PUSHING THE LIMITS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Limit


This whole past month has been pushing the limits for me. Neither Garry nor I feel well, so doing anything has been difficult. My wrist has been very sore and I’ve felt oddly weak and exhausted.

Just getting through the week has been hard. Even this little bit or more writing is pushing a limit. I’m not wearing my brace because I can’t type with it on … and when I try, it takes forever to get even a little bit done. But I can feel little shafts of pain in my hands and I know I have to stop now.

I think at a certain point in life — different for each of us — what the limit is, changes.

Today, I am NOT going to watch the news. Okay, maybe a little. The news really is my absolute limit.

HISTORY VERSUS TRUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

How’s your credibility doing these days? 


We watched “Serenity.” Again.

It’s a consolation prize, a followup movie to the all-too-brief television series “Firefly.” We loved it. It went a small distance to answer the questions left in the wake of the premature ending of what should have been the best ever science fiction television show.

serenity_movie_poster

Nathan Fillion was a fine, dashing, surprisingly believable hero. He was just un-heroic enough to be witty and upbeat, but brave enough to save the universe.

Despite spaceships and a futuristic planetary setting for the movie, it’s a western. It’s “Tombstone” and “The Magnificent Seven.” A dollop of “Ride the High Country.” It is every thriller, western, and space opera you’ve seen. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Forbidden Planet,” too.

serenity_8

It’s based on “Firefly”, currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime — so if you haven’t seen it and you like science fiction and/or westerns and/or thrillers, you can’t help but love this.

Heroes curse in Chinese. Some have super powers or maybe they aren’t superpowers, but they sure do seem pretty super to me. Beautiful women, handsome men. Terrific pseudo-science that you are pretty sure you almost understand because it uses familiar gobbledygook language.

Serenity movie cast

No warp drive. I suppose that means that going from galaxy to galaxy on a whim isn’t going to happen. No one exactly says where the story takes place. It’s a “terraformed” planetary configuration that you would call a solar system, except that technically, there’s only one solar system because there’s only one “Sol.”

And then The Hero, Mal Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, said it. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want mad at you, so when he came out with a line this terrific, I wrote it down on the back of an envelope before I forgot it. I knew I would write about it.


“Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Spoken by Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the “Serenity.”

I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, steampunk and weird mysteries involving some kind of magical or futuristic technology. But I also read a lot of history, recently a lot of history that essentially debunks all the history I read in the past and makes me completely rethink everything I thought I knew. Tony Judt’s “Postwar” was one such book, but there have been a bunch of others. Some of them I’ve reviewed or otherwise written about. Others, I will talk about eventually.

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

When Mal Reynolds talks about “hiding half the truth,” it sums up history as most of us know it. We learn the “mythology” of history. It can also be a complete lie. There’s half the truth — and then, there’s a complete absence of any truth.

We are told what is true and for most people, it is easier to accept what we are told as “The Truth” rather than make an effort to find out what really happened.

History (mostly) is the stuff the winners say is true.  Author Dan Brown said:


“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”


Sometimes, what you hear as “history” is a truth which never happened, but which losers need. It soothes guilty consciousness and makes it possible for them to “move on” and thus pretend the past never happened.

Every nation has a dark past. No nation is guiltless. In no country have the victors treated their victims with kindness and charity. There has been slaughtering throughout the world. Whether your particular people got slaughtered or not is pure luck of the draw.

It’s always an interesting philosophical question: Who draws the straws? Why us? Why them? It’s one of those “ultimate” questions and there is no answer.

History isn’t credible as taught. The history we hear in school has nothing to do with telling later generations what really happened. It ought to be but actually, it’s about getting everyone to believe a story that supports the current power structure.

Debunking those stories comes later when a changed power structure requires a different story.

Nathan Fillion Hero

Take your history with many grains of salt. Not because I said so, but because Mal Reynolds said so.

He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

CREDIBILITY MATTERS – Garry Armstrong

“The media always lies,” she said and I cringed.

Then, I got angry. Why do people believe a president who has never told the truth about anything while failing to believe the fact-based truth?

I’m not talking about “ultimate” truth or the meaning of life or faith. I’m talking about things that can be proved with evidence, science. Stuff caught on tape. Printed, heard, overheard, and to which testimony has been given.

I really hate it when I hear that cliché – “The media doesn’t tell the truth. They always lie.” It demeans all the passion and belief I put into more than 40-years as a working reporter. Moreover, it demeans the careers of so many others who give their lives in pursuit of the truth. Many, literally died in pursuit of the truth.

Photo: USA Today

I am not romanticizing my career. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve gotten it wrong. It happens when you’re covering multiple stories a day, 5 to 7 days a week. With deadlines breathing down your neck.

I always tried to clarify mistakes by accepting my culpability up front and being clear with viewers. There were many days when I hated what I had to do. Usually, it was in pursuit of a truth which would be ugly, demanding, tedious — and require a good deal of soul-searching. The truth isn’t simple, or black and white. Despite what you usually see on television or in movies about reporters, there aren’t many clear “wins.”

