Searching for the Twilight Zone—in Binghamton NY

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Pictured above is the bus terminal of Binghampton, NY. It is no longer just for Greyhound—all county buses now launch from the site. Built in 1938, it is of the Art Deco design known as Streamline Moderne—I love this design!—intended to convey aerodynamics and speed. Only a half dozen of such terminals still exist—there were once ten times that number.

This particular station was the inspiration for Rod Serling’s “The Mirror,” an episode of the anthology series The Twilight Zone. That episode terrified me. All Twilight Zones did, but I didn’t see too many as a boy because it was past my bedtime. Every so often, however—due to circumstances I no longer recall—I succeeded in outmaneuvering my parents and scared myself silly with the off-limits show.

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The Mirror is a story of a woman waiting for the bus who becomes unnerved when her exact double appears from another world, intent on replacing her. She is assured by others that such things are imaginary and do not happen, but then she looks up from outside the bus and—gasp!—there is that double seated on board, gazing down upon her.

Rod Serling narrated every opening and closing of The Twilight Zone. For “Mirror Image,” he began with:

Millicent Barnes, age twenty-five, young woman waiting for a bus on a rainy November night. Not a very imaginative type is Miss Barnes: not given to undue anxiety, or fears, or for that matter even the most temporal flights of fantasy. Like most young career women, she has a generic classification as a, quote, girl with a head on her shoulders, end of quote. All of which is mentioned now because, in just a moment, the head on Miss Barnes' shoulders will be put to a test. Circumstances will assault her sense of reality and a chain of nightmares will put her sanity on a block. Millicent Barnes, who, in one minute, will wonder if she's going mad.”

A young man in the episode, concerned for Millicent’s visibly deteriorating mental health, settles back in his seat at the terminal after the officers he has summoned have taken the woman away for help. He notices his bag is missing. He spots the thief absconding with it. Overtaking him, he discovers that—gasp!—it is his double!

Serling closes:

Obscure and metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon. Reasons dredged out of the shadows to explain away that which cannot be explained. Call it 'parallel planes' or just 'insanity'. Whatever it is, you'll find it in the Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling was a favorite son of Binghamton, born and raised there. You can run around and view, as we did on a recent visit, the homes in which he grew up—well, two of the three, anyway. It is a small city. Getting from anywhere to anywhere else is a snap. The Rod Serling Archive produces a map that lists other sites. There is the site of Serling’s Market Sanitary—it is a parking lot today. There is Serling’s Market—now a vacant lot, as is the former site of the Arlington Hotel, the inspiration for an episode of Night Gallery, a show he later hosted. The temple where his family once worshiped is now the Binghamton Housing Authority. His six Emmys and Peabody Award are housed at Ithaca College, about 45 minutes away. His own nondescript gravesite is at Interlaken Cemetery, another 45 minutes to the northwest.

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Other episodes of the Twilight Zone were fashioned in his home town. The carousel and bandstand of Recreation Park serves as the setting for “Walking Distance.” This is the episode—not particularly scary, though it probably terrified me at the time—in which a man named Martin has his car break down—they often did back then—necessitating repairs in his hometown that he happens to be driving through. While waiting, he wanders into the park that he remembers so well, and finds that time there has stood still. Why—he spots himself as an eleven-year-old riding the carousel! He calls out to his younger self. His call distracts the boy, who tumbles off the horse and breaks his leg. Instantly, the adult Martin feels the pain. And so forth—on goes the storyline.

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Closing narration:

Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then too, because he'll know it isjust an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.”

We stopped at Recreation Park. The bandstand is still there at an intersection of sidewalks. It is dated, a bit ragged, and is perhaps no longer used for its intended purpose, but the nearby carousel was only closed up because fall had arrived—during summer it sees regular use. Sturdy trees tower over both structures, indeed over all of the park except for what looks like a more recent addition of athletic fields. The leaves were turning—yellow and oranges predominated—and only some had fallen. The small city itself is surrounded by hills—bursting with color during our visit. The day was sunny. The autumn air was crisp.

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Then there was Fowler’s (now Boscov’s), a department store on the corner of Court and Water streets. In the old days, the Boscov’s salesman told me, a piano player entertained shoppers. This site was the inspiration for “The After Hours,” an episode featuring a woman named Marsha, who chances into the store and passes all the mannequins. For a transaction, someone asks her for ID, and hers only goes back a month! More strange things transpire. She tries to run away, but freezes into plastic as she does so. The show ends with her a mannequin on display—her turn to be a human has expired—and another store mannequin, one that she passed earlier, is now taking his turn walking about shopping as a human!

Imagine standing forever still, unable to act, to speak, to touch a reassuring hand. If you were released from such a fate, even for a while, wouldn't you hope to forget that in reality, you're only on a short leave of absence...from the Twilight Zone?”

