Days Gone By
I’ve always suspected that the little boy in the Emperor’s new clothes was some distant kin of mine.
That little boy had no compunction at all about pointing out the truth of the emperor’s nakedness. The Emperor, of course, had been the victim of both the swindlers who sold him the invisible robe and his own vanity in pretending that he could see it.
As we’re being duped into believing that we are full scale into the “Digital Age” because of the reckless advances in technology in recent years… Advances way out distancing our ethical and moral capability to handle them.
Ray Bradbury pointed out to me years before all this came about a poem he had written called “The Machines beyond Shylock.” “They (the machines) are but a dumb show, Stuff idiot in, And the Moron light you’ll know. Stuff right, Get right, Stuff Rot, Get rot, for no more power lies here, than man himself has got. “
Well we’ve been stuffing rot like it was going out of style and we have all sorts of results to show for it. A while back a large public library destroyed 250,000 books without donating them to a “friends of the library” sale or anything else. When asked why by horrified patrons they said it was their way of preparing for the “Digital Age.”
Technology has given us GMO crops that, reputedly, damage our health, the environment and infect local organic plants. We have legal shielding for these unethical business people. We have secret surveillance programs that stomp on our Constitutional rights. The perpetrators of these programs using the argument that the programs became so large they didn’t even know what they were doing (so large at taxpayer’s expense). And now, by stealth, these same kind of people attempted to take over the education of our children at the most impressionable ages, teaching them that it no longer matters if they know how to write, and hard cover books, and much of our history are a thing of the past, and of no importance to the modern world. All in the name of the “Digital Age.”
A few years back a California program provided school children with a billion dollars’ worth of I-Pads to advance them into the digital age. Shortly after the students began to dismantle the firewalls and use the tablets for Face Book, YouTube and Gaming.
It’s a sort of poetic justice that the very things that have been used to “hook” us on computers prove at least a temporary downfall to other efforts at mass control. This is certainly food for thought.
Those are just a few examples of where our technology has brought us!
Every few weeks I go spend time near Amish and Mennonites so that I can remind myself how real and healthy living really looks. No planned obsolescence here. No computer voices constantly leading off with “This is what you need to know.” No cars that go out of style, no computers that are obsolete nearly as soon as they’re built (so that creative writing, books and other records are subject to loss, and so that the environment constantly suffers from the needless selling and re-selling of updated models just to keep the companies flush with wealth and wealth is the only thing these hucksters can boast of with accuracy. And wealth at such a price!).
No folks, the Emperor is Naked, his promises are lies. He does not even want to share the smallest space with the customs that have seen us safe for thousands of years. He won’t be content until we have no books, no post office, and no ability to write or understand history and literature as we have in the past. It’s his way or the highway. He wants it all. The Emperor is naked. If good is to come out of the “Digital Age” we need to get on with stuffing right, not rot. And see what can be salvaged from the mess greed has created.
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by Geoffrey Jones
Not long ago I overheard the manager of our local Salvation army store telling a customer about his pleasure as a youth exploring a stone quarry.
When I was a kid the only thing I looked forward to more than the Saturday matinee was a hike to the stone Quarry.
A hike to the stone Quarry, for me, was like a trip to the dinosaur age. The fact that it was loaded with fossils helped that fantasy. Every chunk of crinoid and trilobite laden rock was another time travel ticket. Also there were rumors of gold deposits. I could easily imagine finding a stone laced with pure gold.
Sometimes quarry trips were group endeavors. A little group of friends, not unlike the gang in “Stand By Me” would meet, early if possible, and carrying some water in a mayonnaise jar and a few peanut butter sandwiches we’d be off for the hike.
It was almost “Cloak and Dagger” such an expedition. We would feel self important, like prospectors, or archaeologists. Our talk was usually serious in nature, loaded with as many recollections of previous acts of adventure as we could muster.
At the quarry itself was not unlike an astronaut’s moon or Mars landing. There was an almost sacred quality to the site, removed as it was from everyday life. We always moved slowly, savoring the richness and variety of the jagged terrain. If we had small picks or scoops we would begin a search for the fossils or mystery minerals we knew abounded.
Time stood still, while we were there, and finally as the day waned, we would make our way homeward, lunch bag now filled with our rocky hoard of finds.
I’m glad I listened in on that conversation. It reminded me once again just how much pleasure is here in this life in the simplest and most overlooked places..
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Classic authors in our English language have come up with some really splendid titles for their works, and the above is a good example. The original title was even longer as it was prefaced with the words “A Journal of..” Charles Mackay, Scotch jounalist and songwriter compiled the work in 1841.
What I like best about Mackay’s collection is that I can cite it without being accused of loading the deck against the usual stacking deck of our times that I seek to make “transparent.” (It’s much too old and classic to be considered in that way.)
He would probably think to himself, “Wow, this is great, my machine could be the greatest vehicle for mass hypnosis ever seen. I could tell things to people and they would believe them, simply because I tell them to believe them. Not only will I become ridiculously wealthy but I can control the thinking of millions and aim it all toward my own aggrandizement.”
“Now let’s see… he continues, “What might hinder my scheme..” “I know, 9,000 years of recorded history and art could throw a slight crimp in things, but hey, power is on my side…” “I’ll simply use my machine to beam out the idea that my 20 years of huckstering my products out does the whole of history and it’s spiritual growth.” “Ambitious plan you say? Hey nothing is beyond my program for personal success.” “I have to laugh” (he continues), people will all walk around like gullible Lil Abners saying, “We must realize that the Wublee Machine Age has changed all of history. There is nothing else now and we have no choice but to accept it” ….”and where will they have gotten this concept? From the Wublee Machine!.” (Mr. Wublee would then laugh and walk off to make another huge deposit into the Bank he owns.
by Geoffrey Jones
NOTE: (I just got through reading another piece of political correctness about the Cleveland Indians renaming project and decided it would be a good thing to reprint this column for any who missed it the first time, years ago.)
