2.29.2020 – Reading Anxiety

Reading Anxiety
excessive interest
Bound box of Moonlight

I suffer from reading anxiety.


Maybe it is a made up but it fits.

The fear of being stuck, somewhere, some place, with nothing to read.

When I was a kid I had this green metal case about the size of a small typewriter case.

When we went on family trips I would stare at my piles of books and carefully assemble a travel library.

This was harder than it sounds as I also had to predict what book I MIGHT want to read.

I did this whether it was a day trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes or a 10 day odyssey to Washington DC.

I never went anywhere without something to read.

The invention of the Kindle, the iPhone and the iPad would seem to be the answer.

Instead my anxity has new manifestations.

Now almost any and every book is just a few clicks away.

What I am missing?

What MIGHT I BE missing.

Maybe someone has a phrase or description or combination of words that, well, will not change my life, but my life might be somewhat less if I never read it.

Hemingway’s description of setting up camp in Michigan’s Upper Pinnesula in the short story, “Big Two Hearted River.”

I love those paragraphs.

Maybe it is the memory of where or how I read and re-read those paragraphs.

I remember reading some of The Nick Adams stories to my son’s Frank and Luke as bedtime tales.

After the scene with the camp, Frank says to me, “Dad, Nick needs a camper.”

I have what might be called excessive interestingness.

I stole those words from a review of the acting of Sam Rockwell for his role in Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (2003).

Excessive interest.

Interested in everything.

My dear wife has to pay the price as she never knows when I will set down my book, kindle, iPad or Iphone and say, “I can’t believe it. I was taught that FDR first said ‘Unconditional Surrender’ at the spur of moment at Casablance in 1943 and this book shows that he was thinking of it in early 1942.”

Mr. Thurber writes in “Back Home Again” about making table conversation out of odd facts, “I don’t know what my table companion could reply to this, beyond a polite ‘Indeed’ or an impolite ‘So what?’”

But my wife listens.

I go on and on.

I can’t help myself.

Books and books and more books.

Each one a mystery.

Each one filled with new things and never emptied.

Bound boxes of moonlight.

I feel better knowing I have one nearby.

Books, of course.

And my wife.

2.28.2020 – Thousands of pictures

Thousands of pictures
Create, Imagine, Discover
Need millions of words

For as long as I can remember, one of my core operating procedures when I am in a library is to browse the shelves for oversize books of photographs and images.

Historical books.

Travel books.

Cook books.

Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler
by John Singer Sargent

Published collections of places and businesses like The Chicago Institute of Art or the New York Times.

I will load myself up with these monster books and take them to a table and thumb through the pages.

When I got to the University of Michigan and discovered study carrels, I found my idea of Heaven on Earth.

I would prowl the stacks of the Harlen Hatcher Graduate Library looking for oversize books.

I traveled through time and space and never left.

I felt the world was at my fingertips.

When the World Wide Web came along with the Graphical User Interface and high speed internet access, worlds of other kinds were at my fingertips.

When I can, I ‘goof off online’ or ‘surf’ randomly looking for photos.

Access beyond belief.

Last night I was reading about Hitler making a speech in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin in 1939.

The author described the setting.

Less than a minute later, I was looking at photos of the speech.

Readers of this blog will notice that I often include photos from history that I find online.

But there is a problem.

Being in news and with a history in publishing, I am all too aware of the question of owners rights.

Who owns the photo?

Do I really have the rights to use this photo?

For the most part I don’t worry too much but the thought is there.

This week, the Smithsonian Institution gave me a gift.

Everyone else in the world is in on the gift as well, but I feel this gift was made with me in mind.

The Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge.

Did you see that last line?


2.8 million images?

At a 1,000 words per picture that 2.8 Billion words!

The online press release states, “And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.”

The release also has an invitation.

The Smithsonian wants users to Create, Imagine, Discover.

Create, Imagine, Discover.

Silly that these three words can stir my soul.

But they do.

The new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

Says Effie Kapsalis, who is heading up the effort as the Smithsonian’s senior digital program officer. “We can’t imagine what people are going to do with the collections. We’re prepared to be surprised.”

As I work to make sure that you can watch you Local TV News on your phone, I realize that not all technical advances are cultural ones.

This effort promises to be both.

I am off to surf https://www.si.edu/openaccess.

See you later … next week … maybe next year.

2.27.2020 – The sky is falling

The Sky is falling!
Aarne-Thompson-Uther scale!
Run and tell the King!

