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keep calm


This will give you an idea of the rock I have been hiding under for the last several years. For some time I had been running across “Keep Calm” posters and products of a wide variety, but had not researched the origins of the fad (which had never made much sense to me) until last night.

It seems the first posters were born in late 1939, when the Ministry of Information was the department of the British Government responsible for wartime propaganda. After the outbreak of the war, the Ministry was tasked to design a number of morale boosting posters that would be displayed across the British Isles during the testing times that lay ahead.

The posters were required to feature bold colors, be similar in style, and feature the crown of King George VI along with an identical font. These are the first two first two posters:



They were posted on public transport, in shop windows, and upon notice boards across Britain. The third and final poster of the set was “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The plan for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public.

Most of the 2.5 million “Keep Calm” posters produced were destroyed and reduced to a pulp in 1945 at the end of the war. However, in the year 2000, bookseller Barter Books stumbled across a copy hidden among a pile of old books bought at auction. The co-owner with his wife framed the poster and hung it up by the cash register; it attracted so much interest that Barter Books began to produce and sell copies. Other companies followed suit, and the design rapidly began to be used as the theme for a wide range of products.

A small number also remain in the British National Archives and the Imperial War Museum in London, and a further 15 were discovered on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. No record remains of the unknown Civil Servant who originally came up with the simple and quintessentially British poster.

Said Barter Books co-owner Mary Manley: “I didn’t want it trivialized. But of course now it’s been trivialized beyond belief.”



Groove of the Day

Listen to Cocteau Twins performing “Lazy Calm”




Not much of a message today.

Just aware of the passage of time until Alex’s earbuds arrived on Wednesday and as we’re still waiting for this cold snap to pass.

Only two things remarkable about a second day spent under the covers: I know it’s slightly warmer than yesterday because the pond is not iced over… and second, I woke up this morning with this old song from 1966 running through my head.

I’m sure Alex’s earworms are much different, but thankfully, I no longer have any first-hand knowledge of that.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Easybeats performing “Friday on My Mind”


so cold


It is so cold here, ice has skimmed over the surface of the pond. The propane heater is working full-time to make the house barely tolerable against the elements, but one can still see his breath as he sits at the desk. Looks like this will be a day spent mostly under the covers.

I hate days like this, not so much because of the discomfort they create, but because they result in an involuntary lack of productivity.

Aliana just called and offered me a ride into town. Even though I have no pressing business there, I took her up on the offer. A chance to buy breakfast at the motor lodge, if nothing else.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Snuff performing “Do Nothing



4 simple steps to ensure you’ll never, ever be tricked by an internet hoax again
You’re too smart to share this nonsense

On Saturday, millions of internet users spent the day mourning the death of Macaulay Culkin. He wasn’t actually dead, but that was a minor detail in the story, which spread across the internet like all too many other stupid hoaxes that spread across the internet every day.

The fake story reporting Culkin’s death was tweeted 23,000 times, and shared more than five million times on Facebook. By the time Culkin responded, the story had already picked up too much steam for anyone to stop it—including Culkin.

Where did a hoax so unstoppable come from? A Facebook memorial page and a poorly written, six-paragraph story from “,” which doesn’t even bother to resemble an actual MSNBC page. The Culkin case was hardly an abberation. This is the kind of thing that happens with distressing frequency, from the “death” of Breakfast Club star Judd Nelson to the “arrest” of graffiti artist Banksy.

The internet keeps playing the same tricks, and we keep refusing to learn how to spot them. It’s never been easier to throw together a halfway-convincing story and make it go viral—and since the perpetrators of these annoying hoaxes have no reason to stop, it’s up to readers to develop a keener sense of whether a story is actually true before they share it. Fortunately, that’s a pretty easy thing to do. Here are four simple steps you can start following right now:

1. Check for additional sources before you share anything

The death of a celebrity like Macaulay Culkin at any age—let alone at age 34, with absolutely no warning—would be major national news. But anyone who bothered to search for his name after seeing the original “death” story would have discovered that the news of his death hadn’t been reported anywhere else. By Sunday, the only stories about Culkin would be the ones debunking the reports of his death.

A Google search is usually enough to determine the veracity of a story. But before you share anything even a little dubious, it is always worth checking—an independent website that has spent more than 20 years fact-checking every rumor that comes across its desk. Snopes is as efficient as it is accurate; they debunked the Macauley Culkin death rumor the day it went viral. Here’s their “What’s New” page, which gives you a feed of the most recent stories they’ve tackled.