Awhile back an old friend of mine asked me my opinion on the matter of referring to Native Americans as “Indians.” She was confident that a native American would be deeply insulted by this term. Native Americans want to be referred to as “Native Americans ” she said. I answered “Well I’ll tell you what the chief had to say ‘(I was referring to a friend from earlier in my life, David Honyoust, a war chief of the Oneida nation.)
My father and I, as historians, had “fought” side by side, with David and American Indians from all across New York state to save an early burial site from being used for road fill. The effort was a victory and the site’s owner made note in the deed to the property that it was never to be touched. The memory I have of David however that applies to my discussion, was about the name of a nearby school team. It was called the Cambridge Indians.
Some local reporters asked David if he wasn’t offended by the team being so named. “No, said David, in fact I look on it as an honor. When I watch the games and cheer for the team, I feel quite moved knowing that our team is named “The Indians.”
Recently I read the account of a professor who took offense at the ads for the Walt Disney produced animated film depicting Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. She found the film idea “sexist” and “racist,” her argument was that it suggested that a native American girl might not be satisfied with a man from her own village but would be excited over an Englishman like Capt. Smith.
Well my answer to this would be, that was up to Pocahontas wasn’t it? To Pocahontas Capt. Smith would have been like a modern day astronaut. Many modern young girls are taken with astronauts and other celebrities and more than happy at the thought of a relationship with such a one. Pocahontas was a celebrity herself. The morning internet news is filled with such accounts. Modern debunking historians have sneered at the story as being a lie on Smith’s part. “After all he didn’t mention Pocahontas saving his life in his first accounts, only in his 1623 book.” Not bothering with original sources they overlook the fact that Smith’s first accounts were sent to England by a trading company to help interest new settlers for this continent. Telling his experience of being nearly crushed to death would hardly have helped that cause. It was also known that the trading company tailored his early published comments for that very reason.
Other modern comments intended to steer us away from the accounts of those who were actually there are “Pocahontas was only 12 years old at the time. No way there could have been a serious relationship between them.” Again actually understanding history in its own context helps greatly. The age of marriage for young native American girls then was between 12 and 15. In England 12 was also considered an acceptable age for young women to enter into courtship. I suggest watching the great, more recent film “The New World;” it follows original sources very well and is, I believe, a close approximation of what really happened.
An article in “The Atlantic” published helps a lot in explaining these efforts to actually change history to please modern whims. It is called “The Coddling of The American Mind.” It goes in depth into how such modern phenomena as “micro aggressions,” “negative filtering,” “blaming,” etc. are leading to an educational system which literally serves to infantilize students right at the point they are preparing to enter the real world. Even the accepted debate program is challenged by those increasingly thin skinned folks who find ethnic and sexist slurs in every corner. Comedians like Chris Rock are no longer happy about performing in front of such students. Imagine what Don Rickles would have experienced!
My own thought would be in keeping with the old Chinese I-Ching saying, “One should let many things pass without being duped.” We are all human beings with both good and bad qualities, hopefully we feature the good. The Story of Pocahontas and John Smith is some of the good of history, it shows more of how things should have gone during that period. Trying to turn it into something ugly is a loss for everyone. Our study of life and history must always understand this. We study the bad of history along with the good, but take it as it actually happened. Elsewise we become “dumbed down” in just one more way. We have enough to deal with in that respect as it is. Time to toughen up again. Life as it is is a great gift, in scorning the wrongs we still have to honor the rights. We’re not here to give up, but as William Faulkner said…”to prevail.”
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by Geoffrey Jones
Sometimes the most simple motif can contain the most stark and terrifying truths.
It was my pleasure, as a youngster, to live near and see several times the remarkable writer Shirley Jackson. Shirley lived in North Bennington Vermont, (not far from the North Bennington Post Office).
Shirley is well known for having written the original for “The Haunting of Hill House.” Her award winning novel spawned at least two feature films. It is considered by some to be the greatest ghost story ever written.
Her short story “the Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in the New Yorker magazine. It depicts a small New England town where an ancient ceremony is carried out every year. The plain folks narrative of a Norman Rockwell kind of place is dispelled in the last scenes where it is revealed that the ceremonial lottery simply chooses a member of the community to be stoned to death.
The horror in the film “Circle” starts at once. A group of 50 people awake from a sort of trance and find themselves on a strange electronic circle facing inward. (The circle resembles those Simon games we bought for our kids some years back.) Every couple of minutes someone in the circle is executed as if by a lightning bolt. Rather quickly the people in the circle begin arguing about how to control the executions, thinking they can help direct the fatal results toward the elderly, minorities, the poor and other’s deemed less desirable or deserving than those judging.
A pregnant woman and a young child give them momentary pause, but only momentary. The device however, plays no favorites, despite the group’s increasingly selfish efforts, person after person of all types and beliefs are zapped away. The executions, very Democratically, include all.
Some folks reviewing this film think it is about the pointlessness of modern politics. I can see that in part but I’m afraid I hark back, once again, to Dr Zimbardo and his “Lucifer Effect.” We contain these selfish and evil qualities and do not have to look outward to “The enemy” to find them. Dr Zimbardo, Shirley Jackson and the writers of “the Circle” all keep the same problem in the forefront. We have to take hold of ourselves and not allow the trivial and mean to rule our psyches. We must fan the flame of good not of evil. Only then can we truly “Overcome.”
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by Geoffrey Jones
Mentoring is a process as old as thought.
There were probably cave people who mentored the cave children with better ways of climbing trees or throwing spears at woolly mammoths.
