THROWBACK THURSDAY

Keeping Old Memories Alive, Rich Paschall

Let’s face it, there are a lot of annoying things about social media.  Even worse than the stupidity being spread, making us dumber by the day, is the proliferation of new games, rituals, groups, pages, chats, instasomethings, broadcast thyself and say nothing.

You Tube channels (I have 2), Google +, tweet and twitpic and twitchat, YouNow, Ustream and the list for You is growing.  You can write it, sing it, chat it, pin it, post it, paste it, repost and reblog it.  The glut of personal pages and activities is beyond gluttonous.

Among the millions of pages and posts lies some golden moments if only you can find them.  Sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack, but sometimes a needle is found.  Perhaps you put the golden needle there yourself, hoping others will find it.  If you look hard enough, you may find gold too.

I have used Facebook, WordPress and YouTube to uncover new (or not so new) and interesting talent. In some ways, it has replaced some of my television watching, although I have uncovered more crap online than can ever make it through to broadcast television.

If you have been following along on Sundays, you will notice that I have pointed out some of the good young talent online.  There are some young people doing good as I pointed out when I asked if it was A Screwed Up World? I also mentioned up and coming talent here and on Sunday Night Blog. Recently, I profiled Tom Law in Laying Down The Musical Law. So you can tell I am not completely down on the social media world.

One practice that has grown up on several social sites in recent years did not interest me at first.  In fact, I thought it a rather self-indulgent way of posting your old photos for people who really did not care on a medium that is so overburden with posts few would notice anyway. This now common activity is called Throwback Thursday.  Have you taken part?

The idea behind Throwback Thursday is that you post an old photo, video, article from the past, tag it with #tbt. Thus you will have made some sort of contribution to remembering something important or historical. It’s an interesting idea that has, of course, produced a lot of junk. Seriously, I do not need to see your video of you and your precious cat from 2003. It may bring tears to your eyes, but that doesn’t make it an historic document.

After this practice had gone by for a few years, I began to see the worth hidden in hashtag TBT. Items of merit were coming to light of social, historical and even personal value.  Now I gladly participate.

I still love cake

My personal photos of my charming self at a young age may be of no value in the social media world but I have many friends and relatives on Facebook. I don’t see them often, so they may be of interest to those who knew me at nine.

We are sharing old memories through weekly postings. I’ve been amazed by the relics some folks have uncovered. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see old photos and videos that bring a smile to your face.

The Pajama Game is the game we’re in!

A couple of years ago I started a Facebook group for former students of Mrs. Laurette Kittler. She is a retired high school drama teacher whose instruction and guidance touched the lives of generations of students. I was proud to include myself in those who could celebrate this teacher’s work. I thought maybe, over time, I would find 100 students.

The group now has more than 200 members, most of whom have been posting pictures and bringing smiles to everyone.  While many member of the group haven’t seen each other for decades, they’ve been putting up pictures others may have not seen since the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  Maybe they never saw them at all.

When the formation of this group led to a “dinner and drinks” outing, I casually mentioned that among the many pictures I have and I have seen, I have no pictures from my Senior Class play.  I could have purchased them from the high school at the time, but I let it pass. It was my big regret.

During the week that followed, pictures showed up on Facebook, including one of me front and just left of center in a picture I do not think I ever saw.

South Pacific

Throwback Thursday has become a favorite activity. I post something and look for others to post items which will remind me of my high school days, my family and my youth. Nothing brings the past to life like seeing it. This is the value of #tbt.

My departed mother took a camera to many things in her life. In the 70’s and 80’s there is no telling how many rolls of 110 and 126 film she went through. Some months after she was gone, I sent many hundreds of pictures to my brother. I have thousands remaining.

Nowadays, I have a use for these photographs — every Thursday.

WEATHER’S COMING!

I live in the Blackstone Valley where no one tells you nothing. When weather people stand in the studio and do their predicting, they position themselves so you can see the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Except where we live because that’s where they stand.

