “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino!”)

Incidentally, Clarksville is where my aunt and uncle lived for a few years, back when I was anywhere from eight to 11 years old. But getting back to the three-day trip up to South Sioux City. There’s one big question: Will I be able to do any sightseeing? Either going up or coming back? For example, Sioux City (IA) has some interesting sites, including the Floyd Cemetery, 2500 7th Street. That should be open, but how about any museums?

Also, on the way up to South Sioux City I’d like to stop by Paducah, Kentucky. It’s got such a great name, and a lot of history as well. (Especially during “outset of the Civil War.”) Then there are some preliminary notes I made about the canoe trip itself.

Like, as usual, we’ll do mostly primitive camping. (As in “dig a hole and squat.”) But based on past canoe trips, I noted a town called Decatur NE, about 40 miles south of Sioux City. It has a Beck Memorial Park campground, plus some restaurants in town, in what seems to be easy walking distance from the river. And a Broadway Brothers and Green Lantern Steak House. And a Tooly’s Bottle Shop for that matter. (Although we usually carry our own “O Be Joyful.”)

Further downstream there’s a “Woodland Campground, 1447 Benton Ln, Little Sioux, IA,” between 50 and 60 miles from Sioux City. (44 highway miles from Omaha.) Plus wildlife areas and refuges, so camping shouldn’t be a problem. (Not that much “private property” to worry about.)

And a positive note or two: I’ll have some new advantages this canoe trip. Like a stadium seat for actual canoe-paddling itself. In the past I’ve suffered quite a bit from paddling hour after hour with no back support, and getting a variety of “butt rash” from the hard plastic canoe seat. This improvement is a bit iffy, but I’ll report back on the results after the trip.

Coleman Trailhead II cot with side pockets. The second improvement? For this trip I bought an Ozark Trail 6 Person Dome Outdoor Camping Tent, measuring 8-by-12 feet, instead my old 7-by-7 feet two person tent. Which means that with all that extra room I can sleep on my also just-bought-for-this-canoe-trip Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot – at left – “extra wide military style.”

It “weighs a ton” – actually 17.7 pounds – but that brings up a big difference between canoeing trips and hiking trips. You can carry a lot more “luxuries.” (Unless of course you’re hiking the Camino de Santiago, in which case you can depend on stopping at an auberge or private hostel every night, and “only” have to carry ten percent of your body weight. Unless of course you get a “pansy pack” and have your big pack shipped ahead to your next stop, but we’re digressing here…) 

Now about that bigger tent and fancy-schmancy cot. At first I had some doubts about the expense of buying these new items. Which I expressed in a preliminary email:

A folding cot would be nice, but I only have that small two-person tent. Of course I could get a bigger tent, what with my stimulus check and all, but I’m wondering how many more canoe trips we’ll be doing. (Cost-benefit-wise.)

To which my brother replied, “I too wonder about how many more canoe trips. But I would imagine we’d be able to canoe great distances longer (age-wise) than walk great distances.”

Which was a pretty good point. Another good point or so: I’m getting older, and I remember well trying to find a nice level spot to put my sleeping pad. Which usually ended up being not too successful. I usually discovered, after slinking in to my tiny “two person” tent, that there was always a big stick or rock, or set of sticks or rocks, that I hadn’t been able to find…

Which is why I sprung for the new tent and camping cot. Of course the Stimulus Check helped. That is, it provided me with some spending money, which I used to “boost the economy.”

Glad to help out! 

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The upper image is courtesy of Lower Missouri River – Image Results. The image was accompanied by a 2012 article from the Sioux City Journal, about how the low water level – eight years ago – could hurt boating and tourism. 

Re: Atlanta Beltway. See Interstate 285 (Georgia) – Wikipedia, re: the ” Interstate Highway loop encircling AtlantaGeorgia… Because of suburban sprawl, it is estimated that more than two million people use the highway each day, making it the busiest Interstate in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the United States. During rush hour, portions of the highway slow, sometimes to a crawl.” That’s my hometown!

Re: “Incidentally, Clarksville…” Here’s what I first had in the main text, then moved to the notes: 

Clarksville is where my aunt and uncle lived for a few years. And where we four brothers and various elders used to visit every summer. My “Uncle Willie” was serving with the 101st Airborne Division, based in nearby Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (Which itself might be worth a visit, but which may have to wait on the return trip…)

It was a fun place to visit, but I do remember one unpleasant event. One day when I was 11 or 12 I wandered down by the river. (I thought it was the Tennessee but turned out to be the Cumberland River, which I discovered via Google-mapping of the address. “I just Google-mapped it, and see that it’s right up from the Cumberland River, not the Tennessee River like I thought.”)

