A look back at 2015

Baby New Year 1905 chases old 1904 into the history books…”


The image above shows Baby New Year 1905 as “personification of the start of the New Year.”

(Personification is giving “human form and characteristics to abstract concepts such as nations and natural forces likes seasons and the weather.”  Or of a whole new blank slate.)

So this personification of New-Year-as-baby symbolizes a rebirth.  (Spiritual or otherwise.)  In turn the birth of that New Year can only come with the passing – the “dying” – of the Old Year.

But before thinking too much on the possibilities presented by “Baby 2016” – like the personified Baby 1908 at right – it helps to look back at the year just past.  (I.e., 2015.)

That is, the end of an old year – and birth of a new year – is a time to “take stock and review the outgoing year.”  It’s a time to look back at the “wins, the challenges, the mistakes” of the old year.  And it’s a time to identify areas for improvement.

So for starters, I did my first post here last March 12.

On “Birdman,” the movie reviewed the “2014 American black comedydrama film” starring Michael Keaton.  (An actor playing a “faded Hollywood actor.”)

And just as an aside, I started this blog as a spin-off of my first blog, DOR Scribe.  (This one let me work on more “secular” issues, like weird movies with “farce and morbid humor … on subject matter usually considered taboo.”)   But unfortunately, it took awhile to translate the lessons learned from that other blog.  As a result, Birdman looks a bit “blog-primitive…”

At least to me and in hindsight.

But Birdman also reminded me why I started this blog.  In large part it was and is an homage to Harry Golden and his style of writing.  For years he published and wrote the Israelite, “a pre-Internet blog of sorts.”  And eventually – in 1958 – his book Only in America came out.  A collection of what today would be called his “blog posts.”

Harry’s book Only in America has been “an inspiration [to me] ever since…”

Birdman also explained the blog’s nom de plume, “Georgia Wasp.”  Then there was this:

Apparently there’s a website, “dating psychos…”  One of the bulletins tells of a crazy guy – “Alias ‘Georgia Wasp’” – who is said to be a “pathological liar” who’s been “married many times and has cheated on each wife with multiple partners!”

So here’s a heads up:  I’m not that guy!!!

Exodus: Of Gods and Kings, out on December 12 in U.S. theaters tells the story of Moses (played by Christian Bale, left) rising up against the Egyptian pharaoh Rhamses (played by Joel Edgerton, right)So anyway, on March 28 I moved on to review “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”  (Complete with images of Moses – Christian Bale, at left – and Ramses – Joel Edgerton, at right.)  

One thing I liked about the movie was how it showed Moses growing ever more senescent.  (Thanks largely to his having to metaphorically herd cats or “shovel fleas.”)  I noted that something like that happened to Abraham Lincoln, after four years as president:

He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman.  In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds.  “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield [and] looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”

That led to some lessons including this:  To “the icons that we choose to throw our cares and responsibilities on – like Moses – we followers are pretty much a pain in the neck.”

Which seems especially apropos as the 2016 election season heats up.

SwampWaterPoster.jpgOther post-highlights from 2015 included Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee,” and The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.

Pogo” – told in three parts – was about fulfilling a life-long dream. The dream involved and led to an overnight camping trip deep into the sinister and mysterious “Swamp Water” locale.  (The Okefenokee Swamp, as illustrated by the 1941 movie poster at left.)

Ashley Wilkes detailed the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Leslie Howard.  (Best known for playing Wilkes in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.)  

Briefly, the commercial airliner in which he was flying got shot down by eight German fighter-bombers in 1943.  It happened over the Bay of Biscay – west of France – on a flight from ostensibly-neutral Lisbon and London.

The shoot-down spawned a number of conspiracy theories.  One said German spies mistook Howard’s friend and bodyguard for Winston Churchill.  Another noted Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels calling Howard “Britain’s most dangerous propagandist.”  A third said Howard really was a British spy, on a secret mission with the help of the beautiful Conchita Montenegro.  (One of many women with whom he’d ostensibly had a “torrid love affair.”)

That post ended:  “And some people think those were better and simpler times…”

And speaking of politics…  On April 2, I posted On Blue Dogs and the “Via Media.”  It addressed the dearth of moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats.  One point the post made was that the Political Middle [Seems To Have] Disappeared.  But the good news seems to that our political system was “specifically designed to keep moving back to the middle, even though it’s clumsy at times.”

