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-+*Do I need me some inspiration as I face the new year? Heck yeah, and I’m getting it from a few good women.
Did you see Ursula Le Guin’s remarks as she accepted the Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards the other week? The clip is on YouTube, but in the meantime, picture a small, silver-haired woman with a kind and deeply lined 85-year-old face lobbing a grenade into a roomful of tuxedoed publishing-industry bigwigs. Those people didn’t know whether to shit or go blind. I promise: it’ll be a long time before that much truth gets told inside of six minutes again
our friend floyd
-+*We took Christmas dinner to Floyd in southern Pennsylvania yesterday. Although he said he was continuing to feel “tired” most of the time and had a bit of trouble breathing (probably a lingering effect of the pneumonia he suffered before Thanksgiving), he seemed more alert and active than what he was at Thanksgiving. We’re never sure if he enjoys the meals that Jody prepares, but he always finishes everything and is pleased that she packages up the leftovers for him.
frozen in time
-+*My first visit to China was in April 1972 but the journey started much earlier. China, then referred to as The People’s Republic of China (PRC), always had been a country of great interest due to its size, population and potential market for raw materials; so in 1970 and again in 1971 I contacted Minmetals in Beijing (Peking) seeking an invitation to attend the bi-annual export commodities fair. There was no reply.
Wow, it was great to get your card, man. Years been slipping by, right?
Anyhooby, we’re all good here. Ruthie pulled a twofer this summer—finished school and married Ben, pretty much on the same day. You’ll be happy to hear that Ben has accepted the responsibility of keeping music at the center of our little family. What about Jakob? Looked like the Wallflowers’ reunion album did well. And touring with Clapton? Helloooo. Of course, none of that changes the fact that you have a child who’s 45 years old.
Photo of the Week
-+*My friend and co-author, Robert Clark, and I long planned to give readers a look at the Southland and its abundant beauty, unusual charms, and fascinating stories. We came up with “Closed Wednesdays” but never got it off the ground. Too much traveling, too many book-related events, and life’s way of throwing detours in our path got in the way. We stepped back and thought things over and decided to offer readers something a bit shorter. Seems today’s hectic pace discourages many from reading long pieces. Robert’s idea, “The Photo of the Week”…
-+*What kind of idiots shell out, or commit themselves to borrow, two hundred thousand dollars for a row house and then sign on to a “warranty” that warrants nothing other than their responsibilities as buyers and owners? Rubes from the hinterlands of Georgia, mostly, but also a bloke in New South Wales. Imagine!
I have written earlier about the mortgage notes that condition a loan on the buyers of property ceding their civil rights to the financier — e.g. on a standard Georgia form the borrower…
-+*I arrived in Beijing on an old Boeing 707 China Air flight in November 1978 after a week in Japan. The entry formalities at Beijing Airport were slow but considerably quicker than the Shenzhen Railway Station where I had previously entered China from Hong Kong. I caught a taxi from the airport to the Beijing Hotel on Dongchangan Jie. Taxis were a new experience for me in China, previously it was the “foreigners bus”. The Beijing Hotel had a long and fascinating history. It was built as a five-story brick building in 1915 and two years later a seven-story French style building was added.
children of the enlightenment
-+*When he gasped to take a breath and to stop swearing in his fractured English, he told her he had a “fucking shit life” and that she was a filthy whore who would die a horrid death. Spitting out more vitriol with each breath, he finished his rant by saying, “You will lose this war.” Perhaps time will, if it hasn’t already, prove him right. Certitude rang out from this Algerian jihadist who had been captured by Afghanistan’s tribal Northern Alliance shortly after the American onslaught following 9/11 . At this point, however, the “interview” was concluded when she said, “That may be, but your own war is over.”
sights & sounds
-+*It’s the second week of January 1999 and the McCartneys are visiting Atlanta. But not for a concert. On this trip, Heather McCartney is unveiling her line of houseware items at the America’s Mart, and Paul is there to guarantee his daughter ample media play. After helping to promote Heather’s rugs, cushions and other items arrayed with designs inspired by the Huichol and Tarahumara tribes of Mexico, Paul and his son, James, make a smooth exit to explore the side streets of Atlanta. According to Paul, James, then 21, wanted to “visit the funky side of town.” So into the car they climbed; it would be a short ride.
