CENSORSHIP AND THE LIFE WE LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #42

It’s a good question for everyone to ponder these days.

There has always been censorship of some kind in every country as long as humans have been “civilized.” Its definition — or at last one of its many possible definitions is, “Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”

Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institution, and corporations. Or by your local sheriff or lynch mob.

The question is:

There is some kind of censorship in every nation, every government and in nearly every business. Even if the big secret is “what ingredients are in the Coca Cola recipe,” it’s still censorship.

There is censorship to keep technology private. Censorship which aims to keep military movements undercover. In some places, religions force secrecy. No society is completely open. There’s always something — militarily, governmental, corporate, technological, religious, or personal that are forbidden to say aloud. Sometimes censorship is unwritten, but everyone knows about it. Sometimes it’s part of your professional contract.

Sometimes you just know what you should simply not talk about because if you do, something bad will happen to you or those you care about.

Issues like this don’t affect everyone. The business you are in, how well-known you are, what kind of profession you follow are part of the process. If you are a general in an army, most of your life is censored. If you are in the Mossad, or a television reporter, what you can say is by definition censored. In the United States today you can get away with anything if you are personally unimportant but can get away with very little if you share a spotlight on the big screen of life.

Does it affect me? Personally? Mostly not because I am not regarded as knowing anything worth censoring. I don’t belong to a corporate entity that is creating new technology or know anything about the government other than what I read in the news.

Garry has a lot of secrets and most of them — nearly ALL of them — he has never told me. I have pointed out that many of the people about whom he “knows stuff” are gone from this world.

“They have families,” he says and that is the end of the conversation. Reporters always have secrets.

So do I personally feel threatened as an individual citizen by censorship? Not at the moment. When I worked for Grumman I had a “top secret” legal rating and there were things I could not say to anyone lest I be imprisoned and fined. I worked in a “black building” and I hated it. I hated everything except those great bridge games at lunch. They were fun!

If I live long enough, this could change, but I think for most non-political, not military, and no, not a spy either? No one cares what we say because we don’t know anything and when you are low enough on the totem pole, nobody much cares what you say.

But if our world changes dramatically and for the worse, this could alter. I hope I’m not alive if it does.

THE BIRDS ARE COMING HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

With all the aerial poisoning going on in New England, I was afraid the birds would not come back. Or if they did, there would be far fewer of them. Yesterday, I put up a second seed-feeder — a near duplicate to the one from last year. The flat feeder didn’t work out well last year, but it seems a pity to waste it. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.

If there’s someplace I can attach it to — perhaps my deck railing so I can throw peanuts and corns cobs and chunks of corn into it to keep the squirrels happy — that would be a good use of it. Maybe if I wire it to the top rail, that would keep it in place near enough to my door so I could get to it even when we have our deep winter snows — if indeed we get snow this year.

Last night, we dumped all the old, rather stale seeds from last spring and added fresh black sunflower seeds as well as other shell-less seeds that should make less of a mess on the deck when they get eaten.

Birds do make a terrible mess on the deck and I’m pretty sure the squirrels aren’t helping. Basically, we don’t go out on the deck anymore because it scares the creatures that inhabit it. But we do spend an inordinate amount of time watching the birds through the windows. I thought it was just me, but Garry does it too. He goes into the kitchen for something and finds himself an hour later still leaning on the counter in front of the sink (good window there) … just watching.

I’m pretty sure that two years ago, Garry couldn’t have told the difference between a Cardinal and a Titmouse, but he’s become quite the bird watcher since I put up the feeders last year. He worries if we seem to be running low on seeds, too.

Of the many things we are supposed to do to keep our furred and feathered neighbors content is to keep water for them for drinking and bathing, but I don’t. There are river, streams, pools, lakes all over the area. Just on this road, there are two lakes, a piece of some Blackstone tributary (Aldrich Creek maybe?). Way back in our woods, there is another small lake. I have never been able to get to it. I can see it when the leaves are gone, but I’ve never been able to physically get to it. It’s all wetland back there anyway, so you have to be careful. Lots of quick-mud.

There are no people paths. It doesn’t seem to stop deer or bears or, for that matter, raccoons, skunk, or squirrels … and of course, the birds have wings. Lacking wings or the ability to climb trees and boulders, it’s a rough path for people, horses, or cows. Maybe goats could handle it.

I am not talking about stones you can lift and toss. These are boulders that can be the size of a house plus tall red oaks that in our crowded woods will grow to 60 or 70 feet high. With a bit more room, the can grow more than 100 feet tall with a spread of up to 80 feet.

While the leaves are on the trees, it’s not hard to get lost. It’s a bit humiliating to realize you can get lost in the woods on your own property. Our house is higher than our woods (mostly), so when the tepee was up, I could usually spot it and aim for it. But the tepee is gone. Today, it all looks the same.

