Friday, December 31, 2010

John Cleese's New Year Letter

I have tweeted Mr. Cleese for permission to reprint his letter, but as I am but 1 out of followers, my voice will likely not be noticed. However, since he sent this to everybody who signed up for his emails, I don't feel he would have any huge problem


Dear Fnerners and Bnerers,
Once again, for a reason which dates back to 1582, we celebrate the annual re-boot of the Georgian calendar, with much jollity and good cheer, with singing, carousing, dancing and inebriation, leading to the consequent impact on personal health, as population after population succumbs to the morning after the night before.
Tomorrow (or is it already today?) is equally worthy of celebration, it being a date that even the Americans can get right - 1.1.11. So, perhaps some will turn the hair of the dog into the leg of the dog, perhaps even the dog of the dog. Just try to avoid making it the pack of the dog if you possibly can.
Moving along, we won't have long to wait for the next new year. On 3rd February 2011 we move into the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, which is another great excuse to throw a party. Shortly after that, on either 20th or 21st March 2011, we have Nowruz 2570 (1390) the Persian new year, which being the Spring equinox, coincides with several other reasons to go for it (and why not?) :
  • Purim - Jewish
  • Ostara -Wicca/Pagan northern hemisphere
  • Mabon -Wicca/Pagan southern hemisphere
  • Holi - Hindu
  • Hola Mohalla - Sikh
On and on and on it goes, each occasion supposedly unique and special - and so they are, just not for the reasons we give. Any excuse will do, really, religious or secular, national, international, or familial, new year, new baby, bar mitzvah, first communion, graduation, retirement, sporting victory, sporting defeat, you name it.
What these occasions all have in common is that they bring us humans together so that we can try, in our sometimes generous, often flawed and occasionally dangerous ways, to break down the inter-personal barriers which exist between us on every other day of the year. It's no wonder we sometimes break things in this great effort to reverse the social norms which constrict most of us most of the time, in pursuit of the much deeper need for renewal.
So, on this New Year 2011, let us all say a very large, long and heartfelt thank you to the Healers of the world - to the doctors, nurses and paramedics, as they cope with the flood of injuries which accompanies this annual mass loss of balance.

Thank you, wond'rous children of Hippocrates, for you are indeed special; you frequently stand between us mortals and the worst consequences of our desire to feel more connected with one another and less alone; and without you, life after the party would so often be much, much worse than a simple hangover.
Aside from that - thank you for all your kind messages and support this year. Remember to be extra nice to people who resemble small animals.
Until next time,
Jack the Cheese

Monday, December 27, 2010

Overheard in 1974 - Scientists are out for the buck

As usual, the typos and grammar are the authors.

The author is in his 70s:

The buck comes between the doctors and the patients. They provide synthetics because they are cheaper and make more money for the docs. The common cold has been a fine source of income for the medicine man for many years and he isn't about to let lose of it. Far too much of this "scientific" materialis subdued or covered by convention or the dollar sign so much of it can be taken with that proverbial grain of salt.

The messing up of our ecology by so called scientific men has also done much to dull the publics faith in scientific endevor. Ponder the friction between the various factions about the danger of weedacides and pestacides and the pollution of our land water and air. Here again the "buck" makes more decisions than good sense. Any poison that will kill insects and other so called pests will also be detrimental to man. How can all of these men who call themselves scientists view all of this pollution and not say it is bad. The more I see of people who have been abused by the bad decisions of the AMA and FDA the less respect I have for them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost overheard in 1954

I was reading through a subset of the current batch of letters and had almost settled on something until I read the following from March 16, 1954:

The radio just announced that the Bevitron has been completed.

My first reaction was "Jeez, that sounds like a bad 50s science fiction device". Then I looked it up and what it actually was was the Bevatron...specifically designed to accelerate protons to sufficient energy to create antiprotons, and verify the particle-antiparticle symmetry of nature, then only strongly suspected. The antiproton was indeed discovered there in 1955, and resulted in the 1959 Nobel Prize in physics for Emilio Segrè and Owen Chamberlain. Basically, it was the ancestor of our very own Large Hadron Collider.

And, what was the reaction of the average person in the street? Apparently, pretty much the same reaction as people had to the LHC: OMG, something awful will happen.

Undoubtedly it can bring much potential knowledge, but all it makes me think of is now they'll build bigger and better bombs.

It's such a cliché, but really it's true. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Overheard from 1954 & beyond: a love story

(Identifying information has been redacted. But, as near as I can figure, the young woman starts out in her VERY early 20s. Spelling & grammar is as is. And, guess what happened between 1955 and 1956.)

Xxxx Xxxxx came home from Yyyyyy and is living in NY for a few years before he goes back. I saw him a few times but when I realized that he loved me I explained to him gently as I could that I was fond of him but could not be involved with him and was therefore breaking up the relationship so that he would not be hurt any more deeply that necessary. Cause if continued I would just hurt him more later. I did not let him leave till he understood why I did this, and though it was a sad evening I felt better later though.

