ALCOHOL ABUSE AND PRIVILEGE – ELLIN CURLEY

Since Brett Kavanagh, the Supreme Court nominee, now Justice, has been in the news, so have discussions about excessive drinking among teenagers. Apparently, there are studies that show that rich, privileged teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol. An article in the Washington Post on September 28, by Suniya S. Luthar, is subtitled “Affluence is a risk factor for dangerous behavior.”

Brett Kavanagh

Psychological research seems to support the premise that excessive drinking is more common with affluent teens, like Brett Kavanagh, who went to an élite boarding school in the 1980’s. In fact, students in high-achieving, élite schools are at higher risk for drug abuse, anxiety, and depression as well as casual sexual activity. Substance abuse in high school is not an isolated phenomenon. It is linked to serious drug and alcohol abuse in later life. This is clearly not only a teenage problem.

The studies show that the key risk factor for these wealthy kids is not money. It’s the extreme pressure they feel to succeed, to be the best and to live up to very high standards of accomplishment. This extreme pressure to excel produces high levels of stress and anxiety. Another factor in this toxic situation is the attitude of the parents. The parents seem to be more lenient when it comes to transgressions by their kids vis-à-vis drugs and alcohol. They are willing to pay for high-priced lawyers to get their kids out of any legal trouble. However, these same parents would come down hard on their kids if they indulged in behavior such as truancy, academic slacking or inappropriate social behavior to adults.

The article warns that “When adults are sanguine about drunkenness and associated reprehensible behaviors among kids, there are potentially serious consequences for … an entire generation of young people as they form their own values about what is decent, what is excusable and what will simply not be tolerated despite the power and prestige of their parents.”

I don’t believe that all of this is inevitable. But I am biased. I grew up affluent in New York City and went to a high achievement oriented high school in the 1960’s. My school was not residential so we had a different culture and social matrix than a residential boarding school. Dorm life can be a strong influence on kids. I succumbed to the academic pressure and suffered from both anxiety and depression. But neither I, nor anyone else in my class of 120, drank heavily or regularly. (Drugs were not yet readily available so they were not an issue.)

Unreal dormitory life

My school was 95% Jewish, and at the time, the stereotype of Jews not drinking much was basically true. My parents never drank. Not even wine at dinner. They only served alcohol at dinner parties. So my experience may have been atypical. The fact remains that teenagers under pressure don’t inevitably turn to alcohol or drugs. I have a friend whose son now goes to a prestigious, rigorously academic, coed, residential prep school in Connecticut. There is plenty of tolerance and support for homosexuality, gender fluidity, and gender switching. But not for blackout drinking or drug abuse.

The students (at least in my friend’s experience) are serious students into healthy living. His friends are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and racial and there are many kids from underprivileged backgrounds. This melting pot may explain the straight, clean lifestyles. It’s not all rich, white males, like at Brett Kavanaugh’s single-sex school. The peer pressure to drink excessively and misbehave may have partially been a cultural phenomenon, but it’s not limited to the wealthy by any means. We need to get parents to be vigilant about their children’s drinking and drug habits while they are in high school, public or private. If we can’t reach the kids directly, maybe we can reach the parents who tolerate and finance their children’s excesses.

IT’S THREE O’CLOCK AND WHAT SHALL I DO WITH THE DEFROSTED MINCED MEAT?

This is the time of day when I have to ponder dinner. I think Owen’s going to make meatloaf. He does that well. Better than I do. I used to make pot roast to die for, but somewhere along the line, the cuts of meat have gone down hill. Back in The Day, pot roast was a cheap cut. Now, pot roasts and stew beef cost as much as sirloin … and sirloin, assuming it’s not laced with gristle, does NOT turn into a good stew.

The longer you cook it, the tougher it gets. About the only meat that still comes out more or less as expected is minced beef and chicken. In Israel, we ate chicken so often I thought we’d all begin to cluck. Beef came from Argentina where it was “grass fed.” In kitchen terms, it meant the cattle was out there on the range for most of its life. It had muscles.

It’s illegal to grow pork on Israeli land, so the kibbutzniks grow it on cement slabs. The pork chops and ham were great. You couldn’t buy it in a grocery store, so you had to go to the Arab butcher shop or Bethlehem. They had great meat in Bethlehem. What they lacked was proper refrigeration and I couldn’t buy it. All those flies. You can’t unsee that.

There were a lot of vegetarians in Israel because if you ate only vegetables (usually with dairy, and fish), you didn’t have to contend with separating dairy from meat dishes and associated cooking pots. A classically Kosher kitchen needed a LOT of storage space because you needed a set of dairy dishes, another set of meat dishes, with a separate set of pots and pans for each. Just to finish off the the storage conundrum, you needed a special set of everything for Passover.

