BREAKING NEWS OVERLOAD – BY ELLIN CURLEY

We’ve been shell shocked by the barrage of non-stop breaking news that’s been coming at us at warp speed. These past eight days have been a news tsunami. As soon as we started to digest the news of one day, we would get hit with another major story the next. At one point, my husband and I couldn’t remember what the crisis was only two days before! Yet, at the time, we were sure that it could never get any worse than it was then.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

This news fatigue is like information overload but on steroids and turned up to Def Con 5. Cable Newscasters are screaming at us at top volume around the clock. Everything is OMG!!!!! For our part, we’re all becoming adrenaline junkies. If there was a day without a major story to occupy our emotional and intellectual energies, we’d go into withdrawal.

We have gotten used to the 24/7 drama way too easily.

To recap the major news stories of the past eight days:

Trump fires FBI Director James Comey while Comey was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. At first Trump’s staff said the firing was because of Comey’s treatment of Hillary Clinton in the campaign (Right!). Two days later, Trump gave an interview in which he admitted that he did it because of the Russia investigation (This smacks of obstruction of justice).

Trump invites high Russian officials into the Oval Office and bans all U.S. Press from the meeting. The event is photographed by a Russian photojournalist. (WTF?) A few days later it came out that Trump revealed TOP SECRET intelligence to the Russians. This may have compromised operatives and operations of a major ally, Israel (You’ve got to be kidding!)

Comey leaks that Trump asked him to pledge loyalty to Trump. The FBI Director swears fealty to the Constitution, not the President! (This also smacks of obstruction of justice). A few days later, Comey’s associates reveal the contents of a memo Comey wrote documenting a conversation with the President. In it, the President pressured Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia. (That IS obstruction of justice!)

For dessert, we learn that Michael Flynn told Trump’s people that he was under investigation by the FBI BEFORE he was hired by the administration. Despite that information, Trump appointed him as National Security Adviser, a high security level position. (You can’t make this shit up!)

It was exciting to live through the Watergate investigations. But then the story unfolded in slow and steady drip, drip, drips over a long period of time. People had time to digest information, regroup and brace for the next headline story. We’re living through a waterfall of stories tumbling out on top of one another onto our heads. And Trump has only been in office for four months!

Trump supporters wanted Trump to shake things up in Washington. I don’t think they realized that this meant he would put all Americans into a giant blender and turn the switch onto HIGH! If this goes on for four, or even two years, I don’t think that there will be enough PTSD Treatment Centers in the country to handle the demand!

HERITAGE AND THE PAST IN THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: TRACES OF THE PAST Y3-05


The entire Blackstone River Valley is a National Historic Corridor. A lot of people don’t realize that we are “one step removed” from a national park and have a good many of the same protections. Many of these opportunities are not enforced, though not from unwillingness. More like “not enough money.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

One of the most lovely and historic parts of the valley is the Blackstone Canal.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Marilyn Armstrong  – The trail along the canal was originally the path used by horses while pulling barges

The Blackstone river was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. In the early 1800s, it was, mile-for-mile, the busiest, most hard-working river in America. Over its 46-mile course, it drops 438 feet — farther than the Colorado River falls through the entire Grand Canyon. By 1790 the Blackstone’s waters powered the pioneering cotton mill of Samuel Slater at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It was America’s first mechanized cotton factory.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Waterfall to the river; straight ahead to the canal.
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Capital accumulated. Technical specialists gathered. Villages were built. This rapid growth created a need for an improved way of moving materials — other than the rutted dirt roads which had served the area thus far. The Blackstone River has too many twists, turns, falls, shallows, and rapids to be navigable, so during the winter and spring of 1821-2, plans were made to create a canal which would carry goods from mills to the world.

About the Canal


Financed by Yankee entrepreneurs and dug by Irish laborers, it was inaugurated in 1828. The canal follows the course of the Blackstone River and bypasses rapids and shallows using locks.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Over the course of its short 20-year history, the canal spurred commerce and development through the Valley, eventually known as “The Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

It attracted the attention of Boston and brought a rapid entry of trains to the area, making the canal attractive, but no longer workable. Much of new railroad was built along the tow-path of the canal.

The area was (fortunately) bypassed by most urban renewal. It has held onto much of its historic buildings. Its proximity to I-290 and Union Station made it an easy destination for out-of-towners — and more recently, an attractive place for housing and suburban re-investment.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The Canal is a locus of parks ranging from tiny to quite extensive. Now that the canal and river are so much cleaner, you can see many areas where fishing is encouraged as well as canoeing, kayaking and even — where the snapping turtles are in low supply — swimming. This time of year, it is quite simply, beautiful.

