Rain

What is it about rain that makes people act so crazy? We have been suffering from a 2 year drought here in California, and finally last Thursday we got a well needed, long delayed good old fashioned rainstorm…I got soaked on my daily 16 block wake up walk around the neighborhood, just drenched, but accepted it for what it was, a necessity of nature…I changed my clothes and went on about my business…

But later that day I was driving around town and noticed how most people, at least here in San Francisco, absolutely, positively cannot STAND rain! I mean, they will almost run out into traffic, literally risking life and limb, frantically scurrying for cover and clenching their umbrellas with a death grip…And paradoxically, the car drivers seem to be impervious to the conditions, and drive just as fast and dangerous, especially on the freeways, as if there was no rain, until they too have to exit their vehicles and confront the rain themselves…

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We all know intellectually we NEED the rain to counteract the drought, but emotionally the rain is a shock, like cold water getting thrown in your face, and if you are caught outside on foot in a rainstorm, you will do anything to get away from the slashing sheets of rain that seem to invade your personal space on the deepest level….It is like a wet slap in the face!

I was born and raised in Chicago, in the heart of the great Midwest, and people back there take the rain in stride, and slow down when driving, watch out for pedestrians more, and in general just drive accordingly…But even back there, I think most people would rather go through a snowstorm rather than a rainstorm…I guess it is just something about the immediacy of the wetness of the rain, how it splatters in your face, drenches you and soaks right through your clothes, your shoes and socks, chilling you to the bone…It is like an up close and personal insult!

Snow, on the other hand can be dealt with by just layering up with several extra layers of clothing, and you can just brush it off if it accumulates on you…Snow is more of an inconvenience than an assault on the person, way less of a sensory overload than rain is….Although driving in the snow and ice is no picnic, people do slow down when driving…. The city puts salt on the streets to melt the snow, and the city also has snowplows to push the melted or drifting snow off to the side of the road so people can get to work or school or whatever…

I have had several people tell me that they are more scared when walking than driving in snowy weather, not so much because of the snow itself, but because of the treacherous ice that layers up on the sidewalk, often underneath the snow and out of sight… And this is a true fact, but in San Francisco we never get snow or ice, so it is a moot point here…

Growing up in the Midwest, I just took walking through the snow for granted, but I can see now in retrospect that the city takes a lot better care of the streets and roadways than they do the sidewalks…However I did develop a great sense of balance, because although I did indeed slip a lot, I rarely fell, I was always able to catch myself in time….I guess when you are growing up you just take everything for granted, and adjust accordingly…

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I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that in Chicago, every property owner is responsible for shoveling the snow off of his sidewalk, be it his house, his apartment building, or his place of business….And of course they always do, eventually…. Or face the prospects of a lawsuit from somebody slipping and falling on their property…However, it is not like they are out there 24/7, so you do have to exercise caution when walking…

There are no such niceties for rain however….Rain stands alone, and you must confront it in your own fashion, in your own personal way, in your own time and space, your own personal frame of reference….I personally hate being caught in a gusty, windy rainstorm where literal sheets of rain are driven sideways right into your face and body, and no umbrella can protect you….In fact, I have seen hundreds of umbrellas get blown inside out permanently ruined by the intensity and ferocity of a gusty rainstorm…

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TORONTO, ON- APRIL 9 -   A woman tosses a broken umbrella back to the ground in Chinatown, April 9, 2015  Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star Melissa Renwick/Toronto Star

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That is why I never use an umbrella, because to me, it seems they are essentially useless in all but the mildest of rainstorms…I would rather rely on my trusty hoodie to keep me dry, even though of course it gets soaked too, but it will never be ruined by rain like an umbrella, and you can always just hang it up to dry once you reach the sanctity of your own home or apartment……

I have been caught in some fierce rainstorms too, and there is nothing to do but soldier on to your destination….Have you ever ridden public transportation, like buses, trains or subways in a torrential rainstorm? The people in these public conveyances are soaked to the skin, and even brushing up against one of them is like challenging them to a duel…

There are always slippery floors and pointy umbrellas and dripping plastic ponchos inside these buses etc. to deal with, and as a standee you have to be pretty agile…And the air itself is wet and nasty, a scant but welcome relief from the driving rainstorm outside….And when a person finally does get up from a seat to exit at his stop, they always leave a puddle behind them too!

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It’s not so bad coming home from work, but if you are caught in a rainstorm in the morning, on your way to work, you are pretty much guaranteed a long wet, miserable day at the office…And there is nothing you can do about it, unless you have extra clothes at work to change into, which most people do not, thank you very much! You just have to dry yourself off to the best of your ability and carry on!

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Guests wear ponchos in the rain during the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 28, 2013. Thousands will gather on the mall on the anniversary of the march and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

A man walks across Spadina Ave as Toronto begins a few days of wet weather. Randy Risling /Toronto Star

So, all in all, I still personally much prefer the snow to the rain, but maybe that is because over the years I have forgotten how bone chillingly numb the cold weather and the snow and ice in tandem can affect you….Sometimes, in the Midwest, it gets too cold to snow! That sounds crazy, I know, but it is a meteorological fact of nature….

