OVERCOMING MY NEWS ADDICTION – By ELLIN CURLEY

I confess. I became a news addict. A true junkie.

The first thing I did every morning is to reach for the phone and check out the Washington Post to see what Trump has done while I was sleeping. The headlines tell me whether I’m going to have a peaceful day focused on my own life, or a stressful day glued to the 24-hour news shows on TV.

My husband, Tom, is worse than I am. He has MSNBC on the TV or his computer playing in the background, if not the foreground, pretty much all day. He only takes a breather when he’s playing video games or Beat Saver (an exercise game). On a big news day, we often drop everything and watch one pundit heavy show after another. I’m not proud of this but it seems to make me feel more in control – like I actually have a handle on what’s going on. I am clearly suffering from Trump Trauma and Anxiety, which is a form of PTSD that psychiatrists are calling a real syndrome that they see regularly in their practices.

I didn’t think I’d be able to break my news habit. On some days I wondered how I had survived before 24-hour cable news came into being. When I had to run errands or have lunch with a friend, I’d listen to MSNBC on the radio and grill Tom when I got home to catch up on anything I might have missed while trying to have a life. I’m exaggerating a little, but unfortunately, not that much.

Weekends were not looked forward to but dreaded. We’re retired so the only difference for us between weekdays and weekends is that we can see our friends who work on the weekends and the cable news shows are mostly repeats. So we don’t get our weekday news fixes. We manage to get through most weekends without any ill effects, though we do long for our regular news anchor friends to return on Monday. Did I mention that I can tell what time it is by which anchor is hosting the MSNBC show of the moment? And I can do this from just the voices – I don’t even have to look at the TV! Again, not something I’m proud of, but there it is.

Then my daughter came to visit from LA for three glorious weeks in December. I didn’t realize that she would be my own personal twelve-step program. I wanted to spend every minute I could with her and she is well informed but not a news junky. So I had to go cold turkey. During the days we hung out, went visiting, shopping, and did projects around the house.

I played lots of gin and double solitaire. In the car, the radio was set to a music channel, not the news. In the evenings, we binge-watched Amazon and Netflix series and watched movies – no news. Not even my favorite, Rachel Maddow. I was having such a good time with Sarah, I didn’t miss the news at all. I noticed that when Tom mentioned some new development and I had no clue what he was talking about, I didn’t care!

“So this is how normal people live,” I thought.

Many of my Facebook friends are also Progressive/Liberal. They religiously keep abreast of what’s happening in the world and we regularly share articles of interest. We also share our outrage about Trump and what he is doing to our country. So I found myself skipping Facebook for days at a time. I got my daily quota of cute animal videos on YouTube.

My news blackout was complete, except for my morning survey of the newspaper headlines. I limited my reading to the headlines and didn’t read any articles.

Sarah and me, December 2019

I wish I could say my three-week detox program had a lasting positive effect on my behavior and my outlook. Or on my habits and my psyche. But it’s too early to tell. I do feel a bit calmer and more positive. Without the daily dose of man’s venality, mendacity, and hypocrisy, my general outlook may have a chance to revert to normal, which is sunnier and less pessimistic.

This is all good.

Sarah has only been gone for a short time and I haven’t watched cable news yet or obsessively read article after article in the papers. My radio in my car is still set to the ‘Broadway’ channel and I’ve decided to get back into baking when I see friends, instead of buying desserts as I have been doing for several years. Baking used to be something I loved, but since I was on Prednisone for over a year and a half and gained ten pounds, I have been on a constant diet and stayed away from cooking and baking as much as possible.

Now though, I wanted the fun of baking again. Of sharing my desserts with friends. I’ve also started working on updating my photo albums – a humongous task involving close to a thousand photos spanning sixteen years.

I see my new interest in these projects and activities as a way to enhance my life apart from the news. It’s good to focus on everyday things that I enjoy doing and bring my daily life back to ‘my’ world and not the national and international world represented by the news. I’m going to work on doing my own thing more and worrying less about our society and the planet plunging into darkness.

I hope my new perspective lasts past the next Trump crisis!

OUR WORLD BALANCED ON THE HEAD OF A PIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry was a working reporter for more than 40 years, so you have to figure I have an interest in the news. I never watched all the news. I didn’t think every shooting or fatal car accident was news. Just because something happens doesn’t make it newsworthy. Even if it’s tragic. News directors believe in bad news. Good news rarely makes the cut.

I was never a news junkie. I wasn’t — and still am not — addicted to the news, but I like to know what’s happening. Not just about things which directly affect me, but how goes my town,  city, state, nation, and world. From wondering who was going to fix our local potholes to which war we are currently fighting even though I never understand why we are having another (or the same?) war.

Film at eleven!

As far as elections go? I like to get a good, long look at candidates. If you don’t watch candidates during their campaigns, how can you know who to vote for? Having enough time to get that look at candidates is probably the only advantage of our ridiculously long election process. One of the many things you can learn is if that person has a moral center, something to which I think we’ve previously paid far too little attention.

There may be more …

Right now, as I’m watching television, it appears Iran has shot a dozen ballistic missiles at an American base in Iraq. So all of this could be a moot point. For all I know, we may be in the middle of nuclear war tomorrow or by the end of the week. I asked Garry if we should call all our friends (there aren’t that many) and say goodbye.

Maybe I don’t need a new boiler after all. Well, that’s a relief. There’s always a silver lining. You just need to look for it.

Missiles from Iran to U.S. installation in Iraq

When people said: “Oh, I don’t watch the news,” Garry took it personally. After all, he was on the news almost every day. Meanwhile, he read three papers a day as well as working fulltime for a network news affiliate. To be fair, half of that reading was sports, but we all need hobbies. He knew the candidates personally because he worked with them. He knew their records. He was really good at predicting elections. He had better than average resources and by definition, so did I.

