Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Society’

He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

— Sir William Drummond

###

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal

###

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

— Carl W. Buehner

###

Patriotism is being proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.

— Sydney J. Harris

Drummond W

Drummond

Harris SJ

Harris

 

Read Full Post »

Old-young

blank

Former

Kessel run

 

Read Full Post »

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The equals sign (=) was dreamed up in 1557 by Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who said he was tired of writing “is equal to” ad infinitum.

● Pokémon, the omnipresent Japanese game franchise, was created in 1990 by video game designer Satoshi Tajiri. So far, 807 Pokémoncreatures have been introduced.

The word Pokémon is a contraction of the Japanese term Poketto Monsutā (Pocket Monsters). The inventor said the game was inspired by his childhood hobby of collecting bugs.

● The teeth of mammals are specialized according to subgroup (bovine teeth differ from canine teeth, etc.), but all teeth have three components: an outer layer of inorganic enamel, the hardest substance in the body; a middle layer of living dentin, which is similar to bone; and the central pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels to nourish the dentin.

In 1758, the King of Spain issued a land grant in central Mexico to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo. There, near the town of Tequila, the Cuervo family cultivated blue agaves, producing the first commercial mezcal de tequila in 1795.

In 1900, the widow of a recently-deceased Don married Jose Cuervo Labatida, a master distiller at a competing company. He became the new Don, and the Cuervo family brand became “Jose Cuervo Tequila. It is still family-owned today.

Jose Cuervo

● Japanese baseball phenom Ichiro Suzuki spent nine seasons (1992-2000) in Nippon Professional Baseball before starting his MLB career in the U.S. His playing career ended in 2018, and he moved up to management with the Seattle Mariners. He holds 26 MLB records for hitting and batting.

In June 2016, Ichiro recorded career hit number 4,257, breaking the record held by Pete Rose. Rose was snarky because Ichiro got his first 1,278 hits in the Nippon League. “The next thing you know, you’ll be counting his high school hits,” said Rose, always a class act.

● Footwear is almost exclusively mass-produced these days, but historically, shoe-making was an important craft — as well as laborious and time-consuming. Technically, an artisan who makes new footwear is a cordwainer, and one who makes repairs is a cobbler.

● In 2016, it was revealed that President François Hollande of France had a full-time personal barber on his staff, at a salary of $132,000 annually. Because of high unemployment and domestic troubles, Hollande’s approval rating already was the lowest for a French President in modern history. The barber story was the last straw, and Hollande declined to seek reelection in 2017.

In most animal species, the males use ornamentation (elaborate plumage, bright colors, impressive antlers) to attract females. One rare example of females using ornamentation to attract males is the glow worm, a variety of flightless beetle.

All glow worms glow in the larval stage, but only females retain the ability to shine as adults. Researchers have found that (a) the brightest females produce the most eggs and (b) males are attracted to females that glow the brightest.

Glow worm

● Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992. The government was fed up with vandals finding creative ways to dispose of their gum: in keyholes, on elevator buttons, in mailboxes, under bus seats, and, of course, on streets and sidewalks. Some vandals had taken to sticking wads of gum on the door sensors of mass transit vehicles, which not only screws up schedules, but also is a safety risk.

Lobbyists for Wrigley Co., the chewing gum behemoth, tried to beat the ban (of course they did), but only managed one minor concession: in 2003, Singapore conceded that certain chewing gums have health benefits, such as ingredients that strengthen tooth enamel.

Thus, the sale of “medicinal gum” now is allowed, but only by dentists and pharmacists, who are required to report the names of the buyers.

● The longest cave system in the world is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, which is documented as 405 miles long. It likely will become even longer as connections are found to other cave systems in the limestone of the region.

The world’s second-longest cave system, located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, is 215 miles long. The third longest is in South Dakota and is 193 miles long.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 from fellow general Barnard Bee, who remarked that Jackson stood his ground like a “stone wall.”

Bee was killed in the battle, so no one knows whether he was complementing Jackson for his courage or insulting him, alluding to the fact that Jackson and his men should have advanced, but did not.

The hoatzin, a tropical bird native to the Amazon region, is the only member of its genus, having evolved separately from other birds. Due to their appearance, they are known as reptile birds.

The species is unique for having a digestive system that ferments vegetation in a specialized stomach, as do ruminants (cows, goats, deer). For this reason, hoatzins smell terrible and also are known as stinkbirds or skunk birds.

