Author Archives: bbj1969per@aol.com

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

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

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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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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

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

sending ” those damn media types into a tizzy”

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

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

Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark

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

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

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

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

Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip…

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

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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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glad to help out! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some “remembrances” on better times…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Re:  The IsraeliteHarry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Thus the “Carolina Israelite.” I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia. 

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

For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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

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

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

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

In the meantime…

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

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

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

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

Which led me to do a little research…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he may have a point…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The photo to the left of the paragraph “Hornberger posted Trump and His Standing Army” is courtesy of Russian Little Green Men – Image Results

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Re:  The Israelite. Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Thus the “Carolina Israelite.” I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia. 

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

For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time last year – in Jerusalem!

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

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

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

In the meantime:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

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

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

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

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Image may contain: 1 person, standing, outdoor and indoorRe:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in the Atlanta metro area.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

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

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

On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down…

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

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

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

In the meantime:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And speaking of cooperation, he added that Americans taming the frontier learned to “adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) By such means as mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals, they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of Europe] was full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I chose this image because to me it seems most similar to what I might have looked like, had I gone through Voltaire’s particular trials and tribulations. (Instead of just my own.)

Re:  The full quote reads as follows:

Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential historians of the American West, argued that the distinctive elements of the American character came from the encounter of settlers with the frontier. Domesticating the frontier, Turner wrote in an 1893 essay, forced Americans to live by their wits, to cooperate, to revert temporarily to earlier stages of civilization, and to embody a more wholehearted democracy than anything on offer in the Old World.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

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

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

 

Thank God Jesus wasn’t conservative…

Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png

If Jesus had been conservative we might all be Muslim (i.e. and e.g.,no Battle of Poitiers“)…

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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:

What with the Coronavirus pandemic and the demands of working three days a week, it’s been tough to do posts on a consistent, timely basis. (See How Often Should You Blog in 2020?) But not for lack of topics or ideas. It’s because I blog mainly to learn, and for my own satisfaction. That means I “take enough time to do the job right,” not be consistent.

And I last posted here back on April 17, almost two weeks ago. So on this last day of April, 2020, I’m juggling four or five possible blog posts. Like “Memories of Lori,” based on listening today to  the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. (A movie that I saw back in 1980 with a lovely young copy editor at the St. Pete Times.)

Or a post on possible answers for really stupid Facebook posts. (Like my earlier Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook.) So for this quick-response post I’ll go back to some thoughts I revisited five months ago, that have been percolating a good long while.

The topic is a favorite theme of mine – or Meme – that goes, “If so-and-so had been conservative, we’d all be ____!” And by the way, I take issue with today’s conservatives only because a reporter’s job – and by extension a blogger’s – is “challenge the prevailing quacks.”

And today’s conservatives are definitely the “prevailing quacks.”

For one example, “If the Founding Fathers had been conservative, we’d all be singing ‘God save the Queen’ at the start of our baseball games.” (If we weren’t playing cricket instead.) The idea – and the irony if not the incongruity – is that today’s conservatives act like they’re the only real Americans. The problem is that our forefathers came to this country mostly to get the hell away from conservatives – the ones who tended to stay back home.

In plain words, those old-time conservatives didn’t have the guts to put up with the challenges of creating a New World. It was the Independents and Dreamers who did all that.

Then there’s this, “If Jesus had been conservative, we’d all be talking Yiddish.” (“Oy vey,” to which might be added the Seinfeld meme, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

Or in the case of this post’s headline – “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative” – the Punch line thereof would be:  “Otherwise we Americans might all be Muslim.” 

But don’t take my word for it. Kenneth Clark said that in his 1969 book Civilisation: “Without Charles Martel‘s victory over the Moors at Poitiers in 732, western civilization might never have existed…”  And by western civilization he meant western Christian civilization.

Which again means that if Jesus had been conservative – as many ostensible Christians claim today – there would have been no viable force to stop the “Islamic advance into Western Europe.”

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There’s a bit of background in the notes about how I happened on to Clark’s observation…

But – to cut to the chase – here’s the connection between Charles Martel and Jesus not being conservative. The idea is that if Jesus had been conservative, He wouldn’t have started the New Religion – the “New Testament” – that eventually bore His name. And Judaism would likely have stayed a relatively small religious movement. (Without the proselytizing that is such a trademark of Christianity, it would have been confined to the fringes of the eastern Mediterranean.)

