SYNCHRONIZATION – WHEN THE WORLD IS TRAGIC, WRITING HELPS

SYNCHRONIZE

I’ve always been a writer. As soon as I could put a pencil on paper, I wrote. Stories, bad poetry, longer stories that never became books. Letters. Newspaper articles, funny stuff. Recipes. Interviews. Manuals for software and hardware.

A huge piece of my career was tied up in high-tech documentation and writing. I was not good at science or math, so it was a surprise to master that form of writing. I got people to understand extremely complicated things they would never have understood without help. I made complicated things easy.

In retirement, I still try to make complicated things easier. I spend hours explaining how and why  the electoral college is supposed to work. Why, at least when it was created, it made sense.

Does it still makes sense? I don’t know. I thought I knew, but I’m finding the world has been changing at a dizzying pace, so I’m not sure what I know. Knowing I don’t know everything is a big point in my favor. If I don’t know, I either do the research to find out, or flat-out tell you “I don’t know.”

I spend time trying to convince people that “term limits” are the last thing we need. When the people you elect are bad at their jobs, shortening the time they serve doesn’t fix the problem. We are not suffering from too many overly experienced politicians in Congress. We are suffering from too many unqualified, no-nothing pols who don’t care about anything except their careers.

We need better candidates. We need political parties who care about us and want to make the world a better place.

I put considerable effort into explaining how this government is different than parliamentary ones. Reminding people that even between the various versions of parliaments around the world, no two are the same.

We will never be them. We are not going to change the nature of this republic. We will fix a few things here and there, but the fundamental design of this republic isn’t going to change.

All reputedly democratic regimes have strengths and weaknesses. We are currently suffering from bad government, but that isn’t because our structure is bad. It’s because we voted for stupid, inept people who are narrow-minded and lacking compassion. Who are wedded to reactionary ideas and miss the point of what’s going on in the world. Then, there’s our crazy, paranoid, morally insane, narcissistic president who should never have been elected to anything … something which is becoming more obvious every day.

We need to recognize that this country is a constitutional republic. It is not a democracy, although it is democratically based. I doubt we’ll ever eliminate the electoral college, though I hope we will at least reform it.

These are the posts I write because they are important to me, though I doubt anyone is paying attention. It’s great to get lots of hits, but sometimes, I have to write it anyway.


I write because it’s what I do. I do it better than I do anything else in my repertoire. 

I don’t spend every blog making political, social, or cultural points. No one wants to get banged over the head all the time. If you want more politics, plenty of places write nothing else. I’m not a newspaper. I’d just like to shed a bit of light on processes that are murky and need clarity.

Does what I do matter? I think so. I hope so. Maybe I can get people to look at their world differently. If I succeed, I’m good with myself.

I also take nice pictures.

SEAN MUNGER – SUNN CLASSIC PICTURES: HOW HOLLYWOOD INTRODUCED AMERICA TO FAKE HISTORY

At the end of the 1970s–I was about seven years old–our family was one of the earliest in our area to get cable TV. Cable was quite a luxury in 1979, and it worked very differently than it does today: there were a few basic channels, most of which did not broadcast 24 hours a day; you had your choice of movie service (we got Showtime), and there were no commercials. Showtime was a favorite at our house. They showed a lot of movies that we were unable to see anywhere else–my dad had not yet bought our infamous CED video disc player–and it was really my first foray into the world of film. I vividly remember seeing a film on Showtime back in that era that I found quite fascinating. It was a documentary called In Search of Historic Jesus, and it was released by a strange little company called Sunn Classic Pictures. Though our family was not religious, at age seven I thought In Search of Historic Jesus was gospel (no pun intended) truth.

This was only my first encounter with Sunn Classic Pictures. A couple of years later, when videocassette players started to seep into homes and schools, I remember our social studies teacher showed us a movie to fill up some class time. The film was called The Lincoln Conspiracy and portrayed, as history, a shadowy plot by Edwin Stanton and others to ice the Great Emancipator and set up John Wilkes Booth as a patsy. The Lincoln Conspiracy was also a Sunn Classic release. A few years after that, at an other school, in the school library I found a paperback book that was a tie-in for The Lincoln Conspiracy movie. It seemed that Sunn Classic Pictures was everywhere and had a surprising reach into the classrooms and minds of America’s youth.

THE FULL MOVIE OF THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY IS AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE, BUT JUST WATCH THE FIRST 40 SECONDS. IT WILL TELL YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FILM.

