Category Archives: Nostalgia reviews

On Nehru jackets, Madras shirts, and the magic of “spin”

The Beatles – at the height of their mid-1960’s fame – sporting their “trendy” Nehru jackets

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Over the past year I’ve accumulated a number of draft posts:  Draft posts that have remained unpublished “even to this day.”  So for this post I started with some odds and ends.

One such “scrap” had to do with Nehru jackets.  They were the “hip-length tailored coat for men or women, with a mandarin collar,” as featured by the Beatles – and others – in the early 1960s:

The jacket began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in Europe and America in the mid 1960s.  It was briefly popular there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, its popularity spurred by growing awareness of foreign cultures, by the minimalism of the Mod lifestyle and, in particular, by the Beatles and subsequently the Monkees.

Note also that the word “trendy” first came into use around 1962.  (What a great decade!) 

And here’s another BTW:  Jawaharlal Nehru – seen above right and for whom the jacket was named – “never wore a Nehru jacket.”  The point being that – while I never got to wear a Nehru jacket in the 1960s (when I was in high school) – I did get to wear a Madras shirt.

Madras shirts – and pants and jackets – also became popular in the 1960s.  The name came from the Indian city of Madras, now called Chennai.  (Located near the southern tip of India, the city is now nicknamed “The Detroit of India,” with more than one-third of India’s automobile industry.)  And the “Madras shirt” is definitely a lesson in spin doctoring.

1954 Hathaway Madras Shirt AdThe original idea was a “lightweight breathable fabric suited to a humid tropical climate.”  (Like Florida, where I used to live.)  And today’s Madras is basically a check-patterned cotton cloth, in three varieties.  The most interesting of the three is bleeding Madras.

For us the story began when a textile importer – and ultimately Brooks Brothers – loved the fabric’s low price.  But the seller never mentioned that it “required utmost care when laundering because the color would run out if it wasn’t gently washed in cold water.”

As a result, “Customers were furious when they saw the colors run that ruined their expensive summer apparel.”  Lawsuits were threatened, but ultimately a solution of “sheer marketing genius” was arranged.  An attorney for Brooks Brothers arranged a meeting with an editor from Seventeen magazine, about a new “miracle handwoven fabric from India:”

In the following issue, the editor ran a seven-page article about fabric titled “Bleeding Madras – the miracle handwoven fabric from India.”  And since pictures say more than 1,000 words, they added beautiful photographs with the caption “guaranteed to bleed.”  Within a days [sic] of the magazine hitting the newsstands, Brooks Brothers was flooded with thousands of requests for the Madras items and it became an overnight success.

And who couldn’t help but fall in love … with either the dashing “Hathaway gent” in the photo above left, or “Mad Men‘s” Pete Campbell(As shown below.)  And speaking of lessons in spin doctoring:  I just Googled “spin conor lamb” and got 16,900,000 results.

Which just goes to show:  Fashions like Madras may come and go, but spin goes on forever!

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Mad Men - Pete Campbell in Bold Sportscoat

Mad Men – Pete Campbell [center] in Bold [Madras] Sportscoat…”

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The upper image is courtesy of “https://sep.yimg.com/ay/yhst-73969762682587/beatles-45-rpm-picture-sleeve-i-ll-cry-instead-b-w-i-m-happy-just-to-dance-with-you-32.gif.”  See also File: Beatles I’ll Cry Instead.jpg (Wikipedia).  As to Nehru jackets in general, see Nehru jacket – Wikipedia, and/or The Nehru Jacket Guide — Gentleman’s Gazette.

Re: “Trendy.”  The Merriam-Webster definition included a note that the first-known use of the word came in 1962.  For other “first words” from 1962, see WORDS FROM THE SAME YEAR.

Re:  “Spin conor lamb:”  Those results included New GOP spin: Conor Lamb is a secret Republican, and Paul Ryan Is Dizzy From The Spin He’s Putting On Conor Lamb’s Victory (dailykos.com).

The lower image is courtesy of Madras Guide – How the Shirt, Pants & Jackets Became Popular (Gentleman’s Gazette).  See also Mad Men – Wikipedia, which noted the character Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) was a “young, ambitious account executive from an old New York family with connections and a privileged background.”  Further, “Campbell is often shown cheating on his wife, and is not above manipulating and blackmailing women to get them to sleep with him.” 

See also prescienceforeboding, and/or foreshadowing

On a totally unrelated note:  The original title for this of draft post was “On Nehru jackets, Madras shirts – and other odds and ends.”  As to such odds and ends, see also Dictionary.com, which noted that this term – for a “miscellany of leftovers, outsizes, scraps,” or “unmatched bits” – came to its present meaning in the mid-1700s.   Some future posts will likely feature more “odds and ends…”

Movie review: “The Post” – It wasn’t REALLY 6-3!

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and “The Post” staff get news from an old-timey (3-channel) TV…

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The Post (film).pngI just went to see The Post, the “2017 American political thriller” featuring Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee (The publisher and executive editor of the Washington Post – respectively – at the time in question.)

It brought back a lot of memories.

The film – set in June 1971 – covered the month when both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran afoul of the Nixon Administration.  Specifically, both newspapers ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, charged – essentially – with treason.  At stake – also essentially – was the future of freedom of the press in the United States(You know, that pain-in-the-ass part of the First Amendment of the Constitution?)

The Washington Post was perhaps best known for its coverage of Watergate scandal:

[From 1972 to 1974], in the best-known episode in the newspaper’s history, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led the American press’ investigation into what became known as the Watergate scandal; reporting in the newspaper greatly contributed to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

However, The Post (film) covers an earlier time:  June, 1971.

That was when first the New York Times, then the Washington Post began running a series of articles based on the Pentagon Papers (The 47-volume, 7,000-page assessment of the history of the Vietnam War.  It was ordered in 1967 by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and ultimately concluded that the war was “unwinnable.”  The papers were “turned over (without authorization) to The New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a senior research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.”) 

 The Nixon Administration charged Ellsberg with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property – i.e., the Pentagon Papers – for which he faced a possible 115 years in prison.  And the substance of The Post (film) is that “Kate” Graham herself faced criminal prosecution, not to mention personal bankruptcy and the loss of the “family paper.”  (The Post (newspaper

An aside:  The paper had been “in the family” since 1933.  That’s when Katharine’s father – Eugene Meyer – bought the paper in a bankruptcy action.  “In 1946, Meyer was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law, Philip Graham” – Katharine‘s husband – who died in 1963.  (Which itself offers some interesting drama…) 

The point being that Katharine Graham had a lot to lose…

I could write a lot about The Post as both film art and a commentary on how history tends to repeat(My original title for this “article” – to avoid a redundant “Post post” – was “Movie review: ‘The Post’ – and history repeating itself…”)  And I will do more “posts on ‘The Post'” in the future.

