More Trump

Sorry, folks, but I’ve got to do it!! The Trump era continues to provide fodder for the mill. Just about every day there is some new and disturbing thing he does to give us all pause.

Just a couple notes, from the entertainment industry:

One: here is a quote from one of the greatest rock musicians ever, Robert Plant. In an interview about his latest album, Carry Fire, Plant mentions Trump as an inspiration for one of his songs. But, “It’s not just Trump. It’s every Trump that’s ever been. Every generation and every culture has several Trumps. It’s just some are a bit heftier than others. And you’ve got one hell of a heft over there.”

Two: I recently read an interview with the screenwriter for the Back to the Future movies of the eighties. This writer, way back in the early eighties, used Donald Trump as a model for his character, Biff. Biff was a bully in these movies. Everything he did was for his own advancement. He cared nothing for anyone else. Like Robert Plant said above, every generation has these characters. We can all recognize them in the Biffs and the Trumps of our time. That a screenwriter recognized this decades before Donald Trump ever ran for public office is very telling indeed. Trump’s character has been consistent from the beginning. He hasn’t changed his stripes. He has been a narcissistic bully from day one. He has never grown up, or grown beyond the person he was as a young man. In fact, I have heard several commentators refer to him as a “man-boy”, or even a “man-baby”. He has the demeanour, and intelligence, of an immature person.

The truly scary aspect of all this is the position he has found himself in. Here we have a truly immature narcissist in one of the most powerful positions in the world. My feeling, watching this ongoing circus called the Trump administration, is that he cares so little for anyone beyond himself and his family, and he has such abysmally little understanding of the consequences of his actions, that he could unthinkingly plunge us all into oblivion.

We do indeed have, “. . . one hell of a heft . . .” on our hands.

Friends

A quote I keep on my monitor reads, “The most beautiful discovery friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” (Elizabeth Foley)

This past weekend we experienced that beautiful discovery. Three friends of ours from forty years ago came to visit. From our time together in the 1970’s we have scattered quite broadly. The three couples involved live in Kansas, California and Alberta. One of these couples knew that my wife and I were celebrating fifty years of marriage next spring, and they wanted to come help us celebrate. The widower of the other couple also wanted to join us.

We visited, we went to the nearby mountains, we ate together, and just enjoyed each others company once again. Although we had occasionally met over the intervening years, we had not had a time like this since we all lived in a small town in central Kansas during the ’70’s.

Each of us had walked our disparate paths. But we were able to share these paths with each other and accept each other even over widely differing beliefs and experiences. I told them that the things I now believed and the ways in which I now experienced the Divine were the result of forty years of searching. I certainly did not ever expect that my friends would be able to fully comprehend in a few hours what it had taken me that long to arrive at! And that was okay.

In fact, I had entered this visit without any plan to share very much of my own journey at all. I made space during our time together for my wife to share hers. But knowing how far I myself had moved from Church orthodoxy, I had decided we did not have enough time to share much of that. But of course, questions arose! And I ended up sharing fairly extensively, at least with one of my friends, the essence of my journey.

During the 1970’s we had all been part of an intense church experience, including living communally for periods of time. We had helped each other through the births of our first children. We had learned, prayed, studied together, growing spiritually. For me and my wife this was an intensely formative period of time. We grew to know ourselves and each other in ways we would never have thought possible.

But this church experience was centered around a fairly conservative, fundamentalist view of scripture, God and Church. My wife and I had grown considerably beyond the teachings of our earlier years. We had moved into areas of spiritual understanding and experience which would have been considered heretical in these earlier years.

And yet, even though some of our friends had pretty much remained in that earlier conservative mindset, we were all able to visit and share where we each were with God and each other. It was purely refreshing to be able to do this. I did not sense judgement from my friends. I sensed attempts at understanding, rather than attempts at correcting.

We parted as good friends still. Even though we acknowledged fairly vast differences of beliefs, we still accept each other. And that is the beautiful thing about friendship. We have grown separately, but we discovered we had not grown apart.

Templar Sanctuaries in North America: Sacred Bloodlines and Secret Treasures

This book, by William F. Mann, is a fascinating look at the possibility that the Templar treasure, so long sought by kings and others, was brought to North America in pre-Columbian days.

First of all, the author is himself a high degree Mason, and descended from Templars. On his mother’s side he is also related to the Mik’maq aboriginals. He spends a fair amount of time outlining his genealogy, to the point it gets quite confusing to a reader, such as myself, new to all these theories. Along the way he deals with the Merovingian ideas, Cathar beliefs, etc. I think that Mann ends up convincing himself that he is one of the carriers of the blood of Jesus and Mary Magdalene!