180-Graphic-Photographs-2-MOB-Party-04212018_036
The old days

Often, we’re lambasted for telling the truth by the same folks who call us liars. Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” line should be crayoned on the skulls of those who insist the media always lies. Those critics are the same pilgrims who gobble up the pablum offered by the current White House Tenant who doesn’t know what the truth is. It’s like a foreign language to him.

I fervently wish that Those People who belittle the media and law enforcement officials spend some time, real-time — like 24/7 on the streets. The real streets, not just their cozy neighborhood. They might see life closeup without any of the public relations filters. I suspect those critics would change that tune and maybe sing a different song. They might think before they speak and see our world in three dimensions instead of whatever propaganda they accept in their biased, insulated worlds.

Finally, I’m proud of what I did for a living. For 40 plus years, I fought to tell the truth.

It was a privilege!

CANINE HEROES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I am crazy, an over the top dog lover. I share cute dog videos on Facebook.  I also share pleas for the endless number of rescue dogs who are in dire circumstances and really need rescuing. I donate money to all kinds of dog rescue organizations as well as the Humane Society.

One of my favorite Rescue Groups.

My heart breaks for all the dogs out there who are abandoned, neglected and/or abused. I try to read as little as possible about dogs suffering all over the world because their images haunt me and keep me from sleeping. Sometimes my heart actually hurts just thinking about them.

Then I read a feel-good dog story and I jump up and down with glee. The positive piece that recently caught my attention was in the New York Times on August 7. Written by Sean Piccoti, it’s called “A Military Medal For ‘Our Four-Legged Heroes’”. The article is primarily about the legislation that has just created a ‘Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal’, the first official commendation by the Defense Department for military working dogs.

Statue to Military Dogs and their Handlers

Close to 3000 military dogs and handlers are stationed around the world, especially in the Middle East. All branches of the military use dogs who are trained in bomb and drug detection. Dogs are also trained to scout, guard, and track. Also to sniff out bombs, booby traps, mines, drugs, and hostile forces. They are used to patrol Air Bases, Military Compounds, Ammunition Depots, and Military Checkpoints.

The dogs often do multiple tours of duty, like their humans. Some lose their lives, and some lose limbs or suffer other debilitating injuries, just like human soldiers do. Until now, the dogs and their handlers were not recognized for the amazing jobs they do.

crippled military retiree

The story goes beyond the military award and the recognition of the dogs’ service. The article also talks about a wonderful organization called The War Dogs Association. This New Jersey-based organization provides essential services for the military dogs and handlers on active duty as well as after retirement.

The War Dogs Association donates badly needed supplies to active duty dogs. Ron Aiello, the President of War Dogs, says that if an active duty handler needs a new harness for his dog, it can take months to get it from the army. War Dogs can respond to an email request immediately and get the harness delivered within a week!

The dogs also need other equipment that the military doesn’t always provide. For example, War Dogs sends special goggles to protect the dogs’ eyes from sandstorms. They send cooling vests to protect the dogs from the over 100-degree temperatures in the Middle East. They also send dog boots to protect the dogs’ paws from injury due to extreme heat and rough terrain. It’s appalling to me that the military doesn’t protect their dogs in these basic ways!

War Dogs also takes care of retired dogs. They find good adoptive homes for them when they come back to the States. They also pay for medical care for the retirees, including a free canine prescription drug program.

This story is particularly encouraging because, during the Vietnam war, military dogs were regarded as ‘equipment.’ Many dogs who served were euthanized or just given to the Vietnamese when they were no longer needed.

We’ve come a long way.

Even today, I’ve read that handlers who want to adopt their service dogs when they retire, have to jump through hoops to make it happen. They have to pay lots of money and often wait years to go through the red tape necessary to get the dogs released to them and eventually shipped to America.

It should be automatic that dogs and handlers be kept together if that’s what the handler wants. Hopefully, War Dogs will help with this problem as well.

Here is a link to the War Dogs Association: https://www.uswardogs.org. Please donate something.

I did.

ANY WHICH WAY – Garry Armstrong

Which Way Challenge: October 1, 2018


We found a place we thought we’d lost this week. What a great feeling to not be lost for a change! We took a lot of pictures and we will take more tomorrow because it probably won’t rain.

Which would be great since it has been raining all week. And most of the week before. Our rivers are at their crest. Another inch of rain and we will all be canoeing through downtown Uxbridge.

Marilyn as the photographer in blue
Ramp down the side of the Manchaug post office.
Photo: Garry Armstrong
The long road with a hint of our car – Photo: Garry Armstrong
A path along the river – Photo: Garry Armstrong

FROM THE CAR – WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: From the Car

I cannot, in all honesty, say the “most of my best pictures were taken from the car,” but an awful lot of really good ones were. What is always surprising is how well the camera sees through all the shmutz on the windshield and actually gets relatively sharp pictures.

Typically, the harder part is avoiding reflections rather than dirt … not counting whatever the birds leave behind — and the occasional really big bug.

Here are a few favorites, mostly taken during that very long drive back and forth to Jackman, Maine.

With the atlas resting on the dashboard
The view was so good, I got Garry to pull over so I could get some without a windshield …
Tunnel on the Merritt Parkway
Best “almost home” shot EVER!