Hoatzin

 

Read Full Post »

Tune o’ the Day

In the closing scene of the 1984 John Hughes movie “Sixteen Candles,” Jake and Samantha are together at last in a fairy-tale ending. And one of the reasons that schmaltzy scene worked so well was “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins” playing in the background.

Technically, “If You Were Here” was all wrong for the situation. It’s no happy love song. It’s about a guy who wants out of a bad relationship.

Maybe Hughes ignored the disconnect because the song sounds so good. Lyrics? What lyrics? Or maybe he rationalized that the song refers to Jake’s fizzled relationship with the school prom queen.

Yeah, the second one. That’s probably it.

Thompson Twins

If You Were Here

By The Thompson Twins
Written by Tom Bailey, Alannah Joy Currie, and Joe Leeway.

If you were here,
I could deceive you.
And if you were here,
You would believe.
But would you suspect
My emotion wandering, yeah.
Do not want a part of this anymore.

The rain water drips
Through a crack in the ceiling.
I’ll have to spend
My time on repair.
But just like the rain,
I’ll be always falling, yeah,
Only to rise and fall again.

If you were here,
I could deceive you.
And if you were here,
You would believe.
But would you suspect
My emotion wandering, yeah.
Do not want a part of this anymore.

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. A full-size replica of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus, is located in what American city?

2. Who was the first U.S. president to be born in a hospital?

3. How did celebrity chef Paula Deen get her start in the food business?

4. In the early 1700s, King George I of England decreed that all pigeon droppings in the realm were the property of the Crown. Why?

5. In the 1966 TV series Batman, the role of the Penguin was first offered to Spencer Tracy. However, Tracy made a demand that the producers found unacceptable, and Burgess Meredith got the part. What did Tracy want that scuttled the deal?

The Answers…

1. In Columbus, Ohio, of course. The replica was built in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first voyage of Columbus.

2. Jimmy Carter. He was born in 1924 at the Wise Sanitarium in Plains, Georgia, where his mother Lillian worked as a nurse.

3. In 1989, she started a catering business from her Savannah home called The Bag Lady. She prepared bagged lunches that her sons delivered to local businesses.

4. In those days, pigeon droppings and bat guano were the only known sources of potassium nitrate, a key ingredient of gunpowder. The poop was a highly prized commodity until the early 1800s, when natural deposits of potassium nitrate were discovered in Chili and Peru.

5. Tracy wanted the Penguin to kill Batman.

Santa Maria

Penguin2

 

 

Read Full Post »

A Malignancy

Well, this is one way to put it: someone pointed out that one-third of the men on the Supreme Court were confirmed despite being accused by multiple women of either sexual harassment or sexual assault.

That would be Clarence Thomas re the sexual harassment and Brett Kavanaugh re the sexual assault. In Kavanaugh’s case, the Republicans brushed aside three assault accusations. Their “investigation” of the women’s claims amounted to not looking into them.

That’s the way it goes. The truth can be a hot potato. Can’t let the truth derail your guy.

Frankly, I can feature a Democratic Senator wanting to know the truth, regardless of the consequences. But not the Republicans. It’s quite revealing how expendable fairness and integrity are to them.

At first, Jeff Flake got points for wanting the FBI to investigate the women’s charges, but that was just a feint. He accepted the faux investigation and voted to confirm.

Susan Collins, who has a knack for sounding almost objective, ultimately declared that the women’s claims were phony, and she gave Kavanaugh a full-throated partisan endorsement. She was “McConnell’s closer,” some observed.

I am reminded often these days of the old adage, attributed to Henry Kissinger, that Republicans have an instinct for the jugular, and Democrats have an instinct for the capillaries.

If you doubt that, you’ve forgotten what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland. Or else you’re a Republican and you approve.

As for the Supreme Court, I learned my lesson about that body long before Garland and Kavanaugh. At one time, the Court was a respected institution, and the integrity of the justices was rarely in doubt. But now it’s just another entity guided by politics. The conservatives have made it that way.

If you doubt that, you’ve forgotten what the conservative justices did in Bush v. Gore. Or else you’re a Republican and you approve.

The Kavanaugh episode was especially galling because he was a terrible choice for the Court. Some Republicans even warned Trump not to nominate him due to his long-time role as a political operative. Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr during the Clinton-Lewinsky period.