I came across a wandering group of young guys, about my age or a bit older. I’m not sure how it started, but I ended up getting “beat up” by one of the young toughs, no doubt trying to show off for his buddies. In hindsight it wasn’t that bad, just mostly just humiliating. Which led me to note in an email: “And that the undeveloped brushy area where I met those local ‘toughs’ is now all built up. With a Kelly’s Big Burger where the confrontation happened. I don’t think that US 41/Alt. Bypass was there either.” But we digress…

Re: “O be joyful.” See On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2. It noted “O Be Joyful” was a code-word for “ardent spirits. We started packing them – in past canoe trips, like down the Missouri River … as a way of following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, and other American pioneers. You see, back in the old days of our country, whiskey – for example – was used instead of hard currency:”

One of the first media of exchange in the United States was classic whiskey. For men and women of the day, the alcohol did more than put “song in their hearts and laughter on their lips.” Whiskey was currency. Most forms of money were extremely scarce in our country after the Revolutionary War, making monetary innovation the key to success.

Re: Using a “stadium seat” on a canoe. The link is to stadium seat in a canoe – Advice – Paddling.com.

The lower image is courtesy of Stimulate Economy – Image Results.

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And finally, for purposes of completeness I’ve included the following brotherly advice on this particular canoe trip, at this particular time of crisis in our national history:

One thing we need to take seriously is the possibility of COVID infection. One, or both, of us, coming down with disease half-way through the Missouri River trip would be a disaster. The canoe trip itself and the driving part, which is most of it time-wise, isn’t a problem. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and bathrooms; any place with close contact with people are a problem. I did some googling about safe travel and came up with the following:

Coffee/Bathroom breaks – avoid large, travel center type bathrooms with lots of people. Aim for small single-stall bathrooms like gas stations. Bring your own coffee cup so you’re not using those fingered by other travelers.

Restaurants – avoid restaurants, except possibly uncrowded outside dining areas, otherwise, bring our own food or get take-out meals. Avoid hotel buffet-style breakfast bars where who knows how many fingers have passed over the food, plates, etc. (get a McD’s take out instead).

Bars – NO BARs! Liquor and sound judgment do not mix. We bring our own libations to enjoy in the quietude of our room or on the banks of the Missouri.

Hotels – Avoid places where close contact with people is possible, like elevators (take the stairs). One website said to bring your own linen (sheets, towels, etc.), a bit overboard, I think. But bring your own pillow would be doable–so you’re not laying your head down on a pillow 50 billion other people have been drooling on for the last half-century.

Masks, wipes, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand washing – Bring these and use often. In hotel rooms, use wipes or sprays to sanitize doorknobs, faucet handles, TV remotes, flat surfaces around sinks, toilet handles, nightstands by beds where sick people are likely to put their snotty Kleenex. If you can’t find hand sanitizer there’s an easy receipt – mix 2/3 cup of 91% alcohol with 1/3 cup of aloe vera gel in a travel bottle. You can get this stuff in any pharmacy. And of course, the best is to wash with soap and water–often.

Again, I’m taking this very seriously, and I’m hoping you will too. We don’t want to be searching for ambulances and hospitals in rural IA/NE or bringing the plague home to share with loved ones.

Some “remembrances” on better times…

One such “remembrance” – about an adventure in old age: Hiking the Camino in Spain…

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I did my last post on June 6, almost three weeks ago. (“Random thoughts (on ‘Socialism,’ etc.“)

It started off with a note that we were then in the “12th full week of Covid-19,” and that we also had to process the George Floyd protests. (Based on his May 26 death.) So I proceeded to remember back to a May 24 post, a “hark back … to This time last year – in Jerusalem!

Which was – as I noted – most likely “an exercise in escapism.” That is, a “mental diversion from unpleasant or boring aspects of daily life.” Another note: “Escapism may be used to occupy one’s self away from persistent feelings of depression or general sadness.”

Or when the world as we know it seems to be “Going to hell in a handbasket.”