Additional historical information in THE HISTORY | THE CANAL and the Blackstone River and Canal National Heritage Park (Gov. Massachusetts)

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

“DEADLIEST CATCH” SUPER FANS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are huge fans of a reality show called “Deadliest Catch”. We’ve watched it religiously for 13 years. The show follows six or seven crab boats, based in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as they fish for crab each year in the Bering Sea.

Crab fishing used to be known as the most dangerous profession in the United States because of the high rates of injuries and deaths on crab boats each season. It’s less deadly these days, but still treacherous. An intrepid production crews live on the boats with the fishermen while they fish. They film conversations with and between the captain and the crew as well as following the ups and downs of the hunt for large quantities of the lucrative crab.

Why do we avidly watch people fishing day after day? Well, the viewers also get to know the captain and crew very well. There’s always tension between crew members and/or between crew members and the captain. On several boats, the captains bring along family members as part of the crew – brothers, sons, nephews, even a daughter once. So there’s plenty of family drama as well.

We’ve followed medical crises, including heart attacks, injuries, addiction, and even the death of a beloved captain. We’ve watched fights and feuds as well as bonding and friendship both on the boats and between the boats. You get to really like some captains and hate others because of their style of leadership, bad judgment, arrogance or quick tempers.

It’s fascinating to watch these men live in close quarters for weeks at a time under stressful work conditions in the middle of nowhere. This definitely creates an unusual dynamic. I used to think that the personal relationships and the personalities of the captains were the main elements that kept us watching week after week, year after year.

But I realized that I would not watch this show, with the same people, if they were on fire trucks instead of crab boats. It’s not just the characters or their dangerous jobs that keep us watching. The sea and its unpredictability is a major character in the drama. That’s what makes the show riveting. There are frequent, treacherous storms throughout the season. Winds can get to more than 60 miles an hour and the seas and waves can grow to be more than 30 feet high. Yet the men fish through all but the worst storms!

It’s mind boggling to watch these boats take on giant waves, smashing through them or being catapulted from side to side like children’s toys.

The sea is also isolating. Each boat fishes over 100 miles from their home port. They are often far, far away from any land. The boats are often far away from each other as well. So when something breaks on a boat, which happens frequently, the crew is totally on their own. They have to figure out how to fix it without a trip to the store or any outside advice. They at least have to be able to patch things up enough to be able to limp back to shore for repairs.

There is something mesmerizing about these men, alone in a giant and tempestuous sea, trying to find crabs and stay afloat and alive. This is one of the few shows we actually watch on the night it airs. We can’t wait to see the next episode.

We’re not alone. The show airs in over 200 countries and has lasted for 13 seasons!

Who’d have thought anyone would be at the edge of their seats, waiting to see if a crab pot coming over the edge of a boat is full of crabs or empty? Who’d have thought the same story every week would keep us coming back for more than a decade?

And there’s no sex and almost no violence. Go figure!

I’M SORRY … WHAT? – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This began as a lengthy comment to a blog posted by the imminent eminent wordsmith known as Evil Squirrel.  Squirrel’s blog For whom the Beltones” was a humorous look at the history of aids for the hearing-impaired and the advertising of the 1980s. Squirrel, this is truly evil. Maybe even blatantly racist if I can find an angle. I love it! You’re yelling to the choir with this one.


As you may know, I have needed hearing aids since I was a kid, back to the days when they were the small portable radios with a wire and earpiece. It was damned humiliating for a young guy.

As time went by, technology upgraded me to tiny, all in the ear aids. They were invisible on TV so it was great for me since I wore my aids all the time at work — except when I did live shots. Then, I had to replace one of my hearing aids with the IFB thingy which allowed everyone to talk directly into my head. Everyone could — and did — talk at the same time.

Sometimes there were two or three dozen people talking and shouting into my IFB as I calmly did my live reports. And smiled.

Often (simultaneously), the other hearing aid would pick up frequencies from nearby radio towers. I had a myriad TV people shouting into my IFB while Air Traffic Controllers yelled into my hearing aid. I calmly delivered the live reports. Then I went out for a few drinks.

Marilyn actually saw and heard a tape of one of these live shots, The station had accidentally recorded the stuff coming in through the IFB instead of the sound track for the story. She was awed. How could I function during all the clamor? Looking back, I’m awed too. I’m an awesome guy. That’s why they paid me the big bucks (not).

I interviewed Eddie Albert when he was filming “Yes, Giorgio” in Boston. Eddie was sunbathing along the Charles River. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of my tiny hearing aids. Pulled his out for comparison. A lot of “WHAT?” went down that day.

Fast forward to the present, I have the current behind the ears model hearing aids. My hearing is getting worse.

Huh? Can you hear me now??”

Postscript:

I didn’t always wear my hearing aids on a regular basis. Back then, it was worse (much) than being called “four eyes”. One night changed my whole attitude. My date had reached that critical point where you wonder if “it” will happen. The lady answered my query. I misheard her answer.

End of evening.