Australian fire – clouds and embers

I never read three papers a day. I spot read one and never missed the comics or anything about archaeology. I watched and recorded Garry’s daily piece. Nonetheless, I knew what was going on. I voted almost every year. I missed a few. I never missed a presidential or senatorial election, but sometimes I’d let the local elections slide because I didn’t know anything about the candidates. When you don’t know who the candidates are, voting is like scratching a lottery ticket. It has the same resonance. I can’t throw my vote to the most appealing face on the ballot.

These days, I feel like our world is balanced on the head of a pin.

REUTERS/Noah Berger – Fires in California last summer

It’s a big, blue ball and a very tiny pin. There is no room to make a mistake. A bit of imbalance and that big blue ball will crash. Given one thing and another, it may crash regardless, but until I know it has, I’ll do the best I can to make a difference. In the course of our lives, we don’t get much opportunity to influence anything outside ourselves and maybe our family. The magnitude of the world in which we live has dwarfed our efforts.

Montecito Mudslide – 2018

This little blog is what I can do. If there’s any purpose to blogging daily, it’s because maybe I can help someone. Change someone’s mind. Show them a choice they didn’t know was available. Whenever I’m tired of the whole thing, I remember that there’s a chance I can help. Maybe I’m not just spinning my wheels.

I think everyone has a minimal obligation to have a fundamental understanding of the world in which they live. I find it appalling in a time when all our lives are on the line, that so many people still hide their heads in the sand or willingly believe lies because they feel better than the truth. Then they complain when things go wrong.

It was generations of head hiders who got us here.

YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO THE FIFTH DENTIST! – BY TOM CURLEY

“Four out of Five Dentists agree Trident Gum is the best.”


We’ve all heard that commercial or any of its variations. The logic is, if a majority of experts agree on something, it’s probably the truth.

Every time I would see one of those spots my first thought was always “What does that fifth dentist have to say?” I imagined it would be something like.

“Trident Gum sucks! Brush your teeth with chocolate!

Sugar is good for your teeth!!
Dental hygiene is a hoax! It’s a vast conspiracy by a deep state cabal of evil dentists owned by toothpaste companies!
They’re fluoridating our water for mind control!!”

You get the idea. The point is, you’re not supposed to listen to the fifth dentist or the 10th doctor.

But today that’s exactly what approximately one-third of the country is doing. The Republican party and all the Trump supporters only listen to the fifth dentist. And he’s fucking insane. Drill baby drill!

You saw it during the impeachment hearings. The Judiciary committee called on four constitutional scholars to explain why impeachment is important. Three of them were adamant and in total agreement that the impeachment clause was written for exactly this president. They unequivocally said that we HAD to impeach this idiot.

And then there was the fourth guy. He hemmed and hawed and said that maybe he did some stuff wrong but impeaching him would be mean. Or something like that. But every Republican-held him up as proof positive that, well, impeachment is mean. And mean people suck.

And then there is the ultimate fifth dentist.
Fox News.

I worked for over 40 years at CBS. Mostly in the news division. In any network news control room is a bank of monitors that everybody can see.  On them are all of the other news network feeds. In our case, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC,

and Fox News.

One of the things that always drove me crazy was that every day, we would spend hours and hours planning a half-hour news show. We would determine the “line up”, i.e. the stories we would report and the order in which we would report them.

If you watched all the news shows, you’d see them all report the same stories. Why? Because that was what the news was on that day! (Duh) The only real difference was the order in which the stories were reported.

Every night, as the show started, one of the senior producers would be watching all the other network feeds and suddenly scream! NBC is running the (fill in the blank) story first! We have to change the whole line up!! So, now the director would have to frantically re-arrange scripts, the poor tape operators would have to kick the tapes they had cued up out of the machines and frantically try to find the new ones, the font’s would be all out of order.

The control room would descend into chaos. I used to sit there in the audio booth shouting “What the hell are you doing? Nobody at home is watching five televisions!! If they’re watching CBS, they have no idea what’s on ABC or NBC. And they don’t care!”

But today we have a new phenomenon. Fox News doesn’t run the same stories as everybody else. They make shit up. I know, I worked there, briefly. They were always bad, but since Adolf Twittler got elected, they’ve gone off the deep end.

Conspiracy theories are the news over there. As the naked emperor descends ever further into madness, they twist themselves into mathematically impossible shapes to defend him and pretend everything he says is true.

A Fox News poll came out the other day saying that a majority of Americans want the president impeached and removed and the clowns on the Fox morning show short-circuited. I could see the techs coming onto the set during the commercial to re-set the circuit boards in all three hosts because they were fried.

Does not compute. Does not compute. Does not compute.

And yet, somehow, according to Republicans, all of the media is fake news. Except for Fox. The fifth dentist.

Climate change is a hoax!
Caravans of evil rapists and terrorists are invading America.
Toddlers and children are not being held in concentration camps! They’re summer camps!
Liberals want to eat your children!
Brush your teeth with chocolate!”

You can believe in your own reality, but that doesn’t make it real. To all Republicans and Trump supporters: STOP LISTENING TO THE FIFTH DENTIST!

And stop brushing your teeth with chocolate. It’s going to ruin your dinner. And your teeth.

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! FROM THE SHINBONE STAR – Marilyn Armstrong

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

WRITTEN BY MADMEGSBLOG

A small but significant Christmas miracle recently happened on Friday.

The magazine Christianity Today published an op-ed that said Trump should be removed from office.

It seems like the Evangelicals denounced their quasi-prophet, and boy, what a denouncement it was! Yes, the very same people who claimed with absolute certainty and not an ounce of shame, that Trump was sent from God himself to the White House to save us from….well, I’m not sure what, but it’s all moot now.

That unbelievable whirlwind romance between a narcissistic sociopath and the conservative, religious elite is over.

I am so delighted that I am not even going to nit-pick the Evangelicals with silly questions like why is this particular sin the winner? Or ask them why after all this time they suddenly find his Twitter rants and treatment of women immoral?

