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Orwell

Your freedom

If only

Alzheimer's

 

No Man is an Island
By John Donne

Donne-J

John Donne (1572-1631)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

———

There Will Come Soft Rain

By Sara Teasdale

Teasdale S

Sara Trevor Teasdale Filsinger (1884-1933)

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

———

Dreams

By Langston Hughes

Hughes-L

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

———

Warning

By Jenny Joseph

Joseph-J

Jenny Joseph (1932-2018)

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

———

A Smile to Remember

By Charles Bukowski

Bukowski-C

Henry Charles Bokowski (1920-1994)

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
can
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: ‘Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?’

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
smiled

 

A Fine Line

Flagstaff, Arizona, began as a railroad town, founded in 1876 as a distribution center for the timber industry. The railroad still has a pervasive influence on the city today.

How pervasive? Well, mammoth freight trains rumble through town about 100 times a day. That pervasive.

U.S. Route 66 is one of the main highways through the city, bisecting Flagstaff from east to west. Roughly paralleling it are the tracks of the BNSF Railway. The city has a few overpasses and one underpass, but most of the railroad crossings are the old-fashioned kind with crossing gates.

FL-1

In short, much of Flagstaff is at the mercy of the trains. And the problem is at its worst in the downtown district, which has significant vehicular and foot traffic from visitors, residents, and students from Northern Arizona University, which is close to downtown.

The city’s relationship with BNSF has been prickly for years. Not only are the trains a constant disruption, but deaths occur regularly from accidents (inattention, drugs, alcohol) and suicides.

A few years ago, the city went to court and forced BNSF to slow the trains down, improve the crossings, and stop blowing their horns for the hell of it. The locals were furious at being startled awake multiple times overnight, plus having to endure the horns all day.

Part of me finds the situation amusing. But, noise and inconvenience aside, a moving train is a truly sobering thing. There is a fine line between continuing your day and being dead.

That lesson was driven home when I was in Flagstaff on vacation in September. Specifically, along with several dozen other people, I had an alarming close call with a passing freight train. The memory of it still gives me the willies.

To get you oriented, here is a map of the downtown area that I lifted from the city website.

FL-2

The main business district is north of the railroad and Route 66. The area south of the tracks is a mixture of retail and residential.

I should add that, inside the city limits, the BNSF tracks are double. Eastbound trains use the south tracks, westbound trains use the north tracks. Like a two-lane highway.

The close call happened at the Beaver Street railroad crossing. Beaver Street is one-way going south. This is the crossing looking north.

FL-3

The day it happened, I had just returned from shopping downtown. When I reached the tracks, a westbound freight was in the process of passing. The crossing arms were down, holding back the vehicles. Waiting with me at the northwest corner were six or eight pedestrians. A dozen more were across the street on the northeast corner.

Later that day, I took this photo, looking west from the same spot. The westbound freight had been on the right set of tracks, blocking the view of the eastbound tracks on the left.

FL-4

After the westbound train passed, the crossing arms went up, and the cars and pedestrians started south across the tracks. At the same time, pedestrians on the south side of the tracks proceeded toward us.

Suddenly, the warning bells went off again. The crossing arms came down.

I looked to my right and saw another train, this one eastbound, almost upon us. The first train had hidden it until the last second.

Train #2 was going faster than the westbound freight. The engineer leaned on his horn. Most of the pedestrians, me included, were caught by surprise and were a bit disoriented.

Later, I took this photo of another eastbound train. This is what I saw bearing down on us.

FL-5

In the next five seconds, a lot happened. The first few vehicles proceeded across the tracks, maybe unaware of the oncoming train. The cars behind them were stopped by the crossing arms.

But among the pedestrians, pandemonium ensued. People screamed, shouted, and scattered in panic.

I was halfway across the tracks when I spotted the oncoming train. I ran forward toward the people coming in my direction, waving my arms and yelling for them to get back.

Most stopped, but one young couple looked at me funny and continued forward. “No! No!” I yelled. “Train coming! Another one!” They retreated.

With a blast of wind and noise, the train shot past. People milled around, breathless, rattled.

Like all the freight trains, it was a long one. After it was gone, I looked around the crossing. No casualties.