In the winter, when you can see the lake, the woods are full of drifts and ice. When we moved here, I was 20 years younger. I remember trying to get to the lake. You had to try in early spring when it was warm enough to get there unfrozen, but before the mosquitoes took over. I didn’t make it. There are deep ditches huge boulders, and roots.

Thus we leave the watering of birds and other creatures to the natural elements. If there’s one thing we are not short of, water is probably it. Along with oak trees and really huge rocks.

This morning, I was up early and remembered to put on my glasses. The birds were there. Not only could I see them, but I could hear them again. I had missed their calls. I even saw a big red Cardinal. I still haven’t seen any of our Goldfinch, but I’ve seen a lot of Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, a Cardinal, a Downy Woodpecker, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I can probably relax. It looks like most of them survived.

We have a lot fewer than we did last year, but I took the feeders down so they could migrate … which, apparently, they did. The Goldfinches are probably nesting in and around Ontario — more fir trees up there (and no poison, either!). They love the pine cones that grow up there and we have few pine cones in this region. Very few.

As to where the little red finches go, they are not natural to this area, so they come and go as they please. Some birds have migrated west or south, too.

We have a lot of Titmice, Chickadees, Cardinals, and woodpeckers, None of these migrate. Meanwhile, the American Goldfinch (we had FLOCKS of them last year) usually migrate northward in late summer because this is when they breed. Late breeders. They have got to be the only birds I know of that migrate NORTH in the late summer. They should start showing up again in November, And we moved the feeders (really, we just took them down for the summer) so as time goes on and food becomes more scarce, they should find their way back. I’d like to hope we didn’t poison them!

We have Cooper’s Hawks in the woods. They are amazing flyers and can glide between even tightly spaced trees. Nearly silent most of the time, their favorite snack are finches and Chickadees, but sometimes they take on larger birds. They do not always win against larger birds (crows, geese, Loons, etc) and avoid the large woodpeckers who fight back.

I have also heard a LOT of hawks cawing and that will scare the birds away, often for days at a time. Last year, they would disappear for as much as a week when they heard the hawks. Some of these hawks love to eat small birds. I know we have some of them because I’ve seen them.

I haven’t seen ANY squirrels at all, but we didn’t see them until late in the winter last year after they had eaten the gigantic bounty of acorns. I think this is going to be a huge year for acorns. Every third or fourth year, we get gigantic acorns. It seems to be cyclical. We had to move the car. They are big and when they fall, they leave big dents on the car!

REMEMBERING “FAST AL” McNAUGHTON: A NEW ENGLAND TV NEWS LEGEND – Garry Armstrong

Those of you who don’t live in Massachusetts or a neighboring New England state won’t be familiar with Alan “Fast Al” McNaughton. He left us on Sunday, 80 plus years young and a legend in the TV News business for over 50 years at Boston’s Channel 7/WHDH.

“Fast Al” was a Damon Runyon-type character. He loved horse racing and was well known for spreading the green stuff on ponies he was sure would win. More importantly, Al was one of the last of his kind, a TV News photographer who began his career “souping film” in labs long before the advent of electronic newsgathering, tape, and digital editing.

The “Fast Al” label is lore from his “inside knowledge” and tips about horse races, local and national. He was also known for his uncanny ability to sniff out overtime and sweeten his salary. It’s an ability admired by all in the TV news biz.  I met Al when I joined Ch 7 in 1970.

To see a full-size picture and its full caption, click on the actual picture.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEORGE RIZER,
BOSTON GLOBE, MEDIA OF BOSTON

I believe he was doing double duty as a film processor and a cameraman. Others filled me in about politicians, crime bosses, historical landmarks and geographical pronunciations. “Fast Al” told me about the local racetracks, the horse owners, trainers, jockeys and, of course, which pony would win at a certain racetrack.

Al was an advisor when I did a Walter Mitty type feature, living a fantasy as a jockey at a popular racetrack.  He made sure I looked the part even if I couldn’t ride well. I was a pilgrim when it came to horses and wagering. Fast Al told me not to worry when he tipped me about a favorite pony and insisted I put down good money on a daily double. Guess what?

The long-shot horse came in first — by a healthy margin. I bought the drinks that night!

Horses aside, Al McNaughton was witness to Massachusetts and New England history dating back over half a century. He was a familiar face at news conferences involving the likes of James Michael Curley, JFK, RFK, Ted Kennedy,  Albert “The Boston Strangler” DiSalvo, Whitey Bulger, Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, “Princess” Cheyenne and the ladies of Boston’s infamous “Combat Zone” and lots more. He frequently was on a first-name basis with many public figures who disdained talking to reporters. On many assignments, Al would break the ice with,  “Governor/ Senator/ Mayor. Garry is a fair reporter. He knows his stuff. You can trust him.”