72-Kayay-GA-Sunny-Sunday_081

I asked our friend, the trustworthy meteorologist (there is one and he is it) about this. He said, “Well, we have to stand somewhere.” But on his next broadcast, he moved aside for a few seconds so that I could see the map. Thanks!

When anyone mentions the valley at all, it’s Worcester. The rest of our towns don’t exist. I have learned to read weather maps because I’m not going to get information any other way. Dinosaurs could be roaming the Valley, and no one would notice unless one of them ate a tourist.

t-rex

Now that we’re turning the corner to warm weather, I can take a deep breath and relax. It’s a quiet weather period, usually.

The past couple of months gave us a big dose of weather frenzy. Most of it was on the money, unlike previous winters when the frenzy exceeded reality by 100%, give or take a few points. I was numb from the hyperbole of previous years, so I ignored the warnings. When the first, huge blizzard hit at the end of January, we were unprepared. I hadn’t even bought extra groceries.

72-One-More-Blizzard_07

The frenzy isn’t harmless.

Weather sells. It pulls in viewers. When hurricanes or blizzards threaten, people who normally don’t watch the news tune in. Higher ratings, lots of teasers.

“Seven feet of snow on the way!! Will you be buried tomorrow? Story at 11!” It’s money in the bank. Doom is a perennial best-seller.

72-Blizzard_024

TV stations like to whip everyone into a frenzy. It’s good business. Weather predictions don’t carry issues of journalistic responsibility. No one can call you to task for being wrong because, after all, it’s the weather.

The frenzy is not harmless. Every weather event is presented as if it’s the end of the world. It’s impossible to figure out if this next thing is serious or more of the same.

Should we lay in supplies? Ignore it? Plan to evacuate? Fill all the water containers? Cancel travel plans? Make travel plans? Head for public shelters?

72-On-The-Road_042

Hysteria is exhausting and worse, it’s numbing. Some of us worry about the possibility of weeks without electricity. Telling us our world is ending is upsetting if you believe it. It is even more dangerous if it’s serious, and we don’t believe it.

They shouldn’t say that stuff unless it’s true. Or might be true. At the least, it’s rude to scare us to death, and then say “Sorry folks.”

You can’t unring the bell. When the real deal occurs — as it did this winter — we don’t listen. Weather forecasting may not be legally subject to standards or accuracy, but maintaining credibility might be worthwhile. I’m just saying, you know?

A MOTHER’S WALTZ: A COLLABORATION OF SWO8 & SERENDIPITY

Mother’s Day is May 10th

 April 23, 2015 by swo8

FROM swo8: Mother’s Day is May 10th and the great American author and photographer (blush), Marilyn Armstrong and I have worked on another collaboration. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity: It has arrived. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 … with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for all mothers everywhere.


Other posts you might enjoy:

POSTING IN THE TROT BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

FOREVER WALKING BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

FOREVER WALKING BY SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

I’VE GOT THE WINTER BLUES – SWO8 BLUES JAZZ

A HALF HOUR RADIO SHOW

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. The people I met there included two husbands and almost all the people I call friends today. Sometimes, I was part of this show. I wrote some stuff, did voices on and bits. Hung around, heckled, made suggestions, joined in when another body was needed.

It was the biggest hit our little college station ever had. We were young, silly, and frequently stoned. Since then, the show’s producer, Tom Curley,  has put it through, many iterations, refined and rewrote it. After all these years, it’s still funny. You don’t waste funny.

Welcome to my fondest remembered past, the audio time capsule of my youth. From when the world and I were young …

The Show Must Go On

See on captclerk.podbean.com

BIG GUY AND THE CARDINAL

Garry was working weekends that decade, so whatever stuff happened on Sunday was part of his beat. This particular Sunday, the old catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.

Holy_Cross_Cathedral_1881

For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from that lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

It was a grand dame amongst local churches.You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything.

