FEDs retire ‘2020’ from use on future calendars

Washington, D. C., December 30, 2020, Star-Gazer News Service The U. S. Calendar Control Commission announced here this morning that it has banned the year 2020 from usage on future calendars.

Commission Chairperson Julian Gregorian explained to reporters that bad years are retired in the same manner that the names of bad hurricanes are retired.

“Eighty-two hurricane names have been retired,” Gregorian said. “You’ll never see another Carol, Donna, Hugo, or Katrina because those storms were so badass that we’re too superstitious to use their names again.”

According to CCC scientists, if Pope Georgory XIII had deigned to use Tarot Cards in 1582 when he introduced our current calendar system, he would have omitted years that were designated as controlled by demons, and the world would have avoided multiple plagues, wars, and bad luck.

“There never would have been a 1918 influenza outbreak, a 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, no 9/11 attacks, and no 20202 COVID-19 pandemic,” Gregory said.

A CCC backgrounder for reporters explained that even if the United States implemented a new calendar system, today’s action guarantees that ill years will never appear on it.

Calendar expert, Joseph Lunisolar told reporters that bad times could also be avoided by employing government astrologers.

“Until that happens,” he said, “we’ll continue to pay the price for thumbing our noses at the fates.”

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Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

Body counts and broken dreams

During the Vietnam War, the primary news was daily body counts. While the consensus was that was no way to cover a war, nobody thought of anything better. As for the collateral damage in wounded and broken men, mostly forgotten along with their equally broken families, we’re still living with it forty-five years later.

During the COVID-19 invasion, the news has also provided daily body counts, primarily cases, and death tolls. Once again, these figures didn’t tell us much about the pandemic, except that it got better, and then it got worse. As for the collateral damage of grieving survivors, a shattered health care system, lost jobs, bankrupted businesses, and related and unrelated social unrest and violence, we can say with a fair matter of certainty the pandemic has broken just about everything.

There are now rays of hope as a second vaccine is set to begin distribution tomorrow and Congress, in its typical dinosaur fashion, races deadlines to get a new stimulus package approved. So now the wait begins: how long will it take for the vaccines to make a dent in the deluge of body counts and broken dreams?

No matter what happens, we can count on dealing with the repercussions of COVID for the rest of our lives. The 45-year Vietnam fallout will be long forgotten before the door will finally be closed on the long term pandemic impacts.

In general, I’m an optimist in spite of my bouts of cynicism, so I’m going to hold onto my dream of a healthy, unified United States that provides opportunities for everyone. But we will need to pitch in and work at it. I hope we’re willing to do that.

Malcolm

What’s your greatest COVID Fear?

COVID Vaccines

The statistics aren’t getting any better, though I believe there’s hope for an end to this pandemic as several countries have approved the Pfizer vaccine and the U.S. is considering it. Some say that there may be additional vaccines up for approval before Spring arrives.

Does the possibility of a vaccine make you feel better about things or are you in a wait-and-see mode about that?

Pandemic Lockdowns

It appears that large groups of people congregating together tend to lead to subsequent surges in new COVID cases, yet others are arguing that the lockdowns are worse than the disease because they impact our income and subsequently our financial ability to take care of ourselves.

Do you see the lockdowns as a blessing or a curse?

Hospitals at Capacity

Recent news stories are showing that the U.S. hospital system has very few beds available suggesting, some say, that hospitals will triage all prospective new COVID patients and accept those with the best chance of survival.

Do you worry about getting the virus and finding out there’s no care available?

Nursing Homes

The latest “AARP Bulletin” calls the COVID problems at nursing homes “An American Tragedy,” stating that “Fewer than 1% of Americans live in long-term care facilities. But 40% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred there.”

What bothers you the most, the fact that an elderly family member or friend is in a nursing home (and cannot receive visitors) or that at your age, you’re one medical problem away from being put in a nursing home that you may never leave?

Inconsistent Pandemic Advice

Lockdowns, business closures, masks, and prospective personal safety habits vary from state to state and seem to change weekly depending on which way the wind is blowing. Many stores require masks for shoppers even though their states have no over-all mask mandate.

Does this chaos make you feel more vulnerable or do you feel relatively safe by limiting trips outside your home and wearing a mask whenever you have to go shopping?

Worst COVID Fear

When people tell their COVID stories to reporters or send them to news sites that are publishing them, they echo some of the concerns mentioned here but also mention other fears that haunt their families, towns, and neighborhoods.

How about you? Do you have worries that aren’t mentioned in this post?

Malcolm

Is my number up today?

Some say that doing something risky is absolutely safe unless “your number’s up,” and further that if your number is up you’re toast even if you stay home in bed.

