Sunday: this and that

  • I’m highly attuned to prospective signs and omens–or, supidly superstitious. So, I think it’s a bad sign that Ida ploughed into Louisiana on the anniversary of Katrina. Ida’s going to cause a mess; that’s from the Weather Channel. Somebody saw Jim Cantore. That can’t be good. We may get some rain from the storm here in North Georgia on Tuesday.
  • I was happy to see in the news that that multiple countries have reached an agreement with the Taliban to continue flying people out of Kabul past the original August 31 deadline. I hope the agreement is kept in spite of the attacks by ISIS-K. I’m amazed at the news that a plane full of refugees leaves the airport roughly every 45 minutes
  • Sad to see that Ed Asner died. He was my favorite character on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The series had a great ensemble cast and some very good writers.
  • It’s not even 4 p.m. and I’m already drinking a glass of cheap wine. Our dying kitty, Marlo, is still fighting her cancer. The sedatives (for Marlo) are helping but not as much as we hoped. Best we can tell, is that she’s 18 years old as is our calico, Katy. My wife and I could use some sedatives: hence, the wine. Pets play a very large role in their families’ lives, it’s hard to have it suddenly end.
  • COVID has found numerous ways to mess up publishing. Ingram has announced that there will be delays and shortages in the fourth quarter. We rely on them for our hardcover copies. Also, places that normally would have reviewed Fate’s Arrows by now, still haven’t done it. So, naturally, sales are down; many writers have seen this during the pandemic.
  • Today’s quotation: “A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.” Fred Allen (1894-1956) We’ve been watching some of the “What’s My Line” episodes on YouTube. Allen was a frequent member of the panel, so, we’ve gotten used to his humor.
  • NPR Poll: We Asked, You Answered: Your 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade “The question at the heart of science fiction and fantasy is “what if?” What if gods were real, but you could kill them? What if humans finally made it out among the stars — only to discover we’re the shabby newcomers in a grand galactic alliance? What if an asteroid destroyed the East Coast in 1952 and jump-started the space race years early?”

I hope all of you are having a great weekend and that those of you in Louisiana are staying safe.

Malcolm

OMG, they’re shutting down Marlboro Country

“I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind,” Philip Morris CEO Jacek Olczak said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday. “I think in the U.K., 10 years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking.”Domy Towarowe Centrum.jpg

Dang, I grew up with the Marlboro Man and the concept of Marlboro Country, the wide-open spaces where we were free to smoke cancer sticks whenever we wanted while riding our trusted quarter horses across the endless high range in search of lost calves and lost dreams.

Now I’m lost. I haven’t smoked a Marlboro since the 1990s, but as long as they were out there, I could always saddle up and light one up. We became addicted because you, Philip Moris, gave us what was once an acceptable way to do so. But now–or soon–I won’t be able to go back to those days even if I need to.

My addiction probably goes back to the navy when the CPO said, “Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em” or when the announcement came over the ship’s IMC (public address system), “The smoking lamp is lit.” Gosh, was it possible to be sent to the brig if you didn’t have a cigarette dangling out of your mouth? Perhaps not, but if you weren’t smoking, suffice it to say, you weren’t part of the team. So much for advancement!

I might have strayed from Marlboro Country from time to time.  I smoked Roxy in the Netherlands and Gauloises in France. But it wasn’t the same. Neither were Players and Senior Service in Britain. They tasted bad and didn’t have a country available where you could ride off into the sunset with cancer. At least Raleigh cigarettes gave out coupons you could save up for an iron lung.

So, we say goodbye, sadly, to Marlboro Country. Maybe not today. But soon. We’ll probably be better off once it’s gone because addiction never goes away. I hope this is one problem our grandchildren never have to face. They’ll have to find their own addictions, books maybe, or Philip Moris biscuits with a dash of marijuana.

Gosh, clean air. I never thought I’d see the day.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

Mountains. . .before I got too old to climb them

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes. . .

from “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas

When I first explored the mountains of Glacier National Park, “time let me hail and climb golden in the heydays of his eyes.” I thought those trails and those days would go on forever even though I had read the Dylan Thomas poem many times and knew how it ended. Even though grandparents are around us when we are young, we still think we will always be young and, that if we won’t, old age is eons away in a future too far away to fathom.

When we’re young, it’s hard to imagine being old. When we’re old, it’s easy to remember being young just as I remember the first time I read “Fern Hill” and was concerned about the words: “ In the sun that is young once only, time let me play and be golden in the mercy of his means.”