I actually moved out here to San Francisco to escape the frigid Midwestern winters and the suffocating heat and humidity of the summers, so maybe that is why I can say I prefer snow to rain: because I no longer have to deal with it! I guess no place is perfect, it’s always six of one and a half dozen of the other!….

Right now, I know intellectually we need the rain, to counteract the 3 years of drought,but I would be lying if I said I welcomed it…If only we could make a deal with the weather gods to only rain at night, when we are mostly all already home!

Well, that won’t happen, so Californians and fellow San Francisco residents, get ready for an unusually wet and fiercely rainy winter, with a series of storms set to slam into our fair city…The El Nino weather system practically guarantees it…Just try to remain civil, don’t act like it’s the end of the world, and just do your best to endure it and realize nobody likes getting soaked, nobody likes getting drenched, and make the best of it….

All in all, we have the best weather in the country, so appreciate that…I know I will! As Pink Floyd sang in their hauntingly beautiful ballad “Wish You Were Here,” I know that’s “cold comfort for change”…..But it’s also true, it could always be worse…

OMG what do those poor people in Buffalo, New York think of our complaining about the rain? I am happy to be right here, right now, so bring it on, and I will survive, and so will you!

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

Mortality/A Christmas Carol

I have been reflecting on mortality lately.. Not in a morbid way, because I certainly don’t mean to be a downer, especially in this festive holiday season, which I am thoroughly enjoying…Today as I write down my thoughts on mortality it is the last day of November…… But this blog will not appear until December 1st, and so today is cyber Monday…I am extremely happy to report that thanks to the due diligence of my daughter and grand daughter, I have already completed the majority of my Christmas shopping, and there are some killer deals out there on Cyber Monday….

And I am sure that will continue throughout the whole holiday season…It is so very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidaze, and the sheer physical grind takes it’s toll, there is no denying that…. So much so that a lot of times we lose sight of the fact that these festive occasions are indeed “The days of our lives,” as the old soap opera used to be called….These are the time we SHOULD be enjoying….But all too often we get caught in the “Bah Humbug” trap of the Christmas season…

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You can see where that attitude got the original Ebeneezer Scrooge in the wonderful Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol” published in 1843, and why Scrooge’s eternal tale of death and rebirth has become such a timeless classic…According to my Google sources:

“Scrooge’s transformation is legendary. At the beginning of the story he’s a greedy, selfish person.
He mutters that….“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” But as you turn each page of the book, or watch many of the television movies and adaptations of the book, he turns into the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well.”

If you somehow have been living in a cave all of your life and don’t know this story, it unfolds like this: “Initially Scrooge is a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind. However after a ghostly night, Scrooge sees life in a whole new way. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

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Beyond merely urging his readers to not be miserly Dickens seems to be reminding us of the importance in taking notice of the lives of those around us.“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”

That is my point exactly! We need to enjoy the good times while we can, to treasure each day for the wonderful life affirming gift that it is, and especially now, in the holiday season…..I know it is a drag to have to work, to spend time shopping at the malls, to deal with the extra traffic, to spend our scarce money at all, but it is all worth it, especially if you have young kids, at the end of Christmas Day…

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Happy Afro-American family opening Christmas presents

It is a time, a whole season of the year to celebrate, to rejoice and enjoy the fact that we live in America, the greatest country in the world…Hopefully, Thanksgiving reminded us off all the things we have to be thankful for, and Christmas is like the shining, glowing capstone of the holidaze….

The glow on the children’s faces on Christmas day as they tear off the bright, colorful wrapping paper and ribbons it took us hours to carefully and meticulously wrap around all the presents is priceless and beyond measure….. Their excited anticipation as the magical day approaches, getting closer and closer, is a joy for all of us jaded, sophisticated adults to observe and enjoy…..

Christmas is especially for the kids, but it is also a time for families, especially extended families…In this crazy wild wonderful new world we all live in, where family members are scattered all over the landscape of this wonderful world we call America, it is not always possible to be with all of our loved ones over the Christmas holiday…..

But this is the beauty of our high tech society! Not only do we have the added luxury of online shopping and “Cyber Monday” but also when the day arrives, with cell phones and Skype and texting we can still reach out and touch someone we love, even if we cannot physically be with them because of distance or harsh weather or whatever…We are all scattered and yet we are all united as well!

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U.S. soldiers of COP838 eat their meals to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in a U.S. military camp in southern Baghdad's Doura district November 27, 2008.    REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Family opening presents on Christmas morning --- Image by © JLP/Jose L. Pelaez/Corbis

 

I guess that is all that I am trying to say….Mortality is a grim but inevitable business; all of our lives are like books…They have a beginning, a middle and an ending….As the Jim Morrison 1997 biography is so aptly titled and eloquently states: “No One Here Gets Out Alive.”…..