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Boscov’s proved an interesting find in itself, if only because downtown department stores are a dying rarity in most cities. This one is growing—not dying at all—and it is one of a chain of 48. It began as a single dry goods store in Reading PA purchased by Solomon Boscov, a Russian immigrant who arrived in 1914 speaking only Yiddish. 26 Boscov stores are scattered throughout Pennsylvania—it’s first (1962) out-of-state store is this one here in Binghamton, just a few miles over the state line—with four floors, escalators at center, elevators on the side, adjacent to a four-story parking garage, so that you can exit on any level and walk straight to your car. Mirrors make the interior seem larger than it actually is.

Is Boscov’s the department store equivalent of Wegman’s, the family-owned supermarket chain from my home town, Rochester, which opened its 101st store in Brooklyn this week? I left my wife in the store while I walked around the downtown area to snap a few pictures for this post. When I returned, she was exactly where I would have imagined she would be—in the bargain nook on the 4th floor—the Auditorium, probably a preserved holdover from Fowler’s. “This place is like a mall in itself—it has everything!” she exclaimed. I left her there to stroll the floor, where the salesman mentioned previously tried to interest me in furniture. “I might buy a couch if you could deliver it to Rochester,” I responded.

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We fell into conversation about my visit to Binghamton. He knew about the Twilight Zone episode at his store, but he hadn’t seen my Archive map of Rod Serling destinations. He didn’t endorse our previous visit to the Cracker Barrel for lunch because each year the chains take about 2% from the business of the struggling Mom and Pop diners that he favors—he had been one of the Pops himself and now he is selling furniture at Boscov’s. So I told him about Dave back in Rochester from my season or three of carrying newspapers.

Newspaper carriers arrive at a ridiculously early hour to pick up and bag their papers for morning delivery. They do this in one of several large warehouses, and I got used to preparing my stock across the table from old Dave, who was preparing his. I lamented the morning that Wegman’s Chase Pitkin home repair store chain went down. Wegman’s had declared that they wished to focus on their core grocery business. The real reason, I said, was that they were steamrollered by the out-of-town corporate Home Depot’s and Lowe’s, and wasn’t that too bad. But Dave didn’t have a bit of sympathy for them. What goes around, comes around, he said. He had once been the Pop of a Mom and Pop hardware store, and Chase Pitkin had sent him packing—now here he was, in his 70s, delivering the morning paper. Karma might be a bitch for Chase-Pitkin, but it but it didn’t bother him even the slightest.

87 Court Street is the former home of Resnick’s Woman’s Apparel, which inspired the Twilight Zone episode “Where is Everybody?”

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space, and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, and it lies between the pit of man's fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area that we call, The Twilight Zone.”

In this episode, a man in an Air Force uniform—he cannot recall why—enters a town, finds it completely deserted. As he wanders, he grows increasingly paranoid that he is being watched. His fears grow upon spotting the paperback on the spinning book rack—who set it spinning?— “The Last Man on Earth, Feb, 1959”—his time! Panic mounting, wildly running through the street, he hits a pedestrian call button and screams for help. The pedestrian call button turns out to be a panic button. Military personnel stop the experiment. He has actually been in an isolation booth, and they have been running tests to see if he can endure the long periods of isolation he will encounter on his upcoming space launch to the moon.

The barrier of loneliness: The palpable, desperate need of the human animal to be with his fellow man. Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting... in The Twilight Zone.”

There is no Resnick’s Woman’s Apparel anymore. It disappeared long ago, as though it, too, had been part of the experiment. The street-front building now houses university students.

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Housing students is a growth industry for Binghamton today. The students like to move off campus and into town—same as I did when I was in school. Binghamton University is growing, even though the Bundy Museum docent told me that only 10% of those who apply are admitted. Its prestige shot up recently when one of its professors was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry—highly unusual for a college in the state SUNY school system—it is a prize that generally goes to the most prestigious universities. Professor M Stanley Whittingham had, years prior, conducted research that led to the development of the lithium-ion battery. “I think it’s no question this will make more people know of the university and make people look up, ‘Where is Binghamton,’” he said at a press conference.

Professor M Stanley Whittingham, a brainy type, a man whose claim to recognition came and departed long ago. Some would call him a has-been, his deeds overlooked by time. A pedant who now teaches ordinary students at an ordinary college in an ordinary small town in upstate New York, the professor long ago resigned himself to a slow downward slide into obscurity. Impossible for such a forgotten man to receive the Nobel Prize, you say? Ordinarily yes. Unless that college happens to be located in the town that forever remains the birthplace of...the Twilight Zone.”

[Paragraphs in italics are the words of Mr. Serling, except for the last, which is mine.]

 

 

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WBBF in Rochester Bans “They’re Coming to Take Me Away—Ha Haaa!”

The stressor that triggered a mental breakdown in “They’re coming to take me away, ha haa” was a runaway dog, not a girlfriend! The artist included the line, “They'll find you yet and when they do, they'll put you in the ASPCA, you mangy mutt" to defuse the charge that he was making fun of mentally ill persons. “And it worked!” said Jerry Samuels, the songwriter.

