Sunday, November 30, 2014

We just went through a rough patch of weather over Thanksgiving. Power went out Wednesday afternoon and didn’t return until Friday.

No ovens to cook the dinner, no heat, no football games. We had to sit in the dark and cold Wednesday night before fleeing to my daughter’s house in Maine on Thursday morning where we had all the necessities of life.

As I stood in line at McDonalds early Thursday morning along with 100 other people waiting for a warm Egg McMuffin and coffee, I realized how “out of shape” we Americans really are. Lord help us if an enemy were able to shut off our power for weeks or months.

Coincidentally, this week I have been reading the Civil War Reminiscences of Joshua Chamberlain. For the 99% of Americans who have no knowledge of history, General Chamberlain was a Medal of Honor winner at Gettysburg and was probably one of the greatest field officers in our history. He was also a theologian, teacher, Governor of Maine (four terms) and President of Bowdoin College. He was involved in twenty engagements in many of the battlefields of the War. He was wounded six times (twice near fatally) and had three horses shot out from under him. General Grant selected him and his Corps to accept the surrender of Lee’s forces at Appomatox.

He was a giant among giants at a key turning point in our country’s history, and yet almost no one except history buffs have ever heard of him.

As I read of the hardships that he and his men endured, and the terrible toll it took on all who fought that war, I wondered if our society would still have the stomach to make those sacrifices for something today.

Wars have changed, societies have changed and our sense of ourselves and our place in the world has changed in the last 150 years.

Most of our young people have no understanding of the sacrifices our ancestors made to give us this free nation. It is a shame. We are losing ourselves in ourselves.

Our children are growing up without heroes and accept without understanding the tearing apart of the fabric of our society. They no longer study history so they will never know who someone like Joshua Chamberlain was. It’s too bad, because the world needs more citizens who challenge us to be greater than we ever thought we could be.

It is up to us where we go from here as a nation, but it is hard to find our way forward if we don’t understand how we got here.

I am left wondering if our country’s future would be more clearly defined if we did indeed shut off the power, and refocus on the lessons learned by candlelight.

Glenn K. Currie

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving can be a great time of year, if you’re not a turkey.

In our house, it was a huge festive occasion when friends and relatives saw each other, often for the only time in a year. People were usually in a pretty good mood because they didn’t have to cook. My mom loved the idea, maybe because she enjoyed the whole production. At least one year she did cook two turkeys because we had so many guests that a turkey big enough to accommodate everyone wouldn’t fit in her oven.

Thanksgiving Dinner (A Boy’s First Diary, 2007) is a true account of that gathering.

Looking back, it was quite a blessing to have a day when we could rejoice in our extended family, without a lot of hidden agendas. There weren’t a lot of days like that.

May you all be blessed and be thankful for your blessings on this beautiful holiday.

Glenn K. Currie

                  Thanksgiving Dinner

Mom cooked two turkeys this year.
We had a lot of guests.
Even Aunt Lil came from Connecticut.
There were people and kids everywhere.

Mom made so many vegetables
That she forgot two of them.
She remembered at dessert.
I didn’t have to eat the turnip.

I like Thanksgiving dinner.
I put gravy on everything,
Even the cranberry jelly.
It kind of hides the vegetables.

We had a really long prayer.
Aunt May fell asleep.
I think Mom thought she was sick,
But she woke right up again.

They put all the kids out in the kitchen.
That was a lot of fun.
Mom was upset about the peas.
She shouldn’t serve peas to kids in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanks for the Worries was written for the Concord Monitor a few years ago, and then included in my book Granite Grumblings (Snap Screen Press, 2011). It is still totally applicable today. I hope you have some fun with it.

I also ask that if you are enjoying this blog, please tell your friends. I have a very loyal following and I greatly appreciate you all, but it would be great to add to the group and with over 110 posts now, I think there might be something on here for almost everyone. It is amazing how a blog from New Hampshire can develop followers from Malaysia and China to Equador and France but that is one of the virtues of the internet. Thanks to all of you.

Glenn K. Currie

Thanks for the Worries

Recently my radio blared out at me with an advertisement for the treatment of a newly defined disease. It was described as “generalized anxiety syndrome”.

Upon further analysis it became clear that we were really talking about a fancy name for people who worry too much. I don’t classify this as a new illness since I’ve been suffering from it for years. Of course I didn’t know I had a disease. I thought I just worried too much. Now I can worry about a disease.

Even better, the advertiser says he has a new experimental drug to treat the disease. So I can also worry about whether I should take the drug. I can also worry about why, if this drug is so good, they are desperately advertising for volunteers. After all, almost everyone I know worries too much. And who can blame them.

Our national capability to worry is almost unlimited. And it is strongly reinforced by media that is not happy unless they are pushing the public panic button.

The material to do this is plentiful and I have put together just a small sampling of the basic equal-opportunity worries that assault our senses. I have purposely left off this list the really well-known concerns such as smoking, AIDS, Ebola, high blood pressure, cancer, etc., which are actual real worries. Instead, I am going to focus on the vaguer, hit and run issues that the media seem to assault us with on an almost daily basis.

