SUCH GOOD FRIENDS

Yesterday, we gathered to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier this year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

But many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career.

Yesterday, there were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business. Joe Day was at the core of all those memories.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. We have drifted apart geographically and socially in many cases. Sometimes we paused before hugging because we no longer look the way we did in our “head shot” days.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing. Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens.

That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.

OFFICIAL NOTICE: WE ARE ON VACATION

We aren’t home. We are visiting friends. If we have not answered your comments or visited your site, it’s because we are vacating.

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I’ll try to play catch-up, but I probably won’t entirely. This is a much-needed time-out of regular life. I’ll be back by Monday. We are fine. Better than fine. We are relaxing with friends!

THEY FOLLOW ME EVERWHERE

I’M A SINGULAR SENSATION 

The news has been slow around here. Just regular stuff. Accidents, government stupidity and incompetence, scandals of the famous and wannabes. Changes in weather. Boston has a new mayor, too. So after all this ordinary stuff, I was thrilled to find this headline. From Dublin across the seas, this pops up on my browser:

Italian lodger tells police he is ‘guilty’ of cannibal murder

Saverio Bellante is remanded in custody after gruesome killing in Dublin

I bet our newscasters would be really happy to have a shot at something this juicy. Yum. Since the demise of Jeffrey Dahmer, there hasn’t been an incredibly disgusting, gory serial murderer to liven up the news cycle.

That got me wondering about today’s prompt which asks us who we would want — of all the possible readers and followers — to be reading our blog. This isn’t bragging, but I know a few of my favorite authors drop round here now and again, usually when I review one of their books or feature an interview with one of them. I know because they send me little thank you notes, probably advisable for any author that gets a really good review from any reviewer. We are prima donnas no less than they and we feed our hungry egos with the cast off kudos of the great and nearly great.

But how cool to be followed by a cannibal? It would be a coup. Definitely would come with bragging rights!

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALL

While Garry was a working reporter, we occasionally got phone calls late at night from convicted serial killers, sometimes critiquing his performance du jour. Turns out, they watched him on the telly. Who’d have guessed that serial killers have phone privileges? Icing on the cake?

Perpetrators of gruesome murders currently on trial would wave and wink at him in the courtroom. I’m sure all the other reporters were jealous. Aside from being intensely creepy, it always made me wonder if their fondness for my husband and his work would count for or against us if they were to get loose and drop by for a visit. They obviously knew how and where to track him down. Find Garry? Find me too.

Garry with Tip O'Neill

Garry with Tip O’Neill

On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I’m a major hit in the prison system. It would explain the thousand or so followers who remain nameless and never leave comments or even a “like.”

Personally, I’d prefer to be followed (breathlessly, eagerly) by a power player in the literary world. An agent!

Sad News

Marilyn Armstrong:

I was so hoping that finally there would be a semblance of a happy ending for this tragic couple. The news does not get much worse than this. Grayson apparently died of a massive infection, despite medical care. Information on how to write to Rara is in this post.

Originally posted on The Matticus Kingdom:

I have terrible news to share with the blogosphere today.

Horrible, no good, awful news.

Many of you knew him as Grayson Queen, author and artist extraordinaire.  Perhaps you’ve read one of his novels.  Perhaps you’ve purchased, or at least enjoyed, some of his paintings or sculptures…  Perhaps you knew that he was also Rara‘s husband, Dave.

I don’t have a lot of details, but I can confirm that Dave passed away earlier this week.

Please share this post wide and far.  Please say a prayer for Dave and Rara.  Please send her every ounce of spare energy you can muster.  She needs us.  Dave’s family and friends need us.

And send her mail to show her your love, your RawrLove:

Radhika Jaini WF0124
CIW LA 249 UP
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA  92880

You don’t need to know what to say.  You don’t need to say anything…

View original 10 more words

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

REMEMBERING THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING

A couple of days ago, we were at the post office and I noticed the flag was flying at half-staff. I conferred with Garry. Finally, we realized it was the second anniversary of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Patriot’s Day, 2013.

"1st Boston Marathon blast seen from 2nd floor and a half block away" by Aaron Tang - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hahatango/8652829335/sizes/o/in/set-72157633252445135/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_away.jpg#/media/File:1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_away

“1st Boston Marathon blast seen from 2nd floor and a half block away” by Aaron Tang – http://www.flickr.com/photos/hahatango/8652829335/sizes/o/in/set-72157633252445135/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent related shootings were a series of attacks and incidents which began on April 15, 2013, when two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon at 2:49 pm, killing 3 people and injuring an estimated 264 others. The bombs exploded about 12 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street. (Wikipedia)

That was the day that a lot of the joy went out all public events. The traditions continue, but there are shadows. There will always be shadows, fear, worry connected with any public gathering in Boston and in every city in this country. In the world.

Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred. The bombs were intended to inflict maximum injury, maiming, and death.

If there was a political point, I missed it.

The bomber, the remaining brother of the two perpetrators, has been convicted in a Federal Court. All that remains is deciding the punishment — death or life without parole. Neither seems quite enough.

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.

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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.

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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.”