“Back from three weeks in Israel…”

The night-dining area, St. George’s.  (28 shekels at the bar – lower left – gets you a Taybeh…)

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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: one or more people, people standing, people sitting, child, hat and outdoorI did my last post on May 3.  Since then I spent three weeks – 18 or 19 days – on a pilgrimage in Israel.  (Including traveling to and from.  I left the night of May 10 and got back the night of May 29.) 

And while I got back home on May 29, since then I’ve been preparing for a two-week road trip, up to Massachusetts, for my niece’s wedding, in June.  I’ve also posted My first full day in Jerusalem, in my companion blog.  (About the trials and tribulations of that first day of my pilgrimage, which included hearing a mysterious “explosion” at 4:08 on the morning of Sunday, May 12.) 

This post will focus on my last day in Israel.  (In Tel Aviv, where I got lost walking, took the wrong train, and later spent some 26 hours straight without sleep before finally getting home to the ATL.)

So anyway, the pilgrimage was part of a course given by St. George’s College, Jerusalem, thePalestine of Jesus.”   And a side note:  For visits to many churches and all Muslim areas in Jerusalem, you’re expected to “dress modestly.”

Ladies showing bare knees – like those shown above right – get brown cover-leg skirts.

The Jerusalem experience was wonderful, overwhelming, intimidating and enlightening.  But like I said, let’s start with the most recent “cluster” – half a word – part of the pilgrimage that happened.  It came on Wednesday, May 29, the day I spent 11 hours flying back home.  (And, considering the time change, 26 hours straight without sleep before I got back home.)

The problem was that I got all cocky from the day before, when I’d made an easy connection from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.  (On Monday the 28th.)  That is, after parting ways with the other pilgrims in my church group, I made a fairly-easy two-mile trek from the College to the central bus station in Jerusalem.  (Lugging 30 pounds in a back-pack and large gym-bag to be checked at the airport.)  Then from the Tel Aviv bus station I hiked a “mere” mile, to my night’s lodging at “Yavne 26.”  (They list the street number last.)  On the way I managed a visit to the Haganah Museum, right around the corner from Yavne 26, at “Rothschild Boulevard 23.”

Later that evening I managed to hook up with eight or nine fellow pilgrims from Georgia, who – unbeknownst to me – were staying at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, two or three blocks from my place.  (And despite the fact that the guy at the front desk wouldn’t take a message, let alone make contact, so I had to check the local eateries, and found them basically across the street.)

Unfortunately my visit to the bar at Abraham’s was cut short because I was all hyped up to get to Ben Gurion airport early enough to get through the vaunted Israeli airport security.  All the guides said that you should get to the airport at least three hours ahead of time, so since my flight was at 9:55, I figured I should be at the airport by 6:55 a.m.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorAnother side note:  Gentlemen who wear shorts – or otherwise show their knees at “many churches and all Muslim areas in the city” – are also given “skirts.”  (Like the two dumbasses at left.)

So anyway, to get to the airport on time, I got up at 4:00 a.m. and started hiking back to the Haganah train station on Levinsky Street.  (Where I’d just hiked up the previous day.)  But I missed the intersection – “wool-gathering” I suppose – and had to double back.  As it turned out I hiked an hour – with the same 30 pounds of baggage – but got to the train station right about six a.m.

Then the real trouble started…

I got a ticket easily, but only after gashing my left forearm.  (I was rushing to “unpack” at yet another security check-point, just inside the train-station entrance.)  To make the lugging easier I’d tied together the upper arm straps of my pack with a knotted handkerchief, but after a sweaty hour’s walk it got “un-tieable.”  So to get the pack off I had to lift it up over my head, and in the process gashed my forearm.  And got blood all over the upper-leg portion of my jeans.  (I could just hear Israeli security:  “And where have you been to get all that blood all over you?”)

Then I got on the wrong train.  It was on Platform 3, like the ticket guy said, but it ended up going the wrong direction.  The train I got on – at the wrong time, it turned out – went to Lod.  That’s a beautiful city 9.3 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, but it’s not the Ben Gurion airport.

Once I found that out – after finding someone who spoke English – it seemed like forever to get back to the central station.  On the way a friendly uniformed Israeli suggested I take a taxi from the central station; about 65 shekels, or 22 dollars.  I was all set to do that, but getting off the train another Israeli – in blue jeans and flip-flops – fell down right behind me, missing the first step down.  I helped him up and asked if he was all right.  Then he asked if I was trying to get to the airport.  (He probably overheard my plaintive cries for directions somewhere along the way.)

He helped me get on the right train, the 7:09 going in the right direction, so I suppose there’s a lesson there.  Then while waiting for the 7:09 train, two lovely young Israelis in brown uniforms sat next to me while we waited.  (Incidentally, I’d done a lot of praying on the train to and from Lod.)  Then the 7:09 got delayed an extra six or seven minutes, so I got to enjoy their company even longer.  (Another note:  Tel Aviv in general was a nice change from Jerusalem, appreciating-the-opposite-sex-wise.  I.e., there were fewer women all covered up with burkas and such.)

That pleasant “accompaniment” wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten on the wrong train, going the wrong direction, so I suppose there’s a spiritual object lesson lesson there too…

The end result was that despite getting to the airport at 7:35 a.m. – instead of 6:55 like I should have – I got through the numerous layers of the “vaunted Israeli airport security” in plenty of time to get to Gate C-6.  (I had time to relax for 30 or 40 minutes, and finally have some breakfast:  Mango juice and a “lox” croissant.)  And to remember the time I’d just spent in the company of two lovely Israeli Female Soldiers (Not unlike the one shown below, from 1948.)

I’ll be writing more – lots more – on other lessons learned (and experiences experienced) from my pilgrimage to Israel.  But for now it’s enough to enjoy the comforts of home once again.  Here, on the functional equivalent of “my own back doorsteps,” I can – a la  John Steinbeck – finally come to think about all I’ve seen in the last three weeks, then “try to arrange some pattern of thought to accommodate the teeming crowds of my seeing and hearing.”  In other words, to make some sense of all I’ve seen, heard and experienced those last three weeks.

At least until my next pilgrimage, to the Camino Portugues in September…

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A “Haganah female officer in 1948…”

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The upper image is courtesy of St. George’s College Jerusalem Israel – Image Results.  See also Home | Saint George’s College Jerusalem for more on available courses and staff members.  The course in question was “The Palestine of Jesus.”  (See the link at “Home” page.)  Another note: This post is substantially similar to the one on my “spiritual” blog, DOR Scribe – Expand your horizons

Re: Taybeh.  See Taybeh Brewery – Wikipedia, on the “Palestinian brewery founded in 1994[, at] the West Bank village of Taybeh,” 22 miles north of Jerusalem.  “It produced its first beer in 1995 and has since developed a global following.  It is the first microbrewery in the Middle East.”  The other beer available to St. George pilgrims is “Maccabee,” brewed by Tempo Beer Industries “Maccabee (Hebrew: מכבי‎) is a 4.9% ABV pale lager that was first brewed in 1968.  It is distributed in Israel and is also marketed in the United States and Europe.”  I found Maccabee on draft at the LEONARDO MORIA CLASSIC HOTEL, Jerusalem 9 Georges St., a mere four-minute walk from St. George’s.

Re:  Cover-leg skirts.  Ladies are also cautioned not to have bare shoulders or visible cleavage.

Re:  “Vaunted airport security.”  The link is to What To Expect At Israel’s Airport Security. | Bemused Backpacker.  See also Leaving Tel Aviv: My Experience Through Airport Security, or Google “vaunted Israeli airport security.”  Also, I found out the next  morning – Thursday the 30th, at home – that Lod is actually pretty close to Ben Gurion airport.  It’s a little over two miles as the crow flies, but walking the route involves “restricted usage or private roads.”  See also Lod Airport massacre – Wikipedia, about the “terrorist attack [on] May 30, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army … attacked Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) near Tel Aviv.”

Now they tell me!!!

Yet another note:  “Wadie Haddad, the primary organizer of the attack, was assassinated by Mossad in early 1978.”  (Those guys don’t fool around.)

Re:  “Pleasant accompaniment.”  In the sense of “something incidental or added for ornament, symmetry, etc.”  See Definition of Accompaniment at Dictionary.com.  The image is courtesy of Israeli Female Soldier – Image Results.

The Steinbeck reference is to the Penguin Books paperback version of Travels with Charley:  In search of America, detailing his 1960 road trip travelogue, at pages 108-109.  He described the feeling – “like constipation” – of being overwhelmed by his experiences, as in going to the “Uffizi in Florence [or] the Louvre in Paris.”  In yet another memorable passage he made an apt comparison:

Maybe understanding is only possible after.  Years ago when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.  So I have to find my way through the exploding production lines of the Middle West while sitting alone beside a lake in northern Michigan. [Emphasis added.] 