But that is the same exact reason we should enjoy the holidaze, relax and reflect on our good fortune as we find it, to enjoy these special days for what they really are, the most important chapters in each of our personal books of our own lives….Admittedly some of us have it better than others, but it is all part of the human condition…

And we all have our own personal books, and we are all the author of our own personal books, so make these important chapters in our lives like Christmas shine brightly…Burnish and polish them so they reflect the true spirit of Christmas, love and peace and harmony….

Stop all the frantic scrambling and rambling around chasing down the latest sales and take an overview of your own lives…I find this helps me immensely in my own personal life…I do not fear death, I am an innately spiritual person and truly believe that this life is not just a shallow rendition of the old pessimistic but hauntingly beautiful 1969 Peggy Lee song “Is This All There Is?”

Because life is precious, it should be, and you can make your own life so very much more….Life and death are yin and yang, two sides of the same coin, inextricably bound together and impossible to separate…So just do it! Or as Captain Picard from the Star ship Enterprise used to so famously say to his subordinates, “Make It So!”

It is really all just a matter of perspective...

 

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

Thanksgiving In America 2018

This is a reprint of my 2016 Thanksgiving blog. Today is one of the uniquely American holidays, like 4th of July, that other countries do not share with us, (except in Canada for some reason)…Today is the day we Americans gather together with family and friends and stuff ourselves with turkey and ham and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and biscuits…Whew! I personally am going to pig out, eat like there’s no tomorrow and watch every football game on TV that they are broadcasting, because that is what Thanksgiving is to me, turkey, getting stuffed, and watching football…

This is actually my favorite holiday of the year, no or low stress and such an easy day to kick back and do nothing, so low maintenance, what’s not to love about Thanksgiving? I know there are problems and wars and trouble spots all over the world, but I am going to shut out the world today and all it’s problems for just this one day, this uniquely American holiday and concentrate on having a little “me time”… I have certainly earned it, and I have my health, the love of my family and just the sheer joy of being alive to be thankful for….

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In the beginning, the first Thanksgiving was traditionally all about the Native American Indians saving the first English settlers, the Pilgrims, make it through a harsh, cold snowy winter…Without the Indians help, the Pilgrims would have almost surely starved to death….

According to my Google sources: “The first Thanksgiving was surrounded by life’s hardships…The early settlers were bombarded with extreme weather, hunger, sickness and death…Those who had survived believed the best they could do was to stop and give thanks for their survival.”

In early autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest, as was the English custom. During this time, “many of the Indians coming… amongst the rest their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men.”

That 1621 celebration is remembered as the “First Thanksgiving in Plymouth.” There are two (and only two) primary source descriptions of the events of the fall of 1621.

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In “Of Plymouth Plantation,” William Bradford writes:

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.

All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.

Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterward s write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”

So actually the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of a successful harvest, and the Pilgrims would not have survived without the help of the Native Indians…Our national holiday really stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate this harvest…

The harvest feast lasted 3 days, and they ate venison, which the Indians provided, plus turkey and a variety of sea food and water fowl, along with maize bread (cornbread), pumpkin and other squash delicacies… The Indians introduced “Indian corn” or maize to the settlers, who did not have it in England….The Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians did have a harmonious relationship in the early years of the Plymouth Colony.

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But historians and interpreters say it was based on based on practical reasons that hold lessons for such relations…. The early friendship between the two peoples wasn’t so innocent, either: The Pilgrims heard the Wampanoags out in the forest for four months before their first face-to-face encounter.

There was a mutual dependence between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, it was an alliance of expediency….Simply put, they needed each other…

The Wampanoag had been recently devastated by an outbreak of the plague, brought over by earlier European expeditions, and they faced a life or death struggle with two other nearby tribes…The Wampanoag had numbered some 25,000 members in 1615, but by the time the Mayflower landed they were down to just a few hundred warriors….

From the beginning, relations between the Wampanoags and the settlers they called “the coat men” focused on diplomacy and trade, not a naive handshake between Europeans and the Indians, who’d claimed the land for hundreds of years. But interpreters at Plymouth Plantation say their early contact offers even more important lessons in how strangers and nations really get along…..

The English had nearly starved in the winter of 1620, and they readily welcomed the help of the Wampanoag side for extra food at the harvest time of 1621, and the Indians needed allies to bolster their chance of survival against their local Indian rivals”….

I have often wondered if Native Americans of today regret their long ago ancestors generosity to the pilgrims, but as we have seen, the Wampanoags were not being merely altruistic, they were bolstering their decimated tribal numbers by forging this political alliance between themselves and the Pilgrims…

At any rate, it is a nice story, and the rapid and continuing expansion from these simple early days that focused only on survival and mutual help has evolved into our current tradition of Thanksgiving in America in 2018, including the mass consumption of elaborate food preparation and the more and more commercial aspects of shopping for the holiday season, like the proliferation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as prime manic shopping days…

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I guess the real message of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for what we have, and in Thanksgiving in America in 2018 we have so much to be thankful for…Let’s celebrate the good things in our lives and try to work on fixing the bad things, but everybody has a right to just kick back and enjoy a simple holiday of gratitude….Let’s love our families and friends a little more and really be grateful we live in the best country in the world, America, Thanksgiving in America 2018!