Roxbury was an almost entirely Black neighborhood. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood which was red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We had been among the first two or three middle class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians. We had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, affordable.

It was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors, or felt safer.

75-BostonHPCR-3

The morning on which Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”

“When?”

“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime!

And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest and gentlest — was our meeter and greeter.

Big Guy

Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately blamed for the long-standing and terribly wrong policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light.

The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Oh! Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller. It was going to need some cleaning power beyond my limited resources.

So I shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now … YOU know. The truth has finally come out.

THE NANNY TRIAL – A TRUE STORY OF AMERICAN JUSTICE

For those of you who follow “big trials,” there was a huge one in 1997 in Boston. Garry was working and covered the trial, along with a zillion other reporters from all over the country.

We became as engrossed by the story as everyone else. Garry was in the courtroom every day. Each night over dinner, we talked about the day’s testimony. Garry gave me his opinion on who was telling the truth and what it might mean.

So what happened? A young British woman — Louise Woodward — was nanny for a baby who died of what was apparently shaken baby syndrome, a finding which has since been disputed. The jury convicted her of second degree murder that carried a sentenced of 15 to life.

Judge Zobel was unhappy with the verdict and reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter. He stated “the circumstances in which the defendant acted were characterized by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense supporting a conviction for second-degree murder,” adding: “I am morally certain that allowing this defendant on this evidence to remain convicted of second-degree murder would be a miscarriage of justice.” His overturning of the jury verdict produced a storm of controversy.

I don’t think the Judge Zobel believed she was innocent, merely that justice would not be better served by sending her to jail. I doubt the baby’s parents agreed.

scales of justice

Our legal system is designed to be flexible, to allow human considerations to occasionally trump legal ones. Sometimes it means no one is entirely satisfied with a trial’s outcome. The wild cards are the judges who have enormous discretionary powers … which they mostly don’t use. Although judges can always set aside a jury verdict, it rarely happens in the real world. This is the only time I’ve seen it happen, other than in a movie or TV show. Zobel was an unusual judge.

Woodward’s sentence was reduced to time served (279 days) and she was freed. Assistant District Attorney Gerald Leone appealed the judge’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Woodward’s lawyers also appealed, asking the court to throw out her manslaughter conviction. The court affirmed the guilty verdict by a 7-0 vote. However, in a 4-3 split decision, the higher court rejected the prosecution’s appeal against reduction of the conviction to involuntary manslaughter.

On 16 June 1998, Woodward was returned to the United Kingdom. She studied law, changed her mind and became a dance teacher. A story that leaves me saying “huh?”

Side Effects

The conviction had an unanticipated side effect by causing the defeat of pending legislation in Massachusetts which would have restored capital punishment. I was glad. Garry not so much. It’s one of the few areas of the law on which we disagree.

The death penalty is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. I’m against it because I think if killing is wrong, making it legal doesn’t make it right. Garry believes some people deserve it, a point of view that’s hard to argue with (but I do anyway). We have agreed to disagree on this specific issue. It’s a matter of conscience.

The U.S. has a unique system of justice. Mostly, our magic works, sometimes not. Law is a human institution. It’s imperfect, but all things considered, it’s pretty good. I don’t know where you would find a better one.

WHAT A TWIST: THE DAILY PROMPT

LAYING DOWN THE MUSICAL LAW

Tom Joseph Law music, by Rich Paschall

There is no shortage of musicians on You Tube and other social media platforms who wish to become famous.  Some are actually rather good and just hoping to be noticed among a sea of musicians who are covering songs and offering their own work.  How do you get recognition?  How do you produce quality videos to post among the millions of videos already in cyberspace?  How do you stand out among the crowd?

Tom Law has been working steadily for years to become the next “over night sensation.”  Since joining You Tube in 2010, the British singer-songwriter has posted covers and collaborations, original songs and one man band videos.  Yes, Tom has 14 videos where he is playing all the instruments.  You may watch and be suitably impressed at this talent.

