THE LAST TIMES SQUARE UNTIL NEXT TIME – Marilyn Armstrong

Happy New Year!

I don’t have  New Year’s picture for you because we don’t do anything special on New Year’s Eve. We’ve never gone to Times Square in New York, though both of us lived in New York for many years. It’s not a part of the city to which I was ever drawn.

Fly away woodpecker

When we lived in Boston, we went to their First Night. Which was fun, in a freezing cold sort of way. Ice sculptures when it’s below zero and each toe feels like an ice sculpture. Not to mention fingers and maybe your nose.

So I will let the birds say goodbye.

Twitter, twitter, TWEET!

It’s the end of the year. It’s been a crappy year in a lot of ways, but we live in hopes of a better one on the way. We always live in hopes of a better one on the way, even during a good year.

My bird of the year — the Nuthatch!

And some good stuff happened. Garry discovered hearing. I discovered that he still can’t hear me because he isn’t listening. The hearing is one thing. Listening is a separate process and one which he has yet to master.

THERE’S NO REVENGE THAT BEATS GETTING RICH – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Revenge

Revenge is giving you cousin’s kids an ant farm for Christmas. Or maybe one of those big drums that will beat automatically when you turn a handle. Or, for any teenager, a small chainsaw and when someone objects, point out that we all need to learn to handle tools. Just a little chainsaw.

Or, as the old lady said to the congregation, there’s always outliving the bitches.

I don’t think about revenge. That would make me insane. I work on survival. That only make me a little less insane.

MY FAVORITES CARTOONS OF 2018 – Marilyn Armstrong

I love to laugh. I love wit. I adore cleverness and am particularly enamored of very smart people, which is probably one of the many, many reasons I am so deeply disappointed by our government. Not only are they completely wrong about pretty much everything, but they are also utterly lacking in humor. If they are going to be this awful, can’t they even be funny? Each of them has undergone a humorectomy or maybe they were born that way.

Is not having a sense of humor a genetic abnormality?

I love cartoons. Political, literary, or just goofy. Love them all. Love the artwork, love the little jokes within the jokes. Of course, some of these were originally published years ago, but this is the year I discovered them.

This has been a year of political cartoons. Not surprising being as this country has become a political cartoon.

Alternate science is when you ignore the news warnings about the fire and wait until your house is on fire — or YOU are!

Dave Granlund / politicalcartoons.com

Bannon may be gone, but he left his hatred behind.

Nicer Trump cartoons, please!
Definitely NOT a witch hunt!

Chris Britt / Illinois Times
A very important cartoon!

We used to worry about drunk drivers. Now we worry about texting, watching movies and once, we saw a guy driving by reading a huge BOOK. While driving. And they put movies in cars. What could go wrong with that?
Yes, offending people might make other people feel uncomfortable … or does it?
Speaking of time …
Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a brand new red hat. And this was written years before we started locking up children in baby jails. What do you think Dr. Seuss would say about that!
Torture? No problem!

Didn’t you hear? The NRA is also taking Russian money.

This year has given America a migraine. Probably so will next year.
A personal favorite. I got contact lenses — and no one noticed any difference in my appearance. Not even my brother.
You need at least ONE literary comic, right? People still read, don’t they?

Back when we used to get newspapers, Bizarro and Doonesbury were the two comics I followed. Both are still around, by the way. They did an interview with Gary Trudeau — who is married to Jane Pauley, so she interviewed him herself. I never knew he was married to a news anchor.

Didn’t we fight this battle before?
And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …
Trump-A-Dog

And finally, a happy New Year from Gary Trudeau and all the great cartoonists in what is still a sort of free-ish country!

Happy New Year and let’s hear it for more of the same!

Here’s to a better year. To quote Jim Jefferies, “We can all do better!”

SO, HOW ABOUT NEW YEAR’S EVE? – Rich Paschall

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly, your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Happy New Year!

Since there seem to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be more or less logical. Restaurants, bars, and hotel ballrooms all have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound.

For some strange reason, everyone is expected to have a plan.

One year, when downtown Chicago still had a glut of movie theaters, I was on a double date at a late showing of a movie that finished up just before midnight. I do remember which movie, but not the date. We had just enough time to empty out into the intersection of State Street (that great street) and Randolph where Chicago used to conduct a poor man’s version of the final countdown. Since it was quite cold and we were not loaded with anti-freeze, we stayed for the countdown and ran off for warmer places. It was an experience I do not need again. If I watch the ball drop in Times Square, it will be on television from another locale.

Since then I have ventured to house parties, bar parties, restaurants, and shows, but I am not sure any of these supposed grand events were particularly memorable. They certainly did not ring out like many of the grand events we see in the movies. If you missed all of them, then I will suggest that you put “movies with new year’s eve scenes” in your internet search so you can find a lot of them. Maybe you will get some cool ideas.

Since the death of one year and the dawn of another seem to evoke feelings of nostalgia, then you may know that “When Harry Met Sally” contains one of the most memorable and nostalgic New Year’s scenes of all. Indeed it is the climax of the “will he or won’t he?” scenario. It has all led up to one fateful New Year’s Eve moment.  The typical New Year’s Eve hoopla only adds to the drama of the moment.  (SPOILER ALERT). I love making dramatic “spoiler” pronouncements, and here is that great scene from one of our favorite movies.

The director of the movie needed no special music as “Auld Lang Syne” made the perfect background song. And what does this sentimental tune actually mean? We don’t know, something about goodbye and hello. It doesn’t matter, our sentimental feeling just associates with it and that is all that counts. So will you have a sentimental moment?