I know I love Thanksgiving, and I am far from rich, but that is the point, it’s not just about money and commercialism….But I am very grateful for my health, the love of my family and the ability to feast and party and knowing at the same time what I am doing is being duplicated and shared by families all across the nation, that we are all united in the same mind set and traditions that  gives me that cozy warm and fuzzy feeling today…

That is why Thanksgiving in America 2018 means so much to me….I sincerely hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well!

 

For more information on the first Thanksgiving, see: http://www.manataka.org/page269.html

For more blogs by John Whye see http://www.johnwhye.com

JFK Assassination-The Shot Heard Round The World

The JFK assassination on November 22, 1963 was the shot heard round the world! Our beloved President was allegedly killed by the Marxist assassin Lee Harvey Oswald under very mysterious, murky circumstances, and it changed the nature and the fabric of our society in oh so many ways…. None of us Baby Boomers will ever forget where we were or what we were doing on that fatal Friday when the JFK assassination took place; like most tragedies it was completely unexpected and out of the blue, and we all had a mixed sense of violation, grief, fear and anger…

It was the complete loss of innocence to an entire generation of young people, I was in high school at the time but I can remember the JFK assassination as though it were yesterday! Nobody could ever have guessed that such a thing could happen in the first place, the assassins bullet tumbling down the walls of Camelot! This happened 52 years ago, and many may have already forgotten the significance of this date in American history, but I myself, and I am sure almost all of us alive then, never can….

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When JFK was shot, I was a junior in high school, but I still vividly remember the shock, grief and outrage that engulfed our working class blue collar high school…Nobody could believe it, this sort of violence had never before happened in our peaceful country, and we were glued to our TV sets for the next 3 days watching the whole bizarre aftermath…

We all watched the constant 24 hour coverage of the latest events as they enfolded in a nightmare melange of images and unthinkable actions….The capture of suspected Communist assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, who allegedly shot from the window of the Texas School depository, his subsequent murder in broad daylight in police custody by a gangster affiliated club owner name Jack Ruby….Conspiracy theories abound to this day, including the fact that Oswald was a stooge and that the Mafia had ordered the hit, that there were several shooters etc etc….

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But I am talking about my personal reaction here and over and over again, in my mind’s eye I can see the recreation of the fatal bullets striking the President as he was waving at the crowd from an open convertible in downtown Dallas, a right-wing hot bed of hatred for the liberal Kennedy….

Because he was oh so charismatic and so young and good looking and there were large crowds cheering him on until the fatal bullets struck him as well as Texas Governor John Connolly as they drove in that fatal motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas…The shock and fear and confusion of his lovely wife, Jackie O as she seemed to try and scramble over the back of the convertible looking for help is seared into my memory…All the events of that fatal day are seared into my memory…

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I remember watching the grim faced police escorting the motorcade and  rushing the President to the hospital, and then the final grim words on the new universal medium, TV: “The President has been shot, he died in the hospital from wounds inflicted by the assassin’s bullets”…

The networks even canceled the whole slate of Sunday NFL games out of respect for the tragic event, as a stunned and grief stricken nation slowly came to terms to the new reality of the modern world and the excessive hatred that permeated the minds of many…Things had changed, and they would never be the same again…Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President right there in Dallas and then the plane flew home to Washington DC with the grief of a nation following it’s every move…

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CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reports that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reports that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

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Flanked by Jackie Kennedy (right) and his wife Lady Bird Johnson (second left), U.S Vice President Lyndon Johnson (center) is administred the oath of office by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes (left) as he assumed the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. (Photo by CECIL STOUGHTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Flanked by Jackie Kennedy (right) and his wife Lady Bird Johnson (second left), U.S Vice President Lyndon Johnson (center) is administered the oath of office by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes (left) as he assumed the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. (Photo by CECIL STOUGHTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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Pallbearers carry the casket of U.S. President John F. Kennedy for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virgina Nov. 25, 1963. That day a funeral Mass was celebrated for the slain president at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (CNS photo/Cecil Stoughton, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum) (Oct. 28, 2013) See KENNEDY-FUNERAL Oct. 28, 2013.

 

 

 

 

It is my generation’s version of Pearl Harbor….Those who saw it will never forget it, and it most definitely impacted our Baby Boomer generation as much as the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor united our parent’s generation, and there are many parallels…

That day will forever live in our memories, where we were, who we were with, what everybody’s reaction was, just like the shock of Pearl Harbor galvanized a nation and forcefully, irrevocably reminded us we were not Fortress America, that we were a part of the larger world, and that things could happen to us here too, just like in Europe…….