So here we go again. This time I’m harking back to another variation on a theme, back to 2017’s post Last year at this time. Which in turn went back to one year earlier. Here’s what I wrote:

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Stephen Dobert standing on rock near False Summit looking south toward Skagway, Alaska.Last year at this time [June 2016] I was training for a four-day “hike” on the Chilkoot Trail.* ([D]eservedly known as the “meanest 33 miles in history,” and illustrated at right.)

I was also getting ready – last year at this time – to canoe 440 miles down the Yukon River, in Canada.* That canoe-trip started three or four days after the hike, and took 13 days.

This year at this time [2017] I’m in training to hike 450 miles in 30 days on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, in September.

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I made it to Spain in September, 2017, and have now hiked the Camino de Santiago twice. Once in 2017, from Pamplona, and again last September (2019), from Porto, in Portugal. (Where Port wine comes from.) And by the way, we’re now in our 15th full week of “the Covid.” (Also BTW, for an explanation of the asterisks after “Chilkoot” and “Canada” in the rehash above, see the full post.)

Which brings up the fact that before the Covid struck, I’d hoped – this next September, 2020 – to go back overseas. Back to either Israel or Spain, for yet another pilgrimage. But it was not to be. Instead, my “adventurous brother” – from Utah – just came up with what could be the only viable alternative. The idea of canoeing five days or so down the “lower” Missouri River. (Basically retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition as they were heading back home from the Pacific, in the late summer of 1806, memorialized above left.)

Accordingly I’d planned to do a “before” post, with preliminary information on the trip. But that will take some time, and a new post is way overdue. So instead I’ll present this and other  “Remembrance(s) of Thing Past, in the form of 2018’s Last year the Meseta, next year “Porto.”

That post has a lot of details on what my brother and I experienced on October 4, 2017. We got into León, in northwest Spain, “for our second one-day break after 20 days of hiking:”

The good news was that once we reached León, we had to switch from hiking to bicycling. (We were running out of time.)  The bad news?  That change just led to “a different kind of hell.” (From Dorothy Parker’s famous quote, “What fresh hell is this?”  In our case, it only meant a change in where we got sore…)

The other good news? We were finally done with the Meseta part of the hike. That is, hiking through the “Meseta Central plateau part of Spain – and it’s dry, dusty and hot. In fact, it’s the part that some people recommend Camino pilgrims skip.  (If they want to be all ‘wussified.’)”

So by October 4, 2017, we’d hiked 250 miles from Pamplona for 20 days, and got to León. And aside from taking a day off in León, we rented two 15-speed mountain bikes. “With them we covered the remaining 200 miles to Santiago de Compostela in seven days. Even though neither of us had ridden a bike in 40 or so years…”

Which is why it wasn’t really surprising “when my right handlebar took out – smashed the heck out of – the side-view mirror of some poor slob’s nice new car,” heading out of Leon. And in a second mishap I literally “ran my ass into a ditch.” (See “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited.)

Those were some great times. (As shown at right.)

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But getting back to 2017’s Last year at this time. That post spoke of the the idea of “65 being the new 30.” (Or as just checked, of 70 is the New 50. Whatever. I plan on being around a while.) And on my then-just-turning 65, and so being eligible for Medicare. I noted that either way:

There’s a lot of living left to do after age 60…

Or after age 69 for that matter. And to help make that happen – and maybe get a date with Christie Brinkley – I did the posts A Geezer’s guide to supplements, Part I and Part II

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Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!

Or “Yours truly at 69” – come this next July, 2020…

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Results. And no, that’s not a picture of me. The image goes with an article, An Ancient Religious Pilgrimage That Now Draws The Secular (NPR), about the Camino: “A 1200-year-old European pilgrimage route is experiencing a revival. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of modern-day pilgrims have followed in the footsteps of their medieval forebears, trekking across France to the Spanish coastal city of Santiago de Compostela.”

Another thing about the “Chilkoot.” I use quote marks because – all things considered – it’s not really a “trail” at all, “it’s one big frikkin’ pile of rocks after another.” Except for the glaciers of course…

Re: “Remembrance of things past.” That’s an alternative title to the novel In Search of Lost Time, “in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871–1922).” See Wikipedia:

‘In Search of Lost Time’ follows the narrator’s recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood during late 19th century to early 20th century aristocratic France, while reflecting on the loss of time and lack of meaning to the world.

Hmmm. It seems that some things never change. For some gloomy people anyway…

Re: “65 is the new 30.” There seem to be a lot of variations, but see my posts, On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part I) and On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30” – (Part II)

I borrowed the lower image from 2017’s Last year at this time. You can also see “her” at the posts A Geezer’s guide to supplements, Part I and Part II.