Al’s word was gold. The lauded Armstrong report was possible only because Al McNaughton vouched for me. He also fed me background with perspective on stories that gave me credibility.

You can’t buy trust with a smile or handshake.

During Boston’s volatile court-ordered school busing years, the region was a tinder box. One errant picture or misquoted interview and the result was disastrous on the local, national, and international stages.  It was like walking on eggshells for those of us on the front line. Al McNaughton with that familiar smile and assurance helped many of us cope with the racial tension. He seemed to glide through angry groups to get the video we needed to tell the story fairly and accurately.

He was calm in the middle of agitated groups who were waiting for a reason to riot. When Al had the video he needed, he’d whisper to some of the community leaders who had no use for the news media. A few would allow us interviews, often looking to Al for assurance. He was a peace broker at a time the TV stations thrived on violent images. A lifetime of trust gave many of us street credibility. You rarely — if ever — heard that mentioned in our reports.

Alan was part of a small, elite group of Boston TV News photographers who would help reporters with words as well as video.  There’s nothing in their IBEW (Union) contract that says they need to do this. It’s an act of kindness, reaching out to those of us frequently praised for our on-camera reports.  Veterans like Al McNaughton were walking nuggets of history.  They were working when the so-called “talent” (mic holders) were in college or just getting started as novices in “the biz”.

I’ve become infamous for my stories about celebrities interviewed across the decades. Hey, it really was a hoot!  What’s not known is that many of those celebrity “sitdowns” only happened because of people behind the camera – local photojournalist legends like Jack Crowley, Nat Whittemore, John Premack, Richard Chase, Richie Suskin, and Al McNaughton to name a few. Frequently, the celebs trusted the people behind the camera more than reporters panting for their gilded time. I plead guilty to hanging on the coattails of the pros who rarely received credit.

Let’s rewind the tape or disc to 30 or 40 years ago. Mickey Rooney was starring in “Sugar Babies” in Boston’s theater district. All the entertainment reporters wanted “their time” with the legendary Hollywood star. I drew the Channel 7 assignment (begging the assignment editor may have helped) for the ‘Andy Hardy’ interview.

Mickey Rooney wasn’t in a cheery Andy Hardy mood when we showed up. As I pondered how to pander, Al McNaughton cornered Mickey Rooney and soon both were laughing like old friends. Mickey was taking notes as Al talked. Yes, Al was giving Mickey, a noted lover of the ponies, some tips on the local horse talent.

Presto! Rooney — smiling broadly — sat for the interview which was smooth and funny without any glitches or retakes. As I checked my notebook, I heard Rooney and Al making plans for an afternoon at one of the local racetracks.

I must’ve been pouting because Al smiled at Mickey, “Hey, Mickey –whadda ya say. Let’s bring the kid with us. He’s okay. Maybe we can educate him a bit.”

My cameraman and the Hollywood legend laughed at me with thumbs up.

All of Al’s ponies did well. Clearly, Rooney was impressed with Fast Al’s tips. Al had a catchphrase: “There goes swifty!” I believe it referred to the professional dog races and the ‘lead’ dog.  The “Swifty” refrain was almost simultaneous with Al’s arrival or exit from scenes. As we left the track that afternoon, Al and Mickey Rooney were yelling, “There Goes SWIFTY!” They were laughing and congratulating each other. I smiled to myself. A typical “Fast Al” day.

You can’t make this stuff up.

I received lots of praise for my Mickey Rooney interview which aired on several newscasts. Critics said I had a clear personal touch with Rooney and the interview avoided familiar, cliche questions. I beamed but knew the credit belonged to Al McNaughton. I have myriad similar stories on my resume.  The praise and awards are always appreciated. But I know I have them because of people like Al McNaughton and his colleagues. Most other veteran reporters would say the same.

“Talent” tends to get the applause and appreciation from viewers, but there’s no story or interview without the savvy and support from old school video newsies like Fast Al McNaughton.

This week we share the memories, the laughter, and awe of more than 50 years in the tumultuous TV News market of Boston. This is when we realize that “Fast Al” McNaughton was unique.  They don’t teach Al’s skills in journalism classes. It’s learned on the street where you need to know how to do the right thing.

Fast Al, here’s looking at you, kid.  May all your ponies come in first!


POSTSCRIPTAl McNaughton’s family requests that memorial contributions be made in Al’s name to The New England Equine Rescue Association.


 

AN OPEN LETTER TO HUMANITY FROM PLANET EARTH – BY TOM CURLEY

This last weekend millions of people all over the world went on strike for awareness about Climate Change and that we REALLY have to do something about it. There was lots of talk about how we are destroying the planet.  They mean well, but they are missing a really really huge point.  I tried to point this out before. I’m pointing it out again.