Even some of the Japanese military had 2nd thoughts about the wisdom of attacking Pearl Harbor…In the movie “Tora Tora Tora” there is a great scene where one of the Japanese admirals muses to his staff and himself, “We may have awakened a sleeping tiger” That outrageous sneak attack on the sovereignty of a neutral nation fueled hatred and resentment of the Japanese to an extreme degree, and was the rallying cry for the “Greatest Generation”: Remember Pearl Harbor!

So in many ways there was a parallel between these twin tragedies, but as a certified Baby Boomer, born after the war, I remember the shock, outrage and loss of innocence of the JFK assassination as a devastating blow to my young mind, and my entire generation’s psyche…This irretrievable loss of innocence coupled with the young peoples already existing growing resentment and questioning of the materialistic aspects of America in the early 1960’s was a major part of the hippie movement and the Summer of Love in 1967…

All the nascent feelings of revulsion about the American government and the system itself, the “Establishment” as we called our elders, led to political unrest among the students, and it was not just here in the United States…i am not a political person and was never an activist, but the late 1960’s saw student political movements all around the globe, in France, in Italy, all over Europe…

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If they were not directly linked together, they were certainly inspired by and infused by the social revolution in America, and it was the JFK assassination that was the direct fore runner and inevitable reaction by the youth of America to the greed, hypocrisy, militarism and “Father Knows Best” condescending attitude of the United States government and the “establishment” in the late 1960’s…

.When the American military made the decision to fight a proxy war in Vietnam to fuel the Cold War with Communist Russia and China it was the last straw for the youth of America…We wanted no part of this political global chess game….

We rebelled in our own separate ways, not all of us became political activists, but we all shared the attitude of “Hell no, we won’t go” to Vietnam the activists promoted…..In fact the great majority of us simply took the advice of Dr. Timothy Leary: “Turn on, tune in and drop out.”

We abandoned mainstream America and it’s collective materialistic mind set in favor of the hippie creed of “Drugs, sex and rock and roll”….We dropped out and tried to live a simpler, more peaceful life, some of us even joined communes and all of us seemingly participated in the greatest non violent revolution of all time, the fabled “Summer of Love in San Francisco” in 1967…

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1967, Woburn Abbey, Hippies enjoy themselves at the 1967 Woburn Abbey Love In  (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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But none of this peaceful rebellion would have been possible, here in the United States and in Europe too, except for this this horrible political assassination a few years earlier, which jolted us out of our complacency and insularity and opened our eyes to the real world. It all started with the gut wrenching, shocking, mind numbing disillusionment of the JFK Assassination-The Shot Heard Round The World! I for one, cannot ever, forget it…

For more blogs by John Whye, see: http://www.johnwhye.com

 

Holiday Season Or Holidaze?

The holiday season has crept up on me again! I don’t know where the time goes, but I noticed that is was just recently Halloween and now the holiday season, or “holidaze” as I refer to it, is in full swing once again…Today is Monday, November 16, 2015 and already Thanksgiving is right around the corner! According to my calendar, in a scant 10 days it will be Thursday November 26, Thanksgiving Day! For some reason, and I don’t know if it is just me or if you also have the same problem, the whole holiday season just seems to suddenly ARRIVE without warning, and all of a sudden I am caught up in the mix, like it or not!

I cannot deny the excitement in the air, the rush of anticipation, the crowded downtown streets when I drive down there, and it is a pleasant, familiar feeling…Personally Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidaze, and a very close second only to Christmas itself….What’s not to like about Thanksgiving?

There is plenty of food to eat, ham or the traditional turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and green beans and mashed potatoes and biscuits, Yummers! And both college and pro NFL football games on TV all day long, plus if you are blessed enough to have your close family living nearby, a time to gather, celebrate, share and reminisce, to renew and reinforce good old fashioned family values and traditions……Mm mm….. The 3 F’s: Food, Family and Football

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All the stores are already hustling and bustling with shoppers and sales, and advertisers are off the hook with their promotional deals, sales and discounts…Black Friday, as it is called, is the day after Thanksgiving and marks the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season…People line up overnight to be the first in line when the stores open, and the stores have been opening earlier and earlier, usually at the stroke of midnight…Some people even eat their Thanksgiving dinners and head straight to the mall to get in line for the eagerly anticipated sales!

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As I understand it, and I am just a single older man living alone with no immediate family to explain these arcane shopping details and sales, there is even a Cyber Monday, which comes after the regular Black Friday, and it is supposed to be the day all the internet sales are unveiled for your shopping on line….Actually, there seems to be a marked trend in internet shopping in the last few years, and the lines of when it starts and does it ever stop are getting a little blurry from my perspective…

According to my Google sources, particularly an article in the Washington Post about this relatively new phenomenon, says : “One can reminisce about the days when department stores and mega-malls were among the main places for Americans to meet, socialize and, of course, shop. Spending an afternoon at the big downtown department stores used to be a family treat during the holiday shopping season. The experience eventually evolved more into trips to the mall – which were typically anchored by a major department store or two.