It didn’t work for Rochester’s WBBF, the station for kids throughout my childhood. I well remember the 1966 novelty song. It instantly soared to the top of the station’s playlist—and then it disappeared. A most unusual public service announcement (as though from God, from the perspective of a child) then stated that the song had been pulled because it made fun of the mentally ill.

Apparently, WBBF’s action was as unusual as their PSA. Wikipedia (accessed 10/15/2019) makes no mention of the song’s being unwelcome anywhere. And yet it clearly did make fun of the mentally ill—WBBF was right. “And I’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats, and they’re coming to take me awaayyy ha haaa! — to the ‘funny farm,’ where life is beautiful all the time”—you don’t think that’s making fun of the mentally ill? What difference does it make whether the trigger is a runaway girlfriend or a runaway dog?

In fact, I remember that line about the “mangy mutt” and I took it for just bitter words directed at the girlfriend—I’m not sure that I knew what the ASPCA was back then. Had the lyrics been, “Lollypop Farm,” it would have been a different story for anyone in Monroe County, even if meaningless for those anywhere else.

This makes me reflect on the AM radio of my youth, WBBF. Only that station, and the more avant-grade and unpredictable WSAY played the songs popular with my g-g-generation. All the rest played Perry Como. There was no FM radio at the time.

Was WBBF unusually responsible back then—a pillar among young-people stations? I am inclined to assign it that grade retroactively. I certainly know that it could be hilarious. Jack Palvino was the morning host, and he intertwined jokes that still hold up, decades later. I still remember them, and smile whenever I do.

“Friends, do you have bills to pay?” one seeming commercial began. “Well, please give it back. Bill’s head is getting cold.”

Jack ran a lot of spots like that. It must have been some subscription service for jokes—unless he just made them up, which is possible. Even the more raucous ones like the teary, “I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!” and a sympathetic Jack would say, “You poor man! You can tell me—what is it you can’t stand?” to which the answer would be, “YOUR FACE!” still prompts a grin, juvenile though it is.

And don’t get me going about Chickenman, a spoof on Superman! Chickenman offered his services to the city as crimefighter, and they would have just as soon that he dropped dead. A horrible klutz with a secret identity like Superman—he woke the police commissioner’s secretary, Miss Helpinger, out of a sound sleep, disguising his voice (which she instantly saw through) to report that he had been kidnapped. Somehow he managed to set his wings on fire with his utility laser light and as the approaching fire truck sirens could be heard in the background, the exasperated secretary advised him to flap his wings, for this would serve to put out the fire—or perhaps it would serve to spread it, which may have been her real aim.

As young teens, Jack Palvino inspired us to try our hand doing the same. My best chum, a few houses down, was a hobbyist with electronics. He built a radio station. We named it WNOR. It’s antenna stretched from his bedroom window to a weeping-willow tree 100 yards away. WNOR station had a radius of about a mile—we walked around the block to check—and we would spend much time after school spinning our limited number of records during on-air sessions. The “Evil One” in our mind, at the time, was the FCC, which supposedly raided and shut down stations such as ours—this reputedly was the fate of one such pirate station (I loved the term—pirates!) several miles to the south of us.

We copied Jack Palvino’s techniques, inventing the series of short snippets, “Golf tips—-(cue a golf swing by the mike)—with Jack Bogey”—Jack Nicklaus was all the rage back then. A listener would ask Jack if he preferred his woods, and Jack would say that he did not because he lost too many balls there. We were kids, you must remember.

The creative phase even carried through when I later attended Potsdam State and volunteered for the student radio station—I forget what the call letters there were. Another chum and I took the morning slot—just like Jack had done in my childhood. A few minutes after the sports report, read off the AP wire, we wrote alternating “special” sports reports, with mine running down his team (Syracuse) and his running down mine.

Jack Palvino made his life career in radio, though he was only behind the microphone during my youth. From time to time, his name would pop up in local news, as would that of Nick Nickson, another WBBF mainstay. I wonder where they are today—and even if they are yet alive. I will look it up after finishing this post.

And—coming back to the topic of mental illness—if you had a mental breakdown in Rochester, they would take you to the R-wing of Strong Hospital. Throughout my adult life this has been so. It still is. It has never occurred to me to ask, “Where does the R come from?” Nevertheless, I discovered the answer to the question I had never asked during a recent visit to the Jello Museum in nearly Leroy, NY. Heir to the Jello fortune, Helen Rivas gave $2.1 million to the hospital for the purpose of a facility to treat those suffering mental illness, and the R stands for Rivas.

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Live From the Locker Room

After Trump was caught saying the bad words, he dismissed it as locker-room talk. Reporters were not so easily duped and launched an investigation:

....

“Good evening. We’re broadcasting live from the locker room tonight to reveal to America just what goes on in this previously obscure culture that has so suddenly thrust itself upon the national stage. We’ll interview some players in this intriguing venue. Ah, here’s comes a jock now. “Hey! Yo! Whazzup? We’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Why, good evening sirs, madam. You must be members of the news media. Welcome to our humble locker room. It’s not much, but please make yourself at home. There are refreshments in the adjacent room.”