Sunn Classic was indeed big business in the late 1970s. Perhaps the only example of a film studio owned by a razor company, Sunn was a subsidiary of the Schick company that made shaving razors. Started in 1971 in Salt Lake City by a man named Rayland Jensen, Sunn specialized in family fare, making G-rated pictures for working class families who weren’t habitual moviegoers. More importantly for Sunn’s business model, they exhibited their films through a technique called “four-walling.” That is, Sunn would buy out every seat in a particular theater for a weekend or two–presumably at a discount–and then resell the seats to the public, keeping 100% of the box office take while the theater owner raked in all of the concessions. Four-walling was a fad in the film industry in the 1960s and 1970s–Orson Welles was said to be quite interested in it–and, in small-market places like Oregon and Texas, it got Sunn’s odd little films in front of more hoi polloi eyeballs than would have been possible otherwise.

At least from the standpoint of a historian, though, Sunn Classic’s catalogue proves somewhat problematic. Their first big score was the American release of a European-made documentary, an adaptation of Erich von Däniken’s fraudulent but highly popular 1968 book Chariots of the Gods?, which introduced America to the ludicrous “ancient aliens” hypothesis that has proven as difficult to eradicate as syphilis in a brothel. (In this decade, for example, I have had college students assert “ancient aliens” claims in my class on climate change). Sunn also released several other “ancient aliens” pictures including The Outer Space Connection. While Sunn’s biggest hit, 1974’s The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, was an inoffensive and charming story about a man and the bear he loves–it even spawned a television series–some of its later releases ventured into theological and religious territory and made a number of spurious historical claims. The title of In Search of Noah’s Ark (1977) is self-explanatory. In Search of Historic Jesus was only slightly less fanciful, but still very far from historically responsible. The unhinged conspiracy theories of The Lincoln Conspiracy are scarcely worth dignifying with a refutation. Yet, in the late 1970s, Sunn basically owned these topics, and were very successful in marketing them.

THE 1979 “DOCUMENTARY” IN SEARCH OF HISTORIC JESUS WAS VERY TYPICAL OF SUNN CLASSIC PICTURES’S FARE.

In a certain sense you can’t blame them. Thinking in terms of American society and the history of the film industry, the late 1970s represented a perfect storm of cultural factors that was keen to be exploited by a company like Sunn. The final years of that decade, especially during the troubled presidency of Jimmy Carter, saw a marked resurgence in the cultural power of evangelical Protestant Christianity. This was the era in which Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, Phyllis Schalfly was canvassing against equal rights for women and Anita Bryant was grinding her ax against the LGBT community. The exact sort of working-class families with young kids that Sunn saw as their target audience were, between 1976 and 1980, the kind of people who responded well to an affirmation of religious values and particularly Christian reinterpretations of history. Incidentally these were also the voters who brought Ronald Reagan to power in 1980–despite the fact that the president who Reagan unseated, Carter, a born-again Southern Baptist from Georgia, was a closer match to their values. This is one of the key stories in recent American history.

Sunn Classic, though, was not in the history business. They were (and evidently still are) in the entertainment business. Selling someone a story about a thrilling chase up the slopes of Mt. Ararat to find petrified timbers that “prove” the literal historicity of the Noah story in Genesis was an attractive business proposition in 1977, however much it may have distorted the historical realities. (There is no historical evidence for the actual existence of an Ark as described in Genesis, despite numerous attempts, most by Christian evangelicals, to find it). Whether historically responsible or not, Sunn Classic Pictures filled a cultural need incipient in its audience. History does sell, but history that validates a particular world-view tends to command a higher price in the marketplace than history done, as academics strive to do it, without as much overt bias.

SEE ORIGINAL POST AT: Sunn Classic Pictures: how Hollywood introduced America to fake history. – SEAN MUNGER

BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES …

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes …” — William Shakespeare,  Macbeth: Act 4, Sc 1, P 2


Trump refused to repudiate support from the KKK during his election. What makes anyone think he isn’t FOR white supremacy and racism? What makes you think he hasn’t always been in favor of it?


This is how he got elected and it is what “his base” is about.


It’s not about making America great. It’s not about improving economics or ending terrorism. It’s about crushing non-white people while freely allowing white terrorists to behave however they want. He is promoting his terrorists to do their worst … and don’t think for a moment that they won’t thrive under his leadership.

He got a hearty vote of approval from the KKK today. If you aren’t sure whose side he is on, that should be your answer.

Photo: Washington Post

Everybody has been carefully treading around a fundamental reality. We have a bigot and a racist as America’s president. While we’ve been not saying what is obviously true, this asshole’s “base” has been growing larger and getting stronger. When Hillary Clinton called them “deplorable,” she was right. And I bet you knew it, too.

Since when are we not allowed to call evil, “evil?” Do we now assume there is no evil? Maybe that all behavior is some kind of “mental disorder?”

If you don’t call a thing what it is, it gets worse. We need to call this what it is: our own, homegrown, American Nazi party.


Trump will NEVER be presidential.

He is not going to care about “real people” because he is the only “real person” in his world.