Cyber Monday sales this year (this data is from 2014) were up 8.7 percent compared with 2013, led by a sharp increase in mobile transactions according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. Sales over mobile devices jumped 29 percent . That’s a sharp contrast with the mostly bad news for brick-and-mortar stores, which saw about 6 million fewer shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend, with overall spending down about 11 percent , according to the National Retail Federation.

That’s all changed. We have certainly witnessed in recent years a pronounced uptick in terms of consumers doing their shopping online and through various mobile devices and applications. That’s the trend, but does it really mean people will shop exclusively on these devices in the not-too-distant future? Are we in the final days of a major retail shopping shakeup that will eventually make department and other physical stores a thing of the past?

There will always be a certain segment of the population who will frequent brick-and-mortar stores for the opportunity to “touch and feel” the merchandise. This is an important aspect for some age groups such as baby boomers and Generation X. On the other hand, the millennials and other younger generations tend to buy their clothes and gadgets online.

A desire for “instant gratification” or “instant ownership” is still key with some buyers – including youths – who appreciate the ability to touch, feel and buy an item all in the same moment, currently only possible at a physical store. Amazon’s new one-hour delivery service, however, may begin to eat away at this.

On the other hand, many people prefer to snag the best deal after surveying a large number of products, something difficult to do in stores, especially when there are large crowds, and don’t mind waiting for their purchase to show up days later in the mail. That jives with the sense that we’re a more “deal-oriented” society today.

So then what do brick-and-mortar stores need to do to survive and even thrive – and lure those mystifying millennials? Traditional brick-and-mortar stores may be struggling due to the meteoric rise of online shopping, but it doesn’t mean they’re losing out on those sales – they’re just moving to their Web site. While some argue that eventually it’ll all be online, (many people) contend that physical stores will be around for some time to come – if and only if they are successful at reinventing themselves more in the mold of Apple as experience stores.

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Some stores have excelled at doing this and creating an “in-store experience” that’s about more than trying to find a T-shirt or new computer, such as Nordstrom and Apple. Others will have to adopt similar techniques to compete. Clothing retailer JC Penney, for example, is in the midst of trying to reinvent its shopping experience to make it more than just a transaction with a cashier.

Value-added transactions
Retailers need to add value to the transaction to make it worth the trip away from the convenience of the computer. The entire in-store experience must be enriched. Necessary elements include:

  • Knowledgeable, professional and courteous employees who will do everything to ensure customer satisfaction (Nordstrom and Apple do this well)
  • Conduct continuous customer research to always better understand what prospective consumers will be searching for
  • A pleasant store environment and ambiance that is soothing and inviting to the customer’s senses
  • Warranties and guarantees that leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind that this is the place to do business
  • Irresistible and creative in-store displays that attract the consumer
  • An integrated e-commerce, online marketing approach within the storefront architecture so that all shoppers will get the “best of all worlds.”

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Black Friday Shoppers Chase Deals At Wal-Mart, Best Buy

So I guess it’s still pick your poison, but personally I enjoy on line shopping more and love being able to avoid the crush of people and the jam packed parking lots at the malls and especially here in downtown San Francisco…For the major stuff, like for my daughter and grand-daughter, I let them pick out what they want, put it in “the cart” and just pay for it, especially now that they are living thousands of miles from me…

But conversely, I DO also still like to pick out certain items at stores, and go through the whole traditional routine of wrapping them, packing them and making that trip to the post office to mail them off to my family members back in the Mid West…So I guess I am of two minds here, but I think the convenience of online shopping will continue to grow for most people, because time is at such a premium in most people’s lives, and ordering on line is much quicker…

But like it or not, ready or not, the holidaze are once again upon us! I know that Thanksgiving, at least is a unique American experience, and I treasure it for that…Christmas and the holiday season have more of an international flavor, but sometimes the holidaze expectations overwhelm me, and I prefer to take them one at a time.. ..

And speaking of flavors, I can’t wait to taste that once a year turkey treat with all the trimmings, I LOVE Thanksgiving and I hope all of you also have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends as well!

For more information on retail stores vs on line shopping, see:https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/how-brick-and-m…The Washington Post

For more blogs by John Whye, see: http://www.johnwhye.com

Veteran’s Day “The War To End All Wars”

Today is Veteran’s Day, 2015….When this holiday was originally conceived, it was meant to honor all the soldiers who had ever served in the military, many of whom had died in battle defending their country in WWI…..They really believed back then that this terrible war, with it’s tremendous loss of life, sacrifice and the introduction of new deadly weapons and tactics that included trench warfare, massive artillery barrages, machine guns, suicidal forays into “no man’s land” and the introduction of chemical weapons was so horrible that no country would ever again be tempted to start another war….

