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Cemeteries: Respites Between Heaven and Earth

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we often find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of responsibilities and activities. However, there are moments when we seek solace and contemplation, and one place that provides a unique blend of history, art, and reflection is a cemetery. Far from being just a final resting place for the departed, cemeteries offer a rich tapestry of stories, emotions, and a connection to the past.

As one steps through the wrought-iron gates of a cemetery, a palpable sense of tranquility envelops the surroundings. The hushed whispers of the wind through ancient trees, the soft crunch of gravel underfoot, and the distant cawing of crows create an atmosphere that encourages introspection. Rows of tombstones stand as silent sentinels, each one telling a tale of a life lived, complete with joys, sorrows, and the passage of time.

Walking along the well-trodden paths, one is immediately struck by the diversity of grave markers. Intricately carved headstones, weather-worn crosses, and simple plaques all bear witness to the varied ways in which individuals are remembered. Some graves are adorned with fresh flowers, while others are marked by the passage of time, with moss-covered stones and faded inscriptions. The juxtaposition of life and death becomes evident, a poignant reminder of the impermanence of existence.

Among the myriad graves, historical figures often find their eternal resting places. A stroll through the cemetery can become a lesson in local history, as the names etched in stone correspond to pioneers, leaders, and contributors to the community. Each grave becomes a chapter in the narrative of a town or city, offering a tangible link to the past. It is a humbling experience to stand before the resting place of those who have shaped the world we inhabit today.

Cemeteries also serve as outdoor art galleries, with sculptures and mausoleums reflecting the artistic styles of their respective eras. Elaborate statues and intricately designed tombs bear witness to the creativity and craftsmanship of the artists who sought to immortalize the departed. The play of light and shadow on these structures adds an ethereal quality to the surroundings, elevating the cemetery from a mere burial ground to a place of aesthetic contemplation.

Beyond the physical markers, the cemetery is a space for personal reflection. Visitors often find themselves pondering the brevity of life, contemplating their own mortality, and considering the impact they will leave on the world. The silence of the cemetery offers a respite from the noise of everyday life, allowing for a deeper connection with one’s thoughts and emotions.

In conclusion, a visit to a cemetery is a multi-faceted experience that goes beyond the mere acknowledgment of mortality. It is a journey through history, a contemplation of art, and an opportunity for personal reflection. Far from being a morbid or somber place, a cemetery is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of memory. So, the next time you find yourself seeking a moment of stillness and introspection, consider taking a stroll through the hallowed grounds of a cemetery—you may find a profound connection to the past and a renewed appreciation for the present.

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The Unprecedented Precedent of the Unprecedented: A Dive into Our Lexical Odyssey

Word aficionados and linguistic enthusiasts gather ’round for a tale that will undoubtedly leave you scratching your heads while nodding in weary recognition. It’s time to address the elephant in the room—or should I say, the “unprecedented” in the room? Yes, dear readers, brace yourselves for a rib-tickling journey through the labyrinth of overused vocabulary, with our spotlight on the reigning champion of the linguistic treadmill: “unprecedented.”

In a world where even the most mundane of occurrences is bestowed with the grand title of “unprecedented,” it’s time we step back and marvel at the sheer audacity of this word’s conquest. Have you noticed how the moment you open a newspaper, turn on the TV, or scroll through your social media feed, you’re confronted with a barrage of events described as, you guessed it, unprecedented? It’s as if the lexicon has been infected by a virus that only recognizes this solitary adjective.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane—oh, wait, there’s a detour ahead. Don’t worry, it’s just an unprecedented diversion. But back to the journey. Remember when you were a kid, and your dog chasing its tail was a monumental event? Now, even dogs are chasing their tails in unprecedented ways. It’s like they’re auditioning for some canine version of Cirque du Soleil, breaking records with spins that would make your head spin.

But what truly makes this the age of the “unprecedented” is how the word has seamlessly infiltrated every crevice of our lives. Your morning coffee has an unprecedented level of caffeine. Your daily commute is an unprecedented test of your patience. Your lunchtime sandwich is an unprecedented culinary masterpiece. In fact, if you’re not experiencing something unprecedented on an hourly basis, you might as well be living in a parallel universe.

The overuse of “unprecedented” has become so ubiquitous that it’s a wonder we haven’t had a global shortage of the word. It’s time to bring back balance to our linguistic ecosystem. Picture this: a world where things are simply “ordinary,” “run-of-the-mill,” or even “just another Tuesday.” It’s a world where words like “typical,” “expected,” and “predictable” regain their lost glory.