As I write a novel now about a character following a trail near Piegan Mountain, I must rely on the videos and descriptions of younger men and women, those who are still healthy in time’s golden era. If I’d only known, some 50 years ago, that I’d be writing this novel, I would have taken a hundred photographs along the trail that led from Going to Sun Road to Many Glacier Hotel. But I was too enchanted within the moment to create a photographic diary on Ektachrome film. (Regrets, I’ve had a few.)

If there’s a learning experience in all this, it’s to push on with the writing using the resources I can find rather than wishing (a) I could be young again, (b) took 1000 photographs of everything, and (c) ruined my life experiences by slavishly documenting them for those old-age years when they would be beyond reach.

When we have finally followed time out of grace, our memories must suffice, all the more sweet because they are so tangled and unclear rather like a dream of once walking the high country when knees and ankles and breath were strong and the sky was blue and full of endless promise from side to side.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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I need a lawn tractor with power steering and A/C

When my wife and I finish several hours of yard work, we feel like we’ve been beaten up by a badass chapter of Hell’s Angels. Everything hurts. I should point out that both of us have slipped past middle age, probably while drunk or asleep, and now (gasp) are probably presumed to be senior citizens. That means we’re wise and/or wiseass and need to be revered and respected by younger people.

So, last night after mowing at least an acre of high grass, I fell into a recliner with a bottle of Highland Brewing Gaelic Ale and more or less watched something or other on TV. I think it might have been Master Chef Legends followed Crime Scene Kitchen. I vaguely remember that people were cooking stuff, some of which looked worse than anything I fix for supper and some of which looked great.

Three or four of these might help.

Getting back to this post’s header, my proposal to the Feds is to pass a bill that mandates all senior citizens with a riding mower/lawn tractor will get a free upgrade to automatic transmission and A/C. We live in a rural area where we have about three lots worth of mowing to do and we need government money to smooth things over, mainly the property which randomly gets tromped to oblivion when the neighbor’s cows get out and wreck the yard.

So, what I need for you to do is call your senator and representative and say, “People older than dirt are still mowing their yards with riding mowers that function like a hot and sweaty bucking bronco.”

I’m not making this up.

All we need is several hundred grand to fix the problem. Since we’re filled with wisdom that is free, we don’t think this is too much to ask.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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I consider Roe v. Wade Settled Law

Of course, it isn’t.

Now a new abortion case is approaching the court from Mississippi. The state now bans abortions after 15 weeks. This time scheme is purportedly based on when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. With advances in medicine, we might be approaching the time when abortions are banned before a woman could reasonably know she is pregnant–some suggest banning abortions as soon as it’s possible to detect a fetal heartbeat.

My political/moral views are somewhat eclectic, but the libertarian side of my beliefs is that government has no right to tell me what I can eat, smoke, drink, worship, think, believe in, do to/for myself (including taking my life), or–if I were a woman–whether or not I could end my pregnancy.

Certainly, as a man, I cannot support anyone–especially men–who believe they have the right to get involved in a woman’s personal choices, including giving birth.

I have long feared the day when the government would try to justify getting involved in the lives of pregnant women, dictating what they can and cannot do once the pregnancy is discovered. That is, making a list of forbidden activities that could harm a baby and/or charging women with murder if a life choice can be proven to have harmed a baby.

So many people argue against abortion due to their religious beliefs. I see this as arrogant and irrelevant. In a country that supports freedom of religion we cannot help but support freedom from other people’s religions. In short, the law cannot base its restrictions on what one (or more) religions restrict simply because we cannot apply a religion’s beliefs to people who are not part of that religion.

Now there is talk again about adding more justices to the Supreme Court. That only works for us if we like the current philosophy of the court–or if we don’t. FDR tried this and we often laugh about it now. But now people are actively thinking about trying it again. Where will that end? Will we one day have a court with more members than the Senate?

Sure, three more liberal justices might do the trick for now to prevent the Court from modifying or overturning Roe v. Wade. A short-term gain, to be sure, but probably a very bad road to travel, long term.

The public’s view about abortion shifts over time, though I would like to see a higher percentage of people in surveys stating neither “pro” or “con” but “none of my business.” When people believe it is their business, they are–in my view–saying that they don ‘t really believe in freedom and that they want government to ban the freedoms they don’t like.

Our first right, I think, is to be left alone and not have one level of government or another lurking like a vulure that will swoop down on us when some person or some group thinks they’re entitled to make us live according to their belief system rather than our own.