But for today I’ll focus on journalism and its place in American law.

All the President's Men book 1974.jpgFor one thing, I majored in journalism because of “Woodstein” and the film All the President’s Men.  For another, after graduation in 1976 I went to work for the St. Petersburg Times – now the Tampa Bay Times – for five years.  Then I  went to law school intending to become a reporter specializing in the law and legal proceedings.

Which could explain my focus for today’s review.

Near the end of the film, the staff of the Washington Post got a telephone call – on a rotary phone, no less – announcing the Supreme Court’s decision.  At stake was not only freedom of the press, but also the personal and financial future of Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee (U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell was quoted as saying, “Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.”)

The announcement?  “We won, 6-3!”  (Or words to that effect…)

My first reaction?  That the scariest part of the movie was that – back in 1971 – three Supreme Court Justices seemed to agree with the Nixon Administration.

And if that was true back then, what would happen today if the Trump Administration took a similar stand, from its own Enemies List?  Or worse, if Trump goes on to pack the Court?  But –  after further review – it turned out that Chief Justice Warren Burger – together with Justices John Harlan and Harry Blackmun – dissented only because of the “haste of the proceedings:”

[Burger] argued that in the haste of the proceedings, and given the size of the documents, the Court was unable to gather enough information to make a decision…  The Chief Justice did not argue that the Government had met the aforementioned standard, but rather that the decision should not have been made so hastily.

Which doesn’t mean the dissenters favored the government.  It only meant they thought the decision should not have been made so quickly.  (See New York Times v. United States.)

To give some perspective, the Times published its first article on June 13, 1971, while the Washington Post began publishing its own articles on June 18.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the various parties on June 25 and 26, and rendered its decision on June 30, 1971.

Which means the whole process – from the first publishing to the government’s law suit to the final decision by the Supreme Court – took less than three weeks.  But in normal certiorari proceedings, “cases take approximately 12 to 24 months from the day they are petitioned until the Supreme Court issues a decision.”

On the other hand, the average schmuck trying to fix a decision in a state court must first “exhaust all state remedies” – which can take years – and such cases are rarely granted review.

At any rate, the fact that the three dissenting justices only felt the decision was rendered too quickly made me feel a bit better, and not so panicky.

At least for now…  In the meantime, consider this from one Thomas Jefferson:

…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. 

I’ll be writing more reviews of The Post in the future.

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Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of The Post (2017) – IMDb.  Text and/or images were also gleaned from  The Post (2017) – IMDb and Pentagon Papers – Wikipedia.

RE:  “That pain-in-the-ass part of the First Amendment.”   That Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;  or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Re:  The Pentagon Papers saying the Vietnam war was “unwinnable.”  The study also indicated that presidential administrations beginning with Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower also routinely lied to the American people as to why the war was necessary in the first place.

The photo to the right of the paragraph “To give some perspective,” is captioned “The Monday, July 21, 1969, edition, with the headline ‘The Eagle Has Landed’‍ – Two Men Walk on the Moon.” 

Re:  The “normal” length of time for Supreme Court proceedings.  See How long does a US Supreme Court case take – Answers.com:  “More commonly, cases take approximately 12 to 24 months from the day they are petitioned until the Supreme Court issues a decision.”  Re:  “Average schmuck” and “exhausting state remedies.”  See SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, (courtesy of “law.cornell”), and U.S. Supreme Court: Failure to Exhaust Remedies Is an Affirmative Defense.  

And as another aside, Chief Justice Warren Burger also argued that the Times should have discussed the possible societal repercussions with the Government prior to publication of the material.

The lower image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  As to the quote, see also Jefferson’s preference for “newspapers without governmentJefferson on Politics & Government: Freedom of the Press, and/or Jefferson’s Warning to the White House | Time.com.

On George McGovern’s “KMA” buttons…

Unlike many Republicans – past and present – George McGovern actually served his country…

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It’s the Thursday after Christmas Day.  So those holidays are over, and the end of 2017 is near.  Which means it’s time to look back at 2017.  And for me especially, that means looking back at some draft blog-posts that I started this past year, but never got around to finishing.

One of the posts was on George McGovern and his famous “KMA” buttons.  But first a note:  In the 1972 presidential election, only about four people in America – including me – voted for McGovern.  Richard Nixon won in a landslide, but neither he nor Vice-president Spiro Agnew served out their terms of office.  (Agnew resigned in less than a year over allegations he took bribes as Governor of Maryland.  Nixon resigned over the Watergate Scandal in August 1974, illustrated above right.) 

Which means that my vote for McGovern in 1972 is one of the proudest moments of my life.

In case you’ve forgotten, that election in 1972 was famous for Republican dirty tricks.  (Including but not limited to the infamous “Canuck letter” that led to Ed Muskie’s tears of anger.)

But since then I’ve gotten used to underhanded Republican campaign tactics.  Like the fact that some stay-at-home conservatives in 1972 also took issue with McGovern’s service in World War II.  And just for the record, McGovern served in combat with the the 741st Squadron of the 455th Bombardment Group of the Fifteenth Air Force, stationed near Cerignola, Italy.

He was commissioned a pilot in the Army Air Forces and flew 35 missions over enemy territory.  He piloted a B‑24 Liberator that he named “the Dakota Queen,” in honor of his wife Eleanor.  (And won the Distinguished Flying Cross.)  

But my favorite story about George McGovern came much later in his life.  It happened late in the 1972 campaign and involved his confronting a heckler from the Richard Nixon camp.  (Though it was not Donald Segretti):

McGovern was giving a speech and a Nixon admirer kept heckling him.  McGovern called the young man over and whispered in his ear, “Listen, you son-of-a-bitch, why don’t you kiss my ass?”  The heckler confirmed this to an inquiring journalist and the remark was widely reported.  By the following night, “KMA” buttons were being worn by people in the crowds at McGovern rallies.  Several years later, McGovern observed Mississippi Senator James Eastland looking at him from across the Senate floor and chuckling to himself.  He subsequently approached McGovern and asked, “Did you really tell that guy in ’72 to kiss your ass?”  When McGovern smiled and nodded, Eastland replied, “That was the best line in the campaign.”

See McGovern presidential campaign, 1972 – Wikipedia.  And again just for the record, Senator James Eastland was a Democrat – like McGovern – but who supported the Conservative coalition, and was “known nationally as a symbol of Southern support for racial segregation.”  But this was when Southern Democrats were effectively Republicans:

Mississippi was effectively a one-party state, dominated by conservative white Democrats since the disfranchisement of African Americans with the passage of the 1890 state constitution.  The state used poll taxesliteracy tests and grandfather clauses to exclude African Americans from the political system.  Therefore, winning the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election.

But this was also a time when political rivals could “sup with their enemies.”  In the photo at right, Eastland shared a moment with noted northern liberal – and a very young – Ted Kennedy.

