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Posts Tagged ‘People’

I always figured I inherited my abilities as a writer, and my enjoyment of writing, from my black sheep maternal grandfather, Bill Horne.

I say black sheep because Bill walked out on his family when my mom was a toddler, and worse, never again tried to contact her. Based on the evidence, he was a jerk.

With that information on the table, I will move on.

Bill worked as a railroad dispatcher, but he was a writer at heart. For years, he wrote, and occasionally sold, fiction and non-fiction in various markets. Mom had carbon copies of several of his unpublished works, all of which I later inherited. Some were science fiction stories, some were essays about the great outdoors.

One of his most memorable efforts was a science fiction novella entitled “The Germ-Beast of Insanity.”

In it, an Indiana Jones type hero goes to a museum where a hair from the head of Confucius is on display. The hero shrinks himself down to microscopic size, and, atop the hair, battles the germ-beast of insanity. I am not making this up.

I don’t recall much more about the story, except that the hero prevails and returns to normal size. I don’t remember how he discovered the germ-beast, how he shrunk himself, or if other germ-beasts existed.

Bill Horne with a slingshot, place and date unknown.

I haven’t read Bill’s stories in years. The carbon copies, I’m sad to say, are missing. Years ago, I searched for them without success. I assume they’re in the attic in a box my kids will find one day.

But I do remember Bill’s writing style. His prose stood out as overly elaborate. A bit on the purple side. The man wrote with passion and panache, as if it felt good, and, in his heart, he saw himself as a virtuoso.

I should point out, however, that enjoying something and being good at it are not the same. I love music, but I can’t sing or play a single instrument. And then there’s the case of Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Sometimes, my own prose can adopt a fancier flourish and may lean toward the purple. But that’s on purpose, when I’m trying to be funny or dramatic. Most of the time, my output is relatively standard and straightforward. Journeyman level, I’d say.

In all honesty, I think I turned out to be a better writer than my grandfather.

No question, really.

None at all.

I need to find those carbon copies.

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Tune o’ the Day

I read a sarcastic comment somewhere that David Bowie’s 1983 hit “Modern Love” probably was made up in the studio on the day he recorded it. Maybe so. The lyrics are baffling and don’t seem to go anywhere. Drugs, maybe?

On the other hand, the tune is catchy, danceable, and well-regarded. Bowie said the lively arrangement was inspired by the sound of Little Richard. It does have a sort of manic feel to it.

In 2006, the alt rock/folk/country band The Last Town Chorus slowed the tempo of “Modern Love” to a crawl and released what is, in my humble opinion, an excellent cover.

The Last Town Chorus, by the way, started out in 2001 as a duo consisting of singer Megan Hickey and a guitarist. After a year or so, Megan ditched the guitarist, and she still tours as LTC today using hired backup.

Modern Love

By The Last Town Chorus, 2006
Written by David Bowie

I catch the paperboy,
But things don’t really change.
I’m standing in the rain,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

There’s no sign of life.
It’s just the power to charm.
I’m lying in the wind,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

Never gonna fall for modern love.
It walks beside me.
It walks on by.
It gets me to the church on time.
Church on time.
It terrifies me.
It makes me party.
It puts my faith in God and man.
God and man.
No confession.
No religion.
It don’t believe in modern love.

It’s not really work.
It’s just the power to charm.
Still lying in the rain,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

Never gonna fall for modern love.
It walks beside me.
It walks on by.
It gets me to the church on time.
Church on time.
It terrifies me.
It makes me party.
It puts my faith in God and man.
God and man.
No confession.
No religion.
It don’t believe in modern love.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/modern-love-ltc.mp3

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies, and on things that just aren’t true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel empowered.

Colin Powell

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Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him and let him know you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

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Every war, when it comes or before it comes, is represented not as a war, but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

George Orwell

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Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Anybody can complain.