Re:  The Camino Portugués, also called the “Portuguese Way.”  It’s the collective name of the “Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes starting in Portugal,” beginning in either Porto or Lisbon (My companions and I will be starting in Porto.)  As Wikipedia noted, the Portuguese Way is the “second most popular route after the French Way,” which my Utah brother and I hiked-and-biked in 2017.  See – from October and December, 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good PartsA review of the posts shows that some of my pictures got  “screwed up…”  But they’re still good for reference and informational purposes.

The lower image is courtesy of Haganah – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “Haganah female officer in 1948.”  For more on the topic, Google “Israeli women soldiers brown uniform.”  That led me to sites like Pictures of Israeli Female Soldiers In and Out of Uniform, Israeli female soldiers are not afraid to reveal their assets, and 18 Pics Of Hot Israeli Army Girls IDF | Female Supermodel.  

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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.

An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings…

Incidents in 2019

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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:

Last November 16 (2018), I reported on the number of “mass shootings” under Donald Trump.  (See The Bible says: Blame Trump for “his” mass shootings.)  At the time – and according to Gun Violence Archive – the number of mass shootings* stood at 345 in 2017 and 307 in 2018:

Which adds up to a grand total – for two years, not counting the rest of November and December, 2018 – of 652 mass shootings under Trump so far.  That’s four times greater than Obama’s eight years, in one-fourth the time. 

But again, that was as of November 8, 2018.  So here’s an update for the past six months.

The “archive” for 2018 listed a final total of 340 mass shootings.  Which means that there were an additional 33 mass shootings between November 8 and the end of 2018.  And for 2019 – so far – the Archive has listed 104 mass shootings.

All of which adds up to a grand total – so far – of 789 mass shootings during Donald Trump’s presidency.  That’s compared to a “mere” 162 mass shootings – at least relatively speaking – during the eight years Obama was president.  That adds up to almost five times the number of mass shootings (4.87) in about one-fourth the time.*  (Then of course the Archive had a link to the “Last 72 hours,” totaling 13 pages of incidents, as of May 1, 2019.)

In turn, “it is very meet, right, and our bounden duty” to hold Trump accountable for his part in these tragedies.  For reasons including that Trump held Obama responsible for such tragedies during his presidency, and as indicated in Bible says.  But I’m not the only one who thinks so.

See the October 2018 article, Why it’s fair to ask whether Trump is to blame.  Senior reporter Aaron Blake gave a lengthy analysis, including the “growing sense of grievance among Republicans about the narrative that Trump might have some culpability for the postal bombs that were sent to many of his high-profile political foes over the past week.”  (Another tragedy.  See ‘MAGA Bomber’ pleads guilty to sending 16 parcel bombs to Trump opponents.)

But Blake began by noting that “the fact that Trump’s rhetoric is without compare in American politics makes that a logical question.”  He then added that it’s true political violence is nothing new, but when “confronted with a data set, you always look for the variables.”  And Trump’s divisive rhetoric is “a highly unique variable.”  After reciting examples of Trump-Speak – illustrated at left – Blake said, “This isn’t normal.  It’s an aberration.  And it’s possible it might produce aberrant results.”

Aberrant results like a big spike in the number of mass shootings, in America and elsewhere.

Blake then cited input from “the other” –  conservative – side of the aisle, National Review’s David French.  French began by observing that “not all listening ears” are sober-minded or rational, which is one reason that civility is important.  Which led him to this thought:

Political speech can inspire violence…  While it’s not always true that the pen is mightier than the sword, it’s absolutely true that the pen often inspires the hand that wields the sword:  It foments revolutions, it motivates murderers, and it radicalizes terrorists.

All of which should be a prime example of overstating the obvious.

But there’s a point that neither Blake nor French mentioned.  Call it Karma (“bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma,” as illustrated at right), or turnabout is fair play (“It is fair for someone to suffer the pain that they have inflicted on others”).  Or you could just hear what Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”  (Which – I said at the time – should give ‘the Donald’ pause for thought.)

(And not just The Donald.)  Which led to this from David French:

Speech can inspire violence…  It’s one reason why civility and a sense of proportion in your speech aren’t just abstract, sanctimonious, or elitist concepts.  They’re moral responsibilities for people with any kind of meaningful platform…  It turns out that some people will actually believe the terrible things that politicians or celebrities say, and they’ll act on those beliefs.

And so, Mr. President – Mr. “Person With a Highly Meaningful Platform,” or Bully pulpit – maybe it’s time to tone the rhetoric down a bit.  Or a lot.  And by the way, I mention all this as an Ezekiel 3 concern, and not a Deuteronomy 19 accusation…  (A bit of “Biblical CYA.”)

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Teddy Roosevelt, who was both a real Republican and a real president…

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The upper image is courtesy of the Gun Violence Archive, for January 1-May 1, 2019.

Re:  “Mass shooting.”  The generally-accepted definition: “an event where someone selects four or more people indiscriminately, and kills them, echoing the FBI’s definition of the term “mass murder.”  See Mass shooting – Wikipedia, and/or How is a ‘mass shooting’ defined? | PolitiFact California.

The “fear has no place” image is courtesy of Wikipedia, Stoneman Douglas (“Parkland”) High School shooting.  the caption: “Students protest gun violence outside the White House.”

Re:  Five times the number of mass shootings (4.87) in about one-fourth the time.  The actual number is 4.87 times the number of mass shootings.  That number was reached by calculating two years from 1/20/17 to 1/20/19, plus a little over three months to last April 20.  Which equals 27 months for Trump, compared to the 96 months that Obama served.  Thus the actual percentage is 28.125% of Obama’s 96 months as president.

Re:  “Our bounden duty.”  Referring to the Anglican Preface (liturgy), according to the Rite I in the 1979 U.S. edition of the Book of Common Prayer.  See Wikipedia:  “In liturgical use the term preface is applied to that portion of the Eucharistic Prayer that immediately precedes the Canon or central portion of the Eucharist (Mass or Divine Liturgy).”  I borrowed it for some Gravitas.

Re:  Ezekiel and Deuteronomy.  Ezekiel 3:16-19 basically says if you see a wayward soul and don’t warn him, you’ll both be punished, but if you do warn him – and he ignores you – you’ll at least save your own spiritual butt.  On the other hand, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says if you accuse someone of a heinous crime and they’re not guilty of it, you’ll be punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  Thus I’m not accusing Donald Trump of being responsible for all those deaths, I’m merely issuing a warning.  So if Donald ignores my warning, I’ll still save my spiritual butt, according to Ezekiel 3.  (Although heaven knows where he’ll end up.)

Re:  “Bully pulpit,”  See also Bully Pulpit | Definition of Bully Pulpit by Merriam-Webster and An Open Letter to a Pulpit Bully – Home • ChurchLeaders:

It is dangerous, however, if you choose to invert that bully pulpit from a place of influence to a position of control. Transposing from advocacy to autocracy will degrade your platform from a bully pulpit to the platform of a pulpit bully.

The “Karma illustrated” image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “It Shoots Further Than He Dreams’ by John F. Knott, March 1918,” referring to Kaiser Wilhelm at the end of World War I.

The lower image is courtesy of Bully pulpit – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “President Theodore Roosevelt delivering a speech.”

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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.

An update on “why I don’t like Donald Trump…”

Reason # 1:  Trump thinks he’s above the law.  (Another thing:  he’s not Winston Churchill…)

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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:

Back on March 20, I wrote about the beginning of Lent, 2019.  And about Lent’s generally including – as preparation for Easter – giving up things, and with doing things like penance, “repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  (See Early kayaking adventure.)

But while for many people Lent means giving up something, “some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

Like last year I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I did the same thing – for one thing, it netted the UTO some $25 in penalties, at 25 cents a pop.  But this year I felt the need to add something else.

To “add a discipline,” etc.  So for this Lent I’ll be trying mightily to add – i.e., to prepare – a reasoned, careful, logical treatise on precisely why I think Donald Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate, though not yet on par with the Civil War.  (Not yet.)  But beyond that, for my Lenten discipline I will try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him, without saying, “What are you, a bunch of dumbasses?”

That’s going to be the hard part…

So for this year’s Lenten period I added – as I have done before – some serious contemplating (As illustrated at left.)  