I saw on the news where a Flight Attendant was identified as having coronavirus.

She had walked through LAX, the international airport in Los Angeles.

Not to worry as the entire terminal was being disinfected.

I then saw video of people wearing trash bag like ‘haz-mat’ suits spraying fog all over the interior of LAX with leaf blowers.

SPANISH FLU – 1918 – Boston, MA

I have tried to find out just what I will experience when I get coronavirus.

Seems to me that for a week or so I will have aches and pains, a cough and a fever.

This isn’t On the Beach.

We aren’t in Australia after the world’s powers have destroyed themselves in a nuclear war.

We are not all waiting for the unavoidable, fatal dose of radiation.

It’s the flu.

People are dying from coronavirus to be sure.

Sometimes I feel that I have a better chance of being in a fatal car crash driving on i85 in Atlanta everyday than I do of being killed by the coronavirus.

I get on i85 everyday without a thought.

I drive on i85 concerned only with how long it will take.

What is going on here.

IN A WORLD GONE C R A Z Y, we need a Franklin Roosevelt to say, “All we have to fear … is fear itself.”

Good luck with that.

Good luck with getting that message out.

I work in news.

The company line is, “We are here to INFORM not SCARE YOU.”

Monica Lewinsky said, “No editor ever assigned a story that wouldn’t get eyeballs.”

And the eyeballs are focused on the DEADLY COVID-19.



Nothing new here really I guess.

By now you must be wondering.

What is the Aarne-Thompson-Uther scale?

Is it a measure of a pandemic?

Is it a type of flu?

Is it a reference to panic levels in a crowd?

Aarne-Thompson-Uther type or more accurately, Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20C, is the classification of folktales that includes the story of Chicken Little

According to Wikipedia, “The story is listed as Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20C, which includes international examples of folktales that make light of paranoia and mass hysteria. There are several Western versions of the story, of which the best-known concerns a chick that believes the sky is falling when an acorn falls on its head. The chick decides to tell the king and on its journey meets other animals (mostly other fowl) which join it in the quest. After this point, there are many endings. In the most familiar, a fox invites them to its lair and then eats them all. Alternatively, the last one, usually Cocky Lockey, survives long enough to warn the chick, who escapes. In others all are rescued and finally speak to the king.”

Paranoia and mass hysteria.

Add this to social media and a fire will get started that cannot be extinguished.

It is sad.

It is really sad.

The story Chicken Little goes back to the 1800’s.

Haven’t grown up much since then.

So easy to give in to the paranoia and mass hysteria.

So easy to go along.

Nothing new there either.

Back in 1600, Big Bill wrote in his play, Hamlet,

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.”

2.26.2020 – Everyone gets sick

Everyone gets sick
Everyone has guns – panic
This will not end well

Fill a large pot with water.

Water from Flint, Michigan works best.

Add 1 full measure of bread and milk anxiety.

The type of anxiety on display when supplies of bread and milk are wiped out due to predicted bad weather.

And equal measures of any type of fear you have laying around.

Fear of getting sick.

Fear of sick people.

Fear of guns.

Fear of losing guns.

Fear of Immigrants.

Fear of being poor.

Fear of the poor.

Fear of other people.

Fear of other people who look different.

Fear of other people who speak a different language.

And several spoonfuls of outrage.

Outrage caused by the possibility of getting sick when it is a Constitutional Right of Americans to never be sick.

It is in the CONSTITUTION for crying out loud.

I would prove it if I wasn’t so busy, but its in there.

Outrage by the Government not doing enough to prevent everybody from getting sick.

Add generous helpings of media coverage.

Stir well.

Cover tightly with lid.

Place pot on social media and set to boil.

Stand back and see what this Country is really made of.

Talk about eye wide shut.

Looking at an accident with hands over the eyes.

I would use that wonderful German term, schadenfreude, or pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune, except that this won’t be another person’s misfortune.

It is going to ours!

It is my prediction that the outcome of the election this November will be decided by how the Coronavirus is handled.

How it is handled by the people.

How it is handled by the media.

How it handled by the Government.

How it is handled by the Candidates.

How it is handled by the President.

By the President …..


2.25.2020 – wealth and privilege

wealth and privilege
empathetic perspective
bias of money

In the movie Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson Welles, explains why he is attacking the money and the trusts that are trying to run the city.