In plain words, there would be nothing to stop Islam from taking over Western Europe.

At page 17 in his first chapter, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Clark noted how close Western civilization came to be snuffed out. That is, with Fall of the Roman Empire, life in what we call the Middle (or “Dark“) Ages was generally nasty, brutish and short.

For one example, during those 500 years or so it was rare person indeed who could read or write. (“[P]ractically no lay person, from kings and emperors downwards, could read or write.”) And as Clark noted, it was only in the Church that reading and writing were preserved. “We survived because … for centuries practically all men of intellect joined the Church.” And it was Church scribes who preserved not only reading and writing, but also the classics of antiquity. “In so far as we are heirs of Greece and Rome, we got through by the skin of our teeth.”

Which is one reason to thank God that Jesus wasn’t conservative.

Another reason is that if Jesus had been conservative – and Judaism stayed a small religion without Christian proselytizing – there would be no Charles Martel, the French warrior-king (and “Hammer“) who saved Christian Europe. As historian Edward Gibbon noted:

[H]ad Charles fallen, the [Muslim armies] would have easily conquered a divided Europe… [T]he Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

See Battle of Tours – Wikipedia. But that didn’t happen. Instead – and again cut to the chase – after many long centuries of struggle, mayhem and death, we now have a clearly-defined separation of church and state. Which started (arguably) with Charles Martel, an effective combination of ardent Christian, powerful military leader, and Independent.

Although Charles Martel ( d. 741)  is one of the most noted heroes in Christianity when studying one of the many violent encounters between Christian and Muslim forces, Charles “The Hammer” Martel was no marionette of the Church. He was quite an independent and practical thinker as a military leader and as a politician.

To which we could add, “Martel was an Independent, just like Moses and Jesus!” (And like me, for that matter. See A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).”) 

Which is another way of saying that after Martel’s victory at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers) neither the Church nor the governments of Europe gained complete control. The result was a “dynamic tension” between the two forces, which turned out to be a blessing.

That is, Charles Martel “begat” Charlemagne – actually his grandson – who has been called “the father of Europe.” (He “united parts of Europe that had never been under Frankish or Roman rule.”) Which again wouldn’t have happened without Martel’s victory at Tours.

The point is that in the fullness of time, Charlemagne traveled to Rome, where the Pope crowned him “emperor.” (At a Mass on Christmas Day, 800, “when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum (‘Emperor of the Romans’) in Saint Peter’s Basilica.”) Charlemagne later thought that episode was a mistake, in that it gave the pope a pretext of “supremacy” over him. (And future secular rulers.) Which led Clark to note:

But historical judgments are very tricky.  Maybe the tension between the spiritual and worldly powers throughout the Middle Ages was precisely what kept European civilisation alive. If either had achieved absolute power, society might have grown as static as the civilisations of Egypt and Byzantium.

(Clark, 20) And that – clearly – would have been the situation if Jesus had been either conservative or liberal. Instead, He and God seem to have worked together to maintain the Dynamic Tension that exists “even to this day,” between spiritual and worldly powers here in America. And why Jesus and God made sure that the foundations of American democracy included Freedom or religion and the separation of powers.

The result is that – whatever you might say about American democracy today – it is definitely not “static.” In short, if Jesus had been conservative, we here in America might have to see all our women togged out in those silly burqas, or otherwise covering themselves up…

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The upper image is courtesy of Umayyad invasion of Gaul – Wikipedia, rephrased in the main text as “Islamic advance into Western Europe.” The main point: “The Umayyad invasion of Gaul occurred in two phases in 720 and 732. Although the Muslim Umayyads secured control of Septimania, their incursions beyond this into the Loire and Rhône valleys failed. By 759 they had lost Septimania to the Christian Franks.” The caption for the painting: “The Battle of Tours” – also called the Battle of Poitiers – “in 732, depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours. Painting (1837) by Charles de Steuben.” See also the link Reconquista:

The Reconquista (Portuguese and Spanish for “reconquest”) was the period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.

The photo to the left of the paragraph beginning “But don’t take my word for it” is courtesy of Kenneth Clark Civilisation – Image ResultsThe quotations from Clark are from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), pages 18 and 20. And for an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

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

As to “Christian civilization,” see How Sir Kenneth Clark Defended Christian Civilization on PBS.