You can see this photo – or one much like it – at Kennedy got Senate assignments in boozy meeting (N.Y. Daily News, 9/30/15).  At the time Eastland chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee:

After he slammed three drinks, Kennedy staggered away with the three assignments he wanted the most…   “It’s quarter to eleven, and I’m barely able to get up.  So of course I go back to my office [and] walk in there smelling like a brewery.  Here’s our little senator, 30 years old; he’s been down here two weeks, and he’s stiff as a billy goat at 10 in the morning.”  Kennedy said Mississippi’s Sen. James Eastland poured him a drink as soon as he arrived to the 1963 meeting.  “Bourbon or scotch?” the chairman asked.

But of course Eastland’s legendary drinking – or Kennedy’s for that matter – is a whole ‘nother subject entirely.  The point is that back in the good old days, politicians still had a sense of humor.  (Even to the point of chuckling over an arch-enemy’s “best line in the campaign.”)

And in a very big sense politicians as a group were eminently more likeable than they are today.  (See also On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”)  But the main point I’d like to make is that I wish George McGovern could have hung around long enough to run in the 2016 presidential election.  That way he could have told someone else to “kiss my ass!”

For that alone, George McGovern would have made a great president…

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Donald Trump

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The upper image is courtesy of George McGovern – Wikipedia.  In other versions of the “KMA” story, McGovern was appearing in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 2, when a Nixon admirer heckled him.  McGovern told the heckler, “I’ve got a secret for you,” then said softly into his ear, “Kiss my ass.”  The incident was overheard and reported in the press, and became part of the tale of the campaign.  See also “George, Heckler Exchange Words”. The Spartanburg Herald. November 3, 1972. p. B8.  For an account of his passing – by Fox News – see Former Senator George McGovern, ’72 Democratic presidential nominee, dies at 90.  

Campaign trail.jpgFor still other takes on the 1972 campaign, see Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘7 – by Hunter Thompson and illustrated at left, The Boys on the Bus – and/or One Bright Shining Moment.  Also, reference was made to Boller, Paul F., Presidential Campaigns: from George Washington to George W. Bush, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0195167163, at page 340. 

And for one of my takes on Southern Democrats like Eastland , see Blue Dogs and the “Via Media.”  For yet another take on the politicians of yesteryear, see “Great politicians sell hope.”

The lower image is courtesy of businessinsider.com/donald-trump-has-been-fired.  I first used a smaller version in Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher,” but then used the photo as a “parting shot” in the December 15, 2017 post, On “Pyrrhic victories.” 

(There seems to be a trend here…)

Last year at this time…

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge.jpg

“Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge,” during the winter of 1777-78, and as noted last June 23…

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Stephen Dobert standing on rock near False Summit looking south toward Skagway, Alaska.Last year at this time I was training for a four-day “hike” on the Chilkoot Trail.*  (Well- and deservedly known as the “meanest 33 miles in history,” and as ilustrated 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 I’m in training to hike 450 miles in 30 days on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, in September.

Between last June and this June we’ve had a contentious presidential election, and an even more contentious beginning-of-the-Trump Administration.  So I’ve decided to focus on some things I can actually have an impact on.  (And that won’t drive me crazy trying to keep up with all the lies and counter-lies.)  Things like my upcoming pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

Which means that in the near future I’ll be starting a series of posts, detailing what I expect the hiking trip to be like.  I’ll refer to those posts during the hike itself.  Then, once the hiking trip is over, I’ll do a post-mortem, to see how close my fantasy matched with reality.

But first, here’s a look back at last year at this time.  (Vis-à-vis “fantasy matching reality.”)

In “The Sweetest Place on Earth” – posted last June 23 – I noted “the difference in those who can work with others to come up with viable solutions to our problems, as opposed to those who just ‘curse the darkness.'”  Which seems strangely prescient, as was this cartoon:

In that post I also noted the now-apparently-obsolete idea that “great politicians sell hope.”  (An idea which now seems far more honored in the breach.)  But a reminder:  In this post I am trying to “focus on things I can actually have an impact on.”  Which brought up the idea of “65 being the new 30,” and on my then-just-turning 65, and so being eligible for Medicare:

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

Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!Or age 65 for that matter.  And a BTW:  The post included a photo of Christie Brinkley, with the comment, “Now that’s turning 60!

And speaking of reasons why it’s great to live in this country:  I followed-up that June 23 post with On the Independent Voter (Posted July 5, 2016.)  Which made that a great time to bring up Independence Day:

Independence Day is a day of family celebrations [of] the American tradition of political freedom…  Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspectsof the United States…  Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought [for] by the first generation of many of today’s Americans. (E.A.)

Those Independent Voters –  “who don’t align with either major political party” – could well have taken their cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”  Which presents the biggest problem facing such “Independents:”

“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”

Of course it remains to be seen whether Americans chose the “lesser of two weevils” in last November’s election.  But who knows?  It may turn out that – like America under the Articles of Confederation – things had to get much worse before they could get much better…

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The upper image is courtesy of Valley Forge – Wikipedia.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “hike’ on the Chilkoot Trail,” and  “canoeing 440 miles ‘down’ the Yukon River, in Canada:”  The image of the Chilkoot Trail is courtesy of Explore the Chilkoot Trail, and/or the National Park Service.   The caption:  “Looking South From False Summit, Chilkoot Trail.”  As to my experience, see On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1, and On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2, both of which have photo-image mishaps which need to be addressed.  As to the 13-day Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon…

Another note:  The Yukon canoe trip went from Whitehorse  to Dawson City.  As to the emphasized “up:”  The Yukon is like the Nile in that it flows north, unlike many other rivers.  Thus when paddling down the river – with the current – one is actually paddling north, and thus “up.” 

The quote “things had to get worse before they could get better” is one I remembered from reading The Quartet:  Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph Eilis. (Or “Words to that Effect.”)  Ellis wrote about the four men who “shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation.”  (Note the emphasized phrase “systemic dysfunction.”)  Another note:  Ellis’ book is not to be confused with The Second American Revolution, by John W. Whitehead.  That book ostensibly seeks to be a Christian “fundamentalist manifesto,” and/or to lay “the foundation and framework for fighting the tyrannical, secularist, humanistic power, which has separated our country from its Judeo-Christian base and now dominates this nation and its courts.”

The lower image is courtesy of pinterest.com.  See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTubeLesser of Two Evils – TV TropesReader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.

“There he goes again” – Revisited

No, this isn’t a caricature of Donald Trump.  (But this alligator mississippiensis is smiling nicely…)

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Image may contain: one or more peopleIt’s been tough getting back to blogging on a regular basis.