Furthermore, the misuse of this word has led to some truly questionable situations. Imagine a group of time travelers visiting us from a future where actual unprecedented events occur regularly—alien invasions, unicorn parades, politicians who keep their promises. They’d be baffled by our misuse of “unprecedented,” chuckling at our astonishment over things that are simply routine for them. “Oh, you guys think a solar eclipse is unprecedented? Bless your hearts!”

Of course, it’s not just the “unprecedented” label that’s been thrown around like confetti at a wordy party. We’ve seen its cousins—its linguistic kinfolk, if you will—join the fray. “Historic,” “game-changing,” “earth-shattering”—these words have been lining up at the proverbial thesaurus soup kitchen, waiting their turn to bask in the spotlight. But let’s not forget that “unprecedented” is the head honcho here, the alpha and omega of our lexicon’s current obsessions.

In our quest to outdo each other in shock and awe, we’ve forgotten the rich tapestry of language at our disposal. We’ve neglected the subtle nuances of communication that words like “unique,” “singular,” and “exceptional” can provide. It’s time we give these unsung heroes a chance to shine. Instead of a string of adjectives that end with “ed,” let’s embrace the beauty of a varied vocabulary that paints a more vivid picture of our experiences.

In conclusion, dear readers, let’s embark on a journey to reclaim the richness of our language. Let’s reserve the term “unprecedented” for those moments that genuinely defy expectations, that are so shockingly amazing that even the time travelers from the future would raise an eyebrow. It’s time to retire the “unprecedented” cliché and welcome back its neglected linguistic companions. Until then, let’s make a pact to raise our eyebrows with genuine surprise, not just because someone’s dog managed to turn around three times instead of two.

Whose right is it anyway?

Since the death of George Floyd, our country’s cities have been besieged by protesters both peaceful and violent. Thousands of peaceful protesters have walked arm in arm on city streets, highways and bridges to bring attention to their cause – Black Lives Matter. They are not quiet and should not be. Social injustice is pervasive in America no matter how many laws have been passed to eradicate it. It is the single most blatant failure of the great American experiment.

Hundreds of violent protesters who burn, loot, vandalize and otherwise create chaos are the bad apple that spoils the bunch and police are loath to stop it. After all, police brutality is what started this chain of events. Violent protesters are using the shield of legitimate protesters to wield their brand of destruction and there isn’t a black face among them. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are criminals getting away with breaking the law. They cower behind what every American thinks is the bulwark of our democracy – the United States Constitution.

First Amendment rights under the Constitution have been given such broad definitions that many rights we hold dear are in jeopardy. Our right to public safety is at risk because the police are afraid to use force against these mobs. Violent protesters are using their free speech right which now seems to include throwing Molotov cocktails at police, breaking down fences designed to protect property, vandalizing property, tossing bricks, stones and other lethal projectiles just to antagonize as a means to who knows what end. We used to call this kind of activity riots. Today it is violent protests protected under the banner of free speech.  I doubt that our founding fathers ever intended free speech to go this far.

The right to life is in jeopardy when free speech consisting of untruths, insults, fake news and worse can result in someone’s ruined reputation or worse. The right to liberty is in jeopardy when federal storm troopers invade our streets on the premise of protecting public property and arbitrarily detain anyone that dares question their actions. Our right to the pursuit of happiness is in jeopardy when Republicans allow our democracy to devolve executive order by executive order into a white supremacist autocracy. Even our right to free speech is in jeopardy when it is given absurdly to an entity, a corporation that can only speak with money. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Money talks.”

As the current administration continues to chip away little by little at the Constitution, either legally or illegally, we run the risk of losing our democracy and the rights which we, as American citizens, enjoy today. Abetted by a Justice Department that seeks to give more and more power to an illegitimate president – a president that was elected not of the people, by the people and for the people, but by an outmoded process that ignores the premise of majority rule — our rights may no longer be our rights much longer.

Democracy is not a thing to be taken for granted. How quickly we forget lessons from the past. Despots so easily undermine democracies when the people become complacent and turn a blind eye to obvious wrongs, to administrations/regimes that fail to be accountable to their constituencies and to the gross societal inequities such power produces over time. Rights given can just as easily be taken away.  Our single most important inalienable right is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Russia Is Responsible For Trump’s Win

putin helped trump win electionNo matter how many people say that Russia’s email hacks did not influence the outcome of our election, it simply isn’t true. Those hacks and subsequent weaponization of them is the only reason we are confronted with the scariest president-elect in our history. I would even go so far as to say that Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to throw the election his way. Trump’s ego is too big not to have wanted to win, and now he is indebted to Putin.