Even though I really want to, I’m not going to try to uncover the mystery of God’s horrible choice in a president allegedly, of course. Instead, I’m going to sit back and watch this surprising yet absolutely satisfying gift unwrap itself. Or rather, unravel. Bigly.

As you’d expect, the IMPOTUS responded instantly to the op-ed that called for his removal from office as all the cool commander-in-Cheetos do it … It started off pretty ‘Presidential’ for him:


Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
114K –
Twitter Ads info and privacy –

I’m guessing there may be a few Muslims who disagree with that last part … just saying.  And just like a screen door in a hurricane, his retorts escalated from there. I guess he was expecting more than an “It’s you, not me” rejection from the very people who could ignore the multitude of this man’s “indiscretions” (sins) and abhorrent hateful rhetoric just for political power. Apparently, Jesus approved though?

Now, as the orange hurricane grows and Trump keeps showing us who he truly is, as he abandons his TV luster (still ungodly), the cheap and obviously orange veneer can’t hide what was really in front of his believers and yes-men the whole time. All the people who actually sacrificed, in some cases, everything for this charlatan might pause to ask how God and their churches could be wrong?

This dissidence and public rejection from a powerful, nationally influential congregation sends a message to everyone. Many fans and followers of the Orange One won’t question their Church and their congregation. Sanity could even be restored in some areas. Perhaps another miracle in the making!

Trump’s ego sold him on his ability to con the Holy Grail of marks — religion. He went after the biggest target because they were necessary. The Conservative Right Wing Evangelicals’  wealth and influence are paramount to Republican politics. And their stunning and scathing rejection was an assault he didn’t see coming. Trump was conned by his own con.

And maybe you can’t screw with God and get away with it?

Since the Evangelicals swore it was God himself who sent The Orange One to Washington, it would appear someone has some explaining to do.

I’m in the camp that believes there’s no longer a point of return for the Republican party; morally ethically and possibly politically. Everyone needs to stop hoping that these people will find their hearts or conscience or, I don’t know, maybe their duty to their country.

This is not the same GOP you think is just buried somewhere deep down in Mitch McConnell’s neck. That party isn’t going to come back. They sold their souls long before Trump won the Republican nomination. The GOP is responsible for Trump and they have been the trick behind his con.

Trump is their Frankenstein and the irreparable damage is deeper than anyone thought possible.  I know my hope has been all but lost….unless this beautiful stocking stuffer that could be a “sorry” from above, makes them pause.

No, they don’t suddenly get their hearts back like some Christmas movie and start doing the right thing. But just maybe they realize what will happen to their own careers, and even their futures outside of politics if this man does get kicked out of office.

All it takes is one Republican to worry about covering his own treasonous ass to start thinking somewhat clearly. They aren’t going to suddenly agree with healthcare for all or that poverty is the government’s problem, but they might vote to push the clown back into its box.

Whatever happens, I’m making popcorn watching it unfold without despair for the first time in what feels like a century within three years and I know I’m not alone with his misery.

So I say to you all: Just enjoy this little nugget of glory! Let’s all bask in this real-life Christmas movie/heavenly blessing sent from a possibly sheepish savior above. And dammit, hark those herald Angels sing!

Hallelujah!! Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad!!

Let’s Make America Sane Again!

IS RECUSAL IN ORDER? by Gordon C. Stewart – A Relevant Reblog

I had been thinking the same thing, but he says it so much better than I could.


 

Views from the Edge

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has greater reason to recuse himself from participation in the Senate impeachment trial than Jeff Sessions had for recusing himself from the DOJ investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

An online dictionary defines ‘recuse’ as “the withdrawal of a judge, prosecutor, or juror from a case on the grounds that they are unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.”

Until the day Mr. Sessions made his announcement, the terms ‘recuse’ and ‘recusal’ were unfamiliar to most Americans who work outside the court system. Though Mr. Sessions’ decision angered the president, it was the right thing to do. Senate Majority Leader McConnell should do the same.

U.S. Senate floor

If public perception is nine-tenths of reality, a Senate trial that is not a trial will deepen and spread the cynicism that threatens the survival of…

View original post 365 more words

THE “OLD PERSON” WEATHER REPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

These days, watching television and seeing even the finest meteorologist give a forecast that is everything other than summer would be a lot funnier if it didn’t mean that climate change is hitting this area — New England —  harder than it is hitting other places in the world.

Nobody ever said it would hit every place equally at the same time, although somehow that’s how I imagined it.

This idea came to me as I commented to Garry that my sinuses were throbbing, my lower back felt a little better than it had earlier, but both hips were pulsing in pain. also, I have a massive headache and both eyes feel like someone poured sand into them. Translated into meteorologist-ese, it means:

Chipping Sparrow

Humidity is rising, barometric pressure is dropping, probably fast. Temperature is falling quicker than my head can handle and the air, for the moment, is very dry (eyes), probably because I ticked up the heat by a couple of degrees.

I suddenly foresaw a new kind of weather report. Traditional and “old person” weather.

First, the modern, up-to-date scientific meteorologist gives his report. Maps, stats, wind directions, where it’s coming from, going to. When we’ll get sleet, freezing rain, blinding snow, less blinding snow, total amounts from Connecticut through Maine. How much of whatever falls will fall on us?

How long will it last?

Next snow?

By the time he’s done, he has forecast every possible form of winter weather and all anyone knows it that is will be cold, wet, and ugly. I better make a new doctor’s appointment in the morning. No matter how good a driver Garry is, he isn’t the only one on the road. There are an awful lot of people who don’t “get” that simply slowing down would prevent a lot of weather-related accidents. Four-wheel-drive doesn’t help on ice or sleet.