It can be done quietly or in some cases with gusto. The bottom line is that it works and it enriches life.
We seldom hear much about great mentors but we hear plenty about those who were mentored.
A man named Ferdinand Earle mentored the great poetess Edna St Vincent Millay. He mentored her by snatching her great poem “Renascence” back out of the waste-basket where the other editor of ” The Lyric Year” had thrown it. “Really very well written,” said Ferdinand, and a career was launched.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson sent an excited letter to the fledgling poet Walt Whitman, after reading his little self-published edition of “Leaves of Grass” saying “I greet you at the beginning of a great career…. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed;” He little expected Whitman to turn around and publish it in gold letters on the back of the second edition. But, after all Emerson was right in his appraisal and Whitman right in moving the work forward, self serving as it may have seemed. Emerson became a mentor in spite of himself.
Likewise Emerson mentored Henry Thoreau. When Emerson found Henry in the town jail for acting out some of his beliefs in “Civil Disobedience,” Emerson asked “Henry ..why are you here?” Thoreau’s answer was “Waldo, why are you not here?” (A saucy answer from one about to be bailed out.) Emerson was long suffering in the mentoring department.
We discovered a poem years ago by a member of the Archbishop Harcourt family. It was written to Princess Victoria when she was a teenager envisioning her whole career. It proved uncannily accurate in showing her future. Her other great mentor was Lord Melbourne, a holdover from the romantic period who was able to slake her thirst for knowledge of that historic earlier age.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find many hidden mentors in the published lives of all the greats. It seems to go with the territory. It puts history in a much broader context, which is always exciting.
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Heston’s character appears to be, as the movie opens, the only normal person left on Earth. He shares the city with a group of vampire-like mutants who have formed an angry cult bent on destroying all remnants of the former society including Neville.
by Geoffrey Jones
Recently I stopped to visit with two of my neighbor friends. We began talking about life in general and one friend mused on the concept of gratitude. Talked about how it had come to him one day how important a thing it is to remember all the good he has experienced.
What a true thought.
Not only is it a happy memory but it powers us up just remembering it. It was a good evening to be thinking along these lines, warm enough to sit in the yard for a change in our shirtsleeves and drink a cold drink and reflect on things.
We humans (one of the other topics we touched on) have that gift for reflection that the animals do not. They work from instinct, we from thought. Lots more variables for us humans.
My uncle taught himself the habit of making notes so that he would be sure to remember important things he had to accomplish during the day. It would be a great idea, nowadays to remember things like gratitude for those milestone blessings that dot our life history. Only too often we get mired in negativity and let all that slip away. We need constant booster shots of gratitude to keep us moving at a healthy pace.
The country old timers didn’t need as much help as we do keeping happy and content. Life was so simply good that gratitude was a daily experience. Every week the local church would hold a social or Grange picnic and the end of the day left a person looking forward, expectantly, to the week ahead. People weren’t going around jealous and rancorous, always worrying that someone else might be getting a better break in life. At that time everyone was a part of the same general experience, and it was a good experience. Neighbors took the time to help each other. People were close to the land and much closer to God.
I’m grateful just thinking about it!
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by Geoffrey Jones
Walt Whitman, sometimes called “The Good Grey Poet,” wrote two of the best known poems about President Lincoln we have in our schoolbooks (at least I hope we still have them in our schoolbooks). The poems are “O Captain My Captain” and “When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed.” In a lesser known poem named “A song for occupations” Whitman summed up our relationship to government in a free democratic country.
“The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who
are here for him,
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them,
The Congress convenes every Twelfth-month for you,
Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the
going and coming of commerce and malls, are all for you.”
His Hero, Abraham Lincoln had this way of putting it. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Some very great men and women have extolled the virtue of American Freedom. The founding Fathers wrote The Bill of Rights and our Constitution with all this in mind. The Government is “Of the people…” That’s all of us folks. At this time, of all times, we need to remember that.
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by Geoffrey Jones
“In the world we have evolved into Truth and Culture are having to hide in the forests and bushes to survive, but they will occasionally jump out and yell BOO!!”
I had that experience watching the film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for peculiar Children.” What a wonderful dreamlike series of messages this artful film contains. The film is directed by Tim Burton, story is by Ransom Riggs, adapted by Jane Goldman to film.
In talking about his work the author told of how, as he wrote the story, he found more and more old collectible photographs and the pictures influenced where he wanted to go with the story, sometimes it was like a kind of puzzle where only he could understand all the pieces.
Those are Ransom Riggs’ own thoughts on some of the processes that went into the creation of his wonderful tale. He had been intrigued by photographic art and had been collecting photographs for years. Out of those images, and more that he found, he slowly crafted the wonderful book upon which this film is based (and he used the pictures to illustrate it).
The film tells the story of a grandfather, Abe Portman, and his grandson, Jake, who was raised on the fantastic stories of his grandfather, set during the second World War period on a Welsh Island. There a group of unique children are being hidden in an orphanage run by a Miss Peregrine. This is a story that tells us of magic and monsters, of the battle of good and evil, and of a fantastic fantasy world juxtaposed against a fantastic real world. Like Ray Bradbury’s work, the mythic aspects of all this are grounded in the constant battles of real life, magic names and characters like “The Hollowgasts (Holocausts) and the evil Malthus (same name as the person who introduced the concept of over population, which led to the eugenics movement), the underlying messages here are dark indeed. The positive message, however which underlies everything is that it’s good to be individual and unique as are all the “peculiar “ children with their distinct gifts, and it is through these wonderful abilities that they move to overcome the evil powers that are set against them.
In an age in which most political and technological movements are slowly relieving us of our individuality (not to mention our freedom) we, more than ever, need well crafted books and films that carry such powerful messages. Messages that encourage our recognition of our self worth, and messages that encourage us to have the courage of the hero of the classic film “Network” to shout out “I’m not going to take this, anymore!” and get back on the path dictated by our individual conscience.