Henry Ford

Powell

Ford

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The Roman emperor Caligula (reigned 37-41 AD) announced that he intended to appoint his horse Incitatus to the position of Roman Consul. However, he was assassinated before making the appointment official. Historians say Caligula was implying that a horse could perform the duties of a politician.

● In 1986, Wimbledon began using yellow tennis balls instead of white because yellow is more visible to TV viewers.

● Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet high, is the world’s tallest mountain, but there’s a catch. Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, which is only 20,702 feet tall, sits atop a bulge in the earth’s crust and sticks out about 7,000 feet further into space than Everest.

● American Gothic, the famous 1930 painting by Grant Wood, depicts a farmer and his daughter standing in front of a house with a large Gothic-style window. The model for the daughter was Wood’s sister Nan, the model for the farmer was Dr. Byron McKeeby, Wood’s dentist, and the house is a real place Wood spotted in Eldon, Iowa — and which is open to the public today.

● The first crime for which Billy the Kid was arrested and jailed was stealing clothes from a laundry. He escaped jail by climbing up a chimney.

● In 1964, in Gene Roddenberry’s first treatment of the original Star Trek TV series, the story took place aboard the starship S.S. Yorktown commanded by Captain Robert April. By the time the show premiered in 1966, Roddenberry had changed the name of the starship to the Enterprise, and Robert April became Captain Christopher Pike, the predecessor to James T. Kirk.

● Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

● The official national animal of Scotland is the unicorn. Scotland has long considered unicorns to be symbols of power and purity, and they first appeared on royal coats of arms in the 1500s.

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Being open to data, facts, and science doesn’t make you liberal, it makes you literate. It means you favor data, facts, and evidence over conspiracy theories, manufactured misinformation, and cherry-picked industry spins.

Former Senator Paul H. Douglas (D-IL)

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Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience; this is the ideal life.

Mark Twain

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Few men think, yet all will have opinions.

George Berkeley

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Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser then when it reached only to the end of the bar.

Edward R. Murrow

Douglas

Murrow

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Thoughts du Jour

Memorial

Part of my daily routine is a morning walk with my dog Jake. I need the exercise, and I know Jake approves because he dances in circles when I take his harness off the hook.

On weekends, our habit is to walk at one of the local schools; the campuses are spacious and well-maintained, no one is there, and Jake can go off-leash. Perfect.

When we walk at Jefferson Middle School, I like to visit a memorial to a former teacher that is tucked away in a grassy area behind the school.

This bench is the memorial:

And this is the plaque next to the bench:

Candace Simmons had a master’s degree in Education and spent 15 years teaching at Jefferson Middle School. She received numerous awards for being a crackerjack teacher.

Candace died of a brain aneurysm at age 40. She left behind a husband, a son, lots of relatives around North Georgia, and this memorial that I visit regularly because I find it quite moving.

Deploying the Pinky

In some circles, holding one’s little finger aloft while drinking from a glass or cup is looked upon as a polite gesture. In other circles, it’s considered snooty. Putting on airs.

Nobody knows when, where, or why the practice originated. Miss Manners said it might go back to people reacting to holding a hot tea cup.

Personally, I use my little finger in an entirely different way when holding a glass: I curve my pinky under the bottom of the glass to provide extra support. It’s a habit I acquired quickly and dramatically in college.

At lunch in the dining hall one day, I picked up a glass of iced tea and turned to place it on my tray. The glass was large, heavy, and wet, and it slipped from my grasp. It hit the tile floor and exploded in a spectacular fashion, for which the other diners gave me a hearty round of applause.

Since that day, I’ve been in the habit of placing my pinky underneath every smooth-sided, handle-less drink container I pick up. Not water bottles. Not soft drink bottles. Not beer cans. Just containers that I suspect might, just might, slip and fall.

A traumatic experience will do that to you.

Master Mule Skinner

I’ve gone on five mule trips at Grand Canyon — ridden the famous “long-eared taxis” five times. My first ride was in 1996. It was just a half-day trip to Plateau Point, not an overnighter. My mule’s name that day was Arluff.