The weather report’s not over yet. Winter weather reports take up at least half our news broadcast, just as — when one of our teams is winning — sports takes up at least half the report. Especially baseball and football.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

Part two of the report has no stats, numbers, or maps. There’s an old person, male or female —  both? — in comfy chairs, rambling on a bit. Local color. “Remember that 24 inches we got on April 1st in the 1990s? That was some storm … and it all melted in three days. Lots of flooding,” she says.

“My right shoulder is bad,” he says. “Suppose that means cold with snow.”

“My spine hurts bottom to top. Rain first. Likely sleet, then snow. The boiler is in overdrive, so temps are dropping. Bad day tomorrow. Coming from the west. so it’s packing a lot of water. Unless we get lucky, we’ll have a nor’easter along the coast. Good thing we don’t live on the coast anymore, eh?”

“We’ll get twice as much snow as they get along the coast, but at least we won’t flood.” says the old guy.

“Not yet,” she points out. “When it melts, it’ll be dicey.”

“Figure six inches at least, depending on how much sleet and freezing rain we get before the snow. With the falling temps? Gonna be black ice under the snow. Time to cancel that appointment with the doctor.”

Everybody over fifty will relate. Anyone who plays sports will get it. What’s more, we will be accurate — at least locally. Can’t do national forecasts, but we can tell you how it’s gonna be right here in the lower Massachusetts section of the Blackstone Valley.

A heating pad really helps.

OLD ACQUAINTANCES – Garry Armstrong

We meet once a month.

I slug the Google calendar with “Ol’ Farts Luncheon” to schedule the event, time, and location.  We usually meet at 12:30 pm and wrap maybe two hours later. It’s an event full of old war stories and a few well-worn memories as we eventually go our separate ways.

Our group is mostly retired broadcast news people — predominantly cameramen as well as a reporter or two, and a few newspaper folks.  We all used to cover the mean streets of Boston, from the last days of non-electric typewriters and film to current day electronic media. We’ve all been around from old Remingtons to mini-cameras emitting images that air instantly while watching the rise of social media and purported news writers who post stories that are raw. Unchecked for truth or validity.


Our friendships date back half a century or more. Once, we were the young Turks, ambitious and breathing fire to bring fresh air and relevance to television news we thought was maybe too stiff and formal.  The old guard regarded us with suspicion,  annoyance and I suspect, a little envy because they’d been the same way a mere few decades earlier.

We’ve shared triumphs, tragedies, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. Lately, we’re bonded by attending too many funerals of people who used to attend our lunches. We know that sense of mortality we so casually dismissed to the old guard in earlier years.  Now, we are the old guard.

It’s interesting to follow the thread of how our lives have changed in retirement,  away from the daily spotlight of events on the center stage of public life.


A relatively small gathering for our latest luncheon.  Nine very mature gents around the big table. Seven of these fellows are retired (or semi-retired) cameramen, video technicians, van maintenance, and uplink pros.  All have worked at least 40 years in the TV news biz.  That’s at least 280 years which is a pretty a conservative tally — untold days, nights, weeks, months and years. Collectively, we’ve covered just about all the major news events over the past half-century.

Although Boston-based, we’ve followed stories around the world.  We were there when the Vietnam War became an awkward part of history, when Watergate brought down a president, and when the Berlin Wall tumbled. We were there when Three Mile Island became a national scare,  when sexual abuse scandals ripped through the Catholic Church (including a prominent local Archbishop), and when court-ordered school desegregation put Boston in a very uncomfortable international spotlight.

All of us were there for these events that, like a thousand tiny paper cuts changed our world, our neighborhood, and how we view ourselves.  Their cameras delivered images that have become part of history.  History not often covered in textbooks — paper or electronic.

Most of these unassuming fellows have taken home multiple Emmys, Pulitzer Prizes, Murrow Awards and other honors recognizing their bodies of work, most of which they have done their work in relative anonymity.


One suit, with typical executive lack of respect, called them “button pushers”.  That suit’s tenure was relatively brief.  Ironically,  we worked for many suits who simply did not respect the quality of the work or dangers faced by pros “just doing their job.”

Preserving anonymity, one of my colleagues dealt appropriately with a suit who endangered all the lives of techs and talent in a TV remote van.  The suit, in the middle of a thunderstorm with huge bolts of lightning, insisted the signal rod be kept upright so the van could transmit a news report.  If the exec’s order had been followed, there was an excellent chance that lightning would blow up the truck with everyone inside.

So one of these fellas ignored the suit’s order, suggesting that lives were in jeopardy and, perhaps the suit would like to come and put up the rod himself.  Newsroom applause drowned out the suit’s expletives as he stomped back to his corner office.

Another of these “gents” braved jail time with his reporter rather than reveal a source for a high-level story.  Like some of the Pols on the Impeachment Inquiry, the suit didn’t grasp the meaning of “confidential source’.’  He didn’t comprehend that the source and his family’s lives would be in jeopardy if he was identified.

So “the button pusher” and his reporter opted out for adjoining jail cells rather than yield to high pressure from yet another suit who probably should’ve been working at a car wash.  The suits and the company lawyers blinked.

There are multiple, similar stories around this table. I was around for many of them.  Often, I hid behind them as they took the brunt of self-serving, second-guessing suits who seemed oblivious to the complicated life on the streets.


It bears repetition that these under-appreciated news people — reporters without microphones — are responsible for most of the hardware I’ve taken home.  I’ve always felt obligated amid the warm applause at award ceremonies to thank the folks behind the cameras for cleaning me up, straightening me out, and making sure we always had the full story.

It’s a joy to spend time with them.

NEWS ANCHORING: LOOKING INSIDE – Garry Armstrong

The handsome guy who sits at the main newsdesk on your television newscast is more than a guy who just sits and reads. He delivers the script, knows when to pass the baton to a reporter, live or on tape. In the old days, he was the “anchorman” because no one could imagine a woman doing the job. Given the recent discoveries about what a lot of anchors were doing in their “spare” time, there are suddenly a lot of women at the anchor desk.

