Arrias: Doom? Maybe Not

We’re doomed, if you listen to some folks. They may be right. There certainly are things going on that give you pause. But perhaps they’re miss-interpreting a few things.

The big stories this week were the President’s State of the Union address, the release of the memo from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the 500+ point drop in the Dow.

But I’d point to the stridently partisan crowd during the State of the Union address.

It was particularly bizarre that almost half of Congress didn’t applaud when the President noted that black unemployment has never been lower. One could interpret that as Democrats don’t really want blacks to have jobs, unless Democrats create the jobs. Here’s a piece of advice from Ronald Reagan: “there’s no such thing as a bad piece of good news.” Lower unemployment among blacks is a good thing. Period.

But the underlying story the media is bleating is that, because of Trump, the government is separated from the people, people don’t trust the government, and that various elements of the government don’t trust each other. This, we are told, is an existential crisis.

Is it?

Start with this: we all really want the same thing: meaning in our lives, basic freedoms, food on the table, family taken care of, healthy kids, good schools, etc. And while a small percentage will insist these be provided, the vast majority understand there needs to be real jobs, real workers and real wages and that the government can’t just mandate these things.

So, could it be the reason we’re at each other’s throats is misunderstanding about what is now another common belief?

There are, arguably, three major blocks of the population. One block simply wants government to leave it alone. They go about their jobs, for the most part probably don’t vote, and are convinced the only thing they can do is keep their heads down and hope no one notices them. They don’t really trust government, but it’s a less strident level of distrust. Many of these folks occupy what might be called the middle of the spectrum.

Then, there’s a large block that believes government is, and pretty much always has been, out to get them. This is what the media refers to as the far right.

Finally, there are those who actively supported the government until Trump took over. Now, they’re convinced that Trump will undermine society and use government to destroy the nation.


The common theme here is fear of government. For some, it’s a new fear, having spent much of their lives convinced that government created, or at least government monitored, solutions are the best approach for nearly everything. For more than two decades their perspective on government was the dominant one. Suddenly, however, these folks have begun to fear government. To which I say: Good!

They are now in the same boat not simply with most Americans, they’re also in the same boat as the Founding Fathers.
If there’s one theme that runs through the Constitution it’s the idea that government powers at all levels must be limited, and they must be separated, because government can’t be trusted. James Madison, in the Federalist Papers (number 47) commented that: “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands… may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

When Congress lets authorities slip through its hands and flow to judges or to bureaucrats, they violate this tenet. When a president enacts, or pushes his departments to enact regulation after regulation, in an unchecked expansion of federal reach, he violates this tenet. Such has been the behavior of government for decades. Perhaps that is changing. And that’s a good thing.

The long and short of it is this: government – at any level: local, state or federal – is not to be trusted. As George Washington observed: “Government is not eloquence. It is force. And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

We live in dangerous times. But it has always been so. Freedom isn’t easily preserved, we need to fight for it, every generation, every year, perhaps even every day. As Patrick Henry, noted: “Virtue will slumber. The wicked will be continually watching.”

Maybe what we’re seeing around the country is that some who were quite enamored of government until just recently are now waking up from their slumber. If so, that’s a good thing.

Copyright 2018 Arrias

Life & Island Times: Real Estate Man

After watching the State of the Union speech and the loyal opposition’s response, I was reminded of one of the central truths of salesmanship and how each side chose to follow it. I am talking about the real estate salesman’s motivational ABC dictum — Always Be Closing.

There are two types of closes — hard, asking for the business/sale, and soft, seeing whether the client wants to move forward. Some examples of soft closes:

Wouldn’t what I am selling be an improvement over what what is being done/used now?
If this solves these problems, would you take it?

The loyal opposition approach seems to be constantly asking for a hard negative close on their competitor’s products — in other words they ask the public to reject its competitor’s proposed product sale. They don’t often focus on a hard sale close of their own products, since they rarely have anything hard to sell. In the software industry, this type of sale close for a non-existent product is called selling vaporware. Continuous, high pressure hard sell tactics don’t often work. Good salespeople do not sell. They help others to buy.

