My own narrative seems incredible to me, yet I am myself a witness of its truth. When I say that I have lived in this England more than one thousand years, and have seen her bud from the callowest barbarity to the height of a prosperity and honour with which the world is full, I shall at once be branded as a liar. Let it pass! The accusation is familiar to my ears. I am tired of resenting it before your father's fathers were born, and the scorn of your offended sense of veracity is less to me than the lisping of a child.
-- Edwin Lester Arnold, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician (1890)
Arnold (1857-1935) was a British journalist and author who had studied agriculture and ornithology. His first four books were nonfiction, including Coffee: Its Cultivation and Profit (1886) and Bird Life in England (1887). His first novel, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician, was first published in 24 parts in Illustrated London News, and told of "a warrior who goes in and out of an unexplained state of suspended animation in order to be a witness to invasions or attempted invasions of England." His next novels, including Rutherford the Twice-Born (1892) and Lepidus the Centurian: A Roman of Today (1901), both fantasy-tinged romances, were commercial failures, as was his 1905 novel Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (a.k.a. Gulliver of Mars*). Following the poor reception of Gullivar, Arnold gave up writing altogether, not realizing that that book would go on to become a classic in the science fiction/fantasy genre and may have been an inspiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels about John Carter of Mars.
Phra is a Phoenician who, in his first life, returns a beautiful English slave to her homeland. In each episode of the novel (the Roman invasion, the Saxon invasion, the Norman invasion, the invasion of France, and the Elizabethan age) find our hero falling in love. To the reader of today, Arnold's writing may be tortured, taking three or four paragraphs when one might suit, but it is an importnt work in the history of science fiction.
* Note the spelling change.
An Anniversary: It was seven years ago this Saturday that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred -- one of the most horrific acts of gun violence America has ever seen: Among the 26 victims were 20 first graders. Almost before the smoke had cleared, conspiracy theorists were at work claiming the entire thing was a hoax using child actors to stage the "massacre." Among these theorists -- the worst people in the world -- are Alex Jones of Info Wars, who has been praised by Donald Trump and has a long history of pandering to the nutwings of the world. Among the other despicables (who are infinitely baser than the soc-called deplorables) are dentist Orly Taitz (who was also a big promoter of the birther conspiracy), talk show host Clive Lewis, news anchor Ben Swann (who decided that shooter Adam Lanza had another shooter with him; other theorists claim there were as many as four shooters), college professor James Tracy (who claimed the shootings did not happen, or if they did, they did not occur as reported), James Fetzer and Mike Palacek (authors of Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which claimed that the entire thing was a Federal Emergency Response drill and that the actual shootings never happened), Tom Ready (a Colorado Republican candidate for a county commission office who questioned whether the shootings ever happened), British conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson (who pointed a link between the shootings and the book The Hunger Games, which was written by Newtown resident Suzanne Collins; other have posited that a map seen in the Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises helped set the stage for the massacre), Andrew David Trulove (who stole a memorial sign to two of the victims because he felt the crime never happened), Matthew Mills (who harassed the sister of murdered teacher -- and heroine -- Victoria Soto, claiming the Soto was a fabrication who never existed), Lucy Richards (who sent death threats to one of the parents of a Sandy Hook Victim), and the state media of Iran (who claimed the massacre was done by Israeli death squads).
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps the most despicable of all are the NRA and American politicians, who each turned a deaf ears to calls for meaningful gun reform in the wake of this tragedy. Both Wayne LaPierre and Mitch McConnell and their ilk deserve condemnation for their refusal to act in the public interest, choosing instead their own political gains.
Speaking of Moscow Mitch: The majority leader of the body that will try Donald Trump on two counts of impeachment (presuming the House passes the articles of impeachment) has gleefully announced that he is working closely with the Administration on the upcoming trial. Yes, it's a given that the Senate will likely not vote to impeach, but McConnell's actions are a clear violation of the constitution's intent. When future historians try to pin the blame on the death of American democracy, most will point to McConnell rather than Trump, for this and many other reasons.
We're Not the Only Ones in Trouble: Consider the poor royal family. The antics of Prince Andrew have put a sizable dent in the royal's reputation at a time when many Brits consider the royal family superfluous. When Queen Elizabeth dies (or retires at age 95, as some believe), the monarchy will face a crisis. Heir Prince Charles is very popular at present, as is his eldest son Prince William, but the populace can be fickle and Charles has had his share of bad press in the past. What do you think the odds re of the monarchy surviving?
On My Homefront: Pensacola has seen much better days. First, there was the horrific shooting at Pensacola NAS (which is still being sorted out). This Wednesday, a sheriff's deputy was shot while responding to a medical emergency call. Also this past week, a cyber-attack knocked out most of the city's computers in a ransomware attack. The city has managed to get some of their computers back online but the government business has been severely affected. Several other cities have been the victims of similar attacks and were forced to pay six-figure ransoms. Thus far Pensacola has not bowed to the ransomers' demands.
Florida Man: 2019 has been a boon year for Florida Man. Among his antics:
- Florida Man accused of giving beer to alligator. (October) He also tried to get the alligator to bite his arm.
- Florida Man (Junior Edition) steals two cars, beats alligator and gives it a cigarette. (April) Yes, he put it on video.
- Florida Woman uses machete to save a venomous coral snake from a cat. (April) Priorities must be set.
- Florida man feeds watermelon to a wild kinkajou and it attacks him the next day. (August) The kinkajou was described as "super-aggressive." You think?
- Florida Man kills sawfish by removing its extended nose with a power saw. (November) The sawfish is an endangered species; it's nose perhaps more so now.
- Slice of pizza convinces Florida Man to end police standoff. (February) The standoff, lasting four hours, took place in Pensacola; the Florida Man was from Gulf Breeze, where I live.
- Florida Man arrested for impersonating a federal corrections officer to get a McDonald's discount. (August) No matter what he ordered, he certainly didn't get a "happy meal."
And the year is not yet over!
And Some Good News:
- Hawaii's state bird soars back from the brink of extinction. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/hawaiian-goose-comes-back-from-extinction/
- Deli owner has received more than 400 letters to Santa -- and he has responded to all of them. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/deli-owner-receives-and-responds-to-400-letters-to-santa/
- Plant compounds used to successfully treat Alzheimer's in mice now shown to prevent other effects of aging. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/drugs-used-to-treat-alzheimers-disease-also-reverses-aging-effects/
- World's first 3-D printed community of homes now set to house Mexico's poorest families. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/worlds-first-community-of-3d-printed-houses/
- Fashion student makes "Memory Bears" for grieving families out of clothing used by their deceased loved ones. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/student-makes-memory-bears-out-of-clothing-from-deceased-loved-ones/
- Songwriting duo releases their first album at 102 and 88 years old. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/songwriting-duo-releases-first-album-at-102-and-88-years-old/ And here's "I Just Can't Remember Your Name,"a song from their album Senior Songbook. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf-lWz0ErEY&list=OLAK5uy_nHmniy3HrOgcLnV9NTWXIsT1YtMaqkSTE
- First graders persuade their school to adopt a therapy dog, and their story netted $100,00 for the shelter that house him. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/students-persuaded-school-to-adopt-therapy-dog-and-win-100k-for-shelter/
- Brian Johnson, AC?DC frontman, helps fund and innovative campus so foster siblings can stick together -- and thrive. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/brian-johnson-donates-335000-property-to-help-foster-kids/
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." -- Aesop
Hug O' War
I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
-- Shel Silverstein