And as Wikipedia explained, contemplation means “profound thinking about something…  In a religious sense, contemplation is usually a type of prayer or meditation.”  And there’s this:

Within Western Christianity contemplation is often related to mysticism as expressed in the works of mystical theologians such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross as well as the writings of Margery KempeAugustine Baker and Thomas Merton.

So in so “contemplating” why I despise the current president so much, I’d be in pretty good company.  (In good company while contemplating like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.)

To that end, on March 20 I “dedicated myself to write at least one blog-post on why I don’t like DT” for Lent, although “it may well take more than one such post.”  The problem is that I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to garner much on the subject.  Plus the fact that Trump himself is daily providing such ample fodder that the question becomes, “Where to I begin?”

I did note these thoughts, before March 20; that is, on March 6:

Just this morning (3/6/19) I started listening to the audio version of The Restless Wave:  Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations, by John McCain.  And it’s given me some good starting insights.  For example, I don’t mind that Donald Trump never served in the armed forces.  But I do mind that he routinely insults the brave men and women who have served, including but not limited to John McCain himself.

Which is another way of saying Trump has never served “anything greater than himself.”

As time went on I started running out of time.  Then one sleepless night about a week ago, I got up about 3:30 in the morning, got one more beer and started reading the Kindle version of the first volume of Winston Churchill‘s four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

That put it all together.  It gave me the main reason I don’t like “the Donald.”  The reason?  He think’s he’s above the law.  But the idea that he is not above the law goes way back.

Back to at least the time of the Magna Carta, or 1215.  (Over 800 years ago.)  That is, in his Preface to that first volume – THE BIRTH OF BRITAIN – Churchill wrote about the Magna Carta, the “Great Charter.”  And mostly – he said – the Great Charter was an “agreed statement of what the law is.”  Further, that Charter’s main point was a “broad affirmation of the principle that there is a law to which the Crown itself is subject.”  To which “the Crown itself is subject.”

Which is another way of saying that no man is above the law, or more precisely, No Donald, you CAN’T pardon yourself.  So if there is a law to which “the Crown itself” is subject, how much more does that long-established principle apply to a president who is limited by the Constitution to no more than two four-year terms.  Which is another way of saying that no matter how bad a president he may be, Donald Trump is only temporary.

There will again be a time when Donald Trump is not president…

(And as noted in CAN’T pardon – and aside from the maxim that no man is above the law, also known as the rule of law – there is also the long-established legal maxim that “no man can be a judge in his own case.”  In the original Latin:  “Nemo iudex in causa sua.”  Thus the “no pardon.”)

Getting back to Churchill, he said the Magna Carta affirmed the idea that the “king” is and always should be below both “God and the law.”  In other words, he has his “sphere of action,” but if he “steps outside it he must be brought back.”  And he steps outside the law if he ignores the “ancient Council of the kingdom,” or refuses to take the advice of his “wise men.”  And he steps outside the law if he tries to rule through his “Household” or his favorites;

In other words, personal government, with all its latent possibilities of oppression and caprice, is not to be endured.  But it is not easy to prevent.  The king is strong …  If the Crown is to be kept within its due limits some broader basis of resistance must be found…

For Great Britain, after the Magna Carta one “basis of resistance” became Parliament.  In America, that broad basis of resistance to a “King’s” personal caprice includes – but is not limited to – Congress.  (Which in turn includes but is not limited to the House of Representatives, which alone has the power to impeach.)  Another broad basis of resistance – to “kingly” attempts at personal rule and tyranny – is the Fourth Estate of the Realm; that is, the media.

And contrary to what Trump has said repeatedly, the free press is not the enemy of the people.  Instead it is – and should continue to be – the Fourth branch of government.  As Wikipedia noted, “The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility and the commoners.”

Which now brings up two good reasons I don’t like Trump as president.  First and contrary to centuries of ongoing law and tradition, he thinks he is above the law.  And second, despite how the Founding Fathers took such care establishing and protecting the Fourth branch of government, Trump thinks he is too good for probing scrutiny from the press.  See Donald Trump Thinks the Freedom of the Press Is ‘Disgusting.'”  (Except Fox News of course…)  And also All presidents (and candidates) deserve Trump-level scrutiny from the press:

No modern president, save perhaps Richard Nixon, who waged an outright war on the press, earned the scorn and suspicion that Trump has since the day he took office.  Let’s be crystal clear:  Trump deserves scorn and suspicion.  He is a liar and a huckster.  But so too does every person in a position of immense power, because power is inherently corrupting, and because the decisions presidents make impact so many people’s lives.

And speaking of Richard Nixon, he was perhaps most famous for his Enemies List.

The official purpose of that list was to “‘screw’ Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service,” and through “litigation, prosecution, etc,”  In further words, it was made to “maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration;  stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

One noteworthy point:  “The IRS commissioner, Donald C. Alexander, refused to launch audits of the people on the list.”  So here’s to that unsung “Hero of the Realm,” who died in 2009 but kept his honor and integrity.  That is, his opposition resulted in a “string of attempts by Nixon to fire him.  Early on in his tenure as Commissioner, he dismantled the IRS Special Service Staff, which had been used to pursue detractors of the administration and its policies in Vietnam.”  Another noteworthy point, people justly too pride in being on the list:

Newsman Daniel Schorr and actor Paul Newman stated, separately, that inclusion on the list was their greatest accomplishment.  When this list was released, Schorr read it live on television, not realizing that he was on the list until he came to his own name.  Author Hunter S. Thompson remarked he was disappointed he was not on it.

Which brings us back to Winston Churchill, and another noteworthy point he made:

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Winston Churchill – Image Results.  The lower image accompanies an article, “World war II in Pictures” (World War II in Pictures – Filminspector), on “Churchill, a Man of All Seasons.”  The article noted mainly that Churchill “did more with less.  He bounced back from adversity more often, and to greater effect than anyone else during the 20th Century.  Just for starters, Churchill was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.”  Trump on the other hand has done less with more, has never experienced true adversity, and I doubt any country will make him an “honorary citizen.”  (An “honorary comrade,” perhaps…)

Re:  Lent.  See also My Lenten meditation, from my companion blog.

The image “contemplating” is courtesy of Wikipedia on contemplation.  Caption:  “A woman places rosary beads on a devotional image mounted on the wall beside her bed.” Walters Museum.

The Magna Carta image is courtesy of King John Signing Magna Carta – Image ResultsIt is accompanied by an article, “Magna Carta, signed by King John of England:”

The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world.  Magna Carta was important in the colonization of American colonies as England’s legal system was used as a model for many of the colonies as they were developing their own legal systems.

In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not generally limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.  It influenced the early settlers in New England and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

Re:  The “king” and his caprice.  Such rule by “personal government” – as Trump seeks to create – could also be called as a Banana republic, a “pejorative descriptor for a servile dictatorship that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture.”

Re:  The quote in the lower image.  According to some sources, it came from Victor HugoSee 9 Quotes From Winston Churchill That Are Totally Fake, and also Victor Hugo: “You have enemies?:

You have enemies?  Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea.  It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines.  Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats.  Do not bother yourself about it; disdain.  Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

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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.

On Oscar Wilde and our “criminal heroes…”

Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg

As far was we know, nobody yelled out “Shut up, you filthy sodomite” to Oscar Wilde

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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:

I just finished reading the January/February 2019 National Geographic magazine.  I came across this comment from Oscar Wilde, about Americans – and their unique hero-worship.

Wilde was visiting America – specifically, St. Joseph, Missouri – a week after Jesse James was killed.  (By the “coward Robert Ford,” illustrated at right.)  Wilde thus “witnessed firsthand the mad clamor for relics of the outlaw at an auction of Jesse’s household belongings.”  That led him to observe: “Americans are certainly great hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.”

(Not that has anything to do with current events…)  

That led me to Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character.  I wanted to verify the National Geographic quote, and maybe get some additional background.  Which led me to this:

In Leadville, Colorado he was winched down into the depths of a silver mine and delivered a lecture to the miners on the ethics of art.  “I read them passages from the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and they seemed much delighted,” he said.  “[But] I was reproved by my hearers for not having brought [Cellini] with me.  I explained that he had been dead for some little time which elicited the enquiry, ‘Who shot him?’

It turns out that “some little time” was over 300 years.  That is, Cellini (1500-1571) was an “Italian goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, and artist.”  (He also wrote the “famous autobiography” that Wilde read to the Colorado miners.) 

And in turns out that nobody shot Cellini…  That is, despite his various escapades – sexual and otherwise, described further below – he lived to a “ripe old age.”

I’ve written about Wilde before in Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies,” On Roy Moore – and Oscar Wilde, and Imitation Game” – Revisited.  And when I started work on this blog-post, I planned to review those past posts on Wilde.  I also planned to write more about Americans today, VIS-À-VIS their habit of “always tak[ing] their heroes from the criminal classes.”