First on the list is food. I don’t have a clue what I should be eating. It used to be that if it tasted good and was fattening, it was bad for you. If it had the flavor of cardboard, you could eat as much as you wanted.

There was lots of guidance from trusted authority figures. Do you remember when your mother told you to drink your milk? You just knew it was good for you. She never said “drink your Coke”. Life was simple.

Then came the media blitz, however, in which the nation’s favorite baby doctor and some cronies declared that milk was a national disaster. Every TV news show and newspaper in the country picked up the story and ran with it.

Of course, some might have been a little skeptical since Dr. Spock was also the guy responsible for the upbringing of all the bubble-headed idiots who became known as the Sixties Generation (of which I must confess to be one).

Dr. Spock, and a triumvirate of milk “experts”, hit us with a massive scare that left the milk industry in tatters, and then nothing. Nobody gave us alternatives, (except breast milk, which is a little tough to come by for a fifty-year-old). And nobody had the courage to step up and tell us that these guys were a couple of pints short of a quart. Instead the subject just suddenly disappeared from the news. It was a hit and run attack on milk that left us worrying without resolution.

Milk is not alone among foods to worry about, however. Sometime over the last couple of decades, the following foods have been declared dangerous to consume: tomatoes, cranberries, grapes, apples, sugar, salt, chicken, beef, all dairy products, swordfish, all processed foods, anything wrapped in plastic, margarine, peanut butter, chocolate, white flour, happy meals and coffee, to name just a few.

That covers almost everything I like, and I know I’ve missed a lot. There’s also some stuff I’m not sure about. Oat bran used to be good, then it was bad or neutral. I don’t know. I don’t care.

But let’s not focus on food worries. There’s a whole smorgasboard of stuff to get us into a panic.
1) Air and water (loaded with pollutants)
2) Sunshine (UV exposure)
3) Televisions, microwaves, electric blankets (radiation)
4) Cell phones (brain cancer)
5) Male pattern baldness (heart attacks)
6) Breast implants (silicone)
7) Charlie Sheen raising children
The list is endless.

So what’s the solution? I’m not sure, but I suspect it doesn’t start with taking some experimental drug, unless you want to know what you’ll be worrying about next.

 Basically, it seems we all need to lighten up a little. Maybe the media need to stop the hit and run attacks. Perhaps they should even consider the source, before they start publishing allegations. After all, in this country you can get some loony tune to make any kind of absurd statement, and if it is repeated enough in the right places, it will achieve some level of credibility.

There are also some things we might be better off not knowing. What am I going to do about it, even if it is true that losing my hair makes me a higher risk candidate for a heart attack. The ensuing anxiety probably jumps my odds another 100 percent.

The public also needs to use a little common sense. (I know this is a toughie). I mean guys were calling their doctors after the news came out to see if they could eliminate the heart attack threat by having a hair transplant. Maybe a head transplant would work.

As for the food issues, maybe we should go back to eating what we like. We’re going to worry about it anyway, so at least let’s have a good time If it turns out we did eat the wrong thing, we can always clean the system out real good by turning on C-Span and watching Washington politics at work. Now that is something to worry about.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I get very frustrated with the inability of Congress to function effectively. The art of compromise seems to have been lost with the obtuse group we send there.

It seemed like it was time for desperate measures. So I withdrew into my fourth grade personna that I used to write “A Boy’s First Diary(Snap Screen Press, 2007) and I asked “little Glenn” what he would do to fix Congress. This was his response:

1)      I think we should make all the Congress people sit together like they do in school. Miss Fernapple said all the boys can’t sit on one side and the girls on the other. She says that would be segregation and she mixes us all up with each other. Now I have to sit next to Snobby Donna and even do some projects with her. She’s still a stinky tattle-tale, but I don’t put cockroaches in her locker anymore. If all the Republicans and Democrats had to sit next to each other, maybe they would do better on projects too.
2)      All the Congress people should have to go to lunch together and eat the same stuff that they serve us at school. I bet they would get tired of the turnip salads and tofu burgers real fast, and maybe then they would bring back pizza and chocolate chip cookies, and be in a better mood to work together.
3)      Congress people should have homework just like we do. Maybe if they had assigned homework they would read their bills before they pass them. I think civics and geography homework would also be good for them.
4)      I think they should have to ride to and from work on school buses. Those seats are really uncomfortable, there are no seat belts, and the shock absorbers are so bad that they would soon vote to fix the roads and bridges.  Buses would also probably cut down on traffic and pollution in Washington, and make parking easier. There might be some bullying on the buses, but Mr. Mullins would fix that fast.
5)      Miss Fernapple makes all of us turn off our phones in class. I think this would be a good idea for Congress, too. My dad says that if the Congress people actually had to listen to all the stupid speeches they make down there, maybe some of them would shut up.
6)      They should require better attendance. I get detention every time I skip a class. I think Congress people should too, unless they have a note from a responsible person.

Good luck finding one of those in Washington.

Glenn K. Currie

Friday, November 7, 2014

Now that we are about to send a fairly large number of new people to Congress, and state and city governments, it might be an appropriate time to implore them to do something about all the archaic and unnecessary laws and regulations that we have on the books.