If you weren’t really Kosher, but you had parents, friends, and family who WERE Kosher, you needed a secret stash for non-Kosher meals. My mother’s family were home-Kosher but were total heretics in the face of Oriental cuisine. That was before the arrival of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and other amazing Asian dishes. You had to be ultra super orthodox to comply with the laws of Kashrut when the smell of Asian spices food wafted your way.

Ah, the memories.

The original reason for Kashrut (kash-root) laws is the line in the Torah which says “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.” Translations vary, but that’s the gist of it. After a thousand years of arguing, the Rabbinical Courts decided you couldn’t eat meat and dairy together. During the 1400s, they added chicken to the meat category, even though chickens don’t make milk. They just decided chicken was meat-like and should therefore be considered meat. If it wasn’t meat-like, it would have had to be fish-like and lacking gills and scales …


You can’t make this stuff up.


Shellfish isn’t kosher. Kosherly-speaking, you are forbidden the joys of shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, calamari, or octopus. You can only eat fish which has gills and scales. Depending on your family, they may be even more frenzied about shellfish than Oriental food. My mother ate non-Kosher food with gusto in restaurants and on vacation, But at home? Nope.

Owen doesn’t like fish except (sometimes) well-chilled shrimp with hot sauce. Garry is a shellfish guy, but is unenthusiastic about salmon — which I like a lot. Now that it’s a 2-to-1 negative vote on salmon, so I haven’t seen any in months. Both of them are okay with flat white fish. Haddock and cod — my two least favorite offerings from the sea — along with sole, scrod, and whatever else lies on the bottom. They are all tasteless. It’s fish without flavor except whatever spices or sauce you put on it. It’s easier to take fish oil capsules.

The most important thing to know about legally Kosher fish is that it’s a vegetable. You can eat it with dairy OR meat, though why you’d eat meat when you’re already eating fish, I have no idea. Overall, if you can grasp the concept of “fish as a vegetable,” you have conquered the most complicated part of Jewish law as practiced in the kitchen. There’s much more complicated stuff, but only men get to think about it. Equality of the sexes has not come to Orthodox Judaism. I doubt it ever will.

We’re having meatloaf and Owen’s special Brussel sprouts. At least someone around here likes vegetables.

FROM THE EARTH ABIDES PROJECT: YEAR 71 — BY RANGERDON

The Year 71 – EARTH ABIDES By George R. Stewart

This is certainly the Year of Earth Abides, Year 71 to carve on Indian Rock, and there will a new printing of Earth Abides in October to celebrate.  It will be notable for two reasons:

The new edition of “Earth Abides”

Most of the previous covers for the novel have focused on people or the ruins of a post-pandemic world. The new printing has a distinctive, beautiful cover featuring  Ish’s Hammer.(The Hammer of Ish is one of two major symbols in Stewart’s work.  The Pitcher in Sheep Rock is his female symbol. The Hammer of Ish, his male symbol.)

Its “Introduction” is by distinguished writer Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you already have a copy of the novel, buying this edition will bring the Hammer of Ish and Robinson’s excellent survey of the book and Stewart’s life and work to your library.  (You can preorder it from Amazon or your local independent bookseller.)

Ø Ø Ø

Robinson’s  “Introduction” joins two other essays on Earth Abides to make a trilogy of considerations of novel and author.    Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Introduction” is a wonderfully-written, well-researched essay about the book as influenced by Stewart’s life, and in comparison to his other work.  James Sallis’s fine essay is a poetic consideration of the book as great literature.  Pat Joseph’s article for Californiathe University of California  Alumni Magazine, is written with an eye to Berkeley and the University’s role in the novel; and  it examines the parallels with Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague

Source: The Year 71 | the EARTH ABIDES project

WHEN AND HOW THE PLAGUE FINALLY ENDED

I had a great conversation with my mortgage bank today. I’ve got a six month don’t have to pay my mortgage thing, but I can if I want to. I want to. Sometimes I have a hard time doing it especially since social security comes in on on days of the month and we don’t actually have all the money collected until nearly the end of the month.

She said: “This plan runs out in November, but if you call in November, we can give you another six months.”

“I’m betting,” I said, “that we are going to be having a big resurgence of COVID-19 by then.”

“I think so too,” she said. “People are such idiots. They are all running around and partying and now we are starting to see a lot of younger people dying. And even if they are okay, don’t they have families to protect? Grandparents? Aunts and uncles?”

Wearing masks during the 1918 Flu epidemic
More masks in the 1918 flu epidemic

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get weary of quarantine. Some of them go crazy and decide come what may, they don’t want the rest of their life to be spent hiding.  Having this attitude is helped if you aren’t part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of folks, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway. It turns out that a lot of people have physical issue they don’t know about … until they get sick and then very, very sick. And sometimes, dead.