“Charlie, it’s as we thought. They’re not crude at all here. They are quite refined and sensitive to gender rights. They are just…”

“HEY, YA WANNA GET YOUR CRAP OUTTA HERE?! I CAN’T GET TO MY @%!# LOCKER!”

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Weather Then and Tomorrow

Has it always been that way, with bad weather dominating the news? I borrowed Paul’s time machine again - he’s always tinkering with something - and zipped back fifty years. A snowstorm had blanketed the country. I turned on the TV news, expecting to see reporters standing in snowdrifts, pointing to smash-ups on the roads. Nothing! Not until 35 minutes into the program: “We now break to our weather reporter, Sergeant Garrett. Sergeant, what can you tell us?” “It’s winter,” Sargent said, “suck it up! From Frozentusch, Iowa, back to you, Walter.’”

What barbarians! I hopped in the machine and headed home, but when I hit 2014, I got stuck in a snowdrift. I got out to push. All the networks were there. They rushed over. One reporter fell on her keister.

“Whoa! It’s really slick out there! Here’s a man stuck in a time machine! What do you have to say to America, sir”

“Whoa, it’s really slick out here!” I said. “And cold!”

Reporters helped me break free my time machine and gave me a push-start, but I slid right past my exit into year 2038. It appeared that covering snowstorms had brought such good ratings that television news had expanded their coverage to nightfalls.

“All across the country, Americans are coping with encroaching darkness! We now break to our correspondent General Garrett, in Blackentusch, Iowa. General, what can you tell us?”

“Thanks, Charlie. Well, it’s really something out here since the sun went down. I can’t see my hand in front of my face! It’s really very dangerous.”

‘Thanks, General. Now we’ll go to the Federal Bureau of Aggravation.”

“Every day we warn people, and every day there are some who wait till the last minute! You must make sure that you have light bulbs in all lamps and that all lamps are plugged in!”

“Thanks, General. Excellent reporting as always. Good advice. This is potentially very serious and it’s easy to forget that during daytime. But scientists tell us that the sun will absolutely go down tonight – this is not something you want to play games with!”

From 'No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash'

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I Asked My Doctor about My Problem Prostate, and He Prescribed Takapis

I like to live life to the full. And just because I have entered my 60's - well, there is no slowing down for me!

But, I had a problem that almost stopped me cold from enjoying everything life had to offer - my Prostate. Twenty times a day and twenty times a night it called me to the bathroom. But once there, i couldn't "go." Well, I'm not a man to let these things slow me down! So I asked my doctor about it.

He said I had a badness problem prostate and that there was a name for my condition: BPP disease.

And he prescribed Takapis. Now my life is full again. Ask your doctor if Takapis is right for you. If he says no, he'll hear about it from us.

(Takapis is not for everyone. The most common side effects are nausea, incontinance, suicidal thoughts, hemhoroids, bad breath, cancer and leprosy, which can lead to death. Tell your doctor right away if you experience death. Do not stop taking Takapis before talking to your doctor. We'll make sure he says no. Do not take Takapis with food. Do not take Takapis within 200 yards of a fire hydrant. Do not take Takapis on an empty stomach. If you cannot afford your medication, tell us just how much money you do have. Maybe we can reach a deal )

Takapis changed my life and made me one happy camper. Maybe Takapis will do the same for you! That's Takapis. T A K A P I S, to live life to the full! Download

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I'm Pulling up the Rose Bushes

They’re all going down now. Charlie Rose is the latest. Charlie Rose! The reporter who interviewed Putin and everyone else under the sun. His two CBS female cohosts somberly intoned that he would get no free pass around their newsroom sanctuary, though they had been yucking it up every morning with him for the longest time.

I have said nice things about Charlie Rose. No more! I hate him! So that there should be no misunderstanding, I have uprooted all the rose bushes around the house.

Ultimately half the men on the planet will go down. You can expect no less from a world that treats sex as a great sport following a date or even discarding the date altogether as unnecessary baggage. A hookup culture. What – do you think men are going to be gentlemen in those circumstances? Men will ‘get fresh’ in such atmosphere, like they always have, and both men and women will afterward reassess sex they both thought consensual at the time through the haze of alcohol.

It is only a matter of time before Celino and Barnes set up satellite offices in each bedroom so that the paperwork is duly recorded and notorized before the action commences. “I got 10 million dollars, 80 times what the creep said he would pay,” we will hear their new ads on TV.

Sometimes I think that the only men on earth who can be reasonably expected to behave are those at the Kingdom Hall who have agreed to God’s terms on sex. The occasional lowlife there can expect serious chastisement. Knowing that, he tends to keep his hands to himself. Cbs

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What is it Like in a Wind Tunnel?

NBC put a reporter a wind tunnel to tell us what that is like. He said it blows. He said it was not fine to be in a hurricane – you ought to steer clear.

