IF YOU JUST LIVE LONG ENOUGH – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Humor


One Sunday in church, Pastor’s sermon was about forgiveness. He asked everyone in the church to stand up, then he asked those who had any enemies to sit down. Everyone sat down but one very old woman.

“You have no enemies at all?” asked Pastor.

“Not a single one,” she answered, nodding her agreement.

“Please, come up here and tell everyone how you reached such a great age without having any enemies,” said Pastor. A deacon accompanied the elderly woman to the pulpit and everyone in church applauded as she slowly made her way up the steps. Pastor adjusted the microphone.

“You must have done a lot of forgiving,” said Pastor. “Please, tell us your secret.”

The old lady smiled beatifically.

“I outlived the bitches,” she said.

PIZZA WITH PINEAPPLE AND CRISIS ACTORS – Marilyn Armstrong

WEEKLY Word Prompt: Question


The answer to most serious questions is another question. Serious things don’t have simple answers. For example, “Does this pizza require a longer time to cook or will it dry up?” There are no quick answers to any questions pertaining to pizza.

Pineapple pizza
Credit: Getty

Let’s discuss pineapple. Whose idea was it to put fruit on a pizza and why does anyone actually order it? I can understand anchovies, even though no one can force me to eat one. Salty is okay on pizza, but FRUIT? Seriously?

And then, there are politics. How can you look at yourself in the mirror when you are caging children … for any reason? How can you face a kid who survived a mass school shooting, tell him or her that “it didn’t happen” and “he/she is a ‘crisis actor'”?

What’s a crisis actor?  How do you recruit them? Do you advertise in a special “Help Wanted” section of some undercover actor’s journal?



HELP WANTED – CRISIS ACTORS FOR FAKE SLAUGHTER

Are you the kind of actor who plays dead really well? Can you stay very still while buckets of blood pour out of you? If you are under 18, white, and ready to play dead, we want you. Resume required. Non-union.



You’d need a second advertisement, too. For families. Grieving parents, friends, and teachers.



HELP WANTED – GRIEVING FAMILY FOR MURDERED KIDS

Can you cry on cue? If you can convey deep sorry and heartbreak on camera, we need you to play the devastated parents of crisis actors for mock, mass school shooting. Standard rates apply. Send headshots, color only. Ability to cry with real tears mandatory. Non-union.



So many questions, so little time!

TOO CURIOUS TO DIE – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Curiosity


There’s a lot of talk about suicide going around and I know I could never do that. It isn’t because I don’t get depressed or because I have not been through periods when life hardly seemed worth living.


“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s just that I have to know what’s going to happen next. I realize this might sound a bit frivolous, but curiosity is a powerful emotion. I always want to know more. I always want to see how things will work out.

So, until I lose the interest in life, or my heart stops, or I get run over by an out-of-control beer truck, I think I’ll hang around.

REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

HISTORY VERSUS TRUTH – Marilyn Armstrong

How’s your credibility doing these days? 


We watched “Serenity.” Again.

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

serenity_movie_poster

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

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

serenity_8

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

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

Serenity movie cast

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

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


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

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

serenity movies firefly science fiction 1024x768 Fillion

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Nathan Fillion Hero

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

He saved the universe, so he ought to know.

EVERYBODY KNOWS OUR NAMEs, BUT WE’VE FORGOTTEN THEIRS – Marilyn Armstrong

Everybody Knows Your Name


This is Uxbridge. I do not know everybody’s name and everybody does not know my name. But everybody knows my husband. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know their names, so he spends a lot of his time trying hard not to look wide-eyed when people say ‘Hi Garry!” with enthusiasm. This isn’t only a problem in Uxbridge.

It’s an everywhere problem. He has been accosted in Scotland, Dublin, Baltimore, Disneyworld. Everywhere. Usually, the meeting is accompanied by someone saying (again) “I used to watch you while I was growing up,” which always unhinges him, just a bit. He knows he’s not young, but he doesn’t need a constant reminder of his age.

The most recent event was (for both of us) when we went to vote. A big joyful hug and a “Hi you all!” which was included us both.

She looked at me (I do not have much of a poker face) and said “You have no idea who I am, do you?” and I had to confess I hadn’t a clue. It turned out it was the lady who used to run our church back when we actually knew people who went to that church.

She retired probably 8 or 9 years ago. I swear she looks younger now then she did when she ran the church. For one thing, she was wearing jeans. She never wore casual clothing to church. She was the most buttoned-up lady I ever met. She has come a long way and all of it good.

Sometimes, retirement does that to people.

Garry didn’t recognize her either, but he got into a great conversation about his new hearing apparatus which are pretty much his main subject of conversation these days. It’s a pretty good subject and I think most people are interested. Hearing as a disability is not something most people understand.

They know about the inability to walk or see or use their hands, but somehow, hearing just slips right by them. They don’t understand how difficult it is to function in a world full of talking people when you don’t understand what they are saying.