Make no mistake: they aren’t “anchorwomen.” They are anchors. They pull the news broadcast into a coherent whole and make sure all the pieces show up in the right spot during the broadcast.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. A very big deal. Most reporters would love to be anchors, but don’t have the talent. I was one of them.

Edward R. Murrow

The title of this piece perhaps should thus be News Anchoring. Doing the job. It may be something of a revelation for those who have no idea what it’s like working inside a newsroom. Maybe if you watched “Newsroom” (Jeff Daniels) you have a bit of an idea … but the real deal is a lot more intense.

Walter Cronkite

Plans go awry. News happens while you’re already in the middle of a broadcast and the crew and anchor need to be ready to ditch all the planned material and cover a live event. As in “it’s happening right now.”

Dianne Sawyer

News anchors were really the first television celebrities and stars, both nationally and locally.  You saw them every day and every evening. They were the voices of truth. They told you what was happening in the world, the nation, your state, and your neighborhood. The promotional blurbs assured you that they were giving you. “the straight truth.”

Chet Huntley and David Brinkley

Depending on your age, you may remember Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Douglas Edwards, and Harry Reasoner, just to name a few of the many famous faces who held down the network anchor desks in TV’s early formative years.

Dan Rather

You probably have clear memories of the folks who anchored your favorite newscasts. They were smooth and believable. For years, Walter Cronkite was regarded as “The most believable person in the United States.” I think maybe the world.  Political leaders, even Presidents wanted Cronkite’s trust.

John Chancellor

As a young newsie, I thought anchoring was top of the hill in “the news biz.” It looked easy. You just sat there and read the news. A piece of cake, I thought.

Leslie Stahl

I didn’t have much TV experience at the time I made that evaluation of news anchoring. I was still a 20-something with a future of rapid advancement from college, to local news, to ABC Radio Network in 1967.

Norah O’Donnell

My first assignments at ABC were strictly low level, grunt stuff, even though my first day on the job was also the first day of the Middle East 6-day war. Talk about being thrown into the pit!

Peter Jennings

I had to receive incoming phone reports from correspondents around the world and transcribe them — verbatim — for our in-house reporters. Step two was producing and editing copy for those reporters. This gave me more of a hands-on look at the work of the “talent” as on-air reporters and anchors were known.

It still looked easy although some of the scripts needed work. That was my job. I absorbed the good and bad of news-writing quickly. Network reporters were under tremendous pressure to collect the information, write their scripts, then dash into the studio for their broadcasts.

Lester Holt

From my “outside” view, it still looked easy. The movie “Broadcast News” shows more of this.

My few network TV jobs didn’t test me. I was the grunt, filling in for the veteran reporters. These jobs were filmed and I made no live appearances.  Taped was a whole different experience from doing the same material live. It still looked easy.

My brief tenure with a small Hartford TV station provided experience with cameras. I wrote half-hour news scripts and co-anchored with my boss — the other guy in the small newsroom.

This was late 1969. We had teleprompters. They seemed easy to use. Just read the script as it appears. Look at the prompter, read and only rarely look down at the script. No one said anything except “Good work, kid.”  Piece of cake, right?

Fast forward to Channel 7 in Boston, my first “major market” television gig. It was 1970 and I was one of a very few minorities (nonwhite) faces on Boston’s TV stations.

For many years, channel 7 was regarded as the “also-ran” station among the “big 3” TV stations network affiliates in Boston. The others were channel 4 (WBZ) and channel 5 (WCVB today,  but back then, it was WHDH — which later became the letters for channel 7). It’s easier to remember the numbers!

Channel 5 was the most prominent local affiliate and had the best-known news personalities working there.  Channel 7, an RKO-General affiliate was mostly known for running old movies in prime time.

Channel 7 wanted to get into the battle for news viewership and gain some critical respect. Talk about opportunity and timing. I came through the door at exactly the right time. A reporter of color who looked okay and spoke well. Almost immediately, I was given good assignments and received a lot of air time. I loved it. Like the Edward G. Robinson movie villain, “Johnny Rocco,” I wanted more.

I wanted to become an anchor.

No problem. Channels 4 and 5 already had morning newscasts. It was the dawning of popularity for morning news shows while Channel 7 had “Sunrise Semester” reruns.

After some huddling, channel 7 decided to join in the morning news fray with “Daybreak.”  They needed two young, strong personalities to counter the established anchors at the other stations. I don’t recall if there was much newsroom politicking for channel 7’s new show. The veteran reporters, as I recall, turned their noses up at the project. The hours were ghastly. Moreover, it seemed unlikely to have a chance against the other well-established morning news shows.

Garry Armstrong

I don’t think there was any celebration when channel 7 announced that “Daybreak” would be co-anchored by two of it’s new “exciting young talents,” Steve Sheppard and Garry Armstrong.  There was some newsroom jabber about “ebony and ivory,” which was not complimentary.

There was a divide in those days between veteran reporters and “the kids.” as we were known.  We were hungry for success. The vets didn’t want anyone to stir their soup with new ingredients.

Steve and I were excited about “Daybreak” and what it might mean for us. Yes, we were bright-eyed and bubbling with enthusiasm as we did our first shows. Steve had a nervous habit of tapping his toes throughout the newscast. I used to fiddle with the contact lenses I was wearing for the first time.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. The contacts would slip. Everything would go blurry as I read. I’d squint, tear up and plod on. The contacts would invariably fall out and I’d frantically hunt for them during commercial breaks. Steve Sheppard, covering for me, would move on with the script as we came out of commercials.

After I got the contact lenses under control, I had a new, unexpected problem. We finally got teleprompters. At first, we were enthusiastic. We could finally look like real network anchors.

We could just stare into the camera and, occasionally, look down at our copy and back up to the camera. Steve did it very well. I didn’t. I kept getting lost. Almost every time I looked down at my copy, I would lose my place when I returned to the teleprompter.

I was awkward and clumsy. Not smooth.