But as it turns out, Cellini was way more interesting…

For one thing, he was “one of the most important artists of Mannerism.”  (Which includes a variety of approaches “associated with artists such as Leonardo da VinciRaphael, and early Michelangelo.  Where High Renaissance art emphasizes proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, Mannerism exaggerates such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant.”)  And he’s “remembered for his skill in making pieces such as the Cellini Salt Cellar and Perseus with the Head of Medusa.”  (Seen at left.)

But that’s not the interesting part.  The interesting part involved Cellini’s “active social life,” if not his frequent run-ins.

For example, he boasted in his memoirs of killing five people.  There may have been more but no one knows for sure:  He never got convicted.  (He got pardons from various church officials, including popes.)  But he did have to bounce around a lot:  From Rome to Florence to France, back to Florence, then to Venice, and so on.

For an example of that (and other things):  In 1548 – he was 48 or so (being born in 1500 helps) – a woman in Florence accused Cellini of sodomizing her son, Vincenzo.  To escape the charge he fled to Venice.  “This was not the first, nor the last time, that Cellini was implicated for sodomy.”

And this – Wikipedia noted – illustrated his strong homosexual or bisexual tendencies; (“once with a woman and at least three times with men during his life”).  As for penalties:  As a young man “he was sentenced to pay 12 staia (bushels) of flour in 1523 for relations with another young man…  Meanwhile, in Paris a former model and lover brought charges against him of using her ‘after the Italian fashion’ (i.e. sodomy).”  Later still, in 1556 (at age 56):

Cellini’s apprentice … Montepulciano accused his mentor of having sodomised him many times while “keeping him for five years in his bed as a wife.  This time the penalty was a hefty fifty golden scudi fine, and four years of prison, remitted to four years of house arrest thanks to the intercession of the Medicis.  In a public altercation before Duke CosimoBandinelli* had called out to him Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!  (Shut up, you filthy sodomite!)

Cellini described this as an “atrocious insult,” and tried to laugh it off.

But he wasn’t done.  (For one thing, he outlived Bandinelli by 11 years.)  In 1562 – after briefly trying a “clerical career” – he married a servant, with whom he claimed to have five children.  In 1563 he was named a member of the “prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence, founded by the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici … under the influence of the architect Giorgio Vasari.”

So aside from being a talented artist, he knew how to make some pretty influential friends.

And finally, when he died in Florence in 1571 he was “buried with great pomp in the church of the Santissima Annunziata.”  As to what caused his death, some modern readers may think that was a result of his lifelong various escapades, sexual and otherwise.

But the fact is that despite all those turmoils, run-ins and escapades, he lived to the ripe old age of 71.  And this was at a time when the average life expectancy was 30 to 40 years(See for example What was life expectancy in the 1500s – answers.com, and/or Life Expectancy From Prehistory to Today.)  And from all this we might glean two points of note:  For one thing, “I’m sure there’s an object lesson here, but darned if I can figure out what.”  For another:

Who says history can’t be fascinating?

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On the other hand – as far as we know – Cellini never got tried for “gross indecency.”

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 I borrowed the upper image from Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies.”  In turn, the image is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Photograph taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.”  Here’s what Oscar Wilde in America – Breaking Character said about the photo:  

The most iconic images of Wilde we have today [including the image at the top of the post] were actually taken in New York at the studio of Napoleon Sarony at 37 Union Square.  It was in America that Wilde perfected his image, and it’s ironic that this image was the subject of a lawsuit that changed US copyright law forever.  Sarony successfully sued a company that had reproduced 85,000 copies of this picture of Wilde, claiming ownership over the copyright of a photograph for the first time in legal history.

And re:  Wilde’s comment on American hero-worship.  It was on page 88 of the paper edition of the “January/February 2019 edition of National Geographic magazine.”  See National Geographic History – January 2019 Free PDF, for an electronic version, and/or National Geographic (Ebay) for an image of the paperback cover.  Also, the web article Breaking Character” did in fact verify the quote:

Wilde lectured in Saint Joseph, Missouri two weeks after Jesse James had been murdered there and found the whole town in mourning.  “Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes,” he observed.

For more on Cellini, see 13 surprising facts about Cellini – DorotheumArt, How many people did benvenuto cellini kill? | Yahoo Answers, and The Bedevilment of Benvenuto Cellini – EsoterX.

Re:  The “Bandinelli” who called out to Cellini, “Sta cheto, soddomitaccio!”  He was a “Renaissance Italian sculptor, draughtsman and painter” (1488-1560).  He had a “lifelong obsession with Michelangelo,” but was also – according to Giorgio Vasari, “a former pupil in Bandinelli’s workshop” – he (Bandinelli) “was driven by jealousy of Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo.”

The lower image is courtesy of Sodomy Trial Oscar Wilde – 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.”    

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.

Remembering the Okefenokee…

An “alligator mississippiensis,” prevalent in the Okefenokee Swamp – where I kayaked – twice

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Okefenokeelocatormap.pngThis May I’ll be making a two-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  Which makes this a great time to remember some past pilgrimages.  Like my two separate overnight-camping ventures into the Okefenokee Swamp (Shown at left.)

I wrote of those Okefenokee trips 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).

The original Operation Pogo noted that my fascination with the Okefenokee started – at age 10 or so, back in the 1960s – when I saw the movie Swamp Water, starring Walter Brennan:

The part I remember best was watching Walter Brennan getting bitten in the face by a snake.  In the scene, he kneels over and parts the bulrushes to get a drink. (Of  “swamp water,” while hiding from John Law in the Okefenokee.)  As Walter [kneels], the viewer can see a grinning cottonmouth off to his right.  (The viewer’s left.)  The grinning cottonmouth then proceeds to bite him “right on the cheek.”  I’ve been fascinated ever since…

Part of that fascination also came from the old Pogo comic strip.  (It ran from 1949 to 1975.)  It starred Pogo Possum, was set in the Okefenokee, and featured “social and political satire through the adventures of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters:”

Pogo is set in the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp;  Fort Mudge and Waycross are occasionally mentioned.  The characters live, for the most part, in hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.

Also, note that my original “Pogo” post was very long.  It clocked in at over 1,600 words in the main text, and over 2,000 words including the notes.  Since then I’ve cut down on blog-post wordage, mostly because the average reader has the attention span of a gerbil.  (You could Google “ideal number of words for a blog post.”  One site – Forbes – said that for one thing, “most people only read between 20% to 28% of a post” anyway…)

1445698042386Revisited” noted my second fun trip into the Okefenokee, from the west entrance into the Okefenokee east of Fargo, Georgia (In the “tagalong” combo at right;  a kayak with a rubber dinghy trailing behind.)  “Among other things I saw some fifty alligators during the first hour of paddling.”  After that I stopped counting…

I camped at the CANAL RUN shelter, “some nine miles in from the Foster State Park launch site.”  And … because it was so early in the season the canoe-only trails were much vegetated-over.  Which meant that many times I had to “butt-scootch” my kayak over a barely-sunken log, and sometimes had to stick my hand out, grab another log and finish pulling the kayak [over].  The last time I reached my left hand out I saw a patch of white.  It turned out to be yet another gator … “smiling” nicely at what he no doubt thought was a tasty new snack.

In case I’m being too subtle, that “tasty new snack” would have been my left hand.

And speaking of “pilgrimages” – and why I do things like camp overnight in the Okefenokee (twice) and fly to places like Jerusalem:  I addressed that topic in my companion blog.  See for example, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts (The “sluts” came from Robert Louis Stevenson.)

That post noted that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through such things as “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can quite often “find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  (And to that might be added, mosquitoes, snakes and great numbers of alligators.)  The post added that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I certainly felt “chastened” at almost having my left hand chomped by a “smiling” gator.

1445624973384And speaking of being chastened:  “One thing I learned is that – in the Okefenokee – there are precious few places to stop and take a break…  The shelters – for day use or overnight – are few and far between.  As a result, the ol’ keister got extremely sore by the end of the second day.  (Not to mention blisters on my palms…)”  That is, in this swamp there are few “shores” to speak of.  Just a “line of reeds that an alligator can mash down.”  And where a wandering kayaker – for example – steps off at his own peril, as shown above left.

Also, one time I was paddling through a very narrow canal when I saw a big bull gator – who eventually submerged. This was on the canoe trail to Monkey Lake.  As I paddled over the water where the gator had been, I could swear he came up and nudged the bottom of my kayak.  I figured it was an accident, at least the first time.  (But the second time?)