That’s pretty much what I noted in the last post, dated May 12, 2017:  From 11/8/16: “He’ll be impeached within two years:”

…aside from a “pain in the back,” I’ve undergone some other big  life events including but not limited to a[n eye] surgery … to have a lens put back in one eye [as shown a[bove] right]…  But now things have calmed down a bit, even if only in my own life. Which means I can get back to blogging

Image titled 10852 9Unfortunately, it still hasn’t been easy.  One big reason is my recent life events – “including but not limited to” – included the long, drawn-out process of first Buying a House, then moving out of my old, tiny one-bedroom apartment, and third moving my accumulated junk into a new and relatively-expansive private home.

So now I’m part of the landed gentry

But as I also discovered, this process continues “even to this day.”  Which means that while I’ve moved all my accumulated belongings into the new house, much of that “stuff” remains in boxes or big piles scattered mostly in the farther-back rooms.  But now I have time…

So anyway, to get back in the swing of things, I came up with the idea of looking back at what I was doing about  this time last year.  That led me to “There he goes again,” from May 30, 2016.

Since then the phrase “there he goes again” has taken on a whole new meaning.

SwampWaterPoster.jpgLast year’s “There he goes again” was about my projected June 2016 kayaking trip deep into the Okefenokee Swamp.  This was to be my second overnight-camping trek into the swamp, which “despite it’s fearsome reputation – as illustrated by the lurid movie poster at right … is quite peaceful.”

It turned out to be quite an exciting second trip into the Okefenokee.  Among other things I saw some fifty alligators during the first hour of paddling.  (Then I stopped counting.)

And I camped at the CANAL RUN shelter, “some nine miles in from the Foster State Park launch site.”   And  (Complete with its own in-house resident gator.)  Third, 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 only.  The last time I reached my left hand out I saw a patch of white.

It turned out to be yet another gator – though rather smaller than the one shown at the top of the page – and “smiling” nicely at what he no doubt thought was a tasty new snack.

But now back to that phrase “there he goes again” having taken on a whole new meaning.

On a hunch – in writing up this post – I Googled “trump ‘there he goes again'” and got 4,200,000 results.  Of those 4,200,000 posts, many seem to have been dated before the election.  See for example Donald Trump: There He Goes Again | HuffPost:  From July 19, 2016, Trump was quoted as saying that John McCain “is no war hero … because he was captured.”

(For an alternate view see Torture – John McCain – Pictures – CBS News.  Also, the caption for the photo at left reads:  “McCain’s flight suit and parachute, on display in the North Vietnamese museum at the site of the “Hanoi Hilton” Hoa Lo Prison.”)

More recently, from April 5, 2017, there was There He Goes Again:  On NAFTA Trump Fails To Live Up To What He Says, And American Workers Will Pay For It.  The post – written by “Chuck Jones, President, United Steelworkers Local 1999” – noted a local plant shutdown that had “outraged” Trump on the campaign trail, but not a bit since he’s taken office:

President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted his outrage when the shutdown was announced.  But President Trump hasn’t said a thing since…  I could see it coming back in February when, speaking about what he had been calling the U.S.’s “worst trade deal ever,” and a “disaster,” he said NAFTA just needed “tweaking.”

(Jones was referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  See the notes for more.)  

And finally, there was this from May 5, 2017:  There He Goes Again… Trump Praises Single Payer Healthcare.  It seems that shortly after celebrating “the 1/3 passage of the American Healthcare Act” – 1/3 because it only passed the House and not the Senate, nor was it signed into law by the President – Donald Trump “sat with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and praised their country’s single payer healthcare system.”

The conservative-bent writer went into detail about the problems confronting what he thought would be positive change to our health-care system.  He also said Trump’s “public concession that single payer healthcare is better than our own is going to do more to damage our effort than Obamacare’s failure.”  (And he noted among other things that Trump’s “misspeaks” prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to burst into laughter and promise “to quote the president on the floor of the Senate when they debate their own version of the bill,” with video.)

The article then concluded:

“…we need the president to just stop talking.  For the love of God, just smile and wave.  Please?”

Which would be a nice change, and brings us back to the photo at the top of the page.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for me to go back “back in to the swamp,” back to kayaking in the quiet, peaceful Okefenokee, home of Pogo Possum and his gentle friends:

…despite the discomfort that seems to got along with such efforts, it felt good to finally visit the home of Pogo Possum.  To visit – even for such a short while – the “hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.”

And speaking of Pogo Possum, here’s a bit of homespun wisdom to meditate…

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Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Alligator – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “American alligator (A. mississippiensis).”  I used that lead image in the post – from May 30, 2016 – “There he goes again.”  The caption used in the post reads:  “An ‘alligator mississippiensis,’ prevalent in the Okefenokee Swamp – where I’ll soon be kayaking…”

The lower image was also featured in the 5/30/16 post, and featured the following:

The lower “enemy is us” cartoon image is courtesy of Pogo (comic strip) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Pogo daily strip from Earth Day, 1971.”  In the alternative:  “A 1971 Earth Day comic strip written and illustrated by Walt Kelly, featuring Pogo and Porkypine [sic].”  Wikipedia described Porky Pine:

A porcupine, a misanthrope and cynic; prickly on the outside but with a heart of gold.  The deadpan Porky never smiles in the strip (except once, allegedly, when the lights were out).  Pogo’s best friend, equally honest, reflective and introverted, and with a keen eye both for goodness and for human foibles.  

I wondered why I liked him so much…

*   *   *   *

Re:  Trump on NAFTA.  See Trump Softens NAFTA Stance | ExecutiveBizTrump Backs Away From Softer NAFTA Stance – IndustryWeekTrump renews aggressive stance on NAFTA | 2017-04-19, and – from yesterday, May 29, 2017 – Trump Softens on NAFTA Stance – YouTube.  (Yet again, it seems.)

On that nail in my right eye…

(…which could have resulted in a “lazy eye” like character actor Jack Elam – but didn’t.)

*   *   *   *

Here’s a break from Politics:  Six years ago I was helping my brother take up the deck in his back yard.  I ended up having a large nail – like the one shown at right* – shoot up and puncture my right eye.

Since then I’ve learned to manage with one good eye.  Then last Friday, February 24, I went to a local eye institute.  I figured on getting my right eye fixed, but it turned out more complicated than I thought.  (“Of which more anon.”)  Which leads to one point of this story:  That fooling around with sharp objects can indeed “put your eye out.”  That’s what happened to veteran character actor Jack Elam, shown in the top picture.

Born in 1920, by the early 1930s he was living with his father and stepmother.  (His birth mother died in 1922.)  There – in south central Arizona – he “lost the sight in his left eye during a boyhood accident when he was stabbed with a pencil at a Boy Scout meeting.”

Then of course there was that famous exchange in the 1983 film A Christmas Story:

Ralphie:  I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!

Mrs. Parker:  No, you’ll shoot your eye out.