–Malcolm

wonderment, perhaps

When children come into our lives, however briefly, we often find the wonderment we once had and lost. The baby arrives from another realm, one we’ve also forgotten, and immediately goes about discovering how our world works. Some discoveries bring pain, but most provide more than enough incentive for a happy “ahhh” or “oooh” and a smile that reaches from here to eternity.

We can learn a lot by watching a child.

Perhaps wonderment is the most powerful state of mind we can achieve, the ability to see the universe in a grain of sand and excitement in each new discovery. Water fountains, ice cream, a kiss, our beautiful differences, unexpected humor, the sea and the sky, love that’s true.

Losing wonderment is like choosing to be blind or deaf, and unconcerned about what we’re choosing to miss out on. But age often makes us tired and so do numerous betrayals that most babies have yet to experience. So, we close ourselves down to the beauty of new experiences for fear of getting hurt.

Sometimes after trying on many suits of clothes and searching down many roads, we find ourselves and the wonderment we once took for granted. Limitations and bad dreams immediately fall away. What a miracle.

We can, if we wish, be on the lookout for wonderment rather than sitting in front of the TV every night waiting for entertainment from outside ourselves. Life is never over after “bad luck” even though we might think so. There are still water fountains, ice cream, sea and sky, and love that’s true. No doubt there are risks to being open to the joy of something new, something potentially transcendent. 

Not to worry. Wonderment eases all pain and takes away all disappointments while giving us the moon and the stars.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night

The lyrics of Irving Berlin’s 1946 song written for “Annie Get Your Gun” tell us what the singer doesn’t have but then say, nonetheless, that s/he has the sun in the morning and the moon at night. The story, as Wikipedia says, “is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).”

MGM’s feature film by the same name appeared in 1950 with Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley and Howard Keel as Frank Butler. While Merman, Hutton, Keel, Oakley, and Butler have almost faded into the mists of obscurity, the song maintains its traction through recordings by Reba McEntire and others.

But, on this Thanksgiving Day, I wonder how the sentiment survives, that the daily comings and goings of the sun and the moon are enough. Is there beauty enough to sustain us, or the fact that as long as we’re seeing them we’re still alive, or perhaps the symbolism behind the images. To be blunt–along with the often-quoted line, “You can’t eat the scenery”–seeing the sun and moon in the sky doesn’t put food on the table.

Perhaps the song is a bit idealistic, then.

And yet, maybe the beauty of the sun and the moon in the sky has an impact on us, feeding our hungry souls. We can be thankful for that even if the food is metaphysical. Such food gives us the power to persevere and perhaps triumph, as Ollivander, the seller of wands in the Harry Potter series told the originally down-and-out wizard, “I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you, Mr. Potter.”

Seeing the sun in the morning and the moon and night gives us hope, and there’s little nourishment or incentive more powerful. We can be thankful for that on this day.

Malcolm

One last time: I did not write ‘Speed on Wheels’

When I was a little kid, men who were the age that I am now, asked me if I was (or was named after) Sir Malcolm Campbell. I shrugged, indicating, maybe. Then I went and ask my dad, “Who the hell is this guy?” (Note, when I was in grade school I wasn’t actually allowed to use the word “hell.”)

I learned that he was a famous racecar driver who at various times during the 1930s and 1940s held the land and water speed records. And, he wrote the book Speed on Wheels about his exploits in his car named “Bluebird.”

The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird with a supercharged Rolls-Royce R V12 engine took the speed record at 301.137 mph in 1935. It’s probably not street legal though if it is, I don’t even want to know how much Allstate or State Farm would charge to insure it. If I’d persuaded my parents to let me buy that Jaguar I wanted, I would have found an Audubon-style license plate of a bluebird to put on the front.

However, this was not my car. Since it wasn’t (and still isn’t), I did not write this book:

Yes, this is an earlier car than the one shown above. When I told people I was a writer, some said “Congrats on Speed on Wheels.” I didn’t know whether to be flattered or to shout, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

I wanted to get a picture of Campbell and say, “Does this look like me?”

“No, it doesn’t, does it?” Sure, maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors and this is me; the trouble is if it is me, I’m dead. Somebody somewhere looked at Campbell’s dare-devil life and said it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Unfortunately, his son Donald–who held both water and land speed records–was killed during a record attempt in 1967. I’m superstitious enough that I decided when I read the news that if I ever had a son, I wouldn’t name him Donald.

Summing up: I drive a 14-year-old Buick and it’s not blue. Its top speed is somewhere around 90 mph.

Malcolm

My books “College Avenue,” “At Sea,” and “The Sun Singer” will be free on Kindle for Black Friday, November 26th through November 30th.