In other words, “Don’t Forget That Politics is Cyclical.”  That – I wrote – could be “the best political news ‘we’ve’ heard in a long time…”

http://inapcache.boston.com/universal/site_graphics/blogs/bigpicture/kennedy_08_31/k15_20120853.jpgThen came “Great politicians sell hope” on June 12.  (Featuring the shot at right, of Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy “supping” with a political enemy.)  That post led off with the Peanuts cartoon below.  That in turn was a kind of spin-off from a quote from Chris Matthew’s 2007 book, Life’s a Campaign.  I then wrote:  “When I [first] heard that a few days ago I thought, ‘What rock have you  been living under?‘”

But then I noted that Matthews’ book – after actually reading it – gave me a sense that our presidents have been mostly “decent, honorable and capable.”  And it gave me a sense “that the same applies to politicians in general.  (Gasp!)”  Then a third thought: Maybe politicians today are especially nasty because too many voters they’re trying to woo are just plain nasty.

But the 1950s and ’60s – when Harry Golden did most of his writing – weren’t any bed of roses either.  (They featured McCarthyism Vietnam War protests, and the Civil Rights Movement.)   Yet through all those dark years, Harry Golden exuded hope.

All of which brings us back to the old saying noted in the Peanuts cartoon [below], that in “bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small … than to [just] complain about the situation.”  See also Better to light a single candle.  And that great bloggers – like great politicians – should work harder on “selling hope.”

Which is exactly what this blog will try to do.  In 2016 … and Beyond!

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The upper image is courtesy of New Year – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Baby New Year 1905 chases old 1904 into the history books in this cartoon by John T. McCutcheon.”  See also ‘Ringing’ Or ‘Bringing In The New Year:’ A History.

 The full “take stock” quote is courtesy of The Year in Review (Huffington Post):

Before we start to talk about the plans, goals and resolutions for the new year.  It is important to take stock and review the outgoing year.  This includes looking at the wins, the challenges, the mistakes, the areas for improvement and just appreciate how are you feeling at this time of the year.  When you take the time to take stock of the past year’s experiences you will achieve 2 things[:]   1) Ability to count your blessings[; and]  2) Identify the areas for improvement.

Re:  “Life’s a Campaign.”  (“What Politics Has Taught Me about Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.”)  My first exposure to the book was listening to the six hour book-on-CD version.  

The Reagan-Kennedy image is courtesy of www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/08/senator_ted_kennedy.

The lower “stupid darkness” cartoon is courtesy of You Stupid Darkness! | Kurtis Scaletta’s Site, which in turn links to comics.com/peanuts, “one of the most amazing but little-known Internet resources.”  See also lightasinglecandle.wordpress, and The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time.

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Other notable 2015 posts included On American History, “patched and piebald,” the Mid-summer Travelog series, and On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30,” Parts I and Part II.

“Piebald” talked about history as it actually happens – and is lived through – compared to how we learned in schools.  In “school-taught” history, the Founding Fathers – for example – knew exactly what they were doing.  They were “carried [on] by a sure and steady tide.”  But the more-real version – history actually lived through – was “improvised, patched together, made up from one moment to the next.”  That thought was exemplified by John Adams, a Founding Father himself:

I’ll not be in the history books.  Only Franklin.  Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing.  Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang General Washington, fully grown and on his horse…

The Mid-summer Travelogs were on a two-week early-July road trip to Atlantic City and New York City. Modeled on Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, they spoke of pilgrimages in general, driving pilgrimages especially, and had a nod to a canoe trip 12 miles offshore.  Part II added this:

Maybe understanding is only possible after.  Years ago when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.  (E.A.)

Which was another way of saying it seems we can’t truly enjoy our “road trips” until they’re over; “Now that my trip is over … I can look back and relish the memories just lived through.”

And finally, RABBIT [and] “the new 30” talked about the series of books by John Updike centered on Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.  They started with Rabbit as a new father in 1960.  Then:

Updike revisited his hero toward the end of each of the following decades in the second half of this American century; and in each of the subsequent novels … Updike has chronicled the frustrations and ambiguous triumphs … the loves and frenzies, the betrayals and reconciliations of our era.

Part II led off remembering when you could buy a beer at a bar for 40 cents and leave a dime tip.  But at the same time, turning 65 back then meant you looked and felt old, with “liverish scoops” below your eyes and broken veins on the sides of your nose.  But these days a 60-year-old looks like this: 


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