Category Archives: Nostalgia reviews

Revisiting March 2020…

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

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

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

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

In the meantime:

I’m working on a new E-book. The tentative title is “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” One chapter will be “On the music of my life,” and how important it’s been to me. (Like making more enjoyable those long Camino hikes – illustrated at left – or endless hours of canoe-paddling, say on the “Rideau Canal Adventure?”) But that project is turning out to be more complicated than I thought. And it’s been awhile since I last posted. (March 20, and this is April 4, Easter Sunday.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose the jury is still out on that question…

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

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

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“Their headgear was particularly unusual…” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Summer of ’96 – Birth of conspiracy theories?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They certainly get more media coverage.

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

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

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

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

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

But getting back to the Summer of 1996…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mysterious Death of Ashley Wilkes – Revisited

“Yes, Ashley was quite the Ladies’ man – and not just with his ‘cousin’ Melanie Hamilton…” 

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over… (Referring back to my last post, from December 7.)

It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially of this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning, in 2021.

But first – here’s a look back at “The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.” I posted that back on September 1, 2015. I followed that up with Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes,” announcing that I’d just published an E-book, a collection of posts from this blog. The title came from my post earlier in 2015, and it was subtitled:  “And other tales from the ‘Georgia Wasp.’”

More recently, this past November I published a newer E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(Subtitled “Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) I published that one under a nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” However, I’d published the Wilkes book under “T.D. Scribe.”

Which still sounds strange, even as a pen name, so for reasons including consistency, I just re-published Ashley Wilkes under “James B. Ford.” (Available at Amazon Kindle Books.)

So here’s a look back at that mysterious death, “re-visited.” You can read the whole story in the original post. But since it clocked in at over 3,000 words, here are the highlights. First of all, “Wilkes” – Leslie Howard – was both a hit with the ladies of the time and a suspected British spy. At least the Germans seemed to think so, which is arguably why they shot down BOAC Flight 777, with Howard as a passenger. (From Lisbon to London, “on or about‘ June 1, 1943.”)

One theory for the shoot-down was that Howard was on a top-secret mission – on behalf of Winston Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers. (Germany and Italy. Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

Not to mention his affairs with Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two other leading ladies. And while he was said to be something of a ladies’ man, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either. And by the way, “Conchita” later claimed that she “used her husband’s influence” to secure a meeting between Howard and Franco’s “caudillo while Howard was in Spain on a lecture tour to promote film in May, 1943.” (Talk about broad-minded…)

Another theory had it that the Germans were really after Winston Churchill. He was flying back to London via the same or a similar route about the same time. Churchill had just spent a month in North Africa. The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy. The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal. (Often via Gibraltar.)

And during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.” (Lisbon was the destination of refugees in the movie Casablanca.) And German spies saw two men who looked like Churchill and his bodyguard at the Lisbon airport. But by a strange coincidence, Lesley Howard was said to resemble Churchill’s lone bodyguard. At the same time, Howard’s “close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls,” was said to resemble Churchill:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight. Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

Another note: His airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of his 1942 movie Spitfire. That came three years after Howard starred in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. (A poster for “Spitfire” is at left.) That 1942 movie was originally called The First of the Few in Britain. (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.) Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.”

The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s speech attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Less than nine months later after “Spitfire’s” release, Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft. The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

Meanwhile, Churchill and his plane may have been saved because of bad weather. His original plan was to change planes in Gibraltar. Instead of transferring to a more-comfortable Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper – also known as the Pan Am “Flying Boat” – he had to continue his flight to London on a bomber. That plane was the definitely uncomfortable B-24 Liberator.

So there may be a lesson there. As the old proverb goes: “Better to continue on in discomfort, rather than getting your ass shot down by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft!”

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Ashley Wilkes – Image Results. For other image sources see the original post(s) from 2015.

Some “remembrances” on better times…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you  Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. For another more-recent post, click on An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements,’ at right. (From March 20, 2021.) Meanwhile, I’ll work on fixing the problem.

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

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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.

On “Mad Men” – Revisited…

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

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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 Season 3 – 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.

Remembering the Okefenokee…

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

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

I wrote of those Okefenokee trips in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That added some spice to the trip.

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

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

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

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

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SwampWaterPoster.jpg

Poster for the 1941 film, Swamp Water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s going to be the hard part…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the Berlin Wall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The upper image is courtesy of Berlin Wall – Wikipedia.

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

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