That added some spice to the trip.

Then there was the time I miscalculated my canoe-speed, and ended up paddling – late in the dark of night – through what seemed like miles of water lilies.  (Well after 8:00 p.m., as noted in Okefenokee … Part III.)  Which led me to think, as I paddled through the swamp in the dark:  “That Monet guy can take his stinkin’ water lilies andstick ‘em where the sun don’t shine.’”

That is, the canoe only trail to the Cedar Hammock Shelter is – or was – loaded with water lilies…

I discovered a nasty thing about water lilies.  They’re hard enough to paddle through during the day, when you can see what you’re doing…  [But] in a kayak – in the dark and in a hurry – your paddle tends to grab great wads of swamp weed.  Then the paddle tosses the soggy lily-entrails – wet and cold – all about your head and shoulders.

But such are the things that make for a great pilgrimage!  (At least in hindsight…)

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SwampWaterPoster.jpg

Poster for the 1941 film, Swamp Water.

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The upper image is courtesy of Alligator – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “American alligator (A. mississippiensis).”  For more on the upcoming two-week pilgrimage, see “On to Jerusalem!”!”

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster.jpgRe:  “Pogo,” running from 1949 to 1975.  Cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) fell ill in 1972, and was unable to continue the strip.  The strip continued for a short time with reprints, and cartoons from other artists.  But Kelly’s widow ultimately decided to discontinue the strip “because newspapers had shrunk the size of strips to the point where people could not easily read it.”  Also, one of the reasons I liked the strip was because – in hindsight – it seems rather prescient, as seen at left.

I took the photograph of the alligator basking on the “line of reeds.”  (From a safe distance.)

The lower image is courtesy of Swamp Water – Wikipedia.  That article noted the 1941 Jean Renoir film “starring Walter Brennan and Walter Huston, produced at 20th Century Fox, and based on the novel by Vereen Bell.  The film was shot on location at Okefenokee SwampWaycross, Georgia, USA.  This was Renoir’s first American film.  The movie was remade in 1952 as Lure of the Wilderness, directed by Jean Negulesco.”

An early kayaking adventure (blub, blub, blub)…

Cartoon depicting a man standing with a woman, who is hiding her head on his shoulder, on the deck of a ship awash with water. A beam of light is shown coming down from heaven to illuminate the couple. Behind them is an empty davit.

A bit of hyperbole – regarding my long-ago first-kayak voyage that left me all wet…”

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There I was, in the middle of one of the local lakes around here, on a fine sunny summer afternoon.  I was happily paddling away in my spandy-new kayak, when suddenly…

*   *   *   *

There’s more on that early adventure later, but first a note.

It’s now Lent, 2019, and so a time to prepare for Easter.  That can include “prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  And for many people, that means giving up something.  On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline “that would add to my spiritual life.”  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

Last year for Lent I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I’ll be doing the same thing; for one thing, it ended up netting the Easter-day United Thank Offering a little over $25 in penalties.  (At 25 cents a violation.)  But this year I felt the need to add something else.  To “add a discipline,” etc.

So for this Lent I’ll be trying mightily to add – i.e., to prepare – a reasoned, careful, logical treatise on precisely why I think Donald Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate, though not yet on par with the Civil War.  (Not yet.)  But beyond that, for my Lenten discipline I will try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him, without my saying, “What are you, a bunch of dumbasses?”

That’s going to be the hard part…

So hard in fact that it’s going to take so much time I won’t be able to do a new post in a reasonable time after the last one.  (From March 5, Didn’t we try this “Wall” thing before?)

So for the time being, I offer up this in-betweener.  It’s about an early adventure I had back a few years ago.  (2013 or so.)   In turn, it will be related to the new book I’ll be doing, tentatively titled “My adventures in old age.”   (See for example, On Brinkley, Clooney, and aging gracefully, which spoke in part of Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure.)  That post in turn cited an online article, 11 Smart Things About Getting Older, and an early post I pity the fool.  (Where I said, “I pity the fool who doesn’t … push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”)

November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4332_zps47e076b9.jpgSo, back to my early-on kayaking adventure…  Here’s what happened.  I was on the way back from Biloxi and a canoe trip on Lake Pontchartrain (Which led the following year to On canoeing 12 miles offshore, and the “siesta-at-sea” image at left.)  So on the way back – in 2013 – I stopped at an Academy sporting goods store and found a reasonably-priced eight-foot kayak for a mere $149.  That in turn led to me adding kayaking to my weekly exercise routine.

I did two early “voyages” without mishap, and figured I had this kayaking stuff down pat.  (Except for the part about getting in and out, gracefully or otherwise.)  On my third kayaking venture, while trying to “mount” the kayak at the Lake Kedron boat ramp, the thing tipped over a bit too far.  As a result, what seemed like a small quantity of water got into the kayak.

I didn’t want to go through the trouble of looking ridiculous or clumsy – getting out of the kayak and then back in – so I figured, “No problem, I’ll just put up with the water sloshing around the ‘bilges‘ until I finish up, in an hour or so.”  So I paddled down to the other end of the lake and was heading back home, after 45 minutes or so.  Just then I noticed what seemed to be a bit more water than I remembered sloshing around the seat.

I kept on paddling along, but my thoughts then turned to the water that had been left over after my prior canoe voyages – for example, “Naked lady on the Yukon,” which came a bit later – and how I’d been able to get that water out.  Then, while still paddling, I glanced back – a bit – and noticed that the back end of the kayak seemed to be much lower than the front.

That’s when I discovered a big difference between a kayak and a canoe.  I couldn’t get a really good view because a kayak is kind of awkward to move around in, and in fact is quite “sensitive.”  (Not to say “tippy.”)  So I couldn’t do a good check on the back-end of the kayak, which in turn – eventually – led to this thought:  “You know, I’ll bet there’s a drain plug somewhere on this craft.  I wonder where it is?  I’ll have to check the manual when I get back.”

"Untergang der Titanic", a painting showing a big ship sinking with survivors in the water and boatsThen, paddling around a bend in the lake, I noticed that the ol’ kayak was really getting sluggish and hard to maneuver.  So – discretion being the better part of valor – I reluctantly started heading to the mucky, muddy shoreline, figuring I’d better stop and get this stupid water out.  But it was too late.  I hadn’t made much progress toward the shore when – in a kind of reverse-Titanic denouement – the aft-end started sinking faster than I could paddle, and I found myself and my trusty craft sinking into Lake Kedron.

In seconds I found myself out the back of the boat, which by now had filled with water.  I tried to hold on to the two-ended paddle, and push the stupid thing to shore.  (Thinking all the while, “What?  This thing will never sink.  It’s supposed to be freakin’ unsinkable!!!”)  I also tried to find the cheap deck-shoes I’ had on, the shoes I had bought just last week, somewhere still inside the boat.  (Knowing from past experience what it’s like to come ashore in muck and mire, in bare feet.)

I found the shoes but then had to try and get them on my feet, while holding onto the paddle and kayak, and trying to push it ashore.  Aside from all that, I had a set of weights on my wrists, because I wanted to get more bang for my exercise buck, as it were.  (See resistance training.)  Plus I was checking for my car keys, in the upper left shirt pocket.  (Where I figured they’d never get wet.)  And that’s not to mention the Ipod Shuffle that I’d also stuck in the upper right shirt pocket, for use in case I got bored paddling and needed some music.  (Again, figuring that in my shirt pocket it’d never get wet.)

To make a long story short, I finally made it to the mucky, mirey shore, and not-gracefully-at-all managed to heave the thing up far enough on shore to get what seemed like tons of water out.  And that’s when I noticed – there, at the very back of the kayak – the drain plug that only moments before I’d been wondering about.  Somehow, the plug had worked itself out, and gradually, over the course of an hour or so, the little bit of water from my “opening mount” had shifted to the rear, thus enabling even more water to come in with each stroke.

So there, on the mucky short of Lake Kedron, right down the hill from some fancy-schmancy house – whose residents are likely even now yucking it up over the schmuck in the kayak that sunk that afternoon – I learned: 1) that there is a drain plug in my kayak, and 2) where it’s located, and 3) how to plug it back in (albeit after-the-fact).

So anyway, after the fact i did a little write-up – which formed the basis of this post – and sent it out in a number of emails, to family and friends.  Most people got a kick out of it, but my older (local) brother – not the out-of-state one I do all my latest adventure with – wrote back, “I don’t think I’da told that story!”  To which I can only respond:  “Hey, I’m secure in my masculinity!”

Besides, there’s always this little bit of wisdom from “Robert Matthew Van Winkle:”

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The upper image is courtesy of Sinking of the RMS Titanic – Wikipedia.