Comparison of German killing North Carolinians and humans killing themselves in North Carolina

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. These days, heavy doses of antibiotics will help, but it’s a powerful disease and even with antibiotics, it often kills. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1348 and decimated the continent’s population, it has made its way around the world, killing many millions, including in the U.S. where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how all Plagues end is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected  — when they have the means — either stay at home or move to the country.  Eventually, the plague stops being dependent on fleas and becomes Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes spread the disease from person to person, no sick rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague  there have been many other bouts with it through the centuries, both earlier (Justinian’s Plague during the Roman Empire days) and a pretty big one in the mid-17th century London and China and /india in the 1900s.

Three great world pandemics of plague recorded, in 541, 1347, and 1894, each time causing devastating mortality of people and animals across nations and continents. The 17th century was not a pandemic and was largely confined to London.

On more than one occasion plague irrevocably changed the social and economic fabric of society.It was also going around when Henry VIII was a young King in England. A pandemic of Plague started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

Mask as worn in  the 17th century. plague pandemic and included a waxed coverall which was supposed to protect the doctor — hazmat suit for 1657

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctor’s notes that patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be a possibility.

Bubonic plague pandemic India 1894

Vaccines have not been found for Bubonic Plague. It’s a bacteria, not a virus. Vaccinations work on viruses and are successful for diseases that don’t mutate. Smallpox and polio are two major conquests in epidemiology. All Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they will find a long-term effective vaccine is questionable. They might find an annual vaccine or a cure, but a long-lasting vaccination is less likely.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

Human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed at all. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away it if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay full price.

From the Boston Globe, announcing the arrival of the 1918 flu arriving in town.

People believe rumors especially when they like the rumors better than reality. In the end, life goes on, but not like before the plague. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before. It’s a social return only. It doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They aren’t even alive.

Epidemics come and they go and the world doesn’t recover in a few weeks or months or sometimes, ever. Never in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Global trajectories of the “spanish” flu — and this was before air travel for vacationers

We are in the crazy stage where people are crowding onto beaches, partying heartily, acting like they are the only people in the world and if they want to risk their lives and yours too, well, it’s their RIGHT. I probably missed that particular amendment to the constitution.

BELLWETHERS AND BULLIES – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

When I was a girl in elementary school, probably around fifth grade, so I must have been about 8 or 9 – I started school almost a year early. It had to do with New York state’s cutoff entry dates for starting school. My birthday fell on the exact end of the age bracket, so I didn’t hit five until nearly the end of kindergarten.

If you’re a girl — maybe even if you are a boy — you remember “the mean girls.” There was always a clique of them. In every schoolyard, there was a Bellwether, the girl who — for no particular reason — was the leader of the mean girl gang. While she was usually pretty, she was not a heartbreaker either. She just had that inexplicable “thing” that makes others blindly follow her. A human bellwether.

You might think that a group of girls following each other wouldn’t automatically be rotten little brats. After all, they could follow each other and do good deeds. Help others get their homework done. Protect little ones from predatory bigger kids.

That’s never the way it worked. The gang was always mean. Physical and mental cruelty was their specialty. Taunters and teasers. Nothing made them happier than seeing others cry from being relentlessly humiliated and called names by their gang. Sticks and stones are only one of the many things that hurt. Words are lethal too.

Other features of the gang? They were stuck up. They “set the style.” They also had a radar capacity for spotting an underdog They knew who they could taunt until they broke down and wept.

I never understood them. Why behave that way? What do you gain? Are you that way because that’s how you were treated at home? Were your parents’ jerks too?

I came from a highly dysfunctional family. It brought my brother and me together and we stayed bonded until he died 12 years ago. It never occurred to me that making other kids feel bad would make me feel better. There had to be something else going on that I could never see.

Early in my post-professional career, one of the girls from the mean girls of childhood tried to make friends. Online. I couldn’t help it. I told her I didn’t remember her being my friend. I remembered her as one of the mean girls, never saying anything that didn’t have a barb in it. She never wrote back.

And now, here we are and the guy who supposedly runs our country is one of the mean kids! It was deplorable in elementary schools, but to run a country like that? Sometimes I feel as if I fell through the cracks of reality and am living in a place that merely resembles the U.S. as a physical entity, but otherwise, it’s a different universe. It’s another dimension where the mean kids have taken over.

We are all their targets because there’s always something wrong with us. Of course, if you really want to get mutilated, be any kind of minority. Skin color matters, but being Jewish isn’t bad either. Or being liberal. Or an atheist. Hating is easy. Love takes effort. It ought to be exactly the opposite.

It is my personal opinion that nobody hates one group of people. If you are a hater, you have a little list. You hate gay men and black people? You probably hate Natives, Hispanics, and Asians too.