Which is pretty much what nearly happened.*  Which leads to another valid point:  That sometimes those old wives’ tales turn out to be true.  (See also Old wives’ tale – Wikipedia.*)

But getting back to the nail in my right eye:  The thing I remember most about the incident – six years ago – was a feeling of utter stupidity.  How could I have done such a thing?  How could I have been so careless?

That, together with a feeling of being totally out of it.  I know my brother drove me back and forth to the local eye institute’s other-side-of-Atlanta offices and back, several times.  (On the Atlanta Beltway, which is normally a nightmare to drive even one time.)  I also remember that there was at least one surgery, and a host of pre- and post-operation doctor visits.

But through it all I was pretty much in a daze.

Now fast-forward six years, beyond the ongoing lack of depth perception that I had to learn to deal with.  (As illustrated at right.)  And my going on to finally adjusting to seeing with only one good eye.  Around this time last year – at the annual eye exam that I now take very serious – there was some mention of a corrective procedure that would cost only $500.

But I decided to wait.  And the end result was that having turned 65 last summer, the procedure would now be covered by Medicare.  But again, then came the complications last Friday.

The local doctor who does my eye exams made an appointment at the College Park office.  He added that I could drive myself up and back, and that the actual procedure would only take about five minutes.  Which sounded too good to be true, and it was…

It turned out he was talking about a YAG eye procedure:

A YAG procedure, or … posterior capsulotomy, is a type of corrective surgery sometimes needed to correct cloudiness of the lens covering, which is known as posterior capsule opacification, following cataract surgery…

Which was part of what threw me off during the “procedure preliminaries.”  The nurse practitioner started asking questions about my cataract, and I had no idea what she was talking about.  (I had gotten a nail through my eye!)  But in the fullness of time things got clearer.

That is, I finally got to talk to the surgeon who’d operated on and “saved my right eye” six years ago, and he had a different opinion.  A YAG procedure – shown at left – would indeed take only five minutes, and I’d have been able to drive myself home.

The problem was:  A “YAG” only clears up cloudiness in the lens of the eye.  My problem was: I had no lens in the right eye.  The surgeon had taken the lens out – damaged as it was – in the process of saving the eye six years ago.  So the surgeon’s solution was a secondary lens Implant.

The end result?  A new appointment for an actual surgery in April, complete with a thick folder of cautionary instructions and a prescription for three separate eye drops that appear to be really expensive.  Then too I won’t be able to drive home, so the nice insurance lady arranged for a ride to and from the surgery.  (Paid for by Medicare, thank you very much.)   But I feel ever so much better about this procedure.  If it’s going to be this complicated – I’ll have to tape a plastic shield over my right eye at night, to prevent “inadvertent rubbing” – it’s got to be worthwhile.

Of course I know I’ll get more nervous as the time for the surgery gets closer, but maybe – just maybe – I’ll then be able to see out of both eyes, and have some depth perception.

Also “of course,” there was and is a simple solution that could have prevented all this rigamarole:  Always wear safety glasses,* no matter how dorky they look…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Jack Elamlostcoastoutpost.com.  The photo of Elam was part of an article – “GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: The Good, the Bad and the Awesome” – which was in turn a trbute to “Spaghetti Westerns.”  (Referring to the broad subgenre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone‘s film-making style…  The term was used by American critics [because they] were produced and directed by Italians.”)  

And a BTW:  The original title for this post was”Yes, ‘you could put your eye out!'”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “large nail – like the one shown at right:”   I’ve kept the actual offending large nail “even to this day,” but was unable to upload a photo of it in time for publication.  Note that the nail image as used is courtesy of additionally 16 Penny Nails Home Depot moreover 10 X 3 1 8 In 12 Penny …nikecuador.com.  I believe the actual offending nail is a “12 penny;” at any rate, it is some 3 and 3/4 inches long, bent and rusty.

Re:  The 1983 film, A Christmas Story.  Wikipedia noted that Ralphie ended up getting the gun, but:

Ralphie takes the gun outside and fires it at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off.  While searching for them, thinking he has indeed shot his eye out, Ralphie accidentally steps on his glasses and breaks them.  In order to cover for the fact that he accidentally broke his glasses, Ralphie tells his mother that a falling icicle was responsible for the accident.  His mother, not having seen what actually happened, believes him.

On that note, the “Ralphie-with-a-BB-gun” photo is courtesy of The Lance : Christmas Classic Movie Review: A Christmas Storyfunny-pictures.picphotos.net.

Re:  Old wives’ tale.  Wikipedia noted that such “‘tales’ are considered superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or inaccurate details.  Old wives’ tales often center on women’s traditional concerns, such as pregnancy, puberty, social relations, health, herbalism and nutrition.”  The article includes a list of such sayings, such as:  “Swimming with full stomach causes cramps and [you] should wait an hour after eating before swimming;”  “Don’t make silly faces or it will make the silly face permanent;”  and “Shaving makes the hair grow back thicker.”

Re: Depth perception.  That lack turned out to be a problem when I was climbing “one big pile of &^%$ rocks after another.”  See the notes to On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

Re: “Dorky.”  Merriam-Webster indicated the term, “when used to refer to a socially awkward or inept person, is a relatively recent word:  our records indicate that it first appeared in writing in the 1960s.”

Re:  “Always wear safety glasses.”  I should mention that my “niece by marriage” got me a gag gift for the Christmas following the punctured-eye incident in August.  She got me a solid set of heavy-duty plastic safety glasses.  (See also closing the barn door after the horse has bolted – Idioms.  And a side note:  The term “niece by marriage” was provided by What would you call your nephews wife – Answers.com.  Another site, What do you call your nephew’s wife – Answers.com, posits that the “English language has no special name for a nephew’s wife and does not consider you to be related to you. You would simply call her ‘my nephew’s wife.'”)

The lower image is courtesy of We’re going to be remembered [for] dorky looking goggles … kotaku.com.au, in “This Week In The Business: The Dorky-Looking Goggles People.”

Some highlights from 2016…

Seeing a “naked lady on the Yukon” – symbolized here – was one of my highlights from 2016…

*   *   *   *

It’s New Year’s Day, and so a good time to recall some highlights from 2016.

Johnny Mercer, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948 (William P. Gottlieb 06121).jpgThere was of course the Election From Hell, but the less said about that the better.  I prefer to “Accentuate the Positive.”  (Referring to the 1944 song with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, shown at left.)  And seeing a “naked lady on the Yukon” certainly qualifies as one of those positive 2016 highlights…

Back in August my brother, nephew and I met up in the town of Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory.  From there we drove to Skagway, Alaska.  And from there we hiked the Chilkoot Trail in four days.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

And here’s a news flash:  There’s a good reason why they call it the “meanest 33 miles in history.”  Mostly it’s because “the Chilkoot” is not a trail at all, but just one big pile of rocks after another.  But it was a man-against-nature venture, and fortunately the “manly men” won. (Though not without some bruises and blisters that lasted for weeks…)  

After that my nephew had the good sense to head back east to begin classes at Penn State.  However, my brother and I proceeded on to a twelve-day canoe trip “down” the Yukon River.  We ended up in Dawson City, also in the Yukon Territory.  But the most “poetic” part of the journey involved two days paddling on Lake Laberge, at right.