The old 20th century hard sell and counter sell approaches simply don’t cut it with today’s hyper-informed, media-driven consumers. With the transparency and availability of information online, buyers are far savvier than they used to be. Today’s ABC is more appropriately defined as Always Be Communicating (or Twittering?). Because let’s face it, it’s far easier to keep existing clients (base or voters in political parlance) than to spend considerable amounts of time and effort on looking for new ones.

Real estate sales guru character played by Alec Baldwin in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross delivers his ABC monologue

Cruise the edges of city land
Then go across railroad tracks
And past where a viaduct looms
You’ll see porch-sitting birds of doom
Chilling as they smoke their crack
There are no secrets in these streets of winter trashcan fires
Neath drooping internet, cable and telephone wires
Hey dudes, you know, they thought
Good times are never coming
We’re never getting it back

Past tidy city squares, past the Talmadge bridge
Past the river docks, past vacant factory smoke stacks
From the north a gathering storm came
A tall orange haired man
In a dusty black coat
A real estate man

He wrapped em in his arms
Told em that they were all good boys
He’d rekindle all their dreams
It took the others a lifetime to destroy
He’d reach deep into the holes
And heal their withering souls
Only he could make happen what the others couldn’t do

He’s a demagogue, he’s a man
He’s a snake, he’s a reality TV guru
They chanted his name
Throughout the country land
But hidden in his coat
Was a real estate man

You didn’t have any money?
He’d get you some
You didn’t have a job?
He’d get you one
You didn’t have self-respect
He’s where hope and the future intersect
Well, don’t you worry, folks
‘Cause here he comes

Through trash filled alleys
Through slums, past overflowing garbage cans
Shadows fled from wherever he stood
Wads of promised cash came soon after
They passed his great big tax plans

Foes see him in their nightmares
See him in their dreams
He appeared out of left field
Telling us he ain’t what he seems
They see him in their heads
And on their TV screens
Hey, folks, they’re warning
Us to turn him off
He’s a snake, he’s a demagogue
He’s a man, he’s reality TV guru
We’re all stuck in a coastal bog
Tarred to an unstoppable plan
Designed and directed by
This real estate man

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat

Post Card from the Swamp #31

Heck of a week

So, the guys who are going to rip out my 1964 vintage kitchen were here this morning and some of it is gone, leaving gaping scars on the wall-board.

Maybe it will be OK. I have been all over NOVA trying to figure out how this mass of stuff gets resolved- but I am confident that with the upgrade to the little condo, the path will become clear. With two days of off-site deliberations, I can see a road ahead. Not that it doesn’t have potholes…

Oh, yeah, here is the postcard from this week in the swamp…


Japan-gazer Update

Japan-gazer Update — January 26, 2018

平成30年1月26日 = (30th Year of HEISEI Era, 1st Month, 26th Day)

– – – – –

= This week’s poem:

Some Wisdom

If, for what you strive,
Is so distant and far,
Across a life’s desert,
Like an unreachable star,
Then don’t walk, take a car…

{ From my poetry blog: }

– – – – –
= 5 Things Going On Lately:

(1) The Japanese and French governments broadly agreed Friday (26 JAN) on a pact for mutual supplies of food, fuel and other goods by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and France’s military. The broad accord was reached at a meeting in Tokyo among Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, and their respective French counterparts, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly. The ministers also agreed to expand joint training by the Maritime SDF (JMSDF) and the French navy, and promote joint studies on defense equipment. The “two-plus-two” session was the fourth between Japan and France. The previous such meeting was held in January 2017. The Japan-France acquisition and cross-servicing agreement is expected to enhance interoperability between Japanese and French troops, and facilitate their cooperation, including in U.N. peacekeeping missions. (Jiji Press)