I was angry with myself. It had always looked so easy. A piece of cake. I used to practice with the teleprompter between shows. Techs would set me up, give me suggestions and I’d practice. Nope. An assistant director who became a director and later a long-time friend tried his best to guide me through the nuances of the prompter schtick. I had a few decent shows but in the end, I welcomed being “reassigned” to field reporting.

I accepted the “too bad” consolation from co-workers but knew I was not going to be an anchor. It was not a piece of cake after all.

The late Tom Ellis was one of the best TV News Anchors Boston has ever had. Tom was almost a cult figure during Boston’s golden age of broadcasting. The native Texan had a fresh, engaging way of anchoring.  He didn’t seem to be reading. It was more as if he was talking to viewers, sharing the grim “if it bleeds it leads” stories as well as the feel-good features.

“Texas Tom” as he was known, riveted your attention and held you as he delivered the news. I always admired his style and understood he was doing what I couldn’t do — and doing it very well.

Years later, Tom and I became colleagues when he joined Channel 7 as its prime time anchor. He brought that same “Texas Tom” expertise to our floundering newscasts as he had for the competing stations. Tom was even nicer off-camera than on camera. Ironically, he sought my advice on reporting which I gladly shared.

In retirement, our friendship deepened. Tom laughed when I told him about my anchor aspirations, as well as my opportunity, and ultimate demise.  He chuckled, “Garry, it ain’t as easy as it looks.   I sighed and smiled.

These days, I look at the current generation of TV news anchors. I have my likes and dislikes. However, I have a deep appreciation for their job.  It is even more complex with the addition of new software applications they have to smoothly blend into their delivery along with the teleprompter and script.

No, pilgrim, it’s not a piece of cake.

TRUMP STILL IN OBAMA’S SHADOW AFTER ISIS HEAD KILLED – THE SHINBONE STAR

President Barack Obama got Osama bin Laden, the meanest of the mean.

Oval Office Occupant The Donald got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

WHO?

Oh, yeah, head of the Islamic State (ISIS), “the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader,” according to Donald.

Donald, is under threat of impeachment for abuse of power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals. He’s sooo grasping at any straw to deflect.

Ever the “showman,” Don described in gory detail Abu’s ending, in a tunnel along with his family, where Abu apparently detonated a suicide vest rather than surrender.

“Osama bin Laden was very big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center (bombing),” Trump said, stating this kill by the U.S. Special Forces was the biggest there is. “This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it a country – a caliphate and was trying to do it again.”

Poor Donnie was upstaged in the dreaded media last night when the “fake news” broadcast the event.

The White House released a photograph of Trump surrounded by top advisers on Saturday in the Situation Room where he monitored the raid on al-Baghdadi’s hide-out in Syria — much like the famed image of President Barack Obama watching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. An obviously envious Trump even seemed to suggest that killing al-Baghdadi was a bigger deal than killing Bin Laden.

Nowhere close Delusional Don. Even though he is/was a mean mother, he is/was no where as infamous as bin Laden. Don, you got a guppie.

Abu, 48, the son of an Iraqi sheepherder, was hiding deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by archrival al Qaeda groups according to the Times. Hiding among your enemies. Brilliant.

Or, was he there to broker an alliance? Time will tell.

Abu al-Baghdadi has been incorrectly reported killed before, and American military officials were concerned that Trump, who posted a cryptic message on Twitter on Saturday night teasing his Sunday announcement, was so eager to announce the development that he was getting ahead of the forensics, wrote the New York Times.

“A Defense Department official said before The Donald’s announcement that there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that al-Baghdadi was dead, but that a full DNA analysis was not complete,” wrote the Times.

Trump claimed that “American troops did “an on-site test” of DNA to confirm Mr. al-Baghdadi’s identity and that they brought back “body parts” when leaving the scene.

“The official said that with any other president, the Pentagon would wait for absolute certainty before announcing victory,” continued the story.

During his morning appearance, Trump put himself in the center of the action, describing himself as personally hunting al-Baghdadi since the early days of his administration. The only thing Delusional Donnie has hunted is glory and profits from his numerous visits to his own estates to play golf and bilk taxpayers.

He crowed that as he watched the action on Saturday with Mike Pence and others in the Situation Room (Not the CNN one with Wolf Blitzer.) it was “like watching a movie.” Wonder if he got to see all the blood and gore from the explosion?

Even more astounding, Trump trundled along Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R -S.C.), usually a strong ally who has been the most outspoken critic of his Syria decision, to join him for the speech on Sunday morning. Then, amazingly he sent cock sock Graham to brief reporters from the lectern in the White House briefing room. an unusual spectacle for a lawmaker, to say the least.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – Ca.) called on the White House, to brief lawmakers about the raid, pointing out the Trump had informed the Russians of the military operation before telling congressional leadership.

Well, he had to tell his Master, Vlad “Puty” Putin first Nancy. Besides, you’re a woman AND a Democrat and he is apparently employed by Russia.

U.S. Oval Office Occupants typically follow the protocol of contacting congressional leaders, regardless of their political party, when a high-level military operation is conducted. As we know, nothing is typical about Trump except his lying and love for Russia.

“The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top congressional leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration’s overall strategy in the region,” Pelosi said.

Trump told reporters at the lengthy news conference that he did not inform the House speaker of the raid because he “wanted to make sure this kept secret.” In other words, we can trust a liar, but not a woman to keep a secret, eh Donald?

Asked whether he had informed Pelosi, Trump replied, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that. I wanted to make sure this kept secret. I don’t want to have men lost, and women. I don’t want to have people lost.”

Trump continued, that he was “going to notify [congressional leaders] last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”

No amount of grandstanding attempted deflections or grandiose self-congratulatory rallies will change the fact that The Donald, a narcissistic lying crook, is facing impeachment.

Abu al-Baghdadi may be gone, but there are others who will soon fill the void and the blood bath in Syria will continue as American troops flee.