rational, regulated, justifiable
-+*Sure, it can be fun. Dede, for instance, is a terrific hater. Her favorite verb is “hate.” I hate winter. I hate the Falcons (not just this year). I hate this sink. I hate all the fiction in The New Yorker. But none of this hating amounts to anything. It’s just her vivacious way of expressing herself. My guess is that most of us take our hating a little more seriously, a little more warily. We’ve seen the power and the glory, you might say. I hated a guy I was in graduate school with. No reason. I just did.
the banks of the li river
-+*We left Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport for Guangzhou where we spent three days before flying on a small CAAC Ilyushin 14 aircraft to Guilin in the Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The airplane was noisy, basic transportation and typical of Russian-built commercial aircraft. We nicknamed it the Friendshipski because of its similarity to the Dutch-built Fokker Friendship commonly used by airlines for service to small airports. The view as we approached the Guilin area was spectacular. Perfectly shaped limestone mountains rose straight out of the countryside, providing an eerie landscape and seeming to almost touch the wheels of the airplane.
-+*How do you enrich any community in its arts and culture and transform it into a vibrant and caring area?
Traditionally in this country, with its tax laws, it’s been some individual making a lot of money in private business, then recognizing that he owes something to give back to the community. Based on the tax laws, this has usually meant the creation of a foundation to oversee the accumulated wealth of this individual, and determine how best to give his assets to improve his interests in philanthropic activities.
cramping our style
-+*Our hosts arranged for a visit to Suzhou and Wuxi in Jiangsu Province to see two cities relatively untouched by the Cultural Revolution and experience the countryside. We left Shanghai late on Friday to travel the one and a half hours by train to Suzhou where we stayed in the grand old Nanyuan Guest House. Suzhou was an older city than Shanghai, with a population of less than one million people (in 1978), near Tai Hu, the lake at the centre of vast waterways and canals running 1,600 kilometers from Tianjin to Hangzhou.
rising from the muck
-+*I’m reasonably sure that I was sitting in front of a television set in Mrs. Reed’s fifth grade class on Friday May 5, 1961, watching Alan Shepard blast into outer space to defend America’s honor and innovative ability, and show the Ruskies who was boss. I can’t be 100% sure; we watched several of those early space flights in the classroom during the early Sixties but also missed a couple. One of the reasons I have a hard time distinguishing the flights is because the telecasts were remarkably similar. All three TV networks pre-empted regular programming for the events and flew the lead network newsman to Cape Canaveral.
-+*One of my black friends confided in me this week that he was really demoralized by all of the events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. He was so devastated that it affected his mood, work and outlook for the future. This is a man who had a successful career, is buoyant by nature, sociable, outgoing and a humorist. He continued: “Specifically, the events in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, NY plus the widespread disrespect shown to my President has made me — a normally optimistic person–very pessimistic about the future of race relationships in the U.S.”
visit too short
-+*We left Beijing on an old Boeing 707 aircraft operated by CAAC (the Civil Aviation Administration of China) Airline, which we soon renamed “CACK” for its reliability, cabin service, food and old aircraft. Unfortunately, I was traveling with a retired airline captain named Laurie and a China trader we called Toddy who had a fear of flying. Toddy had traveled from Guangzhou to Beijing by train, a trip of about two days, seated on a wooden bench rather than flying to meet up with the group. He flew with us to Shanghai under great duress, with the help of airsick pills and several shots of whisky at the airport.
-+*When we arrived back in Shanghai and walked into the lobby of the Shanghai Mansions, I noticed it looked different to when we left two days before. The lobby seemed much bigger and where a wall opposite the reception desk had been before there was a large doorway. Before carrying my bags to my room I looked inside the doorway and saw a billiard table with an old man in a black uniform racking the balls. My friend, Toddy, also noticed the new room and we agreed to meet back there as soon as we dropped off our bags.
it can work magic
-+*I come from a long line of accomplished nappers. My grandfather, after presiding over his generations at the family lunch on Saturday, would take to the couch at the far end of the one big room and, while the adults talked their loud talk and grandchildren one after the other let the screen door slam shut behind them on their way outside, would stretch himself out and immediately settle into a gentle snore.