Wikipedia Photos

COVID seems like that. On Facebook and elsewhere, people tell others to “stay safe.” The thing is, we’re not sure how. Some people, for example, are telling us to start wearing masks indoors while others are saying the masks don’t really help all that much anyway. For heaven’s sakes, which is it, or are the three stooges dispensing our nation’s response and the advice we’re getting?

The fact that we might have a viable vaccine soon is a rare bright spot in the chaos of the pandemic. On this, I agree that front-line health care workers should be among the first in line. They are taking risks that are tantamount to volunteering for combat duty in a dangerous foreign war.  Some say people in nursing homes and the elderly in general should come next. I have no data to support the sense of that, but it seems right.

Meanwhile, we all seem to be muddling through. Personally, I go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the service station. That’s about it.  I wear a mask and try not to stand too close to anyone. Yes, I suppose I’m washing my hands more often. Is that it, then? Is that my defense against COVID. Yep. Is it enough? I have no clue and the guidance from the experts isn’t conclusive.

The days are getting darker and colder now and that doesn’t improve the mood of most people I know. We’re used to more people getting sick, generally speaking, in the Winter. Or, we’re fighting a bit of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and think things are more depressing and dangerous than we did several months ago. And to top it off, the pandemic is now worse.

I’m really not so cynical that I believe in the “number’s up” approach to life, but this pandemic is making me wonder. I’m trying to stay safe, even though I don’t know exactly how, and hope you are, too.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism short stories and novels. 

It’s hard wishing people Happy Thanksgiving

We’re being told not to do the things we usually do at Thanksgiving. Don’t travel to see family or ask them to travel to see you. And, if friends and family live close at hand, you can’t have more than X people at the table.

That pretty much spoils the whole thing.

I picture the police sending SWAT teams through neighborhoods on Thanksgiving Day, peeking through dining room windows and counting the cars in the driveway. Since most of these rules were made by governors and mayors who don’t really have the power to issue such regulations, the police probably won’t need a warrant to bust in and arrest everyone at the table when the family gathering is larger than the law allows.

“Drop the turkey, put your hands up, and stand in a line against the wall.”

No doubt, the feast will be confiscated as evidence unless the cops eat it all, and then everyone’s screwed.

At my house, it’s just my wife and me except every other year when my brother and his wife come to visit. We’re in the clear. (I think.) So, we don’t have to hide granny and the baby in the attic while the cops are prowling around.

It occurs to me that the lockdown police might be staking out the grocery stores to see who’s buying more food than their family can lawfully consume. If I bought an 80-pound turkey, there would probably be a SWAT team in my yard on November 26th.

Just as long as they’re not counting toilet paper.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical comedy “Special Investigative Reporter.” One reviewer said the book was an excuse for wine and sex.

September Hope Report

When partners from communities reach out to us with requests, it is our goal to respond to their needs as quickly as possible. The month of September was no exception as our communities experienced a spike in COVID cases in mid-September.

Source: September Hope Report

In many ways, all of us are fighting to survive COVID and its attendant economic fallout. Those who have less than us have the same needs as us, echoed in the poster shown above. How can we help when we have so little we can give financially to the multiple groups asking for help?

We can spread the word and hope somebody hears it, perhaps even our Congresspersons and Senators who seem to be as immune now to the needs of indigenous communities today as they have been in past centuries. I just read an article in Montana, The Magazine of Western History called “Investigating Negligence in Indian Affairs.” The Blackfeet and others were starving in the 1880s, Washington knew it, and did nothing. That attitude still rules Washington today.

So, it’s up to us. First to help. Second to get rid of those in government who won’t.

Malcolm

Find Your Happy Place to Write During COVID 

COVID is changing a lot of people. I have seen a range of emotions coming out of folks craving normalcy.

What started off as families coming closer has turned into families tiring of the confinement and frustration. People who fear going out and about turn angry at those who have decided they’ll return to pre-COVID normal and continue on. Parents and teachers are fussing with each other over how children will return to schools, with both sides scared.

Source: Find Your Happy Place to Write During COVID | | FundsforWriters

Even if you’re not a writer, you need a happy place. If you are a writer, you need a place where you can block out the slings and arrows and polarized politics of the day and write stories that may ultimately help others cope with the world.

Hope Clark writes great novels. She also has great advice in her Funds for Writers website and her free weekly newsletter. Her words are always comforting, yet pragmatic. When it comes to happy places, we need to find one and keep writing.

Malcolm

From one culture shock to another

In Real Life

As you can see, some of our grass is more ancient pasture than yard.

In real life, I’m staying inside a lot, wearing a mask when I go shopping, taking a car with 81,000 miles on it to the shop, and constantly mowing our four acres of grass. Yesterday’s mowing, at 95 degrees and sunny, featured cows staring at me from the pasture on the other side of the barbed wire fence, unconcerned about the noise of the riding mower but startled and watchful the minute I sneezed. All of this seems far away from the protests and the pandemic.