What I found most fascinating in this book is Mann’s dealing with the pre-Columbian history of the Americas. There is, of course, wide-spread acceptance today of visitors to North America centuries before Christopher Columbus. Mann expands this to a fairly regular going back and forth from North America to the Old World. These early visitors went to much more than only the east coast line. He shows that Europeans visited most of the continent at various times, and indeed settled and lived in many places. Relics like the Kensington Rune Stone in Minnesota are some of the evidence of this. Apparently there are similar finds all through central North America.

Mann’s theory then, is that the Templars received a lot of information including maps of the North American continent. He posits that they ended up travelling to the headwaters of the Missouri River (so-called in today’s language) in the present state of Montana and depositing their treasure in a cave in the mountains.

Along the way the author deals with many fascinating aspects of these theories, including the Oak Island mystery in Nova Scotia. For myself, since I heard of Oak Island a few years ago, I have read a couple books on the subject. The most convincing argument for the existence of the Oak Island booby-trapped well, was that it was built by Templars. The engineering required to build an elaborate system of levels, and channels to the ocean tripped by digging into the well, could only have come from an advanced group such as the Templars.

Overall, I found the book a bit overwhelming as to the amount of new (to me) information I was trying to absorb. I wondered if this could have been helped somewhat by a reading of some of the author’s earlier books; this is the third in a trilogy on this subject. He goes off in such detail on trails that seem irrelevant to the main subject that I found myself slogging through some chapters of the book.

But the book left me wondering! Could there be some measure of truth behind all this research and surmising? Fascinating to consider!!!

Collateral Beauty

We watched this movie the other night. Profound, positive, a real joy to experience. But be prepared! Bring Kleenex!!!!

Billed as a modern fable, the movie stars Will Smith as a father who has lost his six-year old daughter. The loss sends him into a tail spin. He ceases functioning in his job as co-owner and creative genius of a media company. His business partner, played by Edward Norton, and a couple other partners and fellow-workers conspire to get him out of his lethargy, at least long enough to sign a deal to sell the company before it totally collapses.

Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to “Love”, “Time”, and “Death” as part of his attempts to deal with his grief. His co-workers, and friends, hire three actors to play the parts of these concepts and confront him.

That is the gist of the story. I will refrain from telling more; you need to see this movie!!!

The movie stars some big-name actors. In addition to the above, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet also star. The movie is done very well; it is a well-told tale. Check it out.

DJTrump

Recently I’ve been wondering whether we’ve been getting this all wrong. Perhaps it was the media who colluded with the Russians to put Trump into the White House!!! After all, what would they have to report on if boring old Clinton had won!!

I am being tongue-in-cheek of course! But part of what I am saying is true. Myself, for one, has been thoroughly obsessed with the continuing nose-dive of the Trump presidency. His total lack of competency has been mind-blowing.

Those of you who know me personally know that I have never been a Trump supporter. In fact, during all of my adult life I have tended toward liberal and progressive politics, not conservative.

In Canada I have voted Liberal, New Democratic Party, and even occasionally Green Party. I feel pride in Alberta choosing NDP in our last election. For our “red-neck” province to vote in the most left-leaning party was freakish. And wonderful. The Conservatives had been in power so long (over forty years, I think) they had become complacent at best, corrupt at worst.

I have never been attracted to conservative political ideas. It has never made sense to me that any working class person could support parties who legislate against their own best interests. To cut benefits for the working class while cutting taxes for the richest in society is not only unproductive overall, it is immoral in my books.

But there is more to the Trump presidency than his being demonstrably unsuitable for the office. I can actually see some benefits resulting from his election to the highest office in the land. Trump has exposed an underbelly of hatred and racism heretofore being kept largely under wraps. His own language of hate has unleashed attitudes against pretty much anyone who is “different”. I think that, in the long run, bringing such ugliness to light will assist in eradicating it. Yes, it unchains violence. But it also forces us to face the reality of who we are.

Another thing, look at the active resistance he has fomented. It has been wonderful to see thousands and millions of people getting out to voice their opposition to the Trump presidency. From day one of his administration people have gathered to express their views. This is nothing less than democracy in action.

Trump’s ignoring the Constitution of the US has also forced more of us to increase our own knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Apparently lying to his own people (something he does almost every time he opens his mouth) is not a crime. But soliciting campaign aid from a foreign power is. And it is becoming eminently clear that that is just what he has done.