Kane says, “I am the publisher of the Enquirer. As such, it is my duty – I’ll let you in on a little secret, it is also my pleasure – to see to it that decent, hard-working people of this city are not robbed blind by a group of money – mad pirates because, God help them, they have no one to look after their interests! I’ll let you in on another little secret, Mr. Thatcher. I think I’m the man to do it. You see, I have money and property –

If I don’t defend the interests of the underprivileged, somebody else will – maybe somebody without any money or any property and that would be too bad.”

Is this what motivates the billionaire of today to enter politics?

They have money and property and if they don’t defend ‘the working man’ someone else will.

A someone without any money and property.

And that would be too bad.

Too bad for who?

The people with money and property?

I cannot figure where, why or what is motivating these billionaires.

Barbara Holland wrote of the Roosevelt’s, that their money was so old, it didn’t crackle anymore, it whispered.

Mr. FD Roosvelt (to keep him straight from his cousin and wife’s uncle, TR Roosevelt) was born rich.

Mr. Roosevelt had it all.

Money, privilege and position.

And then he got polio.

Then he ran for Governor of New York and President of the United States.

Ran in the political sense of word as after the polio, he had to use a wheelchair.

Eleanor Roosevelt was once asked if the polio had affected FDR’s mind at all.

Anyone who has gone through great suffering,” Eleanor explained, “is bound to have a greater sympathy and understanding of the problems of mankind.”

Somewhere I read a version of this quote that Eleanor said polio had affected his mind.

It taught him to understand the hopeless.

In his 2nd Inaugural address, FDR said, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. … The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Worth repeating, The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

A third time, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

I want Roosevelt again.

POSTSCRIPT: A story was told back in the day that after FDR died in 1945, a Republican was laughing at a Democrat, saying “who are you gonna get to run now?” The Democrat shook his head and said, “Don’t know, we will dig someone up.” “NO NO NO PLEASE,” said the Republican.

ONE last thing, many Political Scientists and Historians don’t think that Mr. Truman was elected in 1948 but that FDR was reelected for a 5th term.

2.25.2020 – Arm yourself simply.

Arm yourself simply.
Hold some basic facts. Forewarned,
against fresh nonsense.

Praemonitus, praemunitus in the latin or at least close to the forewarned is forearmed.

Get your facts.

Learn from the facts.

Beware the fresh nonsense.

Don’t forget that when the Good Witch of the North told the Wicked Witch of the West to “Be off, before somebody drops a house on you.”

The Wicked Witch of the West … looks up.

2.23.2020 – Name an iron man?

Name an iron man?
Heaven looks graciously down
Freedom still calls him

This country used to celebrate the birthday of George Washington.

Along came Mr. Lincoln and it seemed only fair to give him a day a well. At least in Illinois.

Somewhere along the line, as General Washington and Mr. Lincoln moved further away in the rear view mirror, it seemed unfair that the other President’s would be held to such a standard and the day morphed into President’s Day though there is some confusion.

There is more confusion over the day itself.

The February 11th vs. February 22nd story but not to get into that today.

Carl Sandburg wrote of The General;

The name of an iron man goes over the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man.

I have been to his home.

I have been to the top o hisf monument.

I have been to his grave.

I have been to the place where he might have been buried in the US Capitol Building.

I have seen the interesting interpretation of him by Horatio Greenough that caused much discussion in 1840 and today.

As a side note, Greenough also sculpted a group of figures for the East Front of the US Captiol.

The sculpture depicted a Danial Boone type grabbing a Native American warrior about to tomahawk chop a settler woman and her baby.

The sculpture was titled, “The Rescue” and can been seen in photographs of the Lincoln Inaugeration.

The statue was removed during the 1958 renovation of the US Capitol and never returned.

There are reports that while moving it in storage, the Smithsonian dropped it.

To return the General.

I agree with Sandburg.

It takes along time to forget an iron man.

The more I read and the more I study the man, more the myth of the man falls away.

It all seems true.

When you match up The General against the other guys who have held office, I am telling you, The General deserves his day.

To even think to compare him to other Presidents is just dumb.

The current President came to mind as I thought about The General.

Maybe it was too much to expect anyone to match up the guy who has a 555 foot monument outside your bedroom window.

To give the current President a break, I turned from The General as President and as General to Washington the boy.

I turned to the story of George Washington and the Cherry tree.

I got as far as the line, “Father I cannot tell a lie.”