Re:  The idiom “all wet.”  See Etymology – Origin of … ‘all wet’ – English StackExchange.  In the sense used in the lead caption, “entirely mistaken,” misguided, or wrong.  The site dates the idiom back to 1909, and notes that by 1924 it was common “that humorists could use it as a punchline:”

Modern American slang is an institution that certainly merits as much approval as condemnation.  It is so tersely expressive.  But sometimes its application doesn’t fit.  “You’re all wet,” says the youth of today [in 1924] when he wishes to convey the idea that in his mind, your opinion or action or attitude in the matter under discussion is wrong.

Drawing of sinking in four steps from eye witness descriptionRe:  “Reverse-Titanic denouement.”  As shown in the main-text illustration, the Titanic went down bow-first, while my kayak on Lake Kedron went down “stern first.”  The main-text painting’s caption:  “‘Untergang der Titanic,’ as conceived by Willy Stöwer, 1912.”  See also “The sinking, based on Jack Thayer‘s description. Sketched by L.P. Skidmore on board Carpathia.”  (Shown at left.) 

The “overturned kayak” image is courtesy of Overturned Kayak – Image Results.  To which I originally added this sentiment:  “Okay, my ‘early adventure’ wasn’t quite this bad – but it was humiliating!”  And the photo-image is accompanied by an article, “How to recover a capsized kayak to the upright position?”  Some good advice:  D on’t leave too much water in the bilges.

Re:  “Secure in my masculinity.”  See also Secure in your masculinity – Asexual Musings and Rantings, for some interesting observations.

The lower image is courtesy of Learn From My Mistakes – Image Results.  Those “Results” includes the quote from Vanilla Ice, a.k.a. “Mr. Winkle.”  He is the “American rapper, actor, and television host,” born in South Dallas, raised in Texas and South Florida, “known professionally as ‘Vanilla Ice.'”  Born in 1967, his initial success faded by 1994, when he “began using ecstasycocaine and heroin.  During periods of heavy drug use, Ice received many tattoos from artist acquaintances.  According to Ice, he ‘was in [his] binge days.  [He] didn’t even realize how many [he] was getting.’  Ice attempted suicide with a heroin overdose on July 4, 1994 but was revived by his friends.   After being revived, Ice decided that it was time to change his lifestyle.”  So he knows whereof he speaks, in terms of mistakes.

Didn’t we try this “Wall” thing before?

“Memorial to the Victims of the [Berlin] Wall, with graffiti, 1982….”

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1953 Bowman Yogi Berra.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk – lately and for the last two years – about Donald Trump’s wall(The “colloquial name for a proposed expansion of the fence that makes up the Mexico–United States barrier during the presidency of Donald Trump.”)  Which led me to wonder:

“Isn’t this like ‘deja vu all over again?'”

Which brings us to the Berlin Wall:

[The] guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989…  [S]tarting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off (by land) West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin…  The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) … and other defenses.  The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state

East Germany also called the Wall its “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” while the West Berlin city government referred to it as the “Wall of Shame.”  Wikipedia also noted that the East German government took the action because of its “brain drain problem.”

In other words, people who wanted the promise of freedom were kept in virtual prison:

In the West, the Berlin Wall was regarded as a major symbol of communist oppression.  About 5,000 East Germans managed to escape across the Berlin Wall to the West, but the frequency of successful escapes dwindled as the wall was increasingly fortified.  Thousands of East Germans were captured during attempted crossings and 191 were killed.

(Berlin Wall built – HISTORY.)    Which brings up the question:  “Do we really want to be like East Germany?  Do we really want to build a ‘major symbol of oppression?'”

Ronald Reagan – for one – said no.  He – like most if not all presidents before him – bought into the idea of America as a unique “city upon a hill.”  That idea in turn is based on what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.  You cannot hide a city that has been built upon a mountain.”  (From His parable of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount, seen at right.) 

To give you some background on the American take on that idea:  In 1630, the Puritan “father” John Winthrop cited Matthew 5:14 at the end of his lecture or treatise, “A Model of Christian Charity.”  That sermon (lecture, or treatise) languished in obscurity for over 300 years.  That is, until the beginning of the Cold War – which included the building of the Berlin Wall.  That’s when “Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop’s text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism.”  (Which included Thomas Jefferson’s seeing America as the world’s great “Empire of Liberty.”)

President-Elect John F. Kennedy quoted the phrase during an address in January 1961:

We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation.  Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.  For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

(Which itself is from Luke 12:48.)  In other words, America is special, and because it’s special, all Americans have unique and special responsibilities.  For one thing, we have a special responsibility not to be “just like other countries.”  We don’t want to build walls, either to keep freedom-seeking people out, or to keep smart people from leaving the country.

Which is pretty much what Ronald Reagan said, over and over again.  And this even though, politically, he was the exact opposite of John F. Kennedy.  But they both agreed on the idea of the United States as a “city upon a hill.”

For example, in his Election Eve address (November 3, 1980), Reagan spoke of his Vision for America:  “I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail.”  Reagan added that Americans – at least in 1980 – were still “every bit as committed to that vision of a shining ‘city on a hill'” as the long-ago people who settled this country.

Finally – in that speech – he said Americans weren’t “white or black, red or yellow;  they are not Jews or Christians;  conservatives or liberals;  or Democrats or Republicans.  They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.”

And Reagan repeated the theme yet again in his 1989 Farewell speech to the nation:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life … a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace;  a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

Which – in its way – mirrored just what Jesus said in John 6:37:  “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”  So whose side are you on?  Hopefully, Jesus and Ronald Reagan…

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The upper image is courtesy of Berlin Wall – Wikipedia.

The “farewell speech” link is to Opinion | Ronald Reagan’s Hopeful Farewell – The New York Times, by John Meacham.  Dated January 10, 2019, the piece was sub-titled:  “His last speech as president was about his faith in America and its people.  Our current president could not be more different.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mr Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall – Image ResultsSee also Tear down this wall! – Wikipedia, which included this from the 1987 speech:  “We welcome change and openness;  for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.” 

On Brinkley, Clooney, and aging gracefully…

Christie Brinkley was photographed by Emmanuelle Hauguel in Turks & Caicos. Swimsuit by Monica Hansen Beachwear.

Now that’s my kind of “When I’m Sixty-Four” aging gracefully…  (“‘Christie B.’ – at 63…”)

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In this post I review some earlier posts on gracefully ageing – or aging:  RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30 (Part I and Part II), and A Geezer’s guide to supplements (Part I and Part II, featuring “Arnold,” at right) 

In RABBIT – Part I – from June 2015 – I reviewed Rabbit Remembered.  That was the 2001 novella, last of a series of novel-sequels to Rabbit, Run.  (The 1960 work by John Updike.  The sequels included Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest.)  But RABBIT – Part II is where things got interesting, at least in terms of aging gracefully.  (I turn 68 next July.)

It started with a “personal tidbit” from the 1971 sequel, Rabbit Redux.  Set in the summer of 1969 (the same summer as the Apollo 11 moon landing), the novel told of a time “when father and son are settling the bar bill.  Earl Angstrom had a Schlitz beer, and tells his son [Harry, the protagonist], ‘Here’s my forty cents.  Plus a dime for a tip.’”

RabbitReduxbookcover.jpgWhich led me to write:  “Are you kidding me…  Do you mean there once was a time when you could go into a bar, pay 40 cents for a beer and leave a dime for the tip?  And not get thrown out or insulted?”  (The answer:  “Yes, there was…”)

But the really interesting part was about how 65-year-olds were portrayed in 1969.  For example, Updike wrote of Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom’s father looking old once outside the bar; “liverish scoops below his eyes, broken veins along the sides of his nose.”  Harry then asks Earl about his money situation, and Earl responds, “Believe it or not there’s some advantages to living so long in this day and age.  This Sunday she’s going to be sixty-five and come under Medicare.”

Next Sunday Harry visits Mary (his mother) for her birthday and she greets him:

I’m sixty-five,” she says, groping for phrases, so that her sentences end in the middle.  “When I was twenty.  I told my boyfriend I wanted to be shot.  When I was thirty…”  [Harry:]  “You told Pop this?”  “Not your dad.  Another.  I didn’t meet your dad til later.  This other one, I’m glad.  He’s not here to see me now.”

The point is that even though Mary has Parkinson’s, Updike’s overall image of 65-year-olds in 1969 is of people who really are over the hill.  (“Living so long in this day and age?”  Really?)

Now compare that with Christie Brinkley, shown in the lead picture above in 2017, at age 63.