If the results weren’t so frighteningly serious, it would be almost comical how absolutely everything Donald Trump has accused his political opponents of doing is exactly what he himself is guilty of. “Lying Ted.” Trump is a proven pathological liar. “Lock her up.” Now Trump’s own son and son-in-law are possibly facing criminal charges for their actions during the campaign. His creed of helping the working class find employment and better living conditions is now so laughable as to be pathetic. His, and the Republican Party’s, policies are designed to directly affect the lives of the poorest in society in negative ways. These policies will make for extremely desperate times for millions if they come to pass; and they will make the richest among us even richer, widening the gap between rich and poor. Such a widening gap has always, throughout history, created instability in societies.

Usually, in my lifetime at least, conservative policies have been attempted on the sly. Republicans have been adept at covering up their true agenda. They know how to make their insidious policies sound as if they will benefit the average Joe. The blatancy of Trump has brought these devious schemes right out into the open. There no longer seems to be any attempt to hide what they really are trying to do.

And what it looks like they are trying to accomplish is oligarchy and hegemony. The democratic freedom experiment of the United States of America seems to be on its last leg. The forces that be seem absolutely determined to end this experiment.

One of Trump’s latest diatribes that “France is no longer France”, or “Paris is no longer Paris”, seems to be coming full circle. The US of A is no longer the United States of America I grew up in and love. It is slowly and surely being destroyed from within.

It is sad to see this happening. Many people I know, both family and friends, live there still. We visit there regularly. I do not want to see this death happen before my eyes. I still have hope that the American people will have the courage to face what is evident and stand up and take a stand, no matter what the cost.

Tracks/Wild

Tracks, by Robyn Davidson, and Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, are similar stories. Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback was written in the late 1970’s, published in 1980, a few years after her incredible journey across western Australia with camels. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published in 2012.

Separated by around two decades, these two young women undertook life-changing journeys. Their stories are so similar I decided to review them in one post. Both were in their twenties when they undertook their odysseys.  Both of them lost their mothers early in their lives. Both of their stories have been made into movies, both of which are very well done.

But I would certainly recommend the books. Their written stories reveal much more of the interior struggles these women underwent to accomplish their treks. (I cannot tell you which to do first: read the books, or watch the movies; I myself watched the movies first in both cases, and then read the books.)

Tracks shares the story of Robyn Davidson who found herself at loose ends in the 1970’s. In her twenties, just coming out of the hippie anti-establishment movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s, she did not know what to do with her life. Working at low-end jobs, she just couldn’t get herself interested and invested in anything. She got the idea of hiking across the Australian outback, using camels to carry supplies.

Without much of a plan she headed to Alice Springs, Northern Territory. This isolated town became her home for several years as she attempted various approaches to realizing her dream. She had no money, very little knowledge or survival skills; she hardly knew where to begin. But she persisted. After a few years, she had learned camel handling skills, had acquired a couple camels, and began learning how to survive in the desert.

While the movie necessarily focusses mainly on the journey itself, the book goes into depth on the interior struggles she fought, especially starting the journey itself. She learned to appreciate aborigine people, their culture, language, knowledge of the desert, and survival skills. She gloried in the wondrous landscape. Most people view the Australian Outback as dreary wasteland. Robyn came to see its beauty; she came to realize the land as experienced by Aboriginal peoples, how it identified them, how they cared for it, how it sustained them.

Here’s one quote from Davidson’s book to whet your appetite for more!

Those days were like a crystallization of all that had been good in the trip. It was as close to perfection as I could ever hope to come. I reviewed what I had learnt. I had discovered capabilities and strengths that I would not have imagined possible in those distant dream-like days before the trip. I had rediscovered people in my past and come to terms with my feelings towards them. I had learnt what love was. That love wanted the best possible for those you cared for even if that excluded yourself. That before, I had wanted to possess people without loving them, and now I could love them and wish them the best without needing them. I had understood freedom and security. The need to rattle the foundations of habit. That to be free one needs constant and unrelenting vigilance over one’s weaknesses. A vigilance which requires a moral energy most us are incapable of manufacturing. We relax back into the moulds of habit. They are secure, they bind us and keep us contained at the expense of freedom. To break the moulds, to be heedless of the seductions of security is an impossible struggle, but one of the few that count. To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble. It is not safe. I had learnt to use my fears as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks, and best of all I had learnt to laugh. I felt invincible, untouchable, I had extended myself, and I believed I could now sit back, there was nothing else the desert could teach me. And I wanted to remember all this. Wanted to remember this place and what it meant to me, and how I had arrived there. Wanted to fix it so firmly in my head that I would never, ever forget. (p 220f)

Amazing stuff!! Robyn is so incredibly and articulately insightful. And she is so open in letting the reader in to the processes she experienced during her trek across the desert.