For his service to the cause, the GOP rewarded Kavanaugh with a judgeship, which later became his stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

So, Kavanaugh was nominated to the Court already carrying the baggage of being hyper-partisanwell before the accusations surfaced by one, then two, then three women.

When he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he denied all charges, but chose to do it in a vitriolic tirade that blamed his Democratic enemies, including the Clintons by name, for being out to get him. And he did it with prepared remarks, not in the heat of the moment.

I didn’t plan to watch all of his testimony, but I did. It was surreal. Amazingly, he also was belligerent with the Democratic members of the Committee.

It was like a tantrum by a toddler, or a spoiled frat boy. A shocking display of anger and political bias. The temperament he displayed for all to see was anything but judicial.

That rant alone should have disqualified him from serving on the Supreme Court, or any other court. But, in keeping with the state of things these days, it did not.

Then, speaking of the surreal, there is Donald Trump, a man devoid of redeeming qualities. Trump is a disgrace. A philanderer, a pathological liar, an amoral creep. A daily embarrassment.

He’s also a treasonous crook. Trump has been owned by the Russian oligarchs since the 1980s, when he began accepting their money because banks in the U.S. stopped making loans to him. By many accounts, some of his companies were set up, and maybe still are, to launder dirty Russian money.

This vulgar man is President thanks to a witches’ brew of sordid factors:

Republican gerrymandering.

Republican voter suppression.

The right-wing penchant for playing dirty.

The mean, selfish, and increasingly wacko beliefs of the conservatives.

The malevolent influence of Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine.

The artful interference of the Russians in our politics and elections.

Etcetera, etcetera.

Republican voters were — take your pick — callous enough, reckless enough, unhinged enough, deluded enough, or stupid enough to vote to make one of the most dreadful human beings alive our President.

Rational people knew full well that a Trump presidency would be a trainwreck. But the conservatives, to whom rational thinking has become an alien concept, voted for him anyway. And continue to support him, with relish.

Trump is deplorable to the core, surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of lesser deplorables. But, in truth, he is only a symptom, not the problem.

The real problem is multi-faceted:

– The negative, hateful conservative mindset that put him in office.

– The MAGA crowds that cheer and jeer when Trump holds a rally to attack some target of the moment.

– The morally bankrupt GOP politicians who abandoned their few remaining scruples and got in bed with Trump.

You’ll recall that a dozen of them recently used the same simultaneous talking point: people who wanted the accusations against Kavanaugh investigated amounted to an “angry mob.”

It’s a fact that today’s right-wingers are in favor of virtually nothing. They only oppose. They oppose people they distrust, people they fear, people not like them.

Sometimes, their opposition is merely a finger in the eye of their enemies. Plenty of right-wingers claim global warming is a hoax because doing something about it would be detrimental to capitalism. But probably just as many deny climate change simply to be contrary and in opposition to the liberals.

And consider that conservatives are almost exclusively white. In 2016, 63 percent of white men voted for Trump. 52 percent of white women voted for an admitted womanizer whose low opinion of women is obvious.

The 52 percent figure seems both high and counter-intuitive. But remember, women are just as susceptible as men to groupthink, mental aberrations, and delusional thinking.

Whatever their reasons for being on Team Trump, these are the people who have controlled American society since our founding. No surprise that they fiercely oppose any change that might diminish their power.

And really, the conservative way of thinking only makes sense as a product of their fear of losing their positions of privilege.

The conservative mindset is a malignancy that has impeded the advancement of American society for half of my lifetime.

As for the rest of us, we constitute a clear majority. The solution is to rise up, overwhelm their voter suppression efforts, vote them out, and put an end to it.

Early voting started yesterday in Georgia. I was at the head of the line.

The pols

The voters

 

Read Full Post »

During the Civil War, Ohio native Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) fought for the Union with distinction at Shiloh, Chicamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, and elsewhere. After the war, he became a prominent journalist and author.

Bierce is known for both his Civil War writings and his tales of horror and the supernatural. Of the latter, someone said Bierce bridged the literary years between Poe and Lovecraft.

In the late 1890s, while a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, Bierce raised enough public ire to stop a bill being slipped through Congress that would have forgiven massive government loans to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. That’s my kind of journalism.

Bierce was something of a Hemingway type. In 1914, at age 71, he announced plans to go to Mexico to see the Mexican Revolution for himself. Perhaps travel with Pancho Villa as an observer. He promptly disappeared, fate unknown.