Hatred is a lifestyle. If you are a hater, in your heart, you hate everyone probably yourself most of all.

HISTORY AND PLAGUE’S END – Marilyn Armstrong

It turns out that epidemics and pandemics all end the same way. People get tired of worrying about being sick and say “Life or death, I don’t want the rest of my life to be spent in hiding.”  It helps to not be part of the “if you get it, you’re dead” category of citizens, although many people who were not supposed to be at risk die anyway and no one is entirely sure why.

Bubonic or Pneumonic plague has no effective vaccine. You can’t get a “shot” that will prevent you from getting it and while heavy doses of antibiotics help, mostly, it kills you. Its favorite targets are young, healthy people, not very young or very old folks. Why don’t we see Bubonic Plague these days?

We do. Since it showed up in Europe in 1347 and decimated its population, it has made its way around the world, killing millions, including in the United States where the last cases were in 1900 and again in 2015 when the U.S. had 1,036 cases. In 2015, 16 people in the Western United States developed Plague, including 2 cases in Yosemite National Park.

It has not disappeared. It is lying low and could come back. Let’s hope not!

How did it end? The most popular theory of how the Plague ended is through the implementation of quarantines. The uninfected would typically remain in their homes and only leave when it was necessary, while those who could afford to do so would leave the more densely populated areas and live in greater isolation.  Also, the plague stopped being dependent on fleas and became Pneumonic, which meant that coughed up droplets or sneezes could spread the disease from person to person, no rats or fleas required.

Museum of London, Plague 1665-1666

While it seems like the Black Death was the only instance of the bubonic plague epidemic, there were many other bouts with it through the centuries, including a pandemic that started in Asia in the 19th century. The World Health Organization didn’t consider this pandemic officially over until 1959 when the annual deaths finally dropped to fewer than 200.

In 1920 Galveston, that “oozy prairie,” as early settlers described it, was only 20 years removed from the devastating 1900 hurricane. Then came Plague. A 17-year-old feed store worker was the first to contract and die from the disease. The first case was diagnosed in early June 1920. Over the following months, eighteen people were diagnosed. Seven survived.

There was initial mishandling with Plague. In two cases the doctors note in their report that the patient isolation “was not accomplished as rapidly as desired,” both because families were slow to call in a doctor and because the doctor didn’t consider bubonic plague to be an actual possibility.

Vaccines have not been found useful for Plague. Vaccines work best for diseases that are stable and don’t mutate such as smallpox and polio. The Coronaviruses are rapid mutators, so whether or not they can find an effective vaccine is a big question.

The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, had lain dormant in China’s Gobi Desert for centuries. But in the 1300s, it emerged with a vengeance, fanning out via trade routes from Asia to Europe and killing millions of people along the way. The plague was transmitted by fleas harbored by rats, which flourished in the overcrowded, filthy cities of the Middle Ages. By the end of the 1500s, between a third and half of Europe’s population had died from the Black Death.

Even during the 1900s, the plague still killed millions of people, but since then, the advent of better hygiene in cities and swift treatment with antibiotics has reduced this killer.

This article from The Washington Post by Mary E. Fissell, Professor of History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains what we are seeing today with histories of previous pandemics and epidemics. It is shockingly similar to past events. Here are quotes. If you can read the entire article, please do.


“Just as today, a global economy was a key driver of the English epidemic. Bubonic plague, which is bacterial rather than viral, is typically spread to humans by fleas who have fed on the blood of infected rats. Earlier plague epidemics — such as the Black Death of the 1300s, which may have wiped out half the population of Europe — came to Europe via merchants traveling back from Asia along the Silk Road. In the same way, contemporary observers reported that the 1665 epidemic may have been brought to London by Dutch trading ships; the epidemic had already spread there a year earlier. In the months before it reached England, authorities had tried, obviously without success, to quarantine ships from the Netherlands and other plague-affected places.

Another conspicuous resemblance is socioeconomic. In the United States, we’ve seen that covid-19 is disproportionately affecting poor people, as well as blacks and Latinos. Overall, these groups tend to have poorer health and less access to health care, and they are more likely to live in crowded, unhealthy conditions and to work in jobs that require them to come into close contact with others who may be infected.

In New York for example, the death rate among blacks is twice as high as it is for whites; for Latinos, it is 60 percent higher. In Louisiana, blacks make up a third of the population but so far account for almost 60 percent of covid-19 deaths. About 5,000 meatpacking workers, and perhaps many more, have tested positive for the virus to date, largely because of a lack of safety measures and the industry’s cramped and grueling working conditions.

The situation 350 years ago in London was similar. During the epidemic, the London city government counted the dead, tracking how many people died of plague in each parish. This work was performed by “searchers of the dead,” who were often older poor women. These parish lists, known as Bills of Mortality, were printed up and sold weekly, a kind of early version of Zip-code-by-Zip-code health reports from state health departments.