2. Learn which websites not to trust

These are a few of the bogus websites you should never trust:

  • Empire News
  • The National Report
  • Huzlers
  • Daily Currant
  • Free Wood Post

While posts from The Onion and Clickhole are occasionally mistaken for legitimate news, their primary goal is genuine satire, not trickery — and by and large, they’re pretty great at it. That’s not the case with these lesser rip-offs, which use the paper shield of “satire” to justify the real reason they exist: tricking people into sharing fake stories they believe are genuine.

Many of these posts go viral because they play on the fears, biases, and stereotypes of politically polarized readers both conservative (“Congress Approves Bill That Will Offer Free Automobiles To Welfare Recipients”) and liberal (“Mitt Romney: I Can Relate To Black People, My Ancestors Once Owned Slaves”). Other popular variations traffic in hopes (“Vince Gilligan Announces Breaking Bad Season 6″) and fears (“Meteorologists Predict Record-Shattering Snowfall Coming Soon”). They’re all fake.

3. Unfollow any website that lies to you

So you’re scrolling through your Facebook news feed, and you discover that one of your friends has shared a hoax link from one of those annoying websites. What should you do?

On the top-right corner of any post in your Facebook news feed, you’ll see an arrow. Click on the arrow and select “Hide all from [insert name of terrible lying website].” No matter how many shares they get from your gullible friends, you’ll never see a story from the offending site again.

4. Use common sense

These hoaxes exist because click-trolling people write them—but they thrive because thousands of people thoughtlessly share them. Would Buzz Aldrin actually tweet that the moon landing was faked on a soundstage? Would casino owners actually try to legalize dog-fighting? Would the Kansas City Royals tap George Zimmerman to throw out the first pitch at the World Series?

Whether or not you have time to carry out the proper due diligence, these stories—and many stories that seem shocking or flattering to a specific political perspective or worldview—are designed to manipulate you into thoughtlessly sharing them.

Remember: Sharing something is the equivalent of a personal endorsement. It’s an implicit guarantee from you that a story is genuine, and that reading it is a valuable use of your friends’ and followers’ time. Take 30 seconds to determine whether something is real before you blast it out to hundreds of people. We’ll all have a better internet for it.


Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.


Groove of the Day

 Listen to B.B. King performing “Fool Me Once”


meteor strike


Last Saturday, at about 8:45 pm, there was a bright flash that filled the sky to the south. It reminded me of those films you sometimes see of nighttime artillery barrages during World Wars I and II. Alex and I both witnessed it. It was like sunrise for just a couple seconds, and then gone.

But it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I learned what it had been: a meteor 4 feet in diameter and weighing 4,000 pounds had struck at Piedras Negras in Coahuila, Mexico near the border town of Eagle Pass TX, about 325 miles from here.

Hundreds of skywatchers from California to central Texas reported seeing a meteor that “rivaled the sun” in brightness—the American Meteor Society alone received over 200 calls, and local news stations received many hundreds more. People remarked about its size and speed.

It is really remarkable that an event so far away could have such a dramatic effect here. It drives home the fact that a larger asteroid or meteor strike could have a devastating impact on the whole Earth. NASA says over 100 tons of meteorides enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day, but most of them are small enough that they burn up before striking Earth. This was an unusual occurrence.

I’m glad we happened to see it.

meteor strike


Groove of the Day

 Listen to Perry Como performing “Catch a Falling Star”


screaming in the morning

Hip Hop Tattoo

It’s official: I have turned into what I always vowed I wouldn’t. An old fogey.

Last week, Alex’s ear buds (less than a $15 purchase) crapped out, and all of a sudden I am hearing what had thankfully been the boy’s private world of sound. It’s been driving me nuts ever since.

There has been audio competition with the dialogue to my chosen films and TV shows. Endless repetition of the same song loops at night. Screaming in the morning. As necessary as coffee. Whatever it takes to jump-start Alex at the beginning of the day or put him into a “zone” at night.

Like I said: an old fogey.

I like to think of myself as a tolerant person, but there are certain “vibes” I have heretofore kept out of my world because they are just too abrasive. Head-banger music. Heavy metal. Screaming, violent music. Rap.

When Alex’s ear buds still worked, Estrella Vista had remained a heaven-on-earth. A good place to think. Now? Well, quite the opposite.