* COMMENT: Another chess move by Japan, with an eye on China…? France has three Pacific territories: New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis & Futuna — total population about 600,000. But, the islands also provide France with large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Of note, French naval ships, operating at-sea, can serve alcohol.
– – – – –
(2) The first F-35A stealth fighter jet for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is set to be deployed to its Misawa base in Aomori Prefecture on Friday, Defense Ministry officials said Monday (22 JAN). The JASDF will procure a total of 42 F-35A aircraft, its next-generation mainstay fighter. It plans to form the first F-35A squadron by deploying nine more aircraft to the northeastern Japan base by the end of March next year. The F-35, which has advanced stealth capabilities, was developed in an international project led by the United States and Britain. The fighter to be deployed to the Misawa base soon was assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. group’s plant in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, and so will be 37 others. The remaining four aircraft will come from the United States. The ministry plans to mount Norwegian-made long-range cruise missiles on the F-35As, with the aim of using them for remote island defense and attacking enemy forces on the ground. (Jiji Press)

* COMMENT: OK, it’s finally “show-time” in Japan for the tactical aircraft everyone has been talking about. Raises the questions …. “Will Japan-U.S. quality be able to overcome Chinese quantity in the skies over the East China Sea?”
– – – – –
(3) The Japanese government on Thursday (25 JAN) launched a permanent exhibition space on the Senkaku Islands and the islets of Takeshima, its first facility exhibiting territory-related materials. An opening ceremony was held in the Municipal Research Building in Chiyoda Ward, central Tokyo, which houses the museum on territory and sovereignty. The admission-free museum displays public documents and photographs showing that the islands are integral parts of Japanese territory, according to government officials. “I hope it will develop as a base where people can deepen their understanding of Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands,” Tetsuma Esaki, minister in charge of territorial issues, said at the ceremony. The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu. The islets of Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, are effectively controlled by South Korea, where they are known as Dokdo.

* COMMENT: Fair enough. A meaningful “strategic communications” move by Tokyo ….. in the face of similar & unending efforts by China and the Koreas…
– – – – –

(4) A Japanese patrol plane spotted a suspicious contact between tankers from North Korea and the Commonwealth of Dominica in the East China Sea, suspecting a possible transfer of goods in violation of U.N. sanctions on the North, government sources said Monday (22 JAN). The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C aircraft took photos of the scene it noticed near waters off Shanghai on Saturday, as it was engaging in patrol activities for illicit transfer of refined oil at sea by North Korea. The information was passed on to the U.S. government, Japan’s key ally that is leading global efforts to impose tough economic sanctions on North Korea, the sources said. The U.N. Security Council has imposed stepped-up sanctions against North Korea as it continues to test-fire missiles and carry out nuclear tests. Last September, a council resolution prohibited the ships of U.N. member states from engaging in the transfer of any goods or items to North Korean-flagged vessels at sea. At the request of the United States, JMSDF vessels and patrol aircraft have engaged in patrolling the high seas near Japan to look for possible cases of oil smuggling from late last year. (Mainichi Shimbun)

* COMMENT: “Gotcha!” Pretty much nothing can sail/operate in the waters around Japan without getting discovered by JMSDF’s world-class maritime patrol assets & systems. Also called ISR — Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance — in addition to information-gathering, ISR can show operational intent and ability, and has a deterrent effect… Remember, if you have been detected, that also means you have been targeted.
– – – – –

(5) The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, successfully launched on Thursday (18 JAN) its third Epsilon small rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite. The Epsilon-3 solid-fuel launch vehicle released the Asnaro-2 satellite into orbit about 52 minutes after the liftoff at the Uchinoura Space Center in Kimotsuki, Kagoshima Prefecure, at 6:06 a.m. (9:06 p.m. Wednesday GMT). Flight experiments for the Epsilon series, developed for low-cost satellite launches, ended with the third version, and full-fledged operation of the series will start with the Epsilon-4, JAXA said. Cost-cutting efforts for the Epsilon development included the use of a solid rocket booster for Japan’s mainstay H-2A large launch vehicle. Takayuki Imoto, head of the Epsilon project, told a news conference that his team was able to realize a rocket “gentle to a satellite” with reduced vibrations. (Jiji Press)