Like many ex-soldiers, Bierce declined to glorify war in his writings, as the following essay demonstrates.

———

Bivouac of the Dead

Published in The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Volume 1, 1909

Away up in the heart of the Allegheny mountains, in Pocahontas county, West Virginia, is a beautiful little valley through which flows the east fork of the Greenbrier river. At a point where the valley road intersects the old Staunton and Parkersburg turnpike, a famous thoroughfare in its day, is a post office in a farm house.

The name of the place is Travelers’ Repose, for it was once a tavern. Crowning some low hills within a stone’s throw of the house are long lines of old Confederate fortifications, skilfully designed and so well “preserved” that an hour’s work by a brigade would put them into serviceable shape for the next civil war.

This place had its battle — what was called a battle in the “green and salad days” of the great rebellion. A brigade of Federal troops, the writer’s regiment among them, came over Cheat mountain, fifteen miles to the westward, and, stringing its lines across the little valley, felt the enemy all day; and the enemy did a little feeling, too.

There was a great cannonading, which killed about a dozen on each side; then, finding the place too strong for assault, the Federals called the affair a reconnaissance in force, and burying their dead withdrew to the more comfortable place whence they had come.

Those dead now lie in a beautiful national cemetery at Grafton, duly registered, so far as identified, and companioned by other Federal dead gathered from the several camps and battlefields of West Virginia. The fallen soldier (the word “hero” appears to be a later invention) has such humble honors as it is possible to give.

His part in all the pomp that fills
The circuit of the Summer hills
Is that his grave is green.

True, more than a half of the green graves in the Grafton cemetery are marked “Unknown,” and sometimes it occurs that one thinks of the contradiction involved in “honoring the memory” of him of whom no memory remains to honor; but the attempt seems to do no great harm to the living, even to the logical.

A few hundred yards to the rear of the old Confederate earthworks is a wooded hill. Years ago it was not wooded. Here, among the trees and in the undergrowth, are rows of shallow depressions, discoverable by removing the accumulated forest leaves.

From some of them may be taken (and reverently replaced) small thin slabs of the split stone of the country, with rude and reticent inscriptions by comrades. I found only one with a date, only one with full names of man and regiment. The entire number found was eight.

In these forgotten graves rest the Confederate dead — between eighty and one hundred, as nearly as can be made out. Some fell in the “battle;” the majority died of disease. Two, only two, have apparently been disinterred for reburial at their homes.

So neglected and obscure is this campo santo that only he upon whose farm it is — the aged postmaster of Travelers’ Repose — appears to know about it. Men living within a mile have never heard of it. Yet other men must be still living who assisted to lay these Southern soldiers where they are, and could identify some of the graves.

Is there a man, North or South, who would begrudge the expense of giving to these fallen brothers the tribute of green graves? One would rather not think so. True, there are several hundreds of such places still discoverable in the track of the great war. All the stronger is the dumb demand — the silent plea of these fallen brothers to what is “likest God within the soul.”

They were honest and courageous foemen, having little in common with the political madmen who persuaded them to their doom and the literary bearers of false witness in the aftertime.

They did not live through the period of honorable strife into the period of vilification — did not pass from the iron age to the brazen — from the era of the sword to that of the tongue and pen.

Among them is no member of the Southern Historical Society. Their valor was not the fury of the non-combatant; they have no voice in the thunder of the civilians and the shouting. Not by them are impaired the dignity and infinite pathos of the Lost Cause.

Give them, these blameless gentlemen, their rightful part in all the pomp that fills the circuit of the summer hills.

———

Bierce’s position that the Confederate dead should have been buried in the National Cemeteries was a minority view. As you probably know, the National Cemeteries did not accept Confederate dead. According to policy, the cemeteries were for Federal casualties, not the enemy.

In 1901, the 482 Confederates who managed to get buried at Arlington anyway were re-interred in a Confederate section.

In 1906, Congress okayed headstones for Confederate soldiers who died in a Union hospital or prison and were buried at that location. Prior to that, the graves were marked by the families, if at all.

The Civil War ended 150 years ago. It amazes me how much genuine animosity still lingers on both sides.

Bierce-1

The green graves of Grafton National Cemetery, West Virginia.

Bierce-2

Bierce in 1896.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »