Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine

Storyteller Tom T. Hall died yesterday. RIP. He was best known for the song “Harper Valley PTA” that captured the soul of the 1960s and has been kept alive by so many performers over the years. Still a hit every time.

In this introduction to “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” he talks about performing at the contentious 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. That ultimately disastrous event was also covered by Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”. This followed the earthshaking 1968 convention recently re-enacted for us in the movie “Trial of the Chicago 7” last year. I never heard Tom T. Hall perform live but heard many musicians express their admiration of his poise and style.

The recording is worth a listen.

How old do you think I am?” he said
I said, well, I didn’t know
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago”


I was sittin’ in miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge

There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ Ironsides on tv
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

“Ever had a drink of watermelon wine?” he asked
He told me all about it, though I didn’t answer back
“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

He said, “Women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain’t around
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down”
He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime
Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

“Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate”
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
‘Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine

I had to catch a plane up to atlanta that next day
As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine

This is perhaps the most famous performance of “Harper Valley PTA”: https://youtu.be/B4uJ8QV-8R8

Thank you Heather Cox Richardson

“the most successful independent journalist in America” – NYT

The curse of learning history is that we can’t go back and correct the past, no matter how obvious that a corrective course is needed. But we can change the future. America owes much to Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson for her valuable contributions documenting the facts over this recent past when our society overall has lost the skill of separating fact from propaganda. Kudos to New York Times for their article today. She’s the most clear-headed and prolific voice in contemporary history and has been a huge personal blessing to me.

Thank you and congratulations Heather Cox Richardson!

The proliferation of lies and ignorance

Each passing day and each occurring event brings out more revelations of ignorance and wildly successful intentional propaganda. It seems ridiculously easier to get the majority of people to believe a falsehood than it is to encourage them to learn facts. The desire to distinguish facts from opinion seems to be critically low, an understanding of the value of doing so minimized, while the desire to promote one’s opinion seems to be at an incredibly high level.

We are seeing this effect again right now today and this week over the National Defense Authorization Act, the COVID relief act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act where you’ll find a wide range of misinformation today. It is especially frustrating to me when a media calls themselves “news” but actually allows unedited and incorrect commentary by anchors. Likewise, people who call themselves “professionals” who have apparently not evolved past the point of having a process to differentiate reliable from unreliable information. It seems clear that commercial media understands the economic value of disinformation. Of course, those aspiring to political power understand the power of propaganda.

That’s not to say that we don’t all occasionally make a mistake. Nor does it mean that we don’t all sometimes engage in deliberate propaganda. But that’s entirely different from not having developed an internal cognitive process that will lead to differentiating facts from propaganda or opinion and recognize the importance and value of doing so.

It is normal to wonder if this problem always existed and how we handled it before. Virtually all of recorded history indicates that ignorance of the masses was a constant force in society. But nowhere in mankind’s history has the democratization of free information flow through the internet raised the power of ignorance and propaganda to the level it is today. in the past we could easily ignore and step over the smelly problem. That’s not so easy today.

I conclude that thee future of mankind looks dimmer because of the empowerment f this form of widespread mental laziness.

“Dickensian lens”

Early this morning I was driven to understand the meaning of the common phrase “Dickensian lens”. I get the feeling when I read this term in print that some who use it don’t have much depth of understanding as to what it means. I have no idea what it means. After doing a little research it is still unclear.

I found this definition of “Dickensian” in “Masterpiece Classic”. The source and purpose of this publication is not clear.

“Charles Dickens’ work continues to be so influential that the adjective
“Dickensian” is used today to describe something “of or like the novels
of Charles Dickens (especially with regard to poor social and economic
conditions),” according to WordNet at http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
perl/webwn?s=dickensian.

Search for current usages of the word in The New York Times archive at nytimes.com (put the term “Dickensian” in the search bar) or other newspapers in order to understand how “Dickensian” is used in different contexts. For example, a 2008 article in The New York Times describes Mumbai, India this way: “For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slumdwelling, bulbous and malnourished.” (www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/”.
weekinreview/09giridharadas.html).

It is clear that the term refers to social commentary. But that’s all I see so far. Is Dickens still relevant today? I don’t see it. English literature professors do. In either case, does looking at a current situation in comparison to the way Dickens would describe it add any insight now? Again, I don’t see it, except perhaps in reinforcing that the human condition has always involved suffering.

I still don’t see why the trendiness of the term “Dickensian lens”.

 

 

 

 

Eastern philosophy

I just finished Thoughts Without a Thinker by Mark Epstein on Blinkist.
https://blinki.st/c81cb1ff60ef?blinkspack=thoughts-without-a-thinker-en&supplement=1