As Pelosi so succinctly told Trump last week, as she stood to leave after he called her “a third-grade politician,” “Why (with you) do “all roads lead to Putin”?

Donald still hasn’t come up with an answer.

LOCAL NEWS FROM UXBRIDGE! – Marilyn Armstrong

So what have I been doing with myself? It certainly hasn’t been creative writing or photography. Mostly, it has been medical. Yesterday, I spent the day with the valve specialist and got the best news of the month. My heart is doing well, exceptionally well considering how bad it was when they worked on it five years ago.  It’s pumping, the valve is working like a new valve should. My bypass is open and moving and the pacemaker is working fine.

I wanted to know why I am so exhausted and he said whatever it is, it’s NOT your heart because that’s fine. Which brings me back to arthritis and my spine. It’s the same old story which, I guess, will never end. I frequently need to remind myself that no matter how miserable my busted spine and arthritis make me feel, they are not going to kill me. Also, the rest of the exhaustion probably is the fibromyalgia which is acting up for no known reason.

That’s the thing about fibro. There’s never a reason why it does what it does. There are no tests for it, no medication that works. You can’t even get a proper diagnosis because there isn’t any except the intuition of your doctor. There’s a definite link between arthritis and fibro … as well as rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. But what the link is, exactly, no one knows.

It’s hard to diagnose and essentially impossible to treat. Nothing seems to make it better, but a lot of stuff can make it worse.

To keep myself functional, I’ve been trying to get more sleep, to not push myself when I’m already tired … and keep my feet up because the swelling in my feet and ankles is apparently a side-effect of one of the blood pressure medications I take. And no, I can’t change medications because these are working really well and when the meds are working, you don’t change them so your ankles will look better.

I did want to know if there was any chance I could get a more modern pacemaker. Mind you, they have not improved the functionality of the pacemaker. They are still exactly the same. What they are improving are the cases, making them thinner, non-magnetic and more appropriate for a woman’s body. Mine is so big I can feel the wires.

But changing pacemakers isn’t a minor thing. It’s a life-endangering issue, so unless it stops working, I keep this one. With this one — which is magnetic — I can’t have an MRI. I hope I don’t need one!

Despite the downers, most of the news is good. Mainly, my heart is working and my son is lucky he didn’t inherit it.

Other stuff? We’re now in the pricing new gutters for the house. The ones we have were improperly installed and have never worked. I’ve known that for more than 15 years, but it never occurred to me that a lot of the rot on the house is because of those non-working gutters.

LeafGuard wanted more than $7000 for new ones. $7000? Seriously?

The actual real-life prices are closer to $1100 to $1400, which I think we can manage. The back door will have to wait for warm weather to come around again, but if I can get the gutters up before winter, we might be saved from the giant ice dams of winter and a lot less rot!

Our house, some snow, and the fence …

If you live in a warm climate, you might not know that one of those big ice dams can weigh hundreds of pounds. If one clunks you on the head, you might not wake up. We had a friend die of a falling ice dam and he was born and raised around here, so he knew better. There’s something irresistible about trying to knock down those ice dams. It’s stupid and damages your roof, but people still do it.

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to change insurance providers. Tufts, the most popular (with good reason) has none of our doctors in its plan, so they are out. That leaves Blue Cross (which we have) or HarvardPilgrim. Both are good. Blue Cross is a little bit less money but offers fewer other “advantages. Harvard Pilgrim pays you for more of your tooth stuff and also for eyeglasses. Also, they actually will pay for inhalers.

But if I change plans, we get into trying to move my medical records. This ought not to be such a big deal, but because every hospital and medical group has its own plan and its own software and doesn’t mesh with anything else. When you’ve had a lot of surgery and transplants and all that stuff, you wind up with pounds of records. I have a crate full of my medical records which I keep in the car because who know who will want to see them? And there’s a lot of stuff NOT in there, too. All the information from when I lived in Israel and before that, in New York (before computers, too). So much stuff, I don’t remember a lot of it.

I’m thinking about it. Not an easy decision.

Meanwhile …

On one side of our loveseat, there are three tables. One holds a very small lamp that’s almost always on. The middle one used to be part of my bedroom set, but moved to the living room when it didn’t fit in the bedroom. It’s really ugly, one handle is missing, and it’s covered with bills that need paying, others that need filing, miscellaneous odds and ends for which I have no “home” –my extra eyeglasses and all the paperwork for medical plans I am fully intending to read. Any day now.

The final table is empty. That’s where I put my computer. I have a lapdesk to work on, but when I move the computer, that is its home. It’s an old piece and if I refinished it, it might actually be quite nice, but right now, it’s just old and worn out.

To find an affordable table that’s 48 inches long, about 16 or 17 inches deep and standard table height has turned out to be a challenge. I think I’ll wait until spring and do yard sales when everyone is trying to get rid of their old stuff.

For reasons I find incomprehensible, everyone is selling “retro” television platforms that are exactly the right size. The problem is, these were ugly when they first came out. I’m betting they’ve been warehoused since the mid-fifties and someone said: “Hey, let’s make some more money, call them “retro” and sell them now. Retro is very “in” these days, right?” They are truly unattractive.

If that’s my choice, what I’ve got is already unattractive — and I own it, so it’s free. If ugly is what is available, I guess that’s the way it’ll be. These are the days when I wish I had some carpentry skills. I could just build a box of the right size, throw a cover over it and VOILA!

Maybe a few wooden crates?

IT’S HOPELESS – Marilyn Armstrong

No, not the news. Not the house. Not money.

Email.

I am hopeless. Any number of people suggested I move them to “notify” rather than email — and then I realized I couldn’t find ANYTHING.

I give up. It’s clear that no matter what I do, I will be swamped by masses of email. Forever.  But no one can say I didn’t give it my best shot.

Did you notice our new feature? Probably not, so we’re pointing it out!