Very different, yet so similar, is Wild. Cheryl Strayed was also a young woman at loose ends. In the early nineties she lost her mother to cancer when Cheryl was 22. This loss really threw her for a loop. She ended up spiraling into dysfunction, using drugs and sex to bury her pain. But she recognized the downward course she was on and decided she had to do something to get herself out of this destructive lifestyle.

A book caught her eye one day while standing in a checkout line. It was a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). She looked at it briefly, thought about it for a time, and eventually went back to purchase it. And decided to do it!!

Totally inexperienced in anything even remotely resembling this sort of venture, having no equipment, having no one to whom she could turn for advice, she began assembling what she needed for the trip. Using her meagre waitressing earnings, and continuing to use drugs right up until the day before the trip, she planned out her journey.

The film captures her heroic efforts to even get her backpack on and stand up! But the insights from the book reveal her deep insecurity about her capabilities in undertaking this trip. She doubted herself through most of the hike. Any little roadblock in her plans, any unexpected hurdle, would throw her into self-doubt and several times almost caused her to back out.

One example: unusually high snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas that year (mid 1990’s) caused the trail to be impassable that summer she was hiking. She had to detour via bus to Reno, Nevada. The highest section of the trail was unavailable, and this had been the portion she had most anticipated. It was devastating.

But by the time this occurred she was quite a few weeks into her hike, and she found enough flexibility to adjust her plans. Originally she was going to hike only the California portion of the PCT. With her renewed plans she hiked on through Oregon, coming out at the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River at the border of Washington State.

Throughout her hike she meets people who help her in various ways. She meets obstacles she must overcome. She endures pain constantly. Fellow hikers are amazed at the size and weight of her pack. She carries more than hikers much more fit that she was. But she bumbles on determinedly.

Once again, like Robyn Davidson, she grows during her journey, both physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It turns her life around. She finds herself a different person at the end of the road than who she’d been at the beginning.

Both these books are well worth reading. Both are easy, entertaining reads, well-written and inspiring. Page-turners. And both movies are also well worth watching. Enjoy!!!!

Hillbilly Elegy

This book, by J. D. Vance, is a memoir of the author’s life: his young years, since he is only in his thirties as he writes! His grandparents came from the coal mining area of northern Kentucky. They moved to an industrial town in Ohio to find jobs. But their “hillbilly” culture came with them, as it did with multitudes who followed a similar pattern.

This is an intimate look at this culture, and how it has shaped American life and politics. Although written before the 2016 presidential campaign, the people Vance writes about are basically the ones who elected Trump as president.

When taken together with the people and culture demonstrated in the movie I reviewed just previous to this review, Hell or High Water, it provides insight into how people could come to support someone like Donald Trump. There is a deep-abiding suspicion of those in power. There is a need to be able to feel at some level of control of ones life and destiny.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is a great book on numerous levels. On a personal level, it is a story of survival and success against unbelievable odds. That someone could come out of an environment like JD did is incredible. That he became a successful lawyer and is living as successful a life as he is makes it even more special. It really is a credit to JD Vance that he has made of his life what he has, so far.

On another level, the stories of JD’s family members is also very intriguing. Often times, and by many peoples’ standards, there was a lot of dysfunction in the various members of his family. And yet they got by, at some level. And they were able to install in JD values which, as he grew up, enabled him to rise above his environment. Vance gives such an informed view of the “hillbilly” culture. He was raised in it. He was raised by members of this culture. His “mamaw”, as he called his grandmother, was his primary caretaker during his childhood. And she seemed to be the epitome of the hillbilly grandma! She certainly outdid the sanitized view of the grandma in the popular TV series, The Beverly Hillbillies!! And yet she instilled in her grandson values of education, hard work, never giving up, etc, which allowed him to succeed as he grew into adulthood. Vance’s portrayal of his family-of-origin is both enlightening and personal. Deeply personal, as it is the primary environment which shaped him into the adult he is today.

On yet a bigger level, J. D. Vance’s story provides a glimpse into the wider hillbilly culture. So many small cities and towns in the so-called “rust-belt” were built up by migrations of “hillbillies” to work in the factories. But the culture of the coal-mining communities from where they came survived the migrations. And Vance is able to see this now, from his vantage point of a well-educated, intelligent survivor of this culture. Even though he now lives in California, he provides articulate insight into this large subculture of the USA.