My next four mule rides were down to Phantom Ranch, on the floor of the Canyon, where I stayed for a couple of nights. Specifically, my second ride (1997) was aboard Wags; the third (1999), Blackjack; the fourth (2005), Larry; and the fifth (2016), Twinky.

Those last four trips all took place in November and December, because in the winter months, you’re allowed to book more than one night at Phantom. In the busier months, the mule riders arrive at Phantom in the afternoon and depart at dawn the next morning. Booking in winter gives you an extra day for hiking and exploring.

FYI, being in the saddle for four or five hours is taxing. Not as strenuous as being on foot, but still not easy.

That’s because, on the downhill ride into the Canyon, you’re trying not to tumble forward over the mule’s handlebars, as it were. On the trip back uphill to the rim, you’re trying to remain in the saddle and not slide off the back of the mule. In both cases, your leg muscles get a good workout.

When a mule ride at Grand Canyon ends, the riders are presented with a certificate to mark the occasion. This certificate is from my second mule ride in 1997:

Arluff, Wags, Blackjack, Larry, and Twinky were all calm, good-tempered animals. They also were obedient, except for stopping to munch on trail-side vegetation now and then.

I’m sure the mules are not allowed to carry tourists until they can be trusted. The mules, not the tourists.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The highest cliff on earth is the west face of Mount Thor on Baffin Island, Canada. The face measures 4,101 feet, which is .78 miles.

● The amount of copper on the roof of the Arizona Capitol Building in Phoenix is equivalent to 4,800,000 pennies.

● A person who practices karate is known as a karateka.

● Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City in 1907 in the family home, which was known as La Casa Azul (the Blue House). She lived in the house on and off for the rest of her life and died there in 1954. Per her wishes, the house was made into a museum.

● The saxophone was patented in 1846 by Antione-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax, a Belgian instrument maker. In all, Sax created 14 variations of the saxophone covering a range of sounds.

● Until the 1700s, adult rabbits were called coneys — from conil, the French word for rabbits (and also the origin of the name Coney Island).

● The only metal that is liquid at room temperature is mercury.

● The world’s smallest known snake is the Barbados thread snake, which was discovered in 2008 on its namesake island in the Caribbean. Adults are about four inches long and the thickness of a spaghetti noodle.

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This Just In

ANKARA, TURKEY — A Turkish man joined a party looking for a missing person, not realizing he was the subject of the search.

Beyhan Mutlu, 51, went drinking with a friend in a forest in northwest Turkey. When he did not return home, and his wife learned he had wandered drunk into the forest, she reported him missing.

The next morning, Mutlu came across the search party and volunteered to help. When the searchers began calling his name, he realized he was the missing person.

Mutlu identified himself, but the others didn’t believe him and continued the search. Half an hour later, the party encountered Mutlu’s drinking buddy, and the search was ended.

UNIDENTIFIED CITY, GERMANY — Since June, two men have been trading cryptocurrencies based on choices made by a hamster.

The hamster, Mr. Goxx, has a specially constructed enclosure adjacent to his living quarters. When he runs on a hamster wheel, his paws highlight certain cryptocurrencies.

Also inside the “Goxx Box” are two tunnels, one marked buy and one marked sell. After Mr. Goxx makes his selections and runs through one of the tunnels, his owners send his decisions over a real trading platform.

In its first month, Goxx Capital was down 7.3 percent. But by September, the hamster’s career performance was up 19.4 percent — which is better than the NASDAQ 100, the S&P 500, Bitcoin, and Berkshire Hathaway.

TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA — A lost pet parrot was reunited briefly with his British owner, but ultimately was returned to the family the bird lived with for the four years he was missing.

Nigel, an African gray parrot with a British accent, disappeared from the home of Darren Chick and at some point was purchased by a Torrance family at a yard sale for $400. Nigel, who was called Morgan by the family, learned to speak Spanish from the Guatemalan grandparents.