He is a bigot. A hater. He has always been a racist, as was his father before him.

I think if he has the opportunity, he will also become a killer. Watch your ass.


I was ashamed to call Trump president. Now I’m ashamed to have these people share my citizenship.

It’s just a prickle … so far …

And if you’d like another look at this, from a different voice: History Hiccups and Hiccups and Hiccups by Martha Kennedy.

WHEN YOUR WORM HOLE APPEARS – USEFUL NOTES FOR THE TIME TRAVELER

Time travel is the ultimate addiction. One day, I realized the large window in my bedroom had become a wormhole. I flipped out.

It had begun as a day like any other. Coffee. Making sure the dogs had biscuits. Wash those few dishes in the sink. Clean out the drying rack. Look at the sky, wonder if it’s going to rain. Wondering why it matters so much anyhow. It’s just another day, right?

Then there’s the whirling twirling thing in the blinds. A vortex! While I’m standing there trying to figure out how to get into it, wondering how come they don’t appear at a more convenient location … like at floor level, for example. Am I supposed to leap over my dresser? And I need a clue how to designate when and where I want to go and return. Because I do want to return!

It turns out (surprise!) the vortex knows. Everything.

NASA’s own time machine

Just focus your mind on when, where and how long you want to be wherever it may be and voilà! The vortex takes care of the rest, like an exceptionally good travel agent, but much cheaper. The danger is going through the vortex with your brain muddled. You can wind up some strange places … not places anyone wants to be. Don’t drink and time travel! Also, you don’t have to jump or climb into the vortex. Just stand as close as you can and reach into it mentally. Cool beans, right?

If you are one of the lucky ones who’ve had a vortex appear for you, I’d like to offer you some practical advice.

  • Don’t drink, smoke dope, or take other mind-bending substances before you travel elsewhen.
  • Avoid the 14th century. It’s too depressing.
  • You should get vaccinations for defunct diseases. Talk to your doctor.
  • If you have a really cool doctor, let him or her in on the secret. Some can be bribed with an excursion of their own. And it’s a good bet you’ll eventually need medical support, so why not start out ahead?
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Layer. Sometimes the seasons aren’t predictable. A small carry-on piece of luggage in a natural fiber such as canvas is a good investment.
  • Take your camera. Take extra memory chips and backup batteries. You aren’t going to be recharging anything.
  • Leave the cell phone home. A ringing cell at the wrong moment can produce unexpected — and unpleasant — results.
  • Tell your mate what’s going on. Nothing upsets a relationship more than your appearing out of nowhere. Why not take your other half along for a couple of rides? Maybe he or she will love it too.
  • Try to land in an open area. Arriving mid-air or inside a wall or tree produces bad trips. Sometimes death. Be clear in your mind so the vortex can read you. Wherever you are going, do a little research. Google Earth and history books can be helpful in giving you good visualization capabilities.
  • Try not to lose yourself in time. If you overdo it, you can forget who you are supposed to be, who your children are, your friends, family. Everything. Most of us want to go home eventually.
  • Don’t tell everything to everybody. You want to keep the press out of it. Far out of it.
  • The future is scarier than the past. Spend time in known history before you venture forward. You’ll be glad you did.

Vortexes don’t last forever. Make the most of your opportunity while it’s available. Enjoy your travels, my friends. Welcome to TIMING OUT of life! It’s the best ride you’ll ever take.

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Today is Tisha B’Av — a good day on which to talk about The Holocaust. Tisha B’Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning which commemorates the many tragedies which have befallen the Jewish people. It began yesterday evening and continues through today.


The Holocaust was a big deal in my house when I was growing up. I was born in 1949, just a few years after WWII ended. The Holocaust was fresh in Jewish people’s minds. Friends and relatives were still searching for people dislocated and lost in the chaos of the war. My grandmother still had hopes of finding a nephew who was at college in Moscow while the rest of the family was wiped out by the Nazis back home in Minsk.

Survivors of the camps were still being relocated and were just acclimating to normal life again. The State of Israel had just been created in 1948, which was a needed refuge for displaced Jews from all over the world.

I was lucky. Most of my family from Russia (on both sides) had already moved to the States when the war broke out. My grandmother’s sister and her family were the only ones in the immediate family who stayed in the old country. They, and all the other Jews that the Nazis could round-up, were locked in the local synagogue. It was set on fire. Anyone who ran out, was shot.

None of my immediate family were in concentration camps. But we knew people who were. Every Jew knew someone who knew someone. Two twin friends of the family, Irena and Elena, were from Czechoslovakia. They were fifteen when they entered Auschwitz and seventeen when they were liberated. Auschwitz was known for its inhuman medical experiments and tests on twins were one of their specialties. A camp guard saved our friends. He took pity on them because his wife was a twin. When they were being checked into the camp, he whispered to them to lie and say that they were a year apart in age. That spared them from a certain and gruesome death in the camp ‘laboratory.’