‘okay, now at 70 miles per hour – whoa! – my clothes are flapping and anything not nailed to the ground is coming loose! I can’t even hold on to this pole – my grip is slipping!! There goes the toupee and my glasses! Now – oh no! – the wind is catching my cheeks!...

‘....fluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppafluppa!!!!!.... ‘Whoa! That was close! I almost couldn’t speak!’

Sheesh! Put him in rising flood waters and let him tell us what that is like!

Hurricane

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Alzheimer's Research: So the Cops Shoot the Bad Guys Instead of the Good Guys...

Now that I'm old enough to receive the AARP magazine, I read each issue cover to cover. They're packed with nice articles geared to the aging, and......there's no nice way to say this.....that's what I'm doing. But a recent piece about Alzheimers research in September's Bulletin (Alzheimer's: a new Theory, by Elizabeth Agnvall) left me un-warm and un-fuzzy. I've known people to succumb to Alzheimers. Moreover, I don't have it now, but how do I know it's not lurking around the corner? Some would say it's made certain inroads, already. So...yes...I want medical science to get its act together on this malady. Sure, they have their act together now, the author maintains. But they insisted, with the same fervor, that they had it together just a few years ago. The author points out, however, that today's approach is a 180 degree reversal from yesterday's.

Turns out that for the last 20 years, medical science has proceeded on the theory that “sticky plaques” are the culprit causing Alzheimer's. Drugs have been developed to search and destroy those plaques. Haven't they been peddled on American TV: Ask your doctor if such-and-such is right for you? Those ads drive Pop into a rage. But now sticky plaques are thought to be not the culprit! Rather, they are the body's defense for attacking the real menace: clumps of amyloid beta protein, called oligomers. Oligomers do the damage, not sticky plaques, so the new thinking goes. Sticky plaques are the body's means to take them out! We've been targeting the wrong enemy! Medically sanctioned “friendly fire”…...the practice for the last twenty years!

Now, being a blogger who believes in God, I have to be so careful writing anything that might be perceived as critical of science, lest some science-worshipping atheist come along and lecture me that science is based on EVIDENCE, whereas religion is based on mere BELIEF, and what do I think is smarter when I'm sick: pray myself better, or go to a science-based doctor, and do I still believe that the earth is flat?! I tell you, it's a risky course to take. So, let me say it upfront: I'm not against science. I know it's a discovery process. I know mistakes are made along the way. Alright, so the cops arrive upon the scene and shoot all the good guys instead of the bad guys! Is that any reason to be down on law enforcement? Of course not! A slight adjustment is all that's needed. So let bygones be bygones and we'll all be happy.

No. I'm not critical on that account. Mistakes happen. God knows there's plenty of people who scour past publications of JWs to find understandings which have changed, and then get all hysterical over it, supposing, I guess, that any modification is like smashing the Ten Commandments tablets. Jehovah's Witnesses tack. We hone in. We get ever closer and sometimes alter course. Why should science not do the same?

What grabs me is this quote: “[Andrew] Dillin, of the Salk Institute, started pursuing the oligomer theory several years ago. Then, the idea was so controversial, Dillin says, that some scientists would walk out of the room when he made his presentation at conferences. Now, he says, many of the top researchers in the field are convinced.”

They walked out of the room? How dogmatic does that sound? How in keeping is that with Plonka's manifesto “prove a scientist wrong and he will thank you for it.” It's rather hard to prove them wrong when they walk out of the room as soon as they hear something they don't like. Now, that's intransigence of the sort they would, in a heartbeat, ascribe to religion.  And yet, just a few years later, these same scientists alter and say “Oh.....you know, that fellow was right all along!”


They're not immune to stubbornness, that's all I'm saying. What steams me is those who claim they are.....that second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types who worship science themselves and ram it down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. For, if this new theory is right, then you were better off declining when your doctor prescribed those Alzheimer's medications. “No, I don't trust it,” and “these guys don't know what they're talking about” are now seen to be perfectly reasonable views to have held. But God help you if you held them while the fat-headed 180 degree ass-backward Alzheimer's approach was in vogue. “Alright, don't take the meds, if you're going to be so pig-headed!” can't you hear some of them say. “Maybe you want to go to a faith healer, or a witch doctor, instead!” But now we see that's exactly what you should have done. They may not have helped, but they wouldn't have hurt, as did the now-outdated science-based approach.

The article soft-pedals this bit of unpleasantness: “And if the [new] theory is correct, then drugs that target plaques – as many of the most promising medications have done in the past few years – may not help people who have the disease. They could even make them worse.” A very deferential statement, is it not? If the theory is correct, they certainly make them worse.....one would think, in exact correlation with how they were supposed to have made them better. Even though they were the “most promising” medications. Unless the old meds never did anything in the first place. Perhaps, in that case, you can now claim they do no harm. But when marketers urge us to pester our doctors for the stuff, surely the response they hope to elicit from that learned one is not “don't bother, they don't do anything, you'll just be wasting your money!”