Examining these lists, both 17th-century readers and historians have found that, no surprise, the poorest neighborhoods tended to have the highest death rates from the plague. The reasons for this are probably similar to the causes of today’s disparities — the poor were already less healthy, lived in dense, unsanitary neighborhoods and did the city’s dirty work.

They could not leave. Even without our current scientific knowledge, people knew the disease moved from place to place. And once it reached English shores, people practiced social distancing as best they could, by getting away from the worst disease hot spots. Just as we are seeing today, those who could afford it left the cities for the countryside, where there was less disease; the classic medical advice of the time was “leave quickly, go far away and come back slowly.”

…  Today, as we face another disease, one that we still don’t understand very well, 17th-century England reminds us that despite the enormous leaps we’ve made in science and technology, humans themselves remain in many ways the same: imperfect, not always rational and still deeply vulnerable to novel nasty microbes.”


Thus we can see that human reaction to pandemic outbreaks hasn’t changed. We blame others for it. We persecute others for it. We run away if we can. The better-off survive while the poorest pay the full price.

People believe rumors. Others spread them. In the end, life goes on, but not as it was before the plague came. This “return to normal” is not a return to the world before the plague. It’s a social return only and it doesn’t mean people stop dying. Viruses don’t care how you feel about them.

Economies do not recover in a month or two. Not ever in the history of the world has that happened. Nations fall, governments collapse, economies are decimated. Plagues change everything, not just human lives.

Is this one over? Probably not. Wait. watch and we shall see.

WE WERE NEVER A CURRIER AND IVES COUPLE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The title comes from an episode of “The West Wing” which we are binging again in this early spring of discontent and dismay.  The series is even better this time around, a great mental prescription from the Coronavirus while our world seeks a political hangover cure.

Many of us, struggling with the present, have tinted memories of the past, recent and distant.  There’s the yearning for the good old days when our lives were more stable and strife seem relegated to small countries on the other side of the world. We were younger, more innocent and more naive.

The Currier and Ives (or Norman Rockwell) images dominate our collective memories.  It’s a return to Main Street, white picket fences in Pleasantville that never really existed except in TV Land. You can almost smell those Sunday dinners with the family gathered around the table, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, hot buns and the smell of apple pie baking in the oven.

The memories seem so real you can almost touch them.  We yearn for them right now in this time of plague and uncertainty. We ache for those days when we could believe in our political leaders and when sports was an unchallenged relief from the headaches of yesteryear and yesterday.  When Mom and Dad could calm our fears and we weren’t responsible for our lives. The way we were.  Or were we?

We don’t remember Mom and Dad quietly wrestling with problems we didn’t understand because we were kids. We usually were told that there were no worries.  “You’ll understand when you grow up,” we were told.

We took those reassurances to bed, sure that everything would be okay in the morning.  Our tomorrows usually erased our youthful, short-term angst.

Many of us are now in the autumn of our years.  Mom and Dad are gone and we are left to make sense of today’s madness for our children and grandchildren. It’s difficult to explain, to find answers for all that’s gone wrong.  How do you make sense of a world turned upside down before your eyes?  We’re not living Currier and Ives lives and really, never were. We’re left wondering if those romanticized images of our youth have any truth.

Maybe it’s easier to believe that those were the good, old days rather than trying to stomach reality.  It’s like clinging to the images of old films with Hollywood endings. We’re desperate for heroes, good news, and happy endings for these long dark nights that drag into the morning. We’re not Currier and Ives but it’s nice to recall times when life seemed easier. When we could laugh freely and look forward to tomorrow.

I can see Wolf Blitzer and friends laughing in the Situation Room — with NO breaking news.

Here’s something to think about: give yourself a break. If there’s nothing you can do, do nothing and enjoy it. Everything is in motion, everything is changing. Relax now. Who knows what will be coming down the road in another week?

BRAIN SNOBS – Marilyn Armstrong

It isn’t just culture that divides us into classes. What we watch on television, see in the movies, and read also puts us into a category, often unfairly by people who don’t “get” why we like what we like.

72-ct-books_05

I read a post about how dreadful — yet gripping — romance novels can be. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that anyone who reads them is probably not too bright. While it’s true that romance novels are the potato chips of the literary world (bet you can’t eat just one) that’s not the point.

double dip in bookcase

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I assure you that research showed readers of romance novels are better educated than most readers.

They read romance novels because they are pulp. Those readers aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down, and forget. If life gets in the way, they can just never finish the story — without regret.