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I seldom have a good clear chance to remember what a northern snowstorm is like. A few years back, I remembered.
Making one of my off and on visits to Kentucky and Amish Country, nature, it seems, chose to pick that week for a grand weather demonstration. I was with my friends on a back road in a well wooded area when the storm hit. None of us thought to move any vehicles out to the end of the long lane that leads back to this mini-farm, or even turn them facing out…. big mistake.
The snow began to collect almost at once. Before we knew it six or seven inches had fallen and blanketed everything in sight. More was to follow!
The night dropped to well below zero.
Kentucky and Tennessee are not usually well prepared for such an onslaught and that proved very true this week. It was well over a day before any sort of plow went over the secondary road that leads to town. The snow was blowing and drifting even after being plowed and it wasn’t long before things were as slippery as ever.
With help from a neighbor, we managed to get one truck as far as the secondary road and a family member who commutes took it to work, only to wind up in the ditch on his way home. A friend with a four wheel drive truck helped him get out only to wind up in a ditch himself the following day!
All the while we were experiencing problem after problem, the Amish continued life as usual. They relied on four hoof drive rather than four wheel drive. They had plows that the horse (or horses) pulled like garden plows to clear their driveways. I managed to get a shot of this project at a neighbor’s farm and it illustrates this column.
All this revealed for me again, how fragile our electric dependent tech is when facing the hazards of nature. During the temporary loss of electric power most products collapse like a house of cards. Propane gas and wood would keep us warm during that outage. The Amish did well without even propane.
We need to keep remembering where we came from. It can be a life saver!
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by Geoffrey Jones, Days Gone By
I suspect most families have stories about notable pets who were part of the family experience over the years. My parents once had a german shepherd with the name “Teddy.” I still remember him for his good nature and the protective quality children sense in a pet and watchdog.
One day Teddy managed to get hurt someway. Not seriously but something on the order of getting his tale pinched in a door. He whined and complained and then lay with his head down.
My parents commiserated with Teddy saying “poor Teddy, poor Teddy“ a few times and at that Teddy gave a woeful look and began to whine all over again. My parents repeated the sympathy a couple more times and each time Teddy would whine. This was, in spite of Teddy’s temporary plight, somewhat amusing.
A week or so passed and life went on as usual when one morning as my parents enjoyed their breakfast coffee my father remembered the incident and looking over at Teddy with a smile said “Poor Teddy, Poor Teddy,” and no sooner than he finished Teddy put his head down and whined just as he had before.
My parents were struck by the human like response on Teddy’s part and kept the knowledge of it. I still remember it even now and at intervals will sometimes say “poor Teddy” nostalgically to myself.
Just lately I began thinking of that memory in a new way. After reading the morning tech beamed news I am reminded of it often, though not in the benign way in which I remember Teddy’s story.
To give a somewhat generic description of the comparison and psychology of this, suppose one should publish a story about the potato famines in the 17 and 1800s and how the farmers suffered both from hunger as well as oppression. Or perhaps any of the myriad groups of people who have been victims over the thousands of years of our recorded history. Today, in our free country the main problem we are faced with is remembering we have that freedom and keeping our political leaders on their toes to remember it too (and this IS a problem). Nonetheless in spite of that fact the news will usually slant stories toward some of the descendants of the varying sufferers throughout history and remind them how hurt their ancestors were in the distant past. While interestingly enough, these same “poor Teddy” news voices besmirch the brave efforts of the heroes and patriots of the past who risked everything to right those wrongs, and left constitutional laws in place to keep them righted. We should write that part of history out they feel, or paint those fighters for freedom as liars and cheats.
It would be something like someone telling Teddy, “Poor Teddy though your tail is not pinched right now it hurt a lot when it was! And though you need to learn to recognize the dangers of crossing the busy highway which has sprung up outside, we’ll still keep the past foremost in your mind.”
Thus by focusing his attention on past woes he might well neglect noticing current dangers, and get killed by a speeding truck carrying GMO produce. Or perhaps a cargo van loaded with vaccines heading to a sequestered testing compound at “warp speed.”
We are a lot like Teddy and the people who play on our weakness don’t really have our well being at heart. They want to misdirect us away from what is going on now to harm us by pointing to the pains of the past and distant past.( Knowing we will grieve about those and forget the present.)
Well, unlike Teddy, we can reflect a bit and come back for a second look, at our trainers and the world around us they are creating . Hmmmmmm I had a feeling things weren’t quite right. Time to put our often misdirected energy to work where it will really count is my thought. Appreciate comments email@example.com
by Geoffrey Jones, Days Gone By
It’s interesting to consider the actual story of how “Alice in Wonderland” first was created. It all goes back to England in the eighteen sixties.
The writer who eventually took the name “Lewis Carroll” was actually a bookish clergyman and mathematician named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
Henry Liddell was Dean of Christ Church Oxford at that time and Dodgson taught there. As a friend of the Liddell family he and other friends would sometimes take boat rides along the Thames river. The deans daughter, Alice Liddell, would enjoy these rides and begged Dodgson to tell the children stories.
Out of the fanciful stories the world of Wonderland slowly emerged. When the group would stop and picnic at Nuneham, the old estate of the Archbishop Harcourt, the lovely Nuneham woods would serve as background for the storytelling.
Alice was so pleased with the stories that she finally asked Dodgson to write them down and he created a hand illustrated version of them called “Alice’s Adventures Underground.”
In 1865 the actual Alice In Wonderland book was first printed. It has never gone out of print to this day.