Most people know it better as “Lake Labarge,” thanks to the famous poem,  “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”  But that’s only because “Laberge” doesn’t rhyme with “marge,” meaning “shore” or “edge.”  (As in “edge of a lake.”  And further as in the poem’s narrator hauling McGee’s body to the “marge of Lake Lebarge.”)

I figured there was an object lesson there, somewhere…

All in all my brother and I spent five weeks driving up to the Yukon – from Utah – then doing the two “man against nature” adventures, and finally driving back home from the Yukon.  But by far the more traumatic of the two was hiking the Chilkoot Trail.  It was so traumatic that I had to do two blogposts on the subject:  On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!, Parts 1 and Part 2.

One of the highlights hiking the trail came as we three were approaching the summit of the Chilkoot Pass.  (My brother and nephew were way out in front.  And at left is the good part.)  

And what with my lack of depth perception – from having only one good eye – going over “one big pile of *&$% rocks after another” was like negotiating a minefield.  I wore heavy hiking boots, but they felt like ballet slippers.  Every step was sheer torture, and brought new pain to each aching foot.

So anyway, I had just taken one of many missteps – causing severe pain – and thus let loose a string of pungent epithets.  Then I looked behind me and there – climbing behind me – was a sweet young lady hiker.  Sheepishly I apologized, noting that I had “no depth perception.”  But she went ahead and passed me.  (And probably rolled her eyes in the process…)  A short while later I had another misstep and loosed another string of epithets.

Again I looked behind me, and again there was a young couple, including another “sweet, innocent young thing.”  So I said to myself, “Hey, I may be on to something here!”

Unfortunately I tried it a few times later on the trail, but my magic formula didn’t work.  (On the other hand there I did see that “Naked lady on the Yukon,” 10 days later, on August 12…) 

You can see the full story at the “Naked lady” post, which brings up the strong current on the Yukon River.  Generally it’s pretty fast, ranging from over four miles an hour up to seven miles an hour in some places.  (Except on“Lake &^%$# Laberge,” where the paddling is very slow.)

That’s the kind of current that helps you paddle 440 miles in 12 days.  But it also means that when you see something totally unexpected, by the time you recognize it, the current is already moving you downriver…  Which meant that by the time I recognized the naked lady as a naked lady, the current was already pushing me farther down-river.

SwampWaterPoster.jpgWhich is enough – for now – about the naked lady on the Yukon.

Which brings up one of my other 2016 adventures, a return trip to the  Okefenokee Swamp, as detailed in “There he goes again.”  That post – from Monday, May 30 – looked ahead to the middle of the week.  I actually put in 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, June 1, and counted 39 gators in the first hour of paddling.  (Then I stopped counting.)   I never did do a post on that little adventure, which is something I need to do in the next week or so.

As for an excuse, I had “another stinkin’ funeral.”  A close friend died unexpectedly the day before, but I didn’t find out about it until I was already in Valdosta.

Which makes this as good a place as any to end this particular post.  Except to note that there were way too many “stinkin’ funerals” to go to in 2016.  (As noted also in the December 19 post, A funeral and an NTE (Near-Ticket Experience).)

And to note that I didn’t see any naked ladies in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Just at lot of alligator[s] mississippienses…”

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*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Sun tanning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “A woman sun tanning on a Portuguese beach.”  Further references are in the blog-posts cited in the text.  And a BTW: Googling “election from hell 2016” got me some 154,000,000 results.

“I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night…”

Baez stands behind a too-tall podium bristling with microphones, wearing a plaid sleeveless top, longish hair in a feather cut

50 years hence, will some dulcet-toned lass sing “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night?”

*   *   *   *

Woodstock poster.jpgA word of explanation:  50 years from now that dulcet-toned lass could be singing that ode to Donald Trump to the tune of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.”  Joan Baez sang the original song – about Joe Hill – most memorably at Woodstockback in the summer of 1969.

Another word of explanation.  The day after the last election – November 9, 2016, in case you’ve forgotten – a phrase came trickling up from my memory vault.  In fact, I did a post on Facebook, reminding people of “what Joan Baez said:  ‘DON’T MOURN.  ORGANIZE!

But then I had to explain it was actually Joe Hill who said that, but she’s the one who made the saying famous.  (At Woodstock, “back in our hippie days.”)  As an aside, Joe Hill was both a labor activist and a song-writer, and as such was credited with inventing the term pie in the sky.

(Which could also refer to Donald Trump, but that would mean going off on a tangent…)

So anyway – and to make a long story short:  Today I finally uploaded Joan’s “Joe Hill last night,” and listened to it on my iPod Shuffle as I did my weekly two hours of kayaking.

That’s when I was struck by the line at the end of the song:  “Where working men defend their rights, it’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.”  Which is what makes the resulting comparison in this post so ironic.  (Either that, or incongruous.  I always get those two  mixed up.)

A black-and-white photograph of Donald Trump as a teenager, smiling and wearing a dark uniform with various badges and a light-colored stripe crossing his right shoulder. This image was taken while Trump was in the New York Military Academy in 1964.The thing is, in some strange way Donald Trump – educated at the New York Military Academy, then the Wharton School (at right) and worth an estimated 3.7 billion dollars* – has somehow become a hero to the (white) American working man.

See for example Trump’s fans have more to lose than Trump himself.  That article noted that whatever the outcome of the election, Trump would remain “more or less intact … rich and privileged and more famous than ever.”  However:

The same cannot be said for the millions of Americans who have looked to Trump to save them.  These folks … the angry, white, blue-collar workers who are outraged or terrified that America has become some topsy-turvy multi-cultural nightmare where a hard-working man cannot make a decent living … will emerge from this circus worse off than before.

See also Donald Trump a working man’s hero in US coal country.

But the future may not be so rosy for The Donald.  In another line from from “Joe Hill,” Joan Baez noted, “‘The Copper Bosses killed you Joe, They shot you Joe’ says I.”  In DJT’s case, the same professor who predicted – back in September – that Trump would win is now saying that he’ll be impeached.  And in another irony the Democrats won’t be behind the impeachment.

Professor Allan Lichtman recently noted that Republicans are nervous about Donald Trump, for reasons including that he’s a “loose cannon” and that no one know what he really believes.  “He can’t be controlled.  The Republicans would vastly prefer to have Mike Pence, an absolutely predictable down-the-pipe conservative Republican.*”

Which – you could say – was what happened to Joe Hill.  The “Copper bosses” couldn’t control him, so they had him convicted of murder in a “controversial trial.”  In Donald’s case, if his party bosses can’t control him, they may resort to impeaching him in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and seeing him convicted in the Republican-controlled Senate.