Random thoughts (on “Socialism,” etc.) – from March 2020

One random thought about “Socialism,” from back in March – before the Floyd protests began…

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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.)

Which is 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…

We’re now in the “12th full week of Covid-19.*” And aside from that, we now have the George Floyd protests to process. (Based on his May 26 death.) Which is another reason I  haven’t checked Facebook lately. (Who needs more aggravation?) But I do try to post on a regular basis, and my last post was on May 24. In it I harked back to This time last year – in Jerusalem! (Featuring the photo at left.) And yes, I suppose it was an exercise in escapism.

But back to those “random thoughts – from March 2020…”

This past fall I got in touch with some former students in my high school class of 1969, through Facebook. And was surprised at how many of them had become grumpy old geezers. As evidenced by the many grumpy, whiny and negative posts that way too many of them put on Facebook. (Which is why I learned the magic of “unfollowing” rather than “unfriending.”)

For example, many former classmates – once all full of happiness, hope and hormones – now refer to any political persuasion to the left of Attila the Hun as “Socialism.” Yet another favorite Facebook topic has to do with Social Security. And how it’s not an entitlement. One typical comment:  “I earned it, I paid into it, and nobody is going to take it away from me!”

Which led me to do a little research…

I learned that back in 1970 – the nearest census year to 1969 – the average American life expectancy was 71 years of age. But now, in 2020, the average life expectancy is “78.93” years of age. (See In 1970 what was the average life expectancy for Americans, and U.S. Life Expectancy 1950-2020 | MacroTrends.)  Which we can round off to an even 79 years of age.

Which brings up the difference between life expectancy in 1970, compared to 2020: A full “extra” eight years. Which means that  you – my typical Old Geezer high-school classmate – are getting a “free” eight years of Social Security benefits. In other words, for at least eight years of your life – assuming you make the “expected” life span – YOU’RE GOING TO BE A SOCIALIST!

In other words a mooch, a freeloader, or whatever other label you want to use…

Which led me to ask whether Social Security itself is a form of socialism. One answer:

it seems fair to call the Social Security program a form of socialism. The program requires workers and their employers, along with self-employed individuals, to pay into the system throughout their working years. The government controls the money they contribute and decides when and how much they get back after – and if – they reach retirement age.

See Are Social Security Benefits a Form of Socialism? On the other hand, there’s the Libertarian view, if not the “traditional conservative” view. See for example The Socialism of Social Security – The Future of Freedom, an article by .

Hornberger started off noting the irony of Trump and his fellow conservatives “excoriating” Democrats as Socialists, when he and his Republicans, along with their “Democratic cohorts, are fierce advocates of America’s premier socialist program, Social Security:”

Our American ancestors … understood that once people go onto the government dole, they become dependent on it. Many seniors today are convinced that without the dole, they would die in the streets. Many of them have also become docile and passive in the face of grave government wrongdoing because they fear that the government will cancel their dole if they protest governmental misconduct too vociferously.

Hornberger concluded, “Freedom and voluntary charity versus socialism and mandatory charity… Which one is better? I’m a libertarian. The answer is a no-brainer for me.”

And incidentally, Hornberger noted that conservatives don’t like “us Libertarians.” Why?  “We make them confront their life of the lie. We make them see that they are just as socialist as the socialists [Democrats] they love to decry.” Which sounds about right to me.

Also incidentally, just this past June 2 Hornberger posted Trump and His Standing Army.

He started off noting President Trump’s “warning to state governors that he is prepared to send his military forces to quell violent protests in cities across the land.” Which – he said – was precisely “why our ancestors had such a deep antipathy toward standing armies.” Another warning: “When it comes to shooting American protesters, make no mistake about it: Soldiers will do their duty… If their commander-in-chief orders them to fire on protesters, they will fire on protesters.” (But see Trump Privately Backs Off From Sending Troops Into States Amid Unrest.)

 included quotes from both our Founding Fathers and President Eisenhower, on the original intent of a limited-government republic, with No Standing Army. “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”

He concluded, “Under President Trump, the American people might yet experience the hard way what the Framers, our ancestors, and President Eisenhower were so concerned about.”