Like I said: an old fogey, and a cheapskate, too.

I cannot imagine why (until this morning) I had not asked Alex to just order a new pair of earbuds. Or why this hadn’t become a priority for him. They can be here in a couple days, plus they’re only twelve-and-a-half bucks. A small price to restore heaven.

Alex, on the other hand, is in a world of sound that I find very caustic. It is what he knows. It fits with the aggressive side of his nature. He says he finds it motivating.

Far be it from me to try and change his tastes. I would not be successful, plus he would resent me for trying. Many young people cannot imagine their music isn’t universally appealing. They cannot imagine that they may one day outgrow it, just as we did.

This is the song that I heard close to a hundred times last night.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Sia performing “Free The Animal”


young offenders

young offender

Should juvenile offenders be treated as adults?

November 1, 2014

Over the last few weeks we have discussed the issue of children who commit crime.This week we will wrap up this series by exploring the ongoing debate in the juvenile system between those who feel these offenders should be treated differently and those who feel they should be held accountable as adults.
Many of the reasons that those who feel juveniles should not be held to the same criminal standards as adults are the very same reasons the juvenile justice system was created. As we earlier stated, the brains of juveniles are not as fully formed as adults, and their reasoning abilities are not as developed.
Their abilities to control their impulses and anticipate the consequences of their actions are limited. These reasons are also the basis behind other laws that mandate age requirements to functions that require higher reasoning, such as voting, joining the military, or consuming alcohol.
Studies also show that many juvenile offenders grow up in environments with less than ideal circumstances. Many live in poverty, have parents or guardians who have issues with drugs or alcohol, and/or live in areas fraught with high crime rates and even gang activity.
They are often around negative influences, and can at times even be taught and compelled to commit these crimes by the very people in charge of their upbringing.
Many experts feel that you cannot expect a child brought up under these circumstances to understand the gravity of their actions when they have no one to teach them otherwise. This is one of the main reasons that the goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment.
Many of the violent crimes committed by children are done so with weapons that due to their age they should not have had access to in the first place. Gun ownership is restricted to adults, and those adults are tasked with the safekeeping of those weapons.
It is imperative that children should have absolutely no access to these weapons, and if they do it is at the fault of an adult. Of course a juvenile who is dead-set on finding a weapon and committing a crime will do whatever they can to find one, but that does absolutely nothing to absolve the adult responsible for the safekeeping of the weapon of that responsibility.
On the other side of the argument lies the core belief that a crime is a crime, and the end result is the same regardless of who committed that crime.
Many believe that in a just society we all must live by the rules, and those rules are there not just to punish the offenders but serve as a deterrent. Of course the counter-argument to that is if children are not able to anticipate consequences appropriately, expecting rules to be a deterrent is unreasonable.
However, since the core belief is that the outcome should be punishment, not rehabilitation, those who feel children should be tried as adults don’t feel that is reason enough not to hold them equally responsible.
Furthermore the argument holds that if minors know they won’t be judged as harshly as adults that may actually be more willing to commit crime.
Others feel that a very important group is left out of the juvenile system; that of the victim and their families, and their right to see justice served. Many feel that juvenile offenders are penalized so lightly that it serves to be an injustice to the victims.
Additionally, those who commit violent crimes and receive lighter sentences in the goal of rehabilitation go free sooner, which allows them access to many potential future victims. Those who feel youthful offenders should be tried as adults also see it as a way to protect the rest of society from those who don’t follow its rules.
Finally, many who argue juveniles should be treated as adults in these situations often cite polls that show that a majority of US citizens agree. Polls conducted in the ‘80s, along with one as recent as 1993 show a majority of those responding believed children who commit crimes should be held to the same standards as their adult counterparts.
However more recent surveys, such as one conducted in 2007 by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) shows that those beliefs may be changing. Their results were that “89 percent of those surveyed agreed that ‘almost all youth who commit crimes have the potential to change’ and more than 70 percent agreed that ‘incarcerating youthful offenders without rehabilitation is the same as giving up on them.’
Still another segment of the population believes that there should be some kind of “happy medium” to the two opposing sides; one that protects the public as well as these young offenders. The one thing most agree upon is that the system we have now, while well-intentioned, often misses it mark when it comes to rehabilitation and the safety of all of our citizens.
Tim Bates is captain of the detective division of the Rome NY Police Department.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Band Perry performing “If I Die Young”


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