Sadly, they were mistaken and in their classic song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the Who famously articulated the painful truth, “ And the world looks just the same….And history ain’t changed…’Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war…” which was WWII and was basically a continuation of the hostilities started, fought bitterly over, but never fully resolved in WWI….

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Wounded British soldiers are attended to in a trench during the first day of the Battle of the Somme Date: 1 July 1916

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The overall result is that this holiday has been downgraded in a sense, most businesses are still open as usual and only the Federal and state governments honor it by observing a day of remembrance that is as important now as it was then…It has since become in fact a general day of honoring that includes all the veterans from all of the wars, living and dead, besides WWI, which was ironically termed: “The War To End All Wars”….

Since most people today have no clue about the meaning of the holiday, I will go to my Google sources for some general information, and BTW, the holiday was originally called Armistice day but changed officially to Veteran’s day by Congress in 1938: “World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.

However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

An act of Congress approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I”….But the wars just kept on coming….

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“So in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat. That’s not quite true. Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America’s war dead. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors ALL American veterans, both living and dead.

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American soldiers are dropped off by U.S.Army helicopters to join South Vietnamese ground troops to advance in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in March 1965 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

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In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country. November 11 of each year is the day that we ensure veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made in their lives to keep our country free.”

The list of wars since WWI is almost endless…..Some of the major ones were of Course WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf war, the conflict in Iraq, the Kosovo war, and the 2nd Gulf war, which continues to this very day, with Americans fighting and dying in various Middle Eastern countries…

The political reasons for war have always been hotly debated, but it has truly been said that “Old men argue, and young men die”…So today on this national holiday, let’s try to put aside all our petty differences of opinion, put aside our political differences and simply honor those brave young men and women who actually volunteer to serve our country and who have been there and personally put their life on the line defending our country…..

War is horrible, it always has and always will be, and yet it is apparently inevitable…. With the seemingly endless round of conflicts now centered in the Mid East it appears war to some degree will be with us for the foreseeable future….This day is not about the political correctness of the U.S. participation in these wars, or any wars, but rather about the personal bravery and self sacrifice of the individual veterans who have served their country by joining the Armed Services…….

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Bridget Shanahan, a corpsman with Shock Trauma Platoon, 2nd Combat Logistics Battalion, and Lance Cpl. Michael Johnson, a wireman with Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, hand out stuffed animals to a second grade student at Houran Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, Dec. 2. Not only was this the first time most of the children at Houran had ever interacted with Coalition forces, but it was an education in the integral role that females serve in the U.S. military.

Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Apache Troop, 2-5 Cav, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav Div move tactically as they enter and clear their objective during combat operation in Fallujah on the 9th of Nov 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by SFC Johancharles Van Boers, 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera, Fort Meade, Maryland. Release for Public Usevets28womaniraq

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If you know any vets, or see any on the street, take a moment and thank them for their efforts…..They have put their bodies on the line, and many today are suffering from post traumatic stress and some from horrible, disfiguring wounds suffered in battles in far flung places around the globe most of us have never even heard of, and for personal reasons most of us will never fully comprehend…..

And BTW, the Veteran’s Bureau should wake up and smell the coffee! Their lackadaisical, inept attitude and seeming indifference to the latest round of American war casualties needs to be seriously examined and overhauled….It is a shame and a scandal! The Veterans Bureau has been exposed and castigated in the media about their incredible bureaucracy the last few years, and rightly so….

These returning veterans deserve every right they are entitled to without having to negotiate endless miles of red tape and intolerable waiting periods for their benefits …Most of us have loved ones, friends or relatives who were in the armed services in one war or another, and risked sacrificing their very lives; the least the government can do is to alleviate their suffering and help them now that they have returned….

I am 100% against war as a policy tool, except as a last gasp defense, but that does not mean that I cannot honor in my heart and my thoughts the bravery of those soldiers who have earned the title of veterans….It is for them, living and dead, veterans of all the wars, that we should unite and dedicate this day to, Veteran’s Day 2015!

To all veterans, living and dead, thank you for your sacrifices: We Salute You!
For more information on The History Of Veteran’s Day, see :www.va.gov/…/vetsday/vet…United States Department of Veterans Affairs
For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

Weather And Psychology

Today is a beautiful, warm sunny day in San Francisco, unlike yesterday when it was cold, blustery and rained hard early in the morning….The temperature is in the high 60’s, and the sunshine is brilliant and warm…The small storm we had yesterday cleared the air of all the pollutants and irritants that our industrialized society produces, and when I look towards the majestic Pacific ocean, I can see for miles! I just wrote a blog yesterday about the extremes of snow and ice in the Midwest and the eastern part of the country, so today I want to just deal not with the physical drudgery of this extreme weather but rather with the psychological aspects of how the weather affects our daily outlook on life in general…

It is amazing to me how the weather can so affect a person’s attitude and well being….I read somewhere that people in Oregon, a very lush green state, especially when you fly over it, are among the most depressed people in the United States because it rains there all the time, the price they pay for their verdant greenery… I have relatives currently living in Seattle, who were born and raised in California, and they swear the people up there are way more grouchy and grumpy than Californians, probably again because of the gloomy, rainy weather they have to endure all winter long….