 (See also – for example – That OTHER “Teflon Don,” which noted – back in March – that Trump “may well be the first president in American history to get both impeached and convicted.”)

And if that were to happen, Trump would remain forever as a hero to many.  (Untarnished by his actual performance in office.)  As the original song said, “Takes more than guns to kill a man…  Says Joe ‘I didn’t die.'”  And it may well take more than an impeachment-and-conviction to tarnish the Donald’s reputation with the American working man.  

And so the final stanza of  “I dreamed I saw Don Trump last night” might go like this:

From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where working men defend their rights,
It’s there you’ll find Don Trump,
It’s there you’ll find Don Trump!

*   *   *   *

Hey, it could happen!

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Joan Baez – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Baez playing at the March on Washington in August 1963.”  See also the “Portrait of Joan Baez in 1961.”

For a live version of the song see Joan Baez Live @ Woodstock 1969 Joe Hill.mpg – YouTube, or Joan Baez At Woodstock: Her Song For Joe Hill (VIDEO).”  For the full lyrics see JOAN BAEZ LYRICS – Joe Hill.

Re:  “Hence.”  I used the term in main caption in the sense of “archaic, of a length of time,” and/or meaning “in the future from now.”  An example:  “A year hence it will be forgotten.”

Re:  Joe Hill.  See Wikipedia, which noted that as a labor activist and songwriter, he was “variously celebrated as a martyr or a villain.”  And as a song-writer, one of his best-known songs was “The Preacher and the Slave,” in which he coined the phrase “pie in the sky.”

Re:  “Memory vauit.”  The link will take you to Confabulation – Wikipedia, which defined the term in psychiatry as “a disturbance of memory, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world.”  (Which could “also again” refer to Donald Trump, but as in the main text “that would mean going off on [another] tangent.”)

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed in these “notes.”  Thus, as to the professor predicting Trump’s impeachment, see Professor predicted Trump win, says he will be impeached.

Re: Trump’s net worth.  See Donald Trump Net Worth | Bankrate.com.

The lower image is courtesy of APG 146 – When Pigs Fly?airlinepilotguy.com.  See also Flying pig – Wikipedia, which defined the phrase in pertinent part as “an adynaton—a figure of speech so hyperbolic that it describes an impossibility.”

On Alice and her restaurant – yet again…

reprise from last December’s Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited.  

*   *   *   *

Last December I posted Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited.  It included the photo-montage above, but who’da thunk it?  Who would have thought that one of those men – (the guy at top center) – would be elected president, a year later, in 2016?  (And I’m sure Donald didn’t inhale either.)

So once again the question is:  “Can you say prescient?”

But back to the point.  Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited was about a Thanksgiving tradition I started back in 1993.  Listening – every Thanksgiving – to the full 18 minutes and 34 seconds of Alice’s Restaurant.  (The “musical monologue by singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie,” released in 1967.)

I do that to “help my team win.”  Just like Moses did, holding his arms up at the Battle of Rephidim.  (At right.)

That is, Moses held his arms up at the Battle of Rephidim to help his team win.  I do the same thing, in part by listening to Alice’s Restaurant every Thanksgiving.  (To help my team beat its hated arch-rival, just like Moses helped his team beat “the dreaded Amalekites.”  For more see On football, Moses and Rephidim.)

But this year is different.  My team is out of the hunt for a national championship, so the outcome of tonight’s game isn’t going to change much.  (At most it’ll be the difference between going 9-3 in the regular season, or “falling” to 8-4.)  So whatever happens tonight, “we” will still have to wait until next year to win “our” fourth national championship.

This year is different because there are bigger events going on in the world outside sports.

The biggest difference?  This country has now embarked on what we might call “the Donald Experiment.”  Which means the question to be decided over the next four years is whether Donald Trump can deliver on the veritable plethora of promises that he made in his recent campaigns.  (First for the Republican nomination, then for the presidency itself.)  

Or whether those promises are merely “negotiable campaign devices.*”

Alice's Restaurant.jpgAnd that’s where Alice’s Restaurant comes back in.  For one thing, the full title of the song refers to the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” and as Wikipedia noted:

The term “massacree,” used by Guthrie[,] is a colloquialism originating in the Ozark Mountains that describes “an event so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are almost impossible to believe.”  It is a corruption of the word massacre … but carries a much lighter and more sarcastic connotation, never being used to describe anything involving actual death.

In turn that phrase – so wildly and improbably and baroquely messed up that the results are almost impossible to believe – perfectly describes the election we just went through.

But getting back to the song itself:  “Alice’s Restaurant” described the Kafkaesque way that Guthrie managed to avoid the Draft – illustrated at right – in 1965.  Briefly, he was rejected because he’d been convicted of littering on Thanksgiving Day.  There followed his encounter with the “surreal bureaucracy at the New York City induction center at 39 Whitehall Street:”

[A]sked whether he had ever been convicted of a crime, Guthrie mentioned the littering incident, and learned that incident was bureaucratically indistinguishable from a violent felony…  In Guthrie’s words, they wanted “to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army – burn women, kids, houses and villages – after bein’ a litterbug.”  (E.A.)

Or as I noted in Alice’s Restaurant, in that song “Arlo Guthrie turned a patently absurd situation into a timeless classic.”  Which brings us back to the challenges raised by a Trump presidency.

To many this last election presents many Americans with a “patently absurd situation.”  But it could also present both a challenge and an opportunity.

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden.jpgOr in the immortal words of Joe Biden (at left):

“Calling it an opportunity is a little like saying:  ‘I’ve been dropped in the water that is shark-infested.  But you know, it’s an opportunity.  If I make it to shore, I will set a world’s record.  No one has ever done this before.”*

So if – on the morning after the last election – you started to feel like the next four years will be something like swimming in shark-infested waters, remember this:  It’s an opportunity!

But we digress…  We were talking about the Alice’s Restaurant Massacree and other such blasts from the past.  Which brings up another point that I made in Alice … Revisited:

Alice’s Restaurant reminds us that – for many folks – those good old days weren’t so good[, as seen in the] image at right: “segregated seating at the Super Bowl in 1955.”

Segregated Super Bowl 1955And here’s that image, of “segregated seating …1955.”  You can see the full image at Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited, but the point I’m wondering about is whether we’ve made any progress at all.

Or – to put it another way – there always seems to be a significant segment of Americans who keep wanting to drag us back into the past.  And that’s true even though for many people, “those good old days weren’t so good.”

So it seems to me the slogan “Make America Great Again” carries an implied proviso:  “That is, ‘great’ for the people who did have it made back in the good old days.”

But just for kicks, how about this slogan instead:  Make America Better! 