And here’s some background on how I happened on Clark’s observations. I used to exercise seven hours a week. Over two of those hours included stair-stepping. (With a 28-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.) And those two or more hours of stair-stepping were exceedingly boring. So to pass the time – and aside from listening to music on my iPod Shuffle – I watch VHS tapes, hooked up to a flat-screen TV. And my VHS collection includes a Box Set of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). And some time ago – while stair-stepping an hour or so – I heard again Clark’s saying that Charles Martel saved western Christian civilization.  (It was like a “sign from God…”) A side-note: I now exercise some eight hours a week, but have cut down on the “weighted” stair-stepping.    

For more on the topic of Jesus-as-not-conservative, see The Story of the Law: Rene A. Wormser, 1962 paperback edition,  by Rene A. Wormser, at page 32. Briefly, Wormser used 29 pages to describe Moses’ role as “law-giver,” but only two to cover Jesus. Mostly, he wrote, because Jesus simply “preached what Jewish liberals had taught.” That is,”Jewish liberal thought had already produced the fine flowering of ethics which we now know best from Jesus’ lips.” For more on Wormser himself, see RENE A WORMSER, 85, LAWYER –  (Obituary) The New York Times.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – 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.

“Spanish flu” – Politically incorrect?

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston

A sign of things to come, or déjà vu? “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu…”

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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 in mid-March (a month ago), we had a politically incorrect dust-up over the term “Chinese coronavirus.” See Tucker Carlson (at right): Racist for saying “Chinese coronavirus?”  (Another note: Coronavirus spreads anti-Chinese racism, xenophobia concerns.)

But aside from raising the twin concerns of spreading baseless “Conspiracy Theories” – and Scapegoating – the hubbub brings to mind another arguably “racist” disease: the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Two points. First, it was only called “Spanish flu” because Spain was the only major country that didn’t lie to its own people. That is, Spain didn’t censor bad news about the disease. Every other major country kept its citizens in the dark, lest their people panic.  (And maybe buy out all the store-stocked toilet paper?)  In plain words, they lied to their citizens and voters.

The other point? This one either puts things in perspective or gives us a preview of whatever bad news may be yet to come. For starters, as of April 15, 2020, there were some two million cases of Covid-19 worldwide. Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 cases top 2 million worldwide. To give us some perspective, the 1918 Spanish flu infected some 500 million people worldwide, making it “one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”

As for deaths, to date some 28,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.  The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.*  Worldwide there have been some 134,000 Covid-19 deaths. (Coronavirus Update (Live).)  Spanish-flu deaths worldwide? No one knows for sure, but at least 17 million:

Lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.  The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million…

(See Wikipedia.  And as “noted” below,* if the present Covid-19 pandemic were to have a similar impact – in terms of population percentage – we’d have some 2,025,000 American deaths.)

Also – incidentally – the Spanish flu didn’t start in Spain. (No conspiracy theories please.) It got the name “Spanish flu” only because Spain was neutral in World War I. (Which was slowly coming to an end at about the same time.) That meant Spain didn’t censor the bad news about the disease. The nations actually fighting in World War I imposed strict censorship:

To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit.  This gave rise to the name Spanish flu.

Another note: “The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.” (Speaking of déjà vu.)

And also speaking of deja vu, see the web article, America relearning the lessons of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  One big lesson?  Social distancing works, “but only when it’s imposed early. And it has to be sustained.” See US may have to endure social distancing until 2022 if no vaccine is quickly found. But the Number One lesson from the 1918 Spanish flu?  (According to the Fox News article.)  “Number one, give people the straight facts.”

And let the toilet-paper shortage fall where it may.

But there is one silver lining to this “Corona-cloud overhanging us.” Covid-19 has cut down on the number of mass shootings in the U.S. See  March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, and Coronavirus Stopped US School Shooting In March.

Just compare the image below with the same one from a year ago, in May 2019…

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The upper image is courtesy of Spanish flu – Wikipedia. The caption: “Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston.”

The Carlson image is courtesy of Tucker Carlson – Wikipedia. Caption: “Immigrants’ Rights Rally in Washington Mall, 2006.” And BTW: Why not call it the “Trump Coronavirus?”