Regarding another classic, Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow in the Wizard of OZ in an interview years after the movie appeared, commented that when his group began filming the screen version, no one had any idea the production would become a legend. Everyone thought it would be just another typical 1930s movie. Rev. Dodgson probably also felt surprise at the vast success of his stories.
Imagination is a wonderful thing, and it’s always finding some brand new way to surprise us.
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Days Gone By
by Geoffrey Jones
Everyone has used page markers at one time or another. They are the slips of paper we place in books to mark quotations or ideas that are our particular favorites or are otherwise important to us. They also can mark the spot we leave off in a story.
In many ways we mark our life with similar markers. Everyone who was around when John Kennedy was shot remembers what he or she was doing when the news came. I remember I was going to be in a masquerade party and was trying on my mask. My father came walking in and said “The president has been shot!…” That marker has been in place ever since.
Page markers of many kinds continue on through life. Discovering a favorite author or book is big on my list. I still remember staying up all night reading “The Martian Chronicles” when I discovered Ray Bradbury. In music memories, I remember how amazing Bob Dylan was when I first heard his off beat voice. And I remember how, after I had gotten used to his sound how interesting his complex lyrics proved to be. The first time seeing a great movie, like “Gone With The Wind” or “Titanic” is a fine example. All those emotions we felt on the first seeing made that a great day.
The day we met our wife or husband. The day our child was born. The day we met our best friend. Each and every one has its own special marker.
When I think about it our book of life is bulging with these markers. And each and every one is worth returning to at intervals, with appreciation for what we have learned and gratefulness for all of our blessings.!
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I got to thinking about all the fun I used to have reading the Johnson Smith catalogs when I was a kid. Another similar business was called “The Honor Company.” They advertised in Boys Life and Science and Mechanics. Reading those ads was one of those things you had to experience to understand. Some things are just like that.
Johnson Smith came into being in 1914, but some of the pictures in the old catalogs looked like they came from the 1850s. Great stuff. Scary and awesome. You could order things like “The Big Entertainer” for a quarter (The Big Entertainer was a re-print of an old book filled with jokes, cartoons and odd information like Little Willies Jokes). It looked like it might have originally been published in the 1880s. Lots of old woodcut illustrations.
Joke items abounded; dribble glass, fake ink stain, fake broken mirror, sneezing powder, itching powder, fake black eye, cigarette loads, (Bang).
Incredible concepts like “Build your own tank, build your own Hopalong Cassidy clubhouse etc etc. I ordered the clubhouse, it was printed paper you glued onto a box. But hey, no matter what I ordered I loved it! The anticipation of the arrival of the package was what it was all about.
If kids these days could re-live that I guarantee it would mean the same thing to them it meant to me. Fun, imaginative fun. The anticipation of the impossible dream arriving in the morning mail. It was one of the great enjoyments of my life. I never outgrew the excitement of that thought.
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You don’t see door to door or traveling salesmen much these days. But one method they used, a rather unsavory one, not only survives, but is downright flourishing. It was called “The Presumptive close.”
The method worked like this: After the salesman had given his whole spiel on his product and while the customer was still in a slightly confused state he would open his sales book and begin closing the sale by starting to write while saying “and will you want two cases of these today?” At least half the time the customer would buy thinking they had already somehow agreed to do so. The effect usually never wore off or at least lasted several hours. (Meanwhile the salesman had happily cashed his check or stashed his cash and was on his way to more homes.) Get it?
Now to illustrate what I mean about this method being alive and well we don’t have far to look.
Every day in our morning computer internet feed we are barraged with news items and “sponsored” ads which give us information slanted with the same presumptive close method. One example out of many goes something like this: “Now that the age of AI is here we have no choice but to accept that soon our brains will be melded with machine intelligence in order to further increase our connectedness to the forces of necessary change. We must welcome this since it is inevitable.” (“How many cases shall we write you down for?”)
Every day of our lives such “Presumptive” messages are beamed to us. We begin to walk around like the robots the postings predict, mouthing the silly words over and over until, in our tech infused world, they seem true.
But they aren’t…….
We’re still inwardly the same free agents we were centuries past when we tossed the tea into Boston Harbor and told the taxmen to take a hike.
I know I’m formulating my own speech in answer to all this. Something like, “Thank you very much for the offer but so far your tech advances and your AI have only brought us unwarranted survellence, tech products that are flimsy in construction and format and are constanly becoming outdated or breaking down. Phone apps to answer our questions that don’t accomplish this and leave us puzzled over a simple query a live human could have answered instantly.
You have attempted to use your algorithmic methods to weigh and measure us and classify our worth in order to pass out information and opportunity in a kind of class conscious agenda. Even though there is no weighing and measuring of the human spirit possible. Your so called algorithms are only new names for prejudice and bigotry.
Your News items and advertisements are nearly all filled with hidden and not so hidden agendas that mislead and separate us from each other more and more every day.
As far as us having to accept your wares and ways as waves of the future we need to create new laws and rules that will limit you in your constant free use of lies and misdirection. We should cleanse ourselves of all your falsehoods and reclaim our own freedom of personal thought and direction.”
Yes, that and a lot more is what I will say.
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Years ago I read the fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” I was a teenager at the time so it wasn’t hard to remember back to the age of the 13-year old hero, Will Holloway. It’s a great age of alertness and awareness and Bradbury’s characters are always that. The story revolves around a father (Charles Holloway), his son Will, and Will’s best friend (Jim Nightshade), along with various villagers and lastly the ominous beings in a traveling carnival that comes to town headed by someone who seems to be the Devil himself (Mr. Dark).
Though the father and the boys and Mr. Dark are the main characters in the story, another being who is almost no set character at all loomed large to me. Now that I look back on it that entity was pivotal to the whole message Bradbury was conveying.
