End-of-year Blog Settings

Re-calibrating my blog settings.

Re-calibrating my blog settings.

After publishing like clockwork for 50+ weeks since last year at this time (I think I’ve varied twice), the week following Christmas finds my blog schedule set on “random.”

How was everyone’s holiday? Despite my downer post, pre-Christmas, I actually rallied Christmas Eve and managed to keep the cheer rolling through Christmas Day. Perhaps it was my sister’s Baumer Bingo and assorted prizes (although, I came up empty). It might have been my ability to “screw up” whatever emotion is called for, whether I’m “feeling it,” or not. It might have simply been the magic of Cointreau and some holiday cocktails I tossed together over the two days of our holiday celebration.

Spending December 25th at the beach was a new experience. Miss Mary and I drove to Popham Beach State Park, along with what seemed to be everyone else in Southern Maine, as 60 degree December weather doesn’t happen every year on Christmas. Cars were lining the road as we approached the park gate (locked, as all park personnel had the day off). Many others decided to take their afternoon celebrations to the seashore. Continue reading

The Meaning of Christmas

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, poor Charlie Brown just can’t get into the spirit of the season. The opening dialogue reveals much about the next 30 minutes, as Charlie tells Linus that he thinks “there must be something wrong with me,” because he can’t get with the program of Christmas.

He then articulates all the things that aren’t right with him and the season.

  • Feelings
  • Lacks understanding about the season
  • Always ends up feeling depressed

Linus embodies friendship, while also demonstrating some tough love. He chides his buddy, “Chuck,” for being “flawed” because of his inability to get into Christmas, and taking a “perfectly wonderful season like Christmas, and turn(ing) it into a problem.” Most people are like Linus—at least those that love the holiday—in that they don’t get those of us that are more like Charlie Brown than Linus and the other Peanuts characters. Continue reading

Fasting From the News

I don’t enjoy this time of year. I’ll likely elaborate on my holiday melancholy next week, with a Christmas-themed post. Lack of December daylight doesn’t help, and neither does 50 degree, Seattle-type weather.  Sometimes it takes effort to ward off the gloom.

Compounding the holiday humbug I’m feeling, the news—especially the binary back-and-forth among people of good cheer this political cycle—it seems downright maniacal. In fact, if I believed in evil in the “principalities and powers” sense outlined in scripture, I might assign it to the work of the dark one.

Despite decorations, demonic spirits masquerading as politicians, and winter darkness, nothing can stop the JBE from cranking out content—whether writing for hire, or remaining true to his Tuesday/Friday blogging routine.

Sometimes when things aren’t working, it’s important to change it up. Nothing worse than maintaining routines that deliver negative results.

Beginning last Friday, I decided to limit my news consumption. Other than 5 minutes with the morning news team at WMTW-8, mainly for my daily weather fix, I’ve been in the midst of a news blackout. Dr. Andrew Weil deems these self-imposed withdrawals, “news fasts.”

The news today can't be trusted.

The news today can’t be trusted.

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Writers Writing About Maine

Maine is one of our nation’s 48 contiguous states, as opposed to the continental definition that lets Alaska and Hawaii into the mix. The Pine Tree State, as it’s often called, was admitted to the union in 1820 as the 23rd state, part of the Missouri Compromise.

Even better, our motto, Dirigo, means, “I lead.” When Maine (and a handful of states) held their elections in September (while much of the rest of the nation held theirs in November), the pre-New Deal Republican adage that “as Maine goes, so goes the nation” made perfect sense.

Yet, for all this talk about Maine being a leading light, writers and others have been getting our state wrong as long as writers (and others) have been offering their insights on the American experience, which means for as long as we’ve been a state, and before that—a northern outpost of Massachusetts.

Libraries are treasure troves, full of undiscovered gems. It’s not uncommon for me to have a couple of books in mind during one of my weekly runs to Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, and to arrive back at the compound with an additional three or four books I just “happened upon” during my time navigating the stacks. That’s always been one of the library’s lures for me. I’m not sure how the experience will be when libraries stop being repositories, and turn into just another digital archive, which they’re likely to become at some point. Hopefully I’m dead when that happens. Continue reading

Fluff it Up

It’s Friday and time for another post. It seems that a pile of jeremiads are stacking up, on a variety of topics germane to the news cycle at the moment. First and foremost in my ever-growing slush pile of things to blog about is the lying mainstream media. I also jotted down a bunch of stuff the other day about the mayoral run-off that happened Tuesday, one town over.

Again, the media’s misinformation was central to some of my concerns—not the least being national reporters meddling around where they have no business treading, and even less understanding of local matters. Hacks like this one—elitists really—love to belittle places like Lewiston (aka, Trumpland, Maine) and the people that live there. Voters voting for a candidate she can’t understand from her urban zip code? Call them stupid, ignorant, or wracked with fear. But anyone keeping score knows journalism now equals propaganda, at least coming from the driveby set.

But since we are in the midst of the holiday season—even though it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me—I’m going to defer writing about topics that divide and keep it light. Maybe I’ll start a tradition of easier-on-the-eyes and lower stress blogging on Friday—call it something like Fluffernutter Friday. Apparently the sandwich of the same name has a New England backstory.

Fridays are for Fluffernutters.

Fridays are for Fluffernutters.

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Dogs and Cats

When our Sheltie, Bernie, died in 2009, Mary and I were crushed. Say whatever you want about animals not measuring up to the status of fellow humans—losing a beloved pet that has been an integral part of your family for 15 years hurts just like losing a human loved one.

He was the only dog I’ve ever had. When he was gone, it left a void in our household. Of course, life goes on.