Another note, re: Carlson’s disease-name. See, Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – Wikipedia:

Nearly a century after the Spanish flu struck in 1918–1920, health organizations moved away from naming epidemics after geographical places. More modern terms for this virus include the “1918 influenza pandemic,” the “1918 flu pandemic,” or variations of those.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “As for deaths” is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. Caption: “Public venues like this playground in Hannover, Germany, have closed throughout the country.”

Re: “The 1918 Spanish flu killed some 675,000 Americans.”  The U.S. population in 1920 – the nearest census to 1918 – was set at a bit over 106 million. 1920 United States Census – WikipediaThe U.S. population in 2020 is estimated at a bit over 329 million. Population of USA in 2020The world population as of 1927 was estimated at some two billion. World Population by Year – WorldometerThe world population is expected to be 7.8 billion by 2023. World Population Clock: 7.8 Billion People (2020). Thus there was a three-fold increase in American population between 1920 and 2020, and a “3.9-fold” increase in world population in the same century. Thus for the present Covid-19 to have a similar impact – in terms of percentage of population – the numbers would be as follows: some two million, twenty-five thousand (2,025,000) American deaths; as for the worldwide rate of infection, that 500-million-people total would reach one billion, nine hundred fifty million (1,950,000,000) people. (As noted, roughly a “quarter of the world’s population at the time.”) 

Also re: Number of Spanish flu deaths in the United States, see Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths (New York Times).

Incidents in 2019The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings in 2020 | Gun Violence Archive. As noted, compare that with the “incidents in 2019” lead image for “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, shown at right.

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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 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte 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 him special was his positive outlook on life.  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.

Meditations on “the new plague…”

a close up of a book: During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease. Their iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

“Their headgear was particularly unusual” – and the plague-rod helped “fend off victims…”

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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:

Roseduration.jpgLast March 12, I went to the local library and checked out a copy of The Plague by Albert Camus. (In light our new Coronavirus pandemic.)  Which book, incidentally, I cannot now return, because that library and all others in the area are closed. (Possibly “for the duration.”)

At the same time I checked out a copy of What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills, for a bit more uplifting reading. And I also started researching more on this “plague” business.

One thing I learned was that the Coronavirus is not – strictly speaking – a “plague.” According to Wikipedia that term is restricted to the “infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.” (Symptoms generally include fever, weakness and headache, similar to the Coronavirus.)

The most familiar form is bubonic plague, one of three types of this plague:

Bubonic and septicemic plague are generally spread by flea bites or handling an infected animal. The pneumonitic form is generally spread between people through the air via infectious droplets. Diagnosis is typically by finding the bacterium in fluid from a lymph node, blood or sputum.

La Peste book cover.jpgThe good news: There is now both vaccine and valid treatment for the plague of in Camus’ novel, at left. (Like “antibiotics and supportive care.” With which the risk of death through treatment is “about 10% while without it is about 70%.”) Not so with Coronavirus.

Not yet anyway… (And “La Peste” is French for “The Plague.”)

I also learned the difference between epidemic and a pandemic.

The web article Difference between epidemic and a pandemic went into great detail on distinctions between the terms, a distinction “often blurred, even among epidemiologists:”

  • Epidemic refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected.
  • Outbreak carries the same definition as an epidemic but is often used to describe a more limited geographic event.
  • Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

The article also noted the term “plague” refers “specifically to a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, such as bubonic plague.”

But we seem to be splitting hairs here. I didn’t check out Camus’ book because it was exactly on point with the current situation. I wanted to see what similarities there might be between the 1940s Algeria described by Camus, and America today, in March 2020.

Written in 1947, The Plague describes a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” As noted in one recent review, the novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of the plague. The novel thus poses a number of questions on “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

For myself, in some ways my life is more relaxed with this new “plague on a community.”

With none of my sport-teams playing, there’s no “canary in a coal mine” aspect to my spiritual life now. I have no pressing need for the ongoing ritual purity and ritual sacrifice that have been such a big part of my life since 1989 or so. (See “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth – illustrated at right – and On my “mission from God,” from a companion blog.) 

What remains is a series of annoying but petty minor inconveniences…

The biggest example? No more dine-in lunches, or dinners, or stopping by a local bar for a beer or two before Wednesday-night choir practice. And no more choir practice, or church on Sunday either for that matter. And pretty much every morning I used to stop by a local McDonald’s for iced coffee. I liked to sip a bit out, then put in lots more ice. (From the ice machine in the dine-in area. Remember those?)