The character was designated “The Dust Witch” and in depth of evil intent rivals the Ringmaster “Mr. Dark” himself. The Carnival characters are malevolent beings feeding on the life force of the inhabitants of the villages they visit while also pretending they will grant all their most secret needs and wishes.
Cutting to the main point I gathered from this wonderful classic, the key moment of victory against the Satanic circus is when Charles Holloway, weakened by an injured hand and failing heart from a battle with Mr. Dark, is nearly finished off by the dust witch but suddenly revives when he realizes how ridiculous she is. He laughs at her and this laughter drives her back and away. He ultimately shoots her with a bullet from a carnival rifle carved with a smile, destroying all her evil completely.
This realization of the power of reflection and humor to overcome those things that frighten and weaken us is something we need to think about very seriously right now.
Are we being frightened and cowed on a daily basis by the events of recent months? Are we acting like fools ourselves because we don’t know how to fight back against ongoing politically correct tainted shaming and manipulation?
Are we on the verge of giving up altogether those freedoms and liberties that made our country a unique example of human idealism for the whole world to consider?
To quote Vachel Lindsay in the last line of his short poem “The Leaden Eyed,” “Not that they die, But that they die like sheep..” We must cease going that route of the Leaden Eyed. We are being held hostage by many lies and half truths right now. And we are being hurried in directions that only promise worse by those who already admit they will bear no responsibility for the health risks and losses in our freedom and personal autonomy we would face in the upcoming months and years.
We need to remember who we are, and remember it now! There are Dust Witches to vanquish! But I have total faith we are equal to the task of putting them in their place.
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Oratory, it is an old and respected form of communication. When I think of oratory I think first of Williams Jennings Bryan. His ‘Cross of Gold’ speech in defense of the small farmers against the rich banks and railroads during the late 1800s has gone down as one of the greatest examples in modern history. I quote an example “I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down these cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again, as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”
Obviously Bryan was firmly behind the common man.
The other great example I think of is Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address. An example.
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. …”
The crafting of the address is as skillful as anything the poet Emily Dickinson ever wrote. Every word rings true.
Modern folks who wish to pursue oratory, (and I understand there are some serious efforts in this direction) are following a good tradition. I strongly suggest they study well the work of their precursors. Not just for content but for depth. Oratory that is meaningful, well thought out, and true is a great addition to our society. It gives voice to the unspoken thoughts of many and encourages and inspires the good work of life.
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Henry Fonda was one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century. He just happened to father two of the stormiest petrels that century produced. “Easy Rider” himself Peter Fonda and, of course, Jane Fonda.
In the old days they used expressions like “Bringing honored gray hair to sadness.” This meant the kids went wild and left the parents to pay the piper.
Henry may have felt that way sometimes, he had great trouble showing his real emotions (much like his character, Norman Thayer in Golden Pond). He loved his wild kids but had a hard time telling them so.
Life is such a classroom and when you think about it, we are all “Home Schooled” in so many ways. Henry learned a hard lesson but he learned it in time to turn in his report.
He was in England, very near the end of his life, when he gave an interview in which he confessed his emotional coldness and his real love for his children. I remember seeing the interview and recall he had tears in his eyes.
I know it meant a lot to his children. It closed a big chapter in a beautiful way. Not many have had the opportunity to live out their life-lessons in front of millions. I think he knew what a great blessing it was.
Leadership can take a lot of forms. One thing leaders have in common, however, is that they “go before.” Leaders quite often have characteristics synonymous with heroes and heroism.
We all know the stories of great leaders who led the way in battle. But leaders have equally influenced things by leading the way in spiritual or creative endeavors. Great actors and actresses like great writers, show us prototypes and archetypes. Figures who illuminate our lives and the world around us who help us gauge our place in life and find myriads of ways to emerge and grow.
James Dean and Natalie Wood were such forces. Both together, in the film “Rebel without a Cause” and separately in their individual careers, their much too short lives blazed a path that is still clear and bright after decades. That personal destiny played a part in their lives and roles, I have little doubt.
“Rebel Without A Cause” is a masterpiece. It gave the two young stars the perfect vehicle for displaying the foibles of human nature and the powerful antidote two thoughtful and synchronized young lovers can interject into the fray. Seldom since Romeo and Juliet has a dramatic work rung so true, and unlike Shakespeare’s play this couple live to continue fighting toward the light, another day.
Dean’s early death at age 24 sealed his place in art and history. The world is fortunate to still have the three great works he illuminated with his unique genius during that short life.
Natalie Wood was also to die young, but she lived to star in a science fiction work which I feel certain will continue as a classic of its time for years to come. “Brainstorm” in which she co-starred with Christopher Walken, tells a tale of good technology (a machine that can read people’s minds and play back the results into another persons mind) turned bad by greedy and short sighted scientists and militarists who mean to distort its purposes for spying and torture uses.
The two lead characters still manage to thwart the wrongful efforts, at least long enough to experience breakthroughs in the knowledge of the transition that takes place at the time of death. This happens when they manage to play back a tape of someone’s death experience from a heart attack (Louise Fletcher plays that role). Ironically Wood herself, died mysteriously during the making of the film. The producer still, at great effort and expense brought the project to fruition several years later. It ranks high as a warning to us in our present time as we see technology perverted from its higher potential at every turn.
Those two candles in the wind, James and Natalie left a legacy to be honored and re-experienced. We need those continued lessons in relationships, and in ethics. I doubt they realized themselves how great a contribution they were making. They were leaders in the best sense of the word.
I remember a morning, some years back, I walked to the diner where I have my morning coffee and start my day.
When I sat down I noticed a lady bug was sitting on my left sleeve . Carefully I took it outside and set it on a flowering bush nearby. “That’s good luck,” I commented to a friend of mine.