From photo shoot in Bath, England

From photo shoot in Bath, England

At age 25, Tom’s persistence, talent and good looks have brought him almost 79 thousand You Tube subscribers and over 3 and a half million views.  It is respectable for sure but there’s a higher level to achieve and that is his aim.

In order to raise some additional money to make quality videos, Tom has found Patreon.  It is a social media site aimed at bringing patrons together with their favorite artists.  This allows people to pledge gifts large and small for each project and the artist has the option of offering rewards, like free downloads of music.  Tom also offers some patrons the opportunity to “hangout” online for a private chat.  On a recent hangout, I got the opportunity to sit in.

A small group of supporters of Tom’s cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, eight I think, assembled last Saturday for the opportunity to talk with their favorite artist.  Tom’s video was one of those one man band videos, where he is singing and playing all the parts.  It certainly moves away from the more up tempo pop-like tunes I like, but it is a good choice for Tom, especially given the radio play of Hozier’s song with the driving refrain that sticks in your head.

Not being part of this particular group, I was pleased Tom gave me the chance to join the call.  I thought I would just hang out and listen and perhaps learn a few things.  However, the group seemed rather reserved and did not have much to say.  Perhaps they have had other hang-outs with Tom and asked a lot of the obvious questions already.  When Tom mentioned that he felt like he was doing all the talking, I decided to jump in.

The group may have been there to talk about “Take Me To Church,” but I had just seen Tom’s most recent cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” so it was fresh in my mind.  I decided to go there instead.  First I mentioned that Tom seemed to be apologizing in social media, even before the video appeared, about the “F” word in the song.  He was afraid some might not like it but felt it could not be eliminated.  Usually I find the use offensive, but in the context of Sheeran’s song, it obviously fits and is nothing sensational.  Tom thought of covering the sound over, but these sort of tricks just highlight a missing word we all know is there.

Next I wanted to know how does he put the pieces together when he is the lead singer, all the background singers and all the musicians.  It takes a great deal of patience as well as technical know-how to get this together.  If you watched the video, you may also wonder, “How does he do it?”

Without giving away secrets, as if I understood it all anyway, Tom starts with the main track, that is, the lead vocal.  From there he can add in the other instruments and background Toms until he gets all their parts down.  Yes, there is a lot of harmony going on.

Then, of course, Tom has to film all those Toms.  In order to be in time with the music, you can see the background singers are listening for their parts in the headphones.  When this is all done, I wanted to know how he syncs all this up so the timing is just right.  I thought the background crew would be rather tough, but Tom did not seem to think it was as difficult as some of the rest of the project.

“OK, Tom, how long did the whole process take?”  Tom thought about all the pieces of recording and filming and editing and finally decided it took about seven days and a LOT of hours to give us a video of three minutes and 47 seconds.  If you think Tom can make money off these things, there is little chance, since the song belongs to someone else.  However, it might give him the recognition to do other things.

He does have some of his own songs that you should give a chance. In fact, here’s the song “Give It a Chance” from an EP, Build From Zero.

After the song you will see a link below the video on You Tube that will lead you to a free album of covers by Tom.  Download it from Tom’s website.  If you are a social media junkie, subscribe to Tom’s You Tube and go to his “about” page and find links to all of Tom’s sites so you can stalk him around the internet and know what is coming next.  Give it a chance.

DRINK THE KOOLAID: THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE

Jonestown_entrance_welcome

The story of the Jonestown Massacre is true. From it grew a saying everyone uses. “Drink the Kool-Aid” or “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” I wonder how many people who say it so casually, referring to products, buying into a corporate culture, or political philosophy, realize to what they are referring?

I’ve written this before, but this is a major revision and it bears repeating. It’s true. It happened. We need to make sure it never happens again.