72--cook books_07

I read each 3-book volume, every month. Three romances: 2 modern manuscripts with a Gothic novel sandwiched in between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would prefer people to read, many people (including me!) don’t necessarily want to read “good” books. I void “good” books. I don’t want to go where that book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it. Don’t enjoy the subject matter. Don’t need to be further depressed by the ugly realities of life or history.

Good books can be too intense, too serious, or for too educational for this moment in time. Too close to reality. I read to be entertained. I’m not seeking enlightenment through literature. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment through literature. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

75-Books and stuffNK-1

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many. Enough genres, themes, and styles for everyone. An infinity of literature. No matter what your taste — low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

75-BooksHP

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too.

Snobs suck the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s okay with me. I love reading about vampires and witches. I’d be more than a hypocrite to act as if your taste is inferior to mine.

old favorite books

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for anything serious — except maybe a conversation. Tastes change over time. Life has been a very serious business for too many years. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I want to escape, Reality will still be there when I get back.

Finally, my favorite professor at the university I attended — a man I believe was profound and wise — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was much truth in those books. I believe for him, there was.

FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Our Latest Adventure, by Rich Paschall

Frankfurt, Germany, or Frankfurt am Main (Frank ford at the Main), is the fifth-largest city, but home to the busiest airport in the country.  This is not only because it is home to Lufthansa airline, but also because many other airlines have a major presence there.  Almost 65 million passengers pass through the airport each year, making it the busiest airport in Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe.

There are many direct flights to Frankfurt from major US cities, so finding a flight at a good price and transit time is possible through most of the year.  If you are visiting Germany or a neighboring country, you will want to consider this airport.  Bus and train travel around the region are quick and economical.

Frankfurt

In the past when we have headed to Strasbourg, France, we have used the Frankfurt airport for its proximity to our destination.  Only once did we stay overnight near the airport with a brief stop in the city.  We had considered the city to be just a financial center, which it is, and an industrial center.  This time we stayed longer to explore the city.

I chose an airport hotel because we could easily take the shuttle back to the airport where you can catch the train into the city.  Looking back on this choice, however, you can pick a spot in the city for the very same reason.  Transportation by train to the airport is simple because of the major train station right across from the airline terminals.   If we would do it again, I would try to stay near Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof station.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

The main station in the city is a mix of old-world charm and modern efficiency.  Upgrades to the rail system in recent years have upset the reputation of the German railroads always being on time, or “you can set your watch by them,” but they are still reliable and we encountered no delays.

You can stop at McDonald’s in the train station if you like, but we did not come all the way to Germany to eat in an American fast-food restaurant.  Our motto for travel has been “eat local, drink local” so of course, that is what we did.

Eat local, drink local

My travel companion on this trip, who is always hungry, needed a food stop when we arrived in the city. We chose a restaurant right alongside the station for convenience.  We ordered the Wiener Schnitzel.  My friend is from Colombia so he has never eaten food like this.  He found it goes well with the local beverage.

Fortunately, the old-world train station survives and is a good spot for pictures before you head off on your exploration of the city.  Plenty of tourists were busy taking pictures of the station and surrounding areas.  I took a picture of my friend getting a picture of himself.  “Selfies” are popular at all the tourist stops.

Selfie

Frankfurt is a unique blend of old and new.  I suppose that World War II is partly a reason for that.  Some areas of the city were heavily damaged. Some things were restored, other areas were rebuilt. This allowed for modernization and planning that would improve the quality of life for residents and eventually tourists.

There are many good shopping districts and we made our way to one of them to see what bargains we could find. The outdoor malls our popular and we picked up some items I probably did not need.

Shopping (or selfie-taking)

We also stopped by the Alte Oper (Old opera) to see the lovely old building.  It was heavily damaged in the war and carefully rebuilt through the 1970s.  It opened again in 1981 as a concert hall.  The opera was already in a new building nearby.

The large plaza in front and alongside is a nice stop for locals and tourists.  We took the necessary pictures before stopping inside.

I joined a few “friends” for an opera house picture.

Following our walk around the Opernplatz, my hungry friend needed food so we made our way to the cafe inside the opera house.  It was ornate as expected.  Aside from the modern elevator in the building, it was hard to determine which parts were damaged and restored and which parts of the building were original.

Opera cafe

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are all larger and may hold more appeal for various reasons, but Frankfurt has a charm all its own.  With the Main River running through it and a large city forest, it is a beautiful tourist stop.  If your flight takes you to Frankfurt, it would be wise to spend a night or two to see the culture and entertainment offered here.

A blend of old and new

For more pictures from our Frankfurt Adventure, jump over to Sunday Night Blog, here.

SHARE YOUR WORLD FOR THE MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER — Marilyn Armstrong

World Sharing – Mid November — almost holiday time!

Can we ever experience anything objectively?  Why or why not?  (Now for the people who may not understand that idea, this is what objective means (definition wise):  Something that is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions).