The excitement was over, and everyone disbursed. I walked across the street to Altitudes Bar & Grill to have lunch and a well-earned beer.

The waitress was friendly and chatty, and I told her what had happened. She was a native. The subject was close to her heart.

She sat down opposite me in the booth and gave me a detailed report on the city’s battles with BNSF. She also told me about some of the more memorable deaths — a gruesome litany of horrific accidents and suicides.

“Honey,” she said, “there ain’t no sugar-coating it. Death by train is always messy.”

FL-6

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

The sea otter has the densest fur of any mammal, with up to a million hairs per square inch of skin. They have an undercoat of dense fur and an outer layer of longer “guard hairs.” Air trapped between the layers keeps the skin dry.

The world’s largest lake is the Caspian Sea, located between Iran and Russia. The Caspian is landlocked, but once was connected to the open ocean. Tectonic uplifting closed it off a few million years ago.

The Caspian is neither a sea nor a freshwater lake. The water is fresh at the north end, thanks to inflow from the Volga River, but the south end is brackish.

The first daytime radio soap opera in the U.S. was Painted Dreams, which ran on WGN in Chicago from 1930 until 1943. It was created by radio actress Irna Phillips, who went on to write The Guiding Light and As the World Turns. Her first TV soap was These Are My Children in 1949.

Phillips, the “Queen of the Soaps,” came up with the concepts of a musical transition between scenes (the “organ bridge”) and ending episodes with a cliffhanger.

Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night, a work almost as famous as the artist, while he was a patient at an asylum, being treated for paranoia, hallucinations, depression, and epileptic fits.

Van Gogh created the painting during a relapse of depression. It uses darker colors than his previous work and represents a break from his usual realism. Further, it was done entirely from memory; no such view exists near the asylum.

Starry Night

Elizabeth Barrett Browning the famous British poet of the Elizabethan era (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”) was plagued by dog-nappers. Her cocker spaniel Flush was stolen four times. Each time, Ms. Browning offered a reward of 10 pounds for the dog’s safe return, which probably explains why Flush kept disappearing.

The narrow strips of wood, metal, or plastic that separate the glass panes of a window are called “muntins” or “muntin bars.” The name comes from the French word monter (to mount).

Ebbets Field was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 until 1957, when the Dodgers stiffed Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles. The stadium was promptly torn down and replaced by an apartment complex.

Undoubtedly, the hardiest, most resilient creature on earth is the tardigrade (aka water bear), a microscopic animal that lives in a wide range of wet environments — oceans, mountains, rain forests, the Arctic, and everywhere in between.

Tardigrades can survive temperatures as high as 300°F and as low as –458°F. They can withstand the vacuum of space; more than 1,200 times atmospheric pressure; and 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal. When subjected to dry conditions, they can hibernate for years and revive when moisture is restored.

Tardigrade

In many Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 40s, including The Wizard of Oz and Holiday Inn, a soft, fluffy substance called chrysolite was used to simulate snow. Chrysolite (aka white asbestos) later was discovered to be a major carcinogen, and it was banned.

Over the years, Hollywood has made snow out of salt, flour, and potato flakes. In the late 1940s, it was done by mixing the chemical foamite (used in fire extinguishers) with sugar and soap flakes. Today, most snow is simulated by a substance called SnowCell, which is made from recycled paper.

The word scuba (as in scuba diving) is an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

When the original Disneyland opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California, it consisted of five “lands” — Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.

At the time, Tomorrowland was set in the far-distant future: 1986. When the park was updated in the late 1960s, the 1986 thing was quietly dropped.

In pre-Columbian South America, the Incas built an extensive network of rope suspension bridges to cross canyons and rivers. They were made by weaving grass into lengths of rope, then weaving the rope into cables. Local peasants were tasked with annual repair and maintenance.

Eventually, the bridges were replaced by Spanish masonry bridges, and the Incas are long gone, but one famous rope bridge remains: the Keshwa Chaca bridge in Peru. Local villagers rebuild it every year using traditional Incan techniques.

Keshwa Chaca

 

Quotes o’ the Day

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

###

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

— Ambrose Bierce

###

Belgium is a beautiful city.