Drink (or don’t drink) the Kool-aid

The popular expression “drink the Kool-Aid” has become a common verbal shorthand in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow or accept a set of beliefs.” At work, it means you endorse what your bosses tell you. In politics, it means you fully buy into the platform.

It carries a negative connotation, but not as negative as it ought.

Kool-Aid was the drink for children on summer afternoons in the 1950s. The saying is now just bland rhetoric, stripped of its context and thus the horror it ought to evoke.

The Peoples Temple

Jim Jones, cult leader and mass murderer, was a complex madman. A communist, occasional Methodist minister, he founded his own pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name supposedly refers to “the people of the world.” Jones called it a church, but it was a twisted version of a Marxist commune. At first, it combined with miscellaneous Christian references Jones used in his diatribes, er, sermons.

jim_jones

It was not a church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult requiring total personal commitment, financial support, and absolute obedience. The characteristics which define a cult.

Jones was the leader. A homicidal maniac, but he had positive qualities. Jones and his wife, Marceline, favored racial integration. They adopted kids from varying racial backgrounds and were the first white family in Indiana to adopt an African-American boy. They also adopted 3 Korean children, a Native American child, and a handful of white kids. They had one child of their own.

Jones called his adopted kids the “Rainbow Family.” He made a name for himself desegregating institutions in Indiana. Before you get all dewy-eyed, note that this climaxed in murdering these children.

The Peoples Temple expanded through the 1960s. Jones gradually abandoned Marxism. His preaching increasingly focused on impending nuclear apocalypse. He specified a date — July 15, 1967 — and suggested after the apocalypse, a socialist paradise would exist on Earth. Where would the new Eden be?

Jones decided on Redwood Valley, California. Before the expected Big Bang, he moved the Temple and its peoples there.

When the end-of-the-world deadline came and went, Jones abandoned his pretense of Christianity and he revealed himself as a madman using religion to lend legitimacy to his views. He announced “Those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion must be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” Prophetic words in view of the fact that Jones was a drug addict .

As media attention increased, Jones worried the Peoples Temple’s tax-exempt religious status was in danger. He was paranoid about the U.S. intelligence community — with good reason.

Jonestown aerial view

In 1977, Jones moved the Temple and its people again. This was a major relocation. He took them out of the United States and resettled everyone in Guyana, a poor South American nation. He modestly named it “Jonestown.”

It was a bleak, inhospitable place. On 4000 acres of poor soil with limited access to fresh water, it was too small for the number of people it had to support. Jones optimistically figured “his” people could farm the new utopia. He had put together several million dollars before getting to Jonestown, but didn’t share it with his followers. He barely used any of the money at all, and lived in a small, bare-bones shack.

All Hell Breaks Loose

U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in November of 1978. Rumors of peculiar goings-on were leaking out of Jonestown. Ryan decided to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses in Jonestown.

Jonestown headline Milwaukee

Ryan didn’t go alone. He took a contingent of media representatives including NBC News correspondent Don Harris and other reporters, plus relatives of Jonestown residents. During his visit, Congressman Ryan talked to more than a dozen Temple members, all of whom said they wanted to leave. Several of them passed a note saying: “Please help us get out of Jonestown” to news anchor Harris.

If the number of defectors seems low (there were more than 900 people in Jonestown), but the congressional party was unable to talk to most of the “fellowship.” It’s impossible to know how many might have wanted to leave.

Ryan began processing paperwork to repatriate Temple members to go back to the States. In the middle of this, Ryan was attacked by Don Sly, a knife-wielding Temple member. This would-be assassin was stopped before injuring Ryan. Eventually the entire Ryan party plus the group of Jonestown defectors drove to a nearby airstrip and boarded planes, intending to leave.