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Sweden, Jamtland, Froson, Man looking at winter forest

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According to my Google sources, first from an earlier study in 2005-2008 and then a followup study several years later in 2013-2014:

“The Weather Can Affect You Negatively and Positively

(A Dr.)Keller and his colleagues (2005) examined 605 participants responses in three separate studies to examine the connection between mood states, a person’s thinking and the weather. They found that:

[…P]pleasant weather (higher temperature or barometric pressure) was related to higher mood, better memory, and ‘‘broadened’’ cognitive style during the spring as time spent outside increased. The same relationships between mood and weather were not observed during other times of year, and indeed hotter weather was associated with lower mood in the summer.

These results are consistent with findings on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and suggest that pleasant weather improves mood and broadens cognition in the spring because people have been deprived of such weather during the winter.

So while Denissen et al. (2008) found no general ability for the weather itself to lift us into a more positive mood (contrary to both Howard & Hoffman and Keller’s findings above), the researchers did find that the weather can impact our moods negatively.

Another way to look at it is that Denissen and colleagues confirmed prior research that showed that people’s moods and emotions can definitely be affected by the weather. The strength of that relationship varies from person to person. So, sorry, yes, weather does appear to impact our moods. And that effect may become serious.

Look no further for evidence of this than the very real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the winter months when the temperatures drop and the days grow short. This specific form of depression is often associated with excessive eating or sleeping and weight gain. Women are twice to three times more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men. If SAD is merely a “culturally transmitted idea” (as the blog quotes the researchers as suggesting), then so is every mental disorder to one extent or another.”

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That is one study…. let’s Google one more:

Higher temperatures can bring a depressed person up.

Denissen et al. (2008) found that weather’s daily influence has more of an impact on a person’s negative mood, rather than helping one’s positive mood. Higher temperatures raise a person with a low mood up, while things like wind or not enough sun made a low person feel even lower.Seasonal affective disorder is real.Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a very real kind of depressive disorder….Heat (and extreme rain) brings out the worst in people.

Hsiang et al. (2013) found a link between human aggression and higher temperatures. As temperatures rose, the researchers noted that inter group conflicts also tended to jump — by 14 percent (a significant increase). The scientists also found interpersonal violence rose by 4 percent.

These findings held true not only for higher temperatures, but also that wet stuff that falls from the sky — rain. The more it rained (especially in areas where high rainfall is not expected), the more aggressive people seemed to get.

Other research has confirmed this finding. For instance, researcher Marie Connolly (2013) found that women who were interviewed on days “with more rain and higher temperatures [reported] statistically and substantively decreasing life satisfaction, consistent with the affect results.” On days with lower temperatures and no rain, the same subjects reported higher life satisfaction.

Weather Doesn’t Have to Impact Your Mood

Connolly (2008) found that men responded to unexpected weather by simply changing their plans. Raining? Let’s stay in instead of going for a hike. Unexpectedly warm day? Let’s take advantage of it by going to the water park or beach. Women, on the other hand, didn’t seem as likely to modify their activities, thereby more often taking the brunt of the unexpected weather on their mood.

Weather seems to have a real and measurable impact on many people’s mood, but is dependent upon many factors. The impact of the weather is probably going to be greater in any geographic location that experiences lengthy periods of unusual weather. For instance, if it’s hot and sunny for months on end, that’s probably going to make more of an impact in Seattle (a usually rainy and cool place to live) than in Miami (a usually hot and sunny place to live).

It may also depend upon your “weather personality type,” but that needs further research to confirm. While we most commonly think of SAD affecting only people in the fall or winter months, a minority of people also experience SAD during the spring and summer months too.”

A revelation to me in both of these studies, especially the more recent one in 2014, is there is an actual name for how the weather can change your mood, and it is called “SAD” an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder.According to the definition by the esteemed Mayo Clinic: “ Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.

If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer…..Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (photo therapy), psychotherapy and medications.”

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So if you are like me and rainy weather can change your mood, don’t be alarmed….we are not crazy! As noted above, the symptoms increase as the winter months roll in, and can even affect people in the spring or summer…

No matter how you look at it, weather has a definite psychological impact on people, who often are unaware of it, and it affects some people, apparently especially women, more than others…This is a fascinating topic to me, and I urge you to read up on it if the weather adversely (and sometimes positively) affects your mood in a very real and profound way, as it does mine….It is real…

Just remember, and this gives me at least some small but needed measure of comfort, we are not alone!

For more information on SAD see: http://www.mayoclinic.org/…/seasonal-affective-disorder/…/con-2…Mayo Clinic

For more information on how weather can change your mood, see: psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/…/weather-can-change-your-mood…

AND: psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/…/can-weather-affect-your-mood/

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com