It took me awhile to realize....dikki clued me in, actually....that pharmaceutical companies advertizing on TV is not a worldwide phenomenon. It happens in only two countries, I am told, of which the United States is one. So it will be hard for non-American readers to fathom just how obnoxious these ads are. Decisive, immaculate and impossibly handsome doctors stride purposefully through futuristic laboratories. They glance alternately at teams of researchers peering into microscopes, at banks of computers, at their clipboard, and, of course, at YOU, as they authoritatively report the very latest astounding medical breakthrough. “Such-and-such is not right for everyone,” they acknowledge, “but...damn it, man,” they seem to be saying, “you know it's right for you!” Even as I write, I'm recalling one such “doctor” striding through a lab reminiscent of Batman's lair, touting some new med that unlocks the very “power of the sea,” (fish oil...the stuff you've been able to buy forever at any health foods store) and.....would you believe it?....the donkey actually ends his pitch peering contemplatively into the lab's full-wall aquarium, as if marveling how his outfit has managed to make a buck out of something God provided free.

This formula is not set in concrete. It can vary slightly. Alzheimer's, for example, afflicts our grandparents, and our grandparents are kindly, aren't they? So a brusque futuristic setting will not do. No. The setting here must be warmer, a kindly doctors office, for example, and the doctor himself ought to have gray hair. Antidepressants, too, ought to be touted by a kindly and caring doctor, not some self-centered jerk who's Porsche vanity plates read “PSYCH DR.” For woman's health, we even change the doctor's gender, for isn't any guy specializing in female issues a little suspect? No longer is the doctor an impossibly handsome man. Now it's an impossibly attractive woman, who's also athletic, has piercing eyes and an oddly spelled first name....you know, a Bond girl.

This type of 180 reversal in medical science happens all the time*, so that one ought to be given more credit than they commonly are (namely, none) if they choose to pass on the latest medical, or even scientific, thinking. It's somewhat as they say about the weather here in Rochester (or most anywhere else, I imagine): don't like the weather? Just stick around. It will change. Those who resist the latest advances of science for whatever reasons....perhaps reasons they can't even articulate.....intuitive reasons, if you will, sometimes come out ahead. They certainly do so often enough that there's no reason to criticize them. To acknowledge such is not to deride science, but only to put it into perspective. It's a generally progressive means of discovery, but not so sterling that it trumps every other sort of thinking. If one accepts that the present scientific consensus is tentative, then one does okay, and one can take it in stride when understandings change, being happy about the advance. Even then, however, it's only a (most likely) forward step taken, and not the finished mystery. Alas, there are ever so many who take the latest scientific notion as dogma. God help you if you fail to embrace their conclusions as truth.

It doesn't mean you ought to disparage science, of course, but surely it means you need not respond “how high?” when science says “jump!”

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Bullfights, Bearfights, and Elisha the Prophet

The other day in Madrid, a bull leapt from the ring into the stands. It gored a few, trampled a few, fell on a few. Altogether, 40 were hurt, only a few seriously. Sure scared the wits out of them all, though. Now....you know the way American TV is: they ran the scene as a loop so that you saw it, not once, but several times.  And then the evening news did the same, and the commentaries, and the talk shows, and probably the morning news next day, in case anyone had missed it. In short...if Americans were anywhere that day, they saw the charging bull and the fleeing people.
 
And......let's be honest. It was hard not to root for the bull. Not to imply that we're happy about the injured people. No. You know me better than that. I didn't say anyone rooted against the people. It's just that they rooted for the bull. These folks had come to see the bull taunted, tormented, tortured, and killed. But the tables were turned! It didn't turn out that way. Well, actually it did...the bull was put to death....but not before he had claimed a few for himself.
 
Watching the TV loop, wasn't it a bit like those revenge shows people love to watch, where the hero is pushed, shoved, framed, bullied, run over, his family molested, attacked, stomped upon....how can anyone endure such atrocities? but then finally, his nasty tormentor gets what's coming to him, in a blood-pumping mother-of-all fights during which he absorbs blow after blow, knifethrust after knifethrust, javelin piercings, bazookas blasts, gunshot after gunshot (whereas anyone else promptly falls with a single shot fired in their general direction) till he....YES!! staggers and crashes to the ground. Whew!! Our hero's exhausted! He turns his back....why would he not?.. ...and consoles the remains of his long-suffering family, and begins to......OMIGOSH!!!!.....the bad guy's getting up again!!! How is that possible??!! He's creeping up on tiptoe with a crowbar!!!! Our hero suspects nothing! He's not even looking! Turn around, you idiot!! His foe cocks for the final blow!!!  I can't watch!! (well...maybe a little)  but then KA-BLAMO!!!!....YES!! The cowering woman summons all her unsuspected strength and fires one last fatal shot through his head, splattering brains everywhere; he staggers backward and topples over the balcony, falling 40 floors and landing in a packed pool of piranhas, who devour him alive, turning the water bright red, all to the sounds of his agonized screams! YEAH!!!! THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!!
 