And he may have a point…

Two days after Hornberger’s Standing Army post came this: Unidentified prison agents patrol DC amid protests. Put another way, “Heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves are patrolling the streets of Washington, DC. They were sent by the Bureau of Prisons.” And by the way, that’s from the Business Insider, the financial and business news website founded in 2009. (A side note, “In January 2014, The New York Times reported that Business Insider‘s web traffic was comparable to that of The Wall Street Journal.”)

That’s just in case you thought I cited a pointy-headed liberal-media outlet as a source. Said one observer, “it’s like Russia’s little green men have taken over the nation’s capital.” Or:

Some people on social media discussing the identity of the mysterious officials compared them to the “little green men” Russian President Vladimir Putin sent to annex Crimea in 2014 who wore no insignia identifying them as members of the Russian military.

Which – finally – led me to this bit of research on the definition of Fascism:

[The political philosophy or regime] that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Which is also starting to sound familiar. Suddenly, Social-Security-ism doesn’t seem too bad…

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Free stuff? Like not having 106,000 dead Americans? Or “8:46?” Or “little green men?”

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The upper image – and the lower image – are both courtesy of Socialism For The Rich Capitalism The Poor – Image Results. Incidentally, the “Monopoly Man” image at the top of the page is a take-off of a poster of Che Guevara, the “Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.” An “original” is below right. See Wikipedia, and also Che Guevara Poster – Image Results.

As to “weeks of the Covid-19 shutdown,” see On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down. I calculated from Thursday, March 12, “when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled,” and thus that the first full week “has it starting Sunday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 21,” 2020.

The “incumbent freeloader” image is courtesy of Freeloader – Image Results

The photo to the left of the paragraph “Hornberger posted Trump and His Standing Army” is courtesy of Russian Little Green Men – 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 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia. 

Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  So 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.

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For more on Social Security as “socialism,” see Is Democratic Socialism Alive and Well in U.S.? It’s subtitled, “America is socialist, dummy[:] Let us count the ways.” Some key points:

“[A] dispassionate glance at American history shows that Uncle Sam has already gone a long way down the road of democratic socialism.

“Every American state decrees that all its children shall be educated at state expense, no matter how rich or poor.

“Second, the entire American highway system is built, paid-for and maintained by the state and federal governments.

“Third, estate taxes were introduced in 1916, in the name of equality and to prevent the children of successful parents from becoming a parasitic leisure class.

“Fourth, in the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal established the principle that the federal government should intervene on behalf of distressed citizens everywhere.

“Americans, once they begin to enjoy the benefits of a government program, are no more likely than Europeans to favor losing them. Cutting big government sounds great in theory, but few lobbies support the principle of giving up government-conferred benefits, whereas hundreds of lobbies fight to keep and enlarge them.

“Government on both sides [Democrat and Republican] is committed to protecting vulnerable populations, to educating them, to promoting opportunities and to intervening in the economy for the sake of stability, efficiency and high employment. In other words, in America, as throughout the developed world, democratic socialism is alive and well. Bernie Sanders is unusual not because he believes in it, but because he actually says that he believes in it and isn’t afraid to use the words.”

This time last year – in Jerusalem!

My pre-trip Google-work notwithstandingI got many a ‘tall Maccabee’ at nearby Leonardo‘s…

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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.)

Which is 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:

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorWe’re ending Week 10 of the COVID-19 lockdown, and so my thoughts drift to “this time last year.” This time last year – on May 23, 2019 – I was in Jerusalem. Specifically, “today” my group visited the Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount. (Now called the “Haram esh Sharif.*”) The Haram al-Sharif houses the Dome of the Rock, which most people notice in those long-range, panoramic views of Jerusalem. (On account of the bright gold dome.)

And where you sometimes see men having to wear these cover-all long brown “dresses.” Just in case they forgot the rule about “modesty” when visiting Islamic holy places? (And wear shorts instead?) But we digress…

May 23, 2019, was a Thursday, and I felt a bit overwhelmed. The visit was part of a pilgrimage, a course given by St. George’s College, Jerusalem. (The “Palestine of Jesus.”)  There were some 40 people in the whole group, and about 20 came from my hometown church in Peachtree City, GA. Nine of us had left Atlanta late Friday night, May 11, and arrived in Tel Aviv about 8:00 the next night, Saturday May 11. That Sunday was my first full day in Jerusalem, which I spent alone; we had to get our own lodging until the course started Monday night.