* COMMENT: Another step forward in the space race. Low-cost launch vehicles will be a must, in order for Japan to be competitive with others…
– – – – –
< << BONUS >>>

— The number of criminal offenses recognized by police in Japan in 2017 fell by 81,009, or 8.1 pct, from the preceding year to 915,111, hitting a postwar low for the third straight year, the National Police Agency said in a preliminary report Thursday (18 JAN). The annual tally fell for the 15th year in a row after peaking at some 2.85 million in 2002. The 2017 figure was down by more than two-thirds from the record-high level. An NPA official said that the decline is believed to have reflected crime prevention efforts both by the public and private sectors, improved security measures at homes and for vehicles, and increased installation of security cameras, including event data recorders. Last year, the number of criminal cases fell in all of the nation’s 47 prefectures, with Yamagata marking the sharpest drop of 18.8 pct, followed by Iwate, 18.7 pct, and Akita, 17.6 pct. Eleven prefectures, including the three in the Tohoku northeastern region, posted declines of more than 10 pct. By type, the number of thefts, accounting for over 70 pct of the total, fell by 67,607, or 9.3 pct, to 655,541, and that of robberies dropped by 480, or 20.6 pct, to 1,852. (Jiji Press)

* COMMENT: Impressive. Underscores why any crimes or incidents by U.S. Forces personnel will always “stick out” — almost a zero-defects atmosphere in perfectionist Japan.

Poems and Comment copyright 2018 Carl LaFong

Life & Island Times: America’s New Silence is Death Epidemic


A terse emailed note from a friend announced another of his children’s close high school friends was found dead of a heroin overdose. That brought the total in his child’s small midwestern town high school class to six in twenty three years.

The details were heartbreaking in their recitation, but there was a leaden sameness to other tales I have heard for more than a decade . . .

Child of hard working, small business owners whose business got killed by the arrival of Wal-Mart and Home Depot
Child injured back at a distant foundry; put on opioid pain medication, just like most of the others; perscription ran out; bought on the street
Busted for possession of a controlled drug; lost job after brief prison sentence served; heroin/fentayl followed; dead.
Left behind two kids and an ex

I recall twenty eight years ago when after a serious ortho injury surgery I had a morphine pump for two days and then left the Bethesda Naval Hospital with over a 120 powerful Percocets. When I stopped taking them four days later. I definitely felt the draw.

Here is some added context to this ongoing American opioid tragedy:

makes pain tolerable when damage occurs during work or exercise sessions
assumption that not experiencing any euphoric or addictive feelings others succumbed to gives you a a pass
unwillingness to adjust an active life to something that does not require opioids
the majority of people who are dependent on them don’t get high, they just experience pain that if you aren’t opioid sensitized wouldn’t bother you
these tragedies are happening at every economic, social, and educational strata of our society
one bad decision during one’s early teens can often permanently ruin, if not end, a child’s life
“No First Time” school programs help but still do not stop this rising black tide
the parallels with America’s callous inaction to the AIDS epidemic 30+ years ago are striking
opioid addicts relapse at a very high rate — 75% or more
this problem is becoming less a prescription narcotic issue and more of a direct to heroin/fentanyl problem
the one thing that seems to work well in many cases is to switch out the opioid for another drug

My take-aways:
60,000 Americans are dying every year from opioid overdoses – more than the Vietnam war death total every damn year
these numbers are rising every year
prison is not rehab
prescribing medicinal marijuana derivatives might keep/ween people off opioids
we need many tens of billions of dollars annually to support medication assisted replacement therapy programs nationwide
I simply refuse to take opioids after injury or surgery other than the first 24-48 hours after the event
This tragedy is not just select individuals here and there falling through the cracks or left behind in our society. It is an outright willful epidemic, inflicted upon America’s citizens by big pharma, the payors, pharmacies, doctors and the arm-waving, blathering, do-nothing politicans who have all turned a blind eye to this rightfully described carnage.