Because of the nature of our various bureaucracies, there seem to be constant pressures to write new rules and regulations, whether we need them or not. Pushing for this is what justifies the continued growth of government, which in turn causes us to hire more workers. This then allows managers to claim a need for higher salaries to run these larger departments.

Congress and state legislatures meanwhile aid and abet this mudslide of new rules by passing new laws. This is how our elected officials show their electorate that they are “doing something”. The truth is that the electorate, for the most part, would like everyone to just leave them alone, but there is always some pressure group or business pushing for something that will promote their interests. And we all know that money and “pitchforks and torches” are what determine life for elected officials. Nobody wants the media to call them “do nothings”, so we wind up with 100,000 pages of IRS rules and 2000 page healthcare bills that are passed without reading.

When was the last time someone got credit for eliminating laws, or rules and regulations? It sure would be nice, however, if somewhere in this country someone was actually looking at making our lives a little simpler?

If I were President or a Governor, the first thing I would do is offer meaningful bonuses to our government employees for identifying archaic or dysfunctional laws and regulations that could be eliminated. And I guarantee there are plenty of them. The bonus money we would pay would be more than offset by the savings to the governments and the public of getting them off the books.

It’s too bad that there isn’t some way a Congress person could get their name on a bill that eliminated existing rules and regs. But that would hurt the business of CPA’s and lawyers and bureaucrats across the country. And who really runs Congress?

I wrote “There Oughta Be a Law” (Granite Grumblings, 2011) to complain about how complicated government makes our lives. If you tossed all the federal, state and city laws into a mixer and spread them everywhere, you would have a world where you should theoretically be afraid to step outside your front door (and probably be afraid to go into your bedroom).

All of the concerns listed in this article deal with laws that are in effect somewhere in this country. And since then, we have actually also instituted some food laws that I only joked about as a possibility. Silly me.

Glenn K. Currie

There Oughta Be a Law, Oh Wait, There Is One!

We have too many laws! Every time some politician or pressure groupie wakes up with a bad hair day, Congress or some state or city governing body passes a new statute. This has been going on since 1776 and is an accelerating trend. We keep adding new laws and hardly ever take the old ones off the books.

The lawyers like to joke that we are no longer the “land of the free” but instead are the “land of the fee”, and they are right. Before we say or do almost anything in the current litigious atmosphere, we need to check with a lawyer, accountant, environmental consultant, or OSHA expert, to make sure we aren’t breaking some kind of statute or code. And a lot of times you can’t even get a straight answer from them, because so many laws are vaguely written or archaic. Some of these laws are so old and out of touch with present society that they haven’t been enforced in years. But they are still there and are available to be pulled out at a moment’s notice, to be used by angry enforcement personnel for selective prosecution.

The Supreme Court recently addressed this when they tossed out the selective prosecution of someone for a bedroom law which had been on the books for years, but was almost never enforced. There are similar laws out there for a whole range of “crimes against the state”, including a slew of other bedroom violations, safety regulations, dress codes, and general “busybody” intrusions.

I started to wonder how many of these laws I might have violated at one time or another. I decided to think about a normal event that might have turned me into a criminal somewhere in this country. I thought about my morning walk. Correct that, a hypothetical walk that I might have taken but really never did. Here is a list of hypothetical actions that would have gotten me in trouble somewhere in the United States, although not necessarily in Concord.

1)      I jay walked across several side streets.
2)      I walked on the grass in Capital Park.
3)      I loitered outside the bagel shop.
4)      I littered by tossing some bagel bits to the birds.
5)      I actually did feed the birds (two sparrows).
6)      I cussed at a car that almost ran me over in the crosswalk.
7)      I used a handicapped stall in the McDonalds men’s room (they only have one stall).
8)      I wore a Dartmouth Indian t-shirt.

I also observed the following crimes being committed:

1)      A really heavy guy jogged by me topless.
2)      A kid was riding his bike on the sidewalk.
3)      A lady was walking her dog and he was not on his leash.
4)      A dog did publicly defecate in Bicentennial Square (without bag).
5)      A guy publicly grabbed his girlfriend’s rear end.
6)      A lady plugged a meter.
7)      A guy popped his four-year-old on the bottom after the kid ran out into the street.
8)      A motorcycle couple drove down Main Street without helmets.

Now I know many of you are saying that I am ridiculous for even bringing this stuff up, but somewhere in this country there are groups of people who are horrified by each of these actions, and are ready to prosecute. Actually, if they saw it, everyone would be ready to prosecute the topless guy.

The thing that really scares me, however, is that not only do we have a lot of dumb laws on the books, but also we keep putting out new ones every day. And no one seems to sunset any of them.

We could easily have laws soon for all sorts of things from banning fast foods, to demanding the wearing of sunglasses in sunny climates, to requiring restrictor plates on cars. There is no end in sight to the foolishness of some of this stuff.

So the next time you take a walk, or work in your garden (poppies may soon be illegal), or build a deck with pressure-treated wood, or go to Burger King, get some legal advice, or face the possibility of spending a few years in the slammer.

As the keeper of the flame for “living free”, New Hampshire needs to take a stand and tell all the nanny’s to take a seat.