Lusitania and other doomed ships

Last night, my wife and I watched another documentary about the Titanic (1,490–1,635 deaths), this one about a private notebook kept by the judge in the British hearing that–for reasons unknown–hadn’t been read by anyone. The documentary yielded a few interesting ideas, but little that was new.

Other than the discovery of Titanic by Robert Ballard in 1985, most documentaries have yielded very little that is new, though Ballard’s discovery confirmed what many survivors claimed and many experts denied, was the fact that the ship broke in half before it sank.

We speculated as we watched this documentary why there is so much more out there in documentary land about Titanic than other ships that sank, some with more casualties. White Star Line’s publicity about the ship? The famous people aboard? The fact that the accident was so preventable?

Hard to say.

Wikipedia photo

The first edition of The Last Voyage of the Lusitania (1,198 deaths) came out in 1957 a year before the Titanic movie A Night to Remember. I read the book before I saw the movie and found it more haunting.

Years later, I learned that 9,400 people died when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed in 1945 and that 4,386 people died when the Doña Paz sank in 1987.

We never hear anything about those disasters, or even about the Lusitania, much less the 1917 collision and subsequent explosion on board the SS Mont-Blanc of Halifax, Nova Scotia in which 1,782 confirmed deaths and a hard-to-believe amount of on-short devastation.

When the Night to Remember feature film came out in 1958, everyone saw it and talked about it and sang the 1952 original version of the song “When the Great Ship Went Down.” The 1997 film Titanic certainly got plenty of attention; it was a splashy production, that included the fact the ship broke in half and had that mesmerizing Jack and Rose story.

And yet, I continue to be drawn back to the Lusitania story and the swirl of anti-German propaganda that came after it. Much is made about the fact that the ship carried munitions, as though that means the “sinking doesn’t count” because it was a warship more than a passenger ship. I doubt the passengers knew they were sailing on a warship.

I have never feared the sea. I traveled to Europe by ship (though slower than Titanic!) and while in the Navy made three trips to the Western Pacific in an aircraft carrier. I always found the sea calming rather than boring and never worried about sinking. Yet the horror and chaos of major passenger ship disasters seem to tug at our heartstrings whether we’re reading about Lusitania or the 1914 Empress of Ireland disaster in the St. Lawrence River in which 1,012 died.

We seem to analyze and re-analyze these disasters as though when we get to the end of the documentary, book, or feature film, this time the ship won’t sink.

Maybe the fact that I grew up next to the sea and was a navy sailor has influenced me as I ponder these disasters and wonder what it would have taken to avoid them.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” a Vietnam War novel inspired by his experiences on board an aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. It will be free on Kindle this weekend.

Why don’t people know this stuff?

A few days ago, a reporter walked out on the street after doing a story about the Supreme Court to see how much random passersby on the street know about the court. When asked how many justices are on the court, several people thought 35 sounded about right. When asked what the court does, some thought it passed bills.

Recently, news reports of a Pew Research Center study showed that half of all Americans don’t know six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Years ago, when Jay Leno was the host of the Tonight Show, he went out on a city street from time to time and asked people simple questions such as who’s the governor of your state and the kinds of questions that appear on a basic citizenship test. The studio audience laughed at the stupid answers.

My response to such things is why don’t people know this stuff?

Some say the schools are at fault. Some say we’re in the middle of the entitlement culture where folks think “it’s all about me” and don’t see any point in knowing what isn’t about them.

I don’t suppose high schools and middle schools have civics courses any more, but they must have some course that teaches students how the federal government is structured. If history is still being taught, it’s hard to see how students got through school without knowing about World War II and the Holocaust.

But when it comes down to it, it’s a shame studio audiences think ignorance about basic stuff is funny. Surprising, yes. Sad, yes. But hardly funny.

The latest incarnation of the “Weakest Link” is is currenlty airing on NBC. I’m surprised by the questions people miss. Some of the answers should be known by people in elementary or middle school. Okay, let’s stipulate that in a quiz show studio, things are a bit chaotic. But still, why don’t people know this stuff?

Some of my college professors thought it was more important to know how to find information when we needed it rather than having an encyclopedic memory of facts. Perhaps people today think they have no need to know stuff when all they have to do is go to Google or WikiPedia for the answer. Okay, that does make some sense.

Yes, I think we need a certain amount of knowedge just to function. Some basic facts and ideals. Enough stuff to make intelligent decisions about life, politics, career choices, &c.

I guess many people think “this stuff” doesn’t matter. If they think that, then I worry that one day we’ll all be governerned by the weakest link.

Malcolm