When I sat back down a memory came to me of a television playlet I had seen years ago when I was a child. The program had told the story of a little French boy, Benny, (played by an actor named Michael Petit) and his efforts to be a chess champion even including going up against a computerized robot. Those were much earlier days of technology and the robot was played, almost benignly, by the classic “Robby the Robot.”
Another chess player was hoping to see little “Benny” fail in his quest against the unbeatable robot but as fate would have it a little lady bug who Benny had liberated earlier with the words “Lady bug, Ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children will burn….” flies onto the robot’s helmet and getting access to the robot’s circuitry causes a massive short-out which wins Benny the game.
To me there was a wonderful message in this little fable. A message more relevant now than when the play first appeared. Wrongful Technology can be beaten by the natural. However, it is bent out of shape by the greedy to work against us there are still forces in the natural world that will even things out,
GMO’s that hurt our health, Surveillance equipment that siphon our freedoms, plans, starting in Belgium to OK euthanasia for old people and little children, efforts of greedy scientists to own our very DNA. These plans will, ultimately fail as avarice usually fails in the lessons we’ve learned from history. Nature and the human spirit can only be bent so far in the wrong direction until, like grass growing through cement, they make their way back toward the sun.
I’m thankful for ladybugs. Both the one on my arm and the one in the story.
I had my memory of the philosopher, Diogenes, brought back to me, not by a course in ancient history but by watching the Mel Gibson thriller “Edge of Darkness.” The film is about a crooked government plot involving the murder of Emma Craven, a young whistleblower and her father’s effort to uncover the perpetrators of the crime.
Ray Winstone’s character, Capt. Jedburgh, is sent to assassinate Detective Craven, (Gibson) but in seeing his painful yet steadfast efforts to unravel his daughter’s murder, decides to aid him instead. He tells Craven that he feels like Diogenes “That guy who walked around with a lamp looking for an honest man.” Craven asks him “How did it turn out?” Jedburgh answers, “What, for him? I don’t remember, but you and I did pretty good.”
In the case of Dr. and Senator Scott Jensen, America has done pretty good too.
Dr Jensen has been a Doctor for 40 years. He is that classic kind of doctor I remember from years past before the new corporate model came in during the Nixon administration.
Earlier Doctors were more devoted to their patients than to their mansions and golf courses. They recognized each person not as a statistic but as an individual. They made house calls. They followed up on their patients’ progress.
So when the more modern medical establishment came to Dr Jensen and encouraged him to be deceptive in writing out death certificates in relation to the Covid 19 epidemic,featuring Covid19, regardless of the actual main cause of death, they met an honest man.
Dr Jensen reported the development publicly, even showing the document he had received, making him not only an honest physician but an honest politician as well (an even rarer commodity). Honesty is not rewarded in modern corporate America. Only a few thousand people watched his first posting. I saw it and when posting it on Facebook found myself meeting with angry responses for daring to post such a thing.
Apparently, believing themselves to be unnoticed, the higher ups began to mount a campaign to punish Dr. Jensen for his openhearted honesty. Cloaking the accusers in the protective mask of anonymity, Dr. Jensen was informed that unnamed persons had accused him of “Spreading disinformation” and “reckless advice.” Dr. Jensen was amazed. He commented “If this could happen to me, it could happen to anybody.” He decided to share his experiences once again. This time modern technology actually paid off. His posting has gone viral and is presently seen by millions upon millions of people. He is beginning to be interviewed on talk shows and podcasts. Those who have been afraid to question the curious coincidences of constitutional freedoms being infringed upon daily and rights stomped upon in what the media has called “doing the right thing” are beginning to creep out of their hiding places and get some of their courage back. What other false information is being foisted upon us during this terrible time? What other paths to destruction are we being “instructed” to follow? The sorting out process is just beginning.
The days ahead will tell us the outcome. Thank you, Dr. Jensen, for reminding us some of what we’re made of. Diogenes would have been proud.
In the early days of our human race we had hunters and gatherers. Now it would appear that quality has, for the time being, degenerated into a constant search for what is bad and negative and destructive in our fellow man (while attempting to avoid looking at the same qualities in ourselves).
The findings are presented to us in the morning news.
We spent last Columbus day reading… not accounts of the reaching out of forces to pull the world closer together in times of exploration. We heard about the ugly and destructive way Columbus bungled his dealings with the indigenous peoples he confronted. The conclusion presented after a fling into horror was that we drop Columbus as an historical hero and honor the indigenous people instead.
Of course the built-in flaw in this plan is that the same approach, at some point can also be aimed at the indigenous people. Tales of horror, torture, cannibalism (as in what happened to Verrazzano) and other traits of our human nature will be found here as well. Eventually we become like the drunk man who falls on the Limburger cheese and after roaming around a bit, decides “the whole world stinks.” (And we all know where the smell was coming from.)
We have given similar treatment to the memories of many of our founding fathers who took from the best in their natures and fought for our liberty and to create a protective constitution for us. A constitution that is in place for everyone here in our country. Not just some.
So what point am I making? That the findings of Dr Zimbardo and Dr Milgrim are quite correct. Given permission, and often light permission we will all, men and women alike, perpetrate atrocities. If we’re going to look at ourselves let’s really do it folks.
When the men or women who thought they were giving electric shocks to people in another room and could hear their screams of pain were told to keep turning the power up a further notch, they did it without question to the point where death would have occurred. When the Jailers in the Prison experiment realized they had been granted the mock power to exercise cruelty over the prison inmates, they did it gladly and with real sadism. The prisoners suffered terribly, and were willing to suffer as their part in the experiment. These were not people gathered from an insane asylum or such; these were well-educated students demonstrating their human nature. And from this we learn.