Mary and I discussed getting another dog numerous times. The verdict was always, “we’re too busy,” and “a dog is like having a child.” The premise being—you can’t come and go as you please. Still, I missed having a pet around the house, especially as the amount of time I spent working at home increased.

A cat was never an option, or so I thought. I’m not sure why. We’d had cats when Mark was small and we even had a couple of energetic and enjoyable cats when we moved out to the country from Lisbon Falls in 1989. They were outdoor cats, coming and going as cats are want to do—until they disappeared—likely devoured by a wild animal in the dark. With Bernie’s arrival, we became a dog household.

When you live out in the woods and there are fields nearby, you are also in the midst of mouse country. One July evening this summer, I was up in my office writing and listening to baseball on the radio when I heard Mary scream. I went downstairs to find a mouse climbing the screen slider between the living room and our outdoor deck. We had a mouse in the house!

I managed to subdue the critter only to have another one show up in our kitchen this fall. Traps and other so-called mouse-control devices didn’t address the problem. Mary is pretty laid back and easygoing—except when it comes to mice living in the pantry. They had to go!

One morning I said to Mary, “you know the best way to get rid of a mouse, don’t you?” She looked at me, a question mark written on her face. “A cat,” I said, answering my own question.

It wasn’t long before she came home with a video of a beautiful chartreuse kitten residing at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. This kitten was a dead ringer for perhaps the best cat we’d ever owned, Shauna, who disappeared after we’d moved out to Durham.

Lucy perched on her cat house, watching the birds.

Lucy perched on her cat house, watching the birds.

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Lies, or incompetence?

There were plenty of places to get news about Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernadino. The old-line news networks were wall-to-wall and buzzing with coverage as soon as word went out that there was yet another shooting at a workplace, this time in California. I rarely consider CBS, NBC, or ABC—save for perhaps my early-morning weather forecast for the day.

Newspapers once practiced who, what, and why journalism, but now, they’re more than likely to be peddling politicized sentiments dressed up as fact. Plenty of media sources, but which one to consider?

I don’t know why, but I kind of like the Wall Street Journal. I know—it’s a Murdoch product these days and anti-business types hate that they take the side of the owners and bosses. There is a certain style and consistency inherent in how the WSJ covers stories, though. As to the matter of “truth,” well there are few places to shop for that particular commodity, at least if we’re comparing the mainstream models.

For the purposes of this blog post, let me focus on how the Journal covered what they were calling, a “Deadly California Rampage.” Granted, the print story I read was probably “put to bed” late in the evening on Wednesday in order to get out Thursday’s paper. I don’t know what their cut-off is for news stories to be filed.

As of Thursday morning, the names of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were being offered as the suspected killers. Both had been shot and killed in a gun battle with law enforcement after a car chase ensued after the multiple shootings at the Inland Regional Center. (this information came from the Los Angeles Times, not the WSJ)

But back to the Journal.

Something jumped out at me in reading the 750 word story. Near the middle of the article, there is this.

Incompetent, or a liar?

Incompetent, or a liar?

The White House said President Barack Obama was monitoring the situation. And in what has become a ritual in the aftermath of a mass shooting, he repeated his call for stricter gun control laws. Continue reading

A Winning Attitude

Some writers prefer grinding axes when it comes to Tom Brady. These writers all command considerably more per word than a freelancer like me. For some odd reason, they can also focus their features on elements that are, IMHO, totally irrelevant when it comes to TB12.

Writers like Chuck Klosterman don’t care to deal in honest representations of other people—especially NFL quarterbacks. Instead, they fill their pieces with throwaway lines, in discussing arguably, the greatest player to ever play the position. What is he talking about when he writes, “It’s [the quarterback position] the only position in sports that racists still worry about.”?

To be fair, Klosterman leads with the admission that he considers Brady as “the greatest quarterback in NFL history,” but then he immediately backpedals, makes a number of insinuations, and then generally tries to carry out the same kind of “hit” on Brady that much of the rest of NFL Nation fans has been carrying out most of the summer and can’t let go of—basically, that he’s a “cheater.”

WEEI regular Kirk Minihane and Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com were speculating last week that Klosterman was paid $7,500 to $10,000 for the GQ feature that was more about him than it was about breaking new ground on Brady. There are other Boston media types that took issue with the Klosterman piece, also.

But I don’t really give two shits about what Klosterman got paid by GQ or even that he didn’t get his agreed upon time with Brady. That’s never been where my interest lies when considering the 16-year veteran of the New England Patriots, and why I decided to jump back into following the Patriots and their all-world QB.

As I’ve detailed, I’m late to the party on Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots. That doesn’t mean I’ve been living in a remote cave outside Kandahar, either—what it means is that I haven’t followed all the minutia that fans of any sport know intuitively and often take for granted. Now that I’m paying attention, I’m awestruck by TB12 and what he’s been able to accomplish, year-after-year, and this year, he seems to have turned back the clock. We’re talking about a 38-year-old quarterback playing like a 25-year-old, physically, but with all the acquired wisdom that comes from thousands of snaps back of center during the heat of battle, not to mention his cerebral qualities.

Sunday night’s game against Denver was a grind for Brady. With his receiver corps depleted by injuries, his patchwork quilt of an offensive line requiring him to unload the football quickly, and TPTB of the NFL conspiring against him and his mates, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever strap them on nearly pulled off another late game miracle. I truly believe that if Gronkowski doesn’t leave the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, Brady would have been victorious. But, we’ll never know for sure.

Tom Brady goes downfield in the snow vs. Denver. (Justin Edmonds photo)

Tom Brady goes downfield in the snow vs. Denver. (Justin Edmonds photo)

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