On that note see “60 is the new 30,” and also “Why 60 Is The New 30.”  The latter post noted the “55-64 age group has shown the largest increase in entrepreneurial ventures, now accounting for more than 20 percent of all start-ups.”  (Thus literally “starting over when our grandparents would be strolling around golf communities in Florida.”)

Or see Is 60 the New 40?  That article noted that what elderly “meant to the Greatest Generation doesn’t hold for their offspring, the baby boomers.”  Then there’s 60, Not 50, Is The New Middle Age – Huffington Post, and New research shows 60 is the new 40 – KING5:

Increasingly, people over 60 feel more like 40, and now they have the science to back them up…   The new research argues that since life expectancy continues to rise, age 60 should not be considered old.  It’s more “middle age,” because for many, there’s a lot of living left to do after age 60, even embarking on second or third careers.

Which brings us back to my Geezer’s guide(s) to supplements, Part I and Part II.  In those posts I noted that I “don’t want a Schwarzenegger body.  At age 67 [soon to be 68], I just want to stick around a while yet.”  (And “maybe run into a cute ‘young'” 60-some-year-old, like Christie B….)

So, to that end the “Geezer” posts  listed 10 good supplements from Menshealth, along with the question “Why do I bother with all these supplements?  Simply put, I want to live long enough” – among other things and if only metaphorically – “to dance on my enemy’s grave.”  (Illustrated at right.)

And that brings up two relatively new online articles, 11 Of The Smartest Things Anyone Ever Said About Getting Older, and 9 Things People Aging Gracefully Do Differently | HuffPost:

There’s nothing less attractive than someone desperately clinging to the last remnants of their youth.  We think it’s far sexier to be comfortable in your own skin.

That last thought was a “leaf” from George Clooney, along with the main thing people aging gracefully do:  “work out to get strong, not skinny.”  (Not to get a “Schwarzenegger body.”)

Other thoughts:  They stress less and forgive more, they learn something new every day, they stay positive, they get enough sleep – which for me includes daily naps “as needed” – and they eat and drink better.  (They “learn what changes we need to take with our diets as we age.”  Like Geezer supplements, and kale and/or spinach salads at night, not processed food snacks.)  

So here’s to Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure (From the New York Times – that “enemy of the people” – on a thought that will be the subject of at least one future post.)

As far as those 11 Smart Things About Getting Older, here’s my favorite.  (Or as I said in I pity the fool, “I pity the fool who doesn’t … push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”)

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henry david thoreau

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The upper image is courtesy of Christie Brinkley Photos, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2017.  And about that When I’m Sixty-Four.  (Referring to the 1967 Beatles song released on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.)  Born in 1954, Christie is now – in 2019 – 65 years old, while she was 63 at the time of the 2017 Sports illustrated photo shoot.  So for this post I just split the difference.

Re:  How to properly spell “ageing.”  See Ageing vs. aging – Correct Spelling – Grammarist“American and Canadian writers use agingAgeing is the preferred spelling outside North America.”  

I borrowed the “dancing on enemy grave” image from Geezer’s Guide – Part II.  As to which enemy whose grave I “enthusiastically” look forward to dancing on, Part II said “Let the reader understand!”  (Citing Mark 13:14: “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”)

Re:  “Push the envelope.”  That also came near the end of Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The “Chilkoot Trail” isn’t really a trail, it’s just “one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!

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Back in 2016, my brother, nephew and I hiked the Chilkoot Trail.  People call it “the meanest 33 miles in history,” and I found out why – the hard way.  After that adventure, my nephew – just out of the Army – headed back east to start the fall term at Penn State.  My brother and I went on to take two canoes “up” the Yukon River – paddling 440 miles in 12 days.

Once back home I posted “Naked lady on the Yukon,” on August 28, 2016.  (The events of that trip were still fresh in my mind, for one reason or another.)  I later posted Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1 and Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2, on September 7, 2016.

I guess I’ll have to revisit “Naked lady” in more depth later on. (Deep sigh.)  But for now it’s enough  to say:

I just got back from two weeks canoeing the Yukon River…  And the “mighty Yukon” is the last place on earth I would expect to see a [naked] lady sun bathing.  But one moment, out of nowhere, there she was…

You can see the full story in the 8/28/16 post.  But for the metaphorical lead picture above left, you’ll have to imagine no sand.  “(And no ‘Bikini Bottom,’ for that matter.)”

Which brings us back to the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

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The “Chilkoot” starts in Dyea, Alaska.  And Dyea is pronounced “DIe-eeee,” maybe prophetically.  (Like, “that’s what you feel like doing once you get on the &$%# Trail!”)  It ends in Bennett, British Columbia.  That’s where you end up waiting, a long afternoon, with other hikers who’ve shared your ordeal. (Of four days or more.)  There’s only one train, at 3:15 in the afternoon, so all the footsore hikers get a chance to sit on something besides rocks, and pitch their tents to dry out.

Which brings up the fact that the number of hikers is strictly limited; you have to get a special permit to even start.  And they keep track of who gets where and when.

Like on the second afternoon – on the way to “Happy Camp,” seen in part at right.  That late afternoon I was “dragging tail” and the light started fading, so a nice lady ranger came out to help me, along with a nice husky young gent who carried my pack the rest of the way.*

That’s when I experienced the phantom pack phenomenon.  It’s not unlike the “phantom limb” sensation, but leaves you weaving and rolling like a drunken sailor.

That was one time I got to “if I could have cried I would.”  (Hey, I’m secure in my masculinity.)  

Another thing:  The nice lady ranger felt so bad for me she let us three stay in her private facility – the one above right – which meant we didn’t have to pitch our tents in the dark.  (She also gave us juice boxes, like “heaven on earth.”  I could have sworn they were raisin juice, but my older brother later said raisins are just dried-up grapes. It may have been the delirium, or the relief…)

Another excuse?  “Hiking the Chilkoot Trail is sheer torture for someone – like me – with only one good eye and and thus no depth perception.”  (For more detail see the February 2017 post, On that nail in my right eye.)  So my word of advice:  If you have only one good eye and no depth perception, take it slow and easy, and be ready to let the other hikers pass you by.

More good advice:  Anyone hiking the trail is advised that if they have to get airlifted out – like for a twisted ankle or such – the cost will be a cool $28,000.00.  Which brings up another point rangers make in the process of getting your permit to hike the trail:  Watch out for the bears!

A historical note:  The Chilkoot’s claim to fame started with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–99.  That “transformed the Chilkoot Trail into a mainstream transportation route to Canada’s interior.”  Also, the only other route to the gold fields was through White Pass.  (Up to 1899, when a railroad was built from Skagway to the Yukon.)   So which route was better?  Pioneer Mont Hawthorne said there wasn’t much difference:  “One’s hell.  The other’s damnation.”

13 Dead Horse GulchAnother side note:  White Pass was also called “Dead Horse Trail,” apparently renamed by Jack London:  “Nearly 3,000 pack animals died.  Drivers rushing over the pass had little concern for beasts.  Exhausted horses starved, were hurt on rough ground, became mired in mud and fell over cliffs.”

Which also gives you a feel for “hiking the Chilkoot.”

Which in turn brings up the question:  Why the hell would you do such a thing?

One answer can be seen in a post from my companion blog, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  It spoke in part of the “value of such pilgrimages in general.”  For example:

We were speaking of pilgrimages.  More to the point, of why an otherwise-relatively-sane 65-year-old [at the time] would either hike the Chilkoot Trail or spend 12 days canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River.  That of course brings up St. James the Greater

And James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  On that note, the post cited the book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today. (James Roose-Evans.)  It said a pilgrimage – like a 12-day canoe trip on the Yukon or a “hike” on the Chilkoot &$%# Trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move.”

Further, the book said that through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.  (And that’s especially true when the “majesty and permanence” of God’s creation included “all those &$%# rocks!”)

Finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage – such ritual on the move – can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.  (Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too…)  But as I said in I pity the fool, “I pity the fool who doesn’t do pilgrimages and otherwise push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”

Besides, my Chilkoot Trail experience made the Happy Camp “raisin juice” taste great!!!

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To repeat, the Chilkoot Trail is just “one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!

(And this is one of the smooth parts…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.  From a post, “What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 6,” posted on , “b.”  A highlight:

We endured miserable weather throughout the day – cold, rainy and very windy…  At times, especially hiking up to and down from the summit I was quite frightened as I was afraid we would either be blown off the mountain or slip careening down the mountain.

I knew the feeling…  Also, this review-post borrowed liberally from On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1 and Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.  

Re:  “Up” the Yukon River.  Like the Nile River, the Yukon flows north, which makes it unusual.