As in, make America better for all those people who didn’t have it so good back in those “good old days.”  Or for that matter, those people who don’t have it so good right now.  And how about working to Make America Better by fulfilling that promise on the Statue Of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And that brings us back to the election we just went through.  In some ways the outcome of that election is perfectly illustrated by this, The House GOP just took the whitest selfie ever:

The House GOP surrounds VP-elect Mike Pence in this extremely bright, white selfie

Which brings up this observation:

“Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image – which I borrowed from Alice … Revisited – is courtesy of courtesy of Liberal group claims Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, others are draft dodgers.  “Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed in these “notes.” Thus, as to Trump’s promises being negotiable or campaign devices, see Before taking office, Trump signals campaign promises are negotiableAll the Campaign Promises Donald Trump Has Broken in the Last 24 Hours, and/or Trump backs away from some of his strident campaign promises.

The “Draft” image is courtesy of Draft evasion – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption, “U.S. anti-Vietnam War protesters at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  A placard to the right reads ‘Use your head – not your draft card.’”

Re: The image “segregated seating at the Super Bowl in 1955.”  In Alice’s Restaurant – Revisited I noted an anachronism, a “chronological inconsistency.”  That is, “the first Super Bowl was not played until 1967 – not 1955.  (The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.)”  The image in question – and the “Super Bowl 1955” caption with it – came from ivman’s blague.  The “blague” or “blogue” – apparently French for “blog” – is about “one French professor’s humorous and serious perspectives on life.”  (And specifically, his post on the Good Old Days of Yesteryear.”)  Accordingly, even though the “Super Bowl 1955” caption was written by a cheese-eating surrender monkey – who got the timing of that ostensible Super Bowl wrong by a full decade – the photo is real enough…

The Joe Biden quote is courtesy of Ethan Bronner‘s book, Battle for Justice:  How the [Robert] Bork Nomination Shook America (1989), Anchor Books edition, at page 211.

A final note:   I borrowed the quote beneath the lower photo – “Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry” – from On rectal thermometers and “you’re entitle.”  That referred to an essay by Harry Golden, involving “our sense of American ingenuity,” the law of unintended consequences, and a concept he called “gradual integration,” referring once again to those “good old days:”

In the emergency room of the Alachua General Hospital at Gainesville, Florida [in 1962], there are three thermometers.  They stand in a row on a small shelf with nothing else.  The first is in an open container labeled:  “WHITE – ORAL,” the third is in an identical container labeled, “COLORED – ORAL,” and the middle one, which protrudes through a cork, in its otherwise sameness, is labeled “RECTAL.”  This is what I call gradual integration.

On Halloween – and “Fool’s Fire”

Japanese view of a Will-o’-the-wisp  –  That might “lead you to your doom” on Halloween night…

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Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgSunday, October 30 – If you’ve been living under a rock – or sticking your head in the sand to get away from negative political campaigning – you might not know that Halloween is tomorrow night.

And speaking of jack-o’-lanterns – like the one at right – they are widely known as one of the prime symbols of Halloween.  And in some traditions they are said to represent the “souls of the dead.”

Another theory is that some old-time people set those carved-out pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep out “harmful spirits.”  (Keep them from invading their home.)   And in yet another tradition,  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”

(See also “corpse candles,” in the notes below…)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpgWhich brings us back to Halloween.  But what many people don’t know is that Halloween is actually a religious holiday.  Or that there are actually Three Days of Halloween.  (Called the Halloween Triduum.)  The third day of the three-day holiday – November 2d – is called All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting at left.

The second of the three days – November 1st – was known as All Saints’ Day.  But back in Merry Olde England, the word for “saint” was halig, which eventually became “hallow.”  (It may have been easier to pronounce…)  So originally – back in England – November 1st was called “All Hallows Day.”  That meant that – literally – the night of October 31 was the evening – or e’en – before “Hallows Day.”  (Or “All Hallows Day.”)

That then got shortened to “All Hallows E’en” – “Eve” or “Evening” – which in turn got shortened further to what we now know as “Hallowe’en,” or just plain Halloween.

Two things about the night of October 31.  One:  By tradition it started the winter “season of darkness.”  (Old-timers – seeing the days get shorter and shorter – started thinking the days would eventually get so short there would be no light at all.)  The other thing old-timers believed was that on the Eve of All Hallows, “the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned.”  Put another way, the veil between the living and the dead was most permeable.

(Spirits could more easily “pass through” the veil separating the dead from the living.) 

 So what was the deal with wearing masks and disguises? 

To review, people originally thought that on the night of October 31, the barrier between the living and the dead was pretty much all the way down.  And those old-time people were – perhaps naturally – “scared of those ghosts.”

So those old-time people originally started putting on masks and/or costumes to fool the ghosts and spirits.  (In other words, to disguise their identities.)  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was to build “bone fires:”

“The fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”  The idea came from pagan times, when evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  (Note also that “bonfire” is short for bone-fire.  See Bonfire – Wikipedia, noting the term “is derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)

And there was another old-time custom.  If you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your candle could tell your future.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out , “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches.

Which brings us back to “fool’s fire,” will-o’-the-wisps, and/or jack-o’-lanterns.  A note:  Such jack-o’-lanterns are now made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

And both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Put another way, the phenomenon of fool’s fire was “linked with the leading astray of weary travelers into mires.”  The guy leading people astray was said to be a “mischievous spirit,” carrying a lantern or torch and was said to play tricks on people.

Not that there’s any connection to the election coming up next week or anything…

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 [Feux Follets Near Paris]Another view of some  ghostly “Fool’s Fire…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Will-o’-the-wisp – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A Japanese rendition of a Russian will-o’-the-wisp.”  (It should also be noted that any resemblance between that “upper image” and any of the political candidates running for office is purely coincidental…) 

Much of the text and “imagery” for this post was gleaned from my companion blog, to wit:  “All Hallows E’en” – 2015, and – in 2014 – On “All Hallows E’en,” Parts I and Part II

 The lower image is courtesy of Will-o’-the-Wisp – Lantern Man, Feu Follet, Ignis Fatuus.  The caption:  “Artist unknown. Source: ‘Flammarion, L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire’ (1888, p.749):”

The Will-o’-the-wisp has been recorded as flickering over marshy ground since at least the middle ages…  The lights have also been incorporated into modern literature, e.g. Dracula, and have even had a children’s television show named after them.  The most commonly cited explanation for them is that they’re the product of ignited marsh gas:  most likely slowly leaking methane whose ignition is triggered by phosphene…  Some of their synonyms reveal what cultures thought about them[, such as:]  “corpse candles” suggest[ing] that they’re the souls of the departed…  The phenomenon is also inextricably linked with the leading astray of weary travellers into mires.  The light was taken to be a lantern or a torch carried by a mischeivous [sic] spirit … said to play tricks on people.