We hear tales of wealthy motion picture magnates who abused their power and took advantage of those who worked for them. They were guilty of ugly and sociopathic behavior. Ugly and self-serving to the max. Famous actors and politicians who have been guilty of the same and similar offenses all point fingers and say “tisk, tisk.” We take turns siding with one unsavory politician or another not looking at the fact that a good portion of the brew is sour.
We tear down statues of those who once perpetuated slavery, feeling justified because of our cause in acting like vandals and thieves, until we also tear down a peace statue, but that’s OK because our cause was good. Then we go home stopping by a giant chain store that offers low prices because many of its suppliers live in other countries and work for pennies an hour, some living in boxes and with nothing remotely like adequate food to eat. But that’s OK because we don’t see them. Out of sight out of mind. My, what bargains we got! We sit and eat our overly large supper with a feeling of total complacency. We made a statement about slavery today.
So what am I suggesting? That we realize that where there are wrongs we can certainly work to change them. But throwing out the good of history because there was also bad is for us a kind of suicide. We recognise ourselves in the badness. We should. When we shrink from those lessons it is ourselves we shrink from. That recognition leads us often to throw away our mirror and try to point a finger at anyone but us.
We shrink from our religion also. It is a little too close for comfort for us because it illuminates our proclivity for evil. But the spiritual lessons are good ones. “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone,” How much better could that have been said by a complacent scientist or tech wizard? We learned along the way but the lazy part of our natures wants to spurn the knowledge. Easier to call the higher spiritual values of the centuries “Myth” and “make believe,” certainly much easier than actually trying to follow strong, moral precepts and lessons. We try to transfer our allegiance from a spiritual outlook to a scientific one, only to find out that our human flaws follow us the whole journey and are still fully intact. And we are much less comforted by the thought that we have only ourselves to turn to, knowing when we are honest just how imperfect we actually are. Looking to a higher and perfectible self was one of the good lessons we learned. It gave us saints and heroes to sustain us. Of course we are loath to see it go. And the good in us will not let it. That is the other side of the coin.
One story I saw in the news was I think quite hopeful. One person after a very graphic account of Columbus’ wrongdoings pointed out the rightness of another early companion of Columbus, Las Cassas. How he took up for the poorly treated Natives of America and urged against slavery (the writer did his homework properly in also pointing out LasCassas had originally sponsored slavery but saw the error of his ways and changed). This lesson gives us the full picture to work with. How we can raise ourselves beyond our lower human nature to heroic activity. How we can make that choice and have it real. I’m glad to have found that story. It’s the nugget we need. We should keep Columbus, because bad and good, he’s part of us. We keep LasCassas too because, thankfully, he’s also part of us. Out of our uncensored history we find the true strength to look at ourselves first when heading out to judge the world and our human past.
Now that we are actually living in the time envisioned by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World and George Orwell in 1984, we find that as well as being increasingly harmful to individual freedom and creativity, it is also filled with unspeakable rudeness. Tech Rudeness.
If we went into a restaurant for a festive outing, and no sooner than we sit down to order a pleasant meal, out of nowhere, a group of well-to-do people sit down with us and begin ordering and telling us what we should be ordering, then after partaking of the meal while talking loudly all through it, the uninvited guests leave informing us we need to cover the tab. We would be outraged beyond belief and, needless to say, we wouldn’t let this happen twice.
And yet we are now spending our money on products that do just that and worse. Products that will interrupt us while we are writing notes, checking on weather, reading news stories. Just about everything we do. They leave their prompts on the screen and wait with baited antenna to see which we will use. They tell us what to think, and that we should think it. These intrusive apps on our phones, computers, televisions and soon to be attached to our heads behave in a way an eight year old school child of years past would have been ashamed to admit to.
So much of this rudeness is delivered in an elaborate and showy form, which in fact, adds further insult to injury. We are constantly told how we are soon to be the happy recipients of the latest, ( to approximate the language) “Innovative solutions, proving that disruption brings order to the entire infrastructure through total data connectivity..” etc. etc. And shouldn’t we be glad.. (and we have no choice anyway because this is relentless tech progress.)
Who are we poor peons to question such elaborate, scholarly sounding jargon as this as it is constantly foisted upon us?
It reminds me of the showy CGI displays on black holes and what they are of a few years back. We are encouraged to sit speechless before these impressive productions, such a dramatic presentation must hold ultimate truth we humbly think. Until, of course, Stephen Hawking changes his mind, as he did recently. Then, wow, back to the old CGI drawing board. Oops.
The Wizard of OZ was a good guy when he hid behind the curtain and used his august image to help endow his friends with more faith in themselves and their individual gifts.
The modern wizards hide behind curtains too, but for no such good purpose. In fact their purpose is pretty much the exact opposite. They are self serving business people who seek to standardize the mass of us into non-thinking workers and customers. While they portray their products as being streamlined space age innovations, the products actually represent the greedy mercenary anxiousness of their creators. Just as stuffed sausage often looks good on the outside but as we know when we think about it, the inside is made palatable largely by its high seasoning not quality of content. They are so anxious for quick sales that they are clumsily giving their agendas away on an almost daily basis. And for that, I am most glad.
Without bothering to ask us, these hucksters also insinuated themselves into our educational systems, thinking most likely to increase control over our thinking at the youngest most impressionable ages. Fortunately this first covert attempt failed. Now these same folks plan to create entire tech cities where they, and their products, can rule and be worshipped. However, as we have always seen, wrongful human systems and creations ultimately crumble. Thousands of years of our history have taught us this. We still have our free will, and we will use it one more time to restore the balance. The dumbing down hasn’t worked yet.
I never tire of quoting Ray Bradbury’s poem, “The Machines beyond Shylock” where he made it clear the machines were just what they are programmed to be, “stuff right, get right, stuff rot, get rot.” Our present machines have been and are being used to spy on us, politically influence us, condition us, and rob us. You can judge for yourself what they are stuffed with.