When will they act? After a million American deaths? That benchmark will come as early as 2020 by some calculations. That way America would match the death totals of the Cambodia and Rwanda genocide campaigns. Nice company for America to be in, eh?

As with AIDS in the 1980s, silence is death with this epidemic. So, why doesn’t the American national media talk about this nonstop until we act? They must have other more important issues to kerflufflle over.

This deserves more attention than just about any other issue in our country right now. A society strung out is not destined to remain great at much. This is a stealthy, modern day Opium War that Americans are losing.

Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat

Arrias: Davos Economic Forum and School Redistricting

One constant issue here in the Tidewater is ‘school re-districting.’ Everyone is very conscious of which school district they are moving into, wanting the best for their kids. So, it’s quite frustrating when a city council approves construction of more housing, knowing it will force changes in the school district boundaries, and when citizens push back, they find “the decision’s been made, too late.”

The lesson is that even up close, in your own city and town, participatory government is hard, controlling politicians is difficult, and an out-of-state developer may have more say than several hundred moms and dads who live “here.” And as for controlling politicians located hundreds, or thousands, of miles away?


The President spoke in Davos, Switzerland the other day. It was a pretty good speech, brief and to the point. It encapsulated the President efforts: roll back bureaucracy, free up investors and business, let the market place, the individual, and individual energy and creativity, drive the US economy.

But there’s something not quite right about Davos itself: select politicians, technocrats, academics, and business ‘leaders,’ gathering together to talk about, well, what to do about the rest of us.

That’s really what the Davos Economic Forum is: political and economic leaders meeting to “shape global regional and industrial agendas.” Those are their words; this small group is going to shape agendas – our agendas.

Think: global school districts.

Davos is predicated on very un-democratic concepts of economics, politics and control of market forces. Davos is about a small group sitting down and drawing up agendas, agendas that are not voted on, agendas that in some cases run counter to our and other constitutions.

The majority of the folks who attend Davos, by their attendance, signal they’re more aligned with the murky dealings of the Pentavirate (see Stuart MacKenzie (aka Mike Meyers) in “So I Married an Axe Murderer”) then in representative government or Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand.

But, you might argue, it’s just talk. Businessmen getting together to talk, politicians from different countries getting together to talk, what’s wrong with that?

In the US, if leaders of the steel industry were to get together – private meeting – to discuss what’s next, might we not consider that as trying to control the market? If all the oilmen met in the same room and talked about production and investment and prices and future markets, we’d call it something different. Why is it wonderful when techies get together in Davos, but it’s a trust or a cartel or price fixing when oil industry execs get together in Paramus?

Why is it okay for politicians from different countries to get together and talk about the government economic and industrial policies of others? Why is it okay for these same politicians to talk blithely about policies that would require greater centralization of power, many of them actions counter to both the letter and spirit of the US Constitution?

Thankfully, Mr. Trump didn’t go down that road. Rather, he spoke to his quite pragmatic (and Constitutional) efforts: restoring American strength – economic, diplomatic and military.

In fact, his last two paragraphs summed it up well, and in a subtle way, put an American thumb into more than one eye at Davos:

Together let us resolve it use our power, our resources and our voices, not just for ourselves but for our people, to lift their burdens, to raise their hopes and to empower their dreams. To protect their families, their communities, their histories and their futures. That’s what we’re doing in America, and the results are totally unmistakable. It’s why new businesses and investment are flooding in. It’s why our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in so many decades. It’s why America’s future has never been brighter.

Today, I am inviting all of you to become part of this incredible future we are building together. Thank you to our hosts, thank you to the leaders and innovators in the audience but most importantly, thank you, to all of the hard-working men and women who do their duty each and every day, making this a better world for everyone. Together let us send our love and our gratitude to them because they really make our countries run. They make our countries great. Thank you and God bless you all. Thank you very much.