Re:  “Husky young gent who carried my pack the rest of the way.”  My brother and just-out-of-the-Army nephew also took turns carrying my pack part of the way to “Happy Camp.”  

Re:  “But as I said in I pity the fool…”  There followed a loose translation of Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s saying, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

Re:  The book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today.  The book also noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

Re:  The negative tone of this post.  My brother thought my post “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited was also too negative; too “complaining” in general.  So I posted “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  

Some people reading “Hola! Buen Camino” might think I had a lousy time in my five weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  For example, there was my comment on the first 10 days – after starting in Pamplona – being “pretty miserable.  My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough…”  But there were lots of good things that happened during those 30 days on the Camino…

But “fun stuff doesn’t make for good drama.”  See What Elements Make for [Good Drama]?

If your drama doesn’t have a juicy, complex, emotional, heart-wrenching, personal, intelligent, connectable role for an actor – it’s dead in the water.  And as a side note, don’t be afraid to inject some comedy into your dramatic scenes.  Except for Schindler’s List, every single drama listed above has more than one moment of levity.  However, there is one thing that every good drama needs no matter what the story is.  It’s more than a trend – it’s the mandatory ingredient – CONFLICT.  Drama is based on conflict.  And not just any conflict, but one that is powerful, relatable, and complex enough to propel a story forward… 

And BTW:  That hike on the Camino de Santiago in Spain took place in the fall of 2017.

The lower image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site – Parks Canada:  “The Chilkoot Trail is a 53 kilometre / 33 mile trip through history and one of North America’s most fabled treks. The trail crosses the international boundary between the United States and Canada and is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the US National Park Service.”

A review of Ric Burns’ “Pilgrims” DVD…

“The actor Roger Rees renders [William] Bradford beautifully,” in Ric Burns’  “The Pilgrims…”

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Just for a change of pace, I offer this review of a DVD I just finished watching:  American Experience: The Pilgrims, a documentary film by Ric Burns.  (Available at Amazon.com.) 

I must say that – overall – I found the tone pretty depressing.  I wrote before – in Thanksgiving 2015 for example – that of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in November 1620 at Plymouth Rock, less than half survived the first year.  (To November 1621.)  And of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.”   (Illustrated at left.)

I just hadn’t appreciated the extent of that loss on an emotional level.  Another way of saying that – just as at Jamestown, started in 1607 – there was a whole lot of human suffering:

The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering…  November was too late to plant crops.  Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter.  Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived.  Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.

In Thanksgiving – 2016, I wrote that the “men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.”  But the Ric Burns film brought that suffering home in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.

And by the way, the full caption for the picture at the top of the page reads, “The actor Roger Rees renders Bradford beautifully;  it was among his last performances before his death in July,” 2015.  Which could be both prescient and ironic.  That is, while Rees died at 71 – when life expectancy today is about 78 – William Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that.

There’s more about that at the end of this post…

But what I found most fascinating was how Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, proved the truth of the old adage, “Everything perishes, save the written word.*”  For starters, here’s what Wikipedia said about Plymouth Colony in general:

Despite the colony’s relatively short existence, Plymouth holds a special role in American history…  The events surrounding the founding and history of Plymouth Colony have had a lasting effect on the art, traditions, mythology, and politics of the United States of America, despite its short history of fewer than 72 years.

And what gave “Plymouth” such a special place in American history was Bradford’s journal,  Of Plymouth Plantation. (Which proves again, “Everything perishes, save the written word.”) And which brings up another thing that I hadn’t realized:  That the book was almost lost to history.

That is, the original manuscript was left in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston during the American Revolution.  But after British troops occupied Boston, it disappeared “for the next century.”  The missing manuscript was finally re-discovered, “in the Bishop of London‘s library at Fulham Palace,” and printed again in 1856.  It was only after much finagling – including a verdict ultimately rendered by the Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London – that the manuscript was brought back to the U.S. and given to Massachusetts in 1897.

That’s a point noted by the New York Times’ In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking(Including the one about the Plymouth “Signing of the Mayflower Compact,” at left.)

Mr. Burns’s most inspired touch is to end not in the 1600s, but two centuries later, by following what happened to Bradford’s journal.  It disappeared during the Revolutionary War, then was rediscovered in the mid-1800s…  The Mayflower passengers suffered terrible hardships, and from the Indians’ point of view their arrival was ultimately a dark day.  But not on Thanksgiving.  “There’s been a tremendous amount of memory produced around the Pilgrims, but there’s also been a lot of forgetting,” the literary critic Kathleen Donegan notes, adding later: “We don’t think about the loss.  We think about the abundance.”

Or consider this, from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving.  “The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day.  ‘It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,’ Bradford wrote.”

But the Pilgrims were “inventive enough” to conceal their losses from the Indians:  “inventive enough, as Donegan notes, to prop up sick men against trees outside the settlement, with muskets beside them, as decoys to look like sentinels to the Indians.”

The point is this:  Our “Forefathers” – and Foremothers as well – suffered greatly to come to America, and usually much more than we appreciate.  More than that, from the beginning they were “aliens in a strange land.”  Which brings up Deuteronomy 10:19, where God said to the Children of Israel:  “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”  And that’s a point worth remembering these days…

But let’s close with a note of hope and cheer, at least for me.  That is, rumor has it that William Bradford was one of my long-ago ancestors.  If that’s true, I hope I inherited his longevity gene.

That earlier “Bradford” lived to a ripe old age of 67.  That was at a time when life expectancy for that time and place was about half that long.  See for example, life expectancy in American in the years 1750-1800.  That is, the life expectancy a century after Bradford’s time – he died in 1657 – was 36 years.  So if that “1.86 factor” applied to me today – with a  male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141.  (Giving me another 74 years.) 

And who knows, I might end my years with the old-age benefits of King David:

King David was old and advanced in years;  and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.  So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant;  let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’  So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.  The girl was very beautiful.  She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her…

(In the biblical sense.)   On the other hand, King David didn’t have all the “better living through chemistry” advantages we have today.  And that will no doubt increase by, say, 2080?

Something to look forward to…

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The upper image is courtesy of Review (NYT): In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking.

Re:  “Everything perishes save the written word.”  The quote is from Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian.  Surmelian cited Plato as saying the poet – including but not limited to the writer of fiction, and maybe of such essays as these – creates “not by science or technique, not by any conscious artistry, but by inspiration or influence of some non-rational, supernatural influence.”  Which could apply to the writers of the Bible, which Surmelian implied by saying a true writer “is the medium of some higher spirit that gets into him.  He is literally inspired.”

But – Surmelian continued – the writer needs more than mere inspiration, by and through “what mysterious power dwells within him.”  (The “madness” in the book title.)  He needs “measure:”

Through measure a story is given the structure and style that snatch it from the chaos of reality and fix it in the memory of man.  We remember through measure.  We move from the unrealized to the realized through measure.  Through measure writing resists the ravages of time.  Everything perishes save the written word, says an old eastern proverb.

From the 1969 Anchor Books paperback edition, at pages 242-44, emphasis added.

The image to the right of the paragraph ending, “Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that,” shows the “Coat of Arms of William Bradford.”

Also from (New York Times) Review: In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking:

The Pilgrims and their fellow travelers weren’t terrorists, of course (despite an instance of putting the severed head of a perceived enemy on a pole), but they and those who followed certainly did effect a cultural conquest.  Some versions of their story play that down, partly because a plague resulting from earlier contact with Westerners brought widespread death to coastal Indians in the Northeast just before the Mayflower arrived. God, it seemed to some, killed off the Indians to make way for the whites, a view this program corrects.

 Here’s more from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving:

It draws on the unique, nearly lost history, Of Plymouth Plantation, written by William Bradford, the new colony’s governor for more than 30 years, whom the late actor Roger Rees portrays from a script derived from Bradford’s book.

Right from the start, the death rate was awful. Mortality had been enormous at the Jamestown colony, where by 1620 nearly 8,000 people had arrived, although the settlement was struggling to keep its population above a thousand. Bradford’s history recalled the Pilgrims’ anticipation of “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Ferrying in supplies from the ship meant wading through ice-cold water, at one point with sleet glazing their bodies with ice. The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day. “It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,” Bradford wrote…

See also PBS Documentary “The Pilgrims”: A Review.

The lower image is courtesy of King David Abishag – Image Results.  The painting may actually show Bathsheba, see Moritz Stifter Bathsheba – Image Results, and/or Bathsheba Painting – Image Results.  The “Abishag” connection was gleaned from “Interesting Green: Reflection – King David and Abishag,” from veryfatoldmanblogspot.com.  But see also Is Veryfatoldman.blogspot legit and safe?  (Review).