Original Post

Hello humanity, this is Earth. The planet Earth. You’ve called me by different names like Gaia, Mother Earth, Terra, etc.

It really doesn’t matter what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for dinner. To be honest, I never got that joke. I’m not sure exactly what “dinner” is., but I’ve noticed it’s a popular joke with you folks.

Anyway, I’m writing this open letter because I’ve noticed a lot of you have been concerned with what you call “climate change.”  You seem to be concerned about “saving the planet.”

I’m flattered that so many of you are concerned about me. I mean, the dinosaurs were living on me for almost a billion years and never once did one of them even notice I existed. Now that I think about it, the fact they had brains the size of a walnut might have had something to do with that.

“How do you expect me to remember birthdays? You know my brain is the size of a walnut!”

But I digress. Sorry. I do that a lot. I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years. Cut me some slack.

Be that as it may, the reason I’m writing this letter to you is though I appreciate your concern about my welfare, you need to know you don’t need to save me.  I’m doing just fine.

I’ll continue to do just fine. Like I said, I’ve been around for over four and a half billion years and my surface is constantly changing.  When I started out, I was basically a really hot rock. The only thing I had to do was make volcanoes.

Granted, at first, it was interesting, but I got to tell you, after the first billion years or so, it got a little old.

Then it started raining. It rained for a long time, even by my standards.  All of a sudden almost three-quarters of my surface was covered in water.

That was cool.  I had clouds and snow and much better sunrises and sunsets.

Then the oddest thing happened. I’m not really sure how, but life formed. At first, it was pretty boring. Single-celled organisms that pretty much ate stuff and reproduced.

But then they got bigger and more complex. First small fish, then bigger fish. That was neat. Then a few of them left the water and started walking around on land.  That was weird.

Hey Phil! You got to come up here and see this!

The next time I took a look (you have to realize that your perception of time is different when you’ve been around for billions of years) I was covered in plants and trees and there were insects and dinosaurs everywhere. They were interesting but all they really did was wander around and eat each other.

Get in my belly!

Again, cool at first, but trust me, anything gets boring after the first hundred million years or so. Things were going fine until this big asteroid crashed into me. I gotta tell you, that one hurt. I remember thinking “Oww! That’s going to leave a mark!”

And it did. After that, the climate on my surface changed and all the dinosaurs disappeared.

Then you guys came along. Now realize, that by my standards you’ve only been around for about a year or so. Even so, I’ve been fascinated by watching you.

You guys actually figured out how to use fire.

You invented the wheel. You created civilization. You created beer! Not one dinosaur in over 500 million years ever came close to doing anything like that. You guys did it after being around for only a few hundred thousand years.

I was impressed. Lately, and by lately I mean for maybe the last 40-thousand years or so, you’ve been inventing all sorts of really interesting things. I have to confess, I’ve really gotten into Netflix.

But I have noticed that you’ve been changing my surface environment lately.

Yes, it’s definitely you folks doing it. It took me hundreds of millions of years to turn hundreds of millions of years of dead dinosaurs and plant life into coal and oil and you’ve managed to burn most of it and dump trillions of tons of CO2 into my atmosphere in a few minutes by my time frame.

Impressive.

You might want to stop doing that. After the asteroid hit, my surface changed so much that the dinosaurs died out. All of them.

It happens. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to have a harder and harder time living on me. Trust me, you’re not the first living things that have come and gone, and you won’t be the last.

I have to admit, I’ll miss you guys. Like I said, I’m really into Netflix and again, you invented beer!

So basically, what I’m trying to tell you is even if you keep doing what you’re doing, I’m going to be just fine. You don’t need to worry about me.

You need to worry about you.

Sincerely yours,

According to Terry Pratchett

Earth

CARS AND TRUCKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Cars and Trucks

Out here in the country, I don’t feel as surrounded by internal combustion vehicles as I did in the cities in which i lived: New York, Jerusalem, and Boston. I feel safer crossing the street, safer breathing the air.

Most of the world lives in much more densely populated quarters. I often wonder if any of them remember breathing air that wasn’t at least just a teensy weensy bit polluted.

The mouth that roars – Reblog from The Shinbone Star

The idea of having a Trump in office who has nothing left to lose is actually even more appalling than having him in office WITH something to lose!


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

Our president’s big mouth may really have gotten him into trouble this time.

The Washington Post and other sources reported earlier this week that a communication between Donald Trump and a foreign leader included a promise from Trump that was so troubling, it led an official in the Intelligence Community to file a whistleblower complaint.

At time of this writing, it is unknown who the foreign leader was or what sort of promise was allegedly made. But that didn’t stop 45 from taking to his favorite forum, Twitter, to deny that he said whatever it is he said.

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