He helps me understand the previously incredulous election of Donald Trump. I am almost completely unable to understand how anyone could have voted for such a despicable excuse of a human being. I know that many of my own family members did just such an action. But I do not understand it. Vance has helped me put this political debacle into some sort of perspective. If not yet completely understandable, it does help!!

I am thankful to J. D. Vance for opening up his personal experience to help us to understand a little better how a large portion of American society thinks and acts. Hillbilly Elegy is a very well-written memoir. It is an engaging read, both for its writing style and for its content. I urge any readers of this humble blog to search out this book and read it. You will not regret it.

Hell or High Water

My wife and I watched this movie not long ago. It takes place in the part of the world my wife was raised in, west Texas. As such, it shows a subculture she is very aware of. It is a life she would’ve been a part of had her daddy not ensured she got out of there.

As such, it is a riveting story of two brothers who hatch a plot to save their family farm. Essentially, without giving too much of the plot away, they start holding up banks to get enough money to avoid defaulting on their mother’s loans made on the farm before she died. And they specifically target branches of the bank which holds the loans, and who will get title to the land if the family defaults.

It is a very well-done movie, with well-developed characters, and a good pace. It shows well the character of that land, the often desolate landscape, and the types of people inhabiting that part of the country.

Highly recommended!!!

Nicolle Wallace

My wife and I both grew up in the USA. Therefore we are quite interested in US politics; we watched the fascinating campaign last fall avidly. Our favourite place for political news ended up being MSNBC. A frequent commentator there was Nicolle Wallace. I always appreciated what she had to say. She seemed very knowledgeable and insightful.

Also, as an outspoken Republican in a mostly liberal-minded environment, her take on events was a welcome alternative to the usual opinions. She was one of only a handful of Republicans regularly appearing on that network.

At some point she mentioned in passing  a novel of hers. Immediately my interest was piqued. I sought out the information on this and discovered that Wallace has written a trilogy of novels, all centring around the White House.

These three novels are titled, Eighteen AcresIt’s Classified, and Madam President. They follow the same characters through several years. They are a fascinating peek into the life of a president and White House staff.

When I began to realize that Nicolle Wallace herself had spent numerous years in the White House and was intricately involved in Republican politics, I give the stories a lot of credibility. She knows whereof she speaks!!

She was a White House communications director under George W. Bush. She served as a senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign of 2008. Her husband is a former ambassador to the United Nations.

So I’d say she is eminently qualified to speak of Washington politics!!

I will not go into any detail of the contents of the trilogy of novels. The books should be quite accessible; I had no trouble accessing them up here in Canada!!! But I will encourage anyone with even a bit of curiosity of what goes on behind the scenes in the White House to check these books out. They are well worth it. They are not long; they are written in fairly light style. An average reader can breeze through one in a day if you wish. And they are that gripping. Once you start, you are hooked!

Behind the Flying Saucers

This book, by Frank Scully, written in 1950, begins the story of the crash and subsequent recovery of unidentified flying objects in the state of New Mexico. It led to the research and publication of more information on these crashes, one in particular, by Scott and Suzanne Ramsey in the 1980’s and ’90’s. The incident with the most information occurred in Aztec, New Mexico in 1948. The Ramseys published their research in a couple books. The one I have read is, The Aztec UFO Incident.

Another book I want to include in this summary is, MO41: The Bombshell Before Roswell. This book outlines the scant information on a UFO crash in Missouri in 1941.

If we take a look at all of these incidents, alongside the Roswell incident of 1947, there are numerous similar details. All of them were quickly taken charge of by the military establishment. The military moved in, removed any materiel and bodies, and swore any onlookers to secrecy under threat of death. Only recently, as some of these witnesses neared the end of their natural lives were they motivated to share what they had seen many decades before. They thought that this was information which needed to be more widely known. They understood the profound effects this could have on society, and did not understand why military organizations wanted to keep the information secret. Most of them felt it was very wrong to have been kept from public perception.

None of these books about early UFO crashes are particularly well-written. But the information they outline is so fascinating it is worth a look. It is, after all, where it all began!!

What we hear coming out now is that the information retrieved from these crashes has been reverse-engineered and is now the basis for a rapidly growing secret space program. If you read David Wilcock’s latest book, The Ascension Mysteries, you will begin to see the extent of this vast program, involving thousands of people and incorporating technology beyond most of our wildest imaginations.

I do not understand where this is all heading. But writers like Wilcock and others think that some level of disclosure will occur soon. No one can predict what effect this will have on society but there is widespread agreement that just about any level of information regarding this will have quite a profound impact. I, personally, can hardly wait!!!!