That’s when I discovered the BeerBazaar Jerusalem, on Jaffa Street. That was a good day…

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, people sitting, child, hat and outdoorSince that Sunday we’d done a lot of traveling and pilgrimage stuff, mostly by bus. We started the morning of Thursday, May 23, 2019 by getting bussed to the Dung Gate. It’s at the lower end of the Old City in Jerusalem. (And guess what went through there?) Then we went on to the Haram esh Sharif (the “Noble [Muslim] Sanctuary”). You have to go through that “Muslim section” to get through to the Jewish “Wailing Wall.” (A message there?)

That’s also known as the Western Wall, but getting back to the point: The rules for going through the Haram esh Sharif – to get to the Western Wall – call for “modest dress.” For women that means skirts below the knees, and for men that means no shorts. Women with skirts above the knees have to put on these doofy-looking long brown skirts.

But they definitely suit the women better than they do the men…

I reviewed the trip in “Back from three weeks in Israel,” posted on June 14, 2019. That was mostly about my disastrous last day in Israel; specifically, Tel Aviv.

I was “all cocky” from my smooth trip from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv the day before. And on miraculously finding some others in my group. (Rather than heading home, they were going to Petra, a “historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan.) I also reviewed the beginning of the trip in My first full day in Jerusalem. (In my companion blog, on the trials and tribulations of that first day of my pilgrimage. That included hearing a mysterious “explosion” at 4:08 on the morning of Sunday, May 12.)  But back to “this time last year,” May 23, 2019…

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoorThere was a long line to get to the Wailing Wall. We started on a ramp – seen at left from down near the Wall itself – then had to negotiate up, to and through the Haram esh Sharif, then around to the other side. (We saw Israeli soldiers escorting a Jewish family through the Muslim section of the complex, to avoid trouble no doubt.) Then – before going down to the Wall itself – deeply spiritual people (like myself) go through a form of water-ritual-purification.*

It was definitely crowded – in part because of the number of bar mitzvahs held that morning, as shown in the photo above left – but eventually I found a niche in the Wall. I stuck my own set of “paper and prayers” into the niche, then leaned up against the Wall, left hand out and on it, for quite a long time. A few minutes later I went back and leaned my forehead against the wall. (Like some of the locals were doing.) It was a very moving experience…

Now about that Leonardo Hotel, shown at the top of the page. It’s catty-corner from St. George’s College, which turned out to be very convenient. Briefly, before I left home I did some Google-mapping to find the closest bars to St. George’s, on Nablus Street. I just wanted to make sure I could get a nightcap if the need arose.

Those bars all seemed to be all clustered about a mile southwest of the college. But as it turned out, the Leonardo Hotel was a mere two-minute walk from St. George’s. It also turned out that there was a “Bistro” at St. George’s, but it closed a lot earlier. It also served Taybeh, the local Palestinian beer. The Leonardo served Maccabee, in tall drafts. (Wikipedia said Maccabee is 4.9%, but my souvenir bottle said it’s 7.9% alcohol.) Thus the “many a ‘tall Maccabee’ at Leonardo‘s.”

Officially it’s the Leonardo Moria Hotel, and aside from those later hours, the lounge sometimes functioned as a piano bar. Like one evening when the yarmulke-topped pianist played the Chicken Dance. But I seemed to be the only one in the place who’d heard it before…

Fortunately – because I “felt a bit overwhelmed” and all – we had a free afternoon that May 23, 2019. (I walked back over to Davidka Square, also on Jaffa Street, for some brandy “just in case.”) The next day we walked the Via Dolorosa (“Sorrowful Way”), then visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That’s where my brother – part of the Peachtree City group – got “escorted” out of line by a big burly Orthodox monk. For taking pictures when you weren’t supposed to?

But that’s a story for another post…  (“Boy, some of those people are strict!“) 

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Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Some of my fellow St. George’s pilgrims at the “Wailing Wall…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Leonardo Hotel Jerusalem King George Street – Image Results. See also Leonardo Hotel Jerusalem | ex. Novotel Hotel Jerusalem. I took the other photos- including the one below right – of “deeply spiritual people” going through a “form of water-ritual-purification.”

The “Haram esh Sharif” is also referred to as the Haram al-Sharif. 

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Image may contain: 1 person, standing, outdoor and indoorRe:  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 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in the Atlanta metro area.  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.

A final note: While this post is “dated” May 24, 2020, I actually posted it at 9:15 p.m. on May 23.

On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down…

 Voltaire,  a new figure – the intellectual recluse” – during a time of “destruction let loose…”

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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.)