My mother and grandmother believed in “There but for the Grace of God go I”. They brought me up to feel that it was sheer luck that it was my grandmother who left Russia when she did. It could easily have been my branch of the family in that burning synagogue or in a concentration camp.

Armband Jews had to wear in Nazi occupied territory

Many Jews, even in America, didn’t feel totally safe, even after the war. Antisemitism was still rampant, all over the world. America had refused Jewish refugees during the war. America had also waited to enter the war after they learned about the extermination programs and the camps and refused to bomb the camps when they could have done so early in the war.

So my mother exposed me to Holocaust stories from an early age. When I was eleven, she considered me old enough to handle a graphic book on life in the concentration camps. So I knew all about families being separated. I knew about the cattle cars that transported people to the camps. I knew about the initial selection process – camp or gas chamber. I knew about the medical experiments and other forms of torture used on inmates on a daily basis. I knew about the daily possibility of random death that could come in many different forms. I knew about the starvation, the disease, the beatings. All this before I was twelve.

Concentration camp uniform with identification number

I used to lie in bed and plan what I would take with me if the knock came at the door in the middle of the night, to cart me away. I wondered if I would be the type of inmate who shared my food and tried to help others, or the selfish kind bent only on self-preservation.

I think my mother should have waited until I was older to burden me with the reality of man’s inhumanity to man. I think all this exacerbated my existing anxieties. I think it made me more fearful and left some serious scars to my psyche. I don’t recommend exposing young children to real life brutality. I didn’t let my young children watch horror movies or any kind of graphic violence. I didn’t even let them watch Bambi since I was traumatized when I saw that movie.

Concentration Camp

But I did become a passionate advocate of “Never Again!” I made sure my kids, when they were older, understood what the Holocaust meant in human terms. They will tell their children about the atrocities perpetrated in WWII. I talk to my non-Jewish friends about it and make sure that they understand it on a visceral level. I live the saying, “Never Forget!” That is the first step towards “Never Again!”

There just may have been a better way to mold me – when I was old enough to handle it. If we are ever old enough to wrap our heads around the horror of the Holocaust.

NO MORE FAKE NEWS! I AM SAMOAN! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m a Samoan. It’s something of an inside joke in local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early 70’s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was a very ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe. “The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, and politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It means (to me) that I was on the right side. One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also know as “Southie” — which was where all the action was taking place.

A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. Moving in for a serious tune-up. It was then that I had a Mel Brooks moment. An epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best, soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig__r. I’m a Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously somewhat confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Guys, I’m not a nig__r, I’m a Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered.

“He’s not a nig__r. He is Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there ASAP. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

A TOXIC TRIP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had a cousin named Paul. She grew up with him and even babysat for him on occasion. My grandparents adored Paul and he adored them. As an adult, Paul became a lawyer and handled all my grandparents’ legal business. He was totally trusted. He was even made executor of their wills.

Paul went into the army in World War II and was assigned to MacArthur’s unit in Japan. He ended up working directly under Douglas MacArthur. He spent a lot of time in Japan and learned fluent Japanese. After the war, he became one of the few Americans allowed, by the Japanese, to do business in Japan.

Paul was working with a company in Japan in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. He discovered that one of the senior officers was embezzling from the company. He confronted the man, let’s call him Mr. Tokyo. He gave Mr. Tokyo the opportunity to confess, but if he didn’t, Paul was going to report him. Shortly thereafter there was a company luncheon which both Paul and Mr. Tokyo attended. Paul left for the States the next day.

When he got home, Paul started to get sick. He began losing weight, his hair turned grey and started falling out. He got weaker and began to shuffle like an old man. He was in his 40’s. He ended up in the hospital for months. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. In desperation, they began to look for toxins in his system That’s when they discovered that Paul had been poisoned.

A little background is necessary here. At the time in Japan, saving face was still paramount. When faced with the prospect of losing face, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to resort to poisoning each other. The poison of choice was rat poison.

Paul’s situation suddenly made perfect sense. He contacted the company and told them of Mr. Tokyo’s treachery with the company and of Paul’s poisoning. I don’t remember if Mr. Tokyo confessed. I do know that he lost his job. I’d like to think that he suffered some severe consequences because of what he did to Paul. But while the embezzlement could be proved, the poisoning was another story. There was no hard evidence, just motive and opportunity.

Paul recovered but was never the same, mentally or physically.

There’s no dramatic ending or moral to this story. Except maybe watch your back if you accuse someone of a crime. But I don’t think many modern families have a poisoning story hiding in their family trees, so I hope you enjoyed this modern-day version of ‘The Borgias.’