Re-reading old books

I read fast. Always out of books. So, trying to cut down on my book-buying habit by re-reading old books.  I just finished re-reading John Hart’s gritty The Last Child and The Hush set in a small town in a rural county where bad things happen. Now I’m re-reading Lisa See’s China Dolls, set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It features three young women who become friends while seeking dancing/singing careers. These books contrast greatly with Dark Arrows, my novel in progress, which is set in the KKK-infested Florida Panhandle where I grew up. I have to re-boot my brain when I switch genres–or watch the news.

Pandemic and Protests

Wikipedia Photos

As far as I know, I haven’t gotten Covid-19. Nor have I seen protests, looting, attacks against the police, and burning stores on nearby streets. This is, of course, real-life, but as it unfolds on social media and on the news, I feel culture shock again as though I’m looking back to the anti-war protests and race riots of the 1960s. The entire country seems to be torn apart by the multiple issues which we’re confronted with daily. Meanwhile, the Presidential campaign has heated up and we’re all trying to figure out what’s true and what’s an empty (or impossible) promise.

I’ve lived in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco: thank goodness I don’t live in those cities now, much less in Minneapolis (where I once wanted to live) or Portland (where one of my brothers lives). Or St. Louis, Seattle, or NYC. The riot in Atlanta where the Wendys burnt down occurred in an area my wife and I drove through frequently when we worked there and were involved in a non-profit organization that met a few blocks away.

I don’t know where all of this is going to end up, but the polarization and lack of tolerance bother me a lot. So, I continue to read, write, and cut the grass, and when I see images of big cities on fire, I remember a 1960s riot several blocks away from my San Francisco apartment on Dolores Street in the Mission District, and I feel sad for those who are pulled into the horror of protests gone bad. Seeing it all again is the worst of culture shocks.

–Malcolm

 

Cormac McCarthy: Maybe not the best author to read during a pandemic

When I run out of factory fresh books, I turn to my bookshelves and re-read older books. I stumbled into the Cormac Mcarthy section recently (I have most of his books) and read Cities of the Plain. Most things go wrong in this book, but I read it all the way through because l like McCarthy’s dialogue, descriptions, and the tone of his books. I think he writes with grit and stars rather than ink. This book has a few good people in it.

I thought, what the hell, I’ll read another. I chose Outer Dark. This novel has a lot more grit in it and even the stars aren’t clean. It doesn’t have any good people in it, though some try hard to be good in narrow ways.

Guy Davenport, in The New York Times, said, “Nor does Mr,. McCarthy waste a single word on his character’s thoughts. With total objectivity, he describes what they do and records their speech. Such discipline comes not only from mastery over words but from an understanding wise enough and compassionate enough to dare to tell o abysmally dark a story.”

The fact that it’s so well written commits one to keep reading even though reading McCarthy is often like drinking poison for recreation. If it were badly written, it wouldn’t bother readers so much, especially when the world around us during this pandemic seems to have come out of something McCarthy might have orchestrated for his next novel or screenplay.

Time to move on to another section of my bookshelf.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Mountain Song is free on Kindle.

 

It’s not as safe as I thought going back to 1955

My novel in progress, set in the Florida Panhandle in 1955, started me thinking that if only I had a time machine, I could go back to 1955 until the Pandemic is over. That means worrying about the KKK, but I’ll stay out of sight.

Tank ventilator known as the iron lung. Wikipedia photo

Crap, there’s a cold war going and the feds are developing ICBMs with nuclear war heads, Eisenhower might use force to protect Taiwan while sending military advisers to South Vietnam. All of that is bad and might wipe out the world. Little did he know how much of a mess those advisers would ultimately cause: 1,353,000 deaths, including 58,220 U.S. casualties.

Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about polio, with over 16,000 new cases each year, 1,879 of which were fatal. Those who loved gallows humor suggested saving the coupons (redeemable for merchandise) from their Raleigh cigarette packs for an ion lung. Since I’m suddenly psychic, I know that Salk’s polio vaccine will be out in a couple of months.

Wikipedia graphic

Marian Anderson has just become the first Black singer to sing at the Metropolitan Opera. My characters would like that. About a month later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was kicked, handcuffed, and verbally abused by police in a Montgomery bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white lady. My psychic powers tell me that her lawsuit resulted in bus segregation becoming unconstitutional the following year.

The U.S. is in the middle of the second, so-called “Red Scare.” McCarthyism is sweeping the country like a virus.

Okay, the hell with it, I think I’ll stay here in 2020 in spite of the year’s threats and challenges.

Malcolm