1954 (3 weeks later):
Friday I will go out with Xxxx Xxxxx. He called Sunday and I am definitely in a mood to be cherished. I don't think I'm yet ready for the relationship I'm looking for and it begins to appear senseless to deny myself pleasant, if incomplete, companionship for now.

1955 (2.5 months later):
I'm slowly disentangling myself from my relationship with Xxxx, for our new relationship seems to be at a standstill, since he doesn't accept my logic for not wanting to continue, I am simply seeing him less and less frequently because I don't want to hurt him, but I do feel that my needs have changed & I am not at all desirous of being dependant on him. I am a person on my own & have finally conquered lonliness & am free to choose my own happiness & to give of myself without fear. I can decide where I want to be & why and not be afraid of other people's reactions. Still, during the time when I wanted to be dominated he fulfilled my needs & as so I feel that I must be fair to him too.

1956 (1.5 years later):
Two weeks from today I'll be married. I'm excited & happy & have no qualms or reservations. I feel that soon I'll be legalizing a relationship, the depth and fulness of which has been actuality for a long time. I'm happy and feel very womanly.

And, finally...1956 (2 weeks later):
Here it is the night before the wedding and I have such mixed feelings. mainly of course I happy, excited, content & impatient but also there is the knowledge that this is the goodby to my childhood, tomorrow I officially become woman & wife and part of a [unreadable word] new focal point of life.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Who's Peter this time?

Since I once again spent the weekend sorting out & hauling down stuff from my parent's house, I haven't yet had the time to dig through the motherload of letters from which I was going to pull excerpts for the blog.

But, one of the things I discovered was a card game called Showbiz Shuffle. Now between my vocation and my avocation, it was a given that I was going to take this. On the box, it is described as follows: "Collect actors and directors, then combine them with stunts, special effects or other pluses to make the biggest box office hits".

I started flipping through the cards and was mostly just amused by them. I was amused at cards such as the below just because:

Then I was amused by cards such as:
At least a third of the people cards are caricatures of recognizable people. I suspect that more are, but I just don't know the faces well enough to recognize them.

Then I came across the following and stopped dead:

One of the people I enjoy following on twitter is Peter Sagal, the host of the totally fabulous NPR radio program Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I immediately went to his twitter page to see if I was hallucinating...and, no, not really:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Overheard from 1990

Today begins the first of excerpts from letters from the past. Some may be from the near past, some may be from the middle of the last century. Others from points before or after. A couple of things they will have in common:

1. There will be background information to the best of my ability, but no identifying information. I have no idea of whether or not some of these people are alive or dead. And, for purposes of what this will be, identity should not matter.

2. These slices of life will, for the most part, either human interest and/or something that interests/amuses me. Occasionally, they will be commentary on the state of the world such as this first one (largely because it was the first one I found that immediately called out to me). Tomorrow, I will be digging into the motherload of correspondence.


Sent by a soldier in November 1990 stationed somewhere in the Middle East waiting for what would become the Gulf War.

One of the things I meant to say in my last letter was that I am much more understanding now of how much the Vietnam soldier went through. I know that I haven't experienced the combat aspects yet, but I've faced everything that leads up to combat. Also, if things keep going the way they are now, I'll have the combat patch before I go home.

Speaking of going home, it's beginning to look a lot like Easter. If we do go to war, it will probably be between New Year's and Ramadan. The war will probably last about a month and Ft. Bragg units will be the first home after that. If we don't go in, then I'm almost certain that the Ft. Bragg units will be rotated home during Ramadan. After all, VII Corps in [sic] enough to defend Saudi Arabia during the summer. My money, though, says that this whole thing will be resolved by Ramadan.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Glimpses of the Past

While cleaning out closets in my parents' home, my daughter and I ran across just over a dozen newspapers laying on a top shelf..

For a third of them, the Civil War had ended less than 50 years previously and they had yet to see a world war.

Half of them celebrated the end of "The war to end all wars", the Great Stock Market Crash was still a 1/2 dozen years away, and Hitler would not be a citizen of Germany for another 10.

The remaining three celebrate other moments in our past.

I've decided that this blog will show little, if ever, seen slices of history. They will for the most part be human interest.

But, we begin with these newspapers. The images below are quick photos we took with out cell phone cameras. It is our intent to gently photograph each newspaper so that they can be read and enjoyed..this will take some time as they are in somewhat fragile shape.

Aberdeen Daily American - October 14, 1899

The Daily Mirror - June 21, 1911

The Daily Mirror - June 23, 1911

The Daily Mirror - February 12, 1913

The Daily Mirror - June 7, 1916

The Daily Sketch - February 16, 1918

Aberdeen Daily American - November 11, 1918

The Daily Mirror - November 12, 1918

The Daily Sketch - November 12, 1918

The Daily Sketch - July 21, 1919

The Daily Mirror - November 27, 1920

The Daily Mirror - February 28, 1922

The Daily Sketch - March 21, 1922

Los Angeles Examiner - May 7, 1945

New York Times - July 21, 1969

New York Times Special Supplement - August 3, 1969