‘Tis Washington’s health–fill a bumper all round,
For he is our glory and pride.
Our arms shall in battle with conquest be crown’d
Whilst virtue and he’s on our side.

‘Tis Washington’s health–loud cannons should roar,
And trumpets the truth should proclaim:
There cannot be found, search all the world o’er,
His equal in virtue and fame.

‘Tis Washington’s health–our hero to bless,
May heaven look graciously down:
Oh! Long may he live, our hearts to possess,
And freedom still call him her own.


The stone goes straight.
A lean swimmer dives into night sky,
Into half-moon mist.

Two trees are coal black.
This is a great white ghost between.
It is cool to look at,
Strong men, strong women, come here.

Eight years is a long time
To be fighting all the time.

The republic is a dream.
Nothing happens unless first a dream.

The wind bit hard at Valley Forge one Christmas.
Soldiers tied rags on their feet.
Red footprints wrote on the snow . . .
. . . and stone shoots into stars here
. . . into half-moon mist tonight.

Tongues wrangled dark at a man.
He buttoned his overcoat and stood alone.
In a snowstorm, red hollyberries, thoughts, he stood alone.

Women said: He is lonely
. . . fighting . . . fighting . . . eight years . . .

The name of an iron man goes over the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man.

2.22.2020 – forget, remember

forget, remember
full drawers, empty folders
remember, forget

What makes a memory?

What do I forget to remember?

What do I remember to forget?

What is it in a memory that lasts a lifetime makes it a memory to last a lifetime?

Sometimes I can remember the general folder heading but the files are blank.

Science tells me that it isn’t so much the memory but what is going on around me.

Am I engaged in something that blocks out all other sensations so that whatever I am doing gets the full attention of my brain.

A moment, so to speak, where time stops.

An example given in the science books is riding on a roller coaster.

The event so over all envelopes or overwhelms all your senses that the memory is written into your subconscious with a sharpie.

I don’t know about roller coasters.

I don’t like them so I avoid them.

I will say that the two times I rode one are INDEED written indelibly into my memory.

I was talked into riding the Splendid Splinter by my then high school age kids.

Who wants to tell their highschoolers they are scared.

I had already ridden on the whirlpool or tilt a whirl or whatever it was called with Jack and D’asia (age 10 and 9, that ride that curled and twisted upside down.

I was so harnessed into my seat I felt secure enough.

Though the little kid sitting next to me tapped my arm and said, “Mister, it is more fun with your eyes open.”

It was on the Splendid Splinter that I discovered a latent fear of heights and came within an eyeblink of a full blown anxiety / panic attack.

What else makes a memory for a lifetime?

What else in my experience took over all my senses?

I will tell you.

When I was 16 I was at the beach with my family.

Some of sister Lisa’s friends were there as well.

I was standing at the bottom of some stairs when Lisa’s friend Leslie came walking up.

Lisa was 2 years older than and so was Leslie.

At that age, a grand canyon of differnece.

She was wearing a one piece swim suit that can be described as, well, brief.

She was drop dead out of this world.

Girls who looked like that did not inhabit my world.

I waited each year for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and here next to me, someone had walked off the page of the magazine.

I said a quick prayer, “Lord, help me help help me be cool.”

I caught her eye.

She stopped.

“Nice suit,” I blurted out.

She fixed me what I later came to know as the Berg stare and rolled her eyes.

She walked past and up the stairs and I watched her all the way.

In the control room of my brain all the guys in white lab coats who were in control my voice were screaming, ” I didn’t do it, or, “Not me!”

Nice suit?

Nice suit?



I have to say that I did notice that as Leslie went up the stairs, there was a little more swish and sway to her walk.

But still, geeee whiz.

Nice suit?

Oh brother.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I couldn’t beleive it.

She was all legs and curves and tan and I needed the crayola crayons labeled DORK and NERD to draw me at that point.

All I wanted to say was something to catch her attention.

Something that might stick in HER memory.

Just a little bit of cool.

I spent the rest of the day hiding under a beach towel.

But that moment was engraved into my memory.

I thought of it often.

I still do.

Fast forward 14 years.

Over those 14 years Leslie and I ran into each other with common friends and church youth groups.

But as friends, little bit more than acquaintances.

Then one day we happened to meet (a story for another time) and I got all my nerve and I asked her out.

She said yes.

I had a date with this same Leslie Berg.

I arrived on time to pick her up.

She invited me in.

I brought flowers.