There’s no more of that, but I’ve adapted. I now bring cup-and-straw from the day before (“saving the world, one McDonald’s straw at a time”), and fill it with ice from my home-freezer.  As for dine-in, every three days a week at work now – at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful,” still open as of this writing – I take my to-go order to the parish hall of my church, around the corner. (I’m the vestry person in charge of buildings, so I have a key.) There in the peace and quiet of the parish hall, I eat my lunch and read my hand-me-down Time magazines.

All of which is, I suppose, a metaphor of sorts…

But then again, even before this “new plague” hit I was pretty much a hermit, living in a rambling four-bedroom house on an isolated acre of woodland. (It’s so isolated that I don’t have any curtains or venetian blinds on any windows. Who the heck is going to look in?)

But back to The Plague by Camus. Here’s a quote from Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.*

Which certainly seems true of this latest pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise.

I’ll no doubt be writing more meditations on this “new plague,” but for now the Faithful Reader is probably wondering, “What the heck is that beaked get-up at the top of the page?”

For a summary answer see Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks:

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

So much for that question. It’s a good thing we don’t believe in those silly superstitions anymore. And it’s a good thing history doesn’t repeat itself. And that we can learn so much from the lessons of the past, but we’re digressing again. So, going back to that review “The Plague” I cited above, here’s one thing the reviewer said, that seems to be relevant:

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

One lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. That is, the present “Coronavirus” might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.”

Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks. (National Geographic.) The article described the protective gear worn by “plague doctors:”

The costume [including the “beaked mask] is usually credited to Charles de Lorme, a physician… He described an outfit that included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather.

Re: “For the duration.” The image is courtesy of For the Duration – Wikipedia, about the 1991 album by Rosemary Clooney, “of songs popular during World War II.” 

Re: “Local branch of Keep America Beautiful.” See On “Mad Men” – Revisited, and a prior post cited therein, Whatever happened to … Cassidy?

Re: Why … those strange beaked masks (National Geographic). Here’s the full quote: 

In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… [The outfit] included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather. Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims.

Their headgear was particularly unusual: Plague doctors wore spectacles, de Lorme continued, and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak.”

During the 17th-century European plague, physicians wore beaked masks, leather gloves, and long coats in an attempt to fend off the disease. Their iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

The “pestilence” quote is from The Plague, Part 1, Vintage International paperback, 1991, originally published 1947, at pages 36-37. See also “Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “So much for that question” is courtesy of Coronavirus Mask – Image Results. The image is accompanied by an article, “Solutions people came up with to try to protect themselves.” 

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. See also Plague Camus – Image Results, including the article accompanying the “american illiterati” image.

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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 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte 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 him special was his positive outlook on life.  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 “Mad Men” – Revisited…

A revamped ad agency – “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce” – at the end of Mad Men‘s Season 3…

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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:

Mad-men-title-card.jpgI don’t have cable TV. What I do have is a flat-screen TV and DVD player. And I’m cheap, so most DVDs I view come from the local library. So starting last summer I got hooked on Mad Men, the TV drama “about one of New York’s most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s…”

The series originally ran from 2007 to 2015. It lasted for seven seasons and 92 episodes. The time frame in the series ran from March 1960 to November 1970. Which means it brings back a lot of memories, although I was still in elementary school when that time-frame began.

The early episodes were usually quirky, sometimes funny and sometimes unsettling. Most characters “smoke like chimneys,” and the advertising executives can’t seem to go an hour without visiting each other’s office and offering each other a drink. (“They’re always getting sloshed.”) In another example, one early episode showed Don Draper’s first wife – Betty – visiting a psychiatrist. But later that night the doctor calls Don and goes over the session, nearly word for word, and closes by saying Betty is a “clearly disturbed young woman.”

The Partridge Family David Cassidy 1972.jpgIn another early episode the Drapers go on a picnic. At the end Don finishes his beer and tosses the can off into the distance. And Betty takes the family blanket and nonchalantly shakes it out, leaving the pristine sight now trashed by the family’s garbage. (Did I mention that while emi-retired, I work part-time at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. See Whatever happened to … Cassidy?)

That little vignette really “got me riled.” (So to speak.)