I would like to think that mathematics, physics, and scientific inquiry are non-emotional. That’s true, but not entirely. Expecting a particular result tends to make it more likely that scientists will find that result. Also, a lot of scientific inquiry comes up with answers that are hypothetical and theoretical and not “hard” science. A scientific “theory” is not the same as pretending something that’s not true IS true. It’s not “fake.” It’s just something that can’t be absolutely proven.


Answers change as new technical solutions become available and also when the culture sees the world “differently.” When the rigid Catholic control of Europe began to slip, the way we looked at the universe changed too. In fact, that change of cultural control was critical to scientific inquiry.


So no, there’s no such thing as “entirely objective,” but there is certainly a big difference between fantasy — completely made up — and reality. Fact-seeking brings us a lot closer to objectivity than deciding the truth before you hear the facts and deciding anything else is not true. Climate change is one of those things.


Massive amounts of science have been used to determine the reality of this event and objective events — storms, rising water, and melting ice — have shown us that this is real. This is probably as close to objective as anything gets … yet those who are likely to make money from further despoiling of our environment reject it.

It isn’t that is is not true or objective. It’s greed, pure and simple.

Do humans have a soul? Do animals have a soul?

I don’t know. Do you?

Why are people told to respect the dead? (example: “Don’t speak ill of the dead”)

That’s cultural. Some religious groups idolize their ancestors, others merely bury them. Most people would really like us to have a soul, but I reserve my judgment on this. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone “knows.”

We hope. We believe. We yearn. We may (or may not) pray — but we do NOT know because the dead have not come back to chat with us. Until they do, we can just wonder and hope.

Without using the names of specific people, discuss “the ideal” President or another world leader.  Saying ‘anyone who is the exact opposite of a certain orange-skinned creature’ is cheating.  While (to me) that’s a true statement, there’s more depth to the question than to reduce it to one sentence.

I don’t know if there is any such person. Politics does what it does. Even the most honest people and truthful people get bent in politics.


So you do the best you can, trying to find people who believe what you believe and you hope that they will do their best for you and this world.

CAN DONALD TRUMP READ? – Marilyn Armstrong

Roland Temmerman

This particular answer, which I very much enjoyed, comes from Roland Temmerman, Masters in Social Sciences & Political Science (1990). His answer was written on August 19, 2019, but I’m pretty sure nothing much has changed in the interim.

I’ve frequently said that I thought that our huge Orangeman can’t read. He certainly can’t write and I don’t think he is faking it to encourage his moronic political base to be less embarrassed by their lack of basic education.

I believe he is barely literate and got through school because daddy paid off his schools. What, you think that this is the first time schools have taken bribes to pass illiterate students? When I was in college, for the kind of money people have been giving schools, they would have named the school after the kid and given him not only a B.A. but also his master’s and maybe even a doctorate.

Colleges and universities are notoriously welcoming of large checks that don’t bounce.


Hello!

I just happen to know the answer to your question!

People across social media made fun of Donald Trump at a United Nations lunch for African countries back in 2017 when he referred to the African country of Namibia as “Nambia.” Everyone laughed but me. Even though I am well-known for the sensitivity and politically correct tactfulness that I display on a regular basis, there is another reason that I didn’t laugh when our president was standing in front of the United Nations reading like your nephew giving his Easter speech:

I believe Donald Trump can’t read.

Maybe “can’t” is too harsh a word. I think he struggles with multisyllabic words. This isn’t something I recently came up with when he was embarrassing the entire country in front of world leaders like he was taking an oral exam for a book he read on the way to class. I’ve known about his semiliteracy for years, but I think it’s time I outlined my well-researched list of reasons I believe this to be true.

1. He’s Racist

We can debate whether or not Donald Trump is a white supremacist, but we must admit that he’s at least a little bit racist, right? Okay, now that you’ve agreed to that premise, you should know that “a little bit racist” is like your girlfriend telling you she’s “a little bit pregnant.”

We can all agree that racism is stupid. It’s very rare that anyone meets an intelligent racist. Because I don’t want a bunch of “not all racists … ” comments below this answer, I will concede that there are probably a few smart white supremacists, but if you receive as many hate comments as I do, you will notice that they all possess a remarkable deficiency when it comes to reading and grammatical ability.

2. This:

3. His Unconstitutional Policies

When Trump signed the executive order for the travel ban, targeted Mexicans for deportation, banned transgender people from serving in the military or went to war against the press, many people thought he was going down the path of an authoritarian dictatorship, but there might be another reason:

Maybe he’s never read the Constitution.

To be fair, there are a lot of big words in the Constitution. Who the hell even knows what “domestic tranquility” even means? Maybe a genius or one of those math eggheads who can do long division, but not regular people like him.