“They” – that would be the citizens – all of us. Not the folks in Davos, just you and me.

Copyright 2018 Arrias

Life & Island Times: PonziCoins

Because money doesn’t grow on trees, here’s a pitch to my readers to become rich real quick. Invest in PonziCoins. They are based on blockchain software technology that is all the rage. Below is a simple primer on how this works.


Look, PonziCoin’s developers are completely transparent and honest — the above white paper primer has the word “blockchain” on it. It’s a fabulous opportunity that requires four simple steps.

Step 1: Invest
PonziCoins WILL be a top 5-10 market cap coin by end of 2018. Send me Ethereum or Ripple through Western Union or bearer bonds to buy your coins now before it takes off. I use Equifax-grade security, so you can safely start thinking nonstop about the Lambrghinis you’ll soon own.

Step 2: Shill
I recommend shilling PonziCoins heavily to your family and friends like a sociopath. Creating posts on how this coin will 1000x by April on various listservs and social media sites. Making several youtube videos promoting PonziCoin is also encouraged.

Step 3: HODL
Everytime 100 tokens are sold, your coins will double in the price that newcomers can buy in at, but also the price that you can sell the tokens at! So everytime 100 tokens are sold, your PonziCoins’ value doubles! HODL (Hold On for Dear Life) and watch it soar. If you do somehow lose money, it’s because of sell walls and whales trying to accumulate them, so don’t play into their hands.

Step 4: Profit
If you’re allergic to making more money and want to cash out to buy pizza/drugs/luxury cars, sell your coins back to me via a special email address that will be provided separately. You will receive Ethereum in return. If you’ve HODLed for long enough and shilled hard enough that enough people have bought in afterwards, your gains will be through the roof.

I am only partially making the above up. There was an actual PonziCoin website offering these bogus coins for sale briefly in 2014. That fraudster took in $7000 before walking off.

Then a west coast software guy opened up a second website as a joke meme that actually took off. After this jokester received $25,000 in real crypto currency via secure digital means he shut it down yesterday. He announced no plans regarding sell backs or refunds.

Yet another proof that there will always be greater fools out there.

Caveat emptor.

Copyright Marlow 2018

TAPS: Rosie the Riveter

Editor’s Note: This is not an intelligence passing, but it is one that represents something extraordinary in American history. The pressures of the war demonstrated the ability of women to perform in many formerly all-male industries. Rosie and her sisters changed everything about how our society worked. It is worth some reflection on just how Rosie’s generation (and my own mother) changed things in this country. Naomi Fraley exemplified that. And, of course, she never got a penny for her transformation to icon. Credit to American Admiralty Books:

20 January 2018 Naomi Parker Fraley, AKA “Rosie the Riveter”



Naomi Parker Fraley who died Saturday at the age of 96 is widely accepted as the model for the famous WWII poster titled “WE CAN DO IT”. During WWII she was a 20 year old production line worker at the Alameda Naval Station, Alameda, California. She was just one of the millions of American women who provided much of the war materials production labor force; in that rare time of unity among the American people when we were united against a truly dreaded common enemy.

Kim Shepard


For many years Ms Fraley’s image was misidentified as that of another woman who bore a striking resemblance to her, Ms Geraldine Hoff Doyle a 17 year old worker in the same plant. MS Doyle died at age 86 in 2010 before learning of the misidentification, Historian James J. Kimble of Seton Hall University has stated that Doyle who resembles Fraley was first identified as the model for the poster based on her photo from the time and in subsequent historical narratives she was accepted as the model for “Rosie the Riveter” until 2015 when actual photos connected to the iconic poster’s production were uncovered clearly bearing the label of the woman now known as Naomi Parker Fraley. Both Doyle and Fraley were simply photographed at work, never paid as a model, or notified that their stylized image was being fashioned into a poster. Neither woman ever sought or received a dime in compensation and by all reports were simply happy to have contributed to the war effort.
Naomi Parker Fraley was photographed as she worked at the Alameda Naval Station.



and images @

hith inspiration rosie riveter dies

Geraldine Doyle : You can read more about Ms Doyle at

Nellie Bly

(Elizabeth Jane Cochran, from Pittsburgh).