— Donald Trump

###

By the time a man realizes his father was right, he has a son who thinks he is wrong.

— Charles Wadsworth

Roosevelt E

Roosevelt

Wadsworth C

Wadsworth

 

A crime of moral turpitude is conduct that is corrupt or degenerate. An offense that gravely violates accepted standards.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines it an act of “baseness, vileness, or the depravity in private and social duties which man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals once called it “an act which is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong.”

People, it’s long past time to do the deed.

Donald Trump, the Orange Vulgarian — grifter, swindler, cheater, liar, modern-day Benedict Arnold — corrupt, incompetent, spectacularly unqualified to serve — a man who commits crimes of moral turpitude as readily as he breathes — should have been impeached long ago.

The House Democrats need to suck it up and proceed. Trump’s offenses are so numerous and so egregious, the House could pick Articles of Impeachment out of a hat.

Trump is guilty of a plethora of crimes, to some of which he has admitted. Every few days, he seems to add a new offense.

Pelosi — House Democrats — let’s get on with this! Impeach him!

If you’re having trouble drafting the Articles, maybe I can help.

I am a humble journalism major, so I have to depend on the Google to help me with the technicalities of the impeachment process. No problem. I looked up the Nixon Articles from 1974, and they are relatively simple and straightforward. Consider this excerpt from the articles.

———

Article 2

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

———

That was how the House accused Nixon of using the IRS to dig up dirt on his enemies. Which is, you know, illegal. And which easily qualifies in the “high crimes and misdemeanors” department.

Okay, specifically, what has Trump done to warrant impeachment? Plenty.

— Trump accepted help from Russia (Russia!) during the 2016 election, coordinating with them as they sabotaged the Democrats and flooded social media with false and misleading information designed to sway and/or confuse voters. Impeachable.

— Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. Trump then publicly admitted he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing.” Impeachable.

— Trump has failed to produce papers and witnesses required by lawful subpoenas from House committees. Impeachable.

— Trump instructed Border Patrol agents to illegally block migrants from entering the United States. “If judges give you trouble,” he told the agents, just say “we don’t have the room.” He further offered to pardon the head of the Border Patrol if necessary. Impeachable.

— Trump withheld funds Congress appropriated for Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian President into announcing an investigation of Joe Biden and his son. (When the facts came out and reporters asked Trump about it, he repeated the call for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.) Textbook quid pro quo. Impeachable.

— Trump has refused to divest from his business interests and therefore routinely accepts illegal benefits when government officials, foreign or domestic, spend money at a Trump property. A textbook violation of the Emoluments Clause. Impeachable.

— Trump recently announced that the 2020 G-7 Conference would be held at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. Doing so would generate massive illegal profits for Trump. He was pressured to back down, but he made the attempt. Impeachable.

— In order to deter immigrants from crossing the southern border, Trump separated up to 5,000 children from their families and held them in makeshift camps widely described as inhumane. No provisions were made to reunite the children with their families. That sorry episode is a crime of moral turpitude on steroids. Impeachable.

— Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is in jail for lying about paying hush money to women who had affairs with Trump. Cohen paid the women, and Trump reimbursed him — after they discussed the matter in (drum roll) the Oval Office. Deplorable. Impeachable.

The foregoing list, which I compiled quickly and easily, is neither comprehensive nor complete. But it probably includes enough ammunition for two dozen solid Articles of Impeachment.

And I didn’t even mention Trump’s unbelievable betrayal of the Kurds to benefit his Turkish and Russian dictator pals. Compared to Trump, ordinary traitors are choir boys.

Pelosi — House Democrats — assemble the lawyers. Let’s get on with this. Impeach him.

Reasons

Checklist

Billionaire Tom Steyer Calls For Trump Impeachment, Begins $10 Million Campaign

 

Temporal Liaison

New Jersey native Joseph Samachson (1906-1980) followed an unusual path into the writing profession.

At age 23, Samachson earned a PhD in chemistry from Yale and began teaching at a medical college. He drifted into technical writing, then drifted further and began writing science fiction in his spare time. Eventually, he hung up his lab coat to write sci-fi full time.

Between 1938 and 1953, under the pen name William Morrison, Samachson wrote prolifically for various trade magazines, and he contributed numerous Batman, Superman, and other stories for DC Comics.