For some gentlemen, the coming of New Year’s is met with all the anxiety of asking someone to the high school prom. You know you are supposed to do something. You know it is supposed to be really good. You know it is going to cost you money, which you are not supposed to care about. You also know, just like the high school prom, you might get shot down when you ask the “jackpot question.” Unless you want to get teased by family and friends, you may just have to ask the question anyway.

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Did you ask yet? What was the answer? If you haven’t asked, what are you waiting for?

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and stars in “The Orville.”

SERVICE DOGS FOR VETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve always been fascinated by service dogs. I can barely get my dogs to sit, stay and come on command. So the idea that dogs can be trained to do complex tasks for the disabled seems like a miracle to me.

The Guide Dog Foundation For The Blind expanded in 2003 to include America’s VetDogs. This organization gives assistance to wounded veterans to help them return to a normal life. America’s VetDogs still shares staff and resources with the Guide Dog Foundation.

VetDogs provides service dogs to veterans who have a wide variety of disabilities and issues which prevent them from getting around independently. Service dogs help those with physical limitations, those who are blind or have low vision, those who are deaf and those who have PTSD.

Veterans who are paired with dogs go to the VetDogs ten-acre campus in Smithtown, New York, for a two-week, residential training program. The student and his or her dog bond and learn to work together as a team. The classes are small and there are lots of individual attention and instruction.

VetDogs has a wonderful Prison Puppy Program that allows prison inmates to train potential service dogs from early puppyhood. The prisoners also get invaluable benefits. I used to watch a TV series about prisoners training puppies and it was a joy to watch.

The inmates developed a sense of responsibility toward the dogs and a sense of accomplishment at their dogs’ progress. Puppies also create a calmer climate in correctional facilities and bring some normalcy to the prison environment.

Puppies get sent to the prisons at eight to nine weeks old. They live in the handler’s cell where the inmate works on house breaking and other basic skills. The dogs attend classes with their handlers, participate in recreational activities and even go to meals with their handlers. An American VetDogs instructor comes once a week to provide training instructions and monitor progress.

The inmates learn about canine socialization, puppy development, behavior theories, grooming, and canine first aid.

Prison handlers do more than teach basic obedience skills. They also train the dogs for service dog tasks, like retrieving dropped items, opening doors and refrigerators and providing support and balance on stairs. The prisoners also acclimate their dogs to objects in the outside world, like umbrellas, skateboards, and battery operated toys.

But a prison environment is limited. So the puppies go to the home of an outside family on weekends, often prison staff members. Here they learn house manners and they become familiar with cars and traffic noise. Dogs are taken to stores, restaurants, and hospitals so they can confidently go wherever their future veteran partner will take them.

When the puppies reach adulthood, the dogs go back to VetDogs for assessment, final training, and client matching. Statistics show that prison-raised dogs go through these final phases in half the time as home-raised dogs.

One dog trained in the prison program has become an overnight celebrity. His name is Sully and when he was two, in June of 2018, he was matched with former President George H.W. Bush.

Sully with Bush and Clinton

Bush, Sr. was always a dog lover and he welcomed Sully enthusiastically into his home and his heart. Sully helped Bush, who was in a wheelchair, pick up dropped items, open and close doors, push an emergency button and support him when the 94-year-old former president stood.

Sully developed a following on social media. His own Instagram account had more than 98,000 followers. Since George H.W. Bush’s death, Sully has become even more popular. A photo of Sully forlornly lying in front of Bush’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda went viral. Sully seemed heartbroken, but also seemed to still be keeping watch over his partner. His devotion exploded the internet.

Sully’s service to President Bush is over, but his career as a service dog is not. America’s VetDogs will send Sully to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There he will assist with physical and occupational therapy for wounded soldiers. The Bush family found comfort in knowing that Sully would continue to help veterans for many years to come.

The relationship between President Bush and Sully has shined a spotlight on the amazing things that service dogs can do for people with physical and emotional limitations. Maybe Sully’s fifteen minutes of fame will result in more money being donated to training more dogs for civilians as well as for veterans.

It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place one assistance dog. And dogs are provided to veterans free of charge. America’s VetDogs is a non-profit organization so funding comes exclusively from donations.

So please donate to America’s VetDogs by going to their website. It’s a wonderful cause.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

HOLY MOLY – THE YEAR IS ENDING! Marilyn Armstrong

I can’t believe the year’s ending. Didn’t it just start?

The last time I remember anything, it was November and we were visiting Tom and Ellin in Connecticut. We came home in the snow … and we haven’t seen anything but a few flurries since. I twirled around twice and it was Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and now … almost New Year’s Eve.

We don’t do anything for New Year’s Eve. Not only is the weather always bad, but the roads are full of drunks … and these days, drunks who are also texting. This is the holiday on which neither of us will drive.

Blue-eyed cat in the barn

Well, honestly? I don’t like traveling on any holiday. One year it took us 14 hours to drive home from Philadelphia — which is normally about a five-hour drive. The only way to be away on a holiday is to leave at least a week before the holiday and come back at least a week after the holiday is over.

I digress. Time for me to post all the square pictures I have made that I never got around to posting.

Square traffic – talk about wasted time!

I can’t even think of a time-related thing for everything, but everything has a time, right? There’s the time you took the picture. The time you needed to process it. The extra time you needed to fix it because you over-processed it and you had to start again.

The time it takes me to process pictures often takes an entire day. Or two.