Thursday is what passes for my biggest business day of the week, and to my mild surprise, I got through it again. Then I ran a couple errands that had been nagging since the weekend, and took myself off the clock sometime after three. I unloaded the groceries and bundled up the plastic bags and had the place looking squared-away again about halfway through Sheppard Smith’s news show on Fox. I am increasingly thinking he is a Democrat, not that there is anything wrong with it, but along the way, there was a brief mention of Nellie Bly’s trip around the world in 72 days.

As an autodidact (I think we all share that weakness) I am used to running across things I did not know but probably should have. Shep did the “On This Day” bit late in his show to commemorate the 1890s-era exploits of a mad woman who set out to beat the ’80 days’ that writer Jules Verne thought would be a breakneck pace of a trip around the world.

It caught me up short. Great Aunt Eleanor was from Martinsburg, West By God. She was always called “Bly” in the family. She was an imperious woman of immense age to me as a kid. I had no idea why they called her Bly until Shep blindsided me yesterday.

Growing up, I always thought is was weird to have an old lady whose nickname was derived from that of the Captain of HMS Bounty. But it was family stuff and why ask questions. She was a woman of her era. I did not want to be perceived as a potential mutineer.

Lord, I have some stories about her time and passing, and how I wound up with so much of her stuff in the barn at Refuge Farm. The silver and her husband the Doctor’s two hammerless .32 caliber Smith & Wesson pistols are only the tip of the familial iceberg. Apparently the Doctor’s office had been ripped off for the medication he stocked, and did not like it one bit and was prepared to shot the malefactor if he came back. The hammerless feature of the pistols means you can shoot through the fabric of your coat, should that be necessary, as I understand it.

But back to Shep: Eleanor. Nellie. Bly. It only hit me yesterday with a story about the round-the-world lady, Nellie Bly. Oh, shoot, that is what that was about. Great Aunt Eleanor had been a wild woman in her time, and not the frail old woman I knew as a kid.

I did the initial cursory research and was stunned by the real story, which was that of an amazing woman’s adventures In a suffragette-era world. She was, by turns, Reporter. Investigative Journalist. Adventurer. She once spent ten days in a nuthouse to expose the abuses perpetrated on the inmates; she spent six months in Mexico covering the border crisis, married well and converted her fame into comfort. Amelia Ehrhart was of the same cut- being ‘the first’ was a powerful thing. But it took guts and did not always work out well.

At birth, the real Nellie Bly was named Elizabeth Jane Cochran, from “Cochran’s Mills,” now part of the sprawl (limited by the terrain) of the greater Pittsburg area. But there was much more to her than just adventuring.

In my mom’s girlhood recollection, the only thing better than a trip to cosmopolitan Wheeling, WV, was an excursion to the Steel City. The girl who would become ‘Nellie Bly” was moved by her mom (and a large family, ten kids, a number so vast that we moderns can’t imagine it) into Pittsburgh proper. Years later, young Elizabeth read a Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper column entitled “What Girls Are Good For” that implied that girls were only good for birthing children and keeping house.

That pissed her off, and she wrote a response to the editor under the pseudonym “Lonely Orphan Girl,” arguing that the column was a crock. The Dispatch editor was impressed with her passion and offered her the opportunity to write a piece for the newspaper, again under the pseudonym “Lonely Orphan Girl”.

Her first article was titled “The Girl Puzzle,” and dealt with a too-familiar subject to her, which was the issue of how divorce affects women.