He also wrote scripts for television’s first science fiction series, “Captain Video and His Video Rangers,” which began in 1949.

In 1953, after 15 years in the writing business, Samachson returned to his roots. He served as a professor of biochemistry at Loyola University until his retirement in 1973.

Samachson’s fiction is said to be noted for cynicism, irony, and tongue-in-cheek humor… little of which I detect in the short story below.

———

Picture Bride

By William Morrison
Published in Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1955

My brother, Perry, always was a bit cracked. As a kid, he almost blew up our house doing experiments. When he was eighteen, he wrote poetry, but fortunately that didn’t last long and he went back to science.

Now, when he showed me this picture, I figured he’d had a relapse of some kind. “This is the girl I’m in love with,” he said.

She wasn’t bad. Not bad at all, even if her clothes were crazy. She wasn’t my type — too brainy-looking — although I could see how some guys would go for her. “I thought you liked blondes.”

“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all the blondes in Hollywood,” he answered. “This is the only girl for me.”

“You sound as if you’ve got it bad,” I said. “You going to marry her?”

His face dropped about a mile. “I can’t.”

“You mean she’s married already?” I was surprised. This wasn’t like Perry at all.

He sort of hesitated, as if he was afraid of saying too much. “No, she isn’t married. I asked her about that. But I can’t marry her because — well, I’ve never met her. All I’ve seen of her is this picture and a few more. She doesn’t live here.”

“You mean she’s in Europe?” I’ve heard of these love affairs by mail, and they never made much sense to me. I said to Perry, “Why can’t she come to this country?”

“Oh, there are a lot of things in the way.”

It sounded worse and worse. I said, “Look, Perry, this smells like a racket to me. It’s the kind of thing a couple of shrewd operators cook up to take some hick for a ride. I’m surprised at you falling for it. How do you know there really is a dame like that in Europe? Anybody can send pictures –”

“You’ve got it all wrong,” he said. “I’ve spoken to her.”

“By phone? How do you know who’s on the other end? You hear a dame’s voice you never heard before. What makes you think it’s hers?”

Again he didn’t seem to want to talk, as if he had some secret to hide. But I guess he felt like getting things off his chest, too, or he wouldn’t have opened up in the first place. And he had already told me enough so that if he didn’t tell me more he’d sound like a dope.

So after hesitating even longer than before, he said, “Let’s get this straight, George. This is no racket. I’ve seen and talked to her at the same time. And the things she talked about, no con man would know.”

“You’ve seen and talked to her at the same time? You mean by TV? I don’t believe it. They can’t send TV to Europe.”

“I didn’t say it was TV. And I didn’t say she lived in Europe.”

“That’s exactly what you did say. Or maybe you meant she lived on Mars?”

“No. She’s an American.”

“This makes less and less sense to me. Where did you meet her?”

He turned red, and squirmed all over the place. Finally he said, “Right here in my own laboratory.”

“In your own laboratory! But you said you never met her in the flesh!”

“I didn’t. Not really by TV either. The fact is — she isn’t born yet.”

I backed away from him. When he was a kid and blew up our kitchen, I didn’t like it. When he wrote poetry, I was kind of ashamed and didn’t want my pals to know he was my brother. Now, I was really scared. Everything he had been saying in the last ten minutes began to make sense, but a screwy kind of sense.

He saw how I felt. “Don’t worry, George, I haven’t gone crazy. Her time is 2973, more than a thousand years from now. The only way I’ve seen and talked to her is on a time-contact machine.”

“Come again?”

“A kind of time machine. It can’t send material objects back and forth across time, as far as I know, but it can send certain waves, especially the kind we use to transmit signals. That’s how she and I could talk to each other and see each other.”

“Perry, I think you ought to see a good doctor.”

“It’s a remarkable device,” he said, paying no attention to how I was trying to help him. “She’s the one who first constructed it and contacted me. It’s based on an extension of Einstein’s equations –”

“You think you can explain so much,” I said. “Okay, then, explain this. This dame isn’t going to be born for a thousand years. And yet you tell me you’re in love with her. What’s the difference between you and somebody that’s nuts?” I asked, as if anybody knew the answer.