But the series did get me wondering. I’m 68 now, and a few years back I got hooked on the idea of a “do-over,” going back to high school – for example – and starting over, but armed with all the knowledge I now have about all that’s happened since I graduated. That would be nice I suppose, but it might also have gotten me “burned at the stake.” (Or the functional equivalent of knowing way too much about what happens in the future. “Telephones without wires? Magical cards that you can buy things with? Somebody get the torches and pitchforks!”)

Or as Bonnie Prudden – at left – put it in one of her exercise books: Suppose you could go back in time, but in a way that you knew what was going to happen, but couldn’t do anything to change it? (If you had to go through all the good things and bad you experienced, including all the heartaches you went through “learning life’s lessons.”) 

Something like that happened as I started watching Mad Men’s Season 4. Through the magic of the Wiki | Fandom website, I could tell what was going to happen before it happened. But I also knew beforehand that if it was too unsettling or uncomfortable, I could fast-forward through it. (Like the “lipstick on Peggy’s teeth” incident.)

So, would it be nice if we could do that in real life? Know when something bad was going to happen, and be able to “fast forward” through it? Or maybe not. (As it says in Psalm 119:7, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your [God’s] statutes.” I.e., learn life’s lessons.)

Which – in a way – brings up the time I wrote the first draft of this post, last summer after I had gotten back from my May trip to israel. (See “Back from three weeks in Israel.”) 

I had just finished watching Episode 6, Season 1, “Babylon.”  It was about the day after Mother’s Day in 1960, at the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Don Draper,the main protagonist, and his co-workers “meet with executives from the Israeli Board of Tourism to discuss marketing strategies. Don, unsure of what strategy to use, meets Rachel Menken for lunch under the guise of asking her for input because she is Jewish.” 

The episode detailed various clandestine meetings between Don and several women – he’s quite the philanderer, through all 92 episodes – including a woman named Midge.

Don, as is his habit, starts to put the moves on Midge at her apartment, but their “bout” is interrupted when Midge’s beatnik friend – Roy – knocks at the door loudly. Awkward introductions follow, with Don sitting on Midge’s bed with his shoes off. A battle of wits follows, both at the apartment and later at the Gaslight Cafe – at right – “to watch Midge’s friend perform.”

Roy – the boyfriend – ridicules Don for the “emptiness of advertising and mass consumption.” In turn, Don ridicules Roy for his youth, “vanity and flightiness.” But their bickering is interrupted when a trio of Midge’s friends take the stage. They start singing a haunting, beautiful song. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”

And I said to myself, “That’s Psalm 137!”

As indeed it was, verified by the episode link in Mad Men – Wikipedia, which tells of the trio performing “a song about the Jews’ mourning their exile from Zion in Babylon (Psalm 137 as arranged by Philip Hayes).” But the really moving thing was how it affected Don, normally portrayed as the personification of worldly cynicism. And I knew of it because of a post in my companion blog, “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem.” (Which I posted on April 18, 2019.)

Which brings up the fact that – “through the magic of the Wiki | Fandom” – I now know what happens to Midge. (The lovely young brunette in the picture below.) She finds a new boyfriend, Perry, and he turns her into a heroin addict. She then meets Don outside his new office in “Blowing Smoke,” Episode 12 in Season 4. She is “noticeably skinnier,” and invites him back to her dilapidated apartment to meet Perry, “her husband.” When Midge leaves the room Perry subtly hints that Midge will do “anything” if Don buys one of her paintings. (Saying “the two of them are ‘not possessive’ of one another.”) Don gives Perry 10 dollars to buy groceries, but when he leaves, Midge says “Perry is just going to take the money and ‘put it into his arm.'”

in due course Don leaves the apartment after giving Midge $120 in cash for one of her paintings. (A lot of money in those days.) So maybe it pays not to know too much about the future. Anticipating the first Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston prize fight would have been fun; I could have made a lot of money betting on it. (Except I was only in 7th grade.) But then too I would have known about the Kennedy Assassination coming up – which I lived through again, watching Mad men – and been powerless to stop it. (Except for maybe getting locked up.)

Or knowing the lovely “Midge” pictured below would turn into a heroin addict…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mad Men – Image Results.

Re: “Season 4.” The full link-cite is Season 4 | Mad Men Wiki | Fandom

The lower image is courtesy of Mad Men Babylon – 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 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte 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 him special was his positive outlook on life.  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.