Trying to read lips, pretending you know what they said — when you don’t — then nodding politely. Hoping smiling and nodding is an appropriate response and that they didn’t just tell you about the death of some family member.

For me, I just don’t recognize faces except unless they are wearing their usual clothing and doing things I recognize. I can only recognize people in context, by the way they dress, or the work they do.

When people show up out of context, I don’t know their names. Actually, I don’t remember anyone’s name, but I rarely admit it.

I remember the day my first husband shaved his beard and I didn’t know who he was. He was completely unrecognizable. I don’t mean he looked “a little different.” I mean –he was entirely different. The funny part — if there is a funny part — was that he was beardless when I first knew him. But that was a long time ago. Like 10 years at least.

So everyone knows us. I wish it were mutual.

They know me if I’m with Garry because everyone knows Garry. If I’m with him, I must be Marilyn. A few people know me, but not a lot because I’m not especially sociable.

Garry, though, was super sociable for more than 30 years. I swear he interviewed every citizen of Massachusetts. He either interviewed them, or they were “man on the street” interviews, or just there in the background of whatever story he was covering.

I’m not entirely sure that having everyone know who you are is a good thing. People don’t seem to realize that Garry has been retired for more than 17 years. They think he still has “connections.” He does, but they are also retired. Our generation got old. Almost none of the people we worked with are still working  — unless they were artists or writers and didn’t hold regular jobs.

My mother once commented that it must something in the linseed oil because painters live forever. What a pity it didn’t work for her.


NOTE: I don’t have parched or pine. If every post is going to a be a contrived game of fitting words which have no bearing on each other into a “post,” I’ll lurk. This is not what we used to have, certainly not what I hoped for, and definitely not what I want to do.

I’m not a puzzle solver. I prefer to write to a concept or a thought. But I’m absolutely certain everyone will do fine without me. I’m not arrogant enough to think my presence or absence will make any difference to anyone.

WHAT IS INTUITION? – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt – Intuition


Intuition – the sure knowledge that even though your husband swears he cleaned the bathroom, it isn’t clean. Bet on it. How can a man who is so personally fastidious be oblivious to the dirt all around him? Is this a guy thing? Some weird part of the male psyche?

I’m not an especially dedicated house cleaner. I’m one of the “good enough for company” school of cleaning. Vacuum the dog hair and clumps of dust. Wash the kitchen floors. Vacuum the dust wherever you see it and every once in a while, go nuts and actually dust a few things. Not everything. I’m physically not up to a full top to bottom cleaning anymore.

I used to put on a round of “Credence Clearwater Revival” and push my way through a 9-room house in about 2-1/2 hours. Now, that same amount of time I can do the living room, hallway, and kitchen. It takes a lot longer to do the same stuff I used to do without even thinking about it.

Intuition is also knowing how much I can do without exhausting myself and winding up sick.

Let me return to the beginning of this and talk about the nature of my kind intuition. It isn’t a “gut feeling” that “comes out of nowhere.” That “gut feeling” is an accumulation of a million bits of information you’ve collected over your years of life. The older you get, the more intuitive you become because you’ve collected more and more information. You may not even realize you’ve collected it.

I often say that I listen but more importantly, I listen to what is not said. What people fail to say is often the most important part of the conversation. Silences are louder than shouting, sadder than falling tears.

When I used to do horoscopes, if I was reading in the presence of the person who was paying me, I got hundreds of “tells.” The widening of an eye, a tic of the cheek. A tightening of a hand. A jittery foot. In the end, I always preferred to do initial readings without meeting the person. Because those tells can throw you off as much as put you on a trail. They can mean something related but very different than you think.

Sometimes people would start a reading asking me to “guess” or “intuit” their sun sign.

“Why?” I asked them. “Why use all that energy when I can just ask you? You know, there’s a lot more to astrology than your sun sign. Depending on how the orbs are arranged, other things may be much more important in your life than where the sun is placed.

No one ever believed me. Too many astrology columns in the newspapers of the world.

I know a lot about people, often from brief conversations. I am particularly amused by “anonymous” bloggers who think no one knows anything about them. I don’t know how much money you have, but I know a ton of other stuff. How? The words you use. The subjects you pick to write about. The flow of your words. The authors you love or hate. The places you visited.

Do I know your name and address? No, but I’m sure I could find out. The Internet is good that way. You can dig out data about anyone and anything. I don’t because it isn’t critical to me. I don’t need to know if you choose to not offer the information. Anyone who chooses anonymity will not be a real friend because anonymity screams one thing loud and clear: “DON’T GET TOO CLOSE!”

Gotcha. I observe borders. I hear what you are saying,  what you won’t say, wish you could say. Are afraid to say.

Intuition.

It’s everything I’ve read, seen, done, experienced. Live, loved. The more you live, the more intuition you gain.