My mother raised five children. For her the nap was an elusive dream…
-+*Your dollar or your word? Which would you rather give or receive to satisfy an obligation? A dollar isn’t just tangible and guaranteed, it’s definite and final in the sense that there’s no reconsidering, waffling or fudging down the line. When you hand over a dollar, the deed is as good as done. The national currency introduces an element of certainty into relationships that might otherwise be fraught with ambiguity. Dollars let people, who don’t know each other very well, get along.
So, what happens when dollars are scarce?
it was a paradise
-+*A couple of weeks ago I cited some comments by Big Oil shill Anastasia Swearingen to the effect that, basically, there’s just no downside to drilling for oil. Whenever, wherever—it’s all good. She was excoriating the federal government for its stubborn unwillingness (so far) to grant drilling leases along the Atlantic Coast to the oil giants standing in line. What’s the hold-up, guys? I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? Just look at the Gulf, says Swearingen, where pessimists predicted an “uninhabitable wasteland.” But thanks to all the time and money BP has put into restoration, today the Gulf is…
-+*It was a relatively young (37 year old) senator from Augusta with modern ideas who brought Georgia out from under the influences of the Talmadge machine, when he became governor in 1963. Carl Sanders brought modern politics to the state, moved the state to new heights and set the tone for forwardness and moderation that, indeed, made Georgia the capitol of the New South.
He ran against a key Talmadge protégé, and former governor, Marvin Griffin, a staunch segregationist. We remember it well.
on the myriad paths
-+*It’s the broken slat on the chair that will keep our recent visit to Floyd focused in my mind. The soon-to-be ninety-nine year old husband of my late cousin Mildred lost his balance a few weeks back and misjudged the placement of the chair when he thought he was about to sit on it at the dining room table. He lives alone in his “cottage” at a retirement complex in southern Pennsylvania, so there was no one there to help him get up. Of course, he couldn’t get his cell phone to work so he lay there for a while before he could muster the strength to get back on his feet. While he lay on the floor, he “talked” to but not necessarily with Mildred.
-+*In the summer of 1968 a man walked into Dad’s saw shop gushing about a guy making beaucoups of money. College was out for the summer and I needed a job. The next thing I know, Dad and I were sitting in Augusta’s Bell Auditorium waiting for pitchman, Glenn Turner, whose company, Koscot Cosmetics, needed door-to-door salesmen, the gullible preferred.
From the back of the auditorium a chant took rise … “Money!” “Money!” “Money!” “Money!” “Money!” “Money!” and then men cut cartwheels down the aisles all the way to the stage.
sugar creek plantation
-+*Back in 1937 when Gene Talmadge was finishing his second two-year term as governor of Georgia, he took a big step. For Miss Mitt (his wife), he built a new home on U.S. Highway 341, between McRae and Lumber City, in his home county of Telfair. In today’s world, this residence looks much like a Southern 5-4-and-a-door, with two-story white columns, red brick, and set about 100 yards back from the highway in a grove of pine trees. But it wasn’t built in today’s world, but constructed 77 years ago when most people in Telfair County probably didn’t have running water…
modern day samaritans
-+*The light ahead was red, and no one was close behind, so I slowed to let the man who just darted across two lanes of traffic finish his dangerous dash to the wide concrete median strip on my left. It was a blustery day, with northwest winds biting harshly under the dense, dark clouds of a late fall cold front pouring into Georgia. All of which made this man’s shorts, light windbreaker, ball cap, and open-heeled clogs seem woefully inadequate for the day upon us.
mix it up
-+*You spend a lifetime in your body, so why not enjoy it? Now, some consider their body simply as a vehicle to transport their head from point A to point B. Others are quite focused on and interested in engaging and using their body. Obviously, some activities, like sex, are very body-centric. That said, a happy body means a better sex life – and vice versa.
Beyond sex exists the practical matter of relying on our body to get around and help manage our life. After sleeping, sitting, and standing, walking represents the next level of activity for the body.
-+*In Glynn County, Georgia, I recently discovered, the county planning staff has been passing off amendments to the master plan, drawn up by developers, as their own. At least, we still have an elected County Commission involved. In East Texas, it turns out, developers set up new taxing districts that then sell bonds to finance their projects by holding elections in which a single vote is cast by someone who’s been moved onto the land just to satisfy a legal requirement. The Dallas Morning News has been covering the scam. No wonder voting has become a big issue in Texas.
Worthy of Comment
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