I have some experience with how it affects men these days, but the Patriarchy was in full flower in 1880 and modern legal sensibilities has not yet been installed. Nellie got a full-time job out of it. In those days, it was customary for female newspaper writers to use nom de plumes. I suppose it was for modesty concerns. The editor chose “Nellie Bly,” adopted from the character in the popular song by Stephen Foster. Elizabeth had intended that her pseudonym be “Nelly Bly”, but her editor wrote “Nellie” by mistake and the error stuck.
Not a great deal stuck with her after that. She focused her work in Pittsburgh on telling the tales of the lives of working women, which as you might imagine sort of sucked. The paper got a lot of flack from local industrial concerns, and she was relegated to covering fashion, society and gardening in what was then known as The Woman’s Section. It made her seethe, and she quit to try her luck as a foreign correspondent.

(Nellie Bly in Mexico.)

She spent nearly half a year reporting the lives and customs of the Mexican people, and her social justice dispatches later were published in the book “Six Months in Mexico.” I read that, and thought of the idealistic fervor of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain a couple decades later. Nellie Bly was something- but it was not until she had been back in New York that the opportunity presented itself to make her a star.

French master author Jules Verne had penned “Around the World in 80 days” (Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) in 1873. The premise of the story was that English eccentric (do I repeat myself?) Phileas Fogg accepts a wager of $20,000 pounds to travel all the way around the world in that number of days, and much entertainment ensues.

The tale might be the best in Verne’s repertoire, but it was not for a couple decades that some public engagement officer cooked up the idea of a lady making her way all the way around on her own and beating the 80 days. Working for the New York World In 1888, Nellie had suggested to her editor that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn Verne’s fictional account into fact and actually beat it. The paper liked it but waffled. Finally a decision was made, and a year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days’ notice, Nellie boarded a steamer of the Hamburg American Line and set out for the east that would become west before she was done with it.
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She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials.

I invite you to read the tale of that journey by steamer, railroad, rickshaw and elephant at the Smithsonian’s fine appreciation:

So, whether I like Sheppard Smith and his snarky attitude, I have to express some heartfelt thanks. He directed me to a story of an extraordinary woman. He also explained something about my family I had not known, and moreover about some of the crap in the barn at the farm. Wish I had known to ask, back when there was time.

Great Aunt Eleanor must have been hell on wheels if they called her Nellie Bly.

Copyright 2018 Vic Socotra

Life & Island Times: What is Suitable?

A Black Tie Optional invitation to a family wedding looms in my future. I understand the suitable sartorial requirements for such an event. Or I used to.

As a gentleman of leisure (aka retired old dude), my current lifestyle requires nothing more than the occasional wearing of a sport coat. None of my old suits fit nor could they be tailored to fit my new old man contours.

The question then becomes do I buy a new suit for the wedding or rent a tuxedo for the weekend.

This is not a Penthouse Forum set up for a joke about jorts, black jeans or leather chaps.

I am probably way off base, but this BTO inclusion seems to have begun popping up in invitations where no one actually shows up black tie, but everyone shows up in jacket and tie.

Perhaps I should focus on the word optional? But to this former southernmost tropical islander, if a tux is optional, that would imply that so is a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. Problem solved? Not if I want to see my next birthday.

A tuxedo shirt is probably out and so is the venerable Fantasy Fest body painted tuxedo.


Two non-starters: tux t-shirt (top) and body paint tux (bottom)

Part of me says that no man past prom age should rent a tux. I still have full body jerking epileptic flashbacks to a light blue colored ruffled tux I wore to a 70s wedding in the pre-disco music era. Yet I do not want to be the sole guy who doesn’t show up in a tux. So maybe this BTO thing could be my chance to get my Gatsby on?

W thinks I should purchase a new suit for the event. Her advice and suggestions will likely be heeded. I may try to avoid Joseph A. Bank and actually purchase a black suit retail. While a black suit works for weddings, funerals and all occasions in between, it seems out of line with the raconteur and bon vivant vibe I’ve been going for.

One of my friends has suggested that I rent a tux and a Lamborghini, buy W a Chanel gown and then show up and own the reception. I digress . . .

But a black Italian wool Hugo Boss suit and a rental Lambo with a tux paint job — a most worthy suitable compromise…



Copyright © 2018 From My Isle Seat