It’s doubtful the polls had it wrong on election day. I believe that Hillary Clinton was leading in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota which ultimately gave Trump the electoral votes to win the election. Instead, Russia calculated the fragile mood of voters in those states and allowed the Trump political machine to target them with last minute fake news  and vitriolic rhetoric attacks on Hillary Clinton thereby triggering a change of vote by only a few thousand disgruntled, ignorant and uninformed voters to cast their vote for what promises to be the most detrimental administration ever to occupy the office of president.

And who is sitting in the wings licking his chops over this injustice to the American people? None other than Vladimir Putin. Not only will he have a pro-Russian president at his disposal but a cabinet full of pro-Russian hacks who clearly have more to gain by an alliance with Russia than not.

Rex Tillerson, recent ex-CEO of ExxonMobil and Secretary of State appointee, is a case in point. With a $500 billion Exxon oil deal sitting on the back burner due to U.S. sanctions, a pro-Russian government and Tillerson himself would no doubt have those sanctions lifted allowing the deal to move forward benefiting who exactly –certainly not the United States but definitely ExxonMobil and by association Rex Tillerson.

Yet another scary prospect concerns NATO. A pompous Donald Trump is threatening to pull out of our long-term European alliance while Putin sits with tanks and troops on the borders of previous Soviet satellite countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania waiting for the moment he can attack with impunity and bring back under Russian control.

Putin needs the United States, but we don’t need him or Russia. The Russian economy is virtually non-existent. Military production is the only thing keeping it afloat. All Putin needs is an excuse to use his military might, and America’s withdrawal or even its reduced support of NATO would offer Putin just that. Let us not forget the Crimea incident. Do you think a pro-Russian government with a disdain of NATO would retaliate?

Russia simply has too much to lose not to have a pro-Russian American government. Putin is much smarter than Donald Trump. He is a devious, calculating, sociopath who will go to any length no matter how dangerous to get what he wants.  He is a far greater threat than Trump can even think of being unless you consider Trump’s threat to his own country. Trump’s danger is his complete ignorance of world affairs other than for his own personal “brand.” He, too, is a sociopath in a less evil way.

So it made sense for Putin to influence the election. Hillary Clinton would not have furthered his agenda. There was much planning and calculation that went into his covert operation to get Donal Trump elected president. If the CIA, FBI and NSA dig deep enough, I’m confident they will find it and discover too late that Russia is responsible for Trump’s win.

Birthdays are such fun.

With a birthday that falls on or around Thanksgiving every years, I have never lacked for bag-n-baggage theatersomething to do. Typically, I am with family and/or friends as I was again this year. It happened that the Bag-n-Baggage  Christmas production of “Parfumerie” opened at the Venetian Theater on my birthday. My sister and I have been enjoying this acting company’s performances for over four years now, and they rarely disappoint. At first we had doubts about this particular play. The first hour was a bit of a drag, but it redeemed itself during the last hour. We were glad we didn’t leave in mid-performance.

The Venetian is an old movie theater that has been lovingly restored to include a fine restaurant open for lunch, happy hour and dinner.  Conveniently, the plays end just about the time happy hour begins.  Their happy hour is particularly good with more than just the usual $5 burger and fries. Two items – fried green beans and pickles and a killer hot artichoke-bleu cheese dip – are mainstays at each of our outings there. Drinks are cheap and poured without skimping.

This is where I spent my 73rd birthday and a wonderful day it was made more so by all of the birthday wishes I received from friends and family on Facebook. Having come late to the FB venue, I had no idea how important it would become to me. Did you know that the average age of a FB user in the U.S. is 40.5. There aren’t too many people my age using it, but I adopted technology long before many other people did. Of course, it has left me in the dust, but I can still manage FB. There is something warm and fuzzy about it. Friends old and new are never very far away. Children and grandchildren are particularly easy to keep track of.  It’s also hard to get lonely with all my “friends” on FB almost at my beck and call.

Still have some celebrating left to do – happy hour friends that I have not yet connected with. I can drag a birthday party out for weeks. I used to drag it out for months some 40 years ago. Now I settle for weeks. I also have a full line-up of movies scheduled that will entertain me at the drop of a hat or on $5 Tuesday, whichever comes first.

Yes, birthdays are such fun. I’m looking forward to many, many more.