Which is 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:

It’s Sunday May 10, 2020, and we’re at the end of eight full weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since wisdom begins with the definition of terms – as Socrates said – I’ll clarify.

To me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “‘stuff’ hit the fan” – back on Thursday, March 12. That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off. Also about that time the NBA, NHL and other major professional sport seasons all ended. (For what those college sports mean to me, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”)

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 continue adjusting to a “New normal.” (With social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds.) 

Which brings up the question: What did people do in the Olden Days when disaster struck?

For more on that see below, but for now let’s just say that I personally have been “busier than the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.” Aside from working three days a week – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful – I’ve been exercising eight hours a week.

That includes two hours of high-intensity exercise. (Stair-stepping 30 minutes a time, wearing a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) Plus an hour or so of yoga a week, plus calisthenics, sometimes interspersed with at least 200 minutes of medium-intensity workout. That can include kayaking or hiking an hour or so at a time.  But it also includes lots of time stretching and bending, while watching lectures from The Great Courses Plus.

I signed up on May 3, and been loving it. And putting my “shelter at home” time to good use.

Fundamentals of PhotographySome of the courses I’ve begun so far:

‘Fundamentals of Photography” (at left), “Understanding the Old Testament,” “Understanding the New Testament,” “Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques,” “America’s Founding Fathers,” “Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything,” and “Liberty on Trial in America: Cases That Defined Freedom.”

But the course I’ve latched onto most recently is “The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy.” And that course begins with this, that the “conquest and settlement of the American West transformed the United States from a regional republic into a continental power.”

The American West: History, Myth, and LegacyLecture One included a quote from Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the “most influential historians of the American West.” He said key elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier.

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.

And speaking of cooperation, he added that Americans taming the frontier learned to “adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) 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.”

Needless to say, I was struck by the words “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I can only say, “What the hell happened?”

But enough of politics. (For a while anyway.) For the time being I’ve decided to revert to making this post more like a series of personal essays. That is, where the writer “explores his or her own thoughts, often as related to an organizing idea or subject.” Which brings back what I’ve learned about what people did in the Olden Days, when disasters like our pandemic struck?

One answer came from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. It opens with the hero – Candide – “living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise.” But from there things go downhill:

The work describes … Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide [by] advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden,” in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds.”

Or as Voltaire put it in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) And speaking of Eden – as in “a place or state of great happiness [or] an unspoiled paradise” – that seems to be what we used to have, before Covid-19. Or at least it seems so in hindsight…

Then there’s what historian Kenneth Clark said in his 1969 book Civilisation, about what some did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.) Writing about the violence brought on Europe by the Protestant Reformation, he said that whatever the long-term effects,

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of 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.

So a great upheaval – with elements of panic and destruction “let loose” – can come from either other people (“bully boys”) or from nature itself. So what do we do, in the process of riding out this storm? Or as Clark put it, “What could an intelligent, open-minded man do in mid-sixteenth-century Europe?” Or for that matter, here in America this 2,020th “year of our Lord?”

His short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“)

Yet another answer is to “Keep on keeping on.” As in, “to persevere,” which means to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Or maybe “cooperate?” Or get back to “treating each other as equals?” Or at least with a bit more respect. See Treat each other with respect – Communication and Conflict. Of which more later…

Or as Voltaire once said, “Treat other people with respect, even the Dumbasses!

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The upper 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 chose this image because to me 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.)

Re:  The full quote reads as follows:

Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential historians of the American West, argued that the distinctive elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier. Domesticating the frontier, Turner wrote in an 1893 essay, 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.

Re: Personal essays. See also 7 Helpful Tips on How to Write a Memorable Personal Essay

Re: The ending of Candide. Wikipedia had the ending – “we must cultivate our garden” – translated into French, il faut cultiver notre jardin.” But see also Candide Conclusion Summary & Analysis from LitCharts, which worded the ending as “All that is very well … but let us cultivate our garden.”

Re: Kenneth Clark. The quotation from Clark is from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), at page 161. For an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

Re: The “dumbasses” Voltaire quote. See State Farm TV Commercial, ‘The Internet and French Model, and State Farm … Bonjour – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Treat Each Other Respect – Image Results. See also Live Life Happy – Inspirational Quotes, etc. 

 

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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 67-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.

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One final note. While some indications show this essay was posted on May 11, 2020, I actually posted it about 8:43 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, 2020.