Morgan flew away again and showed up at the home of a woman in a nearby town, who traced Nigel’s microchip and found the original owner.

The Torrance family saw a newspaper story about Nigel’s return and contacted Mr. Chick. When Chick saw how attached the parrot was to the family, he decided to let Nigel return to being Morgan.

Morgan can whistle the first bars of the theme from the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and he likes to imitate the beeping sounds made by the garbage truck. He also knows the names of the family’s three dogs and barks like them.

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Coming Attractions

It’s truly fascinating how, in just a few decades, the political center has evaporated, and the country has divided itself into two polar opposite camps.

The left and the right. Liberals and conservatives. Or, to be more specific, those who possess a sense of empathy and compassion, and those who don’t. Those who want to use our resources for the common good, and those who don’t. Those who believe we’re all created equal, and those who don’t.

It’s as if we entered some magic portal and were examined, categorized, and separated. In one corner, the Democrats, who in large part are normal and rational. In the other corner, the Republicans, who are mean, selfish, and wrong-headed.

Although I do consider virtually all Republicans to be deplorable, I don’t see all Democrats as admirable. Democratic politicians tend to be weenies — weak, cautious, and hesitant. But, my God, compared to the conservatives of today, the lefties are angels.

The conservatives have abandoned integrity, honesty, and American democracy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be claiming that Trump won the 2020 election, or trying to rig elections.

On every issue, conservatives invariably come down on the wrong side.

Hold that thought about villainous Republicans while I turn to another subject.

One popular category of Hollywood movies is historical films — stories based on real people and actual events. Some such films portray events accurately, while others apply a Hollywood flourish. It depends on the filmmakers, the event in question, and the available historical record.

Think of movies such as Gandhi, All the President’s Men, Schindler’s List, Apollo 13, Patton, Glory, and The Alamo.

(Re The Alamo: I’m referring to the version from 2004, not the one with John Wayne. One historian commented that Wayne’s movie didn’t have “a single scene which corresponds to a historically verifiable incident.”)

I bring up this subject to note that, sooner or later, Hollywood will begin to make movies about our time.

Films will be made depicting Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd. The Republican voter suppression tactics. The stacking of the federal courts by the GOP. The politicization of the Supreme Court by the right wing.

These movies are inevitable, people.

It’s true that a few documentaries already have been made. In 2020, Frontline took a look at the records of Biden and Trump for a PBS special. But those aren’t full-blown Hollywood historical movies.

Someday, films will document and dramatize Trump’s life as a rich, insufferable New York brat. They will follow him through his nightmare of a presidency, the 700,000+ COVID deaths, and the storming of the Capitol by white supremacist goons. The films will end with however the sorry saga of Donald Trump ultimately ends.

Some movies, I expect, will focus on Trump’s presidency, his collusion with the Russians, and his criminal mishandling of the COVID pandemic. Featured will be the MAGA morons, the anti-mask morons, the anti-vax morons, and nutjob groups such as QAnon, the Proud Boys, etc.

Plenty of screen time will go to Republican politicians who either stood with Trump or said nothing. Nor will Hollywood be able to resist bringing up Trump’s icy relationship with Melania.

A movie of two will reenact the assault of the Capitol in great detail. (Doing so won’t be difficult. Most of what happened is thoroughly documented.) The story will depict the role of Trump and many Republican politicians in planning the attack, and it will follow the actions of rioters, the police, and members of Congress.

Obligatory scenes: surging crowds of insurrectionists screaming and fighting police; members of Congress cowering inside the building; the demise of domestic terrorist Ashli Babbitt.

Trump will be presented, accurately, as an Adolph Hitler type demagogue. His followers and enablers will be likened to the Nazis of Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

One interesting feature will be the casting of actors to portray Trump, Pence, McConnell, Cruz, Bannon, etc.

How long before Hollywood starts making these movies is hard to predict. But you can be sure that not a single film will portray any conservative in a positive light.

That would be fiction.

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