Jim Jones had other plans. He sent armed Temple members — his “Red Brigade,” after the Congressional party  These creepy “soldiers of the Temple” opened fire, killing Ryan, a Temple defector, 3 members of the media, and wounding 11 others. The survivors fled into the jungle.

jonestown massacre anniversary

When the murderers returned to Jonestown and reported their actions, Jones promptly started what he called a “White Night” meeting. He “invited” all Temple members. This wasn’t the first White Night. Jones had hosted previous White Night meetings in which he suggested U.S. intelligence agencies would soon attack Jonestown. He had even staged fake attacks to add a realism, though it’s hard to believe anyone was fooled by the play-acting.

Faced with this hypothetical invasion scenario, Jones told Temple members they could stay and fight imaginary invaders, or they could take off for the USSR. Another tempting alternative would be to run off into the Guyana jungles. Finally, they could commit mass suicide as an act of political protest.

On previous occasions Temple members had opted for suicide. Not satisfied, Jones had tested their commitment and gave them cups of liquid they were told contained poison. They were asked to drink it. Which they did. After a while, Jones told them the liquid wasn’t poison — but one day it would be.

Jonestown Koolaid

Indeed Jim Jones had been stockpiling cyanide and other drugs for years. On this final White Night, Jones was no longer testing his followers. It was time to kill them all.

(Don’t) Drink the Kool-Aid

After the airstrip murders outside Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered Temple members to create a fruity mix containing a cocktail of chemicals that included cyanide, diazepam (Valium), promethazine (Phenergan — a sedative), chloral hydrate (a sedative/hypnotic sometimes called “knockout drops”), and Flavor Aid — a grape-flavored powdered drink mix similar to Kool-Aid.

jonestown_massacre

Jones urged his followers to commit suicide to make a political point. What that point was supposed to be is a matter of considerable conjecture.  After some discussion, Temple member Christine Miller suggested flying Temple members to the USSR.

Jones was never interested in escape. There was only one answer he would accept. Death. Lots of it. He repeatedly pointed out Congressman Ryan was dead (and whose fault was that?) which would surely bring down the weight of American retribution. An audiotape of this meeting exists. It is as creepy as you’d expect.

30-years-jonestown

Then it was time for the detailed instructions which the followers followed. I will never understand why. Probably it means I’m not insane.

Jones insisted mothers squirt poison into the mouths of their children using syringes. As their children died, the mothers were dosed too, though they were allowed to drink from cups. Temple members wandered outside where eventually more than 900 lay dead, including more than 300 children. Only a handful of survived — primarily residents who happened to be away on errands when the mass suicide/massacre took place.

Jones, his wife, and various other members of the Temple left wills stating that their assets should go to the Communist Party of the USSR.

Jones did not drink poison. He died from a bullet to the head. It’s not clear if it was self-inflicted. Jones likely died last or nearly so. He may have preferred a gun to cyanide, having seen the horrendous effects of death by cyanide.

Why Kool-Aid?

In the wake of the tragedy at Jonestown, the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” became a popular term for blind (or not-so-blind) obedience. Temple members had apparently accepted their cups of poison without argument or objection. Various accounts say the beverage used at Jonestown was mostly Flavor Aid, sometimes “Flav-R-Aid”). It doesn’t matter, does it?

Kool-Aid was better-known than Flavor Aid. It was introduced in 1927 in powdered form, so when Americans thought of a powdered fruity drink mix (other than “Tang”), “Kool-Aid” sprang to mind.

Jonestown-Tomb-Flower

Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid were at Jonestown, but the phrase “(don’t) drink the Kool-Aid” is popular lingo. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Does it help sell Kool-Aid?

I never touch the stuff.


 Deep Throat: The Blacklight Candelabra

I’ve written about Jonestown before, but given the state of politics today, not only in the US but around the world, it bears repeating. It’s a cautionary tale for our times, reminding us where fanaticism leads. Over the course of history, fanatics and those who blindly follow without questioning those who lead, have caused millions of deaths. Untold misery. Incalculable harm. It isn’t harmless. It isn’t “just blowing off steam.”