I’m not actually sure I understand this, but it sounds like fun … in a pretty weird way.


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

By DUTTON PEABODY
Editor in Chief

DUTTON PEABODY

At a recent staff meeting in The Shinbone Star’s palatial newsroom, I worked to put down a coup attempt (there’s that word again) after beleaguered writers opined that they deserved a raise.

I challenged them.

“A raise?” I said. “But what have you actually done to help our readers?” Nobody had an immediate answer, so I pressed my advantage.

“We’re just preaching to the choir here,” I said. “All of you rant and rave about Trump, but that’s not helping readers who are already ranting and raving on their own. What they really need is a way to shut up their stupid relatives and stupid neighbors who still love Trump in spite of everything! You want a raise, then give me something that helps our readers do that!”

You could have heard a pin drop. I knew I had them then because…

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I COULD BE THIS YEAR’S SINGULAR SENSATION – Marilyn Armstrong

This has been a heavy news year and I can’t imagine anyone arguing this point. No matter where you stand, the news hasn’t just been The News. It has been … NEWS.

Giant hurricanes. Massive flooding, Russians trying to steer our election. A moronic president and his equally moronic cabinet. Destruction of everything we believe in or at least an attempt to destroy everything in which we believe.  Mass shootings. More mass shooting. Fires sweeping entire states. Sex scandals that will eventually include every man in Hollywood.

With all of that going on, there has been hardly any reporting of gruesome crimes and criminals. Usually, we are demented about serial killers and torture … but we haven’t had anything that could top the mass dementia that has taken over our government. That’s why I was thrilled to find this headline from overseas:


Italian lodger tells police he is ‘guilty’ of cannibal murder. 

I bet our newscasters would be thrilled to have a shot at something really juicy. Since the demise of Jeffrey Dahmer, there hasn’t been an incredibly disgusting, gory serial murderer to liven up the news cycle. It’s been all politics, government scandal … and tweets.

TWEETS! Do you believe it? I don’t. It must be fake news.

That got me wondering. Who among the outside world would I like knowing was reading our stuff? I know a few of my favorite authors drop by if I review one of their books. They are polite and send thank you notes. It makes me feel all warm and cozy, knowing at least some of the things I write is getting read by people who care about it.

But how cool to be followed by a cannibal? What a coup! That would definitely come with bragging rights!

While Garry was working, we occasionally got phone calls late at night from convicted serial killers, sometimes critiquing his performance. Turns out, they watched him on the telly. Who’d have guessed serial killers watch the news … and have phone privileges? They also sent Christmas cards and occasionally, letters.

Perpetrators of gruesome murders currently on trial used to wave and wink at him in the courtroom. I’m sure other reporters were jealous.

From my perspective, it was intensely creepy and occasionally, downright frightening. It also made me wonder if these weirdo’s fondness for my husband and his work might encourage one of these “fans” to drop by for an unexpected visit. They clearly knew how and where to track him down. And if they found Garry, they’d find me. They were his fans, not mine.

On second thought, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I’m could be a big hit in prison. If seven or eight thousand of my followers are actually incarcerated, that might explain those thousands of nameless followers who never leave comments or even a “like.”

By any chance are you a big literary agent? Just asking.

Trump’s Latest Sucker Punch Pounds American Children Overseas – REBLOG – Shinbone Star

I often think 45 has no concept of where the money comes from. Like it just “pops up” from the soil like weeds? We spend billions on a useless wall to make sure we have an even more ignorant population than we already do. I have lost my ability to even talk about this without getting crazy!


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

Last Friday afternoon, The Shinbone Star took a quick shot at Dangerous Donald’s alarming order to misappropriate congressionally mandated funding from allegorical Peter to pay undeserving Paul.

But what really stood out was Trump-appointee Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s decision to deny American military dependent children living overseas a decent education in order to deny brown children a chance for a better life. His disgraceful decision typifies the venality of the Trump regime.

In this event, pitiful Peter is trapped in the arbitrary Pentagon money pit while predatory Paul lounges against Trump’s disastrous wall. In between are the children of powerless young service members living life overseas in near Spartan conditions.

It’s a particularly rotten deal for the kids, whose pennies their soulless president has purloined from their housing and school budgets to pay for his pretentious wall.

Since Thursday, after Trump’s fixation with weather forecasting waned, reports of Trump…

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They rationalize our nation’s descent into Hell, one sad step at a time – SHINBONE STAR REBLOG

Yeah, the slide into Hell is going so smoothly — unless you are one of the people being dragged down there with your foot grasped firmly by a red demon. Then, maybe NOT so easy.

 

THE SHINBONE STAR

“I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of the Category 5. I knew it existed, and I’ve seen some Category 4s — you don’t even see them that much, but the Category 5 is something that I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there.
— President Donald J. Trump 9/1/19

They’re testing us and we’re failing miserably.

A little more than half of the country does not want Donald Trump impeached and removed from office. The fact we’re talking about how the economy will affect his chances for re-election while he and the GOP donor class are wrecking the nation is a statement on just what the average American will accept if they don’t feel it in their wallet.

Consider:

  • “Separating families at the border for no good reason?”
    Shrug.
  • “Holding babies in cages?”
    “Their parents shouldn’t have put them in…

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DORIEN SHOULD REALLY BE DARWIN – By TOM CURLEY

A quote from the weather bureau. A real quote. I am not making this up:


IDIOTS SHOULD BE WARNED NOT TO GO OUT INTO THE STORM.

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Dorian, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 2nd (Irma was the 1st), having wreaked havoc on the Bahamas is approaching southern Florida.

The Weather Channel

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones and wait for the next live hit.

I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now. (Note from home: Garry is laughing because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Dorian from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too. What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! Mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are tasty little snacks! I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies then dies, well …

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking videos of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them … who I should note has no choice because his idiot news director told him to do it or else …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 2nd.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish Mother Nature could come up with a less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!