But, back to the.....huh?....what do'ya mean 'lover of violence?' The bad guy got what was coming to him, didn't he?
 
As I say, back to the bullfight.
 
As a general rule, a rampaging bull at a social gathering would be cause for concern. You'd hope no one got hurt. It takes only one crucial fact....in this case, that the purpose of this gathering was to see the bull tormented and slaughtered .... to turn all our normal sensibilities upon their head. And a thousand years from now, when bullfights are ancient and forgotten history, so that no one could ever imagine such an cruel purpose to any gathering, one might, missing that key fact, find it absolutely barbaric that anyone could root for the murderous bull. Everything turns on one key fact, which may or may not be evident.
 
All of which is introduction to the account where Elisha calls down evil upon taunting children, whereupon bears come out of the woods and devour them.
 
And he proceeded to go up from there to Bethel. As he was going up on the way, there were small boys that came out from the city and began to jeer him and that kept saying to him: “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” Finally he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah. Then two she-bears came out from the woods and went tearing to pieces forty-two children of their number.   (2 Kings 2:23-24)
 
Let's face it; it's hard to put a happy face on that one. About the best you can do is assign that week's Bible review to a bald brother, who will tap his own shiny dome and pass himself off as one of a protected species, courtesy of 2nd Kings. But might there be some key fact that, just like the missing ingredient in Madrid, might make all the difference if we but knew what it was? It seems a notion worth pursuing.

For this account is from 3000 years ago. And I remember, for example, just 50 years ago, my mother might holler “I'll kill you for that!” if I....oh...say....ate the frosting off her newly baked cake. Americans my age will remember those five words were once a harmless expression you might use on a mischievous child. They might, in some cases, be practically an expression of endearment. The words, in most contexts, were not to be taken literally. Wasn't the accused kid of Twelve Angry Men found “not guilty” when one juror observed just that fact? Today, however, using those words will land you in deep trouble with the child protective people, the hate speech people, and God knows who else. Those oft uttered words of a half century ago are absolutely taboo today (though the deed has become commonplace).
 
If such a cultural shift can happen in a mere 50 years, what might happen in 3000 years? We think of the small boys of 2nd Kings in terms of kids of today and feel Elisha should count himself lucky they didn't attack him with baseball bats, so that to create such a fuss over mere words is just plain unseamly. But might there have been a societal norm of the day that declared certain conduct absolutely off-limits? Some norm known by one and all, drilled into the innermost fiber of everyone's being, so that a knowing violation would be shockingly unspeakable? A norm that equated mocking a prophet of God to mocking God himself, at a time when God was central everyone's being? It's a plausible notion to me. To you?
 
To be sure, such a notion flies in the face of the modern-day concept of “human rights,” but isn't there something a little grandiose about that concept? I admit, I'm naturally suspicious of any point-of-view originating in the modern-day, lest it be a manifestation of Proverbs 30:12: “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes but that has not been washed from its own excrement,” but even with that said, I distrust the concept. I prefer to speak of the “golden rule,” which embraces all that is noble about “human rights,” while discarding all that is pretentious.
 
For life itself doesn't seem to afford much respect for “human rights.” In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person alive. Ten years later, a victim of Alzheimer’s, he didn't know who he was. If nature itself discards us so easily...if we can so readily and unpredictably fall victim to loathsome disease or frightful accident....well....where is nature's respect for our “rights?”
 
Not to mention that, if you go speaking of “rights,” it almost seems that you ought to be able to do something about it if such rights are violated. While that may sometimes happen, we all know that, as often as not in the worldwide scheme of things, people's rights are violated with impunity. So how are they rights? Better to apply the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matt 7:12) It conveys all the kindness of “rights,” but sidesteps what doesn't fit. It does, however, imply humility, and ours is an age where people like to “stand proud,” so “human rights” is the terminology that sticks.
 
Anyway, I advance my theory in case I myself may someday be assigned a commentary of 2 Kings 2:23-24. I'll have to say something, and I won't be able to play it for laughs, like the bald brothers do; I have a full head of hair. Though.....sigh....it is thinning. Maybe when the time comes, the whole point will be moot.

Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The New Cool Mormons

The Mormons launched a new PR campaign on local TV.  Two 15 second spots run back to back.  There's a series of them. Each features a young, cool, vivacious person doing young, cool, vivacious things, with voiceover:
 
 I'm a bicyclist, I'm a curator, I'm a husband......and I'm a Mormon!
 
I'm a scateboarder, I'm a student, I'm a musician.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Toss in some feel-good banal statement, such as “I believe in living every minute of each day as though it was my last,” and the ad is complete:
 
I'm a surfer, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse, I believe that we're all here in life to make a difference.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Get it? We're cool, just like you. What.....did you hear somewhere that we're weird? Who told you that? No! We're not weird at all! We're just like you, only more so! Please.....love us!
 