He certainly didn’t. In fact, he went ahead and proved to me that they were the same thing. Because for the next couple of weeks, the only thing he’d talk about, outside of equations I couldn’t understand, was this dame. How smart she was, and how beautiful she was, and how wonderful she was in every way that a dame can be wonderful, and how she loved him. For a time he had me convinced that she actually existed.

“Compared with you,” I said, “Romeo had a mild case.”

“There are some quantities so great that you can’t measure them,” he said. “That will give you some idea of our love for each other.”

There it went, the old poetry, cropping out in him just like before. And all the time I’d been thinking it was like measles, something that you get once and it builds up your resistance so you don’t get it again, at least not bad. It just goes to show how wrong I could be.

“What preacher are you going to get to marry you?” I asked. “A guy born five hundred years from now?”

“I don’t think that’s funny,” he said.

“You’re telling me. Look, Perry, you’re smart enough to know what I’m thinking –”

“You still think I’m crazy.”

“I got an open mind on the subject. Now, if you won’t see a doctor — then how about letting me take a look at this dame, so I can convince myself?”

“No,” he said. “I’ve considered doing that, and decided against it. Her voice and image come through for only about five minutes a day, sometimes less. And those minutes are very precious to us. We don’t want anyone else present, anyone at all.”

“Not even to convince me she actually exists?”

“You wouldn’t be convinced anyway,” he said very shrewdly. “No matter what I showed you, you’d still find a reason to call it a fraud.”

He was right at that. It would take a lot of convincing to make me believe that a babe who wasn’t going to get born for a thousand years was in love with him.

By this time, though, I was sure of one thing — there was something screwy going on in that laboratory of his. For five minutes a day he was watching some dame’s picture, listening to her voice. If I had an idea what she was like, I might figure out where to go from there.

I began keeping an eye on Perry, dropping in at the laboratory to pay him visits. There was what looked like a ten-inch TV tube in one corner of his place, not housed in a cabinet, but lying on the table among dozens of other tubes and rheostats and meters and other things I didn’t know about. Along the wall that led from this corner was a lot of stuff which Perry said was high voltage, and warned me not to touch.

I kept away. I wasn’t trying to figure out how to get myself killed. All I wanted to know was when he saw this girl.

Finally I managed to pin the time down to between three and four in the afternoon. For five minutes every day, during that hour, he locked the door and didn’t answer phone calls. I figured that if I dropped in then I might get a glimpse of her.

And that’s what I did.

At first, when I knocked on the door, there was no answer. In a minute, though, I heard Perry’s voice, but he wasn’t talking to me. He was saying, “Darling,” and he sounded kind of sick, which I figured was due to love.

Come to think of it, he might have been scared a little. I heard him say, “Don’t be afraid,” and it was quiet for about fifteen seconds.

Then I heard a terrific crash, like lightning striking. The door shook, and I smelled something sharp, and the first thing I wanted to do was get out of that place. But I couldn’t leave my brother in there.

I put my shoulder to the door and had no trouble at all. The explosion, or whatever it was, must have weakened the hinges. As the door crashed in, I looked for Perry.

There was no sign of him. But I could see his shoes, on the floor in front of that TV tube, where he must have been standing. No feet in them, though, just his socks.

All the high-voltage stuff was smoking. The TV screen was all lit up, and on it I could see a girl’s face, the same girl whose picture Perry had shown me. She was wearing one of those funny costumes, and she looked scared. It was a clear picture, and I could even see the way she gulped.

Then she broke out into a happy smile and, for about half a second, before the second explosion, I could see Perry on the screen.

After that second explosioneven though it wasn’t near as big as the firstthat TV set was nothing but a mess of twisted junk, and there was no screen left to see anything on.

Perry liked to have everything just so, and he’d never think of going anyplace without his tie being knotted just right, and his socks matching, and so on. And here he’d traveled a thousand years into the future in bare feet. I felt kind of embarrassed for him.

Anyway, they were engaged, and now they must be married, so I guess she had slippers waiting for him. I’m just sorry I missed the wedding.

Picture Bride

Original illustration from Galaxy Magazine by Ed Emshwiller.