And why does the preamble mention “posterity”? Everyone likes a woman with a nice, round posterity, but does it belong in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States?

And what’s a preamble?

4. He’s Orange

That safety-vest-colored spray-tan shit he sprays himself down with probably has some Thalidomide or lead in it. I bet it does. That’s probably why Bert was a little slow on Sesame Street. It’s the toxins.

5. He Hates Teleprompters

Remember how Trump chided former President Barack Obama for reading from a teleprompter all the time? What if it had nothing to do with Obama’s lack of authenticity but was because Trump was jealous of Obama’s reading skills the whole time?

He probably went home thinking, “Look at that uppity Negro with his fancy-schmancy word machine, showing off by reading words as they move, acting all literate and shit. I hate him.”

6. He Said He Doesn’t Read

During the presidential campaign, Trump told the Washington Post that he doesn’t have time to read and he never has. This might explain the reason he thought Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War even though Jackson died 15 years before the Civil War started and …

Wait, what? Trump said that? No, there’s no way. I refuse to believe that people actually voted for him after he said … hold on, let me go read the entire article.

Sigh. Yeah, he said it.

7. His Tweets

Trump’s tweets have an amazing number of spelling errors for someone who made it past the fourth grade. He said Obama was trying to “tapp” his phones. He said China’s theft of naval secrets was “unpresidented.” He often confuses “too” and “to,” and said he was “honered” to serve as president.

Or maybe those were honest mistakes. Sometimes he wakes up too early and needs a cup of covfefe.

8. I Could Be Wrong

There is the infinitesimal possibility that I am wrong and Donald Trump can actually read. Which means he actually read the Constitution but chose to treat it with complete disregard. This means he insults world leaders just to insult them. This means he doesn’t care about the bills he passes or the executive orders he enacts and has no regard for the law of the land, Congress, or the American people.

This would also mean that the man with the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world at his fingertips could reduce the entire planet to nothing but ashes, roaches and toupee hair, not because he didn’t read the instructions, but because he is an insane supervillain mad with power and has an out-of-control ego.

Damn, I kinda hope Donald Trump can’t read.

Fuck it. I’m moving to Nambia.

This answer is in part attributed to YouTubeMSNBC — Breaking News, Top Stories, & Show Clips The Root | Black News, Opinions, Politics and Culture. and http://busnissinsider.com


I usually avoid reading Quora because sooner or later, I’ll feel a passionate urge to answer a question and there goes the rest of my day. But every once in a while — and this is it  — a comment reaches out to me and shakes me by the throat. I’m going to pass it along to YOU and let you ponder it.

AMERICA FIRST IS RACISM FROM OUR PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

This post is primarily composed of quotes from HuffPost and other sources. “America First” has a rather long and ugly history … and it started long before Donald Trump.

If anyone thinks what Trump is doing is new, it isn’t. This is Fascism on the rise. It’s easy to suddenly discover that “free” now means “people who agree with The Leader.” We are far too close to that now. I’d hate to see what a second term would accomplish.

Democracy is a slippery slope. Ours is covered in ice.

Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a red hat.

Trump Was Not First To Use The “America First” Slogan. It has a long history.

In his Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump repeated a theme from his Presidential Campaign, telling the world: “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.” Many Trump critics point to the fact that this was a watchword for those who opposed U.S. intervention in WWll before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Actually, the phrase has a longer history.

President Woodrow Wilson, a hardened internationalist, ironically coined the term today associated with Nationalism. In 1916, Wilson was running for re-election by promising to remain neutral in WWl. His campaign slogan was: “He kept us out of War,  America First.” Once Wilson was safely re-elected, he ordered troops into what was, at the time, called “The Great War.” My mother who had the “luck” to live through both world wars always called it “The Great War.”

Once the U.S. was enveloped in the war, newspaper Publisher William Randolph Hearst, a vociferous critic of Wilson, used the slogan against the President.

Hearst was sympathetic to Germany and warned the U.S. not to aid the allies in the fight against Germany. Hearst exclaimed: “Keep every dollar and every man and every weapon and all our supplies and stores at home, for the defense of our own land, our own people, our own freedom, until that defense has been made absolutely secure. After that, we can think of other nations’ troubles. But until then, America first!”

This slogan soon became an imprimatur for non-interventionists in both major political parties. Once WWl ended, the Americans became wary of foreign intervention. Wilson failed in his efforts to garner the requisite two-thirds majority needed in the U.S. Senator to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which included allowing the U.S. to join a collective security alliance called “The League of Nations.”

Some Senators would have supported the agreement if the President agreed to certain reservations. However, the bi-partisan group that steadfastly opposed the treaty came to be known as “the irreconcilables.”

Complete post: TRUMP WAS NOT THE FIRST TO USE AMERICA FIRST” – Huffpost