Actions speak louder than words and I did not trust myself to speak.

She looked, well, gorgeous.

Flat out glittering.


I was captivated!

I managed to say, “You look fabulous.”

She smiled and said “thank you, ” and turned get her coat.”

As she turned, she said over her shoulder, “nice suit?”

2.21.2020 – Puzzle of Puzzles

Puzzle of Puzzles
Puzzled and Puzzled until
my puzzler was sore

Some one went out and bought 10 jigsaw puzzles.

All the boxes were opened and the pieces were dumped into one large tub and mixed and shaken into a real mess.

I was given the 10 box covers and all the pieces were dumped on me and I was told to fix the mess.

What do I next?

Where to start?

Someone might sort out all the pieces. Can’t do anything until there is some semblance of order to this mess.

Someone might say study all the covers and select the cover photo that looks the easiest and most identifialbe and start looking for those pieces.

I did not say that the cover photo that is the most identifiable is the easiest puzzle because one of the puzzles is titled FINANCES. You can see all these pieces because each and everyone is black. Easy to get all these pieces together in one pile. Near impossible to assemble the puzzle.

Someone might say, just dig in and start putting pieces together. Look for the edges and at least get the frame of each puzzle can be assembled.

Where to start.

Where to find the energy to start.

Where to find the energy to WANT to start.

Easier to find reasons to not start than to dig in.

I looked at the puzzle of puzzles and I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore.

I was sore as well.

Not much was getting done.

In the new book, War and Peace: FDR’s Final Odyssey: D-Day to Yalta, 1943–1945, I ran across a story told by General Eisenhower the other day, quoting Mr. Churchill.

I had never heard this quote before and according to the footnote, the author Nigel Hamilton, credits it to an Draft Memoir in the Eisenhower Library.

Ike wrote about Churchill: “When “fired up about a strategic project, logistics did not exist for him,” Eisenhower reflected, “the combat troops just floated forward over and around obstacles—nothing was difficult.

Once I charged him with this habit, saying, ‘Prime Minister, when you want to do something you dismiss logistics with a wave of your hand,’” but when disliking a proposal, he would list so many “‘logistic difficulties’” he would “effectively discourage any unwary listener.”

The Prime Minister “looked at me with a twinkle in his eye,” Eisenhower remembered, replying candidly: “‘It does make a difference whether your heart is in a project, doesn’t it?'”

It does make a difference whether your heart is in a project, doesn’t it?

That’s pretty good.

My heart is IN this project.

I can do this.

I can sort out this mess.

I WILL sort out this mess.

Now get in here and help me.

You go for the black pieces while I work on edges.

2.20.2020 – I leave tomorrow

I leave tomorrow
how will I get there today
I want to break free

A benefit of a long commute is time to think.

It’s my thoughtful spot I guess.

In The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne writes, “Halfway between Pooh’s house and Piglet’s house was a Thoughtful Spot where they met sometimes when they had decided to go and see each other, and as it was warm and out of the wind they would sit down there for a little and wonder what they would do now that they had seen each other. One day when they had decided not to do anything, Pooh made up a verse about it, so that everybody should know what the place was for.”

This warm and sunny Spot
Belongs to Pooh.
And here he wonders what
He’s going to do.

On another rainy morning, I merged onto the the freeway, got in my line and switched to auto pilot and began to think.

Think, think, think.

I had been talking with my wife that this was shaping up as the summer of the big change.

Lots of new things are coming from new babies to new places to live and lots in between.

Most of what might happen depends on what will happen first.

And when.

My list of things to think about in my thoughtful spot got longer and longer and more involved until I felt like I had gone into a revolving door and came out earlier than I had gone in.

Or was it later?

I can’t leave until tomorrow.

But I have to be there today.

I went back into the revolving door again and again and kept coming out at places I didn’t want to be.

Or at least wasn’t ready to be.

Traffic came to a sudden slow down and I came off auto pilot and back to this world.

Songs had been playing on from my iPhone in the background.

The next song’s intro starting playing.

I recognized the tune and a smile came across my face and my heart lifted out of the mud.

I turned up the volume.

Freddie Mercury sang, “I WANT TO BE FREE.”

For a few minutes, I was.

Not for the first time and not for the last, I want to be free.

Me, Freddie and most everybody.

I got to laugh.

And I got to laugh at myself.

I got out of the revolving door and entered another door.

And drove on through the rain to work.