Now, can I tell you what I think of this campaign? If I do, it will be a departure for me, because I've said kind things about Mormons on these posts. Besides, I don't want to offend Nate the Mormon, an amiable fellow with whom I sometimes exchange comments, who is these days given to writing movie reviews on off-the-radar films.  I mean, don't get me wrong.....it's not as though I think Mormons and JWs are brethern religions or anything.......we're poles apart spiritually.... but there are several similarities between us and they are good similarities. Both faiths have a public ministry....yes, yes, just a two year stint for the youngsters, but it's intense, and more than anyone else has. Both have a reputation for honesty. Both keep their ranks clean. Both look after their own, and promptly come to the aid of members in times of disaster. Both recognize the value of organization. Neither has members who insist on exercising their own rights to the exclusion of all else. Both even had a child superstar of the 70's: Donny Osmond for them, Michael Jackson for us (who, alas, strayed). No question about it: there's things about Mormons I like.

But I can't stand this new campaign of theirs. It wore out it's welcome the first time I saw it. Is it just a stupid  public relations move from the Mormons, or does it represent what they are? Dunno. But it's so pandering. It is so....oh, please love us.....we're cool, like you! Not the slightest hint of anything spiritual. Instead, absolute emphasis on how Mormons love to have fun, and how they love to do neat things. It's like the Catholics crowing 'we're the place for BINGO! Or “we've chucked those boring masses for guitars!” At least when they embraced those things, they didn't glorify it through PR spots, as though they wished to redefine themselves thereby. I mean, why carry on as if ashamed of what you are? Aren't Mormons supposed to be a faith?
 
Look, I'm not opposed to fun. Or having interesting work. All of those things the various Mormons do....we have people who do them, too. But I can't imagine a campaign in which we identify ourselves by those activities.

Now, it just so happens that the general managers of two Rochester radio stations are Jehovah's Witnesses. Sometimes you'll hear them on the air. That's cool, isn't it? I know both of these guys They're nice people. But there's no way I can imagine a TV spot featuring them in the control room, laughing and chatting into the mike, flipping this switch or that, grilling some recalcitrant newsmaker....so busy, so active, so alive, with the voiceover: I'm Tom Whitepebble. I'm a radio guy. I'm a husband. I'm a golfer. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!
 
For crying out loud, you could make one of those dopey ads about ME! Surround me with the developmentally disabled. See me helping them with this or that project. See the happiness I bring them, their excited, smiling faces. And now listen to the promo:  I'm Tom Sheepandgoats. I'm a community worker for the disabled. I'm a writer. I'm a father. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!

“I'm not weird at all! I'm cool! I don't eat Bible sandwiches! You could be cool, too, and happy, just like me, if you'd just become a Jehovah's Witness!”

I mean, doesn't it just make you want to puke?

Two years ago the Watchtower ran the life story ("Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry") of a Witness who was raised a Mennonite. I know the fellow. I've been to his home. As a Mennonite, he was chased from Russia to Germany. There he studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, was baptized, and again emigrated to Paraguay. He began preaching in a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, where they promptly spread out warnings about the newly arrived "false prophet." With his growing family, he moved here to upstate New York. The article touches upon various spiritual highlights and experiences of his life.
 
What it does not mention at all is that this fellow is now a millionaire. I mean, he must be, unless he gave it all away, which is possible....he's a very generous man. He became one of the area's premiere homebuilders. Tracts of homes bearing his company name are found everywhere. But there's absolutely no mention, in the Watchtower, of his material success. Instead, an exclusive focus on the spiritual. Possibly the next guy featured in the magazine didn't have two nickels to rub together. It's a matter of no importance. Each is defined in terms of spiritual things, not material. The day I hear “I'm Bob the Builder. I'm a homebuilder. I'm a traveler. I'm a millionaire. And......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!” I'm outta here.
 
That the Watchtower does not even mention this fellow's material success makes me very proud indeed to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Finally, a group that sees right through the shallowness of goals society teaches us to slobber over. Finally, a group not awed by social prominance, material success, or “coolness.” When our people are cool, it's incidental. It's not something sought after, and....one might as well say it, we have many who are decidedly uncool. Finally, a group who gets the sense of 1 John 2:15-17:
 
Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.
 
Of course, 1 John is from the Bible, and Mormons make little use of the Bible. Other than trying to make a few verses point to an Upcoming Modern Revelation, their own Book of Mormon, I don't think they use it at all. But apparently, if this new media campaign is anything to go by, the Book of Mormon repeals 1 John 2:15-17 in favor of avidly pursuing all goals the world deems valuable, being fully part of the world, if you will. It's just not our way.
 
Look, we have fun, Jehovah's Witnesses do. And we have interesting work, too, some of us anyway. A handful of us are even cool. But if you're main focus on life is to have fun and career fulfillment, don't come to us. That's not what we're all about. We're Bible people. We live it. We teach it. We don't carry on as if ashamed of it.

...........................

Update here

Still more here

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Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)